The Best of Andy Rooney

Food doesn't exactly rule our lives, but we spend an awful lot of time thinking about it, buying it, preparing it, eating it, and dreaming about it. Some food cravings have followed me all my life.

I must have been very young when my mother gave me a dinner of macaroni and cheese but I remember loving the taste and it's something I never got over.

My father was successful, making over $10,000 a year during the Great Depression but he traveled in his business and was away a lot. We always had enough to eat, but we ate better when Dad was home. When he was around, we often had steak or lamb chops. When he was on the road, we were more apt to have macaroni and cheese. I never complained.

Although there are very few things I don't like to eat if they're nicely cooked, I've always had an aversion to carrots. I don't care much for beets, either, but I hate carrots more. I don't like their color, I don't like their shape, and I hate what they taste like. I think beets taste like carrots. Don't put carrots on my plate because I'll leave them.

I love meat and potatoes, rice, ice cream, lettuce and other vegetables. Whether or not to eat carrots was the only serious argument I ever remember having with my mother. She said carrots were good for me but I'm not even sure that's true, and anyway, I felt fine. I'd love it if nutritionists announced that carrots were bad for your hearing, your eyesight, or your nasal passages. It would serve carrots right.

I don't cook very often, but I make ice cream three or four times a summer, and it's one of the best foods you can put in your mouth. I buy a quart of light cream, mix in a pint of milk, add a cup of sugar and mix that with maple syrup or crushed strawberries, chocolate syrup or very black coffee, or sometimes just vanilla extract. I challenge anyone to make better ice cream. I used to churn it by hand, but for the last 10 years I've had an electric ice-cream maker that does the hard work. If I had to name the 10 best things I do in my life, making ice cream would be high on the list.

There are a great many foods I don't dislike but don't eat if I have a choice. Celery's OK, but if I never have another piece of celery, it won't break my heart. You can add cabbage to the list of foods I'm not crazy about. I don't eat plain white bread. It can taste OK toasted, but most store-bought loaves of bread are mediocre at best. I don't know why, but the average loaf of bread they sell in stores, wrapped in plastic, is not good, and I don't know how they get away with selling it across America. It's a crime.

I don't eat Jell-O or anything made with gelatin.

I like an occasional hamburger, but unless you buy the meat and grind it yourself, you don't know what you're getting. It helps to know the butcher. In the summer, I cook hamburgers over an open fire made with dead hickory branches that have fallen to the ground from the trees near the house. The flavor that wood gives to the meat is better than any charcoal.

This is just an opinion, but I think that the best cooks in the world are, in order, the French, Italian, Chinese, Spanish and Swiss. (The Swiss are also good with chocolate, so load up the next time you're in Basel.)

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