(Roughly) Daily

Posts Tagged ‘Food

“There is not a thing that is more positive than bread”*…

A plate from The Book of Bread, by Owen Simmons (London: Maclaren and Sons, 1903).

A remarkable volume, published at the turn of the 20th century, anticipated the rise of molecular gastronomy in the 1990s and 2000s…

“A little knowledge is a dangerous thing”, writes Owen Simmons at the outset of The Book of Bread (1903), a work he hopes will definitively establish “the link between the bakery and the laboratory” and speak to “the needs of the baker and of the miller”. And the text, at times, does indeed read like a lab manual for commercial bakeries: Simmons was a breadmaker’s breadmaker, co-founder of the National School of Bakery in London and frequent contributor to The British Baker. The book contains equations for the conversion of starch into alcohol (by way of maltose, dextrin, and glucose), chemical explanations for why viscoelasticity is “injurious to the proper manufacture of several kinds of biscuits”, and intricate discussions of nitrogenic proteids, which, once transformed into peptones, “nourish the yeast by percolating its cellulose”.

In addition to its scientific learning, the preface notes two unique aspects that set The Book of Bread apart from competitors: a tabulated appendix, featuring the results of more than 360 baking experiments, and its “most expensive illustrations”, which will force readers “to admit that never before have they seen such a complete collection of prize loaves illustrated in such an excellent manner”. An early entry in Martin Parr and Gerry Badger’s history of the photobook, the attention lent to loaves left the writers in awe: “Here, at the beginning of the twentieth century, one of the humblest, yet most essential of objects is catalogued as precisely, rigorously and objectively as any work by a 1980s Conceptual artist.” Kenneth Josephson’s later photographic experiment, The Bread Book (1973), seems to directly reference Simmons’ work…

More at “The Book of Bread,” in @PublicDomainRev.

Browse the book at the Internet Archive.

* Fyodor Dostoevsky

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As we contemplate carbs, we might recall that it was on this date– National Cheese Lovers Day— in 1964 that, with the aid of a $36,000 grant from the Wisconsin Cheese Foundation, work began on what would be the World’s Largest Cheese, which was displayed, starting later that year, in the Wisconsin Pavilion at the 1964-65 World’s Fair.  The 14 1/2′ x 6 1/2′ x 5 1/2′, 17-ton cheddar original– the product of 170,000 quarts of milk from 16,000 cows– was cut and eaten in 1965; but a replica was created and put on display near Neillsville, Wisconsin… next to Chatty Belle, the World’s Largest Talking Cow.

In 2018, Wisconsin added a second record– World’s Largest Cheeseboard.   Weighing in at 4,437 lbs, and measuring 35 feet long and 7 feet wide, it featured 145 different varieties, types and styles of Wisconsin cheese.

The replica on display (source)

Written by (Roughly) Daily

January 20, 2023 at 1:00 am

“You can’t go wrong with pizza, unless it’s terrible pizza”*…

(Roughly) Daily has considered the pizza box before (see, e.g., here and here); but Saahil Desai does a deep dive… and the results aren’t pretty…

Pizza delivery, it turns out, is based on a fundamental lie. The most iconic delivery food of all time is bad at surviving delivery, and the pizza box is to blame. “I don’t like putting any pizza in a box,” Andrew Bellucci, a legendary New York City pizza maker of Andrew Bellucci’s Pizzeria, told me. “That’s just it, really. The pizza degrades as soon as it goes inside,” turning into a swampy mess.

A pizza box has one job—keeping a pie warm and crispy during its trip from the shop to your house—and it can’t really do it. The fancier the pizza, the worse the results: A slab of overbaked Domino’s will probably be at least semi-close to whatever its version of perfect is by the time it reaches your door, but a pizza with fresh mozzarella cooked at upwards of 900 degrees? Forget it. Sliding a $40 pie into a pizza box is the packaging equivalent of parking a Lamborghini in a wooden shed before a hurricane.

The basic issue is this: A fresh pizza spews steam as it cools down. A box traps that moisture, suspending the pie in its own personal sauna. After just five minutes, Wiener said, the pie’s edges become flaccid and chewy. Sauce seeps into the crust, making it soggy. All the while, your pizza is quickly losing heat. After 15 minutes, the cheese has congealed into dollops of rubber. And after 45 minutes, your pizza deteriorates into something else entirely…

The painful present and the possible future of a delivery icon that hasn’t changed for 60 years: “You Don’t Know How Bad the Pizza Box Is,” from @Saahil_Desai in @TheAtlantic.

One answer is to consume one’s pizza at the point of purchase. Liam Quigley (@_elkue), a reporter in NYC, has made that a habit– and he’s kept notes. Starting in 2014, he logged every slice that he ate– type (e.g., “plain,” “pepperoni”) and price– 464 in all.

* Andy Kindler

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As we reach for the red pepper flakes, we might note that today was an important day in the history of food packaging: George Palmer was born on this date in 1818. The proprietor of Huntley and Palmers biscuit manufacturers (in Reading, England), he introduced the first biscuit tin in 1831.

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Written by (Roughly) Daily

January 18, 2023 at 1:00 am

“A chicken in every pot”*…

How and when were chickens domesticated, and turned into a staple source of protein? As Ann Gibbons reports, new studies propose a surprisingly late date, and a link to rice cultivation…

From chicken biryani to khao mun gai, chicken and rice is a winning combo worldwide. But the two are more inextricably linked than even chefs realized. A pair of new archaeological studies suggest that without rice, chickens may have never existed.

The work reveals that chickens may have been domesticated thousands of years later than scientists thought, and only after humans began cultivating rice within range of the wild red jungle fowl, in Thailand or nearby in peninsular Southeast Asia, says Dale Serjeantson, an archaeologist at the University of Southampton who was not involved with the research. The studies, she says, have “dismantled many of the hoary myths about chicken origins.”…

A savory story: “How the wild jungle fowl became the chicken,” from @evolutionscribe in @ScienceMagazine.

* 1928 Republican Party campaign slogan (to which the Democrats responded: “Don’t have a pot to put it in”)

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As we ponder poultry, we might spare a thought for Lillian Evelyn Moller Gilbreth; she died on this date in 1972.  One of the first working female engineers holding a Ph.D., she was arguably the first true industrial/organizational psychologist.  With her husband Frank Gilbreth, she was one of the first “efficiency experts” helping establish the fields of motion study and human factors.  She is perhaps best remembered as the subject of Cheaper by the Dozen and Belles on Their Toes (charming books written by their children Ernestine and Frank Jr.) recounting the couple’s family life with their twelve children, and their application of time and motion study to the organization and daily routines of such a large family.

As we’ve seen before, she was instrumental in the development of the modern kitchen, creating the “work triangle” and linear-kitchen layouts that are often used today– enabling the preparation of lots of chicken.

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Written by (Roughly) Daily

January 2, 2023 at 1:00 am

“The Big Rock Candy Mountain”*…

Rock candy (or sugar candy or rock sugar or crystal sugar) is a type of sweet composed of relatively large sugar crystals, formed by allowing a supersaturated solution of sugar and water to crystallize onto a surface suitable for crystal nucleation (e.g.,a string, a stick, or plain granulated sugar). As Anna and Kelly Pendergrast explain, they have a pattern embedded through the entire length, using techniques perfected by master candy craftspeople over generations…

A 1957 film shows the making of rock candy (often better known by its place of origin, for instance, Blackpool rock or Brighton rock..

A more recent demonstration shows the technique has remained practically unchanged for 75 years…

Crafting a confection: How Rock Candy is Made, from @APndrgrst and @k_pendergrast in The Prepared (@the_prepared).

Harry McClintock

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As we let it melt in our mouths, we might note that this is National Caramel Custard Day. A caramel custard is an egg custard, lightly topped with caramel, on a caramel base; a variation, Creme Brulee, is a distant cousin of rock candy, in that the caramel is not at the bottom, but only the top of the custard, and is “carmelized” (hardened) with a red-hot salamander (a cast-iron disk with a long wooden handle) or with a butane torch.

Caramel Custard

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Written by (Roughly) Daily

October 3, 2022 at 1:00 am

“Surrender to it. It’s nacho time.”*…

As Mark Dent explains, anytime you order nachos at a sporting event, there’s a good chance they came from a molten-cheese empire in San Antonio, Texas…

Ballpark nachos are a concession stand staple… For all of Major League Baseball, that statistic would translate to ~13m orders.

And for every order, there’s one key figure to thank: San Antonio businessman Frank Liberto.

Decades ago, he added a twist to a popular Mexican appetizer and originated the concept of the ballpark nacho. If you’ve purchased nachos at a sporting event or a movie theater, odds are you’ve bought chips, cheese sauce, or jalapeños from the Liberto family’s longtime business…

The fascinating story of “The family that built a ballpark nachos monopoly,” from @mdent05 in @TheHustle.

For a somewhat more (or at least differently) aspirational appreciation of nachos, see “Toward a Theory of Perfect Nachos,” from @rosecrans in @SAVEURMAG.

* Kristen Bell

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As we crave the crunch, we might recall that it was on this date in 1971 that Walt Disney World, outside of Orlando, opened. The property covers nearly 25,000 acres (39 sq mi; 101 km2), of which half has been used. The resort has grown to contain four theme parks (Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and Disney’s Animal Kingdom), two water parks, 31 themed resort hotels, nine non-Disney hotels, several golf courses, a camping resort, and other entertainment venues, including the outdoor shopping center Disney Springs.

Nachos are served.

The Hub of Magic Kingdom

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Written by (Roughly) Daily

October 1, 2022 at 1:00 am

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