So we were watching Come Dine With Me the other night*, when I saw one of the hosts preparing asparagus. Fine, I thought, we all know presentation is everything with food nowadays, no doubt she wants to form it into a model of the Eiffel Tower or something equally fatheaded. But it was worse than that. This bizarre woman was peeling it.
How do you even do that? Isn't it like peeling grass?
I've been thinking for some time that the cult of "peeling" has been gaining ground. From sensible beginnings - eggs, swedes and onions, for instance, probably should be peeled before serving in most recipes - it's overtaken potatoes and carrots, before striking east into mushrooms and north into tomatoes, cucumbers and capsicums.
(Heck, it's getting hard to buy chicken breasts with the skin still on. I've sometimes wondered what happens to the skin from all those breasts. Maybe it goes to the same pet-food factories as the cheap cuts of meat from organic cattle. Seriously, with the exception of mince, anything lower-grade than "sirloin" just doesn't appear in the shops. There's no such thing as "organic" topside or stewing steaks or offal. It's weird.)
And now... asparagus?
What's next? Peeled broccoli, aubergine, courgette?
Just stop it. Apart from the waste, you're throwing away the tastiest part of the food.
Mushroom skins are delicious. Just wipe or wash the loose dirt away, they're good to go. Carrots and potatoes likewise, unless you're mashing them. Skinning cucumbers and tomatoes is a fetish, there's no other explanation.
And as for chicken or fish: repeat after me: "Fat is the channel through which flavour flows". Yes, the skin is fatty, but that doesn't make it bad. If you belong to the tiny, tiny fraction of the population that really shouldn't eat the skin for your health's sake, then there's really no reason to eat chicken at all. Try tofu. For the rest of us, skin is part of the meat.
* It's a reality show. Don't judge us. At least, not until you've spent a year watching New Zealand television.