18 September 2006
Strong to the finich

J. M. Branum on those spinach scare stories:

First we all need to learn a lot more where our food comes from, and seek to buy our food from sources that we can get to know (preferably locally).

Second, folks who want to enjoy spinach this fall and winter would be well served to plant some asap (spinach does great in Oklahoma in the fall and winter).

Third, donít believe what this story says about the use of manure as a fertilizer. The problem wasn't with manure, but rather with how it is used. Manure could be used safely if applied long before the growing season or it had been composted first.

Fourth, donít trust the "Organic" label on food products. Unfortunately, corporate America has ruined [it] to such an extent that [it] means almost nothing.

With regard to that fourth item, I suspect USDA has been a contributing villain. A recent proposal of theirs would redefine "grass-fed" beef to include the use of non-grass feedstock and doesn't insist on actual grazing on pasture lands, which makes me suspect that they come up with stuff like this on a regular basis. (Found here.)

And yes, you can still get spinach in a can, but it's kinda salty and definitely soggy and not all that helpful for beating up Bluto.

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:17 PM)
21 September 2006
Waiter, cancel my ham and eggs, please

After this, I don't think anyone has the moral authority to mock pork rinds.

(Lots of neat stuff at menosblog.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:16 AM)
22 October 2006
The great mayonnaise plot

You don't think so? Look what's happened to its primary rival:

Lately ... you may have noticed if you're a Miracle Whip person, that your sandwiches don't quite taste the same, and your coleslaw doesn't hold up overnight.

That's because the old standby you used and loved for decades is no longer the same product. They've changed the recipe! If you look on the label, you see the first ingredient is now water, not soybean oil as in the past. Since products (at least in the US) are labeled with ingredients in order of the amount, that means there is now more water than anything else.

This is problematic, because like a lot of other people, I like to make the potato salad or coleslaw the day before, to let the flavors mingle. Only now I can't, because it turns into a watery mess and tastes like I forgot the dressing!

"From Hellmann's heart I stab at thee," declaims the West Coast man from Best Foods.

Permalink to this item (posted at 10:31 AM)
Even more at steak

It appears the ol' American Express card is due for quite a workout:

A new dish is appearing on menus across the nation. Restaurateurs say they have little choice other than offer it, though it horrifies many customers.

That item is the $40 entree.

Until recently, such prices were the stuff of four-star, white-tablecloth meals, the kind that ended with a diamond ring on the petit four tray. But now entrees over $40 can be found in restaurants that are merely upscale, where diners wear jeans and tote children.

Yes, even in Oklahoma City. I checked a few menus this weekend, and while $30-35 is more common, there are entrees at or above the $40 level. The industrial-strength delicacies, of course, run much more. (Lobster tail, of late, is around $75.)

Not that there's going to be any real backlash:

[W]hat makes the rise of the $40 entree so significant is not just the price creep, it's the sophisticated calculation behind it. A new breed of menu "engineers" have proved that highly priced entrees increase revenue even if no one orders them. A $43 entree makes a $36 one look like a deal.

"Just putting one high price on the menu will take your average check up," said Gregg Rapp, one such consultant. "My mom taught me to never order the most expensive thing on the menu, but you'll order the second."

Of course, you're paying for expertise and atmosphere; I can grill up a sixteen-ounce ribeye for $11 and eat it at the breakfast bar, or I can go someplace nice and pay three or four times as much. As a practical matter, though, I'm not going to worry until the Wendy's Classic Double hits $5.

(Via Population Statistic.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 5:42 PM)
11 November 2006
When "eat my shorts" is insufficient

It's a matched pair: candy bra and G-string.

I don't think I'll ever be able to eat Necco wafers again.

And if you must wear that, you might not want to wear this with it. Cognitive dissonance, doncha know.

(Both via Pop Culture Junk Mail.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:58 AM)
26 November 2006
Coming soon to an artery near you

The Heart Attack Grill in Tempe, Arizona (they're looking to franchise) offers the ultimate in Not Especially Healthy Cuisine: single, double, triple, even quadruple Bypass Burgers, served up with Flatliner Fries (real lard, so no trans fats!), soda or beer, and even, if you're so inclined, a pack of smokes. If you opt for at least the Triple (1½ pounds, plus trimmings), you can get full Wheelchair Service.

Maybe they'll come here some day, but to tell the truth, I'd love to see them announce a new location in the City of New York, just to see Mayor Bloomberg, um, soil himself.

Permalink to this item (posted at 10:10 AM)
29 November 2006
Thereby cornering the market

If you, like me, suspect that the best part of the brownie is the very edge of it, here's a pan that produces, well, more edges. Not only is it a geometric delight, it reduces the dreaded Soggy In The Center Syndrome that affects too many of your (or at least my) baked goods.

I may actually need this contraption. And I figure it can't be much harder to clean than my existing pans.

(Via Pop Culture Junk Mail.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 5:55 PM)
3 December 2006
Returning to the fold

Seattle-based Jones Soda Co., which, like most manufacturers of soft drinks, switched from cane sugar to high-fructose corn syrup for cost reasons, will switch back to the real stuff in 2007, with the complete product line, including its non-soda drinks, reformulated (re-reformulated?) by summer.

Jones CEO Peter van Stolk, on the change:

It's better for you, it's better-tasting and, overall, it's better for the environment.

Jones Soda is a treat. It's an indulgence. If you are going to sell a treat, you should make people feel good about it. Pure cane sugar has a different taste. It's a cleaner taste, and people feel good about it. It's a little thing. But in the beverage industry, it's really challenging to do.

And you gotta believe a guy who can sell sodas in Green Bean Casserole and Turkey & Gravy flavors knows from "different taste," right?

My one regret, of course, is that Jones, all by itself, isn't big enough to persuade the government to abandon sugar-price supports.

(Via Girlhacker.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 3:21 PM)
5 December 2006
Thank God it's fryday

Fred knows from comfort food:

In the south, whatever comfort you find in your foods, they will most certainly be fried.

The smell of hot grease alone is enough to bring down a true southerner's blood pressure a notch or two. Stick something in it while hot — anything; doesn't much matter — and you've cooked up a batch of Southern Sedative. Let's see. What might be fry-able. How 'bout pickles?

Which is, of course, true. You can fry just about anything: okra, squash, ice cream, Snickers bars.

Refried beans, I should point out, are not actually fried twice, though I really ought to try that some day. My grandmother used to dish them up with sizzling fideo and follow with pan dulce.

I don't think she ever fried a pickle, though.

Permalink to this item (posted at 6:30 AM)
6 December 2006
From the Buck Floomberg files

What's cooking chez Scott Chaffin, True American:

Me, I plan to fry my chicken in Crisco cut with lard just like my grandmother did, and I plan to butter my biscuits with butter, not fake-ass crappy margarine, just as the good Lord intended. And I'm going to cook my steaks rare and bloody in peppered olive oil, and I'll like as not continue to forge right ahead with the chopping and cooking without washing my hands in scalding soapy water after I so much as look at poultry. Nobody's died on my watch yet, nor gotten even a little bit sick, including the one who's eaten the most of my cooking since I started cooking, and that's me. If I ever do pass on as a result of what I made a decision to ingest, well, nobody gets out of here alive, and at least I'm not running around like some flaky Chicken Little, waiting for the vague, vaporous sky to fall.

(Title explained here.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 11:46 AM)
15 December 2006
I'm on the outside, looking in

The Tootsie Roll folks are issuing a "Limited Edition" "Inside-Outs" version of Junior Mints, perhaps inspired by the popular "Uh-Oh" variations on Nabisco's Oreo cookie. This mint has a chocolate center wrapped in some white stuff, which, says Candy Addict, tastes "somewhere between yogurt and white chocolate." Not really compelling, I suspect, except when you open up the box and people stare in disbelief.

Incidentally, of all the Bizarro World brand extensions of the Oreo, the only one that really grabs me is the chocolateless variant dubbed "Golden"; I suspect this is at least partly due to my disillusionment when Sunshine's Hydrox was discontinued a decade ago. What I really want (as does Gail) is a true inside-out Oreo, with two blobs of white stuff surrounding the standard chocolate cookie. Let's see a kid try to eat the middle of that first.

And another thing: They've been making Junior Mints since 1949. By now they should be offering some Senior Mints, shouldn't they?

Permalink to this item (posted at 6:12 PM)
16 December 2006
This'll just frost some of you

One of my few instances of brand loyalty is this: I buy genuine Pop-Tarts® from Kellogg's, in blueberry. The unfrosted blueberry, which seems to be an endangered species of late.

So it does my heart good to see that some of the frosted ones are being recalled:

Kellogg Company of Battle Creek, MI is recalling a limited number of cartons of Kellogg's Pop-Tarts Frosted Blueberry toaster pastries because they may contain undeclared milk. People who have an allergy or severe sensitivity to milk, run the risk of serious or life-threatening allergic reaction if they consume this product.

The product was distributed to grocery retailers in Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Missouri, Mississippi, Montana, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia and West Virginia.

Turns out it's a case of mislabeling — they packaged some Hot Fudge Sundae tarts in the wrong boxes — but should just one person be persuaded to pass up that damn frosting, well, my work here is done.

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:56 AM)
The cornerstone of holiday cuisine

Fortunately, I have a friend who has mastered this arcane art (and who reads my stuff), so I don't need another reference point, but just in case you find yourself having to do research, there's a fruitcake blog which contrasts and compares the major national brands.

While going back through the archives, I happened upon this discouraging disclosure:

The ingredients for these cakes are the poorest of any Iíve reviewed so far, with many surprising entries that lead me to believe these recipes have been touched by food technologists. The most bizarre ingredient by far: turnips. Both the butter rum and the original have turnips in them. And to think people are afraid of citron.

This is one of those times I'm inclined to turnip my nose and count my blessings.

Permalink to this item (posted at 6:07 PM)
21 December 2006
Adam never had 'em

According to the old saw, if you care anything about either sausage or politics, you should not watch them being made.

And having survived a stint at Mickey D's back when the Big Mac was a novelty, I can tell you that you probably don't want to know what's in a McRib, either.

(Via Scribal Terror.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:33 PM)
22 December 2006
Kindness when you least expect it

Trini just burst in and offered me a Cookie of Death.

I am beginning to think I am the only person left who isn't allergic to peanuts. [Pause for Snickers.] Of course, this may be due to the fact that I used to go through Peter Pan Crunchy the way NASCAR drivers go through tires. (Never did like Skippy all that much — kinda soapy mouthfeel — and Jif was always too proprietary.)

Good cookie, by the way, and hey, it helps keep Trini alive.

Permalink to this item (posted at 10:17 AM)
23 December 2006
End of the line?

Forty years ago, Oklahoma City had about 300,000 people and twenty-three cafeterias.

Today, there are 530,000 of us, and now, with the Luby's chain concentrating on Texas (though their Village location is still open for now) and Furr's rebranding as "family dining," we're down to one traditional cafeteria. (That would be the Boulevard in Midtown.)

In this morning's Oklahoman, in addition to the report of the last days of the Queen Ann, Steve Lackmeyer has an overview of Oklahoma City's days as Cafeteria Capital of the World. What's most interesting, I think, is how all of those local cafeterias were essentially descended from one: the Anna Maude, opened in the late 1920s in the Perrine Building (later Cravens, now Robinson Renaissance) downtown by Anna Maude Smith, who previously had been running food service for the downtown YWCA. Contemporary reports say that friends tried to dissuade her, and you have to wonder if maybe it was her idea to put her own name on the business that scared them off — or maybe it was the fact that she'd chosen to locate in the Perrine's basement. Not to worry: the Anna Maude was a success, and yes, there was an entry directly from Robinson Avenue, below street level.

The Queen Ann, incidentally, was named for Anna Maude Smith, and had been started by her nephew Bob Smith, who had been a partner in the original Anna Maude cafeteria. John Schroer, Jr. was the last owner of the Queen Ann, and his nephew Harrison still owns the Boulevard.

Charles Dodson, who once had a couple of cafeterias of his own, commented:

It's gone the way of the typewriter and drive-in movie theater. It's just a different time now.

We still have a drive-in (the Winchester, on Western north of I-240), and I still own a typewriter. I guess this tells me where to have lunch.

Permalink to this item (posted at 12:16 PM)
28 December 2006
Emergency Java installation

I don't think of myself as being a caffeine freak, but in this regard I am obviously delusional in the extreme, given my consumption levels of iced tea and soda. The latter, perhaps, motivated a friend to send me a sampling of the wackier Jones Soda flavors, which fortunately don't contain any caffeine.

Despite my own limited interest in drinks based on ground-up beans, I have a certain sympathy for the deprived coffee drinker:

The evening required a side trip to locate somewhere to obtain drinkable coffee. This, in the past, has been a feat of skill. It is not even something that you can ask the locals about as the majority of them do not drink coffee — so they MAY be able to point you in the direction of somewhere that has coffee, but they cannot tell you whether it is palatable.

Tibet? Nope. Utah.

Permalink to this item (posted at 11:38 AM)
30 December 2006
Kelp is on the way

Lindsay Beyerstein features some stuff that I'm sure is considered yummy in some parts of the world, but which is not getting near my fridge under any circumstances. Among the offerings: chocolate-covered seaweed and chocolate-covered kimchi.

Not even Ms Beyerstein's mad photographic skillz can make this look appetizing.

Permalink to this item (posted at 1:06 PM)
17 January 2007
May I have this Dansk?

Have you ever bought one of those humongous metal cans of Danish Butter Cookies? I have; I'm usually good for at least one can of Royal Dansk every year, maybe more.

And you know, it never occurred to me that these little treats actually might come from Indonesia.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:53 AM)
25 January 2007
Didn't even mention the chocolate

These have been out at least a year in some markets, though apparently they're new here, and the checkout person at the supermarket didn't recognize them either: 100% Whole Grain Chips Ahoy! by Nabisco.

There was only one package on the shelf, alongside all the other Chips Ahoy! variants, and all of them were marked down forty-five cents a package, so I decided to give it a try. It's definitely different — the texture is decidedly grainier — but fairly decent overall, with a vaguely oatmeal-like mouthfeel. No way, though, am I going to try to pass these off as some sort of health food.

Permalink to this item (posted at 2:45 PM)
28 January 2007
One lump or two?

Burg serves, and the child fires back:

The other day I was feeding the baby and talking to her absent mindedly while the oldest ate some fruit next to her at the table. I said something like "she gets to try oatmeal soon." My oldest looked up. "I like oatmeal."

Yeah right ... Sure ya do ... That's why everytime I make it I end up throwing it out. "You do?" I said.

"Yeah. I like it, but I don't like it or that other stuff when it has vitamins in it or it's just bumpy and stuff," she added.

Vitamins? Is this just a general objection to Things Potentially Healthful, or do we have a case where something has been sneaked into the child's bowl the way you'd sneak something into the dog's dish?

On the other hand, "bumpy and stuff" doesn't sound especially appealing, whether it be oatmeal, "that other stuff," or anything in between, assuming there is anything in between.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:23 PM)
1 February 2007
Eat your heart out

Valentine's Day has never done a damned thing for me, and this little Oklahoma Gazette item won't help:

Rhett's Meat Market at 9300 N. May is offering heart-shaped rib eyes.

"Most men prefer the rib eyes, and although this heart-shaped rib eye is kind of a novelty, it is fun," said Rhett Lake, the meat cutter.

Oh, sure. Drive a steak through my heart, why don't you?

Permalink to this item (posted at 6:25 AM)
4 February 2007
Breakfast of carnivores

Forget all these honey-flavored breakfast cereals: Dave is holding out for steak-flavored Cheerios.

(Yes, he posted this before, and I mentioned it then. The question remains: will someone have to bundle up in the dead of night to pick up an emergency half-gallon of Worcestershire sauce?)

Permalink to this item (posted at 11:00 AM)
10 February 2007
Lucky I didn't mention the dirty knife

CT reports on a report about New York's pricey Kobe Club, and this (well, apart from the check) is the scary part:

Hanging upside down from the ceiling in the nearly pitch-black dining room are sharp, gleaming samurai swords, about 2,000 of them. The server volunteered that number, appended with an assurance that the blades, firmly anchored, shouldnít cause any concern.

"If Akira Kurosawa hired the Marquis de Sade as an interior decorator," says the reviewer. I'm generally in favor of edgy design, but not with this many edges.

Permalink to this item (posted at 11:19 AM)
11 February 2007
Next: hybrid Hummers

Back in December I made some offhand remark about variations on the Oreo theme, including such wacky ideas as an Oreo with no discernible chocolate whatsoever, which I pronounced my favorite of the bunch.

This week, an edition I hadn't seen before turned up on the shelf at Albertson's, and I was sufficiently weirded-out to buy. It's the traditional Oreo, but it's organic.

Really. Here's the Ingredients list:

Organic wheat flour, organic evaporated cane sugar, palm oil, expeller-pressed oleic safflower oil, cocoa (processed with alkali), organic brown rice syrup, organic cornstarch, leavening (baking soda and/or calcium phosphate), sea salt, soy lecithin (emulsifier), organic vanilla extract.

Of this list, only cocoa, soy lecithin and baking soda show up in standard-issue Oreos. The Nutrition Facts are almost identical — the organic version lists 13 grams of sugar and 75 mg of potassium (presumably from calcium phosphate), versus 14 grams of sugar and no potassium at all in the standard version.

Of course, what you want to know is "How does it taste?" To these jaded taste buds, it's slightly less sweet than the usual Oreo, and the cookie seems just a shade more resistant to breakage. I'd rate it a percentage point or two above its brandmates. Its price, unfortunately, is more than a percentage point or two higher: I paid $3.49 for an 8.5-ounce box, while its corporate cousins were going for $2.99 (in fact, on sale for $2.50 yesterday) for 18 ounces. And it's still an Oreo, which means you're not going to be able to pass it off as some kind of health food — but at least it's a whole lot less artificial. And that's an accomplishment of sorts: it's not often you can get something with more-or-less "natural" origins to come off as purely synthetic.

Assuming I'm reading the kosher certification correctly, this is a dairy product.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:35 AM)
22 February 2007
And a side order of vowels

The Wheel of Food vaguely resembles that circular television icon, and it's intended for people who are going out to eat but haven't decided exactly where. To play, you enter your ZIP code, what you're looking for (lunch, dinner, pizza, maybe some others), and the wheel spins. I gave it "73112" and "lunch," and after a couple of revolutions, the wheel stopped on the Frullati Café and Bakery in Penn Square.

Which is in 73118, technically, but only slightly.

And, well, you can always spin again. There is, of course, a disclaimer:

The presence of a restaurant on the wheel in no way constitutes an endorsement of said restaurant. This is particularly true of Der Wienerschnitzel. Spinning the wheel quickly may induce seizures or flashbacks. Ignore the advice of the wheel at your own peril. Avoid making sudden eye contact with the wheel. Do not taunt the wheel. The wheel knows where you live.

Or at least my ZIP code.

(Via Pop Culture Junk Mail.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:31 AM)
24 February 2007
Scarf now

During today's supermarket sweep, I hung around the peanut-butter zone for a few extra minutes to observe. Chained to a shelf was a clipboard with a list of the recalled Peter Pan products, not all of which I remembered as actually being stocked in this store. In attendance: Smucker's All Natural; Jif (which, I assume, is Smucker's Less Than All Natural); Skippy; the inevitable store brand.

Over a three-minute period, five shoppers came by. All of them read the clipboard; three bought no peanut butter at all, though two did pick up jars; two of them bought Jif.

This is, of course, extremely unscientific, and possibly even extremely uninteresting, but hey, it's bloggable.

(Disclosure: I am a Peter Pan fan; I bought a jar of Jif.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:50 PM)
26 February 2007
Make that to go

Dave Thomas' original Wendy's Old Fashioned Hamburgers, 257 East Broad Street in Columbus, Ohio, will close this Friday after years of so-so sales.

Wendy's #1 opened in November 1969. The main problem, apparently, is that downtown Columbus closes at sunset, and the store does no business at night. Worse, there's very little parking, and there's no room to put in a drive-thru. (Wendy's #2, opened a year later, does have a drive-thru.)

There are plenty of Wendy's locations in and around Columbus, and all the staff of #1 will be offered jobs at other stores; the accumulated memorabilia will be relocated to Wendy's HQ in nearby Dublin. (Side note: The largest city in the US without a Wendy's is San Francisco. Go figure.)

Among other firsts:

I definitely picked a lousy day to skip breakfast.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:41 AM)
27 February 2007
Strawberry tart?

"Um, I'll have a bucket of Extra Crispy without so much rat in it, then."

Permalink to this item (posted at 2:51 PM)
4 March 2007
I'd like to see them queen a pawn

Otherwise, this is neat: Edible Chess. One possible drawback: neither descriptive nor algebraic notation allows for nutrition information.

(Via Pop Culture Junk Mail.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 10:10 AM)
Not the Mayo Clinic

Even if McGehee were going to Tokyo, he probably wouldn't eat here.

(Via Troy Worman.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 12:14 PM)
7 March 2007
Tales of the brown bunny

Well, okay, if you insist: cocoa Peeps.

Although I'm inclined to accept Sereena X's caveat:

They are utterly tasteless. But if you bite off the head, in dim light the body looks like a chicken nugget.

I hope that's enough.

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:00 AM)
15 March 2007
What? A beautiful drink?

New Coke did the Amazing El Foldo with such prodigious speed that you'd think the Coca-Cola Company would be reluctant to reposition any product line ever again.

Wrong-O, Buffalo Bob. (Hmmm. Seems like I've used this phrase before.) Tab (I refuse to render it as "TaB"), once a diet soda, is now, with minor changes, an "energy drink," and Lawren seems to like it:

I'm on a Tab Energy drink kick. They are seriously amazing. They taste like a cherry Jolly Rancher (unlike Red Bull, which tastes like carbonated pixy stick w