How did I miss this…

How did I miss this Ed Levine post on fried clams? He lists some good spots close to home here in NYC and also CT, MA, and ME. I love fried clams, though not as much as fried scallops (which are one of my favorite foods to eat in the whole wide world). I've been thinking lately about clams and wishing there were good spots here in the city. I'll have to try Ed's suggestions. And I have a suggestion of my own: Danny Meyer, why don't you open a Clam Shack along the water some place? [via Eater]

The great cilantro coriander debate

Last night I was watching a bit of Emeril Live on the Food Network. Half-listening to the episode about grilling, I suddenly tuned in when I heard Emeril say, "When it's young it's called cilantro, and when it's old it's called coriander." That surprised me, as I always thought it was simply a localization issue: cilantro in North America and coriander everywhere else. Clearly it was time to do some research.

First stop, my trusty Larousse Gastronomique whose entry sits under the heading CORIANDER (CILANTRO). It says it's "[a]n aromatic umbeliferoius plant used both for its dried seeds, either whole or ground and its leaves." Further on it notes "[c]oriander leaves, sometimes know as Arab parsely or Chinese parsley in France and as cilantro in the United States…" There is no mention of age. I check Wikipedia's entry on coriander and it says a lot about the history of the plant, its various uses and parts, and nothing about any difference in name as it relates to the age of the plant.

Verdict? Emeril is wrong! Or rather, being a bit misleading. Both articles note the seeds are commonly called "coriander" (rather than "coriander seeds") and the leaves are referred to as "coriander leaves." Since the seeds are dried before they are used, it is a fact that they are older than the fresh green "coriander leaves" or cilantro one finds in salsa. So technically Emeril is correct. But is that really what he meant?

He would have done better to say something along the lines of: "Cilantro and coriander are the same plant, but in the US we use the term cilantro when referring to the fresh leaves, and coriander usually refers to the dried seeds of the plant." Maybe that's too much to say on TV, or maybe his audience doesn't care that much. Maybe I care too much. But it seems to me that if you're going to educate people about food, you should try to be as accurate as possible.

If you are not currently…

The Omnivore's Dilemma : A Natural History of Four MealsIf you are not currently reading The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals by Michael Pollan: stop everything immediately and get yourself a copy. It's that good, and that important.

I've been reading it for a week now, and had expected to write a review when I'd finished but it's taken me longer than I anticipated to get through it. There's so much to chew on I find I just stop reading mid-paragraph to think about everything he's saying. And really, it's so eye-opening that it's foolish for me to wait until I'm done to tell you: if you care about food, read this book.

Here's a small sampling from some of the pages I've dog-eared:

Very simply, we subsidize high-fructose corn syrup in this country, but not carrots. While the surgeon general is raising alarms over the epidemic of obesity, the president is signing farm bills designed to keep the river of cheap corn flowing, guaranteeing that the cheapest calories in the supermarket will continue to be the unhealthiest. (p 108)

"The organic label is a marketing tool," Secretary [of Agriculture] Glickman said. "It is not a statement about food safety. Nor is 'organic' a value judgment about nutrition or quality."…Some intriguing recent research suggests otherwise. (p 179)

Today it takes between seven and ten calories of fossil fuel energy to deliver one calorie of food energy to an American plate….Yet growing the food is the least of it: only a fifth of the total energy used to feed us is consumed on the farm; the rest is spent processing the food and moving it around. (p 183)

[T]here are no pigtails in industrial hog production. Farmers "dock," or snip off, the tails at birth, a practice that makes a certain twisted sense if you follow the logic of industrial efficiency on a hog farm. Piglets…are weaned from their mothers ten days after birth (compared with thirteen weeks in nature)…[b]ut this premature weaning leaves the pigs with a lifelong craving to suck and chew, a need they gratify in confinement by biting the tail of the animal in front of them. (p 218)

Our food system depends on consumers' not knowing much about it beyond the price disclosed by the checkout scanner. Cheapness and ignorance are mutually reinforcing. And it's a short way from not knowing who's at the other end of your food chain to not caring…[o]f course, the global economy couldn't very well function without this wall of ignorance and the indifference it breeds. (p 245)

So fight the indifference, and fight the ignorance. Go read The Omnivore's Dilemma. No book has changed the way I think about food and food production more than this.