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Posts Tagged ‘restaurants

“Every pizza is a personal pizza if you try hard and believe in yourself”*…

The fateful experiment happened in 1962. Sam Panopoulos, a restaurant owner, was not afraid of taking chances. He had left Greece at the age of 20 to start a new life in Canada and went on to run a successful restaurant in downtown Chatham, Ontario. He was also known for his mischievous sense of humour. His fateful culinary creation combined both elements of his personality. While he was making a pizza, he cracked open a can of sliced pineapple – and did the unthinkable.

Sixty years on, the Hawaiian pizza, a standard mozzarella-and-tomato base topped with pineapple and ham or bacon, has become a contender for the most controversial dish ever made. Unlike other joyfully divisive foods (Marmite, anyone?) it’s not enough simply to love or hate it. In an era defined by a propensity for polarisation, the debate over the merits (or failings) of pineapple on pizza has become a global pastime. Profiles on dating apps tease potential matches with the prospect of a food fight. “Do you like pineapple on pizza?” is simultaneously an icebreaker and a dealbreaker. Public figures have taken sides: Paris Hilton loves it; Gordon Ramsay is very angry about it.

The pineapple-pizza debate has become so pervasive that in 2019 the American government launched “The War on Pineapple”, a public-information campaign that illustrated how people can be manipulated through online posts about divisive issues [see here]. Why does the Hawaiian pizza provoke such strong opinions? Panopoulos added pineapple, he said, only “for the fun of it”. When the controversy over his creation went viral in 2017 he emerged from retirement to wring his hands. “What’s going on with everybody?” he asked…

A thorough examination of how pineapple broke the internet– Will Coldwell (@will_coldwell) explains why Hawaiian pizza is the polarizing issue of our times.

* Bill Murray

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As we keep it simple, we might recall that it was on the date in 1985 that the McDonald’s #1 Store Museum opened in Des Plaines, Illinois. A replica of the former McDonald’s restaurant there, opened by Ray Kroc in April 1955, the company usually refers to it as The Original McDonald’s, although it is not the first McDonald’s restaurant but the ninth: the first was opened by Richard and Maurice McDonald in San Bernardino, California in 1940, and the oldest McDonald’s still in operation is the third one built, in Downey, California, which opened in 1953.

Still, the Des Plaines restaurant marked the beginning of future CEO Kroc’s involvement with the firm. It was the first opened under the aegis of his franchising company McDonald’s Systems, Inc., which became McDonald’s Corporation after Kroc purchased the McDonald brothers’ stake in the firm.

But lest the corporation seem sentimental, the museum was completely demolished as of January 2019.  A new, modern McDonald’s was built across the street– at which there are a half-dozen glass-enclosed exhibits arrayed around the tables. These include red and white tiles from the original restaurant, and string ties worn by employees from the 1950s to the early 1970s.

The McDonald’s #1 Store Museum, while it stood

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“God loveth the clean”*…

The history of ordinary things can be fascinating while offering insight into our immediate future. We’ve previously noted how artificial ice and assorted refrigeration/cooling technologies helped change demographics in the American South. Recent news from the Census Bureau confirms this trend as northern states like Michigan and New York lost population while the south, Texas and Florida in particular, gained. But the history of the ordinary can be hidden by ubiquity, tedium, and general disinterest. Unnoticed until they cry out for attention. Today’s Tedium is looking at the history of New York City restaurant inspections and the variety of ways restaurants cope. (And yes, the pandemic has certainly had an impact.)

There is no shortage of great New Yorkers, the people that helped shape the city and its culture. How one measures impact can vary. The wealthy and influential find their names on street signs, convention centers, and airports. A year into the COVID-19 pandemic, however, there is a renewed appreciation for those that helped lay the foundation for the city’s hospitals and medical care. In this regard, there are few New Yorkers greater than Dr. Sigismund Goldwater. 

A graduate of Columbia University and NYU medical school, Dr. Goldwater was a recognized authority in hospital construction. Among the numerous posts he held over a distinguished career included Superintendent at Mount Sinai Hospital, president of the American Conference on Hospital Service, and vice president of the New York Academy of Medicine. In recognition of his career and experience, he was appointed City Commissioner of Hospitals from 1934 to 1940. During his administration, Dr. Goldwater oversaw the construction of 25 new hospital buildings. His Times obituary credits him with adding more than 5,000 hospital beds to city capacity.

While his work in hospital administration and construction helped lay the foundation for New York City as a world-class center for health care, Dr. Goldwater has a legacy a bit more meaningful to modern restaurateurs. In 1914, Mayor John Purroy Mitchel was newly elected and in need of a health commissioner. His first choice, Dr. Goldwater, didn’t really want the job but finally acquiesced on the strong insistence of his predecessor. 

About six months after taking over the role, now Health Commissioner Goldwater announced a couple of general initiatives in public transportation and dining to ensure general cleanliness, pointing out to the Times that, “…the Sanitary Code at present did not call for regular inspection as in the case of bakeries and meat markets.” His solution was to require permits and require commercial restaurants to be inspected on an annual basis.

Public health, especially regarding sanitary food handling practices, had grabbed media attention in the early 20th century in part to Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle. Sinclair, an investigative journalist, went undercover to detail the working conditions in meat packing facilities. His account of rat infested factories and spoiled meat products shipped to consumers provoked outrage. Unfortunately for Sinclair, who was trying to shed light on the conditions of workers, readers were incensed to learn what was in their food. By 1905, the federal government had passed legislation to create what would become the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Another unique circumstance that kept food safety in the minds of New Yorkers was the terrible tale of Mary Mallon, better known as Typhoid Mary. A private cook that was also an asymptomatic carrier of typhoid, Mary Mallon became infamous for her condition, the number of people she infected, and her refusal to cooperate with safety guidelines. [See here]

There was another reason for the attention Mary Mallon received, explains Claire Stewart, a chef and hospitality management professor at the New York City College of Technology. “Typhoid was considered a disease of the poor and associated with immigrants and overcrowded tenements,” she said. “Mary Mallon spent a lot of her career cooking for wealthy people, so her bringing typhoid to the upper classes caused a lot of alarm.”

Still, by the time Dr. Goldwater became health commissioner, New York City had yet to regulate restaurants, creating a range of dining experiences and anxiety about the status of any given kitchen.

One concerned citizen wrote to the Times in a letter titled, “We Need Dainty Waiters.”, “In these days of pure food laws and Boards of Health… I would like to ask what assurance, if any, has the public that in our hotels, restaurants, and clubs proper supervision over their employes is exercised so as to insure us a fair degree of cleanliness on the part of those who handle the food we are to eat? This inquiry is prompted by occurrences coming under the personal observation of the writer, showing that employes in so-called high-class hotels, clubs, and restaurants are often guilty of practices which would not be tolerated in our own homes. One large restaurant in this city requires its waiters to pass an inspection by a manicure before they are allowed to handle food for its patrons.”

After Dr. Goldwater noted that other cities had also adopted regular restaurant inspections, and noting the potential for additional revenue via fines and permit fees, the city agreed. Now they just had to get some 15,000 owners and operators to comply. Should be easy, right?…

The wacky and surprising history of NYC restaurant inspections (and by extension, that same system in other cities). That letter grade is a lot more effective than you might think: “The Letter in the Window.” By Andrew Egan, in Ernie Smith’s (@ShortFormErnie) ever-illuminating newsletter Tedium (@readtedium).

* Francis Bacon

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As we wash our hands, we might recall that it was on this date in 1913 that Gideon Sundback was granted a patent on the first modern zipper. While he did well with his invention for several decades, he and his western competitors were overtaken in the mid-20th century by YKK.

Most checked chefs pants still have buttons.

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“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

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Clarence Saunders

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“Cuisine is when things taste like themselves”*…

cuisine

 

“The destiny of nations,” wrote Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin, an 18th-century French gastronome, “depends on how they nourish themselves.” Today a nation’s stature depends on how well it nourishes the rest of the world, too. For proof of this, consider the rise of culinary diplomacy. In 2012 America’s State Department launched a “chef corps” tasked with promoting American cuisine abroad. Thailand’s government sends chefs overseas to peddle pad Thai and massaman curry through its Global Thai programme. South Korea pursues its own brand of “kimchi diplomacy”.

But which country’s cuisine is at the top of the global food chain? A new paper by Joel Waldfogel of the University of Minnesota provides an answer. Using restaurant listings from TripAdvisor, a travel-review website, and sales figures from Euromonitor, a market-research firm, Mr Waldfogel estimates world “trade” in cuisines for 52 countries. Whereas traditional trade is measured based on the value of goods and services that flow across a country’s borders, the author’s estimates of culinary exchange are based on the value of food found on restaurant tables. Domestic consumption of foreign cuisine is treated as an “import”, whereas foreign consumption of domestic cuisine is treated as an “export”. The balance determines which countries have the greatest influence on the world’s palate.

The results make grim reading for America’s McDonald’s-munching, tariff-touting president. The United States is the world’s biggest net importer of cuisine, gobbling down $55bn more in foreign dishes than the rest of the world eats in American fare (when fast food is excluded, this figure balloons to $134bn). China comes next, with a $52bn dietary deficit; Brazil and Britain have shortfalls worth around $34bn and $30bn respectively. Italy, meanwhile, ranks as the world’s biggest exporter of edibles. The world’s appetite for pasta and pizza, plus Italians’ relative indifference to other cuisines, give the country a $168bn supper surplus. Japan, Turkey and Mexico also boast robust surpluses [see chart above].

Mr Waldfogel does not account for culinary hybrids such as the cronut—a cross between a croissant and a doughnut—or Tex-Mex. Nor does he consider authenticity; few Neapolitans would consider Domino’s Pizza a real taste of home. Despite this, some cuisines clearly have a bigger worldwide appeal than others. Foodies scoffing spring rolls in San Francisco or cheeseburgers in Chongqing should give thanks to globalisation. A policy of culinary mercantilism could make dining out very dull indeed…

Which countries dominate the world’s dinner tables?

* Curnonsky (Maurice Edmond Sailland; c.f. almanac entry here)

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As we contemplate culinary culture, we might send carefully-peeled birthday greetings to John Richard (“Jack” or “J.R.”) Simplot; he was born on this date in 1909.  An Idaho-based agribusiness entrepreneur, Simplot, J.R.’s eponymous company, became the largest shipper of fresh potatoes by the outbreak of World War II.  In 1967, Simplot and McDonald’s impressario Ray Kroc agreed by handshake that the Simplot Company would provide frozen french fries to the restaurant chain; by 2005, Simplot was supplying the (by then vastly larger) Golden Arches with half of its french fries and hash browns.  Simplot also provided seed capital for Micron Technologies, a successful computer memory chip company.

J._R._Simplot source

 

 

Written by LW

January 4, 2020 at 1:01 am

“It requires a certain kind of mind to see beauty in a hamburger bun”*…

 

fast food

 

There may be no American institution more polarizing than fast food. Whether it’s wages, health, the environment or those Colonel Sanders ads, the problems associated with the all-American meal inspire lots of detractors. But for many millions, places like McDonald’s, Taco Bell and Steak ’n Shake generate fierce loyalty for their convenience, value, ritual, shock-and-awe menu items and community; the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported in 2018 that more than one-third of Americans eat fast food on any given day. As the summer season of road trips and Frosties enters full swing, here are five myths about fast food…

Adam Chandler, author of Drive-Thru Dreams: A Journey Through the Heart of America’s Fast-Food Kingdom, enumerates “Five Myths About Fast Food.”

* Ray Kroc, creator of the McDonald’s franchise empire

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As we chow down, we might send beefy birthday greetings to Rex David Thomas; he was born on this date in 1932.  After rising through the ranks at Kentucky Fried Chicken, then helping to found the Arthur Treacher’s fried fish chain, Thomas founded Wendy’s– the burger chain named for his daughter (whose real name was Melinda Lou, but who was called Wendy, since as young child she couldn’t pronounce her name).

 

Written by LW

July 2, 2019 at 1:01 am

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