Sometimes with food, you have to skip the middleman. You know, like when putting icing onto an actual cake before eating it is just too much. Why waste batter? Icing, meet spoon, meet face.
I think it’s time we all confessed to committing variations on this sin when nobody’s looking. “Ha! Here I am, swigging the orange juice right from its plastic bottle like a badass,” we might think to ourselves. Even in public, we admit it’s fun to have hibachi tossed into our mouths (unless we miss, in which case it is not fun and that hibachi guy sucks).
Recently I was at a fall festival with my significant other where we saw a booth of Amish women making homemade donuts. To finish the jelly-filled ones, the women pushed the donuts onto pointy metal spigots that pumped the jelly inside. S.O.’s eyes widened. “I want one,” he said. And I knew he didn’t mean a donut–he wanted the jelly squirting machine so he could have it dispense the filling directly into his own donut hole. (Now that I think about it, there is probably something strangely sexual about this that I don’t want to get into just now. )
Suffice it to say that certain products (icing, whipped cream, chocolate sauce, etc.) come in squirty form for a reason, which is application directly to the mouthal region.
No? Sounds gross? Don’t leave yet. There are other squirty foods. Ones that nobody wants to eat straight-up. And ones that will save you time, energy, and maybe even dollars when you cook.
The big one: Tomato paste in a tube. It’s exactly the same thing that comes in a can. And even though it technically costs more this way, it still costs less than wasting 90% of a can because you open it to use a tablespoon and then shove it into the innermost caverns of the fridge, where it is forgotten and begins to grow limbs before you catch a whiff and toss it three months later. Right?
Use it in pasta sauce, soup, or chili, or top a spoonful with a piece of pepperoni and a few shreds of mozzarella for the tiniest pizza ever. (Just kidding.) (Sort of.)
Garlic paste. A teaspoon equals about one clove. Great for adding a garlicy hint to dipping sauces and salad dressings, or for spreading on a baguette or inside a sandwich. Also, the internet just told me that garlic paste can soothe joint pain. So if you have extra, there’s always that.
Basil paste. I didn’t even know they made this, but the grocery store also had oregano, parsley, dill, and cilantro in a tube. Bona fide cooks will laugh out loud at the idea of simple herbs in plastic dispensers, I know. But for those who don’t cook every day or plan very well, these are a huge help for spur of the moment stuff. I spread some of the basil on toasted bread topped with sliced tomatoes for quick bruschetta, then whisked the rest with oil and vinegar for a basil vinaigrette, drizzled on a spinach salad.
Umami paste. Umami (in Japanese, literally “deliciousness,” but we usually translate “savory,”) is known as the fifth basic taste alongside bitter, sweet, etc. Here it is in tube form. This paste enhances the flavor of any savory food. You can squeeze it into soup, stir it into risotto, or spread a blob onto your steak. It’s stealthy but striking, like a ninja.
For our fifth example, I give to you Squeez Bacon. For the love of God, do not eat this, especially in any of the combinations pictured (on sushi? on more bacon??), but definitely watch the video on the linked page. Worth its weight in Scandinavian pork paste.
Illustration by Claire Jelly.