with food, there’s always something new

Posts Tagged ‘the unfood food column


Originally published on, February 6, 2007

Long before Bill Clinton’s behavior made certain sexual practices a part of our vernacular, there was a joke circulating in the early eighties. I first heard it at a yuppie/happy hour in the bar/lounge of the Cork and Cleaver in Bloomington.

The joke goes like this:
Question: What’s the difference between p____ and parsley?
Response: Nobody eats parsley anymore.”

Although the joke is now an old, overused chestnut, it was risqué and hysterically funny at the time. Lately, though, I’ve been wondering, why doesn’t anyone eat parsley anymore?

Or do they?

If people aren’t eating parsley, they’re buying it. Major Indy grocery chains, Kroger, Marsh, Meijers, sell fresh parsley. Parsley isn’t stuck away in a corner, shoved into little plastic packages and sold $2.49 for eight sad-looking leaves, No siree, curly-leaf parsley is front and center in the produce section. Vivid, bright-green, healthy-looking leaves, usually priced less than buck for a large bunch.

I buy parsley and use it. It’s great as a breath freshener. Toothpastes have artificial sweeteners; parsley is “chlorophylly” and removes that tannic aftertaste. Parsley is practical as a decoration. Instead of buying grocery-store bouquets with dyed flowers imported from Brazil, I’ll buy one or two flowers and pair them with sprigs of parsley. Combats cabin fever this time of year.

I buy parsley and eat it too. Tabbouleh wouldn’t be tabbouleh without parsley. It’s essential for bouquet garni. Without persillade scattered over the tops, cream soups are positively anemic. Add some lemon zest, and voila! persillade becomes gremolata.

I’m not the only one thinking about parsley, lately. Last Thursday, Barbara Damrosch wrote this article (…)
entitled The Herb That Stands Up to Winter.

In it she says:
“There aren’t many green plants you can pick generous bunches of in January, but parsley holds its own with spinach, leeks and kale. Also, there aren’t many culinary herbs whose flavor is mild enough to eat in large quantities. Recently I pureed a big bunch of it with some cream, then simmered the mixture to reduce and thicken it, melting in some Parmesan cheese and pouring the sauce over ravioli. It drew raves, as did a quiche in which parsley was the key player.
Eager to explore more uses, I consulted some of my favorite cooks. Fergus Henderson’s “The Whole Beast: Nose to Tail Eating” contains a great recipe for parsley salad, a simple affair in which it is chopped, mixed with capers and shallots, then sprinkled with coarse salt, dressed with a lemon vinaigrette and spread on toast along with the marrow from roasted veal bones. I should think tuna, salmon, tongue, liverwurst, paté and other meats or fish could substitute for marrow if you had none at hand.
Chef Odessa Piper, a wizard with vegetables, makes parsley salads that stand alone, with a chewy Parmesan added or with slices of prosciutto. She also combines parsley with endive (a classic winter salad staple) to take the edge off the endive’s bitterness. Piper puts bright green swirls of parsley puree on top of soups. She’ll drop a bunch of it briefly in a pot of boiling pasta water, just to blunt the rawness, and then serve it mixed with the cooked pasta, oil and crumbled goat cheese. She ranks parsley high among the herbs that are delicious when fried to a crisp in hot oil or in the bubbling, flavorful fat at the bottom of a pan in which a chicken has been roasted.”

So what chefs in Indy are starring parsley front and center? As you know, I don’t get out much, so I checked.websites. I surfed the net and found menus for Elements, L’explorateur, Oakleys Bistro, Dunaways, Oceanaire and St. Elmos. Menus mentioned all kinds of herbs, spices, flavorings and seasonings: garlic, fennel, sage, miso, saffron, cracked black pepper, kosher salt, thyme, rosemary, basil (really? in the middle of the winter? I thought seasonality was the buzzword), ginger, pickled ginger, capers, cilantro, horseradish, sorrel, salsify, daikon. I’m sure they’re using parsley in some of those recipes, but little parsley is like Cinderella, left in the attic because she’s too unimportant to attend the ball.

Perhaps you’ve had a delicious dish made with parsley at a local restaurant. We’d loved to know about it. Or maybe you have a special dish, recipe or use for parsley that you’d like to share with us. Feel free to post.

You can appreciate parsley in its glory and splendor at Bloomingfoods Market and Deli. Create your own salad from their delicious salad bar and top it with Tao dressing. Better yet, ask them to bottle some up for you and take it home. Parsley, along with spinach and other herbs serve as the backdrop for this creamy dressing.

What I like about parsley in Indianapolis is that it’s egalitarian. Cronyism, so rampant and destructive to our city, hasn’t corrupted our little soldier parsley. You can find it anywhere—Greenwood, Speedway, Irvington—you don’t have to drive all the way to Carmel or 96th Street to buy it. Even ghetto Lo-Bills and Kroger have parsley. Price is stable, no gouging urban poor for this product.

So what happened in the late 70’s/early 80’s to put parsley into such a long exile? Was parsley our mother’s (or are father’s) herb and therefore too uncool for us to take seriously? Was parsley lumped with Buicks, Cadillac’s, girdles, Old Spice, iceberg lettuce and Wonder Bread? Was it too WASP and not exotic enough for our tastes? Was it the bottles of desiccated parsley sold on spice racks that sealed its fate? Did basil and balsamic vinegar run rampant, leaving poor little parsley behind as roadkill?

Whatever the reason, it’s time to bring parsley back, because it never went away.


Written by Susan Gillie

February 6, 2007 at 12:06 am

The UnFood Food Column

Originally published on,  February 2, 2007

The local food press is active and alert as any in the nation and a pleasure to read”
Jeffrey Steengarten’s article In Search of a Cuisine

Does Indy have a food scene? Or are we hapless, ignorant, overfed hicks who settle for Applebee and Chili’s chain/franchises? Are we like Las Vegas, so barren of agricultural bounty and cultural heritage that we have to import Puck to run our art museum’s restaurant?

When Ruth Holladay wrote about the 86th and Haverstick Road lawsuit, a local food pundit errupted in anger.
“If Whole Foods doesn’t come to Indy, it won’t be Judith Conley’s fault, or Tom Kite’s, or the City-County Council’s. Nor will it be because the supposedly community friendly store is put off by our contentious wrangling (Whole Foods grocery happily located its Upper West Side location in the bottom floor the NYC’s Columbus Circle Time Warner building amid much gnashing of teeth.)

It will be because we just may not yet be big or affluent enough yet for the high-end. organic grocery” (FeedmeDrinkMe, August 19, 2006)

Gee whiz, we’re not only dumb hicks, we’re po’ trash! Even if we did know what foie gras is, we sho’ nuf couldn’t afford it.

I see Indianapolis as a work-in-progress, a glass half full, not half empty. And the food scene is a pot simmering, about to come to a full boil. Not only are we big enough and rich enough for a Whole Foods store, we’re getting one twice as big as their normal store. (Does that makes us twice as affluent?) Trader’s Point Creamery was started just a few years ago, and is gaining momentum. We have two culinary schools, each with different approaches, but turning out talented cooks. There are two Slow Food conviviums in the state. Even though our agricultural policy is draconian, sustainable farming is alive and well.

We may not be San Francisco or Seattle when it comes to restaurants and farmers markets, but guess what? San Francisco wasn’t San Francisco 30 years ago when Alice Watters started Chez Panisse. And Seattle, ditto twenty years ago. Good “terroir,” talented chefs and an active, creative press buillt the foundation for dynamic food scenes.

It’s for that reason, I’ve decided to write a weekly food column for indyrats. Once a week for the next year, you can read The Unfood Food Column on this blog. It’s going to be quirky, a little Laurie Colwin, a little Jeffrey Steingarten.

It won’t have restaurant reviews or recipes. Passion, not money fuels this writing. There’s no expense account, and since I’m a professional cook, the budget doesn’t allow for much dining out. Besides, Terry Kirts of Nuvo magazine does such an admirable, informative job, why bother?

You won’t find tuna casserole recipes or five-in-a-fix in this column. You’ll have to go to Gannett for that.

Don’t expect conniseurship, chef worship or food porn. Renee Wilmeth of FeedMeDrinkMe does the wine/restaurant/chef scene with elan and irritation. Sweet, gentle Christine Barbour is tops in food photography (and writing) at her My Plate Or Yours blog. And of course, there’s Indianapolis Monthly and the new Indianapolis Dine magazines to provide you with all the salivating you need.

This column is about things we enjoy and think you will too, like Fromage Blanc and Lodge cookware. It’s an insider/back of the house view of the food industry. We’ll visit talented farmers and purveyor’s.

We’ll discuss the economics and politics of food in Indianapolis and Indiana. The first Unfood Food Column was about the disconnect between Governor Daniels efforts to curb Indiana runaway appetite while the ag department ramps up meat and processed food production. Expect to revisit that issue again.

This weekend the Colts go to the Super Bowl and here’s hoping they win. Even if they don’t, the Indianapolis food scene will score a championship.

“Chef Greg Hardesty, co-owner of the Indianapolis restaurant Elements, is going to be representing the Indianapolis Colts in this years Taste of the NFL. Hardesty will be preparing beef carpaccio for 3,000 people. The dish will feature local food, including beef from Fischer’s Farm in Jasper, IN and Fleur de la Terre from Traders Point Creamery. The event hosts more than 30 chefs from around the country who create special recipes for the Super Bowl.” (Trader’s Point Creamery Newsletter, February 2, 2007)

Go Colts, go Chef Hardesty–put those chi-chi chefs from Chicago and San Francisco and Seattle to shame.

Written by Susan Gillie

February 2, 2007 at 11:55 pm