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Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Why Foodie is a bad word....

In these modern times words are more quickly brought to cultural acceptance at incredible rate.  I would like to blame Noah Webster.  The creator of the Webster Dictionary.  The original Webster American dictionary was in it's self a construct of Americanisms.  Americans use theater instead of theatre. It was proof that we no longer were British Subjects but wanted our own identifying culture. Empowered by the Internet, we now are trying to change American Culture at an alarming rate. But longstanding tradition makes or breaks a country as well as a person.

Foodie is derived from groupie.  Now the Marriam-Webster Dictionary on line has a specific definition:

foodie \food-eee\ -n: a person having an avid interest in the latest food fads (Mirriam-Webster dictionary online)

Notice the phrase "food fad".  A fad is a flash or a spark of interest.  The concept of that was so last week or last month comes to mind.  Where a true aficionado of art, culinary or otherwise uses the classics as bench mark for judgment. A Fadist (yes I am coining a new word) looks only at what is here and now.  Often times we look at Nouveau Cuisine  and so much is exotic to the extreme, or a look.  Not about what is truly important in food. Good food is texturally pleasing (ones personal definition), looks good (some standards, blue food is not good if not contrasted with other colors) and it tastes good (another personally subjective marker)
Now this does not sound so bad.  Some folks might even call it cool.  It's not synonymous to Gourmet, but some folks think it is! I'm sorry but calling people a foodie sounds too much like groupie and what is so good about that.  Groupies follow there artistic master to the ends of the earth, pay huge amounts of money to be in the same city as their obssessions and produce little benefit to themselves or to society as a whole.  I am not saying enjoying a good concert or poetry reading is not a cool thing, but if you are a groupie or a foodie it sounds like it is more about trends and social structure than what you as an individual really likes or wants.

A Foodie brings a picture to mind of somebody who will follow a chef or style to the ends of the earth, try to learn to cook just like said chef and feel complete only in that Chef's personal restaurant or domicile. This is not a healthy thing.  Variety is the spice of life.  Even vegans can't live on only one kind of vegetable.  It takes a variety of nutrients as well as a variety of textures to keep one mentally and physically healthy.  Could you imagine living on Hamburgers exclusively for the rest of your life? No french fries or onion rings or salads.Could you eat a Tofu, carrot and kale shake for the rest of your life?  sure those things can be formulated to have all the required nutrients, but what about the required interest in eating?

Because of my current ah... abundance ( yes I be fat) I will accept the term Gourmand at this point in time.  But eventually I will be a real Gourmet! and if at all possible earn the term Chef. A real gourmet enjoys the abundance of variety. A plate mixing a balance of flavors, textures and if possible memories stimulated not only the palate but one's very soul. the Movie "Ratatouille" the villain experiences just such a moment that can be life changing. I would hope every person reading this has a flavor or dish associated with a found memory, that for a moment at least makes the epicurean partaking in the dish happy and at peace for just a moment.  I have always been searching for the perfect meatloaf, the perfect egg or the perfect pasta dish.  Curried dishes brings me back to Lesotho Africa for a moment when one of my mission team members cooked her curry occasionally.  It was always an event and we all got to eat together.  Now Beth was not Hindi or "Indian" she is an American of Dutch/German/Amish decent from Ohio of all places.  But her curry was an act of  love.  And that is what a good curry dose to me.

Accepting divisive terms like "Foodie" as a title shows how little respect a person has for themselves.If you do nothing but follow the latest trends in eating, who are you deep inside? I am not saying trends should be ignored! but a trend or fad changes and comes eventually to an end.  One example is cooking methods.  In the early 1970s the trend was fast, microwave cooking.  But what did we come back too?  Grilling, derived form cooking over an open flame like Noah (The ark builder not linguist).

Fads are fun to watch, "Daisy Dukes" for example, I am such a guy yes. But wedding dresses are always long containing up to a nine yard train....  Why?  Tradition (que Topov)!

Tradition is what defines nations, cultures and even neighborhoods. It seems to me part of what is happening globally is that folks are fighting of a global common culture.  That weakens the individual because we as people can't identify with every sing group on the planet.  We should have tolerance of other cultures, but we need to be part of our own.

In our current modern times, food is one thing that can be shared across cultures to teach a little bit about each person or culture. If you want to understand the Chinese, eat Chinese food.  But not just eat, learn and understand the culture.  Why is most Chinese or Mongolian food always cut in small pieces?  Because there were no forks!  Why are there no forks, because the Chinese figured out thousands of years ago that for sharing and eating around a table, chopsticks were better. 

So foodie is an insult.  It is nothing more than a fad, the term Cook or Chef has a long history of over 500 years.

Don't call me a foodie!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Basic Bread

Bread in one form or another has been a human dietary staple since the beginning of organized society. When man moved from hunter gatherer to farmer, bread was soon invented. Adam and Eve were gatherers. But as family's grew and seasonal food was not always available, grains became more important beacuse they stored for ever and are versatile.  Today we have bakers and pastry makers.  Bread is not that hard to make it takes about 25 minutes of prep with a decent stand mixer and about 25 minutes of cooking.

A note on Flour:  Flour is important. It dictates the price of each loaf.  Bread runs between three and five dollars a loaf.  Buying excellent flour  is important.  Price is a matter to consider.  Shop for flour that is the cheapest as well as quality and for bread high in protein.Often times buying in volume helps.  I found a great quality flour at CostCo.  I get a twenty five pound bag for $6.99 and it works great.  A five pound bag  of bread flour costs about $5.60 in a grocery store.  So I had to choose between storing flour at twenty five cents a loaf or over a dollar ten a loaf.

King Aurthur is expensive... But it is American made and available nationwide.  They even have specialty flours after you decided to expand your bread skills.

  • 1 pound (about three cups dry measure) of flour.  I suggest you spring for Bread or bread maker flour.  life will be much easier.
  • 1/2 tsp of salt
  • 2 3/4 tsp or 1 package Dry Active Yeast (No blooming required)
  • 250 ml (1 cup) of water heated to about 115 degrees F or 46degrees C
    NOTE: over 125 degrees F (51.5C) will kill the yeast if added directly to the water. That is why it is better to mix it in the flour.  By the time the water hits the yeast chances are it will not kill it.
  • Oven preheated to 425 Degrees F (218 C)
In a four quart mixing bowl combine flour, salt and yeast, stir until combined.

With a stand mixer:
Start the mixer on low with a kneading hook.
Pour water in allowing it to combine with the flour. The dough will start to look like rags.
Increase to a medium speed and continue kneading for fifteen minutes.  Do not skimp on the time.  It will make all of the difference in the end product.I don't care how sticky or not the dough is.  Gluten takes time to develop.

Without a Mixer:
method one - Combine dry ingredients as before. Using a spoon mix in water a little at time until dough comes together.  There will be a point where using your hands is better than a spoon.  Wash, dry and flour your hands prior to using them.  Knead on a a floured bench for between twenty five  and thirty minutes (yes really).

Method two let the clock tick: Combine ingredients as above.  When it is to knead,  work the dough for about 10 minutes.  Place bread in greased bread pan and cover with a damp towel.  Place in the refrigerator over night.

After  kneading above, place dough in greased/buttered bread pan or roll into baguette and place on a sheet with corn meal lightly dusted on the flat sheet.

Allow to rise for at least one hour.  Not better flavor can be had be allowing a slow eight hour rise in the refrigerator.  The important piece here is that the dough doubles in size.

Yeast bread will not rise significantly in the oven. So if you do not get a double of dough let it rest over night. or try again.

Yeast is very sensitive to the environment. letting it get to hot will kill it, too cold and it won't work. Remember yeast is a colony of living creature we enlist to add flavor and texture to our dough. 

Cook in preheated 450 degree F oven for about 25 minutes.  Bread when done will sound hollow when thumped  of tapped or it will have an internal temperate of 130 degrees F (55.C)

The bread should fall out of the pan with out too much effort.

Turn loaf on to a cooling rack for 20 minutes at least before cutting.  Cutting hot or really warm bread is a challenge so be patient.

Do I need a Stand mixer? Well it will change your life.

There are certain things a home chef should really have.

A good set of Knives, A comfortable and durable mixing and measuring set, good backing dishes and a good set of pans.

KitchenAid is one of the best. More importantly you get something you like. Some important thoughts when selecting one is  selecting one.Your needs may be different than what I want so I just pose a line of thought to look at when selecting a mixer.

How big do you need? This is a capability often ignored.  Yes it is important that it holds enough liquid, but it also needs to have as much power as needed as well as: An adjustable speed control and most importantly you can access the mixed product easily.

1, Size does matter: Size is measured in  to separate areas, both are important.  Size of volume measured in cups or quarts and power measured in WATTS.

I would suggest you decide the volume, and add one or two quarts. a four quart is great for a small family but the first dinner you through will have you working in batches and add to the stress and frustration.

Power: Am I doing batters or meats and breads? If you plan is to exclusively do batters for Banana Bread, Pancakes, Cup cakes or the like smaller wattage will work.  I will encourage you to by more than you need though.  The price difference between a 275 what mixer and a 475 mixer is usually less than $80 dollars.  If you ever intend to make ground meats, extruded pasta or even bread, power is the real key between loving and hating your stand mixer.  By as much power and volume as you can.  You can make small things in a bigger bowl, but it is punishment likened to Sysophis if your bowl is too small. 

5 quarts and 475 watts is the minimum size and power I would ever buy.

It's All beacuse of a Chick Flick... Julie and Julia

The fact that this movie is a Chick flick, I would encourage every person regardless of ones sexual status to see this film if you enjoy food.  It was really well done and it stoked the cooking fire in my belly.  For years I have been phoning in the family dinners as faar as content is concerned.  That and the starting of the cooking Channel that played some Julia Child and Graham Kerr (Galloping Gourmet) shows form way back when.  Back when PBS was more than just a socialist mouth piece.

I little about me: I am 6`3", I am a little over 600 lbs (yes really I kid you not). Needless to say I love to eat.  My Major contributions to me weight is a passion for food and a complete disdain for exercise. I would love to blame my extreme presence on a glandular or other chemical or hormonal imbalance, but many a test has revealed that not to be the case. 

I was born in 1963 ( you can figure out the age) and as of this writing I am working on getting Gastric Bypass surgery to <b><i>help</b></i> me loose weight.  I am starting this now to share my experience of re-learning how to cook with flavor and texture as I move through this journey.

The title is not a play on words.

gourmand (goor-muhnd):
a person who is fond of good eating, often indiscriminately and to excess.
gourmet (goor-may):
a connoisseur of fine food and drink; an epicure.
Not the real difference is about quality and quantity.  Obviously I have had an issue with the quantity issue. After surgery I will be restricted completely.  But I want to find and share foods that a Surgically Altered Freak can eat.
I am also a big fan of locally produced foods.   I am not a supported of the Global Warming issue.  If you still believe in that I hate to tell you but you need to re-think your stand on Santa Clause as well.  Having said that there is no question that using locally produced items save energy, fuel and come to you fresher.  Also as American it supports local economy.  Having a more local economy is also good for the planet. 
 Look back here for ideas and techniques.  
Gregor's Cooking History: I started cooling when I was about seven.   My Mom taught me to cook French Toast 'cause she got tired of cooking it for me.  From that I learned about making Crepes' from Good Morning America.  Now to be honest, I am a fan of technique, and the French are outstanding,  but I am not a fan of French Cuisine.  Though I watched Julia Child growing up, the grand dame of french cooking really was not me hero.   I was much more interested in the Galloping Gourmet and the Fugal Gourmet Jeff Smith. 
NOTE: Yes I know Jeff was accused of some despicable actions. I will not defend him except to say, since it settled out of court and the only punishment was monetary in nature, I will reserve judgment.  Jeff was not the most impressive TV Chef, but one thing about his book and his show was the history that went in to it.  So those who wish to tell me what a horrible person he was, well God is dealing with him now and it is not up to us. If you have so much hatred toward Jeff Smith that you have to harass him after he has been dead for over six years, the help you need will not be found on the web. Only God can judge and if that is not good enough, that is sad.
I worked in resturants growing up, Jack in the Box back when Jack was still an Employee mot the CEO. I also worked as a dishwasher and cook at International House of Pancakes  I also worked up from Dishwasher to manager of Bonanza Restaurant here in San Diego. Will I open my own place someday.  Maybe.  Yes I do dream about it and if I get the opportunity I will Carpe Aetos (seize the stage).
I have traveled to Europe, France, Belgium, England and Scotland as well as having lived in Lesotho Africa I have a understanding of global cuisine, and trust I have learned there is very little I will not eat.  If traveling, especially in third world contries, if you can't stop form asking what is in it, chances are you won't eat it.  Taste first and ask questions later, barring allergy concerns of course. 

Thank you for stopping by and hope you will come out again.