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Barry Foy

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  1. "WINE BOTTLES: Although wine bottles were standardized to a 750ml capacity some years ago, specialty vintners still custom-bottle larger quantities as prescribed by tradition. Little known outside wine circles, these larger bottles are the Magnum (equivalent to two standard bottles), the Jeroboam (four bottles), the Pandemonium (five bottles), the Antimacassar (six bottles), the Malfeasium (seven bottles), the Pickaninny (eight bottles), and the Nibelungen (ten bottles)." from The Devil's Food Dictionary
  2. 1. ...Canadian candy bars tasted so much better than American ones? 2. ...ground beef contained enough fat that it didn't crumble when you cooked it? 3. ...we were told that the meal of the future would consist entirely of hypernutritious pills (no muss, no fuss, no dishes to wash!)? 4. ...every "Chinese" dish contained celery? 5. ...the name of an ingredient was seldom more than two syllables long, and none of them were "bi-," "di-," "poly-," or "mono-"? 6. ...an Obama could not eat at the same lunch counter as a Bush?
  3. You took the words right out of my mouth, Fat Guy--you oughta see the last guy who tried that! Hungry C's point is well made and incontrovertible. (Let me make clear, though, in case it's not already, that the entry I quoted is from a humor book.) The salient feature is the time scale. There is a difference between actual culinary fusion and capital-F, capital-C Fusion Cuisine, the latter being intensely market- and/or boredom-driven, highly self-conscious, and geared toward manifesting results at what might be called Trend Speed (or perhaps Food Blog Speed), i.e., within one restaurant-fashion season, i.e., almost overnight. Compared with this, the couple of decades that transpired in the anthropologist's bread story, and the time it took for chiles, etc., to take hold in Asia, while appearing from this distance in time to be rapid, in fact occurred at a glacial pace. My objection isn't to true culinary fusion--objecting would be pointless anyway, since it can't be stopped, nor would we want it to be--but to fusion as a remedy for laziness or income stagnation or xenophobia or an excess of disposable income.
  4. The time for fusion probably hasn't arrived until you've mastered--or, at the very least, adequately familiarized yourself with--the elements you aim to fuse. Ironically, though, if you do that in good faith, you may well end up concluding that the conventional/traditional use of a given ingredient didn't need "improving upon" in the first place. Here's an entry on the subject from a highly regarded reference book whose name escapes me at the moment: "FUSION CUISINE: A restaurant cooking style that is one part curiosity and two parts apology. The typical fusion dish reflects both the irresistible novelty of foreign ingredients and the fact that their appropriateness--and flavor--diminishes with distance from place of origin, requiring them to be combined with more familiar local ingredients with which they usually clash. "For most of human history, cooking styles fused gradually, the result of cross-cultural encounters and coexistence over long periods. In this era of globalization, however, self-conscious experimentation by individual cooks has sped up the process, resulting in such culinary chimeras as 'Thaioli,' 'quarkamole,' and the 'hot pho sundae.' "
  5. Surprisingly, the people of Taiwan--beginning with a sort of yuppie foodie fringe--seem to be starting to come (back) around to brown rice, as well as to various multigrain mixtures, rather than the monochromatic bowl of white rice. A belief that these are healthier alternatives seems to be the chief motivation. It should be noted, though, that rice considered "brown" by East Asians isn't necessarily as brown as our classic American hippie rice. I suspect it's milled a little more, since it has noticeably less tooth and sheen than our brown rice does. This is for the better: Were it as chewy as ours, it would repel rather than absorb sauces and cooking liquids, which is not particularly desirable.
  6. Not to be a spoilsport, but it's worth checking out this article, from Seattle Weekly.
  7. I'm inclined to think the molecular gastronomy trend is motivated by different impulses on different sides of the Atlantic. The founding, European model is a continuation of the well-established tradition of supplying people who have too much disposable income and leisure time with something to keep them amused. While the American version performs that same function admirably, I'll be a little kinder to it and suggest that it's also part of a larger trend among us, by which we're simply trying to relearn what food actually is. With so many venerable foodways lost or atrophied, so much food production given over to industrialization, so much psychological and spiritual distance separating city and countryside, it isn't too surprising to see the culinarily curious energized and enchanted by the notion of distilling pure flavors into foams, tinctures, or ethereal blobs. As to whether indulging that curiosity will get them--or the rest of us--anywhere in the long run, I have my doubts, but I think I at least understand the motivation. What's more important is that many other components of this awakening of ours are occurring at the same time (organics, local sourcing, humane animal raising, heirloom produce, real cheese, charcuterie revival, etc.). As they take hold and alter the overall picture, our craving for stunts like molecular gastronomy will go the way of our baby teeth. The way things are shaping up, we won't be able to afford them anymore anyway.
  8. gfron1---That is an amazing list. Should be just the thing. FYI, I don't know if anyone else will have a similar problem, but I couldn't open the link in the original posting. However, there's a functioning link on The Old Foodie website. rconnelly---I'll note that source for future reference. This time around, though, I'm looking for books whose pages I can read onscreen. Thanks for the tip.
  9. Can anyone direct me to any antique cookbooks that are viewable page by page online? I already know about the excellent Feeding America site, and I'm wondering if there's anything else like it out there, either individual books or collections. Thanks.
  10. Many food websites are observing the runup to St. Patrick's day with items about Guinness, soda bread, corned-beef-and-cabbage, and so on. The following historical info regarding the often misunderstood Irish stew is presented in the same spirit. IRISH STEW: An earthy traditional dish based on a small number of basic ingredients, namely potatoes, onions, and mutton, and known for the narrow band of the color spectrum that it occupies, extending from, roughly, whitish to grayish. Irish stew was not always this drab: The original version, believed to have migrated with the Celts from the south of France, featured more colorful ingredients, but the loss of these to successive famines necessitated the substitution of whatever products remained available, however dreary in appearance. The potato, for example, was introduced only in the wake of the Great Tomato Famine of 1712. The ruinous 1779 Great Fish Famine, followed by the devastating Great Shellfish Famine two years later, led to mutton’s inclusion in place of a rich assortment of seafood. Onions found their way into the recipe after the catastrophic Great Garlic Famine of 1825. Even salt and pepper might not have entered the picture had it not been for the Great White-Wine-and-Saffron Famine of 1839. As for olive oil, lost to its own famine in the mid-1840s, it was simply never replaced. As if Ireland had not suffered enough, one final indignity remained, in the form of the Great Dishware Famine of 1882, which forced peasants to eat the now-pallid stew out of their bare hands. For many of them this was the last straw, and a final wave of emigration left the island nearly uninhabited. Happily, conditions are much improved since then, and Ireland and its people are now optimistic, prosperous, and well fed. In a holdover from leaner times, however, it is still customary for foreign visitors to that country to pack a lunch.
  11. The misanthropy enters the picture when the technological imperative looms so large that Arenos' statements #5 through #9 can even be quoted with a straight face. There's an inhumanity, a detached literal-mindedness to them that flies in the face of most gastronomical impulses that people possess. In other words, they are not culinary statements but intellectual statements--mind games rather than mouth games--and the apparent implication in Arenos' writings that the two are interchangeable is preposterous. Overall, this just ain't what the world needs at this moment in history.
  12. With all due respect, this is just about most unutterably idiotic, useless, masturbatory, misanthropic, techno-cultish nonsense imaginable. Just when I was thinking that "molecular gastronomy," both in notion and in name, was surely the worst thing since sliced bread, along comes "technoemotional cooking." I wonder how many talented wordsmiths would have to labor, and for how long, to come up with a less appetizing term than that? It's simply too late in the day for this sort of foolishness. Let's eat.
  13. I'm no historian, but it seems to me that mentioning the Japonisme and Chinoiserie fads in a culinary context is really stretching it. The one thing that could not have successfully traveled halfway across the world during the periods of these trends was food, at least anything more than maybe rice, soy sauce, and a few dried or cured bits. Since the very essence of kaiseki, culinarily and philosophically, is transience/evanescence, given the technology available at the time, that piece of raw hamachi would have been darn good and ripe before it could have arrived on French shores to influence the cuisine. Moreover, the kinds of things the Japanese and Chinese ate would have struck Europeans as preposterous, inedible, possibly monstrous and infernal (for many they still do)--just the opposite of filling them with inspiration about gastronomical possibilities. So references to Japonisme and so on may be better left to discussions of visual art, to, for example, those ukiyo-e prints said to have been used as wrapping paper for ceramics and spotted by the Impressionists. While it may be a stimulating exercise to try and identify certain events and conditions as triggers or portents of the tasting-menu concept, I have a hard time imagining a loftier genesis for it than the exploitation of an opportunity to squeeze more money out of customers, an impulse that of course goes way back. Believe it or not, that's not necessarily a complaint, since I like tasting menus. When I can afford them, which is almost never.
  14. The fact that no one has mentioned, uh, blue cheese yet makes me think I must have missed something, so I suppose the joke's on me. True, some types are more on the green side, but there are certainly blue cheeses whose veins, and sometimes the overall tinge, are unmistakably blue. Hence the name. And what could be tastier?
  15. If it's OK to slip across the border into another language: A venerable tradition in the part of Québec where I was born is the late-summer "épluchette de blé d’Inde" (probably translatable as "corn husking"), which is a party centering on mountains of boiled corn on the cob. Oh, and one other: A parody cookbook I'm writing will feature a recipe for "An Old-Time Savannah River Locust Boil." Yum!!
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