February 24, 2008
Andrew (10) has been working on a report on John Jay for quite some time so we talked about it a bit at dinner this evening. I asked Andrew what John Jay did. Andrew proceeded to list off his accomplishments:
Throughout this, Michael (7) was unimpressed. Then, Andrew said "he went to Spain" (as the ambassador to Spain), Michael lit up and said "woo".
I guess all those other things were less cool than visiting Spain. Michelle then pointed out that she had just been to Spain. Michael was appropriately impressed there too. Not sure where his Spanish thing comes from. Guess we'll need to go to Spain sometime.
(I actually didn't know anything about John Jay before Andrew's report. Impressive dude. He helped free all the slaves in New York before he died too.)
As I mentioned earlier, I had hoped to ride my bicycle in the Chilly Hilly as part of my training for RSVP (Ride from Seattle to Vancouver and Party). Well, it was today, but I didn't make it. I came down with a sinus infection and have been feverish, congested, and generally miserable for the past few days with no relief in sight. Too bad too -- it was a lovely day today -- not chilly at all. I did manage to get a few rides with friends; good to get an early start on the season. Once I recover, I'll need to get moving again. Oh well.
February 17, 2008
Regular readers know that I have a special part of my heart (and my waistline) reserved for bacon. I've written about the world's best way to cook bacon, linked to bacon humor, and even had my son aspire to bacon art.
However, I haven't written much about great bacons yet. My friend Chooky describes the best of something as "the bacon of xxx" (like his posts on the "bacon of yogurt" or the "bacon of pens".) This lead me to wonder what the "bacon of bacon" is.
Since I seem to inhale any bacon in front me too quickly for a thoughtful taste test, I turned to Cooks Illustrated, my favorite food magazine ever. They're the Consumer Reports of food. They'll test a hundred variations of a recipe to get it right; they also compare brands of foods and tools and give you the low-down. Their stuff is almost always gold. (They're also known as America's Test Kitchen on TV and in some cookbooks.)
Cooks Illustrated did two taste tests for bacons, one for supermarket brands and another for premium brands. (Note, CI requires a subscription to get to this content; they have a free 14-day trial offer though.) The winner of the supermarket brand is Farmland Hickory Smoked Bacon, topping stalwart brands like Boar's Head, Hormel Black Label (which I had yesterday morning and thought was lovely), Armour, and Oscar Mayer. Tasters described it as "meaty", "full-flavored", and "crispy, yet hearty".
On the premium side, Niman Ranch Dry Cured Center Cut Bacon won the day (I mentioned Niman Ranch in my post on cooking bacon.) Here's their description:
Niman Ranch Dry Cured Center Cut Bacon Oakland, California $8 for 12 ounces Tasters found this bacon hearty, rich, balanced, and smoky. One taster said, "Yum . . . what bacon should be."
This is our "house bacon" whenever we can swing by Trader Joes.
One note for the organic, free-range, no-preservative crowd: CI observed in their reviews that nitrate-free bacons did not fare well. Turns out that people are used to the color and taste of nitrate in their bacon, so it doesn't taste right when the nitrates aren't there. This is consistent with a taste test we did between corned beefs a few St. Patricks' Days ago. We ordered a nitrate-free corned beef that was excellent except that everyone liked the regular supermarket one better. The nitrate-free corned beef was grey instead of the familiar red and missing the tang that we've come to associate with corned beef.
CI also noted that there is a visible variation in meat-to-fat ratio between different packages of bacon. This seems obvious since bacon is a natural product (well, it starts off natural anyway and then becomes ethereal). It's worth a few extra seconds in the store to pick your package of bacon carefully, just like you would pick out good apples.
So, go give these brands a whirl and let me know what you think. Of course, as CI notes, "Bad bacon is something of an oxymoron."
February 12, 2008
I think it's important as a parent to keep your children connected with their heritage. Food, clearly, has tons of cultural and ritual meaning, so it's an important tradition to pass down.
With this in mind, this weekend, I introduced the kids to Marshmallow Fluff, a staple food in the Midwest (I grew up in Minnesota.) For those of you unfamiliar with this gooey concoction, Wikipedia describes it as a "very sweet, spreadable, marshmallow-like confection".
Andrew (10), who loves marshmallows, hated the Fluff. I think it kind of grossed him out, like many traditional foods do. I'm sure he'll develop a taste for it as he grows up. He'll thank me for it when he's older.
Michael (7) discovered the magical combination of peanut butter and fluff (well, soynut butter in his case since he's allergic to peanuts). While he didn't love the fluffernuter sandwich I sent him to school with, he does love dipping granola bites into the mixture. Kids these days.
February 7, 2008
2008's socially adept Rat year brings us charisma, intelligence and the ability to charm the pants off of just about anybody – literally. Romantically, 2008's repertory will be as eclectic and varied as this first sign of the Zodiac. High-strung, curious, and ever alert to sexual opportunity, during Rat years we will all feel the need to make an emotional connection with our love partner. It is after sunset that the Rat year comes alive with numerous acquaintances, lively discussion, and intensely romantic interludes. We will all value companionship and love more than anything else this year. Enjoy the concealed and stealthy midnight hours ruled by the Rat of romantic secrets and delicious debauchery. People fall in love easily during Rat years and we will all be prone to some memorable infatuations...
2008 will also be an intellectual one, as the Rat is the curious professor of the zodiac. Expect a renewed passion for knowledge, and interest in the sciences in 2008. Travel and a hunger for new experiences, will also becon...
Words and language will become ever more important and poets, musicians and writers can easily produce their best work to date under the influence of the talented Rat. Exchanging and communicating are the priorities of a Rat year. A hyperactive and restless year of potential nervous disorders and neurosis of every type. A good year to explore relaxation methods such as meditation more thoroughly. You may find yourself more sensitive to illness, environmental insults and allergies this year as well, so be sure to get that flu shot and eat your vegetables!
As a Monkey, I'm looking for the forecast of "exhausting nights of love" and being in "a very comfortable and prosperous position." Much better than the difficult year they had forecast for me last year.
So there you have it. Have a great year!
February 6, 2008
My post on the Best Way to Cook Bacon continues to generate comments and testimonials. It's a little wild, really. Sonja, one of the recent commenters, offered this bit of bacon humor. Thanks, Sonja!
February 4, 2008