Thursday, December 13, 2007

A New Favorite Thing

After returning home from Hotel Hope, I developed a bad attitude about food. I still liked to talk and read about it; I just didn't like to eat the stuff. As hematology nurse friend Melanie warned, food becomes sustenance, not satisfaction.

When meal times rolled around, I would dutifully eat the most nutrient-rich foods possible. My brain said, "You need this," but my stomach cried, "Get away from me." Without an appetite, eating was just one more chore on my "to do" list.

That is until this morning. My 9 am Pilates class at the Pasadena YWCA was cancelled, but a staff member offered me a conciliatory potato ball from Porto's Bakery in Glendale. And since the Y had purchased these Cuban treats to commemorate 102 years of service in Pasadena, I agreed to try one.

A close cousin to the French croquette, the Cuban variety consists of seasoned ground beef surrounded by mashed potatoes deep fried to golden perfection.

When I bit into the savory treat, my taste buds immediately began a party. If I was a cartoon character, the animator would have drawn my mouth as a celebration, with flags flying and fireworks rocketing.

Although the ingredients are essentially the same, the Cuban potato ball bears no taste resemblance to its bland Japanese relative, the korokke. A few weeks ago, I learned to cook this popular snack food at the Pasadena Buddhist Church. But even with a dip in tonkatsu sauce, the Japanese croquette just doesn't measure up to its sassy Cuban counterpart.

I haven't yet tried the Dutch adaptation, the kroket, but I understand that it's so popular in the Netherlands that you can order a side of McKrokets with your Big Mac at McDonald's.

But I can't imagine anything cheaper or more delicious than the Cuban potato balls at Porto's Bakery. At 60 cents a piece, they have to be the most satisfaction per cent in town.

(Do you have a favorite cheap treat? Please share in the comments section.)