Life's too short to eat bad food - Me

Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic - Arthur C. Clarke

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Packets of Experimentation

No amount of experimentation can ever prove me right; a single experiment can prove me wrong. - Albert Einstein
Most of you have a container like this someplace in your home.  A collection of condiments from fast food joints. Those cute, unopened bottles purloined from discarded room service trays. Ketchup, mustard, hot sauce and soy. Lemon juice and vinegar. Jelly and honey. Ready for any emergency.

We have a tiny set of plastic drawers in the trunk of the car for those impromptu picnics, and this bin in the basement, which was overfloating as my kids used to say.

So Alison and I decided on a challenge yesterday. Other than oil and some onion, we would construct a tomato based BBQ sauce for our chicken dinner.  Other than a few ketchup packets way past the sell  by date, the stuff was in good condition. Not a bad sauce at the end - though my friend Kevin Weeks disowned me over the tomato base. Tennessean.

We had fun though.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

CSA Report

This week's haul included more baby turnips, lettuces and field greens, plus rainbow swiss chard, baby zucchini, and bok choy - both grown (right) and baby.  Lo Mein tonight!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Through the Looking Glass

I am not kvetching.

I am 53 years old.  I take medication to treat hypertension and high cholesterol. I am not overweight, but I have a beer gut. I have arthritis in my hands. I have hyperopia - farsightedness.

If I were 30 years older, 4 inches taller, and 50 pounds heavier I would be my father. In fact, other than the male pattern baldness, I inherited everything I am from him. He is also the Optometrist who prescribed my first pair of reading glasses in 1980.

They were +1.00 then, and they still are in use by my wife. As for me, I am up to +2.50. At some point, as my vision deteriorated, my Dad (who at 83 is still doing the Optometrist gig full time) told me to skip him and just get them at a dollar store.  My Culinary Comrade Fred said the same thing. It's a good thing - I go through glasses at a rapid pace. The temples pop off when I take them off - I have pairs with the temple glued in place like a permanent erection. I had one pair that just perched on my nose like Dorothy Malone in The Big Sleep.

The gift of 8 pairs (including two tinted pairs for reading outdoors) is worth noting.  I don't only need the for reading, I need them to eat (I like to see what I am eating) and I need them to cook (I really like the tips of my fingers).  I have both stir and deep-fried them.  I have had them fall off my face and stepped on them. Now I have a bunch more at various places around the house for any necessity.

I still won't find them when I need them :)

Thanks Georg and Ted!

Monday, June 27, 2011

CSA Report

Meet Steve and Erin, the couple (they are getting married this fall) who operate Root Down Farm a new CSA we are shareholders in. I met them face to face for the first time today and I think we made the right choice. They are friendly and energetic, committed to their product, and skipping the organic label.

The latter is what made me take the gamble with them.  Everything they do would qualify, but I'd rather they plow their money back into the ground than pay a 3rd party to put a Seal of Approval on their stuff.

We were late getting started.  Considering the wet Spring (no Spring?) we had, I wouldn't have been surprised if the start had been delayed even more. But it started today.

Today's haul was 3 types of lettuce (Romaine, Butterhead and Red Leaf.  An over-stuffed bag of  field greens (I passed on the purslane - doing quite well wild in my own garden space).  Some young turnips and radishes.  Yes, salad. But more.

The greens from the turnips and radishes, will be nice sauteed with my pancetta, some garlic and good olive oil.  I think some of the lettuces and roots are destined to be quick kimchee.  I might even share it with Steve and Erin.

I will keep you apprised!

It all tastes great, by the way.

Friday, April 1, 2011

The Life Cycle of a Common Beef Brisket

Brisket: mid-14c., perhaps from O.Fr. bruschet , with identical sense of the English word, or from O.N. brjosk  "gristle" (related to brjost  "breast") or Dan. bryske  or M.H.G. brusche  "lump, swelling." Online Etymology Dictionary - Douglas Harper
Good Morning Children.  Are you sitting comfortably?  Good, let's begin.

The brisket is a segment of muscle tissue from the chest area of a bovine.  As this area is used often, it provides a tougher cut best suited to moist, slow cooking.

The common Brisket begins life as a cute and cuddly calf, also known as veal.  Can you spell veal?  I spell it Y-U-M.

When it grows up it is called a steer. Look at this noble beast. Now imagine this noble beast on the barbie.

But first it has to be confined to a feedlot where is "finished" on a diet that is made up of things it's not designed to eat. Between the cramped conditions, loads of manure, and its diet, the bovine often becomes sick.  Can you say antibiotics?

Now the beef is gently treated by persons of questionable immigration status. This because no one else (white people) wants the jobs. Don't say it.  Looking at these sides of beef you are thinking barbie again.

The sides are further broken down into Primal Cuts, then Subprimal Cuts.  This Subrimal is a whole Brisket. NAMP 120. It includes not only the common flat cut, but the fattier point cut (including the delicious deckle), which is hard to find as the neighborhood butcher has gone to a land far, far away.

There are may ways to prepare this, including my Mommy's secret recipe for. I'd describe it, but then you'd have to sleep with Mr. Fishy. . My favorite way is to corn it.  It is called corning because this method was discovered by glass technicians in the southern tier of New York.  The Brisket may be corned in a wet cure (right), a dry cure or with simple-minded, overdrawn humor.

Boiling is a Bozo no-no word. Simmer gently with aromats. When the Brisket falls off a pot fork, remove it, wrap in foil, and hold in a 200° oven while cooking yummy vegetables in the broth.  Cook the beets in broth separately as all pink food is yucky.

Doesn't this look yummy?  But you will have to deal with leftovers.

You can have Red Flannel Hash. Topped with an egg and a heathy dose of the Cholula Hot Sauce in the background.

You can make my favorite sandwich - The Reuben, which is totally not Kosher.  I use Jarlsburg Cheese and a homemade Thousand Island dressing made with Weber's Hot Green Tomato Piccalilli Relish.

Alas, everything comes out in the end. But don't be mad at poor Mr. Hankey.  Another word for pooh is "fertilizer".  Can you say fertilizer?
Hidey ho!

Fertilizer makes grass grow, and that feeds these beeves who need food to make more Brisket!

Next Week: Zinc Oxide and You

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Good to Hear From an Old Friend

I have missed Ruth Reichl, and I miss Gourmet.  When my magazine life stabilizes, I'll write about it. This interview gives me hope for her voice to be around again on a regular basis, but for me the money quote is:

ELAINE: What do you think about the new generation of food bloggers? Are they changing the landscape of food writing in general?

RUTH: A lot of them are really, really good. I think it’s changed for restaurant critiquing in particular. You can read 30 reviews and make up your mind yourself. A professional restaurant critic’s word shouldn’t matter that much. People should bring their own intelligence to it. What real criticism should do is give you a better way to appreciate food and give you the tools you need to enhance your experience, good or bad. And food bloggers have put the burden back on the professionals to be good educators and good writers, and maybe even be a little bit more humble about their own opinions.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

For Want Of A Comma

Major hat tip to Andrew Sullivan!

Bet they all taste like s@#t.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Not Corny - But So Good

There are times that satire is soooooo much better than a blogger can do. And with 50% less typing.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Meatwater II

Having been a consultant to the makers of Meatwater in the development of their popular Buffalo Wings flavor, I am pleased to bring you this brief advertisement on their behalf.

This is real genius in action.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Meditations on a Coffee "Can"

Recycling is a good thing to do. It makes people feel good to do it - Barry Commoner

Just a short rant for today.  We recycle.  Better yet, we reuse when we can.  Jars for spices and spice blends as gifts, bottles for herbed vinegars and hot sauces. There is one brand of otherwise unremarkable wine vinegar I buy for the bottle as it has a little sprinker gizmo over the mouth - perfect for BBQ "mop" (I gussy up the contents and re-bottle for gifts).

But packaging is changing. Take the yogurt container.  They're not recyclable here so we reuse them for storage (yeah, they'd be better if they were square, but they work). Suddenly the lids are gone - replaced by tear-off foil or plastic. Can't recycle, can't reuse.

Then there is a coffee can.  The very word "can" implies metal. Tin coffee cans have been the storage device most used by (mostly) men to store assorted screws, nuts, bolts and other hardware that will never be used but are too good to discard.  The plastic ones can be used for geocaches. The cardboard ones still will contain oddments, but they are not as sturdy.  Neither provides that satisfying "klink" of days gone by.

Oh well, in a world where a pound of coffee is 11.5 oz, what do you expect.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Honorable Folk

Beneath these green mountains where spring rules the year, the irbarbutus and loquat in season appear, And feasting on lychee - 300 a day, I shouldn't mind staying eternally here - Su Shih.
In my experience there are two types of human activity that are worthy of note and comment. The first are honorable acts. The second what Trish and I refer to as "bad form.  This is a case of the former.

I wrote, briefly, in August about my wonderful visit to the Lotte International Supermarket (read mostly Asian) in Chantilly, VA.  I loved the place, but it pointed out the limits of my familiarity with certain Asian ingredients, namely Asian produce.  I have books that discuss them, but we don't have the extraordinary variety at local our local Asian markets that the have at Lotte.

That evening I decided to check the iTunes store in search of app to fill in the blanks.  I found a pretty good one, from Specialty Produce in San Diego, and liked it enough that I paid $1.99 for the full version. It's not perfect.  I hope they keep adding to the database.  The first iten I looked up (durian) isn't there.  My biggest gripe is that the photos are web based.  With an iPod that means wi-fi, something not usual at small ethnic markets.  I'd give up drive space for device resident images.

But, none of that is the reason for this post.  A few weeks ago, via iGor my iPod (it's pronounced  eye-gore), I was notified that SP was unveiling a Pro version and letting the Full version fade away.  Because of the vagaries of the iTunes store they couldn't just swap me out, but if purchased Pro for the same $1.99 and provided them with proof of purchase they'd refund the original.

I went ahead, even though I wasn't sure I'd ever hear back. So it goes.

It put a smile on my face when I saw it in the mailbox.  The sent me the check and took the hit for the postage. This is an honorable act.  Now if they'd only open a branch in Buffalo.

Monday, January 17, 2011

See, I am not the only one.

Me and Dagwood Bumstead. Food Porn Rules.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Shattered Glassware

"....octagonal plates and silver domes....conceal the minute portions of food in snooty restaurants run by egomaniac chefs." - John Mortimer
The BuffNews reported this week that Pitt Petri - a purveyor of expensive gifts and tableware was closing after 87 years.  Several reasons were cited, including the lack of foot traffic these days at the original location and the financial hit the Williamsville store took when Tiffany's ceased working with local merchants.

It's kind of ironic as a day or two before we were discussing with the girls what locally owned Department Stores were like.

I have to be honest, when I stopped in there it was just to browse - the stuff was primarily overpriced tchotchkes. I once had a gift certificate (it may have been a store credit for a gift I returned) and I couldn't find anything.  I ended up buying a couple of cigar accoutrements, and spent the balance on a couple of tubes of Wenol metal polish.

Look at it this way, I have two sets of fine crystal - one from my Mommy and one from my Mom (no it's not weird.  Mommy is my Mother, she died when I was 13.  Mom has been my Mom for almost 40 years since).  We don't use them - I just don't want even one to break (if you look close you can see we don't clean them often either). The real problem is that they are just not me (or us).  I am just as happy with the 12 for $10 glasses from Linens n Things, and dishes from there too.  Also platters from the Buffalo China "seconds" sale.

It's just an observation, with no empirical evidence. Beginning with my generation, and increasing with successive generations, interest in much of what PP sold is waning.  People have far less tendency to spend money on tableware that is only used a couple of times a year, or to invest the time to do things like polish silver.

It's not that they don't spend on luxuries, it's just that the luxuries have changed:  iPad's and flat panel TV's, Wii's or Xbox's, shoes and clothing and better foodstuffs.

This, I think is the real explanation for the end of PP.  The local Department Stores fell victim to national chains, which are now becoming victim to Superstores.  PP though fell victim to evolving tastes and desires.


Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Life's still too short to eat bad food

"The devil has put a penalty on all things we enjoy in life. Either we suffer in health or we suffer in soul or we get fat." - Albert Einstein

So, the USDA is going to start requiring Nutrition Labels on meats and poultry.  Woo-Hoo!

First it's useless.  If you are the type who examines the nutrition labels on prepared foods you are most likely intelligent enough to have pretty good idea of what you are getting. Second, this is one area where flavor is an issue.  Fat equals flavor.  You are welcome to buy 90/10 ground beef, but you'd be better off buying a hockey puck.  It has more flavor and less chance of food-borne illness. 

Sunday, January 2, 2011

We want something else! We want something else! - Hawkeye Pierce

First need in the reform of hospital management? That's easy ! The death of all dietitians, and the resurrection of a French Chef - Martin H. Fischer

Perhaps not as bad as: "a river of liver and an ocean of fish!", but Hospital Food has a reputation second only to military food as being less than palatable.  I remember when I was a kid I visited my Dad at Genesee Hospital while he was eating.  It looked like what's to the right.

I '76 my big brother had knee surgery.  He was dying from the food.  I borrowed the Father Mulcahey outfit from when we were both in MASH, stuffed a black bag from the same with a Whopper, Fries and and a shake.

Now I have respect for anyone who toils in a kitchen, but when it comes to institutional cookery those who work in Hospitals and Nursing Homes occupy the bottom rung (yes, even below lunch ladies).  It's not their fault - it's the nature of the beast itself.

My first experience with Hospital food was in 1994 and consisted of blue stuff running through a tube down my nose.  When I was back on solid food, I'd circle my choices on a sheet of paper. It would get delivered - usually when I was at respiratory therapy.

My first meal was a revelation.  I was still in the ER, waiting for a room.  So they fed me. Burger, Home Fries, Peas, Peaches, Jello, Coffee and Milk.  All cold.  Shame about the coffee - it would be the last caffeinated beverage until yesterday.  Still, I give them a pass.  How the hell does one prepare for an ER patient being hungry.

There were innovations.  Instead of the check sheet, you now get a menu and can order when you are ready (in fact they call if you haven't).  I stuck to cold food for the most part - it's just too difficult to keep food warm. I stuck to cereal for Breakfast. Tuesday's dinner was a quite passable tuna sandwich, lettuce and tomato on the side as ordered.

Wednesday not so well.  Egg Salad ≠ Pot Roast. It became apparent that even though they might get it right the first time, redo's were a mess. What showed up was a miserly schmear of Egg Salad on torn bread, with no additions.

Thursday was the best meal I had.  Trish brought me Pad Thai and Tom Yum Goong from Saigon Bangkok.  Friday she made me Chicken Soup With Matzoh Balls - Yummy.

The most bizarre meal was Friday's Lunch.  I ordered a Roast Beef Sandwich with L,T and O and a side of fries.  The tray arrived with only fries - cold ones at that.  I called down with the "where's the beef?" question.  What showed up was s sorry excuse for a sandwich, no L or T and the O looked like they were around for a week.

As a fitting dénoument, I ordered a banana with breakfast yesterday.  It should be ripe by next weekend.

The bottom line: they've made some improvements, but there's no place like home.

Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.
- Arthur C. Clarke

Life's too short to eat bad food -