I had a fantastic time in Italy buying gifts for friends and family. It basically came down to this: last day in Italy! Gotta find something for everyone. Oh look, a wine shop!
And that’s how I ended up buying a few bottles of wine and a bottle of truffle oil as souvenirs—don’t you just love Italy? I bought a bottle of red and a bottle of truffle oil to bring to my office as a gift of my travels. I had plans of sharing both over some homebaked bread at our team meeting, though my supervisor (who recommended to me the bottle of wine I was going to bring) said that there was no way she was going to let us drink that bottle wine over a ‘meeting’. She wanted me to save it for a more important occasion.
Still – I looked forward to sharing and trying the truffle oil. But now, it looks like I’m more excited about my bread. I recently bought a banneton, as preshaping and final shaping batards has been extremely difficult for me – but I decided to go with special ‘baguettes’ for the office: Pan d’ Epi (bread shaped like a wheat stalk that used to be shaped as a ceremonial thing celebrating a good harvest), and dragon tails.
They’re beautiful, if not perfect (perfection is a hard thing for a growing baker).
I modified my baguette recipe a bit – increased the total amount of dough, and created 3 baguettes instead of 2. Last time I baked baguettes, they were a bit fat and stumpy – so I increased the dough but not enough to keep the final dough of each individual piece as large as last time. I also increased the total amount of levain in the final dough, as to make the crust thinner – last time, the crust of the baguettes were earth shattering. Finally, I recently purchased diastatic malt powder and added it to the recipe – this is supposed to make the color caramel come out when baking better. Looks to have paid off.
I’m still struggling a lot with preshaping and final shaping baguettes, and in general. These two videos from King Arthur helped a lot, though, and I think more practice is in line:
Here are links to how to shape the Epi and Dragon Tail loaves:
The baguettes were also still a bit too stumpy, which is why the dragon tail baguettes aren’t as elegant as they could be, I think. But if I reduce the dough more per loaf, it would be even harder to shape. Something I have to think about.
Epi and Dragon Tails make baguettes easier to eat without having to have a knife to cut – just rip them off like rolls! I was inspired by some fantastic sourdough rolls (from Iggys) that I bought this past weekend – outside crust just the right thickness and not too too shatter, but inside lovely and chewy. Strong sourdough flavor.
Here’s the updated recipe:
Sourdough Mini Baguettes (~13”) – makes 3
-350 g 100% hydration sourdough starter
-287g warm water
-425g bread flour (might try AP flour next time, because it would be easier to shape with weaker flours)
-2g diastatic malt powder
1) Feed starter so it is active and that you have enough to use for the recipe.
2) Drop the starter into the water- it’s active if pieces float. Mix in the water and bread flour. Autolyse (let sit) for 40 minutes.
3) Mix in the salt and malt powder, cutting it with moistened hands. Do a stretch and fold.
4) Stretch and fold every 30 minutes for about 4 hours. Dough should feel lighter and bubbles should be forming from activity.
5) Bring dough out to the counter top. Cut into 3 pieces, flour them and work them into a preshape (see link above). Bench rest for 25 minutes.
6) Final shape, and throw the dough into a couche. Final fermentation in the fridge (retard) overnight (~7-8 hours, or until ready by poke test).
7) Cut shape or score as desired – see links above for Epi and Dragon Tail. Bake in preheated oven at 475 degrees F for 20 minutes with steam, then 20-25 minutes without. Cool.
Great flavor. The extra baking time I gave it pushed it a bit to being burned, but it gave it a little bit more depth than usual – might be the malt powder as well. Crust was insane, again… I love crust, but these are too thick – since the loaves are so small, the ratio of crust to crumb is off. Going to play around with steam / fats to soften the crust.
Submitted to yeastspotting! Thanks Susan for the inspiration with the diastatic malt powder and dragon tails shaping video!
6:06 pm • 16 May 2013 • 1 note
Becoming Vegetarian, Part 10000 (and pseudo-Gluten-Free, part 1) & Forging a Future From An Eating Disorder
As noted in my last blog post, I recently traveled to Italy and there, among other fantastic things, ate great food. I took many liberties in my diet that I haven’t done in a very long time - had more than one dessert in a 2 week period (I joke - though, somewhat accurately - I allow myself dessert once a year - cake on my birthday), more wine than I had during my entire senior year at college, more non-whole wheat pasta and pizza than I’ve had over the past 3 years, and more white, non sourdough bread than… well, maybe this past year.
Maybe it was because I was in the mindset of being on ‘vacation’, maybe it was because I was with my lovely girlfriend this entire trip, who more than anything assures me that the most important thing about myself is not my physical appearance - but I don’t remember ever really feeling bad about any of the decisions of food I ate on my trip.
It’s been a long time since I’ve addressed my slight eating disorder from last year, which generally involved me binge-eating, and then ‘purging’ by self-starvation and over-exercising (I quote, because I think the most associated context with ‘purge’ is self-instigated puking or use of laxatives - an issue, because I think over-exercising is a real thing that a lot of people do because of eating habits). Where have I come since then?
The last few months have been really great for me and my mindset about my issues with eating. I’ve definitely eaten a lot in a given sitting, but not once had I ever had those terrifying thoughts of - I can’t stop, I can’t stop, oh my God, this is actually happening, how will I feel about this tomorrow? How can I survive these next few moments? Let this pass, please let this pass, let me stop eating… - I would never classify as any of the meals I’ve had as an actual ‘binge’ - not even that 16 courser at Eleven Madison Park.
I definitely haven’t starved myself or overexerted. I exercise a lot, but I make up for it by eating enough - and maybe I’ve starved myself of a few vital nutrients, caused by my increasingly problematic need to save money on groceries, and thus, spending less on fruits and vegetables to a detriment (and better produce, for that matter - Market Basket is cheap, but I have my doubts on the quality).
In other words - I’ve been ‘good’ these past few months. One might even suggest that the ‘disorder’ has passed. But the thing is - individuals with issues with eating never really escape them. Unlike other addictions, like smoking, you NEED to eat to survive - thus, you are constantly put into situations where you might break down and relapse into a binge, and suffer the psychological consequences.
Flashback to 2 mornings ago. I arrived back to NYC from Italy, and stayed at my sister’s apartment for the night. In the morning, I felt really, really sick - like I never had felt before - cold-wise. I spent most of the afternoon and night in bed just sort of whispering to myself for the heat and cold to pass. I felt my entire body ache, and new that my muscles were on the verge of complete collapse. My lower back which has been bothering me ever since I’ve started lifting was screaming in protest.
In this strange confluence of pain and delirium, I made the decision to become a vegetarian. And to pursue a gluten-free diet.
Now. Most people might wake up the next day, as I did, feeling miraculously better, and think - okay, those thoughts about changing my diet were clearly just me going psychotic in pain and on too much Nyquil. But since then (I know, a grand like, day and a half), I’ve been vegetarian and gluten-free! And I plan to keep it that way, for as long as I can.
I must make some qualifications. I’m only pseudo-Gluten-Free. I plan to eat whatever bread I make (though no other bread) - I love bread, I love MY bread, and it’s different that I see the product through it’s entire process. I’m also hesitant on giving up beer, because I really love beer, and - if I’m honest with myself - beer is what I like to drink when I’m out with my coworkers. The gluten-free business is still being tested out.
As for vegetarianism, I’ve done it before. Many times before. Freshman year of college, I became vegetarian after reading The Omnivore’s Dilemma. I remember distinctly one night pacing through my dorm’s hallway, calling my sister, and freaking out over the idea that Fish Oil capsules actually were from fish. And that’s how I became Vegan.
I tried again in Junior Year, but I don’t remember much of that. My choice a few nights ago might best reflect my decision senior year of college, when I basically became vegetarian because I was drunk. 4 AM, on my bed, with a few too many beer pong beers in me, I craved hummus, of all things. Somehow, I extrapolated that into needing to be a vegetarian, and never came around on that decision after sobering up.
Note - I’ve never been vegetarian more than a month and a half or so. What’s different now?
I think, recently - I’ve wanted to become vegetarian eventually. The reasons why I became vegetarian freshman year - the inhumanity of killing animals and raising them for slaughter, the in-sustainability of eating meat (that industry is being held together by OIL money friends, oil money), and the inefficiency of raising meat for consumption (all that grain to be fed to the animals could’ve been used to feed thousands more) - there are phenomenal reasons to quit meat - other than the supposed health benefits.
I’ve never been a person to say - red meat is bad for you! Too much saturated fat! People need to eat a balance of saturated, monounsaturated, and polyunsaturated fat in their diet. That means some red meat, most of the time. It’s a myth that eating more fat makes you fat - in isolation. It’s the combination of eating fat with other unhealthy, processed foods.
There’s issues of course with eating the mass-produced, agribusiness meat that most of us eat. The price of making meat cheap is that we’re putting in our body some things that are just unhealthy. But I can’t say that’s not true also with vegetables - with all the pesticides, as well.
So this is not really a decision about health (especially given that I rarely ate red meat - my diet in Boston has recently consisted almost completely of skinless chicken breast, meat-wise). I’m not a gluten-allergen, as far as I know.
But this is also kind of a decision about health - like I said, this has always been a long term goal of mine to be a vegetarian. In the long run, if I can sustain this… well, it kind of means that I am making some headway against my eating disorder - not in all ways (needing to feel like I have control over my diet is one thing that this change does not alter - sometimes I make dietary changes just to show myself that I can do it) - but in one main way - I think I’m ready to move forward from another physiological-social-dependent aspect of my life - weight-lifting.
I’ve weight-lifted for 9 years now. For many of those years, weight-lifting was self-empowering. Whenever I hit a new record on a lift, I felt great. There was a lot of intrinsic motivation to go lift. I felt really good about myself just being there and talking to my friends in the gym.
I don’t think I’ve felt that way the past 1 or 2 years about lifting. More and more it seems as though lifting has become a way for me to maintain some sort of ideal physique for others, or to just show other people in the gym how bad-fucking-ass I am. Very extrinsically motivated. I can only compare it to my love for tennis with my friends, or my recently discovered love for ultimate frisbee.
Tennis and frisbee bring out another side in me, much like lifting use to - my love for competing and for self-improvement. I used to play for hours and hours against my friends in the hot summer sun when I was a teenager - and though there were obviously physical benefits, I just loved to play with them and to compete. I was rarely ever the best player on the court, but I never backed down and never felt like I couldn’t win. I’ve been feeling that way about ultimate frisbee, too, with recent pickup games in Boston. I’m not the most skilled frisbee player, as I’ve only played competitively for a year or so. But I love thinking to myself, facing another person on man-to-man defense - you’re not getting the frisbee, you’re not scoring on me. But there’s camaraderie playing frisbee too - you’re out there on a team. Weight-lifting has become increasingly lonely for me.
How does this relate to my diet of omnivorousness? Well, I ate a lot of meat to begin with because I needed it to build muscle for weight-lifting. As I try to phase it out (not completely - just less), not only will there be some benefits to my lower back pain (rest now) - but I won’t have as much need for all that protein. I can finally feel okay with being vegetarian - I always had issues wanting to keep weight-lifting as intensely as I’ve always had while on a vegetarian diet as an undergraduate.
So - for now - it seems as though I’ve spilled something of a path for my future in dietary habits. I know what I WANT to reach eventually. Can I take the necessary steps to get there at this junction? Or is this just another way my psyche is masking my need to look a certain way for society?
There’s something reassuring about this long-term goal I’ve realized of wanting to become vegetarian. Eating is rarely a future-oriented thought process. You don’t think about tomorrow when you begin a binge. You don’t think about how good a piece of meat will taste during dessert as you put it in your mouth. It’s all about the present - eating, as a sensation.
Adding a long-term component to eating for me is somewhat of a small achievement, in terms of balance, then.
As I went for my light lift today, I noticed in my new lifting notebook a quote on the bottom-
“The future belongs to those who can imagine it.”
And so it goes.
5:04 pm • 11 May 2013
Inspiration on Thoughts of Food from my Trip to Italy, and Backlogged Links
Wow, it’s been a while since I’ve posted anything related to food. It’s just been really busy at Harvard these last few weeks, especially getting things needed to be done before taking my vacation to Italy.
I’ve been wanting to go to Italy for a VERY long time. In fact, when I WWOOFED in Belgium, I actually had initially intended to do so in Italy - I signed up for WWOOF Italia, which gave me access to WWOOF Independents, which gave me access to Belgium’s database.
Italy has always had a lot of intrigue for me. Firstly, amazing cheeses and bread, and a culture of eating quite distinct from what I’ve been exposed to in America. The focus of extended meals, especially with family. The long lunches with wine. The multiple courses. And, as a first-gen Chinese-American, the promise of as much pizza and pasta (that is affordable!) as I could want - something that I DIDN’T have when I was younger.
All in all, there were tons of misses in Italy. The best things I ate were:
- Homemade pasta dishes from restaurants. Amazingly chewy and eggy. Perhaps, the best, being a garganelli with a gorgonzola based sauce (what an idea! usually I douse my pasta in parmesan, but gorgonzola, which I had never given enough credit - but has a mild sweetness to its funk - adds enough flavor to not need any more. I am immediately going to try to find a recipe for this wonder.) and pears in a PARMESAN BOWL. Lake Como.
- Real neapolitan pizza. Of course, you can get it in many places in the US (most notably close to me, Del Posto in Somerville). But I never got around to it. I went to a chain in Rome Rosso Pomodoro - and, even though it was a chain, it was still 10 times better than anything I had ever had in the states. And by better, I mean - it fulfilled everything I love about pizza- great, chewy dough, delicious toppings, and a show to boot (I saw the pizza-man make the pizza, throw it in the dome wood fired oven, and pull it out 60 seconds later. That, my friend, is a true neapolitan pizza - <90 seconds to bake, 00 tipo flour, san marzano tomatoes.). I had a good amount of pizza in Italy - a lot of misses, but this one took the cake.
- Pistachio gelato. Nuff said.
- Cheap lunches of cured meats and delicious cheese. Low marks for the bread as a whole - I think I just must be completely egotistical with my own loaves, but things just aren’t holding par. BUT, bonus points to the freaking bread in Rome’s Da Vinci airport. Not only did it save Da Vinci from being the worst airport I’ve ever traveled through, it might’ve been the best bread I had all trip. Think, a sandwich of cured meats in a focaccia like sandwich - but, instead of it being chewy and dense - it was flaky like a croissant, and topped with sea salt. I am ALSO going to recreate this.
- I just ordered my first banneton, to make beautiful batards (I am sick of my poor shaping and misshapen loaves).
- I ordered diastatic malt powder - to make my loaves darker.
- I had thought about thinking outside the box of your common bread bakeries in the US - or bread in general. If I really want to open a bakery and be successful, I need to question generally established practices and do research on things like:
- Do customers prefer the crust or crumb of a bread? If crust - I should focus more on breads with more crust:crumb ratio like baguettes and rolls. If crumb, I should make more larger loaves like batards which can be sliced for sandwiches.
- Am I the only person who really likes their loaves to appear darker? I’ve seen so many loaves of bread that are pale and white and floury that I often question even if they’ve been fully baked through!
- What is the role of mass production in a bakery? I’ve never worked in a bread bakery, but I imagine that each individual has a specific role - i.e. mass fermentation, scoring, putting the bread in oven, etc. What if… each person had a quota each day of loaves to make? And s/he just had to see the loaves through their entire process? Mixing, fermenting, scoring, baking? One - it would make work a LOT more interesting. It would give employees agency over their work - and it would force them to accept responsibility for mistakes - as we would know WHO fucked up the loaf, as only one individual ever touched it.
- My next loaves, after revisiting a well-shaped batard: Epi, and Dragon-tails from my baguette recipe.
- Finally - revisiting ideas for a food truck. Fried pizza is getting big in some places, like NYC, but it hasn’t really spread elsewhere. We need something that can cook fast in a truck, and still be appealing. Normal pizzas in the oven take 15 minutes+. The stove-top/broiler methods I’ve been using have been somewhat subpar. But fried pizza? Novel, and quick - a minute and a half in the fryer, and under the broiler for a few moments. Thinking- just need a deep fryer, a baking stone, and a large broiler - keep the baking stone under the broiler at all times, and slide pizzas in and out as necessary. Prep the dough the night before, no knead style.
- Hanging herb gardens!
- If apps are ever to replace solid physical cookbooks in the kitchen (I think cookbooks have the appeal of being able to write notes in quickly, get stained by use, and to hand down) - it needs to look like this beautiful one - Nom Nom Paleo.
- Great date night restaurant flowchart from Serious Eats for NYC.
- One tiny town in Germany, 7 Michelin rated restaurants.
11:59 pm • 8 May 2013
my first bread recipe-
It’s certainly not the prettiest loaf that I’ve baked. It looks like I’m struggling to get really defined gringes - or ears - or, edges, rather, from the scoring. Might be an issue of not enough oven spring, but it doesn’t seem to be the case as this loaf looks enormous.
“I’m sure your loaf has a lovely personality,” says my girlfriend. Well, it does. It’s the first one that I baked from a recipe I made completely on my own. It came to me while I was riding back to NYC from Boston last week on the bus (these are the things that I think about when I’m traveling, apparently).
The loaf I wanted to bake had to have these qualities:
- Low active time
- Good oven spring and hole structure
- Sesame seeds!
Low active time suggests a Jim Lahey no-knead method, but I found these loaves to have subpar hole/gluten structure compared to the networks I created with Tartine Bread’s stretch and fold method. Tartine’s method, of course, required a good 3-4 hours of bulk fermentation time, that wasn’t necessarily ‘active’ time, but you had to block out that time to be home. I came up with the following recipe:
3 Day No Knead Sesame Sourdough Bread
- Total flour: 600g
- 500g 100% hydration starter
- 230 g water (almost hot)
- 350 g bread flour
- 1/2 c sesame seeds, toasted and cooled
- 10 g salt
- Make sure starter is active. When feeding it, take the throwaway starter and add water and flour (1:1 by mass) to get to 500 g total. Do this at night before you sleep, and leave the starter in a room temperature location.
- The next morning- this ‘preferment’ should be active. Add the remaining flour and water, mix to incorporate (no dry bits of flour) - and let it sit for 40 minutes (autolyse). Add the salt and sesame seeds, and cut them into the dough using your hands, which are a little moistened with water. Do your first stretch and fold this morning, then throw it in the fridge.
- Before sleeping that same day, repeat the stretch and fold, and put it back in the fridge. Do not be afraid that the dough degasses a bit.
- Repeat this stretch and fold for 2 more mornings, and 1 more evening. The night before you plan to bake, instead of doing a stretch and fold, do a initial bench shape, then do a final shaping.
- Bake in the preheated oven with steam at 450 degrees until tapping the bottom is hollow.
I’m pretty proud of this recipe because I was able to incorporate many different sources of information for the outcome. Used my knowledge of baker’s percentages to get the ingredient ratios on (i.e. 1.5-2% of final flour should be salt). I drew from Jim Lahey’s recipes to get a high hydration dough (this is at ~80%), which allows the gluten molecules more ease to rearrange themselves to form the bubble structures (this would normally be created through kneading, for example) and create more air pockets. The stretch and folds still allow for some more active gluten development. The long cold fermentation in the refrigerator allows for more control over when I needed to actually have active time and when I could bake, and it also allows for a stronger sourdough flavor to come out. The high percentage of preferment allows for a thinner crust (that is still crispy!). And sesame seeds are sesame seeds!
8:53 am • 12 April 2013
This weekend in NYC I got the chance to FINALLY try out some of the BBQ restaurants that I had been meaning to- Boston has a woeful selection, unfortunately, so I’ve been making it a point to seek out the “best” BBQ sites in the cities I visit. As BBQ goes, I find pulled pork extremely boring, brisket to be a bit too dry, like my meat dry rubbed and in no need of sauce (a good vinegar based one wont hurt every once in a while, though). Also- don’t try to rope me in with sides. I buy by the 1/2 lb- no sandwiches or Mac and cheese for me.
My favorites from places I’ve been that I think are worth seeking out:
- hill country BBQ (special red-rubbed pork belly)
- John browns smokehouse (burnt ends and pork belly)
- mighty Quinn’s BBQ (pictured - brontosaurus rib)
- Percy street BBQ (turkey tails)
- sweet cheeks q (great northern short rib)
As you can probably tell- I’m a bigger fan of fattier cuts with more unctuous flavors. Next week I’m back in NYC and will give a go to the many places in Brooklyn- like Fette Sau, and see what smorgasbord has to offer.
6:04 pm • 7 April 2013
I don’t normally shop at Shaws but when your savings are over 50%…
10:56 am • 17 March 2013
Not much to update on- spent a few days in DC, and I hit up the two places I really wanted to try for food (without going over my per diem, that is):
- Greek Deli for a power lunch. Got their lamb platter, which was a TON of food for about 12 dollars - delicious, though their orzo was more ‘rice’ like. Was told later that I made the wrong decision - it was a Thursday, and Thursday is apparently meatloaf day, and their meatloaf is supposed to be godsend. 29/30 on Google is nothing to scoff at. Will be a place I go to every time I’m in DC.
- Hill Country BBQ for dinner with Hannah. This is my thing now, I think - going to a city and having dinner at a BBQ place. Was lucky - Friday night, the special was red-rubbed Pork Belly - and you know I can’t say no to that. Also got their short rib. My two favorite cuts of meat. Short rib was a bit tough. Pork belly was phenomenal - both were seasoned with a dry rub amazingly. Vying for top spot versus Percy Street (still - nothing tops PS’ turkey tails) - because the pork belly at PS is a bit rubbery, and a dry rub beats slopping sauce on in my book ANY day.
[non-sausage] food links, 3.11.13
- Warning - images may be disturbing for some. Thekitchn’s post on Tryophobia - fear of holes, pods and cracks. I totally have this fear- seeing bee hives or wasp nests drives me nuts. That cantaloupe freaks me out.
- Bacon pieces in waffle batter for chicken and waffles.
- Greek yogurt maker - genius - I think it will be a huge hit, if they redefine the design a bit to look a bit more elegant…
10:59 pm • 11 March 2013
I took this photo today in Harvard Square. It’s just an adorable bumper sticker, and it reminds me of how much I love the word ‘tasty’. It’s uses your teeth, just like a word of its nature should. It’s so juvenile, unrefined, raw.
On Food Trucks
On Thursday night, Clover had ‘Food Truck 101’ at their location in Inman Square. They had a bunch of speakers from various food trucks in the city of Boston, as well as some outsiders with vested interest in food truck operations. The speakers gave talks about things like: deciding what food to serve, how to build your own food truck, food truck finance, and social media. It ended with a panel of the food truckers and individuals like an artist, anthropologist, policy maker and organization leader, all with responsibilities tied to food.
Besides rationalizing in my mind that it would make sense to invest in a food truck (only some 100K to get that business going!), I was disappointed in the entire ‘conference’. Clover sold tickets at really interesting levels to attend- free for students, or $10 with dinner (in the end, it didn’t matter - everyone got a free dinner, and they didn’t really verify being a student) and $100 otherwise. One-hundred dollars! I wonder who paid that entire sum? For what was a set of disappointing presentations?
I found the panel at the end particularly disappointing. There wasn’t very much time for the group of individuals to answer questions from the audience - Ayr, the head of Clover, directed most of the questioning. There was clear awkwardness in the inclusion of the parties - like the artist, who was routinely skipped over for questions that involved the ‘entire panel’.
Most of all, I was disappointed, I guess, by the lack of reflection that was characteristic of all the individuals on the panel - and Ayr himself. One would think that posing questions about the future of food trucks, and the intersection of food trucks, culture, space, and people would spur some sort of reflection or challenging of ideas. But all the individuals seemed pretty content with where food trucks were - and their current path to mainstreaming in American culture.
This is what I have an issue with. It was interesting to hear from the culinary anthropologist about a brief history of food trucks - how long they’ve existed for, and who they used to serve. She insinuated that food trucks used to serve blue-collared workers at the site of their jobs, bringing even picnic blankets and cutlery for their use.
That gives me a different image of the consumers of food trucks these days - upper-middle class individuals. There isn’t a doubt in my mind that food trucks no longer cater to individuals of lower socio-economic status - their prices have gone up, and the mainstreaming of their food, partially owed to the expansion of their niche in social media, have in a way “gentrified” their type of cuisine. Look at where all the food trucks are - at least in Boston and Cambridge. Harvard Square, MIT, Longwood Medical, Park Street Commons, Government Center. Opening locations on Newbury Street and Burlington. All aimed to serve young professionals, corporate hubs. In many ways it’s laughable to think about Clover’s goal to bring fresh produce to those in the city with its new CSA program - in my mind, it’s just making it easier for those who would’ve been able to get fresh produce in the first place.
Where to go from here with food trucks? There’s something undeniably powerful about them. Food has always been a unifying part of culture- and food trucks also change the way that space and food intersect. Food trucks, though privately owned, are incontrovertibly different from restaurants in the way that it’s not really private - they’re located on streets and in parking lots. They impose themselves in public spaces and force people to come together in public spaces - whereas restaurants, very often, are exclusive.
But the choice of where food trucks are can also be exclusive, if chosen haphazardly. The irony of the mobility of food trucks is that they aren’t mobile anymore, at least in Boston. They’re in the same places, and they become part of your daily life. They become okay with the status quo, they fear change. They like how things are stratified, and are scared of what that mobility might mean.
Which is sad. Because, I think food trucks can transcend the stratification that is embedded in a lot of the facets in the culinary world of America. Bringing unique new types of foods to people who have never had a falafel before, or bon mi. Unite people with food, people with people on lines, and ultimately people to cultures of food and others. Unfortunately, food truck businesses seems to be stuck in neutral - and maybe even park.
On what ‘good cooking’ is
This is just a quick thought. I hear a lot of people (well, some) who eat ramen or microwave meals all the time say that they don’t really cook because they’re not really good at cooking, or they don’t know how to. Usually I take a really hesitant stand on things, but I think that’s bullshit, and these people are just doing themselves a disservice - healthwise, and culturally. What is ‘good cooking’? I fear that it has been ingrained in our minds that good cooking is somehow making souffles, baking beef wellingtons, and preparing croissants. People recoil at terms like mirepoix or mise en place.
Goddamn the French.
In my mind, cooking is making something that tastes good. And to be honest, you can fuck up pretty badly in a recipe, and things will still taste pretty good (especially if you salt it enough). At the very least, you learn from your mistakes. But honestly, keep a free hand with your salt and pepper, and learn a few solid recipes to keep using to impress your guests. Roasted chicken requires almost no work or equipment- salt and pepper a dry chicken (pieces or whole) liberally, and you’ve got a tasty dinner. Same thing with steak, broiled in the oven. Salt and pepper. Roast vegetables in the oven, bake fish with lemons and greens, take your leftovers and combine with eggs to make a delicious frittata. 5 ingredient chili is just as good as any other. Learn how to pan-fry and you’ve got dinner for the rest of your life. How to be a ‘good cook’ is nothing more than that.
(mirepoix is just celery onions and carrots for chrissake! add onions, garlic, shallots, scallions to everything. maybe not together. but it makes cooking that much easier).
[non sausage] food links, 3.2.2013
- 15% off your pizza in Virginia… when you show your gun or your license for it. Good god.
10:01 pm • 2 March 2013
“This contradiction is known as “sensory-specific satiety.” In lay terms, it is the tendency for big, distinct flavors to overwhelm the brain, which responds by depressing your desire to have more. Sensory-specific satiety also became a guiding principle for the processed-food industry. The biggest hits — be they Coca-Cola or Doritos — owe their success to complex formulas that pique the taste buds enough to be alluring but don’t have a distinct, overriding single flavor that tells the brain to stop eating.”
NYTimes Article: The Extraordinary Science of Junk Food.
This was a really fascinating piece in the NYTimes today. It had an ambling sort of trajectory, starting with the description of ‘summit’ of sorts of junk food producers who acknowledged the obesity epidemic they were helping create, then backtracking some years to talk about the science of creating the perfect ‘addictive’ junk food. The author, Michael Moss, touches on how the beginnings of this science started in the military, when scientists were working on how to develop a diet that those in the military would not get sick of and also preferred to eat so that they would have enough nutrients for service. Moss moves then to more commercial, domestic applications of this ‘science’, from the revolution of Lunchables to the rediscovery of Frito-Lay in it’s market niche (with research done on things like the perfect breaking-point for a chip - it’s 4 lbs of pressure per square inch). All in all, it’s another interesting article on how scientific approaches to food have changed human diets, for better or for worse. We have amazing techniques now to prepare foods, and we can perfect dishes because of our knowledge of the chemical reactions. But we mustn’t forget that it is highly likely that the intersection of science and food can be reductionist - we lose the intrinsic value of making, exploring, and working with food - and we let abominations like the processed food industry of America develop. There are definitely some positives in this article by Moss - in the end, it’s nice to know that there are CEOs in these companies of the processed food industry that are thinking of ways to decrease the negative impact of their products. What is the future for these companies? How do they reconcile the country’s, and their own, care for health, with the need to make profits to sustain themselves?
[non-sausage] food links, 2.20.2013
- Thekitchn’s spice guide for common dishes (and also linked in that page is their overall spice guide) - useful.
- Thekitchn’s guide to growing (or regrowing) scallions! Cool, if you eat scallions a lot.
- … and other plants too, you can regrow.
- Dirty Candy (NYC) cookbook - written like a comic book.
- Great piece in Mother Jones about Quinoa, and what it’s newfangled popularity means outside of just eating it: ““When you transform a food into a commodity, there’s inevitable breakdown in social relations and high environmental cost,” as Tanya Kerssen, an analyst for Oakland-based Food First told Time last year.”” - great points on how Quinoa’s introduction as a staple item in diets have made it more profitable for those growing it in the Andes to sell it instead of eat it (and replace it, subsequently, with less than ideal/healthful foods).
11:45 pm • 20 February 2013