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Ask the Profussor – Pain Free

May 9, 2012

It’s amazing what a sunnier place the world is when you are not in pain. Even if it’s raining. Quite possibly the excessive grumpiness of the past few weeks has been the direct result of back and sinus pain. I also stepped on Little Miss Fussy’s ukulele and took a chunk the size of a nickel out of my foot.

The instrument was fine.

Anyway, I’m fresh off a great meeting with Chef Noah from The Chefs Consortium, and I’m really inspired by some of the local foods he’s handed over for me to write up in the coming weeks. Plus I’ve made a new friend who has backyard chickens, and enjoyed an amazing poached egg, which always brings me unimaginable joy.

But today isn’t about me. It’s about you, or rather, your questions. Because I’m committed to answering all of them provided they contain a question mark. I may even answer questions that weren’t directed at me. Occasionally I’ll tackle a rhetorical question too. Today, I’ve also chosen to address something that was never a question at all.

Ready? Let’s begin.

christine almost lost her bowel function because of price inflation:
I actually spent $11.75 for a “cheeseburger platter” at a local diner (platter… came with lettuce, tomato, onion and a small cup of cole slaw) and nearly crapped my pants at the price! I didn’t even look at the price when ordering the meal and only discovered it when the bill came. After all, how much can a simple burger at a diner cost?

I’m guessing $11.75 and that’s criminal, especially for conventional beef. If you didn’t read my recent post about mad cow disease, perhaps you should as a reminder for why conventional beef is so inexpensive. There are places all around the country where you can get a fast-food style grass-fed burger for well under $10. This is the burger I seek, and I fully expect to make it up to the Capital Region by 2020.

Tonia was skeptical on my thoughts about downtown Albany’s restaurant week:
As for V&R, was not impressed when I went there… uninspired is a nice way to put it. But, that was a while ago, maybe I should re-visit?

Or maybe not. V&R isn’t the kind of place that I imagine changes. One should recall that the strange land out west from whence I came is largely devoid of these uninspired red-sauce classic Italian-American eateries. This gives me a different appreciation for the form. It’s not worn and old, but rather anachronistic and classic (in its way). While I wouldn’t want to pay a lot of money for this food, the restaurant week prices seem totally fair.

Cher presumably has never stepped foot in a McDonalds or Dairy Queen:
I have also noted the lack of soft serve ice cream places in other parts of the country. Is this a Northeast thing?

Indeed, there is soft serve everywhere. But our regional soft serve stands are special.

Todd wants to get philosophical, and I’m perfectly happy to challenge great thinkers:
Emerson once said “”Unless you try to do something beyond what you have already mastered, you will never grow.” Perhaps this can be taken into account in this discussion?

Growth is overrated. I love this idea of mastery though. And I think those who are truly committed to the mastery of a craft are never fully satisfied with what they have achieved. There is always a way to do it better. There are always questions to ask, problems to solve, and mysteries to ponder. This is the path to perfection, which is ultimately unattainable.

PensiveEngineer still thinks Ben & Jerry’s is just as local as Stewart’s:
I wouldn’t compare B&J to Budweiser. Something more along the lines of Sam Adams or Saranac. Stewarts would be something like Genny Cream Ale, smaller and just worse. That said, there isn’t much difference between Stewarts and B&J corporatewise. Can you tell I don’t care for Stewart’s ice cream?

Except The Boston Beer Company isn’t owned by some global conglomerate and Ben & Jerry’s is. I know you don’t think it makes a difference, but it does. And I’m not trying to defend Stewart’s, I don’t care for it much either. However, it’s the ice cream of upstate New York and Ben & Jerry’s is the ice cream of Vermont (but really the nation).

Dave is understandably upset about my position on Garden Bistro 24’s burger:
To do ANYTHING but applaud GB 24 for making a commitment to this quality level is utterly petty. Could he have gotten meat for less, even grass fed? Probably. But I suspect he went with Herondale because it was the best he tried, and THAT is what he based his decision on. That is what a cook is supposed to do, ideally.

First, unless you asked the chef any speculation as to his motives are just that. But you raise the better question of, “What, ideally, is a cook supposed to do when creating a menu item?” First and foremost I would argue to put out something that works with the rest of the menu. Clearly it would be ridiculous for the chef to fly in bluefin tuna from Tokyo and serve slices of this delicacy that cost as much as $75 per ounce wholesale (just because it was “the best he tried”).

I am indeed glad that GB24 is putting grassfed beef on the menu. But I still think there was a way for the chef to bring the food cost down and bring it more in line with their menu. Simplifying the burger’s toppings and bun would help. Cutting it down by an ounce is a possibility too. But the pricing decision of this menu item is indeed consistent with the other changes at the restaurant. It’s just sad to see a beloved place turn away from those things that made it special.

I think Mr Sunshine was being sarcastic when he asked the following:
Burgers without pink slime lack that lovely tooth and mouth feel I’ve come to know and love. Pink slime restores umami to the burger, don’t you agree?

Personally, I prefer to call it LFTB, which is short for lean finely-textured beef. Yes, I’ve used “pink slime” in the past, and will continue to use it in the future, but it is inflammatory. Much like the word fracking sounds a lot worse than hydraulic fracturing. Actually fracturing sounds bad too, because it involves breaking things. And if you break it, you buy it. But back to the question, there will be some people who prefer the texture of LFTB, and will miss it when its gone. But I disagree on the subject of umami.

PensiveEngineer wants to know more about fish:
Do you have post on your favorite seafood? I would love to get your thoughts on seafood in the Albany area ( what little there is) and where you escape to to get fish right off the boat.

The closest thing I have is a post on sustainable and clean fish. But really I do not cook or eat as much of it as I should. There are people who like Fin the fishmonger, and others who swear by Pura Vida. Local Ocean seems to be a sustainably focused fish farm in the region too. But if you are in the Capital Region and you want fish, you should be going out for fish fry.

Jon in Albany didn’t have a question, but I wanted to address this comment:
As long as we’re picking fights-I bought a bag of those Buffalo wing flavored pretzel bites you talked about…you owe me 3 bucks.

You know, it is possible that what I found so delightful about these treats was their surprise. Someone handed me the bag, and said I should try one. I looked at it with disbelief and maybe more than a fair bit of scorn before putting one in my mouth. And then, shazam. Now I love them. Perhaps my adoration for these freakishly juicy pretzels set the bar impossibly high.

mr. dave cryptically asked:
Mr. who?

Perhaps Mr. Dave forgets himself. I don’t know. What I do know is that we haven’t forgotten him. How can we? We’re still pissed that he’s taken down his blog. Maybe you noticed how many times we will cross a river on the Tour de Hard Ice Cream. I did this just to spite him. So there.

Missprivate wants to argue the importance of semantics:
Sorry prof, I can’t side with you on this one. What’s that about mountains and molehills?
If she were marketing this product, then yes, sure, it’s false advertising. But seriously, give the food allergy mom a break. Okay, so it’s not ice cream in the purest definition, but isn’t that the way much of parenting works? The tooth fairy, for instance?
I just don’t understand the point of getting so caught up in semantics here.

You are not alone in this opinion. Words matter to me. And for me it’s not about parenting, it’s about food. It is based on a belief that those who take on the task of writing about food should provide good and accurate information to their readers. Thus my concern with The Gazette’s chicken stock story where they advise readers to salt their stock. For what it’s worth, I  completely agree that my inability to let stuff like this go is a problem. But I just can’t do it.

Kerosena states the obvious:
So you’re a nudje. This is news all of a sudden?

I KNOW! Personally, I don’t get it either. Between you and me, I think there is a much larger issue at play that involves not being able to differentiate criticism of a person’s ideas from personal attacks. Bully is a powerful, weighted word and it should not be used lightly.

corrinadarling is serious, which I find strange:
Also, I don’t get why I can’t call milk made from soy “milk”? Why do I need to add a qualifier if people drinking animal milks don’t? Milk can come from cows, goats, cats. Unless I am explaining options to people who may have a preference or allergy I don’t really see why the qualifier is any more necessary for plant milks than animal milks.

For better or for worse, in this country milk is synonymous with cows milk . So you do indeed need a qualifier for any animal milks that aren’t bovine, just like you need one for your plant milks. Don’t blame me. Blame 100+ years of societal norms.

I’m not entirely clear on where Shawn’s question is coming from, but the answer is easy:
Do you think it is reasonable to serve someone a glass of soy milk when they request milk?


The same goes for Fred’s querry:
You really strive to be a pretentious prick don’t you?

No, I don’t. If there are specific statements that you have an issue with, let’s discuss them.

Burnt My Fingers would like to try and defend stock made from scraps:
Remember Julia Child’s friend Jacques Pepin, who had his own cooking show for many years? He would just toss vegetable scraps into a baggie and put it in the freezer, then pull it out when the time came to make a stock. Nothing scientific or fussy about that and the stocks enhanced the foods he was making them for. And he would taste and correct as needed.

Remember? Heck, the first cookbook I ever bought was from one of Jacques Pepin’s PBS specials. The thing is that he is one of the best chefs in the world. I’m sure he could make scraps of anything taste delicious in a variety of preparations. You are not Jacques Pepin, nor am I, nor is anyone else. I say teach beginning cooks how to do it right, so they can be consistent and stack the deck in their favor for making delicious dishes. Then after they apprentice in Michelin-starred French restaurants for years, cook for the President of France, and get their own TV show, they can start making delicious stock from kitchen scraps.

KB @ Home-Baked Happiness rightfully sides with Mrs. Fussy:
If I was Mrs. Fussy, I’d be ready to smack you, ’cause from her point of view, why did you ask what she wanted if you weren’t going to use any of her ideas, and why does she not get to order what she wants, too?

First, there is no hitting in the Fussy household. Second, I asked because I wanted to take her ideas into consideration, and didn’t know at the time that I would ultimately reject them. Third, she could have ordered the fish stew, I just told her I would probably not eat any of it. Upon consideration of having to tackle the leftovers by herself, she recanted. And let me remind you, the pernil which was ordered as a result of these negotiations turned out to be Mrs. Fussy’s favorite dish of the night.

ginamodschooler seems to be one of the only people who cared about the mad cow story:
Isn’t is sad that we need someone to make poultry waste in cattle feed illegal?

Whoa. Slow down there. Nobody is talking about making bird shit and feathers illegal to feed to cows. We just need to find a way that the ground up cows which we feed to chickens don’t end up being fed back to cows. That’s the “illegal” part. Chicken shit is fine to feed the ruminants that produce the milk and meat served in restaurants. But feeding ground up cows to cows, well that’s where we draw the line.

It’s almost enough to make me a restaurant vegetarian/vegan again. That is, unless I can be sure of the provenance of the establishment’s meat and dairy. Not out of concerns for my safety or the animals’ well-being. But simply because it’s so unappetizing.

8 Comments leave one →
  1. May 9, 2012 10:18 am

    I would have definitely broken the ‘no hitting’ rule. When I read that post, I wanted to smack you. And then I REALLY wanted to smack you when you were right! Must be a husband thing.

  2. May 9, 2012 12:13 pm

    They have a grass-fed burger at Burger Centric on Delaware for under $10. In fact, I think it’s $7.99 if I recall correctly.

  3. PensiveEngineer permalink
    May 9, 2012 1:05 pm

    Soy doesn’t have mammary glands nor does it contain any appreciable amount of liquid that could be called milk therefore there is no such thing as “soy milk”. It is made by grinding the beans and mixing them with water. Soy bean juice would be a more appropriate name.

    • May 9, 2012 3:52 pm

      Agreed, but it’s a long accepted convention when dealing with a white liquid- Milk of Magnesia for example, or Cocoanut Milk.

  4. Shawn permalink
    May 9, 2012 4:39 pm

    My question was actually directed to corrinadarling and her claim that she should be able to just say “milk” when talking about soy milk. My browser wasn’t allowing me to reply to it directly so I placed it under your prior response.

  5. May 9, 2012 7:16 pm

    I was just being snarky and picking a food fight. We all have our snack foods that we like more than we should. If I open a bag of original flavor goldfish, don’t get your fingers near my mouth.

  6. May 9, 2012 7:16 pm

    You are right, I don’t think I have ever been to a Dairy Queen!

  7. Weenie Girl permalink
    May 11, 2012 7:31 am

    I’ve been away for a while. My quick peek today reminded me how much I enjoy reading this. I’m glad Miss Fussy’s ukelele made it through. I’m glad there’s no hitting among Fussys. I’m glad you’re on the mend.

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