Tag Archives: Food

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Five Seconds Grace

Students at Aston University in Birmingham, England have conducted an experiment and claim to posess data that lends credence to the famous 5-Second Rule for dropped food.

They fumbled toast, pasta, biscuits and sticky sweets, and then left the morsels on different types of flooring for up to 30 seconds.

These calculating slobs of science found that time is a significant factor in the transfer of bacteria from a floor surface to a munchie. Remarkably, the experiment found that food dropped on carpet picked up fewer contaminants than food dropped on flooring that is less plush.

Additional findings: that wet food drew more invisible unsavories than dry food, and women were more likely to pick up and eat dropped food than were men. That last one runs against the stereotype that women are less disgusting in every respect. I can only reconcile it by assuming that, rather than pick up dropped food, men are more likely to grind tidbits into the carpet with their feet before plunging their hands deeper into the chip bowl.

Although its findings are contradicted by study after study after study, this unpublished and non-peer reviewed research is good enough for me, because now I can begin to imagine living in a more forgiving world where mistakes can be undone with no penalty as long as you realize it right away.

I’m not saying I do a lot of dumb things, but most of the time while committing my major screw-up-of-the-day I pretty much know it immediately – often while in the act.

Although putting it that way might have been an error.

Never mind. Undo!

What if there was a Universal Five Second Rule (UFSR) that allowed you to instantly take back anything at all if it seemed wrong within five seconds of commission – a contract signature, an unkind word, an errant throw, a dropped match, a Facebook post or an e-mail?

The irreversibility of ill-considered choices is what makes it worthwhile to think before acting. In a world governed by the UFSR, some people would abandon discipline and take back virtually everything. And then there would be an expansionist lobby – if five seconds works, why can’t we make it fifty seconds? Or five minutes?

“A slippery slope,” as they say. Which, if you stepped onto one, is exactly the sort of thing you would want to revoke before the consequences hit.

What is the proper length for a grace period?

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Tiramisu & You

Today’s guest post comes from Sherrilee

I’m lucky enough to have a job with a very nice perk – travel. I’ve been to some fabulous places: Hawaii, New Zealand, South Africa, Paris, the Caribbean, Mexico. The dark side of this perk is that I never get to choose to where I’m traveling; I go where the client program sends me. This means that every now and then I end up traveling to a place that I’ve always wanted to visit but never been assigned to. So when a client chose Rome for their group destination, I was ecstatic.

Rome3

The site was exhaustive; we were on the go from morning until night. All the usual sites were visited, the Forum, the Colosseum, Trevi Fountain, Spanish Steps, the Sistine Chapel, St. Peter’s Basilica…. everywhere! If I had a bucket list, I would have been able to cross out two of the items on the day we went to Florence: Michelangelo’s David and the Uffizi Gallery.

But an outstanding time was the day we spent at Santa Benedetta winery, southeast of Rome. It was just four of us that day but the owners were as gracious as if we had been a group of 50. We walked the vineyard, tasted wine, learned about the wine-making process and then proceeded to lunch. Even with our group’s small size, they rolled out the red carpet, food wise. There were about 30 different vegetable dishes on the buffet tables (asparagus, potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, eggplant) as well as bruschetta and various cheeses. This was just the appetizer part of the meal. Homemade pasta with pesto and fresh parmesan cheese was the main course. It was mouth-wateringly good – it was amazing.

And then there was the dessert.

Now I’ve had tiramisu many times in my life. Alcohol soaked lady finger cookies, with mascarpone cheese, whipping cream and sometimes chocolate – how can you go wrong? When this tiramisu came out of the kitchen it didn’t even look like tiramisu. It looked a little like cinnamon-sprinkled glop on the plate – not the neat layers that I’m used to seeing. But after experiencing the other phenomenal food, there was no way I wasn’t going to at least try it. Oh my. My oh my. It was like eating good art – sweet, creamy, rich – all at the same time. It was so amazing that I don’t even have enough words to describe how amazing it was. I asked to meet the chef; she was a teeny little Italian woman with no English but a huge smile. I had my guide tell her that I would never be able to eat anyone else’s tiramisu ever again.

Of course, I have had tiramisu since that trip – when it’s been offered, I usually try it. But I was right when I was sitting at the table off the vineyard; I’m sure I’ll never have tiramisu that good again!

Describe an unforgettable meal.

Pizza People

homemade pizza

Today’s guest post comes from Jim in Clark’s Grove

It’s hard to imagine a modern American childhood that does not include a steady diet of pizza, but once upon a time, pizza was an exotic food in the United States.

I don’t remember going out to eat pizza with my parents. I became familiar with the food in the sixties as Pizza Hut and other pizza parlors spread across the country. Some time in the late sixties we discovered a recipe for pizza in our old reliable Fannie Farmer cookbook and made our first attempts at making our own pizzas at home.

With the increased interest in cooking in recent years, I am sure there are many people who produce excellent pizza in their own kitchens. When we started we didn’t know other people who cooked pizza at home -it was an unusual thing to do. We weren’t sure that we would be able to make a top quality product, but we have kept at it and it is now a family specialty and a Christmas Eve tradition.

Although there have been modifications, we are still using the same basic plan from the Fannie Farmer cookbook. I can tell you the recipe from memory. The ingredients for the crust are:

  • a cup of water
  • a package of yeast
  • one teaspoon each of salt and sugar
  • a tablespoon of cooking oil
  • up to 3 cups of flour

Mix the ingredients, knead the dough, and let it rise, spread it on the pan, and let it rise again. Then all you need to do is add the toppings and bake it.

Over the years I learned that it is best to add the minimum amount of flour required to get dough that can be kneaded. Too much flour gives stiff dough that is hard to work with and makes a crust that resembles cardboard which is what we produced when we started. The cardboard like crusts are edible, but not as good as they should be.

Our daughter learned about another technique – precooking the crust before adding the toppings.

Put the spread out dough in the oven until it is very slightly brown, then take it out and add the toppings before putting it back in to finish cooking.

The basic toppings, of course, are pizza sauce, and cheese with other optional additions known to all pizza lovers. When it comes to toppings, we found that a thin layer is better than a thick layer. You get a soggy pizza when you overdo it. Finish with fresh grated good quality mozzarella over everything.

Perfection!

What have you perfected over the years?

Scandinavian Saudade

Today’s guest blog comes from Bill in Minneapolis.

I was standing in line yesterday at Ingebretsen’s, the 90-year-old Scandinavian market on Lake Street, as I have for at least 40 Christmas seasons. There were about 35 people in front of me in line and at least as many behind. Now, I hate standing in line. There is almost nothing I want badly enough to warrant standing in a long line. But, as I waited, I suddenly realized I was enjoying myself– enjoying the understated camaraderie and the people watching. I was having such a good time that, when my number was almost up, I considered trading with someone else further down the line.

I’ve thought about why I might have reacted so uncharacteristically, for me, and I think it’s because Ingebretsen’s at Christmas is one of the last outposts of a kind of Christmas I remember from my very early childhood and a kind of Christmas that has mostly vanished. I may be projecting here, but I suspect a lot of the others standing in line were feeling the same way. None of the other customers were under 50. We all came, presumably, from families where lutefisk, Swedish meatballs, Swedish sausage, pickled herring, sylte, and the like were de rigueur at the holidays and we find ourselves struggling to hold on to customs that have mostly fallen away. I noticed that, as I waited my turn, almost no one was buying lutefisk. Even 30 years ago, everyone there would have been buying at least a little.

Lutefisk is hardcore. When I was young, Christmas Eve dinner always included lutefisk and Swedish meatballs as well. There always seemed to be anxiety surrounding the preparation of the lutefisk– whether it would be overcooked or “just right”. The distinction always seemed moot to me.

My dad was born in Robbinsdale and spent his whole life there. My father’s parents lived about 2 blocks away from where I grew up. His only brother was unmarried at the time and lived with them. My grandfather was born in Sweden and my grandmother was half Swedish and half Norwegian. All their friends were either Swedish or Norwegian. When I was very young, the universe was Scandinavian.

I remember that any social gathering with my grandparents also included a number of close friends and assorted unattached bachelors and maiden aunts, all of whom had last names that ended with -son or –sen. I think of those early social gatherings whenever I hear this:

I was the only child in our immediate family group. That meant that Christmas in our family was essentially adult centered. That, in turn, meant that it was primarily focused on the dinner, or on the run-up to the dinner. No presents were ever opened until the dinner was done and the plates cleared. It was excruciating to be the only kid. I had lots of time and opportunity to observe.

Most of the Christmas traditions I remember have fallen away. The lutefisk is gone for certain. My kids, who are adults themselves, know next to nothing about Christmas as I remember it. It has been assimilated into the general commercial culture. The tang and comfort of reenacting the rituals of a distinct tribe are largely vanished. I came along at the end of that chain of tradition and when I’m gone, it will be gone from our family completely.

Once again, I may be projecting my own sentiments, but that’s the undercurrent I felt as I stood waiting my turn at Ingebretsen’s. Beneath the festivity, beneath the joy at finding common ground, a kind of wistfulness that the Portuguese call saudade.

What tribal rituals will you be among the last to observe?

Cookie Grinch

Today’s guest post comes from Joanne in Big Lake.

Ah, the smell of Christmas cookies baking in the oven. Who doesn’t love Christmas cookies and all the other baked goodies the holidays have to offer? “Where’s the cookies, Mom?,” ask my boys when the sweet scent hits their noses. Oh, hmm … uh – sorry, that’s just my favorite candle burning.

christmas-cookies

For better or worse, you will never find homemade Christmas cookies or massive quantities of baked goods at my house. I realize most women feel obligated to fulfill their motherly duty of making dozens of delicate rosettes, rice krispie bars, Russian sandies, chocolate covered pretzels, frosted sugar cookies, etc. Slaving away in the kitchen for hours and hours on the weekend or week nights, spending precious grocery money on pounds of butter, humongous sacks of flour and sugar, mounds of chocolate chips and tons of nuts. It’s a badge of honor, and with a definite sense of smugness to say you did your Christmas baking already.

I listen as women moan that they have to stay up all night or spend the whole weekend baking because they HAVE to make their Christmas cookies and treats that their families expect. And for what? Once all the baking is done, they give away most cookies to everyone else! Or participate in a cookie exchange, or serve them at a family gathering or bring them to the office. It’s a never ending cycle of baking treats for someone else, so you end up with someone else’s cookies that you don’t even like, or even worse – inferior quality cookies.

Where’s the sense in this?

God forbid we actually eat all those darn cookies because we’ll gain 50 lbs, raise our cholesterol to the roof and bust a gut because we can’t help ourselves. Eating those wondrous sweets reminds us of the sweet moments of childhood when mom or grandma baked their specialties just for us out of pure motherly love.

Well, bah humbug, I say. I chose a long time ago to forgo the baking of fattening, unhealthy, high calorie, fat-laden Christmas treats. Because, well …. baking is stressful for me. Measuring, timing, greasing, stirring, sifting, dirtying 10 bowls, 20 utensils, burning the cookies and then ending up with a kitchen from hell because I’m famous for creating a mess with foodstuffs. And I hate cleaning even more than cooking!

In all honesty, I envy women (and men!) who enjoy the baking, do it patiently with their children, pass on a tradition and share their baking skills.

But it’s just not my scene.

What’s your favorite kind of Christmas cookie?

The Gold Standard

Four Baboons Wanted – I’m taking a blog holiday for Thanksgiving, from Tuesday November 20 through Monday, November 26. Guest posts from Clyde and Jim are in the hopper (thanks, guys). Four more guest posts will keep fresh material before your eyes throughout. Care to volunteer? Drop a line to connelly.dale@gmail.com, and thanks!

Today’s post comes from dealmaker Spin Williams.

We’ve been talking about investment opportunities at The Meeting That Never Ends, and I’m excited! There is now a new way to make fresh money, and to make the wealth you already have grow more quickly and last forever!

A labor dispute has pushed the Hostess company closer to going out of business, the result of a stubborn workforce (if you side with the owners) or greedy owners (if you side with the workforce). Regardless of who is most to blame, the Twinkie extruding machines have fallen silent, and the bakers (it feels odd to call Twinkie-makers that) may never work in the junk-food industry again.

What that means is that for the foreseeable future, the only Twinkies that exist will will be those that were made before yesterday.

When an item is scarce, its value goes up. That’s why gold is precious, and that’s long-lasting Twinkies will become the new gold.

Just look at what’s happening to the price on E-Bay!

Here, at last, is an investment opportunity that can pay dividends. If I had put all my savings into Twinkie Futures last week, I’d be headed for Cozumel right now. Another get rich quick scheme discovered too late! But one has to be careful. What about counterfeiters?

I’m not too concerned – Todd Wilbur’s knock-off Twinkie couldn’t fool an expert. If nothing else, the mere freshness of the thing would give it away.

And so, with the increasingly rare Twinkie we are left with a beloved gold rectangle that becomes more valuable with each passing year. I suspect now that we are rapidly approaching the Fiscal Cliff, the reputation of the dollar will suffer greatly in the near future.

Now might be the time to switch to Twinkies instead of cash money on the open market. They’re portable. They’re recognizable. They come individually wrapped. And they might be more stable than the Euro.

I have already begun to build my stockpile. How about you?

Spin Williams

I suppose Spin has a point, though I’d certainly remain a pauper if we started using Twinkies as money. I am, however, quite rich in Tostito’s.

If we started using ordinary household items as money, what would make you a millionaire?

Hostage Drama

Today’s post comes from Dr. Larry Kyle of Genway, the supermarket for genetically engineered foods.

Let’s talk about Bamboo!

I don’t like it. Once it grows beyond the “shoots” stage, it’s impossible to eat. Most people I know don’t care for it as curtains for flooring either. So I could get through a typical day without thinking very much about bamboo, except for one thing. Bamboo is a major, major food for pandas. And we just heard yesterday that climate change could destroy bamboo forests and leave the already endangered pandas with nothing to eat.

That’s why desperate authorities begged me to take their money to apply Genway’s unique but strangely successful approach of random and unsupervised experimentation to the potential panda problem by creating a bamboo variation that can grow at any temperature.

Yes, they begged me to save these charming creatures from the ravages of climate change and starvation.

But I refused!

I did it for three reasons.

  1.  Pandas have no money and can’t shop at Genway, so creating a new food for them is a waste of my time.
  2. We don’t do unsupervised experimentation using other people’s money, because it quickly becomes un-unsupervised.
  3.  Fixing bamboo so it can grow in spite of climate change will not solve the problem.

Americans need to do less driving. That’s the quickest way to reduce greenhouse gasses. But changing that habit will be very difficult, and I’m afraid science can solve it as quickly as intimidation can. That’s why I would like to suggest that food companies and political leaders join together to take another food hostage until climate change is stopped and the pandas are saved in a proper and sustainable way.

My suggestion – French Fries.

Yes, I know it’s a cold-hearted approach. But only when there is a terrifying personal cost will we even begin to consider not taking the car. Something dear has to hang in the balance. Think about it. The complete loss of French Fries would be emotionally devastating. And it would be a great step forward in the promotion of healthy lifestyles.

In other words, win-win, except for the political penalty to whomever proposed it and became its champion.

President Obama, are you listening? You’ve just been re-elected and you can’t run again. There is political capital in the bank and you’re looking for something significant to cement your legacy. You’ve already done the politically impossible by passing “Obamacare”. You’ve done something visceral by getting Bin Laden. Why not finish with something emotional and sweet.

How does “He Saved The Pandas (and the Earth)” sound as a legacy?

It’s simple. Take French Fries hostage. As the bamboo forests decline, ration the fried potatoes. Forge a connection between our favorite food, and their favorite food. Force America to change its ways and the pandas will live!

This is certainly a departure for Dr. Kyle, who would normally avoid politics and stick to science. But perhaps he has a point – some problems can’t be solved in the lab.

Driving or French Fries. Which is more important, and why?

Bears Prove Strangely Charming

Today’s post is a text from Bart, the bear who found a smart phone in the woods.

Hey. Bart here.
Loved seeing this in the Star Tribune:

Wolves Prove Elusive on Hunt’s First Day

Yes, wolves are sneaky and suspicious – they’re not easy to meet. Kinda wallflower-y. Hang with their own crew, y’know? Not a big surprise to me, but it’s kinda fun when something you’ve understood your whole life becomes headline news for other people.

I’m trying to stay neutral on the question of whether there should be a wolf hunt. I’m not a big fan of having people in the woods with guns, but as long as they’re out here looking for something that’s not a bear, I guess I’m OK with it.

I do feel more relaxed now that Minnesota’s bear hunting season is over. Spending those weeks wondering whether the food I smell is really a bag of Doritos that fell out of someone’s backpack, or a hunter’s bait station – it gets kinda stressful. Always second guessing the nose, y’know?

Using bait to draw in one of your fellow creatures is kinda low, in my opinion. If you know what they like and you put it out there to get their attention, not really ever meaning to let them have it. How can you feel good about that?

But then you wouldn’t know how it feels to have that “uh-oh” moment when you’re taking your first bite of something that smelled so good and it suddenly dawns on you that this is just a big con job and you’ve been had. That’s pretty much an everyday experience out here in the woods. Or so I hear tell. Not many animals who have had that feeling come around to talk about it later. Funny, eh?

Or maybe you DO know.

I’ve been seeing lots of ads on the phone for candidates in some election-thingy coming up. Looks like everybody’s using their own special bait formula to get your attention. I’m sure that whatever it is, the stuff seems pretty great. Better give it a good once over before you go in close.

I’m just sayin’.

Your pal,
Bart

What sort of bait do you find irresistible?

John Barleycorn Must DNA

Barley made the news yesterday, in part thanks to a Minnesota scientist. Professor Gary Muehlbauer of the Department of Agronomy and Plant Genetics at the University of Minnesota and a cadre of international researchers managed to sequence the genome for barley, said to be “one of the world’s most important and genetically complex cereal crops“. Results were published in the journal Nature. Apparently this work could lead to higher barley yields, better resistance to pests, and enhanced nutritional value. It may also help barley adapt to the stresses of climate change.

You know what that means – we can trash the environment and still have beer!

Congratulations to the researchers. A round for all my genome sequencing friends! It made me think of this old song about barley and its role in the beer and whiskey making process. Sung here by Martin Carthy.

The scientists have done their best
employing all their means
They found out, using every test,
John Barleycorn has genes!

They chopped him up so very small
and put him on display.
Tore him apart to see it all
and mapped his DNA.

If you were him by now you’d know
the sum of all your parts.
What makes you wilt. What helps you grow.
The compounds in your farts.

The sequence tells us who he is,
of what he is composed.
His elements, his spark, his fizz.
John Barleycorn, exposed.

Would you want to have a map of your DNA?

Art and Eat

Today’s guest blog is a group entry by Barbara in Robbinsdale, Sherrilee, Plain Jane, tim, and a bystander who took a picture of the group with Sherrilee’s cell phone.

This is a two part story:

The Exhibit

Six of our “baboons” – Sherrilee, Margaret (PJ), Lisa, Linda, tim, and Barbara (BiR) – showed up at the American Swedish Institute last Friday to see the exhibit In Our Nature: Tapestries of Helena Hernmarck. ASI’s brochure describes them as “monumental works [that] immerse the viewer in the best of nature: lush blooms, rich green forest scenes, and sunny poppy pastures…” They’re not kidding about “monumental” – many of these tapestries took up an entire wall, and some of the walls of ASI’s new addition are massive. You have to be far away to see the “picture” in these tapestries; when you’re up close you see how color happens in nature, the shading and layering, as well as “on the loom.”

Sherrilee describes it this way:

Most of the tapestries were woven and hung in the same vertical direction – up and down as it were. But there were a few tapestries with horizontal weave and it completely changed the look of those works. The horizontal pieces seemed almost like photos with amazingly clear details. One of these pieces was called “Mossklyftan” done in 2007. Mossklyftan translates literally as “Moss Gap” and is a perfect name, as a clear brook runs down the gap between moss-covered stones. Standing back in the room, it looked like a lovely photo of a forest scene. Up close you could see all the individual bits of wool and linen that make up the whole. The warp, which showed through occasionally, was a beautiful shade of pink that you wouldn’t think would be a good color in a forest scene, but it was perfect.

Here is Mossklyftan from Helena’s website, photo taken by Lars Dahlstrom.

Helena’s motto was displayed in two languages on a wall at the beginning of the exhibit:

“My interest lies in capturing the image of a fleeting moment in the sustained and time-honored process of tapestry weaving.”

To our delight, PJ was able to read it to us in the Swedish – hard to describe how beautiful it sounds in the native tongue:

“Min önskan är att fånga det flyktiga ögonblicket och bevara det i bildvävnadens tidsprövande process.”

l to r: Sherrilee, tim, Linda in St. Paul, Lisa in Mpls., Barbara in Robbinsdale, and Margaret (PlainJane)

A bystander was kind enough to tag us in front of one of the poppy tapestries.

For more tapestry images, there is a slide show at Helena Hernmarck’s own website, along with an article written by one of the weavers who was in this summer’s weaving workshop at the ASI, which shows the tapestries that are here at ASI through October 14.

And if those aren’t enough links, PJ found a video showing how she does it!

The Food

Margaret describes the post exhibit activity: I’ll not focus on the exhibit but rather on the FIKA restaurant and its exquisite food. Possibly because of my Scandinavian background, I feel very at home at FIKA which is located in the stunning new, modern addition to the American Swedish Institute.

Tim and Linda had eaten at the cafe prior to viewing the tapestries, and Lisa and Sherrilee each had to get back to work. Barb and I were hungry, and Linda and tim kept us company.

BiR’s Quiche
PJ’s Salmon
tim’s Watermelon Radish Salad
Linda’s Roasted Beet Salad

(Food photos taken by tim on cell phone.)

Barb ordered the Kale Quiche with fresh baby arugula and a delicate pea sauce, and Cardamom Bread Pudding.

I had an open faced sandwich on dense, dark rye bread layered with watercress, a generous chunk of pan seared salmon drizzled with a scrumptious mustard sauce, and a dollop of quenelle of roasted red beets.

tim reported that he had the watermelon radish open-faced sandwich, and if memory serves, Linda had a roasted beet salad.

All reported that their food was excellent. Each entree cost in the neighborhood of $7.00 – $7.50, really a bargain in terms of quality and presentation. FIKA is well worth a visit, and if you time it right (after the lunch hour rush), there’s ample free parking in the Institute’s parking lot adjacent to the new addition. BiR wants to add that the coffee is also excellent.

Imagine you get to see your favorite kind of art, followed by a sumptuous meal of some kind. Design your own “art and eat” experience.