Monday, June 29, 2020

Who Thought of Hamburger Helper, Etc.?

Cooking, Mama, Instant Noodle, Food My mother was not much of a cook.  Everything she made had to come out of a can or a box so my father did a lot of cooking.  She never added anything to the dishes and she loved things like Hamburger helper because she just threw a couple things in a pan and voila, dinner.

In the late 60's and early 70s, women began entering the workforce and needed fast convenient  dinners they could easily prepare when they got home from work.

Betty Crocker came up with the first dinner called Chuck Wagon Dinner which came in four flavors but required people to cook all the parts in separate pans before combining them together for the meal.  It didn't do well and was discontinued until 1971 when the price of hamburger went up and Betty Crocker introduced Hamburger Helper which took one pound of hamburger, extended it so it would feed a family of five for not too much and used only one pan.  It is said that 27% of Americans tried one of 5 flavors of Hamburger Helper in it's first year of release and it sold well.  The five flavors were Beef Noodle, Potato Stroganoff, Hash, Rice Oriental, and Chili Tomato.

A few years later, the company used television commercials to introduce the Helping Hand character. "Lefty" as it was named caused sales to jump significantly.  The product did so well, Betty Crocker launched Tuna Helper in 1972 which basically were variations of a tuna noodle casserole, 4 varieties of Fruit Helper in 1973 which combined pudding, fruit, and graham crackers, Chicken Helper in 1982 and Pork Helper in 2003.

Although three varieties of Pork Helper were introduced in 2003, it did not do well and was discontinued within a year or two.  Reviews from the time state that if the instructions on the package are followed precisely, the pork ends up overcooked.  In addition, Fruit Helper has also been discontinued and replaced with fruit crisps.  The general feeling on Fruit Helpers is that it really didn't save any time from making it from scratch and it was discontinued due to the lack of demand.

The line of Hamburger Helpers has expanded over the years so you have 24 different varieties to choose from.  Some of the newer flavors include Cheesy Enchiladas, Cheesy Hash browns, Philly Cheese Steak, Salisbury, and so many more.  For Tuna Helper, you can find 5 different flavors including Tuna Cheesy Broccoli and Tuna Tetrazzini and Chicken Helper has three flavors such as Sweet and Sour Chicken, Chicken Fried Rice, and Chicken Fettuccine Alfredo.

The concept of Hamburger Helper is so popular that you can find so many recipes for the do it yourself versions including one found on Bon Appetite.  I suspect everyone reading this will have memories of the product both good and bad.  I know my mother used it but it never made a real impression on me.  Let me know what you think, I'd love to hear.  Have a great day.

Friday, June 26, 2020

Mac and Cheese - What's it's story?

Macaroni, Mac And Cheese, Cheese, Mac  Everyone I know has their own recipe for Mac and cheese or have their own way of individualizing the packaged version.  It was one of those things, I ate a lot of in college because it was cheap and if I did things correctly, I could stretch one box for two to three meals.  I learned to cook the dish from scratch, once I got out of college and wanted to eat better.

No one is sure when Mac and cheese was invented but it is thought to have originated in Northern Europe.  The first recorded recipe for this dish dates back to the late 13th century in Italy. The recipe called for lasagna type noodles cut into 2 inch squares, cooked in water, before being tossed with a parmesan type cheese.  One of the earliest recipes for the modern Mac and cheese appeared in 1769 in the book "The Experienced French Housekeeper"  but it is Thomas Jefferson is credited with bringing it back to the United States after a stay in France.  He brought back recipes and a pasta maker and even served it at a state dinner in 1802.  This event caused the dish to be associated with America.

If you look at "The Virginia Housewife" published in 1824, you'll find a Macaroni and cheese recipe that is thought to have been created by Thomas Jefferson's cook and it calls for macaroni, cheese, and butter to be layered and then cooked in an oven. From this point on, various recipes can be found in published cookbooks.  Until 1937 when Kraft foods released the first prepackaged mixes, Mac and cheese had to be made from scratch.  In the first year Kraft foods sold over 8 million boxes for just 19 cents per box and this was at the height of the depression.It became even more popular during World War II when there was a shortage of dairy and meat products.

Since then, macaroni and cheese has become quite popular.  You'll find it stuffed inside meat balls, in grilled macaroni and cheese sandwiches, as part of pizza, fried balls, served in an ice cream cone, in a patty added to a hamburger, in bread sticks, as waffles, or as a fritter.  It can be served with bacon in a skillet and eggs added on top, as stuffing in a pepper, added to nachos, used to stuff squash, added to quesadillas, turned into bites wrapped in bacon, or turned into a cheesecake.  It has become quite popular and it is no longer just macaroni and cheese.

In addition, it is eaten all over the world but not always in the same manner as in the United States. In Brazil, they add a cream cheese spread that makes it extremely smooth and creamy while in Egypt they have two layers of macaroni and cheese with a meat filling.  The whole thing is then covered in a b├ęchamel sauce and topped with cheese.  In Finland, the dish is made with ground beef, onion, cheese, eggs, and milk, so it's more like a custard and it is often eaten with ketchup. The German version has caramelized onions with cheese as part of their Mac and cheese.  In Greek they prefer adding to the macaroni and layering it with lamb and cheese before being topped off with a b├ęchamel sauce.  Sometimes they make it without the lamb.

In Hungary, Mac and cheese is served as a savory dish with bacon, sour cream, and cottage cheese added in or with sugar, sour cream, and cottage cheese as a dessert.  Go to India and find it with tomatoes, turmeric, garlic, cilantro, and cheese while Indonesia, it has egg, milk, cheese, meat or potatoes added.  In Malta, they use a Bolognese sauce, minced pork or beef, egg and cheese but the Russians prefer lots of vegetables in theirs.  The Spanish like pork sausage, tomato sauce, and onion mixed in and topped with grated cheese.  In Sweden, they add ham, leek, and cheese while the Swiss prefer adding potatoes, caramelized onions, Gruyere cheese, with applesauce on the side.  In Norway, they grate cod into the mixture with grated cheese.

So macaroni and cheese has it owns variations across the world and in the United States. My dad always cooked up some broccoli to throw in his while I am the add all those left over bits of veggies into it.  Let me know what you think, I'd love to hear.  Have a great day.

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Hot Dogs and Hamburgers From When?

Hot Dogs, Grilled, Chicken, Picnic, Food Since it is summer, most people have taken out their grills and begun the summer long tradition of cooking hamburgers and hot dogs outdoors.  I know I tend to do it about twice a week, especially when the house gets a bit warm.  I'm not sure when they became popular like this but it is interesting that both appear to have originated in Germany, many, many, years ago.

Let's start with hamburgers because they are so popular that McDonalds alone sells something like 75 hamburgers every second.  That is quite a lot.  Although the inspiration for the dish came from Hamburg, Germany, the sandwich didn't become reality until much later.

Originally, they combined chopped beef from Hamburg cows, mixed it with garlic, onions, salt and pepper, before patting the mixture into patties to be cooked.  At this time, the hamburger was served with only the patty, no bread or condiments.  Furthermore, these patties were considered gourmet and commanded a rather high price due to the type of beef used.  As Germans moved to the United States, they brought the dish with them and it often appeared on the menu of fine dining establishments with the highest price beginning in the 19th century.

Entrepreneurs from the lower classes began selling steaks prepared in the Hamburg style which used cheaper cuts of meat.  When the industrial revolution hit, workers found it difficult to eat a Hamburg steak purchased from a food cart so some enterprising soul began serving the hamburger between two slices of bread and the first modern hamburger was born but it was known as the Hamburg sandwich. It wasn't until much later that it gained the name "Hamburger."

In America, hamburgers took off in 1921 when the first White Castle opened and offered the dish for 5 cents each.  This was about the same time that Upton Sinclair published his novel "The Jungle" which exposed problems with the meat industry.  White Castle to counter the information presented in the book, installed stainless steel counters and ground the meat on the premises so people would see how it was made.

The idea spread to diners and restaurants across the country and the number of people kept increasing until they are a common part of the American diet.  The idea of the hamburger has even spread world wide with some local variations such as the potato - pea one in India or the rice burger in Japan.  And it makes a great summer food for camping, quick dinners, or a cookout.

Then we have hot dogs which are great for grilling.  These have been around so much longer than I expected and it's history is quite interesting.  Although sausages have been around for a while, the actual hot dog has only been in the United States since about 1850.  Originally, hot dogs were known as "dachshund sausages" and were sold from carts but around 1870, Charles Feldman opened the first acknowledged hot dog stand on Coney Island.  The hot dogs were sold without a bun so in 1880, an enterprising seller included white gloves with every purchase so they'd wear gloves when they ate the dog.  When he ran out of gloves, he started wrapping them in white bread and the modern hot dog was born.

Within 13 years, the hot dog was a favorite at ball parks because they could easily be consumed without a lot of mess.  In 1916, a lowly bread slicer who worked at Feldman's restaurant, came up with a better hot dog that cost less and he and his wife struck out on their own, selling this new version.  They were so successful that Feldman's went out of business while making "Nathan's Famous Hot Dogs" a national chain.  The hot dog spread far and wide to take the nation by storm.  Hot dogs are considered so American that the president and his wife served hot dogs to the English king and queen in 1939.  Now they are found everywhere from convince stores to ball parks.

I hope you found this interesting.  Let me know what you think, I'd love to hear.  Have a great day.

Monday, June 22, 2020

Anna May Wong - Actress Extrodinaire.

Anna May Wong You read the name and probably wondered who Anna May Wong is.  You might wonder why she needs a bit more attention.  Well this beautiful lady is credited with being the first Chinese-American actress acknowledged as a star in the United States.

Anna May was born in the Chinatown part of Los Angeles, California back on January 3, 1905 and was the second of eight children.  Although she was given the name Wong Liu Tsong, her family also gave her the English name of Anna May which she used as her stage name.

Her family arrived in the United States in the 1850's when her grandfather arrived from China to open a store near the gold rush but died early when he tried to rescue a woman from a well.  Her father returned to China when his father died but he eventually returned to the states, married a woman and started a laundromat.  Although she was the third generation to live in this country, she faced a lot of racism when she attended local schools, so she ended up transferring to a Chinese school.

She like many others, discovered movies provided an escape but she sometimes took it a bit further by ditching school and headed off to various film sets.  Once there, she'd work her way to the front so she was a close to the cameras as possible.

Standing near the cameras attracted the eyes of casting directors and at the age of 14, she was cast in her first role in the movie Red Lantern.  Soon she dropped out of school to pursue her acting career full time. Within three years, she was cast in the Thief of Bagdad which is considered her break out role.  Over her lifetime she acted in over 50 films but many of them were roles in which she played a sexualized slave or servant.  This was the stereotyped role accepted by most people when they saw Asian women and expected Asian to either be sexy or a villain in some capacity.

When she returned to China, she faced resentment because of playing roles which portrayed Asian women this way.  Local newspapers branded her " the female traitor to China" but that did not stop her from raising funds for refugees during World War II.  Unfortunately, Hollywood tended to be as raciest as the rest of American society and cast white women in Asian roles.  In Anna May's autobiography, she says she had to teach one actress how to use chopsticks for her leading role as an Asian in the film.  In addition, she was hampered by laws that said she could not kiss anyone who was not Asian on screen.

Furthermore, as a minority actress, she was paid much less than the going rate for white actresses.  When she starred in Daughter of the Dragon, she had the lead role and was only paid $6,000 as compared to another actor who was paid $12,000 for 23 minutes of work in the same film.  Then when she acted in Shanghai Express, opposite Marlene Dietrich, she earned $6,000 versus Marlene's $78,000.

Anna May decided she was tired of being type cast so she moved to Europe where she stared in several films and even acted opposite of Laurence Olivier.  As a matter of fact, she learned French,  and German so she could speak all her lines in movies.  Europe loved her because there were so few Asians there and she was able to flourish.  During the 1930's, Paramount Pictures contacted her to return to the United States by guaranteeing her lead roles but she still ended up with stereotypical roles. In addition, her family moved back to China in 1934, after her mother died after being hit by a car.

At one point in 1937, she was asked to audition for the role of the only unsympathetic concubine in the Good Earth.  She wanted to audition for the lead role, they let her but they still cast a German-American actress in the lead role so she turned down the concubine role they offered her.  Due to the continued racism of the time, they refused to cast any Asians in lead roles because they felt Asians would not have enough marketing appeal. By 1947, she chose to retire, only to come out of retirement in 1951 to play a Asian gallery owner and detective making her the first Asian American to land a lead role on television. Unfortunately, it only lasted one season.

She'd hoped to land a role in The Flower Drum Song in 1961 but died that same year at the age of 55 or 56.  She died prematurely of heart failure due to being a heavy drinker and smoker much of her life, but she received her own star on the Hollywood walk of fame.  Throughout her acting career, she played Asians such as Chinese or Mongol, but also Alaskan Native, or Hispanic, depending on the needs of the movie.

As far as her personal life, off screen, it appears she never married but she had several relationships with men both single and married.  Unfortunately, she was attracted to white men and it would not have been possible for her to marry one.  It is said she became engaged to a man  but he dumped her when it threatened to tank his career.  All that is known for sure is that she never married, never had children.

I ran across Anna May Wong in something I read the other day and I wanted to know more.  I was aware that most minority actors and actresses ended up facing racism in Hollywood and struggled to land better roles.  Although, I understand she was a wonderful actress, most of the roles she could land were in B grade movies.  Let me know what you think, I'd love to hear.  Have a great day.


Friday, June 19, 2020

Jobs That No Longer Exist!

Switchboard, Plugs, Electric, Panel I was listening to a word show the other day when they discussed how some technology has been named after the job it replaced.  For instance, a computer is a machine that does calculations and other things but the original computers were people who could carry out calculations.  In another case, we have dish washers which are machines to clean dishes so people didn't have to do it any more but we have people who load the trays to take the dishes through the machines.

This tidbit lead me to wonder what jobs have disappeared in the last hundred years with the advance of technology.  Some I'm fully aware of and many I'd never head about.

One of the obvious ones is the switchboard operator.  I'm not talking about the ones who connect you at a hospital or at the office but the ones who ran the telephone exchanges long ago before the automatic switchers.  These women would help connect people to others via an actual plug because telephones did not have dials on them so there was no way to input the phone number other than tell it to a person.  They would help find messed up trunk lines, connect people to other people, make long distance calls, and many could tell you where someone one was if they were not home.  This job was phased out as the number of people increased to the point that operators were overwhelmed and telephone companies had to install automatic switchers that could be used by anyone with a dial phone.

Bowling Alley Pinsetters is another job that has disappeared due to technology.  Years ago before someone created a machine, all pins had to be reset by hand. This low paying, part time job often hired teen age boys to work in the evenings.  They would reset the pins at the end of each person's turn and at the end of the game.  In 1936, when the first mechanical pinsetter was made, boys lost their jobs because bowling alleys could use the machine to reset the pins.

Elevator operators are also gone for the most part.  For years, most elevators had a human operator who was dressed in a uniform with white gloves.  They would find out which floors people wanted to stop, use a large lever to move the elevator, and often relied on experience to stop the elevator at the correct floor.  Then sometime in the late 1950's or early 1960's elevators that someone figured out how to automate elevators thus eliminating the need for operators.

Ice cutters no longer exist because we have refrigerators that keep themselves cold.  Before this happened, people had to rely on ice being hauled in and put in a cabinet underneath the area with the food.  As the ice melted it kept the food cool.  There were people who made a living cutting ice from frozen water bodies, storing it, and delivering it year round to people on a regular basis.  This job disappeared in the 1930's when the modern refrigerator came into use.

Then there is the rat catcher who was used in Europe for many centuries since the Black Plague.  These people would hunt down rats throughout Europe to keep them from spreading disease and to restrict their populations.  Rat catchers could be bitten, exposed to disease, or hurt as they carried out their job.  This job went away as society began using professional pest control companies.

When street lights started being used, they had to rely on Lamplighters to make sure they were lit at the beginning of the evening and turned off in the morning as the sun came up.  This was before light bulbs were invented, when cities used lights powered by gas or oil.  These people lit, extinguished the lights, maintained the lights, and took care of every facet associated with them.  In Lowell, MA, lamplighters made about $2.00 per day taking care of 70 to 80 lamps every night.  In England, the job was considered to be so prestigious, it passed down from father to son.  Once the electricity and light bulbs replaced the gas or oil, lamplighters were no longer needed.

Of course there is the restrictionist, also known as a body snatcher, whose job required them to dig up the recently buried body to sell to the medical schools, doctors, and scientists.  This happened because these people were unable to obtain enough cadavers via legal means, so they had to rely on body snatchers to keep them supplied.  Body snatchers differed from grave robbers because they were only interested in the bodies while grave robbers wanted everything else like jewelry, etc.  A body snatcher could make 25 pounds for supplying one body which was about two months salary at another job.

In factories, you might find a lector who was paid for by the workers to read to them to keep them entertained.  Lectors read a variety of materials from union recruiting pamphlets, to newspapers, to books. This job helped both entertain and educated workers such as those in Cuba or Florida who worked in cigar rolling.

My favorite is the knocker upper job.  Before you let your mind head off into the American meaning, there were once people who used knocker uppers to waken them up because alarm clocks did not yet exist.  The name comes about because these people were hired to knock on a window to wake you up in the morning.  Originally, the knocker uppers would pound on the front door or ring the bells but they often woke other people in the building up, so they eventually began using long sticks or pea shooters to knock on the window.  My father talks about visiting New Zealand in the 1970's and having the clerk ask him at what time he wanted to be "Knocked Up?".  Now I understand where the term came from.

I hope you enjoyed this.  Let me know what you think, I'd love to hear, have a great day.

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Henry "Box" Brown

Magic, Conjure, Conjurer, Cylinder I was watching one of those "Someone has talent" shows on Youtube the other night when I saw this magician.  He spoke about a man from the 19th century who influenced him.  A man who began life as a slave and ended as a well known magician.

Henry Brown was born a slave on a plantation in Virginia around 1815.  He saw his family sold off and vowed to escape slavery for life as a free man but that would not happen for many years.

When he turned 15, he went to Richmond to work in a tobacco factory.  Over time, he married a slave at the next plantation and had four children but in 1848, his family was all sold off to another plantation in North Carolina.  His wife was expecting their fourth child when he had to watch his family walk away while in chains.  This act made him more determined to escape.  One year later, with the help of two of Henry's friends and for a fee a white man arranged the actual shipping, he enclosed himself in a wooden box and was shipped to Philadelphia because Pennsylvania was a state where he could be free.

The box Henry travel in, was 3 feet by 2 feet 8 inches by 2 feet and had been labeled as "dry goods".  It was lined with a course cloth, had one hole for air, and had another label saying "This side up".  Henry carried one bladder of water and a few biscuits for the whole trip. It traveled by a variety of conveyances until he arrived safely by wagon at the Anti-Slavery headquarters in Philadelphia, just before daybreak.  The 27 hour journey was quite hard but he arrived safely.

Soon, Henry was touring the area, speaking to anti-slavery groups, sharing his life and his story.  In addition,  a Boston publisher took the step of publishing his biography.  Although published back before the Civil War, it is still considered one of the best known narratives written by a slave.  In 1850, he opened a stage show on the evils of slavery but as soon as the Fugitive Slave Act passed in October of the same year, he left the United States for England and took his show with him.  He also published a British edition of his book to share his experiences.

While in England, he married again in 1859 and had a daughter even though people stated he should have tried to purchase the freedom of his first wife and children.  This criticism caused him to leave the abolition circuit and pursue other avenues of entertainment, eventually becoming a magician. In 1875, he returned to the United States, he continued entertaining audiences as a magician and mesmerizer,  and as part of the act, he popped out of the original box, he'd used to get to freedom.

According to what historians have been able to find out, he performed last in 1889 in Ontario, Canada.  Although some say he disappeared from history, one scholar is said to have found a record in Toronto stating he died on June 15, 1897 and was buried in the Necropolis Cemetery there.  I'd never heard of this man before the show but this young man said Henry "Box" Brown influenced his choice in becoming a magician.  Over a 100 years later and he has not been forgotten either for the unique way he escaped nor for being a magician.

By the way, the white man who helped Henry escaped tried to mail other slaves to freedom but was caught and sentenced to six and a half years in jail.  Let me know what you think, I'd love to hear.  Have a great day.

Monday, June 15, 2020

Yesterday Was Flag Day!

American, Flag, Usa, United States Flag day is a day that has had more celebration associated with it than now.  It is still celebrated but not with as much national ceremonies as Memorial Day or the 4th of July.

The origins of Flag Day began in June of 1775 when the colonists met to create the first flag to unite them as they fought the British for independence.  The result was the Continental colors that provided the umbrella for all to fight under.

Unfortunately, this flag with it's 13 red and white stripes and Union Jack was too close to the British flag so George Washington suggested they create a different flag.  In June 1777, the Second Continental Congress passed a resolution stating the flag would still have the 13 red and white stripes but instead of the union jack, it would have 13 stars representing the 13 colonies.

One hundred years later in 1877, the United States held a 100th anniversary celebration of the creation of the flag but it was not designed to be anything more than a one time event.  In 1885, a small town Wisconsin teacher suggested that the country should hold an annual Flag Day on June 14th across the country.  He convinced his school to celebrate the day that year.  Throughout his life, he kept crusading for Flag Day, even after he switched careers.

The idea spread across the country to the point eventually 36 states and local governments were celebrating Flag Day but it didn't become a national celebration for over 30 years.  On May 30, 1916, Woodrow Wilson used his presidential power to proclaim the Flag Day Resolution of 1777 which stated June 14 would be nationally observed but it wasn't until 1949, Congress designated June 14 as Flag Day officially.

Now for a few interesting facts about the American Flag.

1.  Although the story goes that Betsy Ross created the first flag, there is no real evidence she made it.    At the time, she purportedly made the flag in 1776, no one said anything about it.  It wasn't until her grandson relayed the story to the Historical Society of Pennsylvania which stated George Washington and two other men came to her with a sketch to see if she could make the flag.  She supposedly made a couple of suggestions to improve it before constructing the flag.

In 1873, Harper's Bazaar published the story based on affidavits from Betsy Ross's daughter, niece, and granddaughter as fact.  Unfortunately, there is no real evidence she made the first flag but there is evidence she was paid to make ships colors for the Pennsylvania State Navy Board in 1777.  There is however, some evidence that Francis Hopkinson contributed to the design of the original flag because he filed a claim with the Board of Admiralty in 1780 for payment of his idea.  His claim was denied because they said he was one of many who were consulted.

2.  Since the first flag was made in 1777, there have been 27 different versions of the United States flag.  This is due to the fact that states were added and the flags had to be remade with more stars.  There is a remnant of the 15 stripe, 15 star flag that inspired the Star Spangled Banner in the Smithsonian National Museum of American History.

3. The red, white, and blue of the flag represent valor, liberty, and purity.  In fact, the red and blue have specific colors referred to as Old Glory Blue and Old Glory Red but the white is plain old white.

4. The current version of the flag was designed by a 17 year old student in 1949.  He created his design for a school project and received a B- on it but he still sent it off to President Eisenhower when Hawaii and Alaska gained statehood. His design was chosen out of 1500 entries.

5. There are 6 flags on the moon but only 5 of them are still standing.  The one fell over due to the wind created by landing and taking off ships.

I hope you enjoyed reading this.  Let me know what you think, I'd love to hear.  Have a great day.

Friday, June 12, 2020

Gelato? Sorbet? Sherbet? What The Difference?

Ice Cream, Cone, Strawberry Ice Cream Summer has arrived and the states are eliminating or at least easing up on restrictions so one can go out and get one of those lovely cool treats we associate with summer.  One of the local places has designated Thursdays as half off on their cones so I've taken advantage of it.

Unfortunately, most of us have no idea how ice cream differs from gelato, or sorbet, or sherbet.  I know I don't.  If you read the last column, you know that ice cream has to have at least 10% butterfat according to the United States government to be labeled as "ice cream".

Ice Cream is a mixture with the butterfat that is whipped and frozen to turn it into a wonderful dessert.  The key to good ice cream is the amount of air that has been incorporated into the product but it also needs to have enough fat to make it both light and creamy.  It is also served at the lowest temperatures to keep it more solid.

On the other hand, gelato is an Italian style ice cream that starts with the same base as regular ice cream but it takes more time to make because it is churned at a much slower pace to make sure less air is incorporated so the mixture is thicker.  It often has less butterfat, only four to nine percent, more sugar, and  is served at higher temperatures so the product appears creamier and thicker as it is eaten. Furthermore, the higher temperatures means people experience a richer flavor than ice cream.

There is also soft serve which can use the same base as ice cream but made at a higher temperature with more air mixed in so the final product is softer and lighter. In addition, it only has three to six percent butterfat in the mixture but the more air in it, the richer and creamier the product tastes. Furthermore, it has been around since the 1930's but two groups claim to have been the first.  One is Clavel brand which claims the owner suffered a flat tire and sold the melting ice cream out of his truck and discovered how much people loved it.  The other states Dairy Queen, began serving the mix  created by a father and son team in one of their local stores and it was an immediate success.

Sherbet is still considered a dairy product but it only has one to two percent butterfat in the mixture but it has fruit puree as part of the base.  This limits it's choice of flavors.  In addition, it is made with milk and or egg whites so it has a lighter texture than either ice cream or gelato. This means it's flavor is not as rich as the other dairy based products due to the limited butterfat but it is served at higher temperatures which helps it's flavor seem richer.

Then there is frozen yogurt which is made with a traditional ice cream base that uses yogurt instead of cream.  The friendly bacteria produces a product with a soft feel in your mouth.  The current trend is to use Greek yogurt as the base because it is much thicker and higher in protein.

Similar to ice cream is a frozen custard which has at least 1.4 percent egg yolk solids and at least 10%  butterfat giving it a thicker consistency.  If it has less than 1.4 percent egg yolk solids, it is ice cream so the 1.4% threshold is the difference between the frozen custard and ice cream.

People often mix up sherbet and sorbet since they sort of sound the same but they are very different.  Sorbet has no dairy products in it.  It is primarily a sugar syrup flavored with fruit so it is fat free but still can contain quite a few calories due to the sugar in the base.  This choice due to a lack of dairy products is often labeled vegan.  Furthermore, it's texture is often icier than the dairy based desserts and is served at the slightly higher temperatures to make it appear richer in taste.

Last is the non-dairy ice cream group which is made out of non-dairy milks such as soy, almond, or rice.  Although technically not ice creams, they are labeled as such but can often have more fat than regular ice cream.

If you stumble across something similar to ice cream but the label contains the words "frozen dessert" read the ingredients list carefully.  These often include vegetable oils and milk proteins in the base but are just frozen rather than being churned.  I don't know if these are still around but they were in the 1960's.  I included it just in case.

I hope this helps with your understanding of these popular desserts. Let me know what you think, I'd love to hear.  Have a great day.

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Types of Cream

Cream Puffs, Delicious Have you ever looked at a recipe that called for cream and wondered which type you should buy when you got to the store? I see several different types and have no idea how they differ so I thought I'd take a look.

First off, cream is the fat found in milk after it comes from the cow.  Often times, it is separated from the milk so one has a lower level fat content in the milk and the cream can be made into butter or sold separately.

My grandmother told me they delivered milk to the houses that separated so cream floated on top.  They would try to get up early enough to get the milk in so they could enjoy the cream before anyone else got up.  Now they just blend it all in so the cream has been homogenized into the milk itself.

It is also one of those ingredients found in ice cream, on top of pies and hot chocolate, or added to tea to get such a smooth taste.  Sometimes it's poured on hot desserts such as Molten Chocolate Cakes ( I did that the other night) or as an ingredient in soup but they don't all use the same type of cream.  If you look at the fat listed on products, you might see the term butterfat used instead.  Both butterfat and milk fat are the same thing but Americans are more familiar with butterfat.

First is clotted cream which is used more by the British.  It is extremely rich with at least 55% milk fat but it is made by heating the cream in a very shallow pan for hours so the richest part of the cream rises to the top and clots.

Second is heavy cream with a milk fat content of at least 35% and is commonly labeled "heavy whipping cream".  It's what is recommended when you want to whip your own cream for pies or other goodies.  You have to be careful with this because if you whip it too much it turns into butter.

Third is whipping cream with a milk fat content ranging from 30 to 36%. This cream is used in those bottles of spray cream you use to top off pie at family gathering or top waffles at the local motel who offers a free breakfast.  This type of cream produces soft, flowy peaks while the heavy whipping cream produces the stiff, pointy peaks.

Next is a light cream or table cream,  containing between 18 and 30% milk fat.  It is labeled "Table Cream" and is used more in cooking.  You'll see it more in cream soups, sauces, and other dishes.  If it has a higher level milk fat content of around 30%, it will whip but only produce extremely soft peaks.  Light cream usually has around 20%.

Then there  is sour cream which contains at least 18% milk fat and has been fermented to make it thick and visors.  This is used on so many things from burritos to cheesecake.

Next to last, is half and half with between 10.5 and 18% milk fat and is a 50/50 mixture of whole milk and cream.  It cannot be whipped due to it's low milk fat content but it is used in drinks like coffee and tea.  It can also be substituted in cooking to reduce calories in dishes that require heavy or whipping cream as an ingredient.

Finally is ice cream which has more than 10% cream in it to give that smooth flavorful treat.  The United States requires anything labeled as ice cream to have 10% milk fat and less than 1.4% egg yolks.

I hope this has helped you learn more about cream.  Friday, we'll look at the different types of frozen desserts you see everyday.  Let me know what you think, I'd love to hear.  Have a great day.

Monday, June 8, 2020

Ginger Versus Galangal Versus Tumeric

Ginger, Fresh Ginger, Food, Organic I've used both ginger and galangal in my cooking depending on the recipe.  Unfortunately, it is harder for me to find galangal in town so I end up ordering powdered which isn't quite the same.

When I discuss ginger, I'm discussing the root, not the flower. Although they are related, the three cannot be interchanged easily.  In addition, one is used more than the other in certain types of cooking.   Ginger, galangal and tumeric are rhizomes which means they are parts of shoots sent off to start a new family underground.  They are all members of the same family

Ginger is the spice used in Indian cooking and in American pumpkin pies.  I usually keep a squeezable bottle of chopped ginger in the refrigerator because I use it so much and it lasts longer.  Furthermore, it is not easily ordered in so the squeeze bottle works better.  Many dishes such as gingerbread, or ginger beer uses chopped, preserved ginger while in Asian or Indian cooking they use it fresh.

 Ginger is known as Zingiber Officinale if you look at it's Latin name. Ginger is harvested once the plant matures and dies.   It has a brown skin that is easily taken off by scraping the root with a spoon and a yellowish interior.  Furthermore, it is easier to grate than galangal and it's flavor is mildly sweet with a hint of sweetness.

Galangal, Herb, Ginger, Family, SpiceOn the other hand, galangal is also known as Thai or Siamese ginger and is more often used in Indonesian, Malaysian, or Thai cooking.  It's skin is browner and knobbier than the ginger's with a whiter interior, and the root cannot be grated since it is too hard so it must be sliced or crushed instead. The flavor is much stronger, earthy, sharper, and has a hint of citrus. Galangal is used to flavor soups or curries but is not usually eaten. If you find galangal in the supermarket, look for a root that is firm without any soft or sunk spots.

There are actually two types of galangal, greater galangal which is often referred to only as galangal or "kha" in the Thai language and comes from Indonesia and Laos while the other is the lesser galangal, labeled lesser galangal or "krachai" in Thai comes from South China.  The lesser galangal has a more peppery flavor than the other.  Galangal is often found in the red or green curry used in Thai cooking or in dishes with coconut milk.  Since galangal is harder to get than ginger, it often is more expensive.

Tumeric, Health, Antioxidant, HerbsTumeric is also known as Indian saffron or false saffron due to it's yellow color that can stain fingers. Tumeric roots are picked about 10 months after being planted and can be found in grocery stores more often now.  Although it has a slightly bitter flavor, it is used to add a layer of flavor rather than taking the lead like cumin or fennel seed.

It is used extensively in Indian cooking, specifically in many curry mixtures, especially the British mixes.  If your curry mix is more yellow, it has turmeric in it.  Most of us have dried turmeric in our spice collections but if you are lucky enough to find it in the grocery store, you'll find the flavor to be brighter and more aromatic.  Freshly grated turmeric is good used in stews or soups or add the powdered form to rice when cooking it to make a nice yellow rice.

Three relatives we use differently in our cooking. Let me know what you think, I'd love to hear. Have a great day.

Friday, June 5, 2020

Black, White, Pink, or Green?

Pepper, Peppercorns, Spices, Sharp One thing most people have on their dining tables are salt and pepper. Usually the pepper is already ground and black.  I know people who feel pepper is too spicy and don't use it while others love it.

Generally when anyone talks about pepper, they are discussing a plant from India whose fruit is what is used and called a peppercorn.  The spicy zing associated with pepper comes from piperine which activates the same taste receptors as hot peppers do.

If you look at top selling spices, pepper is number one on the list.  Pepper has been used in cooking for over 2000 years. At one point, only the wealthy could afford pepper that was brought to Europe via spice caravans.  It was so popular in Roman times that the Romans would demand peppercorns as a ransom when they were attacking cities.  Furthermore, in the Middle Ages, a man's wealth was measured by his pile of peppercorns. Currently, the United States uses about 20 percent of the world's production.

Peppercorns are like little green peas that grow in clumps off the vine of the plant similar to grapes but is a perennial.  Once they pick the green corns off the plant, they boil them in hot water before drying them at extremely hot temperatures until dry and crunchy.  They are now the nice black or dark brown color.  This is what most people think of as pepper.

There are different varieties of pepper such as Lampong from Indonesia which is noted for it's aroma and is recommended for crusting steaks.  Then there is the Tellicherry from a specific location in India and are considered the finest in the world.  Peppercorns are also produced by Brazil, Vietnamese, Malaysia, and Ecuador.

Green peppercorns are regular peppercorns that have not been allowed to ripen.  .  They are often preserved in a brine or vinegar, but can be found dried. However the dried version does not last long. Although their taste is considered fresher, they are often used in Thai or Southeastern Asian recipes or sauces.  Brined green peppercorns are used frequently in French cooking such as in steak au poivre.

White peppercorns are actually peppercorns who have had their skins removed so they are actually the seeds of the peppercorn. For white pepper,  the peppercorn is soaked in water until the skins are soft enough to remove.They have a more earthy taste and are used in white sauces or and mashed potatoes so their use does not stand out.

Red peppercorns are fully ripened peppercorns.  They have been allowed to turn red before being picked and dried.  This variety is often skinned and used as white pepper.  Finally are pink peppercorns which are not actually a peppercorn but a berry from a South American shrub called a Brazilian pepper tree. It is more closely related to an almond than a pepper corn. If you have one in your backyard, you can easily dry them yourself. Pink peppercorns are best used as a garnish.  It is recommended that one does not crush them in a pepper grinder but use a knife or a spice grinder.

If you use pepper in your cooking, it is recommended that you keep the peppercorns around to grind when needed because the flavor can evaporate quickly from the ground pepper.  Let me know what you think, I'd love to hear.  Have a great day.

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Mayonnaise, Miracle Whip, Salad Dressing, and Aioli, What's The Difference?

Apple Cider Vinegar, Food, Harvest There seems to be a bit of confusion when dealing with mayonnaise and other such sauces.  I know that growing up, there was never any mayo in the house.  My mother might write mayo on the shopping list but everyone in the house knew she meant Miracle Whip.  It wasn't until I was in my late teens, I learned that there was a difference between Mayonnaise and Miracle Whip.

I also thought salad dressing was just Miracle Whip with relish added to it and no one in my house had ever heard of Aoli.  When I finally heard of it, I just thought it was mayo with garlic but that is not quite right.

As you know from Monday's column, mayonnaise is really just eggs and oil mixed together and flavored with lemon juice or vinegar.  The eggs help emulsify the whole mixture including the vinegar or lemon juice.  If it didn't have eggs in it, the oil and lemon juice would separate and you just have an oil and vinegar type dressing.

Miracle whip has undergone an interesting history. Apparently, in 1926 Kraft wanted to begin selling mayonnaise so rather than starting from scratch purchased four regional mayonnaise companies and marketed those under it's own name. They did well until the depression hit when people began making their own mayo rather than buying the commercial variety.  So rather than selling the product at a cheaper price, they created their own recipe so that it was better than regular mayo and could be sold at a lower price.  They figured they could go back to selling mayo once the depression ended.  It became quite popular.

Miracle whip is not a mayonnaise even according the federal government.  In order to be classified as mayonnaise, the mix must have at least 65 percent vegetable oil by weight but Miracle whip has less than that amount in the mixture.  In fact, Miracle Whip is made out of eggs, vinegar, oil, and water but the exact amount of oil is a secret.

One other difference between mayonnaise and miracle whip is that the first is uncooked and the second is cooked with water being it's primary ingredient.  Miracle whip is classified as a salad dressing.  In addition, we often refer to certain things like Thousand Island dressing as a salad dressing because it has a base of mayonnaise with additives to be used on salads.

Finally there is Aioli which is a mayonnaise type condiment that isn't really a mayonnaise.  To begin with, Aioli is from the Provence region of France.  It begins with pulverizing several cloves of garlic in a mortar and pestle.  The garlic paste is then blended in with egg yolks, olive oil, lemon juice, and mustard.  Although you can pretty much use any oil with mayonnaise, many recipes call for Canola while Aioli recipes use olive oil for it's fruity flavor.

Traditionally, Aioli is a sauce made of an emulsion of garlic and oil with a bit of salt. Because the garlic and oil do not have natural emulsion properties, it takes a bit of elbow grease to create the mixture. This is used in quite often in cuisine of both Provence, France and Catalonia, Spain.

So know you know more about the differences among, Mayonnaise, Miracle Whip, Salad Dressing and Aioli.  let me know what you think, I'd love to hear.  Have a great day.

Monday, June 1, 2020

Mayonnaise - You Either Like It Or Hate It!

Mustard, Mayonnaise, Sauce, Table  I  decided to look at mayonnaise today because it plays such an important part in our summer.  In addition to being found in potato or macaroni salads, people throw it on their hamburgers or dip their fries in it.  Personally, I really don't like the stuff because it is so bland but I know people out there who would argue with me.

No one is sure whether it began in Spain or France.  One story states that mayonnaise was created during the siege of Port Mahon on the island of Minorca by the French in 1756. Since the chef to the Duke was unable to get cream of a victory dish, he ended up inventing mayonnaise - a mix of egg and oil, named after the port.  A variation of the story indicated that the chef was taught the recipe by residents who lived on the island of Minorca.

There has always been an argument on who created the condiment.  Many feel it could not have come from Minorca because they were not known for the quality of their cuisine. They say it was originally call bayonnaise after the town of Bayonne which was well noted for the ham it produced.  Yet others claim the name mayonnaise came from the French words for handling or managing, or for the yolk.  So many different theories.  In 1920, the Spanish struck back by claiming the French term mayonnaise was totally wrong and it should be known by it's proper name of Salsa Mayonnaise.

Even food historians are not sure about who invented mayonnaise.  What they can agree about is the ingredient began appearing in both German and British cookbooks on French cuisine in the early 1800's.  The French loved mayonnaise so much, they brought it with them so that. by 1838, Delmonico's in New York offered both a lobster mayonnaise and a chicken mayonnaise.  Furthermore, the salad became the perfect frame for mayonnaise in everything from potato salad to Waldorf salad.

After the invention of the automatic bread slicer in the 1920's, people began using mayonnaise in sandwiches.  Even President Coolidge told the press he loved his aunt's homemade mayonnaise so much but at about this time, homemade mayonnaise began to be made by companies who could produce it and market it easily.  One of the first commercial mayo's came from Richard Hellman who offered two different versions at his deli.  The blue ribbon version was so popular, he bottled and sold it.  By the 1930's, it was found in most houses from rich to poor.

The simplest version of mayonnaise uses only eggs, oil, and lemon juice.  Technically mayonnaise is an emulsion which mixes the oil and lemon juice so both ingredients are broken into small droplets suspended among each other.  The eggs provide the tie to keep the other ingredients in the mixed form.  One ingredient is usually added quite slowly to the other while it is being whisked. If added too fast, the small droplets will not mix right.  It is recommended to use blenders, food processors, or mixers to get the best results.

Mayonnaise is the foundation for such dressings as tarter sauce or ranch dressing.  There is nothing to stop you for adding flavors to your mayo. You can add roasted red peppers and parsley, or a bit of wasabi and lemon juice, or garlic, lemon juice, and black pepper, or ground mustard and dill, or sirracha, lime juice, and light soy sauce, or what ever you want.  You don't have to eat plain mayo.

I've decided I should try adding flavors to mayo to see if that improves things for me.  I hope you learned a bit more about it.  I'll probably discuss other things similar to mayo in a future column.  Let me now what you think, I'd love to hear, have a great day.