Tag: Food

Is Food Waste Really Your Problem?


If you’re of a certain age, especially growing up in Heartland, USA, you heard these words from a parent at the dinner table while growing up: “Clean your plate. There are starving kids in China.”

That wasn’t wrong. Millions died from starvation during Chairman Mao’s Communist cultural revolution in China during the 1960s and early ’70s. It’s a sordid tale. The “Great Leap Forward,” Mao called it. To the grave, perhaps.

A Constitutional Right to … Food?


One of the more interesting ballot questions last Tuesday was Question 3 in Maine. The 43-word constitutional amendment, overwhelmingly approved by voters, reads as follows:

“All individuals have a natural, inherent and unalienable right to food, including the right to save and exchange seeds and the right to grow, raise, harvest, produce and consume food of their own choosing for their own nourishment, sustenance, bodily health and well-being, as long as an individual does not commit trespassing, theft, poaching or other abuses of private property rights, public lants, or natural resources in the harvesting, production or acquisition of food.”

On Relishing Pickles


I have always loved pickles.  Dill, sweet, bread & butter – I like the pickled cucumber.  Strangely enough, I do not like unpickled cucumber at all.  This also goes for relish, the hot dog’s eternal companion alongside mustard.  (As far as hot dogs are concerned, I am NeverKetchup.  Chicagoans have more tolerance for conservatives than ketchup on a hot dog)  Relish was spreadable pickles, so naturally it would be awesome.  Since I have been attempting to eat healthy, I have been adding more and more pickles to my diet, including on sandwiches with various flavors of mustard.

Then one day I was (0f all things) playing a video game which had a cooking minigame.  One of the recipes was relish, made with corn and tomatoes without a cucumber in sight.  This was apparently a good topping for a hamburger.  Now I would never get my cooking tips from a video game, but I was intrigued.  What were these relishes without pickles – was this a UK thing?  This led me down a rabbit hole of articles.   Relish covers a huge range of toppings, including onion relish and something called chow chow, which I previously thought was a dog.  Chow chow is apparently a sweet onion/cabbage/pepper relish like a sweet sauerkraut, popular in certain regions of the US.  Sauerkraut is another condiment I love, especially with brats or Polish sausages or pierogi.

Your Food Is Not Racist


You there. Yes, you, standing between your pantry and refrigerator. It is time for a “conversation” about race. We’ll start with your food. Open your pantry. Look on the shelf. That one. There.

See that five-pound bag of white granulated sugar? Do you know the racist history of sugar plantations and cultivation in our hemisphere, from Haiti to the southern slaves who were forced to cultivate it?

QQ For You and Me: Bubble Tea, Diplomat


You may know it as bubble tea, tapioca tea, pearl milk tea, or boba tea. You may not know it at all. But, like popcorn chicken and scallion pancakes, bubble tea is a Taiwanese invention that’s grown to be beloved worldwide. And it’s not just a culinary triumph for the tiny democracy; it’s also become a symbol of important, and strengthening, international ties in the modern age. 

Member Post


I’ll bet you thought I was going to respond to my title with, “When it’s over!” But, no, that won’t be for a while, and since I am having a good day (except for five hours receiving an infusion today—glitches in their delivery system), I thought I’d share my reflections on those things that have […]

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Join Jim and Greg as they see some glimmers of good news for Putin critic Alexei Navalny but wonder how firm the Biden administration really plans to be when it comes to Russia. They also shudder as prices for fuel, food, and other goods, are clearly on the rise. And they call out Rep. Maxine Waters for suggesting anything less than a guilty verdict for murder in the Derek Chauvin case should result in more confrontation in the streets.

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Ramadan is starting. I wouldn’t exactly say I’m still sleeping off the last one. But still. At least it’s something to do. Nothing goes with Ramadan like “thinking about food”! Except maybe thinking about commerce. Alert readers will recall it was during some Ramadan – these things do blur together – that I learned, from […]

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Hot Cross Buns (updated with photo)


Wildflower Bread hot cross bunsHot cross buns have been associated with the Easter season for centuries. The tradition started in Britain and spread with the empire. That helps explain why the tradition would not be recognized by a desert southwest coffeehouse keeper, as these buns were not part of the old Spanish  culture. As Ree Drummond, the Pioneer Woman, wrote:

English folklore said that Hot Cross Buns baked on Good Friday would never spoil throughout the following year. Some bakers believed that holding on to one Hot Cross Bun and hanging it in the kitchen meant that all yeast products in the coming year would rise successfully. Some sailors took Hot Cross Buns on their voyages to ensure their ships wouldn’t sink. And friends who gift one another with Hot Cross Buns every year are said to remain friends for life.

I noted several years ago that Panera Bread stopped offering hot cross buns, while an Arizona chain, Wildflower Bread, continues to offer holiday orders of hot cross buns. This year, I thought I would try my hand at baking a batch.

Holy Mackerel! It’s Saint Paddy’s Day


Atlantic mackerelHow about something different for Saint Patrick’s Day fare? There is plenty of corned beef hash with boiled cabbage and potatoes on offer at public eateries, ready to be washed down with green dyed light beer, or Guinness and Irish whiskey. This is the first holiday with many bars and restaurants fully open to celebrate since last March. This year, I’m trying other Irish fare: mackerel fish patties made with potatoes, served with fresh baked Irish soda bread. Cabbage will come in shredded as a bed for the fish cakes.

Mackerel is traditional Irish fare.

We all have a basic awareness of the deep connection between the Irish and potatoes, see Famine. You should also have a notion that an island nation has a strong sea fishing tradition. Think of Irish or Aran (Island) sweaters, knit originally to keep the fishermen warm on the cold Atlantic waves. You have that image in mind because these simple but elegant home spun sweaters caught the eye of Vogue editors in the late 1950s.

Khmer Cuisine Part 1: An Introduction


Khmer cuisine refers to the cuisine of Cambodia. It’s not to be confused with Cambodian cuisine. The first is considered to be almost uniquely Khmer, the bits of influences it experienced came from India and Java. Whereas Cambodian cuisine is referred to what emerged after the 1700s, and is influenced by the cuisines of Portugal, China, Malaysia, France, Vietnam, and Thailand. The last two are two-way influences as Thai and Southern Vietnamese cuisines are heavily influenced by Khmer cuisine. 

Khmer cuisine is categorized by dishes as well as by tastes: sour, salty, bitter, and pungent (if pungent could be considered a taste). These four tastes are also applied to Cambodian cuisine as well. Although, a worrying trend toward sweeter taste has emerged recently among the younger generation. Our food is well balanced between those four tastes, and by that, I don’t mean balanced in a dish, but that there would be a dish of each taste at the dining table at mealtime. 

Nom Kom: A Simple Cake


Nom Kom is a very old, very traditional Khmer cake wrapped in banana leaves in a pyramid shape. It is a simple cake, made with glutinous rice flour and has coconut, palm sugar, and black sesame seed filling. All the ingredients you can easily find in your local supermarket. While banana leaves are available at the frozen aisle of Asian markets, fresh leaves can sometimes be found at Latin markets as well. Nom Kom is one of several traditional cakes my grandmother likes to serve at our family’s various religious ceremonies throughout the years.

It is a simple cake, as stated above, but nom kom also bears a religious connotation as well. It represents the yoni (vulva, womb), a personification of the divine feminine creative power, the mark of Mother Shakti. In Hinduism, the yoni is the counterpart to the linga, the symbol of Lord Shiva. So of course, num kom has its counterpart, num ansom. At engagement and wedding ceremonies, num kom and num ansom are always presented together to symbolize the union of the linga and the yoni, the representation of the eternal process of creation and regeneration, the union of male and female principles. In Khmer, that union is called mea ba (mother, father).

Chef’s Surprise: Food on the Go


The janitor for my VFW post hustled to finish the morning cleaning before dashing off to his second gig, a pizza and wings shop. He proudly announced that a local network affiliate had featured his pizza joint as a “hidden gem” among restaurants located inside gas stations. This prompted memories of food along the road map of memory. I remember hot dogs at Howard Johnson, fresh crusty rolls with cheese and meat in small Bavarian towns, and the Triple T truck stop restaurant in Tucson, Arizona.

Early in life, when my parents took me and then my first sister, on the road, Howard Johnson was known as a safe stop with clean restrooms. My memory is of a special toasted hot dog bun holding a thin hot dog in a paper tray. A quick search online confirms that HoJo had its own bun design, almost like a slice of bread formed into right angles.

Culinary Love Language: Homesickness and Pineapple Cakes


When leaves have started to litter the ground, days are growing ever shorter, and sweaters become inevitable, I begin to want pecans rolls from the Old Mill. They’re a Thanksgiving tradition in my family, and there’s nothing else I’ve found quite like them in the world. I won’t eat more than one or two over the course of the holiday (I can only handle so much in terms of sweets), but they taste like making up little turkey dinners for the cats, listening to the high school football game on the radio, and the beginning of real snow. Like home. Living so far from where I’m from, and having in general such a tenuous connection to ‘normal’ American food, little things like that are especially important to me. 

Thanksgiving this year put me in mind of this more than it usually would. Normally, my Taiwanese friend, A, and I would buy a turkey, order all of the fixings ahead of time from Whole Foods (they’re a blessing for Americans ex-pats at the holidays), make Korean food while we waited, and then eat our meal with sparkling apple cider and Clint Eastwood movies. This year, I went to Russian, and then home. Lockdown meant that we weren’t allowed to have anyone not in our bubble around, and having no one to celebrate with, I couldn’t manage much spirit for the holiday. My celebrations amounted to buying a baby mincemeat pie from Waitrose, and being forced to discuss the meaning of Thanksgiving in Russian with Natasha. 

New Foods… Chef’s Surprise


When I was in my late teens, I found an old purse that had belonged to my grandmother and in it was a shopping list. Among other items, she had written “spigety” and I showed it to my mother and had a little chuckle over how it was spelled. My mom was also amused, but then she smiled at me and said, “And you know–she did not mean “spaghetti”–she would have been buying macaroni noodles for mac and cheese. My mom would have never made spaghetti.”

Well, that was a surprise to me, because we had Italian spaghetti at our dinner table regularly. But, when my mother was a child, she grew up in a home where her parents were first-generation Americans. Her father’s parents had emigrated from Switzerland, and her mother’s dad was Swedish and the mom was born and raised in Scotland. There was no spaghetti served in those homes. Both families were dairy farmers, so cheese was a major food group.

If You Can Stand the Heat, Get in the Kitchen: Theory and Practice of Szechuan Cuisine


Generally, I only inflict my culinary exploits on the PiT. (Before you start to feel too bad for them, you can rest assured that they are not passive victims in this endeavour). As with so much else in my life, my gastronomic tastes tend to veer a little bit outside of the mainstream, especially for a college student that lives alone. Mostly traditional Chinese, Taiwanese, and Japanese food, as well as some Middle Eastern, and not quite any burgers, spaghetti, and donuts. My parents don’t exactly love it when I come home, and the next day they have a fridge fully stocked with tofu, preserved bamboo shoots, century eggs, kimchi, and the like. (Mom draws the line at congealed blood and chicken feet). With England in lockdown yet again, I’ve had more time than normal to cook for myself, and, like an old and familiar friend, I often gravitate towards Szechuanese and Xi’an food. 

Chinese food encompasses a vast array of regional dishes, ingredients, and methods, but there are, in modern times, the 八大菜系: Eight Great Cuisines of China. Szechuan cuisine is one and is renowned in the country and around the world for its characteristic pungency and spiciness. Commonly available ingredients, like garlic, ginger, sesame paste, and green onion, play a role in this, but so do two ingredients grown almost exclusively in the region. The Szechuan peppercorn, which creates a unique kind of numbing and tongue-tingling spice when consumed, and the heaven facing pepper, oftentimes too hot to be consumed raw but a staple in dried and cooked form. If you’ve ever had Szechuan food, you’ll be familiar with that pepper, and also with the chili oil that is almost ubiquitous in it. 

Group Writing: Fish’s the Season


To outsiders, Cambodia has two distinct seasons: the wet season and the dry season. But to the Khmer people, there is a third one, rdauv prohok, a prohok season. Prohok is a fermented fish paste. It is the heart and soul of Khmer and Cambodian cuisines, and yes there is a difference between the two cuisines, but that is a topic for another day. Prohok season generally starts in December and ends in February, coinciding with the fishing season (November to March). This year, the first phase of the season began on December 20 and ended on the 29th.

To understand why a fermented fish paste is so important to our food culture, one has to understand Cambodia’s geography and its dependency on fish. I mentioned Boeung Tonlé Sap, also known as the Great Lake, before in one of my posts here. As the largest inland fishery in the world, the lake has been sustaining the Khmer people since the beginning. It is integral to Khmer food culture (we eat 140 pounds of fish per capita annually, compared to the global rate of 64 pounds). Lives in Cambodia essentially revolve around this abundance of fish, with 45% of the population working in fish related employment during this short peak fishing season. People from all over the country travel to the Great Lake, the Mekong, and every waterway to buy or trade rice for fish to make pha’ak (fish fermented with sweet fermented alcoholic black rice), sun-dried salted fish, smoked fish, and of course to make prohok, to ensure that fish products are available throughout the year.