Tag Archives: food

Our top food trends of 2010

The Epicurious blog yesterday asked its readers to help predict the top food trends of 2010. And because I’m nothing if not a tastemaker, I humbly submit the following four suggestions:

1. Old shit updated

This one’s easy. Every year, the fancy boys and girls of the glossy food establishment take some boring old thing your grandmama used to make, add guancale or shallot tarragon butter or some shit, then serve it back to you on a warmed-over platter. A few years ago there was a mac and cheese revival. Then it was pigs in a blanket. Next year it will be beef stroganoff with pork belly apple brandy gravy mole. And you’ll pay $38 for some egg noodles and chuck roast.


2. Science

The rise of molecular gastronomy went from kooky to awesome to tired to really tired in about one calendar year, but that won’t stop high-falutin’ restaurateurs from Bangor to Bakersfield from serving overturned pony snifters of pear vapor and carbonized tranches of distilled mango ether. Thanks for the $78! Enjoy the Burger King drive-thru on the way home!

3. Locavorism

In my liberal suburban enclave, we all agree that eating locally as much as possible equals responsible stewardship of the land and its inhabitants. In fact, I consider people who think otherwise to be subhumans who should be ground up, dried, and woven into reusable grocery bags. That’s why every restaurant I patronize during 2010 will make a grandiose effort to convince me that the bananas in my split were cultivated just a mile from where we sit. “Hell, these tablecloths were made by my grandmother, who rents an apartment out back!” the menu will say.

4. Hot pockets

Oh, I’m sorry. You were under the impression that the recession was over?

Food Trends For 2010 [Epicurious]


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We had it all wrong about the mashed potatoes


In times of distress or upheaval, we turn to the so-called “comfort foods” — the familiar staples that sustain us when everything else is up in the air. Except that we don’t. YAY RESEARCH!!

You’d think in times of uncertainty, people would gravitate toward familiar favorites. But a new study in the Journal of Consumer Research shows that stress and upheaval actually lead people to choose less-familiar foods over “comfort foods.”

“Most of us can name our favorite ‘comfort foods’ and believe that we are most prone to seek them out during times of stress and upheaval,” writes author Stacy Wood (University of South Carolina). “Contrary to this well-engrained belief, this research shows the surprising result that our choices of old favorites happen at the opposite times that we predict.”

Personally I’ve always hated the concept of “comfort foods.” We’re an increasingly obese nation, and we can no longer allow food to fill a psychological void in our sad, fat lives. When I get upset or scared, instead of eating I bury my head in my pillow and count to 100. Mmmmmm, this pillow smells good. Wait a minute — that’s no pillow… that’s a burrito! A YUMMY BURRITO!! It’s delicious!!!

Oh wait that really was a pillow.

Comfort Food Fallacy: Upheaval Leads To Less-familiar Choices [Science Daily]

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Scotland doesn’t really exist, Part II

Pax Arcana

haggisContemporary historians have already documented that kilts, tartans, cabers, funny talking, blue face paint, rage, and public drunkenness are not native to Scotland as once believed.

Now a food historian named Catherine Brown says that Haggis — the oatmeal, liver and blood-filled sheep’s intestine the Scots love so dearly — is actually a British invention and therefore both effeminate and doughy:

The writer, herself a Scot, found a reference to the ‘delicacy’ in the 17th century book ‘The English Hus-wife’, by Gervase Markham.

It says ‘small oat meal mixed with the blood, and the liver of either sheep, calfe, or swine, maketh that pudding which is called the Haggas, or Haggus of whose goodnesse it is vain to boast, because there is hardly to be found a man that doth not affect (like) them.’

The book predates Robert Burns’ ode to Haggis by 171 years, causing historians to suggest that Haggis — like many of the things we consider “Scottish” — originated in England and found its way north after the fact.

When reached for comment, the Scottish said “AHHH FACK OFF YA FACKIN’ WANKERRR OR I’LL RUN YA THROUGH WITH ME RUSTY POLE.” So I guess they disagree.

If you’re a Scot, look away now [Daily Mail]


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Quien es el bandito?

Pax Arcana

According to the Newton Tab, it appears there is a bandit of some sort run amok on the leafy streets of that suburb. At first the bandit merely covered someone’s car with flour, but recently he or she covered another car with flour, eggs, and salsa.

banditoThe presence of an exotic foreign ingredient like salsa indicates that this bandit is actually a bandito — perhaps a cartoonish one like the image at right. If you don’t mind, I’m going to use the rest of this post to address the bandito directly in his native language. Foreign languages have always come naturally to me, so perhaps I can help diffuse this situation.

Hola Senor Bandito,

Me llamo Paxito Arcanana. Yo soy escribador del Internet. Y tu eres un bandito muy fuerte y intelligente. Yo creo que eres el mejor bandito en todo el mundo. Tienes huevos aceros, mi amigo.

Por favor, bandito, no molesta mi coche. Es muy viejo, y no tengo dinero por un otro.

Entonces, yo se un otro hombre que tiene un coche. Se llama Father Scott, y su barba es muy feo. El coche de Father Scott es en Dedham usualmente. Busca un coche con fragrancia raro — como Pringles y flatulencia juntos.

Gracias, bandito mysterioso. Gracias.

Newton’s flour vandal experimenting with new dishes [Newton Tab]


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Chopped carrots give you cancer

Pax Arcana

carrotsAs you are aware by now, I am considered one of the foremost scientific minds on the planet. My grasp of disciplines from zoology to pharmacology to pharmacozoology has bedazzled my collegues in the Grand Council of the Great and Serious Men of Science for decades.

That said, I admit I was surprised to learn the following from the Independent:

Researchers at the University of Newcastle found that “boiled-before-cut” carrots contained 25 per cent more of the anti-cancer compound falcarinol than those that were chopped up first.

In other words, chopped carrots give you cancer.

I suppose this is not terribly surprising. We’ve been abusing carrots for years by feeding them to wise-cracking cartoon scofflaws and shoving them in the asses of talking horses. It’s only natural that they would start evolving defense mechanisms against us. That’s just pure science. Obvious to people of my abilities.

Carrots cooked whole ‘better at fighting cancer’ [Independent]



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Monday Random 10: Crunchberry Edition

Pax Arcana

OK, so some shit came up at work on Friday and I didn’t even have time for the Random 10. Here is my attempt to rectify.

crunchberriesFalse advertising may seem like a trivial offense, but in reality it is a very serious crime against the public. Unscrupulous companies can hide the true costs, risks, or quality of the products they sell — thereby reducing public confidence in the very capitalism upon which we’ve constructed our redoubtable and indestructible financial system.

For Janine Sugawara, the danger of false advertising is all too clear. For four years she was mislead by the deceptive behavior of one Cap’n Crunch and his stooges in the advertising community.

Let it be known that this Cap’n Crunch is a brigand who likely received his officer’s commission through all manner of deceit and skullduggery:

On May 21, a judge of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California dismissed a complaint filed by a woman who said she had purchased “Cap’n Crunch with Crunchberries” because she believed “crunchberries” were real fruit.  The plaintiff, Janine Sugawara, alleged that she had only recently learned to her dismay that said “berries” were in fact simply brightly-colored cereal balls, and that although the product did contain some strawberry fruit concentrate, it was not otherwise redeemed by fruit.  She sued, on behalf of herself and all similarly situated consumers who also apparently believed that there are fields somewhere in our land thronged by crunchberry bushes.

Sugawara is undoubtedly upset by this setback, but I for one refuse to quit. I will press on against these tyrants. For example, did you know that Cheerios aren’t made of real cheer? And that Life cereal isn’t made of the souls of the recently deceased? And that Fruity Pebbles AREN’T MADE OF REAL PEBBLES?

It’s true. And it’s got to stop.

The songs:

A Hand to Take Hold of the Scene — Okkervil River
Go-Go Girls — Frightened Rabbit
Archers — Faces on Film
Apartment Story — The National
Wave of Mutilation — The Pixies
Eye Know — De La Soul
Your Southern Can Is Mine — The White Stripes
A Girl in Port — Okkervil River
Arms and Hearts — The Hold Steady
Plateau — Nirvana

Bonus Video:

Lisztomania — Phoenix (Brat Pack Mashup)

The Rules: The Friday Random 10 is exactly that — random. We open up our iTunes, set the thing on shuffle, and listen to 10 songs. We are not permitted to skip any out of embarrassment or fear of redundancy. Commenters are encouraged to post their own.

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Fried blood sounds, um, delicious?

Pax Arcana

Last weekend I set off to make a tray of gougeres, only to discover that I did not have enough butter to make an appropriately balanced pate a choux! I was so angry I rifled my ascot into my Hungarian manservant’s chambers and ordered him straight to the creamery!

vampireI suppose it could have been worse. Like I could have been born in Chad, where rising global food costs have inspired many citizens to start eating plates of fried blood. They call the dish “vampire”:

Ms Danbe is one of many women in the city’s Walia neighbourhood, close to the Cameroonian border, who has taken to frying up huge vats of blood and selling it to her neighbours on the streets.

She buys buckets of fresh blood from the abattoir near her home for about $1 (£0.61), which makes about 40 plates of “vampire”.

Each plate sells for about $0.2 (£0.1), so after the costs of the other ingredients her profit is about $7 (£4.3).

In all seriousness, we shouldn’t be too grossed out by this. Blood has been a staple cooking ingredient in many cultures — especially those that don’t spell cheese with a z to make it sound COOLER — and is plenty high in nutrients that people need to survive.

In all unseriousness — there haven’t been this many vampires in Chad since the Twilight premiere party at Frankenberry’s house. OH! ZING!

Chadians get fangs into ‘vampire’ [BBC]

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Grape Nuts will make you more of a man

Pax Arcana

grapenutsAs one of the last 16 people on earth who genuinely enjoy Grape Nuts, I have long restrained myself from digging too deep into the cereal’s history and nutritional composition for fear of losing my child-like innocence and shit.

Today, however, that all changed. Via the Wall Street Journal, we learn that Grape Nuts isn’t made of grapes or nuts — and that claims of the cereal’s goodness and healthiness were the product of something called “marketing”:

The founder of Postum Cereals not only cooked up Grape Nuts in Battle Creek, Mich., around 1898, but also concocted some of the earliest mass advertising to peddle it. A 1910 ad said Grape Nuts had “phosphate of potash” for building “brain and nerves.” It didn’t. Another said the Panama Canal couldn’t have been dug without Grape Nuts because it “keeps almost indefinitely in any climate.” Other ads claimed it prevented malaria and appendicitis. It doesn’t.

By 1914, when Mr. Post apparently killed himself — shortly after an appendicitis attack — Grape Nuts had cut its curative claims to one: constipation. Yet the ads kept coming: In the ’60s, a boy grabs a woman in a swimming pool; she’s his girlfriend’s mom. “Oh, no, Mrs. Burke!” he exclaims. “I thought you were Dale!” In the ’70s, woodsman Euell Gibbons asks, “Ever eat a pine tree?”

Post recently kicked-off a new ad campaign to reverse slumping sales of Grape Nuts. The new campaign is aimed at 45-year-old men who — and I’m not shitting you here — “aspire to it” as a breakfast cereal:

“We need to bring it back to life in a relevant way,” says Kelley Peters, the “insights” director who charts Grape Nuts psychographics for Ralcorp’s $5 million resuscitation attempt. Her target: men 45 years old and up. “Men aspire to it,” she says. “It’s strong and stern, the father figure of cereals.” Her marketing chief, Jennifer Marchant, points out: “It tends to break your teeth sometimes.”

Brand marketers get paid an awful lot of money to do their jobs, so far be it from me to say they’re putting too much stock into men’s psychographic relationship with breakfast foods. Case in point — last week I had Frankenberry and now I’m scared of gay monsters, so I guess that tells us something.

No Grapes, No Nuts, No Market Share: A Venerable Cereal Faces Crunchtime [WSJ]


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This coffee is too roachey

Pax Arcana

There are many reasons to grind your own coffee beans. For one, freshly ground coffee is smoother and less bitter than preground coffee. For another, the sound of a coffee grinder at 7:30 a.m. is the perfect way to say to your 24-year-old neighbors “Good morning, douchebags, and thanks for the three hours of keg stands last night. I hope you’re all pregnant.”

cockroachAccording to Chowhound, there’s at least one more reason to buy whole beans and grind them yourself. It would appear that ground coffee is chock full of insect parts:

It seems Douglas Emlen, a biology professor at the University of Montana, was doing a research trip with an older entomologist who was obsessed with good coffee, and who kept making deviations from the trip route to get it. In the pre-Starbucks ’80s, Emlen says, it was hard to find whole coffee beans, and the entomologist would sometimes go 45 minutes out of his way to find it. Why? As the entomologist finally explained, he had to drink only freshly ground coffee, because he had a serious allergy to cockroach.

“Preground—you know, your big bulk coffee that you buy in a tin—is all processed from these huge stockpiles of coffee … that get infested with cockroaches,” says Emlen. “And there’s really nothing they can do to filter that out. So it all gets ground up in the coffee.”

I’m sure you’re not surprised by this, since we’ve known for a long time that small animals are often caught up in the machinery of modern food processing. And because Juan Valdez died when cockroaches attacked him and his burro. But still, it’s pretty gross.

Fresh, Hot Cup of Cockroaches [Chowhound]

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Your pâté may be dog food

Pax Arcana

alpoMy ability to appreciate fine foods is legendary. In fact, the burgeoning field of forensic gastronomics was invented in order to study how I am able to use my palate to discern whether the nutmeg in this custard was harvested in Penang or Indonesia.

As such, I would have been worthless to economists John Bohannon, Robin Goldstein and Alexis Herschkowitsch, who recently published a study (quoted on Freakonomics) in which study participants were unable to distinguish pâté from dog food:

To prevent bias, Newman’s Own dog food was prepared with a food processor to have the texture and appearance of a liver mousse. In a double-blind test, subjects were presented with five unlabeled blended meat products, one of which was the prepared dog food. After ranking the samples on the basis of taste, subjects were challenged to identify which of the five was dog food. Although 72% of subjects ranked the dog food as the worst of the five samples in terms of taste (Newell and MacFarlane multiple comparison, P<0.05), subjects were not better than random at correctly identifying the dog food.

The economists say the study was intended to reveal truths about how humans consider what is fit for human consumption and what isn’t. After all, they point out that lobster was once considered fit only for slaves and animals and is now considered a delicacy. While study subjects disliked the taste of the dog food, they were not able to distinguish it from food acceptable for human consumption.

All I know is if I found out that three economists had tricked me into eating dog food, they’d have a taste test of their own — a double-blind sampling of knuckle sandwiches. By which I mean pig knuckle on pumpernickel with Berliner mustard.

Recession Relief for Pâté Lovers [Freakonomics]

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