Welcome to issue no. 18 of Foodstuff

March 8, 1999

In this issue:

Nationally syndicated food columnists Bonnie Tandy Leblang and Carolyn Wyman have given their highest food honor of 1998 to the organic, vegetarian food product, Amy's Kitchen Frozen Pocket Sandwiches. ``Amy's Pocket Sandwiches are sure indications that organic vegetarian foods are going mainstream,'' says Leblang. The sandwiches are made by Amy's Kitchen, a Petaluma, CA-based company that produces nearly 50 organic vegetarian meals and entrees. The pocket sandwiches feature seasoned vegetables and grains in ``unusually tasty crusts, each providing a good source of fiber in a highly modern, convenient form,'' according to Leblang. ``Taste is the reason. These are among the most flavorful sandwiches I've ever eaten, frozen or not,'' says Wyman. ``The Roasted Vegetables is so 'oniony' sweet you won't even miss the meat.''

But besides the big winner, Leblang and Wyman gave "Double Forks Down, " a designation of the worst new food products, to the following:

Nutz Sparkling Pistachio and Hazelnut Soda Pop. Pistachio soda pop ``looks like Listerine'' and neither pop tastes like the promised flavors.

Brummel & Brown Spread Made With Yogurt. ``Yogurt offers no taste or nutritional advantage in this bread spread.''

StarKist Ready-Mixed Tuna Salad & Crackers. ``Look and smell would seem more appealing to cats than people.''

SoBe Wisdom and Zen Blend Drinks. The implied claims of the names of these drinks lead the columnists to cry, ``modern-day snake oil.''

Smucker's Magic Shell Cookie Dough Crunch Topping. ``More fat than a serving of pepperoni sausage pizza.''

Sara Lee Golden Pound Cake. ``A new non-frozen, non-butter pound cake that can sit on the shelf for up to 21 days. If this is progress, we'll take the old days.''

Kellogg's Marshmallow Blasted Fruit Loops. Registered dietitian Leblang says these sugary fruit pieces should be called candy.

Leblang is a registered dietitian and certified culinary professional, Wyman is a junk food fanatic and journalist; both are book authors. This unlikely pair share methods of shopping, choosing, praising and panning foods to newspapers across the country in their weekly column, Supermarket Sampler, syndicated by Universal Press Syndicate in Kansas City, MO.

Unusual Foods

Meeter's Kraut Juice (Stokely USA): Yes, that's sauerkraut juice, which is even worse than it sounds. The taste and smell can be a bit, well, harsh, but KJ is reputed by its fans to have certain medicinal benefits (as a source of vitamin C, cure for intestinal bugs, etc.), which add up to a classic case of the cure being worse than the disease.

Guycan Corned Mutton with Juices Added (Bedessee Imports): The best thing about this Uruguayan canned good is the very pouty-looking sheep on the package label -- he seems to be saying, "Go on, eat me already." The second-best thing is the presence of both "cooked mutton" and "mutton" in the ingredients listing, which would seem to have all the mutton bases covered.

Armour Pork Brains in Milk Gravy (Dial Corp.): If you're really looking to clog up those arteries in a hurry, you'll be pleased to learn that a single serving of pork brains has 1,170 percent of our recommended daily cholesterol intake. All the more ingenious, then, that the label on this product helpfully features a recipe for brains and scrambled eggs.

Sweet Sue Canned Whole Chicken (Sweet Sue Kitchens, Inc.): From its size (think growth-impaired Cornish hen) to its overall appearance (it's stewed in a quivering mass of aspic goop), this product may change forever your idea of what constitutes a chicken. Gives new meaning to the old line about meat "falling off the bone."

Musk Life Savers (Nestle Confectionery): You may think musk is a scent, but over in Australia, they think it's a candy flavor: a candy flavor that tastes disturbingly like raw meat, to be precise. But what did you expect from a country where everyone happily consumes Vegemite?

Blind Robins Smoked Ocean Herring (recently discontinued by Bar Food Products): Possibly the world's most bizarre prepackaged tavern snack. Interestingly, the product's titular robin isn't actually blind, he's blindfolded -- the better, presumably, to avoid looking at these heavily salted herring strips, which look like giant slugs.

Kylmaenen Reindeer Pate` (Kylmaenen Oy): This Finnish canned good may not be particularly tasty, but at least it answers the age-old question of why Rudolph was so eager for that safe, steady job on Santa's sleigh team.

Tengu Clam Jerky (Tengu Co.): Nothing you've ever consumed can prepare you for the horror that is clam jerky. Still, this product does score a sort of conceptual coup: If you're the sort who's always found raw clams too slimy and gelatinous for your taste, these dried, shriveled mollusks will help you dislike clams on a whole new level.

Food Trivia

Did you know…

...that the cellophane noodles used in Asian cooking are made from powdered mung beans?

...that in the 17th and 18th centuries, Siberians paid their taxes with garlic?

...that early American colonists made gray paint by boiling blueberries in milk?

...that the color of a yak's (long-haired Asian ox) milk is pink?

...that there are approximately 178 sesame seeds on the average Big Mac hamburger bun?

...that Japan is the worlds largest exporter of frog's legs?

...that the eight vegetables in V8 Juice are tomatoes, carrots, celery, beets, parsley, lettuce, watercress, and spinach?

...according to a Yale University study, coffee and peanut butter are the two most recognizable food scents?

...that broccoli and cauliflower were developed from cabbage.

...that an oometer is used to measure eggs.

...that the spice coriander gives the frankfurter its distinctive flavor.

The Lowdown on Foil

If you've ever wondered why aluminum foil has a shiny side and a dull side, and whether there is a difference when cooking with it, here's the explanation given by representatives at Reynolds Metal Co.

"That's how it comes off the roller after being processed."
The company doesn't recommend one side over the other for cooking purposes. However, there may be a very slight variance. The dull side absorbs slightly more heat than the shiny side, because shiny metals reflect heat and light more than dull or dark materials. The difference would be slight in aluminum foil, but if you want the optimum browning, have the dull side facing out. When wrapping food for storage, have the shiny side facing out.


*What is a convection oven?

A convection oven can be run by either gas or electricity and has a fan that continuously circulates hot air around food so that it cooks more evenly and more quickly than a conventional oven. Convection ovens do not require to be preheated as they heat up much faster. They also do not require any special cookware or major adjustments in cooking techniques. They do, however, need adjustments in cooking times. Convection ovens are primarily used in restaurants and bakeries but are becoming very popular with home cooks.

*When cooking mussels, clams, and oysters, why do recipes recommend discarding any unopened ones?

If mollusks (mussels, clams, and oysters) do not open after cooking for several minutes, then they were probably dead before they hit the pan and should not be eaten. Cook only the ones that are alive. To test them, gently tap the open ones before cooking (it is safe to say that those that are closed are alive). If they don't react by closing their shells together, then they should be discarded. You should also throw away any mollusks with broken shells (they may have collected bacteria) or those that seem unusually heavy (these are generally filled with mud). Eating a dead mollusk may not may you sick, but it is still best to follow the above rules of food and safety.

Another reason that mussels, clams, and oysters may not have opened during cooking is that they could have been overcrowded in the pan. Remove them from the pan as they open, and if you are preparing a lot at once, cook them in batches.

*What are truffles and why are they so expensive?

Believe it or not, one of the most expensive foods on earth is located by pigs and dogs. Truffles grow underground near the roots of trees and are difficult to find. Pigs and dogs are specially trained for years for the job and although the pigs have better noses for the job, the dogs are less inclined to gobble up the harvest. The most desired of all varieties of truffles, is the Black Perigourdine or "black diamonds" of French cuisine.

If you store truffles alongside eggs, their scent will permeate the porous shell and flavor the eggs. Prepare yourself for the most delicious scrambled eggs you will ever taste! Another way to store truffles is to bury them in rice, stored in the refrigerator for not longer then three days. Your rice will have a flavor boost that is out of this world delicious.

Cookbook Review: TO GOOD TO BE TRUE

I have been a "member" of Chet's Monday Recipe Club long enough to know that his recipes are all huge successes. All of Chet's recipes are winners, especially because they are tested and re-tested before being posted. Also, I don't know very many cookbook authors that provide their telephone number to call with questions or comments. The recipes in his new book, TOO GOOD TO BY TRUE are humble and homey, simple to prepare and very yummy.

Recently I made Chet's recipes for Cheesecake, titled Cheesecake Magnifique a la Broussard and took that to a large gathering of friends. They all went wild and you know a recipe is good when you have people begging you to "give up" the recipe!

For more information on the book, or to sign up to be in the Monday Recipe Club, go to www.toogoodtobetrue.com/cookbook.htm.

Serves 3

3 chicken breast halves
2 cups fresh broccoli florets
2 cans (10 ounce) cream of chicken soup, undiluted
1 cup mayonnaise
2/3 cup half & half
1 1/2 cups grated cheddar cheese
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon curry powder
1 cup bread crumbs

Poach chicken. Cool and slice into strips. Cook and drain broccoli. Distribute chicken and broccoli into an oven safe dish. Blend soup, mayonnaise, half & half, cheese, lemon juice and curry powder. Evenly pour over chicken and broccoli. Distribute bread crumbs over top of casserole and bake in preheated, 350-degree oven for 40 minutes.

Adapted from TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE

© 1999, 2003 Debbie Puente
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