World on a Plate

Exploring culture. One plate at a time.

Month: October, 2004

Food for Thought


The 2004 Best Food Writing anthology was released a few weeks ago. If you aren’t familiar with the 5-year old series, it’s a collection of essays, in this case 51, all on food-related topics. Best Food Writing is required reading for all undergraduate students enrolled at the Culinary Institute of America and is used as a textbook at other culinary schools nationwide. The writings are culled from the past year’s books, magazines, newspapers, newsletters, and Web sites.

Culinary author Molly O’Neill’s essay “Food Porn” is included in the 2004 collection. A longtime food
columnist for the New York Times Magazine, she is also the host of the PBS series Great Food and has published three award-winning cookbooks, The New York Cookbook, A Well-Seasoned Appetite, and The Pleasure of Your Company. To give you a flavor of the caliber of writing in this book I have found the essay online. If you have even a passing interest in food writing you should read this Columbia Review of Journalism essay. The premise is that food writing is not about journalism, but more about the selling of a fantasy lifestyle defined by comfort and affluence. Excerpt:

“Some of the most significant stories today-the obesity epidemic, water purity, the genetic manipulation of the food supply as well as its safety and sustainability-are food related.

“But you won’t find these stories in the food section because the focus of food stories is on entertainment, rather than news and consumer education,” according to Molly O’Neill, who was a reporter and food columnist for The New York Times for 10 years.

Friday Fry #9


Next week World on a Plate is dedicated to celebrating Día de los Muertos, the Day of the Dead. Content will explore the food traditions surrounding this annual cultural ritual which, remembers and embraces those that have passed. Moles, breads, chocolate…hasta luego.

Condimently Yours Malcom Gladwell had a great piece in the recent Food Issue of The New Yorker called, The Ketchup ConundrumMustard now comes in dozens of varieties. Why has ketchup stayed the same? If you missed the issue now off of the newstand you are lucky–this was one of the better articles. Digestible history, good stuff.

Fish Tales The caviar world is in a state of unprecedented upheaval. Overfishing in the Caspian Sea, where 90% is harvested, is driving prices upward. Places such as Petrossian, the New York branch of the Paris-based caviar emporium , has begun offering American-grown caviar produced on farms in California. Recipe for Seared Wild Sturgeon with Caviar Beurre Blanc

And coincidently the Moscow Times, reviews The Taste of Dreams, which “follows the author’s path from restless girl to reckless adolescent to ambitious young journalist in the 1990s Russia. Caviar is one of the obsessions that lures her to Russia, and one of the disillusionments that sends her back home.” The story she covers is the business of caviar from the battle for fishing rights to “communists’ hellbent pollution of the sturgeon’s spawning grounds, to the poaching of the post-Soviet era.

Globalization of Witches Halloween has cast its spell on European consumers. Since 2001 Disneyland Paris has ‘renamed’ itself as “Halloweenland.” Big brands like McDonalds and Toys R Us imported the concept, which got other Euro brands to capitalize on the opportunity. What’s surprising, according to the Businessweek article is that “Halloween took so long to get back across the Atlantic. The holiday has its roots in an ancient Celtic new year festival. Other traditions, such as bobbing for apples, were adopted from Roman festivals, while trick-or-treating comes from the medieval Christian custom of begging for sweets on All Saints Day, Nov. 1.”

Green Economy According to LOHAS 30 percent of U.S. adults are interested in changing the world, one purchase at a time. Goods and services that carry an environmental, health, social justice or sustainability value make up a $227 billion a year business.


Magical Evenings


Sung to the Standells’s Love that Dirty Water

I’m gonna tell you a story
I’m gonna tell you about my team
I’m gonna tell you a big bad story, baby
Aww, it’s all about my team the Sox

Yeah, down by the river
Down by the banks of the river Charles
That’s where you’ll find me
Along with believers, diehards, and idiots
Well I love that team
Oh, BoSox, you’re my team (oh, you’re the Number One team)
Frustrated fans (I mean we’re frustrated)
Have to be in after 86 (oh, that’s sick)
But I’ve been wishin’ and a-hopin, oh
That just once those Yankees were knocked out
Well I love that dirty water
Oh, BoSox, you’re my team (oh, yeah)

Because I love those dirty boys
Oh, oh, BoSox, you’re my team (oh, yeah)

Well, I love that team (I love it, baby)
I love that dirty Damone (I love Baw-stun)
I love that gladiator Schilling (Have you heard about the end of the curse?)
I love that Pedro (Manny’s the man, Manny’s the man)
I love that mighty Ortiz (Owww!)
I love the Boston Red Sox (Yeah We’re on Top!)


IMBB #9-Terrines


“A terrine is noting more than a fancy meat loaf cooked in an earthenware or other ovenproof dish, chilled and served cold.” so says Madeline Kamman in The Making of a Chef. Then why am I overwhelmed with the thought of taking this on? Doesn’t it involve pate? She goes on, ” a pate is a terrine mixture baked in pastry…a sasucisson is a terrine mixture shaped into a large sausage by stuffing it into a natural skin or a plastic cook-in bag; it is generally poached.” Oh dear. And finally, ‘a galantine is a very large cooked sausage, the forcemeat of which contains the meat of one or several birds or other meats. The skin of one of the birds is used as a container for the forcemeat.” Bring it on home Madeline, “There is no beating around the bush: They are much work.”

So began my research for this IMBB with this round hosted by Derrick at An Obsession with Food. So if a terrine is just the cooking vessel there had to be in this day and age an introductory terrine recipe out there. I wouldn’t have to skin a rabbit, a hare pluck a duck or pheasant. Thankfully no, but I did learn that a 3 pound rabbit yields 1 generous pound of meat.

After sorting through dozens and dozens of simple terrine recipes I ended up with a mildly involved one, Chocolate Peanut Butter Terrine, uncovered at Godiva.

One more hurdle to jump, the pan. At Sur La Table at the Ferry Marketplace the sales person tired to pass a Bûche de Noël mold off as a terrine pan. I argued and scoffed. This is a half circle. He said, same thing. No, no it’s not. Thirty minutes later I was in the restaurant supply store combing the aisles and came across a flattened pan with hinges. It wasn’t inexpensive at about $35.00 but it was less then the enameled cast iron version I fancy.

What demystified the terrine for me is thinking about it from the sugar side of the equation and connecting the mousse to the equivalent of a pate. For a first attempt at a terrine I think I did okay. The mousse was a perfectly smooth consistency. I was thankful for the hinged pan as it made unmolding it fairly simple. It should be noted that making sure that when filling the terrine that the corners are checked.

This recipe will be fairly simple for the experienced and a good challenge for those with confidence. Also I didn’t use Godiva chocolate. As I recently went to a French imported food warehouse sale and bought 10 pounds of bittersweet Valrhona I had more than I needed on hand. I also think I got off easy, next time I’ll ratchet up the challenge and take on terrine of Pears and Foie Gras from Madeline Kaman’s book or the Dry-Cured Magret with Duck Liver Mousse, Chinese Cinnamon, and Black Vinegar Reduction.

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Terra Madre

Five thousand food producers from 120 countries and five continents–eco-farmers, fishermen, shepherds, cheesemakers, traders and distributors—have convened in Turin, Italy for four days as part of Slow Food’s biodiversity forum Terra Madre: A World Meeting of Food Communities.

The first international conference on protecting food product diversity will be focused on solutions for sustainable agro-food production techniques and systems that are friendly to the environment, protect the health of consumers and defend world heritage of agricultural biodiversity and gastronomic traditions. The event is held at the same time as the bi-annual Slow Food Salone de Gusto, perhaps the world’s largest showcase of agricultural and food products.

Roughly 500 of the attendees are from the United States. Several of them from the Bay Area including Eatwell Farms, Frog Hollow Farms, Tierra Vegetables, and Marquita Farms.

In Slow Food founder, Carlo Petrini’s opening speech on Wednesday he stated, “believe that never as in this moment in time have consumers shared a common destiny. The safeguarding of our food heritage is a mutual obligation and as such can only be achieved by new ways of sharing. Only if consumers become co-producers and fully grasp the fact that production is being threatened, and only if producers assume the burden of quality, ensuring food safety, sustainability, pleasure and human rights, can we leave this difficult moment behind us.”

I’ve been a member of Slow Food for several years. While I embrace the philosophy of the organization I have been a bit disappointed in their events as they tend to attract a rather upscale individual rather than one who is engaged and aware of biodiversity and cultural preservation and heritage. Terra Madre represents a strategic and needed shift to give this organization visibility and credibility as a lobby for the environment, biodiversity, sustainable agriculture and promoting healthy, dynamic food systems around the world.

Read more

Raisin farmers meet yak herders? Christian Science Monitor

Fairs: A politically-charged food fest International Herald Tribune

Treasures of the Terra Madre The Scotsman

Friday Fry #8


Joy. Happiness. Sheer pride in my hometown team, The Boston Red Sox. The World Series begins on Saturday. The team that has everyone rooting for them is the team to watch.

Hershey Sweet Spot. While most food companies’ sales are sluggish Hershey has realized ‘robust performance’. All due to the introduction of a number of line extensions to its big brands, including Hershey’s Kisses filled with caramel and a white-chocolate version of the Reese’s peanut butter cup. I’m still looking for these in my local market. There’s even talk of a Reese’s Cookie.

Vote. Vote. Vote. While voters prepare to head to the polls on the first Tuesday in November, many of them still undecided, Edy’s Grand Light website offers the real scoop on each presidential candidate. Cast your ballots for the presidential sundae nominee, 4’Smore Years or Cherry Jubilee.

Signs of Fall. Brach’s Confections, Inc., the nation’s top candy-corn maker, sells about 2 billion kernels of candy corns between mid-October and early November. Brach’s is about the only candy corn I’ll eat, perhaps because it’s made from real honey. According to the experts at CuiseNet, the best candy corn has “a clean, sweet taste, with no corn-syrup aftertaste. It’s nice and clean on the palate, with a sweet, almost-vanilla flavor — and one thing that’s very important is it has to be a tender bite.”

Walking the Talk. The EPA has recognized Whole Foods Market for its
green power purchases with a 2004 Green Power Leadership Award. Whole Foods Market , the world’s leading natural and organic foods supermarket chain, is purchasing or generating more than 20 percent of its total national power load from green power sources per year comparable to removing 8,600 cars from the road per year. In some states such as California, Colorado, and New Mexico, Whole Foods Market is 100 percent green-powered.

Clean and Javed. Shower Shock, the original and world’s first caffeinated soap. Scented with peppermint oil and infused with caffeine anhydrous, each bar of Shower shock contains approximately 12 servings/showers per 4 ounce bar with 200 milligrams of caffeine per serving. The caffeine is absorbed through the skin.



There have been signs throughout the season. May the force be with you boys.

Photo via

Friday Fry #7


Okay, so it’s Monday. And this is a bit overdue. However, the weekend was a bit busy. The Red Sox are keeping the dream alive. I can’t handle the emotional rollercoaster but I’m a long for the ride.

World of Choice Nina and Tim Zagat are publishers of the same-named restaurant city guides write about the changes in New York dining over the 25 years. They address, four key social changes that changed the dining scene in the Big Apple: 1.) establishment of school lunch programs in the late 1950’s 2.) women entering the work force and as a result away from the kitchen 3.) rise of affordable air travel during the 1970’s and the 4.) lifting of immigration quotas based on race and country of origin in the mid-60s

The Art of Schill New York Magazine profiles the new creative director at BBDO. It’s a long but compelling read if you have any interest in the current state of advertising and where it’s going. In the article that explores a new breed of advertising development borne out of the technologies such as Tivo, internet and video games–an example is (an ad) –it talks about how BBDO’s Charlie Miesmer, “There was a creative revolution in the seventies and there was one in the eighties,” he says. “There will be another creative revolution because creative revolutions are responses to the public’s perception that the work sucks.” The ad agency’s job isn’t to get us to buy products but to connect the consumer’s trust and with the brand’s essence or promise.

Return of the King Recently I’ve made Slate my start page at work. In between writing tech copy or scheduling resource dependencies I can break up the slog with content that seems to suit my interests perfectly. This past Friday’s cultural study of ponchos (“…we’re in a post crop-top and low-rise jeans moment, in which women are demurely wrapping up rather than baring all.”) to an article on Burger King’s advertising. It’s related to The Art of the Schill (above) where one of the hot creative shops mentioned in the NY Magazine article and it’s work for morning breakfast daypart. Have you’ve seen the new ads with the ridiculous oversized plastic head? I don’t mind the ad itself as it is a bit off center and as such works to differentiate itself. It wasn’t until the third viewing that I knew what product it was pitching, the Double Croissan’wich, two meat portions and two slices of cheese. Total calories: 640. Fat grams: 46. Carbs: 24. Manufacturer’s suggested retail price: $2.49. vs. Mickey D’s Sausage McMuffin: calories: 279. Fat grams: 12.9. Carbs


Baseball, Aji & Budin


The beating, nay the massacre that took place last night at Fenway, once again beaten by the Yankees, in an incredibly undignified and embarrassing fashion is sad, depressing, frustrating and anger inducing. Frankly, it’s pretty much over for us. No team has ever come back in post-season from a 3-0 position. The pitching staff was ravished last night. Sure I believe in miracles and hope. I must. I am a Red Sox fan after all. I am a mixed bag of emotions. As a Bostonian would say, I’m wicked pissed off. Angry because the better team should have been the Sox. Angry because the members of Red Sox Nation have been mislead again. Our team has once again disappointed. The better, and richer team is most likely going to the World Series, again. I can’t believe this has happened again.

Last night a table of friends celebrated C’s birthday with dinner at the newly re-opened Limon restaurant. Executive chef and owner Martin Castillo, opened Limon with his family about two years ago to great success. It was small with about 40 seats. What he calls Peruvian-Nuevo Latino caught on big and he’s opened a larger more contemporary place just around the corner seating a guestimate of 100. The kitchen is open, and loud. The place is filled with hip and stylish San Franciscans. It’s a great to do.

We sat upstairs as we were a large party of 20. Please remember your 7th grade science principle of heat rising and dress accordingly. Also the searing of dried peppers and the less than palate-inducing odor that is emitted wafts upward in the heat. All of this aside it was a great celebration.

Peruvian dishes nearly always are some combination of rice, potatoes, chicken, pork, lamb, and fish. Most of these meals include one of the different kinds of “aji”, or Peruvian hot pepper, which mainly are yellow aji pepper, red aji pepper, red rocoto pepper. There are many hybrid characteristics in Peruvian due to the countries immigrant history. An Italian influence can be seen with the use of pasta and Asian-style rice is almost ubiquitous.

We started with papa a la huancaina, potatoes served on a bed of lettuce with an aji amarillo cheese sauce and olives; calamares fritos, deep-fried calamari with chipotle aioli and sesame seeds; ceviche Limon, ceviche Limón, a mix of seafood marinated in lime juice, served with yam, Peruvian corn and mussels and finally, chicharon de pollo which consisted of bits of chicken marinated in garlic and deep fried, served with salsa criolla and lemon vinaigrette.

As a main course I had lomo saltado, a traditional Peruvian dish of top sirloin slices sautéed with onions, tomatoes and sweet potato fries, served with a side of rice which JC, my dining neighbor generously doused with Peruvian adresso cream sauce. She was enjoying picante de mariscos and was raving about the adresso cream sauce. “You must find a recipe and make this for us!” she gushed. What are friends for if not to share!

Dessert was an assorted mix–chocolate bandido, warm chocolate cake served with dulce de leche ice cream; arroz con leche, rice pudding, served with raisins and cinnamon and budin de durazno
peach bread pudding, served with caramel sauce. This last selection was not overly sweet and a great complement to the heat and textures of the meal.

In between delighting in the dishes we discussed last week’s debate, the future of the two-party system, Boston sports, the Olsen Twins. We decided the depth of each party is summed up in the musicians supporting each party. On the left REM, Bruce Springsteen, to name a few. On the right, Jessica Simpson and Britney Spears, who was quoted on CNN saying “I think we should just trust our president in every decision he makes and should just support that, you know, and be faithful in what happens,” Spears told CNN in September.

A fun celebration of food, friends and talk. I think it was best that I was out with friends and checking the score via web phone rather than suffering at home alone. It’s time to let it go and move on. After all, we have the New England Patriots who have rewarded us greatly of the past few years as Super Bowl champs and have a consecutive win record that is impressive.

RIP Red Sox. It’s wicked ov-a. Sigh.


Fertile Fruit


Buy the pomegranate when it laughs —
its laughter reveals the secret of its seeds.
The garden answers the laughing pomegranate with bloom;
In companionship with the friends of God
you will bloom as they do.


Rich garnet-colored pomegranate juice is seductive. Some might even say it’s not worth the trouble due to the work involved breaking through the leathery skin and then tearing through the bitter membrane to find your reward—pockets of seeds containing juice. With patience and effort reward is close. But we are as a culture don’t have a lot of experience with this particular fruit so maybe this is why most pomegranates wind up as decorative accents in wreaths and holiday centerpieces. Today, with freshly bottled pomegranate juices readily available we can easily endeavor to experiment with the cooking of Armenia, Georgia, Morocco and Iran where the practice of pairing meat and fruit in a meal is common.

The tree and it’s fruit is Native to Iran and popular throughout the Middle East and as far as Northern India. Since ancient times it has been widely cultivated in the drier parts of Southeast Asia, Malaya, the East Indies and tropical Africa. Spanish settlers introduced the tree into California in 1769. Up until recently it has been grown in the U.S. primarily for the Latin population particularly for chiles en nogada, a stuffed poblano chiles with walnut sauce that is served on September 16th to commemorate Mexican independence from Spain. The pomegranate seeds are used to symbolize the red in the Mexican flag.

Pomegranates, the name comes from the French “pomme garnete” or “seeded apple” have a wide cultural history. In Greek mythology, Hades, the god of the Underworld, kidnapped Zeus’s daughter, Persephone carrying her into the underworld. He offered her a pomegranate of which she ate a 6 pieces of the seeds. This action condemned her to spending half of the year with Pluto (winter) and half with the world of the living (summer). Religious scholars also now believe that it was a pomegranate, not an apple, which Eve was offered in the Garden of Eden. In Judaism, the pomegranate is a symbol of fertility and prosperity, relating to the first commandment of the Torah, to be fruitful and multiply. Pomegranates decorated the pillars of the Temple of King Solomon, and they still decorate the handles of Torah scrolls today. In Christian art they symbolize hope. In Arabic folklore and poetry, it is a symbol for the female breast. In modern Greece, they embody agatha, the good things of life. The red color, the resemblance of its juice to blood, and its many seeds link pomegranate to fertility in many cultures.

Many cultures such as the Middle and Near East, Asia, Africa, Europe and Latin America have many uses for all parts of this fruit tree. The rind is used to produce an indelible dye, and the root, bark and flower, produce tannins for curing leather and medicines.

Pomegranate fruits are typically presented as a juice. If you can’t find the nifty new bottled juice called “Pom” you’ll need to work on your technique for prying one open. This is done by first cutting off the crown end; score the skin in quarters from top to bottom and break the sections apart; gently scoop the seed clusters into a bowl; remove any pith.

Alice Waters has a technique where you can break open the pomegranate underwater; the plump seeds will then sink to the bottom while the membrane and pith floats to the top. This also helps to prevent stains.

Photo: Purdue Horticultural Department

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