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Food Porn: Vive la snaque!

Radishes and butter 1

Exhibit A: How to snack en français.

 

Here in the God-fearing, good ole U.S. of A., we tend to be a bit, shall we say, "stubborn," when it comes to our snacking habits. When you think "snack," you probably think of chips and salsa, pigs in blankets, a handful (or, more than likely, several) of peanut M&Ms, pork rinds, Hot Fries, pretzels dipped in peanut butter of stuffed full of an artificially flavored cheese-type product, gummy spaghetti, or any other number of treats that taste wonderful and that will probably, eventually, murder you in your sleep. If you're anything like me, anyhow.

In the interest of culinary exploration, not to mention the fact that my doctor is less than pleased when I tell him the truth about my dietary habits, I've been of a mind lately of exploring alternative snacking methods. Could there ever be anything more perfectly satisfying as chili cheese-flavored Fritos without directly leading me down the corridor to an angioplasty? This, of course, has taken some doing.

Thus, instead of decending into the shame spiral that is my local market's candy and potato chip aisle, I've looked to other cultures to satisfy my jones while still remaining somewhat healthy. Enter the French.

As I've written about previously, and which you should already know (especially if you're a New Orleanian) the French have a good thing going on when it comes to eating well and not, like us, winding up having to need a backhoe to knock down a wall in our house because we've become too corpulent to exit by traditional means. The first thing they do right is that they eat food. Sounds crazy, right? Sure, that food may be cured meats, baguettes and rich, triple-cream cheeses that share aromatic profiles with the armpits of a not-so-freshly deceased corpse, but those things are made from actual ingredients like flour and yeast and salt, and meat fashioned from animals that aren't pumped to their eyeballs full of antibiotics and growth hormones. French food, in France, isn't generally concocted in a laboratory like some sort of pestilence the government has clandestinely created for chemical warfare against an alien invasion, should that ever happen (God forbid).  Their food is food, not a science experiment. Which is why they can eat fromage and charcuterie and lots of bread and wine and still be perfectly healthy. What a concept!

In the spirit of the French, as well as my exploration of less-lethal snack alternatives, I discovered something magnificent that, until now, I never knew was possible. To wit: all you need for a perfect, lovely afternoon nosh is a bunch of fresh radishes, really good butter, and coarse sea salt.  I know, you're thinking, "Radishes with butter and salt? Are you making this up? And how, precisely, intoxicated are you right now?" The answers are "Yes!" "No, I am not," and "Only a little bit, I promise."  I'm just kidding about one of those things.

In all seriousness, the combination of radish, butter and salt was something of a revelation to me.  The sharpness of the radish is cut perfectly by the creamy fat of the butter -- and again, use good butter if you're going to try this out (I like Irish-style butter) -- both of which are brought to the fore by the salt. You can experiment with different types of sea salt, too, from black smoked lava salt to herbed rosemary versions, or, as I did recently, Sriracha sea salt that a friend had gifted me for the holidays.  And, if you want something slightly more substantial, get a crusty baguette from your local French baker, slice it in half, and make yourself a radish, butter and salt sandwich. It will be worth it. Trust me on this. I am a snacking professional.

So next time you're thinking of reaching for that tin of chocolate or bag of salt and vinegar chips, try a French snack instead. You'll be satisfied, and you'll also be able to hold off on having to order up that backhoe for a little bit.  And if you like it, that's just for starters. Just wait until I tell you about the joy of pickled cucumbers dipped in cream cheese and wrapped in prosciutto...


Native New Orleans food writer Scott Gold, author of The Shameless Carnivore, has written for Gourmet, The New Orleans Advocate, Gambit, ThrillistEdible Brooklyn, Tasting Table, The Faster Times, and other publications. His Food Porn Friday column for NolaVie offers a weekly mouth-watering photo essay designed to start culinary conversations in the Big Easy. Find him on Twitter @scottgold.