Megnut

The website for Gourmet's Diary of a FoodieTV show is more fleshed out now, which leads me to believe that it will be airing soon, but when? Where? For some idiotic reason, the site doesn't say when the show will be on! It tells you all about the upcoming four episodes, and offers synopses and recipes, but no channel or airing info.

My Thai cooking class experience in Bangkok. From my trip to Thailand last November, my husband and I took a great class.

Thai cooking slide show from the New York Times.

Chefs, VIPs, media, et al, are often comped or have discounted checks; the rule is to tip on the dollar value of the meal – not the lower amount of the check. In case you're comped at a restaurant, now you know how to handle the tip.

Two children from Washington State ill from E. coli in raw milk. It is legal to sell unpasteurized milk in Washington. Last December, 18 people got sick from a batch from a dairy near Vancouver, WA.

Keeping up with comments

Lately I've been turning on comments for more posts. As I've done so, I've found it hard to keep track of active conversations. To resolve that, on the right-hand side of the page (beneath the "What is Megnut?" heading), you can now find a short list of entries with comment activity. I hope this will help you stay involved with the discussions on the site.

Somehow this seems related to all of today's discussion about factory farming practices. A four-legged chicken lived for 18 months on a farm before being discovered. She was among 36,000 chickens on a farm in Pennsylvania. Seems like they might have spotted her sooner if they'd had less birds.

Foie Inanity Reaches New York

This morning Bourdain called my cell and said, "Ruhlman, I’ve got upsetting news."

He wasn’t kidding.

Apparently a New Jersey politician, freshman assemblyman Michael Panter, next week will introduce a bill to ban the SALE of foie gras in and out of state.

Not only would this put out of business or force the relocation of Ariane Daguin’s D’Artagnan--which would be a blow to the entire tri-state area and beyond and the countless restaurants that rely on D’Artagnan for foie-based products--but it would be a dangerous encroachment on the rights of New Yorkers and New York City chefs to eat what they want and cook what they want.

The whole issue of what happens to Daguin and her highly respected company, around whom the fine dining scene has grown during the past two decades she's been in business, is an important one that should be looked at separately.

But if the rumor is true, the foie brouhaha has reached New York in a serious way. And it's bad. The foie issue embodies the hypocrisy and corruption of so much of how our government operates. That our public officials continue to spend their time and our dollars on this is ludicrous. If they cared about their state and their country, they would address the catastrophe of how we're raising agri-hogs. That's truly inhumane. We're trashing our land and water, growing crappy food, contaminated chicken, feed lot beef and creating lakes of sewage polluted with e coli that gets on our spinach and kills our kids.

It’s a good rule to live by: don’t shit where you eat. But that’s exactly what we’re doing on a massive scale. So what do you do if you’re a local congressman? You outlaw a product that has little if any environmental impact, a product that few people buy, but that raises your stature and makes you look like a noble protector of all things cute and fuzzy.

Chicago's been through this. Now Jersey--living up to its cliché. Chicago been a laughingstock among people throughout the country who understand the issues. Its mayor is endorsing a REPEAL of the silly law that bans foie gras sales there. An article in today's trib describes how the pro-ban factions are struggling, in the face of widespread ridicule, not to lose ground. The city is not enforcing the ban anyway, so it's largely symbolic. But symbols are important.

And right now, foie gras banning is becoming a symbol of ignorant politicians grandstanding on issues they scarcely understand while the real horrors of our food supply go neglected, and continued silence is bought and paid for by agribusiness lobbying.

I've made myself clear on this issue before: more no-nothings in government telling me what I'm allowed to eat, corrupt government ignoring the agricultural catastrophes while taking self-promoting potshots at fundamentally humane businesspeople and farmers makes me mad. If this law happens it promises the beginnings of change in the restaurant scene in New York City for the worse--this, the most diverse and dynamic restaurant city on earth. That in itself is bad. But all that such a bill would portend is truly scary.

If this bill happens we need to use its indulgent foolishness to shine more light on the real problems with our food supply. And they don’t have anything to do with foie gras.

Should cows be raised in close proximity to produce? The spinach E. coli outbreak has critics calling for an overhaul of the factory farming system.

99 year old chef plans to keep cooking. He'll be 100 in December and still works six days a week at his restaurant in Japan.

Raw milk and E. coli

Some more reader feedback regarding raw milk and E. coli. From Adrian:

Interesting reading on the whole raw milk debate. The feedback you posted (Raw Milk Risks) is particularly noteworthy. E. coli is a bacterium which inhabits the intestines of mammals. The fact that there's E. coli in (some) raw milk is indicative of unsanitary milking practices rather than an innate problem with raw milk. To put it bluntly, there's shit in the milk.

Gross, but possibly true. But it's important to understand that "E. coli" is not one thing. Nina Planck explains the difference between various strains of E. coli in this New York Times article Leafy Green Sewage. E. coli O157:H7 is the bacterium that makes you sick and it loves an acidic environment. Planck writes "O157 thrives in a new — that is, recent in the history of animal diets — biological niche: the unnaturally acidic stomachs of beef and dairy cattle fed on grain, the typical ration on most industrial farms. It’s the infected manure from these grain-fed cattle that contaminates the groundwater and spreads the bacteria to produce, like spinach, growing on neighboring farms."

So this could explain the current E. coli spinach outbreak. It also could explain how the four California children who drank raw milk products have been infected with E. coli. But reader Susan Q had brucellosis, possibly from raw butter or raw cheese. Even if sanitary milking practices are followed, there are still risks.

Adrian also says:

Furthermore, it's really only the soft raw-milk cheeses that you need to watch out for, hence the FDA's requirement that raw-milk cheese must be aged for a minimum of 60 days. Incidentally, there's some research in Europe which suggests that the majority of cheese-related food poisoning incidents are linked to unsanitary practices in large-scale, pastuerised milk cheese production. This is an argument that has been used in the UK in recent years by artisanal cheese producers under pressure from the government to stop using raw milk.

As cheese ages, it loses moisture. Hard, aged cheese have a lower pH and are not as favorable for bacteria growth. That's why aged raw milk cheeses are permitted in the United States. It seems like raw milk -- whatever its form -- has risks. That's why it's important you know where it's coming from and the conditions under which it's produced if you choose to ingest it. The same could be said for spinach, and meat, and eggs, and nearly everything else you eat.

Sous Vide Cuisine, by Joan Roca and Salvador Brugués is available for purchase. This is the book Jeffrey Steingarten picked up in Spain and mentions in his sous vide article. Alas, it's $169.95. That's a lot of money, but it comes with figures, and flowcharts, and boxes and has a foreword by WD-50 chef Wylie Dufresne.

Bathtub salmon sous vide

Photo by Liz LawleyIn his column for Octber's Vogue (not online), Jeffrey Steingarten buys an immersion circulator on eBay and goes for some at-home sous vide cooking. But here's the most important thing I learned from the article: you can sous vide in your bathtub!

The temperatures for fish are radical. [Sous vide cookbook author Joan] Roca has you cook salmon until its internal temperature is 100.4° F. (Incidentally, if 100.4° F sounds foolishly precise, that's because Roca's 38° C was directly translated for the English edition of the book.) The texture of fish cooked this way is astounding -- like a translucent gel with not a hint of fibrousness -- the color is the bright pink of fresh salmon, and the flavor is neither raw nor cooked but a taste of its own.

Mmmm. Mmm. Mr. Steingarten then points out:

100.4° F is two degrees above body temperature. You can cook wild salmon in your pocket the next time you have a fever. Or in your bathtub -- lightly salt several six-to-seven-ounce pieces of salmon; wrap them tightly in plastic; using a good electronic thermometer with a fine probe, get the bathtub to around 115° F, leaving a little dribble of hot water to maintain the temperature, and submerge the salmon. Don't wrap one piece, but use it for testing by inserting the thermometer to its very center. When it reaches 104° F, the salmon is ready. Sear it briefly in a very hot pan in smoking olive oil to add a familiar flavor.

So there you have it: bathtub wild salmon, sous vide. Who needs a stove when you can cook your fish in your dishwasher or tub?

beaker glass pitcherThis neat beaker glass pitcher looks handy. I like the idea of pitchers on the table instead of bottles or cartons. A friend of mine always serves wine in a pitcher at her house, and it's just one of those small things that makes a pleasant difference in the meal. [via Outblush]

Is the cross-breeding of heirloom pigs a sign that industrial principles are creeping into heritage agriculture?

A pancake recipe without words. Reminds me a little of IKEA instructions that show you how to assemble your dresser without a word of any language.

Two best words in the English language: Oyster Frenzy. Get your oyster on in NYC this weekend in two different spots.

Not sure how I missed this nice review of Thomas Keller's Ad Hoc from a few weeks ago. Oh how I wish he had opened such a place in New York City instead! It looks wonderful.

Raw milk risks

Recently I linked to some information about raw milk. Reader Susan Q emailed me with her raw milk experience:

I noticed your comment about raw milk and at one time, I was in favor of it but no longer. We even did a not unfavorable article about it when I was at Organic Style. But I was diagnosed in spring with brucellosis, a dastardly bacteria you get from eating raw milk products. I either got it from some raw butter here in Kentucky or it's possible I got it from some raw cheese from years of being a traveling foodie. Regardless, I could not recommend chancing getting it by consuming raw milk. Although I went through 3 months of serious horse pill antibiotics -- much of that time in bed as even going to get the mail was a major effort -- it is very difficult to get rid of according to my large animal vet friends. And I'm having some symptoms again as we speak.

I am concerned that a lot of organic moms are feeding this to their children. Raw milk is also advocated by the 'Master's Diet" which is popular here. You can distribute raw milk in this state if you give it away and many people are taking it to their church for people. Not only is brucella a risk -- the majority of states are considered brucella free by the USDA so cattle are no longer vaccinated for it, nor is milk tested for it -- but there's E. coli and other bacteria to consider. So, unless I was married to a vet who was testing my own cattle and I was cleaning the milking equipment myself I would not chance it. This is from someone who wasn't afraid of anything as long as it was natural. No more! Or, I might get it and pasteurize it myself...something to consider.

Some epidemiologists I know think it is highly under diagnosed and reported. The symptoms are similar to chronic fatigue or fibromyalgia. Also, if it's chronic one might not test positive for it. But bottom line, it sucks!

Sounds like you really need to know where you're getting your raw milk from if you're going to go the raw route.

Related: The Grinder reports four California children who drank raw milk products have been infected with E. coli.

You can cook salmon in a dishwasher, but I don't know why you'd want to. It would take a long time, you wouldn't be able to check on its progress, and it would use a lot more power than the stovetop. [via MAKE: Blog]

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