Megnut

Frank Bruni questions whether seasonal eating is all that everyone claims but a commenter says it best: "Unseasonal eating is fine, depending on what season you’re talking about: Sausages in summer is a matter of taste, while tomatoes in January is unsustainable eating." Of course, in place of "unsustainable eating," I would have simply said "gross."

Is soy the next corn? A long, detailed report from the Guardian questions the health claims of soy, looks at the broad use of soy in processed foods and its extensive planting and destruction of our natural resources, and wonders if this miracle bean is as miraculous as we've been told. I drink soy milk every day, now this article's got me wondering if I should. [thanks Augie]

What is Biodynamics? I thought something that was biodynamic was basically organic, but it's not. Biodynamics is much stricter and a more complicated system for growing things.

10 kitchen tips from the pros. Of all of them, I think knife skills (and a sharp knife) is the most important.

Summer slowdown

Things will be pretty slow around here for the next few days. Ruhlman's no longer around to pick up my slack, and I'm heading out of town for a long weekend visit with family. If time permits and inspiration hits, there will be updates. Otherwise, things will get back on track next week.

Two beautiful words come together at last: bacon mayo. You read that right, mayonnaise made with bacon fat! Mmm...[via kiplog]

If you're looking for a new t-shirt (and really, who isn't?), this Hooray Cholesterol! tee from Threadless could be just the thing. All those fats attacking the heart?! Brilliant.

Gadget: Peppergun

Foil CutterI can't live without freshly ground salt and pepper in my kitchen, so I have two of these Nantucket Pepperguns: one in white for salt, one in black for pepper. The simple design lets you grind with one hand, so that you can use your other hand for stirring if you want. Another ingenious aspect of its design is the way you fill it. You twist the tube to reveal a hole, and in doing so, rotate the "ears" towards he back. Then you can lay the peppergun on the counter, supported by the ears at the back, with the hole pointed toward you, and easily fill with sea salt or whole peppercorns. I've used lots of different pepper grinders in my day, but this is far and away my favorite. Easy to use. Easy to refill. Easy to clean. I love it.

Previous gadget: Foil Cutter

I've created an archive page of all of Michael Ruhlman's post for this site. So you can access everything he wrote during his visit on one page.

Make your own wine with custom wine and custom crush services. You can blend varietals, determine the style, pick the kind of press, and many other things related to winemaking. In the end, you have your own custom wine. It sounds cool, if you can avoid screwing up and wasting $5000 to bottle your own bitter grape juice.

Of course, Americans eat too much salt and should reduce their intake. The article talks about the large amount of salt in processed food as the enemy. Not the small amount of salt used to sprinkle on eggs or in pasta water. Phew! I hardly ever eat processed food, so I think I'm OK for now.

The Perfect Pantry writes about the history of sea salt and recommends Portuguese Flor de Sal over Breton Fleur de Sel.

The simple joy of growing tomatoes. I sure wish I had some outdoor space so I could grow my own tomatoes. I tried one indoors this summer but it isn't doing well and I've finally given up on it.

Good burgers

New York Times restaurant reviewer (and getting really good) food blogger Frank Bruni has been sampling burgers all over New York City. In his most recent, Two Burgers, One Dip and a Happy Carnivore, he visits a chain I've never heard of called Houston's. Apparently their burger is pretty good.

All the burger talk (and my frequent summer visits to the Shake Shack) makes me miss one of my favorite burgers in Manhattan. It never appears on anyone's list, but for me it's perfect. It's the "cheeseburger delux" at La Bonbonniere, a small diner in the West Village. I think what makes it so perfect is they put cheese on both side of the bun, so the juicy, flavorful meat is sandwiched between bread and cheese. I used to live nearby and went there often. Now it's not so convenient, so I don't just drop in for lunch. I really miss that burger.

Thoughtful review of Nina Planck's Real Food. It sounds like a good read, but I'm suffering from food book overload at the moment.

US Congress takes head out of ass, puts 'French' back on menu. The days of "Freedom Toast" are behind us. Let us never speak of them again.

Thanks, Meg!

Time to say farewell, and to thank you, Meg, for your great hospitality and generosity in allowing me to post on your blog. It's been a great experience, and has allowed me to explore some ideas I'd never have pursued in traditional media while using a voice that is only appropriate to a blog. I'm very much a believer in the how-do-I-know-what-I-think-till-I-read-what-I-write effect, so the freedom of the blog has helped me to figure some things out. Such as why the foie issue is so troubling to me.

In the end it's not about the foie. Life would be diminished in a very small way without foie gras but not drastically so (they way it would be, say, if pork were outlawed). It's that it represents another way uninformed people are trying to legislate what I am or am not allowed to eat. Government is happy to subsidize corn and encourage horrific treatment of billions of cows, pigs and chickens, to encourage through big business processed food that is bad for us, and then tell me that I'm not allowed to eat a natural product from an animal that has (in my opinion, as of now, though this may change) been humanely raised. When people tell me what I can or cannot eat based on a moral contention of their own, that really pisses me off. It's happening throughout our society. The foie issue embodies this troubling trend in America.

I believe that the issues about food that are discussed on the food blogs are important because how we eat determines how we live, literally and metaphorically. How we eat, and the decisions we make, shape the world. From an evolutionary standpoint, humans are a dangerous species--a wickedly smart predator that has so far managed to avoid the ecological disasters of its own predation. I hope we continue to do so, for my kids' sake, but it's going to get harder and harder. We're trashing our livestock; through genetic engineering and the creation of a monoculture, creating powerful bugs that can kill; we're fishing out our oceans, working our way down the food chain, and we're pretty much at the bottom feeders now; we're creating massive dead zones in our oceans from agricultural pollutants, bankrupting our fossil fuel supply and burning holes in the atmosphere.

So yes, dammit, that's why foie gras is important: because it's NOT important. Does that make sense? It shouldn't be important, but it has become important, and that is the shame of it.

See, there I go. I start out thanking Meg, and I tumble into another rant. But it seems to be the only way to be heard. Flannery O'Connor once explained that all her characters were in effect caricatures because it was the only way to make people see. Blogs seem to be particularly good at this as well. Food is important, arguably the most important thing there is, that and water. And blogging well and intelligently about food is important. Maybe it can change things. I hope.

So many thanks to all the excellent readers who commented on the issues, elevating and enhancing them and giving them perspective and balance. And again, many thanks for the opportunity to hang out for a short time on your excellent blog, Meg. I'll be reading.

Onward.

Popular curry spice is a brain booster. Eat curry, improve cognitive function.

A taste test of various salts to determine the best. British Maldon sea salt comes out on top. Brittany's fleur de sel comes in second.

Crazy for salt

Last week when I guest blogged over at Epicurious, I wrote about Brittany, France, and fleur de sel. As I wrote about it, I realized I owned some fleur de sel but hadn't opened it. And I am here to tell you now that I was a fool! This is the best salt I've ever tasted, and I should know. I eat a lot of salt. In fact, I'm kind of a salt addict, and so really I am over the moon about my new "discovery."

What's lovely about fleur de sel is that its crystals are various sizes, so some dissolve upon contact with whatever it is you're eating (in my case tomatoes and soft boiled eggs, not at the same time) while other, larger crystals remain intact. So you get a nice crunch when you bite. But not the annoying, overly aggressive salty crunch from a large chunk of sea or kosher salt. This is milder, it crunches and imparts a lovely salinity, then dissolves. I am on the verge of becoming the kind of person I always thought was ridiculous: someone who travels with her own personal salt supply.

Amazon sells Le Saunier de Camargue salt that I have (which is from the South of France), along with other salts from Hawaii and Brittany. Oh fleur de sel, how did I live so long without you?!

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