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  • Archive | November, 2006

    The Stupid things Food Executives Say

    Jones Soda, found right in the heart of my hometown, is trumpeting their release of 12 ounce canned soda sweetened with Pure Cane Sugar instead of High Fructose Corn Syrup.

    The stupid thing said was uttered by Peter van Stolk.

    Converting from HFCS to Pure Cane Sugar with our new our 12 ounce can line truly differentiates Jones and provides the consumer with a healthier alternative.

    For a bit of context, let me make the following statement: Hitting your thumb with a hammer eleven times is healthier than hitting your thumb a dozen times.

    Mr. van Stolk, while I’m a fan of your company and applaud you for going for the better tasting cane sugar in place of the government subsidized corn syrup, you are in fact still selling sugar laden soda and not a vitamin-enriched weight loss supplement that also cures the flu. There isn’t anything healthy about Jones soda.

    But thanks for providing me a decent laugh this morning.

    UPDATE: Mr. van Stolk mentions in the comments (no, really) that

    …what I said was “pure cane sugar is a healthier alternative to HFCS”. If you think that is stupid, I am ok with that.

    Upon reflection his quote is not stupid per se, but perhaps a bit presumptuous. And for the record, I had made the same presumption. But the fact remains that there has been no scientific study that has said that cane sugar is better for a person than HFCS. Lord knows I’ve tried to find one.

    Marion Nestle, the food nutritionist and writer of such books as “Food Politics” and “What to eat” has stated that she could draw no distinction between cane sugar and HFCS. In her eyes, a sugar is a sugar, and neither items was one worth indulging in excessively.

    tags technorati : Jones Soda High Fructose Corn Syrup

    What makes an “Organic” Fish?

    The New York Times hands down an article detailing the difficulties in defining what constitutes an “Organic” Fish. From the article:

    The issue comes down largely to what a fish eats, and whether the fish can be fed an organic diet. There is broad agreement that the organic label is no problem for fish that are primarily vegetarians, like catfish and tilapia, because organic feed is available (though expensive).

    Fish that are carnivores — salmon, for instance — are a different matter because they eat other fish, which cannot now be labeled organic.

    Actually, the issue is far larger than “What does a fish eat?” The basic ideals behind the organic movement included several basic premises.

    • Produce food that allows for future sustainability for the product being raised.
    • Produce food in a manner that leaves as small of an imprint upon the environment as possible.
    • If animals are involved, treat them in a manner which is respectful and is as close to their natural environment as is practical.

    To be sure, I’ve oversimplified the premises, and they have since been evolved and codified to a point where these standards can be applied on a larger scale, but I think the basic points are there.

    Now when applying the above to typical farm animals such as cows, chickens and pigs, these ideals can work in concert with one another. It is not a stretch to think of raising cattle and yet still be true to the concepts listed above.

    But these ideals contradict one another when you apply them to an animal less domesticated than your average cow. Salmon is a great example of this. It could be argued that an interest of an individual salmon is best served if that fish was allowed to be wild. However, for sustainability of the species as a whole, it may be best for the fish if salmon farms were allow to propagate as long as they were run in such a way that it did not adversely affect various eco-systems (always an iffy proposition where fish farms are concerned).

    In other words, the basic ideals of the organic movement would seem to be at odds with one another, at least where raising fish is concerned.

    I know this would never happen, because greed has now become a variable in what defines ‘organic’, but perhaps it would be best if there were types of food where an ‘organic’ label would simply be inappropriate to use. To me, the idea of ‘organic fish’ is equal to ‘organic venison’. The problem is that no one can tell whether either ‘organic fish’ or ‘organic venison’ is a contradiction or a redundancy.

    Thanks Jack

    tags technorati : Organic Organic Food Seafood Salmon

    More anti-foie gras nonsense

    Here I am in the midst of my annual December vacation, high amongst the mountains of Whistler, British Columbia. It is beautiful and relaxing, far removed from the stresses and strains of my regular life. My hope was that I could sneak away, hoping that no silliness would go on in the food world.

    Enter Alan Gerson, a New York City Councilman who is planning on introducing yet another “anti Foie Gras” bill.

    Like Michael Ruhlman, I feel as if this topic is tiresome, for a whole bevy of reasons. But this is how political movements operate – keep working the issue until you either convert or subvert the electorate.

    While there are many ways to refute the claims of ‘cruelty’ to the ducks and geese who are being watched out for, there is a larger issue here. A group of individuals are trying to have governments tell me what I can and cannot eat, something which I (and others) have stated time and time again.

    Let’s boil this down to the core issue – These types of bills aren’t about foie gras as much as they are about animal cruelty. The questions that arise from this are as follows:

    1. What standards are we going to use to define what constitutes animal cruelty when it comes to food production?
    2. Will these standards be applied to every food product that has animal ingredients, or will it apply to only a subset of these food products? If it’s only to a subset, how are we to differentiate one from another?
    3. Will these standards apply to every food producer? Or will allowances be made between larger food producers and artisinal production?

    One of the many problems with the anti-foie gras advocates is that none of the above questions are being addressed. Instead we get a handful of people saying that “gavage is bad” based off of their response to videotapes made out of context and a carefully selected group of veterinarians.

    I, for one, would like to see the above questions addressed, because they would require us to actually consider how we get our food as well as force us to recognize what being an omnivore entails.

    Sadly, I believe that’s not going to happen.

    UPDATE: As Tana noted in the comments, Councilman Gerson has agreed to table his talk of the foie gras ban…for now.

    tags technorati : foie gras food bans food politics

    Holiday Cookies: Chocolate Covered Cherry Cookies

    It is officially the time of year for cookies.

    I know, I know…one is entitled to make cookies any time they damn well please. But it seems to me that during the period of time between Thanksgiving and Christmas day, a person could make cookies every day of the week and not get stares from co-workers and the like.

    This year, I have been bitten by the cookie bug, and I think that I will be making more than my fair share of the little treats, much to the joy of Tara’s coworkers and mine, and much to the consternation of myself. Consternation, because deep inside of me, I have this fear that I’m going to become one of those women who wear sweaters with Christmas trees embroidered on the front, beaming with pride without any trace of irony. Making an excess amount of cookies, I believe, can be the first step down that road.

    This recipe is adapted from a “Holiday Cookies” periodical.

    • 1 cup sugar
    • 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
    • 1 egg
    • 2 teaspoons milk
    • 1 Tablespoon vanilla
    • 3 cups APF Flour
    • 2 teaspoons baking powder
    • 1 cup maraschino cherries, drained and chopped
    • 1/8 cup maraschino cherry ‘juice’
    • 2/3 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
    • 2 teaspoons shortening

    Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees F.

    In a large mixer, combine the sugar and butter and mix at a low to medium speed, until creamy. Add the egg, milk and vanilla and mix until thoroughly incorporated. At a low speed and the Flour and baking powder. Allow to mix together between 2-3 minutes.

    Add the cherries and knead into the dough by hand. Pour in the maraschino cherry ‘juice’ and knead in slowly, only to the point where the dough looks marbled (some of the dough pink, the other basic cookie dough color).

    Drop onto cookie sheets with a teaspoon. Place the cookie sheet into the oven (one at a time) and bake between 9 – 11 minutes. Allow to cool for 30 minutes after removing from the oven.

    Meanwhile place chocolate chips and shortening into a small sauce pan and place over medium low heat. Allow to melt and stir until smooth. Drizzle the chocolate over the cooled cookies.

    Makes 6 dozen cookies

    tags technorati : Recipes Cookies Holiday Cookies

    I’m not the first to say it, but –

    Le Beaujolais Nouveau est arrive!

    Yeah, I know anyone who’s written anything in the last two weeks about this year’s Beaujolais Nouveau has titled their post Le Beaujolais Nouveau est arrivé! but it’s just so fun to say. (You do it. Put some real guttural hork into the “arrive“… see? Wicked fun.)

    So, for those you who aren’t oenophiles, the third Thursday of November — which was November 16th this year — is la fête du Beaujolais, although here in the US we generally get by with just calling it Beaujolais Day. It’s the first official day Beaujolais Nouveau wine can legally be sold under French law and some people — both French and not (but yeah, mostly the French) — wait all year for this wine to arrive, to drink immediately and/or have with their Thanksgiving dinner.

    However, despite my affection for (and for saying) la fête du Beaujolais, I know pretty much nothing about wine. Like, at all. So, rather than embarrass myself in my first big Accidental Hedonist post by picking some clunker of a wine, I figured I should do some online research.

    I started with the only bit of information I knew already: the #1 selling brand of Beaujolais Nouveau is Georges Duboeuf. So, I started with his Beaujolais Nouveau site.

    First, a quick science lesson, because I’m nerdy and I like science:

    Unlike other wines, Beaujolais Nouveau is made from uncrushed grapes. Instead, they pile all the grapes up and let them ferment in their skins. (The process is known as semi-carbonic maceration. Drop that into your next wine tasting party conversation and you’ll totally get laid.) Some of the grapes at the bottom get crushed a little (hence the semi-), just because they’ve got all the other grapes on top of them, but because most of the grapes aren’t crushed, the wine ends up low in tannins — the stuff that makes your mouth go all puckery — and makes the wine taste fruitier. The downside is, low tannins means it’s not going to age well, so drink it now.

    But how’s it taste? Rather than try to get an assessment of all the various Nouveaus out there, I tracked down what people had to say just about the 2006 Georges Duboeuf Beaujolais Nouveau.

    Good Wine Under $20 found it had “some soft tannins, with silky strawberry and nutmeg flavors.” PhilaFoodie wrote, “The nose and palate show strawberries, raspberries and cherries” and “has a respectable balance between the fruitiness and the acidity.” And Benito’s Wine Reviews said “we get the classic whiff of bananas on the nose with a little cherry behind it… with characteristic light tannins and a short finish.”

    Uh, that sounds good, right? Not wanting to feel even more intimidated by reading more reviews, I popped open my own bottle (from Cabrini Wines, 831 W181st, NYC) and poured a glass.

    And how did I, an admitted wine dork, find it? Did it live up to all the anticipation? Was it worth making my husband go to three different liquor stores on a Friday night when he could have been home watching Battlestar Galactica?

    Well, it was… okay.

    It was tasty: fruity, which I expected, and it also had some sourish tannins to it, which I didn’t really expect. (Honestly, I still don’t really know if that tannin thing is supposed to be good or bad.) It wasn’t overwhelming; it was kind of a nice balance with the fruity flavor. Overall, it was good. I think.

    Y’know, maybe I like saying Beaujolais Nouveau more than I actually like drinking it.

    Please Welcome Kristen Bonardi Rapp!

    Our second of the two new writers is none other than the proprietor of gezellig girl, one Kristen Bonardi Rapp. I’ll let her introduce herself to y’all.

    At officially 32 years old, I’m playing a little fast and loose with the word “girlˮ but who doesn’t love some good alliteration? I live in New York City with a husband, a kid, and two cats. I’m a full-time, all-day, all-night parenting machine by trade. When I’m not preparing, cooking, shopping for, or writing about food, I’m probably watching TV or knitting or something.

    Please welcome Kristen with open arms, as she’ll be the Saturday writer for the near future.

    Things I did not know…Coca Cola has opened a coffeeshop

    Clearly they’ve learned how profitable three dollar lattes are, and are now trying to slice into the Starbucks pie. Their business’s shtick? That they are more ‘green’ than the Mermaid.

    As expected, the anti-Coke crowd has chimed in, stating that Coke is intentionally meeting only the barest of standards in order to take credit for being green.

    Jennifer Wright, founder of Green Shift, which pioneered the biodegradable coffee cup now found in over 150 Toronto businesses, isn’t impressed. “They don’t have enough to brag about. They are basically appeasing people with the bare minimum,” she says.

    Which surprises her how?

    To be honest, if the anti-Coke crowd wishes to stain the reputation of Far Coast’s new venture, simply keep reminding people that it’s owned by Coca-Cola. Telling consumers that Far Coast is only slightly more ethical than Starbucks isn’t going to do anything. Coca-Cola, as a brand name, is far more shadier and disreputable.

    Thanks Jack!

    tags technorati : Food Politics Coca Cola