Archive for Worth a Fork

An argument for some other flavor

Vanilla is crazy-mad expensive:

The vanilla orchid is native to Mexico but it is only a minor producer, having been overtaken by Madagascar in the 1960s. Indonesia is the other big producer.

French colonists first brought vanilla to Madagascar’s neighbouring island of Réunion in the early 19th century. It grows as a clinging vine, reaching lengths of up to 300ft (90m).

The vines grow well outside Mexico — but no fruit, in the form of vanilla beans, was produced. Horticulturists eventually discovered what was missing.

The pollen on a vanilla orchid flower is inaccessible to most insects, including typical honey bees. The small Melipona bee, which lives in only Mexico, was the only one able to reach the vanilla pollen and fertilise the flowers. Still, relying on the bees for pollination is a hit-and-miss affair as the pale white orchids bloom for just one day each year and the flower is fertile for only eight to 12 hours after it blooms.

Now you know why the stuff got up to $250 a pound last year. This isn’t saffron territory, but it’s close. Were it not for the invention of an artificial vanilla, most of us might never have tasted it at all.

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It’s not easy staying green

Now this is a handy six-pack:

It would take me about a week to get through that package so … yes, yes.

(Via Emily Thomas.)

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A clean break with the pasta

Okay, it isn’t exactly Fermat’s Last Theorem, but it’s enough to drive you at least slightly batty:

It is a puzzle that has perplexed physicists for decades: hold a strand of dry spaghetti at both ends, bend it until it snaps, and you will always end up with three or more pieces.

In 2005, researchers in France finally discovered why: after the initial break, the brittle stick flexes back in the opposite direction, snapping itself again.

Yet a lingering question mark still hovered over the culinary conundrum. Was it possible, with the right technique, to snap a strand of spaghetti into two pieces?

After breaking apart hundreds of pieces of pasta in a specially-constructed apparatus, a team of mathematicians led by Jörn Dunkel at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have concluded it is possible, provided you add a twist into the mix.

Sometimes it takes MIT to solve a problem.

Using a pair of clamps, they twisted strands of spaghetti almost 360 degrees before bringing the two clamps together until the strand broke. With this method, the found they could reliably snap the spaghetti into just two pieces.

Journal reference: PNAS, DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1802831115

(Via JenLucPiquant.)

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Just add water

The Campbell Soup Company is still a behemoth, but staying that way requires more and more work:

I’m inclined to trace the bad times to Campbell’s 1995 acquisition of Pace Foods, makers of a picamte sauce that’s not made in New York City. God forbid anyone should find out that Campbell’s is based in Camden, New Jersey.

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Frank commerce

Mr. Faulkner’s Old Fashioned Hot Dogs pops up on the streets of northern Minneapolis, and by all accounts is doing fine business.

Mr. Jaequan Faulkner is all of thirteen years old, and thereby hangs a tale:

He operates Monday through Friday, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., serving about 20 customers a day. He likes the sense of accomplishment and enjoys projecting a positive image of black youth in his community, something he’s aware isn’t always shown.

The business started in 2016 when Faulkner saw an old hot dog grill at his uncle’s house. After two years of starts and stops, Faulkner stuck with it this summer.

Then he hit a snag: The Minneapolis Health Department called. Someone had complained to the city about the hot dog stand.

But instead of shutting Faulkner down, the Health Department decided to help him meet its standards.

Health Department staff made sure he had the necessary equipment — thermometers, food containers, hand sanitizer and utensil-cleaning stations — as well as knowledge about proper food handling. Once he passed his health inspection, inspectors paid the $87 for the special event food permit, and the city-sanctioned stand opened for business.

Eventually, Mr. Faulkner would like to own his own food truck. And props to Minneapolis city government for not doing what every other city would almost certainly have done.


Meanwhile in the food desert

Lindsay Jill Eirikson sends this along:

Seedless watermelon from store in Nunavut

To anyone in Canada who still doesn’t believe there is a food crisis in the North, this is in Nunavut, when was the last time you paid $70 for a watermelon??

Hmmm. “Produce of Mexico,” distributor in California’s Inland Empire.

Shipping costs?

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Extra cheese

As Papa John transitions from person to unperson to eventual cartoon character, the new head of the pizza chain that bears his name dons the robe of penitent. I got this in email yesterday along with the obligatory coupons:

This past week was the hardest week in my 22 years with Papa John’s. I know the words of John Schnatter were offensive, and nothing pains me more than knowing they hurt you. To be clear, those words in no way represent my views or the values of our company. As the leader of Papa John’s, I’m sorry.

Racism and insensitive language — no matter the context — will not be tolerated at any level of our company. Period.

Papa John’s is not an individual. Papa John’s is a pizza company with 120,000 corporate and franchise team members around the world. These are the people in your communities from all walks of life who work hard to provide you with better service and better pizza. These are your local owners and operators who do so much in your community.

Still, you deserve actions, not just words, so here’s what we’re going to do about it:

  • We’re in the process of bringing in outside experts to help audit our company’s culture and diversity and inclusion practices. This will allow us to identify our strengths and weaknesses. We will then set clear goals to do better.
  • Our senior management team will be on the road, listening to our employees and franchisees and getting their feedback on a path to move forward.
  • We’ll be transparent with you along the way. We want you to hold us accountable.

I will personally be leading this effort because there is nothing more important for Papa John’s right now. We want to regain your trust, and we will work hard to earn it. I know this will take time.

The entire team at Papa John’s wants to thank you for your loyalty. We are only in business because of you. And it’s our sincere wish that we’ll continue to have the honor of serving you.


Steve Ritchie
CEO, Papa John’s

Frankly, I’d feel better about this whole thing if I hadn’t had to read that “culture audit” business; you shouldn’t have to write a large check to “outside experts” to know that John Schnatter was a dumbass.

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Yo no quiero

How can a restaurant fail with more bacom?

When it’s Taco Bell:

Me, I miss the Bellburger/Bellbeefer.

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A bit too much paternalism

Papa John’s knows more than I do about pizza. It is not wise, however, for them to act like it:

There are better local pizza joints, but this remains my choice of the chains. And the local franchisor, at least, is aware of the price issue: in any given year they’ll send me upward of 300 online coupons. My standard-issue pie — medium, standard cheese volume and crust thickness, sausage, beef and pepperoni — retails locally for $17.17. It probably costs them less than $5 to assemble, so letting it go for half price, $8.59, strains them hardly at all.

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Cirque du Soufflé

Recently in Tree Lobsters:

Cirque du soufflé by Tree Lobsters issue 782

I don’t think I can afford to eat at this place.

(Via Miss Cellania.)


He says it’s spinach

And he says the hell with it:

A 12-year-old Canadian boy called 911 not once but twice because a parent made him eat a salad he didn’t like, according to police.

Royal Canadian Mounted Police Cpl. Dal Hutchinson said officers first got a call around 10 p.m. Tuesday from the boy. Before they could even get to his home, he called 911 again to ask when police would arrive and once again expressed dislike of the salad.

Of course, the RCMP viewed this as a teachable moment:

“While many can relate to the dislike of a salad at times, this raises a more important issue that warrants discussion at all ages,” Hutchinson said. “The improper use of 911 is an issue with all age groups and it ties up valuable resources, preventing emergency first responders from dealing with real emergencies.”

I’m guessing he probably didn’t get dessert. Canadians have rules, y’know.

(Via Fark.)

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To each according to their desire

To quote the estimable Rocket J. Squirrel, “But that trick never works!”

An all-you-can-eat restaurant has racked up thousands of pounds worth of debt and been forced to close because diners ate so much food.

Chinese restaurant Jiamener was open for less than a month despite having more than 500 customers a day.

The owner was offering a $25 loyalty card, which is about £19, for unlimited food for a month. Unsurprisingly customers took full advantage of this incredible offer, and the restaurant was soon in more than $100,000 worth of debt. There are also reports loyalty card holders passed their cards onto family and friends.

The restaurant, which is in China, opened on June 1 and was forced to close after just two weeks.

To borrow a phrase, there is all you can eat, and there is “All You Can Eat.”

(Via Bayou Renaissance Man.)

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International House of Blather

This is how you do social media, Part N, where N = some amazingly high number:

How Wendy’s manages to field a steady flow of customer comments and still come up with stuff like this is nothing short of miraculous.

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Undissolved creepiness

This could be more offputting only if Robert Stack himself appeared as a stuffed sub-Muppet:

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To go, and then some

We were still on C-rations when I was one of the troops, or at least that’s what we thought; officially, the C-ration had been discontinued in the 1950s, but the newer Meal, Combat, Individual was so much like a C-ration that the new name never did catch on. Finally the Army came up with the Meal, Ready to Eat, and the MRE has sustained troops in the field ever since. Of course, being Army chow, it was instantly derided: “Meals Rejected by Ethiopians” is only one of the derisive terms being tossed about.

Still, the Department of Defense is sworn to improve the product, and there is a new pepperoni-pizza MRE due out Real Soon Now:

The pepperoni pizza entrée has been added to the 2018 Meals, Ready to Eat menu and should be on its way to the field soon.

The pizza MRE will include cheddar and jalapeno cheese spread, Italian breadsticks, cookies, cherry-blueberry cobbler and a chocolate protein drink powder.

The pizza can be eaten cold or heated with a flameless ration heater.

“You know, for a pizza that has to last for at least three years … it’s pretty stinking good,” said Jeremy Whitsitt, deputy director of the Defense Department’s Combat Feeding Directorate.

And that’s always been the issue: longevity and flavor seldom keep close company.

The pizza is made with a high-heat-tolerant mozzarella cheese and a process that controls moisture levels, pH and oxygen levels to ensure a three-year shelf life, [Whitsitt] said.

Then again, DoD is not going to throw away stuff just to get the pizza into S4 units faster, either.

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Little brown ball bearings

So this happened yesterday:

I hadn’t noticed the promotion when I ordered my pizza; they sent along a box of ten Donut Holes anyway, and I gave them what I thought was a fair hearing. It’s fairly ordinary donut stuff, with a squirt of some caramel-like substance in the center; they’re not bad, but they’re not so wonderful I’d want to put up five bucks for a box of ten on a regular basis.

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Redeeming social value

Indisputably so, if you ask me:

If anyone wants to test this experimentally, I’m sure there will be no shortage of volunteers.


This is not a good idea

Still, I guess he’s asking the right people:


“Vog,” apparently, is Volcanic Smog. Worse than ranch dressing.

(Via Bayou Renaissance Man.)


You were supposed to hold the mayo

And now you’re going to get a letter from this guy:

Chris Owen hates mayonnaise. And he says he makes about £90 a month by complaining about its unwanted use in food he orders at restaurants.

The 39-year-old PR director, from High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire, said he always tells staff when there’s an issue with his food, and usually comes away with a free dish or a discount.

“The worst culprit is the burger — they always put mayonnaise on burgers,” he said. “Mayonnaise is a tyrant of a condiment, and very arrogant. It thinks it makes everything better but it does not.”

(Via Fark, where subby came up with a subtle winner of a headline: “Man makes £1,000 a year complaining about mayonnaise — one of the best foods around”.)

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An echo of Necco

The little flat discs will apparently live on:

A lengthy auction in federal court on Wednesday determined the fate of the 170-year-old New England Confectionary Company: the Revere [Massachusetts]-based Necco was auctioned off to Ohio-based Spangler Candy Company for $18.83 million.

Necco, well-known for its sweetheart candies and wafers, filed involuntary bankruptcy last month. Since then, numerous potential bidders cropped up for a chance at owning the iconic candy-maker.

Spangler makes Dum Dums, Saf-T-Pops and, um, circus peanuts.

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Never mock Whole Foods again

Unless they start selling “dwarf cabbage” at five bucks a head:

Dear God, I hope he didn’t boil it.

(Via @rattycastle.)

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Condition contrary to fact

Now that the nearby Walmart has been taught to stock Royal Crown Cola on a regular basis, I figured I ought to work on acquiring a stash of Moon Pies. (My Suthun upbringing, doncha know.) Amazon coughed up a case of 24 convenience-store size Moon Pies ($19.95), and I propelled myself half a century or so into the past.

It wouldn’t last, of course. Today’s Moon Pie must comply with all the usual federal rules, and on the back of the wrapper is the obligatory nutrition data, including the calorie count, which is 100.

A mere 100? I looked closer. Serving size: 1/3 pie.

Now really, people. Has anyone in the 100-year history of the Moon Pie ever eaten merely a third of a Pie? I know I haven’t, and I’m damned if I’m going to start now.

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Willingly buffeted

There is all you can eat, and there is “All You Can Eat.” How the difference is maintained:

Some of this I figured; some of it I never imagined.

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Cheeses crust

It was a very rough day, what with the usual Friday folderol at work, the necessity of picking up next week’s groceries, and the heat being sufficient to blow Gwendolyn’s temp gauge past its usual 45-percent-of-range reading (though never out of range). In anticipation of the latter incidents, and mindful that I’d probably overspent the last couple of months, I dialed up Papa John from the workplace — I was in no mood to cook, and they don’t deliver out in the sticks anyway — and determined that a large pie with three or more toppings would cost 25 of Papa’s reward points. I hadn’t been keeping count, but I figured I’d polished off enough pizza to have rolled up thirty points or more. Not being entirely sure, though, I decided to wait to order until I got home and could check my standing myself.

One hundred forty-eight points. By any reasonable reckoning this was a hell of a lot of pizza.

Now if I can just figure out to do with my Bing Rewards (53,030 points). I’m sure they’re not redeemable for pizza.


The unbearable being of lightness

It’s not Jack Baruth. Not yet, anyway:

The fact of the matter is that it’s almost impossible to cut a 2014 Accord Coupe down to 2,700 pounds without fuel, particularly after you put in a rollcage, and that’s what I would need to cross the scales at three K flat. If I could manage it, however, I’d likely stretch my margin of victory even further. You wouldn’t know it to look at 2018’s “performance car” market, but weight is the senior partner in what we call the power-to-weight ratio. It’s why Robert Kubica willingly cut muscle to lose 13 pounds for the 2008 F1 season; there was no more fat for him to lose, but the stopwatch doesn’t care if you’re pulling fat, muscle, fuel, or depleted uranium.

Losing weight isn’t always a struggle of Kubica-esque proportions. I lost a full three pounds off my combined bike-and-rider weight recently by switching to a titanium frame with carbon fork. I could have made the same gains by ordering a smaller filet on weekend nights but there’s no joy in that. Porsche took a few ounces off the 911 GT3RS by putting stickers on the car in place of little plastic logos. They even got to charge more for it.

Porsche charges extra for two kinds of options: (1) those that improve performance, and (2) those that don’t. The Cayenne that tried to clamber into my lane Monday afternoon was probably jammed full of (2)s.


But look at all those drumsticks!

SteveF will not eat bugs:

Unlike the bug eaters and the soyboys, I’m an apex predator. I’m a productive member of a culture which overcame geographic challenges and grew to dominate the world. Unlike members of certain other cultures or races or subspecies, which cannot feed themselves without bugs and foreign aid and nevertheless are breeding at a rate which not even bugs will sustain, my culture is productive enough and rich enough and prudent enough that we can eat any damned thing we want. And we do.

Which brought this story from the sidelines:

When I was in high school, I threw a party: all the hors d’oeuvres were weird things. That’s one thing you can count on in California, you can find whatever weird foodstuffs you want!

So I had chocolate-covered ants, fried crickets, some kind of french-fried worms that closely resembled Cheetos, all kinds of mouth-watering delicacies. Somehow I forgot to mention what was actually in or on the plates & bowls, but everyone happily munched them down! Until I brought out the containers they’d been in when I bought them…

You could say that a hush fell over the crowd, but only momentarily. Then it got very noisy indeed! That stage direction in Shakespeare’s A Winter’s Tale seemed to apply: “Exeunt, pursued by a bear.”

And don’t argue with bears, either:

Last week, a very clever bear broke into a New Jersey woman’s car and devoured two dozen cupcakes. The woman, who owns a vegan, gluten-free bakery, told a reporter at local newspaper The Record that she left the cupcakes in her SUV overnight so they could be delivered first thing the next day. Early that morning she awoke to hear the family dog barking at a late-night interloper mulling around in the backyard. She would later discover her car had endured a broken window and multiple frosting smudges, along with the disappearance of her valuable cupcake provisions.

You don’t see bears breaking into pest-control trucks, now do you?

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Lucky King

The Home of the Whopper has a sort of romantic side after all:

The object of his affections responded positively:

There’s something weirdly gratifying about fast food capable of a fast quip.

(Via HelloGiggles.)

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Semi-sweet roadblock

Actually, it probably wasn’t sweet at all, but just the sound of it creates music in the brain:

Drivers on the way to the Polish capital of Warsaw on Wednesday morning found the road blocked by an unusual impediment: tons of liquid chocolate that spilled onto the A2 motorway.

A tanker carrying the sweet load hit a road barrier and overturned, blocking two lanes. The ruptured tank spewed a pool of rapidly-hardening chocolate from both ends, which quickly covered the width of the road. While the driver has been taken to the hospital with a broken arm, firefighters are struggling to remove a reported 12 tons of solid chocolate from the roadway.

A representative for the firefighters told local news source TVN24 that scraping up the bittersweet barricade was worse than dealing with snow, a bold statement coming from chilly Poland. After contacting the chocolate manufacturer, the firefighters resorted to spraying hot, pressurized water to melt the sticky roadblock, while the New York Times reports that a bulldozer has been spotted scraping away.

(Via American Digest.)

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See your nearest C-store

You’ll recognize it immediately:

This LA Times item gives hope: “Fernando Lopez plans to close his three local Los Angeles-area Oaxacan restaurants for the day Monday after his approximately 50 employees agreed to observe a planned immigrant rights boycott then.”

By my count that’s three less places that will be serving up the “hand-wrapped garbage disposal delight” known as the “Burrito” (so named because it contains scraps of otherwise inedible food that was, in the past, fed only to Burros). Touted by the poor and the brain-dead alike as a “tasty snack,” the Burrito violates the primary rule of dining, “Never eat anything bigger than your head,” while recycling stuff usually found in the dumpsters of good restaurants through the innards of a human host who should know better and — shortly — will.

Hmmmm. Am I poor, or am I brain-dead? (Don’t answer that.)

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What you can do with your ethanol

And that’s not just Iowa corn.

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