Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Pastrami


Made by me right here at Hendricks Farms and dairy from Trent & Rachel Hendricks' grassfed beef. Dive in!
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Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The brain in the gut and how cooking made us human

Monday, October 11, 2010

Colbert Reports on Fed's War on Raw Milk

My favorite line in here comes from Rawsome Foods' Arnell Calendez when (at 02:07 min  at 4:30 min)) he describes "research" from "credible" scientists who have found that each nutrient in raw milk vibrates at a specific frequency and that he "can feel" these vibrations when he consumes it.
Priceless!
Note: I work at Hendricks Farms and Dairy, a farm in Pennsylvania that produces and sells raw milk. 



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Tuesday, October 5, 2010

The Best Scrambled Egg Recipe in the World

I know at least some of you are expecting me to tear someone's recipe for scrambled eggs to pieces. Well, I hate to disappoint those of you who enjoy reading me take down cooks who cook the way circus clowns drive, yet somehow feel empowered to write cook books with boastful titles or prance around on Food TV like bonobos drunk on fermented bananas. But I like the method described by Bridget, the author of this simple, technique driven recipe for scrambled eggs. Her method suggests that she understands what happens inside the egg as it cooks which, I believe, is a prerequisite to saying that you know how to cook an egg. I don't like the idea of adding cream, but that's a point of taste that I'm not willing to fuss about here.

 Rather, the reason why I've chosen to bring this recipe to your attention has to do with the kind of eggs specified and, more generally, a trend in the world of recipe writing to include instructions that ask readers to use products that have characteristics not always related to the product's intrinsic quality and, by extension,  the intrinsic quality of the final product.

I'll get back to the scrambled egg recipe after a few words about what I mean when I refer to intrinsic and extrinsic characteristics of ingredients and how I value them. 

There are lots of ways to evaluate anything you can name, and what measures you use depend as much on what you think is important to know, as they depend on the nature of the thing being evaluated and its intended use.

As a chef-craftsman who is concerned with creating food that 1) has pleasure inducing taste, aroma, texture and temperature 2) doesn't hurt the people who eat it 3) can be sold at a profit, I tend to evaluate ingredients primarily in terms of their intrinsic (what's packed inside) characteristics, and don't pay all that much attention to applied or extrinsic measures.

In other words, I focus more on the physical composition and organoleptic characteristics of foods and what they cost, than I pay attention to what I or you  think about where the food came from, who made it and what value system guided its production. I suppose it's necessary to point out that I don't neglect to consider the source of the food and other extrinsic factors related to its production. I just don't worry about that stuff as much as I worry about  how the ingredients look, taste and interact with other ingredients and the effects they produce in the people who eat them.

Why I act this way has a very simple explanation: I believe that no matter how skilled one is, the best tasting, healthiest food is not possible without the best tasting,  healthiest (free from contamination by dangerous levels of toxins and pathogenic organisms) ingredients. Anyone who takes cooking seriously knows or ought to know that when you begin to value applied/extrinsic characteristics like brand names or claims of purity over what an ingredient looks like and how it tastes, you are setting the stage for the demise of your cuisine.

Ok then; back to the scrambled egg post that inspired this latest outburst of my over-weaned need to prove to the world that only I know what everyone else should be doing in the kitchen. 

In the recipe for scrambled eggs, the author tells us to use 3 large organic free range eggs. 


Now, I don't know anything about the state of agriculture where Bridget hangs her toque (Australia) but as an American writing for an American audience,  I would never specify free range eggs without adding to make sure the eggs are from birds that actually run around in pasture. Here at the epicenter of industrial food production, there is no reason to presume that commercially produced free range eggs are actually from birds that forage for bugs and other foods that might contribute to a producing a great-tasting egg. Nor is there any reason to believe that commercially produced free range eggs have a greater protein to water ratio or any other characteristic that would cause them to perform differently from other eggs. It kind of pisses me off a little, that by recommending that people buying something they believe is better, well meaning people like Bridget end up promoting an industry that produces something of fictitious higher value.

I might specify organic, because foods that raised in conformance to what the USDA requires before they can be labeled organic, tend to be free of pesticides and heavy metals as so are less toxic. But since commercially produced organic eggs are no more nutritious, taste no different and perform the same way as eggs from chickens who eat feed that contains pesticides and other toxins, the only logical reason to suggest organic eggs would be to encourage people not to eat and serve stuff that might punch holes in their internal organs. I suppose that's reason enough to recommend them. However,  if I had to choose between eating a three week old egg from a chicken raised on organic feed and a three minute old egg from a hen fed nothing but genetically modified corn and ground up cattle parts, I would not have to think about what to do for more than a nanosecond.

For me it's taste first, worry about the peripheral stuff later.

The Best Scrambled Egg Recipe in the World. Truly.

Monday, October 4, 2010

"Most people don't cook"

The title of this blog post was taken from a response to a comment I made to Ken Albala,  the author of "The Lost Art of Real Cooking" and numerous other food and cooking related books. I'd told Ken that I was initially taken aback by the title. I've been cooking since I was a teenager. Most of my closest friends cook all the time, and I spend my days immersed in thinking about and practicing cooking. How can anyone assert that real or -I assume he means- scratch cooking is a lost art?

Well duh, if you want to get sense of how quickly scratch cooking is disappearing from industrial and post-industrial society enter "home meal replacement" into a search engine and you will be quickly disabused of any notion that anything more complicated than thawing and button pushing is happening in most kitchens.

Of course, the title over-reaches: real cooking is not a lost art -not yet anyway. However, reason tells me that unless the world economy and infrastructure collapse, the population of home cooks will continue to shrink while the amount of precooked food consumed will grow apace. The question is, what happens to the hold outs?

Are we looking at a future where job security is taken for granted? Everyone needs to eat, and if most people don't want to cook, well then we will do it for them (for a fee, of course!). But what happens if the processed food industry continues to refine its practices and products to the point where a potential customer for handmade food cannot tell the difference between something that was spit out of a machine and "slow food?"

I preemptively reject the notion that food technologists will never be capable of creating manufactured foods that match the visual and flavor profiles of handmade food. If the market is there, they will eventually find a ways to mimic hand crafted meals. I have no doubt about that.

And if that happens and the market for hand made food shrivels to the point where there is little reason to cook at home and no hope of cooks finding cooking jobs, what happens then?

I suppose what I'm asking has an answer that depends on whether or not "cooking" is an activity that is an expression of a set of autonomous genes that do not require epigenetic, cultural or environmental "triggers" to express cooking "behavior," or if cooking is an activity that is learned, and therefore "erasable" from memory.
I suspect that the answer is an affirmation of the latter and as machine-made food increases in quality and availability, after a couple of generations the practice of cooking will become extinct and the art will exist as data.

Note: I have not read Ken Albala's book yet. So this post should not in any way be construed as a review or criticism of its content. However, if his earlier work is any indication of the quality of future effort, I'll bet it's worth a read through.