When you can't live without bananas

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Tuesday, November 27, 2012

50 shades of Grey

#4e5054, #272727, #282828, #292929, #2b2b2b, #2c2c2c, #2e2e2e, #313131, #323232, #343434, #353535, #373737, #393939, #3a3a3a, #3c3c3c, #3f3f3f, #404040, #424242, #444444, #454545, #474747, #484848, #4a4a4a, #4b4b4b, #4d4d4d, #4e4e4e, #505050, #515151, #535353, #565656, #575757, #585858, #595959, #5b5b5b, #5c5c5c, #5e5e5e, #616161, #626262, #646464, #656565, #676767, #6a6a6a, #6b6b6b, #6c6c6c, #6d6d6d, #6f6f6f, #727272, #737373, #757575, #767676, #777777, #7b7b7b, #7c7c7c, #7d7d7d, #7e7e7e, #808080, #818181, #838383, #868686, #878787, #888888, #898989, #8b8b8b, #8c8c8c, #8e8e8e, #919191, #929292, #949494, #959595, #979797, #9a9a9a, #9b9b9b, #9c9c9c, #9d9d9d, #9f9f9f, #a0a0a0, #a2a2a2, #a5a5a5, #a6a6a6, #a8a8a8, #a9a9a9, #ababab, #aeaeae, #afafaf, #b0b0b0.

Monday, November 26, 2012


An Unlikely Thanksgiving Stand-In - Pasta Carbonara - NYTimes.com

"[It has been] turned into an Italian tradition that, like many inviolate Italian traditions, is actually far less old than the Mayflower...

According to one Italian food historian, there are at least 400 versions, from the most classic Roman to variations that are delicious but drive traditionalists mad.

Though Mr. Trillin did not address the subject, carbonara can be tricky to make well, partly because it is so simple: at base, egg, cheese, cured pork, pasta and black pepper. There is little margin for error. I learned this to my great embarrassment at a poolside party a few years ago with a bunch of posh Italians and their sunburned, hungry children...

Eggs, bacon, cheese and pasta taste great, almost no matter what. It’s worth the effort, though, to get right, and that’s what I’ve striven for since, to the point of curing my own guanciale at home, which is less difficult than it sounds. No obsession here, I swear...

Which carbonara you would take to the other side. One with guanciale, pancetta or plain bacon? Only pecorino cheese, made from sheep’s milk? Or is a bit of Parmesan O.K.? Peas or not? Onion? Whole eggs or yolks?

Or, heaven forbid, the ingredient that most divides devotees of a dish that, above all, aims for creaminess: actual cream?...

What seems clear is that carbonara, like many so-called old standards in Italy, is a fairly new invention. Al dente pasta became the benchmark relatively recently. Pizza was often considered revolting, some food historians say, until Queen Margherita of Savoy sanctified it in a trip to Naples in 1889, inspiring the name of the most famous pizza. Some old Italian cookbooks treat even garlic with suspicion.

Tradition is often invoked in Italy, but often it means what you kind of like or what Mamma made...

An unapologetic apostate (“I’m going to get angry e-mails,” he said as he made it one recent night), he invokes science for the use of cream: it makes it less likely, he said, for the eggs to scramble under the heat of the fat and pasta. That is vital, he added, in a dish that is either great or wrecked right at the end.

“This dish really is about the last three minutes,” he said"

"I also enjoy the fact that Italians have such strong opinions on the right way, and wrong way, to make something. When I'm am there on our active culinary tours, I just listen, and agree, and learn. There is little point in arguing. Then I return home, and make it my own. It's just shows how much they care about their food - paying attention to ingredients, being passionate about what you create all contributes to a great meal."

"One trick that has helped increase my success is to combine the beaten eggs and cheese in a bowl and then temper them with a small amount of pasta water. Then I add this to the hot pasta, and quickly toss with tongs adding small amounts of pasta water until I get the right consistency. There's something the starch in the pasta water that magically brings it all together."

"I finally got it right after going to google.it and searching for videos of Italian chefs preparing the dish. I now use the recipe from one of those sites - it uses cream, with the chef's note, "lo so che non è ortodossa, scusatemi" (I know it's not orthodox, forgive me)."

"Well of course those "posh" Italians mentioned in the article did not want to eat your Carbonara. It was summertime."

"Do you now how ridiculous this article sounds to people who have trouble putting food...any food on the table?"
"oh for heaven's sake Can't anybody write anything about food without someone making this kind of comment? Do we have to suspend all food writing everywhere till every last person on the planet has enough to eat? "

"who wants to live forever when there's carbonara to be eaten? I'd rather die young-ish than deprived of joy."

Addendum: "Emilio Dente Ferracci, an Italian food historian and son of a great Roman cook, Anna Dente of Osteria di San Cesario outside Rome, has collected scores of stories of how carbonara came to be: He doesn’t believe it existed before 1944, based on cookbooks and Roman menus. He does think that, in the deprived days after the war, Romans used American food aid (bacon and powdered egg yolks) to gussy up pasta dishes.

“The Americans left, and the Romans perfected the recipe,” Mr. Ferracci wrote in an e-mail. “Instead of bacon, pancetta or still better, guanciale; in place of powered egg yolks, fresh eggs; and for the cheese, pecorino Romano.”

“While in other parts of Italy and the world, garlic, onion, butter or cream are added, in Rome these ingredients are forbidden,” he said. “There are only five permitted ingredients: pasta, guanciale, egg yolk, pecorino Romano and black pepper.”

And so, “tradition,” or so it seems, was born."

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day

A grade school teacher was asking his pupils what their parents did for a living.

"Tim, you be first. What does your mother do all day?"

Tim stood up and proudly said, "She's a doctor."

"That's wonderful. How about you, Amy?"

Amy shyly stood up, scuffed her feet and said, "My father is a mailman."

"Thank you, Amy" said the teacher. "What does your parent do, Billy?"

Billy proudly stood up and announced, "My daddy plays piano in a whorehouse."

The teacher was aghast and went to Billy's house and rang the bell.

Billy's father answered the door.

The teacher explained what his son had said and demanded an explanation.

Billy's dad said, "I'm actually a system programmer specializing in TCP/IP communication protocol on UNIX systems. How can I explain a thing like that to a seven-year-old?"

(interestingly, before 2003, "Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day" was "Take Our Daughters To Work Day")

Euler on Experience being Unnecessary

"Many journalists have fallen for the conspiracy theory of government. I do assure you that they would produce more accurate work if they adhered to the cock-up theory." - Bernard Ingham


(following on from The Inadequacy of Experience)

In 1727, Leonhard Euler tied for the second prize of the Paris Academy on the best way to arrange masts on a ship.

This, despite his never having been on a ship.

Indeed, Euler was

"The youthful inhabitant of the Alps", who, other than freighters, ferry boats, and simple canoes on the Rhine river, had never yet caught sight of a ship!
(Leonhard Euler / Emil A. Fellmann)

On his own proposal (Translated & Annotated by Ian Bruce):

Here at last I put an end to my meditations, since it is seen that I have carefully assessed the matter proposed in the problem, and I may have satisfied the problem. I do not think that it is necessary to confirm my theory by experiment, since the whole has been deduced from both the surest and the most irrefutable principles of mechanics, and thus concerning that there cannot be the least doubt or the truth can be put to the test in practice

No doubt there were sailors who, valorising the reality of lived experience, ignored the work of the mathematicians.

(I am reminded of some people who, when I presented them with copious evidence that the Sexual Double Standard did not exist, refused to believe it and fell back on anecdotes - no doubt salient due to Confirmation Bias, and in the end claimed that when a "minority" shares something, other people should listen)
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