📰 Calzones Under The News Chum Tree

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.

Good Food, Bad Food, Healthy Food, Not

Let’s move away from the Trump posts for a bit, to something else that might make us feel good, or make us sick. Food. Glorious Food. Hot Sausage and Mustard. I’d go on, but I’d walk into a copyright lawsuit…

  • Getting Glazed. I have a friend of mine who posts this incredible porn on Facebook, uhh, I mean food porn of these incredible meals that he and his daughter prepare. One such meal was a maple-glazed salmon. So when I saw this recipe for a Maple-Dijon Glaze for Salmon, I just had to save it for future reference.
  • Turning Yellow. Turmeric is an amazing substance. It can have incredible anti-inflammatory effects, and can bring significant relief for arthritis sufferers (by the way, so can cactus, especially tuna roja juice). So when I saw that the LA Times had a whole article devoted to Turmeric, again, I had to save it for future reference.
  • Buttering You Up. When it comes to fats, the choice is wide and varied, and we often don’t pick the best. Olive oil is wonderful, but butter can add a great flavor to things. Did you ever wonder who first came up with the idea for butter? NPR did, and they recently posted a very interesting history of butter.
  • UnGlutenAted. There are those who avoid gluten out as the fad-diet-of-the-week, and those who are gluten-free for other, more serious reasons. Here’s a fascinating article on the completion of a first phase 1b trial of Nexvax2, a biologic drug designed to protect celiac sufferers from the effects of exposure to gluten and the gastrointestinal symptoms that can result such as diarrhea, abdominal pain and bloating. The big idea behind this drug is to use a trio of three peptides as an immunotherapy that it hopes will encourage the T cells involved in the inflammatory reaction in celiac disease to become tolerant to gluten. After a first course to induce tolerance, the company hopes that it can be maintained by periodic re-injection with the vaccine.
  • Allergic to Meat. The  other day, we listened to a fascinating episode of The Sporkful, a podcast not for foodies, but for eaters. The episode we listened to was about a woman who loved meat, but suddenly was deathly allergic to it. The culprit was a sudden allergy to a sugar that was found in all animal products, and what triggered that allergy was even more fascinating. Well worth listening to.
  • Allergic to Modern Society. In a larger sense, however, we may increasingly be dealing with allergies and reactions to modern society. Spending large amounts of time indoors under artificial light and staring at computer screens has helped produce a “myopia epidemic” with as many as 90 per cent of people in some parts of the world needing glasses. Industrial food production has also turned primates’ taste for sugar — which evolved to persuade us to gorge on healthy fruit when it was ripe — into one of the main causes of the soaring rates of obesity in the Western world. And our sense of smell is under attack from air pollution, producing an array of different effects, including depression and anxiety.  In addition to what is discussed in the article, I’ll opine that many more problems (I believe) arise from the damage we’ve done to our internal biomes through germ-o-phobia and overuse of antibiotics, and that this eventually will be discovered to be responsible for many of our immunity-compromised diseases, food sensitivity, obesity, addiction, and yes, even the increase in autism spectrum disorder and similar issues (i.e., not vaccines).



An Alphabet of Chum: From A to Almost Z

userpic=masters-voiceOur life is a litany of interesting news articles, of news chum, ripe for the discussion. Shall I enumerate? I shall.



Looking Beneath the Skin

userpic=masksFinally, a chance to come up for breath… and lunch. Here are some news chum articles collected over the week, all looking beneath of skin of something we see everyday. h/t to FiddlingFrog and AndrewDucker on LJ for some of these.



The Rest of the Story

userpic=frebergToday’s news chum brings you, as Paul Harvey might say, “the rest of the story”:



Humpday News Chum

Lunchtime on Humpday. The time to empty the link collection…

  • The Importance of Humor. Roger Ebert is getting his voice back, and he’s testing it by telling jokes. Actually, this is a serious article on how Ebert is using an electronic device to regain his voice, using snippets of his actual voice collected from innumerable broadcasts. Yes, he is testing it by telling jokes: “If the computer can successfully tell a joke, and do the timing and delivery, as well as Henny Youngman, then that’s the voice I want,” he says.
  • Saving the House. Two historical houses from literature are in the news. From London, there is an effort in progress to save the workhouse made famous in Oliver Twist. On the other hand, the Sands Point NY home that was the inspiration for “Lands End” in The Great Gatsby appears doomed.
  • Finding Good Mechanics. For those that don’t avail themselves of Car Talk’s automotive files, the AAA has always been a good alternative. However, did you know that AAA charges the mechanics an annual fee to be inspected and listed? This, of course, means that those mechanics that don’t want to pay don’t get listed. On the plus side, only about a third of shops that inquire about approval end up submitting paperwork… and of those, only 30% pass the rigorous inspection process. Further, unlike the Better Business Bureau, which can be aggressive in pushing certification on businesses, AAA waits for repair shops to apply for approval. News you can use, indeed.
  • Kitchen Science. The NY Times has a review of what may be the ultimate in kitchen science books: the six-volume “Modernist Cuisine: The Art and Science of Cooking”. From the review: “As scientific as it is gastronomic, it is virtually an encyclopedia of cooking, a visual roller coaster through the world of food and cooking tools, as well as a compendium of 1,500 recipes.” Looks like fascinating reading, but I guess for most people, it would sit on the shelf. Further, with the price ($625 ($467.62 online)), I expect few would buy. I think I’ll stick with “On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen
  • ETA: Missed one… Putting a Stamp on Things. It looks like Sweden may be getting rid of postage stamps, and replacing them with text messages. Specifically, the Swedish postal service, Posten AB, is looking to launch a system wherein letter and package senders pay for postage using their mobile phones. Swedes would send a text message that would bounce back with a code. The code would be written down in place of a stamp as proof of payment. Personally, I think this could be a pain if you had a lot of mail to send (just imagine trying to do it for a bunch of wedding invitations… oh right… no one sends those anymore, they just use Facebook).

Connect The Dots

Ah, Hump Day. The week goes downhill from here. Wait, that’s not right. In any case, it is hump-day, so here’s some lunchtime hump-day news chum:


Getting Territorial over Charoset

I’ve been known for years and years for the good charoset* I make for the Pesach table. I typically make a large container of it, for it not only serves us for the Pesach table, but we eat it all week for breakfast and the occasional snack. Charoset tends to come out early in the seder (the Pesach service), so folks tend to much on it while waiting for dinner. We’ve switched to a version of the service that puts out a chopped veggie tray early in the service…. but no, they go for the charoset.

This year, I noticed as a few folks just chowed down on the charoset that I was getting internally territorial. I was putting out smaller bowls, and we had to refill them even before the dinner started. I know this shouldn’t bother me (after all, it doesn’t bother me with the other stuff we put out for Pesach). I know I can make more whenever I want. Further, I don’t remember the territorial-ness from my childhood — back then, we seemed to get this really weird paste, and no one chowed down.

Does anyone else get territorial over the food they make?

* for those unfamiliar, charoset (or at least my charoset) is a mix of chopped apples, walnuts, cinnamon, sweet Kosher wine, and chopped dried fruit (this year, raisins and apples, but I’ve used dates and prunes in the past).

P.S.: I was going to use my Pastrami picture, but then realized that it might be inappropriate to use a picture of a sandwich during passover. Do I have to sell my userpics containing bread?