Gadget: Kwik Kut

Kwik KutMy grandmother always uses this crazy chopper to prepare strawberries, making quick work of the hulled berries whenever we need a bowl of chopped berries. My mom has one and uses it for egg salad. Yesterday I decided I needed one and nearly had a panic when I couldn't find it at the local cooking shops. Could something so simple be out of production now, made obsolete by fancier tools and food processors?

The woman at Sur La Table on Spring street had no idea what I was talking about when I described the device to her. I didn't know it was called a "Kwik Kut" until we located one on the shelves and I read its label. Almost not finding it made me realize how much I valued this little gadget, even though I'd never owned it until now.

Previous gadget: Microplane Grater/Zester

Corn clarification

Steve Sando emailed to make two things clear that aren't either in my post or Bittman's article—that there's a difference between dried corn and dried corn that has had its skin removed (which is called hominy).

"The Mexicans exclusively use dried corn that hasn't been prepared and it's a lot of work and that's why they compromise and use the yucky canned. My posole/hominy has had the skin removed by being soaked in CaL. It's been done already so it's kind of more than just dried corn.

"And this is the real confusing thing: Posole with an S is American/Southwestern/Indian and refers to the grain and the dish. Pozole with a Z is always Mexican and referes only to the dish.

"There was a study done on why heavy polenta (ground whole cornmeal) eaters in Italy were having bad gastro problems while the Mexicans, who consume much more corn, were not. It was the skin. And it turns out soaking in lime (CaL) adds a major nutrional boost so it's really an example of a processsed food that's better than the whole grain."

Steve also said you could use a food processor to make grits, but that seems like a blade destroying idea. I think a coffee grinder would do the trick.

Imagine making filet mignon from…

Imagine making filet mignon from a few cells and some growth medium in your kitchen. With synthetic-meat technology, you may be making your own "beef" at home in the near future. I'm all for technology but something about this sounds downright gross to me. Artificial-tissue generation for skin grafts is one thing, but to eat? Ick. I don't care if it tastes the same.

Healthy turkey sausage!

In the course of reporting a story for one of our finer food publications, I learned something so revolting it had no place in the article. I was talking with a leading sausage maker, both of us extolling the wonders of beef and pork and fat, and I asked him what were some of the things that make an inferior sausage. He listed a number of factors and then said, "But the really disgusting stuff is mechanically separated meat." What…exactly…is mechanically separated meat, says I. He explained that animal carcasses from which the main muscles have been removed, that is everything good to eat, are dumped into some sort of industrial strength salad spinner, called a beehive, and whipped around so hard that all the scraps of meat still clinging to bone and cartilage fly off and through a sieve, and are collected as a kind of pink paste and used to pad out any number of meat products.

I said, So that means all kinds of other "material" could possibly be included? He said yes. I said, Like nerves and glands and cartilage and minute bone fragments. Yes, it’s measured for “calcium content” (aka pulverized bone), can only have a certain percentage by weight. The pink came from bone marrow. Spinal tissue? Apparently this is why you can get mechanically separated bovine dirt cheap these days.

I'm not going to judge anyone for choosing an agribusiness processed wurst over an actual pork sausage with the recommended 30% percent pork fat and delectible seasonings, but if you're feeling particularly proud of yourself for opting for that Healthy Choice turkey sausage, check the label for mechanically separated….

And remember, as always, the advice of the great cartoonist B. Kliban: never eat anything bigger than your head.

Thanks…

for all those welcomes. I'm grateful and appreciate the comments. I'll try to be spontaneous—which is not a part of my character (glacial is an accurate term)—because that really does seem somehow to be fruitful in this medium. Writing though is a funny business. It's very difficult to "see" what you write when it's still hot on the page. Somehow all the thoughts that lead to one sentence are still connected in your mind to that sentence when you read it. When you come back later, the sentence can seem completely different because all those other thoughts are gone and all that remains is the cold hard sentence. Then you can "see" it. Also—who said this, Dorothy Parker?—how do I know what I think till I read what I write? A fact of writing: the very act itself helps to generate and determine the ideas. once I read what I write, only then can I begin to do the real writing, which is of course re-writing. That's why this blogging is simultaneously scary and thrilling.

And yes I would and will set down some thoughts about kitchen ratios, which is to the cook what the chart of chemical elements is to the chemist.

And my wife Donna, a saint in too many ways to count, points out that maybe, just maybe, there are a few people who don't know who I am, what my books are, or what on earth I'm doing on the faithful Meg's blog. For those people, here is a link to my web site, which has information on my food and non-food books as well as a current bio.