Whenever I try to feed my friend Adam anything that I’ve cooked, he refuses to eat it until I’ve “presented” it to him. Top Chef style.

Sophie and I will have dug into our cupcakes or pasta or whatever it is that we are eating at that moment and he will be sitting at the table, leaning back in his chair, hands folded in his lap. Waiting.

Usually I am knee-deep in enjoying my food and am completely oblivious to the whole situation (situation being the critical word – Houston, we have a problem. We’ve got a non-eater over here. Better send in the troops. Pronto.).

Then, out of the corner of my eye I will spot him. A multitude of sighs will ensue as I disengage myself from my plate. And begin to think about what exactly it is that I have been eating.
Adam is, apparently, not alone in his obsession with adjectives and descriptors. At least not when it comes to food. A certain craze has swept the nation. A passing fad, perhaps, but one that is nonetheless present in the here and now. Which has spurred the conception of a new scientific field – menu psychology.

You heard it here first. (Okay, maybe you read this article in the NY Times first, in which case you heard it here second.) Restaurant owners are, in fact, analyzing the way we as consumers think about food in order to strategically design their menus so that the more profitable dishes are those which are ordered most frequently.

For example. We tend to like items that are attached to the names of family members. So this dish would fare better if I called it Mom’s Roasted Corn Pudding in Acorn Squash Cups. Why? I’m guessing it’s because we like the idea of it having a history attached to it. It is tried and true. And therefore must be good, since it has stood the test of time. Or maybe it’s because we all have moms or grandmothers or Aunt Jane’s. And thus can identify with the dish. Forge a personal connection. Bond.

We also have a predilection for the romantic. The wordy. The verbose. Stick as many adjectives on there as you can and we will be happy. It’s as if the more descriptors a dish has, the more bang we think we are getting for our buck.

Not only is this dish rustic, but it is also oven-roasted, savory, succulent, and hand-shucked. And don’t forget that Southwestern flair. All for the low price of 14.95 (Notice that there are no dollar signs – we don’t want to remind the customer that the numbers refer to actual money…we’d rather allow them the illusion that they are an abstract concept, a figment of the imagination, unit-less. Also, keep in mind that 95 cents is the new 99 cents. If you choose to include cents at all, which is always a gamble. People want good, solid integers. And isn’t the whole point that the customer is always right?)

So how do we, as consumers, navigate this? And is it even necessary that we do so? That all depends. Do you want to order a dish because it really appeals to you or because the restaurant wants it to appeal to you? Are these two preferences even distinguishable?

Maybe the dish they want you to order most is actually the tastiest dish on the menu. In which case, I’ll take two. Or maybe it’s all just a ploy to get you to unwittingly order chicken liver so that they can get rid of the stockpiles of it that the chef ordered by accident the previous week (very little of which has, surprisingly, moved off the shelves since its arrival). To which I respond, I’ll take the vegetarian dish, thank you very much.
Either way, I’m going to keep all of this in mind the next time I’m trying to get Adam to eat whatever it is that I have cooked. Here. Let’s practice.

I present you with My Good Friend Heidi’s Roasted Corn Pudding in Acorn Squash Cups. A rustic dish made up of a sweet and organically-grown oven-roasted acorn squash that is then stuffed with a savory corn pudding, flavored with the earthy notes of fennel and scallions, and baked for a second time. It is finished off with the sharp notes of a cheddar cheese topping. For that perfect combination of sweet and savory that we all know and love.

My Good Friend Heidi’s Roasted Corn Pudding in Acorn Squash Cups
Serves 2, adapted from 101 Cookbooks (i.e. Heidi Swanson’s blog)

1 3 lb acorn squash
1 tbsp butter
1 cup almond milk (or regular milk)
1 egg
2 egg whites
1/2 cup corn
1/4 tsp fennel seed (originally aniseed, which I didn’t have on hand)
1/2 cup chopped scallions
pinch of nutmeg
1/4 tsp salt
1/3 cup grated cheddar cheese

1. Preheat the oven to 375.

2. Cut the squash in half and deseed. Rub the insides with the butter. Place cut side up on a baking sheet. Cover the squash with foil and bake for 40 minutes.

3. In a bowl, combine the milk, eggs, corn, fennel seed, half of scallions, nutmeg, and salt. Fill each of the squash bowls 3/4 full. Carefully transfer the squash bowls back to the oven without spilling. Bake, uncovered, for 30-50 minutes or until filling is set. At the last minute, sprinkle with cheese and broil until browned. Serve sprinkled with remaining scallions.

This is the 10th entry in my 12 Weeks of Winter Squash!

You are reading this post on Eats Well With Others at https://joanne-eatswellwithothers.com. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to the author and or owner of Eats Well With Others. All rights reserved by Joanne Bruno.
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50 Responses to 12 Weeks of Winter Squash – Roasted Corn Pudding in Acorn Squash Cups

  1. hahha ai thought i explained it in da post. fit jerk is FJ and he comments on my blog at times…in a snarky sort of way. i.e. running is for dorks who jump countertops (i am da dork, apparently) anyways, he and i gchatted for awhile and basically he’s better at the comebacks and i can’t think of any return. its like a fight gone bad.

  2. Adam has it made – you’re cooking for him and wooing him with delicious adjectives! πŸ™‚ Love the word rustic to describe a dish – yum!

  3. Kris says:

    That looks to-die-for!!! Happy Holidays!

  4. Debbi Smith says:

    This looks fantastic no matter what adjectives you use for it!

  5. yum! i’ve been wanting to make this for a few weeks now. it looks so delicious!

  6. Toni says:

    You crack me up. Tis looks good too except, tragically, the man is not a fan of squash. Sigh. Maybe for just me…

    As for celery in my smoothie, it wasn’t an ideal choice on my part. I just couldn’t wait until we went grocery shopping and i had some spinach or kale, so I threw in what I had. I’m looking forward to picking up some spinach this week though.

  7. Ola Joanne,ho ho ho..i like ur write of menu pyscho and yeah i sure read it here first…
    And u cud really have me at an aunt Jane’s or moms or grandmoms recipe truly…
    Adam sounds …..welll …what do i say…interesting????…
    looks so cute if u ask me…love this one here…
    And Joanne i need helppppppppppp and a precious vote ..hop on here for details
    or hop strait below…puleeze…pinky promise please…..
    …a few moments of ur time

  8. Bob says:

    Heh, great post. Although I think if anyone I knew insisted I presented a dish to them they would be hungry and their dinner would be cold. But then, I can be a dick sometimes. πŸ˜€

    Acorn squash is something I keep meaning to try but never manage to. Crazy, isn’t it?

  9. Pam says:

    Funny! All that entertaining reading, and then a yummy squash recipe too!

  10. Amy says:

    Another great read, Joanne. Marketing, marketing, marketing…my husband’s world and I’m knee deep in it, so I do get all this hullabaloo. Silly, isn’t it? Although I wonder how many people, if given the choice, would pick the “cheesburger on bun” over the “bison burger with melted GruyΓ¨re on whole wheat roll”?

    In my house, we give EVERYTHING a name/title. Our house is referred to as “The Longfellow” because of our street, the car is “Biddy Bea” because it’s so old, and yes…the food is all labeled. Maybe that’s a result of having kids? Or it’s just more fun.

  11. Mari says:

    lol I love this post…I would love to try Corn Pudding! it sounds divine =)

    I can’t wait for maΓ±ana =)

  12. Andreas says:

    Isn’t that soo 80’s style, to dress up simple dishes with fancy names?

  13. This looks absolutely heavenly! I’ve been wanting new squash recipes and this fits the bill perfectly. πŸ™‚ Your observations made me laugh cuz you’re right on the money!

  14. I’m impressed that you continue to present stunning squash recipes, this looks great.

    The marketing of food is interesting, I don’t care how restaurants present food, as long as it fulfills the expectations they’ve set up.

  15. Faith says:

    Excellent post! A non-eater…that’s too funny! This squash is the perfect comfort food…cheese, corn pudding…wow, I’m in love!

  16. Katy ~ says:

    Okay, so I’m a sucker for adjectives; they help me to savor the meal even before the plate is in front of me, builds up my expectations. However, I don’t care what anyone says about certain foods such as fish, tofu, liver, or even sugar snap peas. There aren’t enough words to dress them up and make them taste pretty.

    However, a rustic dish of squash and corn made your friend Heidi, okay, my ears are perked and my imagination is running with it!

  17. I can’t believe how creative you are with squash! I just saw the squash calzones, yum!

  18. I’ll definitely take two of Heidi’s Roasted Corn Pudding in Acorn Squash Cups! I’m sold – that looks so unbelievably scrumptious!

  19. Lea Ann says:

    This looks wonderful! What an interesting recipe and thanks for the post.

  20. Erica says:

    I love Heidi’s blog! This looks delicious! Happy new year!

  21. burpandslurp says:

    You and I seriously think too much alike! I was planning to make corn grits baked in squash sometime! Haha!

    Oh, Joanne…I’m DEVASTATED that I can’t meet you! jsfnksjfdskhfbs!!! >:-(

  22. Elra says:

    Love corn pudding, look pretty tempting baked with acorn squash.

  23. Corn pudding in squash? How absolutely delicious sounding! I love this! I like the whole adjective idea and as I was reading realized I do that a lot. But I will not eat chicken livers. No way. No how.

  24. Chef Aimee says:

    WOW! The corn pudding I made for Christmas now feels SO inferior! One of my favorite winter side dishes! πŸ™‚

  25. Michelle says:

    OH YUM…I’d take the Roasted Corn Pudding any time and you don’t even have to present it to me! Looks and sounds delish!

    Funny about the missing $, I noticed that several years ago in the more expensive restaurants! I had to laugh, it’s still money if the $ is not noted.

  26. i never know what to do with acorn squash so thank you for this delicous recipe πŸ˜€

  27. Kim says:

    This might be my favorite 12 weeks of winter squash recipe. It looks gorgeous and the combination is unstoppable. Menu/food physchology is a very interesting topic. This “menu design concept” is probably carried over to the folks who market cookbooks and so on. Can I blame this same concept on the reason why I can’t quit buying cookbooks? They always look so damn promising and appealing!! πŸ˜€

  28. Ha ha ha and it is so true.Adam and my husband should be friends,…well ok acquaintances since my husband will usually eat it up, well plated or not! But he thinks in the same way. I love your Good friend’s recipe:-)

  29. Ola Joanne,thanx a ton dear cutie pie for the nice pat on the back-has me smiling from the heart for hours on the end and for ur vote too!!!
    Thanx again and have jus baked in my biscotti but aint half as good as urs really….
    hehehehehe but will have to post my little not so nice biscotti anyway and will try to dress it up a bit tomorow(well its nite here now and they are still warm)

  30. Karen says:

    I love corn pudding and love acorn squash – what a perfect combination!

  31. Gulmohar says:

    Fabulous..Never tried anything with acorn squash…Thanks for sharing such a great recipe, so that I can try this veggie πŸ™‚

  32. My mouth is totally watering from seeing that. It looks so amazing!

    I have to try that ASAP!

    Have a great New Year Joanne!!

  33. Catherine says:

    I love the idea of using the acorn squash as cups for the corn pudding. And those biscottis are mouthwatering! Everything on your blog looks yummy!
    I hope you had a wonderful holiday and a happy, blessed New Year!

  34. monicajane says:

    I actually gasped audibly with pleasure when the picture of your squash appeared on the screen!


  35. Donna-FFW says:

    Joanne.. the corn pudding sounds just wonderful.. I am loving your adjective blurb.. I can see how it would influence people. Like skinny Brownies.. on a date, someone would choose Skinny brownies over blackout cake, no?

  36. What a delicious, healthy recipe… my husband would love it because he would have less dishes to wash πŸ™‚

    Happy New Year!!


  37. I love it! I really liked Tyler’s tortellini in baked acorn squash, I think I would love this even more.
    I am all for adjectives in my menu too – but would be less likely to order Mom’s or other family members foods.
    The adjectives reminds me of Seinfeld’s J. Peterman Catalogues. πŸ˜‰

  38. Kerstin says:

    I’m sold πŸ™‚ It looks fantastic and I love the cheese on top – yum!

  39. wow very top chef style love it
    Have a great New Years

  40. Velva says:

    As usual I am smiling while reading your post. We all have a friend(s) like Adam….:-)
    I was thinking about the marketing of menus “Menu Psychology”. Honestly, I think marketing to your audience is a good way to serve up more of what you want to your customers. I think as a business you can serve it up as a positive and a negative (i.e. I have chicken livers that I need to unload). By the way, you did a fabulous job selling roasted acorn squash cups to me- I would have ordered it. Really, it looks delicious.

  41. doggybloggy says:

    love this dish – I have never tried it but I can tell you now that I do love it – adjectivize it and I am totally sold – spank it and I am in the boat – hook, line, and sinker.

  42. OK girl, I got all the fixins and I’m totally making this TONIGHT! πŸ™‚

  43. What you can do with an acorn squash is amazing!

    This makes my chorizo acorn squash look pitiful πŸ™‚

  44. theUngourmet says:

    I love your description of this recipe. You make it sound fantastic! I’ll take a double helping! πŸ˜€

  45. Debinhawaii says:

    I love adjectives and descriptive terms–they make it more fun! πŸ˜‰ Loving that savory corn pudding.

  46. Muneeba says:

    Amazing dish .. never had stuffed squash with corn pudding, but now I’m thinking “why the heck not?!”. Adam sounds hilarious, albeit definitely annoying when all you want to do is devour your meal! πŸ˜‰

  47. This looks delicious. I’m thinking I may tuck this away to serve at Thanksgiving next year. I like to throw something new in with the traditional side dishes.

  48. thank you for your delicious version with almond milk. i used 3 egg whites, and the anise and skipped the butter. i also didnt have squash halves but i had chunks, so i steamed the chunks and baked it all together in large ramekins. thank you very much for your version of this recipe!

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