Archive for October, 2010

31
Oct
10

Sugar River Cheese Co.


Europeans have long laughed at the pretentiousness of American cheeses (especially kosher ones), but, judging by the latest entries into the field, that situation will soon change. I’ve seen quite a few interesting cheeses at the Pomegranate isles, among them some intriguing flavored ones from the Sugar River Cheese Co. Having tasted these delicious cheeses we just had to contact them and interview Mark Rosen, the company’s President.

I found Mr. Rosen very personable, witty and a true foodie. Besides being a fountain of information on cheese making processes, he also told us some amusing stories about himself, stories that gave us a glimpse into the make up of his love of food and pursuit of quality. That carefully nurtured quest for the best led him to start this company in 2002 with the aim of bringing “natural, terrific tasting, unique, kosher Wisconsin Cheeses to the kosher consumer.” Judging by what we tasted, he certainly succeeded.

The superb tasting Sugar River cheeses we've sampled...

The Sugar River cheeses we’ve sampled were: Parmesan (aged 18 months, my personal favorite), White Cheddar (aged 18 months), White Cheddar with Roasted Garlic and Green Onion, White Cheddar with Chipotle, Prairie Jack with Parsley and ChivePrairie Jack with Green Peppercorns, Monterrey Jack with Jalapeno and Cilantro, Monterrey Jack With Roasted Garlic And Basil (second place award in the Flavored Monterey Jack judging category at the 23rd Annual Competition and Judging by the American Cheese Society‘s (ACS) held July 22, 2006 in Portland, Oregon. The first time Sugar River cheeses ever entered a competition and the first time a kosher cheese ever won!) and Monterey Jack With Tomato And Olive.

SYR, thought this cheeses would go perfectly with some of her favorite pasta recipes. Here’s one she tried which turned out terrific:

SYR‘s Easy Penne Alla Romana

YIELD: 4 to 6 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 package of penne
  • water to fully cover the pasta
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 chopped garlic
  • 6 chopped pearl onions
  • 1/4 cup chopped sun dried tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup zucchini, cubed
  • 10 shitake mushrooms
  • 1/4 cup oyster mushrooms
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 10-15 chopped leaves of fresh basil
  • 2 sprigs of fresh parsley
  • 1/2 package Sugar River White Cheddar with Roasted Garlic and Green Onion
  • Sugar River Parmesan

Aaahh... the aroma, the taste!

Pasta

  1. In a medium size pot pour in water to two thirds height (enough to cover the pasta).
  2. Add the penne and cook until it is al dente (still firm, not hard).

Vegetables

  1. Pour the oil into a medium shallow pan.
  2. Sauté the chopped garlic and onions.
  3. Add the tomatoes when the above show some golden brown.
  4. After 30 seconds add the zucchini and mushrooms.
  5. Let it all cook for 1 minute and add basil and parsley.
  6. take off fire after 2 more minutes.
  7. Add mixture to drained penne

Cheese

  1. Cut the Sugar River White Cheddar with Roasted Garlic and Green Onion into small cubes.
  2. Add the cubes into the mixed penne and vegetable. Continue mixing until cheese is mostly melted.
  3. Sprinkle with shavings of Sugar River Parmesan.
  4. Serve while still hot.

Please remember, by using the 18 month aged Parmesan you have to wait six hours before you can eat meat.

Enjoy, gentle reader, Enjoy!

CS

28
Oct
10

Kosherfest: Day 2


We went back to Kosherfest yesterday and once again it did not disappoint. Interesting products were abundant, a lot of the old classics were improved and there quite a few new ideas as well.

One delicious variation on an old classic was this frozen pizza by Mor Fun Foods

Tastes fresh, not frozen!

Next we passed by Toobro, a distributor of the Golan brand of cheeses, Morning Select, Spreads Instead, Emes, etc., etc., We will, be’ezras Hashem, do a more in-depth review of their products over the next few weeks.

Toobro's portfolio of brands...

Products we got to taste within Toobro‘s lines included a delicious Roaster Garlic and Herbs by Spread Instead. Spread Instead products are succulent blends of gourmet cream cheese, herbs, etc.  Frankly, we couldn’t enough of it… Superb, excellent, delicious… none of these words do actual justice to the taste

Deeeelishious!

Next we visited Lily Bloom’s Kitchen. The owner, Larry Shiller, took his mother’s recipe for delicious macaroons (I’ve never been a fan of macaroons, but these were good!!!), in various flavors: Chocolate, White Chocolate and Raspberry, Chocolate/Almond, Chocolate/Walnut, Chocolate/Peanut Butter, Chocolate/Cinnamon, Chocolate/Cherry, and Chocolate/Orange.

Winner of Kosherfest 2010 Best New Product

Next we passed by the Kedem Marketplace pavillion…

Partial views of Royal Wine Corporations huge selection of wines and liquors

Being an unabashed, uncompromising cheese lover, I was truly excited to see Israel’s Seyman company bringing its huge selection of European made cheeses from such famous names as La Cremerie, Coeur de Lion, St. Maure, Bresse Bleu, etc. I can’t wait for them to find an American distributor…

I can't wait for the moment I walk in to kosher supermarket and pick up a Manchego!

Organic Traditions, had some very interesting items:

Cacao Nibs, Vanilla Poda, Goji Berries, dried Apricots and so much more

Finally I was ready for the talk of show, the pièce de résistance, something quite a few celebrities kept on going back to time and again (don’t worry I won’t name you, you know who you are!)… Jack’s Gourmet Sausages.

Dr. Bronner - Jack's Gourmet's co-owner and some of those incredible sausages or what was left of them...

Frankly, there were quite a few more items we loved and we’ll review some of them in-depth over the next few weeks. All in all, we were excited by what we saw and tasted. Kosher is no longer just gefilte, kasha, or brisket, kosher wine is far beyond Extra Sweet Malaga or Extra Sweet Concord… we now have world class selections!

CS

26
Oct
10

Kosherfest: Day 1


Today was the opening day for Kosherfest at the Meadowlands Exposition Center, in Seacaucus (NJ). Not only was the number of exhibitors bigger than ever, but so was the attendance. There is no question that the kosher consumer is more and more demanding, both in the number of items as well as in their quality. I only stayed for a few hours, as I had prior obligations so I decided to go for some unusual or otherwise interesting items.

First, however, we decided to meet some of the cookbook authors we reviewed recently and had interviewed over the phone and on radio.

Paula Shoyer, Pastry Chef par excellence, cookbook author

Paula Shoyer, recently had her The Kosher Baker published by Brandeis University. It is one of the most beautiful kosher cookbooks both SYR or I have ever seen.

Susie Fishbein, the top kosher cookbook author and whose Kosher by Design series sold globally in numbers comparable to the world’s top cookbook authors was there too…

Susie Fishbein being interviewed, at the Kolatin gelatin booth by TJC TV

We reviewed a pre-publication copy of her newest – Kosher by Design Teens and 20 Somethings (due to hit the stores on October the 27th!) – yesterday.

Quite a few exhibitors used the occasion to launch new lines, among them we were happy to see that Lévana Kirschenbaum finally and officially put her new bakery products on the market. At the beginning of the summer SYR and I were among the exclusive few who got to taste these delicacies…

Lévana demostrating her new products

As I searched for unusual products, I spotted these unusual bottles of Tequila…

Kah Tequila... guaranteed to get your attention!

I then tasted the middle bottle of the Agave 99 line…

Smooth and flavorful

Next I did a tasting of the Secreto line of wines from Argentina.

Secreto - Vinos kasher de Argentina

I first tried their Malbec (80% Malbec – Argentina’s most famous wine grape – and 20% Cabernet Sauvignon); I followed it with their Cabernet Sauvignon (80% Cabernet Sauvignon and 20% Malbec); next I tried their Trivarietal (50% Bonarda, 25% Malbec and 25% Cabernet Sauvignon). I found all three to be excellent selections, especially in their price range ($10-$12).

I then saw a line of medicinal teas from Spain, Helps by Pharmadus.

A nice line of special teas for children, women's needs, and a whole lot more.

Next we saw Tammy Polatskek‘s new line of superbly designed dishes under the Carmona label.

Beautiful, unusual, contemporary

Beautiful, contemporary shapes that will greatly enhance the pleasure of any meal, the beauty of any table.

Before we left we passed by the booth of Happy Hearts Wine

Some great wines from some of Israel's smaller wineries...

They distribute Israeli wines from from small boutique wine producers like, Odem Mountain Winery, Or Haganuz Winery, the Mony Estate Vineyards, Dovev Winery, Hameshubach Winery, and the Efrat Winery. Their selections were quite good, I was familiar with some of their labels already.

We didn’t cover as much as we would have liked, especially after some very interesting products we sa, but I’m going back tomorrow and I expect to cover far more ground.

CS

25
Oct
10

Kosher By Design: Teens And 20 Somethings


Well, Susie Fishbein’s done it again!! Her latest Kosher by Design cookbook for young adults will turn any teen, college student, or young at heart-Fishbein fan, into an instant gourmet superstar. If you’re tired of the same old pizza with fries, or pocket pinching foil-packed fast food entrees, you’re just going to love the 100 deliciously innovative, easy to prepare recipes in her new cookbook. Susie prepares young cooks with great tips on the basics of cooking and the tools they’ll need; tips like using dry and liquid measuring cups because of volume differentials to achieve optimum results, making healthy food choices, and sidebar symbols indicating vegetarian, gluten-free, dairy free and nut-free recipes. All the recipes that made it into the book were taste-tasted and approved by discerning “tastebud” teens.

John Uher’s photography is colorful and appealing throughout – especially the dessert section. Aside from Starters, Munchies, Soups and Salads, Poultry and Meat, Fish, Pasta and Dairy, Side DishesDesserts, there’s an exciting section on planning themed Parties, and Special Diet Needs.

It was hard to choose a favorite recipe from all of them, but this one seems intriguing as it shows Mrs. Fishbein’s culinary mastery and understanding of the young:

Chocolate Tart in Pretzel Crust

DAIRY – YIELDS 10-12 SERVINGS

Crust:

  • 6 chocolate sandwich cookies, such as Oreos®
  • 2 cups mini pretzel twists
  • 6 tablespoons butter, melted

Chocolate Filling:

  • 1 (4-ounce) good-quality semisweet chocolate bars, such as Ghiradelli®
  • 1 (4-ounce) good-quality milk chocolate bar, such as Ghiradelli®
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • whipped cream, optional for garnish
  • additional mini pretzel twists for optional garnish


1. Preheat oven to 350˚F.
2. Place the pretzels and cookies into the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal “S” blade. Pulse until almost fine; some small pretzel pieces should remain. Pour into mixing bowl. Add the melted butter. Stir to moisten the crumbs. Press into a 9-inch glass pie plate or a 9-inch tart pan with removable bottom. Use the bottom of a measuring cup or your palm to work mixture into an even layer on the bottom and up the sides of the pan. Place the pan on a cookie sheet for easy transfer to and from the oven. Bake for 15 minutes. Set aside to cool.
3. Place the chocolate on your cutting board. Using a sharp knife, finely chop the chocolate.
4. Heat the cream in a medium pot until it is simmering. Add the chocolate, including any small shards from the cutting board. Turn off the heat. Stir until smooth and chocolatey throughout. Pour into the prepared crust and chill for at least 2 hours.
5. Slice and serve plain or with whipped cream and pretzels.

All in all, Teens and 20-Somethings is informative, creative and a lot of fun; Susie is at her best, giving the next generation their shot at looking great in the kitchen, and us the opportunity to sit back and be fed and entertained by our kids.

Enjoy, gentle reader, enjoy!

SYR

Contest

On October 18th, we announced a photo contest, it’s a food photography competition and the best photo of a Kosher by Design recipe will win a copy of Susie’s latest: Kosher by Design Teens and 20 Somethings. You may download a free copy of the complete KBD recipe index from: http://bit.ly/KBDrecipeindex. Choose a recipe, make it, serve it and photograph it. Please check out Contest!!! for some pointers on food photography and links to a few outstanding food photographers’ online portfolios. Send us your best to:

kosherscene@gmail.com

RELATED POSTS

A Talk with Susie Fishbein

Maple Roasted Pears and Sweet Potatoes and More

——)xOxoOox0x(——

Preorder your copy today at ArtScroll.com – enter the coupon code KBDBLOG at checkout to save 10% and receive free shipping in the continental U.S. Join the KBD online communities to find more reviews and giveaway contests! Kosher by Design Teens & 20-Somethings: cooking for the next generation is aimed at the young and digital-savvy fast-food generation and those who cook for them. Susie Fishbein is an everyday cook who loves to share her passion for cooking and entertaining with friends and family. Her enthusiasm for food and entertaining led to the creation of her best-selling cookbook, Kosher by Design, published in 2003 by ArtScroll Shaar Press. For more recipes and updates, visit the Kosher by Design blog or connect with them on Facebook and Twitter.

24
Oct
10

Pizza at Basil


Recently, this blog was chastised on chowhound.com for not having any photos of Basil‘s pizza in either of my reviews of this superb restaurant (here and here), even though its menu offers a full array of mouthwatering pizzas. I had to agree the particular commenter was absolutely right, which gave me the perfect excuse to return to Basil (270 Kingston Ave; Brooklyn, NY 11213; Telephone: 718.285.8777) for the omitted shots. Ahhh, the things we do to keep our readers happy.

This past Thursday I made my way to the restaurant anticipating a superb pie. I entered their doors at 4:00pm to a front room overflowing with early diners, and was directed to the recently opened backroom. It’s a comfortable large room featuring two fireplaces that generate a warm and cozy atmosphere.

In spite of the early hour, there were some people there already. I ordered a Pizza Margherita a la Genovese, it came with home made mozzarella (made in house from  curd), fresh San Marzano tomatoes (most chefs consider these the world’s best for sauce) and pesto.

Pizza Margherita alla Genovese

Extreme closeup of the above...

I accompanied the pizza with a delightful glass of 2007 Ramon Cardova Rioja. Made fully from Tempranillo grapes from old vines around the Spanish village of Haro, in La Rioja, this bright ruby red wine paired perfectly with the pizza, totally complementing and enhancing its taste; a marriage made in heaven.

As I finished this superbly made dish, I got to to speak to Basil’s new Italian Executive Chef, Andrea Milazzo.

After graduating from the very exacting culinary school in Alassio, in Italy’s Liguria region on the gulf of Genoa, – Savona Province, Chef Andrea went to work in Montecarlo for world famous Alain Ducasse’s Le Roi Louis XV restaurant at the Hotel de Paris (regularly listed on the Conde Nast Traveller Gold List). After a while he left for Munich, Germany, where he operated his own establishment for 8 years.

A few weeks ago he accepted the position of Executive Chef at Basil. When you speak to Chef Andrea, his passion for food becomes all apparent. I asked him what is his main criteria in creating a new dish or a variation of an old classic, his quick response was: “I follow my senses!” To determine how good his senses are, I asked the Chef to prepare me a special dish – regardless of price – that I would take home; even I was unprepared for the resulting masterpiece…

Chef Andrea Milazzo dramatically flambeeing his special dish for The Kosher Scene

He made me Gnudi alla Toscana. Gnudi (nude) are close cousins to gnocchi but more tender. Whereas gnocchi are made from semolina, wheat flour, bread crumbs or potatoes, gnudi are made from Ricotta cheese.

Watching the Chef at work was like being a spectator at a George Balanchine choreographed ballet, the graceful, elegant and precise moves coupled with the facial expressions, all bespoke of truly inspired artistry at its highest levels.

Before starting the preparation of the dish, Chef Andrea had me inspect all the ingredients. Starting with the superbly aromatic in-house made truffle oil (truffles are infused for two weeks into pure Tuscan olive oil, the result is great scent and a very distinctive flavor), the fresh tomatoes, spinach and cheese all combined for a beautiful symphony of taste and aroma, well worth many an encore. Bravo Chef Andrea! Bravissimo!!!

CS

RELATED POSTS

Basil – Pizza & Wine Bar

Breakfast at Basil

Preserving or Policing the Dilemma?

Basil on Urbanspoon

21
Oct
10

Assisted Living: Harbor View


I have an old relative with no children, whose wife left this plane of existence over 10 years ago. Although he always ate kosher food (except for his time in WWII Concentration Camps under the German Nazis), he is not particularly Orthodox, though he tries to attend Orthodox shulls. Being in his late 90s, still very sharp of mind but not in the best physical condition, it was time to find him a place where he could take care of as many things as possible – by himself – while knowing there would always be someone there when he needed them.

I wanted him close by so it would be easy for me to see him regularly. I found quite a few assisted living facilities in Brooklyn, including some where all or the majority of the people are yidn. Each one had some good points but most also had some things that would not quite suit his particular needs. After a few months I found a place that has a nice shull on premises, lots of activities to keep an active mind active, great kosher foods (as attested by their menus and the residents themselves), but also a varied crowd from all walks of life.

That place is Harbor View (3900 Shore Parkway; Brooklyn, NY 11235; Tel: 718.769.9700)


The welcoming driveway, the greenery, the warm colors of  the building, the beautiful entrance lobby…


All the above made him feel welcome right away.

His room is quite spacious with a superb view of the ocean…


…such perfect quarters for someone who values his privacy, his ability to still function fairly indepently and whose mind still admires the beauties of this world.

The hotel like dining room looks out to the outdoor patio and the ocean, The outdoor patio is a great place to sit in the summer sun or one of those warmer sunny winter days.


All in all between the activities, the shiurim, the view and the helpful staff there is no question he will be happy there. In fact, in speaking to him the last few days, he sounds far chipper than I’ve heard him in many a year.

CS

19
Oct
10

Maple Pot de Crème


Recently I was looking for a really decadent dairy dessert, I found it, made it yesterday and it proved more than good enough to share on these pages. It comes from the 17 and Baking blog, a very nice blog with great recipes and photography:

Maple Pots de Crème

From Closet Cooking
Makes 4 servings

1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1/2 cup maple syrup
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 egg yolks
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F and arrange four ramekins in a rimmed baking dish.

Combine the cream, maple syrup, and salt in a small saucepan. Heat until it comes to a simmer. In a medium bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and vanilla extract. Using a small ladle, add some hot cream to the egg yolks a few tablespoons at a time. Whisk the egg yolks into the cream in the saucepan until combined. Strain the mixture through a fine sieve.

Pour the mixture into the four ramekins. Carefully pour enough hot water into the rimmed baking dish to come halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Bake until the edges are set but the center gently jiggles when shook, about 50-60 minutes. Remove the ramekins from the water bath and cool to room temperature. Eat, or cover each ramekin with plastic wrap and keep in the fridge (I prefer them cold.)

Elissa, the blog’s author, is a very good photographer with an obvious love of baking. It was her photography that seduced my senses into imagining the taste and just try it. I was not disappointed. Enjoy, gentle reader, enjoy!

CS

18
Oct
10

Contest!!!


We are hereby announcing a contest… What does it involve? Cooking and photography. You may download the Kosher by Design whole 900 recipe index at: http://bit.ly/KBDrecipeindex. Find a recipe you like – from that index – prepare it, photograph it and send us your best photo.

A few pointers about food photography:

  • Try to get as close a shot of the finished dish as possible.
  • If your photo will include something other than just the dish you prepared, make sure that the main object of attention in your composition still remains the item you made from one of the Kosher by Design recipes.
  • Make sure the lighting (available light, flash, etc.) does not give off some ugly, distracting shadows. If at all possible try to photograph your dish during daylight hours, by a window letting in natural light. If you are using flash bounce it off the ceiling or a wall, as that will balance out the light and diffuse harsher shadows.
  • Prepare your settings in advance. Food looks its best during the first few minutes of preparation and its looks deteriorate as the clock ticks. Colors may change, the way you stacked it up may collapse and so on.
  • Remember, when you photograph food you want to make it inviting, you want the viewer to imagine and taste it with the mind’s eye. As you put the food on the dish, pay attention to the colors, the shapes and the positioning of each piece.

Look at the photos in some of your cookbooks, or look at line at some great food photography by the pros: Lou Manna, Christine Peters, Diana DeLucia, or Michael Ray. You’ll find these photographers have different styles, yet all presents their subjects in mouth watering ways.

The Prize…

The best photo will win a hardbound copy of Suzy Fishbein’s Kosher by Design – Teens and 20-somethings.

Wake up that award winning photographer inside. We can’t wait to see your entries!

CS

RELATED POSTS

A Talk with Susie Fishbein

Maple Roasted Pears and Sweet Potatoes and More

17
Oct
10

From the Heart of Dixie


Even when I lived outside of the US, whether in Uruguay, Israel, etc., I’d hear about Southern cooking. When I first came to the States in 1962 and moved to Richmond, VA (the capital of the Confederacy), I actually got to taste a few superb kosher variations on the Southern theme.

Recently, I came across Simply Southern – With a Dash of Kosher Soul, a cookbook published by the Margolin Hebrew Academy/Feinstone Yeshiva of the South of Memphis, TN. I couldn’t wait to try out some of the book’s delicacies, I wasn’t disappointed! The recipes are a easy to make, short-cutting more complex directions with readily available ingredients that make preparation a snap. This ain’t no diet cookbook, so if you’ve been watching your waist after yom tov feasting save this for the times when you want to cook quick tasty dishes with that special touch of true Americana.  The recipes are clear, the assortment fun, pretty to look at and absolutely delicious.

For the last week we made quite a few of them and each proved delectable. The recipes are divided into ten sections running from

  • Appetizers and Starters
  • Soups and Sandwiches
  • Salads
  • Brunch & Dairy
  • Pasta, grains & Rice
  • Meats
  • Poultry
  • Fish
  • Vegetables & Side Dishes
  • Desserts

As you can see, it covers the gamut of the most common cooking types. It is hard to chose just one recipe to share, in fact it’s hard to chose, two, three or even four favorites from those we tried. But here are two very Southern selections:

Real Fried Chicken

True Southerners make enough for leftovers. Nothing beats cold fried chicken for lunch the day after. Do not skip the salt! salt is an especially important ingredient to the authentic taste of this signature dish of Dixie!

MARINADE

1 quart water
2 tablespoons salt
2 tablespoons cayenne pepper
2 teaspoons garlic powder
1 1/2 teaspoons white pepper
1 tablespoon soy sauce
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce

MARINADE

Whisk together water, salt, cayenne, garlic powder, white pepper, soy sauce, and Worcestershire sauce.

CHICKEN

4 cut up chickens
12 cups vegetable oil
Self rising flour
2 eggs, beaten
2 tablespoons water
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon salt
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon white pepper

CHICKEN

Add chicken pieces to marinade. Toss to coat. Cover and refrigerate for 24 hours.

Heat oil in a deep fryer to 360-375 degrees. Drain marinade from chicken on paper towels and pat dry. Sprinkle chicken on both sides with self-rising flour. Blend eggs and water. Combine all-purpose flour, salt, garlic powder, cayenne and white pepper. Dip chicken in egg wash. Dredge in flour mixture. Place chicken on a large baking sheet. Let sand for 10 minutes. Fry chicken in hot oil turning a few times for 20-25 minutes or until golden browned. Drain on a rack over paper towels.

YIELD: 6 – 8 SERVINGS

For dessert I loved the Chess Pie, I also liked the humor in the intro to this dish.

Chocolate Chess Pie

Chess pie is one of the South’s great contributions to the culinary arts. One folk story asserts that it was originally called “just pie,” which was drawled as “jus’ pie,” eventually rolling off the tongue as “chess pie.” This is always a favorite!

1 1/4 cups sugar
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
4 tablespoons margarine, melted
2 eggs
10 tablespoons soymilk
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 (9-inch) pie shell, unbaked
1 (8-ounce) container frozen whipped topping, thawed
Chocolate syrup

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine sugar, cocoa, and margarine in a bowl. Add eggs and beat until smooth. Blend in soymilk, vanilla and salt. Pour filling into pie shell. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes until tester comes out clean. Cool top with whipped topping. Pie freezes well. Drizzle chocolate syrup across the top!

YIELDS: 8 SERVINGS

Each section starts out with a few short paragraphs detailing the transition of Southern cooking into Kosher cooking or an occasional anecdote to bring the Memphis community a little closer to wherever you are. Liberally sprinkled with humor and folksy story tellin’  Simply Southern – With a Dash of Kosher Soul is sure to change your view of classic American cooking.

Enjoy it, gentle reader, enjoy it in all its finger lickin’ goodness!

CS

15
Oct
10

On Taste, Taste Buds and Perceptions


EDGAR

Poor Tom; that eats the swimming frog, the toad,
the tadpole, the wall-newt and the water; that in
the fury of his heart, when the foul fiend rages,
eats cow-dung for sallets; swallows the old rat and
the ditch-dog; drinks the green mantle of the
standing pool; who is whipped from tithing to
tithing, and stock- punished, and imprisoned; who
hath had three suits to his back, six shirts to his
body, horse to ride, and weapon to wear;
But mice and rats, and such small deer,
Have been Tom’s food for seven long year.
(William Shakespeare, King Lear: Act 3, Scene 4)

Almost every single one of us has phobias against certain foods, whether due to an unpleasant childhood experience, or just being repulsed by the thought, whatever the cause maybe, we usually hate some foods which we likely never even tasted. As I grow old(er) I find that foods I would never have thought of touching before, as I take the adventurous step of actually tasting them (being a food critic has its rewards and punishments!), often surprises me at how good they actually are. Psychologists tell us that when we grow older, dishes or ingredients we hated in our younger years suddenly become our favorites. What has changed? Were these phobias merely due to wrong perceptions, did the taste buds evolve perhaps?

Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin, an 18th – early 19th century French politician, epicure and gastronome, was one of the earliest writers on gastronomic subjects. In his book La Physiologie Du Gout – The Physiology of Taste, he writes that before we experience the taste of food, the look and aroma will either seduce or repulse us, and the ultimate taste of it represents a very small percentage of our total experience. As we come in contact with that food again, the memory of one’s past experience will determine whether he/she ingests it, and how much enjoyment one might derive form having it.

 

Fries make us feel chipper, their looks and smell remind us of happy times, such as childhood holidays or getting a favorite treat. (Photo by: dailymail.co.uk)

 

In many psychological experiments where food colors are altered and shapes are changed, people’s experience with some loved or repulsive foods will most often yield surprising results that will shutter both the tested and the tester’s preconceived notions.

So why do we dislike certain foods? I found the following online:

To begin to understand this, we need to understand classical conditioning. Classical conditioning is the most common way humans and animals alike learn behavior. The most famous example is the experiments conducted by Ivan Pavlov in the 1900s. Pavlov managed to teach dogs to salivate by ringing a bell. He did this by feeding them and ringing a bell repeatedly. Eventually, the dogs salivated simply from hearing the ringing of the bell.

In this example, Pavlov managed to pair an unconditioned stimulus (UCS), in this case a bell, with a conditioned response (CR), such as the salivating in anticipation of food. We make these kinds of associations all the time, and it’s the fundamental model of how the human brain takes in information.

Taste aversions, however, fly in the face of this model. Pavlov’s experiment showed that the conditioned response manifested only after repeated and closely associated experiments.

In the other example, the one in which you regurgitated (CR) after eating the toffee candy bar (UCS) – it only happened once and perhaps minutes or even hours apart. And yet, you instinctively shy away from toffee.

How is it that such a strong association can be created with only one interaction?

Humans aren’t alone in having this kind of reaction between certain flavors and sickness. Psychologist John Garcia managed to demonstrate a similar reaction in rats when he gave them flavored water, and, hours later, injected them with a chemical that made them sick. After the sickness, the rats stayed away from the flavored water.

A likely explanation may be that we human beings have a strong need to stay alive by eating things that won’t make us sick. If we eat something and, in the course of digestion, that something makes us ill, we’ll often remember it for years. From then on, the human brain knows to associate that smell and taste with a food that caused illness. So, if you have a food aversion, just know that it may be irrational, but it also means that your brain is just trying to do its part to keep you alive.

Are food aversions always caused by unfortunate interaction(s)? There are foods I would never touch as the mere look of them utterly repulses me and having grown up in a fully kosher home, having never tasted any non-kosher food – even as an adult – I can assure you I’ve never had any pleasant or unpleasant interaction with them (for example, lobsters). So what then makes some dislike some foods while others may love those same foods? And why is it that something we may have utterly disliked, suddenly as we advance in years, becomes a favorite?

What do you think, gentle reader?

CS




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October 2010
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Visit our friends at the Kosher Wine Society

Noach: Stranded and Branded

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