Anita’s famous tomato chutney

By popular demand, here is the recipe for my famous tomato chutney.  It is somewhat modified from Madhur Jaffrey, An Invitation to Indian Cooking:

Sweet and spicy tomato chutney

1 head of garlic, peeled and roughly chopped (yes, a whole head)

a piece of fresh ginger, 2 in long, 1 in thick, 1 in wide, peeled and roughly chopped

1 1/2 cups white vinegar

2 lbs tomatoes, peeled and roughly chopped

1 1/2 cups sugar

1 1/2 tsp salt

1/8-1/2 tsp cayenne pepper (to taste)

Put garlic, ginger and 1/2 cup vinegar in blender and puree.  In a heavy-bottomed pan place tomatoes, the rest of the vinegar, sugar, salt. Bring to a boil, then add contents of blender.  Lower heat and cook very slowly for 1 1/2 hours or more, uncovered, until thick.  Add cayenne after about a hour, tasting to see how hot you want it.  I use 1/8 teaspoon of the hot cayenne I get at the co-op.  You can also use hot red pepper flakes. Stir frequently especially toward the end or it WILL stick and burn because of the sugar.  It should be as thick as honey with some chunks (this depends on how much you chop the tomatoes)– it should coat the back of a spoon when it is done.  It will be dark, dark red.  You can put it in canning jars and process or just put it in jars and keep it in the fridge — it keeps a while and it is good on anything.  Try it on a cheese sandwich.  It is amazingly good.  Makes about 2 cups, depending on how juicy the tomatoes are (if they’re really juicy it will make less).  The recipe can be doubled.



Sup on a Syllabub

I cannot resist this post from the National Library of Medicine’s excellent blog, Circulating Now.

Circulating Now from NLM

By Anne Rothfeld

Caricature of food consumption; two men and a woman eating ice cream.Les Mangeurs de Glaces, 1825
NLM #A021418

Want an intriguing dessert from the past to satisfy your present day holiday palate? Serve the syllabub: a cream-based treat, mixed with sweet wine and lemon juice, then whipped with cream until frothy, and garnished with a seasonal herb. The acids, which rise from the lemons to firm the cream, then separate from the wine, which sinks into a two-part delectable sweet course. Syllabub, wine mixed with well-whisked cream, originates from the name Sille, a wine-growing region in France known for its sweet wine, and bub, an English slang word for a bubbling drink.

Eighteenth-century English cooks whisked syllabubs into a froth then placed the mixture into a pot to separate. Next, the mixture was spooned through a fine sieve to drain, oftentimes overnight. Before serving to guests, the creamy foam was topped with a splash of…

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More on GMOs

25 May 2015

An update: the Benton County anti-GMO ballot measure 2-89 went down to a resounding defeat in last week’s election: you can read an account in the Corvallis newspaper here.  It was not clear to voters that the measure would not ban genetically-related research at Oregon State University (its language indicated a blanket ban on all genetically modified organisms in the county), and supporters were in addition thoroughly outspent.

Food historian Rachel Laudan brought to my attention this blog by Marc Brazeau on GM foods that came out last year.  It makes some good points about plant breeding in general, and notes that genetic modification is an extension of that age-old practice.

photo by Andy Cripe, Corvallis Gazette-Times

The anti-GMO group say they will try again.

Local Food and GMOs

12 May 2015

A field near Adair Village, Benton County, Oregon. Gary Halvorson, Oregon State Archives [Attribution], via Wikimedia Commons

Benton County, Oregon, where I live, has a controversial measure on the ballot for next week’s local elections that would ban all GMO organisms in the county as well as establishing a legal right to a local food system, and allowing citizens to sue on behalf of local land and water systems.  You can read it here.  And here’s some pro and con.

Oregon State University, where I work, is vehemently opposed to this measure, claiming it would interfere with all kinds of genetic research, not just agriculture.  I don’t know if this is true or not, but I expect if the measure passes it will be immediately tied up in courts for a while.  An Oregon ballot measure last year to require GMO labeling was defeated, and many OSU scientists spoke out against that too, which leads me to believe that their opposition is not solely on the basis of the threat to research.

Meanwhile, philosopher of science Roberta Millstein of the University of California, Davis has written a brilliant examination of the GMO problem (or is it?) — here it is.  Stay tuned.

“Can Cookery,” 1928

28 January 2015

At Powell’s the other day, I picked up a pamphlet-style cookbook from 1928 called The Book of Can Cookery, Can Cookerypublished by Woman’s World magazine. Not to be confused with the modern tabloid magazine of the same name, this Woman’s World began in the late 19th century and ceased publication in 1940. It published many cookbooks in the 1920s with titles such as The Book of Fifty Two Sunday Dinners.

I wasn’t quite sure what to expect.   While Can Cookery portrays commercially canned foods as convenient, they’re also healthy. Cans allow the homemaker to serve a variety of foods, and the canning process preserves nutrients and renders the contents sterile: all selling points in these early years of vitamins and the germ theory, fomenting suspicions against both fresh foods and, especially, home-canned foods.

In the 1920s, anything that could be canned, was: Can Cookery employs canned veal loaf, canned cod cakes, canned lobster, and canned strawberries as well as more familiar fruits and vegetables and of course tuna fish. But despite the convenience of canned foods, the 1928 housewife was also expected to have a refrigerator, or at the very least an icebox.1927 refrigerator There are many recipes for chilled and jelled dishes, and mayonnaise is used to top anything resembling a salad. The “Poinsettia Salad” includes a ring of lettuce leaves, another of pineapple rings (covered with riced cream cheese) topped with ground nuts, and the whole slathered with mayonnaise thinned with cream and decorated with pimientos cut into leaf shapes.

Canned soup, maraschino cherries, and marshmallows (also canned) have already made their appearance at the American table in 1928. While there is no specific reference to Jell-O, the “Jellied Hawaiian Salad” does use “prepared lemon jelly powder.” Many recipes involve combining two cans of soup or dressing up canned soup, such as the “recipe” for canned tomato soup that advises “Add sufficient boiling water to make of desired consistency, season with pepper, salt, butter. Sprinkle each portion with minced parsley and toast cubes.”   But it is assumed that the reader can make a piecrust and has something called “French dressing” at hand for marinating vegetables (which are then covered in mayonnaise). Several recipes riff on combinations of whipped cream, canned pineapple, and mayo-hellmansmarshmallows, and the “Ring Salad with Cucumber Mayonnaise” consists of jellied vegetable soup in a ring mold with the cavity filled with “mayonnaise to which finely chopped cucumber had been added.” The “Jellied Hawaiian Salad” (with, of course, pineapple, as well as canned coconut and maraschino cherries) is served with “marshmallow mayonnaise.” But there are also homey recipes for corn chowder and “little chicken tarts” with only a minor canned component.

pineapple adCan Cookery even makes some attempts at ethnic food. “Mexican meatloaf” (made with canned tomato soup) includes two kinds of meat and chopped green pepper and canned pimientos, which is I guess the Mexican part. “Mexican salad” also has pimientos, and for some reason, pineapple. “Jambalaya” features canned shrimp, as does “Shrimp, Oriental Style” which adds diced celery and green pepper to the shrimp, along with yet more pineapple, all sautéed in butter and seasoned with paprika. The “Italian” foods, however, have no redeeming qualities: “Italian Beans and Spaghetti” consists of a can of baked beans and a can of tomato soup mixed with cooked spaghetti. “Sausage Italian style” has a can of Vienna sausages (“heated in the can”) topped with a can of tomato sauce in a ring of macaroni. The pièce de résistance, however, is “polenta,” made of cold leftover oatmeal molded in a can, sliced, sprinkled with cheese, and baked with tomato sauce. My uncle Ermanno would not be pleased.

Why fierce animals are fierce

The eighteenth-century Dutch physician Herman Boerhaave (1668-1738) wrote many books, but among his most famous were his Aphorisms and his Materia medica, both of which were translated and reprinted throughout the century.  They distilled the conventional wisdom of the day and added Boerhaave’s own astute observations.  The following observations from Materia medica follow a logic we no longer understand and open a small window to that foreign country we call the past.  Papin’s Digestor was an early pressure cooker.boerhaave TP

“In the CURE of DISEASES from a Weak and Lax FIBRE

Medicines, containing Principles proper for making a strong Fibre.

The Milk of a sound full grown Woman, using gentle Exercise and wholesome Food, either suck’d or drank presently, warm, without undergoing any Change from Fire, and the better if drank after a perfect Digestion in the Nurse.  The next to this in Virtue and Goodness is Asses Milk, which is better than that of Goats, and this last is preferable to that of Cows. Their use is determined by the same Laws.

The white of a new laid Egg still warm, diluted in equal quantities of Milk and Water without the Application of Fire.

The best Broths for this purpose, are those prepared from the Flesh of a sound young exercised Animal, carefully cleared of its Fat, bruised, minced, and stewed in Papin‘s Digestor, then cooled, and again freed of its Fat and Dregs.

In defect of this Machine, a Kettle or Pot may be used, but the more subtle Parts then evaporate. — Hence the Cause of the Fierceness of those Animals that feed upon others alive.

That prepared of the Pullet Kind is the best, then Veal, next Mutton, and lastly Beef Broth.  That made of a Mixture is the strongest.”

Playing Chicken

photo by Gavin Schaefer
photo by Gavin Schaefer

Back in 2012, the US Department of Agriculture proposed new regulations for processing chickens.  These included speeding up the processing line from 140 birds a minute to 175 birds a minute.  At the same time, the number of federal inspectors would be reduced.  This head-scratching equation would supposedly save money and allow inspectors to pay more attention to the plants and less to the individual chickens, thus also reducing food-borne illness. In fact, most of the inspection of animals on the line would be performed by factory workers rather than federal employees.

These measures have still not been enacted.  As Renee Schoof recently reported in the Charlotte Observer, a group of senators, led by North Carolina Democrat Kay Hagan, recently signed a letter to Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack requesting implementation of the proposed new rules.

These new rules are a terrible idea on many fronts.  Recent salmonella outbreaks owing to chicken from Foster Farms and Tyson surely show that more inspection, not less, is necessary.  Squirm-inducing accounts of a cockroach infestation at a Foster Farms plant in California would seem to underline that necessity.

Moreover, as many have noted, these new rules are bad both for the chickens and for the human workers who process them.  Inhumane deaths for the chickens are more likely in a faster-moving process, and the kind of repetitive stress injuries that Eric Schlosser   reported in Fast Food Nation a decade ago would be even more likely.

So why are these senators supporting this action?  Kay Hagan faces a tough re-election campaign this year in North Carolina, a center of chicken processing.  The same is true of Democrat Mark Pryor of Arkansas.  But not all of the senators who signed the letter are facing reelection this year.  Ignoring the health of your constituents does not seem to be good politics to me.