Chum to Chew On

The last few weeks have been busy, what with getting the highway page updates done, planning for the Fringe Festival, and assorted craziness at home. The chum has been accumulating, so let’s start clearing it out. This first batch is all food related — a common theme, if you hadn’t noticed:

  • Defining a Sandwich. A few months ago, the Sporkful podcast introduced the debate of whether a hot dog is a sandwich.  That opened the question of what makes a sandwich a sandwich, and is our opener to this batch of chum. First, there is the sandwich alignment chart, rating your view of sandwiches on two dimensions: structure and ingredients.  I tend to go for radical sandwich anarchy, but I don’t know how well that plays in this administration. Of course, you could instead turn to the law, and look at the five ways the law defines a sandwich. This can have big tax ramifications when sandwiches are taxed differently than other foods. For example, California considers hot dogs to be sandwiches. So would New York — anything on a bread like product is a sandwich. But the USDA is stricter: two slices of bread are required.
  • Do You Like It Hard. Sandwiches, of course, bring us to tacos. Here, the question is not not whether tacos are sandwiches, but whether hard-shell tacos are real tacos or a gringo aberration. The New York Times tries to make the case for hard shell tacos: Do they have their place? Are they just folded tostadas? Something to appeal to the middle-of-the-road? Something to bring the family together? All I know is that there are times a good hard-shell taco is what I want.
  • Ringing a Bell. Tacos and Mexican food bring us to the fruit that I dread: the bell pepper. Can’t stand the taste. The aroma. The indigestion it causes. So, naturally, an infographic on the chemistry of bell peppers caught my attention. It looks at the compounds behind the colors (as well as some pepper aroma chemistry) – and finds that peppers have some extraordinary chemistry to thank for some of their hues. Peppers start off green, which unsurprisingly is due to the presence of chlorophyll pigments. These are vital for photosynthesis in plants, and actually come in two subtly different forms, chlorophyll a and chlorophyll b. As the pepper ripens, these chlorophyll pigments start to decompose, and other types of pigments start to take their place. All of the different colours of peppers that follow green are due to the presence of carotenoid pigments.
  • Making a Mold. Leave your peppers in the refrigerator too long, and you end up with mold. Have you ever wondered about the different molds you see on food? Why can you cut off some, but not others? Are any safe to eat? Here’s an interesting science article on all the different molds you see on your food, including those black specs on your apples or grapes.
  • Doughnut Boxes. If you live in Southern California, you’re familiar with pink doughnut boxes. But why does SoCal have pink doughnut boxes? The answer: Cambodian Doughnut Shops. According to lore, a Cambodian doughnut shop owner asked a local supply shop some four decades ago if there were any cheaper boxes available other than the standard white cardboard. So the company found leftover pink cardboard stock and formed a 9-by-9-by-4-inch container with four semicircle flaps to fold together. To this day, people in the business refer to the box as the “9-9-4.”
  • Valley Food. One big problem in Los Angeles is that people often look down on the San Fernando Valley. All these lists of restaurants that EaterLA loves to put out just have a few token valley dines, and rarely off of Ventura Blvd. That’s what makes this  list of 12 valley favorites so interesting. Most I would agree with, but I would eschew Hogly-Woglys for Mom’s at Vanowen and Hazeltine. I’d also eschew anything at the Village at Topanga: I’m sorry, but the modern take on a mall is far too new for anything to be a favorite.  EaterLA’s contribution to this is their list of 25 essential cheap eats in LA. I love cheap eats — I started la.eats back in the early Usenet days to talk about cheap dive restaurants, of which the first was the original Versailles in Venice. Of course, Eater  only lists 3 places in the valley; one of which is on the first list as well (Saj). I will have to try their chicken place in Northridge. Of course, Mom’s belongs on the cheap eats as well.