World on a Plate

Exploring culture. One plate at a time.

Month: March, 2005

The Mad Cowboy

"…I really feel strongly that if were are going to deal with the problems that we have, whether they are health, environment, or the animal issues,we have to do it in this generation.  I believe that we are up against the wall, and that means we can’t take a pass, that we can’t say it’s up to somebody else, that somebody is in charge, that the government has somebody that is looking after the problem.

My message to people is that it’s up to you, right now, to get involved. And if you don’t, there may not be a future for our children and grandchildren… that all of those animals that we are killing, those animals are killing us.  This is about the absolute survival of the human species. That’s my message, and I will spread it as long as I have breath in my body."

                              — Howard Lyman, "Mad Cowboy:The Documentary

Lyman_uniter_adThe environmental story of Howard Lyman, a fourth generation cattle rancher turned policy activist, begins when he began investigated the use of chemicals in agriculture after developing a spinal tumor that nearly paralyzed him. Following the surgery he sold his farm, in 1983, and became a vegetarian, and a professional lobbyist for the Montana Farmers Union and the National Farmers Union, promoting the passage of the National Organic Standards Act. He is now dedicated to raising awareness through the propaganda of the beef and dairy industries all with the objective of educating the public that an animal-based diet as the primary cause of cancer, heart disease, and obesity in this country. 

His notoriety grew in 1996, was invited to appear on Oprah as part of a panel discussing Mad Cow disease, food production, and the rendering process. The discussion covered potential health risks from e-colii and mad cow disease.  Mr. Lyman revealed what many of us didn’t know such as that cows are being fed to cows.  We know the story from here.  Oprah was disgusted and vowed not to eat hamburger.  Next thing you know beef futures spiraled downward and the cattle industry was outraged and in turn decided that suing her and Mr. Lyman was the right action to take up.

The Mad Cowboy has written extensively in his subject expertise, essays, a book and also publishes a semi-monthly newsletter.  This week he launched a DVD documentary.  He’s direct and forthright.  His well-sourced and attributed content speaks for itself but he’s a one-man mission and he speaks clearly and loudly.

Image credit:  Winnipeg Vegetarian Association

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Grillin’ Up Some Pizza

Zagrill Americans love pizza.  Each of us eats an average of 46 slices (23 pounds) of pizza a year, according to a recent study. Most of us order in or eat frozen pizza.  In addition, 74% of households, according to the HPBA, own an outdoor grill. Now, courtesy of the camping gear folks over at Eastman we have the ZaGrill Pizza Griller.

The BBQ gadget was awarded Best New Barbecue Accessory of 2005 at the Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association’s EXPO 2005. The Vesta Awards honor innovation in design and technology for hearth products and outdoor room products.

Preparing a pizza for the grill can be easy or challenging. The time-pressed home cook can simply take a favorite frozen pizza and plop it on the grill pan. Others could prepare the dough from scratch or buy dough from a local pizzeria.  Boboli, the pre-made Italian pizza crust, is a worthwhile compromise. Typically a frozen pizza is ready in 30 minutes with a grill that’s at 450 degrees. A homemade crust or thicker crust such as Boboli may take 5-10 minutes longer.

Eastman’s product design prevents burning, ensures a crisp crust and evenly melts cheese.  The cavity itself is non-stick for easy clean up. There’s also a patent pending on the heat shield that creates a protective air pocket, allowing for a great pizza baking experience on the outdoor barbecue grill.

California Pizza Kitchen Original BBQ Chicken Pizza Recipe (copycat recipe)

Scouting for Cookies

CookiechartThe Girl Scouts of America began selling cookies in the 1920s as a way to learn self-reliance and fund their own activities. Girls and their moms began by baking sugar cookies, wrapping them up in wax paper, and selling them throughout the neighborhood for 25 to 30 cents per dozen. Proceeds were used for troop activities and service projects. Over the years, Girl Scout Cookies scaled up to using commercial bakers and billions of cookies being sold each year by girls dressed in brown and green throughout the United States.

Critics say, that selling $400 million in annual sales is counterproductive to fighting childhood obesity efforts.  The cookies are made with trans fats, which can elevate bad cholesterol and increase the risk of heart disease.  Thin Mints, which make up a quarter of all cookie sales, has only 1 gram of trans fat per serving, which is four cookies. (Phew!)

So what is it about these cookies that compel us to buy several boxes, at $4.00 a pop?  There are cookies on the every day grocery shelf that are probably better tasting than Girl Scout cookies. Maybe it’s because they are visible once a year that by the time you seen them you’ve missed them for the other 11 months of the year that in turn there’s this overwhelming pent-up desire to stock-up.  It’s always the thing you can’t have that becomes more necessary to have–so we buy several boxes.   

Currently two bakers, ABC/Interbake Foods and Little Brownie Bakers, produce the cookies. The Girl Scouts organization requires each to produce Thin Mints, Peanut Butter Sandwiches (also called Do-si-dos) and Shortbread (also called Trefoils).  The bakers name the cookies, and often recycle past names of the more popular varieties. This does explain why so many of us see this year’s Caramel Delights and insist on calling them Samoas, or confusing the young girls by asking for Tagalongs, when what they want are Peanut Butter Patties–one of my favorites particularly if pulled from the freezer.

Girl Scouts of the USA is the largest, all-female serving, volunteer organization in the world. Cookie sales teach girls about sales, marketing and money management. All profits from cookie sales go directly to the council in which the cookies were sold. A portion goes directly to the troop responsible for the direct sale.

For recipes using Girl Scout cookies visit The Art Institute of Atlanta Girl Scout Cookoff winning recipes.

Image credit:  Buffalo Erie County Girl Scouts

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IACP Award Nominations

Stack Currently I’m listening to the Library of Congress lecture series on the digital future.  The series explores our relationship to books, information and reading in the digital age. While that may seen dull to many of you it’s fascinating. And it’s vital.

As a child my family put a huge value on the importance of reading.  Sure it helped that summers were humid and winters excessively cold.  What does it say about a family where siblings compete and argue over who is reading more books?  So today as an adult it is a concern to me that as a whole our culture appears to be reading less.  If we don’t read deeply and critically we lose out as a culture. In the panel discussion one of the participants (they aren’t identified) noted that today many of us don’t slow down and actively engage with a book or with online content.  What we do is ‘sample.’  We read in bits and pieces.  You can see the symptoms of this behavior everyday.

I know many people consume information in this manner.  I’m guilty of it myself. Someone in the office says, ‘I read that email/document and didn’t get that.’  This suggests to me that they are reading it but not reading the email or document for understanding.  It also reflects on the current state of business writing (an entirely separate discussion).  All of this is very commonplace. 

Suffice it to say that the most surprising comment I hear from many aspiring writers is that they don’t have time to read.  It completely discounts them in my mind as a writer. You are what you read and if you don’t read who are you as a writer? Who and what are your aspirations? 

All of this is a long way of saying that as writers we all need to pay more attention.  One of the personal challenges I face is the stigma that is placed on blogs.  Yes, a stigma. I’m still timid about saying I write a food blog. It cheapens how much time and effort I put into a post.  So now, and this is the part where I start to lose any of the virtual food blogging friends I may have, how do we overcome this perception? 

Currently blogs only reach about 25% of the online world. Non blog-exposed friends know what they know about blogs through offline media. These sources trumpet news and political blogs as valuable.  All others are thrown together as personal rants, raves and diaries.  They are not entirely wrong.  We come in all shapes and sizes as writers.  But to be successful, as writers we need to have a voice.  We need to sound articulate and have some sense about us so that readers return. There’s an audience for everyone.  I don’t think I’m alone in saying this but personally I’m interested in having an audience beyond just other fellow food bloggers.

My blog has never been about being a diary. This could be why my blog is not nearly as popular as others.  Many of us use the blog tactic in order to gain visibility around our talents. It’s about two interests that I have that I am actively looking to develop and explore further:  writing and food. We want to write professionally.  In order to do this we need to sing over the heads of the choir.

If we are ever going to move this tool beyond the diary form we need to challenge ourselves to do better. We need to continue pushing our craft and ourselves every time we sit down at the keyboard. Yes we may all be passionate about that new recipe or that new restaurant.  But slow down and think about what you are doing. There are many food bloggers who do that with every post.  Significant portions of us do not. If I read one more improperly modified word or fall over one more errantly dangling participle I’ll grow an ulcer. It’s not easy but it is the responsible and necessary.  Don’t create obstacles for readers.

We’re learning. I’m learning.  But we’re in this together.  Think about it. What are you doing to contribute to the collective voice of food blogging?  What are you doing to establish your voice, your style, and your brand in the world of food writing?  Do you have credibility? Are you using the spell check?

I’ll stop pontificating and provide an assignment. A good jump start to walking the writing road.  Last night finalists were announced for the IACP Bert Green Awards, which recognize excellence in food journalism.  Winners will be announced in April.  Read the full list of journalism finalists visit the IACP website.  Read these essays and then read some more.   


Ammini Ramachandran
"Afloat a Kettuvallam on Lake Vembanad"
February 28, 2004

Sandy Szwarc, RN, BSN, CCP
"Fishy Advice: The Politics of Methylmercury in Fish and Mercury
December 15, 2004

Jon Bonne
"Rhubarb Hunts for a Place Beyond the Pie"
September 2004

Dave McIntyre
"A New Twist on Wine"
September 2004

Natalie MacLean
"American Idol"  (? Link ?)
June 16, 2004


Kitty Crider
"Anything for Mother"
Austin American-Statesman
May 5, 2004

Emily Green
"The High Price of Cheap Food"
Los Angeles Times
January 21, 2004

David Leite
"Devil With an Apron On"
Ridgefield Magazine
Winter 2004

Suzanne Martinson
"To Win a Cook’s Heart, Butter Her Up"
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
December 19, 2004

Beverly Levitt
"Mother Knows Best"
The Columbian
May 4, 2004

Personal Chocolate Fountain

Fountain The new Sephra Home Chocolate Fountain could quite possibly make you the Queen or King of your next fondue party. It’s touted as "the world’s first, high-quality home fondue chocolate fountain." According to the manufacturer now the "elegance and fun of dipping tasty fruits and desserts into a cascading curtain of warm, melted decadent chocolate"  that falls from a height of 18-inches on the home model, can be all yours. The fountains will begin shipping in May but pre-ordering has begun at the company’s website. Cost is $249, which includes four pounds of Sephra’s own brand of premium Belgium chocolate, which requires no oil for melting. Perfect for caramel, cheeses, barbecue sauces or salad dressings. 


Ghouse I’m trying a few things out here.  Everyone likes the news.  It took me longer to assemble one of the Friday Frys than a typical post.  So rather than omit the category I’ve niftily figured out how to have an ongoing roll in the right hand column.  And yes, I’ve renamed it to ‘Potluck’, which is more fitting.

There will be more changes down the road but I need to think those changes through a bit more soundly before implementing. 

Friday Time Kill

The Alcohol Knowledge Test

Congratulations! You’re 118 proof, with specific scores in beer (80) , wine (116), and liquor (78).
Screw all that namby-pamby chick stuff, you’re going straight for the bottle and a shot glass! It’ll take more than a few shots of Wild Turkey or 99 Bananas before you start seeing pink elephants. You know how to handle your alcohol, and yourself at parties.

My test tracked 4 variables How you compared to other people your age and gender:

You scored higher than 60% on proof
You scored higher than 97% on beer index
You scored higher than 95% on wine index
You scored higher than 90% on liquor index

Link: The Alcohol Knowledge Test written by hoppersplit on Ok Cupid

Bouchons, brassieres et bistro


This past Saturday was quite a food and wine lover’s frolic.  W. and I wandered up to the annual Napa Valley Mustard Festival hosted at Copia.  After a few hours of wine tasting, nibbling and mingling with other like-minded people we rolled down the road to an early dinner at Bouchon.

I’ve been long confused about these type of French dining establishments called bouchons, brassieres and bistros. For most of us they do appear to be somewhat similar; what I discovered was that there are differences from size, to type of served.

Patricia Wells, an Ex-Pat now living in Paris for over 25 years, food journalist, and French culture and cooking educator, in a 1999 CNN interview, stated, "A brasserie is a large establishment, originally a brewery from Alsace, so in Paris it is a large place selling beer and sauerkraut, and open all hours. A bistro is traditionally a small family place, small menu, just a few tables with limited menu." 

Today, the term ‘bistro’ has become so blurred these days that I wonder if we know if we are actually sitting in a traditional bistro.  In the States, as in France, a bistro signifies a neighborhood place often small in size with a bit of style and thoughtful, often times, comfort cuisine (cuisine grand-mere) in a relaxing and welcoming atmosphere that is often independently owned and operated.  Many bistros can be identified by the chalkboard menu offering daily specials. Mark Bittman recently went in search of affordable bistros in Paris.  His list includes Chez Michel, Cafe Modern and Alain Ducasse’s Lyon-style bistro Aux Lynonnais.

Bistros began as…

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Friday Fry #22

The qualities of an exceptional cook are akin to those of a successful
tightrope walker: an abiding passion for the task, courage to go out on
a limb and an impeccable sense of balance.

Bryan Miller, N.Y. Times 10/23/83

Dbpj An advertising campaign that began with teaser billboards containing the message "inNw" have had me curious.  Turns out it’s part of a larger ad effort for which includes TV, text messaging and a website with language that shows I don’t fit into the demographic target (16-24).  It’s a way of integrating text messaging to connect with teens. The riddle is solved, "inNw" means "If not now when?".  It’s also the tagline for the roll-out of the Doritos Black Pepper Jack.  The package copy states that the chips, "combine the bold tastes of black pepper and pepper jack cheese to bring you a great new flavor with the intense crunch you gotta have!"  It’s a unique campaign to say the least.

The world’s most expensive tea bag–280 diamonds!

Mexico City is in the throes of a revival.  And in the city’s Condesa-Roma district you’ll find it on the menu.  The younger generation has more money to spend on dining and chef-owners have responded by updating the type and quality of food that can be found on menus.  As the Los Angeles Times article states, "a handful of women…are making waves by treating traditional Mexican cuisine with less reverence…with flamboyant presentations and unexpected combinations of common ingredients."  Patricia Quintana, donned by Gourmet as Mexico’s Marcella Hazen, "is throwing hibiscus flowers into her mole and wrapping up masa-less tamales at her restaurant, Izote."   Diana Kennedy, the high priestess of Mexican culinary history and preparation, has called the whole thing, "absurd", "ridiculous" and "barbaric".   

In addition to Chef Quintana, Gabriela Cámara, Monica Patiño and Martha Ortiz are causing sensations such as fideo (vermicelli) sauced with black mole, garnished with fried chiles and queso panela and served with a spicy pasilla mole dipping sauce; and fish-stuffed jalapenos.  Ortiz created an all-black Day of the Dead meal featuring, margaritas made with volcanic ash, dark huitlacoche (corn fungus) quesadillas with goat cheese and black habañero sauce, duck in smoke-scented mole and sea bass with chirmole, a mole darkened with charred chiles.

This is one revolution that’s worth the fight. 

Contramar tuna tostadas with chipotle mayonnaise

Vitacoco_1 Coconut water promises to be the next trend in beverages that we all go nuts over. Apparently, it’s a long kept powerful antidote. First sold in Brazil over five years ago it is second in popularity to orange juice. According to the manufacturers of Vita Coco, "The coconut water phenomenon has been kept a secret from Americans for centuries, not because of its evident benefits to the enjoyer, but because of the difficulty in packaging coconut water and preventing it from oxidizing."  Coconut water is not the same as coconut milk. Coconut water is extracted from young, green coconuts. Coconut milk comes from the meat of the nut.  It is also free of  fat and cholesterol, contains more potassium than two bananas (for and alkalizing minerals such as magnesium and calcium.  Runners, gym-goers and athletes look for this new natural energy drink for a change in your routine. I suppose it could also make a tasty lower fat umbrella drink.  Taste Report

Loco for Coco

Vitacoco_1 Coconut water promises to be the next trend in beverages that we all go nuts over. Apparently, it’s a long kept powerful antidote. First sold in Brazil over five years ago it is second in popularity to orange juice. According to the manufacturers of Vita Coco, "The coconut water phenomenon has been kept a secret from Americans for centuries, not because of its evident benefits to the enjoyer, but because of the difficulty in packaging coconut water and preventing it from oxidizing."  Coconut water is not the same as coconut milk. Coconut water is extracted from young, green coconuts. Coconut milk comes from the meat of the nut.  It is also free of  fat and cholesterol, contains more potassium than two bananas (for and alkalizing minerals such as magnesium and calcium.  Runners, gym-goers and athletes look for this new natural energy drink for a change in your routine. I suppose it could also make a tasty lower fat umbrella drink.  Taste Report