Photo from Rafal Heydel-Mankoo of a feature found in the dining booths of Bob Bob Ricard, a posh restaurant featuring Russian & English cuisine in London’s West End.
“Eat little at a time, and only at need. For these things are given to serve you when all else fails. The cakes will keep sweet for many many days, if they are unbroken and left in their leaf-wrappings, as we have brought them. One will keep a traveler on his feet for a day of long labour, even if he be one of the tall men of Minas Tirith.”—The Fellowship of the Ring, “Farewell to Lorien.”
You can find all sorts of things on the Internet including, as I discovered via Facebook yesterday, a French recipe blog, delightfully titled La cuisine de mes humeurs!, which includes an entire section on recipes for dishes allegedly originating in Middle Earth (Les Terres Du Milieu), including such tempting offerings as Tarte aux fruits rouges façon hobbit, Le gratin du Mordor, Les bouchées elfiques, La truite au four façon Gondor, and even Lembas, le pain de route elfique.
My translation of the Lemas recipe goes:
For 5 lembas, you need:
3 tablespoons crushed almonds
3 tablespoons crushed hazelnuts
3 tablespoons pine nuts
3 tablespoons unsalted sunflower seeds
1 tablespoon dried parsley
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon crushed garlic
1 tablespoon Forest Honey
1 section squeezed tangerine
1 teaspoon cardamom
1 teaspoon white pepper
1 teaspoon table salt
30g unsalted butter
144g of whole wheat flour
NB : The whole wheat flour gives the bread a tan color, if you prefer, you may use white flour.
Grind the pine nuts and sunflower seeds with a pestle. Melt the butter and mix with the flour in a bowl. Add the egg, before attempting to break the egg, say the Elven prayer: “In May ninista” which means “I am well aware of that,” for indeed, the elves do not like having to take an animal’s life, even if it is only in the form of an egg! If you cannot pronounce the Sindarin, say “I see you.” I think that also works ;-)
Add forest honey and the juice of a section of tangerine (squeezed by hand). In another bowl, combine the remaining ingredients and mix with the dough, kneading well. Form a ball of dough and chill for 15 minutes in the refrigerator. Preheat oven to 180° C (310° F) Spread your dough 1 cm thick and cut into squares. Incise a diagonal cut on each square and then say: “Alamenë” which simply means “Go with my blessing.” This will help travelers who eat the bread on the road. I can not guarantee that this works but why not take the risk of trying it? :-)
Bake about 25 minutes, the bread is lightly brown but not risen. Take it out of the oven and allow it to cool. Meanwhile wash the leaves and dry them on a clean cloth. Finally, finish your lembas by folding the leaf around the loaf.
(The elves use large leaves from the mallorne, also called the golden tree, which is found today in Lothlórien. For a substitute, you must choose large solid and flexible leaves, which most importantly must be non-toxic. ... I use the leaves of an old magnolia that grows near the woods where I played as a child. ... Remember to rinse the leaves with clear water and dry them on a clean cloth.)
The Elven bread keeps for weeks and months and is incorruptible, a quality we hobbits, men, dwarves, and other creatures devoid of elven powers cannot reproduce. It is principally due to the mallorne leaves which protect the bread so that it does not become moldy. Your bread will, however, only remain edible and good for three days, if you protect it from damp and excessive heat.
John Gravdis, in Pacific Standard, tracks down the strange, but oh-so-California, origin of the left coast’s latest food craze: $3-4 a slice artisanal toast.
All the guy was doing was slicing inch-thick pieces of bread, putting them in a toaster, and spreading stuff on them. But what made me stare—blinking to attention in the middle of a workday morning as I waited in line at an unfamiliar café—was the way he did it. He had the solemn intensity of a Ping-Pong player who keeps his game very close to the table: knees slightly bent, wrist flicking the butter knife back and forth, eyes suggesting a kind of flow state.
The coffee shop, called the Red Door, was a spare little operation tucked into the corner of a chic industrial-style art gallery and event space (clients include Facebook, Microsoft, Evernote, Google) in downtown San Francisco. There were just three employees working behind the counter: one making coffee, one taking orders, and the soulful guy making toast. In front of him, laid out in a neat row, were a few long Pullman loaves—the boxy Wonder Bread shape, like a train car, but recognizably handmade and freshly baked. And on the brief menu, toast was a standalone item—at $3 per slice.
It took me just a few seconds to digest what this meant: that toast, like the cupcake and the dill pickle before it, had been elevated to the artisanal plane. So I ordered some. It was pretty good. It tasted just like toast, but better.
Behind every foodie breakthrough, there is a PC sob story. Go ahead and fork over $4 for that slice of toasted bread, it’s for a good cause!
J. O’Dell blames the tech industry.
I went to The Mill for breakfast today and got a black cup of coffee and a single slice of toast topped with butter and sour strawberry jam. For $6.
It was an experiment in upper-middle class lifestyle consumerism. In San Francisco, flaunting your wealth has been elevated to new lows, if you will. The labels aren’t the usual lineup of foreign design houses; rather, we pay $300 for simple denim jeans or $200 for plain black yoga pants. We don’t go to the opera; we overspend on the simplest facets of life.
Coffee. Water. Bread. Housing. The kinds of things our pioneer forebears made themselves and considered basic necessities or small comforts.
And the tech community is largely to blame, in this writer’s opinion.
Here’s the cycle:
Someone creates a business for consumers with too much money and pretensions of superior taste. It might be a physical good, like toast; it might be a service, like black-car, chauffeured rides.
Tech folks, being one of the largest demographics in the city with ample disposable income, patronize, promote, and even invest in said business. (See: Blue Bottle coffee.)
Aforementioned business prospers and grows its profile.
People both within and outside the tech community are inspired to create more bourgie businesses that cater to the bored and overprivileged, peppering their descriptions with buzzwords like “organic” and “fair trade” and “artisanal,” the most meaningless of them all. Rarely are these goods and services truly accessible and affordable.
San Francisco becomes saturated with overpriced crap that is comparable in quality to less overpriced crap.
Middle class and working class families and individuals in the community find themselves priced out of goods and services. Small businesses in those sectors languish.
Good toast and a plain cup of coffee shouldn’t cost $6. But I can’t imagine the tech community putting the brakes on this trend any time soon. We’re obsessed with false ideas of quality. We fetishize the precious processes and benchmarks and prices that, in reality, have no bearing on how good something is.
Hat tip to Lisa Schiffren.
Thrillist compiles the choices of 14 chefs. The most common overrated choices tend to be the most popular cuts of steak, particularly filet mignon. Underrated choices are all over the map. Several pick rabbit and chicken, but not Justin Warner.
JUSTIN WARNER: THE NEXT FOOD NETWORK STAR WINNER, HOST OF REBEL EATS, CHEF AT DO OR DINE (NYC)
Most Overrated Meat: Bacon
“I don’t think bacon sucks. I use it in my restaurant and eat a decent amount of it. I’m just tired of it getting all the press. The Internet has turned what was once a humble breakfast treat in to the meme of meats. You don’t see people cashing in with ‘feed me tornados of beef’ tote bags. You don’t see country ham (which I believe is a better meat for us to be stoked about, as it is an American invention) getting its own ‘day’. Bacon has become the WWF finishing move of the American culinary landscape.”
Most Underrated Meat: Jellyfish
“Texturally, nothing compares. Malaysians say the texture is ‘music to the teeth’. So what’s it taste like? Whatever you want it to. Hot day? Mint, lime juice, olive oil. Depressed? Jellyfish Alfredo. Here’s the other thing: it’s plentiful as hell. I caught 90,000lbs in one boat in one day off the coast of Georgia. That ended up making about 4.5 TONS of comestible food. Of course, we shipped it right off to China to be used in a Foxconn cafeteria or something.”
Hat tip to Walter Olson.
Chuck Thompson, in Outside magazine, describes the life of a member of a universally despised minority.
Being a picky eater is more than a simple nuisance or emasculating badge of shame. For someone like me, who has spent most of his adult life as an international traveler in search of adventure and work, it’s a flaw that has ruined dinner parties, derailed relationships, and led to countless hungry nights.
Economy class, parasites, and crappy hotel pillows I can handle. What torments me is the prospect of being the honored guest at some exotic native banquet, presented with a sizzling plate of halibut ovaries or octopus eyeballs. All watery creatures are on my verboten list—fresh-water and salt-water fish, shrimp, turtles, any form of mussels, scallops, ceviche, calamari—but it doesn’t stop there. A short version of my “No thanks, I’m good” food roster includes: eggs, ham, tofu, milk, jellies, jams, cocktail wieners, convenience-store pump cheese, game animals, inexplicably trendy vegetables (kale? seriously?), most things pickled, all face parts, the entire organ oeuvre, chicken thighs and legs, anything in casings, cream of whatever, cheeses that float in jars of cloudy liquid, wheatgrass shots, anything associated with lactation or reptiles, bok choy, raisins (would it kill someone in this country to make a plain oatmeal cookie?), the spines of romaine lettuce leaves, apricots, most plums, orange juice pulp (grapefruit pulp is OK), the last bite of a banana, green tomato sludge, and all mushrooms, which to me taste like soil and have the mouthfeel of sputum.
Then there are my maddening inconsistencies. Tomatoes are magnificent in pizza and spaghetti, edible as soup, fatal as a juice. Black beans are an impenetrable mystery. Sometimes they’re perfect, but sometimes they’re a pile of repulsive goop, and there’s no way to explain why to a layman.
Beef is fine, as long as it’s well-done. For you, steakhouses are places to reconnect with masculinity and big, bold cabernets. For me, they’re places to confront supercilious waiters who act like it’s an outrage to leave my goddamn $45 rib eye on the grill a few extra minutes.
So much for my reputation as a man of means on seven continents. If you’re ordering a dish with more than four ingredients, I’m probably looking for the exit.
Read the whole thing.
Capping off the Iowa State Fair’s opening weekend with a much-beloved tradition, throngs of cheering fairgoers gathered in the Midway Sunday evening to witness the annual deep-frying of a virgin. “
Chef Toshio Tanabe of the Ne Quittez Pas Restaurant in Tokyo’s Gotanda district, specializing in French Seafood, has captured a great deal of attention by incorporating kanuma dirt, a granular acidic clay from Tochigi Prefecture, commonly used as potting soil for bonsai (particulary for Azaleas, Camellias, Gardenias and other acid loving plants), as a key ingredient in his cuisine.
Chef Tanabe first won a cooking contest on the basis of a sauce made with kanuma dirt. He subsequently developed a series of dishes, including a soup, a salad dressing, rissotto, gratin, and even ice cream showcasing his new ingredient. Some dishes made with kanuma dirt cost as much as $110, and those who’ve tried them found them delicious.
Hat tip to Vanderleun.
Gizmodo has the news on a new cut of steak that before long will be coming to the meat counter near you.
A self-proclaimed Meat Geek has teamed up with Oklahoma State University to devise the first new style of steak in years.
“The Vegas Strip Steak is the latest and perhaps last steak to be found from the beef carcass,” said Jacob Nelson, a value-added meat processing specialist (and owner of the best job title of all time) at the Robert M. Kerr Food & Agricultural Products Center of Oklahoma State University. The Vegas Strip is the brainchild of Tony Mata, of industry group Mata & Associates, who approached Nelson and the FAPC for help developing the cut. “Initially, the cut was labeled as undervalued,” Mata told the Drovers Cattle Network. “Whenever we can take a muscle and turn it into a steak rather than grinding it or selling it as a roast, we are adding value to the carcass.”
The steak itself weighs in at about 14 ounces and can be portioned out as small as 4 ounces. The taste, tenderness, and flavor are reportedly akin to a New York Strip or Flat Iron cut. “The tenderness of the Vegas Strip Steak is comparable to the New York Strip Steak,” said Mata. “It does not require aging or marinating to achieve tenderness and its visual appeal enhances the steak eater’s overall enjoyment.” ...
Most interesting is the fact that this new cut of meat apparently counts as intellectual property, replete with its own licensing and a patent on the cut’s fabrication. Mata and Gresh have yet to reveal where, exactly, the cut comes from but they’ve already lined up national suppliers so we should be getting a taste of Vegas at the local butcher shop soon.
Heather Smith tells us that Hmong immigrant oriental hunters in the Midwest and locavore foodies looking for new thrills are converging on a new interest in squirrel hunting and eating.
Until recent decades, Americans ate squirrel meat because it was cheap, plentiful, and there, according to Hank Shaw, author of Hunt, Gather, Cook: Finding the Forgotten Feast. Domesticated animals may have been easier to catch, but, in the days before the industrialization of farming, they were expensive to raise and feed. “When Herbert Hoover promised a chicken in every pot, that was a big deal,” Shaw adds. The first edition of The Joy of Cooking, published in 1931, was heavy on the squirrel. As it moved into later and later editions, Hoover’s promise was fulfilled (by other politicians, if not Hoover himself) and chicken gradually replaced squirrel.
Shaw shot his first squirrel when he was working as a reporter for a daily paper in Minnesota. He’d made it through an underpaid stint as a cub reporter in Long Island by catching and eating his own fish. When he arrived in Minnesota, though, he could not help but take note of the squirrels. The state has such a vibrant squirrel scene that a cottage industry has grown up around trapping and removing ones that have moved into people’s homes. Shaw bought a few books about squirrel hunting off the internet, applied for a license to hunt them, and got to it.
In doing so, he placed himself on the vanguard of the re-squirreling of the American diet. Squirrel-eating has been trendy in Great Britain for half a decade now — spurred by a nationalistic fervor to kill as many as possible of the invasive American gray squirrel, which is outcompeting the domestic red squirrel (the latter had the good fortune to star in a Beatrix Potter book, one of the best ways to cement your status as charismatic megafauna). ...
It’s hard to imagine more sustainable local game — squirrels are abundant, far from endangered, and don’t even require refrigeration the way that big game does. The standard rule of thumb is that one squirrel = enough meat for one dinner for one person. The squirrel is road food — the kind of prey that fed cross-country hikers, in the days before MRE and freeze-dried lentils. Squirrel is like the drive-through cheeseburger of the forest — albeit a cheeseburger that needs to be gutted first.
They’re also delicious, mostly because they eat nuts. “Rabbits — they’re grass eaters. The flavor is milder. Squirrels taste like something,” says Shaw. “It’s gamey in a good way.”
I shot squirrels as a boy whenever I had the opportunity, but my parents had no interest whatsoever in cooking them. I always gave away my squirrels to my grandparents or neighbors, who always assured me that squirrels were delicious.
I do not believe that Pennsylvania methods of squirrel preparation had the slightest resemblance to what we see in the video below. I know that people where I lived skinned their squirrels and removed the head.
Hat tip to Zack Beauchamp.
Barney Frank, Bizarre, Cuisine, Henry Waxman, Japan, Official Idiocy and Incompetence, Rhode Island, Roger Williams, US Constitution, Virginia
A well developed sense of humor is a characteristic feature of Virginians, but not of government officials, even in Virginia. The Virginia DMV has banned my favorite vanity license plate. I’ve actually seen this plate driving by on local roads.
Matt Hardigree has the unhappy details.
H/t to Karen L. Myers.
Mochi (a chewy rice cake served during Japanese New Year celebrations) kills more people than Fugu (sushi made from a blowfish containing tetrodotoxin). The Telegraph explains why.
Via Ka Ching.
Daniel Mitchell predicts how Barney Frank and Henry Waxman will react when the Constitution is read aloud.