Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Food Miscellany

I am trying to get through this month’s magazines before the stack becomes any higher and topples off the living room table. In this month’s Gourmet (June 2006), I am intrigued by the Good Living section, which carries little statistics and factoids. Several got me thinking, so I am going to comment on them all:

8.2 billion hamburgers were served in American restaurants in 2004. Well, I suppose this includes fast food chains, as well as sit-down restaurants. But with so much wonderful food out there, why are we eating so many hamburgers? I rarely serve hamburgers, and even more rarely eat out at a fast food chain. The basic exceptions to this are the Fred Burgers from Schaubs, where my son works, as they are mighty tasty, and the occasional cookout where we do mixed grill, with burgers, sausage, chicken, ribs, etc. I know burgers are quick and easy, but so are many other things. So next time you think about cooking a burger, how about substituting a tasty sausage – maybe a Michigan White Hot, Texas Sage Hen, or Creole Chicken Sausage. Or slather some of Emeril’s spices on a thin pork chop and grill it for 3-4 minutes a side. Or for the vegetarians in the bunch, grill a big Portobello mushroom and top it with blue cheese—all of which can be served on a tasty artisan bread or focaccia. Lots of alternatives – think outside the bun…..

About 85% of the tea consumed in America is iced. Well, the British would certainly be appalled at this. In fact, I am appalled by this. Granted, my grandparents came from the U.K. and I grew up drinking hot tea on a regular basis (although I do not spoil mine with milk and sugar). My cupboards are full of tea. I lugged home cartons of it from all parts of Taiwan. I seek out unusual teas from local tea shops. I don’t go in much for the herbal or fruity teas, being much more partial to the black and green teas, with the occasional high-priced white thrown in. During the colder months, we have tea after dinner. I drink hot tea every day at work. Not that I don’t have the occasional iced tea. I do make large jars of it in the summer time to keep in the fridge as an alternative to water and soda. But the iced tea has never outweighed the hot in my household. My guess is that the South is responsible, with their pitchers of sweetened tea being set out in homes and restaurants everywhere. It’s a staple, much like water in most parts of the country. But there is a whole world outside of Lipton. Little tea farms in the high mountains of Japan and surrounding Sun Moon Lake in Taiwan are working hard to reward our palates with fine oolongs and pur-erh teas. Women sit on stools and hand roll tea leaves for our pleasure. Hand-tied leaves that open to look like Chrysanthemums await our teapots. And even though summer is coming, you might think about enjoying a nice cuppa in the morning in lieu of that costly latte….

Each hot dog served at the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis came with a pair of white cotton gloves so that diners wouldn’t burn their fingers. I am confused here. Were the dogs not served with buns, which would have protected the fingers from burns? The white gloves certainly elevate the dog to a higher level. Wonder what else they served at the 1904 World’s Fair?

Chilean sea bass live at least 40 years; orange roughy can reach the age of 100; and pacific rockfish have been known to survive for multiple centuries. Exactly how do they know this? Do fish have rings like trees? How do you age a fish? I checked and found out that fish never stop growing and that they have a bone located behind the ear, called an otolith, that is used for dating. Just like a tree, it has rings that can be counted.

Approximately 70% of all processed foods in the U.S. grocery stores contain bioengineered ingredients. Ouch! Now I don’t buy a whole lot of processed foods, but I imagine that things like pasta, breads, cereals, etc. are included in the “processed food” category. Statistics like this make are real eye-openers and make me more determined to shop at farmer’s markets and to try my hand at making more of my own foods, like pasta. I definitely need more hours in the day. Then again, are all bioengineered ingredients bad? I’d like to know more.

This past January, as part of a weeklong celebration of Finnish cuture in Michigan, a woman created a larger-than-live mitten made out of 16,000 multicolored jelly beans. Now this is clearly a woman with too much time on her hands, and she should be spending more of it avoiding those bioengineered ingredients. And how exactly to jelly beans and mittens tie in to Finnish culture?

Every month, a small number of businessmen and traders in New Delhi, India, visit the central jail in order to purchase a meal of prison food consisting mostly of rotis and dal. They believe that doing so will protect them from ever being throw in the slammer themselves. Hmmm. Are these businessmen corrupt to begin with and are hedging their bets? Is there something to this theory? I, personally, like rotis and dal, but I don’t think that these items are on our local prison menu, but if I am ever in India, it might be worth a try. Not that I plan on any illegal activities…..

The average American receives 14% of his or her daily calorie intake from soft drinks. Well, this just goes to prove, once again, that I am not an average American. You are probably thinking that I don’t even drink soda. But you would be wrong. I love Diet Coke. Have one most every day. But I have never been a drinker of sugared soft drinks, and if I do happen to have one it is usually by accident or if it is something unusual, like a humdinger of a black cherry soda in Pennsylvania, or something.

The first sea urchins appeared on the planet over 400 million years ago, Today, there are just 900 living species; about 7,000 have become extinct. Why is this factoid in a food magazine? I know that we eat sea urchins, but this is just a bit too obscure. I guess it might come in handy on Jeaopardy someday.


Alanna said...

Welcome to food blogging -- just found you via Cream Puffs. I'm from St Louis and so there's all kinds of stories about the 1904 fair here, we had a big city celebration two years ago to celebrate the centennial. Anyway this might help your curiousity about food and the fair

Alanna said...

Sorry - this link.

Mrs. B said...

Thanks AK. Exactly what I needed.

suburban housefrau said...

We here in the South would never give up our iced tea - but it's not always made with cheap stuff like Lipton's!!

You know what happens when you ASSSUME... ;)

Mrs. B said...

Ah, no assumption on my part about the Southern tea, other than it is a staple. The Liptons comment was meant more generally. Out here in the West, most of the iced tea is made with Liptons or similarly industrial brand of tea.

Alex said...

Ahh tea, one of my favorite topics. Personally, I find no other beverage more satisfying than hot tea. Ahem, but mother, milk and sugar is not corruption of this fine drink, in fact many a Brit believe it is the only way to a good cuppa. I would sooner go for a cup of hot tea over a Manhatten, rain or shine. I am not your average 23 year old, ask my mother.