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Posts Tagged ‘Food

“It’s all part of life’s rich pageant”*…

 

tshirt cannon

 

There’s an arms race of sorts now taking place in sports arenas. Hence, the Quad.

The Quad is the world’s biggest t-shirt cannon. The massive, four-barreled gatling gun resides in the bowels of the Milwaukee Bucks’ home arena. At some point during each home game, Bango, the Bucks mascot, rides it onto the court like Patton riding a tank into battle. Then he fires off 186 shirts in about 15 seconds, amid a cloud of cryo and shrieks from all the fans wanting something free.

The weapon of mass distraction is the latest brainchild of Todd Scheel, a former wedding DJ and Milwaukee-area businessman who now reigns as the Oppenheimer of arena armaments…

The NBA has invested much more than any other major sports league in “dead-ball entertainment,” or whatever you want to call the sponsor-friendly efforts to keep ticket buyers occupied during game breaks: “How The Milwaukee Bucks And A Former Wedding DJ Won The T-Shirt Cannon Arms Race.”

* Inspector Clousseau, A Shot in the Dark

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As we make ourselves targets, we might recall that it was on this date in 1897 that carpenter and cough syrup manufacturer Pearle Bixby Wait trademarked a gelatin dessert called Jell-O; his wife May and he added strawberry, raspberry, orange, and lemon flavoring to granulated gelatin and sugar.

Gelatin, a protein produced from collagen extracted from boiled bones, connective tissues, and other animal products, has been a component of food, particularly desserts, since the 15th century.  It was popularized in New York in the Victorian era by spectacular and complex jelly molds.  But it was Wait who launched gelatin into the mainstream… where, with some ups and downs, it has remained– though slightly tarnished as a family product by the 1980s advent of Jell-O shots and Jell-O wrestling.  As of 2016, there were more than 110 products sold under the Jell-O brand name.

Jello source

 

Written by LW

May 28, 2019 at 1:01 am

“The great packing machine ground on remorselessly, without thinking of green fields; and the men and women and children who were part of it never saw any green thing, not even a flower”*…

 

beef

 

Cheap beef and a thriving centralised meatpacking industry were the consequence of emerging technologies such as the railroad and refrigeration coupled with the business acumen of a set of honest and hard-working men like… Philip Danforth Armour. According to critics, however, a capitalist cabal was exploiting technological change and government corruption to bankrupt traditional butchers, sell diseased meat and impoverish the worker.

Ultimately, both views were correct. The national market for fresh beef was the culmination of a technological revolution, but it was also the result of collusion and predatory pricing. The industrial slaughterhouse was a triumph of human ingenuity as well as a site of brutal labour exploitation. Industrial beef production, with all its troubling costs and undeniable benefits, reflected seemingly contradictory realities.

Beef production would also help drive far-reaching changes in US agriculture. Fresh-fruit distribution began with the rise of the meatpackers’ refrigerator cars, which they rented to fruit and vegetable growers. Production of wheat, perhaps the US’s greatest food crop, bore the meatpackers’ mark. In order to manage animal feed costs, Armour & Co and Swift & Co invested heavily in wheat futures and controlled some of the country’s largest grain elevators. In the early 20th century, an Armour & Co promotional map announced that “the greatness of the United States is founded on agriculture”, and depicted the agricultural products of each US state, many of which moved through Armour facilities.

Beef was a paradigmatic industry for the rise of modern industrial agriculture, or agribusiness. As much as a story of science or technology, modern agriculture is a compromise between the unpredictability of nature and the rationality of capital. This was a lurching, violent process that saw meatpackers displace the risks of blizzards, drought, disease and overproduction on to cattle ranchers. Today’s agricultural system works similarly. In poultry, processors like Perdue and Tyson use an elaborate system of contracts and required equipment and feed purchases to maximise their own profits while displacing risk on to contract farmers. This is true with crop production as well. As with 19th-century meatpacking, relatively small actors conduct the actual growing and production, while companies like Monsanto and Cargill control agricultural inputs and market access.

The transformations that remade beef production between the end of the American civil war in 1865 and the passage of the Federal Meat Inspection Act in 1906 stretched from the Great Plains to the kitchen table. Before the civil war, cattle raising was largely regional, and in most cases, the people who managed cattle out west were the same people who owned them. Then, in the 1870s and 80s, improved transport, bloody victories over the Plains Indians, and the American west’s integration into global capital markets sparked a ranching boom. Meanwhile, Chicago meatpackers pioneered centralised food processing. Using an innovative system of refrigerator cars and distribution centres, they began to distribute fresh beef nationwide. Millions of cattle were soon passing through Chicago’s slaughterhouses each year. By 1890, the Big Four meatpacking companies – Armour & Co, Swift & Co, Morris & Co and the GH Hammond Co – directly or indirectly controlled the majority of the nation’s beef and pork…

Exploitation and predatory pricing drove the transformation of the US meat industry – and created the model for modern agribusiness: “The price of plenty: how beef changed America.”

* Upton Sinclair, The Jungle

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As we muse on meat, we might recall that it was on this date in 1637 (or nearabouts, as closely as scholars can say) that Cardinal Richelieu introduced the first table knives (knives with rounded edges)–reputedly to cure dinner guests of the unsavory habit of picking their teeth with the knife-points of the daggers that were, until then, used to cut meat at the table (though some suspect that Richelieu was acting in self-preservation).  Indeed, years later, in 1669, King Louis XIV followed suit, forbidding pointed knives at his table; indeed, he extended the prohibition, banning pointed knives in the street in an attempt to reduce violence.

 source

 

 

Written by LW

May 14, 2019 at 1:01 am

“The other night I ate at a real nice family restaurant. Every table had an argument going.”*…

 

buffet

 

There were, at one point, 305 Ponderosas (and sister buffet Bonanzas) in the US, and today there are 75 locations total — including 19 in Puerto Rico and a handful scattered in Egypt, Qatar, Taiwan, and the UAE. The Ponderosa parent company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2008, the same year as the company that owns Old Country Buffet (and four other buffet chains).

That company, Ovation Brands. filed for bankruptcy twice more by 2016, at which point USA Today noted that it had “the dubious and relatively rare distinction” of entering what finance guys like to “jokingly refer to as Chapter 33 — that is, Chapter 11 bankruptcy for a third time.” The same year, Garden Fresh Restaurants, which owns Souplantation and Sweet Tomatoes, filed for bankruptcy as well, citing $175 million in debt.

In 2016, Eater’s Dana Hatic blamed the fall of the buffet on America’s “newfound focus on fast casual dining [and] farm-to-table menus,” as well as “widespread attention on the health effects of obesity and overconsumption.” This makes some sense, and at the same time, it does not.The buffet is a good idea. The buffet is a symbol of the American dream. The buffet is delicious. The buffet is affordable, and a lot of us love a deal. When did our hearts grow cold toward buffets, and why?…

Meditate on the mystery of the missing comestibles at “When did America’s heart turn cold on buffet chains?

* George Carlin

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As we walk the line, we might spare a thought for Benjamin Eisenstadt; he died on this date in 1996.  After a stint running a cafeteria in the Brooklyn Navy Yard, Eisenstadt became a manufacturer, first (and briefly) of tea bags, then of an invention of his own– the single-serving sugar packet.

In 1957, he began mixing powdered saccharine (previously available only in a liquid form with dextrose, and created Sweet’N Low, a no-calorie sweetener available in (his) single-serve packets, which he colored bright pink to avoid confusion with (white) sugar packets.

Eisenstadt was also the first to packet soy sauce in single-serving packets.

eisenstat source

 

Written by LW

April 8, 2019 at 1:01 am

“Never eat more than you can lift”*…

 

meatloaf

 

350 lb. ground beef
10 lb. fresh chopped green
onions
10 lb. ground celery
3 doz. eggs
5 lb. chopped green peppers
4 (No. 10) cans (12 qt.)
tomato puree
12 to 15 lb. bread crumbs
3 c. salt
6 to 8 oz. pepper
1/2 c. Worcestershire sauce

Gently mix all ingredients in 4 even batches (at least!). Divide
into approximately 70 loaf pans or pans. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 1/2 to
1 3/4 hours with a watchful eye. Makes 1,000 servings

Just one of the hundreds of recipes one can find at Growlies, “the place to find large quantity recipes.  This one is from the “advanced” section: Really BIG Recipes— meals for 100+.

[Image above: the 2012 El Cerrito (CA) “Burning Loaf,” a 206.5 pound meatloaf prepared a part of a charity fundraiser… and as an attempt at entering the Guinness Book of Records.  There is a Guinness record for the largest meatball – 1,110 pounds set in Columbus, Ohio, in 2011, and one for the largest Leberkäse, a German liver cheese )also sometimes called a meatloaf); it was set in 2009 in Germany- a whopping 6,874.01 pounds.]

* Miss Piggy

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As we ruminate on repasts, we might spare a thought for Nathan Handwerker; he died on this date in 1972.  In 1916, with $300 borrowed from friends, he and his wife Ida started a hot dog stand on Coney Island– and launched what evolved into Nathan’s Famous restaurants and the related Nathan’s retail product line.

An emigrant from Eastern Europe, Handwerker found a job slicing bread rolls for Feltman’s German Gardens, a Coney Island restaurant that sold franks (hot dogs) for 10 cents each.  Encouraged by a singing waiter there and his piano player– Eddie Cantor and Jimmy Durante– Handwerker struck out on his own, selling his hot dogs (spiced with Ida’s secret recipe) for a nickel.  At the outset of his new venture, he reputedly hired young men to wear white coats with stethoscopes around their necks to stand near his carts and eat his hot dogs, giving the impression of purity and cleanliness.

Handwerker named his previously unnamed hot dog stand Nathan’s Hot Dogs in 1921 after Sophie Tucker, then a singer at the nearby Carey Walsh’s Cafe, made a hit of the song “Nathan, Nathan, Why You Waitin?”

 source

Your correspondent is heading off on a trek to the remoter reaches of the American Southwest, where connectivity will be iffy at best.  Regular service will resume on or around April Fools Day…  appropriately enough.

 

 

 

Written by LW

March 24, 2019 at 1:01 am

“If this is coffee, please bring me some tea; but if this is tea, please bring me some coffee.”*…

 

Coffee

 

Cream, milk, skim milk, sugar, sweetener; more recently, soy milk, almond milk…  there’s not a lot of variation in the things one adds to coffee.  Phronk has devoted himself to blazing alternative paths…

This is a blog about putting weird things in coffee. I drink coffee every day, but get bored with the same old cream and sugar. I figured I might as well document my experiments for the benefit of all humankind…

From “Maple Bacon Latte” through “Tumeric and Matcha in Coffee” to “The Peanut Butter Solution: PB2 in Coffee.” he guides one through preparation, then assesses the results of dozens of adventurous brews.

Take a sip at “Putting Weird Things in Coffee.”

[TotH to Eureka!]

* Abraham Lincoln

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As we broaden our horizons, we might recall that today is National Margarita Day.  While its origin is uncertain (there are several competing creation stories), it is indisputably the most-ordered cocktail in the U.S., accounting for almost 20% of all mixed drink sales in the U.S.

20150323-cocktails-vicky-wasik-margarita source

 

Written by LW

February 22, 2019 at 1:01 am

“Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”*…

 

food

Food pyramids and the like – the sort that have defined how everything from hospital meals to school lunches to Meals on Wheels funding have worked for decades, all over the world – are bastardised, imperfect things, a product of industry lobbying and backroom deals as much as they are of good nutrition science. Every time we link to an article about obesity or food security, it’s a given that these broken guides and the politics and economics around them come up. But for this one, the Canadian government has tried something different, as all those responsible for the report were kept safe behind a DMZ, away from lobbyist influence. It is, its makers claim, a scientifically pure guide to what it is to eat well, and it is radically simple (and no doubt problematic in ways we haven’t really absorbed yet) – almost Michael Pollan’s “not too much, mostly plants” mantra in manual form.  Of course, initial reaction has been a lot of “that’s great, but poor people can’t afford tofu”. But we think guides like this should be idealistic, and if based in good science, they should be seen as a provocation, not pipe dream: “that’s great, but if this is eating well, how do we build the systems that allow everybody to eat this way, and to enjoy it?”…

From the ever-illuminating newsletter Buckslip, an appreciation of Canada’s new nutrition guidelines: “Canada’s Food Guide.”

Contrast with the U.S. healthy eating guidelines, and its “food pyramid.”  For an account of the lobbying that went into those U.S. recommendations, see here and here.

* Michael Pollan

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As we parse prudence, we might spare a thought for James L. Kraft; he died on this date in 1953 (though some sources give the date as September 16).   A wholesale cheese distributor and producer, he patented pasteurized process cheese in 1916.  A  low-cost cheese product that would not spoil, it wasn’t an immediate hit with the public, but the U.S. army purchased over 6 million tins of it during World War I.  During the depression, it became more broadly popular because of its low cost.

james_lewis_kraft source

 

“Three meals a day are a highly advanced institution”*…

 

breakfast_lunch_dinner_1050x700

The typical American “breakfast, lunch, and dinner” pattern is a product of the Industrial Revolution.

Early U.S. dining habits were shaped by those of English colonists. And, as Anne Murcott, a British sociologist specializing in food, writes, for centuries, up until about 1800, most English people ate two, not three, meals a day. The larger of these was often called dinner, but it wasn’t typically an evening meal. During the reign of Henry VII, from 1485 to 1509, the day’s big meal normally took place around 11 am.

In both England and the U.S., dinner became the large afternoon meal for farm families—which is to say most families—in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. It might be preceded by breakfast—the meal to break the nighttime fast—and followed by some kind of light meal or meals, variously called supper or tea.

Lunch is the newest addition to the triad of U.S. meals. Back in 1968, the English-language scholar Anne Wallace-Hadrill traced the etymology of the word itself, along with its close relation, “luncheon.” One possible origin of the words is from “lump.” A 1617 source mentions “eating a great lumpe of bread and butter with a lunchen of cheese.” In 1755, one dictionary writer defined lunch or luncheon as “as much food as one’s hand can hold,” but not as a specific meal. Somewhere in the first half of the nineteenth century, the word “lump” seems to have merged with “nuncheon,” a light midday meal (with the “nun” coming from “noon.”)

As workers and kids left the farms for factories and schools over the course of the nineteenth and early twentieth century, eating patterns shifted. Workers and children might shove a lunch of bread into their pocket to eat during the day or return home for a quick luncheon, but dinner now had to wait for the end of the day, creating the set of mealtimes we know so well…

The origin of the familiar breakfast-lunch-dinner triad: “Why Do Americans Eat Three Meals a Day?

* E.C. Hayes, Introduction to the Study of Sociology (1913)

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As we dig in, we might recall that it was on this date in 1999 that the Russian Duma (its legislature) voted 273-1 to pass an animal rights bill that prohibited Russians from eating their “animal companions”– their pets.  Shortly thereafter the newly-elected President of Russia, Vladimir Putin, vetoed the bill.

group-of-pets-together-15229056 source

 

Written by LW

December 1, 2018 at 1:01 am

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