Cooktimes

In discussing this post with Trish, she decided that the cookbook she owned that best suited my personality, was Michele Evans, Fearless Cooking Against the Clock: Great Gourmet Menus in Minutes (1982). The advantage of this cookbook is that it works at the menu (in contrast to dish) level. The recipes in the book are divided into 15 minute, 30 minute and 60 minute “quick and easy” preparation times. Each recipe has been timed, so that the cook can plan accordingly.

Chapter 1, The Larder, begins with: “A well-stocked larder is essential for convenient and efficient quick cooking.” After a short introduction, it is divided into eight sections, named below, along with the number of ingredients in each section in parentheses: Herb and spice shelf (34), Canned products (11), Miscellaneous baking, bottled and packaged ingredients (43 – sometimes with many separate items listed under each ingredient), Dairy products (7), Fresh foods (6), Frozen foods (7 – but with 5 separate types listed under vegetables), Wines, spirits and liqueurs [solely for cooking] (13), and Kitchen supplies (7).

Chapter 2, Cooking Equipment, is similar in arrangement. There is an introduction, followed by five sections, named below, along with the number of items found in each section: Implements and equipment (53), Pots and pans (31), Miscellaneous (5), Knives (9), and Serving essentials (20).

Chapter 3, Strategies for Quick Cooking, will have all ten of its rules quoted here. 1. Select a menu. 2. Make a shopping list of those ingredients not in supply. Keep an ongoing shopping list in the kitchen. 3. Shop for first-quality ingredients at a convenient time. 4. Set table in advance, if possible, and have serving dishes, coffee cups and saucers, etcetera ready for immediate serving. 5. Read each recipe thoroughly before starting to cook. 6. Set out all ingredients needed for each dish on the menu, unless they require refrigeration or freezing. 7. Set out all pots, pans, cooking equipment and utensils needed for preparing meal. 8. Work at a steady pace; don’t poke or race. If there are others present who can help by washing and drying lettuce or chopping vegetables, welcome their assistance. 9. Keep waste basket near the work area and clean up as you work, when possible. 10. When it is convenient, serve main courses and vegetables in same serving dish or platter.

The chapters after this are: 4) 15-minute meals, occupying 64 pages. 5) 30-minute meals, using 76 pages. 6) 1-hour meals, over 98 pages. All three of these chapters are subdivided by main ingredient, typically a meat category, such as seafood, poultry or beef. 7) Holiday meals, has 56 pages, after an initial dinner party planning section, holidays appear chronologically through the year. 8) Cocktail parties has only 16 pages. After describing the bar, it looks at the topic by season. The last chapter, 9) Children’s parties, is only eight pages long. The book ends with an index, with 31 pages of entries.

While most menus and recipes are for four people, exceptions are made for celebrations where holidays typically involve 6, 8 or 12 people. Valentine’s day provides a menu for two. Cocktail parties are huge affairs, involving 12, 25 or 50 people. Birthday parties are for 12.

Evens has also written:

  • The Salad Book (1975)
  • The Slow Crock Cookbook (1975)
  • Fearless Cooking for Men (1977)
  • Fearless Cooking for One (1980)
  • Fearless Cooking for Company (1984)
  • Fearless Cooking for Crowds (1986) [8 to 50 people]

This is the third of an unspecified number of posts about cooking instructions for people who eat to live. All of these posts (will) begin with cook, which can be used as a search term to find previously published posts.

Cooksteps

A double page from Rosemary Wadey’s Mexican Cooking Step-by-Step (1994).

My son, Alasdair, commented that he liked the style of Rosemary Wadey, in her Mexican Cooking Step-by-Step (1994). While this offers something similar to the numbering of steps in a cookstrip, the colour photographs show what is to be done, and what the final dish should look like when served.

The recipe starts with a general description, putting the recipe in context. It also explains what the dish is expected to be served with. The preparation of these items is not described in the recipe.

After this is a statement about the number of servings the recipe will produce, typically this is 4. This allows people to adapt the recipe to accommodate the number of people expected, or to give an indication of the quantity of left-overs that will be produced.

Next comes a list of ingredients, with conventional names. While I am content with metric units, this cookbook also provides quantities in American/ British units. The condition of the ingredients as they are to be used is also provided here.

This is followed by procedural steps and timings. All of these should be read in advance. In the bean soup recipe depicted, croutons, for example, can be prepared two days (48-hours) in advance. This also comes with advice as to how to store the prepared food until it is needed.

The author also acknowledges that specific products can be difficult to purchase in certain markets. A variation box provides the name of other products that can substitute for the original.

Some of the other books written by Rosemary Wadey in the same style are:

  • Continental Cuisine Step by Step Cookbook (1987)
  • Step by Step Cooking for One and Two (1996)
  • Step by Step Wok Cooking (1996)
  • Step by Step Vegetarian (2001)
  • Step by Step Italian (2001)

This is the second of an unspecified number of posts (currently seven) about cooking instructions, all beginning with Cook… Yes, you can use that as a search term to find previously published posts. If you have a favourite way of interacting with cooking information, and would like to have that presented in a weblog post that, in a good week, reaches ten or more people, send your proposal in an email to: brock@mclellan.no

Cookstrips

Len & Alex Deighton’s first (relaunched) cookstrip that appeared in the Observer/ Guardian, 2017-04-23.

I imagine that if someone asked my wife, Trish, the name of the cookbook I appreciate best, she would look at that person with amazement. There is none. My name is totally dissociated with the act of cooking.

Part of the reason for this, is my childhood culinary education. It was limited to learning how to prepare a pot of tea, and serving it with milk and sugar. Through observation, I also learned to fry an egg. I would however, like to thank my maternal Grandmother, Jane Andison (nee Briggs, 1880 – 1972) for teaching me how to bake bread. Another part of this challenge is an inability to understand the details of a meal preparation timeline. I have a theoretical appreciation of it as a process with several finishing lines, commonly involving the serving of courses, as in appetizers, main course and desert with coffee or tea. A main course may involve up to several distinct dishes, using an assortment of animal, vegetable and fungal (mushroom) ingredients. Each dish has its own duration, in terms of preparation time and cooking time.

Over the past forty years, I have learned some basic skills. Main courses with three dishes, are no longer an insurmountably problem. Typically, at least for someone with my qualifications, there will be, at most, one desert. No appetizer will be offered.

This complexity means that for a given meal there will be numerous start times for the various dishes, and a limited number of locations (6 in total: 4 on the stove top, one in the oven, and one in the microwave oven) to cook them. Everything has to be planned. Some of the equipment may have to be washed up to several times, which adds yet another level/ dimension to the confusion.

Len Deighton (1929 – ) originally drew cookstrips as instructions to himself to prevent his expensive cookbooks from becoming dirty. Ray Hawkey, a graphics designer for The Observer, noticed some of these cookstrips in Deighton’s kitchen. The first cookstrip, Cooking Beef: Part 1, appeared in The Observer on 1962-03-18. They became part of its magazine-like look. An initial commitment for six strips was soon extended to 50. The last cookstrip in this series appeared on 1966-08-07.

These cookstrips were then recycled into Len Deighton’s French Cooking for Men: 50 Classic Cookstrips for Today’s Action Men. The first edition appeared in 1965, timed to coincide with the release of The Ipcress File film. In the film, a cookstrip appears on the wall behind the protagonist, Harry Palmer, played by Michael Cain, who appears to crack eggs with one hand. In reality the hands cracking the eggs belonged to Deighton.

A new, redesigned and updated edition of this book was republished 2020-02-01 in paperback. The publisher, HarperCollins, claimed that it, “will solve the mysteries of French cuisine and unlock the key to 500 memorable dishes.” This version is currently out of print.

Illustrated cookstrips from Deighton and his son Alex, have re-emerged in the Observer more than 50 years after the original series. They were relaunched 2017-04-23: New cookstrips appear at about monthly intervals.

Unfortunately, even if I had purchased Deighton’s cookbook in my youth, 1965 – 1970, I doubt if it would have transformed me. Today, I am even less fond of excessive eating, and the consumption of alcohol, which seems to be an integral part of French cooking. However, the making of cookstrips with a focus on Scandinavian cuisine does hold appeal.

Sources

There will be a post about cooking once a month in 2022.

Silicone: Introduction

Silicone kitchenware, hygienic and available in bright colours.

Silicon is a chemical element (Si), a hard dark-grey semiconducting metalloid which, as a crystal, is used to make electronic chips and solar cells. In contrast, silicones are polymers (large molecules with repeating sub-units). Here the repeats involve siloxane, which is a chain of alternating silicon and oxygen atoms, sometimes combined with carbon, hydrogen, and other elements.

Silicones exhibit many useful characteristics, including:

  • Low thermal conductivity. It insulates, rather than conducts heat.
  • Thermal stability. Heat does not break it down into new products, in a temperature range of −100 to 250 °C. It melts around 500 °C.
  • Low chemical reactivity. It doesn’t form new chemical compounds easily.
  • Low toxicity. It is not poisonous.
  • It repels water, useful for making watertight seals.
  • Does not stick to many substrates, but adheres very well to others, e.g. glass.
  • Does not support microbiological growth.
  • Resistance to oxygen, ozone, and ultraviolet (UV) light, resulting in its widespread use in the construction and automotive industries.
  • Can be formulated to be electrically insulative or conductive, it has a wide range of electrical applications.
  • High gas permeability, making silicone useful for medical applications in which increased aeration is desired. Conversely, silicone rubbers cannot be used where gas-tight seals are necessary.

Silicone can be a substitute for many plastics that have adverse health effects. If it is labelled FDA compliant, it means that the United States Food and Drug Administration has approved it as a food grade product, suitable for use in close proximity to food, beverages and pharmaceuticals, including their manufacturing, packaging and/ or storage. Other countries have their own way of expressing this. In Norwegian it is, næringsmiddelgodkjent.

Because FDA compliant silicone is non-toxic, it is a preferred material for making different forms of cookware, including bakeware and kitchen utensils. As will be shown in an upcoming weblog post, this makes the material suitable for many different DIY (do it yourself) projects.

Some silicone products are so inexpensive and widely available, that it is better to buy them than to make them. These include silicone spatulas and other utensils. These function better than their rubber equivalents. They do not melt and there will be no need to trim worn edges. They function at normal cooking and baking temperatures.

Other products are inexpensive, but could be fun to make. These include pot-holders, trivets and kitchen mats, that are made of silicone because of its heat-resistant characteristics. Silicone is, however, more heat-conductive than similar, but less dense fiber-based products. Since silicone is water repellent, as well as heat resistant to temperatures up to 260 °C , oven mitts can be made that allow one to reach into boiling water.

Some products can be made to incorporate important personal preferences. Bread (loaf), cake, muffin and pie forms/ molds/ pans/ pots as well as baking sheets can be made in a wide variety of shapes and sizes.

In general the advantages of silicone bakeware include: grease free preparation; Pans heat quickly and bake evenly; baked goods are easily removed, if they are twisted slightly their sides pull away, allowing whatever is inside to emerge. While pans are hot to touch while in the oven, they cool down quickly.

Silicone containers are freezer, refrigerator, microwave, oven and dishwasher safe. One can bake, store, freeze, and reheat in the same pan. There is no need to adjust recipes with respect to batter or temperature.

Silicone products are lightweight, easy to clean, and retain their shape. No special considerations need to be taken with respect to their storage.

Some negative considerations. Some molds and pans may need a cookie sheet underneath to provide stability. Knives and other sharp objects can damage silicone cookware. Silicone products are not suitable for open flames or stovetop burners.

Oatly & Einride: A tidbit

Oatly has devised a process to provide a vegan alternative to milk. Now it is concentrating on making that process more sustainable, but reducing CO2 emissions. Artwork: Oatly.

My personal transition from omnivore to vegan/ vegetarian is proceeding almost as slowly as my transition away from driving a diesel to an electric vehicle. One positive change, is that we purchase our eggs and milk (and some honey as well as produce) from neighbouring farms, rather than grocery stores.

I asked my personal shopper to add some Oatly products onto her shopping list. Instead, she invited me to help her shop at the local Co-operative in Straumen. Thus, I was able to purchase one litre (about a quart) of havredrikk kalsium (oatmilk calcium). Unfortunately, I was unable to find the other products I wanted to try: havregurt vanilje (oatgurt vanilla); havregurt turkisk (oatgurt Turkish) and iMat fraiche (Oat creme fraiche).

Oatly is a Swedish vegan food brand, producing dairy alternatives from oats. Based on research at Lund University. The company’s enzyme technology turns oats into a nutritional liquid food suitable for the human digestive system. The company operates in southern Sweden with its headquarters in Malmö, with a production & development centre in Landskrona. The brand is available in more than 20 Asian and European countries, Australia, Canada and USA.

Oatly claims to be a sustainable food manufacturer. Artwork: Oatly

Oatly also tries to be sustainable, by reducing its contributions to global warming. They also produce a sustainability report. It shows that almost half of Oatly’s contribution to greenhouse gasses comes from the cultivation of ingredients, a quarter from transport, 15% from packaging and 6% from production (p. 26).

Oatly is not perfect. For example, there has been some controversy about it selling oat residue to a pig farm. On the other hand, it has benefited from two publicity attacks. First, Arla, the Swedish dairy company, attempted to discourage people from buying vegan alternatives to cow’s milk (mjölk in Swedish) using a fake brand Pjölk. Oatly responded by trademarking several fictitious brands Pjölk, Brölk, Sölk and Trölk and began using them on their packaging. Second, the Swedish dairy lobby LRF Mjölk, won a lawsuit against Oatly for using the phrase “Milk, but made for humans” for £ (sic) 100 000. When Oatly published the lawsuit text, it lead to a 45% increase in Oatly’s Swedish sales. Once again, this seems to suggest that there is no such thing as bad publicity.

On 2020-05-14, Oatly and Einride announced that Oatly will use four 42-tonne vehicles starting 2020-10 to transport goods from production sites in southern Sweden, using Einride’s Freight Mobility Platform. This is estimated to lower its climate footprint (on the affected routes) by 87% compared to diesel trucks: 107.5 tonnes of carbon dioxide per year per truck, about 430 tonnes per year in total, or 2 100 tonnes throughout the five year duration of the contract.

Part of the solution involves optimizing electric trucks operations using computer-controlled logistics with Einride’s Freight Mobility Platform software. Accurate transport planning allows 24 tonnes of goods to be transported an average of 120 kilometers without charging. It involves optimizing and coordinating drivers, vehicles, routes as well as charging. On a typical shift, three drivers will drive four different trucks. This means that one truck is always charging, which places less strain on batteries, and making the operation more durable and economical.

Oakly’s 42-tonne Einride trucks will feature a DAF glider, with Emoss driveline and Einride software. Photo: Einride

This initial iteration involves a DAF glider (a vehicle without a driveline/ prime mover/ power source, fitted with a Emoss motor. Future iterations may involve a Einride Pod, previously referred to as a T-pod.

The Charm of Sandwiches

Dagwood Bumstead eating an impossibly high Dagwood sandwiches. Image: Chic Young.

In a weblog post about sandwiches, no American or Canadian can fail to mention Dagwood Bumstead and his impossibly high Dagwood sandwiches. Chic Young (1901-1973) created the comic strip Blondie 1930-09-08. It relates the adventures of flapper Blondie Boopadoop both before, but especially after, her marriage to Dagwood, and their life together with children Alexander and Cookie and dog Daisy, in Joplin, Missouri. In my childhood, this comic strip was required reading.

Here, the topic is the vegan recreation of iconic meat based sandwiches including tuna, clubhouse and BLT – bacon, lettuce, tomato. It is inspired by an article in the Guardian, about upcoming vegetarian makeover at Pret a Manger:

Some common ingredients: Cheese, at Cliff Cottage, refers specifically to just one variant – Cheddar, which was the only type of cheese its residents actually grew up with; Roasted shiitake mushrooms are used to imitate rashers of bacon; mayonnaise can be regular or vegan, depending on whether or not the consumption of eggs is a dietary consideration.

Cheese Fantasy (a Cheese Dream, but without the bacon)

Open-faced grilled cheese sandwich with roasted shiitake mushrooms.

FLT (Fungus, lettuce, tomato)

Pret a Manger refers to their equivalent as VLT, as if mushrooms were vegetables. Roasted shiitake mushrooms, with sliced tomatoes, green salad and mayonnaise. The mayonnaise can be filled with finely chopped tofu.

Funa (fake tuna)

Kabuli chickpeas aka garbanzo beans, can successfully mimic tuna. They are crushed then flavoured with chopped pickled onions, capers and seaweed mixed with vegan or regular mayonnaise, depending on whether or not the consumption of eggs is a problem. The precise formulations are left as an experimental exercise.

Gladys sandwich

This sandwich is named after Gladys Love Presley (née Smith; 1912 – 1958) who made these sandwiches for her son, Elvis (1935 – 1977). It consists of toasted bread slices with peanut butter, sliced or mashed banana. Originally it sometimes contained bacon. Where this taste is wanted, roasted shiitake mushrooms can be substituted. Honey is sometimes used as a condiment.

Hangout (is the new clubhouse)

Wikipedia tells us that vegetarian club sandwiches often include hummus, avocado or spinach, as well as substitute the real bacon with a vegetarian alternative. Mustard and sometimes honey mustard are common condiments. The sandwich is commonly served with an accompaniment of either coleslaw, or potato salad, and often garnished with a pickle. Due to high fat and carb content from the bread, bacon and dressing, club sandwiches have sometimes been criticized as unhealthy.

Waterloo Sandwich

Food writers James Beard (1903 – 1985) and Evan Jones (1915 – 1996) believed that the Denver sandwich was created by Chinese chefs who cooked for logging camps and railroad gangs in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, and was probably derived from egg foo young. The first written reference to a Denver sandwich appears 1903-04-07 in the, Semi Weekly Iowa State Reporter (Waterloo, Iowa), pg.  6, col. 1. In honour of this, the hamless equivalent of a Denver sandwich, has been renamed the Waterloo sandwich. It features shiitake mushrooms, onions and green peppers in a cheese omelette.

Conclusion

Reducing red meat consumption in sandwiches doesn’t seem to be a major problem, as long as one appreciates roasted shiitake mushrooms!

Milk

These are the ingredients that are the basis of my breakfast during six days of the week. From the left, four grain cereal – the four grains being oats, rye, wheat and barley, then there are containers with hazelnuts, walnuts, sunflower seeds (container courtesy Sun-Maid Raisins), almonds and pecans. Culture milk is available in a 1 liter carton. I usually eat an orange or half a grapefruit (alternate days) before the cereal, and sometimes a banana after it. I drink one cup of green tea with breakfast.
This is what the bowl of cereal looks like after culture milk has been added.

Welcome to yet another weblog post about Norwegian culture. All three definitions used, apply here. According to the Merriam-Webster online dictionary, culture can refer to “the customary beliefs, social forms, and material traits of a racial, religious, or social group.” It can also refer to, “the act or process of cultivating living material (such as bacteria or viruses) in prepared nutrient media.” A third definition refers to the, “acquaintance with and taste in fine arts, humanities, and broad aspects of science as distinguished from vocational and technical skills.” This will be done by introducing some norske ord = Norwegian words.

Wikipedia tells us, “Milk is a nutrient-rich, white liquid food produced by the mammary glands of mammals. It is the primary source of nutrition for infant mammals (including humans who are breastfed) before they are able to digest other types of food.”

The average Norwegian consumes about 90 liters of melk = milk annually, along with 11 kg of yogurt = yogurt, 10 kg of krem = cream products and about 20 kg of ost = cheese. There are about 10 500 dairy farms in Norway, each with an average of 25 cows. Altogether there are about 230 000 dairy cows in Norway with each cow producing an average of 7 500 kg of milk each year. In addition, there are about 35 000 goats producing about 20 million liters of goat’s milk each year.

Sweet milk must be kept cool so as not to become sour. Without cooling technology, it was impossible to transport milk long distances, whether it was from farm to customer, from farm to dairy or from dairy to shop. The market for milk production was primarily in the cities. Therefore, the production of milk to drink was initially a niche for urban farming or for farms situated on the outskirts of the cities. Farmers who were farther away from the cities produced milk that could be processed into more durable and more easily transportable milk products such as smør = butter or cheese. Refrigeration technology has become increasingly important since the mid-1900s.

Until the middle of the 20th century milk in Norway was sold by the churn or pail. The dairies transported span = churns (milk containers) out to shops. The customers brought their own milk pails to the shops where the serving clerks poured milk from the large dairy churns. The customers also had their own smaller cream pails.

In the 1930s, provisions were made that all milk sold in stores should be pasteurized. Milk bottles were used in the interwar period, first in the big cities. Around 1960, clear glass milk bottles were replaced with brown bottles that better protected the milk from light. The milk bottles were returned by the customers to the stores.

In the 1960s, the melkekartong = milk cartons came into use, and with this, disposable packaging was introduced. By 1980, all Norwegian dairies had replaced bottles with milk cartons.

Since the 1970s, the selection of dairy products in the Norwegian grocery trade has multiplied. Yogurt was introduced around 1970, including yogurt flavored with fruit and berries.

Around 1960, skummet melk = skimmed milk came on the market. Lettmelk = low fat milk was not on sale until 1984, and in the 2000s, extra low fat milk was introduced to the market. Since the 1980s, low fat milk has accounted for an increasing proportion of the drinking milk volume.

Kulturmelk = cultured milk was originally a general type designation for soured milk, but from 2005 (together with skummet kulturmelk = skim cultured milk) it became protected by the Norwegian agricultural industry’s public labeling protected food names and belongs to Tine SA. Cultured milk is referred to by many as surmelk = sour milk as opposed to søtmelk = sweet milk, ordinary whole milk.

In contrast to North America, where similar types of milk can be made through acidification, pure lactic acid bacterial cultures are used to make cultured milk and to give it a distinctive taste and consistency, in contrast to regular homogenized milk. Regular cultured milk contains 3.8% fat, while skim cultured milk contains 0.4% fat.

Cultured milk is consumed as a drink, poured on assorted types of breakfast cereals, and is used as an ingredient in baked goods.

In Norway, one finds many other soured milk products. Tettemelk = dense milk and skjør are old varieties of Nordic cultured milk. Kefir is undoubtedly even older, but its use in Norway is more recent, as is that of yogurt. Cultura and Biola, which are Tine brands, are flavored cultured milk. Kesam or kvarg = quark, is a fresh cheese made from skimmed cultured milk.

I consume cultured milk almost exclusively, despite having to read the carton in Nynorsk = New Norwegian, the second and less popular Norwegian language that originates along the West Coast of Norway: Kulturmjølk. Syrna mjølk med lange tradisjonar. Heftig og frisk smak – ikkje ulik naturen mjølka kjem frå. (Nynorsk) = Kulturmelk. Surmelk med lange tradisjoner. Sterk og frisk smak – ikke ulik naturen melken kommer fra. (Bokmål) = Cultured Milk. Sour milk with long traditions. Strong and fresh taste – not unlike the nature, milk come from.

An irritation: Tine insists on telling me that cultured milk is traditional. I disagree. It is a modern, bacteriological enhanced milk product that has some superficial similarities to historic varieties. I also object to statements about milk being a natural product. It is a product from industrialized agriculture.

More information about milk (in Norwegian) can be found at: melk.no

An aside about food security

“Food security exists when all people at all times have physical and economic access to sufficient, safe food for an adequate diet that meets their nutritional needs and preferences, and which forms the basis for an active and healthy life.” United Nations definition

The term is sometimes used indiscriminately to cover also food safety, which means that the food does not contain microorganisms, environmental toxins or additives that negatively impact health, when food items are prepared and consumed as intended.

Norway is a net exporter of sea food. It produces more than enough of everything needed domestically, and its sea food exports significantly exceed its sea food imports. Norway is self-sufficient in milk. It is largely self-sufficient when it comes to meat. However, where it fails is its considerable – and increasing – deficit with respect to plant produce. It is now able to provide considerably less than 50%.

It is this lack of sufficiency in plant materials, that is prompting me to build a community greenhouse, with other members of Friends of the Earth, Inderøy, and to experiment with hydroponic gardening.

At this point, I should probably add that I do not have anything against gene modified organisms in principal. I would have no objection to using an artificial milk that is produced through bacterial processes, in vats. It seems much more humane than keeping cows. This does not mean that I support other gene modifications, such as Monsanto/ Bayer and their use of glyphosate herbicides. However, I have studied genetic engineering and microbiology, and see both fields as important contributors to increasing stocks of nutritious foods, if done properly.

Thrive Market

Thrive Market was launched in November 2014 to address the geographical and monetary challenges that bar communities from healthy food.

I’ve known about Thrive Market since 2019-03-08 at 07:20, about ten minutes before I started writing this web-log post. It happened when I read my daily Innovation of the Day email from trendwatching.com : “A plant-based version of canned tuna made by vegan food company Good Catch became available at Whole Foods and Thrive Market grocery stores in the US this quarter. The vegan ‘tuna’ was created in response to the issues of overfishing (around 90% of the fish supply has been overexploited or entirely depleted), bad conditions in fisheries and contaminants often found in real tuna, including mercury and plastics. Good Catch’s tuna is made from legumes, seaweed, and soy, and has approximately the same nutritional content as real tuna.”

That sounded interesting, but I also realized the Whole Foods had become a subsidiary of Amazon, which is a company with far too much influence in the marketplace to be of long-term benefit to consumers. I though I would look at Thrive Market, and see if it was a more suitable supplier for someone of my sensibilities.

According to Wikipedia, Thrive Market is an American e-commerce membership-based retailer offering natural and organic food products at reduced costs. It was founded by Nick Green, Gunnar Lovelace, Kate Mulling, and Sasha Siddhartha. By 2016 they had raised $141 million across three rounds of funding following their launch in November 2014. For every paid Thrive Market membership, a free membership is donated to a family in need in the United States.

Company values are expressed in their Thrive Five. These are: 1. Organic, “We’re committed to organic farming – for the sake of your health and our planet’s. If a product can be produced organically, you’ll find that option on Thrive Market.” 2. Non-GMO, “Genetically modifying our food damages our soil, our water supply, and our health. You’ll never find food containing GMOs at Thrive Market.” 3. Sustainable, “We dig into the supply chains of every product we carry to be sure it’s been produced sustainably.” 4. Non toxic, “We’ve compiled more than 450 chemicals that meet FDA standards for safety, but not ours. Because questionable ingredients don’t belong anywhere near our homes or bodies.” 5. For you, “We all have different health goals. That’s why we’ve tagged every product according to 140 different diets, allergies, and lifestyle factors—so you can easily filter by what matters most to you.”

Organic foods are positive because: herbicides, pesticides and artificial growth hormones are prohibited; the entire production process – and not just the final product – is evaluated; food tastes better and provides better nutrition, given increased ripening times and a decrease in additives; cost savings from not using expensive chemicals; less chemicals seepage into the ground, resulting is less soil and water contamination. On the negative side, organic foods are more labour intensive; cross breeding with GMO-crops can occur.

There is a lot of discussion about genetically modified organisms. Having studied genetic engineering at the turn of the millennium, I am much more open to genetically modified organisms than much of the population in Europe. In particular, I support the production of Golden Rice, a variety of Oryza sativa produced through genetic engineering to biosynthesize beta-carotene, a precursor of vitamin A, in the edible parts of rice. It produces a fortified food for populations facing a shortage of dietary vitamin A. This deficiency is estimated to kill 670 000 children under the age of 5 and cause an additional 500 000 cases of irreversible childhood blindness, each year. Golden Rice 2, developed in 2005, produces 23 times more carotenoids than golden rice. So far, no Golden Rice or Golden Rice 2 has been produced for human consumption except in clinical trials. I am open to consuming other genetically modified organisms, that have been modified to improve nutritional characteristics.

Sustainability is a difficult subject to encompass in a single paragraph. The document that comes closest to expressing my views is the Earth Charter. Among the organizations supporting it, are the two religions that I feel closest to, The Unitarian Church and the Baha’i Faith. A copy of the charter is found in an appendix to this weblog post. Thrive Market claims to have become the country’s first e-commerce company to go zero waste, making 50 plus improvements to warehouses to reach this standard. They then open-sourced the template so that other e-commerce companies could follow it. They also claim that they use 99% post-consumer recycled packaging, and are carbon neutral with respect to shipping.

Non-toxic. This is the area where I probably agree strongest with Thrive Market. Many additives are unnecessary, and definitely not worth the health and environmental problems they cause. Here are some, Bisphenol-A (BPA), a hormone-mimicker found on tincan linings, is linked to breast and prostate cancer, reproductive and behavioral problems, obesity and diabetes. Food preservatives BHA (Butylated Hydroxyanisole) and BHT (Butylated Hydroxytoluene) have reputations for being carcinogens, disrupting hormones and impacting male fertility. Recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone (rBGH/rBST) can be a factor in breast, prostate and colon cancers. Sodium Aluminum Sulphate and Potassium Aluminum Sulphate are linked to adverse reproductive, neurological, behavioral, and developmental effects. Food preservatives Sodium Nitrite/ Nitrate, are linked to many types of cancer.

Having food information linked is always a benefit. To test this value, a product was selected to learn about the features provided. Broccoli was entered, but did not return any edible vegetables. Carrots was then entered, and the only thing resembling a vegetable were some small 1.4 ounce (40 grams) pouches of carrot sticks costing $3.49. San Marzano tomatoes was entered, and out came Thrive Market Organic Marinara Pasta Sauce. Not a bullseye, and not good enough for a meal, but close enough for a test about product information.

The sauce came in a 25 ounce net weight (708 g) glass jar, and cost $4.99. It was listed as having the following 21 characteristics: certified kosher, certified organic, recyclable, sustainably farmed, gluten free, organic, paleo, vegan, vegetarian, cholesterol free, dairy free, dye and color additive free, grain free, low fat, low sodium, no added sugar or sweeteners, Non-GMO, pesticide free, preservative free, soy free and yeast free. Ingredients were listed as: Organic Whole Peeled Tomatoes, Organic Fresh Onions, Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Organic Fresh Garlic, Sea Salt, Organic Black Pepper, Organic Fresh Basil.

Nutritional information provided: Serving Size: 1/2 cup (125g); Servings Per
Container: About 6; Amount per serving as a % of daily value: Calories 70, From fat35; Total Fat 4g or 6%; Saturated Fat 0g; Trans Fat 0g; Cholesterol 0mg 0%; Sodium 400mg or 17%; Total Carbohydrate 7g or 2%; Dietary Fiber 2g or 6%; Sugars 3g: Protein 2g; Vitamin A 8%; Vitamin C 4%; Calcium 2%; Iron 6%. Not a low calorie food.

Conclusions

Trive Market has considerably greater appeal than Amazon. However, it may not have enough appeal to encourage main-stream people to use them. Many cooks will be irritated by Thrive Market, for not providing basic ingredients, raw vegetables, for example, essential to their kitchen. A prepared sauce is not the same as a raw ingredient. It means that instead of being able to engage in one-stop shopping on the internet, one has to find alternative sources.

Appendix: The Earth Charter

Preamble

We stand at a critical moment in Earth’s history, a time when humanity must choose its future. As the world becomes increasingly interdependent and fragile, the future at once holds great peril and great promise. To move forward we must recognize that in the midst of a magnificent diversity of cultures and life forms we are one human family and one Earth community with a common destiny. We must join together to bring forth a sustainable global society founded on respect for nature, universal human rights, economic justice, and a culture of peace. Towards this end, it is imperative that we, the peoples of Earth, declare our responsibility to one another, to the greater community of life, and to future generations.

Principles

The four pillars and sixteen principles of the Earth Charter are:[

I. Respect and Care for the Community of Life

1. Respect Earth and life in all its diversity.

2. Care for the community of life with understanding, compassion and love.

3. Build democratic societies that are just, participatory, sustainable and peaceful.

4. Secure Earth’s bounty and beauty for present and future generations.

II. Ecological Integrity

5. Protect and restore the integrity of Earth’s ecological systems, with special concern for biological diversity and the natural processes that sustain life.

6. Prevent harm as the best method of environmental protection and, when knowledge is limited, apply a precautionary approach.

7. Adopt patterns of production, consumption and reproduction that safeguard Earth’s regenerative capacities, human rights and community well-being.

8. Advance the study of ecological sustainability and promote the open exchange and wide application of the knowledge acquired.

III. Social and Economic Justice

9. Eradicate poverty as an ethical, social and environmental imperative.

10. Ensure that economic activities and institutions at all levels promote human development in an equitable and sustainable manner.

11. Affirm gender equality and equity as prerequisites to sustainable development and ensure universal access to education, health care and economic opportunity.

12. Uphold the right of all, without discrimination, to a natural and social environment supportive of human dignity, bodily health and spiritual well-being, with special attention to the rights of indigenous peoples and minorities.

IV. Democracy, Nonviolence, and Peace

13. Strengthen democratic institutions at all levels, and provide transparency and accountability in governance, inclusive participation in decision-making, and access to justice.

14. Integrate into formal education and lifelong learning the knowledge, values and skills needed for a sustainable way of life.

15. Treat all living beings with respect and consideration.

16. Promote a culture of tolerance, nonviolence and peace.

For further information see: http://earthcharter.org/

The Charm of Lemon Pudding

This web-log post is a co-operative venture between Patricia Joyce McLellan née Commins, and Brock. Trish has done all of the hard work needed to publish a recipe. As purchasing agent, she has selected all of the ingredients. As cook, she has transformed the ingredients into something edible. As administrator, she has written out the recipe, and sent it onwards to Brock. Brock’s role, in addition to that of dishwasher, has been to photograph the final product, and to transform provided information into a blog post.

Of all the deserts in the world, Brock’s favourite is lemon pudding. He ate it as a child and continues to eat it as long as it is regularly made for him. This recipe serves six. However, there is a difference between hot lemon pudding, out of the oven, and cold lemon pudding served the next day or later, out of the fridge. Both have their own special charm.

This is what lemon pudding looks like, out of the oven

At this point I should be pointing out all of the dangers involved in making lemon pudding, including: be careful with sharp knives, hot ovens, oven dishes (filled with hot water) set out to cool. These dangers don’t end even when the pudding is served, especially if someone has allergies/ sensitivity to: eggs, milk, flour (gluten). General caution: Living involves innumerable dangers, and will ultimately end in death. If you are reading this you have not gotten to this point yet.

Equipment needed: oven, mixing bowl, juicer, grater, rubber spatula, measuring cup, mixer for beating egg whites, pan of hot water, trivet.

Ingredient Metric amount American amount
White sugar 2 dl 1 scant cup
White flour 0.5 dl ¼ ample cup
Melted butter or oil 2 tbsp 2 tbsp
Grated lemon rind From one lemon From one lemon
Lemon juice 5 tbsp 5 tbsp
Egg yolks 3 3
Egg whites 3 3
Milk 4 dl 1.5 cups
Oven temperature 160 degrees C 325 degrees F

Preheat oven to the correct temperature.

Measure, then combine sugar, flour, and butter/oil in a mixing bowl. 

Use a grater to remove lemon rind. Cut lemon in half and use a juice squeezer to collect lemon juice. Add lemon juice and rind to the flour/sugar mixture. 

Add combined egg yolks and milk.  Mix well. Fold in beaten egg whites.  Pour into greased baking pan or individual cups. 

Put the baking pan or individual cups in a larger pan where you add hot water.

Bake for 45 minutes. Remove from oven and place on a trivet.

Why?

Why was this post written? The main reason is to encourage others to start their own blogs, to write posts about interesting topics, and to distribute them to a limited group of family and friends. Putting the recipe into web-log form took about five minutes, it involved copying a table from an email, along with the instruction. The photograph was taken with a mobile device (aka cell phone), downloaded and added to the post. Additional time was taken researching and writing about lemon pudding.

People who are interested in the history of lemon pudding can look at: https://researchingfoodhistory.blogspot.com/2015/07/mrs-goodfellow-lemon-pudding-before.html

Fika

The Swedish Fika

The adjective Swedish is used deliberately, as potential substitutes, such as Scandinavian or Nordic, are far too generous in describing the affected geographical area, unfortunately.

Anna Brones and Johanna Kindvall, authors of Fika: The Art of the Swedish Coffee Break, comment, “Functioning as both a verb and a noun, the concept of fika is simple. It is the moment that you take a break, often with a cup of coffee, but alternatively with tea, and find a baked good to pair with it. You can do it alone, you can do it with friends. You can do it at home, in a park or at work. But the essential thing is that you do it, that you make time to take a break: that’s what fika is all about.”

Wikipedia, under the heading Coffee Culture, notes the following: “Swedes have fika (Swedish pronunciation: [²fiːka]), meaning “coffee break”, often with pastries, although coffee can be substituted with tea or even juice, lemonade or squash for children. A sandwich, fruit or a small meal may be called fika as the English concept of afternoon tea. The tradition has spread through Swedish businesses around the world. Fika is a social institution in Sweden and the practice of taking a break with a beverage and a snack is widely accepted as central to Swedish life. As a common mid-morning and mid-afternoon practice at workplaces in Sweden, fika may also function partially as an informal meeting between co-workers and management people, and it can even be considered impolite not to join everyone else for fika.”

Coffee entered the English language in 1582 via the Dutch koffie, from the Ottoman Turkish kahve, from the Arabic qahwah. It entered Swedish as kaffe, about one hundred years later.

Wikipedia also notes that the English language term coffee break dates from 1952. The Swedish term, fika is considerably older. Equally close to American English as it is to Swedish, it is probably closer to Arabic. The first reference to it, dates from 1910 – 13. Yes, sources differ. Take the English word coffee (kaw-fee) then turn the syllables around (fee-kaw) or fika. Its origins are that simple. Where, precisely, in Sweden this first happened, and why, are questions left to etymologists, and will not be addressed here, except to say that not all sources agree.

The Universal Fika

At formal meetings, almost nothing new is ever said and the importance of messages imparted, is always in doubt. Informal meetings are much more effective, when communication is the goal. Yet, things cannot be left to chance.

I have often argued that e-mails are a much better substitute for meetings. Unfortunately, on the one occasion that my employer tried this, I neglected to read the pertinent e-mail. Thus, one day I drove the 45 km to work, only to be told that we would be going on a course at a hotel 10 km in the opposite direction from our house.

The physical meeting place for a regular fika should be designed. One has to take into consideration how people group, and interact while engaging with each other over coffee. There can be various approaches. Anthropologists use ethnographic observation, and interaction designers have similar techniques. One might even want to consult with architects and engineers, as well as other people who have an understanding of materials and the environment.

Sound is a particularly fascinating factor in the design of meeting spaces. An excess of polished surfaces may cause needless reverberation, while an excess of textiles may absorb and deaden too much sound. With computer simulation, as my own specialization, I will take the opportunity to encourage the use of simulation models in designing any environment.

My experience of fikas is in work and educational settings. For me, a fika is an informal meeting, disguised as a break. During a fika, the situation confronting each and every participant can be discussed in a friendly and helpful manner. Bosses have to put away their titles, and open their ears. Even the most timid are expected to voice their opinions. In this way group consensus can be explored and developed.

While there can be clusters of people, who have cluster-wide communication, there must also be wider forms of communication that allow conversational topics to seep between clusters. It is also important that participants (to some degree) rotate their cluster membership. As in any meeting, some topics are generally avoided. On the other hand, there are usually some people who are willing to break any taboo. This results in fluid transitions, rather than sharp demarcations.

Far too much discussion of fikas revolves around food. Obesity is a major problem in Western countries. Many people suffer with gluten related conditions. Brones and Kindvall are far too concerned with baked goods, and do a disservice in encouraging their consumption. I have come across some institutions that provide free waffle batter (and iron), along with assorted sweet condiments such as syrups, honey and jams. I wonder why these institutions hate people. I will end this tirade by noting that processed foods bring with them more disease than health, and have no place in a modern workplace.

Personally, I would like to encourage the consumption of more fruit and vegetables. These can take many different forms, but I will mention both salads and soups. There are people who cannot consume various types of fruit and vegetables. For example, more than one person I know has problems after consuming raw apples and raw carrots. Yet, they are able to eat apple sauce and carrot cake without problems. The lesson here, is that if anything is to be served, there must be a variety. One size does not fit all.

Every workshop needs space and time for discussion. At Cliff Cottage’s Unit One, we are attempting to develop our own fika tradition. Unfortunately, it still occurs more often in theory than in practice. On Friday, at 12:00 tools are put down, cups are picked up, to be filled with coffee, tea, infusions or just plain water, along with a choice of fruit. For the next hour people are expected to contribute their opinions about workshop activism, or any other topic of mutual interest. The one sin to be avoided is gossip.