Archive for the ‘Is it just food?’ category

Could someone please feed us?

November 6th, 2009

I have been enjoying the dance of Capital and Demand (read us, THE PEOPLE, the people that buy the Snickers Bar and hence create the demand for Snickers) in the nutritional arena lately.   Nestle, the world’s biggest food company, is changing the way  they do business.  Rather than maintaining Nestle’s role as a seller of cheap commoditys (Nescafe, etc…) the corporate giant is regearing its marketing focus to expand its functional food production.  A study by the Harvard Business School found that between 2004 and 2007, sales of Nestles products such “functional  ingredients grew by 23.7% a year, compared with growth of 6.2% a year for its ordinary foods.”  (The Economist, October 31-novemer 6, 2009)  Milk chocolate that is good for you…

Heck, ya, people will buy it.

I’m not sure that supplements will ever take the place of real vegetables, for example, and can never fully reproduce the benefits of the real nutrient.

No single nutrient creates heath.  The human condition is an arrayment of nutrients, salts and minerals.  Take vitamin D for example.

Vitamin D, which the human body receives through the skin from the sun, can be transformed into pills that one could swallow, but “only give you the right amount–but not generate the photo products that real sunlight has.” (Dr. Ben Kim, http://drbenkim.com/vitamin-d-facts.htm)  It seems that no amount of ingestion can fully match the vitamins that our sun beams down upon us.

Vitamin D appears to be one of the most important nutrients to prevent disease.  A nutrient largely missing from our diet.   A few facts from Dr. Michael Holick’s book,  The UV Advantage (http://www.bricktowerpress.com/Health/978-1-596879-00-3.html):

76% of pregenant women are deficient in vitamin D

60% of hospitalized people are deficient

80% of nursing home folks are vitamin D deficient

There is a ripeness the sun imbues.  There is a richness, a tawny richness,  but I guess that I am just old fashioned and believe everything made  natural from scratch is the best.  Real vegetables and real sunlight….

Is that what we eat?

October 6th, 2009

I posted a link to the video that I edited of Skeeter breaking down a hog’s head to make headcheese for the restaurant.  My friend, John Moody (Moodyfilm.com), and I had filmed Skeeter process a whole hog into manageeable parts to be served at the restaurant.  This was the biggest hog that had come through the doors yet.  This beast was only 8 pounds lighter than Skeeter!

I was fine with Skeeter carving out the hog’s shoulder.  Cutting out the neck seemed merely an addendum. Even slicing off the flank of the hog failed to scare up a hackle on my arm…but watching Skeeter hew the skull into pieces without hesitancey set me aback a little.  That quiesiness drew my attention and I pursued that little sickling through my mental labryinth and tried to bring it into the open scrutiny of my conscous mind.  Hewing of the Hog’s Head

Watching the lifeless jaws yawn up at me tightened my bowels a little bit.  I would have averted my gaze earlier when Skeeter gauged out the eyes, but I was editing and so had a duty to fulfill.  My girlfriend squeeled and scurried from the room, exhorting me to care for her peace of mind  a little more earnestnly.

I couldn’t tell whether I was uneasy with the concept of eating my fellow mammals due to the inane wrongness of it or because I was so inured to only consuming already processed, packaged protein which held no suggestion of origin.

Perhaps because there is very little genetic difference between a hog and a human, and I am of the imaginative type, the undoing of the head into smaller pieces which could then be cooked ina pot to create headcheese creeped me out a bit.  I understood that humans need protein to survive, and the current predominant cultural method of procuring protein was to slaughter animals, and I knew utilizing each portion of the beast was the only way to honor its death (and maintain the bottom line of the business).

To resolve this issue I thought it best to follow this quesiness to its logical conclusion.
Go witness the slaughtering of hogs meant for the dinner plate.

A simple bite

September 29th, 2009

A man came into the restaurant tonight with his wife and mother for his birthday dinner. They each asked me a series of questions seeking clarification about certain menu items.  Is the fried chicken traditional?   I gave the whole spiel about the chicken: how it spends 24 hours brining in salt water; 24 hours soaking in buttermilk; dredged in seasoned flour and finally fried in beef suet.  They were impressed and the gentleman asked if their were another item that was particularly special.  Hands down, the whole hog plate, I said.  We butcher a hog every week in back and you get four different cuts that we prepare four different ways.

“Over the fish and shellfish pan-roast,” he asked.

“Yes,” I replied.

When the plate arrived I asked him if he would like me to point out the different cuts.  In response he navigated the plate, telling me, quite correctly, the identity of each cut. When he came to the corn meal crusted head cheese he stopped and asked what it was.  I told him.

He looked at me and then told me a story of how he had had one bite of head cheese 25 years ago and had avoided it ever since.  I explained the integrity of our kitchen and he said he would try it.  He ate the whole thing and liked it.

I can’t think of a better example to illustrate my favorite moment in my restaurant life: to take a guest’s perception about an item, or the restaurant itself, and move it 180 degrees in the opposite direction.  It’s a two way street, for sure.  The guest has to be willing to taste the head cheese, even after 25 years of built up distaste.  And, of course, it has to be prepared correctly. Sometimes it seems magical what one can accomplish through doing things the right way.

The beauty of corn: a sustainable kitchen

September 3rd, 2009

Growing up I remember hearing that Americans believe that meat comes wrapped in plastic: that we are divorced from the relationship between the animal and our plate.
I have grown up taking salmon, crabs and other seafood apart in the kitchen, but what a joy there is in actually witnessing a half side of beef being broke down, or a hog, or a lamb. There is an empowerment that comes with understanding the tools that one work with in the kitchen.  This concept is not merely limited to carnivores, as Adam points out during his demonstration for Chef in the Market.  Using the whole product

It seems to me that with a little better information, and with government subsidies focused on local, whole foods instead of soybean and rape seed products, that perhaps we could break the strangle hold that fast food has on this nation’s people.

Tasting the product

September 1st, 2009

I have worked in places where the chef  will raise his eyebrows at you if he catches you munching on a dinner roll.  Lord forbid he catches you eating black berries in the walk-in cooler.

I was laughing to myself  earlier today about eating at the Country Cat.   Not only does Adam feed us a meal before service (it is usually an amazingly healthy salad which helps offset the evening meal) and again feeds us after (we eat a lot of fried chicken!), but he also encourages us to eat during service and as we are setting the restaurant up.  Taste the raw product first is how Adam encourages us to understand the culinary concept behind the Country Cat.

It’s not that rare that a restaurant owner will feed the staff, but it is very rare for the owner to consistently get excited and want to share that excitement with the employees.

Snow storm

December 23rd, 2008

I have been pained frequently over the last few days thinking about retail businesses, the losses they are experiencing right now, and how much the economy in general needs consumer spending.

This dramatic winter weather is forcing many people to stay at home. Retail stores, already reeling from the current economic turmoil, have had a last minute lifeline, holiday spending, withdrawn.

Neighborhood restaurants and businesses might feel a little upturn from local customers, especially on day 2 or day 3 of being snowed in: folks can get a bit stir crazy and desire to go out.   I have a freezer full of seafood, steaks, tomato soups, frozen berries,  yet I still went out for brunch at the local and enjoyed some outside time.

I’m getting ready to go into work now, and am very much looking forward to having the locals come in and spend a snow day with me.

Are they taking over?

December 20th, 2008

I just read this  article in the Economist that tickled the heck out of me.  The hogs are taking over!  I only see dead hogs, and they are usually all medium sized little fellows.

My boss tends to like his hogs to come at around 80 lbs.  The amount we go through at the restaurant, and just the size of protein on a plate (the chop of the 138 pounder was so big that the pairing of it with the rolled belly, the braised shoulder, and the head cheese was just too much protein for a plate) dictates about 80 lbs of hog.  I couldn’t imagine a 350 lb. hog!  So here is the article…

Feral hogs

If you go down to the woods today

Dec 4th 2008 | ST LOUIS
From The Economist print edition

AP Millions more to go

AUTUMN is a time for country walks, and, if you are that way inclined, for a spot of bang-bang. But hunters and hikers alike are liable to come face to face with a nasty surprise: a growing number of feral hogs, the destructive descendants of domesticated animals, are stalking America.

During its short and brutal life, a feral hog may grow to become a monster of several hundred pounds, covered with bristly hair and fronted with a set of fierce, killing tusks. One hog shot in Georgia in 2004 lives on in legend as Hogzilla because of the claim, disputed by some, that it was 12 feet long (almost four metres) and weighed 1,000lb (about 450kg).

There are thought to be between 4m and 5m feral hogs at large in America, spread across 38 states. The biggest population is in Texas, but states from Florida to Oregon are infested and worried. Feral hogs destroy the habitats of plants and animals, spread diseases, damage crops, kill and eat the eggs and young of wildlife and sometimes menace people with their aggressive behaviour.

The problem originated with the Spanish conquistadors, who took herds of pigs with them as they marched across the American continent. Stragglers reverted to their wild state. Much later “sportsmen” began releasing hogs into reserves for commercial hunting. More recently still declining pork prices have induced farmers to turn some of their stock loose rather than continue feeding them. Pigs produce so many piglets that a feral herd can double or even triple within as little as a year.

Governments and individuals across the country are getting involved. In 2000 Missouri adopted a shoot-on-sight policy with no restrictions on time or place. Other states are encouraging the trapping, poisoning and snaring of the beasts. “Hog dogs” have been trained to track down the herd for hunters. In many states aerial hunting from helicopters has been employed as a pricey but effective solution. But the creatures are intelligent and adaptable, so these efforts are not keeping pace with the exploding feral hog population. Missouri recently made it a crime to knowingly release pigs from confinement. However, the herds continue to grow and spread. Take care.

 

and if you are still reading and are interested, check out some of the comments posted on this article  at the below URL.      

 

http://www.economist.com/world/unitedstates/displaystory.cfm?story_id=12725704&mode=comment&intent=readBottom

duckspoon.com

November 19th, 2008

So I launched the website I have been working on.  It took me longer to get this project running than it did for me to graduate from Willamette University.  Now the real work commences.

As I was going through the recipes that I filmed with my dad I realized more fully our culinary background…French and filled with fat.  Butter is such a vital part of a classic kitchen.  Chicken stock and Beef stock and salt.

In order to widen the appeal of the site I need to begin focusing on eating habits and food cultures that are outside my norm.  I need to visit more vegetarian fare, more vegan fare, more gluten free recipes.  Fun stuff!

Thanksgiving Dinner

November 8th, 2008

Have you ever had a job you so enjoyed that you wanted to spend holidays with the other employees?  (I realize I just lost 75% of you…)  Perhaps because I grew up in restaurants my thoughts are irretrievably bent.  Please allow me a moment of bent thoughts.  

In many restaurants there is no bond between the guest and the employee.  The elaborate dance which brings the processing of food from the seed to the table (genetics, composition of soil, proper blanching etc…) is garnished with pretty people in front who sell these gustatory dreams.  But oftentimes these places are purely a manifestation of capitalism (there went another 10% of my readers I imagine): they are clinical and superficial and do not speak to the human heart.

I like it a lot nowadays that the cooks are on stage.  My dad had an open kitchen at the Red Dog Saloon in Junea, Alaska in 1987.   That is were I learned about integrity.  I prepped food during the day (50 gallon buckets of live crabs that needed to be cleaned) and waited tables at night.  Ultimate confidence in the food I was serving to people changed me.

So I passed up the offer to lose the thanksgiving dinner shift, after, of course, checking with my mother and father.  I know what goes on in the kitchen and it is really fun: brining turkeys and smoking pork cheeks and duck legs gently sizzling in confit.

There are many beautiful people out there who don’t have family, or can’t be with family, or anything else that really want to be a part of the community celebrating the bounty of the earth.   It is a peculiar and precious joy to be able to provide that to people.  

I’ll quit bending your ear.  

I’m working Thanksgiving dinner and hope you all all have a special, and beautiful Thanksgiving. 

Your daily diet is your medicine for life

October 27th, 2008

Scientific studies clarifying the relationship between diet and health have started to gain serious momentum in the past few years.  Wise men throughout history have explained Man as a result of his diet. Conscious food choices directly affect our health, happiness and how we relate to the world.

Dr. Weil has an article explaining why black berries have cut cancer rates by 50% in lab rats. (http://www.drweil.com/drw/u/id/WBL02028)  There are studies in Great Britain suggesting that addiction can be severely reduced by appropriate dietary changes. We are gaining some awareness of how to combat disease through diet.  But  how did we get to this place in time where obesity has surpassed smoking as the leading killer?  

I imagine the same forces that empowered cigarettes its deadly reign over humanity: popular culture and the loss of tradition.  It is not merely the control of agriculture by the fast food industry.  We have also pushed technology, including food technology, so hard that we have often times not adequately tested the long term effects on humans.This haphazard, free market approach to the creation of culture has provided many benefits, but has also resulted in much misery and sickness.

I say free market to explain that capitalism in general, and corporations in specific do not care about the health of a community other than as a factor in sales.  I don’t want anyone telling me how or what to eat.  But I would like to listen to people and learn what they have to offer about food and its relationship to us.

It seems to me that creating community is the first step in recapturing tradition and passing on health and well being to our children.