Meat is marvelous. Meat is also murder. There’s no way around it. If you eat animal protein, something has to die for your pleasure and nutrition. Okay, maybe that’s not entirely true. Stone crabs just get one of their claws is ripped off their bodies. The injured crustacean is sent back into the depths to try and fend for itself albeit under more challenging circumstances.
But technically, the poor creature doesn’t have to die.
Honestly, I’m okay with all of this. To an extent. I have no qualms about putting a lobster into a pot of boiling water, but I wouldn’t want to be responsible for slaughtering a cow, pig, or a lamb myself. Mammals are a little too close to home, but I might be able to dispatch a bird. I imagine the first one is always the hardest.
While I have no interest in actually slaughtering my own chickens, I can see many ways how it can be a beneficial experience. From evaluating whether the bird you eat is healthy and happy, to making sure it died in as a humane and respectful way as possible, to creating a greater appreciation for the resulting meat and giblets. The alternative is the chicken grabber.
Have you ever seen the chicken grabber? It’s mesmerizing.
There’s a little Szechuan restaurant that I really like just outside of Princeton. I was trying to get there at least once a month at the beginning of this sabbatical. The dishes on the menu aren’t available anywhere in the Capital Region, and I imagine one would have to drive up to New York City to find its equivalent.
Still, I can’t say I’m going to miss the place terribly when I’m gone.
How do you find what’s truly best about an area? After all, there are always going to be plenty of great spots. Sure, some may be a little bit harder to find than others. But I like to ask people, “If you moved away from here, what’s the one place that you would really miss the most?”
Well, as the remaining days of the sabbatical tick away, I’m starting to think about what I will long for when I’m back in Albany. One might think it’s the regional specialties like pork roll or Trenton tomato pie. But it’s not. These unique local foods are interesting cultural artifacts to be loved and preserved However, I think you have to grow up eating them to ever truly miss them.
No. I’m going to miss a local version of a food that’s so ubiquitous it’s practically everywhere.
Sailing is in my blood. Give me the wind and a piece of canvas and I can be at peace with the world. It’s one of the greatest gifts I ever got from my father. Sailing was in his blood too.
As such, I have never had any interest in going on a cruise ship. Those monstrous vessels that need massive engines to propel themselves and their revelers through the waters are the antithesis of everything I hold dear about life on the water. I like to refer to them as Botels. It’s a combination of boat and motel. If I were being hospitable I might say boat and hotel. But I hear that most cabins are fairly small and lacking in amenities. So let’s say motel.
Still, it’s difficult not to frame this sabbatical year at the Institute for Advanced Study as if it were an extended cruise. But only the best parts of the experience, as we are not trapped on a disease riddled ship. We have a cafeteria where one can expect lunches to include the likes of roasted rabbit, duck confit, and wild boar stew. There is a 24 hour gymnasium just a few doors away. Every day at three o’clock is time for coffee and cookies. There are all you can eat buffet dinners, weekly yoga classes, concerts, seminars, readings, etc.
Did I mention the wine tastings?
Try not to think of this as old news. When there is a social media pileup, sometimes it is advantageous to post last. Although to be fair, not everyone who attended the tour of the newest Price Chopper concept store has written about the experience. So maybe we won’t be last after all.
While it was impossible for me to make the press event in person, I was able to send one of the FLB’s very capable correspondents. Jessica R. picked up this assignment and remarkably didn’t mention Wegmans once in the body of her story. That’s the kind of restraint regular readers of this blog may find truly shocking.
Anyhow, I probably owe her another drink when I get back to Albany for going above and beyond the call of duty. She’s earned it.
What follows is the story Jessica filed along with a few notes and links I’ve added in after the fact. Even her headline is more mature than mine.
Every year around this time local media venues start trotting out their polls for The Best of the Capital Region. I’ve participated in these shenanigans for far too long. This year I want to try something new.
Did you see yesterday’s post on red sauce?
Let’s scrap the ballots. Let’s come together and really talk about our favorite foods and what exactly it is that makes them so good. As many incredible comments as the sauce post got yesterday, I know there are voices and opinions out there that are not yet represented. Please don’t be shy. And if you are still shy, may I humbly recommend you click on the link of the day.
Ah, the link of the day. That’s must mean today is yet another delinquent installment of Ask the Profussor. For those who may be here for the first time, this is the day for answering all the unanswered questions that have piled up in the comments section of the blog. If a comment contains a question mark and I don’t address it immediately, most likely it will end up here in this semi-regular feature. I’ve made a commitment to answer all questions, and for better or for worse I’m going to keep it.
Now, without any further ado, onto the questions.
There are lots of ways to learn new things. When it comes to food and beverages, often the best way to learn is to taste.
While this isn’t a post about wine tasting, the Universe would seem to want you to learn about wine this Thursday. Here at IAS, I’ll be attending a wine tasting that compares wines from the old world to their new world counterparts. The Lucas Confectionery in Troy will have actual Slovenian winemakers at The Grocery, sampling their wares at a tasting of seven wines (and one pumpkin seed oil) from the region. And the Saratoga Food Fanatic reports that the Wishing Well is hosting a bonus class on Pinot Noir.
I’m a big believer in tasting. It’s the reason why I bring adventurous readers of the blog out on my periodic Fussy Little Tours. Before too long I hope to nail down a date for the spring tour, so stay tuned.
But tasting isn’t the be all and end all for expanding your knowledge of food. Sometimes you can learn an awful lot by just asking the right questions from the right audience. And just to turn this around a little bit, today I’m going to be asking the question to you. Because there is one thing that seems to have captured the hearts and minds of eaters around the Capital Region (and throughout the northeast to a certain extent) that I just haven’t been able to wrap my head around.
Did you read the diatribe posted in the comments section recently about carrageenan?
The FLB does not believe in stifling debate. I have no problem publishing comments with opposing viewpoints on these pages. But if you can get through the whole defense of this food additive it’s hard not to be struck by the fact that the food industry is more about industry than food.
Fresh food resists being packaged, so it requires additives to reduce the amount of unsightly bulges. Chocolate in milk tends to settle when it sits on the shelf so it needs a little help to hold its suspension. If you want inexpensive deli meats to slice cleanly, that’s going to take a little something too. Food additives, carrageenan particularly, have helped otherwise untenable products look perfectly appealing under the bright lights of the supermarket.
But fakery begets more fakery, and we get artificial colors added to foods that simply don’t need them. Macaroni and cheese has been orange long before FD&C Yellow #5. But Kraft says the additive really increases the product’s appeal. Well, we stopped buying it. Tartrazine just isn’t that appealing to me.
All of that changed, in part thanks to the Food Babe and her petitions. So for the first time in a long time, I found myself buying what was once the only boxed macaroni and cheese that would ever cross my lips.
The devil is in the details.