Sunday, September 23, 2018

Sep 23 - Handle that Dangerous Cheese Caerphilly

Cheese at the end of the meal seems to upend the dessert theory we described yesterday.  

Historically it was served after the mains but before the dessert course.  This is the sequence that France adopted from Russian culture where cheese was before the pudding.  However, there is a tradition of the cheese course with traditional after-dinner drinks such as port and brandy.  This is the sequence that was adopted in England.  

Other than this, there seems little interest (on the internet) in the history of the cheese course in cuisine.  There are many articles on how to prepare and serve a cheese course today.  

On considering cheese, I realized I had no idea how cheese varieties come about. So I turned to Wikipedia:

"Their styles, textures and flavors depend on the origin of the milk (including the animal's diet), whether they have been pasteurized, the butterfat content, the bacteria and mold, the processing, and aging. Herbs, spices, or wood smoke may be used as flavoring agents. The yellow to red color of many cheeses, such as Red Leicester, is produced by adding annatto."

It turns out to be cheese processing.  Cheeses start the same with rennet traditionally used to separate the milk into solid curds and liquid whey.  The cheese sets into a very moist gel.  Some soft cheeses are almost complete - they are drained, salted and packaged.   Hard cheese are heated forcing more whey from the cut curd.  

Then there is stretching: That's what happens to mozzarella and provolone.  The curd is stretched and kneaded in hot water, developing a stringy, fibrous body.

Cheddaring is a process - the cut curd is repeatedly piked up, push more moisture away.  The curd is mixed for a long time, taking the sharp edges off the cut curd pieces and influencing the file product's texture.  

Washing is key for some cheeses - edam, gouda and colby are washed in warm water, lowering its acidity and making for a milder-tasting cheese.

It is at the ripening stage when cheese ages that microbes and enzymes transform texture and intensify flavour.  This is where Roquefort, Silton, Gorgonzola get their blue veins.

Our photo today is a laneway at the corner of Honsberger and Fairlane in Vineland.  With my new camera - a Canon 6D - I know where it is exactly - 43°10'18.683" N 79°19'55.703" W.  We see it before the autumn colours start.

While it is near Brian's lily field, there creeks that cut off the roads.  One winds one's way north and south along these narrow roads and laneways with mature orchards.

One experiences the roads of Niagara from times gone by.  Both Brian and I are reminded of Niagara-on-the-Lake from our youth.  It had narrow roads with over-arching orchards.  So we will follow this Blossom Trail this year to see what treasures it reveals. 

Saturday, September 22, 2018

The End of the Line ... Dessert

The question is:  How did we get to eating dessert at the end of a meal?  Our expert is Michael Krondl.  He wrote Sweet Invention:  A History of Dessert in 2011.  
Krondl’s book chronicles the evolution of the sweet course by visiting six regions that roughly reflect sugarcane’s spread across the world: India, the Middle East, Italy, France, Austria and the United States. 
Although science has established that our love of sweet things is rooted in evolution, ­Krondl posits that “dessert is a purely cultural phenomenon.” Thus the Sacher torte, “an edible manifestation of an urban, cosmopolitan Vienna, as smooth and fitted as a little black cocktail dress,” embodies Austria’s tradition of skilled artisanal pastry cooks. Contrast this with America’s “rural and profoundly unaristocratic” apple pie, an expression of our nation’s “almost religious attitude about home baking.”

Medieval European cooks added a lot of sugar to their savory dishes, and at a documented Italian meal in 1529 the eel in marzipan was featured. Krondl reports that anchovy salad was served alongside sugar-dusted cream pies.  By the mid-17th century when La Varenne wrote “Le Cuisinier Fran├žois,” a line had been established between sweet and savory. Sugar was banned from salty dishes, but sweet foods were still served concurrently with meats and fish.

Service was eventually sequenced over time and 150 years later, dessert was at the end of the meal.   And what about cheese?  Where does that fit in? That's for tomorrow.

We see a wonderful model at the Minneapolis convention. 

Friday, September 21, 2018

Dessert in the Middle

Why do we eat dessert at the end of a meal?  The expert on this seems to be Steven Witherly. 

"As we eat the savory course, we rapidly reduce our hunger pangs and become full — the pleasure of the first course has passed (savory and hot). But as we indulge again with a new set of foods (sweet and cold), our appetite re-energizes — and we indulge in the pleasures of eating once again," Witherly writes in "Why Humans Like Junk Food."

In the article on KFC, Witherly says that because humans evolved as foragers, our brains learned to recognize and desire things that pack a lot of calories. 
The caloric density scale ranges from 0 for water to 9 for pure fat. 
While raw chicken breast without the skin has a caloric density of 1.35, KFC's original chicken breast scores 2.3; the extra crispy version gets a 2.9. The skin by itself scores an intoxicating 5.0. 
"Ergo, the chicken is only a vehicle for eating the skin," Witherly wrote.  There are 8 more reasons why KFC is so addictive, according to Witherly.  They involve high calorie density, salt, MSG, pressure frying, and more. Here's the article HERE.

Here are a few more reasons people crave sweets after dinner also include:
  • Eating an unbalanced diet high in carbohydrates will cause your blood sugar levels to rise and then drop suddenly after dinner. Our bodies want this "high" again, so we look to sugar. We also experience low blood sugar when we're tired, which causes us to need more carbs for a pick-me-up.
  • If your diet is low in fat, you could put too much strain on the body and cause insulin resistance, during which sugars are not being carried effectively throughout the body. This stress on our bodies leads to a need for sugar.
  • Even if you eat a healthy, balanced diet and have normal serotonin levels, you might still be feeling that you "need" sweets after dinner due to psychological conditioning: Dessert was always what rounded out and finished a meal, so you feel like something is missing if you don't have it.
Our picture today is dessert from this year's visit to the restaurant Canoe in Toronto.  It has  so many interesting and appealing components - ice cream, pastry wafers, custard creme, crispy chips, and even a decorative leaf (rheum).  Very appealing, isn't it?

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Cricket Choir

There is a symphony outside this morning. The loud bass of the highway traffic and the soprano of a choir of crickets.  While it may be a soprano song, it is the males who chirp in order to attract a mate.  Male crickets make their chirping noise by rubbing their wings together - and their ears are located on the knees of their front legs.  

In some Asian countries crickets are believed to bring good luck and they are kept in tiny cages as house pets. In Brazil, their singing is believed to be a sign of impending rain.  In other cultures, crickets found in a house are believed to be there to announce a death.

We can expect to hear the crickets until the cold weather, almost a month of the cricket symphony at our doorsteps.  Here are a few jokes on the insect theme.

Q: What is a bugs favorite sport?
A: Cricket. 

Q: How do bees brush their hair?
A: With a honey comb!

Q: "Waiter, what's this fly doing in my soup?"
A: "I think it's doing the backstroke!"

Q: How do bees get to school?
A: On the school buzz!

Q: Did you hear about the two bed bugs who met in the mattress?
A: They got married in the spring

Q: How do fireflies start a race?
A: Ready, Set, Glow!

Q: Where do most ants live?
A: In Antlantic City!

Q: When do spiders go on their honeymoon?
A: After their 'webbing' day!

Q: How do fleas travel?
A: They itch-hike!

Q: What do you call a bug that can't have too much sugar?
A:  A diabeetle

Q: Why couldn't the butterfly go to the dance?
A: Because it was a moth ball!

Q: What did one flea say to another?
A: "Should we walk or take the dog?"

Q: What do moths study in school?
A: Mothematics!


Our image today:  an abstract of the curtains in our hotel room.

Monday, September 17, 2018

How Do I Look?

That's a question that has changed drastically in our time.  It is a 'loaded' question.  The expected answer is a positive one complimenting a person's style choice.  It is particularly targeted to women and became a popular television series built around the style-impaired in need of a makeover, according to two of the victim's friends.  The fashion victim's two friends turn her/him in and they all get to pick out a clothing collection she/he likes best.  

Every culture and every age has had its standards of beauty.  However in this age, that standard has changed towards the comfortable and casual.   So while I may lament the sloppy way of dressing in North America, it is here to stay - it is now considered middle class normal.

This from Deirdre Clemente of Zocalo Public Square: 

"I study one of the most profound cultural changes of the 20th century: the rise of casual dress. I study casual dress as it evolved on the beaches of Miami. I study casual dress as worn by the Black Panthers and by Princeton undergraduates. As a professor, I teach seminars on material culture and direct graduate students as they research and curate costume exhibitions, but my bread-and-butter as a scholar is the “why” and “when” our sartorial standards went from collared to comfortable. "

Find the article in Time magazine 
HERE.  She says that casual clothes are "the uniform of the American middle class and that everyone in America considers themselves middle class."

I think the emphasis is on comfortable - here's a visual summary of the king of comfort style:

Our pictures today show a previous convention contest winner - A Maine Lobster Wharf by Don Railton.