In the Bible, in the book of Revelation, Jesus rebukes the church of Laodicea:
“I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth.”
Bet you didn’t know Jesus was a foodie did ya?
Yes, I know He was rebuking them for their spiritual condition and their works, and not their Sunday post-church brunch. Yet, even more than 2,000 years ago, the writer of Revelation understood one of the most important, yet overlooked pieces of the puzzle to great food.
Hot foods should be served hot, and cold foods, cold. But it’s especially important when it concerns hot dishes.
I love hot foods. And there are those that I especially like to eat when they are burn-the-roof-of-your-mouth hot. Given the choice of a hot panini or sub with veggies and cold cuts for example, I’m likely to pick the panini. There’s just something comforting about hot foods. And of course, when the weather is cool, hot foods warm you up from the inside.
Not that I don’t enjoy cold foods, of course, I do. I love a great salad; crisp cool greens, with crunchy veggies, lightly dressed in a barely sweet, brightly acidic dressing. Or an ice cold beer on a hot summer’s day. But take that salad and put it in the warm sun for while, and then eat it. Not so appetizing is it? Or take that beer and let it sit on the counter till it reaches room temperature. Yuck.
Temperature matters, it affects the flavor of food dramatically, but it also affects the texture. Crisp greens become wilted when warm. Hot, crispy french fries become limp when cool. A crunchy piece of buttered toast becomes soggy. A silky smooth gravy becomes gloppy. I could go on and on.
What I find perplexing and incredibly frustrating is that people will happily eat lukewarm food and not bat an eye. It’s as if they’re clueless. I know they are not. Yet, I see it happen again and again.
I attended a function at a local event venue, (which I won’t name because I don’t want to single them out), where dinner was served. There was a pre-dinner cocktail reception outside the main dining room. About 1/2 an hour before dinner, I went into the dining room to put our place markers on our seats. The salads were already sitting on the tables. Ugh. Warm salad. Worse, when dinner was served it arrived lukewarm. Before I was halfway through my meal it was cold. It ruined my night. I was looking forward to a great meal, and I was forced to eat cold steak and potatoes.
But no one else seemed to notice. Not one person at our table of 10 said a word or appeared to even care. That drove me batty. Here’s an institution that prides itself on being one of the better banquet houses in the area and it was serving cold food and nobody complained. This place isn’t cheap either.
The same goes for buffets and potluck dinners. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had baked ziti at a potluck dinner and it was like eating pasta held together with cheese flavored glue. Do people really enjoy that? I loathe buffets for just that reason too. The food sits in a steam table and slowly degrades as it cools, and by the time you put it on your plate and make your way back to the table it’s usually cold.
Then there are restaurants that serve lukewarm dishes. People pay them good money and the kitchen for whatever reason pre-cooks the food and puts what amounts to leftovers on their plate. Or home cooks who make dishes ahead of time, and keep the food warm, or worse, make no attempt to keep it warm and serve it cold.
The less time between the pot, the pan, or the oven, till when you eat it, the more delicious and enjoyable the food will be. Every time. And to refer back to the Bible, it’s one of the ‘Ten Commandments’ of great food.