Jeffrey Tucker: Blessed Fish! How the Market Brought It to Your Table

Here’s to fish, and here’s to the technology that has made it possible to enjoy, cheaply and easily, in every household.

Jeffrey Tucker writes: In the Renaissance, painters often featured fishmongers selling fish from tables right there for anyone to buy. Why? For the first time in history, people had money to buy things, from actual merchants. Fish for sale to anyone and everyone was a lovely sign of wealth, an indicator of progress.

Fish preparation now takes less time than it took the burger place yesterday to make me lunch.Still, you could only get it if you lived near the sea. Fast forwarding a few centuries, when I was a kid in West Texas, eating fish at home was unthinkable. Fish
sticks, maybe. Otherwise fish at home didn’t exist. By culture, tradition, and by sheer availability, we ate beef.

“Dramatic things have happened to the market for fish over the past 10 years. It is wholly changed. Now you can get incredibly great fish at nearly every supermarket”

Even today, many people are reluctant to prepare fish at home. This is my strong impression from talking to friends and colleagues.


This usually traces back to one bad experience. Maybe it came from childhood. The fish was fishy, boney, and just generally dreadful. That one experience can color a lifetime of food choices.

“Hardly any time passes between swimming around and landing in a separately sealed individual packet, ready for eating. Massive improvements in technology (thank you, capitalism) have improved the way fish is caught and brought to market. Now it is caught, cleaned, deboned, and flash frozen right on the boat.”

In my own case, I thought for years I would only eat fish at a restaurant. Only they know how to do it right, I thought. Surely I could never replicate that process at home. At most, I could make those awful breaded fish sticks Mom would drag out on dreaded occasions.


The Glorious Fishy World

Well, dramatic things have happened to the market for fish over the past 10 years. It is wholly changed. Now you can get incredibly great fish at nearly every supermarket. At Wal-Mart, I recently found a vast selection — tilapia, flounder, swordfish, salmon, whiting, halibut, lobster, and so much more. The prices were ridiculously low. I’ve been sampling them all for months.

[Read the full story here, at Foundation for Economic Education]

What’s the secret? Head to the freezer section. I know it sounds inferior. Wouldn’t you rather have fresh? Not any more.

Hardly any time passes between swimming around and landing in a separately sealed individual packet, ready for eating. Massive improvements in technology (thank you, capitalism) have improved the way fish is caught and brought to market. Now it is 41eQn3GP4ZL._SL250_caught, cleaned, deboned, and flash frozen right on the boat. Hardly any time passes between swimming around and landing in a separately sealed individual packet, right there ready for the eating.

[Order Jeffrey Tucker ‘s bookBit by Bit: How P2P Is Freeing the World” from]

And you don’t have to worry about timing. In the old days, when you bought fish, you had to eat it that night or risk having it become slimy and gross. Now it can stay in your freezer and be ready for you when you want it.

For the first time, the equivalent of fresh fish, stunningly yummy, is available to nearly everyone at low prices, ready for preparation right in your own kitchen. And despite the reputation that fish once had of being difficult to prepare, now it is easier than pork or beef, and even faster.

In other words, cut open the bag, and it is ready to go.

I find this just amazing. That’s a shorter period than it took the burger place yesterday to make me lunch.

And it is a fraction of the price. Read the rest of this entry »

This Pizza Box Is Made Out of Pizza 

The owner of Vinnie’s Pizzeria, Sean Berthiaume, must have been channeling Xzbit earlier this week when he thought to himself, “Yo Dawg, I heard you liked pizza, so I put your pizza in a box made from pizza.” But lo and behold here is the world’s first ever entirely edible pizza box that really works as more of a pizza sandwich than a functional box.


This isn’t Sean’s first brush with pizza glory…(read more)

Source: Neatorama

Would You Care for a Tasty Shard of Glass?


These completely transparent chips might look like they could cut your mouth to ribbons, but they are actually perfectly edible potato chips. Originally created by Hamid Salimian, Diva at the Met chef, these are perhaps the most curiously normal snacks you will ever see.

Upon closer inspection, the chips are only made from potato starch and stock, which explains the transparency. Instructables user Imnopeas said that “it has the distinct crunch and flavor of a potato chip, but in an unexpected space-age form.”

Here’s the recipe via Instructables. Enjoy making people think you’re either trying to kill them by feeding them glass or preparing them for a trip to the moon!

Source:   [via Geekosystem]

[VIDEO] HOLY MACKEREL! Cooking in Microgravity with Samantha Cristoforetti: Quinoa Salad & Leek Cream Tortilla

ESA astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti is currently living on board (Update: Cristoforetti returned to earth in early June) the International Space Station for her long duration mission Futura. Food is an important item in space, also on the psychological side; that’s why astronauts are allowed a certain quantity of the so-called “bonus food” of their choice that reminds them of their home cooking tastes. We asked Samantha to show us how she manages to cook one of her bonus food recipes in microgravity: a quinoa salad with dried tomatoes, mackerel and leek cream, all wrapped in a warm tortilla.

Number of People Dying Fom Malnutrition – 3.1 million; Number of People Who died from GMO? Zero

New York Post, February 18, 2015: ‘MY BAD! A-Rod’s Handwritten Apology To Fans’


New York Post front page for Wednesday February 18, 2015

LA Supermarket Sells Raccoons As Food, Health Officials Not Amused


TEMPLE CITY ( — The Health Department has taken action after a local supermarket’s frozen foods section featured an unusual item.

Inspectors from the LA County Health Department visited the Metro Supermarket in Temple City on Tuesday, after being informed that the market was selling raccoons as food.

"I've tried grilled raccoon, and I have to say, it's really not bad."

“I’ve tried grilled raccoon, and I have to say, it’s really not bad.”

Employees at the market declined to appear on camera, but did show entire raccoons, frozen, bagged, and selling for $9.99 per pound. The employees say raccoon is considered a delicacy in China.

Customer Christina Dow was at the market, and upon seeing the frozen raccoons, filmed the scene on her cell phone. She shared the video on social media.

ARKive image GES068267 - Northern raccoon

“I’ve tried lobster, it’s actually quite good”

“The way it’s packaged in the store, it’s so real, and it’s so fresh, and you don’t see chickens with their feathers and blood all over them, and their expression, with their tongue hanging out,” Dow said.

5a raccoon

Dow also went on to contact the LA County Health Department, who says that selling raccoons as food may indeed be perfectly legal, depending on the origins of the meat. Read the rest of this entry »

Whiskey Makes a Comeback

The Rat Pack

Vodka is so 2012

Peter Evans writes: Sales of the colorless, odorless spirit have slowed substantially in the U.S. in the past two years after more than a decade of roaring growth.

“We are seeing a generational shift away from vodka.”

—Jonny Forsyth, global drinks analyst at research firm Mintel Group Ltd.

Tired of lurid flavor extensions—from fluffed marshmallow to menthol tobacco—and at the limit of what they are willing to pay for upscale versions, drinkers are increasingly choosing bourbon or tequila over vodka. That spells bad news for the world’s biggest distillers.


Vodka Sales Fall as Drinkers Raise Glass to Whiskey

Vodka makes up a quarter of U.S. spirits sales by value, and the slowdown is starting to eat into profits at liquor companies. North American sales of Diageo PLC’s Smirnoff brand declined 8% in the six months ended December, contributing to an 18% slide in overall profit.

“Vodka’s identity crisis comes after a prolonged period of success. For years, flavor extensions helped drive sales, while bottles of triple-filtered vodka sold at $30 swelled the profits of major distillers.”

Pernod Ricard SA said late last year that its Absolut brand is struggling in the U.S.

“Taste profiles have moved to appreciate whiskey more,” said Ivan Menezes, Diageo’s chief executive, in an interview last week. “It’s a trend that’s been building for a few years.”


Experts say the attributes that first attracted consumers to vodka now appear to be turning them off. Specifically, the anonymity that means vodka can be mixed with almost anything to add an alcoholic kick is becoming less appealing. Drinkers are instead turning to whiskey for its perceived greater depth of flavor.

“Taste profiles have moved to appreciate whiskey more. It’s a trend that’s been building for a few years.”

— Ivan Menezes, Diageo’s chief executive

Attempts by marketers to plug that gap with flavor variants are running out of steam: There are more than 600 flavors of vodka available to U.S. consumers, but demand growth decelerated in 2014, according to Bernstein research.


The biggest distillers have been hit the hardest by the shift in taste. Sales of Smirnoff vodka flavors—a roster of more than 30 products, including root-beer float and whipped cream—are in decline in the U.S. Pernod Ricard has admitted its “Oddka” experiment—with flavors from salty caramel popcorn to oddkafresh-cut grass—has fallen flat.

Total U.S. vodka sales increased 1.9% in 2013, compared with 2.7% growth in the wider spirits industry, according to industry body IWSR—the first time since 2000 that vodka has underperformed the sector average. Analysts expect a similar result when 2014 figures are released.

“Part of the problem for vodka has been attracting younger drinkers. Once seen as an exciting alternative to the brown spirits favored by their parents, vodka is now viewed as too mainstream for newly legal drinkers.”

Big liquor companies have seen their share of U.S. vodka sales eroded by intense competition. Supermarkets charging low prices for smaller brands have stolen customers from midmarket labels like Smirnoff and Absolut. While sales of superpremium vodkas such as Diageo’s Ketel One and Cîroc have held up, the brand that kicked off the superpremium trend in 1997, Bacardi Ltd.’s Grey Goose, has suffered a sharp decline.

Russian vodka has also suffered from the slowdown. In 2013—the latest available year—the amount of vodka imported from Russia into the U.S. dropped 70% from the prior year, according to the Distilled Spirits Council of the U.S. The most popular Russian label—Stolichnaya Premium vodka, known as “Stoly”—fell out of the top-five best-selling brands in 2013.

At the same time, an explosion of craft distillers is encroaching on sales. Diageo says there have been more than 200 new vodka brands launched in the U.S. in the past two years.

Part of the problem for vodka has been attracting younger drinkers. Once seen as an exciting alternative to the brown spirits favored by their parents, vodka is now viewed as too mainstream for newly legal drinkers in the U.S., analysts say. Read the rest of this entry »

Extreme Identification Policy: Shanghai Market Lets Shoppers Track and Return Eggs


A local food market named Miyunlu in ‪Shanghai‬ has started selling eggs with identification numbers on their shells to help consumers. According to reports, when shoppers find eggs that are out of date, they can instantly trace the item back to the original producing farm and date of the eggs.

Reports say that the Shanghai store’s ‪‎eggs‬ have gone through an additional strict sterilization process before being placed on the store’s shelves. Shoppers were also ensured that the eggs have no dirt on the exterior and that they have been coated with protective oils to extend the shelf life.

As a result, consumers are buying quality eggs with confidence, and are now able to receive ‪‎compensation‬ when returning damaged egg shells or out of date eggs to the market.

[PHOTO] Fong Flashback: Extra-Golden, Puckered, Crunchy-Topped Paradise


…Another iconic HK treat is the slyly named ‘pineapple bun’, containing no pineapple (false advertising alert!) but reflecting just the pineapple-like appearance of that extra-golden, puckered, crunchy top that never fails to crumble into a delightful mess. In case you seek a cholesterol boost (beyond the lard that is part of the crunchy top – good luck wiping that from your memory!), most cha chaan tengs serving these local treats can’t leave well enough alone – but instead insert a slab (not a sliver) of butter to melt inside…(read more)

THE FONG REPORT: Calling All Dessert Fanatics – Dig Into Hong Kong’s Sweet Spot!!

Does this sound familiar? You’re wrapping up a great meal at some fantastic restaurant – stuffed, maybe even overstuffed. Feeling the food coma creep in, you sense your brain struggling to maintain consciousness as your body desperately attempts digestion. Seeing you slump slightly in your chair, the waiter walks by with the dessert menu but passes you by, assuming you’re down for the count. IMG_4807

“Take the Hong Kong egg tart, for example…Best when freshly baked and still  a tad warm, these little tarts are like a sweet hug for your stomach.”

Mere moments before he’s out of reach, you eagerly snatch the menu from his confused fingers. There’s ALWAYS room (and energy) for dessert! As my friends (and dentist) can attest, my sweet tooth is relentless.

“Maybe it’s bold for me to say, but I do believe they can melt even the staunchest Asian dessert cynic.”

You know how cows have 4-chamber stomachs? I must have bovine tendencies, since no matter how full I may be, I appear to magically grow a separate stomach chamber just in time for dessert! Are you with me?

Much to my surprise, Hong Kong is brimming with bakeries, pâtisseries, cafés, and cha chaan tengs (Chinese tea restaurants). Sometimes, these are more local shops, serving local desserts. Despite the somewhat negative stereotype that clouds western perceptions about Asian desserts, some of the local sweets here really do hold their own. And there is a fun element of novelty, at least to Chinese-dessert-virgins (you get what I mean).

Justly famous (and incredibly delicious) HK egg tarts from Tai Cheong Bakery - absolutely craveable!

Justifiably famous, mouthwatering Hong Kong egg tarts from Tai Cheong Bakery in Wan Chai

Take the Hong Kong egg tart, for example – all creamy, custardy, buttery/flaky crust goodness. Best when freshly baked and still  a tad warm, these little tarts are like a sweet hug for your stomach. Maybe it’s bold for me to say, but I do believe they can melt even the staunchest Asian dessert cynic.

Hong Kong residents are hard-core egg lovers – as proven by yet another famous egg-y sweet, the egg waffle. Humble in appearance, when prepared properly, they are slightly crispy on the outside, tender and airy on the inside – sort of the ‘bubble wrap’ of desserts, with the flavor of vanilla cake. The fun, bulbous shapes make tearing off a golden sphere (or 5, or 10) almost impossible to resist!


Preparing to chow down on an egg waffle – puffy, crispy, tender sweetness!


The perennially-busy Lee Keung Kee stall outside the Wan Chai MTR station, serving up some of Hong Kong’s finest egg waffles


Another iconic HK treat is the slyly named ‘pineapple bun’, containing no pineapple (false advertising alert!) but reflecting just the pineapple-like appearance of that extra-golden, puckered, crunchy top that never fails to crumble into a delightful mess. In case you seek a cholesterol boost (beyond the lard that is part of the crunchy top – good luck wiping that from your memory!), most cha chaan tengs serving these local treats can’t leave well enough alone – but instead insert a slab (not a sliver) of butter to melt inside. Try this WAY before your next visit to the cardiologist! Read the rest of this entry »

China’s Latest Food Scandal? Painted Food

Customers eat steamed buns in a steamed buns restaurant in Shanghai, east China, Aug. 14, 2014.  Zuma Press

Customers in a steamed buns restaurant in Shanghai, east China, Aug. 14, 2014.  Zuma Press

Te-Ping Chen reports: From toxic milk to pork treated with paraffin wax, China has seen its share of tainted food. Now add to the list painted food.

“Previous lows in the annals of Chinese cuisine include the discovery of pork that glowed in the dark…”

[Glowed? See more – China Struggles with Food Safety]

Even by the standards of China’s many food-safety scandals, one recently reported incident involving a cook in eastern China’s Zhejiang province is eyebrow-raising. According to Xinhua, the 27-year-old cook, surnamed Chen, is currently on trial for painting abalones and goose paws to prettify them for customers.


“…and a boom in spontaneously exploding watermelons…”

 [You know you want to read about China’s Exploding Watermelon Scandal]

According to the state-run news agency, since last March, Mr. Chen – who was employed at a hotel in Hangzhou, a popular tourist destination famed for the beauty of its West Lake –painted with “inedible pigment” about 12 abalones and 100 goose feet, which together were worth nearly $800. Both abalones and goose paws are delicacies prized in Chinese cuisine. Read the rest of this entry »

Help Drive Away Socialism



In Defense of Salt

Here’s What Your Favorite Coffee Beverege Says About Your Personality


(read more)

If Pizza and Cake Had a Baby

Strawberry Chocolate Shrimp Chips: The End of Civilization As We Know It?


From RocketNews24

The extremely competitive nature of the Japanese junk food industry means that you have to keep innovating though, and sometimes in the process of pushing through existing boundaries, you end up in strange new places, which explains why Calbee is now selling shrimp chips covered with strawberry chocolate.


For this crustacean/confectionary crossover, Calbee collaborated with Hokkaido-based chocolate maker Royce, which has in the past offered chocolate-covered potato chips. Believe it or not, though, there’s only one portion of the new joint product that’s completely unprecedented, the strawberry part. Read the rest of this entry »

Sacré Bleu! Peasants, Peek Behind the Scenes at the France State Dinner, See the Menu…




The Royal Palace White House

Two (and Twenty) Alfred Hitchcock Quotes


“I’m not the sort of fellow you’d want to go camping with.”


“Conversation is the enemy of good food and wine.”

I’ve always been fond of quotes, and epigrams, and have an odd habit of memorizing them. (though my memory is not always accurate, quotes are often misremembered, I hope I have these two preserved correctly) The first one I probably read in Reader’s Digest when I was a kid. The second one is a personal favorite.

The quote is revealing, too, because Hitchcock—not a small man—obviously loved good food. But also, hated unnecessary dialogue. The director viewed actors as chess pieces. Or spoiled children. Dialogue was almost a necessary evil, secondary to the visual story. As a director, Hitchcock was more of a technician than a dramatist.

Read the rest of this entry »

Left-Wing Support for Food Stamp Fraud Reaches Absurd New Heights

Here’s the alarmist headline:

Requiring an ID to Eat?! The Right-Wing’s Next Crazy Plot Against Low-Income Americans



Those crazy evil selfish racist Right-wingers are at it again. Here we go. Their hatred of poor people knows no limits! How can they live with themselves? Taking bread right out of the mouths of disadvantaged people with no identity!  It’s a crazy, wicked, evil RIGHT WING PLOT!

“Under a bill Vitter introduced Wednesday , beneficiaries of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) would be denied their food if they are unable to show a photographic identification card at the register. For millions of low-income Americans who don’t have an official photo ID and can’t necessarily afford to buy one, Vitter’s bill would mean being cut off from their primary food source.”

The Institutional Left is Completely Freaked Out at Suggestion of Showing I.D. to Access Benefits

If that’s really a concern, what about the hundreds of millions of people with jobs and incomes who would be denied food, housing, and basic services, unless they used cash-only for every transaction? Good grief, they would starve! This must be a sinister left-wing plot! Mass starvation, no heat, no safe place to sleep, nothing. Unless all working and non-working people use cash-only for every food purchase, and every transaction necessary to sustain life, there’s no way to avoid it. Mass starvation and homelessness is clearly their secret agenda. (just trying out the inflammatory liberal logic. Looks pretty silly, doesn’t it?)

Really. Who doesn’t have some way to identify themselves when they interact in the marketplace? This is true whether your income is from having a job, and working, or if your income is exclusively from government benefits.

This is the left’s favorite alarmist false crisis. The delusion that there’s a sinister right-wing plot to harm the poor. Their view? It’s a crime to criticize or question the welfare state.

Read the rest of this entry »

Revealed: Rachel Ray’s Cooking Secrets


Biotech’s Mommy Issue: Women are targeted by anti-GMO activists but deserve to know the truth


Julie Gunlock writes: Advertisers and marketing experts know that in the typical household, the woman is the primary shopper. Whether they are selling cars or light bulbs or groceries, they have to appeal to women, their consumer base.

From Cupcakes to Chemicals, How the Culture of Alarmism Makes Us Afraid of Everything and How to Fight Back.

The same goes for organizations selling fear and worry: If they want to attract converts to their cause, they have to convince women to embrace their views and join them in agitating for action. And so it goes for activists opposed to the use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs), who bombard women with misinformation about food safety.

Rather than falling for these tactics, women should take a reasoned look at the facts behind biotechnology and the cost and consequences of the policies activists advance. They’ll find that the anti-GMO hype is the real threat to their families’ well-being.

Radical environmental groups initially led the charge against GMOs, but today, some of the most vocal and influential anti-GMO activists are found on mommy blogs and parenting, cooking, and so-called health-and-wellness websites — all of which are popular with moms.

Read the rest of this entry »

Holiday Feast: Get Thee Plenty!


J’ACCUSE! French Restaurants Seating Customers Based on Good Looks? Sacré Bleu!

, from Paris, reports: Two trendy Parisian restaurants have been accused of seating guests according to how good-looking they are, to raise the tone of the establishments.

   “not showing my breasts enough”

      (reason one hostess was scolded)

Former hostesses have claimed that Thierry and Gilbert Costes — brothers whose group owns hotels, cinemas, restaurants and cafes in the French capital — have introduced a highly discriminatory selection procedure for guests of Le Georges, in the Pompidou Centre, and Café Marly, overlooking the Louvre.

“The good-looking ones are led to the good places, where they can be easily seen,” they told Le Canard Enchaîné, an investigative and satirical weekly. “As for the non good-looking ones, it is imperative that they be dispatched to the corners of the room.” Read the rest of this entry »

Contemplating the Ghost

Contemplating the Ghost Chile

Happy Halloween! I’ve eaten and cooked with various kinds of dangerously hot peppers before, but have yet to encounter the Ghost Pepper ভূত জলকীয়া) (Bhot Jolokia) fresh or preserved, though I’ve been curious to try it. I discovered this at an Asian market last week, and immediately bought it.

I’m looking for ideas, recipes to try. Help me take advantage of the Ghost’s legendary heat! I welcome instructions from any chefs out there. Any suggestions?


Also known the Bhut Jolokia or Naga Jolokia, the Ghost Chile originates in India and is considered one of the hottest commercially available chiles in the world. (At this time, only the Trinidad Scorpion Chile is hotter.) Frieda’s Dried Ghost Chiles are twice as hot as Dried Habanero Chiles, and should be used sparingly in recipes. CAUTION: Wear gloves and use caution when handling this chile, and do not touch eyes, nose or mouth after handling.

‘No Herb Is Safe:’ Portland’s Urban Gardeners Can’t Keep Chefs From Stealing Their Crops

FOODIE CRISIS: This is not an episode of “Portlandia.”

knife-cutting-herbsKaty Steinmetz reports: The thread started with a simple, if bizarre, question: How do you keep local sous chefs from harvesting urban edibles on your property? The frustrated query came from a resident in Portland, Ore., a foodie mecca that’s generally proud of its alternative, steampunky ways. Posted on Reddit earlier this week, the plea for advice generated hundreds of comments, and a local news outlet soon uncovered another tale of herbal thievery. Read the rest of this entry »

Put Away Your Phone and Just Eat Your Food

The Experts Have Spoken: Instagram Pictures of Food Will Ruin Your Meal
A man takes a picture with his mobile of foods in his plate as he is having lunch on July 19, 2012 in Paris.  AFP PHOTO / ANA AREVALO        (Photo credit should read ANA AREVALO/AFP/GettyImages)


 reports: When your friend stops you from digging into your delicious meal so that she can Instagram the food, it spoils the eating experience. And there’s science to prove that.

A new study in the Journal of Consumer Psychology says that over-exposure to food photos on Instagram ruins your meal. Marketing professors at Brigham Young University asked 232 people to look at and rate pictures of food.

Half of the participants looked a pictures of sweet food (cakes, pastries), half at pictures of salty food (pretzels, chips). Both groups were then asked to have a salty food snack. Those who had looked at pictures of salty food enjoyed their snack less. Read the rest of this entry »

Surviving Whole Foods


Comedian Kelly MacLean tells it like it is:

headshotWhole Foods is like Vegas. You go there to feel good but you leave broke, disoriented, and with the newfound knowledge that you have a vaginal disease.

Unlike Vegas, Whole Foods’ clientele are all about mindfulness and compassion… until they get to the parking lot. Then it’s war. As I pull up this morning, I see a pregnant lady on the crosswalk holding a baby and groceries. This driver swerves around her and honks. As he speeds off I catch his bumper sticker, which says ‘NAMASTE’. Poor lady didn’t even hear him approaching because he was driving a Prius. He crept up on her like a panther. Read the rest of this entry »

Hot Rod Home Coffee Roasters, The Spirit of Invention : Homemade and Seriously Modified!

fr8hotrod = boutell !!!

Hot Rod Home Coffee Roasters: The Spirit of Invention

For some people who roast their own coffee, off-the-shelf home coffee roasting appliances don’t cut it. Either they don’t offer enough control of the roast, are too expensive, or just don’t allow the roaster (uh, the person that is) to express themselves. The homemade or seriously modified commercial roasters on this page are alternately amusing and intimidating in appearance, but whatever the case, they probably work very well. And if they don’t, you can bet they will be reconfigured endlessly until they do by their respective owners. A disclaimer on behalf of every roaster on this page: modifying electric and gas roasting equipment is dangerous. A 120 v shock isn’t half as bad as burning down your house though, and that is a serious possibility. When you build or modify a roaster, you assume a great deal of risk, and should be extremely cautious. You never, ever, ever walk away from a machine when it is in use. And you should unplug electric roasters even when they are off. Be safe, have fun. Most of these people are regulars on the Sweet Maria’s Homeroast List. Also see my pictures of coffee roasters…and of course, our Coffee Library page.

The PHOTOS in this archive of DIY Gizmo Hot-Rod Home-Roasting Madness are not to be missed. This is the most insane coffee-related site I’ve seen all year.

Read the rest of this entry »

The Gut-Wrenching Science Behind the World’s Hottest Peppers

Chiliheads crave the heat that hurts so good, but nothing compares to the legendary superhot that spices life in remote India

By Mary Roach

The 17 tribes of Nagaland are united, historically, by an enthusiasm for heads. The Nagas: Hill Peoples of Northeast India—my reading matter on the two-hour drive from Dimapur to Kohima, in the state of Nagaland —contains dozens of references to head-taking but only one mention of the item that has brought me here: the Naga King Chili (a.k.a. Bhut Jolokia), often ranked the world’s hottest. “In the Chang village of Hakchang,” the anthropologist J. H. Hutton is quoted as saying in 1922, “…women whose blood relations on the male side have taken a head may cook the head, with chilies, to get the flesh off.” Hutton’s use of “cook” would seem to be a reference to Chang culinary practice. Only on rereading did I realize the Chang weren’t eating the chilies—or the flesh, for that matter—but using them to clean the skull.

Such is the perplexing contradiction of the genus Capsicum: condiment and industrial solvent, pleasure and pain. I’ve come to Nagaland to confront the conundrum on its home turf at the annual all-tribe get-together, the Hornbill Festival, which includes a Naga King Chili-Eating Competition.

The last known head-taking raid occurred sometime in the last century. (The verb “taking” is preferred over hunting. You do not hunt heads. You hunt people and then take their heads.) Most Nagas are Baptists now. Nonetheless, they appear to have pride in their gruesome heritage. A crossbeam on the front of the Chang exhibit building on the festival grounds is decorated with a row of cephalic bas-reliefs; lest anyone mistake them for family portraiture, the neck stalks drip red.

Men in loincloths stand outside on a break from rehearsing a warrior dance. I hold out a Bhut Jolokia I’ve been carrying in my jacket like a concealed weapon. I want to see who’s tough enough. Only one man steps closer. He points to the chili and uses an English word all Chang men know. “One of the enemy!”

It’s a sensible assessment. The chili pepper does not want to be your friend. It wants to hurt you so badly you turn it loose. Plants cannot bare teeth or run for the hills; they must protect themselves passively. Some are horribly bitter. Others, less forgiving, are poisonous. Capsaicin, the primary active ingredient in hot peppers, falls into the category of irritant, but that’s an insult to its power. (Chemical irritation, or chemical feel, is the third of the chemical senses, along with smell and taste.) Capsaicin in the eyes or airways is disabling to the extent that it is used as a nonlethal weapon—pepper spray. Bhut Jolokia grenades were developed several years ago by India’s Defence Research and Development Organization and used on protesters in Kashmir. (The grenades were shelved because the chili powder is prone to fungal rot.) Both the eyes and the airways are extremely sensitive, far more so than the skin or tongue. This is normally—outside of protests and riots—a good thing, because seeing and breathing are crucial to survival; the sensitivity of these organs and tissues motivates their owner to keep them safe.

Less immediate but no less excruciating are the effects on the digestive tract. As I’m about to see.

Read the rest of this entry »

Spicy Food Tolerance in the Genes | Nature vs. Nurture

Are People Born With A Tolerance For Spicy Food?

Or is it an acquired taste?

By Agneeta Thacker

Fiery Peppers iStockphoto

Spice tolerance: Is it nature or nurture? As with most things, it’s a little bit of both.

To really understand how spice tolerance works, you have to know the basics of taste perception. “What people call taste is actually flavor,” explains Dr. Bruce Bryant of the Monell Chemical Senses Center. Flavor has three components: taste, olfactory sense, and trigeminal sense. The various tastes that the body senses are sweet, sour, salty, bitter, umami, and possibly fattiness.

These work in conjunction with your olfactory senses to produce the sensations people mistake for one-dimensional taste. “A fruit is sweet and/or sour, but the inherent fruitiness is your nose smelling all the compounds,” Bryant says. “It’s your nose that allows you to tell the difference between eating an apple and a pear.”

What people call taste is actually flavor.
Your trigeminal system controls spice sensation. The system detects pain and irritation through nerve endings that are sensitive to touch, temperature, and pain. For instance, you have your trigeminal system to thank when you sense a rock in your food and know to spit it out. Plants have the ability to activate trigeminal receptors: Mint stimulates cool-sensitive nerves, while capsaicin, the compound in spicy food, triggers receptors in pain neurons.

Scientists speculate that some people are born with pain receptors that are less sensitive to capsaicin’s sting, but no thorough research exists on the subject as of yet. However, researchers know that exposing children to spicy food at a young age can desensitize nerve endings.

According to Bryant, Mexican parents give their children packets of sugar mixed with red chili powder, which they eat straight up, in order to build their spice tolerance. “We assume that continued exposure at a young age causes nerve endings to die off,” Bryant says.

But then how do you account for spice-lovers who started eating these foods at an older age?

To answer this question, researchers at Penn State University investigated the link between personality traits and affinity for spicy food. They found that “sensation seekers,” or people who enjoyed the thrills of roller coasters, gambling, and meeting new people, were generally more enthusiastic about piquant dishes. Others in the field criticize the study’s predominantly Caucasian test group. However, the researchers argue that homogeneity was essential to observing personality correlations.

Continued exposure to spicy food at a young age causes nerve endings to die off.
“We looked at a population that didn’t grow up eating spicy food but still likes it,” says Dr. John E. Hayes, Assistant Professor of Food Science at Penn State and the head researcher on the study. “If you were looking at a population where everyone eats spicy food, you might not find these traits, and they might not be applicable.”

Regardless of where you stand on the sensation-seeking scale, if you like your food spicy, you’re getting a thrill from what is technically a painful sensation. Yes, you are fully entitled to feel more macho right now. But if you try to show off and end up surpassing your spice tolerance, try chewing on some mint leaves–it will activate your cooling receptors (so you’ll stop sweating) and freshen your breath at the same time.

This story was produced in partnership with Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. For more FYIs, go here.

via Popular Science


And yet:

“Federal food inspectors at many of the nation’s swine slaughterhouses fail to do their job and let repeat offenders continue to produce potentially contaminated meat without punishment, raising a ‘higher risk of providing pork for human consumption that should not enter the food supply,’ according to a new Agriculture Department audit.”Whenever they try to justify taxes, they talk about stuff like roads and food inspection. But when they actually get your money, they slip it to their buddies. . . .

via Instapundit