Steep your brain long enough in the “Food World” and you begin to develop abnormally strong opinions about things like, well, like pudding. Have you ever argued that a peanut butter cookie must bare the iconic crosshatch impression of a fork’s tines? Have you received blank stares for suggesting the omission of maraschino cherries from atop a pineapple upside-down cake in an attempt to remove it from 1953? Have you witnessed the hair prickle on the neck of a chef when discussing ratios of ingredients contrary to his regular practice? With all of the raised eyebrows and reprimanding gazes, odds are that you’ve indulged in a controversial cookie and not even realized it.
Consider the Panna Cotta. Sometime in October, I began having violent feelings toward this milky excuse for a dessert. Perhaps, it had to do with portioning large vats of it into hundreds of pretty, little cordial glasses for each Sunday brunch buffet. Yet, I have reason to believe that these feelings marked my tumble into the rabbit hole of strangely vehement food feelings. For those who are not familiar with Panna Cotta…it is gelatinized milk. Not dessert. (Disclaimer: Yes, this is an opinion, but let it hence be known to the world as a fact.)
In my latest class, “Contemporary Cakes,” I’ve discovered that my feelings about mousse are similar to my admittedly callow reaction toward the innocent, Panna Cotta.
According to The Food Lover’s Companion, a mousse is “a rich, airy dish that can be either sweet or savory and hot or cold.” In other words, we take perfectly good flavors like coconut and caramel, whip them up (lighten them) with eggs and cream, and ultimately dilute the substance into a fancy form of a Jell-O pudding cup for which my colleagues might someday charge $4.50 a slice.
Ultimately, mousse will always remind me of “banquet fare.” Translated, this is a dessert that can be easily mass-produced, yet receive praise from those who may not be familiar with the techniques of Food World. In other words, it is razzle dazzle. Glitter. Sequins. Top Hats. Literally, you receive less substance and more fluff, ultimately paying for carefully calculated aeration.
Let me take a moment and remind you that this is an opinion. It is influenced by a Midwestern, corn-encrusted palate, a contradictory love of marshmallow and an impenetrable aversion to sushi. Unsophisticated? Most Probably.
Still, I don’t even want to get into savory mousses.