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Food for Thought

June 19, 2007

totally OT (but funny)

One of the other places I write is a place called Gather.com where my column, the kitchenMage's Apprentice is published twice a month. Gather is carving itself a niche somewhere between social networking and blogging with a smidge of "rewards" style revenue sharing* thrown in. (you get points for stuff and points eventually equate to gift cards or cash)

It's an interesting mix of folks and the topics cover a lot of territory. I have been doing a bit of non-food writing there lately (I was silly enough to write an "Ask the feminist" open question piece. Oh my!) and it has been a lot of fun.

A couple of days ago, I wrote this rant about plastic surgery that has gone too far called "How Do you tell a friend..." and it's currently featured on the home page! (Okay, so I excite easily, but it's the first thing like this I've written for publication in a while and I'm happy.)

Should you decide that Gather looks like an interesting place and want to join, I'd be mighty grateful if you would click on this little link so I get a referral...hmmm, whatever it is we get for one of those. Join me at Gather.

I now return you to your regular food blogging, already in progress.

June 14, 2007

question for my non-US readers

How do you measure ingredients for recipes?

I have been trying to include all of the useful variations on measurements in my recipes lately but there are so many options! Did you know that there are US, Canada, and metric "cups"? How is that even supposed to work? I can't recall ever seeing "cup (Canada)" in a recipe and I used to live right next to the place. Maybe it's because there is only a smidge of difference (about a third of an ounce vs Europe which adds over an ounce and a half!) but still. (and is it a "Canada cup" or a "Canadian cup"? like the geese are Canada geese, not Canadian geese - although some of them may live there...at least in the summer.)

...but i digress...

Continue reading "question for my non-US readers " »

February 19, 2007

TV, training wheels, teaching and trashing...

I think I figured out what's up with those two food tv shows that many of us don't understand. It's all a matter of framing. This is cooking for beginners. Just maybe not the beginners you are thinking of.

What do you think of when you think "beginning cook"? For me at least, I think of children (and adults too, but always children) who are not only unskilled in the kitchen but too young to do many basic things on their own. No sharp things. Limited use of appliances: microwave instead of range, toaster oven instead of standard oven, etc. There is often a focus on assembly of ingredients rather than actual cooking.

You can see this clearly in old cookbooks. I learned to cook as a young child, and while I didn't use many children's cookbooks, I did have a few. Having not done too much shopping for such books in the last decade, I'm not sure if they have changed all that much since then. (other than having TV personalities on the covers) While there have been some notable additions since I was a kid, I bet that the books that have been in print for decades (and many of the newer ones) still use their tried-and-true approach. Duh. Tried and true sells.

Continue reading "TV, training wheels, teaching and trashing..." »

December 28, 2006

Excellent series about Noka chocolate at Dallas Food

While catching up on my reading, I scanned the list of nominees for best post in the Food Blog Awards at Well Fed and came across one that I found both very well written and fascinating. As an added bonus, it was at Dallas Food, a blog I hadn't come across before.

First a bit of back story.

Noka Chocolate is a two year old Texas chocolatier with lots of stylish trappings and unbelievably expensive chocolate. Seriously. Second most expensive in the world. Ranging from a smidge over $300us to a bit under $2100us. Yep, you read that right: almost $2100 a pound! That is a pretty impressive price for any company to command for chocolate, let alone an two year old upstart in a strip mall in Plano, Texas.

But they do have pictures of the chocolate attending the Emmys and being named the  #1 luxury chocolate in the world by a British TV show (or would that be telly?) and a corporate philosophy.

NOKA Chocolatier, Katrina Merrem, has as her life-passion, the goal of returning chocolate to its pure, luxurious state by creating the finest single-origin dark chocolate truffles and chocolates, made from the rarest cacao sourced from exclusive plantations around the world.

It is with this vision that NOKA Chocolate was founded. And it is this very vision that guides NOKA Chocolate in handcrafting the most exquisite chocolates to ever grace the palate.

I am totally there with most exquisite chocolates to ever grace the palate part of this. If the best chocolate in the world costs 2000 a pound, and it is actually the best, then I'd have to buy a little bit...once. (Of course, I would then have to donate a LOT of money to the local food bank to assuage my guilt.) So it's nice that Dallas Food published this series, in which they asked a simple question: Is Noka chocolate worth the price? You know, just in case I ever win the lottery.

The answer comes in the form of a ten part series. It does an excellent job of analyzing the factors that might make the chocolate worth the exorbitant prices and coming to a conclusion that, while not necessarily surprising, is rather hard to dispute. (and comments are disabled, so no disputing is taking place) There's research and interviews and taste testing and everything! (ok, so the muckraking geek part of me was very amused)

It's well worth the read and points to one of the things that is best about independent publishing here on the tubes of the Internets: I doubt that any mainstream outlet would have cared enough to do this piece until the company got big enough to matter and, by then, the company might have mattered enough that the question never got asked.

October 12, 2006

Think before you pink

Pinkdogwood Like many of you, I have friends and family who have died from cancer (or the treatment for cancer, but that's another rant) and wish that 'they' would find a cure. If we can put a man on the moon, why can't we cure... (...what's that? We've not put a man on the moon since way back when I was in a child? Well, maybe that's the problem, let's put some more folks on the moon! I've got a list we could start with...)

But I digress, let's get back to cancer and the pinking of marketing. October is apparently "Buy overpriced pink crap for cancer" month. Largely driven by the Susan Komen foundation, and flogged all over the Internet (which is neither plural "Internets" nor tubes) seemingly by everyone with the exception of a few nay-sayers like me, this month brings us all things pink. Pink kitchenaid mixers, pink knives, pink M&Ms, even pink hard drives to complete the Barbiefication (ouch, that word is gonna cost me!) of your life.

Why does this marketing of cancer bug me? Let me count the ways:

Percentage of profits that goes to actually fighting cancer, and specifics on where that money goes, is often vague. Most companies don't bother to say how much they give, leaving one to wonder exactly how much of their money is being funneled into research v. going into corporate coffers.

When you can find the data, donation per item is generally miserable. Other than Avon, which seems to actually donate a significant chunk of the income (sometimes 100% of net) from pink products, if you can find someone giving 10%, that's a lot. (Avon balances the large % of pink sales donated with this oh-so-tacky 'anti-domestic violence' bracelet...a blue hospital-style bracelet...is it to remind us that some 'blue' people put some 'pink' people in the hospital because they beat them?) As the wonderful site "Think Before You Pink" points out, you would have to eat three containers of Yoplait yogurt every day (10 cents per returned container lid) of the promotion to donate $36 to the cause. And that yogurt might be made from the milk of rBGH "enhanced" cows. That would be the same rBGH that might cause cancer, breast cancer no less. (as a fan of irony I should like this, but I'm less than amused...go figure) American Express gives a penny a purchase, regardless of the amount of the purchase. A penny. How. Appallingly. Cheap.

While we're on the subject of tax-deductible corporate largesse being used to disguise corporate malfeasance — we weren't talking about that? well, now we are — can we talk about the number of cancer-causing (or suspected cancer-causing) agents in the stuff that's being wrapped in pink? Cosmetics companies, like Estee Lauder, wrap pink ribbons around products containing parabens (chemical preservatives) and phthalates, both of which disrupt normal hormone function when absorbed into the body; hormone disruption has been suggestively linked with increased breast cancer risk. (suggestively linked sounds an awful lot like a Foley thing, doesn't it?)

But the big thing for me is that this is just another excuse to tell us to go shopping. Just like after September 11th, when the Dubya told us to act normal and go shopping, it seems that searching for 'the cure' is simply another angle in a world gone marketing mad. Plus it is all designed to reinforce the notion that women shop, cook, and play dress-up. Because that's what the overwhelming majority of the pinkStuff is: traditional girly things.

If you really want to help the search for better treatment, and perhaps even a cure, for cancer, write a check to a group that's doing the work. There are many such groups out there, pick one that relates to the sort of cancer you care about. If you want to do more, get a degree in a field that will allow you to go do the work yourself.

On the other hand, if you want an all-pink kitchen, go buy it now. Because now is the time to be pink. And you would be amazed at how pink you could be.

Just don't buy an all pink kitchen because you think it's helping find a cure for cancer. Because it's really not.

October 03, 2006

Five things to eat...

It's been a while since I've been tagged for a meme (maybe because I only do them intermittently) but Tara of the Three Tarts pinged me for this and it's one of the more useful memes I've seen in a while. Besides, I have a slightly different take on my answers so I'm going to play. Melissa of the ever-tempting Traveler's Lunchbox has asked for everyone's lists of five foods to eat before you die. The meme has been circulating for a month or so and the collected responses are...holy crap! I just went to grab the URL and it's at 1550 items to eat before you die!  That's one new thing a day for FIVE years! You no longer have an excuse for being bored with your food, go pick something off the list. Then go do it again. And again. And again. And again.

Cookies that you baked with a monstrrr (that would be a child for those of you without crib notes), especially if it's their first time baking their favorite cookies. I've made a point of telling visiting monstrrrs that we can bake any kind of cookies they want, even make something up if they'd like, and it is one of the surest hits ever. I've had twenty-somethings remind me of the day we baked their very special cookies — all of which end up named after the kids, "Kara's extra-cinnamon Snickerdoodles" and "TashiaDoodles" (since perfected on her own time) and such — and what we drank, and how the conversation has stuck with them years later. This is about so much more than cookies, they are simply the vehicle for awakening the knowledge of the wealth of experiences to be had when making and breaking bread with those we love. Plus, you often get a new cookie recipe out of it.

Something slightly unlikely with someone very special. One of my latest examples of this is vanilla ice cream with fresh blueberries. It's not exactly gourmet — although there are no doubt restaurants selling french vanilla ice cream with fresh blueberries for 7 bucks a serving (or would that be freedom vanilla with patriot berries?) — nor is it even unlikely in and of itself, but it was pretty unlikely at the time. And the perfect thing for the moment. The moment being 3am, which found the two of us, having just sent off chapters for the current book project and having a moment to relax, picking the berries by flashlight while some very confused kittens ran circles around our ankles.

Way too much of a favorite food. This is another thing that is perhaps best done with a child. I have fond memories of a couple of childhood food indulgences: strawberry shortcake dinners on the first day of strawberry season, a flat of Bing cherries on the first day of cherry season, the birthday child's choice of dinner and dessert. Oddly enough, we ended up with the same cake several times a year as one child after another chose "that chocolate cake, you know the one"...and we did know "the one" because it was the same as always. I should note that when I had a chance to have "the cake" at the Nut Tree Restaurant, which is the source of the recipe, it was just about identical to the one that we made.

A child's invented dish that makes you go "ick" Every kid has concocted something that they absolutely love and would eat every day that makes their parents retch. theKid's was hot dog and sharp cheddar omelettes with jelly; it had to be cheapish hot dogs (no hebrew national kosher for her) with Tillamook sharp cheddar (black label extra sharp if she could get it) and jelly, not jam. There is some aspect of this that totally squiks me out; maybe it's the insistence on jelly...or the cheap hot dogs...but ewwww, ick! I did have this once, well I had ONE bite of this once, and have managed to escape a repeat performance. Luckily for me, someoneElse was more cooperative and used to make two at a time so he could eat one with theKid...usually while I hid in another room.

Something that stretches your cooking skills  I almost made this 'homemade bread' but that's second nature for some folks and that's so not the point. Think of a food you really love but would never try making, then make it. Having been raised to be utterly fearless in the kitchen, I still find some pastries intimidating and have had to twist my own arm to make myself attempt them. Having lost my fear of danish and pie crusts, I'm moving on to something else...those gorgeous molded chocolates are looking more appealing lately, even though tempering chocolate seems tricky. But tricky is good. No tricky=no feeling of accomplishment.

Maybe you can see a pattern here. For me, food is about much more than food. It's about creation, sharing, indulgence, validation of individual quirks (even the ones that make you go ick). And if you help inspire a child to cook and enjoy good food you are doing a doubly good thing.

I'd tag someone but I am late to this party so most of you have already done this. Oh wait, Miz D. has been moving and busy, I'll be mean and tag her! And Cherry because she has more energy behind her collection of blogs than I can imagine.

September 13, 2006

Some of my best friends are vegan...

Being neither a vegan nor someone who plays one on TV, I've not commented much on going meatless here. I do, however, end up at a few sites for the non-meat-eaters amongst us regularly, especially over the summer when both the CSA and my bit of a garden are producing a bounty of the freshest and most local of food.

One of my favorite vegetarian/vegan sites is vegblog, which ran a very helpful post on what to do when your vegan friends come to dinner a little while back. I'm not sure I'd agree with all of the advice — there's a suggestion of how to approach an egg-less quiche rather than the "make something else you fool" response that the idea deserves — but there are a number of handy tips and pointers to more data. There is also a page of resources ranging from background on various schools of thought pertaining to veganism to blogs to pretty much everything else you might need to support a vegan lifestyle. Very cool stuff.

I do have one question though: What's with the faux meat?

I can understand it if you don't eat meat for medical reasons and really miss the flavor. From what I hear, soy-based meat analogs have come a long way in recent years and they actually taste meatlike. (Here I pause for a moment to note the irony of the faux meat tasting more like real meat at the same time that the "real" meat is tasting more like some cheaply made soy-based amalgam every year.)

But if you are a vegan for ethical reasons, I can't see how you could eat faux steak. You're not eating a cow because it's ethically wrong so why are you pretending to eat a cow? What's up with that?

of course, right afer I posted this I discovered vegblog is down so the links are dead... wih any luck they will be back soon!

December 17, 2005

Coca Sek: the real "real thing"?

We all know that Coca-cola used to contain a bit of cocaine, even though Coca-cola now denies it. Other soft drink companies are a bit more honest, one might say refreshingly so, about the not-so-secret ingredients in their drinks. Coca Sek, a new offering from a small business in Colombia (yes, that Colombia), is essentially bottled coca tea. Yep, that coca.

Continue reading "Coca Sek: the real "real thing"?" »

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