Saturday, February 26, 2005

Thought for Food

When I write of hunger, I am really writing about love and the hunger for it, and warmth and the love of it and it is all one.
M. F. K. Fisher

A Little Useless Information

The daughter of confectioner Leo Hirschfield is commemorated in the name of the sweet he invented: Although his daughter's real name was Clara, she went by the nickname Tootsie, and in her honor, her doting father named his chewy chocolate logs Tootsie Rolls.

Weekend Joke

Did you hear that in New York the Stop and Shop grocery chain merged with the A&P?

Now it's called the Stop & P.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Southern Molasses Cake

From The Weekend Baker by Abigail Johnson Dodge, who is a veteran baker. This cookbook has a lot of basic and new baking recipes that all have "do aheads" to help you divide the baking into small steps and fit it into everyday life. This cake is really like a gingerbread bundt cake and it just gets better as time goes by. I could see adding some chopped candied ginger to this cake for a little extra kick. The flavor puts me forcibly in mind of Indian Pudding, which I adore but haven't had for years and years (especially if you put a little ice cream on top).

Do aheads:
The dry ingredients and the wet ingredients can be prepared as directed in Step 2 up to 1 day ahead. Keep the dry ingredients covered and at room temperature and the wet ingredients covered and in the fridge. Bring the water to a boil just before continuing with the recipe.
The cake can be prepaered through Step 4, covered, and stored at room temperature for upto 5 days, or wrapped and frozen for up to 3 months. Thaw at room temperature before serving.

Step 1:
Position an oven rack on the middle rung. Heat the oven to 350° (180°C). Lightly grease and flour the bottom and sides of a 12-cup fluted bundt or other fluted tube pan, tapping out excess flour.

Step 2:
3 cups flour
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons ground ginger
2-1/2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
Combine these in a large bowl and whisk until well blended.

1 cup canola or corn oil
1 cup light molasses
2 large eggs
1/4 cups sour cream
2-1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Combine these in a medium bowl and whisk until well blended

Step 3:
1 cup boiling water
Pour wet ingredients over dry ingredients and add the boiling water. Stir with a rubber spatula just until blended. Scrape batter into prepared pan and spread evenly.

Step 4:
Bake until a toothpick or cake tester inserted in the center comes out with just a few small crumbs attached, 43-50 minutes. Transfer pan to a rack and let cool for about 15 minutes. If necessary, run a thin knife around the pan sides to loosen the cake. Invert cake onto rack and life off the pan so the fluted side is up. Set aside to cool completely.

Nutrition Basics - Fiber

Green beans


Fiber, a form of carbohydrate that is not digestible, is a non-nutritive but essential component of a healthy diet. Fiber is not a single compound, but a mixture of several components found in complex carbohydrates: cellulose, hemicelluloses, and lignin. These substances make up the structural building materials in the plant cell wall. The other components of fiber, pectin and gums, are involved with plant cell structure and metabolism. The proportion of these fiber components varies from food to food.

Fiber is divided into two basic types: soluble and insoluble. Soluble fiber dissolves in water. Good sources include beans, fruits, vegetables, oats, and barley. Soluble fiber plays a role in lowering high serum cholesterol level and reducing the risk of heart attack by binding with cholesterol-rich bile acids in the intestinal tract. When the fiber and bile are excreted, cholesterol molecules are eliminated as well. Soluble fiber also helps to regulate the body's use of sugars, slowing their digestion and release into the bloodstream, thereby delaying the onset of hunger.

Insoluble fiber does not dissolve in water. Instead, it absorbs water and provides bulk in the diet, causing a feeling of fullness and aiding in bodily waste removal. Insoluble fiber also may play a role in reducing the risk of certain types of cancer, as well as possibly reducing the risk of type 2 diabetes. Sources of insoluble fiber include most fruits and vegetables, wheat bran, popcorn, nuts, and whole-grain flours and meals.
The Professional Chef, 7th Edition by The Culinary Institute of America

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Vinegar-Slithered Green Cabbage

After wading through all that cabbage information, here is the pay-off. This is the first cabbage I ever had that I liked. Not too hard to achieve, considering that my mother cooked vegetables the old-fashioned way ... boiled to death.

From The Key to Chinese Cooking by Irene Kuo
Serves 4 or more

1 small head green cabbage, about 1 pound
3 tablespoons oil
4 dried red chili peppers

Sauce:
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon cornstarch
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
2 tablespoons light soy sauce
1 tablespoon dry sherry

Remove the cabbage's tough outer leaves and cut off the stem. Quarter the cabbage and cut out the core. Cut the leaves into pieces about 1 inch square, toss in a colander to separate, and then rinse and drain (do not rinse and drain until shortly before the stir-frying).

Mix the sauce ingredients in a bowl until the sugar and cornstarch are dissolved.

Heat a wok or large, heavy skillet over high heat until hot. Add the oil, turn heat low, and toss in the peppers. Press and turn them in the oil until they are deep red -- do not let them blacken since they won't look as pretty with the cabbage. Then turn heat high, scatter in the cabbage, and stir and flip for about 2 minutes in the hot oil.

Add the sauce and stir in folding motions for 30 seconds; then pour into a hot serving dish.

Cabbage: Types

NAPA CABBAGE
A long, heading cabbage with a light yellow-green color. The peak season is summer into fall, but it is available year-round. Quality indicators include no browning or withering of leaves and relative heaviness for size.

GREEN CABBAGE
A tight, round heading cabbage. The color may range from light to medium green. The peak season is late summer to fall, but it is available year-round. Quality indicators include loose wrapper leaves that should be firm, no withering, no browning or bore holes, and relative heaviness for size. Early varieties are less tight. Winter or storage cabbages are more firmly packed.

RED CABBAGE
A tight, round heading cabbage ranging in color from deep purple to maroon. The stems on individual leaves are white, giving a marbled appearance when cut. The peak season is late summer to fall, though it is available year-round. Quality indicators include loose wrapper leaves with a greenish cast. The head should be very glossy, with creamy white veining.

SAVOY CABBAGE
Moderately tight, round heading cabbage. The leaves are textured, giving a waffled appearance. The peak season is summer to fall. Quality indicators include a fresh appearance, color that ranges from moderate to light green, and loose wrapper leaves that should be firm.

Sunday, February 20, 2005

24 Hours in the Life ...

... of a chef in Paris, brought to us by Moveable Feast.
8:30
Go around the kitchen and say “bonjour” and shake hands with everyone – shake wrists if hands are dirty - kiss cheeks with a few close kitchen comrades with whom I worked at the Plaza. Pull out my knife tray. Put on my toque. Set up stations - cutting boards and countertop waste bins. MEP - mise en place - about 20 different things – and sometimes only two of us – me and the ranking chef de partie. I’ll either start with the crayfish or the nightmarish herb salad. Don’t get me wrong – it’s a truly beautiful thing – a mélange of mesclun, fine frisee, wild arugula, chives, chervil, mache, purple and green basil, mint, tarragon, marjolane, and three other herbs I’ve yet to identify. But it’s a painstaking process to prep – each element no bigger than the size of your thumbnail – some smaller than tip of an eraser – it’s like making a building a beach from individual grains of sand ...

Saturday, February 19, 2005

A Little Useless Information

Hostess Twinkies were invented in 1931 by James Dewar, manager of Continental Bakeries' Chicago factory. He envisioned the product as a way of using the company's thousands of shortcake pans which were otherwise employed only during the strawberry season. Originally called Little Shortcake Fingers, they were renamed Twinkie Fingers, and finally "Twinkies."

Thought for Food

Somehow in rural Southern culture, food is always the first thought of neighbors when there is trouble ... "Here I brought you some fresh eggs for breakfast. And here's a cake and some potato salad." It means "I love you. And I am sorry for what you are going through and I will share as much of the burden as I can." And maybe potato salad is a better way of saying it.
Will D. Campbell, Brother to a Dragonfly (quoted in A Gracious Plenty)

Weekend Joke

A wife was making a breakfast of fried eggs for her husband.

Suddenly her husband burst into the kitchen. "Careful ... CAREFUL! Put in some more butter! Oh my GOSH! You're cooking too many at once. TOO MANY! Turn them! TURN THEM NOW! We need more butter. Oh my GOSH! WHERE are we going to get MORE BUTTER? They're going to STICK! Careful ... CAREFUL! I said be CAREFUL! You NEVER listen to me when you're cooking! Never! Turn them! Hurry up! Are you CRAZY? Have you LOST your mind? Don't forget to salt them. You know you always forget to salt them. Use the salt. USE THE SALT! THE SALT!"

The wife stared at him. "What the hell is wrong with you? You think I don't know how to fry a couple of eggs?"

The husband calmly replied, "I wanted to show you what it feels like when I'm driving with you in the car."

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Sweet and Spicy Garlic Shrimp

I wish I could remember where I picked up this recipe. I copied it from a library book (maybe one of Ken Hom's cookbooks?). It was a huge hit with everyone the other night and Tom paid it perhaps the highest praise by saying it "was just like something from Tong's House" (our favorite authentic Chinese restaurant). This looks as if it would be really hot but it just built a gentle burn that lingered pleasantly on the tongue by the end of the meal.

3/4 pound large shrimp, shelled (I used a full pound)

For the marinade:
1-1/2 teaspoons cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon salt
Marinate the shrimp: Place the shrimp in a medium bowl and sprinkle with the cornstarch and salt. Toss the shrimp gently in the marinade until coated. Let stand for 10 minutes.

For the sauce:
1-1/2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon ketchup
1 tablespoon honey
2 teaspoons chili garlic sauce
Prepare the sauce: mix all together in a small bowl

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/4 cup finely diced yellow onion
1 tablespoon minced garlic
6 dried red chiles
Heat a wok over high heat until hot (or I also use a large, high-sided skillet sometimes). Add oil and swirl to coat the sides. Add shrimp and stir-fry until pink, about 2 minutes. Add onion, garlic, and chiles and stir-fry until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add sauce and cook, stirring, until heated through, about 30 seconds. Scoop onto a platter and serve.

Serves 4 as part of a multicourse meal. (This served the four of us just fine with some jasmine rice and steamed broccoli.)

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Mama T's Got It Goin' On in the Kitchen

She's got a new cookbook and she's not afraid to dive right in. Find out all about the best recipe she's tried so far.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Crunchy Cornmeal Waffles

From The King Arthur Flour Baker's Companion. They talked about using a savory version of this as an appetizer with queso sauce which is all good and well but I was making dinner ... so paired it with Mom's Creamed Tuna, which we usually have on English muffins or toast. It was an inspired match. I made the regular version but didn't add any sugar. The batter was exceedingly thick and made very dense waffles. Next time (and there will be a next time) I might add a bit of milk to thin the batter a bit and hopefully the waffles will be just a touch lighter.

1-3/4 cups (14 ounces) buttermilk
2 large eggs
5 tablespoons (2-1/2 ounces) melted, cooled butter OR 1/3 cup (2 ounces) vegetable oil
1-1/2 cups (6-1/4 ounces) unbleached flour
1 cup (4-7/8 ounces) yellow cornmeal
2 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt

In a medium-sized mixing bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, eggs, and melted butter or oil. In a separate bowl, blend together the dry ingredients, then quickly and gently combine the wet and dry ingredients. Let batter sit for 10 minutes to allow the cornmeal to soften.

Drop the batter by 2/3 cupfuls onto a hot waffle iron and bake until the waffle iron stops steaming.

Mom's Creamed Tuna

I don't know where my mother got this recipe but it is the touch of nutmeg and the walnuts that make it shine. I often leave the nuts out so don't let those stop you in making this. It was one of our favorites growing up and my kids love it too.

Step 1:
3 tablespoons shortening
3 tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1 teaspoon Worcestershire
2 dashes Tabasco
2 cups milk
Make a white sauce. Stir over low heat until thickened. (For instructions on making a white sauce, take a look at the recipe for Pasta Baked with Bechamel and Parmigiano ... Bechamel is Italian for white sauce.)

Step 2:
¼ cup grated Parmesan
12 ounces tuna
Sautéed sliced mushrooms (optional)
¹/³ cup broken walnuts (optional)
Add cheese, stir until melted. Add remaining and heat to serving temperature. Serve over rice or noodles.

Saturday, February 12, 2005

A Little Useless Information

Favorite White House Ice Creams
George W. Bush - pralines and cream
Laura Welch Bush - chocolate
Vice President Richard B. Cheney - vanilla
Lynne V. Cheney - chocolate
Schott's Food & Drink Miscellany - Ben Schott

Happy Catholic - chocolate almond

Weekend Joke

Four brewery presidents walk into a bar. The guy from Corona sits down and says, "Hey, Señor, I would like the world's best beer, a Corona." The bartender gives it to him.

The guy from Budweiser says, "I'd like the best beer in the world. Give me 'The King of Beers,' a Budweiser." The bartender gives him one.

The guy from Coors says, "I'd like the only beer made with Rocky Mountain spring water. Give me a Coors." He gets it.

The guy from Guinness sits down and says, "Give me a Coke." The bartender is a little taken aback, but gives him what he ordered.

The other brewery presidents look over at him and ask, "Why aren't you drinking a Guinness?"

The Guinness president replies, "Well, I figured if you guys weren't drinking beer, neither would I."

Thought for Food

One of the very nicest things about life is the way we must regularly stop whatever it is we are doing and devote our attention to eating.
Luciano Pavarotti and William Wright, Pavarotti, My Own Story

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Take Those Old, Brown, Smelly Bananas ...

... and make Banana Bread, of course! Or rather, at our house, Banana Muffins. The girls love them and this is my favorite recipe from that grand old master of American cooking, James Beard. I never remember the nuts but that doesn't matter. These are wonderful without them.

Banana Bread
(from Beard on Bread)

2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter or other shortening
1 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 cup mashed, very ripe bananas (2-3 bananas)
1/3 cup milk
1 teaspoon lemon juice or vinegar
1/2 cup chopped nuts

Sift the flour with the soda and salt. Cream the butter and gradually add the sugar. Mix well. Add the eggs and bananas and blend thoroughly. Combine the milk and lemon juice, which will curdle a bit. Slowly and alternately fold in the flour mixture and milk mixture, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients. blend well after each addition. Stir in the nuts, then pour the batter into a lavishly buttered 9 x 5 x 3-inch pan and bake in a preheated 350° degree oven for 1 hour, or until th ebread springs back when lightly touched in the center.

For 12 Large Muffins: spoon into a 12-cup muffin tin (lavishly buttered as Beard says!) and bake for 20 minutes. Let the muffins sit for 5 minutes in the tin and then tip out onto a rack to cool.

Of General Interest

back at the "mother blog":

Religion & Food: Lenten Catholic Fasting

As a spiritual discipline, fasting is intended to be just that -- a discipline. Although they didn't articulate it like this, the ancients wisely realized that restricting food and drink was a way to sharpen awareness on many levels. Food fasts, especially rigorous ones, serve to heighten the senses. And because eating is pleasurable, food fasts can indeed induce "suffering."

Lenten fasting is defined as eating only one full meatless meal a day, and two smaller meatless meals that don't add up to another full meal (the Eastern Churches include no alcohol). Never mind that John the Baptist allegedly subsisted on a diet of wild locusts and honey, extreme restriction or deprivation will not necessarily make you holier and may, in fact, make you sick. Starving is not fasting.

Nowhere, either in scripture or church teachings are we asked to fast at the expense of health and well-being. During the fourth century, St. John Chyrsostom wrote, "If your body is not strong enough to continue fasting all day, no wise man will reprove you; for we serve a gentle and merciful Lord who expects nothing of us beyond our strength." The Church, in her wisdom exempts those who are ill, younger than fourteen, or older than ninety-five from fasting. You should also refrain if you've ever been formally diagnosed with an eating disorder, or told you might have one but didn't want to hear it. If this is the case, try fasting from the Internet, daily news reports, or quacking on the phone instead.
The Catholic Home by Meredith Gould

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Pancakes

pancakes

After all that info about carnival food and Shrove Tuesday, what else makes sense but a great recipe for pancakes? This is from one of my favorite basic cookbooks, The New Doubleday Cookbook by Jean Anderson and Elaine Hanna.

Basic Pancakes

We double this to make breakfast for four in our family. I always make the Buttermilk Pancakes unless we happen to be out of buttermilk in which case the regular recipe is also delicious.

1 cup sifted flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 egg, lightly beaten
3/4 cup milk
2 tablespoons cooking oil, melted butter or margarine

Preheat griddle over moderate heat while you mix batter or, if using an electric griddle, preheat as manufacturer directs. Sift flour, salt, sugar, and baking powder into a bowl or wide-mouthed pitcher. Combine egg, milk, and oil, slowly stir into dry ingredients, and mix only until dampened -- batter should be lumpy.

When a drop of cold water will dance on the griddle, begin cooking pancakes, using about 3 tablespoons batter for each, allowing plenty of space between them and spreading each until about 4" across.

Cook until bubbles form over surface, turn gently, and brown flip side. (Note: for extra-light and tender pancakes, turn before bubbles break and turn one time only.)

Stack 3-4 deep on heated plates and keep warm while cooking the rest. Serve as soon as possible with butter and maple syrup.

For Thinner Pancakes:
Add 2-3 extra tablespoons milk.

If Batter Has Stood Awhile:
Mix in about 1/4 teaspoon additional baking powder before cooking.

Buttermilk Pancakes:
Prepare as directed but reduce baking powder to 1 teaspoon, add 1/2 teaspoon baking soda, and use 1 cup buttermilk instead of sweet milk.

Whole Wheat Pancakes:
Prepare as directed, using 1/2 cup each unsifted whole wheat flour and sifted all-purpose flour; increase milk to 1 cup.

Nut Pancakes:
Prepare as directed and just before cooking fold in 1/2 cup coarsely chopped pecans, walnuts, almonds, or roasted peanuts.

Berry Pancakes:
Prepare batter as directed and just before cooking fold in 1/2 cup berries (any kind as long as they're small and well drained).

Cornmeal Pancakes:
(This is my variation. Can't remember where I picked it up.)

In a double batch of regular pancakes use 1-1/2 cups flour and 3/4 cup cornmeal.

Monday, February 07, 2005

Of General Interest

Outside the kitchen at my main blog, you'll find:

Herbed Chicken Liver Pate

Again bowing to Erik's Variety Meats Week decree, here is a really delicious and simple appetizer.

Step 1:
1 cup onions, minced
1 stick butter
Saute onions in until lightly browned, remove, leaving butter in pan.

Step 2:
1 pound chicken livers, cut into 3 pieces each
½ teaspoon pepper
½ teaspoon oregano
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon thyme
Add all. Saute until browned but slightly pink inside. Discard bay leaf.

Step 3:
½ stick melted butter
2 teaspoons rum
Put onions in blender, blend in livers, a few at a time until mixture is smooth. Add melted butter and rum, chill.

Saturday, February 05, 2005

Of General Interest

Back at the "mother blog", you'll find these:

A Little Useless Information

Aunt Jemima pancake flour, invented in 1889, was the first ready-mix food to be sold commercially.

Weekend Joke

Early one spring morning, Papa Mole decided to check out the sounds and smells of the new season. He traveled along his burrow until he could stick his head out and survey the area. It was such a beautiful morning, he quickly called to Mama Mole to come join him.

Papa Mole said, "It is such a beautiful spring morning. I hear the birds singing and I smell ... bacon ... yes, someone is frying! It smells so good."

Mama Mole said, "It is indeed a beautiful morning and ... why, yes ... I think I smell someone cooking pancakes. Yes, delicious buckwheat pancakes! Come quick, Baby Mole, you must experience these delectable sounds and smells!"

Baby Mole raced along the burrow but could not squeeze past his parents.

Mama said, "Do you smell those delicious smells of breakfast, Baby Mole? Doesn't it make you hungry and happy that spring is here?"

Baby Mole replied, somewhat disgruntled, his voice a bit muffled as he tried to squeeze past his parents again, "I wouldn't know. All I can smell is molasses!"

Thought for Food

The table was the place for family business and for family quarrels as much as a place for eating. but most important, it was where we shared stories and learned lessons. I remember one night when the subject of managing money came up. Daddy took ten dimes out of his pocket and laid them out on the tablecloth. He said, "You give the first dime to the church. The second dime goes in your savings account. And you live on the rest. That, he said, was called tithing, and is how we should manage our money and our lives.

At that small white table in our hot kitchen, we learned the values and traditions that I later tried to teach -- to recommend to -- my own children.
Robert Khayat, quoted in A Gracious Plenty

Thursday, February 03, 2005

Chicken Liver Sauce

Erik has decreed that it's Variety Meats Week. Who am I to argue?

This was one of my family's favorite dishes when I was growing up. I haven't made this in years and looking at it now I wonder if 6 chicken livers is enough. It doesn't seem right somehow. Just the excuse I need to make it again. Now what will the rest of my non-variety-meat-eating family have for dinner? Hmm....

Step 1:
6 chicken livers
1 tablespoon butter
1 clove garlic
3 sliced mushrooms
2 tablespoons red wine
Sauté livers quickly, remove. Sauté garlic and mushrooms, remove.

Step 2:
2 tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon tomato paste
1 teaspoon Worcestershire
1½ cups beef stock
Blend in, off fire, flour, tomato paste, and Worcestershire. Gradually add stock and red wine and stir over heat until sauce comes to a boil.

Step 3:
Cooked rice or gnocci
Slice livers and add them and mushrooms to sauce. Simmer for 5 minutes. Serve over rice or gnocci.

Cabbage - History

cabbage 4

The original wild cabbage is native to the Mediterranean seaboard, and this salty, sunny habitat accounts for the thick, succulent, waxy leaves and stalks that help make these plants so hardy. It was domesticated around 2,500 years ago, and thanks to its tolerance of cold climates, it became an important staple vegetable in Eastern Europe. The practice of pickling it appears to have originated in China ...

... From surviving pictures and reliefs it is clear that Egyptian cabbage was headless. The Greeks, too, cultivated headless cabbages and invested them with a religious significance. They ascribed the origin of cabbage to the chief of the gods, Zeus, believing that when he was earnestly trying to explain two conflicting prophecies, he worked himself into a sweat and that from this sweat sprang cabbage. There may be some connection here with the strong smell of cooking cabbage.

Both the Greeks and Romans thought cabbage a very healthy food, which it is; and a protection against drunkenness, which it is not. A Greek proverb states roundly: "Cabbage served twice is death." This sounds sinister but seems to have reflected no more than a dislike of leftovers on the part of people who knew nothing of Bubble and Squeak. The saying was used to disparage anything stale or secondhand.

Cultivated cabbage forms a large head of closely nested leaves around the tip of the main stalk. There are many varieties, some dark green, some nearly white, some red with anthoxyanin pigments, some deeply ridged, and some smooth. In general, open-leaved plants accumulate more vitamins C and A and antioxidant carotenoids than heading varieties whose inner leaves never see the light of day. Heading cabbages often contain more sugar, and store well for months after harvest.
SOURCES:
On Food and Cooking by Harold McGee
The Oxford Companion to Food by Alan Davidson

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Olive Salad

Here's the olive salad that I use on muffalettas. Though to be truthful I will admit that I can just eat it straight out of the bowl.

James Beard’s Sicilian Salad

4 cups stuffed olives, sliced
1 cup finely chopped celery
1/2 cup capers
1 medium onion, minced
3 cloves garlic, minced
6 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup vinegar
1 teaspoon pepper

Combine and let marinate, refrigerated, at least one hour.

Finally! The Book Review Everyone's Been Asking About

FRENCH WOMEN DON'T GET FAT
The Secret of Eating For Pleasure
by Mireille Guiliano

As I have said several times when being peppered for comments about this book, it reminds me strongly of a 20-year-old book about dieting using behavior modification. That book made an unbelievable difference in my life. I always had been overweight and my parents had put me on every diet around (I knew Atkins when it was new, ok?). Using behavior modification and starting an aerobics class allowed me to lose 72 pounds in 9 months. It's amazing how much more aware a few habits can make you such as putting down your fork between bites, taking 20 minutes to eat, a sip of water between bites, etc. It was the "non-diet diet." What's more those habits became so ingrained that I kept it off for 7 years (after that I had kids and all my good habits slid away ... but that's another story. Ahem.).

French Women Don't Get Fat tells us that an entire nation of women grow up with these good eating habits. I have a hard time believing some of Guiliano's assertions. Somewhere I am sure there are some fat French women who don't happily dash up and down stairs in their pumps at the drop of a hat, after dining on a tiny but delicious portion of dinner. I believe her when she ways we should drink more water but if I drank water every night before going to bed I know I'd be getting up at least once before the alarm went off.

However, I think most of what she says probably is true and, from my personal experience, I think most of the techniques that she describes work. Stripped of the French charm, which is a quite enjoyable way of learning the message, a partial list includes:
  • Eat smaller portions
  • Enjoy quality not quantity (savor your food and eat slowly)
  • Don't think of food as bad
  • Eat a wide variety of foods including lots of fruit and vegetables
  • Drink lots of water
  • Don't eat until you're stuffed
  • Always eat sitting at a table and not on the run, standing up, or in front of the TV.
  • Add exercise to everything you do (walk more, take the stairs, park on the far side of the parking lot)
  • Plan for your indulgences and enjoy them (have less at some other time)
In other words, change how you eat and at least half the battle is won. The above list is by no means complete and looks much more intimidating than when reading through Guiliano's book. I highly recommend it because she includes tips, recipes, a good dose of sympathy as one who has "been there", and plenty of Gallic charm. Now that I have been reminded of all those good habits, it's time for me to remember that I am part French and start eating like it!

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Snack Trivia

Per capita, the Irish eat more chocolate than Americans, Swedes, Danes, French, and Italians.

Potato chips are American's favorite snack food. They are devoured at a rate of 1.2 billion pounds a year.

Potato chips were invented in Saratoga Springs in 1853 by chef George Crum. They were a mocking response to a patron who complained that his French fries were too thick.

The Cabbage Family: the Effects of Heat

Why does the whole house smell like cabbage (or broccoli or cauliflower) after you've cooked it for dinner? Here ya go...
Heating cabbages and their friends has two different effects. Initially the temperature rise within the tissue speeds the enzyme activity and flavor generation, with the maximum activity at around 140°F/60°C. The enzymes stop working altogether somewhere short of the boiling point. If the enzymes are quickly inactivated by plunging the vegetables into abundant boiling water, then many of the flavor precursor molecules will be left intact. This isn't always desirable: cooking some mustard greens quickly, for example, minimizes their hot pungency but preserves the intense bitterness of their pungency precursors. Boiling in a large excess of water leaches flavor molecules out into the water, and produces a milder flavor than does stir-frying or steaming. If the cooking period is prolonged, then the constant heat gradually transforms the flavor molecules. Eventually the sulfur compounds end up forming trisulfides, which accumulate and are mainly responsible for the strong and lingering smell of overcooked cabbage. Prolonged cooking makes members of the onion family more sweet and mellow, but the cabbage family gets more overbearing and unpleasant.
On Food and Cooking by Harold McGee