Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Traditions in Food Processing

Traditions in how foods have been grown, harvested, stored, processed, cooked and consumed have developed over time. Thousands of years. Literally, I mean thousands. Archaeologically we see the dawn of humans cultivating food about 12,000 years ago with remote evidence of neo-lithic humans eating grains about 115.000 years in the past. I don't have any recipes from either of those eras, I doubt anyone does. Lots of barbecue, lots of unleavened flat breads. With the advent of pottery and then the ability to work metals came the introduction of soups and stews. Most people never stopped to think that the modern day Crock Pot is actually about ten thousand years old. And just having safe, fire-proof vessels opened up a whole new world to the cooks of the day back at the dawn of civilization. That then really, is where so many of the traditions for preparing foods began. When humans were able to contain water in a vessel and do differing techniques to the foods that were rapidly becoming available as staples; civilization advanced. The reason, tradition. Well, and trial and error. Those simple things that our ancestors did to grains, seeds and legumes over time and with many trials, became techniques that those ancient peoples adopted into their very culture. Simple stuff, like soaking dried corn in lime and water not only made it easier to grind, but it made it more digestible, and more nutritious. And every culture on the planet discovered the tradition of soaking and sprouting. Grains and legumes when soaked or sprouted, became better. And of course the big one, wheat. When it was ground, mixed with water and allowed to sour, it made way way better breads. 

So, what happened?

We all know the answer, we just don't want to take the time to admit it. The answer is money. And in the preparation of food, time is money. And tradition, well, let's just say that business and science can imitate tradition, but never rival it. My ex used to love to go out to eat. And she liked to go to the chain restaurants and get ribs. She loved them. Tender, sweet sauced and fire grilled, all the chain places have them. Strange though, she never knew the secret that I knew, that they cooked them in huge 15 gallon pressure smokers. Load them up with about a dozen racks of ribs and poof, in 20 minutes they were cooked and had a smoky flavor to them. Certainly not like real overnight smoked ribs at the real Texas BBQ joints, but since they all put sticky sweet sauce on them, it was pretty hard to tell the difference. Boy, don't the old cavemen wish they had one of those things back in the day? (pressure smoker)

The thing is, tradition, the long slow smoke cooking of meats is a tradition. Chain restaurants cut the process down in order to save time, and money. The same thing happens with virtually every processed food product out there on the shelves and served in restaurants in the Industrialized world. If it can be made quicker and cheaper with greater profits, then that's how it's done. Everyone my age knows that if you want to make beans then you soak the beans overnight. Then rinse them and cook them. The resultant cooked beans are less gassy, more easily digestible. That soaking step, takes time, money. Canned beans are made using water and beans sealed in a can and then autoclaved to cook them. Your local chain Taco restaurant doesn't take the time to soak pinto beans for refries. They use industrial processed precooked beans. Made in as little time and therefore unsoaked and as far from traditional methods of preparation as money and time can get. But then the big Taco chain serves up their beans by adding three kinds of sugar, two types of MSG, TBHQ (the known endocrine disruptor) and up to 2% silicon dioxide. Which basically is ground up sand. That is a tradition of sorts, just not a tradition developed by real humans. Science rules the making of their food-like products. Not humans. But then the big Taco chain readily admits that their taco meat is only 88% meat and 12% secret ingredients. 

Anyway, this whole blog posting began when I learned about a new process for making corn masa and ultimately that gets made into chips, tortillas and the traditional basis of all Hispanic foods. Corn, for thousands and thousands of years traditional peoples in the Americas learned that if you took wood ashes, (lime) and soaked their corn in a mix, rinsed it, then ground it and made stuff out of the resultant masa, it was easily digestible, and more nutritious. The process itself took a lot of water, and there was the waste water problem, and it took time. Lots of time. And we all know, especially in the food industry, time is money. So, a new company has created a huge machine that will take dry corn, make it into wet masa in twenty minutes. With no soaking, no waste water, no lengthy and costly unneeded traditions.  (Masa-Maker

The reasons for all of the traditions that have developed over the last 12,000 years are actually easily explainable by science. Plants, and even animals themselves, all have molecules in them that we call lectins and phytates (lectins) (Phytates) Each of these evolved as a means to store nutrients and as a defense for the plant or animal. The lectins are toxic, and if eaten, made the animal eating the lectins, sick. In some cases, like soy or castor beans, possibly could kill them. The traditions discovered over millennia rendered these molecules inactive. Simple things, soaking, sprouting and let's throw in there, steaming, all made real natural foods BETTER. 

Science, and the quest, no sorry, the NEED to make profit, have all overridden the time honored traditions with techniques that no one knows whether or not they will sustain the human race.

Money trumps tradition, humans lose. 

I pretty much only eat things that I myself cook. The dead areas in my bones have regrowth, I feel better, I am losing weight, I believe now that I just might live a little longer than what the doctors told me. It just takes time. 

I think it might be worth it though.


Monday, April 18, 2016

A small piece of leftover bread dough, and a whole lot of imagination

So I was baking some bread, like I do most every week. I decided on loaves this time as have a few people to give some loaves to as promised. And just a nicety for giving me cigars or beer or...  So anyway, I made loaves. And I had a

chunk leftover that would just make the loaves too big. So I stretched it out on the bottom of my cast iron and let it rest
and rise a bit. Then I sliced a bit red onion and a quarter of a red pepper. Then took thin slices off a block of Asiago. In another cast iron with low sides (to facilitate flipping the thing) I melted some real organic grass fed butter. Tossed in the veggies and let cook until soft. Added a bit of sherry and stirred it all around until the sherry was
evaporated. Added a bit more butter, stirred all the stuff together and then cracked in three real pasture raised fresh eggs. These eggs came from my friends Richard and Danuta who are at the markets next to me each week. They make fantastic Polish goodies, in fact that's the name of their business, Polish Goodies. They sell at the
market and make their stuff at their little 3 table Bistro on 7th Street just south of Dunlap. And Richard has a few chickens, and I get some of the eggs. So, I sort of smeared the eggs about, then pulled the round bread dough circle out of the one pan and tossed it onto the eggs. I covered it with another pan and let it cook on low for about
ten minutes. Then I slid it off onto a plate and inverted that back onto the same cast iron. Topped it with the cheese, then added the lid/skillet to cover. After another ten minutes the cheese was melted, the bottom crust was crisp and it was un-freakin-delicious.

And the top picture shows the ingredients on the board ready to assemble and cook the thing. Not sure what to call it, it is like an upside down pizza. In fact there really is not any reason in the world why you couldn't do exactly that, make it into a pizza. Veggies, mushrooms. Heaven forbid, meat, and when sauteed, add some pizza sauce to it, then the bread round and cook like that. And sheesh, you could do the same with Taco Seasoned garbanzo beans (using my Chef Roy the
Great Food Guy Taco Seasoning) and if you must, meat flavored with my seasonings. Then when you flip it over, add grated Co-Jack cheese for a taco pizza that was Upside Down.

Could be fun, it's just using the old noodle for more than playing games on FaceBook or pining away for a lost love who has a higher opinion of themselves than you or the rest of the world. Jeez, that never happens to me though. I date the Froot Loop section from internet dating sites. In fact unless you pay for the upgraded membership, I'm pretty sure that's where my profile is hidden. Anyway, simple, easy, and pretty darn cool.


New food products, where do they all go

I'm not the person to understand why these things disappear. I understand why they are created. That one is pretty simple. People, ordinary people, either working for themselves or for big food industry giants, have great and not so great ideas about new food products. And new food-like products. They want to be the next Henry Reese and develop a new food product and become a household name. Think Reese's Peanut Butter Cup. So every year, new stuff gets introduced to the marketplace. The last year for which the USDA has numbers, is 2010. Near the bottom are the websites to go to, and the charts showing the numbers and categories from which I retrieved all this information.

In 2010, there were 21,528 new products introduced to stores and the unsuspecting public. I say unsuspecting for several reasons. One, if it doesn't sell well, someone somewhere might still have fallen in love with it and it won't be available to them anymore. And two, well, most of the stuff introduced into the food system every year are FOOD-LIKE products. They're not real food. They contain the standard tricks of the agrigiant food industry, cheap semi-toxic chemicals that enhance the taste experience and perceived flavor all the while they increase salt, fat, sugar and lots and lots of fillers, refined glutamates and preservatives. Don't believe me, well, think about it. Real food isn't new, it doesn't need new SKU numbers to go onto grocery store shelves. And even though the largest category of product introduction are categorized as "NATURAL", the FDA has no definition for the advertising word "Natural". Any one can use it, and it means nothing. NOTHING!!!!!!!  A much smaller portion of the new products were Organic. So that means that the vast majority of new products have been, well, crap. 

Where do they go? If no one buys them, they are removed from the product lines of the food manufacturers and they disappear into oblivion. The scary thing though is, not too many of them make it. Granted I don't pay much attention to the crap on the shelves at the store, but I recently took a trip there just to see what's what. Aisles and aisles of processed food and when you stop anywhere and pick up any item, chances are it will contain a huge list of additives. But most of the stuff on the shelves I recognize. They have been there for decades. A few things I had never seen, but certainly not 20 thousand new products for every single year for the past decade. 

The organic food industry has grown by leaps and bounds. 24 billion dollars in 2012. (ERS on organic) There has been double digit growth in the food AND the non-food organic products since 2000. DOUBLE DIGIT growth. The only traditional chemical packed product to ever achieve double digit growth and sustain it over several years has been Spaghetti-O's shaped like dinosaurs. However Annie's product, Bernie's O's organic pasta product for kids has outpaced the growth of Spaghetti-O's every year. 

Maybe this trend in people looking at what's in their food instead of just buying what's convenient and tasty is, growing. Maybe. 

I hope so. That's why I write this blog

New food and beverage product introductions, by product type, 2006-10*
New products (number) 19,883 23,838 22,561 19,029 21,528
Candy, gum, and snacks 29.7 29.3 26.6 25.5 25.8
Beverages 24.7 18.9 23.1 21.3 21.0
Condiments 7.5 11.2 8.7 9.7 8.8
Processed meat 7.9 8.7 8.5 7.2 7.8
Fruit and vegetables 5.1 4.9 5.1 6.5 6.9
Meals and entrees 5.3 6.4 6.6 6.7 6.2
Dairy 5.4 4.8 4.7 4.8 5.9
Bakery foods 3.7 3.5 3.9 4.5 4.4
Pasta and rice 3.1 3.8 4.0 4.2 4.2
Baking ingredients 3.3 3.4 3.6 3.0 3.1
Cereals 1.8 1.7 1.6 1.8 2.0
Desserts 0.9 1.1 0.9 1.6 1.2
Baby food 0.4 1.0 1.0 1.3 1.0
Soups 0.9 0.9 0.8 1.0 1.0
Meal replacements and special diet foods 0.3 0.4 0.3 0.4 0.4
*Percent of total.
Source: Datamonitor.

Number of new product introductions in the top 10 product claim categories for 2003-10*
Tag or claim**20032004200520062007200820092010
Natural 1,380 1,364 1,596 1,664 2,335 2,123 1,894 2,145
Premium 1,589 1,546 2,071 2,645 3,552 3,362 2,336 1,800
Private label 428 275 290 414 734 740 810 1,600
Single serving 1,127 1,103 1,264 1,399 1,553 1,523 1,344 1,462
High-vitamins/minerals 687 707 759 805 922 994 758 986
No gluten 159 175 239 250 397 466 552 876
No preservatives 578 547 545 586 850 807 758 870
Organic 559 533 668 738 1,110 1,042 775 822
Fresh 556 597 690 700 952 918 799 808
Low/no fat 656 607 639 608 683 620 543 709
Total new product claims 16,374 17,629 19,261 20,459 26,263 25,012 22,483 25,640
Source: Datamonitor.

Friday, April 1, 2016

Easter Meaty Fare, some stuff I do well, I just don't eat

So this past Easter, I was asked to prepare dinner for the traditional family gathering. Sounded good, I mean I like to cook, and I do some interesting things. My sister wanted ham, bacon scalloped potatoes, beans with bacon, you know, traditional pork products utilized in various ways is an iconic cultural practice for celebrating the resurrection of a Jew. Right? So I won't do anything with a ham, I refuse to in any way shape or form to endorse what the food manufacturers do to pork haunches and then call it food. Commercial ham is pretty nasty, just packed full of chemicals. The days of yore when ham was salt cured, smoked and preserved using nature's goodness are long long long gone. Time to do it the right way costs money and modern food manufacturers use chemicals to speed the process and in so doing, have created food-like products, not really food at all. Time is money, chemicals are cheap. Long term health of customers is not of any importance, all the agrigiants use them so no single company can be blamed for deaths, cancers, or any health problems of any consumer.

Anyway, we agreed to baby back pork ribs. And probably because I just do them so well. Four racks, two plain and two with my rub on them. The plain ones, just rubbed a bit of salt and fresh ground black pepper. The other two, I took a half cup paprika, a quarter cup ground roasted cumin, a quarter cup ground Italian spices (my own recipe) a half cup of mild chili powder and a tablespoon of cayenne, a half cup of sea salt and mixed it all up. Rubbed the stuff onto both sides of the ribs, after removing the silver membrane on the inside curve. Put them all into a tray and covered with plastic wrap then put in the fridge overnight. Sunday at 6 am I light a fire in the smoker and put a bunch of mesquite chunks on the coals. Put the ribs in and added mesquite briquets and chunks as needed. Took them out about 1:30 and they were falling apart tender.

Then I took some Yukon Gold potatoes and sliced into thick slices. Brushed with olive oil and put some long cut chives
between each slice as I reassembled them. Then wrapped each with a piece of nitrite free bacon. Held them together with a toothpick and roasted in a hot oven at 400 for an hour. The bacon was crisp, the potatoes soft and all delicious. 

Then I took three big bunches asparagus. Washed and
snapped the hard ends off. Then I took about twenty Medjool dates, cut them in half lengthwise and removed the pit. Then each half I cut into thirds. I melted some butter in a hot skillet and added the date sections.
Tossed a bit then sprinkled all with a mix of cayenne, cardamon, cloves, nutmeg and cinnamon. Careful not to melt the dates too much, they will make a big lump if you don't keep tossing and keep over a low to low medium heat. Added a quarter cup of white wine and then let that cook off into thick syrup. Let them cool. I did buy some imported Italian pancetta and I used that to make these goodies. Lay a slice of pancetta on the cutting board, put down two
asparagus spears, put two or three date parts, a third asparagus and wrap it up. Place on a wire rack inside a sheet pan and roast until the pancetta begins to crisp up. These things are unbelievable, spicy, sweet, fragrant with the cardamon and spices. Oh man, but they are incredible. See here's the thing, I have a problem with American meat products. American meat producers, beef, pork and turkey all use a product called ractopamine in the manufacture of the animals. America is the only country in the world that allows that horrific chemical to be added to the animal's feed. It is nasty stuff. I don't have a problem with eating pancetta made from pigs raised in Italy. So I ate
them. I took the leftovers home and ate those too. 

Anyway, my sister made the other stuff, mustard cole slaw. ( I know, weird, but she thinks it's grand) dip and chips, some cut up veggies on a plate from Fry's and two pies from the freezer section. With ice cream. I ate a lot of asparagus and a potato without the bacon. No dessert for me. Nor would I even look at the dishes full of Easter candy treats. I do like chocolate,
just not anything from Hershey, Nestle or Godiva because of the child slavery issues in the cacao industry. (Child slavery in cacao industry) Here again I will push for anyone wanting to eat chocolate, to buy Free Trade if you can find it or go to your local farmers market and buy the artisinal chocolate from those people there. Great stuff, and all Free Trade. Consumers keep the industry alive by buying the crap made using child slaves because most people don't know, don't care or think their small purchase of chocolate bars can't be the reason the big corporations have no respect for human rights. Scary, but think about it, what do the leaders of the food industry think about YOU, they fill your food with tons of nasty chemicals, many are known carcinogens, fillers, and cheap cheap ingredients. And the use of SLAVES!!! And use the protection offered under the guise of "it ain't their fault African countries use children as slaves" They just use the system to make tons of money. Yeah, that's what they think of you too. Thinly veiled disgust.