Chef John presents: Ratatouille “confit byaldi”

And now for something completely different: I’ve been cooking a lot more in recent months, and I thought maybe it was time to try writing a bit about it. My goals for these kinds of articles are twofold:

* It was an attempt to make Pad Thai without following any particular recipe. It came out looking like a pile of grayish sludge and tasted like vomit.

First, I want to present the process of exploring new recipes from the perspective of an enthusiast/amateur. I don’t intend to portray myself as an expert (because I am not one), but rather as a hobbyist cook learning on the go. Don’t take my methods as gospel. I tamper with recipes willfully (and I will say why where relevant), and you shouldn’t be afraid to experiment either. Only once have my experiments produced a result so dreadful that I couldn’t eat it.*

Second, I want to provide a window into what a vegetarian diet looks like. I’ve met a lot of people who express confusion over what vegetarian food entails, and it’s my hope that non-vegetarians who happen across these articles may get a better sense of the scope of my home cooking menu. It’s far from limited–I could make a new recipe every week and never run out of new dishes to try.

So, without further ado, let’s dive in to my most recent dish: confit byaldi!

Confit byaldi, served

I’ve made ratatouille (which is essentially a French vegetable stew) many times in the past from the recipe in Mollie Katzen’s The Moosewood Cookbook. Hers is a delicious recipe and I highly recommend it, but I was always puzzled by one thing: why did Pixar’s interpretation of the recipe appear to be a weird little stripy stack, rather than the coarsely-chopped stew I was familiar with?

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Animals Were Harmed

So this happened: Asger Juhl, AKA “the Danish radio host,” killed Allan the rabbit on air. He was looking for hypocrisy, and boy howdy, he found it. How dare he, legions have demanded. How dare he kill a poor defenseless little bunny? Many of these people then ate ham sandwiches.

So, hypothetical ham-sandwich eaters, the question remains: why is Allan’s death so meaningful to you? In 2010, 110 million pigs were slaughtered in the US alone. That works out to more than three pigs slaughtered per second.1 Allan only died once. If you are outraged about Allan and not about the pigs, you are a hypocrite millions of times over.

Now on to my fellow vegetarians, many of whom feel that they have the right to condemn Juhl’s actions. Maybe you do, but first, consider the following: 1. Allan’s death was swift and probably painless. 2. Since Juhl ate Allan after the slaughter, Allan’s body was not wasted. 3. Since Allan’s death has engendered a debate on this issue (one which we rarely see covered in the media at all), his life was not wasted either. Allan’s death occurred under far better circumstances, and meant much more, than that of nearly any other animal on earth.

We humans are inveterate animal killers. I am not innocent and neither are you. If you are a meat eater, you will consume the flesh of hundreds of animals over the course of your life. If you are a vegetarian, untold numbers of rodents and insects were exterminated to prevent them from stealing your food. Millions of people depend on drugs which are extracted from the bodies of animals. Vast numbers of animals die as roadkill: we’ve come to accept this as the cost of speedy transportation. Animals were harmed in the making of your favorite movie, even if only by the catering department.

Do not mourn for Allan. Instead, take a moment to remember that all of us are guilty. If that bothers you, do something about it. Allan lives!


©John W. Allie 2018. | Contact?