Oh, look, there’s much more under the news chum tree. What’s this? It looks like a lovely wrapped calzone…
- Tacos, Sandwiches, and the Cube Rule. Categorizing and classifying food is difficult. Is a hot dog a sandwich? Is a ravoli? A taco? Where do these things fit on the spectrum. Two articles I’ve seen attempt to address this. The Cube Rule is perhaps my favorite. It classifies using the number of sides of a cube. Just a bottom? Toast. Top and bottom? A sandwich. Bottom and sides? A taco. Top, bottom, and sides? Sushi. Everything but a top? Soup in a bread bowl. All sides? Calzone. No sides. Salad. Another approach uses a three axis decision path: soup / salad / sandwich. It claims to contain the full spectrum of human consumables by plotting them as (x, y, z) coordinates in (soup, salad, sandwich) space. However, none of these address the question of whether cereal is soup.
- The Oil Economy When you go to the market, you’ll see lots of oils on the shelf: olive, avacado, walnut, grapeseed, soy, rapeseed (canola), peanut, and even vegetable oil, which they get from carrots. What you won’t see is cottonseed oil — at least in raw form — because cotton is poisonous to humans (as food). The problem is that the seeds, like the cotton plant’s leaves, contain little dark glands full of something called gossypol. Gossypol in and of itself is a toxin. It’s helpful for the cotton plant, because it helps fend off insect pests. But it makes the seed unhealthy for people to eat. It’s toxic to most animals, too. But cotton produces a lot of seeds — more seeds that fluff. Cows can digest it. You can get the oil and purify it. But one scientist got the idea to genetically modify the plant to not produce Gossypol, and the FDA has approved it, and now the seeds can be used as broader food.
- Enjoy Your Christmas Watermelon. Vegan on Christmas. How about a baked watermelon instead of a ham? While we’re at it, here are some more interesting facts about watermelons.
- Thai Restaurants and Cambodian Donut Shops. Have you ever wondered why there are so many Thai restaurants? Thank the government of Thailand, which intentionally bolstered the presence of Thai cuisine outside of Thailand to increase its export and tourism revenues, as well as its prominence on the cultural and diplomatic stages. In 2001, the Thai government established the Global Thai Restaurant Company, Ltd., in an effort to establish at least 3,000 Thai restaurants worldwide. As for those Cambodian Donut Shops, that’s all thanks to the Donut King. His story is told in two episodes of The Sporkful (part 1, part 2). Ted Ngoy arrived in southern California in 1975, as part of the first wave of refugees to flee Cambodia’s Khmer Rouge genocide in the late 1970s. They arrived in Orange County, near LA, with a few suitcases and no money.At first Ted worked as a janitor, but then he started working nights at a gas station to make ends meet. That’s where Ted saw his first donut shop. He made that a success, opened more. Soon Ted and his wife sponsored visas for refugees, set them up with donut shops, trained them in the business, and took a cut of their profits in return. By 1985, ten years after Ted arrived in California with nothing, he was making $100,000 a month.
- All You Can Eat. Have you ever wondered why you see so many buffets at restaurants? Restaurants love them. The reason why is that they are a certified moneymaker. Variety and Volume make a killer combo. When you load up a buffet with lots of choices, customers get excited. And since the self-service model is much faster than the waiter-and-menu system, guests are in and out quicker. They are also major labor-saving devices, and therefore cost-saving devices. They are also specifically laid out to get you to fill your plate with the cheaper options first, so that you have no room for the more expensive items. They provide a way to repurpose leftovers.
- Fish and Cheese. It was a joke in Come From Away, which we saw Friday night. Yet Cod Au Grautin is a thing in Newfoundland, so much so that the Ahmanson Theatre tweeted a recipe for the dish. But why is there so little combination of fish and cheese? Where did the prohibition come from? It is ancient and strong, but localized. Although some think it is a universal rule, but there are dozens of centuries-old dishes combining seafood and cheese that are beloved outside the United States—in Greece, Mexico, France, and even in specific pockets of the U.S. itself. So who do we blame? The Italians. Italians are very religious about mixing cheese and fish or seafood, it just isn’t done.
- What Has Man Wrought? While we’re sharing items from Gastro Obscura, here are two more that taken together say quite a bit about modern man and our relation to food. First, according to a recent study, the broiler chicken, now the most populous bird on the planet, will someday be a defining feature of the Anthropocene, a greasy marker of our epoch. This for a bird that has an average life expectancy of six weeks, has been bred to live fat and die young, with a fragile skeletal structure, porous bones, and extremely massive bodies that render them totally incapable of surviving without human-created technology on modern farms. Second, Americans have planted so much corn it has changed weather patterns. Studying observed data, researchers found that between 1910-1949 and 1970-2009, average summer rainfall in the central U.S. increased by up to 35 percent. According to subsequent 30-year regional climate simulations, they determined that increased corn production appears to be boosting average summer rainfalls by five to 15 percent and decreasing average summer temperatures by about one degree Celsius.
- The Burner Culture. If you are like most people, you have a four-burner cooktop. Two large. Two small. Have you ever thought about why that is, and what burner you should use for what task? Probably not, But there is rhyme and reason to burner placement. The largest burner is called a “power burner,” and it’s specifically designed for searing meats and boiling water quickly. The medium-sized burners are “all-purpose” or “standard” burners. And the smallest burner, which is known as a “simmer burner,” is designed for low-flame cooking (think delicate work like tempering chocolate).
- And a treat at the end. Just for you. All of See’s Candies are gluten-free.