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Mar 17, 2010 09:22 AM

How Do You Spin Your Food

Do you ever “hide” ingredients, or purposely not reveal ingredients because you know your food wouldn’t get eaten otherwise? For example:

Food day at the office, and I decided to bring baya kyaw (from this recipe - ). Typically I like to share origins of dishes and the good fresh ingredients involved, but in this case
I had a feeling that the bourgeois palates of most of my officemates would see “Burmese” + “Yellow split-peas” + “Cilantro” = Disgusting, so I called them vegetable fritters instead and they were eaten with many “mmm’s” and “ahhh’s”.

For the record, some of the culinary idiosyncrasies of this group include: only eating canned vegetables; Taco Bell is Mexican food; lemonade is a powder you put into your water bottle, etc…

I don’t think I short-changed my peers, and I introduced them to flavors from another culture. It’s not like I sneaked meat into a vegetarian dish, or used 3 sticks of butter claiming it was lo-fat. Those that asked were told the truth, but I didn’t wear the recipe on my sleeve, so to speak.

So I was wondering, When / How / If you spin your food?

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  1. depending on the group, sometimes my potluck offering of polenta is cheese grits.

    1. Anchovies are a favorite "sneaker" ingredient. Most everyone won't even know if they are in a dish.

      1. Hi cucubear: the link you posted doesn't seem to work for me. Could you please share the recipe? From your description it seems like a variation on a South Indian vadai, is that correct?

        ps: I think you handled the situation really well, based on what you described. You didn't mislead, and you prepared and served a dish you enjoy without compromise. You seemed to tread the fine line between gentle introduction and deception really well!

        2 Replies
        1. If my friends and associates who claim to hate lamb and that they can detect even a small amount of it in "anything" knew how much lamb they've eaten with the foods I've prepared for them they'd abandon any relationship with me. One of my more recent favorites was lamb tamales. If they ask for the recipe it instantly becomes a "family secret" which I've sworn to protect. I never use ingredients that, for some people, cause alergic reactions. Ingredients like gluten, sugar, peanut butter and other nuts are disclosures I always make right at the start - before anyone begins to enjoy the dish.

          7 Replies
          1. re: todao

            I think "spin" in terms of the name of the dish is fine. One man's garbanzo is another man's chick pea. However, I would not obfuscate when it comes to ingredients. If people enjoy food with an ingredient they thought they didn't like, that's a discovery moment which may lead them to more enjoyable food adventures. Furthermore, people are allergic to many more ingredients than the nuts, shellfish, and other common problem foods. A current thread deals with cooking for people who are allergic to black pepper, garlic, and onions. Frankly, I'm skeptical - people may claim "allergies" to foods they simply don't enjoy. But if I am cooking for them, it's not my right to assume they are picky rather than allergic.

            1. re: greygarious

              I am one of those people. I hate mushrooms and find that if I say that people will say "oh you can't even taste them" but if I say I am allergic that is different. I always do this in restaurants. When I went to China, I had someone write in Chinese "I am allergic to mushrooms" so I could always show it to the waiter. I know--so sue me.

              1. re: sparkareno

                I will appologize in advance, I am only singling you out because you are the only person that I've witnessed in my time here who has stepped up and said you aren't allergic, but you use that as an excuse. I feel that a majority of adults these days claim allergies where none exist. I'm 38 and when I was growing up and in my school years (late 70's-late 80's), there was never even a whisper about peanut butter or nuts or anything else in my schools. I went to nine different schools between 1st and 9th grades, so I believe in my (admittedly non-scientific) opinion.

                WHY can't people just be honest? If you don't like something, fine, eat around it or pick it out. If you are one of the (truely) allergic, then I am sorry for your plight and I am not talking to you. I realize and understand that we don't fully know whats going on with all the kids that have been born in the past, say, 15 yrs. when it comes to the causes of autism and allergies. But what explains the PARENTS of my age that are claiming they are allergic? Most of what I read here on Chow is from presumably adults. Why do they feel the need to claim allergies instead of just admitting that they are picky and don't like something?

                I expect a lot of venom for this post, but I stand by it.

                1. re: Alicat24

                  In the last couple of years 60 Minutes did a feature on Plumpy-Nut (sp?), a peanut-based nutritional paste in a tear-open packet that is being used to save the lives of malnourished African children. In response to a question about allergies, one of the physicians said that they had fed the paste to countless children, and that peanut allergies just don't exist there. I don't for a second doubt that they exist in America and can be life-threatening, but I subscribe to the position that it's the kind of allergy that occurs because our children are not exposed to enough germs to give their immune systems the opportunity to function normally, and as a result go haywire. I agree with you that people shouldn't claim allergies to cover for food dislikes.

                  1. re: greygarious

                    Thank you GG for agreeing with my main gripe, which was people claiming allergies when in fact it is just a dislike. I grew up watching 60 min. and Sunday Morning, only SM has stuck to this day! I also don't doubt the allergies exist in the children of today and think all the germ-phobe, anti-bacterial stuff is hurting us in the long run. That said, I and my hubby had confirmed H1N1 back in Nov. and I have been using Purell like crazy so I don't have to go through that again!

                    There was just recently a post here about (I think) something called PB2 that is a powdered peanut butter product that is reconstituted with water that called to mind the product you referenced from Africa. I may be mistaken but I believe peanuts are actually legumes and are native to Africa, which to me would make sense that the children didn't exibt any allergic reactions whatsoever. They and thier countless ancestors have eaten peanuts for a looong time.

                  2. re: Alicat24

                    The reason I am not honest is because I don't want to be told "oh you won't even taste them" or "you can just pick around them". I don't want to have to pick through my food and I can taste them even if they were just touching something. The smell of them cooking makes me gag. And I don't want people to try to talk me into liking them. I find with restaurants that if you just ask if an ingredient is in something, they sometimes say no and then it is but if you play the allergy card they are going to be less casual about it. It is just easier not to have to go into the whole drama of it. As far as eating at friend's houses I usually tell them what I won't eat but don't claim it as an allergy. And I always ask guests about dislikes when I invite them over.

                    1. re: Alicat24

                      I totally understand your point, but I will note that people often develop allergies later in life. Shellfish allergy is the one that immediately comes to mind- it's almost as if the body says "ok, you've had your lifetime quota of shellfish- now you're allergic." For me, it was strawberries. I LOVE strawberries. My all time favorite fruit by far. I have eaten so many strawberries (and strawberry-related things) in my life, it's sick. Then one night, at the age of 20, I ate a pint of strawberries and that was the end of it. Hives all over my face and neck and same reaction every time since then that I've come into contact with strawberries.

                      Mine's believable- I mean, who would want to be allergic to strawberries? :-)

              2. I add MSG to everything.

                Never tell a soul.

                No one ever complains.

                Go figure.

                1 Reply
                1. re: ipsedixit

                  I have a friend who claims an MSG allergy, with very specific symptoms, and I know he's eaten MSG in things I've cooked for him, with no ill effect. I don't sneak it into food, though, now that I know, I make sure to use non-msg ingredients.