Bottoms, corners, edges and ends

Tastes Like Home

Hi Everyone, the fight for crusty, overcooked, highly flavourful bottoms (bun-bun), corners, edges and ends of cooked food and baked items can be fierce. With battle-lines drawn, things can get so heated that negotiations have to be brokered with promises of fulfilment the next time round. When it comes to these highly sought-after parts of food, favouritism abounds and secret alliances are exposed. The betrayal can be heart breaking. Some things never meet the table; they are tucked away, covered in the kitchen. Reserved. Waiting to be awarded to that worthy someone.

20130223cynthiaOne of the main reasons why people like bun-bun or the edge, end or corner of any cooked food or baked item is because, a lot of the flavour is cooked into that layer of food that made direct contact with the pot or pan throughout the entire cooking process. Bun-bun from dishes such as Cook-Up Rice and Pelau are crusty bits that give a different mouth feel as you chew and capture the essence of everything in the dish. Roasted and baked poultry and meats stuck to the bottom of a baking pan offer such intense eating pleasure that some folk don’t even need the moist meaty centre of whatever is baked. And for meats, it is not only the bottoms, but the edges too; the edges all around the meat or poultry that has gotten brown. The tops too – the crackling of pork skin cooked as crisp as a chip, the skin of roast chicken or turkey.

Buns, breads, cakes, pies and tarts too, all find favour with people who like edges, corners and ends.

I’m a little embarrassed to admit this… I think my mom was somewhat put off by my behaviour too, it was that bad. Several years ago I had some family friends over for lunch and it was one of those situations where lunch spilled over into tea and I had made sweetbread (coconut bread) for tea. It was a large sweetbread; I sliced half of it, and served the entire bread, half sliced, half whole on a large cutting board along with cheese. Just before taking the sweet bread to the table, I removed the first slice, which was the edge. I was saving that piece for myself because I love dunking the end of my sweetbread into tea. Anyway, as soon as I laid the board with the sweetbread down, my friend Mark asked, “Where’s the edge of the sweet bread? The first slice?” I shot him a look, daggers emanating from my eyes. Before I go on, I have to tell you that I think of Mark as a brother, so what ensued I considered to be fair game between siblings. I pretended not to hear him and continued to serve others. Everybody took sweetbread, eating and sipping on their tea. Everyone except Mark. “I waiting on the sweet bread end that you got hide off in the kitchen,” Mark said, loud enough for my mother to hear. Well I had no intention of giving up my sweet bread end. I responded: “You continue to wait.”

The fought-over Sweetbread (Photo by Cynthia Nelson)
The fought-over Sweetbread (Photo by Cynthia Nelson)

A back and forth ensued between Mark and me. Mommy pleaded on his behalf but I was having none of it. And then Mark came up with his version of a solution. Give him the end that I had cut and then cut the sweetbread from the other end and take that one. While to all and sundry that seemed like a solution, to me, it was not. Those of you who know me well will now start to shake your heads because you know what is coming, a mixture of stubbornness and slight case of obsessive-compulsive disorder.

I patiently explained to Mark that could not happen because if I did that, then the bread would be exposed at the other end and mess up with the flow of how the bread is cut. If the half I had cut was eaten and then I had to continue cutting until I reached the other then, then fine but I am not going to just saw off the other end of the sweet bread to satisfy his demand to get an end of the sweet bread. And I didn’t.

I told you it was not pretty; it was not one of my finest moments and I am not proud of my behaviour but it goes back to what I said at the beginning of this column: the drawing of battle lines, the heartbreak… Anyway, to assuage the guilt I felt, I baked Mark a sweetbread a couple days later, that way he could have both of the ends himself.

What about you? Any food you prefer the ends, edges or corners of?

Over the holidays I made roast pork and separated the crackling and the crusty pieces from the bottom of the meat that made direct contact with the pan. Chopped it up into small pieces and as soon as my friend Adele arrived, I “secretly” took some to her. And when she was ready to leave, I wrapped up the rest and put it in a separate container away from the other food.

The edges and ends of things like macaroni pie, salara, bread pudding, fried (sautéed) potatoes stuck at the bottom of the fry pan or karahi… they all provide pleasurable bottoms, corners, edges and ends.


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