Posts Tagged ‘Food’
Readers struggling with an appropriate response to the U.N.’s recent suggestion that all of us in the developed world should be getting much more of our protein from eating insects will be relieved to know of the brainchild of four London-based graduate students, the Ento Box…
What began as a graduate project has matured over the past two years, with a series of caterings and pop-up restaurants introducing insect-based dishes to new audiences around the U.K. Just before Easter, the founders of Ento (which is a portmanteau of bento box and entomology) served buffalo caterpillars at the Edinburgh Science Festival, the largest event they’ve participated in so far. They want Ento to grow organically–with more supper clubs this year and a restaurant in about 18 months. Slow growth allows them to see firsthand how the food is received, to understand their customers, and to build up good will en route to hitting supermarket shelves in a few years. Before mass consumption of insects can become a first-world reality, you need to fix the perception problem. With a nod to the aesthetics of sushi presentation, that’s precisely what Ento does…
“Sushi was a very inspiring story for us,” says cofounder Julene Aguirre-Bielschowsky, who met her cofounders at the Innovation Design Engineering MA/MSc double masters course at the Royal College of Art and Imperial College London. Aguirre-Bielschowski, who is German but is originally from Mexico, says she and her colleagues were initially met with skepticism from advisors, but she says they found inspiration in a 30-year-old Japanese travel book that advised tourists to beware of “strange Japanese restaurants that serve raw fish.”
If sushi could make fans out of skeptics in just three decades, then why not bugs?…
Read all of the appetizing tale at CoExist.
As we struggle with our chop sticks, we might recall that it was on this date in 1955 that George B. Hansburg of Walker Valley, N.Y. was issued a U.S. patent for his invention of an improved pogo stick (No. 2,793,036). In the event, while the design was a step forward over earlier incarnation, Hansburg’s 1955 version posed something of a risk to the user’s chin. He went back to the drawing board and two years later patented something much more like the pogo stick we’ve come to know and love.
- The narrator’s father in Wieland by Charles Brockden Brown (1798)
- William the Testy in Knickerbocker’s History Of New York by Washington Irving (1809)
- A woman in Jacob Faithful by Captain Marryat (1834)
- A blacksmith in Dead Souls by Nikolai Gogol (1842)
- Sir Polloxfen Tremens in The Glenmutchkin Railway by William Edmondstoune Aytoun (1845)
- The sailor Miguel Saveda in Redburn by Herman Melville (1849)
- Mr Krook in Bleak House by Charles Dickens (1852-53)
- The whisky-sodden and derelict Jimmy Flinn in Life On The Mississippi by Mark Twain (1883)
- A character in Docteur Pascal by Emile Zola (1893)
(One admires the discipline with which Warner excludes the female cook in Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre (1847), who was merely “in a frame of mind and body threatening spontaneous combustion”…)
As we retreat to the other end of the thermometer, we might recall that it was on this date in 1927 that Clarence Birdseye patented “fish fingers” in the U.K. Birdseye had already patented a range of “flash-freezing” processes and devices, inspired by his experiences as a biologist and trapper in Labrador earlier in the century. He had noticed that while slow freezing creates ice crystals in frozen foods– crystals that, when thawed, create sogginess– meat exposed to the extremely cold temperatures in the Canadian North– frozen essentially instantly– didn’t create internal ice, and were as tasty when thawed months later as fresh. Birdseye created quick-frozen vegetables and meats as a storable option to fresh. But “fish fingers,” later introduced in the U.S. as “fish sticks,” were his inaugural product created expressly to be frozen.
Emily Dickinson is, of course, renown for her verse; but acclaim for her poetry was largely posthumous. In her lifetime, she was probably better known as the quiet-but-kindly lady who would lower baked treats from her kitchen window to Amherst children. Her Rye and Indian round bread won second prize at the 1856 Amherst Cattle Show (though in the spirit of full disclosure, it should be noted that Emily’s sister Lavinia was one of the judges). And when the Dickinson family’s housekeeper quit, Emily took it upon herself to bake the family’s daily bread– a responsibility she retained even after a replacement was hired, in deference to her father’s preference for her bread over all others.
Even as her dough rose in the kitchen, so did her inspiration, which often struck as she baked. So she would draft poems on wrappers and other kitchen papers; her poem, “The Things that can never come back, are several,”
The Things that never can come back, are several—
Childhood—some forms of Hope—the Dead—
Though Joys—like Men—may sometimes make a Journey—
And still abide…
…was first composed on the back of a friend’s recipe for Coconut Cake.
God gave a Loaf to every Bird —
But just a Crumb — to Me —
I dare not eat it — tho’ I starve —
My poignant luxury —
To own it — touch it —
Prove the feat — that made the Pellet mine —
Too happy — for my Sparrow’s chance —
For Ampler Coveting —
It might be Famine — all around —
I could not miss an Ear —
Such Plenty smiles upon my Board —
My Garner shows so fair —
I wonder how the Rich — may feel —
An Indiaman — An Earl —
I deem that I — with but a Crumb —
Am Sovereign of them all —
As we reach for the oven mitts, we might recall that it was on this date in 1306 that Robert I (aka Robert the Bruce) was crowned King of Scotland… at Scone.
Readers will recall recent reassurance that food past its expiration date is probably still good. Turns out that there’s more to the story: some canned food actually improves with aging. Harold McGee of Lucky Peach reports, via Slate…
European connoisseurship in canned goods goes back about a hundred years. It was well established by 1924, when James H. Collins compiled The Story of Canned Foods. Collins noted that while the American industry—which started in the 1820s and took off during the Civil War—focused on mechanization and making locally and seasonally abundant seafood and vegetables more widely available, the European industry continued to rely on handwork and produced luxury goods for the well-off, who would age their canned sardines for several years like wine. Today, Rödel and Connetable, both more than 150 years old, are among the sardine makers that mark select cans with the fishing year and note that the contents “are already very good, but like grand cru wines, improve with age” for up to 10 years.
But the appreciation of can-aged foods wasn’t unknown in the United States. Collins recounts an informal taste test conducted by a New York grocer who rounded up old cans from a number of warehouses, put on a luncheon in which he served their contents side by side with those from new cans, and asked his guests to choose which version they preferred. Among the test foods were fourteen-year-old pea soup and beef stew, and twelve-year-old corned beef and pigs’ feet. The guests preferred the old cans “by an overwhelming majority”…
The trouble with aging canned goods is that it takes years to get results. However, we can take a hint from manufacturers, who often accelerate shelf-life tests by storing foods at high temperatures. A general rule of thumb is that the rate of chemical reactions approximately doubles with each 20-degree rise in temperature. Store foods at 40 degrees above normal—around 100 degrees—and you can get an idea of a year’s change in just three months.
But it’s possible to go further. At 120 degrees, you get a year’s worth of change in six weeks; at 140 degrees, three weeks; at 180 degrees, five days.
Of course temperatures that high are cooking temperatures, and their heat energy drives reactions that would never occur in normal storage. But if we’re interested in the evolution of canned foods, which have already been extremely cooked, then why not treat them to a little additional simmering and see what happens? (It’s safest to stay a little below the boil, to avoid building up steam pressure in the can.)
I’ve found that braising cans change the flavors and textures within, but unpredictably so. It doesn’t seem to do much for sardines, but tuna in water loses its beefiness and becomes more pleasantly fishy and also a little bitter, while tuna in oil somehow gets more meaty and less fishy. Like its aged version, can-braised Spam takes on a softness that’s especially nice when you fry the surface to a crunchy crust.
I don’t recommend cooking foods in the can as a routine thing. Cans have various linings that may gradually release unwanted chemicals into foods, and this process will also accelerate at high temperatures. But it’s a way to explore how canned foods are capable of developing…
Read the tale in its tasty totality at “Age Your Canned Goods- Why I now think of best-by dates as maybe-getting-interesting-by dates.”
As we turn up the heat, we might send soft and fluffy birthday greetings to “Poppin’ Fresh,” the Pillsbury Doughboy; he premiered on this date in 1965. Created a couple of years earlier by Leo Burnett copywriter Rudy Perz, PF was first rendered by Martin Nodell. Inspired by the opening credits for The Dinah Shore Show, they created him not as a traditionally-animated mascot, but as a stop-motion character. The three-dimensional Doughboy clay doll cost $16,000 to create. He had 15 different heads (each with different mouth positions to allow the animation of speech) and 5 bodies to give him different looks and positions. The stop motion method required 24 still shots to create a single second of animation.
But it was worth the effort: within 3 years, 87% of Americans recognized him by name.
Poppin’ Fresh was voiced by Paul Frees (the voice of Boris in Rocky and Bullwinkle) until Frees’ death in 1986, when Jeff Bergmen took over (Bergman also stepped in to replace Mel Blanc in Warner Bros. cartoons); he’s currently voiced– in what is now a computer-generated version– by JoBe Cerney.
After winning a seat in the pantheon of so-called “super foods,” pomegranates got a burst of popularity, with consumers craving everything from fresh seeds to juices and teas. But its newfound fame also found it the victim of an age-old problem: food fraud. According to the non-profit organization U.S. Pharmacopeial Convention (USP) in Maryland, pomegranate juice was the most common case of food fraud in the past year, often watered down with grape or pear juice to cut costs.
The group operates the Food Fraud Database, which went live in April 2012 and recently added 800 new records. Other usual suspects from the scholarly articles, news accounts and other publicly available records include milk, honey, spices, tea and seafood.
Though senior director of food standards Markus Lipp says we enjoy a high level of food safety in the United States, he also warns, “The real risk of adulteration is that nobody knows what’s in the product.”
Olive oil might have the distinction of being the oldest adulterated good. “Olive-oil fraud has been around for millenia,” according to the New Yorker. Cut with sunflower and hazelnut oils, olive oil was considered “the most adulterated agricultural in the European Union” by the late 1990s. Even after a special task force was formed, the problem remains. In his 2012 book, “Extra Virginity: The Sublime and Scandalous World of Olive Oil,” Tom Mueller writes about the ongoing fraud. Mueller tells the New Yorker, “In America, olive-oil adulteration, sometimes with cut-rate soybean and seed oils, is widespread, but olive oil is not tested for by the F.D.A.—F.D.A. officials tell me their resources are far too limited, and the list of responsibilities far too long, to police the olive-oil trade.”
Mora cautionary culinary notes at Smithsonian‘s “Don’t Get Duped: Six Foods That Might Not Be the Real Deal.” Meantime, Happy Fat Tuesday!
As we decide to just grow it ourselves, we might recall that it was on this date in 2004 that Mattel announced that Barbie (“Barbara Millicent Roberts”) and Ken (“Ken Sean Carson”), who had been dating since Ken’s appearance in 1961, had broken up. In 1993, “Earring Magic Ken” had been released; it became an instant cult collectible (the best-selling Ken in Mattel’s history)– and apparently, planted a doubt in Barbie’s mind as to the authenticity of her boyfriend’s attraction to her.
In explaining the split, Russell Arons, vice president of marketing at Mattel, said that Barbie and Ken “feel it’s time to spend some quality time – apart…Like other celebrity couples, their Hollywood romance has come to an end”… though Arons indicated that the duo would “remain friends.” He also hinted at what Earring Magic Ken collectors had suspected for some time: that the separation might be partially due to Ken’s reluctance to get married.
In February 2006, after Ken had a “makeover,” the couple committed to rekindling their relationship. They are ostensibly still a couple, though Ken’s re-do may have taken a bit too well: in 2009, Mattel introduced “Sugar Daddy Ken.”