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Food for Thought: What is the duct tape of cooking?

Nancy Leson
Some of the candidates. That's Nancy's home made Busha Brown's hot sherry in an old Busha's jar

I'm a guy who appreciates the virtues, however imaginary, of the quick fix.  And what could be more emblematic of the QF than duct tape?  Surely there's something analogous in cooking.  When I asked Nancy Leson what she thought that might be, she posed the question on her Facebook page. 

She got lots of  answers from both talented home cooks and pro chefs.

Holly Smith, chef and owner of Kirkand's Cafe Juanita said, "Acid. It keeps a dish interesting - it awakens flavors and often should be added before any more salt to awaken seasoning. It is the great balancer be it lemon juice or zest, vinegars, wine or preserved or pickled vegetables."

Nance told me her friend Michael Young, now cooking in Hawaii, believes that "Copious fresh herbs can help to cover basic ineptitude or catastrophes."

Aaron Angelo in New Orleans takes that to the next one level by mixing his fresh herbs with garlic salt. The salt draws the moisture from the herbs and infuses the flavor even more.

Our pal, chef Trevis Gleason inDingle, voted top food town in Ireland, always keeps a supply of ready made roux to hand because as he observes, "A killer sauce," made with that roux "can cover many a sin."

Nance says her friend Ami Samuels, who went to pastry school, says "Buttercream is 'the spackle of cakes.'"

Closer to home, I checked with my fellow KNKXers.

Sound Effect Host Gabriel Spitzer: "Veggie Better Than Boullion.  It seems to deepen the flavors of whatever it's added to, and fills out the "middle" or "background" notes of a dish. Also a good source of umami for vegetarians."

All Blues Host John Kessler:  "I am fond of using cinnamon sugar in tomato sauces, chillis and curries."

Director of Content Matt Martinez: "Eggs are the Scotch tape of cooking, but mayonnaise is the duct tape."

And what would Nancy say is the duct tape of cooking?  "Anchovy paste added to pretty much anything.  Pasta, sauces, it just brings up the flavor.  Even when people don't like anchovies, they don't know it's in there."  I agree in principle but use fish sauce, which is made from fermented anchovies, instead.  Nance and I both like Red Boat brand,

My vote for duct tape of cooking?  On Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, it's MSG.  Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, Vital Wheat Gluten.  Sundays, it's bacon.

"Bacon is the duct tape of food."  – Pretty much everyone

Dick Stein joined KNKX in January 1992. He retired in 2020 after three decades on air. During his storied radio career, he hosted the morning jazz show, co-hosted and produced "Food for Thought" with Nancy Leson and wrote and directed the Jimmy Jazzoid live radio musical comedies and 100 episodes of Jazz Kitchen.