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In Praise of The Egg

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My grandfather was an egg candler. What, any contemporary person is sure to ask, is an egg candler?

One who candles or tests the freshness of eggs by holding them between the eye and a lighted candle.
Many of these “highly experienced” people will never work again, not because they are lazy or incompetent, but rather because their job has disappeared. (Wordnik)

One perk of my grandfather’s employment was that his family always had the biggest, freshest eggs, some with double yolks. My grandmother used them in her famous matzo balls,634-passover_matzo_ball_soup_400 or in potato latkes. I loved going to my grandparents’ fourth-floor apartment on Lydig Avenue in the Bronx, primarily to eat matzo balls, latkes, and chopped liver—all replete with fresh eggs. Sometimes hard pale yellow yolks floated in her chicken soup—some rare permutation of unborn chicks, a delicacy I haven’t tasted since the passing of the above mentioned cook—who, by the way, lived to her mid-eighties, as did her husband, despite scarfing down eggs every day.

 

Perhaps it’s because of my family history that I’m such a big fan of the humble egg. When dietary “experts” told us to forego these precious jewels rife with bad cholesterol they did us a great disservice. I don’t know from cholesterol; unlike an egg, it’s not something I can hold, see or feel. All I know is that eggs are still relatively cheap, can be cooked in endless  manner, and are a source of protein and joy.

Once, in Maine, I went on a tour of a big egg farm. This was in the early 1970s, and those keening, mewling chickens were cramped into tiny cages under fluorescent lights; any that escaped were called “renegades” and promptly shot. The experience put me off eggs for a few months, until I began buying my eggs from a woman who kept a few chickens. After doing so for many years, I found I could actually taste the antibiotics in store-bought eggs; now I only buy organic. (Caveat: not just “cage-free” but organic.)

I eat eggs scrambled, fried, poached, and turned into elaborate crispy frittatas loaded with vegetables. My favorite additions to scrambled eggs are mushrooms, scallions and cheddar cheese. I add soy sauce and garlic to an egg while it’s frying, cooking the white crisp while keeping the yolk runny for dipping toast or potatoes. I adapted a dish presented on Top Chef that I frequently eat for lunch: a frozen waffle,  topped with a bit of real maple syrup, a poached egg and a slice of melted cheese. Fantastic!

 

I dream of a better tomorrow…where chickens can cross roads
and not have their motives questioned.–Anon

conish chicken

 

Low Carb “Cereal”

 

A pumpkin stem.

Image via Wikipedia

 

This sounds strange, but take my word for it, it is delicious, and it really does taste like cereal. If you like pumpkin, you’ll love it (I love all things pumpkin).

Hot Pumpkin “Cereal”

INGREDIENTS:
•    1/2 C ricotta cheese
•    1 egg
•    1/4 C pumpkin puree
•    Pinch salt
•    Sweetener and flavorings to taste (syrup, fruit, brown sugar, etc.)
•    2 T flax seed meal

PREPARATION:
This cooks on the stove. It goes fastest in a non-stick skillet.

1) Mix up the ricotta with a spoonful or so of water to thin it out a little.
2) Whisk one egg into the cheese.
3) Add the pumpkin and salt
4) Sweeten to taste; add cinnamon and nutmeg or whatever.
5) Stir while heating on medium heat. When it goes “grainy” stir in the flax seed meal. Cook 2 minutes. Done!

Tip: Freeze the rest of the pumpkin in an ice cube tray and then transfer to a zip-type bag. When needed, just pop out as many as you want.

Whole Foods Boycott

Whole Foods

As many people know by now, John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods, dropped a bomb into the laps of his liberal clientele by publishing an editorial on health care reform in the Wall Street Journal. They immediately started a boycott movement, which seems to be growing daily. I disagree with the assumptions on which Mackey’s ideas are based—but I’m not in favor of the boycott either.

It was naive, even stupid, for Mackey to make any kind of public political statement. I suppose it’s not unheard of for business people to express their opinions—but they do so at the risk of losing customers who disagree with them, no matter which side of the political spectrum they live on. Still, what Mackey did is different from businesses that parlay their profits into support images-4for a cause, such as Domino’s Pizza, or Curves, both of which are virulently anti-abortion and contribute heftily to anti-choice groups. (Note: See comment from Domino’s Pizza, below.) Nor does Mackey’s editorial fall into the same category as the Glenn Beck Show, currently under boycott for Beck’s offensive statements, including calling President Obama a racist. Glenn Beck is supposed to be reporting the news; instead he abuses his platform by spewing myths and outright lies to a huge audience of viewers who think they’re watching the news.

I don’t like Mackey’s editorial; I disagree with his premises. His basic bottom line assumption is that Americans—or any people—don’t have an intrinsic right to health care. He’s correct, in a way: rights aren’t intrinsic.  But we as a society can decide, and have decided, that in a civilized world, everyone deserves proper medical care, whether or not they have enough money to pay for it. That’s the basic assumption behind health care reform.

Another of Mackey’s assumptions is that people have the ability to almost entirely control their health. “We should be able to live healthy and largely disease free lives,” he says, “until we are well into our 90’s and even past 100 years of age.”

I’ll drink to that, by god: we should be able to live disease free forever! The fact that most of us don’t, however, is most frequently beyond our control. We can do all the right things to keep ourselves at optimum health–but again, Mackey is naive to believe it’s that simple. I don’t know anything about the man, but I’m willing to bet my Medicare (a government-run program) that he has never, for instance, been close to an infant with a mysterious life-threatening ailment that requires lifelong medical care. Hell, I’ll bet he doesn’t even know anyone who can’t afford to buy apples in his store!

vegetablesWithout sharing certain basic assumptions, agreement between people is almost impossible. Considering the gap between our assumptions, and our life experience, there is no way John Mackey and I could possibly see eye to eye on health care rights and reform.

But for all that, this is a free speech issue if ever I saw one: all the guy did was express his opinion. Liberal customers of Whole Foods, shocked by Mackey’s editorial, are being as naive as he was in writing it: did they really think the owner of this upscale supermarket chain was a socialist because he sells food that’s honestly organic? scallionsOr because he treats his employees somewhat decently? Everyone knows he’s anti-union—so why didn’t they boycott the store over that?

News Flash: John Mackey is a capitalist—an honest capitalist, but a capitalist none the less.

I don’t watch Glenn Beck. I wouldn’t eat a Domino’s Pizza if it was the last one on earth and I wouldn’t walk a treadmill at Curves if my life depended on it.  I will, however, go on eating organic vegetables from Whole Foods on the spinch-leavesoccasions that I can afford to buy them.

First Woman Wins…

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…the title of Top Chef! What, you thought maybe I was gonna say “Presidential primary?” Sorry ’bout that.But hey, we may not have our first female president yet, but at least we do have the first female winner of Bravo’s cheftestancy contest,Top Chef. If that seems trivial, consider that last night, when Padma Lakshmi announced Stephanie Izard as the Season Four winner, women from coast to coast shrieked, applauded, and called one another on the phone. Those who could wait until morning sent celebratory emails.

Stephanie’s four-course meal, presented to nine gastronomical bigwigs, consisted of seared quail breast, sauteed red snapper filet, roasted lamb medallions, and a ricotta pound cake. It was the lamb that killed, and though the cake went over like a lead balloon, the rest of Stephanie’s menu was lauded as exceptional. The judges were ecstatic over the lamb, which they said was full of surprises, particularly the braised pistachio nuts.

Yes, you read that correctly: braised pistachio nuts. I watched a video of LeeAnn Wong, a first season cheftestant, cooking the dish. She made it look so simple, but the recipe boggled my mind. First, I didn’t even know there was such a thing as white balsamic vinegar. Nor do I know the meaning of the words nappe as in Add in browned bones and reduce to nappe… or gastrique as in Pour spoonful of sauce on top and drizzle with blackberry gastrique… Spellcheck never heard of them either (I know that’s not saying much). Maybe I’m just a total ignoramus in the kitchen, but I’m not even sure what kind of pot is nonreactive (another spell check stumper).” Sure, I could probably figure it all out…but it just goes to show that when it comes to Top Chef I’m way out of my league.

Her menu attests to Stephanie’s worthiness for the title; she did not win just because of her gender—if anything, being female appears to be somewhat of a liability on this show, as it is in the field of upscale chefdom. I say this not only because no woman won in the previous three seasons (see my lament for last season’s runner-up), but because the majority of today’s blogs on the Top Chef site used most of their word space to lament Richard Blais’s loss. Ted Allen, whose blogs and presence on the program are generally great fun, baldly stated Richard’s loss is the big story tonight. Team Top Chef Blog, written anonymously, was titled Poor Richard. Andrea, who I believe works for the program, opened and closed her blog with tears for Blais. To my recollection nothing like this has previously occurred, no matter who won or lost, and it kind of reminds me of the media coverage of the Democratic primary race. Every time Hillary Clinton scored big, the story would somehow still be about Barack Obama. This is what sexism IS. It’s not all about harassment or rigid sex roles or non-equal pay scales, although those issues are important. Sexism begins and ends with the issue of who and what gets our attention. In our culture, men’s doings are so much more important than women’s that, even when the story isn’t about him, we make it his.

Moment of Truth

As I plowed through the blogs, getting madder and madder, I finally hit one that gave Stephanie an unqualfied congratulations. Bethenny, who also seems to work for the program, made some funny, quotable comments, like, What is amazing to me is that the chefs don’t flinch when making bacon ice cream using liquid nitrogen, but making a simple ricotta cake is daunting. And, Everyone loved Stephanie’s snapper with white and green asparagus with truffle essence. It was much the best, but there needed to be some criticism. Her leeks were a bit crunchy. The horror!

Richard does seem to be a fine chef, and he’s a prince of a fellow. He and Stephanie both have lovely personalities—so lovely that when they were on the same team they argued about who should get the prize, each one wanting to give it to the other (in the end they split it). I like Richard a lot, but as the season progressed he began to falter, and in last nights’ finale, by his own admission, he “choked.”

And then there was Lisa. Lisa was this season’s Marcel, the chef everyone loved to hate, and deservedly so. A nasty piece of work, her most recent cruel remark came last night after the three had gotten a summation of the judge’s thinking, before the final decision. Oblivious to Richard’s pain, she announced to Stephanie, You nailed the first and third courses and I nailed the other two. Richard just stared at her, as if in disbelief. I voted for this remark as most shocking of the night, but in fact it wasn’t at all shocking, considering the source. Besides having a much higher opinion of herself than she warrants, Lisa’s been bitching and throwing her colleagues under the bus since Day One. Most fans couldn’t believe she made it to the finale, considering she’d been one of the bottom three cheftestants in seven of the challenges. Had she won, I suspect fans would have rioted.

And so Season Four of Top Chef comes to a close. My biggest complaint about this program is such long stretches of time between series. We probably won’t see it again for another eight months or so. Meanwhile, you can catch up on Bravo’s reruns, or online.

Ressurrected In Chocolate

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ap_jesus_070330_sp.jpg

My Sweet Lord, a 200-pound, 6-foot-tall and anatomically correct sculpture of Jesus made entirely out of chocolate was to be exhibited this week at the Lab Gallery in Manhattan—until, in predictable fashion, a group of outraged Catholics issued death threats, causing the gallery to cancel. Artist Cosimo Cavallaro, who created the statue, says he didn’t intend his candy Christ to be offensive. “Had I wanted to make it offensive, I would have done something completely different,” he noted. Out of fear that religious fanatics might destroy the sculpture, it is now being stored in a secret location.

“This would rank as one of the worst, most vile, obscene and blasphemous assaults on Christian sensibilities that I have ever seen,” said Bill Donahue, president of the Catholic League.

Vile? Obscene? Why, I fell in love with the picture of Chocolate Jesus. What, exactly, is so upsetting to these people? Were it Moses or Mohammed it’d make sense—both Judaism and Islam strictly forbid iconography—but Catholocism almost fetishises it. You can’t walk half a block through some parts of Italy without running into a marble pieta or a painted pope. If religious icons crafted from more conventional material are all right, what’s so bad about chocolate?

I know it’s not the edibility of the statue—after all, these are the same people who scarf down wafers and wine every Sunday, pretending to ingest the blood and body of Christ. I guess it’s the combination of edibility and nakedness–JC’s chocolate penis isn’t covered, not even by a loincloth. If the fantasies this stirs in me also occur to religious devotees, then no wonder they’re so upset. I mean, if they’re thinking what I’m thinking when faced with male genitalia so lovingly crafted with sweet, dark, milky, delicous….excuse me, I’m getting a bit carried away over here. A devout Catholic could get seriously fucked up by such thoughts.

What the protesters don’t realize, though, is that chocolate Jesuses are nothing new—they’ve hovered in the collective consciousness for quite a while. A brief search on Google unearths a motherlode of chocolate Jesuses, as well as crucifixes, Mary’s and other Catholic iconocgaphy. Chocolate Fantasies, for instance, sells religious chocolates right beside their adult line of penis lollipops, vagina truffles and big round chocolate boobies.

cherry_small1.jpgnormasnockers_smalljpg.jpgAnd if chocolate Jesuses were something new, how to explain Tom Waits‘s song by the same name?

Well its got to be a chocolate jesus
Make me feel good inside
Got to be a chocolate jesus
Keep me satisfied

Chocolate Jesus is not Cavallaro’s first foray into edible sculpture—past works include a hotel room painted in melted mozzarella, a Wyoming home sprayed with five tons of pepper jack cheese and a bed decorated with processed ham. None of these, of course, are as tempting as Chocolate Jesus. I wonder who, if anyone, will get to eat him?

Happy Easter.