kottke.org posts about food
Sales of "full-calorie" soda in the US has decreased by more than 25% in the past 20 years.
The drop in soda consumption represents the single largest change in the American diet in the last decade and is responsible for a substantial reduction in the number of daily calories consumed by the average American child. From 2004 to 2012, children consumed 79 fewer sugar-sweetened beverage calories a day, according to a large government survey, representing a 4 percent cut in calories over all. As total calorie intake has declined, obesity rates among school-age children appear to have leveled off.
I've been a dedicated soda drinker1 since at least high school. But this summer, I started cutting back. The big reason is that my kids are getting old enough to read labels and wonder why I'm consuming so much sugar, the little blighters. "All that sugar is not good for you, right Daddy?" they would say. And they're completely right of course and I couldn't argue with them on that point, so I've been drinking a lot less of the stuff. I haven't cut it completely out of my diet but I treat it more or less like every other food or beverage I consume: everything in moderation.
Mario Carbone is a chef and restaurateur who, with his partners, runs a number of NYC restaurants like Dirty French, Parm, Carbone, and Santina. Carbone borrowed and modified his mother's recipe for meatballs and put it on the menu at one of his restaurants. In this video, a clash of home cooking and fine dining, Mario and his mother Maria get together to cook and fight over the provenance of these meatballs.
I love the brief exchange at ~4:00 where Mario admits to using a French technique to make his mother's Italian meatballs and Maria responds "Ah. See?" with a healthy helping of side-eye. (via @CharlesCMann, whose description of the video -- "A ferocious Oedipal power struggle over meatballs" -- I cannot improve upon)
Lucky Peach is coming out with a cookbook called 101 Easy Asian Recipes. I've always been a little intimidated by Asian cooking.1 Other types of cuisine seem easy: French is butter & salt, Italian is olive oil & garlic, American is roast chicken & burgers. Plus, Asian cuisine is a huge umbrella of wonderful foods from all sorts of different cultures that it's difficult to know where to start. I've been wanting to cook less Western at home, and I'm hoping this cookbook will give me some good ideas on how to proceed.
Making a sandwich completely from scratch took this guy six months and cost $1500. He grew his own vegetables, made his own butter & cheese, made sea salt from salt water, and harvested wheat for bread flour. And that's with a few shortcuts...he didn't raise the cow & chicken from a calf & chick or the bees from a starter hive.
See also I, Pencil, how a can of Coca-Cola is made, and How to Cook Soup.
Kenji Lopez-Alt, whose work you and I have followed at Serious Eats for several years now, has come out with a cookbook called The Food Lab: Better Home Cooking Through Science.
Ever wondered how to pan-fry a steak with a charred crust and an interior that's perfectly medium-rare from edge to edge when you cut into it? How to make homemade mac 'n' cheese that is as satisfyingly gooey and velvety-smooth as the blue box stuff, but far tastier? How to roast a succulent, moist turkey (forget about brining!) -- and use a foolproof method that works every time?
Instant purchase for me. You take a peek inside the book at Kenji's site.
Who would have guessed 15 years ago that this self-styled rebel, who wrote about waitress blow jobs and shooting heroin in his best-selling 2000 memoir, Kitchen Confidential, would become America's contemporary answer to, say, Mark Twain -- our most enthusiastic chronicler of life outside our borders?
Josh Eells tags along to get a firsthand look at Anthony Bourdain's world domination.
Using the cronut as the point of departure, Helen Rosner urges chefs and writers and everyone to look beyond hybrid wordplay and dig deeper into the conditions for the latest "it" dish:
From a trademarked pastry to the entire concept of "street food," a trend follows a predictable path, one that's consistent whether applied to technology (the hype cycle identified by tech research company Gartner), youth culture (Fuse Marketing's five-point map), or gastronomy (the eleven-stage process broken down in the food-culture-skewering book Comfort Me With Offal). However detailed your drilldown, the story is the same: Something bubbles up for one reason or another, feeling right to a small group of people who are open to new ideas and who speak with loud, influential voices. More people pick up on that right-ness, and then more people pick up on the fact that people are picking up on something, ultimately reaching a critical mass of interest and awareness.
At this point, most of the early adopters tend to fall away: trends are driven at different points in their life cycles by a desire to fit in and a desire to stand out; if someone's engine is the latter, she'll cut and run when adherence to the gospel of locavorism becomes more about the former. Once Starbucks puts a flat white on their menu, cortado devotees start eyeing matcha. Once your mom buys bacon-scented hand soap for the guest bathroom, there's an unshakeable pall cast over your Benton's-washed bourbon. When something makes that leap into ultra-mass culture, showing up on t-shirts at Target and as a punchline on the Tonight Show, it's a sign that its original engine -- novelty, exclusivity, difference -- has worn out.
It's that "why do things bubble up in the first place" question that's harder to answer. These things are always time-dependent, sometimes place-dependent, and usually driven by more than just food. (Ditto trends in tech or whatever. There are games beyond the game.)
"The thing that truly jumpstarts a trend is that it solves a problem we perhaps didn't consciously realize needed solving," writes Rosner.
Trends are driven by broader forces: Kale and quinoa are driven by an obsession with healthfulness and nutritional density, artisanal-everything is a backlash to the sterility of mass production, toast with fancy things on it looks incredibly pretty on Instagram. And not all these forces are consumer-side: The sudden glut of hip chicken sandwich restaurants isn't the result of some shady collusion of culinary illuminati; rather, it nails the intersection of comfort food, Southern food, and fast-casual's potential for extraordinary (and extraordinarily scalable) profits.
Also, it should be delicious.
All the terminology on fancy restaurant menus can be overwhelming. From Judy Wu at Gaper's Block, a glossary of common menu items and terms.
Gluten-Free: This dish contains a small trace of gluten, but a full dollop of bullshit.
Duck Fat: Duck fat fries, rillette, popcorn, confit, Brussels sprouts -- never skip this menu item.
Amish: This chicken was raised without electricity and fear.
From Mark Christian, a selection of deliciously pun-filled food truck name ideas. Some favorites:
Get Quiche Or Die Tryin'
What About Kebab?
Planet of the Crepes
Naan Disclosure Agreement
Entrée the Giant
From The Message is Medium Rare, an appreciation of the ShackBurger, "a straightforward, honest-to-goodness burger". It includes a review of the typography used by the restaurant:
These three typefaces artfully express the ethos of both the burger and the brand. Neutraface is the bun: sturdy, reliable and architectural. Futura is the patty: basic but bold. Galaxie is the lettuce: wavy, quirky and fresh. To the layperson this comparison may seem like a stretch, but designers know they are purposefully expressive.
A painting of fruit done by Giovanni Stanchi sometime in the mid 1600s shows that the watermelon has changed somewhat in the intervening 350 years.
That's because over time, we've bred watermelons to have the bright red color we recognize today. That fleshy interior is actually the watermelon's placenta, which holds the seeds. Before it was fully domesticated, that placenta lacked the high amounts of lycopene that give it the red color. Through hundreds of years of domestication, we've modified smaller watermelons with a white interior into the larger, lycopene-loaded versions we know today.
The Waffle House Index is an informal metric used by FEMA administrator Craig Fugate to evaluate how bad a storm is. Basically, whether the Waffle House in town is open or serving a limited menu can tell you something about how bad the storm was and how much recovery assistance is necessary.
If you get there and the Waffle House is closed? That's really bad. That's where you go to work.
See also The Economist's Big Mac Index and other odd economic indicators. (via @naveen)
David Chang has an opinion -- several opinions really -- about the proper burger.
My ideal burger is bun, cheese, burger. Sometimes bacon. Ketchup on the side, so I can control it. Pickles -- yes! Obviously. And the cheese thing has to be very clear: American cheese only. American cheese was invented for the hamburger. People talk about it being processed and artificial and not real cheese -- you know what makes it real? When you put it on a hamburger.
But much of his burger manifesto is about what a burger shouldn't be.
Grass-fed beef does not make burgers, in my opinion. It's too lean and the fat content is not evenly distributed, so it can get a little mealy. But the dumbest burger in the world is the wagyu bullshit. It's like 70 percent fat content -- it's disgusting. Would you eat a ground bacon burger? That's what you're doing with a wagyu burger. Or the idiots that have "kobe beef wagyu sliders with like a trio of ketchup" on their menu -- that drives me insane. The inventor of the kobe beef slider is right next to the inventor of aluminum siding in the Dumbest Thing I've Ever Seen Hall of Fame. And you know what's even more stupid? The fucking customer that buys it because he's like, Oooohh, kobe, and it's like $21. God have mercy on their souls.
I love that Chang loves White Castle; I do too1 and make a trip to the one in Hell's Kitchen about once a month without ever telling another living soul I do so. I agree with most of the rest of his list, 1 but would add one thing: no super-thick burgers, aka most burgers at fancy restaurants. They are too difficult to eat and the massive patty throws everything out of proportion and you end up with a mouthful of burger with very little of anything else. Blech. Balance, people!
Eater's Nick Solares accompanies the proprietor of Peter Luger Steakhouse to one of the few remaining butchers in the Meatpacking District1 to see how she selects meat for the restaurant.
While reading this otherwise excellent article written by US soccer player Christie Rampone, I discovered a type of diet I'd never heard of before, the blood type diet (italics mine).
Age and parenting make me think about longevity. I definitely believe one big reason for my longevity has to do with the dietary and fitness changes I made after being diagnosed with auto-immune conditions after giving birth to my youngest daughter Reece in 2011. For example, I've gone gluten-free and have started to eat to my blood-type. Also, a friend introduced me to a natural ingredient called EpiCor to help strengthen my immune system. I have taken EpiCor daily for the past three years and it has become a beneficial part of my daily routine of rest, recovery, working out, eating healthy, and being in airports and hotels more than my own house.
From Wikipedia, an overview of the diet:
The underlying theory of blood type diets is that people with different blood types digest lectins differently, and that if people eat food that is not compatible with their blood type, they will experience many health problems. On the other hand, if a person eats food that is compatible, they will be healthier.
That theory is, in turn, based on an assumption that each blood type represents a different evolutionary heritage. "Based on the 'Blood-Type' diet theory, group O is considered the ancestral blood group in humans so their optimal diet should resemble the high animal protein diets typical of the hunter-gatherer era. In contrast, those with group A should thrive on a vegetarian diet as this blood group was believed to have evolved when humans settled down into agrarian societies. Following the same rationale, individuals with blood group B are considered to benefit from consumption of dairy products because this blood group was believed to originate in nomadic tribes. Finally, individuals with an AB blood group are believed to benefit from a diet that is intermediate to those proposed for group A and group B."
As you might have already guessed, there is no evidence that eating your blood type is beneficial nor do the claims of differing lectin digestion have scientific merit. Homeopathic nonsense.
In a video called America's Most Controversial Food, Zagat explores the controversy surrounding foie gras, including a visit to a production facility and interviews with chefs, a PETA representative, and an avian expert.
I eat meat (and foie gras) but many of the chefs in this video come off looking smug, petulant, and idiotic. I believe I've said this before, but I think in 50 years time, the idea of people eating animals will be widely viewed as wrong and barbaric, akin to how many feel about fur and animal testing now. (via devour)
Update: In a Washington Post column entitled Free Willy!, Charles Krauthammer makes a similar case for the future extinction of raising animals for meat.
We often wonder how people of the past, including the most revered and refined, could have universally engaged in conduct now considered unconscionable. Such as slavery. How could the Founders, so sublimely devoted to human liberty, have lived with -- some participating in -- human slavery? Or fourscore years later, how could the saintly Lincoln, an implacable opponent of slavery, have nevertheless spoken of and believed in African inferiority?
While retrospective judgment tends to make us feel superior to our ancestors, it should really evoke humility. Surely some contemporary practices will be deemed equally abominable by succeeding generations. The only question is: Which ones?
I've long thought it will be our treatment of animals. I'm convinced that our great-grandchildren will find it difficult to believe that we actually raised, herded and slaughtered them on an industrial scale -- for the eating.
This advice from Amanda Hesser on how to get young kids to eat everything is 1000% solid gold:
You may wonder how we get our kids to eat kale and clams, and here is the answer: we make them (we're warm but firm), and we don't offer choices. Psychologists will tell you that kids respond to consistency and confidence. While I can't say I'm great at this when it comes to bedtime, I never waver at the table. People don't want to hear this because we live in the Age of Coddling but I strongly believe that kids need and actually crave guidance and direction, especially when they're young. And since I also believe that we should eat the same meals as our kids -- showing unity and companionship -- I don't want to eat boring food, so they're not getting boring food.
This is exactly what we did with our kids and while it's super difficult to be consistent and firm, especially with a picky kid, I recommend this approach wholeheartedly. My kids definitely have their preferences and would eat pizza and burgers for every meal if given the chance, but they eat a wide variety of different foods -- including a lot of stuff I personally don't care for (oysters and mussels for starters) -- and are always up for trying new things. How else are they supposed to discover that they really like Sri Lankan food? (Which they do.)
Britney Wright takes photos of food arranged in size and color gradients.
Follow Wright on Instagram and buy her prints.
This is smart: a startup design service called BentoBox just for designing restaurant websites. Entrepreneur magazine recently profiled the service.
The site conveys important information -- location, hours and a phone number are featured prominently, as are frequently asked questions -- in a visually appealing way that expresses the restaurant's high-end yet relaxed atmosphere while also making you hungry.
This is what a restaurant website should do -- namely, serve as an extension of its brick-and-mortar presence -- and yet so many miss the mark, says Krystle Mobayeni. For years, Mobayeni ran her own web design agency. Clients included Rent the Runway, Sailor Jerry, the School of the Visual Arts, plus a few restaurants, such as David Chang's Momofuku. While companies in other industries usually had a good handle on their web presence, Mobayeni noticed that the restaurants were struggling. There wasn't a good platform that anticipated their needs and gave them an easy way to present themselves on the web, and so often, their sites suffered for it.
The number has been steadily dwindling the last few years, but it's surprising how many restaurant sites are still Flash, don't work on mobile, and make you work to find the location and opening hours. Some examples of Bento's work: Parm, Fedora, and The Meatball Shop. Damn, now I'm hungry. (via @adamkuban)
Wine ratings are all over the place, particularly when price enters the picture. This video explains that the most expensive wine is not always the best tasting wine, but you might prefer it anyway.
From a Foursquare and Mapbox collaboration, a map of the most popular tastes in each US state.
Every state in the U.S. has a unique flavor, from Chicken Cheesesteak to Chinese Chicken Salad. Foursquare analyzed the data to pinpoint which food or drink is most disproportionately popular in each destination, and worked with Mapbox to create the dynamic map.
Louisiana is crawfish, Vermont is maple syrup, and Texas is breakfast tacos. I love that Nevada is bottle service. All that state wants is to get you drunk in the least fiscally responsible way possible.
From the design shop of Lernert & Sander, a poster of almost a hundred different foods cut into perfect little cubes. No CGI involved, it's actually food. No idea how they got some of those foods to hang together...particularly the onion, cabbage, and leek. (via colossal)
From juice cleanses to vaccines to gluten to exercise to, uh, vagina steaming, celebrities like Jenny McCarthy and Gwyneth Paltrow are often found making claims that have little or no scientific evidence behind them. Timothy Caulfield recently wrote a book exploring the world of celebrity pseudoscience called Is Gwyneth Paltrow Wrong About Everything?
But while much has been written about the cause of our obsession with the rich and famous, Caulfield argues that not enough has been done to debunk celebrity messages and promises about health, diet, beauty, or the secret to happiness. From the obvious dangers, to body image of super-thin models and actors, or Gwyneth Paltrow's enthusiastic endorsement of a gluten free-diet for almost everyone, or Jenny McCarthy's ill-informed claims of the risks associated with vaccines, celebrity opinions have the power to dominate our conversations and outlooks on our lives and ourselves.
Julia Belluz of Vox interviewed Caulfield about the book.
JB: So is Gwyneth actually wrong about everything?
TC: It's incredible how much she is wrong about. Even when she is right about stuff -- like telling people to eat more fruits and vegetables -- there is always a bit of a tinge of wrongness. She'll say, "It has to be organic," for example. She is still distracting us with these untrue details, as opposed to just pushing the honest truth.
See also Your detoxing juice cleanse is bullshit.
For lunch today, I was hungry for some noodles from Xi'an Famous Foods, one of my favorite places to eat in all of NYC. While preparing to trek to the East Village or up to Bryant Park, a friend told me about a relatively new location on 34th Street, just down the street from the Empire State Building and only 10 blocks from my office. When I looked it up on the website, I noticed something else: a real-time traffic meter that shows how busy each restaurant is.
What a great idea. The Shake Shack cam is one thing, but I want a meter like this (w/ a forecast option as well) on every restaurant listing in Foursquare. Like Google Maps real-time traffic, except for restaurants.
Published in 1961 with an introduction by Alice B Toklas, The Artists' and Writers' Cookbook features recipes and wisdom from dozens of writers and artists, including Harper Lee, Man Ray, Marcel Duchamp, Pearl Buck, Upton Sinclair, John Keats, and Burl Ives. Lee shared her recipe for crackling cornbread:
First, catch your pig. Then ship it to the abattoir nearest you. Bake what they send back. Remove the solid fat and throw the rest away. Fry fat, drain off liquid grease, and combine the residue (called "cracklings") with:
1 ½ cups water-ground white meal
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup milk
Bake in very hot oven until brown (about 15 minutes).
Result: one pan crackling bread serving 6. Total cost: about \$250, depending upon size of pig. Some historians say this recipe alone fell the Confederacy.
And Marcel Duchamp offers up a preparation of steak tartare:
Let me begin by saying, ma chere, that Steak Tartare, alias Bitteck Tartare, also known as Steck Tartare, is in no way related to tartar sauce. The steak to which I refer originated with the Cossacks in Siberia, and it can be prepared on horseback, at swift gallop, if conditions make this a necessity.
Indications: Chop one half pound (per person) of the very best beef obtainable, and shape carefully with artistry into a bird's nest. Place on porcelain plate of a solid color -- ivory is the best setting -- so that no pattern will disturb the distribution of ingredients. In hollow center of nest, permit two egg yolks to recline. Like a wreath surrounding the nest of chopped meat, arrange on border of plate in small, separate bouquets:
Chopped raw white onion
Bright green capers
Curled silvers of anchovy
Fresh parsley, chopped fine
Black olives minutely chopped in company with yellow celery leaves
Salt and pepper to taste
Each guest, with his plate before him, lifts his fork and blends the ingredients with the egg yolks and meat. In center of table: Russian pumpernickel bread, sweet butter, and bottles of vin rosé.
Not to be outdone, MoMA published their own artists' cookbook in 1977, featuring contributions from Louise Bourgeois, Christo, Salvador Dali, Willem De Kooning, Roy Lichtenstein, and Andy Warhol. Here's Warhol's recipe:
Andy Warhol doesn't eat anything out of a can anymore. For years, when he cooked for himself, it was Heinz or Campbell's tomato soup and a ham sandwich. He also lived on candy, chocolate, and "anything with red dye #2 in it." Now, though he still loves junk food, McDonald's hamburgers and French fries are something "you just dream for."
The emphasis is on health, staying thin and eating "simple American food, nothing complicated, no salt or butter." In fact, he says, "I like to go to bad restaurants, because then I don't have to eat. Airplane food is the best food -- it's simple, they throw it away so quickly and it's so bad you don't have to eat it."
Campbell's Milk of Tomato Soup
A 10 3/4-ounce can Campbell's condensed tomato soup
2 cans milk
In a saucepan bring soup and two cans milk to boil; stir. Serve.
Chef and TV personality Jamie Oliver shows three different techniques for chopping onions, including the dead simple "crystals" method.
As the old saying goes, it is sometimes unpleasant to watch the sausage being made. But not as unpleasant as watching the olive loaf being made.
From pediatrics professor Aaron Carroll, a list of guidelines for sensible & healthy eating.
1. Get as much of your nutrition as possible from a variety of completely unprocessed foods. These include fruits and vegetables. But they also include meat, fish, poultry and eggs that haven't been processed. In other words, try to buy food that hasn't been cooked, prepared or altered in any way. Brown rice over white rice. Whole grains over refined grains. You're far better off eating two apples than drinking the same 27 grams of sugar in an eight-ounce glass of apple juice.
What's more interesting than the guidelines is the admission up front that they're not supported by rigorous science...and neither is nutrition in general. In the absence of science, "everything in moderation" seems to be the recommended course. (via @jimray)
Update: Julia Belluz recently interviewed Surgeon General1 Vivek Murthy for Vox and within, Murthy shares his four basic rules for health:
One is to eat healthy. I tend to avoid salt, added sugar, and processed foods whenever possible, and try to eat fresh fruits and vegetables as part of all my meals whenever possible.
Second is to stay physically active. That means not just going to gym but incorporating activity into whatever I do, whether that's taking the stairs or converting sitting meetings to walking meetings whenever possible.
Third is making sure I'm focusing on my emotional and mental well-being. For me, an important part of that is the meditation practice that I do every morning. It's a chance for me to center myself, a chance for me to remember who I want to be every day.
The fourth thing is I remind myself to stay away from toxic substances like tobacco and drugs.
Jiro Ono (who Dreams of Sushi) and René Redzepi (who is probably the current Best Chef in the World™) sit down for a cup of tea and a chat.
At one point, Redzepi asks Jiro at what age he thought he had become a master. The reply:
Let's say it's 50. There is a lot of failure before that. You go through failures and successes, and more failures for years until it feels like you have achieved what you had in mind the whole time.
There's also a bit at the end, offered almost as an aside, of what it takes to be a master: a blend of stubbornness and sensitivity. What a combination...I wish they'd had another cup and talked about that.
Behold, the world's greatest kitchen utensil, the Nessie Ladle.
Watson, IBM's evolving attempt at building a computer capable of AI, was originally constructed to excel at Jeopardy. Which it did, handily beating Jeopardy mega-champ Ken Jennings. Watson has since moved on to cooking and has just come out with a new cookbook, Cognitive Cooking with Chef Watson.
You don't have to be a culinary genius to be a great cook. But when it comes to thinking outside the box, even the best chefs can be limited by their personal experiences, the tastes and flavor combinations they already know. That's why IBM and the Institute of Culinary Education teamed up to develop a groundbreaking cognitive cooking technology that helps cooks everywhere discover and create delicious recipes, utilizing unusual ingredient combinations that man alone might never imagine.
In Cognitive Cooking with Chef Watson, IBM's unprecedented technology and ICE's culinary experts present more than 65 original recipes exploding with irresistible new flavors. Together, they have carefully crafted, evaluated and perfected each of these dishes for "pleasantness" (superb taste), "surprise" (innovativeness) and a "synergy" of mouthwatering ingredients that will delight any food lover.
This is...weird. The National Archives contains a Cocktail Construction Chart made in an architectural style, for some reason, by the US Forest Service in 1974.
Update: Kenny Herzog at Esquire did some digging and found out some of the chart's backstory.
If it does, royalties might be due to the family of late Forest Service Region 8 Engineer Cleve "Red" Ketcham, who passed away in 2005 but has since been commemorated in the National Museum of Forest Service History. It's Ketcham's signature scribbled in the center of the chart, and according to Sharon Phillips, a longtime Program Management Analyst for Region 8 (which covers Virginia, Georgia, Florida, Oklahoma and Puerto Rico, though Ketcham worked out of its Atlanta office), who conferred with her engineering department, there's little doubt Ketcham concocted the chart in question. "They're assuming he's the one, because the drawing has a date of 1974, and he was working our office from 1974-1980," she said. And in case there'd be any curiosity as to whether someone else composed the chart and Ketcham merely signed off on it for disbursement, Phillips clarified that, "He's the author of the chart. I wouldn't say he passed it along to the staff, because at that time, he probably did that as maybe a joke, something he did for fun. It probably got mixed up with some legitimate stuff and ended up in the Archives."
I contacted the librarian at the Forest History Society and found similar information. An archivist pulled a staff directory from the Atlanta office (aka "Region 8") from 1975 and found three names that correlate with those on the document: David E. Ketcham & Cleve C. Ketcham (but not Ketchum, as on the document) and Robert B. Johns (presumably aka the Bob Johns in the lower right hand corner). Not sure if the two Ketchams were related or why the spellings of Cleve's actual last name and the last name of the signature on the chart are different.
However, in the past few days, I've run across several similar charts, most notably The Engineer's Guide to Drinks.1 Information on this chart is difficult to come by, but various commenters at Flowing Data and elsewhere remember the chart being used in the 1970s by a company called Calcomp to demonstrate their pen plotter.
As you can see, the Forest Service document and this one share a very similar visual language -- for instance, the five drops for Angostura bitters, the three-leaf mint sprig, and the lemon peel. And I haven't checked every single one, but the shading employed for the liquids appear to match exactly.
So which chart came first? The Forest Service chart has a date of 1974 and The Engineer's Guide to Drinks is dated 1978. But in this post, Autodesk Technologist Shaan Hurley says the Engineer's Guide dates to 1972. I emailed Hurley to ask about the date, but he couldn't point to a definite source, which is not uncommon when you're dealing with this sort of thing. It's like finding some initials next to "85" scratched into the cement on a sidewalk: you're pretty sure that someone did that in 1985 but you'd have a tough time proving it.
FWIW, if I had to guess where this chart originated, I'd say that the Calcomp plotter demo got out there somehow (maybe at a trade show or published in an industry magazine) and every engineer took a crack at their own version, like an early internet meme. Cleve Ketcham drew his by hand while others probably used the CAD software running on their workplace mainframes or minicomputers.
Anyway, if anyone has any further information about where these CAD-style cocktail instructions originated, let me know. (thx, @john_overholt & tre)
From Amanda McCall, a selection of Ben & Jerry's flavors featuring women.
McCall made these because Ben & Jerry's hasn't done such a good job highlighting women with their products:
Over the past three decades, Ben & Jerry's has created over twenty flavors honoring various famous people, and only two of those people have been female: Tiny Fey's character on 30 Rock ("Liz Lemon's Greek Frozen Yogurt", released in 2013 ) and Olympic snowboarder Hannah Teter ("Hannah Teter's Maple Blondie", released briefly in 2009).
There are currently no female flavors of Ben & Jerry's ice cream (even Tina Fey would agree that, while "Greek frozen yogurt" is certainly a healthy ice cream alternative, it is not the same as ice cream), despite the fact that women consume significantly more ice cream than men do.
The best thing about the Butter Pecancé Knowles flavor is that butter pecan ice cream is actually the singer's favorite flavor.
"I love my butter pecan ice cream," she says, "but I also love to work out. We all have our issues. Mine is arms and legs, keeping them tight and toned. It takes work, believe me."
Ben & Jerry's! Let's make this happen! (via @amateurgourmet)
If you and a friend are walking around Manhattan trying to find dinner, this is how the conversation will go:
It's funny because it's true. That's a clip from We'll Find Something, a short film by Casey Gooden starring Upstream Color's Shane Carruth and Amy Seimetz.
I love watching people who are particularly adept at food prep and this guy preparing teh tarik certainly fits the bill. His pour seems to violate at least two of Newton's three laws of motion.
This guy and this other guy have some serious skills as well.
These gentlemen making parathas is still my all-time favorite food prep video, but these are good as well. (via cyn-c)
About a minute into The Katering Show, I already knew it was going to be my favorite cooking show of all time. In this episode, the toothsome twosome with the Beatlesesque names of McCartney and McLennan make
risotto hot wet rice using a Thermomix.
So "what is a Thermomix?" I hear anyone under the age of 33 ask. It's a blender, a microwave, an ice bucket, and a set of kitchen scales. It's a gangbang of kitchen appliances that's created a futuristic robot saucepan. It's the kind of appliance that your rich mother-in-law gives you as a wedding gift because she doesn't think you can cook. Or something that you buy yourself because you've always wanted to join a cult, but you don't have the energy for the group sex.
David Chang is exactly right: when dining at a restaurant, often the best option is to sit at the bar.
When everyone's so close, it changes the dining experience. Out on the floor, you're a dickhead if you overhear a conversation and chime in. Not at the bar. You connect, trade stories, then trade bites. I've never shared as much food with strangers as I have at the bar. You meet great people that way -- you're part of this band of outsiders within the restaurant. And for me, that's the best possible dining experience of all.
I almost always eat at the bar at my regular place.
I've caught a couple of episodes of CNN's Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown and I've been impressed with the show so far. In it, chef/author Anthony Bourdain travels to places off the beaten path and explores the local culture. But it's not just about food and culture as with his previous shows. In Parts Unknown, Bourdain also delves into local politics and social issues. In Iran, he spoke with journalists about their tenuous relationship with the government (and two of the journalists he spoke with were subsequently arrested). Episodes in the Congo, Myanmar, and Libya are produced with a focus on their oppressive governments, past and present. Even in the Massachusetts episode, he talks about his former heroin addiction and the current addiction of poor whites in the US. Many of the places he visits, we only hear about the leadership and bad things that happen on the news, but Bourdain meets with the locals and finds more similarities amongst cultures than differences. I'd never considered going to visit someplace like Iran, but Parts Unknown has me considering it...what a great people.
Season four recently wrapped up and they're shooting season five now. The first three seasons are currently available on Netflix and all four seasons are on Amazon. (FYI to the web team at CNN: "Unknown" is misspelled in the <title> of that page.)
The food is fresh. Natural. Locally sourced. Sometimes even organic. That might sound like your local farmer's market, but it's actually part of a new and growing movement in the fast-food industry. Think Shake Shack, Chipotle, Panera. While we're not exactly seeing tractors in the drive-thrus, the rise of these chains (and the pressure on their predecessors that placed a lot more emphasis on the fast than the food) tell us a lot about economic inequality, the modern workday, and fries. From The New Yorker's James Surowiecki: The Shake Shack Economy.
Lucky Peach, the publishing arm of the Momofuku restaurant group, recently launched their new web site with a bunch of online content. Among their offerings is a series of videos featuring David Chang making various foods, including this omelette flavored with an instant ramen seasoning packet:
See also Chang making tonkotsu broth and gnocchi from instant ramen noodles.
At Serious Eats, Ed Levine writes about Why Diners Are More Important Than Ever. From his ten-point list of what defines a diner:
8. All-occasion places: Diners must rise to many occasions, from first dates to pre- or post-game celebrations by fans or teammates, to wallowing in solitary self-pity. Diners are the best restaurants for planning murders, stick-ups, or other nefarious enterprises.
Being an all-occasion place is not the only egalitarian thing about diners:
People talk about Starbucks reintroducing the notion of what sociologist Ray Oldenburg coined the "third place" in American life: spaces where we gather besides home and work to form real, not virtual, communities. Starbucks and more high-minded cafes that followed in its wake have surely succeeded on this point, but long before 1971, when the first Starbucks opened in Pike Place Market in Seattle, diners were already serving that invaluable function for us, along with the corner tavern.
And that's why we need to cherish our local diners, whether it's a mom and pop or a Waffle House or a Greek coffee shop. They're some of the few cheap, all-inclusive places to eat and hang out and laugh and cry and stay viscerally connected with other folks.
And it warmed my heart to see Ed include Cup & Saucer and Eisenberg's on his list of notable NYC diners. An unusual thing I've noticed about Eisenberg's: instead of getting your check at the table, you just tell the cashier what you ordered on the way out and pay for it. Like on the honor system! Is there anywhere else in NYC that does this? I wonder what their loss rate is compared to the norm?
Buzzfeed's Carolyn Kylstra asked some scientists and medical professionals about juice cleanses and while they are (mostly) harmless, they definitely don't do any of the magical things you think they do, like flush the toxins out of your body or reset your system.
"I don't know why someone would do a juice cleanse," Dr. John Buse, M.D., Ph.D., chief of the division of endocrinology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, told BuzzFeed Life. "There's very little evidence that it does anything good for you."
And it definitely won't "rid your body of toxins." That really is what your liver (and your kidneys and intestines) is for. "I don't like the marketing around juice cleanses," Eric Ravussin, Ph.D., associate executive director for clinical science at Pennington Biomedical Research Center, told BuzzFeed Life. "That it's going to detox and mobilize all these toxins and all that -- this is pure marketing."
Update: From the NY Times in 2009, Flush Those Toxins! Eh, Not So Fast. The last paragraph makes me angry:
Still, many people swear by these programs. Denise Whitney, 37, a registered nurse and mother of three in Traverse City, Mich., did the Master Cleanse over a seven-day period, plus six days of pre and post cleanse, which included consuming copious amounts of organic juice, fruit and vegetables. "With all the fast food, preservatives, chemicals in our food, it seems impossible that our bodies are not loaded with toxins," Ms. Whitney said, adding that she plans to repeat it in the next few months. "I had more energy during this cleanse than I can ever remember having."
Can we get this nurse unregistered, please? FFS. But at The Guardian, Oliver Burkeman cautions against over-debunking.
We live in the Age of Debunking: no sooner has somebody made a false or hyperbolic claim online (resulting in clicks) than someone else announces, with an air of triumph, that they've debunked it (resulting in clicks). I plead guilty. And often enough, debunking is a noble pursuit: the idea that we only use 10% of our brains, to pick one example, is flat wrong, and people who believe it ought to be corrected. No convincing evidence of a Benghazi conspiracy has ever been unearthed. Marie Antoinette almost certainly didn't say "let them eat cake".
But the internet's enthusiasm for a vigorous debunking now frequently spills over into what you might call the pseudo-debunk. Sometimes, this involves cynically claiming you're debunking when you're really just disagreeing -- thereby implying that your opinion is more than mere opinion; it's "the facts".
Update: Tara Fuller of Greatist writes I've Tried Almost Every Cleanse. Here's Why I'll Never Do One Again:
2. Eating fruit is much healthier than drinking it.
While juice cleanses may seem like an easy way to load up on vitamins and minerals, they're often full of added sugars and devoid of the good stuff (like fiber and antioxidants). Juicing fruits does tend to preserve some vitamins, but why guzzle several hundred calories worth of fruit when you can eat one serving and actually feel full? Plus, all that juice can actually lead to type 2 diabetes-whereas eating fruit reduces the risk!
(via @fakejoshstein & @neversent & @alainabrowne)
The first part of this video, the bit with the molten sugar and cooling table, is the most interesting, but the whole thing is worth a watch.
Reminds me of the lettered rock made at Teddy Grays.
From artist Mishka Henner, a selection of satellite photos of Texas feedlots, where beef cattle are sent to be "finished", aka to quickly gain weight for slaughter on a diet of corn. I'm pretty sure the redness of that pit/lake is not blood but algae (or whatever), but it sure creates that impression, doesn't it?
Gear Patrol visited 12 whiskey distilleries (including Buffalo Trace, Maker's Mark, and Jim Beam) to find out how bourbon is made.
Cool. Some of that I knew, and some I didn't. My favorite detail is how the placement of the barrel in the aging room can affect the flavor of the bourbon within. Just like cheese. (via digg)
Photographer Ernie Button photographs the dried remains of single malt scotch whiskies, which end up looking like desolate landscapes on distant worlds.
Curious as to how these patterns were formed by some kinds of whiskey but not others, Button reached out to an engineering professor at Princeton.
Dr. Stone's group found that the key difference in whisky is that unlike coffee, it consists of two liquids -- water and ethyl alcohol. The alcohol evaporates more quickly, and as the fraction of water increases, the surface tension of the droplet changes, an effect first noticed in the 19th century by an Italian scientist, Carlo Marangoni. That, in turn, generates complex flows that contribute to the patterns Mr. Button photographed.
"Here, they actually looked at what happens when you change the fluids that are drying," said Dr. Yunker, who is soon heading to the Georgia Institute of Technology as a physics professor, "and they found some very neat effects." (That would be neat in the usual sense of "cool and intriguing" and not as in "I'll have my whisky neat.")
From the NY Times, an epic listing of recipes for traditional (and not so traditional) Thanksgiving food from each of the 50 US states. Featuring lefse from North Dakota, salty pluff mud pie from South Carolina, turkey tamales from Texas, and cheddar mashed potatoes from Vermont. (via @jimray)
This is a great way to think about how big the planets of our solar system are: in terms of fruits.
(via boing boing)
Allen Hemberger cooked his way through one of the most complex cookbooks out there, the Alinea cookbook. Aside from the chefs who work in the kitchen there, Hemberger's probably the only person to have made every single recipe. These recipes aren't easy; look at the last one he prepared...he even struggled to find the correct ingredients.
Should I be disturbed or thankful that I've never been that passionate about anything ever?
At Serious Eats, Kenji López-Alt sets the record straight about some misconceptions people have about cast iron pans.
The Theory: Seasoning is a thin layer of oil that coats the inside of your skillet. Soap is designed to remove oil, therefore soap will damage your seasoning.
The Reality: Seasoning is actually not a thin layer of oil, it's a thin layer of polymerized oil, a key distinction. In a properly seasoned cast iron pan, one that has been rubbed with oil and heated repeatedly, the oil has already broken down into a plastic-like substance that has bonded to the surface of the metal. This is what gives well-seasoned cast iron its non-stick properties, and as the material is no longer actually an oil, the surfactants in dish soap should not affect it. Go ahead and soap it up and scrub it out.
I have two cast iron pans, including this skillet I use almost exclusively for making the world's best pancakes. Although, after hearing from Kenji that vintage cast iron pans can be slight better than modern pans, I might seek a replacement on Etsy. See also how to season a cast iron pan.
In 1985, German director Wim Wenders travelled to Japan and made a film called Tokyo Ga. In this clip of the film, Wenders visits a studio where fake food for display in restaurant windows is made. The clip starts a little slow so give it a bit of time.
What's surprising is how much the process of making fake food is like the process of making real food. (via open culture)
What is more fun than watching the Danish National Chamber Orchestra play a piece after having eaten some of the world's hottest chili peppers? Probably a few things, but this is pretty entertaining nonetheless.
Chili consumption happens at 1:36. Classic highbrow + lowbrow stuff here. The brass and woodwind instrument players in particular should get some kind of award...I can't imagine blowing on a trumpet in that condition. See also Hot Pepper Game Reviews.
John Reed thinks his grandma poisoned a number of her relatives over many years. Maybe.
But here's the thing: You don't want to believe your grandmother is poisoning you. You know that she loves you -- there's no doubt of that -- and she's so marvelously grandmotherly and charming. And you know that she would never want to poison you. So despite your better judgment, you eat the food until you've passed out so many times that you can't keep doubting yourself. Eventually, we would arrive for holidays at Grandma's with groceries and takeout, and she'd seem relieved that we wouldn't let her touch our plates. By then, her eyesight was starting to go, so she wouldn't notice the layer of crystalline powder atop that fancy lox she was giving you.
So the question became: How did we explain to guests, outsiders, that they shouldn't eat grandma's food? One time, maybe on Passover, my brother brought his new girlfriend, an actress. Grandma had promised not to prepare anything, and it seemed she'd kept her word, so we didn't mention the poisoning thing to the girlfriend, but after we'd eaten lunch, Grandma came out of the kitchen with these oatmeal raisin cookies that looked terrible. They were bulbous, like the baking soda had gone haywire. My brother's girlfriend ate two of them, maybe out of politeness. We looked on, aghast. She had a rehearsal in the city, but she passed out on the couch and missed it.
Christine Muhlke talks to several different chefs and writers about how they approach writing recipes.
The goal should be that the reader can make the recipe his or her own -- that the instructions are clear and good enough that after a few tries, he or she can improvise to please themselves. The chef gives ideas so that the cook can profit. It's not dictation; it's inspiration.
This is the most delightful restaurant review I've read in quite awhile. In it, Jay Rayner disembowels the "hilariously silly" London restaurant Beast and its presumed clientele, "men with teeny-weeny penises". I have no idea how to pick just one of the great passages from this review so I'll do two:
"I'm sorry sir, we don't serve bread." Eh? What's all that about? I could see this as some stand for a bang-on-trend, carb-free Palaeolithic diet, were it not for the fact they serve chips. Mind you, they're crap chips, huge fat things that could exclude drafts. Who actually likes their chips this way? They're advertised as coming with truffle and foie-gras salt, which is like getting a gold-plated, diamond-encrusted case for your smartphone because you've run out of things to spend money on. It's a spoilt person's version of luxury; the pillowy "chips" do not taste either of goose liver or truffle.
The corn-fed, dry-aged Nebraskan rib-eye, with a carbon footprint big enough to make a climate-change denier horny, is bloody marvellous: rich, deep, earthy, with that dense tang that comes with proper hanging. And at £100 a kilo it bloody well should be. At that price they should lead the damn animal into the restaurant and install it under the table so it can pleasure me while I eat.
Reminiscent of Pete Wells' review of Guy Fieri's place in Times Square. Some restaurants become immortal and immune to criticism but I don't think Beast and Guy Fieri's are quite there yet.
Do you want to make a lot of espresso really fast? Enter the The Gatlino®, a machine gun that uses Nespresso capsules in place of bullets.
It was during one bleary break-of-dawn that I found myself slouched over the machine making coffee and drifting into visions of the Nespresso hooked up to a belt of ammunition, or a machine gun being fed by a chain of Nespresso capsules. I'm not sure which. Doesn't matter. What's important is that it led me to wonder how long it would take to fire all the Nespresso cartridges ever made. The environmentally-conscious will be appalled.
Hungry for lunch and don't quite know what you'd like to eat? Try Seamless Roulette...it uses Seamless to deliver a random order of food to you from a nearby restaurant. (via @moleitau)
30% of Americans don't drink any alcohol during a typical week. On the other end of the scale, ten percent of Americans consume more than 10 drinks every single day. More from Wonkblog.
I double-checked these figures with Cook, just to make sure I wasn't reading them wrong. "I agree that it's hard to imagine consuming 10 drinks a day," he told me. But, "there are a remarkable number of people who drink a couple of six packs a day, or a pint of whiskey."
As Cook notes in his book, the top 10 percent of drinkers account for well over half of the alcohol consumed in any given year. On the other hand, people in the bottom three deciles don't drink at all, and even the median consumption among those who do drink is just three beverages per week.
This is shocking to me. I wonder what the distribution is within the top 10%...there must be people in the top 1% who drink, what, 30 drinks per day? Is that even possible day after day without very serious consequences? (via mr)
Update: Over at Forbes, Trevor Butterworth casts doubt on the conclusions in the Wonkblog article.
The source for this figure is "Paying the Tab," by Phillip J. Cook, which was published in 2007. If we look at the section where he arrives at this calculation, and go to the footnote, we find that he used data from 2001-2002 from NESARC, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, which had a representative sample of 43,093 adults over the age of 18. But following this footnote, we find that Cook corrected these data for under-reporting by multiplying the number of drinks each respondent claimed they had drunk by 1.97 in order to comport with the previous year's sales data for alcohol in the US. Why? It turns out that alcohol sales in the US in 2000 were double what NESARC's respondents -- a nationally representative sample, remember -- claimed to have drunk.
Additionally, the statement I made above -- "ten percent of Americans consume more than 10 drinks every single day" -- is not true, even if the data is correct. Instead, it is accurate to say that top 10% consumes an average of 10 drinks daily...some individuals may drink 4/day and some 18/day. Looks like it's time for a reread of How to Lie with Statistics and A Mathematician Reads the Newspaper. (via @harryh & @gfilpus)
The rooster on the Sriracha bottle has made its way to iPhone cases, t-shirts, and water bottles. But no one (not even the founder of the company) knows the name of the street artist who created the now famous logo.
If you're at all interested in cooking at home, you've likely got one of Yotam Ottolenghi's cookbooks on your shelf: Jerusalem, Plenty, and Ottolenghi. I don't cook much myself, but from everything I've heard from friends, this guy is a wizard with vegetables. Now Ottolenghi is out with a new cookbook: Plenty More.
Yotam Ottolenghi is one of the world's most beloved culinary talents. In this follow-up to his bestselling Plenty, he continues to explore the diverse realm of vegetarian food with a wholly original approach. Organized by cooking method, more than 150 dazzling recipes emphasize spices, seasonality, and bold flavors. From inspired salads to hearty main dishes and luscious desserts, Plenty More is a must-have for vegetarians and omnivores alike. This visually stunning collection will change the way you cook and eat vegetables.
Mad food scientist Dave Arnold, lately of high-tech NYC bar Booker & Dax, is coming out with a book called Liquid Intelligence: The Art and Science of the Perfect Cocktail.
Years of rigorous experimentation and study -- botched attempts and inspired solutions -- have yielded the recipes and techniques found in these pages. Featuring more than 120 recipes and nearly 450 color photographs, Liquid Intelligence begins with the simple -- how ice forms and how to make crystal-clear cubes in your own freezer -- and then progresses into advanced techniques like clarifying cloudy lime juice with enzymes, nitro-muddling fresh basil to prevent browning, and infusing vodka with coffee, orange, or peppercorns.
Practical tips for preparing drinks by the pitcher, making homemade sodas, and building a specialized bar in your own home are exactly what drink enthusiasts need to know. For devotees seeking the cutting edge, chapters on liquid nitrogen, chitosan/gellan washing, and the applications of a centrifuge expand the boundaries of traditional cocktail craft.
I don't know how many cocktail books the world can handle but even with The Bar Book, Death & Co., The PDT Cocktail Book, and Bitters, my personal library still has space on the shelf for more. (via @kathrynyu)
When Anthony Bourdain's hour-long food and travel show first launched on CNN, it marked the network's step away from 24 hours news and towards more entertainment programming. But maybe Bourdain is just the reporter we need these days when most of what we see of other cultures is satellite images or shots of rubble. "I'm not a foreign policy wonk, but I see aspects of these countries that regular journalists don't." From FastCo: Anthony Bourdain has become the future of cable news, and he couldn't care less.
I think this guy is the T-1000 robot from Terminator 2, but for chopping onions instead of assassinating future resistance fighters. Evidence:
1. In the brief view we get of his face at about 20 seconds in, he is not even really looking at the onion. Total robot move.
2. Um, he's like superhumanly fast at chopping that onion.
3. The T-1000 can easily morph into other people, like this fast watermelon cutter or this pancake flipper or this lemon chopper. Different people, same shapeshifting food prep robot from the future! (via @kdern)
Anthony Bourdain travels a lot; here's how he approaches flying, packing, getting good local recommendations, etc.
The other great way to figure out where to eat in a new city is to provoke nerd fury online. Go to a number of foodie websites with discussion boards. Let's say you're going to Kuala Lumpur -- just post on the Malaysia board that you recently returned and had the best rendang in the universe, and give the name of a place, and all these annoying foodies will bombard you with angry replies about how the place is bullshit, and give you a better place to go.
Gastropod is a new podcast about about food "through the lens of science and history" from radio journalist Cynthia Graber and Edible Geography's Nicola Twilley. Episode 1, embedded below, is about the history of cutlery.
Chances are, you've spent more time thinking about the specs on your smartphone than about the gadgets that you use to put food in your mouth.
But the shape and material properties of forks, spoons, and knives turn out to matter-a lot. Changes in the design of cutlery have not only affected how and what we eat, but also what our food tastes like. There's even evidence that the adoption of the table knife transformed the shape of European faces.
From Mallory Ortberg, a hilarious send-up of the comments you see all too frequently on recipe sites.
"I didn't have any eggs, so I replaced them with a banana-chia-flaxseed pulse. It turned out terrible; this recipe is terrible."
"I don't have any of these ingredients at home. Could you rewrite this based on the food I do have in my house? I'm not going to tell you what food I have. You have to guess."
"I don't eat white flour, so I tried making it with raw almonds that I'd activated by chewing them with my mouth open to receive direct sunlight, and it turned out terrible. This recipe is terrible."
"Could you please give the metric weight measurements, and sometime in the next twenty minutes; I'm making this for a dinner party and my guests are already here."
These are barely exaggerated. I once saw a comment on a pesto recipe where the person substituted bay leaves for the basil and used other ingredients in the place of pine nuts and olive oil, then complained how bad it tasted and how terrible the recipe was. Oh, the literal humanity. (via nick)
Whoa hey, super-butcher Pat LaFrieda has a cookbook out, Meat: Everything You Need to Know.
No one understands meat's seductive hold on our palates better than America's premier butcher, Pat LaFrieda. In Meat: Everything You Need to Know, he passionately explains the best and most flavorful cuts to purchase (some of them surprisingly inexpensive or unknown) and shares delicious recipes and meticulous techniques, all with the knowledge that comes from a fourth generation butcher. If you have ever wondered what makes the meat in America's finest restaurants so delectable, LaFrieda -- the butcher to the country's greatest chefs -- has the answers, and the philosophy behind it.
Paired up with Tartine Bread, all we need now is some emulsifying genius to hit us with Mayonnaise cookbook and we'll be all set in sandwich-land.
David Gelb, the director of Jiro Dreams of Sushi, is going to be doing a six-part documentary series for Netflix about "culinary artists".
Chefs featured in the docu-series are: Ben Shewry (of Attica Restaurant in Melbourne, Australia), Magnus Nilsson (Fäviken in Järpen Sweden), Francis Mallmann (El Restaurante Patagonia Sur in Buenos Aires, Argentina), Niki Nakayama (N/Naka Restaurant in Los Angeles), Dan Barber (Blue Hill in New York City and Blue Hill at Stone Barns in Pocantico Hills, N.Y.) and Massimo Bottura (Osteria Francescana in Modena, Italy).
Sounds a lot like a Jiro Dreams series. Looking forward to it. (via @MattH)
Update: The trailer for this series, Chef's Table, is now out:
That looks fantastic. Available on Netflix on April 26th.
Here are some things you can do with instant ramen aside from eating it as directed on the package, including making a grilled cheese sandwich, gnocchi (a la David Chang), and pizza.
Originally from the sixth issue of the excellent Lucky Peach magazine, mad food scientist Harold McGee of the joys of aging canned food and its "extremely cooked flavor".
This punishing heat treatment helps create the distinctive flavors of canned goods. So does the hermetically sealed container, which means that after any preliminary cooking outside the can-tuna is steamed to remove moisture, for example, and the best French sardines are lightly fried-oxygen can play only a limited role in flavor development, and that whatever happens in the can stays in the can-no aromas can escape. Hence the common presence of a sulfurous quality, which may be eggy or meaty or oniony or cabbagy or skunky, from compounds like hydrogen sulfide, various methyl sulfides, and methanethiol. Some of these notes can gradually fade during storage as the volatiles slowly react with other components of the food.
The overall flavor is nothing like freshly cooked foods. Food technologists often refer to it as "retort off-flavor." But it's only off in comparison to the results of ordinary cooking. It's really just another kind of cooked flavor, an extremely cooked flavor, and it can be very good. Canned tuna, sardines, chicken spread, and Spam all have their own appeal.
Tighter FDA restrictions are keeping some classic French cheeses (Roquefort, Morbier, Tomme de Savoie) out of the US and even some American cheese makers are halting production of their cheeses because they're afraid their products won't meet the new standards.
In early August, these cheeses and many more landed on an FDA Import Alert because the agency found bacterial counts that exceeded its tolerance level. Cheeses on Import Alert can't be sold in the U.S. until the producer documents corrective action and five samples test clean, a process that can take months.
Of course, French creameries haven't changed their recipes for any of these classic cheeses. But their wheels are flunking now because the FDA has drastically cut allowances for a typically harmless bacterium by a factor of 10.
Even Parmigiano-Reggiano might be threatened by the new restrictions. Ridiculous.
I don't drink coffee -- quelle horreur! quelle suprise! quelle whatevs! -- but those around me seem excited by The Handpresso, a travel-sized espresso maker. The Wild Hybrid model even lets you use pods or your very own ground espresso (for less waste and better taste).
I went to the newish Barcade in Chelsea last night to get some dinner and play Star Wars (and Ms. Pac-Man and Tetris and Donkey Kong) and discovered their tater tots are shaped like Tetris pieces:
ИOM ИOM ИOM. You can get these tots from a company called US Foods; they call them Puzzle Potatoes. Their sell sheet for the product is a wonder of corporate wishful thinking masquerading as marketing.
Here's a menu item that will encourage kids to play with their food.
Yes! This is exactly what all parents want. Huge parental issue in America right now is that kids don't play with their food enough.
When baked, these innovative Puzzle Potatoes are a fun and healthier alternative to regular fries...
Tater tots are not a health food. That's the whole point. Also, aren't regular fries also healthier when baked?
Puzzle potatoes are new innovative and interactive potatoes for kids.
Imagine the meeting. "Bob, what can we do about these smartphone? Kids just aren't spending enough time with their potatoes anymore. Instead they're Facebooking and Flappy Birding. Wait, I know... interactive potatoes!" [Cut to Bob being paraded around the office on his coworkers' shoulders]
Our proprietary puzzle-piece shapes...
Well, someone else's proprietary puzzle piece shapes, but why quibble with details?
Features & Benefits... 2D or 3D
I don't. I can't. What does that even mean? The sell sheet for these should be super simple: a photo of the tots and this caption in all-caps 120-point type: THEY'RE TATER TOTS SHAPED LIKE TETRIS PIECES! BUY THEM, YOU FOOL! (thx, kathryn)
Well, well. For a cookbook called Fried & True: More than 50 Recipes for America's Best Fried Chicken and Sides, food genius Wylie Dufresne recreated the recipes for Popeye's chicken and biscuits.
The tenders first get an overnight soak in buttermilk and hot sauce that makes them juicy and, um, tender. To nail the perfectly seasoned crust, he eventually landed on a breading that includes a packet of onion soup and a hefty dose of McCormick's Italian Herb Spaghetti Sauce Seasoning Mix. (If this makes you cringe, remember who we're talking about here, and trust.) Cornstarch, potato starch and baking soda added to the self-rising flour mixture ensure the signature craggy texture and exceptional crunch. Finally, after much experimentation to find the perfect frying temperature, he settled on a relatively low 300°, which renders the crust a deep golden-brown and keeps the lean meat moist.
Better than the original, says Serious Eats' Maggie Mariolis. Dang.
From Matter, a list of things to enjoy now before climate change takes them away or makes them more difficult to procure. Like Joshua trees:
The Joshua trees of Joshua Tree National Park need periods of cold temperatures before they can flower. Young trees are now rare in the park.
Steep projected declines in yields of maize, sorghum, and other staples portend a coming food crisis for parts of sub-Saharan Africa. But here's what will probably get everyone's attention in the developed world: Studies suggest cacao production will begin to decline in Ghana and the Ivory Coast, the source of half of the world's chocolate, by 2030.
Eighty percent of tart cherries come from a single five-county area in Michigan, all of which is threatened.
But as noted previously, we've got plenty of time to enjoy jellyfish:
Important cold-water fish species, including cod, pollock, and Atlantic Salmon, face a growing threat of population collapse as the oceans heat up. Studies suggest a radical fix: Eat lots of jellyfish, which will thrive in our new climate.
Also, The Kennedy Space Center, Havana, Coney Island, the Easter Island statues, and The Leaning Tower of Pisa will all be underwater sooner than you think.
Advice from Tom Mylan, The Meat Hook's head butcher, about how to create your own custom burger blend for top notch burgers at home.
Don't believe the "bedazzled blend" burger hype. Using fancy cuts of beef is not important and kind of a bullshit move, according to Mylan. What is important is making sure the meat is high-quality and comes from mature animals, and that your blend has the right fat content.
Use cheaper cuts of beef from harder-working muscles, like chuck or round. Why? These cuts have more myoglobin, Mylan says, and myoglobin is what gives beef its "beefy" flavor and red color. Each cut will contribute its own flavor and textural nuances, and you can play around with different cuts to bolster the flavors you prefer.
And holy cow! (Ahem.) He suggests using a hamburger patty maker, which I didn't even know existed. $13! I'm totally getting one and trying this.
Hmm, this is interesting. Recent studies suggest that food allergies may be caused by the absense of certain intestinal bacteria...in part due to increased use of antibiotics in very young children.
Food allergies have increased about 50% in children since 1997. There are various theories explaining why. One is that the 21st century lifestyle, which includes a diet very different from our ancestors', lots of antibiotic use, and even a rise in cesarean section deliveries, has profoundly changed the makeup of microbes in the gut of many people in developed countries. For example, the average child in the United States has taken three courses of antibiotics by the time he or she is 2 years old, says Martin Blaser, an infectious disease specialist and microbiologist at New York University in New York City. (See here for more on the reach of microbiome research these days.)
Cathryn Nagler, an immunologist at the University of Chicago in Illinois, has spent years probing links between the immune system, intestinal bacteria, and the onset of allergies. Back in 2004, she and her colleagues reported that wiping out gut bacteria in mice led to food allergies. Since then, Nagler has continued trying to understand which bacteria offer allergy protection and how they accomplish that.
I wasn't expecting too much of this video about how to eat sushi, but it's actually pretty good. It features Naomichi Yasuda of the highly regard Sushi Yasuda in Manhattan making sushi for a newbie and telling him how it should be eaten.
This Old House + Jiro Dreams of Sushi = this video.
Update: Another perspective on how sushi should be eaten comes from Tom Downey, who shares the 10 commandments of the owner of Tokyo's Yajima Sushi.
There were open spots at the counter. But the chef, Susumu Yajima, instructed me to take a seat nearby and wait. Eventually I was summoned to a place directly in front of him, and the attack began: Piece after piece in rapid succession, as Yajima barked orders at me.
"Eat now!" he said, milliseconds after passing me a glistening slice of buri (amberjack) atop shari (the finger of rice that forms the base of nigiri sushi). "Use your hand!" he upbraided me, as I reached for my chopsticks. He even instructed me to half-chew one piece before washing it down with sake.
From PA Press, the latest book in their Words of Wisdom series, The Chef Says. The book features quotes about food and cooking from the likes of Escoffier, April Bloomfield, Julia Child, and Grant Achatz.
According to testing by the folks at America's Test Kitchen, you should not be thawing out your frozen steaks before you cook them. Mind. Blown. Into. Tiny. Pieces. Sweep. Me. Up. Pls.
Conventional wisdom holds that frozen steaks should be thawed before cooking, but we wondered if steaks could be cooked straight from the freezer. Cook's Illustrated Senior Editor Dan Souza explains our cooking experiments.
They also apparently more-or-less deep fry their steak? Is that a thing that we should be doing? (via digg)
Today I learned that iconic designer Milton Glaser co-wrote a column for New York magazine (which he co-founded) about where to find cheap-but-good food in NYC. It was called The Underground Gourmet. Here's a typical column from the October 27, 1975 issue, reviewing a ramen joint in Midtown called Sapporo that is miraculously still around:
Glaser and his co-authior Jerome Snyder eventually packaged the column into a series of books, some of which you can find on Amazon...I bought a copy this morning.
I found out about Glaser's food enthusiasm from this interview in Eye magazine about The Underground Gourmet and his long collaboration with restaurateur Joe Baum of the Rainbow Room and Windows on the World.
We just walked the streets ... When friends of ours knew we were doing it we got recommendations.
There were parts of the city where we knew we could find good places ... particularly in the ethnic parts. We knew if we went to Chinatown we would find something if we looked long enough, or Korea Town, or sections of Little Italy.
More then than now, the city was more locally ethnic before the millionaires came in and bought up every inch of space. So you could find local ethnic places all over the city. And people were dying to discover that. And it was terrific to be able to find a place where you could have lunch for four dollars.
In 2010, Josh Perilo wrote an appreciation of The Underground Gourmet in which he noted only six of the restaurants reviewed in the 1967 edition had survived:
Being obsessed with the food and history of New York (particularly Manhattan), this was like finding a culinary time capsule. I immediately dove in. What I found was shocking, both in the similarities between then and now, and in the differences.
The most obvious change was the immense amount of restaurants that no longer existed. These were not landmarked establishments, by and large. Most of them were hole-in-the wall luncheonettes, inexpensive Chinese restaurants and greasy spoons. But the sheer number of losses was stunning. Of the 101 restaurants profiled, only six survive today: Katz's Delicatessen, Manganaro's, Yonah Schimmel's Knishes Bakery, The Puglia and La Taza de Oro. About half of the establishments were housed in buildings that no longer exist, especially in the Midtown area. The proliferation of "lunch counters" also illustrated the evolution of this city's eating habits. For every kosher "dairy lunch" joint that went down, it seems as though a Jamba Juice or Pink Berry has taken its place.
Man, it's hard not get sucked into reading about all these old places...looking forward to getting my copy of the book in a week or two.
Update: Glaser's co-author Jerome Snyder was also a designer...and no slouch either.
Alexis Madrigal wonders: when did the idea of the dinner reservation come about?
Reserving a table is not so much an "industrial age bolt-on" as it's a slippage from the older custom of reserving a ROOM in a restaurant. As my book explains, 18th-cy "caterers" [traiteurs] either served clients in their homes or in rooms at the traiteur's, the first self-styled restaurateurs borrowed from cafes in having lots of small tables in one big room. Throughout the nineteenth century, many big city restaurants continued to have both a (very) large public eating room with numerous, small (private) tables AND a number of smaller rooms that could be reserved for more private meals. (Much as some restaurants have special "banquet facilities" or "special occasion" rooms today.)
See also: the first NY Times restaurant review circa 1859.
Mark Bittman on the true cost of producing a hamburger, after accounting for externalities like carbon generation and obesity.
Cheeseburgers are the coal of the food world, with externalities in spades; in fact it's unlikely that producers of cheeseburgers bear the full cost of any aspect of making them.
This made me think of something I wrote for Worldchanging several years ago about a True Cost rating:
Wealth doesn't just magically materialize into your bank account. It comes from the ground, human effort, the flesh of animals, the sun, and the atom. The global economy is driven by nature, and yet it's not usually found on the accountant's balance sheet. Perhaps it should be. I'd like to know the true cost of the stuff I buy. Embodied energy and carbon footprint calculations are a good start, but it would be nice if the product itself came with a True Cost number or rating, like the nutritional information on a cereal box or the Energy Star rating on a refrigerator.
When True Cost is factored in, conflict diamonds become a morally expensive choice to make when they're fueling turmoil in the world. Likewise clothing made in sweatshops. Organic tomatoes flown in from Chile may be less expensive at the register, but how much carbon dioxide was released into the atmosphere flying/driving them to your table? What's the energy cost of living in the suburbs compared to living downtown? Do the people who made the clock hanging on my wall get paid a fair wage and receive healthcare? Just how bad for the environment is the laptop on which I'm typing?
In 2011, Magnum photographer Martin Parr visited the Teddy Grays candy factory near Birmingham, England that makes old-fashioned candy with Wonka-esque names -- Mint Humbugs, Nutty Brittles, Spearminties. The result is this ultra-charming 20 minute film profile of the company and its candy-making process.
Charmingness evidence, exhibit A: When asked if the company would ever modernize, company director Teddy Gray responds, "Imagine coming to work in the morning and looking at all them faxes, oh no." Even his modernization references need modernizing.
Charmingness evidence, exhibit B: The lingerie calendar behind Gray as he talks on the phone, and the beefcake calendar behind his daughter in the very next scene.
Charmingness evidence, exhibit C through exhibit ZZZ: Every other scene in the film.
I know 20 minutes for a web video sounds daunting, but it's worth the while. At the very least, skip to 14:00 and watch how they make "lettered rock", hard candy sticks with words written on the inside of the candy. As shown in the video, the individual letters start out 3-4 inches high, are arranged into words when rolled up into a massive tube of candy a foot in diameter, and end up a fraction of an inch tall when pulled out into small sticks, like so:
And you thought laying out type for the web was difficult. (thx, nick)
Bread and butter is often an afterthought at restaurants...the bread can be meh and bland butter served too cold to spread. Chef Dan Richer takes the bread and butter offered at his New Jersey restaurant as seriously as any of the other items on his menu.
Cultured butter is delicious...Per Se serves it as well. (via digg)
Sun Noodle makes the ramen noodles for a host of the top ramen shops in NYC, LA, and elsewhere (Ivan, Momofuku, etc.)...here's a look at how the noodles are made in their New Jersey factory:
See also how to make hand-pulled noodles and Sun Noodle's fresh ramen kits are available for retail (via devour)
Everyone has a superpower. This guy's superpower is that he can flip mini-pancakes faster than I thought humanly possible.
I love watching stuff like this...here's a guy chopping lemons in half 20 times quicker than Superman himself would.
ps. This is still the world's best pancake recipe.
A short film about how Neal's Yard Dairy, a top seller of cheese in London, works with producers to make cheese.
I had a tour of the caves below Murray's in the West Village where they do the same sort of thing as at Neal's Yard. Pretty cool to see the process in action and to taste the same cheeses at different ages.
Paul Greenberg has an excerpt in the NY Times of his new book, American Catch: The Fight for Our Local Seafood.
As go scallops, so goes the nation. According to the National Marine Fisheries Service, even though the United States controls more ocean than any other country, 86 percent of the seafood we consume is imported.
But it's much fishier than that: While a majority of the seafood Americans eat is foreign, a third of what Americans catch is sold to foreigners.
The seafood industry, it turns out, is a great example of the swaps, delete-and-replace maneuvers and other mechanisms that define so much of the outsourced American economy; you can find similar, seemingly inefficient phenomena in everything from textiles to technology. The difference with seafood, though, is that we're talking about the destruction and outsourcing of the very ecological infrastructure that underpins the health of our coasts.
The article and book focus on three formerly American seafoods that we now mostly import from elsewhere: salmon, oysters, and shrimp.
In 2005, the United States imported five billion pounds of seafood, nearly double what we imported twenty years earlier. Bizarrely, during that same period, our seafood exports quadrupled. American Catch examines New York oysters, Gulf shrimp, and Alaskan salmon to reveal how it came to be that 91 percent of the seafood Americans eat is foreign.
In the 1920s, the average New Yorker ate six hundred local oysters a year. Today, the only edible oysters lie outside city limits. Following the trail of environmental desecration, Greenberg comes to view the New York City oyster as a reminder of what is lost when local waters are not valued as a food source.
Farther south, a different catastrophe threatens another seafood-rich environment. When Greenberg visits the Gulf of Mexico, he arrives expecting to learn of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill's lingering effects on shrimpers, but instead finds that the more immediate threat to business comes from overseas. Asian-farmed shrimp-cheap, abundant, and a perfect vehicle for the frying and sauces Americans love-have flooded the American market.
Finally, Greenberg visits Bristol Bay, Alaska, home to the biggest wild sockeye salmon run left in the world. A pristine, productive fishery, Bristol Bay is now at great risk: The proposed Pebble Mine project could undermine the very spawning grounds that make this great run possible. In his search to discover why this precious renewable resource isn't better protected, Greenberg encounters a shocking truth: the great majority of Alaskan salmon is sent out of the country, much of it to Asia. Sockeye salmon is one of the most nutritionally dense animal proteins on the planet, yet Americans are shipping it abroad.
In France, pie charts are called "le camembert" after the cheese. Or sometimes "un diagramme en fromage" (cheese diagram). In Brazil, they are pizza charts. (via numberphile & reddit)
For three years, Nick Kokonas's trio of eating/drinking establishments in Chicago (Next, Alinea, and Aviary) has been using a ticketed reservation system. In this epic piece, Kokonas details why they started using tickets and what the effect has been (emphasis mine):
Our ticket implementation strategy at Alinea was to create a "higher-touch" system than we had previously used at Next. Every customer buying a ticket at Alinea must include a cell phone number where we can reach them. About a week before they dine with us we call every customer to thank them for buying a ticket to Alinea, ask if they have any dietary restrictions or special needs, and generally get a feel for their expectations and whether it is a special occasion. We can, in fact, spend more time (not less) with every single one of our customers because we are only speaking with the customers we know are coming to dine with us. Previously, we answered thousands of calls from people we had to say 'no' to. Now we can take far more time to say 'yes'.
The results on Alinea's business are staggering. Bottom line EBITDA profits are up 38% from previous average years. No shows of full tables are almost non-existent and while partial no-shows still occur they are only a handful of people per week at most. That allows us to run at a far greater capacity with less food waste and more revenue.
Will be interesting to see if more restaurants adopt this model...I bet a bunch of restaurateurs' eyes lit up at the 38% increase in profit. But not every restaurant is Alinea and not every restaurateur is a clever former derivatives trader.
The New Yorker and First We Feast each has an account of a talk given by NYU professor George Solt, who presented some of his research on the history of ramen.
World War II all but destroyed ramen's first wave of popularity. Thanks to food shortages and famine, the government placed tight regulations on food supplies, and earning a profit via restaurants or pushcarts was strictly prohibited until 1949. Some wheat flour made it onto the black market, though, and many of the country's unemployed turned to hawking ramen. Which means, Solt points out, that selling future all-nighter fuel could and did land people in jail.
Holt is the author of The Untold History of Ramen: How Political Crisis in Japan Spawned a Global Food Craze.
If distillers can't keep up with the current and growing worldwide demand for bourbon, we may have to turn to rum instead.
You can buy some old-ass rum, which, after being distilled from molasses or sugar cane, has sat around in barrels for long periods of time, for relatively small sums of money: El Dorado 15 is, as you might expect, made with a blend of rums that have sat in a barrel for at least fifteen years. Is it slightly sweet and rounded with a "full nose packed with dark coffee, candied orange, almonds, dark chocolate, pepper and rich vanilla." It is only thirty-six dollars. Barbancourt 15 is kind of soft and woody and fruity and other things you might say about a bourbon, but instead of corn it's like molasses. It's about forty bucks. Ron Zacapa 23, which is a blend of rums between six and twenty three years old, is probably the first rum that made a lot of people go, "Oh, rum isn't just that stuff that goes in a daiquiri or a mojito or that made me vomit pieces of my intestines into a urinal while I was wearing a silver crown." Here are some tasting notes for it: "Nose full or apricots, citrus fruits, vanilla, cocoa and bourbon."
Beyonce is mad at Solange for not sticking to the plan. What plan? I don't want to say too much, but it involves Chipotle.
"You just stood there. I was defending you."
"Do I need defending?"
"That's not the point. He is a monster."
"He is my husband."
Beyoncé looked away, out the window at the people and the buildings, as they sped across 59th St. "I know who I married. That was my decision and I'll live with it."
"Of course you take his side."
"Excuse me?" Beyoncé turned to face her sister. "Beyoncé is on Beyoncé's side. Always. Trust that."
"Doodie" is a portmanteau of "dude" and "foodie" and a good word to describe the phenomenon of (mostly) male foodies I've observed with increasing regularity in the past few years. Jessica Pressler coined the term in Help! There's a Doodie in My Kitchen.
You see; these are the things you deal with when you live with a food dude. Or, as I have come to call them, doodies. I know, it's an unfortunate term, but like its antecedent, the dreaded foodie, it is also extremely useful for summing up the characteristics of a certain breed of food enthusiast, the kind whose culinary preferences are intrinsically, classically male.
You know the type. Has Heat or Fergus Henderson's Complete Nose to Tail on his bookshelf. Can sustain a remarkably long conversation about knives. Is super into his grill. Likes pour-over coffee. Is, at this moment, really excited about ramps. I could go on, but I won't, because I am sure you know one. New York City in 2014 is rife with doodies: You can find them stalking around Smorgasburg, attending knife-skills classes at the Meat Hook, writing lengthy, tumescent odes to the Bo Ssam Miracle in the paper of record.
Update: Michael Hoffman of Food52 has another name for doodies: assholes.
The food dude is nothing new. He's just a jerk who learned to cook. He's taken what could be a force for good -- feeding loved ones well -- and made it into yet another thing that he can claim to be better at than his wife or girlfriend. (Apparently, food dudes are all heterosexual, too.)
Here's what the food dude doesn't do: He doesn't spend his Sunday afternoon planning practical dinners for the week; he doesn't make sure there's milk in the fridge; he doesn't make something the baby is going to eat. He might as well be building train sets in the basement. Even for people like us who love doing it, getting dinner on the table is, among many other things, a chore. And guess who's doing the chores at Food Dude's place? Women.
In his cookbook, Tartine Bread, Chad Robertson lays out, over 38 pages, the recipe for what might be the best bread in the world. The first time through, the recipe takes two weeks to make.
To Chad, bread is the foundation of a meal, the center of daily life, and each loaf tells the story of the baker who shaped it. He developed his unique bread over two decades of apprenticeship with the finest artisan bakers in France and the United States, as well as experimentation in his own ovens.
A streamlined version of the recipe is available from the NY Times. (via smithsonian)
Jim Koch is the co-founder and chairman of The Boston Beer Company, brewer of the Sam Adams beers. Part of his job is to drink professionally and he does so without getting completely sloshed. What's his secret? Eating a packet of dry yeast before tying one on.
You see, what [expert brewer] Owades knew was that active dry yeast has an enzyme in it called alcohol dehydrogenases (ADH). Roughly put, ADH is able to break alcohol molecules down into their constituent parts of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen. Which is the same thing that happens when your body metabolizes alcohol in its liver. Owades realized if you also have that enzyme in your stomach when the alcohol first hits it, the ADH will begin breaking it down before it gets into your bloodstream and, thus, your brain.
"And it will mitigate - not eliminate - but mitigate the effects of alcohol!" Koch told me.
Could have used this tip last night. Does this mean no hangovers as well?
Update: I got two kinds of feedback about this post:
1) What's the fun in drinking alcohol if you're not getting drunk? (Good point.)
2) Yeast doesn't really work. What does seem to work is Pepcid AC and Zantac. From Shenglong on Hacker News:
Again, I'm not a chemist or a doctor, but from my preliminary internet research and anecdotal testing (though I have quite a few different data points), Famotadine (OTC) [Pepcid], and higher levels of APO-Ranitidine (can be prescription) [Zantac] seems to slow the rate of ethanol -> acetaldehyde, balancing out the drunkness effect more, and giving you more time to process the acetaldehyde -> acetic acid. I typically go from maxing out at 2 drinks / 3 hour period, to about 11 drinks / 3 hour period on Ranitidine, given favorable conditions. I've had lower levels of success with Famotadine.
And it goes without saying, I don't recommend trying any of this at home.
At the local bar on the other hand Nope, not there either. (thx, @natebirdman)
American favorites (blue jeans, whiskey, burgers) have been embraced by the Japanese, who have been turning out improved versions of the originals.
In Japan, the ability to perfectly imitate-and even improve upon-the cocktails, cuisine and couture of foreign cultures isn't limited to American products; there are spectacular French chefs and masterful Neapolitan pizzaioli who are actually Japanese. There's something about the perspective of the Japanese that allows them to home in on the essential elements of foreign cultures and then perfectly recreate them at home. "What we see in Japan, in a wide range of pursuits, is a focus on mastery," says Sarah Kovner, who teaches Japanese history at the University of Florida. "It's true in traditional arts, it's true of young people who dress up in Harajuku, it's true of restaurateurs all over Japan."
It's easy to dismiss Japanese re-creations of foreign cultures as faddish and derivative-just other versions of the way that, for example, the new American hipster ideal of Brooklyn is clumsily copied everywhere from Paris to Bangkok. But the best examples of Japanese Americana don't just replicate our culture. They strike out, on their own, into levels of appreciation and refinement rarely found in America. They give us an opportunity to consider our culture as refracted through a foreign and clarifying prism.
Another example, not mentioned in the piece, is coffee. From the WSJ a couple of years ago:
"My boss won't let me make espressos," says the barista. "I need a year more, maybe two, before he's ready to let customers drink my shots undiluted by milk. And I'll need another whole year of practice after that if I want to be able to froth milk for cappuccinos."
Only after 18 years as a barista in New York did his boss, the cafe's owner, feel qualified to return home to show off his coffee-making skills. Now, at Bear Pond's main branch, he stops making espressos at an early hour each day, claiming that the spike on the power grid after that time precludes drawing the voltage required for optimal pressure.
Egg Apr 13 2014
New from Michael Ruhlman: a cookbook about the mighty egg, "A Culinary Exploration of the World's Most Versatile Ingredient".
For culinary visionary Michael Ruhlman, the question is not whether the chicken or the egg came first, it's how anything could be accomplished in the kitchen without the magic of the common egg. He starts with perfect poached and scrambled eggs and builds up to brioche and Italian meringue. Along the way readers learn to make their own mayonnaise, pasta, custards, quiches, cakes, and other preparations that rely fundamentally on the hidden powers of the egg.
Ruhlman shares a bit about the book with NPR:
But often, Ruhlman argues, we don't treat our eggs very well. Take scrambled eggs. "It's one of the most overcooked dishes in America," he says. "We kill our eggs with heat."
Instead, we need, in most instances, to give the egg gentle heat. "When you cook them very slowly over very gentle heat, the curds form. And as you sit, the rest of the egg sort of warms but doesn't fully cook and becomes a sauce for the curds. So it should be a creamy and delicious and delicate preparation."
Recent studies show that our physical level of hunger, in fact, does not correlate strongly with how much hunger we say that we feel or how much food we go on to consume.
As Maria Konnikova reports, a lot of things can make you hungry -- a song, a book, a smell, even a study.
Being genuinely hungry, on the other hand -- in the sense of physiologically needing food -- matters little.
In other news, Tater Tots.
In recent years, Chipotle has worked to promote their managers from within the company. And the tactic seems to be working.
The common element among the best-performing stores was a manager who had risen up from crew. So Moran started to outline a program that would retain and train the best managers, and reward them to the point where they would be thrilled to stay on.
After Flores expressed his frustration, Moran showed him his early notes for the restaurateur program, which is unique among fast food restaurants in that it ties pay and promotion to how well you mentor people, rather than store sales.
"It was a great meeting but I didn't know what was going to happen. At most companies you meet the top execs and then you never hear from them again," Flores says.
A few weeks after the October meeting, while vacationing in Houston, Flores got a call on his cell from Ells and Moran letting him know that he had been promoted to restaurateur and was getting a $3,000 bonus. Rather than waiting until he returned to Milwaukee to get him the check, it was delivered to him in Houston the following day. At the time his salary was around $38,000, and the bonus was meaningful.
"That's when I knew the company was special," Flores said.
Interesting bits of business wisdom throughout this piece.
Kenji Lopez-Alt and the folks at the Harlem Shake restaurant have invented a burger that's all delicious brown crust.
See, by placing a ball of meat on a hot, un-oiled griddle and smashing it down firmly into a flat, thin disk, you greatly increase the contact points between the meat and the griddle, which in turn increases the Maillard reaction. That's the series of chemical reactions that creates the rich brown crust that makes our steaks and burgers taste so freaking good. Maximum crust = maximum flavor = maximum craving.
I've already discussed the basic ins and outs of smashed burgers in the past, but after writing that article, I found myself wondering, what if I were to take this to the extreme? Is there a way I can pack even more flavor into a burger?
Spoiler alert: the answer is a big fat (or should I say short smashed?) yes.
Legendary designer Milton Glaser (of I❤NY fame) critiques craft beer labels.
Errol Morris has directed a new series of Taco Bell commercials where a bunch of ordinary men named Ronald McDonald review Taco Bell's new breakfast menu. Here's one of the spots:
Khoi Vinh tells us how he really feels about coffee.
In the West, and particularly in urban centers of the United States, we've turned coffee into not just a daily habit, but a totem of conspicuous consumption. They are "rituals of self-congratulation" (a choice phrase I believe I read from Sam Sifton, but which I can't seem to source) wherein we continually obsess over certain coffee purveyors or certain methods of brewing coffee - each new one more complex, more Rube Goldbergian and more comically self-involved than the previous brewing fad.
I don't drink coffee either (don't even like the smell), but as someone who regularly indulges in other addictions and "rituals of self-congratulation", I don't take issue with other people's enjoyment of coffee...as long as I'm out of earshot when the "perfect grinder for pulling a great shot" discussion starts.
Coffee, like almost everything else these days, is a sport. Everyone has a favorite team (or coffee making method or political affiliation or design style or TV drama or rapper or comic book), discusses techniques and relives great moments with other likeminded fans, and argues with fans of other teams. The proliferation and diversification of media over the past 35 years created thousands of new sports and billions of new teams. These people turned hard-to-find nail polish into a sport. These people support Apple in their battle against Microsoft and Samsung. This guy scouts fashion phenoms on city streets. Finding the best bowl of ramen in NYC is a sport. Design is a sport. Even hating sports is a sport; people compete for the funniest "what time is the sportsball match today? har har people who like sports are dumb jocks" joke on Twitter. Let people have their sports, I say. Liking coffee can't be any worse than liking the Yankees, can it?
Henry Hargreaves and Caitlin Levin favor food as a medium for creating art. Their country maps made from native foods were cute at first glance, but in many cases the maps also reveal a link between a country's food and its culture that I'd never really thought about before. For instance, the maps of India and British Isles feel very representative of their respective cultures to me:
A master chef from a Hokkaido sushi restaurant shows how to make dashimaki tamago, a Japanese rolled omelette.
Watching people who are good at what they do never gets old. (via swiss miss)
A group of marine biologists that has been recently studying mesopelagic fish ("fish that live between 100 and 1000m below the surface") believes that 95% of fish biomass is unknown to humans. Marine dark matter. The problem lies with how fish have traditionally been counted and the enhanced visual and pressure senses of these fish.
He says most mesopelagic species tend to feed near the surface at night, and move to deeper layers in the daytime to avoid birds.
They have large eyes to see in the dim light, and also enhanced pressure-sensitivity.
"They are able to detect nets from at least five metres and avoid them," he says.
"Because the fish are very skilled at avoiding nets, every previous attempt to quantify them in terms of biomass that fishing nets have delivered are very low estimates.
"So instead of different nets what we used were acoustics... sonar and echo sounders."
A not-so-difficult prediction to make is that humans will find a way to catch these wary creatures, we'll eat most of them, and then we'll be back to where we are now: the world's oceans running low on fish. (via @daveg)
Have you ever wanted to taste Kanye West's meat? Then what is wrong with you and what is wrong with these people?!?! They want to take tissue samples from celebrities like James Franco, Kanye, and Jennifer Lawrence and make artisanal salami out of them.
It all starts with your favorite celebrities, and a quick biopsy to obtain tissue samples. Isolating muscle stem cells, we grow celebrity meat in our proprietary bioreactors. In the tradition of Italian cured meats, we dry, age, and spice our product into fine charcuterie.
Note: BiteLabs might be completely fake. But
fake is the new real so... nope, this is just fake.
According to an article in The Journal of the American Medical Association, the obesity rate of American 2- to 5-year-old children has dropped from 14% in 2004 to 8% in 2012.
Children now consume fewer calories from sugary beverages than they did in 1999. More women are breast-feeding, which can lead to a healthier range of weight gain for young children. Federal researchers have also chronicled a drop in overall calories for children in the past decade, down by 7 percent for boys and 4 percent for girls, but health experts said those declines were too small to make much difference.
Barry M. Popkin, a researcher at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill who has tracked American food purchases in a large data project, said families with children had been buying lower-calorie foods over the past decade, a pattern he said was unrelated to the economic downturn.
He credited those habits, and changes in the federally funded Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children, for the decline in obesity among young children. The program, which subsidizes food for low-income women, reduced funding for fruit juices, cheese and eggs and increased it for whole fruits and vegetables.
Kevin Drum calls the drop "baffling".
Planet Money: always buy the bigger pizza because geometry.
The math of why bigger pizzas are such a good deal is simple. A pizza is a circle, and the area of a circle increases with the square of the radius.
So, for example, a 16-inch pizza is actually four times as big as an 8-inch pizza.
And when you look at thousands of pizza prices from around the U.S., you see that you almost always get a much, much better deal when you buy a bigger pizza.
And if you want a sense of how weird, and how fraught, the relationship between science, politics, and commerce is in our modern world, then there's really no better place to go.
In The Daily Beast Michael Schulson provides a alternate view on Whole Foods: America's Temple of Pseudoscience. (The first time I read this, I nearly spit out my probiotic-infused kombucha, kale, quinoa, coconut water shake.)
I don't care if all of this vocabulary of NYC's best bars is made up (it sure sounds made up), I still loved reading it. You can totally tell which places are about the drinks, which are about hospitality, which are bitchy, and which are all about the benjamins.
Sipper: A small pour (typically Mother's Milk) gifted to a colleague, loved one, regular, etc.
Amuse-booze (experimental term): A tiny sipper to acknowledge a guest an reassure them they will be served soon.
The Cousins: Affectionate term for other cocktail bars (after the British secret service's name for the CIA in Le Carre's Smiley novels).
Even if it's fake, it's real.
On his site Truth in Olive Oil, Tom Mueller tells us how to buy great olive oil and, more usefully, which brands to buy at the supermarket.
Unlike many wines, which improve with age, extra virgin olive oil is perishable: like all natural fruit juices, its flavor and aroma begin to deteriorate within a few months of milling, a decline that accelerate when the oil is bottled, and really speeds up when the bottle is opened. To get the freshest oil, and cut out middle-men who often muddy olive oil transparency and quality, buy as close to the mill as possible. If you're lucky enough to live near a mill -- common around the Mediterranean, and more and more so in other areas of the world with a Mediterranean-like climate, like Australia, S. Africa, California, Texas, Georgia -- visit it during the harvest to see how olives are picked, crushed, stirred, and spun into olive oil.
Mueller is also author of Extra Virginity: The Sublime and Scandalous World of Olive Oil, which was published a few years after his olive oil exposé in the New Yorker.
In 1997 and 1998, olive oil was the most adulterated agricultural product in the European Union, prompting the E.U.'s anti-fraud office to establish an olive-oil task force. ("Profits were comparable to cocaine trafficking, with none of the risks," one investigator told me.) The E.U. also began phasing out subsidies for olive-oil producers and bottlers, in an effort to reduce crime, and after a few years it disbanded the task force. Yet fraud remains a major international problem: olive oil is far more valuable than most other vegetable oils, but it is costly and time-consuming to produce-and surprisingly easy to doctor. Adulteration is especially common in Italy, the world's leading importer, consumer, and exporter of olive oil. (For the past ten years, Spain has produced more oil than Italy, but much of it is shipped to Italy for packaging and is sold, legally, as Italian oil.) "The vast majority of frauds uncovered in the food-and-beverage sector involve this product," Colonel Leopoldo Maria De Filippi, the commander for the northern half of Italy of the N.A.S. Carabinieri, an anti-adulteration group run under the auspices of the Ministry of Health, told me.
McDonald's Canada continues their series on how their business works with a video on how Chicken McNuggets are made.
Best part of the video: the casual reveal that McNuggets come in four standard shapes: the ball, the bell, the boot, and the bow tie:
I had a McNugget over the weekend, the first one in probably more than 10 years, and it tasted and felt like chicken. Not bad for fast food. See also how McDonald's fries are made and how McDonald's photographs their food for advertising.
Fish Tales is billed as the world's shortest cooking show. Episodes are about 15 seconds long and in each one, you learn how to cook a complete fish/seafood dish. Here's the latest one, on cooking razor clams:
I was just wondering this the other day...where can you get good nachos in NYC? Serious Eats investigates.
Not only are they delicious (when made right, and we'll get to that), but they practically create their own conversation. Everybody has an opinion on how chunky the guacamole should be. We all have feelings about whether chili or beans make a better topping. Who hasn't considered whether or not they'd ever prefer a fresh jalape~no to a pickled one, and who hasn't considered de-friending a friend who dares to express a preference for fresh over pickled? And then there's the ever-raging debate of cheese sauce vs. melted cheese, a subject you might actually consider not broaching in mixed company.
Scientists at the University of Vermont's Proctor Maple Research Center have made an interesting discovery. It seems that the sap used to produce maple syrup doesn't flow from the tops of trees, it gets sucked up from the trees' roots. Which means that maple syrup makers can use saplings instead of fully grown maple trees to produce syrup.
They realized that their discovery meant sugarmakers could use saplings, densely planted in open fields, to harvest sap. In other words, it is possible that maple syrup could now be produced as a row crop like every other commercial crop in North America.
In a natural forest, which varies in maple density, an average 60 to 100 taps per acre will yield 40 to 50 gallons of syrup. According to the researchers' calculations, an acre of what is now called "the plantation method" could sustain 5,800 saplings with taps yielding 400 gallons of syrup per acre. If the method is realized, producing maple syrup on a commercial scale may no longer be restricted to those with forest land; it could require just 50 acres of arable land instead of 500 acres of forest. Furthermore, any region with the right climate for growing maples would be able to start up maple "farms". The natural forest would become redundant.
This is undoubtably the best story you'll ever read about the Bay Area's latest food craze: $4 artisanal toast.
Trouble's owner, and the apparent originator of San Francisco's toast craze, is a slight, blue-eyed, 34-year-old woman with freckles tattooed on her cheeks named Giulietta Carrelli. She has a good toast story: She grew up in a rough neighborhood of Cleveland in the '80s and '90s in a big immigrant family, her father a tailor from Italy, her mother an ex-nun. The family didn't eat much standard American food. But cinnamon toast, made in a pinch, was the exception. "We never had pie," Carrelli says. "Our American comfort food was cinnamon toast."
The other main players on Trouble's menu are coffee, young Thai coconuts served with a straw and a spoon for digging out the meat, and shots of fresh-squeezed grapefruit juice called "Yoko." It's a strange lineup, but each item has specific meaning to Carrelli. Toast, she says, represents comfort. Coffee represents speed and communication. And coconuts represent survival-because it's possible, Carrelli says, to survive on coconuts provided you also have a source of vitamin C. Hence the Yoko. (Carrelli tested this theory by living mainly on coconuts and grapefruit juice for three years, "unless someone took me out to dinner.")
Fancy $4 toast seems like something to chuckle at or cluck your tongue about, but this story takes an unexpected left turn about halfway through and is well worth the read.