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Posts Tagged ‘Food

“The golden rule when reading the menu is, if you cannot pronounce it, you cannot afford it”*…

 

menu-read

 

Consider the restaurant menu.

By design, menus aren’t meant to spark conversation. But as restaurants take drastic steps to weather COVID-19, they are revamping their menus in a big way — and it’s hard not to think twice about the piece of paper in your hands.

IHOP is ditching its 12-page behemoth for a much cleaner 2-page menu. McDonald’s has slashed several items off its all-day breakfast menu. Applebee’s, Taco Bell, and Subway are all slimming down their offerings.

These high-profile shifts reflect what’s happening on a much more local level across the industry: 28% of restaurateurs are shrinking their menus because of the pandemic. That number is so large that New York Magazine recently asked, “Is It Time To Get Rid of Menus For Good?”

The underlying reasons for this are financial: Restaurants can’t bother with low-margin dishes. They have fewer employees on the payroll, so they want to be more efficient with a smaller set of meals. They’re prioritizing fewer — and cheaper — ingredients.

But rewriting a menu is no simple task. Every inch of text, from the typeface down to the order of items, must be workshopped for maximum profitability.

And when restaurants need help, they turn to a niche, little-known cadre of professional “menu engineers.”…

In a changing dining economy, restaurants are turning to a small group of experts who specialize in the science of menu design: “Meet the ‘menu engineers’ helping restaurants retool during the pandemic.”

* Frank Muir

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As we ask about the specials, we might recall that it was on this date in 1916 that Clarence Saunders founded the Piggly Wiggly grocery chain.  His Memphis “flagship” introduced the the modern self-service retail sales model– for which he received U.S. Patent #1,242,872– thus initiating the development of the modern supermarket (and indeed of self-service retail in general).  His Memphis store grew into the Piggly Wiggly chain, which is still in operation.

The first Piggly Wiggly store

source

Clarence Saunders

source

 

 

“I’m not Jesus Christ but I can turn water into Kool-Aid”*…

 

Kool-Aid-Vintage-Packets

 

More than 563 million gallons of Kool-Aid are consumed each year; more than 225 million gallons in the three summer months.  That’s to say, 17 gallons of Kool-Aid are consumed every second during the summer season…

The story of Kool-Aid begins with another hyphenated product: Jell-O. Edwin Perkins—whose father owned a general store in Hastings, Nebraska—was fascinated with Jell-O. He persuaded his father to sell it at their general store and later began selling products directly to customers. Eventually he began manufacturing his own homemade products including perfumes, food flavoring and a bottled beverage he called Fruit Smack. Forming his own sales company and selling his products door-to-door, Perkins began bringing some of his concoctions to the general public. A spirit of DIY and interest in developing products led him to create the precursor to his most famous invention.

Before it was developed by Perkins in 1927, Kool-Aid was preceded by a fruit-based liquid called Fruit Smack.

Fruit-Smack

It was a liquid concentrate available in a few different flavors. Corked and sold in four ounce glass bottles, the product tended to leak or break during transit. Despite Perkins’ intentions of enabling families to use the concentrate to make pitchers of the beverage for a very low cost, he was confronted with a bit of a supply chain problem. Fruit Smack was a hit with the Perkins’ customers, but its fragility created the need for something more economical, easier to transport and preferably in powdered form…

To create his superior drink, Perkins focused on dehydrating Fruit Smack using the proper mix of dextrose, citric acid, tartaric acid, flavoring and food coloring. The rest is sugary beverage history. When Perkins’ original Kool-Aid first hit the market, it had a paltry six flavors—orange, cherry, raspberry, grape, strawberry and the ever popular lemon-lime combo—and it only cost ten cents per packet!

It was originally a wholesale product only available to grocery stores or specialty candy shops. A few years later in 1929, Kool-Aid distribution expanded all over the country, eventually making its way overseas a few years later. Perkins’ operation relocated to Chicago and the Kool-Aid name was officially trademarked in 1934

During The Great Depression, when hard times afflicted the American public, Perkins decided to halve the price to provide a luxury item to people who otherwise may not have been able to afford it. It ended up becoming one of Perkins’ most successful products and he later sold the brand to General Foods in 1953. A packet of Kool-Aid at most stores near me only costs about $.20 today, which is still incredibly affordable—unless you’re trying to buy certain discontinued flavors online, which can get a bit pricey…

From David Buck, via the ever-illuminating Tedium, Kool-Aid– how a powdered mix (and its bulbous mascot) became dominant players in the drinks market: “Thirsty? Oh Yeah!

See also: “Kool Kool-Aid Facts!

* (George) Watsky

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As we stir and sip, we might recall that it was on this date in 1964 that Pepsi acquired the Tip Corp. for the rights to their Mountain Dew soft drink, a caffeine-packed citrus soda that currently accounts for about 6.6% of the U.S. soft drink market.  Tip’s eponymous cola brand, a regional player in the Southeast, was allowed to languish.

angel source

 

Written by LW

September 2, 2020 at 1:01 am

“Rice is great if you’re really hungry and want to eat two thousand of something”*…

 

rice cooker

 

Rice is the most widely consumed staple food for a large part of the world’s population, especially in Asia and Africa.  It is the third most widely-cultivated staple crop worldwide, after maize/corn and wheat… and it is notoriously difficult to prepare correctly on a stove…

Cooking rice on a stovetop can be fraught. Add too much water and you end up with porridge. Without a keen sense of timing, you end up with undercooked [pellet-like] grains…

The automatic rice cooker is a mid-century Japanese invention that made a Sisyphean culinary labor as easy as measuring out grain and water and pressing a button. These devices can seem all-knowing. So long as you add water and rice in the right proportions, it’s nearly impossible to mess up, as the machines stop cooking at exactly the right point for toothsome rice. But creating an automatic rice cooker was not so easy. In fact, it took decades of inventive leaps, undertaken by some of the biggest names in Japanese technology…

How the biggest names in Japanese technology fought to make rice easy: “The Battle to Invent the Automatic Rice Cooker.”

* Mitch Hedberg

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As we ponder the pursuit of perfection, we might recall that today is National Potato Day– a celebration of the fourth most-widely cultivated staple crop.

220px-Patates source

 

Written by LW

August 19, 2020 at 1:01 am

“The Food of the Gods”*…

 

popcorn

 

From Beyond Slow Motion, “Popcorn Popping (100,000 Frames Per Second)

 

* both the title of an H.G. Wells novel and a description of the subject of today’s post.

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As we reach for the salt, we might spare a thought for Paul Sabatier; he died on this date in 1941.  An organic chemist, he was instrumental in creating the process of hydrogenation, which allowed the development of margarine, hydrogenated oil, and synthetic methanol– two of the three of which frequently figure into the preparation and consumption of popcorn.  Sabatier’s work earned him the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1912.

200px-Paul_Sabatier source

 

“You are what what you eat eats”*…

 

Fruit3-1396x1536

 

Eating is paradoxically completely normal and pretty weird at the same time, once you start to think about it. We eat other beings constantly, in order to remain ourselves. In modern Western logic, the potential oddity of this situation has been dealt with for the most part by assuming that the things we eat stop being themselves after ingestion, that they become fuel or building blocks for us.

However, deep in the detailed pages of journals such as Cell Host & Microbe and Nature Reviews Endocrinology, a profound transformation is occurring in scientific ideas about food and eating that promises to undo assumptions about the relationships between eaters and what is eaten. This transformation, which we might characterize as a shift from a “machinic” to a rather hallucinogenic model of food and its incorporation, endows foodstuffs with much more agency and potency than they ever had in the standard “fuel + building blocks” model, where they were just burned and redeployed.

Rather than mere nosh, provender or raw material, food and its components are now being investigated for communicative and informational properties and for roles in gene regulation, environment sensing, maintaining physiological boundaries and adjusting cellular metabolic programs. Food speaks, cues and signals. Bodies sense and respond in complicated processes of inner conversation only dimly intuited by conscious thought.

Eating as interlocution is a conceptual development that carries with it potentially disorienting new representations of human interiority and autonomy. It is at the same time an immensely practical development, with implications for nutrition and metabolism as sites of potential technological interventions in health and longevity…

Food is being reunderstood as a currency of communication– social (a la Instagram), but more impactfully, biological: “Eating As Dialogue, Food As Technology.”

With this as background, see also: “The Future of Our Food Supply.”

Tangentially related– but entirely fascinating: “Putting Order In Its Place.”

* Michael Pollan, In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto

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As we take a taste, we might spare a thought for William A. Mitchell; he died on this date in 2004.  A chemist who spent most of his career at General Foods, he was the inventor of Pop Rocks, Tang, quick-set Jell-O, Cool Whip, and powdered egg whites; over his career, he received over 70 patents.

MITCHELL source

 

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