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Ask the Profussor – Still Summer

August 29, 2012

Despite a temperate day, and a bit of a cooling in the evenings, summer is still holding on. I will continue to ignore the leaves on the grass, so long as it means I continue to get peaches from my CSA instead of pears or apples.

It’s been a busy two weeks, and the next few weeks are jam packed with food things too. Plus school starts next week for the children. It’s a mixed blessing. I’ll have some more time for food adventures on my hands. That includes, but is not limited to, trips to Adventure in Food Trading. But it also means waking up early. Really early. And that’s something I haven’t really done all summer.

The only upside to that is that FLB posts will consistently be posted before 9 o’clock in the morning. You all have been very patient this summer as my relaxed summer has caused new posts to go up as late as 11 a.m.

Today is about a different commitment, however. Today is about answering your questions. And while many questions over the past two weeks ended up being answered in other forums, there are still a few that were left unheeded. Not ignored, just tabled. As long as a question is asked with proper punctuation in the comment threads of the FLB it will always be answered. That’s my commitment to you. And these are your answers:

trusted commenter has a good point about Subway, but I’ve got a counterpoint:
Still, as a vegetarian and aspiring vegan with little time or private transportation, it’s been a huge blessing to be able to get a fast and satisfying meal anyplace anytime. In terms of practicality, there’s no comparable alternative. So you get some chemicals and sugar? Big deal; eschewing chemicals and sugar is beyond my capacities as a USA denizen and there are other things far worse, ethically.

You know why it’s always so easy to screw around with vegans? Because their rules are really freaking strict. Now I know that you are only aspiring to that ideal, and I commend you for it. But there is something that you have to realize. Hidden in the laundry list of ingredients that make up Subway’s “bread” are several items that may or may not come from animals.

Monoglycerides are typically made from a vegan source, but they could be derived from a cow or a hog. Even things like “natural flavors” can come from animal sources. I could spend a week going through all of them.

Now Subway is courting vegans. That’s really cool. So they are probably making sure that these ingredients they are buying come from non-animal sources. But what about their suppliers? Yes, at a certain level it comes down to trust. However it’s a lot easier to trust something that is made from wholesome, kitchen cabinet ingredients, than something that looks like it was made in a laboratory.

-R has trouble blending natural peanut butter that has separated:
Speaking of ‘natural’ peanut butter, I’m curious if you or Mrs. Fussy have found a good method of homogenizing a fresh jar? While I won’t buy any other type, I do hate the wrist-breaking process of stirring the floating oil back into the peanut slurry settled at the bottom.

I’m not afraid of fat. That’s why I keep some really tasty Lion & Globe peanut oil on the kitchen counter. We also keep the jars upside down, so the oil rises to the bottom and not the top. And sometimes I’ll just pull some of the drier peanut butter from the mouth of the jar and mix it down with some peanut oil in a small bowl until it reaches the desired viscosity. But I also enjoy the quiet meditative act of stirring nut butter.

Eric Scheirer Stott has apparently been very busy at work lately:
It opened?

Trader Joe’s has been here for weeks. Not only is it great, but I’m slowly starting to see the demographics shifting. The shoppers inside are starting to more closely resemble the patrons of the Trader Joe’s I’ve experienced elsewhere.

WrigsMac turns out to be quite a competitive food lover:
Ugh. I can’t be the only one really turned off by the taste of fennel. Creo is great and all and the sandwich sounded ok until I saw fennel. Yuck. I’m afraid it might end up being a flavor that polarizes judges. We want Albany to win, right? :-)

Maybe not. But as it turned out, the ice cream really lacked a fennel flavor anyway. And everyone enjoyed the ice cream. As it turned out the salted pistachio cookie was the polarizing element. That was unexpected, which is why it’s always fun to do these things and see how they play out.

Capitol to Capital called out one of my detractors in a comment thread:
“‘Kick ass’ is juvenile,” said the guy commenting on the blog post about an ice cream sandwich contest. Profussor, I don’t understand people on the internet, can you help me?

I assume they are a lot like people off the internet. But I don’t really understand them either.

WrigsMac has a wish that shouldn’t be too hard to grant:
If NWBB’s doesn’t get enough votes, do you think that those of us who are dying to try it could arrange a little tasting event at New World? It would be tragic if that concoction never hit a menu.

I tell you what. You show me that there are a meaningful number of others like you, and I’ll see what I can do.

Luckily Eric Scheirer Stott still has time to shop for ice cream:
When the new Shop Rite opened they had a great selection of flavors from the Ice Cream Man. Now they’re down mostly to chocolate, coffee, & vanilla- and I wonder if it’s the same stock they opened with? I don’t know if SR isn’t ordering new stock, or if ICM isn’t supplying, but I’m sad now. 

That seems unlikely. I know that people go the the Ice Cream Man for their fanciful flavors, but at the same time, vanilla is the most popular flavor ever. ShopRite seems to be very open and responsive to community requests. I’m sure you could ask directly and get a satisfactory response. If you don’t, send me an email, and I’ll forward it to my contacts at the market.

Stevo confirms that people conflate Subway with health:
My company’s HR dept. as part of an effort to promote healthier living has a program where if you exercise at least 150 minutes each week they put your name in the hat for a drawing. The prize? A Subway gift card.

See! SEE! Now, I guess it depends on how you define healthy and wholesome. But for those who think that Subway isn’t trading on these buzz words, I invite you to check out the question above from Capitol to Capital.

Burnt My Fingers mistakenly thought that my silence equaled approval:
I am an infrequent Subway patron but my 15 year old loves the place, and he orders straight turkey which does not seem to have made it onto your list of shame. One thing I always notice is the delicious vinegary odor that permeates the place. Presumably that’s from food engineering too. Can you find out how they do it?

I think the question about the smell has been answered by other commenters, but I want to take a moment and address the issue of turkey. There is only one meat that I would ever eat at Subway, and that’s bacon. Because I can point to a pig and tell you where that came from, and what they serve looks like bacon. “Turkey breast” doesn’t qualify.

Ingredients: Turkey breast, turkey broth, contains 2% or less of: carrageenan, dextrose, modified food starch (derived from corn), salt, seasoned salt (salt, sodium diacetate, flavoring), sodium lactate, sodium phosphate. * Browned in soybean oil. May contain: seasonings (modified corn starch, dextrose, salt, carrageenan, sodium diacetate, flavorings), potassium lactate.

These days I’m trying to limit my intake of carrageenan. It shouldn’t be in most things. But it certainly shouldn’t be in meat. Period.

silver account, a likely spammer, sent in an unlikely and thoughtful question:
Where should the first steps towards localisation take place? Since food is something everyone, everywhere, needs every day, a shift from global food to local food would have the greatest impact of all.

I totally agree. And it doesn’t have to be a total shift either. Making small changes can have a big impact. So find some local foods and enjoy the hell out of them.

Vincent was confused about why John the Subway Guy sent the new ingredient list:
Thanks for the link .. that proves you’re still bunked?

Yes, that’s true. They are still bunked. However, they should indeed be proud for eliminating the high fructose corn syrup from their breads. And I think that’s why he wanted to share the new information. Like I just said, sometimes making small shifts can have a big impact. It’s about baby steps. The rest of the HFCS will come off in time, and eventually they will see the light and use pickles and peppers devoid of artificial coloring and added “natural” flavors. Maybe one day they’ll even bake their own fresh bread in stores.

WrigsMac had one thought when she saw my bitter lemon soda:
How does that taste with gin?

Fantastic. That’s really the reason I got them in the first place. If only I had brought some gin with me to Providence. Sadly convenience stores out there aren’t allowed to sell booze. Bummer.

Speaking of FroYo and other vestiges of the past WrigsMac busted this out:
Remember Alf?

Thanks to my old crotchety geometry teacher, I will never, ever, forget Alf. I’m scarred for life. He loved that show. Thanks, old man.

Mike W. from Yelp was curious about my Fro Yo exposure:
Have you tried the new place in Crossgates? I believe it’s called Yeh! and is pay by the ounce.

No. I have not. But there are actually two new Fro Yo places in the mall. Yeh! is just one of them. But the mall has been able to support two pretzel stores for years, so maybe all is not lost.

I take it that Jessica R. is a fan of Dante’s Fro Yo in Troy:
Do you know of any that are going out of business? Sure, it may be a fad, but with any business venture the top quality players will stay in the game the longest, and others will go under. You shouldn’t go around suggesting people shouldn’t open fro-yo shops without evidence it is a bad business decision. I just was in Dante’s in Troy yesterday, and the place was PACKED! PACKED! I’m sure they aren’t regretting opening that business. By the way, have you been to Dante’s yet?

It’s funny you ask. You might want to read this and note that it was written almost three years ago. For the record, it details top players that have shut their doors in strong but oversaturated markets. It really feels like the Capital Region is an example of history repeating itself. If that’s the case, we will see two years of strong growth before the collapse.

I have also been to Dante’s. In fact it was there that I came to this realization. But it was not driven by a particularly poor experience there. However, I’ve never in my life experienced a spoon that was more uncomfortable to eat with than the one they supply at Dante’s. And that includes the failed sporknife, the one with a serrated edge.

jenh718 found religion in a dessert:
Oh god. Semifreddo topped with a ricotta based meringue? Cream and soft cheese, two of my very favorite things. Sounds delicious.


11 Comments leave one →
  1. August 29, 2012 10:59 am

    Dude, if you have that much thought to put into a fucking spoon, you really should double-down on the job-search! It’s a spoon.

    • August 29, 2012 3:13 pm

      Hear Hear! I go there a lot, and have never experienced this mouth-cutting dangerous spoon you speak of. Maybe you just eat your yogurt differently from others. I never put the whole spoon in my mouth.

  2. August 29, 2012 12:12 pm

    The Ice Cream Man thing at ShopRite makes me think of my beloved Jeni’s Ice Cream, out of Columbus, OH, which I’m afraid has been sitting on the shelves at Fresh Market for too long.

    Even for the hefty price of $10.99 a pint, I got some of the goat cheese and red cherries and, while the taste was amazing as always, the texture was off. Having monitored the case for the past few weeks, I don’t think the pints are moving too quickly. I’m tempted to email Jeni’s and tell them about the textural issues, but don’t want to risk losing the product from Fresh Market entirely. Dilemmas, dlilemmas…

  3. August 29, 2012 12:18 pm

    I had that problem just this morning — I was confronted with, and confounded by, a jar of separated nut butter. Surely, I thought, there must be a trick to this that I’m not aware of.

  4. August 29, 2012 12:41 pm

    I don’t buy Ice Cream Man at ShopRite because it has guar gum and other additives in it. I get Adirondack Creamery, which is delicious.

  5. Jess permalink
    August 29, 2012 2:24 pm

    Natural peanut butter…
    Store it upside down.

    Pop the jar (no lid) in the microwave for a few seconds or set it in some hot water to soften it up then stir.
    Dump the contents in you kitchen aid. Give it a spin. I store it in a glass pyrex with a lid so I don’t have to be neat about getting it back in the jar.

    Regardless of mix method store it in the fridge after you get it all stirred up to keep it from separating again.

    • -R. permalink
      August 30, 2012 11:03 am

      I like the microwave suggestion. The Kitchen Aid however is too much like work – I was thinking of those mini immersion blender thingies: pop the lid, fire it up and presto; maybe I need one of those. I’m not so sure about the fridge though – doesn’t it harden up the nut butter making spreading (especially on an untoasted bread surface) well nigh impossible?

  6. addiesdad permalink
    August 29, 2012 2:53 pm

    What do you think of the new seafood place (Joe’s Crab Shack or something) opening in Latham? Their website doesn’t have a lot of regarding the origins/sustainability of their seafood, at least that I could find in a cursory check. Thought? Also, when’s the cheese room tour?

  7. August 31, 2012 9:18 am

    I don’t like ‘natural’ peanut butter. I prefer my peanut butter to have a little honey or sugar (not HFCS) and salt. Those usually don’t separate because the honey helps emulsify the PB.

  8. August 31, 2012 3:26 pm

    We use The Peanut Principle’s crunchy organic peanut butter (peanuts, salt) and it miraculously doesn’t separate! We get a huge bucket of it every few weeks and never have to stir. Find them at the Saturday Delmar FM, FarmieMarket, many other markets in the area, on facebook and on their website. Very nice people, Nick went to school w/ Joe in Clifton Park back in the day.

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