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Tag: "food"

Whole Paycheck

[ 104 ] June 16, 2016 |

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I too am shocked that a company founded by an anti-union libertarian jerk would completely ignore not only basic food safety principles but the FDA’s orders to do something about it.

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“Sausage-Wielding Nationalists”

[ 130 ] June 6, 2016 |

grilled aubergine and courgette

I’ve heard of meat eaters showing contempt for vegans, but I guess I never made the connection between veganism and undermining the nation-state.

A vegan cafe in the centre of Tbilisi was shocked to find itself the subject of far-right ire after a group arrived and threw meat on patrons’ plates, leading to a public brawl.

Customers said a group entered the cafe wearing sausages around their necks and carrying slabs of meat on skewers, before attacking customers and staff.

Witnesses described the attackers as “far-right extremists”, and said the clash spilled onto the street outside after the attackers were asked to leave. Minor injuries were reported but the perpetrators fled before police arrived.

A statement issued on Facebook by the Kiwi Cafe on Monday described the incident as “an anti-vegan provocative action” accusing the attackers of being “neo-Nazis” who support “fascist ideas”.

According to the statement, the attackers “pulled out grilled meat, sausages, and fish and started eating them and throwing them at us… they were just trying to provoke our friends and disrespect us.”

This gets us closer to the real issue:

The statement also alleged that memberes of group had come to the neighbourhood a month earlier and asked a nearby shopkeeper whether foreigners or members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community frequented the cafe.

Of course. It’s the queers and their quinoa undermining Georgian manhood. For conservatives, it’s pretty much always some version of this.

I suppose all this means is that our commenter Progressiveliberal will see himself as even more of a martyr….

Book Review: David S. Shields, Southern Provisions: The Creation and Revival of a Cuisine

[ 39 ] June 1, 2016 |

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David Shields is a food historian of the South, particularly the Carolina lowcountry, who has spent more than a decade working specifically on the recovery of Carolina Gold rice, a nearly lost breed central to Carolina cooking, particularly before 1900. He builds upon that work in Southern Provisions to provide a series of essays on southern food traditions, with an emphasis on the pre-industrial South. Shields’ primary concern is recovering and contextualizing the lost breeds of the agricultural South as his contribution to the larger project of revitalizing and recovering southern cuisine in all its complexities, fighting against the stereotype of it, outside of Louisiana, as nothing but BBQ and grits. Although he’s English professor at the University of South Carolina, he works in the primary sources and generally writes solid history. The breeding of plants in the 19th century South was exceptional. Early in the book, he lists the notes of a mid-19th century Georgia breeder, discussing 25 different pea breeds for their qualities. Of course, these are almost entirely lost to us today.

Shields however doesn’t make a fetish about lost breeds or tradition. In his chapter on truck farming, he notes that the goal of recovering the best of lost southern cuisine is about taste and as post-Civil War South Carolina farmers produced strawberries to ship to the north, they focused on breeds that would stand the trip more than taste. There’s not anything per se of culinary value there. Moreover, he dismisses those who don’t want to improve on his beloved Carolina Gold, because tradition for tradition’s sake will not keep rare breeds on the market. Shields is part of a movement focusing on breeding for taste and nothing else, one that reflects the water and soil of a particular place, something only recoverable with several plantings of organics to leech the pesticides and fertilizer out of the soil.

Fundamentally, reading about old recipes is just interesting. There’s a recipe for “Turkey, Oyster Sauce” that sounds like it would be good enough to make Thanksgiving a day not to dread if oysters were as common as in 1860. Basically you stuff the turkey with oysters, steam it, thicken the oyster gravy, add some cream, and pour it over the turkey. The chapter on everyday pre-Civil War food like possum and greens is just as fascinating, as are the various 19th century breakfast recipes using Carolina Gold.

It’s in the book’s final chapter that Shields’ real mission is best articulated. Titled, “The Return of the Tastes,” he makes a strong case for growing particular crops not to maximize nutritional value, but for taste, for understanding how soil can affect a crop, for cultural heritage. This doesn’t mean that all modern food is bad or worthless, but it states the inherent benefits of growing breeds for maximum flavor and preserving those breeds to produce a historically-grounded cuisine that tastes good. Shields is obviously frustrated with the current state of agricultural policy (for good reason) but also believes that once people taste this food, they will want more of it and that will help these breeds survive.

One rather major quibble. For a book that largely paints the pre-Civil War South in a positive manner, I am naturally going to examine the discussion of slavery and the plantation elite, who largely are his protagonists. It grates. Although I do not believe he is a native southerner, as he mentions his move from the Hudson Valley to South Carolina, his sympathies really are with those planters. For instance, in his chapter discussing a gigantic meal served at an elite Charleston club in 1860, he notes how it was discussed in a New York “sporting journal,” which I assume to mean a horse racing journal:

For the plantocracy to appear in a northern periodical as a class of humane, intelligent, and companionable human beings in 1860 was something of a minor miracle. The abolitionist press in the North had invested years of energy to envisioning the great planters as violent, grasping creatures of passion, sadistically obsessed with oppressing slaves. The Spirit of the Times supplied a rare discursive spaces in which the southern elite shared values of civility, good taste, sociability, and a love of sport with like-minded persons in other sections of the country. In the periodical’s pages, Saratoga Springs was in the same cultural vicinity as Washington Park. (133)

The problems with this paragraph are legion. I don’t have to go deep into the historiography to refute these points, I just have to link to the book reviews of other random books I have reviewed at this site. First, horse racing was a space where northern and southern elites often met and mingled. Second, the connections between cotton and violence are well-documented. Whether sadistic or not, South Carolina planters wrested every last drop of profit out of their slaves. Denying or trivializing that does no one any good, especially the author. Third, the idea that the North was completely filled with abolitionists demonizing the South was just not true, not when you had a whole generation of northern Democratic politicians and their newspapers more than willing to serve the slave masters’ cause. And if the abolitionists were envisioning the “great” planters as violent sadists, good! Many of them were.

So that’s a problem. That’s not to say that Shields doesn’t give African Americans and Native Americans some credit for their role in developing southern cuisine. In his chapter on citrus on the Florida coast, he notes how what Europeans thought was a wild, native orange was the descendants of Spanish-planted oranges Native Americans brought north, but here again, his hero is a white ex-Confederate citrus breeder named Colonel F.L. Dancy. He also writes on how Charleston lacked a decent fish market or tradition of cooking fish until the African-American Charles Leslie developed one during Reconstruction, building an empire because now black people could choose their own work and diets and because he sought to expand the number of species available for consumption through working closely with fishing crews.

In the end, this is a pretty interesting group of essays. Yes, it’s marred a bit by the author sympathizing with his subjects a bit too much, a problem when those subjects are slaveholders who would commit treason to defend slavery. But anyone interested in American food cultures will like Southern Provisions.

Who’s Ready for Some Pork Sashimi?

[ 93 ] May 30, 2016 |

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Hmmm….

Since the popularization of beef tartare in the 1950s and sushi in the 1980s, raw animal products have been a widely accepted luxury item in the US. But historically, raw pork was seldom, if ever, seen on menus, even in the most adventurous of nose-to-tail restaurants. In fact, there’s no other non-poultry meat that is so insistently served well-done. Recently, though, that’s started to change, albeit slowly and with great resistance.

“I’ve been serving and eating pork raw for years,” says California chef Chris Cosentino. “Pork has really nice intramuscular fat, so it has a great mouthfeel.” He serves a pork crudo, dressed simply with olive oil, Meyer lemon, mint, and radish, at his Los Angeles restaurant, Pigg. Meanwhile, at The Black Hoof in Toronto, a pork carpaccio is plated with maple blossoms (turns out they’re edible, too!), pine nuts, and pickled onions. And across the pond, at London’s Taberna do Mercado, pork tartare regularly makes its way onto the seasonal menu.

Raw pork may still be a restaurant rarity, but increasing numbers of chefs are starting to serve their pork cooked to medium-rare. Then again, many of them acknowledge that even faintly pink pork seems to freak the hell out of their diners.

The question is, should it?

Maybe? I mean, as much as I love rare beef and raw fish, I always thought that raw or rare pork was a good way to die. Was I wrong? Evidently.

The biggest misconception about raw pork isn’t necessarily that it’s dangerous, because, well, it can be. But exactly how dangerous it is—and why—is another matter entirely. Considering that the word “trichinosis” has been drilled into us since our childhoods, you might be surprised to learn that it’s a virtually nonexistent risk. Trichinosis is a disease caused by roundworms of the Trichinella genus. It is horrible and repulsive, if not usually fatal; this is a worm we’re talking about, after all. But it is also incredibly uncommon in this country. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found only 84 confirmed cases in the five inclusive years between 2008 and 2012—none fatal—and, interestingly, only 22 of those could be traced to pork. (Game seems to be much more affected by trichinosis than pork, so you may want to think twice before digging into a bear-meat tartare.)

It’s cliché to say, but you are significantly more likely to be killed by a lightning strike than afflicted by even a nonfatal round of trichinosis, at least in the United States. (Results from other countries vary; the USDA says that trichinosis is essentially extinct in countries like Denmark and The Netherlands, but in many countries it’s more common. China is usually good for a few outbreaks each year, and in some provinces, especially in the west, the incidence is as high as 4% of the total population.)

I may need more than one foodie article to convince me to try this. Thoughts? And if you are of the grilling type on Decoration Day, does this mean you are going to throw some pork on just to get it seared on the outside and serve it pink to the kids?

The Breakfast-Industrial Complex

[ 190 ] May 25, 2016 |

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While I enjoy most standard breakfast foods to various degrees, the American fetish for breakfast is completely out of control. This is especially true for bacon, a vastly overrated meat. But really, the fetish is for the whole experience. There are multiple parts to it. One of course is the bacon thing. The second is idea of eating a big ol’greasy meal that supposedly provides us with joy. The third, and really the most ridiculous, is that not eating breakfast is somehow unhealthy and therefore those of us who don’t eat breakfast are hurting ourselves and should be lectured about it. Personally, I find eating a large meal in the hours after waking up repulsive. Perhaps a yogurt or an egg, maybe a bagel if I am feeling indulgent, but that’s it until at least noon if not 2. Of course, that doesn’t mean I’m doing it right. It just means that I’ve figured out the combination of how much I can eat to maintain my weight and enjoying own aesthetic preferences. There are however days, when I’ve had a large meal for dinner, that I don’t take in a single calorie until 4 or so. The point is that you have to read your own body and act accordingly. At least now those of us who eschew breakfast have some hard evidence that the breakfast-industrial complex is behind our demonization.

It does not take much of an effort to find research that shows an association between skipping breakfast and poor health. A 2013 study published in the journal Circulation found that men who skipped breakfast had a significantly higher risk of coronary heart disease than men who ate breakfast. But, like almost all studies of breakfast, this is an association, not causation.

More than most other domains, this topic is one that suffers from publication bias. In a paper published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in 2013, researchers reviewed the literature on the effect of breakfast on obesity to look specifically at this issue. They first noted that nutrition researchers love to publish results showing a correlation between skipping breakfast and obesity. They love to do so again and again. At some point, there’s no reason to keep publishing on this.

However, they also found major flaws in the reporting of findings. People were consistently biased in interpreting their results in favor of a relationship between skipping breakfast and obesity. They improperly used causal language to describe their results. They misleadingly cited others’ results. And they also improperly used causal language in citing others’ results. People believe, and want you to believe, that skipping breakfast is bad.

Good reviews of all the observational research note the methodological flaws in this domain, as well as the problems of combining the results of publication-bias-influenced studies into a meta-analysis. The associations should be viewed with skepticism and confirmed with prospective trials.

Few randomized controlled trials exist. Those that do, although methodologically weak like most nutrition studies, don’t support the necessity of breakfast.

And who is behind this?

Many of the studies are funded by the food industry, which has a clear bias. Kellogg funded a highly cited article that found that cereal for breakfast is associated with being thinner. The Quaker Oats Center of Excellence (part of PepsiCo) financed a trial that showed that eating oatmeal or frosted cornflakes reduces weight and cholesterol (if you eat it in a highly controlled setting each weekday for four weeks).

Fight the Man. And Tony the Tiger! Don’t give in to Big Breakfast!

Food History Reading List

[ 26 ] April 28, 2016 |

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Backlist has published an excellent food history reading list for those of you interested in those sorts of things. I did a labor history reading list for them a few months ago. These are good lists and excellent primers for smart readers like you who want to read more history and support the efforts of poor historians through your generous readership.

Oysters

[ 92 ] April 9, 2016 |

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Delicious and interesting!

Life isn’t easy for a tiny baby oyster.

Because they are so small and defenseless without a fully formed shell, oyster babies are often gobbled up by other marine life.

To ensure the survival of their species, oysters respond to this threat by ejaculating ungodly numbers of sperm and eggs into the water (where the gametes mix and form oyster embryos).

Every season, an adult female oyster can produce 50 to 100 million eggs. Males produce so much sperm that it’s basically uncountable. “Sperm counts … certainly range into the tens of billions,” Allen says. “They are maybe the most fecund of species on the planet.”

Now consider this: An oyster reef can house around 100 to 500 oysters per 10 square feet. An acre of a healthy oyster reef can house 600,000 of them, and some oyster reefs can stretch hundreds of acres. Let’s just say there aren’t enough digits on a standard calculator to determine how much oyster sperm that is.

3) Oysters can change gender multiple times throughout their lives

Almost all oysters start out their lives as male, but as they grow larger, many of them will switch genders. (Because there’s so much more sperm than eggs, this helps ensure a growing oyster population.)

And occasionally they can have both sex organs at the same time. Allen says how this happens isn’t well-understood, but they seem to change genders based on environmental factors. It’s possible that the gender determination is influenced by water temperature and by the relative health of the oyster reef (more productive reefs favor females). But “nobody really knows what the mechanism is,” Allen says.

Also, never ever ever ever put freaking cocktail sauce on your oysters. A squeeze of lemon is all the need. Or some other vinegary substance if you are getting fancy. But you might as well dip them in straight ketchup if you are using cocktail sauce.

On Peeps

[ 109 ] March 25, 2016 |

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It’s always good to have a union-based holiday. So here’s a list of union-made candy, usefully provided by UFCW.

However, I want to be clear on something. Don’t blame unions for Peeps. Peeps are candy bought by parents who don’t love their children, but feel social pressure to buy candy for them anyway. People often blame unions for the terrible U.S. cars of the 1970s and 1980s. This is ridiculous. It’s not like the UAW was involved in the design process. Similarly, it’s not like UFCW is involved in the decision to continue to make the worst candy in known human history. They are just making sure said terrible candy supports a middle-class household.

What’s For Dessert?

[ 118 ] March 21, 2016 |

Forget about what’s for dinner. What’s for dessert?

The major advantage of this recipe is upsetting ProgressiveLiberal. Otherwise, it’s all down side. Also, I guess I know why Montana is not a culinary center.

African Influences

[ 63 ] February 18, 2016 |

WEST-AFRICAN-GUMBO

This very interesting profile of the culinary scholar Michael Twitty reinforces one key point for any reader–that African influences on the United States are basically still ignored. African-American influences on white culture aren’t per se, but specifically African influences on American society as a whole really do not get discussed in meaningful ways.

So how did this self-trained historical cook and unaffiliated scholar — a man who majored in Afro-American studies and anthropology at Howard University but did not have the money to complete the coursework for his degree; who describes himself as outside the mainstream and “four time blessed” (“large of body, gay, African American and Jewish”); who for years supported himself (meagerly) as a Hebrew teacher; who underwrites the cost of his professional travel by crowdsourcing — come to be recognized as an important figure in the world of culinary scholarship?

The easy answer is Paula Deen.

In June 2013, shortly after disclosure of Deen’s past use of the n-word made her the culinary world’s reigning persona non grata, Twitty posted an open letter to her on Africulinaria.com in which he addressed Deen as a fellow Southerner, “a cousin if you will and not a combatant.” Twitty told Deen that far more repugnant to him than her use of the n-word was “the near universal erasure of the black presence from American culinary memory.” He described that phenomenon as a form of “culinary injustice that robbed blacks of a vital form of their history and identity.”

“Your barbecue,” he wrote, “is my West African babbake, your fried chicken, your red rice, your hoecake, your watermelon, your black-eyed peas, your crowder peas, your muskmelon, your tomatoes, your peanuts, your hot peppers, your Brunswick stew and okra soup, benne, jambalaya, hoppin’ john, gumbo, stewed greens and fat meat — have inextricable ties . . . to West and Central Africa.”

Learning about the derivation of plant varieties through generations of crossbreeding accentuated his longstanding fascination with his own genetic origins. He had a sense that if he overlapped a map showing where Afrocentric Southern foodstuffs and famous Southern recipes first appeared with a map showing where his slave ancestors had landed — where they and their offspring met, married and procreated and where his white ancestors forcibly mingled with his black ones — the two maps would overlap, together telling the story of the African American culinary diaspora.

The erasure of African culture from what it means to be an American–in a way that Irish or Italian or English culture is very much not erased–is part and parcel of the structural racism that flows throughout our society, affecting everything we do. Food culture and the stories we tell about food is just one example of this.

Know Your Enemy

[ 188 ] February 17, 2016 |
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Courtesy of Greg Borenstein, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 https://www.flickr.com/photos/unavoidablegrain/86557822/

It’s always nice when your enemies lay out the terms of engagement so starkly. I am naturally enough talking about defenders of ketchup.

I will cling to my gigantic Heinz ketchup until the end. I will fight like Davy Crockett at the Alamo to keep it. For God’s sake, it’s ketchup.

Let’s listen for a moment to the foodie killjoys at ScratchMommy.com. I hate them.

“If you use commercially prepared ketchup on your food, you might as well be starting an IV of high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), because that’s primarily what glugs out of the bottle. Most bottled ketchups consist basically of overcooked tomatoes, water, and a large (dose) of sugar, usually as some form of genetically engineered corn syrup. Many brands also add ‘natural flavorings,’ which are really flavor-boosting chemicals, one being MSG,” the killjoys reported.

Ketchup? What could me more innocuous? Marriner’s home fries without ketchup?

We have been informed that just one tablespoon of commercially prepared ketchup typically contains four grams of sugar. And many people consume much more than one tablespoon at a time, which quickly builds up your daily sugar load. Who uses one tablespoon? I use as much as the plate will hold.

It would indeed be a shame for diehard defenders of ketchup to go down like at the Alamo. I mean, if you want to use that metaphor, let’s go all the way! And what could be innocuous than ketchup? I don’t know, syphilis? Ted Cruz? A Yankees World Series title? All of these horrors are less disturbing than a whole plate of ketchup. This guy tries to obscure his agenda by then defending mayo but it’s a juke to distract our attention from his perfidious goal of forcing ketchup down our throats. It’s either them or us. Which side are you on?

Speaking of our enemies, you may remember that there is a nation north of us with the temerity to resist our invasion in 1813. It has since constantly assaulted our values by spelling labor “labour” and the like. These people are called Canadians. Here is an image of Canadians below:

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These monstrous northerners have opened up a new front on us God-fearing ketchup-hating Americans:

Forget candy and flowers. Canadian Doritos fans have a much quirkier way to show their love—with a bouquet of ketchup-flavored Doritos roses.

The bouquets, the brainchild of BBDO Toronto, are geared toward women as a Valentine’s Day gift for men. Delivery was available in Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver, but customers outside the delivery zone can visit DoritosKetchupRoses.ca and “get crafty for love” by following instructions to make their own non-edible versions of the bouquet. (Ketchup Doritos are not available stateside, so U.S.-based Doritos lovers will have to make do with more banal nacho cheese, cool ranch or spicy sweet chili varieties.)

Is it true that under the Trans-Pacific Partnership, Doritos will be able to sue the U.S. government for banning such concoctions as ketchup-flavored Doritos from our shores? I mean, what good is an American government if we can’t protect ourselves from this? Not to mention we have fifth columnists through this nation like the guy at the first link probably willing to destroy our national values through buying this food. Some of these fifth columnists are even commenters are this blog. Will you stand up and destroy them before they destroy you? Now is the time my friends. Now is the time.

The Pull of Pollo

[ 7 ] February 8, 2016 |

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I don’t listen to a lot of podcasts, but one that I do like is Gravy, the podcast of the Southern Foodways Alliance. This podcast on how the chicken industry has utterly transformed Springdale, Arkansas, turning it from one of the state’s whitest towns into the state’s most diverse town. This is because the poultry industry is worked almost entirely by Latino immigrants, as well as some people from the Marshall Islands and south and southeast Asia. Lots of emphasis on the terrible working conditions in the plants, how this is a permanent transition since many of the immigrants really love northwest Arkansas and won’t leave, and the racism that pervades the community.

Well worth your time.

And if you like that, here’s one telling the story of Shirley Sherrod, who must be the most famous midlevel appointment in the Department of Agriculture in U.S. history, thanks of course to Republican mendacity and racism.

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