August 7, 2014 | by Dan Piepenbring
As a child in suburban Connecticut, I had always considered the purl of the Good Humor truck to be more closely akin to a cricket’s chirp or the sound of summer rain: a seasonal gift, wreathed in sweet associations … [but] it is a grave error to assume that ice cream consumption requires hot weather. If that were the case, wouldn’t Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield have established their first ice cream parlor in Tallahassee instead of Burlington, Vermont, which averages 161 annual days of frost? … Wouldn’t John Goddard, an outdoorsman of my acquaintance, have arranged for a thermos of hot chicken soup instead of a half gallon of French vanilla ice cream with raspberry topping to be airdropped to him on the summit of Mount Rainier? And wouldn’t the Nobel Prize banquet, held every year in Stockholm on the tenth of December, conclude with crepes Suzette instead of glace Nobel? As the lights dim, a procession of uniformed servitors marches down the grand staircase, each bearing on a silver salver a large cake surrounded by spun sugar. Projecting from the cake is a dome of ice cream. Projecting from the dome is an obelisk of ice cream. Projecting from the obelisk is a flame. When the laureates—who have already consumed the likes of homard en gelée à la crème de choux fleur et au caviar Kalix and ballotine de pintade avex sa garniture de pommes de terre de Laponie with no special fanfare—see what is heading their way, they invariably burst into applause.
—Anne Fadiman, born today in 1953, from her essay “Ice Cream”
August 1, 2014 | by James McWilliams
Whither the breadfruit?
There’s such a thing as the Breadfruit Institute, and there should be. Researchers consider the species a “NUS”—“neglected and underutilized species.” But Ian Cole, the Breadfruit Institute’s collection manager, thinks that’s insane. He told me, “If you had a breadfruit tree in your yard, you would have food all year round!”
I don’t have a breadfruit tree in my yard, though, and neither do you, if you live in the lower forty-eight. Cole wants that to change. He wants the world to eat breadfruit.
He may well get his wish. Breadfruit, a starchy fruit that looks like a green pimpled softball, is enjoying a bout of sudden popularity. It’s gluten free, dense with protein, and rich in vitamin B and fiber. It has the mild, earthy flavor of a tuber. And it looks pretty neat: what appears to be a singular globe of fruit is in fact thousands of tiny fruits fused together like a mosaic. The media is in thrall. The Daily Mail calls breadfruit “a wonder food”; the Huffington Post calls it “a wonder food”; and the New Scientist calls it “a wonder food.” The New Zealand Herald asked in a recent news headline, “Is this the new wonder food?” Yes. Yes, it is. Read More »
February 26, 2014 | by Sadie Stein
“I didn’t even know you could still get that!” exclaimed a rather fabulous looking tiny woman in a turban and plaid coat. I had ordered a date-nut bread sandwich with cream cheese. We were on line at the Chock Full o’ Nuts kiosk located in my neighborhood Gristede’s.
This supermarket is notable partly for its mysterious principles of organization: spices, for instance, can be found in three different aisles in the store. When I need something that defies obvious shelving classification—liquid smoke, say, or rice noodles—I come here, just to challenge myself. (In those two cases, I failed and ended up having to ask for help. The items were in, respectively, the salad dressing and “International Foods” sections.)
Anyway, I had gone to the Chock Full o’ Nuts to get my usual: the “Chock Classic” sandwich, a bargain at $2.99, so rich and filling that it extends to at least three small meals. (For the uninitiated, the business did start as a nut stand in the twenties. A few years ago, Chock had to add the slogan “NO NUTS! 100% Coffee” to its packaging.) The sandwich was an economical standby on the menus of the restaurant chain, which used to be all over New York, and now serves as a reminder of Chock’s glory days. It was this that caught my neighbor’s eye. Read More »
February 11, 2014 | by Sadie Stein
It has been some years now since I mastered the art of dressing strawberries in tuxedos.
I was first introduced to the skill at a friend’s baby shower in Rhode Island; a young woman demonstrated how one dipped the strawberry in white chocolate, and then, after letting it dry, dipped it again, at an angle, in milk chocolate. One appended a small chocolate bow tie and perhaps, with a toothpick, shirt studs. (And, if feeling really ambitious, made a distaff counterpart, all in white chocolate.)
My first strawberry-in-a-tuxedo looked like he had just come off a week-long bender. His lapels were smudged, his bow tie askew. But by the time I had dipped my fifth—I think we were supposed to stop at two, but I couldn’t—that out-of-season berry was a veritable Brummel. (Just in case one of them needed to attend a summer dinner-dance or something, I made one in a white dinner jacket, too.) The trick is letting it dry properly between dips, and holding it aloft while it does so. Read More »
January 30, 2014 | by Sadie Stein
Even at my loneliest and most cynical, I have always liked Valentine’s Day. The commercialized romance bothers me not a whit—I like watching couples being romantic, or awkward, or goofy. But this I will say: for those of us who don’t love chocolate, the onset of February is, well, disheartening.
Nowadays, scientists like to point to the fact that eating chocolate somehow mimics the physiological characteristics of female arousal, but one doubts that science is behind the ubiquity of the heart-shaped variety box. After all, the whole connection between chocolate and courtship goes back to the nineteenth century. I’m no historian, but I’d imagine it’s more a “sweets for the sweet” bit of marketing that struck an immediate chord.
If we are going to talk about amateur modern chocolate historians, Roald Dahl cannot be ignored. As anyone familiar with his oeuvre knows, the man loved chocolate. But the full extent of his feelings cannot be understood until one has read the manifesto “Chocolate,” in his highly idiosyncratic Roald Dahl’s Cookbook. Talking of what he terms the “Chocolate Revolution” of 1930–37, Dahl declares,
The dates themselves should be taught in school to every child. Never mind about 1066 William the Conqueror, 1087 William the Second. Such things are not going to affect one’s life. But 1932 the Mars Bar and 1936 Maltesers, and 1937 the Kit Kat—these dates are milestones in history and should be seared into the mind of every child in the country. If I were a headmaster I would get rid of the history teacher and get a chocolate teacher instead and my pupils would study a subject that affected all of them.
(Not that one imagines he went in much for Valentine’s Day.) Read More »
January 27, 2014 | by Sadie Stein
My life boasts few distinctions, but I make the worst coffee you will ever drink. It’s almost as if, on the day I was born, the fairies stood over my cradle (okay, incubator) Sleeping Beauty–style, and the first good fairy declared, “She will be able to remember the lyrics to eighties cartoon themes her entire life.” And the second good fairy said, “I give you the gift of teeth that in the eighteenth century would have seemed straight but look kind of crooked now that everyone else has braces.” But then the malevolent enchantress appeared, cackled, and cursed me with the words: “She will never make a potable cup of coffee.”
You would be forgiven, if you have read about my manifold culinary failures, for thinking that I can’t handle myself in the kitchen. In fact, I am pretty competent in that regard, which makes my persistent inability all the more mysterious. And don’t talk to me about single origins, rancid grounds, Chemex, French press, vacuum, toddy, cold brew, hand-grinding: it makes no difference. The curse is stronger than any of these trifling variables.
Sleeping Beauty was always my favorite Disney movie. I saw it with my mother in big-screen re-release when I was about four, and was enchanted by handsome Prince Philip and perfect Briar Rose and gruff, mannish little Merryweather, and of course the elegant Maleficent. I was fascinated by the notion that, no matter how far you run, you cannot escape your fate. (It was, I guess, many a child’s introduction to the classic tenets of tragedy.) Read More »