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Everything posted by tomdarch

  1. Why all this hysteria about fructose and glucose (don't forget about galactose! my favorite monosaccharide name) when there's the growing crisis of (dum dum DUUUUM!) DIHYDROGENOXIDE! Recent studies have found amazingly high levels of dihydrogenoxide in our diets - even in both bottled AND tap water around the world. Even the most remote mountain streams and deep glaciers show detectible levels today! While an estimated 90 ml/kg will kill you outright, where scientists have bothered to look for it (what are they trying to cover up by not doing more research!?!) 100% of cancer deaths had links with dihydrogenoxide!!! The CIA won't confirm it publicly, but there are indicators that point to al Qaeda stockpiling dihydrogenoxide in their secret camps and safehouses around the world! (Then again, Rumsfeld, Bush and Cheney appear to have ordered the use dihydrogenoxide in attempts to extract information from captured members of al Queda.) And druggies appear to be experimenting with it, even though it is known to be fatal. Street names include "liquid crystal" and "W": http://www.psychoactive.com/h2o.html Oy vey... For anyone interested in this overall problem of faux-science and bad policy, the English writer Ben Goldacre does a lot of great work in uncovering this stuff and explaining the foolishness. Along the lines of this discussion of "toxic sugar", he addresses some other nutrition malarkey. He examines a lot of the nutrition pseudo-science that's common in popular media, and purveyors like Gillian McKeith "PhD" whom you may have seen on TV divining medical information through a visual examination of someone's poop. (Her "PhD" is from an unaccredited "correspondence school".) An example of the malarkey she spouts is her promotion of chlorophyll-rich nutritional supplements with the implication that it will increase oxygen in the body. The problem, of course, is that chlorophyll needs light to work, and it's pretty dark in our intensities... (Guess what? You can conveniently buy those supplements on her website!) Usually, it's just these "lifestyle" issues like us rich first-worlders worrying about eating too much sugar or throwing money away on "remedies" of wildly diluted bottles of nothing but water. But sometimes this bad science kills lots of people. He gives a talk where he delves into how "vitamins are the answer to everything" mumbojumbo gets marketed to politicians in Africa, where HIV/AIDS is killing many, many people. In several cases, government policies have been swayed to ineffective approaches that resulted in many unnecessary deaths. His website http://www.badscience.net/ contains lots of his newspaper columns. Here's a great video of a talk he gives that touches on a lot of these issues:
  2. I haven't re-read the Cooking Issues guide to LN2 in a while, but I think I remember comments about selecting protective gear in part on "what happens if LN2 pours into the cuff." The downside to silicone mitts is that if some quantity gets into the glove, it will be trapped against your skin. This might be even more of an issue with welders' gloves, which have an even wider, shorter "cuff" or "gauntlet." The same issue stands for selecting shoes... That said, I suspect that using a small quantity of LN2 at home for "novelty" purposes is a lot different than using it day in and day out at a restaurant. At home, you're approaching it with wide-eyed caution and a bit of "beginners mind," where at work, you may get lax. Another use I've for LN2 is "herb dust" - freezing fresh herbs, then crushing them into a fine powder, which thaws back into a dust of fresh herb flavor. I also recall seeing Cantu and the MOTO guys making "juice balls" working with LN2 bare handed. They put a few tablespoons of juice (beet, in this case) into a normal balloon, filled it with a bit more air, and tied it shut. They then rolled the juice/air filled balloon around on the surface of the LN2. The juice froze on the inside surface of the balloon, freezing into a hollow sphere. They cut the balloon away, leaving the sphere to be plated.
  3. Has anyone checked out Maria's Packaged Goods & Community Bar? http://community-bar.com/?page_id=256 Looks like they should have an interesting/well "curated" stock.
  4. Why, only 2.7 million Chicagoans, and a few million suburbanites, that's who. It's OK, we're too busy keeping the world running to worry much about the weather I really enjoyed the description and the photos. Candy and chocolate showpieces always seemed pretty insane to me. They still do, but it's great to see and read the step-by-step of how a "basic" one goes together! I'm signed up for a non-professional 4 hr. class there in a few weeks, so it's interesting to see inside the facility.
  5. I was going to suggest a DIY solution similar to the above, but given that this product is reasonably priced, it probably beats multiple trips to Home Depot and evenings in the basement cobbling something together. (Unless, of course, you're one of us wierdos who enjoys that sort of thing!) I'm surprised they don't offer a chalk board version, though. As for rare earth magnets, like neodymium magnets, they probably aren't a good idea in households with small kids. While they can be hard to get apart, the real problem comes when part of your body is between two of them when they attract - it's a serious pinch even with very small ones. The really "worst case scenario" comes if someone (like a small child) swallows more than one of them. In the digestive tract, they could "find each other" while the stomach wall or intestine is between the two, causing serious internal injuries. (Sorry to be a Debbie Downer - I just thought it would be a good idea to mention it.)
  6. It should scare you - with it's camo label, it could sneak up on you in the woods and go all Rambo on you! But, yes, UHT (ultra-pasteurized, shelf stable) milk does taste odd - it has been cooked, after all. But, when I can find it in small "drink box" size, I'll grab a pack. It's great to have on the shelf if we run out of milk some morning.
  7. My wife and I have been hunting around locally for a couple of weeks for batteries ("coin type") for our Salter scale - either stores don't have that particular one, or it's sold out. I'd say that using standard AA, AAA or similar batteries is a "must have" feature for a kitchen scale. I'm seriously tempted to spend US$40 to get that My Weigh scale (which uses AA batteries) rather than US$10 for the replacement coin batteries with shipping...
  8. I think you inadvertently summed up the problem. I don't particularly care much one way or the other about the term "foodie". But I think there are "foodies" who are as qualified to comment on good food as Paris Hilton is to comment on couture beyond mere trendiness. About the article in question - I haven't read it, and I don't know that I'll devote any time to it. I would, though, like to congratulate the author and the editors at Atlantic Monthly on their ability to attract page views and get people to link to and promote their article. Good for them.
  9. Good call - With the words "poisons", "toxins", and "carcinogens" I was attempting to use those words in a broad, colloquial way, rather than in a particularly clinical or technical sense. Although in re-reading my original sentence, this intent makes sense to me with the word "poison", but I guess there's not much distinction between the colloquial as opposed to the clinical meanings of "carcinogen." (But I'll stick with the scare quotes around "homeopathy" because it's a word whose construction is clearly is intended to convey the false impression that it has something to do with science or medicine.)
  10. The thought has crossed my mind of candying peel, then grating (microplane-ing) it and incorporating that. Having just made some chocolate-dipped candied citrus peel - the meyer lemon dipped in dark chocolate definitely did something off, where grapefruit was pretty good.
  11. (I haven't seen anything specific about Ms. Waters, so I don't mean this to refer specifically to her, but...) I think a lot of people would prefer to NOT understand how cooking works. They would prefer it be a "mystery" and an "art". Actually seeing the man behind the curtain takes away from their awe looking on the visage of the great and powerful Oz. They're afraid of loosing the "emotionality" or "poetry" in cooking. (Which strikes me as hugely ironic - a massive part of what Achatz and Blumenthal do is rooted in powerfully evoking emotions and nostalgia, where a "classic" meal is typically wonderful, but doesn't attempt to evoke much more than "mmmmm... delicious" from the diner.) For others, I suspect they actually like their culinary myths and traditions. How many chef-myths are there about mayonnaise, for instance? McGee and others blew them up, but I suspect that there are a few folks out there who are resentful. "I do it the way it has always been done!" and to hell with anyone who figures out how to do it differently, or better (or creates a simpler, more reliable or less labor intensive technique which puts the end result within reach for less skilled cooks, or those who are not properly initiated into their secret order.)
  12. It's pretty funny that in the original post, "Dakki" points out that you need to be very skeptical of "anything published about places that are perceived as unfriendly" and then there's a link to a News Corp. publication... I'm endlessly amazed and intrigued by Iran - often at both ends of the "respect/appalled" spectrum almost simultaneously. (I suspect that's how folks around the world feel about us in the US...) Also funny: while I was reading the original post there was an ad for a new "Larry the Cable Guy" show called something like "Only in America!" (Again... speaking of how the rest of the world perceives the US...) I guess if you're going to focus on only one cuisine, focusing on Persian cuisine would not be the worst choice. But these sorts of things are almost always "indirect" - I guess we can all assume that this prohibition on "foreign" cuisine would be targeted at Western cuisine, but I wonder if there might be something else? If the "Green Revolution" supporters are generally "middle class", "educated" and "Western oriented" then that might explain this seemingly silly ban. It would be a way for the inwardly-oriented, nationalistic (jingoistic?) conservatives to "stick it" to the outward-looking progressives.
  13. Alton Brown has done a few mixes on his show. Pancakes and hot cocoa for sure. I've got a food storage tub on my shelf labeled "pancake mix" for his recipe, but it's empty - too convenient to use, but I've been slacking on re-filling it. (Arrrrrghhhhh! Oh the suffering of taking 3 minutes to measure out the ingredients into the bin, and shake to mix! Soooooo hard!) http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/alton-brown/instant-pancake-mix-recipe/index.html I've got some of the buttermilk powder, and it works great. If I'm remembering correctly, Cook's Illustrated strongly recommends it for baked recipes - I'd include pancakes in that category. Read the directions on the can - along with storing opened containers in the fridge, it may work better to add the powder to the dry ingredients in some recipes, rather than mixing the powder with liquid, which can be counterintuitive.
  14. Don't leave the dose issue aside! We all have tiny amounts of all sorts of "poisons", "toxins" and "carcinogens" in our bodies all the time, but below certain dosage thresholds, they are "harmless." (OK, they have such a small impact, if any, that it is statistically undetectable.) Botulism toxin is the most deadly toxin known by weight. But doctors around the world inject it into millions of people every year - Botox. The dose is so tiny that it "kills" local nerve activity temporarily, but doesn't have any other negative health effect, except in very rare cases. Clearly, dose matters. The same holds true for things that would be beneficial above a certain dosage level. Something might be great for you, but unless there's enough of it in your system it doesn't have any detectable effect. (Yes, I am saying that so-called "homeopathy" is Woo - aka "gobledygook") Highly dilute solutions and/or tiny does of some chemical or other do no good, or harm, for that matter. The one potential positive effect from tiny, culinary amounts of herbs and such would be the placebo effect. If you're receiving (real) treatment for cancer, and you take the action of adding such-and-such to your diet because you believe it will help you, it just might. You may be so uncomfortable from chemo that you can't eat much, but you're eating a few blueberries because you hope that the anti-oxidants will help you heal. The actual dose of anti-oxidant chemicals might be "meaningless", but your choice and action to assist your healing can have some influence to stimulate your body's ability to heal itself. It may be "Dumbo's feather", but if you get better faster (or survive at all, for that matter), then great! As long as you don't eat anything that is actually harmful (which some "natural remedies" are, as are some foods with certain health conditions), and you aren't wasting money on some "homeopathic preparation" or "super-vitamin" or similar woo-junk, then if it helps to induce the placebo effect, then all the better!
  15. Nathan's team have been demoing their all nut ice cream - is that in the book, and if so, is it doable in a "modernist" home kitchen? When they were on Martha Stewart, their description gave me the impression that the process required some sort of extra-exotic equipment (but I can't remember which step now). Might there be a work-around?
  16. tomdarch


    I was just thinking, what are some (potentially absurd) alternatives for "extreme" decanting (OK, I like "hyperdecanting" more): - pouring the wine out into one or more sheet pans - very high exposure to air, with less mechanical agitation than the Vita-Mix - using a/several fishtank bubbler(s) to run many small bubbles through the wine - lots of surface area exposure to air, again with very little mechanical shock or agitation - using the whisk attachment (or a hand mixer) to introduce more bubbles as though you are whipping cream, rather than the blender - doing any of these things under higher pressure One factor in this is: How much is decanting "exposing" the wine to air/O2, versus dissolving O2 into the wine - in other words, doing the oxygen equivalent of "carbonation". Folks who follow Dave Arnold may know the process for home carbonating water - fill bottle with cold water, pressurize headspace with CO2, shake bottle, enjoy fizzy water. Theoretically, you could do the same with O2 instead of CO2, and dissolve a lot of O2 into the wine. We all know what carbonated wine is like - I wonder if some of this hyperdecanting effect from the blender or a Vinturi (the "gurgler" in my home) is "carbonating" the wine with air. The extra mechanical action would dissolve more O2 than without agitation. It might be subtle enough that you don't get bubbles forming in the glass, but enough that there's some reaction as the wine hits the tongue. Of course, during agitation not all the air/O2 will dissolve - so some of the chemical reactions will occur at a high rate while whizzing. When you stop, the bubbles float out, and you're back to a much lower level of O2 exposure, and the rate at which the reactions occur slows back down. Regarding "decanting" versus "wine that's been open for a day or more" - my assumption is that different oxidation reactions occur at different rates. Some will happen in seconds with high levels of oxygen (with hyperdecanting) versus minutes/tens of minutes with standard decanting, but other reactions would still take tens of minutes or hours, respectively. Following this line of wild chemistry speculation on my part, that should give you enough time to enjoy a glass of the hyperdecanted wine before the "day old" effect emerges. Then there's the "shearing" action of the blender. I'm pretty sure that you don't want to re-blend the sediment from the bottom of a bottle into the wine. But once sediment has precipitated out, what sort of molecules are left to form the wine itself? Clearly, water and ethanol are very small, compact molecules. Are some of the color/flavor molecules much larger/more fragile? I guess my question is: is there anything in normal wine that is big enough to be "cut up" by the blender blades. I would assume not, but Nathan's team have been figuring out all sorts of in-obvious things. If there aren't any sort of "big molecules" or similar structures in wine that could be "damaged", then is there any truth to the myths about "bottle shock" or shaking wine?
  17. Being part of a certain Australian's media empire, I thought they just made stuff up when they needed to fill space between ads? But, seriously... (well, also seriously) every generation "invents" things over and over. I suspect that if you dug back 30 years ago and maybe even 45 years ago, you would find similar articles.
  18. I keep coming back to this thread - but the thread I'm expecting is different than the thread that's actually here. I'm almost expecting one of two alternatives: Either an "Eastern" version, where this is some sort of Zen koan about a fork so perfect it could never exist (the cutlery version of "what is the sound of one hand clapping?") or the "Western" version, which is a work of art that uses the concept of the "perfect fork" as an existentialist comment on the absurdity of our existence (the fork is playing the role of Godot in tonight's performance...) On a more practical level, I'll be on the lookout for my own "perfect fork"! (and the "spork stork" is great!)
  19. Wow. That really does sound like nixtamalization. I wonder when "european" Americans found out about nixtamalization? Given that pellagra (a deficiency of niacin (vitamin B3)) was a problem in the US south through the 1910s, maybe most never did. Nixtamalization is steeping corn with an alkali solution (in this case from the wood ashes, but could also be "lime"). The overt effect is to cause the hulls of the corn to come off, which was clearly Ma's main aim here. But the critical side effect is that the processing causes niacin (B3) to become nutritionally available. OK - some Wikipedia research tells me the following: In terms of producing large quantities of calories, corn is an amazing crop. But for poor people, who don't have access to a well rounded diet, eating basically nothing but non-nixtamalized corn results in a deficiency of niacin, and that in turn has really tragic, and sometimes fatal, health effects (pellagra). Once this problem was understood, like scurvy, it's easy to intentionally eat specific foods to get enough of the crucial nutrient, so it has been essentially eliminated in the developed world. I wonder how wide spread this technique of boiling corn with ashes was in different parts of the US? It clearly wasn't common in impoverished southern communities, or pellagra wouldn't have been present. Too bad for Luara - they were sooooo close to having masa! The could have made tortillas for venison tacos, or made grilled (or pickled) wild onions and topped stewed pork with them on some fried sopes, or, while they're at it, tamales! Oh, poor Laura, if only there had been Mexican neighbors out there on the praire to show them how to make all this great stuff! I don't have the books available to me, so I'll be following everyone's discussion. My mom read them to me as bedtime stories, then repeated that with my younger sister. The books might be around my parents' place somewhere, but I'd be surprised if they weren't given to neighbors or donated to some school or other. I suspect, though, that I have a less romantic view of Laura's life. The comment above about how vinegar was a normal table condiment made me think, "why?" I suspect that much of what they ate wasn't what we would call "fresh" today. Vinegar can go a long way to mask those issues. Also, as an architect, I've learned a lot about not just "classical monuments" but also ordinary homes around the world and through history. Looking at all the teepees, igloos, longhouses, and such around the world, I'm pretty sure that in one room cabins, sod huts and such, kids were/are unavoidably exposed to their parents becoming "the beast with two backs" pretty regularly. (shudder...)
  20. I found this figure quite alarming until I followed the link and discovered that an "average consumer unit" is not a single person but an average of 2.5 persons! That brings it a little more in-line with what seems reasonable. About $7 per person per day. This site has a nice graphic representation of how that data breaks down: http://www.visualeconomics.com/how-the-average-us-consumer-spends-their-paycheck/ It lays out the breakdown of at home food versus food away from home. For folks who drink wine/beer with some meals, I'd include some alcohol spending with one's typical "grocery" bill, too. The typical eGullet-er probably has higher household and per capita income, and would typically spend more on food than this BLS "consumer unit" household, though. (Personally, I put items like verjus, sodium alginate, air-shipped fresh yuzu and pork belly for home-cured pancetta into my "entertainment/recreation" budget rather than "groceries" in Quicken....) Regardless, for most Americans' budgets, $900 per month per peson or more sounds totally unsustainable. I have to assume that these services drive a yo-yo pattern for their typical customers - a month or two on, with some weight loss, then the bills add up and they cancel the service, put on the pounds, then repeat the cycle. Nothing about these services teaches you to cook/eat in a sustainable manner - in fact it's just the opposite. Compare this to a system like Weight Watchers, when you look through their cookbooks, you realize that their typical customer has Sandra Lee level cooking skills. If a large slice of Americans really can't cook, this would obviously contribute to becoming overweight/obese in the first place. (I should say that maybe 1% of WW recipes are actually really good, we have 2 or 3 in our regular dinner rotation.) While WW has lots of prepared-food tie-ins, with that sort of system you have at least some chance of learning to cook sustainability for yourself/family, where these delivery schemes seem doomed to long-term failure (plus racking up debt...)
  21. When I got my VitaPrep, I quickly realized that I was using an inverted woodworking router - similar power rating, somewhat similar variable rpms. About that "horsepower" rating - woodworking tools have exactly the same issue with these non-sensical ratings. I don't recall exactly how the marketing-speak works on that, but if you're interested, do a search on something like "router hp rating" or "woodworking tool hp ratings". You'll find many involved discussions on various woodworking sites that explain the rating and what sort of power you get in reality. My takeaway from power tools and blenders is that you should think about "classes" of power, but not sweat small differences on paper. A well made tool with a 2.5hp motor isn't going to be noticeable different than a junky one with a 3hp motor - the design of the tool and the quality of the motors will matter much more. Something that is different between megablenders and woodworking is the issue of motor over heating and/or stalling. With a router, you attach a shaped cutting blade to the motor and plow through large amounts of solid wood, turning it into sawdust - yes, you can try to run the bit too deeply into the wood, and the motor will stall (the worst part of that is that a dull and/or slow moving bit will burn or scorch the wood.) But when you're using a tool correctly, overheating is rare. Somehow, pureeing frozen bananas seems like a huge step down in power requirements compared with turning cubic inch after cubic inch of solid oak into sawdust.
  22. I wonder what sort of stand-alone pump would be required for the 99.9% vacuum that you find in the chamber vacs?
  23. Speaking of the "vide" (vacuum) part of "sous vide": how much vacuum does a chamber vac pull? In other words, to do flash pickling or some of the compression techniques in Keller's "Under Pressure," how strong of a vacuum is needed? (Being used to US units, inches of mercury would be ideal, but if you know it in another units system, I'll convert!)
  24. The Takaje site links to some videos of their system, including this one: Zowie! It's been too long for me to do the math to figure out how much vacuum that's pulling to get the water to boil as (somewhat above) room temperature. (I think that when the metal lid goes on, some condensation forms on the inside of the jar, which tells me that they are starting with something like hot tap water, not actually "room temp") I'd be sporting a lot of protective gear to do that with a normal glass jar, but it's still impressive - looks like flash pickling would be possible with that setup. Anyway, let me ask the question that I'm sure others have thought: How hard would it be to make your own chamber system? I've never played with a chamber system myself, but they don't seem to be terribly complicated. When you're running one of them all day in a commercial operation, having a "load, push the button, fill the next bag, swap out bags, push button, repeat" control system makes a lot of sense. But for a home user, turning a vac pump on and off manually, triggering the sealer manually, and opening a valve to flood the chamber manually isn't so bad. So, if I understand correctly, we're talking about the following components: The chamber itself, where it would be nice to have a clear top, with a convenient hinged action, which must seal against the base of the chamber. (sheet polycarbonate?) You'd need to be able to clean out the interior of the chamber to keep things sanitary. (Would a heavy gauge stainless steam pan potentially work for the body? Would that risk crumpling under too much vacuum? Because the lid/chamber would not be bolted together, if it failed, it should not do so "spectacularly" - any crumpling would pull the pan away from the lid, breaking the seal quickly.) Inside the chamber, some "props" could be useful, particularly for bagging liquids - but these are not absolutely necessary. Inside the chamber, a sealing bar, with a way to trigger it from outside the chamber. The wiring feeding the sealer would have to run through the wall of the chamber, and if the chamber is metal, not short out. (If the chamber is metal, then grounding the chamber would be a good idea.) Plus, a pressure resistant seal around the wire penetration would be good. (Perhaps a tight hole and some well cured silicone might be adequate?) Amazon shows a wide variety of moderately priced "impulse sealers" for under US$100. From the previous thread on "foodsaver" type systems, the wider the seal the better - the cheap impulse sealers list widths in the range of 2mm to 6mm - that doesn't sound so great. Activating the sealer externally might be as easy and locking the trigger and only plugging the unit in when the vacuum level in the chamber is correct. The vacuum pump itself, along with tubing to the chamber, and a release valve. Basic pumps seem to run US$120 to US$200. Higher capacity pumps will evacuate the air from a larger chamber faster, of course. A stand-alone pump could have other uses, from vac sealing mason jars with a lid-adapter to supplying the vacuum for a rotary evaporator.... mwahahahahahahah!!! (oh, dear... was I twirling my handelbar moustache just then?) Ideally, a gauge to display the "amount" of vacuum in the chamber would be good - it might be easy to mount it through the lid. Does anyone know what level of vacuum a "standard" chamber vac pulls, or what level is needed for flash pickling or some of the Keller "Under Pressure" techniques? Clearly I'm proposing a Franen-appliance hack, but compared with US$1000 and up, for a non-commercial system, this might work for exploring some actual sous vide techniques...
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