Category Archives: in the news

That’s the Way the Cookie Crumbles

Variety is the spice of life. Right?

 

When I first moved to the good ol’ US of A, I was shocked to see how many varieties of Girl Scout cookies there are. How many flavors? Let me count the ways:

1) Thin Mints, mint chocolate wafers coated in chocolate
2) Samoas/Caramel Delites, vanilla cookies dipped in caramel, chocolate and coconut
3) Tagalongs/Peanut Butter Patties, vanilla cookies layered with peanut butter and chocolate
4) Do-si-dos/Peanut Butter Sandwiches, oatmeal cookie sandwiches with peanut butter filling
5) Trefoils/Shortbreads, a traditional shortbread with the Girl Scout emblem
6) Dulce de Leche, caramel cookies with caramel chips
7) Thank U Berry Much, with cranberries and white fudge
8) Thanks-a-lot, a shortbread cookie dipped in chocolate
9) Shout Outs, a Belgian-style caramel cookie
10) Lemonades, shortbread covered in lemon icing
11) And the new  Savannah Smiles, lemon wedges with lemon chips and powdered sugar.

And the above list doesn’t include the discontinued flavors!

The reason why I was so surprised was that I was a Girl Guide (Canada’s version of Girl Scouts, except with cuter uniforms–seriously, what’s up with those green vests?), and we had the following cookie flavors to sell:

1) Vanilla.
2) Chocolate.

Both were sandwich-style cookies with cream filling. Sometimes, if we were really lucky, we would be given peanut  butter or Thin Mint-like biscuits to sell,  but that was  rare. (Apparently, the Girl Guides of today sell Chocolatey Mint cookies in the fall, so at least there’s that.)


“Boring!” you might say. Yeah, fine, it’s not very creative. But I have to admit, I will always prefer Girl Guide cookies to any of the Girl Scout cookies on offer, with the exception of Samoas. Those are damn tasty, I won’t lie.

And, I daresay our Chocolatey Mint cookies are superior to Thin Mints–there’s actual mint filling inside!

 

Eat yer heart out, Thin Mints.

The Girl Scouts, though, have Girl Guides beat in terms of marketing their cookies. Apparently, the Scouts have just launched an app that locates cookie sales near you. Well played, Girl Scouts. Well played.

What’s your favorite Girl Scout cookie?

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Filed under Food, in the news, Random musings

In the News: A Musical Feast

While I was browsing the interwebs for work today, I came across this video about two Chinese brothers who make musical instruments out of bok choy, sweet potatoes, leeks and more:

 

 

Apparently, they are partial to playing songs by the Bee Gees and Korn. Hah.

So that’s amazing, yeah? I would agree, except for the fact that the Vienna Vegetable Orchestra has been doing this since 1998:

 

In case you’re wondering, the orchestra cooks all its instruments in a big soup to serve to the audience following every performance. Nice in theory, but kind of gross if you think about all the spit that’s blown into the “woodwind” veggies.

Doesn’t matter. I still want a pan flute made out of leeks and carrots.

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Filed under Food, fun with food, in the news

In the News: Can Ice Cream Be Racist?

Ben & Jerry's newest flavor got a pretty frosty reception.

Ben & Jerry’s is at it again, stirring sh*t up and getting reamed about a controversial flavor. (Remember the hullabaloo over Schweddy Balls? Yeeaah.)

Last Friday, the iconoclastic ice cream company announced it would release a new flavor in honor of Jeremy Lin, the New York Knicks‘ star point guard and the NBA’s first Taiwanese-American player who everyone and their mother is talking about right now, at the Ben & Jerry’s Harvard Square location. Seems appropriate, right? Especially since Lin went to Harvard and pretty much put its basketball team on the map.

Well, apparently, the move had consumers crying foul because of the flavor’s ingredients: vanilla frozen yogurt, lychee honey and (gasp!) fortune cookie pieces. The backlash was so swift that you’d think Ben & Jerry’s printed a caricature of a kung-fu fighter wearing thick round glasses and a Fu Manchu moustache on the carton. People started complaining that the use of fortune cookies was inherently racist (and soggy). The use of lychee, which is a Southeast Asian fruit, also ruffled some feathers. Ben & Jerry’s ended up replacing the fortune cookie pieces with waffle cone ones, but kept the lychee honey element.

Ben & Jerry’s issued an apology via (several) Twitter posts following the bad press, saying:

“On behalf of Ben & Jerry’s Boston Scoop Shops, we offer a heartfelt apology if anyone was offended by our handmade Linsanity flavor that we offered at our Harvard Square location. We are proud and honored to have Jeremy Lin hail from one of our fine, local universities, and we are huge sports fans. We were swept up in the nationwide Linsanity momentum. Our intention was to create a flavor to honor Jeremy Lin’s accomplishments and his meteoric rise in the NBA, and recognize that he was a local Harvard graduate. We try to demonstrate our commitment as a Boston-based, valued-led business and  if we failed in this instance, we offer our sincere apologies.”

The inspiration behind Ben & Jerry's latest flavor. And no, I will not combine "Lin" with "inspiration."

So, as a food lover and an Asian American, I have a few thoughts on this kerfluffle. First and foremost, I’m not entirely sure how delicious the combination of lychee honey, fortune cookies and vanilla yogurt would taste. Not exactly the strongest flavor, I’d imagine.

Second, I’d like to point out that if there is anything that is truly Asian American in this combination, it’s the fortune cookie. According to food historians, fortune cookies originated in Japan and Chinese immigrants were responsible for making them popular in the United States, in particular in the San Francisco Bay area. In fact, many Asian-American restaurateurs were all clamoring for recognition as the first to invent the cookie.

Chinese-American author Amy Tan also pointed out the American-ness of the fortune cookie in her bestselling book, “The Joy Luck Club,” when two immigrant Chinese women start working in a fortune cookie factory and find the baked good to be rather humorous and, well, foreign.

And journalist Jennifer 8. Lee explored the history of the cookie in her book, “The Fortune Cookie Chronicles” in a bid to show “how Chinese food is more all-American than apple pie.”

If anything, they should have nixed the lychee honey altogether  and maybe added something more fun, like Harvard crimson sprinkles or M&Ms in Knicks colors or something. Although I would probably steer clear of Twinkies and bananas. Now THOSE would be offensive.

Better yet, they should have asked Lin himself what he would like in his namesake ice cream.

Do you think “Taste the Lin-sanity” was racist, or do you think people should calm the heck down already? What would you have put in a Lin-inspired ice cream flavor?

(Also, for all you basketball fans out there, here’s an interesting post on Dr. J’s blog about Lin by a fellow Californian and Asian American who, like me, hasn’t bought into “Linsanity” fad quite yet for various reasons.)

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Filed under Food, in the news

Oscars 2012: Let Them Eat Gold

Wolfgang serves up a golden opportunity.

Watching the Oscars is kind of like watching the Superbowl for me–I usually don’t keep track of the major players throughout the year, so I’m not really that invested in who wins and who doesn’t. But I might tune in if I’m with friends and there’s food and alcohol involved. Especially if there’s alcohol. (I also enjoy praising/jeering actresses’ red-carpet sartorial choices, but that doesn’t really fit into the whole Superbowl metaphor.)

This year’s Oscars was all right, I guess, but it got to be more fun with each glass of cava I downed with my friend AJ. But what I REALLY would have liked to see was what Wolfgang Puck was going to serve at the Governors Ball.

“You can almost call it Wolfgang’s greatest hits over 30 years,” Puck said in a recent Reuters report.  “This is the perfect menu because there’s something for everybody.”

Indeed. Among the more interesting menu selections:

Pork belly dumplings with soy and ginger

Lobster taco with tomato and pickled shallots

Chicken pot pie with shaved black truffles and roasted vegetables

Shanghai lobster with coconut curry, jasmine rice and pickled ginger

Chinois lamb with cilantro-mint vinaigrette

Earl Grey tea truffles

Chocolate-dipped Pop Rock cakes

And, of course, the traditional 24-karat chocolate Oscars and the smoked salmon on Oscar-shaped flatbread with caviar and crème fraîche. Yum!

Here’s the shopping list for the entire menu, which comprised more than 50 small plates, main courses and desserts:

  • 1,300 farmed oysters
  • 5 kilos of American farm-raised caviar
  • 1,450 pounds Maine lobster
  • 7,500 U.S. shrimp
  • 30 gallons cocktail sauce
  • 1,250 stone crab claws
  • 10 pounds of black winter truffles
  • 20,000 pieces of California-grown micro greens
  • 6,000 pieces of mini brioche buns
  • 5,000 cage-free eggs
  • 200 quarts heavy cream and 200 quarts milk
  • 800 pounds L’Etoile du Nord bittersweet chocolate
  • 25 pounds edible gold dust

What really caught my eye, though, was the 25 pounds of gold dust, which brought to mind Billy Crystal’s one-liner early in the broadcast: “Nothing takes the sting out of a recession like watching millionaires present each other with gold statues.”

In the course of my research on what Chef Puck served after the Oscars, I came across some coverage highlighting some criticism from Joel Berg, a food poverty campaigner with the New York City Coalition Against Hunger, regarding the use of real gold in dishes served after the Golden Globes. He pointed out the irony of giving rich Hollywood types expensive, extravagant food for free while people stricken by the severe recession were struggling to get a decent meal, which, okay, yeah, I get. It’s a Marie Antoinette-like situation, and someone’s head might have to metaphorically roll for it.

Of course, that didn’t stop Puck, ever the pro, to deliver a sumptuous meal while also tempering the extravagance with social consciousness. Apparently, all the ingredients, with the exception of a few items, such as the lobster, were locally sourced, and all the leftovers were  donated to a local homeless shelter.

Still. What do you think? Is real gold a little much, especially at more than $135 per gram? Is it necessary to dust it on desserts served to celebrities after awards shows, especially during a recession?

I don’t have any answers. All I know is that, contrary to what the tabloids tell us, celebrities are NOT like us. After all, no one I know poops pure gold.

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Happy Groundhog Day!

America, you just got Punx'd. (via msnbcmedia.msn.com)

The town of Punxsutawney, PA, rose early this morning to see what its most famous resident had to say about the weather over the next six weeks, but I was more interested in two other questions: What does Punxsutawney Phil eat, and, more important, how do groundhogs taste?

You would think a groundhog would eat what it’s supposed to–grass, dandelion and clover. But in true American form, Punxsutawney Phil reportedly feasts on dog food and ice cream throughout the year. No wonder he weighs around 15 pounds! (In the wild, they average in weight from 4 to 9 pounds.) Chunky little chucker, isn’t he?

Apparently, of the 115 recorded predictions he’s made so far, Phil has predicted an early summer only 15 times. What do you want to bet his main motivation for presaging longer winters is having an excuse to go back to his warm burrow and continue pigging out?

If I were to ever have my pick of groundhogs to eat, I’d probably steer clear of Phil, not only because he’s famous, but also because he’s a lardo. After all, you are what you eat, right?

A cursory Google search–yes, my research methods are exacting–led me to an interesting website, appropriately named UShotStuff.com,  that says groundhogs are considered dark meat and have a mild flavor, and can be used as substitutes in rabbit and squirrel (!) dishes. Note the non-PC recipes on the site, as well as the Comic Sans font.

Here’s one random yet delicious-sounding recipe from the North Carolina State University Cooperative Extension website. I’m not entirely sure what NCSU has to do with woodchuck recipes, though. One can only imagine.

Groundhog Pie

1 woodchuck, skinned and cleaned
1/4 cup onion
1/4 cup green pepper
1/2 tbsp minced parsley
1 tbsp. salt
1/8 tsp. pepper
4 1/2 tbsp. flour
3 cups broth

Biscuits:
1 cup flour
2 tbsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
2 tbsp. fat
1/4 cup milk

Cut woodchuck into 2 or 3 pieces. Parboil for 1 hour. Remove meat from bones in large pieces. Add onion, green pepper, parsley, salt, pepper, and flour to the broth and srit until it thickens. If the broth does not measure 3 cups, add water. Add the meat to the broth mixture and stir thoroughly. Pour into baking dish.

For biscuits: sift flour, baking powder, and salt together. Cut in the fat and add the liquid. Stir until the dry ingredients are moist. Roll only enough to make it fit the dish. Place dough on top of meat, put in a hot oven (400 degrees F.) and bake 30 to 40 minutes or until dough is browned. Serves 6-8.

It’s doubtful that you’ll find 80/20 ground woodchuck chuck at your local Whole Foods, but I’m sure you can find someone out there who would be willing to supply you with unwanted groundhogs that have eaten prize vegetable gardens en masse. Craigslist would probably be your best bet, judging by this post for free groundhog meat that was posted in 2009.

Some words of wisdom for those brave enough to experiment with woodchuck meat:

“Please be assured that the groundhog roast
Is not a new invention;
Its fame, now reaching coast to coast
Is worth a cook’s attention
A Punsx’y chef will say it’s good,
And willingly he shares it,
But Woodchuck, like all other food,
Depends on who prepares it.”
Cooking with the Groundhog (1958)
And, finally, what Chow Bella post would be complete without a somewhat related, somewhat random YouTube video? Hope everyone has a happy Whistle Pig Day!

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Filed under Food, in the news, Random musings

Nuggets of Wisdom

Chicken nuggets fly the coop in Banksy's 2008 installation The Village Pet Store and Charcoal Grill (via garidavies.me.uk)

I did a bad, bad thing tonight.

After work, I planned on making some deliciously healthy Barley Stew with Leeks, Mushrooms and Greens, and was feeling good about a week’s worth of fairly good-for-you eating. It all came crashing down, though, when I picked up Dr. J from his office. Having had a super long day after pulling an all-nighter for work, he requested that we go to McDonald’s for dinner.

I hesitated for a split second, then our car started barreling toward the Golden Arches.

Hell yeah! We hadn’t gotten fast food since our honeymoon in Montreal over the summer. (Long story short, we got dolled up to have a fancy, expensive dinner, but the restaurant closed due to a city-wide blackout and the only place open was “McDo,” as it’s known in French.)

Fifteen minutes later, we brought home our fast-food booty:a Big Mac meal for him, and a 10-piece McNugget meal for me.

I see that arched eyebrow and the judge-y look. Yes, I have seen “Supersize Me,” and I know some people believe Chicken McNuggets  are made of unidentifiable pink, chicken-y crap. But then again, there are some people also believe that wearing Forever Lazys in public is acceptable.

Nope, that's not strawberry soft-serve ice cream, friend. (via Gizmodo.com)

Supposedly, mechanically separated chicken is made from eyeballs, guts and other nasty bits soaked in ammonia, reflavored and dyed with artificial colors. (Not entirely true, by the way, according to Snopes.com, and anyway, I have it on good authority that McNuggets are made of chicken breast meat, not that pink crap, so that didn’t bother me in the least.)

But I ate my McNuggets with gusto anyway and was feeling pretty good–until I flipped the box over to check out the nutrition facts (BAD idea) and realized that I’d just consumed 29 grams of fat (44 percent of the recommended daily value)  and 1000 mg of sodium (42 percent of DV). Ouch.

I looked to blog therapy to relieve my McGuilt Trip, but as I googled Chicken McNuggets,  I came across a Daily Mail story that came out today about a UK teen who has eaten nothing but Chicken McNuggets for 15 (!!) years and passed out while working. She was rushed to the hospital because she had trouble breathing and was found to be critically vitamin deficient and anemic. And she also had inflamed veins in her tongue. Gross.

The sad part is, the photos in the story really show how sickly she is. Imagine how much prettier she’d be if she’d eat a damn salad every now and then.

After reading her story, I didn’t feel quite as bad about 10 measly little nugs. Still. I think I’ll work out over the weekend anyway and make that barley soup to cleanse out the ol’ colon. Gotta atone for my sins somehow, I suppose.

Happy weekend to all, and to all a good night.

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Filed under Food, in the news, Random musings

In the News: Diabetes, Shmiabetes!

Paula Deen's sticky situation (via DiabetesMine.com)

Paula Deen. Love her or hate her, she seems to be on every food lover’s mind at the moment, thanks to her ill-advised decision to admit she’s had Type II diabetes for three years and that she’s now a spokesperson for controversial diabetes meds from Novo Nordisk. And days before her birthday, no less!

I’m really not a Deen fan at all–anyone who’s created a beef burger topped with bacon and a fried egg sandwiched between two doughnuts has got to be batshit crazy. But I thought of her diabetes debacle as I piled four huge Cadbury Dairy Milk bars into my shopping cart at the grocery store, with the intention of using them in yet another baking experiment, and wondered whether I was slowly killing myself and the people around me with my cooking and baking as well.

Type II diabetes runs in my family: my mom, grandma, uncle and aunt all have/had it, so I wouldn’t be surprised if I end up getting it, too. Sure, I try to sub out stevia for sugar in my coffee and I work out occasionally, but damn, I love me my sweets. In fact, I just annihilated four Dare Raspberry Whippets (the Canadian version of Mallomars, but with a raspberry jam center) while writing this post, and I don’t care who knows it!

I get that diabetes is a hard pill to swallow if you love to eat and prepare food as much as someone like Deen does. What I don’t get is her apparent lack of self-awareness. I wonder whether she thought twice before dumping a box of butter into a pie on her show,  or whether she even blinked while serving up her chocolate cheese fudge–complete with two sticks of butter and a half-pound of Velveeta cheese ::gag::

It would seem that as a celebrity figure that people look to for culinary guidance, Deen could have used her diagnosis more thoughtfully and promoted healthier eating without hawking a questionable medication. At first glance, it looks like she’s doing just that–her website now features a microsite with healthier versions of some of her recipes, although I think there’s just no saving the donut burger–but the microsite is brought to you by Novo Nordisk. For shame.

As home cooks, though, do we have the same responsibility to give our loved ones healthy food? Of course, to some degree, yes. But, as with most things in life, moderation is key–and exercise is a must. After all, the French eat croissants all the freaking time–so much so that a recent French “fat tax” got everyone’s culottes in a bunch when they thought the tax would jack up croissant prices–but they walk and bike everywhere, so there you go.

All right, I’m rambling now. I actually didn’t intend to write a full post tonight, actually, but, hey, y’all get a freebie tonight. What I really wanted to do was post a few of my favorite Deen memes. (More awesomeness here.) Good night, and good luck.

The Yecch Files (via Gothamist.com)

The Lady's rebuttal to everyone's bitching over diabetes (via MemeBase.com)

You otter know better, Paula. (via WarmingGlow.uproxx.com)

Letting it all hang out. (via ohinternet.com)

And, for good measure, the OG of diabetes himself, Wilford Brimley.

Hip hop and he don't stop (via HolyTaco.com)

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Filed under Food, in the news, kitchen conundrums