Megnut

According to the Porkchop Express, May is National Hamburger Month! PE visited DB Bistro Moderne and writes about the meal and the history of the burger. Who knew it was National Hamburger Month? And now it's the final day, so it will be hard for me to cram in all the necessary celebrations. But I will try.

These recipes for garlic scapes sound interesting, though I'm not sure they necessarily highlight the scape. The scape "is the sprout of the garlic plant, a thin, green stalk that curls above the ground and is more tender and sweeter than the cloves that lie below."

Looking for a bad-ass gift for a chef in training? Ask.Metafilter has ideas for you. My suggestion was a gift certificate for an amazing restaurant. Sure, a good knife is useful, but a meal at a great restaurant can blow your mind.

For a current account of war food, check out Operation Kabob, AKA: Food on Deployment in Iraq. I didn't realize they had Burger Kings and Subways (and Pizza Huts) at the Forward Operating Bases. I don't know why that seems crazy to me but it does.

A Q&A with Nina Planck, the woman behind the new beyond greenmarkets from New York. Apparently they'll be called Real Food Markets and will open June 17th. They will feature food from co-ops and will be "lengthening the food chain a tiny bit."

News about the new beyond greenmarkets set to open in Manhattan. While I'm all for more markets, I'm not sure I'm interested in buying "guacamole made from Costco avocados." Guess we'll have to wait and see how it turns out.

Long letter from Whole Foods to Michael Pollan to address "misunderstandings [that] are now circulating about Whole Foods Market as a result of his book and recent interviews." [via Accidental Hedonist]

Breadbasket of Democracy from Orion Magazine tells the story of North Dakota wheat farmers fighting Monsanto's attempt to get them to plant genetically-modified wheat. [via del.icio.us/sautewednesday]

wd-50 in six dishes is a thorough, thoughtful review of a recent meal at wd-50. I've been once, it makes me interested in returning again.

Four years since the French Laundry

Four years ago today, I wrote about my meal at the French Laundry. Can it have been that long ago? I still can taste the "Oysters and Pearls." I can still smell the flowers in the garden. I can still recall the first taste of foie gras on my tongue as years of vegetarianism evaporated in one bite, never to return again.

There have been other meals, even other amazing meals, but there's never been a meal like that one at the French Laundry. I doubt there ever will be again. I no longer even consider it in my "top ten meals" because it can't compare to anything I eat now. That's not to say what I eat now isn't as good, but rather that the French Laundry meal was a point in time long ago, and I was a different eater then. I had never spent so much on food before (nor had I ever saved up for a meal before). I'd never eaten foie gras before. I'd never ordered Champagne without knowing its price -- though I'll admit to a serious heart palpitation in the garden after we order our Champagne and I realized I had no idea how much it would cost.

The meal at the French Laundry was a turning point for me, a sea change in my culinary life. I started eating meat and dairy again, and I rediscovered my passion for cooking and for food. You could say the meal at the French Laundry has led me right to where I find myself today: passionate about food and spending as much time as I can learning and writing about it on this site. So thank you Michael Ruhlman for introducing me to Thomas Keller with The Soul of a Chef: The Journey Toward Perfection and thank you Chef Keller for sharing your perfection with me for one night.

The Porkchop Express compares some Greenmarket eggs. I've had both kinds he reviews and I can't decide which I like more, they're both so so delicious!

Lucy's Greenmarket Report updates whenever there's a Union Square market (Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday), telling us what's for sale and what looks good.

War food and Memorial Day

It's Memorial Day, and thinking about soldiers and war got me also thinking about food, and the culinary privations and sacrifices made during war time.

During the Civil War Southern civilians suffered heavily from Northern blockades and as the war dragged on, food supplies became quite limited. Southern food substitutions became common when staples were no longer available. For meat people ate "[d]omestic animals, crows, frogs, locusts, snails, snakes and worms." When coffee ran out, it was "brewed" from "[o]kra seeds that were browned, dried sweet potatoes or carrots, roasted acorns, wheat berries."

Soldiers in the field had it worse, as you can see from listings of Civil War recipes and stories of Civil War food. Hardtack was common.

Hardtack was a biscuit made of flour with other simple ingredients, and issued to Union soldiers throughout the war. Hardtack crackers made up a large portion of a soldier's daily ration. It was square or sometimes rectangular in shape with small holes baked into it, similar to a large soda cracker. Large factories in the north baked hundreds of hardtack crackers every day, packed them in wooden crates and shipped them out by wagon or rail. If the hardtack was received soon after leaving the factory, they were quite tasty and satisfying. Usually, the hardtack did not get to the soldiers until months after it had been made. By that time, they were very hard, so hard that soldiers called them "tooth dullers" and "sheet iron crackers". Sometimes they were infested with small bugs the soldiers called weevils, so they referred to the hardtack as "worm castles" because of the many holes bored through the crackers by these pests.

Though you can find the recipe for hardtack online, it certainly isn't very tempting to make. As technology advanced so too did war rations. During World War I, the food in trenches improved slightly, as you can see in this listing of soldiers food in the trenches. But it also states "[g]etting decent hot food from the field kitchens to the front line trenches could be impossible when a battle was either imminent or in full flow." And tin canned food became more common as well, though there were shortages and soldiers were given appetite suppressants such as cigarettes and amphetamines.

World War II saw the introduction of the C-ration. The C-ration consisted of an entree in a can and an accompanying pack of cheese, canned dessert, crackers, and things like "Soluble cream product." Also in use was the K-ration, which provided more food variety than the C-ration but less calories per serving. On the civilian side people had victory gardens to provide their families with vegetables (enabling canned veggies to go to the troops) and ration books limiting civilian quantities of such staples as beef, sugar, butter, and bacon.

K-rations were served in Korea, and C-rations were served until the introduction of the Meal, Ready to Eat (MRE) in the early eighties. Today's soldiers "enjoy" MREs in such flavors as "Sloppy Joe filling," "Cheese & vegetable omelet" and "Grilled Beefsteak with mushroom gravy." Earlier versions of MREs offered "Chicken loaf" and "Beef ground with spiced sauce."

War food has come a long way. MREs are a major improvement over hardtack. And on the civilian side, the Iraq war has not effected our food supply or caused any rationing or culinary sacrifice. So as we fire up our grills on Memorial Day, as we enjoy a nice steak and fresh vegetables, let us remember the men and women who have died in military service for our country. Let us be thankful for the bounty of food we have and our freedom to enjoy it.

Two good job opportunities in New York City if you're an experienced cook: line cook at Aquavit and sous chef at Eleven Madison Park.

In a foreshadowing of what's to come in school districts all over the US, Santa Clara, CA attempts to change school food and it's a battle. "All agree that schools need to clean up their nutritional act, but there is bitter dissent over how it should be done and how far it should go." Healthy does not mean the same thing to all people.

Anthony Bourdain was on All Things Considered talking about his new book. You can listen and there's also an excerpt on the page. I want to read it, but when? My reading list grows by the day and I can't keep up.

What it's like to taste the 1945 Lafite-Rothschild. Since I'll probably never taste this wine (certainly not the 1945, to date not even Lafite-Rothschild) this was an interesting quick read.

Making an omelette, the Pepin way. Metafilter readers seeks assitance to master a perfect omelette and many chime in with tips.

Epi-log writes that she's a fan of Newman's Own and now moreso because of "Newman's involvement in the Eat Smart, Grow Strong program." It's a program to get kids eating healthy food. I too have been a Newman's Own fan for ages, but lately less so because I've been looking at the labels and a lot of the products use high fructose corn syrup. I hope the new program, if it calls for Newman's Own products, doesn't rely too heavily on HFCS products.

These mason jar eggs look delicious. I don't really host lots of people for breakfast, but if I did, I'd make these. Speaking of, Leite's Culinaria is doing a cookbook giveaway and one of the cookbooks is all about eggs.

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