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Hand schlepped foodstuffs


Ellen Shapiro
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Two recent experiences...

Parmigiano Reggiano, hand-schlepped by my mother, from Reggio-Emilia. At first we thought it was better because it was "fresher." But how can something three years old be "fresh"? And now we know for sure because it has been in our fridge for months, that even when not fresh it's better than any Parmigiano Reggiano we've ever been able to get in New York.

Darjeeling Tea, hand-schlepped by a friend, from Darjeeling. You can't believe how much better and more vibrant and fragrant it is than even the expensive stuff from the tea places downtown in New York.

Any other examples of great hand-schlepped food? And what could be the reason for this? With FedEx available to commercially schlep anything and everything overnight anywhere in the world, how can hand schlepping still be so much better?

Ellen Shapiro

www.byellen.com

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I have a friend who took back a cryovaced Prosciutto di San Danielle in his bags. That thing was damn tasty.

At some point I do think it has to do with freshness. But it also has to do with the ubiquity of those ingredients in their regions of origin. Parmigiano Reggiano is practically falling from the trees in Reggio-Emilia. As a result, she probably started off with really kick ass cheese to begin with. Same thing for the Darjeeling tea. I think the point can also be made that hand-schlepping is much easier on the product than, say, container ship-schlepping or overnight FedEx-schlepping. That said, I wonder whether the cheese wouldn't be just as good if you called up the same place in Reggio-Emilia, got the same guy to pick out a really good Parmigiano Reggiano, carefully package it and send it to you via FedEx (which would, of course, take more than 24 hours what with customs, etc.).

--

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We used to schlepp Philadelpha brand cream cheese to people in Florida. Maybe not in the category of great food, but it was better than the locally sold product.

--mark

Everybody has Problems, but Chemists have Solutions.

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I have a freezer full of hand-schlepped halibut, char and caribou from Frobisher Bay. You can buy what's described as fresh char and halibut locally, but it's not nearly as good as the stuff in my freezer.

Arthur Johnson, aka "fresco"
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Hand schlepped (and smuggled :wink: ) Community Dark Roast Coffee when I was living in Mexico. I told everybody to bring it whenever they were coming down. Too much instant in that part of the world, even though they do have good coffee.

Brooks Hamaker, aka "Mayhaw Man"

There's a train everyday, leaving either way...

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the Perlow's trip to NOLA reminded me of some spectacular boudain that we filled our cooler with...I've had it shipped from the same place, but it wasn't quite the same. You're right, Ellen, it is simply better if it was personally looked after and delivered.

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Maybe it has to do with supply. For example, perhaps it is the case that only a small percentage of Parmigiano Reggiano is truly excellent. If so, perhaps that most excellent level of stuff isn't being exported. Ergo, hand-schlepping is the only way to get it.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Or, think about it this way. If a friend in Milano wanted some corned beef, which do you think would be better: 1. imported American corned beef bought in a Milanese specialty market; or 2. corned beef from Katz's that you hand-schlepped on the plane?

--

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the Perlow's trip to NOLA reminded me of some spectacular boudain that we filled our cooler with...I've had it shipped from the same place, but it wasn't  quite the same. You're right, Ellen, it is simply better if it was personally  looked after and delivered.

Yes, the Perlows were nice enough to shlep me some Tasso and Andouille from NOLA.

I love any topic title with gratuitous yiddish in it, by the way. :wink:

Jon Lurie, aka "jhlurie"

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Hand schlepping occurs each and every Sitka visit. Perhaps the most tedious was the fresh herring eggs that I carried back for my mother. I found a most kind barman in Anchorage that scooped a generous amount of ice to sustain a nice cold temperature for these seasonal goodies the remainder of my trip back east. In fact, come to think of it, I had a few nice offers for them since it was a southeastern Alaska thing that people farther north, like Anchorage, didn't have opportunity to enjoy.

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The half bushel of roasted Hatch green chiles my husband brought back from New Mexico last fall.

New Mexico green chiles.... definately an item worth schlepping (and I have). I've brought back roasted green chiles from vendors in parking lots (all over Albuquerque and Sante Fe) and even tubs of frozen Bueno green chile. I've never found green chile from anywhere else that tasts like that.

Mentioned this on another board, but my family has schlepped 'Austrian pumpkin seed oil' or 'kern ol' from Austria (Steirmark or Styria) for years. Excellent on salads. You can buy it here... now in some specialty stores but much more $$$ and lesser quality.

Another Austrian specialty...Schilcher very dry young pink wine. Special taste. Don't think it is exported.

Last, frozen individual cheesecake from Carnegie Deli to eat with coffee on plane ride back out west while other poor, shlepp-less souls comtemplate their gratis peanuts.

Edited by ludja (log)

"Under the dusty almond trees, ... stalls were set up which sold banana liquor, rolls, blood puddings, chopped fried meat, meat pies, sausage, yucca breads, crullers, buns, corn breads, puff pastes, longanizas, tripes, coconut nougats, rum toddies, along with all sorts of trifles, gewgaws, trinkets, and knickknacks, and cockfights and lottery tickets."

-- Gabriel Garcia Marquez, 1962 "Big Mama's Funeral"

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"Hand Schlepped by Artisinal Yentas"

Local Schlepping provided by The Galloping Goyim :wink:

(who incidentally is expecting a swell new GPS for a holiday gift :laugh: )

Brooks Hamaker, aka "Mayhaw Man"

There's a train everyday, leaving either way...

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Maybe it has to do with supply. For example, perhaps it is the case that only a small percentage of Parmigiano Reggiano is truly excellent. If so, perhaps that most excellent level of stuff isn't being exported. Ergo, hand-schlepping is the only way to get it.

I think this is it. I've spoken with Italian winemakers, for example, who segment the poorer parts of their production for export, since the importing customers "will never know the difference" and local buyers are more demanding. A knowing buyer "on the spot" can choose a product of better quality -- e.g. tasting cheeses until the right one is available -- and hand-carry it back. An importer may have no such choice.

I don't know the percentage of excellent Parmesan Reggiano, but I do know that it varies enormously in quality.

Jonathan Day

"La cuisine, c'est quand les choses ont le go�t de ce qu'elles sont."

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Or, think about it this way.  If a friend in Milano wanted some corned beef, which do you think would be better: 1. imported American corned beef bought in a Milanese specialty market; or 2. corned beef from Katz's that you hand-schlepped on the plane?

My sister and brother-in-law lived in Tokyo for 3 years. After they had been there for 6 months, I went to visit them, shlepping 2 corned beef/pastrami sandwiches from Carnegie Deli in my carry-on bag. They were in heaven! (It certainly didn't matter to them whether Katz's is better than Carnegie).

Separately, when I was on my way to my start my freshmen year in college (in Tucson, AZ), there was a woman on the plane who was having an argument with the flight attendant. The woman wanted the flight attendant to keep her "package" on ice for the entire trip from JFK to Tucson. The "package" was 2 lbs. of whitefish salad from Waldbaums (everyone on the plane heard this a million times). It's been 17 years, and my parents and I still laugh about the scene on the plane with the woman shlepping the whitefish salad!

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Tsk! I think everybody is overlooking a dictum from Calvin Trillin, who noted -- in one of his paeans to Arthur Bryant's -- that the sublime taste of the ribs is imparted largely by the counterman's hand. Similarly, I think the sublime-ness of the hand-schlepped item is imparted, at least in part, by the loving hand of him/her what brung it.

But it does remind me of one of my all-time favorite eavesdroppings. Just days after the beginning of, ahem, the first Gulf War, I was scheduled to fly from London to New York, but a flight delay stuck me for several hours in the busy-class lounge. Nearby, knocking back many restorative whiskeys, was a very rotund and deeply bewhildered elderly gentleman, who had the kind of fruity, Robert Morley-type voice that NOBODY in England has had for decades. He had apparently been taking the cure at some kind of ultra-secluded facility in Switzerland -- the sort of place with no access to disturbing news from the outside world -- and was now returning, via London, to his loved ones in New York.

When he had attempted to board the plane in Zurich, he refused to put through the security scanner the large box he was clutching to his chest. When asked what was in the box, he replied that it was "a bombe."

As he told it to his companions -- and to all of us listening in the lounge -- security personnel instantly surrounded him, wrestled him to the ground, threw some sort of blanket over the box, and started beating on the blanket-covered item with heavy things, all while our fellow was stuttering over and over again, "But it's a chocolate truffle cake. It's a chocolate truffle cake." Eventually, when nothing had exploded other than vast quantities of chocolate ganache, they returned the box to him. He was still holding it in the lounge -- completely mashed and wrecked, of course, and smeared with goo -- while his companions explained to him why airport security had recently tightened. He just kept quivering and blinking, clutching his box and repeating sadly "a chocolate truffle cake."

Edited by mags (log)
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Whenever folks come out here from NY (or whenever I visit NY) much Katz's pastrami is schlepped back, along with bagels and Black Chocolate Stout if it's in season. If only I could find a way to properly get a Grimaldi's pizza back here and still have it taste fresh from the oven...

Bacon starts its life inside a piglet-shaped cocoon, in which it receives all the nutrients it needs to grow healthy and tasty.

-baconwhores.com

Bacon, the Food of Joy....

-Sarah Vowell

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Years ago, I used to dream about schlepping a totonno's pizza onto the plane (wouldn't last the flight) back to CA, but now I hear it's not even worth schlepping anymore.

How sad. :sad:

I love cold Dinty Moore beef stew. It is like dog food! And I am like a dog.

--NeroW

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