5 Foods for Senior Moments

[image via R2 Thoughts 4 You]

We’re having a national senior moment.

Baby boomers, those born between 1946 and 1964, are a demographic time bomb. Making up nearly one-third of the population, they’ve reached the age of memory loss, slowed reflexes, and synaptic glitches. That’s 75 million boomers that can’t remember what they went upstairs for.

Brain foods really work.
In the same way that a low cholesterol diet can keep plaque from forming in arteries, there are foods that can keep plaque from forming in your brain. You can unclog your cognitive functions just like you can unclog your arteries.

There are also foods that can sharpen your focus and concentration, enhance your memory, and speed your reaction times. Add them to your diet early enough and you can stave off cognitive decline later in life.

Here are five foods that can make a real difference; if you’re one of those baby boomers, maybe you should write them down.

http://yourbarcelonaguide.files.wordpress.com/2009/10/salmon-steak12_-_resize_large.jpg Nothing preserves cognitive ability like wild salmon. That’s right, wild— not just any salmon will do. Farmed salmon doesn’t develop the same quality or level of essential fatty acids that make wild salmon the ultimate brain food.

http://www.pachd.com/free-images/food-images/matcha-green-tea-01.jpg Just like the wild variety is souped-up salmon, matcha is high-test green tea. Matcha is a type of Japanese green tea that’s ground into a powder. Instead of drinking an extract, like what you get when tea leaves are brewed, you consume the whole thing dissolved into the beverage. The brain buzz of focus and clarity is exponentially greater, and immediately noticeable. And the Kermit-green shade? That’s how it’s supposed to look.

http://www.fitnessgurusam.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/03/energy-coffee-and-sugar.jpg The brain boost from caffeine or sugar is short-lived but real. They both can make you alert and focused. Too much sugar, though, can actually interfere with your memory.

http://www.blackdiamonduniversity.com/images/monavie-training/product/acai-in-basket.jpg The acai berry is this year’s pomegranate; the ‘it’ fruit that is showing up everywhere, blended into smoothies and dressings, flavoring teas, juices, and sodas. Oddly, for a fruit, its nutritional profile resembles that of wild salmon, high in protein and the essential fatty acids our brains desire.

http://www.cheftools.com/images/13-0938-180.jpg The newest brain food discovery is turmeric. Turmeric is a mildly-flavored, deep yellow spice that is always found in curry powder, and is often used as a less costly alternative to saffron. It is such a powerful brain plaque-remover that it’s being tested as a treatment for Alzheimer’s disease.

 

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Modernist Thanksgiving, Anyone?

Modernist cuisine is one of the glories of the 21st Century.
By borrowing from the laboratory, pioneering chefs have blown through the established boundaries of cooking, upending centuries of culinary tradition. They’ve refined and deepened our understanding of techniques and ingredients, astounding us with new and intensified flavors and textures. But can we please keep it out of the kitchen on Thanksgiving?

You don’t want to mess with Thanksgiving.
It’s our most traditional and food-centric holiday. For most families, the food traditions are inviolable—swap out the creamed onions for butternut squash and you’ll never hear the end of it from someone claiming to wait all year for those damned onions.

Call me old-fashioned, but I want my gravy thickened with roux rather than hydrocolloids, and please hold the alginate spherification when you cook my cranberries. This is not a day when my senses should be stunned.

Trading cast iron pans for the rotor-stator homogenizer
The modernist Thanksgiving kitchen is a sterile, precise environment. Cooking is reduced to the often soundless, odorless elements of physics and chemistry. Vacuum-sealed bags of deconstructed turkey swim silently in their sous-vide bath, and the beep of a digital touch pad signals the centrifuge cycle of the sweet potatoes. You’re not just hands-off;  you’re in protective gear.

Gone is the cacophony of rattling pans, the sizzle of fat, and the tangle of smells that fill the house. Gone too is the romance of cooking—the creative imprecision of a dash of this and a splash of that; the blast of heat when you open the oven door to baste the turkey; the hand-cramping satisfaction of mashing an enormous pot of potatoes into submission.

On November 25th, let’s put away the autoclaves and cryo-guns, and bring on the tradition.

Read about the ground-breaking text Modernist Cuisine: The Art and Science of Cooking, in Gigabiting’s The Biggest, Greatest, Most Revolutionary Cookbook Ever. No kidding.

 

 

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Don’t Hold the Mayo

[Nine Badass Mayonnaise Jars via Marc Johns]

Nobody’s holding the mayo these days.
According to research by Bloomberg Businessweek, six of the top 15 best-selling condiments in the U.S. are different varieties of mayonnaise. While we’ve been musing about population trends and watching salsa and ketchup duke it out, we failed to notice that mayonnaise has been living large at the top of the condiment heap.

Mayonnaise love is kind of embarrassing. We’ve always thought of mayonnaise as a little low-rent, a little trashy. Every negative stereotype hanging over American food is encapsulated in each white, bland, fatty dollop. It’s been falsely mythologized as the spoilage-prone scourge of picnics and potlucks, and doubles as a common treatment for head lice.

Like bacon before it, trend watchers think that mayonnaise’s down-market, all-American image gives it the hallmarks of a foodie cult-favorite in the making.

Mayonnaise goes upscale.
36 new supermarket varieties have been introduced in recent months in trendy flavors like chipotle and lime. All the big commercial brands have added a line of olive oil mayonnaise replacing some of the standard soybean oil with that culinary darling, and Hellmann’s is transitioning its whole product line to cage-free eggs.

A sure sign of its overhaul is the appearance of mayonnaise on fine dining menus. Of course chefs have always tinkered with various flavorings added to the basic mayonnaise emulsion of egg yolk, oil and and acid (usually vinegar or lemon juice). But it always left the kitchen labelled as rémoulade, rouille, or aïoli. Now, they’re able to hold their heads up high and say mayonnaise.

This month we’ll see the opening of the world’s first world luxury mayonnaise store. Empire Mayonnaise Co. is shooting for the artisan stratosphere with seasonal flavorings like white truffle, Indian lime pickle, fennel, and black garlic, and will include emu and quail eggs as the base for some batches. Naturally, the new shop is located in Brooklyn.

Haven’t you always wondered…http://printablecouponsanddeals.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/05/Hellmans-mayo-new.jpg
Why the great mayonnaise divide—Best Foods in the western half of the U.S., Hellmann’s in the east?
Best Foods has owned both since 1932 (and the company has been a division of Unilever since 2000), but decided early on that both brands had such commanding market shares in their respective halves of the country that the distinct names and recipes should be preserved. The two products are made in the same plant and contain all the same ingredients, but there are slight variations in relative quantities of those ingredients. Best Foods is the tarter and tangier of the two, and is presumed to contain more lemon juice, but the company isn’t talking.

 

 

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Tap Water: Cheap, Environmentally Sound, and Now Trendy?

[image via Pur]

Remember the aha moment when you realized that Evian is ‘naive’ spelled backwards?
It was a moment of clarity, of sanity. You wouldn’t be duped. You wouldn’t be one of those status-seeking suckers out there who were buying into baseless health claims and slick marketing. You knew that the Emperor was just plain naked.

So what happened?
You did become one of them. We all did.
We’re drinking more bottle water than ever—85 million bottles every single day. But there is one bright spot; one place where we have curbed the habit and are going out of our way to specify tap: tap water orders are way up in restaurants. According to the consumer research group NPD, restaurant tap water is one of the fastest-growing beverage orders, increasing annually by nearly a billion servings.

Economic conditions are clearly behind the trend. In the current recession, we’ve barely cut back on the frequency of dining out—just one percent in the past 5 years—but we’re looking for ways to trim the tab. We’re keeping dessert and dumping the bottled water.

Tap water also has a kind of reverse status for the restaurants.
For three decades, beginning with the Perrier days of the 1970s, restaurants were guilty of promoting water elitism. They sent their waiters out to push high mark-up/high margin bottled water menus, and made us feel like cheapskates when we chose the tap. Now they’re shunning bottled water to demonstrate their locavore and sustainability bonafides, and frankly, they owe us this one.

There’s an environmental upside to the down economy. Since 2006, just this little switch to tap water in restaurants has already saved 8.75 billion gallons of water, and all the associated packaging, transportation, recycling, and landfill waste. The challenge is to make this change permanent, and not lapse into our old water habits when the economy turns around.

 

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Today’s history class is brought to you by Doritos

“The best-selling packaged cookie in the world is the Oreo cookie. The diameter of an Oreo cookie is 1.75 inches. Express the diameter of an Oreo cookie as a fraction in the simplest form.”

You’re looking at middle-school math.
The worksheet comes from a a sixth-grade curriculum in wide use across more than a dozen states. Another lesson on research methods asks the kids to design an experiment that allows them to prove that there are 1,000 chocolate chips in the large package of Chips Ahoy! cookies, and in the geometry unit, surface area is calculated using a box of Kellogg’s Cocoa Frosted Flakes.

We’ve recently increased awareness and toughened school nutrition standards. Cookies, candy, and chips are out, and schools are being pressured to turn down the million-dollar soft drink product placement contracts they were jumping at a few years ago. These changes have left school districts looking for new sources of income, and junk food marketers looking for a new ‘in’ with school-age kids. Both groups have found what they need in the classroom.

It’s called Sponsored Educational Materials, and it can be anything from branded assignment books and textbook covers to an entire course curriculum. While we might cringe at the sight of obesity-prone schoolchildren toting school supplies plastered with Pop-Tarts logos, the sponsored curricula are truly chilling. Companies like Kraft and Burger King hire educational consultants to create teaching materials that will further their corporate interests while adhering to national standards. First graders are color-sorting M&Ms and counting Tootsie Rolls, elementary art classes are decorating push-up tubes for Nestle Push-Up Ice Cream, and students in high school business skills courses learn how a McDonald’s franchise operates. And a special ‘A’ for irony has to go to Coca-Cola and PepsiCo for curricular programs like Coke’s Step With It! and Pepsi’s Balance First, that dominate middle school instruction in health and physical education.

To learn more about advertising cloaked as teaching aides, visit The Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood, a group that is advocating for government policies to limit marketers’ access to children. Earlier this year, the CCFC set its sights on a blatant piece of propaganda titled ‘The United States of Energy,’ a lesson packet used nationally in sixth-grade classrooms. Sponsored by the American Coal Foundation, it was a less than fair and balanced assessment of our nation’s energy sources that failed to mention any of coal’s negative impacts on the environment and public health. The CFCC organized a successful letter-writing campaign to remove the material from classrooms. The group hopes to repeat that success as it goes after junk food marketing.

 

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Free Food for Facebook Fans

image via Troll.me

This week alone you could have eaten for free at Chick-fil-a, Hooters, Applebee’s,  IHOP, Baskin-Robbins, Waffle House, Subway, TGI Friday’s, and Denny’s. There were free cans of Campbell’s soup, beans from Green Mountain Coffee, and enough free energy drinks to keep you up all night surfing the web for more.

A whole new form of promotions has grown up around the Facebook ‘like’ button. Companies offer freebies to induce us to become fans of their Facebook pages. It’s called inbound marketing, and most brands and consumers feel it creates winners on all sides. Companies love it because it creates customer leads for their brands at about half the price of traditional marketing campaigns. They not only get the individual’s contact information, but  ‘likes’ appear on the wall of the user’s Facebook page, leveraging that person’s social network. And of course we like it because who doesn’t want to get free stuff?

The average Facebook user clicks 9 ‘like’ buttons every month; we tend to ‘like’ it most if it involves chocolate, milk, or ice cream, although Coca Cola alone picks up 4 new fans every second. Giveaways have gotten so ubiquitous that some brands generate interest by distinguishing their promotions with unusual twists: Campbell’s soup will send a can to a sick friend, Denny’s fans can win a year’s worth of Grand Slam Breakfasts, McDonald’s has been picking up 50,00 new fans a day by offering a second chance to win its popular annual Monopoly contest, and Burger King drew gobs of attention for its offer of a free Whopper to anyone who would ‘unfriend’ 10 of their contacts.

Looking for some free food? Here are some sites that can tip you off to the latest giveaways:

Hooray Free Food
Sweet Free Stuff
Daily Free Stuff
Oh Yes It’s Free
Free Stuff Finder

Food and beverage brands are social network stars. They dominate Facebook’s popularity rankings with 11 of the top 20 spots, including the top 4. You can follow the rankings on Social Bakers and FameCount, two sites that track social media followers for the food and beverage industry.

 

 

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The Dirty Details: Food Imports from China

Can somebody tell me why we still import food from China?

Recent food scandals include:

  • contamination by a phosphorescent bacteria that causes pork to glow in the dark an eerie, iridescent blue
  • watermelons that explode like landmines from the application of growth hormones to increase melon size
  • industrial resins added to rice that makes eating three bowls of it equivalent to ingesting an entire plastic bag
  • processed animal skins added to milk to boost its protein content
  • foods processed with used cooking oil scavenged from sewer drains

The United States is awash in tainted, toxic, parasite-riddled, putrefying food imports from China—we know that they’re filthy and contaminated, but we’re still letting them in.

China is the world’s biggest polluter and a country that lacks widespread modern sanitation, with 55% of the country emptying raw sewage into its waterways. It’s also the world’s largest producer of farmed fish, which means that 60% of all the world’s seafood is raised in waters teeming with feces and industrial pollutants.

Chinese producers continue to use pesticides, herbicides, preservatives, fungicides, hormones, and other additives banned in most other countries, and its standards for allowable chemical residue levels fall far short of everyone else’s.

Does the United States really let this stuff in?
Don’t we have laws, and regulations, and the Food and Drug Administration to protect us?

This year, 24 million shipments subject to FDA regulation will pass through our ports, and the FDA expects to visually inspect less than 2% of the food imports, and a tiny fraction of those will be sent on for laboratory analysis. More than 98% of food imports are allowed to stock our nation’s supermarket without even a cursory glance. from a safety inspector.

Do you think that you’re not buying Chinese food imports? Think again.
Reading labels is not enough: American food companies are generally required to label only where their products are packaged or processed, not where the ingredients come from. A Swanson frozen dinner or a can of Campbell’s soup can contain 20 different ingredients from 20 different countries with no mention of this on the label. When you open a can of Bumble Bee tuna or Dole fruit, or pour your child a glass of Mott’s apple juice, you’re likely eating foods from China. All-American brands like Kraft, Lay’s, Pepsi, and General Mills all buy from Chinese growers and producers that harvest and process with lower labor costs than almost anywhere else.

For more information on where your food comes from, read A Decade of Dangerous Food Imports from China, a report from Food & Water Watch, a public interest organization that monitors the practices and policies of food and water systems world-wide, and advocates for common sense policies that will result in healthy, safe food and drinking water.

The Food and Drug Administration releases a monthly Inspection Refusal Report of goods that are determined to be out of compliance with the The Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act and refused admission at the port of entry.

 

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Forks or Fingers?

image via Design Boom

You keep your elbows off the table, your napkin in your lap, and always use the proper fork. You pass to the left, spoon soup away from yourself, and at the end of a meal you park your utensils at the 4 o’clock edge of your plate. You’re a real etiquette stud.

Still, there are foods that can slip up even the best of us. It could be a dish like steamed artichoke that requires complicated technique, or a food that’s awkward and contrary, like peas that can’t be coaxed onto a fork. You’d love to get in there with your fingers, but you worry that it’s frowned upon in polite company.

The fork or finger divide can be based in practicality (no fingers in the mashed potatoes, for obvious reasons) or evolve as custom (a french fry is always a french fry, but forks or fingers are dictated by circumstances); and of course what’s de rigeur in one culture can be the height of barbarity in another. Here’s a guide to American-style etiquette for the most controversial foods.

Artichokes: eat the leaves with your fingers; use your fork for the heart.

Asparagus: if the stalks are firm and unsauced, fingers are fine; floppy or saucy, use a fork.

Bacon: like asparagus, if it’s crisp it’s finger food; use a fork when it’s limp and greasy.

French Fries: when they’re served alongside a food that requires a fork, like a steak, they are eaten with a fork; if they come with a sandwich or a hot dog in a bun, they are eaten with fingers.

Pickles: of course they are always finger food, right? Wrong— a little gherkin or cornichon served alongside a fork food, say a slice of pâté, should be eaten with a fork.

Shrimp: unsauced shrimp—hot or cold, fried or cocktail—is finger food when you’re standing up and eating hors d’ oeuvres; if you’re seated at the table, shrimp in any form is eaten with a fork.

Sashimi is never finger food; sushi goes either way.

When in doubt, use a fork. You might seem prissy, but never impolite.

For more tips, plus a dining guide to nearly every country on the planet, consult The Etiquette Scholar.

 

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The Food Movement Will Occupy Wall Street Next Weekend

 

It’s our turn!
Next Saturday, advocates of food justice will be descending on the Occupy Wall Street encampment.

The connection
The food system is linked to Wall Street in ways that impact us personally and directly, as well as globally and ephemerally.

The scale and scope of the agribusiness monopoly puts the giants of Wall Street to shame.
While the 10 largest banks hold 54% of the nation’s assets, a mere 4 food companies churn out 75% of breakfast cereals, 75% of snacks, 60% of cookies, and 50% of ice cream. Inputs like seeds and pesticides, the mills and slaughterhouses that process foods, and even the supermarkets are similarly concentrated in a few hands, and they hold our nation’s food policy in a vise grip.

Then there is Wall Street’s effect on food prices.
The same deregulation that made the stock market volatile also increased price volatility in agricultural markets. Speculators have only been allowed to freely trade in food futures since 2000. Farmers used to trade in futures to guarantee a stable price for their future harvests; now agricultural commodities are just one more investment vehicle for speculators looking to squeeze out short-term profits, putting downward pressure on wages and pushing up prices.

When Occupy Wall Street protestors talks about the 1% and the other 99%, the gap between rich and poor is seen in starkest relief in terms of hunger and deprivation. 17 million school-aged children are underfed, nearly 1 in 5 Americans relies on food stamps, and half of all babies are born into households receiving government food subsidies.

Next Saturday’s demonstration is not just for food activists, or even activists who care about food. It’s for all of us who understand that to change the food system, we need systemic change in the institutions, regulations, and corporate influence that stand in the way of a healthy and just food system.

 

 

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The 5 W’s of Food Day

The Who
It might be easier to list the who isn’t.
Food Day was created by the consumer-advocacy group Center for Science in the Public Interest.
Food Day’s advisory board is stacked with city mayors and university heads, Senators and members of Congress, two former Surgeons General, chefs, scientists, public health leaders, and many of the most prominent voices for change in the food policy world (Alice Waters, Michael Pollan, Marion Nestle, Jim Hightower, and many more).
Food Day’s hundreds of partner organizations run the gamut from the Sierra Club to the Episcopal Church, and corporate partners include Whole Foods, Dole, and The Cooking Channel.

The What
It’s a day dedicated to raising awareness and raising funds to promote healthy eating and affordable, sustainable foods.
Food Day is based on Earth Day in that any individual or group, formal or informal, can plan an event. There are thousands scheduled, including policy campaign kick-offs, food festivals, cooking lessons, farm tours, film screenings, school curricula, protests, and themed dinners in restaurants, private homes, and public spaces.

The When
Food Day is Monday, October 24.
We’re in the home stretch.

The Where
Food Day events large and small are being planned all around the country.
There will be high-profile gatherings like the massive, celebrity-packed Eat Real Eat-In being held in New York’s Times Square, and others as low key as a home cook’s pie-making class being held in a Brookline kitchen.
Visit the Food Day website to find events near you, or consider hosting your own Food Day dinner with help from Epicurious’ Food Day event planning kit.

Why
Because it’s time to fix our broken food system.

FOODDAY.org

 

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Herman Cain: The Man and the Pizza

He’s Herman Cain, the man who would be President, one of the most successful African-American food entrepreneurs in American history, and Bill Clinton’s sparring partner during the 1994 health-care fight. That’s the man. But what about the pizza?

Godfather’s Pizza has over 600 locations in more than 40 states, according to the company’s website. This nationwide pizza company boasts several crust varieties and 100 percent real cheese. The Godfather’s Pizza website also tells us that one slice of a classic cheese pizza provides 290 calories, with 9 g of fat, 4 g of which are saturated fat. Cholesterol content is 20 mg and sodium content is 530 mg.

This is heartland pizza, sturdy, earnest pies with a toppings menu that includes middle-America faves like ground beef, sour cream, and bacon bits. There’s no hint of Naples, Italy or even New Haven, Connecticut.

By most reports Godfather’s produces a reasonable alternative to the Domino’s, Shakey’s, and Pizza Huts of the world (full disclosure: like most coastal, urban dwellers, I have no first-hand experience with Godfather’s Pizza). An unscientific twitter survey conducted by Politico turned up mixed reviews, while in a subsequent blind tasting, the Politico bipartisan panel ranked Godfather’s dead last (sample comments: “that is so bad”…”the most unappetizing”…”the cheese is really sour”…”the crust is like a sponge”).

Through a strangely ironic turn of events, nearly 100 Occupy Wall Street protestors were taken to area hospitals in various stages of gastrointestinal distress. The suspected culprit: food poisoning from a tainted delivery of Godfather’s Pizza.

Earnest, cheesy, and all-American. An underdog with national ambitions. Enemy of the Occupy Wall Street movement. Seemingly unremarkable, no better or worse than the rest of the field, but with a potentially dangerous edge. The man and the pizza.

 

See the song stylings of Herman Cain as he unleashes a rich baritone for this pizzafied cover of John Lennon’s Imagine. Sample lyrics:

Imagine there’s no pizza
I couldn’t if I tried
Eating only tacos
Or Kentucky Fried
Imagine only burgers
It’s frightening and sad

 

 

 

 

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The Best Food Magazines You’ve Never Read

Conventional wisdom tells us that print is dead.
Its death knell sounded loud and clear in food-oriented publishing when the print edition of Gourmet folded in 2009. If that beloved legendary publication couldn’t make a go of it, who could?

A handful of hardy, independent publishers have managed to beat the odds, surviving and even thriving. Even more improbably, a few new food magazines have been introduced in the post-Gourmet era. They recognize that they have to offer something special, some added value over the other ways we have of consuming text.

Each of  these publications succeeds by offering heft and depth, nearly ad-free pages, and price tags high enough to make it all viable and sustainable. Their graphics are striking, the writing is of a long form seldom seen outside of print, and they have a book-like physical permanence that defies you to toss it in the recycle bin.

Remedy is a good, old-fashioned read masquerading as a modern magazine. Each issue uses stories and recipes to explore a single theme: cravings, growing up, celebrations. The current issue is Stealing— true food crimes, stealing away a private moment out of a crazy day, or stealing a boyfriend and his to-die-for breakfast dish—all stories to curl up with, coming from a variety of voices.

 

http://69.89.31.216/~jsguntze/slideshows/utne/meatpaper/600_450/mp0.jpgMeatpaper is -surprise!- all about meat. Every form of animal flesh is fodder for Meatpaper’s pages, from birth to roasting pan, plus insightful takes on this bedrock of masculine Western culture. It all comes courtesy of a team of former, presumably very broad-minded, vegetarians. Coming soon: the new Bones issue.

http://www.etsy.com/storque/media/articles/2010/11/11168-GC_Paul_header_3.jpgSweet Paul is Paul Lowe, a food and prop stylist with the crafting sensibility of Martha Stewart and an eye for whimsical, flea market style aesthetics. The magazine is stuffed with ideas for creative, hands-on cooking, decorating, and entertaining that is within reach of even the DIY-challenged, and accompanied by sumptuous, naturally-lit photography.

http://www.boiseweekly.com/imager/b/magnum/2349679/6ef0/find1-1_LuckyPeach.jpgLucky Peach burst on the scene last summer and immediately became the must-have fetish object for die-hard foodies. It’s a high profile collaboration between the expletive-sputtering culinary bad boy David Chang (chef-restaurateur of New York’s Momofuku empire) and former New York Times writer Peter Meehan, with contributions from celebrated friends like Anthony Bourdain and Ruth Reichl. A single subject (issue 1: Ramen; issue 2: The Sweet Spot) is probed through a dense, idiosyncratic mix of essays, recipes, art, photography, and rants.

http://harlanturk.com/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2011/05/Alimentumi11Winter11.jpgFood writing for the literati or literature for the foodie? Alimentum is a literary review that celebrates food, both figurative and metaphorical.  Short fiction, poetry, and essays give new dimension to the experiences of standing on the grocery checkout line or sharing a glass of wine with a former lover.

http://1.bp.blogspot.com/_edjLb_JcFN4/TEfzji2NTFI/AAAAAAAADFQ/spK9Tfx71ws/s1600/Condiment.jpgWith a mere two issues under its belt, we’re keeping an eye on Condiment. It occupies the intriguing, conceptual space between food, community, and creativity, with topics like anarchist gardeners, mutant fruits, and a clam dig.

 

http://oui-presse.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/07/AoE87CoverCurrent.jpg

The Art of Eating has a traditional mix of recipes, producer profiles, wine, book, and restaurant reviews. Its long (since 1986), ad-free run speaks to the fine writing and its in-depth (often obsessively so) articles.

 

http://25.media.tumblr.com/tumblr_l80rgzkFQX1qzq221o1_500.jpg

Gastronomica calls itself “food-focused scholarship,” but don’t let that scare you away. Yes, it is cerebral and erudite, but it is also lively and accessible. It explores such esoterica as the history of hippie-style cooking, caterers to the Third Reich, to our love of hamburgers, and it’s all wrapped up in a glossy, stunningly photographed package.

 

 

 

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The World Waits for the Next Cupcake

image via Sparkliatti

Cupcakes have had a good run.
It seems like only yesterday that cupcakes were a humble homey dessert, just one of the pack, interchangeable with cookies and brownies. Then, in a perfect storm of ease, economics, and Sex and the City, cupcakes caught fire. Today, cupcake bakeries dot the landscape of gentrified urban neighborhoods and suburban strip malls. You can get a cupcake in a deli or a burger joint, waiting for a plane at the airport, in a hospital cafeteria, or a Michelin-starred restaurant.

High time for the next ‘it’ treat.
Eye-rollingly common, greedy little treats for our sugar-riddled souls, trend watchers in the media have dedicated countless column inches to predictions of when these precious nubbins of fake happiness will ride off into the sunset. There have been a few lone voices in the wilderness calling out for dark horse candidates like bread pudding and bundt cakes, but most arguments have coalesced around a few credible contenders.

http://www.foodbeam.com/wp-content/uploads/2007/07/rose-macaron.pngLooking like tiny, colorful hamburgers, macarons are a French confection of meringue and ganache. The beauty of the macaron is its pastel-shaded beauty; its insubstantial nature and particular challenge to the home baker limits the appeal.

http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-KVsiO9m9kjg/TkV8EQ9iZ_I/AAAAAAAADiE/HSSpbNjc0Zo/s1600/donut-donut.jpgAnother treat best left to the professionals, donuts will need to overcome the stigma of deep frying if they are ever to fully realize their potential, though it breaks my heart to say so.

http://hostedmedia.reimanpub.com/TOH/Images/Photos/62/cappuccinopop_155.jpgFancy ice pops came on strong this summer. They’re easy to make at home, take well to unusual flavor combinations like mango mint and basil watermelon, and traditional versions in lemon and cherry are perennial crowd pleasers. But outside of a few tropical zones, these are strictly a seasonal treat.

http://www.delish.com/cm/delish/images/2e/strawberry-apricot-hand-pies-recipe-opr0811-lg.jpgHand pies have been getting plenty of recent buzz, which no doubt pleases the pie contingent, after they’ve been so sorely and repeatedly disappointed by the failure of their favorite pastry to break through. Move inland from the two coasts and you find that it’s nothing new; pie has always been a big deal.

http://bohochicbride.files.wordpress.com/2011/03/cakepopspink.jpgCake pops? You’ve got to be kidding.

 

http://newyork.seriouseats.com/images/20091005OneGirlCookiesPumpkinWhoopiePie.jpg Whoopie pies are essentially inside-out cupcakes. The frosting in the middle gives them an edge on portability, but otherwise, why bother?

Each of these pastries might, in turn, have its pop culture moment, and we’re even hearing rumblings of support from the rugelach, cream puff, and funnel cake camps, but we don’t see cupcakes stepping aside any time soon. Their longevity defies trend forecasting, their rationale—comfort and luxury for just a few dollars—transcends the vagaries of our economy. Cupcakes continue to multiply like fruit flies.

We’re still waiting for the next cupcake, and it could be a while.

 

 

Posted in dessert, food trends | Tagged | Leave a comment

Beverage, Meet Laptop

image via Remember the Plamo

You know you shouldn’t, but you do.
You check your email every morning with the day’s first cup of coffee at your elbow, and wind down in the evening with a little facebooking and a glass of chardonnay perched nearby. Your latté and laptop share a table at Starbucks, and when you’re on an airplane, everything’s crowded together on the fold-down tray .
Sooner or later, beverages and laptops cross paths.

Now what?

Electric Power Plug Icon Clip Art Unplug and disconnect the power cord fast: the electrolytic activity from combining electricity and liquids begins on contact.

http://www.toshiba-india.com/laptop/images/common/battery-icon.png If it’s running normally on the battery, shut down in your usual way and remove the battery. If there’s a burning smell, smoke, or sparks, turn it off by any means possible and get that battery out.

http://fc04.deviantart.net/fs71/i/2010/024/7/7/USB_Icon_by_momentscomic.png Disconnect any other drives or devices that are connected to your laptop.

 

Invert the laptop to drain any excess liquid to prevent it from coming into contact with the screen. And wait.

It’s a bit of a crap shoot.
The laptop could eventually power up without skipping a beat or there could be complete ruination. If you opt to bring it in for a professional repair, just know that liquid damage is almost never covered by the warranty—even Apple Care and other extended service contracts—and they will know.

Of course nobody relishes the disruption of their activity, and there is the possible expense to repair or replace, but it could be worse (think superglue or maple syrup). And you’re not worried about your data because you back up religiously, right? Just in case (no lectures, no recriminations) you can contact a data-recovery company like DriveSavers. You’d better be desperate, because you’ll pay dearly for this service.

http://www.777icons.com/libs/art-toolbar/hourglass-icon.gif Still waiting. You really don’t want to power up for a good 72 hours after it’s completely disgorged the liquid. Every day or so you can give the laptop a gentle jiggle to drain any trapped fluid. Some people swear by hair dryers to speed up the process, but unless the spill was water, you run the risk of baking the liquid’s sugars and impurities right into the computer’s innards. Stick to air-drying, and resist the temptation to try it out too soon.

https://www.grantgopher.com/Portals/0/Success%20Icon.jpg

You’re back online and it’s all looking good. You know that nothing fried on contact, but there could still be damage that has yet to be revealed.

If you spilled water, you should be fine. Anything else—coffee, tea, soda, juice—and you’ve got potentially corrosive sugar or acid residue in there. Unless you’re totally confident in your ability to take your computer apart and swab the components with distilled water or denatured alcohol, take it to a professional for a thorough cleaning.

An ounce of prevention…. Lifehacker gives us The Best Foods (and Strategies) for Eating at Your Computer.

 

 

Posted in gadgets, Science/Technology | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

Babies and Dogs Dressed Like Food

Is there anything more precious than a baby? So sweet, so innocent, so defenseless; our hearts overflow with the desire to love and protect them.

And our dogs: pure of heart, willing to lay down their lives for us, we see the unconditional love in their soulful gazes and undying loyalty.Then Halloween rolls around and we dress them like food: we wrap babies in tortilla diapers and give them red felt salsa for hair, and stuff dachshunds between foam hot dog buns and tape yellow mustard stripes down their backs. The sacred trust between child and parent, dog and master— it goes right out the window.

Why do we do it? I guess because we can.

http://www.endlesssimmer.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/10/dog_pasta.jpgBabies in Food Costumes (20 pics) http://blog.rounds.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/10/pizza-baby.jpghttp://www.wondercostumes.com/imgzoom/FW90056H.jpghttp://blogue.us/wp-content/uploads/2009/10/costume121.jpgBabies in Food Costumes (20 pics)

 

 

Posted in diversions, funny, Halloween | 3 Comments

For $500 You Can Be a Restaurant Seatholder

 

image via Bruno Fosi Industrial Design

Restaurant reservations have never been easy to come by in New York.
When the neighborhood is trendy (TriBeCA), the executive chef is a big deal (Daniel Patterson of San Francisco’s Coi), and the cocktails are overseen by a legendary bartender (Dale ‘King Cocktail‘ DeGroff), you’re either waiting a year or so for the place to cool down or dining at 5:15, six weeks from next Tuesday.

The team behind The Elevens is counting on that kind of buzz; in fact they’re banking on it. A good 6+ months from the spring 2012 opening, they’re looking to sell $1 million worth of something they call seatholderships. For $500 you can be one of 2,000 seatholders. That one-time investment will get you ‘priority’ reservations, a 25 percent discount on everything you order (and up to 3 guests, if you’re paying), and access to special events. They’re also promising to put some of the business decisions up for voting by seatholders.

The team behind The Elevens says that selling seatholderships is not just about the money, and certainly with all the accolades trailing them (James Beard Foundation awards, Michelin stars) one would assume there were other funding options. They are hoping to foster “a convivial community of compatriots… camaraderie with the staff and fellow regulars… a sense of proprietorship… of belonging.” And you can get a table on Saturday night.

An early draft of the food and cocktail menus are posted on the website, along with a little do the math section to show seatholder savings over 10 years. As of this writing, 84 seatholderships have been purchased.

 

 

Posted in community, restaurants | 1 Comment

Women are from Venus; Men Drink Bourbon

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In 1949, Esquire Magazine published a little something called Esquire’s Handbook for Hosts, with a pair of cocktail menus, “Something for the Girls” and “Something for the Boys.” This month sees the publication of Daniel Boulud Cocktails & Amuse-Bouches, For Her & For Him in two separate, gender-based volumes.

It would seem that women have always adored fluffy concoctions of egg white froth, tropical fruits, and crème de whatever, and that in 60 years, men have only occasionally looked past the bottles of bourbon and rye to add a dash of bitters.

Enduring gender lines are as resolutely retrograde as a vodka gimlet.
The cocktail lounge remains a bastion of stale but inescapable stereotypes where a man’s character is distilled in a highball glass. His drink should look and taste like alcohol. It should come in a proper glass, preferably one without a stem, and if there must be garnish, it should be restrained. Woe to the man who orders an Appletini— according to Modern Drunkard Magazine’s 86 Rules of Boozing, “Drink one girly drink in public and you will forever be known as the guy who drinks girly drinks.”

A women is not judged as harshly. She can sip a sweet pink Cosmopolitan or knock back a Scotch, neat, without reproach. She can order a Fuzzy Slipper or Naughty School Girl with a straight face and no risk of social stigma. But it can raise eyebrows when she tries to break free of the lingering pink-drink tyranny of the Sex and the City era to indulge in a little Mad Men-style boozing.

Are rye and malt whiskey inherently male? Are vodka and champagne just for the ladies? What about gin and tequila—bisexual? The last time I checked, liquor was made without gender. We are all looking for exceptional flavor, balance, and diversity whether it comes in a sugar-rimmed flute or straight up with a twist.

Check out Food and Beverage Magazine’s Top 5 Girly Cocktails of All Time and Ask Men’s top 10 list of Drinks Real Men Don’t Order.

A consumer survey conducted by the beverage industry magazine Cheers reveals the Margarita is America’s favorite cocktail, regardless of gender. The survey also show that women are more inclined than men to consult a cocktail menu, are more willing to try new concoctions, and are far more likely to be influenced by descriptions and photographs of drinks. You can find more survey results in the Cheers blog On the House.

 

 

 

Posted in beer + wine + spirits | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Steve Jobs: The Food World Pays Tribute

The Food World has a soft spot for Steve Jobs.
No, he was not a ‘foodie;’ in fact he had little interest in the distinct pleasures of the table.
His ties to the industry are indirect, his influence is almost incidental.
He was never really one of us.
Even so, the visionary mind of Steve Jobs has touched the lives of diners, home cooks, and food workers everywhere.

Quick food facts about Steve Jobs:
He was a vegan since his college days, although he did eat sushi.
He briefly dabbled in fruitarianism (yes, an all-apple diet).
He often did his own grocery shopping at the Palo Alto Whole Foods.
He was partial to raw foods.
He frequently fasted, believing that digestion was burning up energy that could be better spent on work.
In his role as Pixar CEO, he convinced Disney to drop its McDonald’s Happy Meal toy tie-ins.
Earlier this year, he was ranked #5 on a list of the 50 most powerful people in food.

After technology, media, and entertainment, the food industry is where he had his greatest influence.
Here’s the way Steve Jobs is being honored and remembered by food communities online:

Restaurant Management Magazine looks at the transformative potential of the iPad for the restaurant industry.

Restaurant marketing site Restaurant Commando tells of the lessons learned from Steve Jobs’ marketing of the iPod.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals thanks Steve Jobs for his role as one of the world’s most prominent advocates for vegetarianism.

Fast Casual shares ten lessons the restaurant industry can learn from Steve Jobs.

The Food Watchdog looks at the legacy of food apps.

Food Network Musings describes Steve Jobs’ influence on the home cook in everything from from recipe gathering to how we make shopping  lists.

The Daily Weston recognizes the range of Steve Jobs’ food-related contributions from party evites to Yelp reviews.

Serious Eats asks you to share your own thoughts, remembrances, and thanks in response to the question: “How did Steve Jobs change Food/Cooking?”

iEat. That’s why I mourn his passing.

 

 

Posted in cyberculture, Science/Technology | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Is Access to Healthy Food a Basic Human Right?

Is access to healthy food a basic human right?
That’s the question being asked by California Governor Jerry Brown.

Not just food, but healthy food.
Food access is a right. That one has been with us since 1948, the result of the experience of the Second World War. At the end of that war, vowing that the world would never again see such suffering, the international community created the United Nations and drafted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Among the various protections, guarantees, and liberties is the individual’s right to food.

Back in 1948, nobody thought to specify the type of food. When those words were written, the Big Mac was just a gleam in Roy Kroc’s eye, and the Colonel had yet to fry his first chicken. Who could have imagined a time when nutrition would be so divorced from food that malnutrition could go hand-in-hand with obesity?
This is the paradox of modern-day poverty.

It’s like the line in The Rime of the Ancient Mariner:
Water, water, every where,
Nor any drop to drink
.
Millions of Americans are adrift in a sea of junk food. They are surrounded by cheap and abundant processed foods, with little access to healthy foods. This landscape has been dubbed ‘food deserts,’ to describe low-income communities with plenty of processed foods at convenience stores and fast food outlets, but little or no fresh food, and the nearest supermarket is one mile away if it’s an urban community, and 10 miles away if it’s rural.

The United States Department of Agriculture estimates that this is a reality for more than 20 million Americans, and 1.7 million of them are living in California. The bill on Governor Brown’s desk would create the California Healthy Food Financing Initiative. It enables the state to collaborate with public, private, and philanthropic entities to bring loan and grant financing to the under-served neighborhoods. The goal is to encourage existing businesses to expand their healthier offerings, and to attract grocery stores, food cooperatives, farmers’ markets, and other fresh food retailers.

Is access to high quality food a basic human right?
The State Assembly and the Senate in California think so; in fact they have thought so twice. The previous governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, was inclined to believe that healthy food is a privilege earned by the state’s wealthier residents who own cars or live within striking distance of farmers markets; last year he vetoed a similar bill after it passed both houses of the legislature. Once again, it sits on the governor’s desk where it is a signature away from becoming law.

Find out where they are: the Economic Research Service of the USDA created a Food Desert Locator based on census tract-level data.

The Food Environment Atlas lets you go deeper into a community’s statistics, looking at factors like restaurant expenditures and meals cooked at home.

 

 

Posted in community, fast food, health + diet | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Smelling and Selling

Your appetite perks up the minute you walk into the supermarket.
There’s the homey smell of roasting chickens as they take a slow turn around the rotisserie, a faint herbal-citrusy scent rising from neatly stacked pyramids of produce, and of course the fresh-baked aroma of yeasty cinnamon goodness floating through the air of the in-store bakery.
What are you really smelling?

Supermarkets, restaurants, and other retailers are pumping more and more artificial fragrances through their stores. The practice goes by lots of different names–retail atmospherics, neuromarketing, sensory branding, olfactory marketing, scent logos–whatever you want to call it, it’s making you spend more money.

Sure, food smells make you hungry, but there’s more to it than that. Your sense of smell is directly connected to the emotional control center of your brain, where it triggers a response that influences your behavior. When a particular scent taps into the right emotions, you’re more inclined to make a purchase.

This stuff really works.
According to the Scent Marketing Institute, Nike was able to boost its customers’ intent to purchase by 80% when certain scents were added to their store environment. Gas stations can triple their mini-mart coffee sales, nightclubs serve more cocktails, and toy stores can get parents to linger longer with the right scent (it’s orange-seawater-peppermint for nightclubs and piña colada for toy-shopping grown-ups— go figure).

Food is a natural for scent marketing. Most of what we perceive as taste actually comes from our sense of smell. Our taste buds perceive only bitter, salty, sweet, sour, and umami flavors, and we already rely on odor molecules for specific taste sensations. Plus, it’s easy to perfume the air with chocolate or freshly baked bread, and not so simple to devise a suitable smell for sneakers or Legos .

Sensory marketing is nothing new.
A breakthrough in nebulization technology, in which a scented oil is converted into a dry vapor, has made fragranced air more commercially viable, but for years hotels have pumped a little bacon smell into elevator shafts in the morning to boost room service breakfast business, and theme parks have been tempting you to buy popcorn and sweets with scent machines hidden in the landscaping. More recently, Starbucks became so convinced of the power of scent marketing that it nearly abandoned its successful line of hot breakfasts because of the way the smell of heating sandwiches interferes with the coffee aroma.

Reeking of deception
Aggressive scent marketing by a New York supermarket has opened an ethical debate. Brooklyn’s Net Cost market has had great success with five nebulizers that pipe different fragrances through strategic store locations, seeing sales rise by 7% for the corresponding foods. The problem is that the store also disperses cooking smells for items that aren’t prepared on the premises, and for items it doesn’t even carry. Customers have complained that the store is misrepresenting its products, and that they feel misled and manipulated by the scents.

You can get a good overview of retail atmospherics at the website for ScentAir, the scent supplier to Net Cost markets, among its tens of thousands of global installations. ScentAir offers 350 smells by monthly subscription from its fragrance library, although to me, separate entries for funnel cake and waffle cone feels like so much hair splitting.

Last month’s New Scientist looks at the ways in which smells shape our moods, behavior and decisions while barely registering in our conscious lives. Read The unsung sense: How smell rules your life.

From the Gigabiting archives, February, 2011: Food might be the way to a man’s heart, but the smell of food aims a little lower. Read Better than Viagra: Arousal by Food Smells.

 

 

Posted in Science/Technology, shopping | Tagged , , | 4 Comments
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