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Posts Tagged ‘Food

“Opposites attract”*…


Indian food is categorically delicious: its flavors are complex, oscillating between sweet, savory, and spicy; its textures meld creamy sauces with doughy breads and tender meat and vegetables to make the slop of dreams. It’s a divine synthesis that is aromatic and sophisticated without being bougie. Hell, you can get a better-than-decent plate of it for nary more than the cost of a deli sandwich.

But what is it that makes Indian food so endlessly rich and tasty? Scientists were wondering, too, and recently performed an analysis of 2,500 recipes to find out…

Find illumination (and a timely life lesson) at “There’s a Scientific Reason Why Indian Food Is So Delicious.”

* Proverb


As we dive into the dal, we might recall that it was on this date in 1967 that Arlo Guthrie’s anthemic “Alice’s Restaurant was released.  In 1965 (then 18-year-old) Arlo Guthrie and his friend Richard Robbins were arrested by Stockbridge, MA police officer William “Obie” Obanhein for illegally dumping a bag a garbage after eating Thanksgiving dinner at Alice’s Restaurant.  Guthrie and Robbins pled guilty, were fined $50 dollars each, and sentenced to pick up their garbage.  Guthrie memorialized the incident in “The Alice’s Restaurant Massacree,” which he first performed live on WBAI radio (a listener-supported station in New York); the song was so popular that the station would play it only after a listener made a substantial donation.  Since then, as some readers will know, it’s become traditional for many classic rock radio stations to play the song each Thanksgiving.


Written by LW

November 22, 2015 at 1:01 am

“A Big Mac– the communion wafer of consumption”*…


Hiroyuki Terada, the star of the YouTube series “Diaries of a Master Sushi Chef,” (which has racked up over 40 million views) presents “Will It Sushi?”– the story of an ugly duckling 770-calorie double-decker hamburger and fries that became a swan: an appealing roll of beef and fresh veggies…

email readers click here for video

More background at “A master sushi chef makes a roll out of a Big Mac.”

* John Ralston Saul


As we sharpen our knives, we might spare a thought for Art Ginsburg; he died on this date in 2012.  Better known by his professional name, Mr. Food, Ginsburg was a pioneering television chef (on the air from 1975) and best selling author of cookbooks.  He was an enthusiastic advocate of quick and easy cooking, and laid the groundwork for countless celebrity cooks to come.  His catch phrase, “Ooh! It’s so good!”, with which he ended each show, is a registered sound trademark with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.



Written by LW

November 21, 2015 at 1:01 am

“The secret of life is honesty and fair dealing. If you can fake that, you’ve got it made”*…


For a few blessed days, Lura Cafe was the hottest new restaurant in Providence. The bright, cozy farm-to-table joint hid in plain sight next to a downtown parking lot, steps away from the Rhode Island Convention Center. Lura would be a refuge for diners in the know, serving modern takes on cafe classics—all local, all organic, all certified GMO-free. It was upscale and casual, timeless and avant-garde. It had a vaguely Nordic air of refinement.

It announced itself—as all similarly accoutred restaurants must—with a social media blitz, featuring sans serif lettering, sunny high-angle shots of brunch dishes, even a breathless write-up in the New York Times.

It was also totally fake…

Read more about the art project (“lura” a Swedish word for “fool, trick, deceive, lure, cheat, befool”) that aimed to deflate “the elitist subculture of foodies” at “The Hippest Cafe in Providence Was Totally Fake.”

* Groucho Marx (among others)


As we muse over the menu, we might pause to recall that today is National Vinegar Day– a moment to celebrate a fermented liquid consisting mainly of acetic acid (CH3COOH) and water that is used as a condiment, a preservative, a balm, a wart treatment, an herbicide, a cleaner, and a brass polish.



Written by LW

November 1, 2015 at 1:01 am

“Anyhow, the hole in the doughnut is at least digestible”*…


Because of the way foods are mass harvested, factory processed and packaged in the States, the FDA has to allow food companies to include a certain number of “defects” in the final products. The term “defects,” is code for the inclusion of “foreign matter” in canned and packaged foods, including insects, insect parts, rodent hairs, larvae, rodent poop, mammal poop, bone material, mold, rust, and cigarette butts. These “defects” are not dangerous in the quantities they’re allowed, the FDA says, but still: what was that about ignorance and bliss?..

From the “20 maggots ‘of any size’ and 75 mites, per 100 grams” permitted in canned mushrooms to the “30 or more fly eggs per 100 grams” allowed in tomato sauce, “What Defects the FDA Allows in 11 Types of Food.”

[As a bonus (if that’s not a perverse way of putting it), “The 20 Unhealthiest Foods on the Planet.”]

* H.L. Mencken


As we eat a peach, we might send a basketful for birthday greetings to Clarence Saunders; he was born on this ate in 1881.  A Memphis grocer, he developed the the modern retail sales model of self service– he received U.S. Patent #1,242,872 for a “Self Serving Store”– and thus had a massive influence on the development of the modern supermarket.  His Memphis store grew into the Piggly Wiggly chain, which is still in operation.

The first Piggly Wiggly store


Clarence Saunders



Written by LW

October 9, 2015 at 1:01 am

“Do you know what I miss most about baseball? The pine tar, the resin, the grass, the dirt — and that’s just in the hot dogs”*…


When Tamar Adler decided to hand-make hot dogs for a summer wedding party, she had no idea what she was getting herself into…

The extraordinary tale in its entirety at “How the Sausage Is Made: A Look Inside the World of Bespoke Hot Dogs.”

* David Letterman (during the baseball strike)


As we relish relish, we might recall that it was on this date in 1810 that Peter Durand was granted a patent (No. 3372) by King George for the preservation of food in metal (and glass and pottery) containers– the tin can.  Durand was acting as an agent for his friend, the French inventor Nicolas Appert, who had won 12,000 francs from the French military for devising a method of storing food.  Sometimes called “the father of canning,” Appert actually used sealed glass jars to preserve food.  Durand switched to metal.

One of Durand’s first cans


Written by LW

August 25, 2015 at 1:01 am

“There is no sincerer love than the love of food”*…


Raphaelle Peale, Melons and Morning Glories, 1813

Molasses made from heirloom watermelons, Chez Panisse’s “Masumoto peach,” acorn-fed pork charcuterie: rescuing the lost ingredients and flavors that animated the world’s cuisines, and their culinary masterpieces– an argument for adding food to the cultural canon.

* George Bernard Shaw


As we go loco for locavore, we might recall that it was on this date in 1929 that a 350 pound black bear served himself at a Duluth, Minnesota coffee shop…

Arvid Peterson was driving down London road at 26th Avenue East when he noticed a large black bear sauntering along behind his vehicle. Arvid was on his way to deliver fresh North Shore fish to a Duluth warehouse. The bear was obviously impressed with the smells coming from the back of his truck. Assuming the bear would tire soon leave and not follow, Arvid paid no more attention to the him until he arrived at the corner of Superior Street and Third Avenue East when he turned up the hill next to the Hotel Duluth, and realized that  the bear had followed him over a mile.

When the animal smelled the wonderful odors coming from the coffee shop in the Hotel Duluth Coffee Shop, he rose up on his hind feet and looked around as if greatly confused.  He then walked over to the coffee shop and with one mighty blow of its paw, it smashed a fifteen foot tall plate glass window. Glass flew in every direction. The bear dropped to all fours and rushed through the window to the center of the coffee shop. A local drunk, wandering the streets in a stupor, saw the whole episode. For some unknown reason he had a hammer with him and he leaped through the broken window after the bear. Screaming and waving the hammer he first chased the bear, then stood there in a Mexican standoff with this monster of the big game.

Upon hearing the shattering glass, and the drunk’s shouting, the night watchman, Albert Nelson, went to see what had happened. At first he guessed that an automobile had crashed through a window, or perhaps that there had been a kitchen explosion but when he arrived he was amazed at the sight of the huge black bear standing in the middle of the floor. He then ran to get the night clerk and the assistant manager, who called the police.The coffee shop had an upper level which Nelson entered by a side door. Taking note of the two short stairways leading to the mezzanine from the main floor, he realized that he had to protect himself in some way so he set to piling tables and chairs at the top of the stairs as barricades.

The bear was not idle during this time. Pursued by the drunk waving the hammer, he first attacked one stairway and then the other but Nelson beat him off each time by throwing chairs and tables down each stairway adding to the bearicades.This battle went on for some time, during which the guests of the hotel, aroused by the commotion, congregated in the lobby and passersby on the streets started to gather at the windows. Soon there were large crowds watching the action both from the lobby of the hotel and from the street.The crowd that grew larger and larger, pressing in on the coffee shop was estimated to be up to 300 curious people. With each new charge of the bear the onlookers surged back a few steps, only to press in again when the bear retreated. All the while the madman with the hammer continued his relentless pursuit.

At this point Sergeant Eli Le Beau and Patrolman John Hagen arrived. In an effort to capture the wild beast they obtained a length of rope which they made into a noose. Entering the coffee shop they began pushing tables and chairs towards the bear in an ever tightening circle. After several attempts to lasso the animal, they moved the circle closer until they were certain to succeed. One has to ask just how smart it is to corner a hungry bear?  Just as they were ready to throw the rope around his head, the bear lunged backward attacking the stairway once more. Smashing chairs and tables he appeared to be breaking his way toward Nelson when Sergeant Le Beau hoisted his rifle to his shoulder and fired a well placed round into the animal’s head.In mortal agony the bear raised up on its hind legs, stood wobbly for a moment, then fell down the stairs to the floor below. The crowd moved in closer, surrounding the dead bear. Silence reigned. The magnificent animal was later sent to a local taxidermist and for many years was displayed in the front window of the “Black Bear Lounge” in the hotel. Presently it is on display in the main dining room of the original Grandma’s Saloon & Grill in Canal Park, Duluth.  [source]

Written by LW

August 18, 2015 at 1:01 am

“Fog and smog should not be confused and are easily separated by color”*…


A London-style Peasouper Smog Meringue


This afternoon [May 30], the Center for Genomic Gastronomy and I [Nicola Twilley] will be offering New Yorkers a chance to taste aeroir, with a side-by-side tasting of air from different cities. With the support of the Finnish Cultural Institute in New York, we have spent the past few months designing and fabricating a smog-tasting cart, complete with built-in smog chamber, as well as developing a range of synthetic smog recipes.

Having made its debut at a meeting of the World Health Organization in Geneva a fortnight ago, the cart will be stationed on Rivington Street, just off the Bowery, from noon to six today. We will be serving up free smog meringues from three different locations as part of the New Museum’s IDEAS CITY street festival.

The cart builds on an earlier project by the Center for Genomic Gastronomy. In 2011, after reading that an egg foam is ninety-percent air in Harold McGee’s bible of culinary chemistry, On Food and Cooking, the Center took whisks, mixing bowls, and egg whites out onto the streets of Bangalore, using the structural properties of meringue batter to harvest air pollution in order to taste and compare smog from different locations around the city…

Get a taste of the place at “Smog Meringues.”

* “Fog and smog should not be confused and are easily separated by color. Fog is about the color of the insides of an old split wet summer cottage mattress; smog is the color and consistency of a wet potato chip soaked in a motorman’s glove.”   – Chuck Jones


As we hold our noses, we might that it was on this date in 1878 that James Dewar exhibited liquid air (obtained at a temperature of -192ºC) at the Royal Institution in London.  A distinguished chemist and physicist (Dewar was an expert on the liquefaction of the “permanent gases,” conducting his work at temperatures approaching absolute zero), he is probably best remembered as the inventor, in 1892, of the “Dewar flask,” a vacuum-insulated vessel that can keep liquids at hot or cold temperatures for long periods. The first commercial vacuum flasks were made in 1904 by a German company, Thermos GmbH, which patented Dewar’s work (as he had not).  Dewar sued to recover his invention, but lost.  “Thermos” remains a registered trademark in some countries; but– in a 1963 decision that sent chills down spines at Kleenex (Kimberley-Clark) and Xerox– it was declared a genericized trademark in the US,  since it has come to be synonymous with vacuum flasks in general.



Written by LW

June 5, 2015 at 1:01 am


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