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Mr. Dave & The Fear of Death

October 30, 2012

As I was writing this piece last night I was transfixed by Twitter, watching news reports come in all throughout lower Manhattan. Seriously, I don’t want to hear one person upstate complain that this storm was a real snooze. It felt shitty when people downstate said that about Irene.

The damage to NYC is intense. The emergency power failing at hospitals combined with the dedication of first responders is both tragic and inspiring. But New Jersey has also been hard hit. And I’m sure Connecticut and Pennsylvania aren’t going to be pretty either.

I have a sinking feeling that as dawn breaks the full scope of Sandy’s impact is going to be even worse than most people imagined.

So it didn’t feel quite right to take nominations for the upcoming Tour de Mozzarella and Raspberry Sauce. Instead it seemed more appropriate to ruminate on something that kept appearing in last night’s tweet stream that reminded me of something that Mr. Dave said recently.

At around 11pm last night this message had received 467 retweets and had scored 64 favorite ratings:

RT @kenshadford: Fact that NYU hospital is dark but Goldman Sachs is well-lit is everything that’s wrong with this country

Yes, I do recognize this as the populist rhetoric that it is. I have no idea why the emergency power failed at the NYU hospital. But apparently the Mayor had assurances they would be fine. Sometimes even redundant machines break.

Let’s hold that thought for just a moment. And let’s juxtapose this sentiment with what Mr. Dave tweeted last week:

@FUSSYlittleBLOG Why is everyone so afraid of dying for? This universe is built to kill you. Carrageenan is the least of your worries…

Naturally, we were talking about the carrageenan in Stewart’s ice cream. I’m a little bit embarrassed to say that I’ve come around to really really like some of the flavors. One in particular holds a soft spot in my heart.

But the funny thing is that while there are concerns about carrageenan being carcinogenic, this isn’t the main reason why I’m opposed to it in my food. No. My big problem is that it is ingredient that isn’t added to make food more delicious, but rather more profitable. It’s a thickening agent. And you don’t need it to make great ice cream. Haagen Dazs doesn’t use it. You don’t even need it to make inexpensive ice cream. Breyer’s made delicious ice cream for years without the stuff.

Carrageenan is good at increasing the profitability of your ice cream. This is the root cause of the shenanigans I oppose.

Pink slime, GMOs, hormones in milk, subtherapeutic antibiotics in animal feed, mono- and diglycerides added to cream, and more all exist to squeeze a few more pennies into the pockets of big business at the expense of food. And many of these have largely been invisible to the public.

The tweet from last night echoes a sentiment that the public good is less well served than the needs of the moneyed elites. I’m not sure if you can draw that conclusion based on the facts on the ground last night in Manhattan. But I do think there is a strong case to be made for that argument when looking at our food.

My heart goes out to everyone who has suffered losses from this storm. The cleanup and recovery are going to take time. And if you want to leave the city and move upstate, the food here is getting better. I’ll have more on that later this week.

17 Comments leave one →
  1. Jean Patiky permalink
    October 30, 2012 10:25 am

    Great blog… Good call Dan…your heart is in the right place. I am proud of you… Maybe you shoulda been a Rabbi…. Or maybe you kinda ARE one!!?

    A million hugs,

    Your Mama

    Sent from my iPhone

  2. October 30, 2012 11:01 am

    Is that really your mom? Love it. I wish MY mom would comment on my blog. She just calls me and tells me her comment(s), instead.

    It was pretty hard when folks in NYC acted so blase about Irene/Lee. Especially when much of their food/water comes from the areas hardest hit by the storms. I’d hate for Upstaters to stoop to that level or apathy towards their neighbors.

    I really loved this post. Great job! This is, I’m afraid, will always be the case. Unless people start to truly advocate for themselves and their best interests, become informed, it’s not going to change. The upper echelons of business and society will always have a bigger say because of the gold that backs them. Same holds true to food – VOTE WITH YOUR DOLLAR! Buy good food instead of chemical-laced products. Beware of greenwashing. Take an hour or so to do some reading on the subject, then use that knowledge to your advantage. In my opinion, the consumerist society has robbed us of this time to exercise our agency, and perpetuates this sad cycle. Blergh,

  3. October 30, 2012 11:10 am

    Tour de cheese stick… that’s an odd choice. The raspberry sauce thing isn’t really a regional specialty (in that it may be available in some places, but I grew up around here and had never heard of it until you brought it up on here a while back). And cheese sticks themselves are pretty much the same across the board — sometimes you get one with an odd shape or that’s a little gooier, but for the most part, fried cheese is fried cheese.

    • -R. permalink
      October 30, 2012 11:32 am

      Agreed – and what kind of ‘cheese’ exactly is in cheese sticks (or perhaps it should be ‘stix’)? I know they’re advertised as mozzarella (probably low-moisture shredded mozzarella, as is used on pizzas), but that cheese bears absolutely no resemblance to what I understand as mozzarella di bufala. Now, a cheese stick made of a nice fresh mozzarella affumicata could really be something. But for the generic models, I think we should simply banish that bastardization of mozzarella’s fine name, and use Subway’s nomenclature: melty cheese.

    • October 30, 2012 1:00 pm

      “but for the most part, fried cheese is fried cheese.”

      That’s what some people said about cider donuts, soft serve ice cream, mini hotdogs and even fish fry. But those who participated in those prior tours know that this is not the case. I have every expectation that the same will hold true for the fried cheese tour.

      • October 30, 2012 3:53 pm

        There’s a lot more variation possible in those foods than in “take cheese, make it into sticks, bread it and fry it.” … However, I might be tempted to go on this one anyway, ’cause maybe I’ll find subtle differences, and either way, it’s an excuse to eat a ton of cheese sticks, which is a win. :)

      • October 30, 2012 4:25 pm

        Will tasters have the option of getting marinara sauce instead? Those results might prove more useful to more people than testing only the (less commonly ordered) raspberry sauce.

    • October 30, 2012 2:42 pm

      Oh sweet 7 pound 8 ounce baby jeebus… You are living a lie. During the 90s (maybe earlier too, don’t know, I was too young in the 80s to have distinct cheese-memories), at Ralph’s on Central Ave., there existed a mozzarella creature of bowel shaking greatness. Sometimes fried cheese, my friend, is not just fried cheese.

      They were rectangular, hand cut, lightly battered (maybe just rolled in corn starch? or flour?), lightly fried, and served with both a thin marinara and a raspberry sauce. I probably have eaten about 2 mozzarella sticks in the past couple of years, and I have no special love for the form, but those bad boys at Ralph’s as they existed back in the day were unbelievable. They are different now and nowhere near as good.

      I think the raspberry sauce thing around here is basically area restaurants trying to ape what Ralph’s used to peddle. So it is a regional phenomena in a sense, I guess. But it is more just tribute to a glorious golden era of cheese with raspberry sauce that now exists only in the memories of bastards like me.

      I have such clear taste-memories of those frickin’ things that I may just be moved to attempt a recreation. I need a fry-daddy and some good quality low moisture mozzarella, stat!

      • November 2, 2012 10:41 am

        I miss Ralph’s. I miss sticking to the floor there and writing our names on every surface possible. Now it’s called “Red’s,” and it’s just not the same :(

    • October 30, 2012 2:51 pm

      Also, I totally forgot I did a post on the Raspberry Sauce / Mozzarella stick thing… I am getting senile.

      http://www.ridiculousfoodsociety.net/2011/07/fried-cheese-and-raspberry-sauce-could.html

      3rd gooogle search result, no less!

  4. October 30, 2012 2:09 pm

    I also enjoyed this post, not that I agree with it though. Carrageenan is derived from seaweeds and has never been clinically linked to cancer. For that matter most hydrocolloids are by products of completely natural phenomena and are not linked to cancer. As far as profits go, look at the price tag of Haggen Dazs ice cream versus the hydrocolloid versions. These companies don’t put stuff in your ice cream to kill you and make money, they do it to keep their prices low and competitive. You may be inclined to spend more of your income on good ice cream, but a lot of people don’t notice the difference; a lot of people just aren’t into food and they buy the cheaper product every time. I’ll split the difference with you here and say that I’d rather buy the super premium ice cream and eat less of it then go the other route, but I don’t expect others to follow suit.

  5. Josh K permalink
    October 30, 2012 3:50 pm

    So is it often agreed around here that Ralph’s is the originator of the form? And isn’t the Raspberry sauce called Melba? Or around here is it simply Raspberry sauce?

    With that said, I can’t say that I have had a good Mozzarella stick in awhile. I remember the ones at Across the Street Pub being quite tasty. Doubt if they were hand cut or used homemade raspberry sauce. I do know that Circus Cafe in Saratoga does a really good version with homemade Melba as did The Orchard (not sure if they still do).

    • October 30, 2012 4:21 pm

      I don’t know that Ralph’s can be absolutely determined as the originator, but I think they were the best (just my opinion).

  6. October 30, 2012 6:10 pm

    Amazing the difference a few hundred miles makes when it comes to mother nature…I would say we got pretty lucky this time around…but winter hasn’t even begun so I won’t be counting those chickens just yet. As for the power failing at NYU hospital and remaining on at Goldman-Sach’s…what a sneaky social commentary by inanimate buildings…yet So, accurate. Regardless, lets say some prayers for those beaten by Sandy’s wrath..they’ll need all the help they can get.

    I’m all for the Tour de Mozzarella and Raspberry sauce…I know just the place!!! Although I can relate to the nostalgia of days gone by…(I thought HP Mulligans did it best in the early 80’s) I Think TJ’s has it over many other local places for the last 16yrs….hand cut, hand breaded mozz….scratch made raspberry sauce….whats not to love? But I am admittedly BIASED …>;)

  7. October 30, 2012 6:12 pm

    Ralph’s is our favorite restaurant. Never tried the cheese stciks but most of their menu is so good.

  8. Chris V permalink
    October 30, 2012 9:49 pm

    I can’t let the hospital / Goldman juxtaposition go. I do believe that Goldman represents a lot of things gone wrong with our society, but what the lights being out at the hospital and not at Goldman represents is a shocking failure of the NYU hospital that put the lives of their patients at risk, plus their employees and all the 1st responders who had to help them instead of other people who also needed it. Right now everyone is rightly praising the staff that transported everyone safely, but I hope we get around to assessing blame for the mistake that could have killed a number of people.

  9. October 31, 2012 1:41 pm

    I can’t help but wonder if mozza sticks with raspberry sauce came about as a “down and dirty” cousin of baked (fried) brie with raspberry puree? Or perhaps the latter was inspired by the first. Either way, I hope I can make the tour, sounds fun.

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