Jump to content

Adam Balic

participating member
  • Posts

  • Joined

  • Last visited

Posts posted by Adam Balic

  1. I guess they will only be known as "red dates" once they are dried, so the fresh form will have another name.

    I haven't quite got this all worked out, but I think that there are at least three species that are eaten in Asia.

    Common Jujube (Ziziphus zizyphus)

    Chinese Jujube (Ziziphus jujuba) maybe the same species as above

    Indian Jujube (Ziziphus mauritiana)

    There are many varieties developed from these species and in China multiple species are grown.

    There are also a lot of other plants in the genus, some of which have fruit which is eaten or used in traditional medicine (Suan Zao Ren (Ziziphus spinosa) for instance)

  2. Thank you for the information, I thought that this was the case.

    For your entertainment:

    Jujube as sold in Singapore


    Jujube as sold in Spain (these are much larger)


    Cross section of the Spanish fruit


    The types sold in Australia are similar to the Singapore variety, but I have also seen fruit that are shaped like a small pear.

  3. There are quite a few different cultivars and I think that the Asian and European/Near Eastern types are different species.

    I have seen them for sale fresh in Southern Spain (Cadiz province) and in Singapore as "Chinese Winter Dates". Several varieties are occasionaly sold in Australia.

    When perfect, they taste of caramel to me, quite odd in a fresh fruit.

    Out of interest what names are they sold under in China? Especially the dried version.

  4. No I don't imagine it was the intent.

    It raises the interesting point that while food changes over time, the other dynamic is people. If you look at various restaurant threads on egullet there are lots of comments like "The menu was the same as last time I visited", "The chef is resting on their laurels", "This type of food isn't new anymore". No matter how good an individual dish might me, very often it no longer is perceived as being delicious, good, of interest ,whatever, simply because of changing fashions.

    Where I think that restaurant dining lacks maturity is that as yet it is very rare for older versions of a cuisine to come back into fashion. There is no equivalent of collectors of Art Deco or 1950's Swedish furniture.

    I'm not sure why this is the case, but in the rush to find the next new thing, I think that it is important to remember this. Some old fashioned tradional dishes work just as well in a modern setting and when discarding tradional dishes it is worth keeping in mind that they may be relevant at a later date.

  5. I know of at least two types of squash that are are given the name of "Tromboncino". One is a forerunner of butternut squash, with similar shaped fruit with, but much bigger and oftern with green stripes, the other is sometimes called a climbing zucchini and the fruit are picked when young and light green. What type have you got?

  6. Gyros are also made with ground meat rather than the traditional stacked slices of meat shawarma uses.  Elie, I'd love to visit Lebanon at some point - it looks fantastic...  Unfortunately it doesn't look like a visit is in the cards any time soon...

    That depends. In NYC and in my experience, "gyros" are the name generally used for what is described by Elie as "shawarma." In fact, the only "gyros" that I have ever had had the stacked meat. Of course, that may be a function of misnaming in the US and in Greece it may very well be as you describe.

    The ground meat shawarma is usually served in lazy shops that order a frozen gyrokones, it's not the sort of thing made on site. Ground meat shawarma shops are the shawarma equivalent of the Sysco brown-sauce Chinese restaurants. Greek gyros as far as I know are supposed to made from formed ground meat - but I'm mostly clueless on Greek food.

    I don't think there are any hard rules for the composition of the meat in a Greek gyros, more likely to be due to local resources.

    The lebanese version looks great.

  7. The flowering quince are really interesting. In Australia I grew up with them, but they never set fruit. I had no idea that you could eat the fruit until my trip to Vilnius. After that I picked all the fruit that ripened at The University of Edinburgh.

    To my mind the freshly picked fruit smell of violets. The preserved fruit not so much.

    A really wonderful blog.

  8. bad writing is bad writing. at one time, i think a certain rowdiness was a welcome break in food writing--kind of like john belushi bashing the guitar of the gentle minstrel's head in animal house. now it's sometimes just belushi.

    Maybe it is a erroneous perception on my behalf, but I feel that at a period where it seems that there is more commentary on food culture then ever before, there doesn't seem to a great increase in individual voices, just more of the same points of view expressed loudly.

  9. The food looks really lovely, I especially like the look of the apple cake. All the images of curds and rye bread is reminding me of the food I say in Lithuania (although the Estonians I spoke to there told me that they thought that the Lithuanian food had more Polish influence).

    I'll look forward to seeing the Scottish food also. :smile:

  10.   A chef, at the most basic level, is like an artist.  If he chooses to present his work in a manner that gets him noticed by the major art galleries, then so be it.  If he goes a route that is less accepted (and therefore often also less expected) by the general public, but finds support among friends, family, and neighbors, that's fine, too.  Maybe this fact is a tragedy in and of itself, but I would assert that many chefs considering what route they take with their own food are making a financial, and not an ethical, decision.  They choose their market, and they cater to it.  Who are we to judge them for it?

    Rant aside, restaurants are a business, if you can't sell your product then you go out of business.

    One thing that I would note about Italy is that many of the people I had contact with (young professionals) in my experience dine out a lot or bring home pre-cooked food. If you get a good local following then you could have a stable business.

    I wonder if you were doing the sums in setting up a restaurant if you would take the risk that your food, while not popular with the locals, may attract some attention from high end international diners? I'm not sure that you would in the vast majority of cases and think that this applies even in NYC.

  11. In terms of "tasting better", it is a subjective term, I don't believe in the sort of pseudo-post-Darwinian model where changes are always for better and the best food that exists, by this definition, exists right now. 

    Changes aren't always for the better. But anything excellent that exists now, but didn't exist since the beginning of time, was by definition the result of change. So it's illogical to say we shouldn't try to improve. That's the prison of culinary traditionalism: it refuses the possibility of change for the better.

    In the case of bread with salt, sure, we can throw up our arms and say it's all subjective, in matters of taste there's no dispute, and leave it at that. But then we don't have a lot left to talk about. What, then, gives us a basis for saying that Pain Poilane is better than Wonder? We need some sort of framework of agreed-upon standards in order to make sense of basic culinary distinctions. To me, bread without salt is as hard to justify as bread without flavor. But you don't have to take my word for it. It seems that in the relevant regions of Italy people are generally adopting bread with salt, relegating saltless bread to niche status.

    I didn't say that change was a bad thing, all my posts have agreed with your basic point. Food is change, even the most "traditional" cusines exhibit this basic process. Even in Italy you will not find many, if any, references (to my knowledge) of "al dente" cooked pasta pre-1900.

    In terms of the saltless bread, I think that you have extapolated "There is more then just saltless bread in Tuscany", to a "Saltless bread is a dying tradition, because it tastes bad". The latter just isn't true even if it suits your view.

    "[A] framework of agreed-upon standards in order to make sense of basic culinary distinctions"

    It is a useful intellectual model, but that is all. Agreed upon standards would imply that it is inclusive of all opinions and that just doesn't work across time or location. So for the sake of discussion it is a valid concept, but I find that many people can't make the distiction between intellectual framework and reality - discussions on "cuisines" then end up looking like Victorian scientists dividing the human world into barbarians, savages and civalised people, depending on the shape of their skulls or wheather they have invented the umbrella yet.

    In terms of food culture there is plenty to discuss, other then creating hierachies of bestness.

  12. Broadly speaking there are a few, very few,  "Tuscan" traditions. Certainly we Americans think of "Tuscan food traditions", pretty much as we think about food in Northern Italy, when in fact food and dishes from one region, and within the region, may have little or nothing in common with other regions (and in fact often don't). "Northern Italy" as a whole, is merely a geographic notation, having very little to do with a cohesive food tradition. There are exceptions of course, but generally speaking this is the case.  In fact, the same dish (or bread since we're talking about that here), may bear little resemblance from Forte dei Marmi to Arezzo, from Cecina to Castellina in Chianti.

    Which brings up the point (again) that it is fairly pointless taking about "Italian" cuisine" as it exists only in such broad definitions as to be useless for a meaningful discussion.

  13. My position is that they taste different, and that bread with salt tastes better. For whatever reason -- shortage, or the old story of the bakers' protest against the tax on salt -- it seems that saltless bread was the traditional bread of Tuscany, or at least large parts thereof. I don't see why we need to try to obscure that history by making excuses about there being no such thing as Tuscany, or by saying you can go to a modern Tuscan bakery and get a lot of different breads. You can eat at McDonald's in Tuscany too, but that doesn't make it traditional. It seems to me that throughout Tuscany people have simply realized that, except perhaps in a few special cases where it's paired with very salty food, bread with salt tastes better. So the tradition was set aside in favor of something better. That's what we should do with traditions when better things come along, unless we're just masochists and want to suffer with saltless bread long after salt has become cheap and abundant.

    Or you could say that it suits some of the cuisine and eating habits in a particular area leave it at that. In terms of "tasting better", it is a subjective term, I don't believe in the sort of pseudo-post-Darwinian model where changes are always for better and the best food that exists, by this definition, exists right now.

    Personally, I don't like the saltless bread much - except for crostini, fetunta, bread salad, putting into soup, grilling with meat on skewers, bread crumbs, stuffings. But obviously, this doesn't count as when bread is discussed by serious foodies it should always be in context of an artisan product and how to make the "best" loaves in a middle-class oven?

  14. Back at the restaurant, here's a real world experience (versus our intellectual discussion): Yesterday we got a beautiful case of pencil asparagus. I asked my Roman co-chef what he had in mind for the asparagus since he brought them into the kitchen. He gave me the 'you have 3 heads' look, and said you boil them in water. I  didn't have time to go into the finer points of my love for asparagus and he proceeded to boil the shit out of those poor little aspargus, their heads turning into a soggy mass. Now, my experience in Italy is that 99% of Italians cook all vegetables into a pile of mush and when  I've tried more 'al dente' vegetables, the tourists eat them, and the Italians don't. Italians want their vegetables to be pre-chewed.   Which is my long winded way of saying, there IS a defect in the cuisine.  So, now what? Continue to serve traditional mushy vegetables? Or just quit my whining, and save some of the crunchy, fresh tasting stuff for myself?

    There are no simple answers, and I'll continue to look for balance.


    Thanks for bringing us back to earth. Sounds tragic and I think you've pinpointed the inspiration for Gerber's baby food. On the other hand, "al dente" vegetables arouse controversy even in the States where they're popular; it might be James Peterson who writes a polemic against the trend.

    ...but, forgive me, Hathor, this situation is shades of the Whole Foods feast in Omnivore's Dilemma: asparagus in September? :wink:

    Your concluding remark sounds as if you will find a solution. I guess the chef who buys the produce w specific preparations in mind has first dibs until you settle into enough a routine to define standards. If there are days Erba Luna closes and you do mre than sleep, I think you need to invite the Roman over and ply him with wine and vegetables cooked to your liking.

    I think that one chef over-cooking asparagus isn't a defect in the cuisine, more a matter of personal taste. No more then outside of Tuscany I have never came across cavalo nero that has been cooked long enough.

    Hopefully you explained the situation to him?

    On the otherhand, what type of vegetables do the people you are cooking for prefer?

    If well cooked vegetables continues to be problem, might I suggest "sformato"?

    Saltless bread is hardly a defect in Italian cuisine, it only occurs in a few locations (Tuscany, Umbria?). Although it raises the point that I don't think that there really is a "Italian Cuisine".

  15. Yes that is fair enough, but I would still say that it a caricature rather then an accurate report - which is what you would expect from a tourist pamphlet no?

    The original question was about "Is there any reason to cook totally traditional dishes, if you want to be a cut above a trattoria?". I think that "totally traditional" is very restricting, so I will rephrase the question as:

    "If you would like to produce innovative, contemporary cuisine in Italy is there any need to have a basis in traditional cooking?

    I think that the short answer is no, there are plenty of examples that demostrate otherwise. But there is no reason why you couldn't either and I feel that given the huge expectation of Italian food as being "fresh, local, simple, regional", I would think that in terms of marketing the food it might be significantly easier.

    I think that I said before that genius and original thinkers are very very rare and [restaurant] cooking tends to reflect this. I think that expecting one of these individuals to pop up in Italy (or elsewhere) and create a new wave cooking/restaurants is unrealistic.

    Rather then fight the juggernaut of "fresh, local, simple and regional" Italy why not take advantage of the huge marketing tool (and raw ingredient resource) that it represents? I feel that the only real hindernace to somebody that wanted to do this would be lack of imagination and skill, rather then some intrinsic defect in the cuisine.

  16. ...Italy's big selling point is "We cook the same food our grandparents cooked, we hate change, our food is simple and old-fashioned, if you walk ten feet your're in a different region, hooray for Slow Food . . ."

    LOL! I laughed so hard that I nearly spilled my Barbera all over my risotto!

    I have to say there is some truth to this.

    There is always truth in caricature, but in essense it remains a distortion.

  17. People here are genuinely, truly passionate about their local food and recipes. They are unaware of current market trends regarding eating locally, eating traditionally, eating seasonal foods. This is just the way that they eat. Period. One of the greatest challenges we face at the restaurant is that locals don't eat out that much.

    I mean, the average person in Spain isn't eating El Bulli food at home. The whole culinary avant garde is utterly irrelevant to the average Spanish mother cooking food for a family. Nonetheless, from the perspective of the restaurant industry in Spain, it's very important. It's Spain's big culinary selling point to the world right now. Whereas, Italy's big selling point is "We cook the same food our grandparents cooked, we hate change, our food is simple and old-fashioned, if you walk ten feet your're in a different region, hooray for Slow Food . . ."

    Regarding the Italian selling point I personally think that is leading a distorted view, but I imagine that similar things were being said about Spain by much of the restaurant world before the development of the El Bulli et al.

  18. Recipes are historical documents and informed cooks can respect history even as they're changing it.  They also might interpret that history differently.  Or cull from different sources to arrive at different results.

    One phenomena that I have noticed with "tradional"'recipes that have some continuity is that the "tradional" recipe of today is often not very similar to much older recipes. Tastes change, fashion is important, ingredients change. Many people in would be surprised to hear that some of the very earliest recipes for Lancashire Hot-pot add curry powder to the mix.

  19. Interesting topic...  Didn't see the report, but the juxtaposition of antibiotics and allergies isn't surprising as a story concept.

    An allergy is the immune system going crazy and lashing out at certain stimuli.  Antibiotics certainly change the balance of stimuli a body's immune system is exposed to.  Is it not reasonable to question whether the new antibiotic-enhanced balance of stimuli might have something to do with the increase in allergic responses people are suffering now?

    Yes I think that is very reasonable and so is looking at possible links between vaccination and allergy, changing diets and allergy or lack of GI-parasites and allergy.

    What is BS is statements like "we have literally destroyed our natural immune system to fight off foreign bacteria by over-use of antibiotics". It is misleading, false and detracts from real and important issues

  20. Unless they have been codified or defined in some way, for many tradional dishes there is no one single recipe anyway. However, there are a great many dishes/products that are codified and at the present point tradition/authenticity is an important factor.
    Because we rarely can single out one authority to establish the authenticity of a dish, what a recipe codifies has to be questioned, too. Ask Plato to replace his chair with a gatto di patate and he's not going to be able to compare all the GdPs on earth to the Ideal, Perfect Dish. Recipes are historical documents and informed cooks can respect history even as they're changing it. They also might interpret that history differently. Or cull from different sources to arrive at different results.

    When I am researching traditional recipes from historical sources, what I often imagine is that all the possible "authentic" recipes for a traditional recipe form something like a normal distribution curve. There may be an mean set of ingredients and cooking technique for a dish, but most other "authentic" versions of an individual dishes will fall somewhere else on the bell-curve.

    The thing that I think is interesting is that while somebody in the region may add or do something to the dish which is novel and still maintain a sense of "authentic", this is rarely true of restaurants or individuals outwith the region.

    I have seen bizarre conversations where a restuarant serving up-market versions of a tradional cuisine is condemed for producing food that is both "just copied from traditional recipes" and "not really X cuisine, we would never do that to X dish".

  21. Today, that kind of heaviness is passe in France, and in many other countries. Is it passe in Italy? It seems Italy has clung to some of the old heaviness more stubbornly than most. Perhaps this is in part because traditional, local, regional cuisine is a major marketing proposition for Italian tourism. Or perhaps it's because people just like the food that way. Or maybe it's a lack of imagination. Or maybe it's that there are many Italian dishes that at some point reached their Platonic ideals and can never be improved upon, like the best works of Mozart, Rembrandt or Shakespeare. Or maybe if you actually compared dishes now and 50 years ago you'd find that there has been more lightening than a lot of folks assume.

    The one thing that I am sure of about Italian regional cooking is that the number of dishes and products that are possible to serve is vast. Some is heavy, some is light and I'm not sure that heaviness in French regional food is passe yet either. But I agree fat content and type has altered in many types of food. A good way of judging this is by looking at the ratio of flesh to fat in pork products, photographs of bacon from the 1930's show very little meat for instance.

    The traditional food being made now is a different range of traditional food to 50, 100, 150, 200 years ago. I think that to maintain an awareness of these dishes and products is one very positive role of the traditionalists and the preservers, as I think that those individuals that are innovative and have culinary genius and who will produce the interesting cuisines of tomorrow, must have great depth of knowledge when it comes to traditional dishs, in fact I can't see any meaningful innovation occuring otherwise.

    There is nothing less enticing then a few blobs of pasta on a plate or a strand of pappardelle wrapped around a sprig of rosemary, as an attempt to lighten the cuisine through a process of reduction. I think that one issue is that genius and original thinkers are very very rare and cooking tends to reflect this. When people say that they are against new-style food they are very often refering to mediocre or poor attempts, rather then the food produced by the best of the innovators. In the last week I have had two meals based on the idea of modernising a regional cuisine. The "Greek" meal that I had was excellent, really interesting stuff. The "SE-Asian Moderne" was terrible, I would be ashamed to serve it at home and I am no stella cook.

  22. I agree with FG that without innovation a cuisine is basically dead (to paraphrase), but I don't think that is an issue with Italian cuisine as it is quite dynamic in many respects. Unless they have been codified or defined in some way, for many tradional dishes there is no one single recipe anyway. However, there are a great many dishes/products that are codified and at the present point tradition/authenticity is an important factor in marketing a product. I think that each situation has to be accessed on an individual basis.

    From a personal point of view, I'm not at all sure at where I stand on all of this. Does a group of regional producers have more of a right to define regionality and authenticity then an individual chef? On the other-hand are individual chefs any better at judging "authentic'/regional/representive" then a marketing team for a supermarket? In Australia I see a great deal of products labeled as "Tuscan" which have very little to do with any of the food present in Tuscany, I have also seen chefs do exactly the same sort of thing.

    My thoughts at the moment is that the individuals that are the best at judging what is the make up of "authentic'/regional/representive" foods are those that possess the type of culinary genius that makes the distinction between tradional or innovative cooking irrelevant.

  23. I don't think it is 'enough' to constantly remake the traditional dishes, even if you use the finest ingredients and the purest, most classic preparation techniques. Traditional dishes sprang from the  ingredients and techniques that were available at that moment in history. To me, it's ok to now push the boundaries with new preparations and techniques. I don't want to work in a food museum, if you know what I mean.

    I think that this is a good point. Not every recipe in Italy is based on something created in the 16th century and for a lot of 'classic' dishes the basic ingedients have altered a great deal.

    On the otherhand, "deconstructing a regional classic and putting a contempory twist on it" is not very original (and will eventually be seen as a chiché of the decade around 2000 I think). Originality for the sake of originality is just not original anymore.

  • Create New...