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  • Archive | September, 2004

    History of Victoria, British Columbia: A City Possibly Cursed

    Because I like to know the past of an area I enter into, I present the following:

    In the spring of 1778, as a war was going on 2500 miles away, a little known explorer by the name of Captain James Cook set foot on an island just below the 49th parallel on the west coast of North America. The first European had set foot on what was to become Vancouver island. Cook later died of a stomach ailment a year or so later. Coincidence?

    Fur traders created a small hub on the island that became on of the centralized ports to several other locations in the Pacific Northwest. The City of Victoria was founded by the Hudson’s Bay Company on March 14, 1843, as a trading post and fort at the location the native americans called “Camosack” (meaning “Rush of Water).” With the coming of the Oregon Treaty, which created the boundaries of the west between the British and Americans, the company moved their fort of from Vancouver on the Columbia River(The one just north of Portland Oregon) to the southern end of Vancouver Island.

    And all of those involved with that move are now dead. Coincidence?

    Victoria was incorporated as a City on August 2, 1862. Mr. Thomas Harris was elected (by acclamation) as Victoria’s first Mayor on August 16, 1862, and he presided at the City Council’s first meeting held on August 25, 1862.

    Mr. Harris is now dead….Hmmmmm.

    Life was tough for the city bustling with a population of over 425 people. There life would take a turn for the interering with the discovery of gold on the British Columbia mainland in 1858. Victoria became the port, supply base, and outfitting center for miners on their way to the Cariboo gold fields. The first ship bringing these modern argonauts, the “Commodore” – a wooden side-wheel American steamer, entered Victoria harbour on Sunday morning, April 25, 1858, just as the townspeople were returning homeward from church. With astonishment, they watched as 450 men disembarked – typical gold-seekers, complete with blankets, miner’s pans and spades and firearms; and it is estimated that within a few weeks, over 20,000 had landed. Overnight, as it were, a city of tents sprang up around the fort and quickly spread out over both sides of James Bay.

    And where are these gold-rushers now? Gone, almost without a trace.

    Read more! »

    Hows and Why’s of Marinade

    I know, I know..I’ve been lax in my food writing of late. And I haven’t had the time to make any lamb. Trust me, I am just as frustrated about this as you are.

    So I am on this meat kick of late…not only on how to cook it, but how to flavor it. And that seems to be the tricky bit. There are as many ways to deliver flavor to meat as there are flavors.

    Historically speaking flavoring meat was probably not the primary reason for marination. As the types of meat were as likely to be lower quality animals, methods were needed to help tenderize the tougher cuts of meat. Soy sauce has been around in one way or another for the past 3000 years, so it doesn’t take a huge leap in logic that the Chinese have been soaking the tougher parts of meat for that long.

    So think about this. If a culture had a sauce… be it soy from China, or Garum from the Roman Empire, chances are good that they were using it on meat. And the thing to remember is why they were using it.

    If you ask some cooks today why they marinade, they will tell you that it’s to add flavor. But that’s not why you should marinade. Sure, it’s a great side benefit, but why waste a marinade on a tender yet fatty piece of meat? You’ll be insulting both the piece of meat as well as the marinade that you are using.

    Which leads me to this:

    Kate’s Rule of Thumb #1©:You should only use a marinade on a piece of meat that is either lacking in tenderness, lacking in taste, or both.

    So.. what is a marinade?

    A marinade is a liquid that has been seasoned and is used to flavor and tenderize meat, fish, and vegetables. The liquid may be wine, fruit juice, vinegar, or any combination of these, along with spices, herbs, or other flavoring agents. Oil, such as olive oil, is often included as well in order to keep the meat from drying out. Marinades usually have a low pH, which means that they are acidic. It is the acidity that helps to tenderize the meat. Ingredients that are suitable for supplying acidity to marinades: wine, vinegar, soy sauce, citrus juice, buttermilk, or yogurt.

    Think of a marinade as a chemical reaction. In order for this reaction to occur, there must be direct contact. But too much contact, and the meat will be tenderized to the point of being ‘mushy’. Thus, if you use a thick slice of meat in a marinade will most likely not work, as you will end up with a mushy meat on the outside of the cut, but an untouched center. Thin fillets are best for marination.

    Find a marinade that you like or find interesting. Place in a no reactive pan.. glass is best, although plastic will do in a pinch. Avoid untreated metal pans, as the metal may react with the acid of the marinade, affecting the meat’s taste.

    Cover the meat with the marinade, and let it sit for a period of time. Fish should not be in the marinade for longer than 30 minutes. Poultry should be done between 3 hours and overnight but not too much longer (although some folks have said that you can marinate in the refrigerator for up to two days). Pork, Beer, Lamb and goat can be done overnight to up to two days. Remember, the longer you marinate, the more intense the flavor in the meat.

    A warning: Although you may be tempted to re-use leftover marinade, it would be safer for you if you didn’t without first cooking it. During the contact with raw foods, the marinade most likely had picked up harmful bacteria that could make you very ill. For the same reason, it’s wise to cook leftover marinade before using it to baste with.

    And finally, never marinate at room temperature for over 30 minutes.


    The City of Gardens

    Victoria British Columbia
    Last minute trips are sometimes the best. That is why I am quite looking forward to this weekend. I haven’t been out of the Puget Sound area since a horrible trip to Dearborn, Michigan back in January. So I am due.

    That’s why I’m hopping on the Victoria Clipper for an overnight excursion to Victoria, BC. BC…that’s British Columbia for all of you Americans out there. For all of you south of the Mason Dixon line, and east of the Mississippi…British Columbia is in Canada. Victoria is also British Columbia’s state capital, as opposed to Vancouver, which many of us Yanks would probably think should be.

    I have approximately 28 hours in the City of Gardens, so I am not sure what I will be doing. I’m sure I’m heading to the Royal BC Museum to see the Eternal Egypt exhibit. Ads for that show have been on all the buses down here in Seattle, and I have a bit of a jones for all things Egyptian.

    I’ll probably look around at some of the local parks as well. They bill themselves as the City of Gardens, so it’s safe to say that I’ll be looking up a few.

    But mostly I’ll simply be exploring. Yeah, I’ll head on the more touristy things more than likely, but the entire weekend (room and travel) is only costing me $130 (American), which isn’t too shabby.

    I can hardly wait. If anyone has some ideas on what I can do there, fee free to let me know in the comments.


    The Ketchup Conundrum

    If your keen on marketing minutia, then you can’t get much better than The Ketchup Conundrum over at Malcolm Gladwell‘s web page. In it, you can see first hand how providing diverse products within a food type (the article provides mustard and spaghetti sauce as examples), the market for the products would increase…except if your talking about ketchup.

    Think about beer. 30 years ago, there were 6 major breweries, and they all sold the same type of beer…pilsner. Then the Micro-brewery revolution introduced several different varieties of beer, from ales and porters, to bocks and yes even more pilsners, and the beer market took off. You find this happening now with colas…vanilla colas, diet colas, lime coke, cherry coke, etc. Howard Moskowitz calls this the plural nature of perfection.

    Who’s Howard Moskowitz? Well he’s the one who convinced the American food industry that there are no universals. Not in ethics, not in truths and certainly not in taste aesthetics in food.

    Except for ketchup.

    Read the article.. it’s a delightfully heady read.


    Oi to be young again!

    This one has been making the rounds, and I’ve been meaning to post it… A student in England, to celebrate finishing his finals, makes an 8500 calorie sandwich and finishes it in two days…

    For the record, it contains:

    • one loaf of bread
    • Olive oil
    • 8 sausages
    • 4 chili Burgers
    • 4 BBQ Burgers
    • 1 tortilla
    • 1 packet tomato sauce
    • 1 packet of spice mix
    • 125g of chicken breasts
    • 50g of Mushrooms
    • 100g pf Onions
    • 1 Pepper
    • 4 garlic
    • 150g of Salad (the healthy part of the sandwich I presume)
    • 200g Double Gloucester Cheese
    • 200g cheshire Cheese
    • 100g butter
    • 50g Brown Sauce

    Yowza. I’m having a heart attack just thinking about it.


    Mary had a little lamb…

    Lamb Cutting
    …braised in a red wine sauce, with a side of ginger chutney. Yum.

    Just what the hell is lamb anyway? Well, it’s not mutton. Rather, it’s mutton in training. Mutton is technically sheep, sort of making it the veal of sheep.

    As silly as this sounds, there is actual debate on what defines a “lamb”. For some, a lamb is only the spawn of a sheep that is still taking nutrients from it’s mother’s milks. But considering many lambs nowadays are still suckling at their mother’s teats long after they’ve graduated from college, some in the meat world (mostly biologists and the lamb’s father) think this definition is outdated. They think that lambs should be defined by when they get its first pair of permanant teeth.

    The culinary world recognizes two types of lamb. There is the sucking lamb, named after the aforementioned child who still likes mommy’s milk, and then the weaned lamb. The weaned lamb is between ages 4 months to 1 year, and takes it nutrients from other sources, most often grass and other similar vegetation.

    After one year, lambs are considered “hoggs” or “hoggetts” (depending on gender) and their meat has to count as mutton. If a sheep makes it to its one year birthday chances are good it’ll be around for a while longer, as proper mutton only develops it’s flavor as the sheep gets older and older.

    The French, choosing to be even more difficult, have another type of lamb, called pré-salé, meaning that the lamb has been fed on the grass of the salt marshes ever so popular in France.

    As mentioned perviously, we in the west haven’t taken to lamb, for whatever reason. It’s not just Americans, as the the Western Europeans also don’t take to lamb as the do beef. Which is odd, as being a fatty red meat, it”s perfect for tocks and soups, as well as any dishes which rely on a sauce.

    As it’s a fatty meat, it’s best with a sharp ‘acid’ ingredient to cut through it, either vinegar or wine based, although one could perhaps use mint if one were so inclined.

    So what is what on a lamb? refer to the crappy graphic that I lifted from another location…

    1. Neck
    2. Rib
    3. Loin
    4. Sirloin
    5. leg
    6. Breast
    7. Foreshank
    8. Shoulder

    Most people get the rack of lamb, which is the ribs and find it quite tender and tasty. The loin is another tender cut, while the shoulder (or chuck) is less tender (making it perfect for roasting), but still quite flavorful. The leg of lamb is an oddity however, in that it is quite tender (which is the opposite of beef, where the leg can be quite tough).

    Buying sheep isn’t the issue it is with beef, at least here in America. Although there are Prime, Choice, and Select as grades, the differences are so minute, that it essentially makes them worthless.

    There are two things you should keep in mind however:

    1. If you want the deep gamey taste of lamb, buy organic, grass-fed lamb. Grain fed lamb leads to less gamey taste and most American Lamb (80%) is raised this way.
    2. American raised lamb are more fatty than imported lamb, but provide larger pieces of meat. This is simply due to the breeds of sheep throughout the world, and no other reason.

    This gives us a good start on what lamb is and isn’t. Hoepfully I’ll be able to conjure up a few good meals involving lamb over the next couple o’ weeks.


    Oatmeal Almond Pancakes

    In my quest to find something to do with almond oil, I found this recipe. It’s… okay. But much better with Whipped cream and bananas to garnish.

    • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
    • 3/4 cup quick-cooking rolled oats
    • 3 tablespoons sugar
    • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
    • 1/2 teaspoon salt
    • 1 1/2 cups enriched soy milk, vanilla
    • 3 tablespoons almond oil
    • 2 large eggs
    • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
    • 1/2 teaspoon cider or white wine vinegar
    • 1/2 cup slivered almonds, roasted

    Whisk together flour, oats, sugar, baking powder and salt in a large bowl. In another bowl, whisk together soy milk, 3 tablespoons oil, eggs, almond extract and vinegar.

    Add wet ingredients to dry ones and whisk just until mixed. Fold in almonds.

    Use some oil to lightly grease a large skillet and heat over medium heat. Ladle 1/4 cup batter for each pancake. Brown each cake on both sides, flipping once, and using more oil as necessary.

    Serves 6