kottke.org posts about food
Here's a gem from the archive of the NY Times. One day in September 1976, NY Times food critic Mimi Sheraton and Colonel Harland Sanders stopped into a Manhattan Kentucky Fried Chicken. The Colonel, then estranged from the company he founded, strolled into the kitchen after glad-handing some patrons and proceeded to tear into the quality of the food:
Once in the kitchen, the colonel walked over to a vat full of frying chicken pieces and announced, 'That's much too black. It should be golden brown. You're frying for 12 minutes -- that's six minutes too long. What's more, your frying fat should have been changed a week ago. That's the worst fried chicken I've ever seen. Let me see your mashed potatoes with gravy, and how do you make them?"
When Mr. Singleton explained that he first mixed boiling water into the instant powdered potatoes, the colonel interrupted. "And then you have wallpaper paste," he said. "Next suppose you add some of this brown gravy stuff and then you have sludge." "There's no way anyone can get me to swallow those potatoes," he said after tasting some. "And this cole slaw. This cole slaw! They just won't listen to me. It should he chopped, not shredded, and it should be made with Miracle Whip. Anything else turns gray. And there should be nothing in it but cabbage. No carrots!"
Sanders sold his company to an investment group in 1964, which took the company public two years later and eventually sold to a company called Heublein. After selling, Sanders officially still worked for the company as an advisor but grew more and more dissatisfied with it, as evidenced by the story above. When the company HQ moved to Tennessee, the Colonel was quoted as saying:
This ain't no goddam Tennessee Fried Chicken, no matter what some slick, silk-suited son-of-a-bitch says.
And he got sued by a KFC franchisee after he commented:
My God, that gravy is horrible. They buy tap water for 15 to 20 cents a thousand gallons and then mix it with flour and starch and end up with pure wallpaper paste. And I know wallpaper paste, by God, because I've seen my mother make it.
To the "wallpaper paste" they add some sludge and sell it for 65 or 75 cents a pint. There's no nutrition in it and the ought not to be allowed to sell it.
And another thing. That new crispy chicken is nothing in the world but a damn fried doughball stuck on some chicken.
Colonel Sanders: serving up chicken and sick burns with equal spiciness. (via @mccanner)
When he was asked to design a new outpost of iconic NYC hot dog joint Papaya King in the East Village, Andrew Bernheimer went around to several other establishments in the city built to serve food quickly -- Chipotle, Russ & Daughters, Katz's, Shake Shack, Gray's Papaya -- and looked at their floor plans and flow of customers through their spaces. Mark Lamster talked to Bernheimer about the survey.
ML: I think at fast food joints we're conscious that we're in a very controlled environment, but perhaps don't realize (because we are in a rush), just how manipulative that space can be. How did you see this playing out in the places you looked at?
AB: It ranged. Artisanal places (like Russ & Daughters) don't feel manipulative in an insidious way at all (other than showing off some great food and triggering all sorts of synaptic response), while others do (Five Guys and their peanuts, a pretty nasty and obvious trigger to go order soda or spend money on WATER). We didn't just look at fast food joints, but also icons of New York (R&D, Katz's) that do try to serve people quickly but I don't think qualify as "fast food joints." In these cases the manipulation is either entirely subliminal and beyond recognition, or it has been rendered unnecessary because a place has become iconic, the domain of the "regular."
Speaking as a customer, places like Katz's and Russ & Daughters always felt like a total mess to me. Katz's in particular is the worst: the whole thing with the tickets, paying on the way out, the complete lack of a single line, separate ordering locations for different types of food, etc.
That Gray's Papaya that used to be on the corner of 8th St and 6th Ave, however, was fantastic. It had the huge benefit of being situated on the corner, but when you walked in, there was the food being cooked right in front of you. It was obvious where the line was and what direction it was moving. And after getting your food, you could exit immediately out the "back" door or circle back against the line to find a counter spot to quickly eat your meal.
There are lots of ways to boil an egg. You can drop them in already boiling water. You can start them in cold water and bring to a boil. You can bake them in an oven at a low temperature. You can sous vide them for awhile. I'm sure you have your technique.
The easiest, fastest, and tastiest way I've found to make perfect hard boiled eggs is Kenji López-Alt's Perfect Steamed Boiled Eggs Recipe. That's right, you steam the eggs.
Fill a large pot with 1 inch of water. Place steamer insert inside, cover, and bring to a boil over high heat. Add eggs to steamer basket, cover, and continue cooking 6 minutes for soft boiled or 12 minute for hard.
Since that little bit of water boils much quicker than a full pot, you're done much quicker. And peeling is easy too; I don't even wait the 15 minutes or do it under running water, those shells come off super easy.
P.S. I've been cooking more recently, and I'm almost exclusively using recipes and techniques from Serious Eats and The Food Lab. (For instance, I made this Spanish tortilla a couple of weeks ago and it was amazing.) I'm sure I'll branch out soon, but for now, *kisses fingers*.
Frank Ocean dropped his long-awaited album the other day and to go along with it, he gave away a magazine called Boys Don't Cry for free at four pop-up locations in LA, NYC, Chicago, and London. Kanye West contributed to the album and magazine, penning a poem about McDonald's for the latter. Here's the poem:
The French fries had a plan
The French fries had a plan
The salad bar and the ketchup made a band
Cus the French Fries had a plan
The French fries had a plan
I know them French fries have a plan
I know them French fries have a plan
The cheeseburger and the shakes formed a band
To overthrow the French fries plan
I always knew them French fries was evil man
Smelling all good and shit
I don't trust no food that smells that good man
I don't trust it
I just can't
Them French fries look good tho
I knew the Diet Coke was jealous of the fries
I knew the McNuggets was jealous of the fries
Even the McRib was jealous of the fries
I could see it through his artificial meat eyes
And he only be there some of the time
Everybody was jealous of them French fries
Except for that one special guy
That smooth apple pie
Man, I can't help but like Kanye. Just when you think he takes himself way too seriously, he does something like this and you can't tell if he's taking himself way WAY too seriously or not seriously at all. McDonald's, man. Kanye drawing courtesy of Chris Piascik. (via @gavinpurcell)
On a recent episode of the Serious Eats podcast Special Sauce, Ed Levine talks to Danny Meyer about the origins of the Shake Shack.
Did Meyer have any idea that that hot dog cart would eventually become the massive sensation it is today? Not at all. It was a happy accident, born of his love of burgers, Chicago hot dogs, and the custard that's still served at Ted Drewes in his native St. Louis.
In Situ is Corey Lee's new restaurant in the recently refurbished SFMOMA. Like the museum does with art, In Situ brings culinary masterpieces from chefs around the world and presents them to guests. The current menu, which provides the name of the chef and the date the dish was first made in the style of the info cards next to artworks, includes Shrimp Grits from the now-closed WD-50 (Wylie Dufresne, 2013), Spicy Pork Sausage Rice Cakes from Ssam Bar (David Chang, 2007), Meyer Lemon Ice Cream and Sherbet from Chez Panisse (Alice Waters, 1980), and Wood Sorrel & Sheep Milk's Yogurt from Noma (René Redzepi, 2005).
This sort of thing is not exactly without precedent. From the very beginning of Grant Achatz and Nick Kokonas' Next, one of the ideas was to present the menu from the French Laundry from Achatz's first day on the job there in October 1996 (which is happening this fall) and the Chicago restaurant has already featured menus with dishes from El Bulli and Trio (Achatz's first restaurant as head chef). Ssam Bar used to have cocktails from other places (Milk and Honey, Death & Co., etc.) on their beverage menu, properly credited. But as Pete Wells explains in his positive NY Times review, In Situ takes the concept further:
Would any chef have dreamed of building a restaurant like this 25 years ago? Would anyone have gone there? In Situ probably requires a steady supply of customers who care about restaurants in Lima and Copenhagen enough to have seen some of these dishes in cookbooks or at least in the Instagram accounts of the chefs in question. Mr. Lee depends on, and caters to, a class of eaters who pay attention to the global restaurant scene the way certain art hounds follow the goings on in Basel, Miami Beach and Venice.
One thing In Situ proves, just by existing, is that certain chefs are now cultural figures in a sense that once applied only to practitioners of what used to be called high culture: literature, concert music, avant-garde painting. A Redzepi dish can be visited in an art museum in 2016, and nobody finds this very strange.
What In Situ is doing also underscores how context and the renown of an artist can affect our perception of what is creative appropriation versus theft or plagiarism. That In Situ is helmed by one of the best chefs in the US and affiliated with a world-class museum matters. The similar work of an unknown chef might not get the same treatment, as Robin Wickens found out in 2006, when he presented dishes from WD-50 and Alinea on the menu at his Australian restaurant:
That's what happened three months ago on the eGullet.com Web site. Sam Mason, a pastry chef at WD-50 in New York, set off an international dust-up when he posted a link to the Web site of Interlude, a restaurant in Melbourne, Australia, and asked: "Is it me or are some of these dishes strikingly similar to a few American restaurants?" Interlude's site showed photos of such unusual fare as noodles made of shrimp and a glass tube full of eucalyptus jelly and yogurt, dishes pioneered at WD-50 and Chicago's Alinea, respectively. Interlude's chef, Robin Wickens, had worked for a week at Alinea as a stagiere, or unpaid intern, and had dined at WD-50 while visiting the U.S.
EGullet's administrators then juxtaposed Interlude's images to nearly identical ones from WD-50 and Alinea. Within a few days, restaurateurs and chefs from around the country and dozens of eGullet members added to the thread, many branding Mr. Wickens a plagiarist.
Mortified, Mr. Wickens says he removed the dishes from his menu and his site, and sent letters to the chefs whose work he'd copied explaining that he only wanted to utilize what he'd learned on his travels. "I never tried to claim them as my own," says Mr. Wickens, who says he told many patrons that the dishes had originated at the American restaurants.
I wish I had San Francisco travel plans...In Situ is the first new restaurant I've been excited about visiting in ages (for obvious reasons). Soon, hopefully.
Chef and Momofuku founder David Chang spends a lot of time thinking about food and he's arrived at what he calls the Unified Theory of Deliciousness.
My first breakthrough on this idea was with salt. It's the most basic ingredient, but it can also be hellishly complex. A chef can go crazy figuring out how much salt to add to a dish. But I believe there is an objectively correct amount of salt, and it is rooted in a counterintuitive idea. Normally we think of a balanced dish as being neither too salty nor undersalted. I think that's wrong. When a dish is perfectly seasoned, it will taste simultaneously like it has too much salt and too little salt. It is fully committed to being both at the same time.
I'm not sure his observations are exactly unified, but they are interesting and also why I enjoy eating at his restaurants so much. A meal I had at Ssam Bar shortly after they switched away from the initial Korean burritos menu is in my top 5 meals of all time and a pair of dishes at Ko (both somehow simultaneously familiar and new) are among the most delicious things I've ever eaten.
For an episode of food podcast Gastropod, hosts Cynthia Graber and Nicola Twilley consider how sound influences our perception of food and drink.
In this episode, we discover how manipulating sound can transform our experience of food and drink, making stale potato chips taste fresh, adding the sensation of cream to black coffee, or boosting the savory, peaty notes in whiskey.
One takeaway: don't listen to the sound of breaking glass if you want to continue eating potato chips:
He recruited 200 volunteers willing to eat Pringles for science, and played them modified crunching sounds through headphones, some louder and some more muffled, as they ate. And he found that he could make a 15 percent difference in people's perception of a stale chip's freshness by playing them a louder crunch when they bit into it.
"The party version" of this trick, according to Spence, was developed by colleagues in the Netherlands and Japan. Volunteers were asked to crunch on chips in time with a metronome, while researchers played crunching sounds back, in perfect synchrony, through their headphones. All was well until the researchers replaced the crunching with the sound of breaking glass-and "people's jaws just freeze up."
The human brain is fascinating.
In today's post on "What is barbecue?" I skipped past "is a hot dog a sandwich?" so quickly that I forgot to answer the question. So in the same spirit in which someone can boldly declare that only smoked, slow-cooked pork is barbecue, here is my minimal definition of a sandwich:
A sandwich is any solid or semi-solid filling between two or more slices of bread. Not a roll, not a wrap, not a leaf of lettuce: sliced bread. What is inside far less than the container.
- A hot dog is not a sandwich.
- A burrito is not a sandwich.
- A wrap is not a sandwich.
- A cheeseburger on a roll is not a sandwich. Sliced bread only.
- A lobster roll is not a sandwich.
- A hoagie is not a sandwich.
- An ice cream sandwich is not a sandwich.
- A hot turkey sandwich is not a sandwich.
- An open-faced sandwich is not a sandwich.
- If you make a sandwich using one end of the bread and one proper slice, it's kind of a sandwich still, but not really. See also folding over a single slice of bread for a half-sandwich.
- If you make a sandwich using both ends of the bread, it is no longer a sandwich at all.
- A peanut butter or grilled cheese sandwich is a sandwich.
- A mayonnaise, butter, or ketchup sandwich is probably a sandwich -- I'm not sure whether those fillings are solid enough -- just not a very good one.
- A sandwich made with crackers instead of bread is not a sandwich, but an imitation of a sandwich.
- A sandwich made with crackers between two slices of bread is a sandwich, but not a very good one.
Alternatively, "sandwich" is a family-resemblance concept and we can't appeal to definitional consistency to get away from the fact that language is a complex organism and its rules don't always make perfect sense.
(PS: I do not speak for Jason or Kottke.org on this matter, please do not argue with him about sandwiches)
Update (from Jason): Boy, you leave Tim to his own devices for a few hours and he establishes the official kottke.org stance on sandwiches. [That new emoji of the yellow smiley face grabbing its chin and looking skeptical that you might not have on Android IDK I'm Apple Man] I was just talking to my kids the other day about this important issue and Ollie, who is almost 9, told me that both hamburgers and hot dogs are sandwiches because "the meat is sandwiched in between the bread; it's right there in the word". When Ollie and Minna take over the family business in 2027, they can revisit this, but for now, Tim's definition stands.
At Eater, Chris Fuhrmeister hits on another topic near to my amateur linguist heart: policing the word "barbecue":
When it comes to American barbecue -- I certainly won't attempt to set ground rules for other barbecue cultures across the globe -- there are absolute rights and wrongs. Sure, there's some room for interpretation, but good-intentioned "barbecue" lovers across this country are blaspheming day in and day out. Before declaring what barbecue isn't, it's best to define what it is: pork that's slow-cooked with smoke.
This is controversial, because "barbecue" is also used to mean:
- n. other slow-cooked smoked meats, e.g., beef
- v. the act of cooking or eating such meats,
- v. grilling anything outdoors,
- n. an outdoor grill
- a. a type or flavor of sauce, potato chips, and other foods
- and so forth.
It's also odd because, as Fuhrmeister notes, it's an American controversy, and Americans tend to play faster and looser with food words than people elsewhere. Cognac has to be from Cognac, champagne from Champagne, and so on. Americans have lots of different regional words and practices when it comes to food (soda vs pop, sub vs hoagie, etc.), and we're definitely competitive when it comes to where and how food is made best, but we're generally pretty pluralist about definitions. Which is probably why "barbecue" has metastasized to mean so many different but related things.
I tried to come up with a shortlist of honest-to-goodness American food word debates.
- What is barbecue?
- Is a hot dog a sandwich?
- Is Chicago-style pizza really pizza?
- Is it donut or doughnut?
- Is a wrap a burrito?
- Why do we say "chai tea" when "chai" means "tea"?
From here you start to get into all the ways Americans abuse imported food words, which is a much longer list. British English also has a debated distinction between cake and biscuit that I don't fully understand. Some of us like "is a patty melt a hamburger?," because the ontology of hamburger is pretty complex stuff. But this is enough to get started.
Donut/doughnut is a straight-up style dispute, and doesn't have anything to do with definitions. "Are hot dogs sandwiches?" is almost too much about definitions -- there's no history, no implied values, or real stakes. Chicago vs NYC pizza is a regional value rivalry posing as a definitional one: press people, and they'll say, "yeah, what they make is pizza, it's just not as good as ours."
Barbecue is the debate that has everything. It's a regional rivalry with value attached to it, that's making definitional claims. And there are so many possible distinctions! Texas and Carolina partisans might unite to reject "barbecue" to mean "cookout," but fall apart again over the merits of beef vs pork. You can even vote on it; the voting will decide nothing. It is an infinite jewel.
From the International Center for Tropical Agriculture, a map showing where the world's most used crops originated. Potatoes and tomatoes are from the Andes, watermelon from southern Africa, bananas from south & southeast Asia, and blueberries from North America. (via @CharlesCMann)
From Flowing Data, an animated infographic that shows how the American diet has changed since 1970. We eat less beef, potatoes, margarine, and whole milk than we used to, but more chicken, cooking oil, bananas, and Italian cheese.
From CBC Radio show This Is That, which previously did a bit on Artisanal Firewood, comes a spoof on fancy shows about chefs like Chef's Table called Cooks.
What do I want people to think of my food? Well, that it's fast, it's cheap, it's a little salty, and most importantly, that it was cooked all the way through.
Serena Solomon grew up in Australia and when she moved to the US, she was shocked at the number of products sold at American grocery stores. Solomon recently asked other immigrants to share their biggest surprises about American culture. From a French welder:
It is so frustrating here. Nothing is easy. Nothing is efficient. To pay rent, you have to use a check? I have never written a check. The last time I got a check was maybe 20 years ago, from my granddad. Getting an apartment takes so long as opposed to other countries I have lived in where it's just a handshake. That's it. I went to the post office yesterday, and I was waiting in line for maybe an hour -- and there were only five people in front of me. I felt like I went from a Western country to a third-world country. People here with money have access to things. The rest of the people are just trying to survive.
Food is a big difference for some:
Food-wise, I noticed us all getting these round faces from the bad food we ate. We did not realize it, because it was the standard and you think because it's advertised and readily available it can't be bad for you. We were so ignorant coming from South Africa, eating home cooked food every night over there. Then, once we got here, we ate those corn dogs almost every day for lunch, little pizzas for snacks, and sugary cereals for breakfast.
Reminds me of Cup of Jo's excellent series about how parenthood differs around the world.
One of the oldest businesses in the world, Sudo Honke is a sake brewery founded in 1141 and managed by the Sudo family for the past 55 generations.
We've been making sake for at least 870 years.
I love the "at least" bit. You can buy some of their sake online. (BTW, feel free to supply your own "Sudo, pour me a sake" joke.)
This is a perfect Friday video. Enjoy your weekend, everyone. (Or not, the machines are gonna take all of our jobs.) (via @dunstan)
Jeff Seal digs through garbage bags outside of NYC grocery stores, delis, bakeries, and supermarkets to find perfectly good food that's been thrown out.
Stewart Brand wrote a summary of a seminar given by Jane Langdale about how the efficiency of photosynthesis might be improved for some of the world's plants, particularly rice.
Most plants use what's called C3 photosynthesis to produce sugars and starch, but the process is not very efficient. Some plants, like corn and sugarcane, have evolved the capability to produce sugars and starch using the much more efficient C4 photosynthesis process. So if you could modify rice to use C4 instead of C3, yields would increase dramatically.
Rice is a C3 plant -- which happens to be the staple food for half the world. If it can be converted to C4 photosynthesis, its yield would increase by 50% while using half the water. It would also be drought-resistant and need far less fertilizer.
You can read more about the efforts in developing C4 photosynthesis in Technology Review.
If you left the house with a lemon, some copper clips, some zinc nails, some wire, and steel wool but somehow forgot your matches, you can still start a fire. I imagine if you had a large enough lemon and enough wire and metal bits, you could also jumpstart a car or a human heart. (via @kathrynyu)
The PBS Ideas Channel talks to Brooklyn bar owner Ivy Mix about all the different kinds of glassware that cocktails are served in. The most interesting bits are about how factors other than taste influence how people enjoy drinks, as with wine. Men in particular seem to have a difficult time enjoying themselves with certain types of glassware and drink colors.
The common button or white mushroom, the crimini or brown mushroom, and the portobello mushroom are all the same species of mushroom.
Agaricus bisporus has increased in popularity in North America with the introduction of two brown strains, Portabella (sometimes also spelled portobello, portabello, or portobella) and Crimini. The three mushrooms you see to the right are all actually the same species. Portabella is a marketing name the mushroom industry came up with for more flavorful brown strains of Agaricus bisporus that are allowed to open to expose the mature gills with brown spores; crimini is actually the same brown strain that is not allowed to open before it is harvested.
See also the magical Brassica oleracea plant (cabbage, kale, broccoli, brussels sprouts, kohlrabi, collard greens, and cauliflower are all the same species of plant). (via @dunstan)
Questlove is coming out with a book about food and creativity next month called something to food about.
In conversations with ten innovative chefs in America, he explores what makes their creativity tick, how they see the world through their cooking and how their cooking teaches them to see the world. The conversations begin with food but they end wherever food takes them. Food is fuel. Food is culture. Food is history. And food is food for thought.
Love that cover.
It's so soothing and satisfying watching this person unslicing tomatoes. (via digg)
The Booker and Dax Cocktail Cube is a plastic cube you put into your cocktail shaker to simulate a big ice cube and achieve "awesome texturizing effects" for your cocktails.
One year in front of a large audience I ran a test intended to prove that big ice cubes were all show. I shook with different types of ice and dumped the drinks into graduated cylinders to measure the amount of foam the shaking had produced. To my surprise, and embarrassment, the large cube had a positive, repeatable effect on foam quantity. I don't know why the big cube does a better job, it just does.
I'm not sure my homemade cocktail game is quite good enough to be worrying about texture at this point, but yours might be.
Chef Joshua Smookler took a hunk of waygu steak and dry-aged it for a ridiculous 400 days. No surprise, it tasted like "funk".
Prison Ramen is a cookbook of instant ramen recipes from prison inmates and celebrities (Samuel L. Jackson wrote the foreword).
Instant ramen is a ubiquitous food, beloved by anyone looking for a cheap, tasty bite-including prisoners, who buy it at the commissary and use it as the building block for all sorts of meals. Think of this as a unique cookbook of ramen hacks. Here's Ramen Goulash. Black Bean Ramen. Onion Tortilla Ramen Soup. The Jailhouse Hole Burrito. Orange Porkies -- chili ramen plus white rice plus 1/2 bag of pork skins plus orange-flavored punch. Ramen Nuggets. Slash's J-Walking Ramen (with scallions, Sriracha hot sauce, and minced pork).
Chef's Table, the excellent Netflix show by filmmaker David Gelb (Jiro Dreams of Sushi), which I like to think of as Other Chefs Dreams of Other Foods, is coming back with three additional seasons.
"The idea was to do a series about chefs with a really cinematic quality." As Gelb has said before, the BBC's Planet Earth was his visual inspiration. With one season behind him, Gelb now has a process. "The hardest thing is to choose the chefs... choosing chefs that are at the absolute top of their field, are dynamic story tellers, have interesting stories in their personal lives," he explains. He asks a lot of questions: "What are the epiphanies that made them want to be a chef? How do their cooking and personal lives intersect?"
And then from a practical perspective, do they have the time and will to commit to this shoot? "We shoot two weeks very intensively, and they have to be willing to give us their time. Finally it's about how do we balance the chefs, how do we make it so each story is different, so that the different stories complement each other. While each film can stand alone, together they should form a greater whole."
Among the chefs to be featured are Grant Achatz, Ivan Orkin,1 and Michel Troisgros. If you're curious about season 1 (trailer), the Francis Mallmann and Massimo Bottura episodes are the ones to watch.
Update: The trailer for the second season is out. May 27th!
Gordon Ramsay shows us how to chop an onion, cook rice, debone a fish, cook pasta, and sharpen a knife. We've been watching a lot of Gordon Ramsay videos at our house recently. My daughter's class is studying how restaurants work1 -- they're operating a real restaurant in their classroom today -- so she's been really curious about food.
On a recent weekend when it was just the two of us, we watched Ramsay cook his soft-scrambled eggs (and then made them the next morning), which sent us down a rabbit hole of beef wellington, tacos, turkey, and donuts. If you've only ever seen him yelling at mediocre chefs and restaurant owners on TV, you should give his cooking videos a try...he's a super engaging chef that gets you excited about food and cooking.
From a new video series by Eater featuring "culinary-minded individuals who are hard at work perfecting their crafts", sushi chef David Bouhadana visits a sushi apprentice honing her skills in NYC.
Gear Patrol collected a number of coffee cups from coffee shops around NYC. Prices for a small cup ranged from $1 to $4.50. I'm guessing the latter was not 4.5 times tastier than the former. (via @mccanner)
Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs of Food52 are coming out with a new book called A New Way to Dinner.
A smart, inspiring cookbook of 100+ recipes from the founders of the powerhouse web site Food52 showing just how they -- two busy working parents -- actually plan, shop, and cook for delicious dinners (and breakfasts, lunches, and desserts) -- all through the week. The secret? Cooking ahead.
I need this. I want to cook more, eat better, and not dine out so much, but I just haven't been able to get it together. And I love the title..."dinner" cleverly works both as a noun and a verbed noun.
At Serious Eats, the Food Lab's Kenji Lopez-Alt reverse engineers (and improves) the Egg McMuffin for the home cook. Clever use of a Mason jar lid for cooking the egg.
Ben Schott collects some instructions from the cookbooks of noted chefs that will likely never be attempted by the home chef (unless you're this woman). Like this one from A New Napa Cuisine that calls for phytoplankton:
20 grams marine phytoplankton
100 grams water
4 matsutake mushrooms, peeled and left whole
Or this one from Heston Blumenthal's The Fat Duck Cookbook to make frankincense hydrosol:
50 grams golden frankincense tears
100 grams water
I've owned several cookbooks where one recipe on page 107 calls for the product of a recipe on page 53 which in turn calls for the output of a recipe on page 28. Rube Goldberg cooking. Living in NYC, it's often easier, faster, cheaper, and tastier to walk to the restaurant in question and just order the damn thing. Or head to Shake Shack instead.
Food writer Michael Pollan -- author of The Botany of Desire (my fave of his) and originator of the world's best simple diet: "Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants." -- is the subject of a four-part Netflix series called Cooked. The series is based on Pollan's book of the same name and debuts on February 19.
Each episode will focus on a different natural element and its relationship to both ancient and modern cooking methods. In the "Fire" episode, Pollan will delve into the cross-cultural tradition of barbecue by looking at fire-roasts of monitor lizards in Western Australia and visiting with a barbecue pitmaster; in the "Water" episode, he'll take lessons from kitchens in India and cover the issues surrounding processed foods. An episode titled "Air" explores the science of bread-making and gluten, while the final episode, "Earth," looks at how fermentation preserves raw foods. Every episode will also feature Pollan in his home kitchen in Berkeley, California, with the intention of underscoring the viewpoint that "surrounded as we are by fast food culture and processed foods, cooking our own meals is the single best thing we can do to take charge of our health and well being."
Announcing this show only a month out and unaccompanied by a trailer? I have no idea what Netflix is thinking sometimes.
Update: Cooked is now available on Netflix. The NY Times has a review. (via @Ilovetoscore)
This is America in a nutshell. Instead of banning kids from playing football, as the world's leading expert on the football-related head injuries urges, a school district is having their football players drink a brand of chocolate milk that has been shown in a preliminary study to "improve their cognitive and motor function over the course of a season, even after experiencing concussions".
Experimental groups drank Fifth Quarter Fresh after each practice and game, sometimes six days a week, while control groups did not consume the chocolate milk. Analysis was performed on two separate groups: athletes who experienced concussions during the season and those who did not. Both non-concussed and concussed groups showed positive effects from the chocolate milk.
Non-concussed athletes who drank Maryland-produced Fifth Quarter Fresh showed better cognitive and motor scores over nine test measures after the season as compared to the control group.
Concussed athletes drinking the milk improved cognitive and motor scores in four measures after the season as compared to those who did not.
Vice Sports has a quick look at what's wrong with this study.
See also these new helmets designed to "prevent" concussions. The problem is not poorly designed helmets or lack of magic chocolate milk. Those things only make matters worse by implicitly condoning poor behavior, e.g. if helmets prevent concussions, it'll gradually result in harder hitting, which will result in more injuries.
I love watching Gordon Ramsay make scrambled eggs. I first saw this video years ago and, possibly because I am an idiot, have yet to attempt these eggs at home. You and me, eggs, next weekend.
P.S. Jean-Georges Vongerichten makes scrambled eggs in a very similar way. Not quite soft-scrambled...Serious Eats calls them fancy French spoonable eggs.
P.P.S. Anyone have a square Japanese omelette pan I can borrow?
P.P.P.S. In Jiro Dreams of Sushi (now on Netflix!), an apprentice talks about making tamagoyaki (Japanese omelette) over 200 times before Jiro declared it good enough to serve in his restaurant.
That apprentice, Daisuke Nakazawa, is now the head chef at Sushi Nakazawa, one of the five NYC restaurants that currently has a four-star rating from the NY Times (along with the aforementioned Jean-Georges and not along with Per Se, which recently got dunce capped down to 2 stars by populist hero Pete Wells).
Amazing! Redditor eudicotyledon and family win the holiday season with this exquisite gingerbread rendition of the Overlook Hotel from "The Shining," complete with scary gingerbread twins and edible wallpaper, Danny lost in a hedge maze made of green Rice Krispies, a quinoa-and-powdered-sugar snow covered roof, Jack and Wendy fighting, the dreaded room 237 and its decomposing woman in the bathtub, and an elevator spilling a hallway of Jolly Rancher blood. Unbelievable. (via Neatorama)
(Reminder: This is Susannah Breslin guest-blogging.)
I'm a freelance writer, but I didn't do a lot of freelance writing this year, mostly because I've been working on a book. Recently, I've been reading various best-writing-of-the-year listicles floating around, and I wondered to myself, of the things I'd published this year, which I thought was the best of it. I thought of a piece I wrote for The Billfold back in May: "Blood Sacrifice." It's about having a very expensive dinner and having had cancer, and what the two have in common.
Check it out, if you're interested.
Then a month ago, I got a note from a friend, who had a ticket to Next, and what he wanted to know was: Did I want to go? As far as restaurants go, Next is kind of a unicorn. It's co-owned by Grant Achatz, who is a pioneer in the strange world of molecular gastronomy and the owner of Alinea, which is considered to be one of the best restaurants in the world, and Nick Kokonas, and it is so exclusive that you have to buy a ticket in advance to get into it. The date of the reservation was one week after my birthday. I fantasized that if I went, on the night that I was there, by some strange coincidence, Achatz would be there. Achatz, I knew, had had cancer, too, and, in my daydream, Achatz would come by the table, and I would motion to him, and he would bend down low, and I would tell him, in a murmuring voice, that I had had cancer, and I knew that he had had cancer, too. He would smile knowingly at me, and I would smile knowingly at him, and then he would disappear into the kitchen, and he would emerge with a plate of something that looked like a tumor splattered across porcelain, and I would eat it, and whatever it was made of (rhubarb? venison? something else entirely?), it would be delicious, and I would have eaten the tumor that had tried to eat me, metaphorically, of course, and the cycle of life would close upon itself, completing itself, like Ouroboros with his tail in his mouth rolling down a street like a wheel.
Also, this is a nice homage to The Billfold and its "certain sense of humanity."
(Photo credit: Radio-Canada/Claude Brunet)
Quartz has a vision of the future of food, and the meatballs don't lie: "What Your Food Will Look Like in 2035, Told Through Meatballs."
I'm having a hard time choosing between the Artificial Meat Ball and the Crispy Bug Ball. Or there's the Wonderful Waste Ball.
There are a lot of ideas about how to solve the world's food waste problem--an estimated third of all food gets trashed. Turning would-be-waste into a meatball is actually one of the simpler solutions.
Recently, I was doing some research on food in prison, specifically prison spread. According to Urban Dictionary: "Typically spread is a Top Ramen base that can be augmented to a specific flavor by using chips, canned meat, or other foods that are also available in the prison store." According to Prison Culture, it's also a social ritual: "Spread provides inmates with an opportunity to 'create community' within the jail as they share their food with others."
In this video, which features NSFW language, Chef Lemundo teaches viewers how to make his Five Animal Spread.
In related news, the State of New York will no longer be serving prisoners Nutraloaf, aka Disciplinary Loaf, as punishment.
"I would taste it and just throw it away," said George Eng, 67, who served 36 years for murder and several stints in Special Housing Units, as solitary confinement is formally known. "You'd rather be without food than eat that."
Ms. Murtagh called the loaf "a disgusting, torturous form of punishment that should have been banned a century ago."
"Most people are appalled at using food as punishment," she said, adding that many people believe "such behavior went out with the stocks, whips and shackling to the wall."
Pastrami on Rye is a full-length history of the NYC Jewish deli, written by Judaism scholar Ted Merwin. From a review in The Economist:
Jewish delicatessens may now be known for knishes, latkes and pastrami sandwiches, but back in their heyday, during the 1920s and 1930s in the theatre district in New York, they also served beluga caviar, pâté de foie gras and Chateaubriand steak. Jewish classics were gussied up and defiled: chopped chicken liver was served with truffles. Treyf, like oysters and pork chops, was eaten with abandon alongside kosher delicacies.
That reminds me...a trip to Katz's is looooooong overdue.
Noma: My Perfect Storm is a feature-length documentary about chef René Redzepi and his Copenhagen restaurant Noma, which is currently ranked #3 in the world.
How did Redzepi manage to revolutionize the entire world of gastronomy, inventing the alphabet and vocabulary that would infuse newfound pedigree to Nordic cuisine and establish a new edible world while radically changing the image of the modern chef? His story has the feel of a classic fairy tale: the ugly duckling transformed into a majestic swan, who now reigns over the realm of modern gourmet cuisine.
The film is out Dec 18 in theaters, on Amazon, iTunes, etc.
If you've ever wanted to see a video about how to cook a pot-infused Thanksgiving turkey shot in the style of a Requiem for a Dream heroin-shooting sequence, you have come to the right place. (via devour)
Born in 1915, Clara Cannucciari survived the Great Depression and, when she was in her 90s and with the help of her grandson, made a YouTube series about meals and cooking techniques used in that era. Watch as Clara cooks a 3-course Poorman's Feast, a relatively rare treat in those lean times.
The series aired several years ago and Clara has since passed away, living until the age of 98.
In the ruins of Herculaneum, a Roman town destroyed by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD, a carbonized loaf of bread was found. The British Museum had chef Giorgio Locatelli recreate the recipe as best he could.
Things start to get really interesting around 3:25, where Locatelli tries to recreate the unusual markings found on the bread...that hanging string around the edge is a little genius.
Katherine Rosman recently wrote an article for the NY Times called How Organic Avenue Lost All Its Juice about a small NYC-based chain of juice stores recently going out of business. The piece is also a quote gold mine reflecting the zeitgeist of contemporary Manhattan.
"I kind of freaked out," she said. "I was distraught. I lost my yoga for a minute."
There is an admitted emperor's new clothes quality to paying $25 for a lunch of vegetable shavings and a smoothie made of Swiss chard, cashew milk and Himalayan salt.
You can't build a long-term business off what Gwyneth Paltrow likes.
A lot of vegans I know are now making stews out of meat bones and dairy.
Everyone is talking about coal and charcoal.
Bleeeeeaauuuckk. See also your detoxing juice cleanse is bullshit.
Update: Some locations are reopening, but shared this mainly for the headline: Organic Avenue Is the Jon Snow of Overpriced Juice Chains.
From the New Yorker Food Issue,1Lauren Collins examines how the World's 50 Best Restaurants list comes together. I haven't eaten at any of these sorts of restaurants in years (for a lot of reasons), and this bit gets to part of the reason why:
The restaurants in the upper reaches of the list tend to fall into a certain mode. They are all the same place, Giles Coren once conjectured in the London Times, "only the face changes, like Doctor Who." Just as there is Oscar bait, there is 50 Best bait. "It's opening up in Beijing," David Chang said, imagining the archetypal 50 Best restaurant. "It's a Chinese restaurant by a guy who worked for Adrià, Redzepi, and Keller. He cooks over fire. Everything is a story of his terroir. He has his own farm and hand-dives for his own sea urchins." Hearing about 50 Best winners, and having eaten at a few of them, I started to think of them as icebreaker restaurants -- places that create moments, that give you prompts. This can be exhilarating, or it can be infantilizing. It is the dining experience as Cards Against Humanity.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Agricultural Library contains around 3800 watercolor paintings, lithographs, and drawings of different apple varieties, most of which you will not find at the typical American grocery store. They also have another 3500 images of other fruits and nuts. (via slate)
Update: Until recently, the high-resolution images from this collection were not freely available to the public. After some agitation by Parker Higgins of the EFF, the Department of Agriculture decided to post high-res JPGs of each painting for free download. Higgins recently gave a talk about how it went down. This is a good example of the value of the public domain (and activists like Higgins)...without those images being available, neither Slate or I would have written about the collection, and who knows what someone who read them will do with that information. Maybe nothing! But maybe something cool! It's worth putting it out there to find out...governments should be in the business of increasing the possibility space of their citizens. (via @stvnrlly)
But for the love of Julia Child and the sake of every other soul in the restaurant, particularly the underpaid line cooks sweating their way through another Saturday night shift, please, please stop describing your food preferences as an allergy.
Neil Swidey on why food allergy fakers need to stop.
From Nathan Yau at FlowingData, a look at the places in the US where people need to make the longest drives to visit a grocery store.
The nearest grocery store is more than 10 miles away in about 36 percent of the country and the median distance is 7 miles. However, a lot of these areas are rural with few (if any) people who live there.
Wyoming contains very few grocery stores:
And Nevada is even more of a food desert. Looks like Massachusetts, Delaware, and New Jersey have plenty of grocery stores everywhere. (via feltron)
Eater has the scoop: Danny Meyer's Union Square Hospitality Group is eliminating tipping at all of their full-service restaurants.
Big news out of Manhattan: Dining out is about to get turned on its head. Union Square Hospitality Group, the force behind some of New York's most important restaurants, will announce today that starting in November, it will roll out an across-the-board elimination of tips at every one of its thirteen full-service venues, hand in hand with an across-the-board increase in prices.
Why are they doing this? In part because cooks get the shaft at restaurants:
Under the current gratuity system, not everyone at a restaurant is getting a fair shake. Waiters at full-service New York restaurants can expect a full 20 percent tip on most checks, for a yearly income of $40,000 or more on average -- some of the city's top servers easily clear $100,000 annually. But the problem isn't what waiters make, it's what cooks make. A mid-level line cook, even in a high-end kitchen, doesn't have generous patrons padding her paycheck, and as such is, on average, unlikely to make much more than $35,000 a year.
I hope this catches on.
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.
Update: I had forgotten about this book, so I was pleased to be reminded of it by this recent interview with Caulfield about celebrity health advice.
Colon cleanse: There is no evidence we need to cleanse our colons or detoxify our bodies. Vagina steaming to detoxify and increase fertility: again, absolutely ridiculous. Getting stung by bees is her latest thing for anti-aging -- because, yes, anaphylaxis is so revitalizing. Goop, her website, suggested wearing a bra can cause cancer. This is raising fears, completely science free. I could go on and on and on.
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.
Update: The full film has been released online and it is excruciating to watch if you've ever had bad relationship moments while traveling.
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)
Update: Once again, Fancy Juice Doesn't Cleanse the Body of Toxins:
To say that drinking juice detoxifies the body isn't quite the same as claiming leeches suck out poisons, but it's fairly close.
The practice of cleansing has become as ubiquitous as the use of hand sanitizer. Celebrities do it. Spas offer it. Fancy food stores sell pricey bottles of juice to accomplish it, and a \$700 juicer will soon facilitate the process for those who are not satisfied with the current D.I.Y. options. But what is it that everybody is trying to remove from their bodies? Is there any science behind it?
"People are interested in this so-called detoxification, but when I ask them what they are trying to get rid of, they aren't really sure," said Dr. James H. Grendell, the chief of the division of gastroenterology, hepatology and nutrition at Winthrop-University Hospital in Mineola, N.Y. "I've yet to find someone who has specified a toxin they were hoping to be spared."
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.