Friday, January 12, 2007

Collection of Walnut oil links

In service to one of my coworkers, who was having a hard time finding information about nut oils, I went on a search for artisanal nut oil info. I'm still in the searching process, but this is what I've found so far:

La Tourangelle hazelnut oil
La Tourangelle walnut oil
What's Cooking America
Veg Paradise
SF Gate
The Epicentre
Kitty Keller Imports

Thursday, January 11, 2007

2006 Best Food Blogs Award Winners just released the results of its annual food blogs awards, and you can see them all here, Well Fed Blog Awards

Be careful food porn lovers (be especially careful if you don't know about food porn), this list will suck you into the depths of culinary excess. For those of you who think that's a positive, the 12-step meeting is held as a potluck on the 3rd Thursday of each month. :)

Artisanal is the enemy of artifice and complexity.

That's a great sentence in an anthropologist's look at the cultural components of the artisanal movement; worthwhile reading for anyone interested in artisanal food. He identifies 10:

1. a preference for things that are human scale.
2. a preference for things that are hand made.
3. a preference for things that are relatively raw and untransformed.
4. a preference for things that are unbranded.
5. a preference for things that are personalized.
6. a preference for a new transparency
7. a preference for things that are "authentic"
8. a preference for things that have been marked by locality
9. a preference for the new connoisseurship
10. a preference for the simplified

PS - Don't expect the author of the article to kneel at the altar of artisanal.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Pasta competition, or Bronze, Teflon, and Bullets: the industrial production of pasta

I ran across a spaghetti tasting article in the L.A. Times (hat tip to slashfood). They tasted 16 pastas (four of which I sell and extol the virtues of) and found one clear (unanimous) winner, one clear second-place, and then lots of narrower victories. The winner was Latini's spaghetti (not their Senatore Cappelli variety) and second place was Rustichella d'Abruzzo. From the description of the way they tasted, they showed a lot of respect for both the food and the tasting process. This led me on a quest to find some of the perfect sites to explain why the tasters would have such different experiences with spaghetti, which then led me chasing other feral geese.

I'll bet more people in the CSI-rich United States could explain to me why a bullet has markings left on it from the barrel of a gun than could explain to me why some spaghetti is rich with texture and some are smooth as teflon:

As all manufactured items have inevitable variations, it is often possible for a forensic firearms examiner to match a bullet or cartridge case to a particular firearm based on these variations. Most often these are due to marks left by a machining process, which can leave shallow impressions in the metal which are rarely completely polished out. Wear due to use will also cause each firearm to aqcuire distinct characteristics over time, though this same process will also alter the "fingerprint" of the firearm.

These same variations in the manufacturing process of bronze dies used to make pasta, and the fact that bronze is never perfectly smooth, leave marks on pasta dough as it is pushed through a die. Bronze dies wear over time and slow the process down, so teflon dies have been replacing bronze for most industrial pasta makers. Teflon dies leave pasta very smooth, however; the pasta won't pick up as much sauce and be a conduit for as much flavor.

My quest for information on dies led me to gold:

The most complete website on the industrial production of pasta I've ever seen
(woo hoo!)

A site on industrial production which is more concise but unfortunately falls into the mistaken belief that "the total drying time can take from six to 24 hours depending on the drying technology used"--but it also lists production methods for lots of foods, so I want to remember it as a starting point for other searches I might have.

And, of course, Zingerman's "Pasta: Everything you wanted to know and some things you didn't"

Go explore.

WORLDBLU List of Most Democratic Workplaces ™ 2007

I do love my workplace. I just received this email saying my workplace "has been asked to participate in a search for the most democratic workplaces conducted by a company called WorldBlu. It is a great honor to be invited, because it shows that as a company we are highly regarded for our democratic work practices."

If others fill out the 10 page survey the way I did (and feel), we'll be high up in the rankings.

The WorldBlu website has this info sheet on it's site:

The WorldBlu Search for the Most Democratic Workplaces™ is a global search happening from November 1, 2006 until February 16, 2007 to identify organizations in the for-profit, non-profit or government sectors practicing organizational democracy.

On March 6, 2007, WorldBlu will announce the first annual WorldBlu List of Most Democratic Workplaces™ as a part of the first Democracy in the Workplace Day. The WorldBlu List will be the result of WorldBlu's global search for organizations practicing democracy in the workplace. The WorldBlu List will be comprised of organizations that took the WorldBlu Democratic Workplace Scorecard™ and scored in the top level, identifying them as one of the most democratic workplaces in the world.

We believe there's a growing global movement towards creating workplaces that fully engage employees, giving them a voice and a stake in the outcome of their work. And we believe great value -- as well as a community -- will emerge from shining a spotlight on organizations choosing freedom rather than fear, peer-to-peer relationships rather than paternalistic platitudes, and engagement rather than estrangement as their way of getting work done.

Because of this growing global movement, we invite you to join us in celebrating March 6th as Democracy in the Workplace Day. Our hope is that people and organizations around the world will join us in celebrating both the presence and possibility of democracy at work on this special day.

The inspiration for the WorldBlu Search has come from democratic organizations themselves. Over the past ten years as Traci Fenton, WorldBlu Founder and CEO, has toured the world researching organizations that operate using democratic principles, she has seen many highly successful and profitable -- yet often unnoticed -- examples of democracy in the workplace. These organizations are defying convention, rewriting the rules of business and pioneering the next generation of organizational design and leadership in the process. The WorldBlu List of Most Democratic Workplaces™ seeks to recognize these mavericks and inspire others in the process.

World Olive Oil Statistics

The universities in California are a rich source of information about olives and olive oil. I just discovered a Powerpoint presentation that includes production statistics, trends, consumption statistics, photographs of industrial mills, etc., separated out by country and in sum. I've found this type of presentation in a few horticulture course material online, but this one is rather rich with information.

I think I might hit a new motherlode if I went and explored universities in Italy, Provence, New Zealand, etc.... Of course, I'm limited to a large degree by only knowing English.

PDF of World Olive Oil Statistics

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

10 Best Cookbooks

One of the benefits of moving my food links from my browser to this web page is running across something I saved but haven't looked at in a while. My fear when I see old links like that is that someday they might disappear from the net and I'll have forgotten about them. So, I'll write this down here:

Clarissa Dickson-Wright's 10 Best Cookbooks:

First Catch your Hare by Hannah Glasse
A New Book of Middle Eastern Food by Claudia Roden
The Greens Cookbook by Deborah Madison
Jane Grigson's Vegetable Book
The Book of Jewish Food by Claudia Roden
The Classic Food of Northern Italy by Anne Del Conte
English Bread and Yeast Cookery by Elizabeth David
The Accomplisht Cook by Robert May
The Rice Book by Sri Owen
The Compleat Mustard Rosamond Man and Robin Weir

PS - I never want to forget this list because I found one of my favorite food books from this list, entry #10. [UPDATE: My wife pointed out to me that she was the one who found the book for me. Obrigado.] I'm a mustard freak, fascinated by almost all culinary and chemical aspects of the amazing seeds of this plant. But when I finally tracked this book down, it was better than I could have imagined; it was, in fact, one of the best food books I've read.

As some shameless self-promotion, I will be having a French Mustards and Vinaigrettes tasting on January 24th from 7-9pm in Ann Arbor. The cost is $20. Come taste some mustards (we'll have a mustard dessert!), let me fill your head with fun info, and share my passion with you. Call 734-663-3400 to register for it.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Postscript to Chicago's foie gras ban

The recent ban on foie gras in Chicago brought this response from chefs and health inspectors:

Chicago health inspectors paid a surprise visit to a previously warned River North restaurant last week to catch it in the act of selling foie gras -- only to find that the banned liver delicacy was being given away.

Bin 36, 333 N. Dearborn, managed to avoid a $250 ticket by offering foie gras “as a complimentary sidebar to another dish on the menu. . . . The menu made it clear that they were giving it away as part of a larger offering,” said Health Department spokesman Tim Hadac.

“We turned around and came back. . . . The ordinance prohibits the sale of foie gras. It does not address giving it away. That would be up to the framers of the law [to close the loophole],” Hadac said Tuesday.

Ald. Joe Moore (49th) is chief sponsor of the foie gras ban that Mayor Daley calls the “silliest law” Chicago aldermen have ever passed.

Foie Gras and me

I doubt that you would believe how much I've read about foie gras in the last few years of my life, but let me just say that it was a whole lot. For those interested and to cut to the chase, this is about the best article I've ever seen on the matter: Stuffed Animals by Jeffrey Steingarten

The longer version of this post is more biographical:


At my job, I am at core a salesperson. It is my job to sell you food (it even says so in my job title). I must admit that I enjoy selling but that throughout my life I have had an ambivalent relationship to sales. One of the key reasons for this is that my sales career started in newspaper advertising: for about five years it was my job to make whatever product was put before me seem as attractive as possible, eliminating all reference to its flaws, accentuating all reference to its strengths, as well as sell more advertising to clients. My ambivalence stemmed from the pull of how good I was at selling things versus the annoying fact that many times I didn't really believe strongly in the product and thus couldn't really say what I thought and keep my job or my clients. That ambivalence pushed me out of advertising (and, I thought, out of sales completely).

After reexamining my life goals, I realized that what I wanted to devote my time to was bringing more pleasure to people especially during their leisure time. After a circuitous route of jobs that met that description, I now find myself back in a true sales position again, yet this time I'm selling only products I strongly believe in. That just happens because the choice of product for the company I work for happens to coincide with my own personal beliefs in food--if it didn't I wouldn't have begun working there.


For about ten years I was a vegetarian. For about three of those I was a vegan. The whys and wherefores of that really aren't all that interesting and went through lots of evolution, but all stemmed from my own ethical ambivalence about the origins of my food. But because of my interest in the origins of my food and my misguided belief that there were black and white answers about what one should and should not ethically eat, I've devoted about fifteen years of my life to amateur academic research about food. A side benefit of that along the way was discovering how passionately I loved the subject and that just learning about it filled me with pleasure.

I eat meat now, but rarely, and really only to taste it, to experience a cuisine, to appreciate a style of preparation, to understand the quality; not for steady nourishment. But I do endorse, praise, and advocate for the meat sold at my employer.

And we sell foie gras.


PETA sells food. Animal rights activists sell food. They sell the negative aspects of one type and the positive aspects of another. In no case has this seemed so slanted to me than the case of foie gras.

I don't inherently dislike being persuaded. In fact, I rather like being persuaded if that persuasion is accomplished by introducing me to sides of an issue that I haven't thought about or considered or experienced. However, I do tend to react in violent backstep when I feel that someone is only presenting me with one side of an issue while pointedly avoiding acknowledging any truth to the opposing side. In other words, when I feel that I'm having done to me what I used to do to people when I worked in advertising sales.

That's why I like the article above, Stuffed Animals by Jeffrey Steingarten. It's difficult to find rational discussion about foie gras that doesn't dismiss all concerns of one side, but this article is. One paragraph that spoke to my feelings about food most was this:

Most of us are not vegans or vegetarians. When we buy the flesh of a mammal, bird, or fish in a restaurant or food shop, we are an agent in the slaughter of another living thing. We are taking life. This is a serious act, not a casual one. But our purpose is not survival or even sustenance; most of us can live comfortably without eating meat. No, our goal is pleasure, pure sensory pleasure. We chew on the succulent muscle of a steer, crunch through the crackling skin of a pig or turkey, suck out the marrow from the shin of a calf. If we are willing to kill for our pleasure, shouldn't we also be willing to force-feed ducks for our pleasure? It all depends on how much pain and distress we cause.
And then he explores pain and distress in gavage.

What I have found fascinating in all of my research about food is the finding that the less pain and less stress one causes an animal, the better that animal's flesh will taste, almost without fail [which is in remarkable contrast to the best tasting produce]. Because of that, since I work in a store that tries to sell nothing but the best tasting food, very little ethical conflict occurs.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Link list

The next few days will be spent trying to put all of the various food links I have in my browser at home onto the link list on this blog's sidebar. Having all of the links on my browser is helpful to me, but seems like it would be useful to my coworkers and readers of this site as well since researching food is my love and I have quite a few sites that I adore.