Friday, April 29, 2005

surgery -- with no anaesthesia!

I've been dealing with some cognitive dissonance after reading about two different friends in the Times on Wed., and working closely with AK-47 on some serious Slayer exegesis.

Or perhaps my brain exploded at a nice little restaurant the other night when my sole meunière arrived with grill marks on it. No, no, no. Look it up. What is the world coming to?

Whatever the reason, I was clearly addled when I attributed "everything that's stupid about American wine" to the small penis/steep vineyard syndrome. [If any of you have suffered through Sideways, I imagine you can supply more stupidities, although they all probably go back to the penis thing]. Thankfully Stephanie at the KQED food blood unearths further stupidity for us, like "chick-lit" wine. And now we get into the worst development of all: $15 rosé. Blame the euro if you want, or certain importers, or the incessant media coverage in recent years, but this is officially out of control. It won't be long till I'm drinking Alizé with the other sluts.

In other slut news, the FDA's pathetic ruminant feed ban (along with USDA lies), has so far cost the beef industry at least $3.2 billion dollars. Hope it was worth it, boys. What was that about your Harvard study?

Why stop at pharmaceuticals? Let's put human genes in rice! On the other hand, regular GM rice is good for you. Or at least good for farmers.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

rest, wicked, &c.

Christ, I try to take one day off and Drew Barrymore says:

I took a poo in the woods hunched over like an animal. It was awesome.

That is probably the best celebrity quote ever. I can't believe Vogue didn't use it for their "beauty and the beast" story.

Anyway, there is some amazing shit in today's papers, including a cheese diaries shout out in the Times's most-emailed story, but you'll have to enjoy the Mineshaft muscle on your own.

If you need a refresher, this pretty much sums up everything that's stupid about American wine.

By the way, scientists seems to have finally proven that transmissible spongiform encephalopathies are caused by prions [pubmed abstract]. Meanwhile, the GAO has announced again that the FDA feed ban doesn't work, even as the USDA thinks it's proven to Japan that U.S. beef is safe. Just because they like their history full of lies doesn't mean they deserve to die.

There was some other shit too, but I forgot what it was.

Friday, April 22, 2005

finger update

The Merc-News has the first report on the press conference. Still don't know where the finger came from.

But they failed to publish the best detail yet (except for the leopard):

The Associated Press reported that a handwritten sign on the door of Ayala's door Friday morning instructed reporters not to knock: "Trust Me Do Not Knock on Door Emotionally Disturbard Thanx."

Yeah, morans.

size matters

Some old news:

Salon on Horizon organic. Can't remember if I posted the allegedly incriminating photos.

Wendy's Chili lady arrested for grand larceny; press conference in S.J. @ 1PST.

Strawberries: In additions to Karp's article from last week, Andy Griffin explains the economics of strawberry farming; Small Farms and visit Swanton Berry Farm, the first organic farm with a UFW contract.

Learn about the USDA gene bank.

Two interesting articles from Food Quality and Preference 16/5: Wansink et al., "How descriptive food names bias sensory perceptions in restaurants" [393-400]. Abstract:

Can a dietitian, restaurateur, marketer, or parent change the perceived taste of a food simply by changing its name? In a six-week cafeteria experiment involving 140 customers, those who ate foods with evocative, descriptive menu names (such as "Succulent Italian Seafood Filet") generated a larger number of positive comments about the food and rated it as more appealing, tasty, and caloric than those eating regularly-named counterparts (e.g., "Seafood Filet"). The open-ended comments indicated that their evaluations were assimilated with prior taste expectations in a manner that is more deliberate and less automatic than most research typically claims. For practioners, the use of descriptive names may help improve perceptions of foods in institutional settings, and it may help facilitate the introduction of unfamiliar foods.

Cervellon et al., "Cultural influences in the origins of food likings and dislikes" [455-460]. Abstract:

This research investigates cultural influences on affective and cognitive bases or origins of food likes and dislikes in terms of cross-cultural differences (French from France, N = 118 vs. Chinese from PR China, N = 100) and acculturation (Chinese from PR China vs. Chinese accultured in Canada, N = 111). Content analyses on the reasons for liking and disliking food items support the expected cross-cultural differences between the French and the Chinese: the French display a dominant affective basis, whereas the Chinese attitude to food reflects more balance between affect and cognition. Comparisons between the Chinese acculturated into a Western culture and the Chinese from PR China revealed little change to the balance between bases for liking, and a shift toward a higher pre-dominance of the affective basis for dislikes. Theoretical and practical implications of the results are discussed.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

October 18, 1977


The Times profile of Ratzinger is shaky on the theology, but good for background, if you care. I love the lefty Catholics, but I do believe that they want to have their wafer and eat it too. We're not talking about the Constitution here: strict constructivism is part of the definition of the church, not just for crazies like Scalia.

[Richter photo thanks to this is baader-meinhof].

More web bounty: John L. Allen Jr.'s NCR profile; Ratzinger on Liberation Theology; a little background on the nuclear option, i.e., infallibility.

While you're at it, check out the Vatican website, and Opus Dei's creepy worship of power.

Friday, April 15, 2005

Must be an east coast leopard shortage

A-Rod needs a new agent: maybe Drew Rosenhaus? Sure, Boras got him a quarter-billion, but snatching the 8-year old from certain death the same day Shef. decides not to go into the stands is just amateurish.

I should also point out: 1. 50mph on Newbury St.? No fucking way; 2. kid's dad is a P.R. guy who happen's to be a Yankees fan. What crazy coincidence. Better jokes from SoSH:

I heard that -- in the Ruthian tradition -- ARod promised the boy he would hit a weak ground out in for him.

That's not fair. He showed the kid his warning track power last night.

Sorry, I promise no more baseball.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

basically very boring

Just when you started to get bored with the chili finger they bring in the trained leopard. Poorly trained leopard. This story kicks fajitagate's ass! [unrelated finger joke]

Via SW, Mondovino director Jonathan Nossiter hits Robert Parker's forums. Nazis, fascists, the Gestapo and McCarthism roped in on the first page. Just like usenet, but without the porn.

So the Meaning of Food listed to didactic a bit much for my comfort, but compared to anything you've seen on Food Network it is a work of genius. However: yes, Marcus Samuelsson is hot, but whoever thought his talents were best suited to narrating needs to lay off the weed.

New mad cow coverup: CBC has video footage and multiple whistleblowers from 1997. Whoops. Via egullet, newly readable thanks to RSS.

Karp sighting: oddly truncated strawberry article.

"I only use road kill that is freshly dead - still warm, with eyes still bright." Foraging in England [via Saucy]. Advice for Americans.

I know I've made fun of Ruth Reichl in the past -- the memoirs are really just too embarassing, and I don't understand the appeal of the this "look at my elaborate disguise!" thing -- but I never said she wasn't smart about food. Anyway, this boring new Salon interview led to an interesting old Salon interview:

Well, I once started an article by saying, 'Food is basically a very boring subject.' There is nothing worse than being at a table full of people who want to do nothing but talk about their food. I mean, food is interesting for a million reasons, but as a topic of discussion, 'This has too much salt' is really boring. I don't want to be with people who are telling me about their great wine experiences. I have a lot of food-involved friends who wouldn't dream of sitting at a table and doing that. When I go out to dinner with Alice Waters, we don't sit there and talk about food. We talk about people and family, and what's going on in the world, politics. I want to eat food. I want to be around good food. I love farmers and cooks, and I love to be around them when they're working. But to just sit down at a table and analyze what's on the table seems to me a terrible perversion of what eating ought to be.

Words to live by. (But don't talk about politics at the dinner table).

Monday, April 11, 2005


Hot liver action: Self-proclaimed bad boy Tony Bourdain compares Charlie Trotter to Milhouse.

One way to look at it:

"The extent of the problem is certainly surprising," Ms. Fleming said, "especially in a place like New York, where the most sophisticated consumers in the country live, people who really scrutinize a purchase."

Another way to look at it is that anyone one who's buying "fresh" "wild" "Pacific" salmon in March is a fucking tool. What is so hard to understand about seasonality? Update: thanks to a contributor from Vancouver, the egullet discussion is rather more edifying than it has been in the past.

Elsewhere in the Times: excellent Travel article on Vietnam; bros. Lee get punk'd -- in the words of the Cod -- at maple syrup Potemkin Village.

Turns out the woman who found the chili finger is no stranger to our civil law.

USDA fines Syngenta $375k for Bt10 fuckup.

I didn't have time to mention it last week, and I haven't had a chance to watch it yet, but PBS is running a something called the meaning of food.

While checking out the Beard Foundation journalism nominees, it became clear that I should read Malcolm Gay's "Eat Me." After some compromising googling, I turned up this excellent article about the travails of Gateway Beef cooperative, prevented from testing their own cattle for BSE by the USDA. Meanwhile, Japan, which actually tests every cow, just found its seventeenth case of BSE. Judging by the brand churn at my local meat case, consumers are as confused as ever about beef, but the the latset arrival, prime Angus from Creekstone (another company fucked by the USDA) sure looks impressive (i.e., it really looks like prime). When I get around to sampling it, I'll let you know.

Bruce has assembled the rest of the internet-available nominees over at Sauté Wed.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005


I should also mention the Times's boringly sensible rush to Charlie Trotter's defense:

Fine cooking is fine art, and Mr. Trotter should feel free to use whatever materials he likes. He says foie gras is cruel, but he could have also called it boring -- a cliché slurped by too many diners who, we suspect, would swoon just as easily over the velvety succulence of Spam or schmaltz on rye, if they were prohibitively priced and listed on the menu in French. By spurning an easy fix of fancy fat, Mr. Trotter is simply making his job a bit harder, and this man-eat-duck world a slightly kinder place. There is much to admire in that.

More to the point, however, is Tony Bourdain's response.

And more importantly: Schlosser's take on Taco Bell:

The need for a corporate edict against slavery in the United States reveals just how bad things have become for farm workers.



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.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Behold the march of progress.

OK, let's be fair: they are working on importantant things, like transferring Staph genes to dairy cows: Robert K. Wall, et al., "Genetically enhanced cows resist intramammary Staphylococcus aureus infection," NBT AOP.

Also, attempts to make "golden rice" nutritionally significant: Jacqueline A. Paine, et al., "Improving the nutritional value of Golden Rice through increased pro-vitamin A content," ibid.

But some of my best friends are Virgins

If James Carroll believes that "the pope's devotion to the Virgin Mary [is] at odds with his antifeminist positions on gender equality," he needs to learn more about Catholic history. [From this otherwise intelligent Virginia Heffernan article in the Times.]

©2002-2005 by the author