Food Scientists Are Getting Fed Up With Picky Eaters Who Want To Ban Dihydrogen Monoxide

Nothing We Can Do About It Now
Nothing We Can Do About It Now


First they came for the trans fat, and pretty much everyone agreed it should be banned, because it can clog arteries.

Then they came for monosodium glutamate. Even though food companies say it is harmless, they eventually pulled it from many products, because that’s what the customer demanded.

Now, one in 10 young adults want regulators to ban dihydrogen monoxide from food and beverages, according to a study by research firm InsightsNow.

Um, that would be H2O, also known as water.

The food industry is grappling with just how far to bend to consumer whims about chemicals—even when those whims seem clueless. And this is giving America’s food scientists indigestion.

(click here to continue reading Anyone for Diglycerides? Anyone? Food Scientists Are Getting Fed Up With Picky Eaters – WSJ.)

Gluten Free Certified Vegan Top 8 Allergen Free Pareve Non GMO
Gluten Free, Certified Vegan, Top 8 Allergen Free, Pareve, Non-GMO

I’m of two minds on this: sure, there is no need to ban dihydrogen monoxide, or other harmless chemicals from packaged foods. Even MSG turns out to be useful, and non-harmful.

On the other hand, food scientists shouldn’t get an automatic pass to put whatever they want in foods, especially if there are untested ingredients. Or too many additives. The best foods are simple, and don’t require 500 word ingredient lists. I’m with Charlie Baggs…

Products free from artificial colors, preservatives, high fructose corn syrup and certain other additives make up roughly 30% of food and beverage sales and are the fastest-growing segment, according to Nielsen.

The Food and Drug Administration acknowledges its requirements for describing ingredients can be confusing. Anna Abram, an FDA deputy commissioner, points to vitamin B12, which in line with FDA regulations appears on some food labels as cyanocobalamin.

“That sounds like cyanide,” she says. B12, which helps cell and nerve function, occurs naturally in beef and tuna. Breakfast cereals are often fortified with it. She said the FDA is considering ways to make such ingredients sound more palatable.

That’s welcome news to Charlie Baggs, a “clean-label” research chef in Chicago who slashed the list of ingredients in one frozen dinner from 60 to 15. One common foe is xanthan gum, an emulsifier used to stabilize sauces and soups that is widely considered safe and natural .

“It doesn’t sound like something your grandma would use,” he says. “Who wants to eat that?”

Non GMO Project
Non GMO Project

Hanging Meat – West Loop Salumi was uploaded to Flickr

worth seeking out. I notice even Peapod carries a few items from here.

embiggen by clicking

I took Hanging Meat – West Loop Salumi on May 03, 2014 at 02:03PM

and processed it in my digital darkroom on May 13, 2014 at 02:38PM

Exercise as Good as Drugs at Preventing Repeat Heart Attack

Drugs and Prescriptions
Drugs and Prescriptions

News that won’t make Big Pharma happy…

Exercise is as effective as drugs at preventing diabetes and repeat heart attacks, and it is potentially better than medication for averting additional strokes, according to an analysis published Tuesday.


“Exercise is a potent strategy to save and extend life in coronary heart disease and other conditions,” said Mr. Naci, who also is a graduate student at the London School of Economics. “We think exercise can be considered or should be considered as a viable alternative or in combination with drug therapy.”

The study, published Tuesday in the British medical journal BMJ, analyzed data from published reviews of randomized clinical trials related to four health conditions—Type 2 diabetes, repeat heart attacks, repeat strokes and heart failure. About 14,700 participants were put on exercise programs and 324,000 were given medications across 305 trials after they had already suffered an event like a heart attack or stroke, or had some signs of heart failure or of developing a condition like diabetes.

The results showed that in three of the four conditions studied, exercise was as effective as, or possibly more effective than, drug treatments. This wasn’t the case for heart failure, a progressive weakening of the heart’s ability to pump blood to the rest of body. For this condition, some drugs like angiotensin converting enzyme, or ACE, inhibitors appeared to be more effective than exercise in preventing death.

(click here to continue reading Exercise as Good as Drugs at Preventing Repeat Heart Attack –

Selling America pills is a lot more lucrative than educating Americans about healthy living. If we really wanted to make a difference, we’d ban the use of automobiles in urban centers with large populations – force people to walk more, or bike, whatever. Never gonna happen…

Cooking Is Good For You

Omnivore's Dilemma
Omnivore’s Dilemma

This seems like a logical point: cooking food you select from a grocery store or farmers’  market is better for you than purchasing pre-cooked food, for a myriad of reasons. Luckily for me, I like to cook; I enjoy the creativity of the act of melding carrots, peppers and lentils, and so on. I’m also lucky that I have a kitchen in my office, as I am able to prepare lunch too.

[Michael Pollan] says: “Cooking is probably the most important thing you can do to improve your diet. What matters most is not any particular nutrient, or even any particular food: it’s the act of cooking itself. People who cook eat a healthier diet without giving it a thought. It’s the collapse of home cooking that led directly to the obesity epidemic.”

When you cook, you choose the ingredients: “And you’re going to use higher-quality ingredients than whoever’s making your home-meal replacement would ever use. You’re not going to use additives. So the quality of the food will automatically be better.

“You’re also not going to cook much junk. I love French fries, but how often are you going to cook them? It’s too hard and messy. But when they’re made at the industrial scale, you can have French fries three times a day. So there’s something in the very nature of home cooking that keeps us from getting into trouble.”

“We do find time for activities we value, like surfing the Internet or exercising,” says Pollan. “The problem is we’re not valuing cooking enough. Who do you want cooking your food, a corporation or a human being? Cooking isn’t like fixing your car or other things it makes sense to outsource. Cooking links us to nature, it links us to our bodies. It’s too important to our well-being to outsource.”

And yet Big Food has convinced most of us: “No one has to cook! We’ve got it covered.” This began 100 years ago, but it picked up steam in the ’70s, when Big Food made it seem progressive, even “feminist,” not to cook. Pollan reminded me of KFC’s brilliant ad campaign, which sold a bucket of fried chicken with the slogan “Women’s Liberation.”


(click here to continue reading Michael Pollan Cooks! –

Tangentially related, based on the amount of national news based in Boston, I wanted to make a cocktail called Ward 8, supposedly of Boston origin. However, most recipes called for grenadine. Ewww. As Wikipedia so primly puts it:

As grenadine is subject to minimal regulation, its basic flavor profile can alternatively be obtained from a mixture of blackcurrant juice and other fruit juices with the blackcurrant flavor dominating. To reduce production costs however, the food industry has widely replaced fruit bases with artificial ingredients. The Mott’s brand “Rose’s”, by far the most common grenadine brand in the United States, is presently formulated using (in order of concentration): high fructose corn syrup, water, citric acid, sodium citrate, sodium benzoate, FD&C Red #40, natural and artificial flavors, and FD&C Blue #1.

(click here to continue reading Grenadine – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.)

That doesn’t sound like a real ingredient to me. I’ll have to look for some actual pomegranate syrup to use in the future. I went instead with Rye, lemon juice and a splash of Cointreau. Not a Ward 8, but whatcha gonna do?

 Lion's Pride Organic Rye Whiskey

Lion’s Pride Organic Rye Whiskey

Can You Win Friends With Salad?

Crust - Shaved Fennel Salad
Crust – Shaved Fennel Salad

Really? People don’t like salads? I try to eat a salad a day, sometimes during both lunch and dinner1, not for any particular metaphysical reason, but because I love the taste of a good salad. Apparently I’m in a minority:

Can packaged produce get America out of its salad rut?

Despite decades of nagging to eat more leafy greens and colorful vegetables, the average American eats a salad at mealtime only about 36 times a year. That’s 20% less often than in 1985, when the average annual frequency was 45, according to market research firm NPD Group. Fewer than half of Americans—49%—ate at least one “leaf salad” at home in two weeks, compared with 75% who ate a potato dish and 81% who ate beef.

(click here to continue reading The Salad Is in the Bag: Marketers Hope Adding Veggies Will Get Americans to Eat More Packaged Greens –

Many salads I create are served accompanied with the Simpsons “You Don’t Win Friends With Salad” cha-cha (YouTube clip, or when this is taken down, someone else will upload a different version)

Green City Organic Farmers Market bounty
Green City Organic Farmers Market bounty

Tossed Salad - Maroush
Tossed Salad – Maroush

Salad Stuffed Tomato
Salad Stuffed Tomato

Kai Sushi Cucumber Salad
Kai Sushi Cucumber Salad

Microgreen Salad
Microgreen Salad

Marche May 2010 House Salad
Marche May 2010 House Salad

Arugula Salad
Arugula Salad

Sabana de Jitomates
Sabana de Jitomates

Tomato cucumber salad
Tomato cucumber salad

Steak, Salad and a splash of wine
Steak, Salad and a splash of wine

Endive Salad - Vivo
Endive Salad – Vivo

Press Here

Press Here

Spinach Salad
Spinach Salad

Pumpkin Curry Halibut
Pumpkin Curry Halibut

Suron Salad
Suron Salad

Dolmas -Cafe Suron
Dolmas -Cafe Suron

Beet Salad
Beet Salad

  1. though of course, this doesn’t always happen []

Local Laws Fighting Obesity Under Siege

Tommy's Grill - Lomo Fuji

Tommy’s Grill – Lomo Fuji

I am opposed to most government meddling, no matter the intent, but this tea party reactionary anti-public health wave is particularly ridiculous. Partially in reaction to the Obama National Health care initiative, partially because Tea Partiers want to eat 2000 calories for breakfast, 2500 calories for lunch, and 3000 calories for dinner, not to mention snacks, and don’t want your shame tactics interfering with their drug, damn it. And stop telling them to exercise either – that’s also a socialist plot!

Several state legislatures are passing laws that prohibit municipalities and other local governments from adopting regulations aimed at curbing rising obesity and improving public health, such as requiring restaurants to provide nutritional information on menus or to eliminate trans fats from the foods they serve.

In some cases, lawmakers are responding to complaints from business owners who are weary of playing whack-a-mole with varying regulations from one city to the next. Legislators have decided to sponsor state laws to designate authority for the rules that individual restaurants have to live by.

Florida and Alabama recently adopted such limits, while Georgia, Tennessee and Utah have older statutes on their books. Earlier this year, Arizona prohibited local governments from forbidding the marketing of fast food using “consumer incentives” like toys.

And this week, Ohio Gov. John Kasich signed the state budget, which contains sweeping limitations on local government control over restaurants.

“All of sudden we’re seeing this legislation get slipped into pending bills at the 11th hour under the radar of public health advocates, which will pre-empt local governments from adopting policies that would improve health in their communities,” said Samantha Graff, senior staff lawyer at Public Health Law & Policy, a nonprofit group that works to combat obesity, among other issues.

(click here to continue reading Local Laws Fighting Fat Under Siege –

Cajun Campfire Breakfast
Cajun Campfire Breakfast



Novak Djokovic and His Gluten-Free Diet

Pot O Rice

Interesting, yet not definitive since this is not a controlled experiment. Would Novak Djokovic suddenly start losing if he had a cold, refreshing beer?

How did Novak Djokovic conquer the tennis world?

Maybe the answer is as simple as this: Since last year, he’s swearing off pasta, pizza, beer, French bread, Corn Flakes, pretzels, empanadas, Mallomars and Twizzlers—anything with gluten.

It’s no secret that Djokovic has had a breakout season, or that he has been, by any reasonable standard, the world’s best athlete of 2011. On Sunday, he beat Rafael Nadal in the Rome Masters, his fourth-straight win over the Spaniard. It was his second win over Nadal on clay in two weeks, and again, amazingly, he did it without losing a set. The match ran Djokovic’s 2011 record to 37-0 with seven titles.

As the French Open begins Sunday, Djokovic’s amazing streak—the longest to start a season since 1984—is threatening to push Roger Federer (the winner of a record 16 Grand Slam titles) and Nadal (the French Open’s five-time champion) off the front pages. But the transformation from odd man out to invincible overlord also is leaving gobsmacked tennis fans searching for answers. Clearly something has clicked for the Serb. But what?

Djokovic’s serve, sloppy as recently as last season, is now precise, fluid and, at times, devastating. His forehand used to break down in tense moments; now he hits winners that seem to subscribe to undiscovered laws of physics. His backhand, always solid, is now impenetrable, even with Nadal’s famously high-bouncing forehand. And then there’s the gluten.

Last year, Djokovic’s nutritionist discovered that Djokovic is allergic to the protein, which is found in common flours. Djokovic banished it from his diet and lost a few pounds. He says he now feels much better on court.

(click here to continue reading Novak Djokovic’s Gluten-Free Ascendancy –


The Meal that Ended My Career as a Restaurant Critic


Funny tale from a former professional food critic, Steve Silberman, which begins:

It’s easy to imagine that being a restaurant critic would be one of the best jobs on Earth — particularly when millions of people are eager to churn out lengthy reviews for free on sites like Yelp and Chowhound.

As someone who was the food critic for a glossy magazine in San Francisco in the 1980s and quit, however, I can tell you that being a roving palate-for-hire is a mixed blessing. While dining out is one of life’s most enduring pleasures (and is certainly a rare privilege on a planet where one in six people are starving), having to eat in restaurants several nights a week, while manufacturing an opinion about every bite, can get to be a drag.

Of course at first, being a critic in one of the great restaurant cities on Earth felt like getting paid to have sex with someone you love.

That's Medium Rare?

takes a detour through some well told anecdotes, and leads to a moment I can relate to:

I returned just as the chirpy waiter brought the coup de grâce, which looked like evidence from a crime scene: a dish of angry red flesh with a knob of pale bone jutting out of it. This, apparently, was my “grilled veal chop with wild forest mushrooms.”

I had ordered the chop medium-rare, but it arrived bleu, as the French say; ultra-rare, chilly in the center (calf sashimi, if you will), with crimson blood pooling on top, drowning the chanterelles, porcini, Hen O’ The Woods or whatever they were in the unmistakable taste of pennies: copper-laden hemoglobin. This was like veal à la Dexter.

Having only recently re-embraced meat-eating, it was as if all the gluttonous karma of the West took its revenge on a lapsed vegetarian in a single meal. I feared that if I tried to choke down all that raw meat, I’d end up strangling — spewing bloody chunks of calf, clots of cream, and skeins of raw fettucine across the starched tablecloth as a horrified busboy tried to administer the Heimlich maneuver.

Enough! Check, please.

(you should certainly click to continue reading The Meal that Ended My Career as a Restaurant Critic | NeuroTribes.)


Whole-Grain Pastas That Taste Good

Especially as the season turns cooler, into fall, and winter, I crave pasta. Big steaming bowls, coated with lots of freshly grated cheese, and a sauce, washed down with gallons of red wine. I don’t recall eating any of the brands of whole wheat pasta mentioned in this article, but I am going to seek them out.

Penne Pasta with Sun Dried Tomatoes and Rapini - Vivo

Melissa Clark writes, in part:

Unlike the gluey, good-for-you-but-not-your-tastebuds pastas of yore, the best whole-grain brands are firm-textured and tasty. I like the toastiness of whole-wheat spaghetti from Garofalo, which Emma Hearst, the chef and a co-owner at Sorella in Manhattan, compared to Grape-Nuts when we tasted it together. The gentle, honey-like flavor of Gia Russa whole-wheat fettuccine makes it a perfect “kid pasta,” said Anna Klinger, chef and co-owner at Al di Là in Park Slope, Brooklyn. My favorite is Bionaturae, which has a mild, clean flavor and an elastic texture that comes closest to that of regular pasta.

The warm, nutty flavor of varieties like these is robust enough to stand up to intense, complicated sauces, yet satisfying with just a little butter and Parmesan shaved over the top. Some were so good that I would happily eat them for their own toasty sake, even if their high fiber and nutrient count had not been lingering in the back of my mind.

According to Lidia Bastianich, co-owner of Felidia restaurant and of the new Italian-food megaplex, Eataly, with growing numbers of people trying to eat more healthfully, the demand for higher quality whole-grain pastas has gone up. Manufacturers big and small are working hard to create products with the springy texture and sweet flavor that once was obtained only through refined flour.

For the most part, Ms. Bastianich said, they are succeeding. Eataly makes fresh whole-wheat and farro pasta daily, and carries nine shapes of dried whole-grain pasta, including Garofalo’s fusilli and Alce Nero’s farro penne. She says she enjoys eating whole-wheat pasta at home.

“There are times when I prefer something less starchy and more nutritious, but I also like its nutty, grainy flavor,” Ms. Bastianich said.

She suggests pairing whole-wheat pasta with heartier pestos, like one made with spinach and walnuts. Anchovies and bread crumbs also go nicely with full-flavored whole grains, she said, as do wilted greens.

To that list, I would add spicy tomato sauces, meat sauces, and chunky vegetable sauces with plenty of garlic. Delicate cream sauces, however, tend to come up short.

(click to continue reading A Good Appetite – Whole-Grain Pastas That Taste Good –

"bionaturae Organic Whole Wheat Spaghetti, 16-Ounce Bags (Pack of 6)" (bionaturae)

Bionaturae, Garofalo, Alce Nero, Rustichella d’Abruzzo, all were mentioned by name by Ms. Clark as not-sucking.

And a little history of humankind and noodles:

The reason these grains make good pasta, said Andrea Brondolini, an ancient-wheat specialist at the Italian Agricultural Research Council in Sant’Angelo Lodigiano, can be traced to the early history of agriculture. As ancient types of wheat were hybridized into modern varieties, they were bred for a higher yield.

“Higher yields are detrimental to the quality because when you improve the yield, you lose nutritional values, including iron, carotenoids, vitamin E, microelements and proteins,” Mr. Brondolini said in a telephone interview.

Ancient grains are less hybridized and therefore retain more nutrients and proteins, he explained, including glutens that help pasta hold together when it’s cooked and give it a firm bite.


Encyclopedia of Pasta

The first pastas ever boiled to al dente perfection were made from whole-grain flour, according to Oretta Zanini De Vita, author of the Encyclopedia of Pasta. They must have been good, or pasta would have gone the way of garum and gruel instead of evolving into one of the most beloved foods on the planet.

links for 2010-10-04

  • Appcelerator and IDC surveyed 2,363 of over 70,000 developers who use Appcelerator’s Titanium application development platform on their plans, interests and perceptions of the major mobile and tablet OS providers. The Macalope asks this every time one of these surveys appears: is that representative of the whole? Of course not. It’s representative of the fact that Appcelerator wants to drive traffic to its site by publishing some incendiary survey results. This survey most likely specifically excludes those who’ve been developing for the Mac for years and are nominally more likely to be Apple enthusiasts.
    (tags: iPhone)
  • Artisanal breads begin with just four ingredients – flour, water, salt and yeast – and turn them into loaves so crusty, chewy and fragrant that you cannot stop eating them. If they have some whole grain in them, even better.
    (tags: food)
    The Great Wave off Kanagawa_1830. By Katsushika Hokusai.JPG
  • Most Chicagoans who work in the Loop have some familiarity with the Pedway, Chicago’s network of (mostly) underground passages and tunnels that transports pedestrians from the E,l to shopping, to work, without having to step foot out into the snow or rain. Many of us, however, use it purely to get to work and back, without ever bothering to find out just where the mysterious bends can actually take us. Let’s face it–the Pedway can be downright intimidating. So, both locals and tourists will be interested in local improviser and tour guide, Margaret Hicks’, reprisal of her Pedway Tour. The intriguing, 90-minute tour begins again this month, and features some of Chicago’s most famous buildings, without stepping outside.
    (tags: chicago)
  • In 1976, two years before his 60th birthday, Ingmar Bergman was rehearsing a play at the Royal Dramatic Theatre in Stockholm when two plainclothes policemen arrested and booked him for income-tax fraud. Although the charges were false and eventually dropped, this terribly humiliating experience caused the internationally acclaimed Swedish filmmaker to suffer a nervous breakdown and a deep depression. He vowed never to work again in his native country, and began a self-imposed exile
    (tags: film_history)

Fresh Picks – Awarded USDA Grant

Excellent. I’ve been a customer of Fresh Picks for nearly two years, and have been1 quite pleased with the quality of their foods, and the friendliness of their staff. If they deliver to your area, give ’em a try.

CHICAGO, July 2010– Irv & Shelly’s Fresh Picks, the service that brings the Farmer’s Market to your door all year-round, has been awarded an $81,000 grant by the United States Department of Agriculture. Owner Irvin Cernauskas states, “We are honored to be recognized by the Small Business Innovation Research Grant Program as an innovative business that has the capacity to i

Morel Mushrooms

mprove the health of people, farmers and the environment through our work.” Partnering with local sustainable farmers and the University of Illinois, Fresh Picks will use the grant to increase the fair trade supply of local food.

The Small Business Innovation Research Grant Program is very competitive, with only 15% of applications being awarded funding after review by an expert panel. The purpose of the Grant Program is to provide an opportunity for small businesses to submit innovative research and development projects that address important problems facing American agriculture and have the potential to lead to significant public benefit if the research is successful.   Along with taking the local sustainable food community to the next level, Fresh Picks aims to improve distribution of food into Chicago for local farmers. Co-owner Shelly Herman states, “With this project, we’ll encourage even more local organic food making its way to folks in the Chicago region. Our goal is to design ways to alleviate distribution bottlenecks so the many benefits of local food, principally to public health, the environment, and rural economies, can be increased and more broadly enjoyed.”

(click to continue reading Fresh Picks – Awarded USDA Grant.)

I love supporting local farmers and artisans, but find that actually getting out of my office to go the various Farmers’ Markets more difficult than it should be, so for me, having fresh, delicious produce and groceries delivered right to my door is awesome. I got two bags of stuff today as a matter of fact: various sprouts, fruits, brown eggs2, herbs, vegetables, cheese, a couple of steaks, even an onion bagel.

Via GapersBlock

Chuck Sudo of the Chicagoist added

Ah, vague press release boilerplate. For the plainspeak, we called Fresh Picks co-owner Shelly Herman. Herman said that she and her partner Irvin Cernauskas are looking to use the grant to streamline their distribution pipeline. “Our biggest challenge is getting food here from the farms we deal with,” Herman said. “With this grant, we’re making a concerted effort to create local hubs to aggregate food collection.” Herman hopes to eventually reduce the length of travel for farms to get their food to Fresh Picks and provide even more variety for her customers.

(click to continue reading Irv & Shelly’s Wins Grant – Chicagoist.)

  1. mostly []
  2. so much more delicious and fresh than the eggs you find even in a high-end grocery store like Whole Foods []

Bitter Foods and Liver Health

At the risk of over-sharing, I’ll just mention that my doctor1 suggested I add bitter foods to my diet to encourage liver health. Glancing at this list, I notice that most of these items are already part of my diet – meaning I like them – so eating more of these things won’t be a burden.

Arugula Salad

  • bitter melon
  • citrus peel
  • unsweetened chocolate
  • dandelion greens
  • escarole
  • quinine (tonic water)
  • mustard greens
  • cabbage
  • broccoli
  • cauliflower
  • turnip
  • Chinese cabbage
  • radish
  • horseradish
  • watercress
  • soy products
  • cheeses (some)
  • miso
  • kale
  • arugula
  • brussel sprouts
  • artichoke
  • grapefruit
  • zucchini
  • radicchio
  • bread
  • asparagus
  • kohlrabi

Unsweetened chocolate is on the list, though that food I’m not planning on eating much of. Also uncured olives are mentioned. You’d have to be pretty damn dedicated to eat one of those: when I was hanging out in Tuscany, the Baccis jokingly gave me a olive fresh off of an olive tree. So astringent that my mouth didn’t recover for hours, took lots and lots of good Chianti before my tongue worked again. They laughed and laughed, and I did too.

Meyer Lemons

Meyer Lemons

Not sure why bitter foods help the liver, I’ll have to look into that, but since I enjoy eating these things anyway, I don’t mind making the effort to eat more.

My blood work will be completed by next week.

  1. Dr. Andrea Rentea []

For Sushi at Home, Skip the Fish

Can’t go wrong with making your own sushi, and it isn’t that difficult, especially if you skip using fish, and concentrate upon utilizing other yummy foods: avocado, peppers, cilantro, lox, whatever sounds good.

Philly Roll

Mark Bittman writes:

The Minimalist – For Sushi at Home, Skip the Fish – “The rice-making is easy, and far from mysterious. You need good short-grain white rice (you can use brown rice, of course, but it’s not the same thing), rice vinegar, sugar, salt and kelp (or konbu, a kind of seaweed). Some sake is nice, but it is not essential. You blend the vinegar, sugar, salt and kelp, remove the kelp, then let the sweetened vinegar (now called awasezu) sit at room temperature or in the refrigerator for as long as you like. (I haven’t tested to see how long it will last, but several days are certainly fine.)

You cook the rice, adding a little sake to the water if you have it; the proportions are about one-and-a-half parts water to one part rice, though you can get away with less water if you have a rice cooker.

When the rice is done, you let it sit for 15 minutes or so, then you fold in about a half-cup of awasezu for every two cups of cooked rice. You do this gently, so as not to crush the rice, but it’s not as painstaking a process as it’s sometimes made out to be.”


I’ll let you know how my experiment goes, or read more about Mark Bittman’s experience

Forming the rice looks easier than it is. The rice is very sticky, so you need to wet your hands between forming each piece. (You’ll note that most sushi chefs do this, too.) Mr. Ueki proceeded to rip off shapes of all kinds: hand-molded nigiri, mat-rolled maki, a kind of “box” sushi called oshigata that is popular in Osaka. (I bought a gadget for making oshigata for $5 online; it works), and a variety of less-formally molded shapes. These, when I got home and began to work myself, turned out to be my favorite. Even a nicely formed nigiri sushi can take some time.

Once I got the hang of it, I was producing hand rolls in a variety of forms without much trouble. Ultimately I found three favorites. First is a quarter sheet of nori, smeared lightly with rice (about a tablespoon, not much more) and topped with a couple of bits of whatever — say umeboshi and tofu — then rolled, cigar- or cone-like. Next is a small rounded pile of rice (again, about a tablespoon) with, say, a pile of chopped seasoned greens on top and a thin band of nori wrapped around its side (like the popular sushi made with uni). Finally, a small pile of rice, crudely shaped but vaguely nigiri-ish, with something on top — prosciutto turned out to be my favorite. (I never said these were vegan.) All of these were crude yet recognizable forms of shapes that Mr. Ueki had demonstrated.

Cilantro and Cilantro Haters

I love the stuff, personally, adding it to various maki1 and as a topping to soups, etc., but my mom, a devoted foodie2, hates cilantro with a passion. She isn’t alone.

Pippen with Cilantro

Culinary sophistication is no guarantee of immunity from cilantrophobia. In a television interview in 2002, Larry King asked Julia Child which foods she hated. She responded: “Cilantro and arugula I don’t like at all. They’re both green herbs, they have kind of a dead taste to me.”

“So you would never order it?” Mr. King asked.

“Never,” she responded. “I would pick it out if I saw it and throw it on the floor.”

Ms. Child had plenty of company for her feelings about cilantro (arugula seems to be less offensive). The authoritative
Oxford Companion to Food notes that the word “coriander” is said to derive from the Greek word for bedbug, that cilantro aroma “has been compared with the smell of bug-infested bedclothes” and that “Europeans often have difficulty in overcoming their initial aversion to this smell.” There’s an “I Hate Cilantro” Facebook page with hundreds of fans and an I Hate Cilantro blog.

Yet cilantro is happily consumed by many millions of people around the world, particularly in Asia and Latin America. The Portuguese put fistfuls into soups. What is it about cilantro that makes it so unpleasant for people in cultures that don’t much use it?

[Click to continue reading The Curious Cook – Why Cilantro Tastes Like Soap, for Some –]

“A Mediterranean Feast: The Story of the Birth of the Celebrated Cuisines of the Mediterranean from the Merchants of Venice to the Barbary Corsairs, with More than 500 Recipes” (Clifford A. Wright)

Ancient and medieval cooks used cilantro or “fresh coriander” extensively, but Renaissance cooks disparaged it as a “taste of the old”. Tastes that are pleasant are tightly linked into emotional centers in the brain, probably for evolutionary reasons.3

A brief history lesson from Wikipedia

Coriander grows wild over a wide area of the Near East and southern Europe, prompting the comment, “It is hard to define exactly where this plant is wild and where it only recently established itself.” Fifteen desiccated mericarps were found in the Pre-Pottery Neolithic B level of the Nahal Hemel Cave in Israel, which may be the oldest archeological find of coriander. About half a litre of coriander mericarps were recovered from the tomb of Tutankhamun, and because this plant does not grow wild in Egypt, Zohary and Hopf interpret this find as proof that coriander was cultivated by the ancient Egyptians. The Bible mentions coriander in Exodus 16:31: “And the house of Israel began to call its name Manna: and it was round like coriander seed, and its taste was like that of flat cakes made with honey.”

Coriander seems to have been cultivated in Greece since at least the second millennium BC. One of the Linear B tablets recovered from Pylos refers to the species as being cultivated for the manufacture of perfumes, and it appears that it was used in two forms: as a spice for its seeds and as a herb for the flavor of its leaves.This appears to be confirmed by archaeological evidence from the same period: the large quantities of the species retrieved from an Early Bronze Age layer at Sitagroi in Macedonia could point to cultivation of the species at that time.

Coriander was brought to the British colonies in North America in 1670 and was one of the first spices cultivated by early settlers

[Click to continue reading Coriander – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia]

But you can convince yourself and your taste buds that cilantro is worthy, if you want.

Cilantro itself can be reshaped to make it easier to take. A Japanese study published in January suggested that crushing the leaves will give leaf enzymes the chance to gradually convert the aldehydes into other substances with no aroma.

Sure enough, I’ve found cilantro pestos to be lotion-free and surprisingly mild. They actually have deeper roots in the Mediterranean than the basil version, and can be delicious on pasta and breads and meats. If you’re looking to work on your cilantro patterns, pesto might be the place to start.

  1. shiitake maki with avocado and cilantro is a great favorite of ours []
  2. which I define as someone who loves food, isn’t afraid to try new things, isn’t hesitant to spend a little more for quality food, etc. []
  3. if an ancient food adventurer ate something that caused a violent reaction, this item would be avoided in future. We have the same reactions today []