Category Archives: Culinary

Both food shots and the occasional own recipe in here. For foodies.

Slicing the onion – does dumbing-down language mean dumbing-down thought?


I recently came across a fine example of how keeping language “simple” means that a really deep understanding of concepts becomes impossible. Thinking depends absolutely and directly on language – people say that the purest thinking is mathematics, but all that is is words and grammar replaced by symbols. 1 means “one” or “jeden” or “uno” or whatever that is in your language – I think I can pretty much guarantee nobody reading here has abandoned their language’s word for 1, 0 etc and simply thinks about those terms in the non-linguistic way a binary circuit regards them.

So when we simplify language and remove harder constructions and any vocabulary beyond a few thousand words, what happens? The BASIC ideas may be more understandable to more people, but they are like explanations given to children.

Let’s look at the examples I found. Both are from the same source and both refer to something familiar probably to all of us, namely: why do cut onions make us cry? First the Wikipedia entry in standard English:

Eye irritation[edit]

Cut onions emit certain compounds which cause the lachrymal glands in the eyes to become irritated, releasing tears.
Chopping an onion causes damage to cells which allows enzymes called alliinases to break down amino acid sulfoxides and generate sulfenic acids. A specific sulfenic acid, 1-propenesulfenic acid, is rapidly acted on by a second enzyme, the lachrymatory factor synthase (LFS), giving syn-propanethial-S-oxide, a volatile gas known as the onion lachrymatory factor or LF.[5] This gas diffuses through the air and soon reaches the eye, where it activates sensory neurons, creating a stinging sensation. Tear glands produce tears in order to dilute and flush out the irritant.[42]

Eye irritation can be avoided by cutting onions under running water or submerged in a basin of water.[42] Leaving the root end intact also reduces irritation as the onion base has a higher concentration of sulphur compounds than the rest of the bulb.[43] Refrigerating the onions before use reduces the enzyme reaction rate and using a fan can blow the gas away from the eyes. The more often one chops onions, the less one experiences eye irritation.[44]

The amount of sulfenic acids and LF released and the irritation effect differs among Allium species. In 2008, the New Zealand Crop and Food institute created a strain of “no tears” onions by using gene-silencing biotechnology to prevent synthesis by the onions of the LFS enzyme.[45]

 

And now, the same, but from the Simple English Wikipedia set:

Why onions make eyes water[edit source]

When you cut an onion, you open some cells of the onion. Then, some chemicals react. When one chemical floats through the air and reaches your eyes, they sting. There are ways to keep the chemical away. You can:

  • Cut the onion under water
  • Keep the onion in the fridge, and cut when it is cold
  • Leave the root end on until last
  • Use a sharper knife
  • Have a fan blowing away from you on the onion
  • Wear goggles, like for swimming or skiing

 

The Simple Version keeps the practical parts, like cutting from the top, but it just can’t handle what the chemicals actually are.

The good news is of course that these “Hard words” are the most international and, paradoxically, it is often the “hard” words which give the least trouble to the polyglot, so you end up with multi-language speakers who tend to talk like this:

This gas is diffusing through air and is reaching soon eye, where it’s activate a sensory neurons, created stinking sensation.

And the equivalent in four to forty different languages.

Chicken soup – super natural medicine?


Some people swear by chicken broth as a cure-all. Certainly Jewish traditions make a lot of it, and from them also Polish cuisine makes a big deal out of rosol, as they call it. It is a useful pick-me-up while on a liquids only fast, and it is very useful to tide oneself over between meals as an alternative to tea or coffee.

For those eating chickens, the best chickens to use are older ones, like an old rooster who has served his days making hens happy and waking your neighbours up in the morning while you blithely sleep through it. He has tough meat and is unpalatable. His Chicken Kiev would be more of a Chicken Maydan, but boiled into broth he gives you more microelements than Mendeleyev himself wrote about in the song “On the road to Mendeleyev, where the flying fishes playev”.

The Mexican recipe for chicken soup is rumoured to start with the same four words as every recipe in the Mexican recipe book, accordingly to the old joke. If you don’t know what those four words are I will not ruin the tone here by mentioning them, but maybe someone will show their knowledge of the history of comedy by mentioning them in the comments section below. (Come on, I have to do something to encourage readership participation round here!)

New etiquette dilemmas.


There are etiquettical situations that affect us in these days of ubiquitous oriental cuisine which our forefathers did not even realise. They didn’t have to worry about which way to point the teapot in a Japanese restaurant, or remember not to stab the sushi with the hashi, and to put them back on the hashioki. Or that it’s OK to say the “n” word if you mean a slice of raw fish perched punningly atop a blob of rice. Or that the soy sauce is not for the unaga, which has its own sweet sauce.  O tempura, o morays!

On eating and drinking simultaneously


Flanders, Netherlands

And not a glass in sight… or is there?

It has been a few weeks not so much hectic as rather completely crzay, hence my kind and loyal readers might with reason consider themselves somewhat neglected by this blog. In order to put that right, I shall attempt a brief post on a useful topic which may be of help to many people.

Some years ago my dear friend Leslie Grufford informed me that you should not eat and drink at the same time. I was not convinced of this at the time as I knew that Mr Grufford was prone to making statements that I didn’t agree with, although with the passage of time some of them have increased their plausibility and this statement of his is no exception. Looking at the matter today I trawled the internet looking for opinions on whether you should avoid fluid intake close to mealtimes and if so why?

Of course I had an inkling myself of why this should be, and this was confirmed by those who said that the stomach contents are flushed into the lower reaches of the Alimentary Canal more quickly if you drink fluids, whereas it hangs around longer in the “pouch” as some commentators put it, if you don’t drink at the same time, which not only enables the feeling of fulltitude to happen with less food, but also better digestion of the nutrients in the food.

Which all kind of makes sense. The best reason to have liquids at hand is of course in case you find yourself choking, but hopefully that doesn’t happen very often and if anxiety to avoid choking makes you eat slower, then well, there’s a third advantage.

It is one thing to know the above though, and quite another to put it into practice. People like to have a drink with meals and there are some social kinds of eating which rather call for the drinking of fluids at the same time.

Maybe we need to change social morays and other sociable eels like the conga in order to reflect what actually is conducive to better health. Maybe we should wait for a good hour after desert before we start to drink coffee. In a lot of restaurants I’ve been at that tends to be what can happen anyway even whn you don’t want it to, so maybe that should be formalised and written into the newest editions of Debretts?

Aperitifs and wine with meals which are included in the price with certain set posh meals are a big temptation to let all that go by the board on occasion, but if that happens at least we need to get back on the programme when we are eating in normal life. It isn’t what happens on conferenced that determines if we are fat or thin, but what happens in our own kitchens and dining rooms and at our desks or canteens at work.

I will say this – an unexpected side effect I noticed when becoming vegetarian was that the desire to drink while eating automtically went down. I need to remember to drink after meals.

The recommendations people on line say that their doctors had given them is not drinkning from 15 minutes before eating a meal to 30 minutes or in some cases 60 minutes after finishing eating. Maybe 45 minutes is a good compromise. I like the 80:20 rule but I’m not sure it would apply here very well.

Vegetarian experience on European British Airways flight.


I attach the scan of my comments sent in today during the British Airways flight from Heathrow to Warsaw.

It would be self-explanatory, if one could actually read it, so I will type it out to make that a bit easier.

Every time I fly this route you seem to run out of vegetarian option sandwiches. This flight was about 4 short.

Bearing in mind that anyone can eat our food but we cannot eat carnibals’ food, doesn’t it make sense to overestimate the number of vegucated people rather than underestimate?

That would probably reduce food wastage, increasing your green credentials, as proudly boasted on every item of packaging!

The number of us is growing, so more amd more catering for vieegies should be in BA’s plans for the future, IMHO.

PS: Unless you indicate the contrary, I’ll include your reply in my blog huliganov.tv

So there we have it, I’m awaiting their response and you will be able to read that in an updated version of this post if you’re subbed to us here on Huliganov.TV.

I want to say clearly that this is no reflection on the cabin crew, who were outstanding today. Lindsay who was handing out the food actually went above the call of duty and raided the catering for the return route so as to get vegetarian sandwiches for the 4 of us who otherwise would have gone hungry. Roberto who was bursar explained also about how once people who are really vegetarians get a veggie sandwich, a lot of other people looking on would would quite like an egg sandwich even though they are quite happy to eat a ham sandwich if there’s no alternative.

The problem is that on the flights with real meals you can book a vegetarian option, but there’s no way of booking a vegetarian option beforehand on the snack-based flights that we have around Europe. So anyone who books into an economy class on a European flight will not be able to state a dietary preference – which would be all very well if all the snacks were plant-based and kosher but since they are not (I made the point also, which was well taken by Roberto, that the UK to Poland flight is sometimes going to hold parties of Jewish kids on excursions to Auschwitz or to heritage places, and they are not going to be able to take a ham sandwich either. This is not, repeat not, the fault of the people handing out the food and drinks on the flight, who could not have been better especially as it was a busy flight today, but this is just a call to the guys on the ground who design these meals. We read on all the wrappings how concerned BA is to have sustainable this and free-trade that, but still the choice of any meat, especially ham in sandwiches means that the ethics in place are still falling short of the expectations of a growing number of passengers.

Lindsay was kind enough to provide me with the information that 16 of the 123 sandwiches provided for the flight were egg and cress, the rest were the meat option. This means in fact that the estimation of the people planning the food was 13% vegetarian. This in itself, all else being equal, would in fact be a reasonable reflection of the current level of vegetarianism in most of Europe. I researched it the other day when my mother said it was for a lunatic fringe of cranks and the sources I saw put it between 10-15%.  However, the point Roberto made that in his experience as soon as the first vegetarian has refused the meat and taken egg, then a larger number of people suddenly start wanting to exercise a choice, this means that you cannot really just go on the basis of the number who are vegetarian.  It is hard for cabin staff to start challenging people’s vegetarian credentials in the flight over an egg sandwich.

And on top of that, in the UK there is getting on for 10% of the population who won’t eat pork on religious grounds even if they are not vegetarian. Diversity is a hallmark of what modern Britain stands for, and an airline flying our flag, and hoping soon to boost its fortunes no doubt with travel to the UK of people from all over the world both for the Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II and also the Olympics in London coming up very soon now this year, is duty bound to have this approach in its menu choices. Like it or not, vegetarian sandwiches are acceptable to most religions and to vegetarians also. About ten percent of vegetarians are full Vegan of course, but they are aware in any event that they are hard to cater for and if someone wants to be a no-exceptions Vegan and not an 80% Vegan like me, they will have to prepare their own in-flight food for a good while in the future, I expect. If I were uncompromising, I’d be a Vegan too, but I sometimes have to go half way in a social situation and accept egg and dairy products, but then I do expect that these options are readily available, and that’s the other party’s part of the compromise as I see it.

So what’s my recommendation to BA? And to representatives of other airlines who may have stumbled upon this? I would say that if your main sandwich is chicken or fish, you might get away with 35% vegetarian option and 65% your chicken or fish option. But if you are doing pork or shellfish, you probably need about 55% vegetarian option.

The clincher really is what I started off with in my note, that carnibals can almost always eat vegetarians’  food. They may not like it, or indeed they may have discovered that veggie food is tastier than meat based food, but there are very few who can’t eat it at all. The same is not true when the only remaining option is the meat option and as the cabin staff get down to the tail end of the plane they are coming up against people who are not happy because they will be going hungry when others are eating.

The advice given is to let the cabin staff know if you are vegetarian, so that they save one for you from the people who are taking the vegetarian option facultatively, but surely a better option is to let people choose and to have it so that when the choice finally does run out, at least the one thing left is something that we can nearly all eat?

I await the British Airways response – they’ve got my email. Unless they tell me I’m not supposed to publish it, you’ll also see it when they do respond.

Fish aren’t vegetables, are they?


This is my own work, Photo by Gila Brand. Bask...

Many changes have been made to taxonomy since I was a schoolboy and had a basic grasp of what went in what kingdom, phylum, class, order, family and genus, but when I last checked, fish STILL weren’t vegetables.

I don’t want to get unduly Aristotelian, Linnean, Cladistic or othewise dogmatic about it, but I think it stands to reason that vegetables include many things, but rather not fish.

I understand that you can debate about whether a tomato is fruit or a vegetable.  Or that a mushroom is a fungus rather than a vegetable, and also that nori is made of algae and green drinks from spirogyra so even these things are not really “vegetables” either, so one has to be a bit flexible with the definition of what is a vegetable when following a vegetarian diet. Basically, though, if something can move around at will, an individual going from place to place, it’s highly likely that it isn’t a vegetable. There are some corals which don’t get out much, and are still animals, but there aren’t really any vegetables which go walkies – not outside the novels of John Wyndham like the Triffids, anyhow.

So why, then, am I continually being offered things like tuna and herrings when I say that I am a vegetarian in Poland? Do people here genuinely believe that fish are vegetables? Do they think that tuna and herrings photosynthesise and put down roots or something? What’s up with these phoney fish vegetables people give offering me here?

Thought for November


image

Eat thankfully – your food will taste better that way.

Spanish food


Playout date: 5 October 2006
Camera: Video by my friend Krzysztof
Post Production: None
Location: Seafood restaurant in Madrid
Other people featured: Adam Ciuhak, Ivan Mier Moran and his wife
Genre: Food film
Music used: None
Languages used: English
Animals featured: None

A nice memory of a happy evening. Ivan kindly took us out to one of his favorite restaurants in Madrid. We had lovely fish dishes and finally this meat sizzling away on hot volcanic rock plates.

The Spanish know how to have fun. If something is fun, then they do it, and if it stops being fun then they stop, and do something else.

I only regret that right now I cannot recall the restaurant. I could for a good while but 5 years have elapsed and it is gone.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,629 other followers

%d bloggers like this: