Wednesday, April 06, 2005


Your job is to come up with something stupider than Johnny Apple lunching with clowns. You fail, and I don't blame you, because the imagination boggles, but that's why you don't work for the Times, which, today, sent Bruni to lunch with Delta Burke. I can say nothing that will do justice to the decision to publish this -- even t-muffle balks -- but, strangely, it's worth reading).

No time for the less egregious food media today, which you can read for yourself anyway. However: The mysterious KQED food blog (allegedly run by professionals), suggests that you make your own ricotta. They don't tell you how, apparently because they are afraid of infringing the copyright of a magazine called Cooking Light, whose recipe they used. I certainly would never read such a thing, but my grocery store carries it in the impulse buy section (along with three yoga periodicals), so I checked out the recipe: heat 1 gal. whole milk and 1 qt. buttermilk, stop stirring at 170 F, ladle out the curds at 190 F into cheesecloth, and drain. Fair enough: the problem is that this is cottage cheese, or fromage frais, or some other vague term for homemade cheese, certainly not ricotta. The word itself unequivocally signifies its referent (a kind of miraculous pre-Saussurian similitude: ricotta is not just what one must awkwardly call in English "whey cheese" by definition, it is so on an almost syllabic level of elemental signification). Sorry, I know I'm flying off the handle, so here's the point: what kind of obliviousness does it require to perform the above recipe and then intentionally attach the word ri-cot-ta to it? I don't even care if you're going to make one thing and call it something else, but at least tell us that you're making it up. Fuck, even if you're lying about it I could let it slide, but the fact that it didn't even occur to two "professionals" that they are literally writing nonsense is pathetic. Of course, this is now common in more important fields of journalistic endeavor than food writing. But I'm going to try the recipe.

More accurate cheese: cheese diaries's Anne Pinckard sings the praises of Gruyère at Saucy.

Also, the Times on biotech flavor startup Senomyx, which is about to make a shitload of money. If you have a subscription, more info can be had from the Cormac Sheridan NBT article I mentioned last fall, of which this is the most relevant piece:

The sweet, bitter and umami tastes are all mediated by GPCRs [G protein-coupled receptors]. Receptors for salt and sour have yet to be definitively characterized, says Senomyx chief scientific officer Mark Zoller, although evidence suggests that the epithelial sodium channel (ENaC), an ion channel protein, functions as a salt receptor. The diuretic drug amiloride hydrochloride blocks ENaC and reduces sensitivity to salt.

The sweet and umami tastes each appear to be mediated by a single receptor com-posed of two subunits. Each receptor type is expressed uniquely by specialist sweet or umami taste cells. In contrast, some 25 bitter receptors exist, all of which are expressed within the same cell. Senomyx has established screening programs to find sweet, salt and savory (umami) enhancers.


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