Monday, September 9, 2013

I Got Hacked!

If you got a weird e-mail from me in the past few days - something to do with Google Docs and a Must- See newsletter - well, it wasn't from me. I got hacked. I hope you didn't open it.

It seems to have been a phishing expedition of some kind. Nobody that I know of got a virus - more like the vandals were trying to get passwords. Please let me know if you opened it and what happened as a result.

So sorry about the inconvenience.

I am re-working this blog, making it better, and will be back soon.


Sunday, July 21, 2013

Adolf Windaus and Vitamin D

Are you a big fan of Vitamin D? Who isn't these days?  Vitamin D, originally valued for its ability to ward off rickets, has turned out to the be a nutritional super star. People who have high levels of serum Vitamin D ( high levels in the blood) are thinner, healthier with better immune systems, resistant to heart disease, cancer and other illnesses (including diabetes) and live longer.  You can do a search on Vitamin D and learn a lot about this super nutrient.

But this is Culinary Historian, where we look at things a little differently.  In our normal style, we will talk a little about the history of Vitamin D.

The first scientific publication that described something like Vitamin D came out in 1650. Of course, nobody knew exactly what it was, but they could describe its effects.  In the 1880s, scientists first started to suspect that something that would come to be known as "vitamins" must exist.

But it took the great Adolf Windaus to isolate the substance and give it a name. He didn't really work alone, but he got the 1928 Nobel Prize in chemistry for his work. He also discovered tryptophan.

Windaus was also a humanitarian and was willing to sacrifice money and prestige for his principles, and for that, I admire him as much as for his research.  He was a professor in Germany during both World Wars I and II.  During World War I he refused to do research on poison gas or weapons. He wanted to use science to help people, not kill them.

After the Nazis came to power, he put his own life and career in jeopardy to protect his Jewish students. Despite his prodigious talent as a researcher, he stopped doing scientific research in 1938 in open opposition to the Nazis. He retired in 1944.  It is saddening to think of all he could have done in the intervening years, but I am deeply appreciative of his values.

So, next time you go out in the sun to soak up the rays, or pop a high-dosage vitamin D capsule, think of Adolf Windaus and his contributions to science and society.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Food for Space Travelers

Astronauts Andre Kulpers (R) and Michael Foale enjoying a breakfast of Dutch cheese
aboard the International Space Station

I am a proud fan of NASA and I'm really sad to see it fade away. It's one of the USA's greatest achievements. Like many people of my generation, it was an important part of our growing-up. We knew the seven original astronauts and everything about them. We hoped to travel to space in our lifetimes. Oh well. Not gonna happen. 

Still though, it's interesting to watch the news from NASA. They're always up to something interesting, even it's only to announce that the Perseid meteor shower will be brighter than normal this year. 

This morning, there was news that a joint US-Russian team had just landed a Soyuz spacecraft in Kazakhstan. OK, that's nice, but what did they have to eat? You don't hear much anymore about freeze-dried ice cream or Tang, so I decided to take a look back. 

Here's a quote from a New York Times article from 1965 about the challenges of eating in space. Enjoy - and tell me what you think (please send comments to the blog-thanks) 

"Majors James A. McDivitt and Edward H. White 2d are trying to settle down to a relatively normal life in space--eating, sleeping and working. But they are having some problems. Both astronauts have toothbrushes, packaged with their first meals, but they have no toothpaste. Why? 'The problems is, where do you spit?' explained a Whirlpool Corporation spokesman. Whirlpool was charged with the responsibility of developing the food, personal hygiene and waste management system for project Gemini, and it had to use quite a bit of imagination to deal with the problems. In the case of food, Whirlpool had to develop palatable meals amounting to about 2,500 calories a day that the astronauts coudl store and eat in space. The foods had to use a minimum amount of space, to be compatible with cecompression and to be storable for long periods without spoiling. Also they had to be packaged so the astronauts could get to the food, eat it, and then ge rid of the uneaten portion without making a mess of the tiny cockpit. Dealing with the storage problem was relatively easy because most foods are between 50 and 99 per cent water. By dehydrating the foods, their volume was substantially reduced. The lack of water also prevents any bacterial action that could produce spoilage. About half the foods on the menu have to be reconstituted with water. The foods are contained in plastic airtight envelopes with one-way valves. To rehydrate the food, the astronaut inserts a devise that looks like a water pistol. By squeezing the trigger, the astronaut injects water into the food envelope. Once the water is inside, the astronaut kneads the food and water until it achieves the proper consistency. When he is ready to eat, the astronaut cuts into the plastic envelope and removes a plastic funnel-like tube. He places the tue in his mouth and squeezes the food out. Having eaten, the astronaut drops a small tablet into the food envelope and seals it. This tablet reactivates the refuse chemically so that it does not rot and develop noxious gases. Some of the foods, such as bacon-and-egg bites, red cubes, or cheese cubes, do not have to be reconstituted. But these have to be prevented from making crumbs that can float around the cockpit. The cubes are all bite-sized, so the astronaut can chew with his mouth closed. As a further safeguard against crumbs, which were a problem in some Project Mercury flights, all the cubes are coated with a starch called Amylomaize, which holds in the crumbs. The individual foods are packed in a flour-ply plastic that performs a variety of functions. The innermost layer is a good-grade polyethylene that is compatible with food. The second layer is a nylon film to givce the package burst and kneading strength. The third layer is a fluorocarbon film called Aclar, which prevents the passage of oxygen and water. And the outside layer is another polyethylene that gives heat-sealability to the envelope. At the end of the meal, the astronauts may brush their teeth--without toothpaste. They are also provided with two sticks of commercial chewing gum with each meal and a small 4-by-4-inch rayon towel that has been impregated with an antibacterial substance used in commercial baby preparations."
---"Food is Problem for Astronauts," Frederic C. Appel, New York Times, June 6, 1965 (p. 70) 

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Weird Vintage Recipes

Hi all - so sorry I haven't been posting. I miss blogging! My life is really hectic which makes it hard to focus. I was trying to write thought-provoking pieces.  Anyway, I found a very cool link that I just had to share with you. Check out these cool vintage recipes

Let me know what you think!


Sunday, May 29, 2011

Food Pyramid Now History

Interesting that USDA's "mascot"
was a puppet who lied. 

Celebrated and reviled, the Food Guide Pyramid, USDA's  lame-brained attempt to teach Americans to eat healthy foods (while, at the same time, bowing to lobbyists from Big Grain, Big Meat, Big Dairy and Big Sugar) is finally being put to rest. That doesn't mean the government is giving up. Healthy eating is high on the agenda of the Obama administration, and the First Lady has taken on childhood obesity as her personal cause.

The new graphic guide to healthy eating is going to look like a dinner plate, which I think is a darn good idea. Most people couldn't really visualize how that pyramid translated to daily food intake, anyway. Fully half of that plate is going to be VEGETABLES! That's pretty impressive, especially considering that the vegetable lobby is small, fragmented, and weak.

The new Food Guide is scheduled for release on Thursday, June 2. Copy it quickly, before Big Grain, Big Meat, Big Dairy and Big Sugar do their dirty work. The original Food Guide Pyramid was similarly healthy, with vegetables and fruit occupying the largest tier (replaced by grains, courtesy of Big Grain.) There were more drastic changes, too, but this is not a moment to ponder the mistakes of the past. Let's hope the new food guide will be better rooted in science while being easier to understand.

Read more about it in this very interesting article from the New York Times:

As always, looking forward to your comments On a personal note, I've been out of the blogging loop for a few months. It's good to be back!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Bible Cake

While researching the history of food during World War Two (for a Culinary Historians of Atlanta event), my friend Chef Christy Seelye-King ran across a 1947 recipe for Bible Cake. It’s really more of a puzzle than a recipe. Each ingredient must be gleaned from Biblical verses. The recipe was published in the “Olio” Cookery Book in England. It’s easy to imagine a scene in one of those stark black and white English movies of the 1940’s. An English housewife, who always wears an apron, is trying to figure out the recipe for Bible Cake, printed in the Sunday newspaper. Her husband is away at war, and she is single-handedly keeping her household going. The Bible Cake recipe-puzzle serves as a comforting distraction.

I wondered about Bible Cakes. Was this idea invented during World War Two, or did it go back a-ways? Turns out I didn’t have to look very far. The answer is in the fine blog, Hushpuppy Nation, written by the food journalist, Rick McDaniel. The earliest Bible Cake recipes are to be found in cookery books published in England during the late 1700’s. The war between England and its American colonies didn’t dampen the enthusiasm that women had for Bible Cakes. None other than Dolly Madison was said to be a fan. Here is a link, with recipe, to the article about Scripture Cake in Hushpuppy Nation.

And here, for your amusement, is the recipe for Bible Cake, published in 1947, in the Olio Cookery Book. Good luck with it!

Bible Cake 
 Look up the references and work out what’s required.  It won’t taste too good if you get it wrong!
1.     225g (1/2 lb.) Judges V, verse 25 (last clause)
2.     225g (1/2 lb.) Jeremiah VI, 20
3.     15ml (1 tbsp) I Samuel XIV, 25
4.     3 of Jeremiah XVII, II
5.     225g (1/2 lb.) I Samuel XXX, 12
6.     225g (1/2 lb.) Nahum III, 12 (chopped)
7.     50g (2 oz) Numbers XVII, 8 (blanched and chopped)
8.     450g (1 lb.) I Kings IV, 22
9.     Season to taste with II Chronicles IX, 9
10.  a pinch of Leviticus II, 13
11.  5ml (1 tsp) Amos IV, 5
12.  45ml (3 tbsp) Judges IV, 19

(Hint: ‘leaven’ means ‘baking powder’ and you may need to add some Exodus III, 14 to moisten the mixture)

Beat 1, 2, and 3 to a cream; add 4, one at a time, still beating; then 5, 6, and 7, and beat again.  Add 8, 9, 10 and 11 having previously mixed them, and lastly 12.  Bake in a slow oven for 1 ½ hours.  

Ps - If you want a recipe that comes with the answers, click here. 

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Be the Ultimate Locavore: Eat Forgotten Foods

Chickweed - new gourmet darling -- and free, too!

Do you ever stand in the produce section of your local supermarket, feeling tired of the same old green beans, squash, and lettuce? Are those gourmet fruits and vegetables just too expensive? Are you trying to do a better job of eating locally-grown foods?

Here's an idea - start eating the forgotten foods that are growing all around you. There are hundreds of plants that people have eaten for thousands of years that go begging every day. These are fruits and vegetables that are tasty and nutritious. They were popular foods before people started farming, and even after most people turned to agriculture they enjoyed these wonderful plants that shared our habitats. The only problem is that people stopped eating them. And the reasons people stopped eating them had more to do with demographic and economic changes in society -- it had nothing to do with flavor or usefulness.

Nowadays, we call them weeds. We waste money on harmful herbicides to kill perfectly delicious and nutritious foods that are growing in our own gardens, yards, and window boxes. Our problem is that we just don't know about them.

Well, I've been eating edible wild plants for 40 years now, and I'm here to tell you they are some of the most interesting foods around. I've even been hoping that the current economic downturn will serve as a source of encouragement for adventurous cooks to venture forth into their yards and learn to eat their weeds. Not all weeds are edible, but many more of the weeds in the average suburban yard are edible than are the ornamental plants, many of which are deadly poison. If you only learn -- and use -- five edible wild plants on a regular basis, then you, too, could save money and reduce your environmental footprint substantially.

A few evenings ago, I was invited to give a presentation on edible weeds to the local Master Gardener's group in my home county. Click on the link to see my PowerPoint presentation.

Please, dear readers, let me know if you would like more information on this topic. In fact, to encourage you to comment,  starting this month I will hold a free giveaway to one lucky person who posts a comment to this blog. The winner will be chosen at random, so comment early and often.