Megnut

capn_crunch.gifFrom the May 2007 Saveur comes this great tidbit: the full name of Cap'n Crunch! His proper name is Captain Horatio Magellan Crunch. The Horatio makes him sound British, which makes sense since his outfit looks like an English Navy get up (or something Naploean would have worn). And the Magellan gives him an air of exploration. The Crunch is straight out of Dickens. He may be Capt. H.M. Crunch aboard ship, but he'll always be Cap'n of breakfast to me.

"Tartiflette has the tang and satisfaction of macaroni and cheese baked until it forms a chewy crust, the pure pleasure derived from a bowl of creamy mashed potatoes and a flavor that could only come from 500 years spent perfecting cheesemaking." A traditional dish of France's Haute-Savoie region, it can be tricky to find a version that's delicious and not just served up for tourists. Mmmm...tartiflette.

Individual bread pudding
I'd completely forgotten that Broadway Panhandler (a cooking store here in New York) had moved closer to my neighborhood, so when I happened to walk by it yesterday, I stopped in. I was quite excited to see there'll be a Bread Pudding Recipe Exchange Week Taste Off! on Wednesday, May 2nd at 2 PM. "You be the judge of our selection of bread puddings, baked by our highly competitive (and dessert obsessed) staff." Recipes will be shared and there'll be a trial of the Zojirushi Rizo Rice Cooker, though I don't know what a rice cooker has to do with bread pudding, unless there's some mistake and it's a rice pudding contest. Regardless, sounds like fun for a New York City-based bread pudding fan. And guess who's a New York City-based bread pudding fan?!

The Washington Post examines the possible change in the chocolate standard with Chocolate Purists Alarmed by Proposal To Fudge Standards. (I couldn't resist that title!) While the proposed change isn't limited to chocolate (it's more general than I'd realized, basically allowing for the substitution of vegetable fats), it certainly will impact chocolate if it's approved. [thanks Kayhan!]

First we heard hogs had been fed some of the contaminated pet food, but we were assured those hogs hadn't entered our food supply. Now comes the government report that tainted hogs entered the human food supply after all. But "the potential risk to human health was said to be very low." Let's hope this time they're right.

Nice summary of the issues around the FDA and E. coli outbreaks over at Accidental Hedonist, including information about what the FDA knew before the outbreaks happened but how little authority they had to take any action.

A new market for New York

Somehow I just stumbled upon this: New Amsterdam Public. "It is time to build upon the Greenmarket’s success by establishing a permanent, indoor public market consisting of artisan purveyors committed to selling food produced sustainably and humanely in our region." They hope to transform the Fulton Fish Market building near South Street Seaport into a year-round market for New York City. It sounds like a fabulous idea to me. I emailed one of the folks involved in the project, Robert LaValva, about where things currently stand. His response:

Right now, we are working on a proposal to the City of New York to let us begin holding seasonal, sustainable food events in one of the empty Fulton Market buildings. The events will allow New Yorkers to envision a permanent, year-round market and help build momentum and support for that to happen.

Sounds like the market dream is still a ways off, but I'm hopeful it will happen. For more information, check out this essay about the philosophy behind the market.

Rhode Island is the birthplace of the diner, and the New York Times takes a look at some its oldest historic diners. I'm a huge diner fan, especially of the authentic railcar diners. I wish there were more here in Manhattan, but two I like to frequent are The Square, in TriBeCa, and the Cheyenne, on Ninth Ave near 34th Street. I just wish there were a great one close to my house. Boston has some good ones, especially in Somerville and Cambridge, that I used to go to all the time when I lived there. Mmmm...diner breakfast would be good right now.

More thoughts on foie gras production

Yesterday I wrote about producers changing their approach to foie gras production and I wondered, "By changing their approach to product, aren't producers acknowledging that force-feeding is inhumane?" Some folks wrote in with some thoughts about my question.

Berry:

I would say, not necessarily. Producers could merely be acknowledging that if they don't change their production methods, shrill activists may get their product banned altogether, so they're attempting to compromise.

Kevin:

Obviously the producers have to speak for themselves.

But in my view efforts to find a way other than gavage to create foie gras is simply an acknowledgment that some people object to force-feeding (whether the arguments are correct or not), are passing laws against it, and the producers want to stay in business.

Lisa:

I don't think the only or strongest conclusion is that force-feeding in foie gras production is inhumane, nor do I think that producers exploring alternatives is inconsistent with their statements that the animals don't suffer during the process. An alternative view is that the producers are aware of the power of public opinion--informed or not, scientifically correct or not--and are considering other approaches that may yield the same product but avoid the public condemnation. Trying to find the happy medium, as it were.

All three of you raise valid points, and it's quite possible that the production changes are motivated by a simple desire to stay in business. Still though, I can't help but feel like this is one of those logic problems you see on tests. If force-feeding is inhumane, you change your method. If it's not, you don't. Of course, I never took logic in college, so I'm sure I could be guilty of some kind of logical fallacy here. Thanks for writing folks, it reminds me I should turn on comments again!

Eating on a budget

It's about the half way mark of the Penny-Wise Eat Local Challenge, where participants limit themselves to eating local on the budget of an average American. The idea is to counter claims that eating local is too expensive. For one person, that means spending $68 on food for a week. Here's a list of participants, there are more than fifty people taking part and writing about their experiences.

Related: The governor of Oregon is living off a food stamp budget for a week. If you think $68 as your weekly grocery budget isn't much, imagine $21 for a week. That's what one person gets in food stamps for a week in Oregon. The governor isn't eating local though. One article I read said he was pretty much forced to buy junk food.

Looks like mangoes have been reunited with sticks. To translate: the mango on a stick vendor is back on her corner at 14th Street and University. I've walked by a million times but never gotten one, which is odd given my love of mangoes. This just might be the year to try one out! These mango flowers, as I call them, were always for sale in the streets in Mexico when I lived there. But that was before I loved mangoes.

saucisson.gifI've always found graphics of animals that are explicitly related to their consumption both disturbing and amusing (e.g. this post from last fall of a cow explaining cuts of beef), so I was totally psyched to find the blog Suicide Food. "Suicide Food is any depiction of animals that act as though they wish to be consumed. Suicide Food actively participates in or celebrates its own demise." Just like this French poster you can see here of a pig slicing himself into delicious saucisson, or sausage. The site has lots of great graphics of cows happily being sliced into steaks and pigs slathering themselves in BBQ sauce. [via The Ethicurean]

FDA Was Aware of Dangers To Food. The recent spinach and peanut butter e. coli outbreaks, and the pet food contamination, have led the House Energy and Commerce subcommittee to hold a hearing on food safety. "Congressional critics and consumer advocates said both episodes show that the agency is incapable of adequately protecting the safety of the food supply." [via The Ethicurean]

Chocolate chip cookiesSeveral folks have emailed, wondering what's happening with my Best chocolate chip cookie search. It's been a month since I asked for recipes, so you could assume I've made quite a bit of progress. Or at least made one of the recipes. But the truth is, I haven't made a single batch of cookies yet! I know I know, at this rate it will take me close to two years to try all the recipes submitted by readers. But I'm on top of it now, and have been organizing the recipes for tasting. I'll post more about it in the next couple days, and will kick off the testing in earnest. Really. I promise! :)

Menu Pages launched blogs awhile back, and ever since I've had my eye on their Menu Pages Boston blog. Enough time has now passed that I can safely say it's a good read for Bostonians interested in local food happenings. I've been reading it to stay plugged in to my hometown's culinary culture, and would find it really useful if I actually lived there.

Changing foie gras production

Producers in the United States and Europe have been trying to find ways to make foie gras that will overcome the objections of those who see their work as an act of cruelty. The New York Times looks at alternatives to force-feeding geese and ducks to make foie gras, including an approach that simply allows the animals as much food as they want prior to their migratory season. Alas, the self-gorging technique doesn't seem to yield the same results as force-feeding the animals.

By changing their approach to product, aren't producers acknowledging that force-feeding is inhumane? And isn't that the crux of the issue, whether the animals suffer during the process? One side says they do, the other says they don't. If producers are changing how they make foie gras, it seems like they're saying the "animals suffer" argument is correct. And that doesn't bode well for the future of foie gras.

The dangers of polyethylene plastic

polyethylene.gif

After learning last week that boiling freezer bags is not recommended, I decided to do a little more research about polyethylene plastic, the main "ingredient" in plastic bags. Low density polyethylene is used not just for freezer bags, but also for vacuum sealing bags (like FoodSaver). So I suspect that whatever type of plastic bags professional chefs are using for their sous vide, they are likely made of polyethylene.

And as it turns out, polyethylene melts. Above 115°C, the polymer changes from a clear solid to a relatively low-viscosity melt. It's hard to figure out the exact melting point for plastic bags because there are many different types of polyethylene (high density, low density, linear low density, etc.) but all seem to melt around the boiling point of water (100°C, 212°F), and some below it.

Even if you think your food will cook well below the melting point, there's still the issue of transference: molecules of the chemicals in the plastic can leach into the food or beverage. These chemicals are added to the plastic during the manufacturing process and some studies have shown they can find their ways into our bodies, especially when heated. So not only is sous vide potentially bad (either the poor man's version or the rich man's), but reheating that lasagna in the Tupperware isn't so great either.

Where does that leave us? Laying off all kinds of sous vide preparations, and migrating home storage containers from plastic to glass, or another inert material. Or just hoping that a little plastic does the body good.

11465811_c798cd9055.jpg

I realized recently that two years ago this month, I was in Paris. So I was looking back through my Flickr photo collection of my April in Paris and longing for the food I ate. Moules Frites (mussels and french fries) is one of my favorite things in the whole world, whether in France or in the US. I think I'd like a neon "Moules Frites" sign in my house, just like the one in the above photo.

ramps.jpg
Any day now, the ramps will be arriving at the Union Square Greenmarket. And when they do, I will be going on a ramp binge.

Update: Looks like ramps arrived on Saturday. Doh! I should have gone over to see, but was going other things. Wednesday I'll check for sure. [via Gothamist]

Waterfall of chocolateThe FDA is considering a change to the definition of 'chocolate.' "Their plan is to change the basic formula of chocolate in order to use vegetable fat substitutes in place of cocoa butter, and to use milk substitutes in the place of nutritionally superior milk." The result? A crappier product that can be labeled 'chocolate.' You can fight the change in the chocolate standard by sharing your comments with the FDA until April 25. [thanks Shannon!]

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