Bad News for Clumsy Eaters Everywhere

The wildly popular YouTube science series Vsauce has a wake-up call for kitchen klutzes who put their faith in the 5-second rule.
You know the one: the freshly buttered piece of toast slips off your plate and falls to the floor.
The floor looks clean. It landed buttered-side up. The dog didn’t lick it.
Looks fine to me!

It’s time to invoke the 5-second rule, the polite fiction we like to believe that says if we are quick enough, we can still eat food that’s hit the floor. We pick it up, scrutinize it, maybe brush it off or blow on it, and tell ourselves that a few seconds isn’t enough time for contamination to occur; and proceed to eat it.

Surveys have shown that most of us abide by the rule at least some of the time: 50% of men and 70% of women invoke it on an as-needed basis. Parents of young children are the most ardent practitioners, constantly popping dropped bottles, pacifiers, and snacks into the mouths of their precious offspring.

The Vsauce video will have you rethinking the rule.
The fact is your dropped toast attracted plenty of floor bacteria in the very first fraction of a millisecond of contact. Five seconds in and somewhere between 150 and 8,000 bacteria are clinging to its surface. Just how much nastiness gets scooped up depends mostly on the moisture content and surface geometry of the toast, and on the condition of the floor. Time is a factor—after a minute the bacteria level can go up ten-fold—but with so much instant contamination, it’s hardly worth quibbling over the extra seconds.

Vsauce gives the 5-second rule a seriously unappetizing debunking.
We learn that salmonella can live for days on even a clean and dry kitchen floor, and that fewer than a dozen salmonella microbes can give you headaches, diarrhea, and vomiting. Nastier still is this tidbit: 93 percent of shoes have fecal material on them.
And trust me, nothing beats video for vivid, stomach-churning presentation.

Maybe it’s time for a new 5-second rule.
Next time you drop something, take those 5 seconds to reflect on the squirming microbes and poopy shoes you saw in the video. At the end of those five seconds, decide if it’s still worth eating.
Sadly, even if it’s chocolate.

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The 5 Worst Food Gifts This Holiday Season

Remember when fruitcake used to be the worst food gift for holiday giving?
Not any more.
These 5 gifts make a lump of coal look good.


Hot Can’s Christmas dinner in a can is a festive meal that eliminates the hassle of cooking. It’s a turkey casserole with all the trimmings conveniently packed in a self-heating can—no potatoes to peel or gravy to stir, you don’t even need a microwave oven. When December 25th arrives, simply take off the rubber cap, pierce the outer jacket with the included key, open the can, and wait 12 minutes for the meal to heat up. Once holiday season has passed, you can hit up the Hot Can website for some Beanz and Balls.


Did you think the fragrance world hit bottom with Brad Pitt’s misguided Chanel campaign? Think again. You can smell like a delivery boy courtesy of Pizza Hut Perfume, found on Pizza Hut’s Facebook page. The company press release touts the olfactory delights of oregano and greasy cardboard boxes with “top notes of freshly baked, hand-tossed dough.”



It’s the horrifying realism that lands the bacon scarf on the list. Extra points for dubbing it Fou-lard, a play on the French words for crazy (fou), bacon (lard) and scarf (foulard). The trompe l’oeil of silk crepe de chine will have you reaching for the lettuce and tomato.


If you’re loving the chicken and waffles trend, you know the combination is all about the delicate balance of contrasting flavors and textures—crunchy, juicy, spicy, crispy, fluffy, sweet, and salty, plus a hit of sticky maple. Take away the textures, as Torani has done with its Chicken ‘n Waffles Syrup, and you’re left with a hot mess of sweet, meat, and grease. If you’re not a fan, you already know.


The Cooler Fun Wine Rack (get it?) brings nursing bra convenience to holiday imbibing. Just the thing for the flat-chested party girl on your list, the innovative drink-dispensing bra has a secret polyurathane bladder flask that holds 750ml of a favorite beverage. The attached tube allows the young lady to dispense into cups or discreetly drink directly from the straw-like end. Her bust is inflated two full cup sizes when filled, and while she’ll look less remarkable by the end of the evening, after 750 ml (1½ pints) who’s going to care?



And the also rans:

Frito-Lay’s new line of caffeinated Cracker Jacks. No prize inside?!


The Fifty Shades of Chicken Cookbook. Who can be bothered with all that trussing?





The Vino2Go Sippy Wine Cup. Cause I’m just not that classy.



The Mr. Gugu and Miss Go Hamburger Sweater. I think it speaks for itself.

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Edible Deodorant Makes Your Sweat Smell Like Candy

image via Dishrag Diaries


It’s deodorant that you eat like candy.
Deo goes down like a tangerine-flavored confection, and for the next six hours it releases a flowery fragrance through your skin. The more you sweat the more you’ll exude: run a marathon or dance the night away and you’ll literally come up smelling like a rose.

Sniff a garlic lover and it’s clear that what you eat works its way to your skin. The edible culprit is usually a sulphur compound found in garlic and in other foods like cumin, cabbage, brussels sprouts, and asparagus. As the food is digested, your body metabolizes the stinky compounds and releases sulfuric molecules that are filtered through your bloodstream and excreted through your skin. Instead of sulphur compounds, Deo’s manufacturer uses this natural process to get sweet-smelling rose oil into your bloodstream.

Deo is part of a growing category of edible beauty products. Instead of slicking them on your hair, skin, or nails, you snack your way to beauty. Candymaker Nestlé teamed up with cosmetic giant L’Oréal to develop Inneov edible hair and skin products; Borba has a line of Kool-Aid-like drink mixes that moisturize your skin; Nivea’s Goodbye Cellulite fights jiggly thighs with a 30-day course of capsules; and Imedeen lets you eat your way to a sun tan.

Food, medicine or makeup?
We don’t quite know what to make of edible cosmetics and neither do the regulatory agencies. They’re not like the chocolate body paint and lickable massage oils beloved by kinky couples, which are treated as lubricants and regulated like over-the-counter drugs. They are sometimes labelled as food supplements, sometimes as medicine, and mostly they fall into a gray area that leads to confusion. The industry calls them nutricosmetics or nutraceuticals, and neither category is recognized by the Food and Drug Administration.

Whatever they are, they’re not going away.
Edible cosmetics appeal to a young audience seeking beauty and fighting youthful afflictions like hair loss and acne, while the growing population of seniors wants to repair past damage and hold back the years. We are constantly deepening our knowledge of antioxidants, amino acids, fatty acids, and enzymes, and the ways in which they impact our overall health; it’s not much of a stretch to accept the ways in which nutrients can also impact our appearance.


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The 4-Hour Chef: A Feat of Cooking and Promotion


This might be the first time you’ve heard about it, but I guarantee it won’t be the last.
The 4-Hour Chef (or as the antsy author calls it, 4-HC) comes to us from Tim Ferriss, the P.T. Barnum of modern branding.

Ferris boasts that if you buy his book “In the first 24 hours, I’ll take you from burning scrambled eggs to osso buco.” You’ll also lose 20 pounds, improve your sexual technique, and acquire the skills to sink basketball three-pointers and memorize a random deck of cards in less than a minute.

Where can I get this auspicious volume?
The book is yet to be released, but according to the author’s website, it already can claim the distinction as “the most banned book in America since Lady Chatterley’s Lover in 1928.” That’s because Ferriss chose to release the book through Amazon’s controversial publishing arm, which many traditional publishers see as a threat, and many booksellers refuse to stock. But it’s all in a day’s work for the master of self-promotion.

Ferriss studied the most popular phrases in Google Adwords to test potential titles for his first book, The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich. The book crosses between self-help and business guide, advising readers to unclog their minds and their calendars by outsourcing online tasks to remote personal assistants in developing countries, and to practice what he calls ‘selective ignorance’ by limiting their newspaper reading to the headlines visible from vending machines. The book has sold over a million copies and spent the better part of the last five years on the New York Times bestseller list.

His second book, The 4-Hour Body: An Uncommon Guide to Rapid Fat-Loss, Incredible Sex, and Becoming Superhuman, will have you  achieving feats of physical stamina, strength, sexual endeavor, and even sleep. A series of 30 minute lessons can get you to lose 20 pounds in a month, cut your night’s sleep down to two hours, add 100 pounds to your bench press, and hold your breath longer than Houdini. The book debuted at number one on the Times bestseller list, despite the newspaper’s own reviewer saying “The 4-Hour Body reads as if The New England Journal of Medicine had been hijacked by the editors of the SkyMall catalog.”

Somewhere in there, Ferriss also found the time to become the National Chinese Kickboxing Champion and to be entered in the Guinness Book of World Records for the most consecutive tango-spins in one minute.

The 4-Hour Chef: The Simple Path to Cooking Like a Pro, Learning Anything, and Living the Good Life is Tim Ferriss’ third book. It will be available on Amazon in plenty of time for holiday gift-giving, but won’t be sold by Barnes & Noble and many other bookstores. The author is undaunted by the challenge of promoting his book through non-traditional channels. All he’ll say is that “Big things are afoot. Plans are being schemed. Old models shall be stress-tested.”

Does anyone doubt he’ll succeed?


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Gingerbread Houses 2012

image via Petit Plat


What’s up with gingerbread houses in 2012? Plenty, it seems.
Gingerbread houses have gone green and sustainable, mid-century modern, and gluten-free. They’re big enough to walk through and small enough to dangle on the rim of a mug of cocoa. And we’ve finally had enough of gingerbread houses made of cupcakes.

Here’s a sampling of what’s online this holiday season:

Learn how to make a gingerbread house with a YouTube cooking lesson.

Visit our nation’s official gingerbread White House during the month of December at ObamaFoodorama.

View a time-lapse video of the construction of a life-sized gingerbread house (that’s 600 pounds of powdered sugar you’re watching!).

Peruse the gingerbread house picture gallery or upload a photo of your own creation at the Pinterest board for Gingerbread House Heaven.

Enter a gingerbread house-building contest. A national competition is held annually in Asheville, NC, but there are plenty of local events for both amateur and professional bakers.

Order a gingerbread replica of your home from custom baker Rebecca Russell.

Disneyland always pulls out the stops for its life-size gingerbread house at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort. This year’s house is based on the Haunted Mansion from Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas and features a special-effects laden see-through ghost train that travels around the base of the house while ghosts chase a gingerbread man on a push car.

Choose between an A-frame, a Colonial, or a Saltbox with gingerbread house blueprints from BobVila.com.

Shop for kits, pans, and decorating tools at the Wilton Christmas Gingerbread Shop.

Play the online Home Sweet Home and decorate a virtual gingerbread house.

And yes, there’s an app for that.
Download Gingerbread House Maker for Android and Apple gadgets.


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Why is Mint the Flavor of Oral Hygiene?

Mint Splash • Cool Peppermint • Vanilla Mint • Wintergreen Ice • Extreme Herbal Mint • Clear Mint • Minty Fresh • Citrus Clean Mint • Green Tea Mint • Pure Peppermint Fresh • Super Action Mint • Lasting Mint

Crest toothpaste flavor lineup

Why Mint?
The Spanish are partial to anise-flavored toothpaste, Koreans flavor theirs with charcoal and bamboo salt, Indian toothpaste tastes like root beer from the addition of sarsaparilla root, and Russians prefer something called ‘Forest Balsam’ flavored with bark and pine needles. You can find mint-flavored toothpaste all around the globe, but its absolute domination is unique to the American market.

There are plenty of other flavors that freshen breath. You just need something with an astringent that shrinks bacteria combined with a pleasant scent. Oral hygiene was a homemade affair until the twentieth century, and people rinsed with vinegar or lemon juice, chewed aromatic seeds like fennel and cloves, and chewed on herbs and spices like parsley and spearmint.

Mint is a sweet smelling astringent that brings a little something extra.
Astringents tend to have a bite to them that can feel like a burn to your mouth, but mint makes the mouth feel cold. It’s just an illusion; the temperature inside your mouth doesn’t really change, but the natural menthol in mint activates temperature sensing cells that send out false signals. They fool your brain, and you sense a coolness that isn’t really there. It’s that sensation, more than the taste, that makes your mouth feel clean and fresh.

Availability tipped the scale in mint’s favor.
Runner-up cinnamon, the second most popular toothpaste flavoring, is a costly import from Asia. Mint, though not a native plant, was a well-established crop by the 1900’s, mostly in the Pacific Northwest and the regions around the Great Lakes. It was little-used as a culinary herb but had a multitude of medicinal uses, and mint oil was a valuable export. Cheap and readily available, mint insinuated itself into fledgling manufacturing, flavoring Colgate, the world’s first mass-produced jarred toothpaste in the 1870’s (collapsible paste tubes didn’t appear for another 20 years).

Today you can find novelty toothpaste flavored with everything from bacon to birthday cake, but mint still rules. See which brand tastes best in the Chow Supertaster’s Mint Toothpaste Flavor Showdown.


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National Burger Survey: The Results are In

How do you want your burger?
Burgers are our national craving. We love the flat, griddled old-school style patties of classic burger joints and the fresh grinds of prime beef dressed up on high-end menus. Last year we purchased 50 billion of them served every-which-way—that’s about a burger a week for every man, woman, and child. The Zagat survey took a recent look at what’s between our buns.

$295 Guinness record holder for priciest burger served at New York’s Serendipity Restaurant


How much are you willing to spend on a burger?

less than $10: 29%
$10 – $14.99: 50%
$15 – $19.99: 14%
$20 or more: 8%




How do you like your burger cooked?
Medium Rare: 38%
Medium: 36%
Medium Well: 16%
Well Done: 6%
Rare: 4%





image via The Burger Joint, New York

Where do you typically go for a burger?

Specialty Burger Restaurant: 15%
General Restaurant: 18%
Fast-Food Spot: 14%
Diner: 3%
Make at Home: 14%

69% reported that they have at least once indulged in a super-premium burger with ingredients like truffles or foie gras


Toppings menu via 5 Guys, recently named America’s Favorite Burger Chain in Zagat’s survey of fast food customers

Which Toppings Do You Like Best? (choose multiple): 

Cheese: 82%
Lettuce: 59%
Tomato: 59%
Onions— Grilled: 56%; Raw: 43%
Bacon: 54%
Pickles: 48%
Mushrooms: 33%

And Your Least Favorite Topping? (choose one):

Jalapeños: 20%
Raw Onions: 15%
Mushrooms: 13%
Guacamole: 12%
Pickles :12%

60% of diners say they  prefer a specialty  roll while 23% prefer a standard bun

Another survey from the market research firm Technomic found a generation gap in burger customization with nearly twice as many 18-35 year olds willing to pay extra for premium toppings than those who are 35+.

vintage condiment set via Etsy

Favorite Condiment (choose multiple):

Ketchup: 66%
Mustard: 47%
Mayonnaise: 44%
Barbecue Sauce: 27%
Thousand Island Dressing: 17%

Least Favorite Condiment: (choose 1):
Relish: 20%
Mayonnaise: 19%
Hot Sauce: 18%

When it comes to cheese, cheddar is the clear favorite at 38%. American is second at 15%; blue cheese is a surprisingly strong third at 13%, followed by Swiss (12%, and Monterey Jack (6%).

image via SnackoClock


 Do You Mostly Eat Burgers for…? (choose 1 or 2):

Dinner: 75%
Lunch: 60%
Late-Night Snack: 9%
Breakfast: 2%




image via University of Pennsylvania Vegan Society

Pick your patty:

Beef: 85%
Bison: 5%
Turkey: 4%
50% of women and 33% of men also said they occasionally opt for a vegetarian patty

Grass-fed and/or organic beef registered as an important choice for just 15%; another 43% said it’s a consideration, and 42% said it’s not a factor.

6% prefers little sliders to full-size burgers.

image via Side A Fries, Detroit, MI


Favorite side:

French fries: 63%
Onion rings: 16%
Tater Tots: 6% 

(note that Tater Tots were favored at the same rate as sliders. Mere coincidence or overlapping survey populations?)

Posted in diversions, fast food, sandwiches | 1 Comment

Gigabiting’s Polling Data


According  to the latest poll, I’m sick of talking about the election.
It was a rather small sample size of one likely voter, but the margin of error is a convincing 0.0%.

I know I’m not alone.
The incessant finger pointing, political spin, and negative advertising have tried the patience of all of us. The parade of media talking heads gave us the soul crushing minutiae of nonstop analysis. And it’s not your imagination, there really are more polls than ever before.

Only true political junkies wake up on the morning after the election with an appetite for what’s next.
Fortunately, an insatiable thirst for political discourse can be slaked by a local chapter of Drinking Liberally.

Drinking Liberally is an informal, nonpartisan social gathering where left-leaning individuals can go to share a drink and a little political chit chat.

There are currently 233 Drinking Liberally chapters in 46 states plus a few overseas chapters for expats. Each meets at a regular bar or pub and at a regular time each week or month. Drinkers aren’t necessarily policy wonks, or even members of the Democratic Party, and progressive political discourse tends to be just a starting point for a night out with like-minded friends and strangers.

Drinking Liberally is a project of Living Liberally, an organization that builds progressive communities through social networks and events. You can also engage through the political comedy fans of Laughing Liberally, attend a film with Screening Liberally, have a good meal and conversation with Eating Liberally, and discover progressive authors with Reading Liberally.


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When Chefs Kill They Kill Like Chefs

image via So Much Pun


Once a chef, always a chef.
We saw this last month when California chef David Viens was convicted of second-degree murder. He confessed to cooking his wife for four days in a 55-gallon tank of boiling water and pouring what remained of her remains down his restaurant kitchen’s grease trap. Earlier in the summer we saw a similar conviction for Julian Kurito, a sushi chef in New York who nearly decapitated his father’s head with a fish knife during a family dinner. Then there was Peter Wallnera celebrated British chef whose wife was a food and beverage manager. When a domestic squabble turned violent, naturally the two culinary professionals turned to kitchen utensils. Her wooden rolling pin proved to be no match for his cast iron griddle; with her lifeless body stashed in a meat freezer, Wallner staged a mock funeral service burying his dead wife’s wedding ring in an urn filled with barbecue ashes.

I ate his liver with some fava beans and a nice Chianti.
                              Hannibal Lecter, The Silence of the Lambs

Cannibalism? You bet. 
Mr. Viens cooked but didn’t eat Mrs. Viens, and Mr. Kurita’s family was enjoying a traditional dish of spaghetti, but plenty of murdering chefs are tempted by the gastronomic potential.

Moscow chef gave Russia its own Sweeney Todd. After killing his father-in-law, he ran the body through a meat grinder and cooked up some pastry-topped meat pies. It’s believed that he sold two dozen of the pies to unsuspecting customers at his Kremlin-area cafe before he was caught.

Another Russian chef, currently serving a 15-year prison term, prepared sausage, meatballs, and a rib dish from his victim, who he lured for this purpose through an online dating site. He posted video clips of his nose-to-tail culinary achievements, although they have since been removed from the internet.

The secret’s in the sauce.
                              Sipsey, Fried Green Tomatoes

Anthony Morley had been working as a sous chef specializing in seafood at a Radisson Hotel in Leeds when he was convicted of butchering and cooking up a friend and lover. Morley was a minor British celebrity who had previously been crowned as Mr. Gay UK and had appeared on a TV dating show, where he met his future victim. Searching his kitchen, the police found a serving of seared, herb-crusted flesh and an olive oiled sauté pan still on the stove.

Is it the stress of the kitchen? A cook’s easy way with blood and guts? Maybe it’s just the proximity to sharp objects. Whatever the reason, when chefs kill, they kill like chefs.


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Room But Not Board: Presidents have always paid for White House groceries

Housing’s included, food will run you extra.
That’s the deal we make with presidents when they move into the White House.
The government picks up the tab for state functions, but when it comes to family meals, they’re on their own.

Groceries are delivered from various Secret Service-approved commercial suppliers, and household staff members fill in the basics with runs to butcher shops, supermarkets, and farmers markets, with a varied rotation for added security. Toothpaste, shaving cream, Tylenol—they’re added to the tab too. At the end of each month, the bills are tallied and submitted to Mr. and Mrs. Obama.

Past first families have opted to purchase groceries but to have their family meals prepared by the White House kitchen staff—an executive chef, executive pastry chef, and four sous-chefs paid for with taxpayer dollars. The Obamas chose to bring in Sam Kass as their personal chef, and pay his salary themselves. Kass has been cooking for the Obamas since their Chicago days, and by now he knows their likes and dislikes so well that he rarely consults with them on menu planning. He’s also notoriously tight-lipped about their eating habits saying little more than “we have very balanced meals,” and that the family “walks the walk” with Michelle Obama’s healthful food initiative for the country.

Still, there’s plenty we do know about the Obama family dinner hour.
We know that the president sits down at 6:30 to eat with the family nearly every night, a practice that is much criticized for his perceived neglect of  the traditional schmoozing time for Washington’s power players. Meals begin with a quick blessing and a clink of their glasses. The family typically plays a round of rose and thorn—going around the table, each member shares something positive from their day (the rose) and also something difficult or unpleasant (the thorn). Meal-time is soda-free, vegetables are plentiful, they eat brown rice instead of white, and dessert is served just a few times a week. The president detests beets and double-crusted fruit pie is a particular favorite.

Dinners out are rare, in part because they turn into a major production.
A Secret Service detail conducts an advance walk-through of the restaurant, scoping out the Obamas’ points of entry and exit, and seating. Metal detecting wand-wielding agents position themselves at the front door, and a dozen or so more take up positions inside and out, including a multi-talented chef-agent who supervises kitchen security. The Obamas arrive by motorcade with leading and trailing police motorcycle and cruiser escorts. There’s an ambulance, a couple of communications vans, and some black Chevy Suburbans carrying still more Secret Service agents behind tinted glass. Somewhere in there are multiple armored limousines, one of which holds the first family.

Why bother?
Especially when there’s a brigade of White House cooks, an organic garden, the remnants of Thomas Jefferson’s wine cellar, and never a dish to wash.

We’ll probably never know what’s on the Obamas’ shopping list. Official White House expenses are tax-supported, and the president is required to submit an annual report to Congress. Any staffing beyond the normal White House operations (like Chef Kass), and personal family expenses like groceries, toiletries, and dry cleaning, are paid out-of-pocket. No public funds, no reporting requirement.


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Food Truck Names: some funny, some not so much



Food truck names: they make you you laugh, they make you cringe, but most important, they make you look.
Food trucks can tweet their arrivals to loyal followers, but they have only their wits to draw in the make-or-break traffic of passersby. Truck operators lean heavily on humor, sexual innuendo, food puns, and double entendres as they aim for a memorable, or at least eye-catching, name.
Here are some that accomplish it best–

  • The Grillenium Falcon: a Star Wars-themed grilled cheese truck out of Fayetteville, Arkansas serving a sandwich called the Cheebacca
  • Two dictator/food truck mashups: the San Francisco-based Chairman Bao, with steamed or baked bao and other Chinese street foods and Portland, Oregon’s Kim Jong Grillin’ serving Korean barbecue
  • Coolhaus, with trucks in four states, makes ice cream sandwiches. It’s a good name made even better when you learn that the owner is a former architect partial to the designs of Rem Koolhaas
  • Nashville’s I Dream of Weenie keeps it clean and clever, an all too rare combination in the world of hot dog trucks
  • Austin, Texas gets its sweet and savory empanadas from MMMpanadas
  • There’s rolling meat at Seattle’s burger-centric Buns on Wheels and Los Angeles’ meatball-focused Great Balls on Tires.
  • A bit misleading, it’s burgers, not miso soup at LA’s MeSoHungry, but the name is still killer

And then there are the questionable choices–

  • LA’s Egg Slut, where I hear the breakfasts are so much better than the name
  • At Greasy Wiener, the signature deep-fried hot dog sounds as unappetizing as the name of this Tucson, Arizona truck
  • If you’re not versed in Mexican slang you’ll have to trust me; Pinches Tacos, another LA food truck, does not have a very nice name
  • I get it, they serve dumplings; but still, the Dump Truck? (Portland, OR)

For the food truck operator who could use a little naming help, Mobile Cuisine Magazine has a Food Truck Random Name Generator.

Posted in diversions, food business | 1 Comment

Rectangles or Triangles: Settling the Sandwich Debate

  sandwich cutting diagrams via HolyJuan.com


A sandwich is two slices of bread enclosing a filling.
In theory. Most of us treat those bread slices as a blank canvas on which to paint the colors and contours of our appetites, our pantries, and our histories.
Mortadella or tuna? Lettuce or sprouts? White or rye? There are infinite combinations and permutations of taste and texture, each requiring its own tough choices.
But there’s one no-brainer: the cut.

I don’t mean to suggest that the decision is trivial. Quite the opposite. It’s easy because it’s an unwavering, discrete choice that most sandwich-makers settle on in childhood and seldom vary throughout a lifetime (excepting the club sandwich four-triangle imperative, but that mandate takes the decision out of our hands). Vertical or diagonal: it’s easy but never trivial; in fact many individuals believe that the success of the entire sandwich-making endeavor hinges on the choice.

According the Hellmann’s Mayonnaise State of the Sandwich Survey, a full three-quarters of Americans take a knife to a completed sandwich, with 60% making a diagonal cut and 38% slicing on the vertical. There are regional differences. A third of all midwesterners prefer uncut sandwiches, and they are more likely to finish the crusts (73% versus 63% for everyone else).

Hunch, the online recommendation engine much-loved by advertisers, includes a sandwich-cutting question in its data collection, suggesting it believes that these preferences belong in the Hunch algorithm as a signifier of other traits and behaviors. With responses numbering in the tens of millions, Hunch has ascertained that those who cut their sandwiches diagonally are partial to Ray-Ban sunglasses.

Many light eaters advocate for the four-triangle cut.
Assuming that they might not finish the entire sandwich, they like the option of working their way from point to crust. It gives them four chances with a long stretch of crust-free bread and the best access to the sandwich’s midpoint, which is likely to have the greatest concentration of sandwich filling. In this way, not unlike most pizza eaters, they can maximize the meal’s outcome (flavors and proteins) while appetites are fresh, and abandon the skimpily-filled crust ends as they fill up.

The mathematically inclined—teachers, engineers, architects, and the like—also tend to be strong proponents of the diagonal cut.
They argue that while a sandwich’s crust is constant, diagonal cutting increases the ratio of uncrusted to crusted surfaces, thereby increasing your enjoyment. It just takes a little Euclidean geometry.

bisect sandwich.bmpConsider a sandwich made from bread that’s roughly a square with 4 inch sides. That’s 16 inches of crust.
Cut it in half and you have 8 uncrusted inches of sandwich. Halve it again orthogonally and you get 16 uncrusted inches to the same 16 inches of crust.

diagonal sandwich.bmp
Let’s take that same sandwich with its 16 inches of crust, but this time we’ll cut it in half diagonally. Each long, hypotenuse side of the two triangles is going to measure about 5½ inches (who could forget Pythagoras’ theorem?) for a total of 11 uncrusted inches. Halve it again and the uncrusted edges of the four triangles add up to a whopping 22 inches to that same, original 16 inches of crust.

The diagonal cut squeezes 6 more uncrusted inches out of a single 4-inch square sandwich.
I’d say we have our winner.
The great sandwich debate of rectangles vs. triangles is finally settled. What a relief.

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Olympic Faces on Cereal Boxes


There are 10,000 athletes competing in the 2012 London Olympics. Maybe a dozen will land cereal deals.

By this time next week, the torch will be extinguished and the Olympic Village will be readied for its second life as affordable East London housing with a couple of killer community swimming pools. Most of Team USA will return to the obscurity of training schedules and low-wage day jobs. A few will land endorsement deals from marketers looking to capitalize on America’s newest stars, with none luckier than those signed to the perfect union of product and endorser—an athlete on a cereal box.

Wheaties started the practice in 1934 to coincide with its new slogan, ‘The Breakfast of Champions.’ Baseball great Lou Gehrig was the first athlete to appear, and since then hundreds of amateur and professional athletes and sports teams have made the front of the orange box. Wheaties alums are a veritable Who’s Who of the Olympics world, with everyone from Muhammad Ali (1960 Olympics) to Mary Lou Retton (1984) to 18 appearances for Michael Jordan (1984 and 1992). In 2008 Michael Phelps was the first Olympian to strike a deal with Corn Flakes, and this year the brand signed the gymnast Gabby Douglas, with plans to feature eight more athlete endorsers.

Mamas don’t let your babies grow up to be archers.
Sports marketing insiders tell us what it takes to parlay ephemeral Olympic fame into long-term financial security and even prosperity.

  • It’s got to be a gold medal
    An Olympic appearance might bring goosebumps, pulse-pounding suspense, and smashed records. The glory is fleeting; gold is forever.
  • It can’t be a gold medal in archery, fencing, team handball, slalom canoe, or any of the other Olympic sports that are visible for two weeks and disappear for the next four years. When a U.S. team member won the gold medal in skeet shooting last week she became the only American athlete to win individual medals in five consecutive Olympics. Kim Rhode. Not exactly a household name.
  • Look the part
    Olympians are expected to be young and fresh-faced, or have dermatologists, cosmetic dentists, and hair stylists to make them look it.
  •  Have a good back story
    Woe to the Olympian raised in the suburban comforts of an intact family.

All the glory with none of that pesky dedication, perseverance, or talent
For $42.00, General Mills will put any picture you like on a custom Wheaties box.


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Your Recommended Daily Allowance of Food Trivia



Have you had your daily dose of trivia?
Today we’re serving up a big bowl of smarty pants.
You’ll be the life of the party with this stockpile of facts, or maybe just the world’s leading authority of an esoteric knowledge domain.

I’ll bet you didn’t know…

  • Hippopotamus milk is pink
  • avocados are poisonous to birds
  • falling coconuts kill more people each year (around 150) than sharks (about 4)
  • internet spam is not named for the canned pork product; it’s an homage to a 1970 Monty Python’s Flying Circus skit in which a group of Vikings sing ‘SPAM, SPAM, SPAM, SPAM, SPAM, SPAM, SPAM, SPAM, lovely SPAM, wonderful SPAM!’ drowning out all other conversation
  • a fully ripened cranberry can be dribbled like a basketball
  • a typical American will eat 28 pigs’ worth of pork in their lifetime
  • Russian children blow out the candles on a birthday pie

Where did it come from?

  • The microwave oven was invented when an employee of the Raytheon Company walked past a radar tube and noticed that the chocolate bar in his pocket had melted. His second experiment was popcorn.
  • Lithium, the drug used in the treatment of bipolar disorder, was one of the seven original ingredients in 7-Up, then known as Bib-Label Lithiated Lemon-Lime Soda. Lithium remained in the recipe until a 1950 reformulation.
  • The term ‘brain freeze’ was invented by 7-11 to explain the pain from drinking a slurpee too fast.

Food by the numbers:

  • Two-thirds of the world’s eggplant is grown in New Jersey.
  • An ear of corn has 800 kernels, give or take.
  • There are around 180 sesame seeds on each Big Mac bun.
  • Add fries and a Coke to that Big Mac and it will take you seven straight hours of walking to burn off the calories. It takes 100 yards to walk off a single M&M—Americans go through 200 million of them every day.
  • Seven percent of Ireland’s barley crop goes to the production of Guinness beer.

Food facts we could have done without:

  • Sugar derived from sugar cane is processed with animal bones. Most U.S. sugar cane refineries filter the sugar through charcoal made from the bones of cows.
  • Most jelly beans are coated with shellac—yes, the stuff used to polish furniture—to keep their shine. And to add to the nastiness, shellac is made from insect excretions, mostly from the forests of Thailand. Easter’s coming; you might want to fill your baskets with Jelly Bellies, coated with shellac-less bees’ wax.
  • And while we’re on the subject of furniture polish, there’s more lemon juice in Lemon Pledge than Country Time Lemonade.

The uncommon food facts, the curious bits of culinary miscellany, the flotsam and jetsam of the kitchen— each tasty tidbit is more useless than the next, but still we gather. And who knows; someday, maybe, just maybe, there will be an opportunity to flaunt it.

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Take This Vitamin and You’ll Remember Your Dreams

image via Sleep Dictionary


Every dream reveals itself as a psychical structure which has a meaning and which can be inserted at an assignable point in the mental activities of waking life.

–SIGMUND FREUD, The Interpretation of Dreams

Do you put much stock in dreaming?

It’s not exactly lights out when your head hits the pillow. Your sleeping mind is filled with images, sensations, emotions, and even ideas. We still don’t fully understand the content or purpose of all this brain activity, but we’ve been speculating forever.

You probably have around 5 dreams every night, each lasting from a few seconds to 20 or so minutes. They can be silly and far-fetched, epic and prophetic, or just a tedious retweeting of workaday events. Dreams are commonly considered to be a connection to the unconscious mind; that no matter how surreal and bizarre, there is always a fundamental continuity between the ways you experience the world in your sleep and when you’re awake.

Do you wish you could remember your dreams?

Many people believe that dreams are worth recalling because the dreaming mind has access to potentially vital information that’s not readily available to the conscious mind. They look to dreams to tap into buried emotions and secret desires, and then use the insights to gain self-knowledge, guidance, and creative inspiration in their waking lives. They endow their dreams with the power to be cathartic, cleansing, predictive, and healing. But first, they have to remember them.

Some people are better than others at recalling their dreams, but at 5 a night, 1,825 a year, we’re all forgetting more than we’re remembering. Vivid dreams tend to make a strong impression, and some especially creative individuals claim to have less of a barrier between states of sleep and wakefulness than the rest of us (Mary Shelley saw Frankenstein in a dream, and Robert Louis Stevenson captured a dream memory for The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde; more recently, Stephenie Meyer said she met Twilight’s Bella and Edward in her sleep). Most of us need a little help.

Rx for dreams

Recent tests, especially a series reported by The Mayo Clinic  from 2002, have linked Vitamin B6 with dream recall. It seems that B6 converts our natural stores of the amino acid tryptophan into serotonin, which wakes up the brain during REM sleep—not so much that sleep is interrupted, but enough that the brain is able to process dreams more fully. The boost in brain activity also produces more colorful and lively dream imagery, which helps to improve recall.

The Mayo experiment had its most convincing success with B6 doses as high as 100 mg., which is pushing into toxic range (the daily Recommended Dietary Allowance is less than 2mg.). Most dream enthusiasts achieve good results with no more than 75 mg. a night, and even a sight bump up from the RDA can make a difference.

You’ll probably want to get there with a B6 supplement, because you can’t easily take your brain into vivid dreaming territory through diet. The most B6-enriched product on the planet is Red Bull, and the caffeine level from the 2½ cans it takes to hit 75 mg. would pretty much guarantee that you wouldn’t get a wink of sleep. Next up is fortified breakfast cereals, but you’re looking at a bedtime snack of 12 bowls of Special K.

A cautionary note: maybe some things are best left buried.
Freud said that we only remember the dreams that we want to remember. In The Interpretation of Dreams, he theorized that a forgotten dream is the brain’s way of blocking out wishes or longings that we’re not emotionally equipped to handle.

Read on with Gigabiting’s How Food Influences Dreams.

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Obama, Clooney & You: Menu Revealed

The event was officially known as Obama, Clooney & You. It was alternatively dubbed Starmageddon.
I don’t know about you, but this is what Obama and Clooney had for dinner:

artichoke salad
roasted duckling ‘Peking style’ with tiny steamed buns.
lamb and beef cheek duo, potatoes and brussels sprouts
sweet corn tortelloni

The setting was a party tent set on the basketball court at George’s Hollywood Hills house. Los Angeles-based celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck did the cooking.
The guest list included actors and entertainers (Tobey Maguire, Jack Black, Robert Downey Jr., Salma Hayek, Barbra Streisand); studio executives and other Hollywood heavyweights; Southern California’s wealthiest presidential supporters ($40,000 a plate); plus a few small potatoes supporters (a New Jersey science teacher and a Florida utility company worker) chosen sweepstakes-style from a list of $3 and up contributors.

There’s still time to enter the next sweepstakes for your own dinner with the President.

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Meat Loaf for Dinner? Better Check Your Food Horoscope.

image via Catgirl Rulezz


Some people turn to astrology with questions about jobs, romance, or the auspiciousness of timing for a life-changing decision. Some just want to know what to make for dinner.

A taste of the zodiac: where gastro meets astro
In a little-known corner of metaphysics you’ll find culinary astrology. Believers subscribe to the notion that your sun sign predicts food preferences, explains cravings, and defines your cooking style. Cosmic recommendations can keep you healthy, guide menu planning, and help you choose a restaurant for Saturday night. The discipline had a moment of mainstream acceptance in the 1980’s when Gourmet Magazine ran an ongoing column titled A Taste of Astrology. Today, it’s seeing a bit of a revival with a pack of online astro-foodologists to advise dietary regimens for every sign and every cuisine.

What’s your food sign?
Culinary astrology tells us that Aries likes it hot, spicy, and on the table fast.
Libra has a sweet tooth.
Aquarius will show up late for dinner, but Pisces will get there early and be ready to help in the kitchen. Sagittarius will be the last to leave the table but the first to hit the gym afterwards.
Virgo wants to know where everything comes from and how it’s been prepared, while Scorpio seeks the exotic and unfamiliar.
Taurus is the sensualist of the group, taking intense pleasure in the food; Gemini relishes the conversation as much as the meal.
Cancer is all about comfort food and big family dinners, while Capricorn likes traditional foods in a formal setting.

Here’s where you can go to consult your food horoscope:

We all struggle with the perennial question of what’s for dinner. Your Daily Foodscope from Delish has the answer. You’ll find out if the stars are aligned for tonight’s beef stroganoff, plus you can link to a recipe from Delish’s vast collection.

If you’ve got a metaphysical bent and a Type A personality you can get a full week’s worth of food readings from Horoscope.com and plan ahead with one great big shopping list.

Wines have birth years just like you and me. We call them vintages, but hey, why can’t they be ruled by the stars too?  If you crossed a sommelier and an astrologer you’d end up with something a lot like Zodiac Astrology Online where the Sauvignon Blanc might not pair well with the pasta but it goes great with a Gemini.

He’s a chef. He’s an astrologer. Martin Montes holds degrees from both the French Culinary Institute and the American Federation of Astrologers. He offers recipes and readings at Cosmic Cuisine, where you can ‘dine on the fruits of the cosmos’ with a personal consultation.

Do your part to advance the science of culinary astrology. Celestial Living Arts is building a database to document the connection between astrology and food. You can help by adding your personal dining do’s and don’ts along with the time and place of your birth at the Me and My Foods Survey.


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Kudos and Criticism for Chipotle’s Farm Ad

It’s been 2 weeks and the buzz still hasn’t died down.
Fast food marketer Chipotle Mexican Grill ran a doozy of a commercial during the Grammy Awards. The company went all out for its first national ad buy, a 2 minute spot during which it screened a short film celebrating sustainable agriculture.

Back to the Start uses stop-motion animation to tell the tale of a small-time farmer who transforms his family farm into an industrialized animal feeding operation, then sees the error of his way and returns to his former small-scale methods. It starts out as a sweet little Fisher-Price playset of a farm, green and lush with a single red barn and open pastures where a handful of spotted cows and plump pink piggies roam freely. Then it scales up to a gray landscape of bloated animals, crowded warehouses, and mechanized feeding lines with sludgy feed and a rainbow of chemical supplements. The soundtrack comes from Willie Nelson singing a mournful rendition of the Coldplay tune The Scientist: “Science and progress/Don’t speak as loud as my heart/Nobody said it was easy/No one ever said it would be so hard/I’m going back to the start.”

The film succeeds on many levels.
It’s playful but unsettling. It confronts the horrors and pitfalls of concentrated, mechanized agriculture, but does so without the stridency and gory shock tactics of most animal rights messaging. It’s simple but not dumbed down.

The critics began chiming in while the final frame was still flickering on TV screens.
Proponents of Big Agriculture blasted the message as a ‘prescription for worldwide hunger,’ claiming that they make the tough calls regarding animal husbandry on our behalf. In a New York Times opinion piece, Missouri Farm Bureau president Blake Hurst warned that our political correctness actually backfires because it drives small farmers out of business because only “big multistate operations will also be able to afford to make the changes, or will at least have the political sway to resist them.” He also questions Chipotle’s assumption that a pig would prefer a pasture to a warehouse. Have there been “porcine focus groups,” he wonders, with “response meters designed for the cloven of hoof?” “… for all we know, pigs are ‘happier’ in warm, dry buildings than they are outside. And either way, the end result is a plate.” [If Mr. Hurst’s name is ringing a bell, perhaps it’s because he first made a name in the food world as the author The Omnivore’s Delusion, the anti-foodie screed he penned in response to Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma]

Chipotle also drew criticism from members of the food reform community. Chipotle, whose motto is “Food with integrity,” has demonstrated a deep commitment to the humane treatment of animals, but has come under fire numerous times for ignoring the unethical and abusive labor practices of some of its vendors. Some also have a cynical view of a corporation that has co-opted a movement and turned it into a marketing tool.

It’s true that we can’t presume to truly know what’s inside a pig’s mind. It’s also true that Chipotle mixes self-interest with the environmental message. But ultimately, it’s the message that matters. Back to the Start addresses deep and important issues about the food supply, and Chipotle succeeded in bringing them to the attention of a broad national audience.


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Anthony Bourdain: Chef-Author-TV Star and now Book Publisher

image via the National Post


Anthony Bourdain is adding another hyphenated job description to the list.
The quote-spouting bon vivant and all-around culinary luminary now has his own eponymous line of books published under the Ecco imprint for HarperCollins. Bourdain has basically been given carte blanche to choose, acquire, and release three to five books per year.

Anthony Bourdain made his own literary mark with tough-guy tales of culinary foot soldiers—often sordid and salacious, always heavily-testosteroned. In the Ecco press release, Bourdain describes his ambitions: We’re presently looking at an initial list composed of chefs, enthusiasts, fighters, musicians and dead essayists.  And we’re looking to publish them in a way that’s both accessible and respectful of the power of the written word … in other words, more Hemingway than Betty Crocker.

Ecco has just announced the first three titles, and they are a predictably eclectic bunch.
There’s Spaghetti Junction: Riding Shotgun with an L.A. Chef, a ‘memoir-cum-cookbook’ from Roy Choi, a classically trained chef who’s considered the father of the modern food truck movement. Daniel Vaughn gives a guided tour through 450 Texas barbecue joints in Prophets of Smoked Meat. The third title, Fight Shark, is a curiously cerebral (and food-less) memoir from kickboxer Mark ‘Fightshark’ Miller. Miller covers his love for Bruce Lee and his 2011 return to the sport after open-heart surgery when he stepped into the ring and knocked out the Russian champion in the first 9 seconds.

A rebel chef, the ‘Yoda’ of barbecue, and a fighter with a legendary ‘lead pipe punch;’ at the very least HarperCollins will have one of the more interesting company Christmas parties around.

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Burgernomics: The Big Mac Index

A ride on a city bus costs more than $7.00 in Oslo but only 7¢ in Mumbai.
The same iPad 2 that sells for over $1,000 in Buenos Aires can be picked up for half that price in Bangkok.
But when we really want to understand purchasing power, we look at global Big Mac prices.

A Big Mac is a Big Mac wherever you go.
The McDonald’s Big Mac is an ideal indicator. With a few accommodations to local tastes, it’s the same sesame seed bun, same special sauce, same double beef patties, made to identical specifications by all of the company’s franchisees around the globe. Unlike transit or tablet computers, the Big Mac includes inputs from a wide range of local area sectors from agriculture to advertising, and hires a mix of white and blue collar workers.

A theory of burger-buying parity
The Big Mac Index has been published annually in The Economist since 1986. The index demonstrates the purchasing power of consumers around the globe by converting the world’s currencies to a hamburger standard. Purchasing parity would mean that every consumer world-wide is paying the same equivalent price (in their local currency) for a Big Mac. If you’re paying more than the fair-value burger benchmark, you live in a country with an over-valued currency; conversely a cheap Big Mac signals an under-valued currency.

Travel across the European continent and the power of currency valuations comes to life. A mere 17 Ukrainian hryvnias (the equivalent of $2.11) gets you a burger in Kiev; hungry in Hungary and you’ll spend 645 forints ($2.63), while in Copenhagen the same Big Mac costs more than double that amount ($5.37) in Danish krones.

The Big Mac Index locates most of the world’s under-valued currencies in Asian countries—no big surprise to anyone who shops at big box discount retailers like Wal-Mart and Costco where more than 90% of the merchandise can come from China. Taiwan, Indonesia, China, Malaysia, and Hong Kong are all under-valued by more than 40%. India, home to the index’s cheapest burger, the $1.62 Maharaja Mac, also has the cheapest currency, the 60% under-valued rupee. Switzerland and Norway top the list with the priciest Big Macs, quadruple the cost of an Indian burger ($6.81 and $6.79), and the most over-valued currencies (62% ).

You can see the full data set here.


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