Posts Tagged ‘food’

Happy Cornless Turkey day

November 22nd, 2008

So I just started reading this blog post from goodtimepolitics.com and thought it interesting…

The ripple effect of corn’s being funneled to ethanol production instead of turkey feed has forced at least four huge turkey-processing plants to shut down this year, the government says.

Things will turn bleaker after the holidays, when the industry nationwide will reduce production dramatically, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

That’s bad news for U.S. consumers. In 2007, the average American ate 17.5 pounds of turkey, according to the National Turkey Federation.

And this could be the last holiday season for some processors.

Holiday turkeys enjoy a daily feast of corn and soybeans to plump them up just in time for the table. But even soybeans have fallen prey to the push for ethanol.

Soybean production is down in response to demand for corn to make ethanol, which also drives up soybean prices, the USDA says.

——

The article goes on to lament President-elect Obama’s ethanol policy in a rather dramatic way.  I do actually agree to some extent, but I think Barack Obama had to concede to subsidized corn to get elected.  I think he understands not only the immorality of using food for fuel when it is unnecessary, but also what a huge waste of resources that could better be allocated.  

Fill in your own enthusiastic plan of getting off petroleum dependancy.

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. 

The recipes they are a changing?

November 4th, 2008

The restaurant paradigm has shifted since the current economic miasma took effect in September. Restaurants have had to adapt or go out of business.  Many restaurants are going out of business.

Previously successful brand statements have seen significant losses and have turned to revamping their identity.  The New York Times recently noted that “even restaurants that say they are doing fine…” have started adding “value meals with phrases that evoke the Great Depression.”  Yet folks are still eating.

The lowest quintile of households spent 37.3% of household income on food while the highest only spent 6.6% (ERS.usda.gov).  Married couples are still spending 40% of that dining out.  But where are they going?

Somewhere between man’s fight or flight response lies an oasis.  From the first boulangerie in Paris in 1792 people have sought out restaurants for gustatory meditation.  For peace, for a moment outside the “real” world, to allow the body to enjoy the fruits of the earth.  

People are going to restaurants that make them feel good, and have a high perceived value for the plate.  There is always going to be the need for the human animal to spend a little social time away from home.  

In times of worry folks will go where their money is well earned and where the tradition of celebrating the bounty of the earth is kept alive by folks who understand that a restaurant is not merely a business.

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.

long life and health

October 20th, 2008

It strikes me odd that I often hear folks telling me that they enjoyed a meal, but that it didn’t agree with them internally.  There seems to be a disconnect there.

Luigi Cornaro was an Italian back in the 14th century who lived to be a healthy 102 years old.  He basically had two rules to live by:

1. Eat only what agrees with you (listen to your stomach and not your palate).

2. Eat as little as possible (quit eating while still a little hungry)

It seems this counsel has been forgotten in a nation where obesity is the number one preventable cause of death.  It seems to me we are not listening to our bodies anymore.

For more about Luigi Cornaro check out http.//chetday.com/luigi.html

World Food Day

October 17th, 2008

Sure, grain prices finally fell last month.  But the price of diesel remains high and the cost of total inputs is very high.  The world bank predicts that the amount of malnourished people will rise to 44 million this year.  That’s nearly 1 billion hungry people.  And we grow enough food to feed all the hungry Americans out there.

Here in the United States the folks  who are in the lowest quintile of  wage earners pay 37% of household income for food.  In other words, the folks who are struggling to make it face the difficult choice of cheap processed food and more nutritional raw food.

It seems to me that our agricultural policy is fundamentally flawed.  Much of the price hikes in grain stem from the congressional mandate to grow corn for ethanol production.  The creation of ethanol from corn is more expensive than gasoline, but because of government subsidies appears to be cheaper.

Not only are we investing hugely in the creation of inefficient fuel, but we are forcing lower income families to struggle even more to put food on the table.  It interests me that agricultural policy has not been discussed much by either candidate.

The smell Factor

October 1st, 2008

Ever smell something lovely coming from the kitchen and have long lost memories evoked.  Smell can sometimes trigger memory more so than any of the other senses. Sifting through  the film tapes of my dad cooking I can almost smell those foods bursting through the computer screen.

Dad has gotten old and doesn’t cook much anymore, but the little grand kids running around the house have to have taken in some of those fresh cooked fragrances.  And at least one bite.  Dad’s rule has always been that one must sample at least one bite of whatever we are cooking.

As I develop duckspoon it strikes me that the grand children may never get the chance to eat some of my dad’s cooking.  The only chance they may have is to see the film that I have captured of him cooking his favorite meals for duckspoon, my video recipe encyclopedia.  

If the kids want to, they can cook the meal themselves, coached by my dad from the computer screen. Touching history more intimately than mere reading.  Perhaps then the scent wafting up from the food may trigger old memories and remind them of a kind man who mastered good food.

duckspoon.com

September 19th, 2008
together we cook!

together we cook!

Sometime about 4 years ago I was kicking it with my dad at his house.  We have lived together a few different times and have always enjoyed cooking, drinking wine and chatting, with each other and whomever is around.  So, about 5 years ago we had an idea for an internet tool.  Although I have a good touch with food, I have a deplorable memory, and soam sometimes forced to call my dad to ask questions about timing, temperature and other specifics.  In an effort to immortalize my father’s clean, simple, basic approach to food,

So we came up with the concept of duckspoon.com.  The paradigm grew into  duckspoon, although the actual name of the site had not revealed itself until recently.

This was in 2005 when we started this endeavor: before the video recipe encyclopedias was ubiquitous.   Google had just started recording the volumes in libraries.  We could see that the ides of free information was growing and we wanted to throw in our passion and love of food done correctly.  Hence the simplicity of duckspoon.com.

We did not want any of the sensationalism that was so abundant on the cooking shows.  As much as I admire  Anthony Bourdain’s writing and revel in his adventures, he has ushered in the concept of the celebrity chef…and pop culture loves the celebrity chef.

We weren’t interested.   Straight, to the point information without wasting  time was our goal.  Just the right information.

I wanted folks in the middle of dinner to be able to rely on going to my site and finding the answer to their question quickly and easily.  How long to you roast the chicken for?  What temperature?  Those questions.

Now by  creating an information system that was sleek and easy to use, and by limiting the video recipes to 3 minutes or under, we were omitting certain components of the meal.  When you are watching us make lentil soup, you don’t have to wade through the chopping of carrots, the mincing of onions, the dicing of bacon.  Unless you want to.  In the written instructions to the side of the actual videos are links to “chopped carrots” and “minced onions” and “diced bacon” that you can hit and see the instructional videos which will  guide you through that particular chore.

The site is finally coming together.  Granted duckspoon.com may be way behind the curve now and probably not considered innovative, but I funded it myself and it’s mine.

I’m about having a lot of fun and I hope that it becomes a useful tool and that others will enjoy duckspoon as much as I do.  I am fortunate enough that the owners of the restaurant that I at, Adam and Jackie, support my project and allow me access to the entire life of the restaurant.  It’s a beautiful little concept that has grit and whose owners are ready to walk the long way home.

So, have fun with me.

Slight Recant

September 10th, 2008

O.K. I have a little back stepping to perform.  In regard to caloric information on menus, I have to give the mom and pop shops a break.  The restaurant I work at changes our menu at least once a week, sometime, in seasonal transitions, 3-4 times a week.  It seems an inordinate amount of work to have to analyze every weekly change in the menu.

My chef says that people ought to know that a hefty caloric intake goes along with a cheeseburger; fried chicken is similarly full of calories.

Although I understand the financial and time implications of providing information about your menu to the public, I have to lodge a question.  Whose responsibility is it to provide information to the public?

Of course I advocate learning about the food one eats and making conscious food choices, but it seems to me that providing food (enjoyment as well as survival) to guests also entails educating them. If they want to know, then supply the information.

Perhaps the information does not need to be written on every menu, or even posted somewhere in the house, but having the information for those guests interested in learning about their food intake ought to be obligatory to a hospitality business.

cynicism

September 4th, 2008

So this fellow in New York waits tables.  He just published a book explaining that every guest is a dollar sign to him and nothing else.  He mentions that he won’t mess with your food if you don’t mess with him.  Mutually assured destruction, he calls his policy.  Really? Have we gotten so cynical? 

What happened to the sanctity of food and drink.  In arabic the word for blasphemer and someone who withholds water are the same.  I learned a long time ago from a very wise man that any job done well, regardless of its importance, is a job well done.  

It may be as simple as picking up the pancakes in the kitchen window and dropping them off at the table, but I don’t think so.  Every human needs food to survive.  Folks can survive off the processed junk that comes reeling out of the factories, and survival is the lowest common denominator, but isn’t there more to life than survival?   People flourish when eating food made with love.  People enjoy themselves and come away uplifted when eating food served with love.

Sure, some tables don’t want much personality, and some may even be rude.  And that hurts.  Some folks live dirty, mean, closed lives and it hurts to come into contact with those sort of people.  One may receive a crappy tip, which does not help pay for rent or food or electricity, as well as being treated rudely.  But that should not affect the basic, spiritual nature of providing food for another human being.  I may hate you and complain to my associates about what a cheap, low class dog you are, but your food will arrive safely, cooked and served with integrity.  

When you come back next time I will smile and hope that my kindness might elevate the tip from 10% to 11%.