A new way to rate food: pound for pound

Breakfast at the iconic Chick and Ruth’s delicatessen in Annapolis, Md. We were eating crab cakes (with poached eggs on an English muffin), and Chick and Ruth’s crab cakes are perhaps the closest mankind will ever come to true, crystalline perfection.

While contemplating hers, my wife made a bold statement. Given the choice between a Chick and Ruth’s crab cake and a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup, she said, she would take the crab cake every time.

I was shocked. I was appalled. I began to ponder just how little I know the woman to whom I have been married for 21 years.

A well-prepared crab cake — baked, not fried, and with as little filler as you can possibly get away with and still hold the thing together — is a thing of beauty. It is like the Mona Lisa of food.

But let’s face it: A Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup is a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup. Case closed.

But then I opened the case up again, just a sliver. I explained by saying that a whole crab cake is unbeatable. But if we are talking about a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup versus a peanut butter cup-sized disc of crab cake, then I want the candy.

As they say in the world of boxing, pound for pound, a peanut butter cup is the best food.

All of which got me thinking about picking favorite foods in a pound-for-pound manner.

Few meals are as life-affirming and satisfying to the soul as a great steak. But what if you could only have one bite of it? Would you want that bite of steak more than, say, a bite of lobster? A bite of foie gras? What about a nibble of caviar?

Give me a 12-ounce steak, nicely charred and cooked just a bit to the rare side of medium rare, and I’m a happy man. But 12 ounces of caviar? No thanks.

And yes, I know that the government and various medical groups insist that a single portion of meat is no more than two to three ounces. But if you plop two ounces of steak in front of me and call it dinner, I will curse the day you were born and probably the mother who gave birth to you. And the same goes for three ounces.

Let us say, therefore, that steak is the better of the two, pound for pound. But ounce for ounce, it’s caviar all the way.

My love for Cheerios is unbounded, but three spoonfuls of it would only leave me frustrated and miserable. But I could easily be satisfied with three spoonfuls of a sinfully rich, exquisitely flavored ice cream.

Pound for pound, therefore, ice cream is better than Cheerios, though it breaks my heart to say it.

A dew-kissed, perfectly ripe strawberry, still warm from the sun, is clearly one of the finest foods known to mankind. Whether eating just a single one or a couple of handfuls — even big handfuls — they are divine.

So, pound for pound, are they the best food?

Not to me, they aren’t. I’ll take a doughnut over the same amount of strawberries any day. Or a napoleon. Or an eclair. Or pretty much any other pastry.

Pound for pound, the best foods are the ones that put on the pounds.

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