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Food Bytes PG Cookbook The Food Chain
Kitchen Mailbox Countdown to Dinner Dining
Cooking for One: Food colorist mania the latest fashion

Thursday, February 10, 2000

By Marlene Parrish

I love to shop by catalog. In bed, all cozy and warm under a goosedown comforter with a highlighter and Post-It notes at hand, I can fantasize about my spring wardrobe without the nuisance of going to the mall and trying stuff on. I hate trying on.

Lessee, (flip, flip) I'll start with tops. Oh, this looks nice. "Softball-style cardigan sweater is USA-made of combed cotton. Please specify white, sherbet, celery or saffron." (Flip.) Oh, how cute: "Cashmere chunky top has roll bottom and jersey scrunch neck. Please specify black, peach fuzz, cappuccino, lemon or guava." (Guava?)

Moving on to outfits. "Three-quarter-sleeve handkerchief-linen dress decorated with wooden bead trim in oatmeal with contrast pattern. Please specify black, coffee or rice." (Rice?) Another page flip. Wow, this looks like me. "Mandarin boxy jacket in imported Tencel with easy-fit pant. Please specify black, white, banana, mango, eggplant or hummus."

Now just wait a minute. Guava, eggplant, HUMMUS? What the heck is going on here? There's a feeding frenzy going on in retail fashion.

Now I'm psyched, kicking off the covers, voraciously combing my pile of catalogs for descriptors. Yes, there are more food sightings. Ralph Lauren's sheets are "raspberry, kiwi, vanilla and chili pepper." Towels are "white (they always throw in white or black), melon, almond, butter and grape." Blankets are "plum, walnut, merlot and sprig," that one obviously named by an herb-deprived flak.

You'll never catch L.L. Bean with egg on its color wheel. Although you can find dress pants in oatmeal, butter and olive, along with the occasional chocolate and toast, the New Englanders run as conservative in color as in their styles, exuding all the excitement of the 1950s.

Food-color mania is everywhere. Designers are either hard up for new adjectives or they've gone as food-obsessive as the rest of us. The pricier the catalog, the more food-compulsive it is. So far, the Neiman Marcus catalog is at the top of this food pyramid.

We can only hope this trend doesn't trickle down to automobile manufacturers. No way am I driving an eggplant Toyota with a hummus leather interior.

The wordsmiths haven't even come close to mining the vocabulary of food-as-adjective. As a public service, I offer my skills to the industry.

Sample: "Three-quarter sleeve imported cashmere top has updated slash neckline. Please specify calves liver, ketchup or sauerkraut."

Or what about this: "Long-sleeve peasant tunic over a drop-yoke (make that yolk), elastic-waist skirt. Please specify: arugula, meatball or gluten." Can I get work here?

As long as you are a single cook suffering from February cabin fever and eating alone, you might as well get goofy, turn the tables and play "What Color Is My Food?"

Make this easy raw salad and then pick some category to describe the ingredients. Discovery Channel types can pick jungle hues: How about cockatoo and crocodile? Gardeners can pick flower colors. Poppy and zinnia? Geologists, go with earth tones. Name your hobby, color your dinner.

Silly? Sure, but it's more fun than watching the telly to hear the latest verses of Elian and Dubya.

Carrot Apple Craisin Salad

This salad is loaded with fresh and crunchy goodness. There's a lot of leeway in ingredients. Instead of mayo, use Nayonnaise, brand name for a soy-based "mayonnaise" that has half the calories and twice the nutrition of standard brands, and it tastes like Miracle Whip. Instead of raisins or Craisins (dried cranberries), look for Sun-Maid FruitBits, a mix of chewy dried apples, apricots, peaches, plums, raisins and cherries. It's a product worth keeping in a desk drawer at work for a quick snack. Serve the salad with a loaded baked potato for a quick dinner.

1 cup shredded raw carrot matchsticks (washed and prepackaged)
1/2 Granny Smith apple with skin, finely chopped
1/3 cup raisins, craisins or fruit bits
1/3 cup nuts (any, but pecans or walnuts are good)
Mayonnaise thinned with milk or orange juice
Boston lettuce, optional

Combine carrots, apple, raisins and nuts in a bowl. Toss with mayo and spoon onto a cup-shaped lettuce leaf. Makes enough for 2 generous servings.

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