June 11, 2011

Four Fish

Four Fish: The Future of the Last Wild FoodFour Fish: The Future of the Last Wild Food by Paul Greenberg

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

An exploration of four common fish driven by a personal narrative of fishing for them. Along the way current trends in aquaculture, genetic research, alternative fish types, and legislation are explained. Human greed and fisherman psychology seem to a driving force behind how we got to where we are today with fishing and it seems that without drastic measures nothing will change. The author doesn't advocate ceasing fishing as some other authors have. Instead the author recommends starting over thinking about what we eat using Francis Galton's criteria: hardy, endowed with an inborn liking for man, comfort-loving, able to breed freely, and needful of only a minimal amount of tending. Making strong international policy changes to: profoundly reduce fishing, create large no-catch areas, protect unmanageable species, and protect the bottom of the food chain. With those in mind he advocates creating a fishing industry build around: efficiency, nondestructive to wild systems, limited in number, adaptable, and functional in a polyculture.

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Tags: books food

November 17, 2010

Catching Fire

Catching FireCatching Fire by Richard Wrangham

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book explores the question of how cooking impacted the evolution of the human race. At its core the claim is that by cooking food we reduce the energy expended to consume calories. As a result the shape of the human head, our intestines, and social structure evolved to capitalize on this external energy introduced into the eating process. While the core theory is explained and reasoned well, the author then makes many other claims using what feels like selective evidence and without addressing other obvious food sources, child rearing dynamics, or food consumption trends. The first half is a must read while the second half should be read with a critical eye.

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Tags: books food

November 22, 2009

Kitchen Craziness

When John and I ordered food this week eye of round roasts were on sale. I hadn't cooked a roast in awhile so I thought it would make a good weekend meal. Given that I didn't have anything planned for the weekend I knew I'd have time to cook it. When it arrived it was good until Saturday so that forced my hand of when I'd have to make it. Friday night I injected 4 cloves of garlic cut into slivers into the roast and set it to marinate in red wine and herbs. While doing the preparation I remembered just how much food a 3 lb. roast makes so I decided to make it a Gilman Manor dinner party for Saturday.

While a roast and a couple of simple sides would make a fine meal I felt like being a little more adventuresome. Ever since the cooking club I was in disbanded I've not been experimenting as much as I used to. As such I went a little nuts and prepared a mini feast. I planned around cooking the roast using a high temperature roasting method that was new to me. Turns out my oven didn't agree with that method and I ended up having to do another hours of normal roasting at the end to get it up to temperature. That might have been avoided with the use of one of those fancy remote temperature monitors but that feels too gadgety.

Since my oven was tied up for most of the afternoon before putting in the roast I made a batch of cookies as part of dessert. While I have a simple recipe I usually use, I had a box of Cherrybrook Kitchen chocolate chip cookie mix laying around and just used that. They always come out tasting great and recommend them for the allergy conscious. Having no such allergy issues I use real butter, negating the dairy free mix.

For one appetizer I sliced up some Cabot Garlic & Herb Cheddar and an awesome Smoked Rambol served with some Wheat Thins. Not the highest class cracker, but I like the way they taste. The other appetizer was plain rolled salami, rolled salami stuffed with the amazingly tasty Peppadew Sweet Peppers, and pitted kalamata olives.

For a first course I made a white bean and tomato soup with sweet potato tortillas. Neither of these dishes turned out quite right. The soup ended up too salty but was nicely offset by the tortillas. I was modifying a refritos recipe into a soup by thinning with tomato juice, which means that I really should have cut the salt when cooking the base bean recipe. As for the tortillas they ended up more like flat pancakes. I'm not quite sure what went wrong there. Thankfully I have leftover sweet potato mash that I can try making another batch with as soon as I get some more flour.

My lack of flour is a result of using almost 50% more water than called for while making a sun-dried tomato focaccia. Needless to say when the bread machine got to the kneading cycle I had a big mess instead of a nice ball of dough. My attempts to thicken it up with some extra flour didn't amount to much so I had to just dump the lot and try again. Using the right amount of water ended up creating a much better loaf. A little moist on the bottom but super tasty.

While typically a meal onto itself I couldn't resist making a batch of broccoli risotto. It was a recipe I'd used before and was very happy with the results. We had gotten a fresh head of broccoli with our Boston Organics delivery which was just calling out to be used. Alas part way through the recipe, when I needed to add the white wine, I was shocked to realize during my quick glance into the liquor cabinet the previous night I'd mistaken a bottle of Q Tonic for a bottle of white wine. Thankfully my upstair neighbors had a bottle of white wine, albeit slightly suspect. Turns out Hot Sun Tomato and Pepper wine is a much better cooking wine than drinking wine...

The last side dish for the roast was glazed carrots using a recipe from Julia Child. It's a good thing I don't use her recipes too often otherwise (as some friends wish I already did) I'd probably end up gaining weight due to the copious amounts of butter. It does always end up tasting so good though.

The other dessert was a fruit bowl of kiwi, grapes, and mango. Needless to say by the end of the dinner we were all stuffed. The roast cooking issue threw the timing off but that was okay since I goofed the cooking times for a couple of the other dishes. That worked out well as it gave a little reprieve between the onslaught of food. Overall I'm very pleased as were my dinner guests with how the dishes turned out even with the few hiccups and substitutions.

Tags: food gilmanmanor

April 27, 2008

The Omnivore's Dilemma

The Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan starts off strong but with each major section gets less informative and more autobiographical. This isn't to say that the later sections don't have worthwhile material, it's just that what material they do have is harder to find and not as thought provoking. I suspect if the book had started off with his tales of novice hunting and mushroom gathering I wouldn't have read the rest of it.

The writing style of each major section does match its theme. Which is why I may have found the Industrial (scientific) section the most interesting, while the Pastoral (pseudoscience) less so, and the Personal (new age) a chore to read. Despite the major differences in the quality of the material the book does prompt one to consider where your food comes from.

The first section focuses on corn. One of the key reasons that corn is grown so much is the seed market. Given parents A and B the seed they produce C (F-1) has better yields than either parent. But C's children (F-2) are genetically worse producing yields up to 1/3 as poor [31]. Big business has an interest in this because to get consistent high yields requires buying new seed from them every year.

Some other tidbits:

  • Approximately 50 gallons of oil per acre of corn are used in the production of it [45]
  • Thoreau's line: "Men have become the tools of their tools." [55-56]
  • Cargill is the biggest privately held corporation in the world. [63] (or 2nd by other metrics)
  • 60% of commodity corn goes to feeding livestock [66]
  • rumen is what allows cows to digest grass [70]
  • 32 pounds of feed into 4 pounds of gain [80] (livestock corn conversion rate)
  • 10 calories of fossil fuel are used to produce 1 calorie of processed food [88]
  • $1 buys 1200 calories of potato chips and cookies compared to 250 calories of whole food like carrots. $1 buys 875 calories of soda or 170 calories of fruit juice from concentrate. [108]
  • 19% of American meals are eaten in the car [110].

The second section had plenty of information about organic farming and the fact that the USDA organic guidelines specify an approved list of non-organic additives that maybe used. Another big take away form this section is that even though animals maybe fed organically it doesn't mean that the animals quality of life is any better or that it's being fed its natural diet.

The last section had a couple of tidbits I seem to think I knew but probably forgot. In both cases really not at all related to the subject matter.

  • Human brain in 2% of body weight but uses 18% of energy [291]
  • Tears are only produced by humans [292]

With all of that said, what will I change about my food buying or eating habits? Not much, at this time. I already eat healthy and try my best to support local businesses.

Tags: book food

September 26, 2007

BBQ Ribs

I took advantage of the last week's long weekend to fire up the smoker and BBQ some ribs. I also did some chicken but the focus was the ribs. Using the recipe from the Virtual Webber Bullet website I cooked up a lovely batch.

Towards the end I got a little impatient (and hungry) and took them off before they were perfect. The meat wasn't falling off the bone as recommended. From start to finish the ribs took about 7 hours. Since this was the first time I used the smoker, I took some pictures of the process.

Tags: food gilmanmanor

September 26, 2007

Kickass Cupcakes

Just outside of Davis Square Kickass Cupcakes has opened their doors. While walking back last night I stopped in to sample their wares. Tasty. A little over priced and it didn't look like there were discounts for buying in quantity. Be aware that they also sell cupcakes designed for cats and dogs although the labeling on them (especially after a pint or two) isn't immediately obvious.

From left to right, top: The Mojito, Strawberry Shortcake, and Vanilla; bottom: Chocolate, Cinnamon Chai Pecan Sticky, and Lucky Cupcake.

Tags: food

August 31, 2006

Stuffed, Drunk, and Happy

Tonight I had dinner at Aura which is the restaurant in the Seaport Hotel. It was the first of what I hope to be many enjoyable Boston Restaurant Week experiences. Unlike my last attempt.

One of the best parts of tonight, which contributed highly to the drunk part was they offered a wine pairing with each course for a reasonable additional fee. Not only did I get a great appetizer, main course, and dessert, I also got to have three very nice wines. I picked my courses to have a wide variety which was great since it provided great contrast. The meal started off with bread and sauces.

The appetizer was the Nesenkeag farm greens with lemon-basil vinaigrette, julienne cucumbers, and baby tomatoes paired with a 2003 Sauvignon Blanc, Chateau Ste. Michelle, ‘Horse Heaven’, Washington. Nothing too special about this course. The wine was very good but nothing in the dish stood out in my mind to really bring out the flavors of the wine.

For the main source I had Grilled beef tenderloin and chipotle glazed short rib with a Vidalia onion and new potato hash paired with 2002 Cabernet Sauvignon, Villa Mt. Eden 'Tall Trees', Napa, California. By far the best part of the meal. The tenderloin was a perfect medium rare and brought out the woody flavor in the wine. The short rib was also good but I think I would have been happy with just more of the tenderloin.

Lastly for dessert I got the Ricotta Crème Brulee with Honey thyme marinated raspberries and pecan sable cookie paired with Muscat Canelli, Icewine, Bonny Doon, Santa Cruz, California. The wine was very sweet, but not overpowering, and reminded me of pears. I didn't eat that much of the brulee as I was mostly full at this point. The raspberries were very yummy though.

Overall a wonderful meal and excellent service. As a side note the restaurant also validates parking which was an added bonus!

Tags: food

May 31, 2006


Growing up in Maine with a mother that liked to garden and try new dishes I got to experience a wide variety of foods. Not all of these culinary experiences ended well. I developed a reflexive hate of eggplant and still don't care for raw tomatoes. I don't think these had anything to with my mother's cooking but more likely my own personal quirks :) In any case I've had scrumptious brussle sprouts, eatable lima beans, and many other vegetables that when done wrong more than earn their stereotype of nobody liking them.

One of the very seasonal items I remember growing up were fiddleheads. They are young coiled fern leaves (about an inch in diameter) of the ostrich fern. The season for them is usually just April and May. Luckily while in one of the local grocery stores over the past couple of weeks, they had a bin of them for sale. I snatched up a bunch and finally got around to cooking them tonight. I did a stir-fry with oil, garlic, chili sauce, and oyster sauce. Very yummy.

For other recipes and facts about fiddleheads swing by the University of Maine Cooperative Extension's page about them.

Tags: fiddleheads food life

April 30, 2006

Life is Good

Life is good right now. At work this week we managed to get enough plumbing put together to have a first front-to-back communication of the application. It's always nice to have something that is starting to hang together even if some pieces of it are stubbed out. After work today Gilman Manor had the third consecutive week of grilling. Yummy chicken this time. I also attempted some grilled potatoes, but my foil wasn't quite heavy duty enough so a few of the potatoes got a little burned. I also made a batch of corn bread that was good. Not 100%, but this was my first attempt at corn bread from scratch and it turned out much better than the potatoes (which was my second attempt). At least this time the potatoes were somewhat edible, unlike my first attempt. My grill is a little too hot sometimes. Gilman Manor residents also played a bunch of poker tonight which was cool. Lastly, I've got more Tour of Duty to watch :)

Tags: bbq food gilmanmanor life programming

April 30, 2006

Wonderful Night

Tonight was Christmas for Gilman Manor. Well kind of. Matt gave us tickets to see Spamalot for Christmas and the tickets were for tonight's show.

Before the show we ate at Via Matta. While it was a little rushed since we had to get to the show, the meal was an at least an order of magnitude better than our last planned dinner experience. Very very yummy food. It would have been even better if we would have been able to stay for dessert, but I'm not sure if I could have eaten anything else at that point.

The show was wonderful. It started off fairly predictable but then branched out into new material and incorporated many other Monty Python elements. While I've not watched that much Python, even for the non die-hard fan, it is a funny show.

Tags: food gilmanmanor life