Talking About the Bug Banquet

Barbara (with glasses) eating Cricket and Silkworm Tempura Skewers

Barbara (with glasses) eating Cricket and Silkworm Tempura Skewers

Barbara:  “Yuck, I don’t think I feel well.”
Mary:  “What, like you want to throw-up?”
Barbara:  “Maybe. I feel like I just ate bugs.”
Mary:  “No kidding. That’s why I didn’t eat any.”

Here, I am talking with my dear friend, Barbara, also a dietitian, in the car on the way home from The Bug Banquet. My long-term readers might Barbara from past blogs, Talking About “What Not to Do” on the BQE and Talking About Oxtails in Brooklyn. Lucy and Ethel-style, Barbara hauled me to an event where insects were on the menu.

As a Johnson & Wales University Professor, Barbara got a special invitation and I was her guest. She was kind of obligated to eat bugs with her colleagues and students there. No one noticed me flitting around, chatting it up, and passing on the bugs. As a product of the western world, I offer no apologies. As a near vegetarian, I am doing the sustainability thing.

Read about the banquet and “cricket flour” in my article for DietsInReview,
The Bug Banquet: Serving Sustainability in a Cricket Pesto Flatbread

Your thoughts: Would you eat insects? Have you? How were they?

Where Farm Stands Are Built on Trust

Last week, I was back in the coastal farming community that I call home, Tiverton/Little Compton, Rhode Island. Amazingly enough, this bucolic place manages to stay old-fashioned, mostly because it is out-of-the-way, but also because it is owned by old farmers, rich people, and townies, all of whom seem content.

The Honor System

I am happy to report that several self-serve roadside farm stands are operating there. Be it berries, tomatoes, dahlias, sunflowers, eggs, bread, or whatever else, this is how it works: the customer drives up, reads the signage, makes a selection, tallies the purchase, and leaves the money in the cash box. The retail business operates of itself while the farmer tends the farm.

As it turns out, trusted people don’t steal. In a story, The Psychology of the Honor System at the Farm Stand, NPR interviewed Michael Cunningham, a professor who studies good and bad behavior. He told NPR, “trust seems to be at least as strong a motivator as guilt.” Consider this: the customer trusts the seller to sell a good and safe product and the seller trusts the customer to pay. Cunningham explained, “I get something delicious and I also get a good feeling about myself. Both of those things make me feel good about the world. I’m in a good place. It’s a win win.”

Cunningham found that about “25 percent of people are consistently honest, 25 percent mostly honest, 25 percent are dishonest, and 25 percent are erratic.” Still, the honor-system must be worth it to the small farmer, and, remember, a small town sees all.

Your thoughts: Should more businesses be built on a trust model?

My Favorite Icy, Fruity Treats

My daughter, a Brooklyn foodie, turned me on to my new favorite cooling sweet treat for the summer.

New York: Soft Serve Fruit

Soft Serve Fruit is THAT good. It is nothing but pureed fruit mixed with filtered water and cane sugar. Soft Serve Fruit is one appropriate way to enjoy fruit puree: watered down and eaten with a spoon. Soft Serve Fruit it is real fruit with vitamin C and a fair amount of fiber. It comes in four seasonal flavors and it is so low in calories that they almost don’t count.  Soft Fruit Food Company stores are found only in Manhattan and the Hamptons. I go to the Union Square location at 17th Street and Broadway, around the corner from where I discovered Olympus Authentic Greek Yogurt, my other favorite food. Fresh food wise, Union Square is the place to be.

At Home

You can make soft serve fruit in a food processor at home. Here is one recipe.There are others all over the Internet.

Rhode Island: Del’s Lemonade

At home in Rhode Island, my favorite icy treat is Del’s Lemonade, fruit ice made from fresh lemon juice, plenty of zest included. Del’s Lemonade is Great Grandfather DeLucia’s recipe from Naples back in 1840.  (A bit of food history: The first Italian ices, granitas and sorbets were made with lumps of snow from Mount Etna. How romantic!) Lemon ices are so thirst-quenching and delicious, but watch out for brain freeze! Del’s doesn’t list the Nutrition Facts 🙂 Suffice it to say, Del’s is full of sugar.

Your thoughts: Do you love fruit ices?  Please share your favorites!

The Fascinating History of Beer

Beer has a fundamental role in the history of civilization. I wrote about it for Calorie Count a few years ago after hearing the story from a friend, a technical kind of guy who remembers every detail and then relates it back. You’ve been there; still, it was captivating. I’ve already made The Case for Fermented Foods, the essence of decomposition and metamorphosis and so, all of life. Nowadays, my daughter’s boyfriend brews beer and mead in bubbling cauldrons in their Brooklyn apartment. Stay tuned for more about that. The definitive guide to beer history is A History of Beer and Brewing by Ian Hornsey. I’ve condensed it here to a one minute read.

The History of Beer, Condensed

  • Around the world, prehistoric man discovers fermentation by chance occurrence as decaying fruit mixes with yeast, molds and bacteria in the air to produce alcohol.
  • 12,000 BC: Nomadic hunters and gatherers settle down to farm grain (presumably to make beer because bread-baking is unknown)
  • 7,000 BC: Brewing (i.e. intentionally making beer from grain or bread) is practiced in Babylon, Assyria, Egypt, Israel, China, and South America.
  • 500 BC – 500 CE: Wine takes over as the preferred drink in the Western world.  Beer is for peasants.

Continue reading about The Fascinating History of Beer….

You thoughts: Are you a beer fan?

Brooklyn Is Like a Tropical Vacation

Heat or no heat, Brooklyn feels like a tropical vacation. I mean where else do you see an orange peeler machine, the kind that turns the orange round-and-round while the peel falls away in a ribbon? That’s because Brooklyn is Hispanic among other nationalities, especially during the summer.

Case In Point: I was walking to Staples to buy ink cartridges, as self-employed people do, past vacant lots and bodegas on a busy two-lane street, when I caught sight of a fruit drink operation. There was a truck with lots and lots of fresh fruit, condensed milk, sugar and sugar cane, juice, water, ice, and a blender powered by a simple motor. The fruit man was from the Dominican Republic and the set-up belonged to his cousin. (So many cousins!) A small drink (12-ounces) sold for $4.00 and a large was $6.00. I got a small pineapple-banana-milk “smoothie” and it was tasty, aromatic, filling, and light. The fruit man sold four smoothies in the 15 minutes I was there. That unlikely location turned out to be a goldmine for him and, as the gringos say, a win-win all around.

A Reading List for Serious Foodies

Quick, let me publish this before it gets lost on the information superhighway. This is the list of books and magazines that were for sale at the First Annual Food Book Fair in Brooklyn last weekend, May 4 – 6, 2012, at the new über hip Wythe Hotel in Williamsburg. The meat of the event was the book talks and signings by the authors. Check out the lineup of panel discussions. I attended only a few, but they were first rate. I bought two books, Culinary Intelligence: The Art of Eating Healthy and Really Well by Peter Kaminsky, as a model for eating with joy while losing weight without dieting for “the patients,” and the brand new The Art of Fermentation: An In-Depth Exploration of Essential Concepts and Processes from Around the World by Sandor Ellix Katz (and Michael Pollan). In-depth for sure. Go Sandor! (See my article, The Case for Fermented Foods.)

Food Book Fair 2012 Publications List

A Girl and Her Pig: Recipes and Stories, April Bloomfield, JJ Goode
A Taste of Place: A Cultural Journey into Terroir, Amy Trubek
An Everlasting Meal: Cooking with Economy and Grace, Tamar Adler
Appetite For Profit, Michele Simon

Bi-Rite Markets Eat Good Food, Sam Mogannam; Dabney Gough
Bite Me: Food in Popular Culture, Fabio Parasecoli
Breaking Through Concrete, Edwin Marty, David Hanson and Michael Hanson

Canal House Cooking, Christopher Hirsheimer; Melissa Hamilton
Cheese and Culture: A History of Cheese and its Place in Western Civilization, Paul Kindstedt
Colonel Sanders and The American Dream, Josh Ozersky
Cooking with Jams and Chutneys, Recipes From Beth’s Farm Kitchen, Beth Linskey
Cooking without Borders, Anita Lo; Charlotte Druckman
Culinary Careers: How to Get Your Dream Job in Food with Advice from Top Culinary Professionals, Rick Smillow and Anne E. McBride
Culinary Intelligence: The Art of Eating Healthy and Really Well, Peter Kaminsky
Curried Cultures: Globalization, Food, and South Asia, Krishnendu Ray

Delicate: New Food Culture, R. Klanten; K. Bolhöfer; A. Mollard;S. Ehmann
Diner Journal

Eat Love: Food Concepts by Eating-Designer Marije Vogelzang, Marije Vogelzang; Louise
Eat With Your Hands, Zakary Pelaccio
Eating History, Andrew F. Smith
Edible Brooklyn Cookbook and others, Rachel Wharton
Everything I Want To Do Is Illegal: War Stories From the Local Food Front,
Joel Salatin

Click to see the full Food Book Fair 2012 Publications List.

Your thoughts: Do you have foodie books to recommend?

Talking About Oxtails in Brooklyn

I recently went to the new restaurant, Bar Corvo, on Washington Avenue in Brooklyn. It got fantastic reviews even before it opened – and it is 200 feet from my apartment. Sweet. I went with my lifelong friend, pediatric dietitian Barbara Robinson. (Readers of my blog might remember when we traveled on the BQE back from Rhode Island to New York.)

Everything was perfect at Bar Corvo. We had the Lentil Soup, Warm Farro Salad (with roasted cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, goat cheese, red onion, hazelnuts, and warm sherry vinaigrette), Focaccia, and Trebiano D’Abruzzo wine. It didn’t seem like much food for two people, but we couldn’t finish it all. I can still conjure up the aromas and flavors. A lasting experience is all I ask from a restaurant.

Barbara and I were both surprised by the relatively large number of unusual foods on the menu. Besides lentils and farro, there were dandelion greens, fava bean puree, oxtail ragu’, octopus confit, and roast Amish chickens (wearing little bonnets singing, ’tis the gift to be simple) to pleasure the palates of the foodies on the Brooklyn culinary scene.

Barbara:  “What exactly is an oxtail?”
Mary:  “I guess it’s the tail of an ox.”

That’s a pretty lame conversation for two veteran dietitians, and so I Goggled oxtails; here’s the poop: ox tails are actually tails – bony and muscular – from cows (there are no oxen left around here.) Oxtails are among  the offals, the internal parts of an animal – the heart, liver, tongue, tripe, brain, kidneys, etc. – that are edible, but not commonly eaten in America today. They are traditionally braised gently and slowly to made an intensely-flavored gelatinous stew. The stew is served in Roman trattorias (like Bar Corvo) and in Jamaican and African restaurants. A few doors down at The Islands, a Caribbean restaurant, the oxtail stew is a very popular dish. In fact, New York City seems to be crazy about oxtails. There are 402 comments at Yelp, New York, Oxtail Soup! I guess it’s only a matter of time before I try them.  I’ll be sure to report back.

Your thoughts: Have you eaten oxtails? Would you?