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Ask the Profussor – The Boys of Summer

May 20, 2011

Numbers excite me, but I know they bore most people. So I’ll spare you the details. But I pore over my blog traffic numbers more than I care to admit. And there are lots of numbers to look at: WordPress, Twitter,, and Facebook get the majority of my attention.

But it’s the Facebook ones I find the most concerning. They have been telling me that my male readership has been going down, and it was never that high to begin with. And I understand that cooking and food may tend to skew more female. However, a look at this batch of questions will show you exactly what I’m talking about.

Don’t get me wrong. I love all my female readers, and all these questions. Which, by the way, will all soon get their long-deserved answers. But maybe we can bring your boyfriends, husbands, brothers, or male co-workers into the fold this summer. Let’s get them on board the Fussy express.

However, if this is what it is, I can live with that. I spent most of my career and adult life surrounded by women, attending spa days, getting facials, and dressing up for mom’s night out. So this isn’t new territory. But enough about me, on to the questions.

After two years Ellen Whitby asked:
“Isn’t ‘educating the eater’ the point of all your fussiness?”

Actually, I really like that phrase, but in two years of writing I’ve never used it once. The point of all my fussiness is really to improve the food in Albany. It’s about raising standards. It’s about getting restaurants to care more about ingredients. It’s about bringing to light the things that are truly good, and smashing the false idols of beloved institutions that just don’t pass muster.

Sometimes I meander into other areas as well. But in the end it is all in the service of the same end goal. And lest people think that’s a terrible thing to spend my energy on, I believe that the strength of a region’s food bolsters the region as a whole. I really do.

Christine also had a really big question:
“Why is the food industry in the business of taking somewhat healthy things and turning them into a science experiment gone wrong?”

Easy. Healthy things are generally expensive and time consuming. To make them cheap and quick takes science. And sadly this is what most people want. Even if they don’t want it cheap, they want it fast. Just take, for example, the line at a place like Starbucks versus a place like Blue Bottle Coffee.

As slow as Starbucks can be, it’s blindingly fast compared to Blue Bottle Coffee where each drink is handcrafted with the utmost care, regardless of how long the line is or how long people will wait. And wait they will. Because the people in that line care enough about coffee to know that it can’t be rushed.

Danielle doesn’t know this, but her question really should be for my mother-in-law:
“How do you prepare your fresh tomatoes for the freezer??”

That’s the best part. I don’t have to prepare them at all. They come that way from my MIL. She drives them frozen on ice from her Pennsylvania farm. Yes, I do indeed know how lucky I am.

But to answer your question, I’m pretty sure she blanches and peels them first. We just finished up the last of the batch in some slow cooked and thickly reduced tomato sauce. It was delightful.

Irisira must spend more time in Subways than I do:
“Has anyone noticed that Subway stinks of rotten coldcuts?
Actually, I don’t think rotten is the right word. Slimy coldcuts, maybe?”

I didn’t know that slimy had a smell. The only stinky smell I’ve observed is their freshly baked bread that smells like no other bread I’ve ever encountered. But it is remarkable how wherever you are, Subways all have that distinctive odor. Of course the same is true for Burger King, McDonalds, Taco Bell and all the other big QSRs.

If Residual Ninja is still talking to me, she might be interested in this answer:
“Com’on people, does TRIANGLE FIRE mean nothing to these people?”

Nope. Honestly, it didn’t mean anything to me either. Then I Googled it. I thought I had some pretty good American history classes through the years. I had a great AP teacher in high school and I took some at Penn too. I don’t know where the Walmart managers went to school or their area of study, but I’m going to go out on a limb and say the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire of 1911 wasn’t covered.

The answer to Jennifer’s question is thousands of years old:
“Why do we freak out so much for drinking holidays?”

Meet Dionysus. No seriously. For thousands of years human beings have enjoyed freeing themselves from the shackles of their everyday lives by consuming large amounts of alcoholic beverages and letting the spirit move them, so to speak.

Few, if any, modern revelers would put their behavior in such terms. But most people need an excuse to behave badly. And we should be thankful for that. Because if they didn’t need an excuse, they’d be behaving like that all the time. And that wouldn’t be good for anybody.

DavidS was inquiring about some of my favorite California bars:
“Considering that you previously lived on the left coast, did you ever make it to Tommy’s Restaurant in the city? It’s an altar to tequila.”

I never made it to Tommy’s. The Richmond was really beyond my usual stomping grounds. But I loved old bars. In San Francisco it was Tosca and in LA it was the Formosa (a long time ago, before the renovations). Bourbon & Branch opened before I left, and I was glad to spend some time there. And I’m looking forward to the Rickhouse on a future visit. Tequila may have to wait.

KB @ Home-Baked Happiness is going to be very happy indeed:
“There’s more than one kind of Fudge Fancies? I thought there was just the original, the ones from Vanilla Bean (now Cookie Factory).
We should totally do a cupcake-off — one location would be fine, you’re right. Maybe just chocolate/chocolate and vanilla/vanilla? Or add in a third flavor for variety? (I saw a site that did a cupcake-off for NYC, and they did four categories: chocolate, vanilla, red velvet and specialty.)”

Yes, KB, I happen to know of at least two other Fudge Fancies, and likely there are more.  But I guess that will have to wait, because I’m starting to wrap my head around a cupcake tasting. The specifics are up in the air. And I ask for patience, because this may take a while to pull off. But it’s going to happen. I’ve made commitments. So stay tuned.

Separately KB & Home-Baked Happiness noted:
“I think custard is a separate animal. That said… tour de custard?”

Agreed. But custard and soft serve are also both inextricably linked. I think the next tour has to be something savory. It’s funny. I seem to get large groups of women on the sweet tours and large groups of men on the savory tours. Since I would like to try and get some of my guys back to the blog this summer, it would seem that a tour de custard will be a long way off. Do not despair, as I take the long view. I’m not going anywhere, so I have high hopes it will happen in time.

Emily doesn’t get to the mall much:
“That is good to know about the Great Wraps. I think there is one in Crossgates?”

Indeed there is. In fact, you can skip Great Wraps entirely. Their food is a travesty. Who pre-cooks gyro meat and cheese steaks? Disgusting. I had high hopes for them, in a greasy junk food kind of way. But by prioritizing speed of service over tasty versions of the food they are making, they’ve gone completely mad.

Kim just wants to rub it in:
“I probably shouldn’t mention that I had a wonderful egg this morning cooked in bacon fat, should I?”

You absolutely should. This isn’t the place to pull punches. Let’s celebrate the delicious in all of its forms. As we would say in the Fussy household, you got the duck confit hash. It’s fair to rejoice in it.

KB @ Home-Baked Happiness had a suggestion for improving diner eggs:
“I understand their need for speed, but honestly, couldn’t they just crack a ton of eggs into a big bowl, whip them together and put those into a pitcher instead of the fake stuff?”

People need to slow the f*ck down. Screw the fake stuff. Forget premixing eggs entirely. Good food takes time. Food that sits deteriorates. Make good food. Find customers that like to eat good food. They are the kinds of customers that will wait for it.

It’s heartwarming to see Ellen Whitby so accommodating of bad acronyms:
“It’s nice that Wegman’s has that line of products but how can something be successful if it’s acronym is FYFGA?”

I’m scratching my head to think of foods that I call by acronym. I know my old friend ADS used to drink a lot of Diet Dr. Pepper, and he loved the way DDP flowed off his tongue. If I had to refer to the ice cream in short, I’d probably just call it Wegmans’ Organic.

Elyse hit upon what I had long suspected:
“I dunno – when I make my own ice cream it keeps pretty well in the freezer. Maybe your recipes are off?”

It’s very possible. I also like the idea of putting booze in at the end. Presumably vanilla extract would do the job as well. But the truth is that I just don’t make my own ice cream nearly enough to triangulate my way to a good recipe. And the other truth is that unlike with actual cooking, I tend to just screw around and go way off recipe, which as you have seen is simply a recipe for disaster. Perhaps now that I’m more serious about organic milk, I can be more serious about trying to make good ice cream with it.

Christine’s question may stem from a shared lack of enthusiasm for macaroni and cheese:
“I think someone should organize a Cap Region cook-off. Could be chili, chana masala, bbq… whatever. Right?”

Right. And he’s already done it. Steve Barnes has his annual Macaroni and Cheese Bowl. They just had their second annual, and I imagine the third annual will be even bigger and better than the last two.

KB @ Home-Baked Happiness will get some closure on a storied rumor:
“There’s something they throw in there (algae extract, some rumor-monger once told me?) that makes the texture artificially thick, in a noticable way, to make up for the reduction in fat.”

My guess is that your rumor-monger was talking about carrageenan. I’m no plant expert, but carrageenan comes from seaweed, which is somehow related to algae. And carrageenan is now in almost everything. Okay, not everything, but you would be surprised how many uses of it there are in food science. Anyhow, one of its uses is indeed increasing the viscosity of ice cream.

But to be clear about Edy’s, carrageenan isn’t unique to their light ice cream. Their full-fat ice cream also contains carrageenan to make it seem creamier without having to pay for all of that expensive butterfat. It’s also the reason that I was the only person in a room full of 40 people who claimed in a “blind tasting” to like the Breyer’s vanilla over the client’s (Dreyer’s).

Holly needs a new summer cocktail, and I know just the two:
“I like margaritas so much that I find I don’t even care to try other cocktails in the summer. Which is silly, I know. What do you think I should try to tempt me away from my standard?”

What a fun question. Well, a margarita is simply a sour. So I’d recommend staying in the same category. Since your beloved drink is lime based, my first idea would be a classic daiquiri. But one of the simplest, most refreshing, and most delicious summer cocktails is the Tom Collins. You just need gin, a lemon, sugar water, ice and seltzer. Nothing is better.

7 Comments leave one →
  1. shawn permalink
    May 20, 2011 10:12 am

    <— Man.

    <— Reader.

    <— Pretty damn good in the kitchen.

    • Bob W. permalink
      May 20, 2011 10:52 am

      If there were a “like” button (ala Facebook), I would click it to show support.

      • May 20, 2011 11:26 am

        Officially, not only is there a “like” button at the bottom of every post, there is also a Facebook button so you can share the post on FB and like it there. For a third option, you can follow the FUSSYlittleBLOG on Facebook and like the post there. In fact, if you did that it would do wonders to help reverse the trend I wrote about at the top of the post.

        What if I said please?

  2. May 20, 2011 6:01 pm

    Sorry, yet another female, but one who lives with three males. Sadly, I can attest that slimy –as in coldcuts — does have a smell. Alas, I’m not sure what I can compare it to, but after three summers making sandwiches in a Boston “deli” … yup, I know that smell.

  3. May 20, 2011 9:55 pm

    You know, once I saw a huge spike in hits on my stinky ol’ blog and it turned out to be the result of someone saying that my blog was among “the manliest” of food blogs… The discussion was on 4chan no less…. Anyhow, I have never thought to wonder if the people reading my drivel were primarily male or female. I always assumed a sort of even split.

    Also, it looks like someone else made a facebook page for my blog, don’t know who… Doesn’t seem to be doing to well….

  4. May 21, 2011 10:12 am

    I actually quite rarely am around a Subway, but whenever I am, I can usually smell it from the street. I don’t know what it is about the smell of that place that makes me want to retch, but there it is.

  5. May 21, 2011 11:00 pm

    There are so many topics I want to comment on here, but the one that won’t go away is: Tour de Bread! Cupcakes absolutely deserve a tour – they have exploded in the region lately, it will be interesting to see who comes out ahead. There are also a ton of great bread bakers right here in the Capital Region (not to toot our own horn or anything at All Good, but hopefully we would be included in that category). Nick and I are trying to put together a “NY Breads & Brews” event to coincide with NOFA’s Locavore Challenge in September – it would feature NY bakers & beer brewers who use NY grains (NOFA has agreed to help sponsor)…Tour de Bread would be a great precursor! Not that you don’t have enough on your plate (haha, get it?). Consider bug inserted in ear.

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