Wednesday, April 4, 2012

We Don't All Have to Learn Chinese

I grew tired of seeing articles insisting that Chinese would replace English as the lingua franca of commerce, education and culture. I wrote an article about it which I published elsewhere. Shortly after, someone posted (hacked) a link here with the opposite view and without my permission.

This was my article:

The Deceleration of the Chinese Economy or Why We Don't All Have to Learn Chinese

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Where Have I Been? Writing, Thinking about Food, Just not Here

I've been away for a while at school, then work. I've written sporadicly for HubPages under the avatar Brupie. I like HubPages: It is convenient and puts your work into a community context where writers share. There is a downside: some articles are of low quality articles and there is an overabundance of recycled advice on SEO and monetizing.

Why don't you stop by and take a look? I wrote some pieces on college cooking; one on picking a food thermometer, another on effective use of a microwave, one on egg substitutes. I've also dabbled in politics and investing too:

The Dorm Gourmet: Three Quick and Easy Breakfasts for the College Student on the Go

The Dorm Gourmet: Mongolian Beef for Two

The Dorm Gourmet: Simple Spaghetti Carbonara in a Rice Cooker

Picking a Food Thermometer: Bimetallic, Thermistor, Thermocouple, Infrared

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Looking Back on 2009 Resolutions

When I made my kitchen resolutions in 2009 I had a different outlook: I was working for a large food manufacturing company; I was a part-time student crawling unenthusiastically toward an Accounting degree, and my financial situation was, if not enviable, certainly stable. As I plan for 2010, my perspective is much different: I lost my job. I've discovered there are few aspects of business I care less about than Accounting, financially life is more precarious. I decided to finish my business degree in Marketing and am pursuing it full-time. My 2009 kitchen resolutions were fun to pursue however. Some missed the mark, but I will repeat / re-resolve a few for 2010.

Here is what I put down for 2009 and the results:

Kitchen Resolutions 2009

1. Cook through How to Eat Supper (at least 80% with no obligation to cook any seafood -- an obligation to my spouse).
I've never cooked in any year more than I cooked in 2009, and this book is largely the reason. Unfortunately, unemployment was reason number two. Because I cooked from so many cookbooks in 2009, completely skipped all seafood, and didn't cook much in soup season, I didn't hit 80%. I counted my marginal notes and delved into my memories as I paged through my copy. It looks like I only got to 30 or so recipes. But that means Lynne and Sally visited our house about every two weeks. I guess there will be no blockbuster movie Bruce & Lynne (& Sally).

When shopping for cookbooks for the Mini Chef, I noticed How to Eat Supper didn't get as great a promotional push this year as last, which is a shame. I recommend it highly as a cosmopolitan style cookbook. It doesn't suffer from fussy or obscure ingredients or difficult techniques. Besides the great recipes, the book's strength is in the practical advice found on every other page. Littered with gems like, "Walk in the house and turn the oven to 450° F. Even if you have no idea what you are going to be eating this single act starts supper ... "

2. Go through every shelf, cupboard and work surface at least once.

Our kitchen is cleaner. Enough said.

3. Learn to manage the burgeoning herb/spice collection.

I'll repeat this resolution again for 2010. Economy of scale evolved into a dangerous habit. I bought a larger pestle and mortar for seeds, pepper corns etc. I've also figured out some of the more shelf stable spices, I now have a pound of turmeric and 2 1/2 pounds of hot pepper flakes (kimchee!).

4. Keep a kitchen food journal so that I can figure out what works (and doesn't).

This resolution I've kept in a half-hearted way. My sense is that, barring plans of putting out my own cookbook, minor notes should suffice. My desire is to learn how to cook. If I have a difficult recipe, hints should suffice once technique is mastered.

5. Bread baking. I have played around with baguettes or crusty French bread for some time now. I need to branch out.

I spent a lot of time baking in 2009. I imagined branching out to mean adding two or three types of bread to my repertoire. Last week I tried a Finnish pulla, a foccachia, and a semolina loaf (per Baking with Julia). I made dozens of loaves of white sandwich bread (also B w/ J). I bought, experimented with and eventually developed an intense adverse reaction every time I saw Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day. I made my first loaf of challah, rye and even played around with Injera (unsuccessfully). If anyone knows an Ethiopian/East African baker who would be willing to teach me ...

6. Fridge management.

Do you care?

7. Leftovers. I've got to figure out a way to make bringing leftovers more appealing as a lunch alternative.

I've come to rely much less on my work cafeteria since I lost my job.

8. Blog more.

From a marketing perspective (remember, I'm a marketing guy now), I know daily postings would be best. Unfortunately, I am a slow writer. I type slowly. I edit as I go along and then go back and edit some more. I have bad writing habits that make papers and projects stretch out longer than necessary. Nevertheless, I managed to write almost 30 posts, in nine months (I didn't blog at all in October, November and December while I was a full-time student). I started nearly as many pieces that never were posted. We'll see if I can correct that for 2010.

I look forward to writing about all the food topics I put aside while pretending to study.

Monday, September 21, 2009

10 Reasons I'm Letting My Subscription to Cook's Illustrated Lapse

The beautiful hand drawings on the back covers of Cook's Illustrated sealed it for me. I'll miss those wonderful back cover drawings - varieties of flat breads including not just pita, naan and lavosh, but Ethiopian injera too. These were real foodies! Root vegetables on the back of another issue. Pumpkins, plain and unusual on a third. I'd gotten serious about food, and Cook's Illustrated was the magazine. CI was smart, food erotica, especially compared to that advertising-packed food pron of Bon Appetit.

Cook's Illustrated is an excellent source of information: recipes with more than a tip or two; in depth coverage of preparation and explanations of why things turn out the way they do. I found a trial offer and was very satisfied except for that minor issue when I paid to continue my subscription. It was such a minor issue. It should have stayed that way.

They had no record of my check. It had cleared my bank. Sorry. They needed proof. I sent a pdf file with an image of the front and back of the check showing their endorsement. Sorry. Can't open the file. I sent a Word document with the front and back of the check showing their endorsement. Sorry. Can't open the file. Finally, I pasted in a copy of the front and back with their endorsement into the body of the message. I emailed from home and work so I knew it wasn't just my personal email. The issue was resolved and I subsequently received two copies of each issue. I didn't bring it up.

Over time I began to find other annoyances. Nothing outrageous. Just annoyances and enough of them to finally let the subscription lapse before true bitterness set in, the reasons:

1. Spam. CI makes money selling their books, other mags (there's a Cook's Country) and the combination to the vault of their wealth of knowledge. Like Consumer Reports, they don't make money on advertising. The horse's mouth kept telling me about how good the goods are. I didn't need to hear of new offers of the repackaged forms.

2. Christopher Kimball. If you subscribe, you know what I'm talking about. Every issue, every newsletter, every book has his smug, bow-tied, bespeckled image all over it. My college president has the same problem. Enough.

3. The aforementioned check.

4. The obsession with superlatives. For example, the September & October 2009 included "Best Italian Meat Sauce" and "How to Brew Perfect Coffee." It's become a tired template, "We set out to find the best ... using 50 ovens ... baking over a gajillion ... Find a new model.

5. Our way is the only way. Hand in hand with the "best" problem (see #4), variation is not a strong suit.

6. Lack of inspiration. Many of their efforts are geared to perfecting recipes that I've had my fill of. The best apple pie is still an apple pie.

7. I get enough mail that I don't read.

8. Christopher Kimball. I know this is the same as #2, but the guy must really have an ego to have his pic plastered everywhere.

9. $25 for 6 issues a year isn't a great deal.

10. I paid for two years, ending in May of 2010, but they started bugging me about renewal in August of 2009. Thanks CI for reminding me so soon about what a pain you are!

Friday, September 18, 2009

Challah - a first attempt

Of my kitchen New Year's resolutions, I didn't set out with the goal of making challah, but I wanted to expand my range of baking beyond baguettes. So far I've made: Sandwich loaves, Italian loaves, dinner rolls, rye (not a hit in the house), potato flour hamburger buns (underbaked and too mushy to be satisfying), and now challah. The smell alone was a reward.

Of the many lessons from my adventure:
  1. Make the "ropes" of the braid smaller (perhaps pencil size?) - they will expand on their own.
  2. Buy a back-up loaf (thanks Kaeti)
  3. Don't get too egg wash happy. One of the loaves had a lot on the bottom and burned, creating a bitter taste. Easy to cut off, but ...
  4. Stock up on eggs, butter, and flour for next Rosh Hashanah!
  5. I'm happy with this year's efforts, but you bet I'll be asking Jewish grandmothers (and comments below) for free advice.

The challah tastes goods, but I definitely need some help with braiding. Whatever failures in technique were made up for in French toast on the back porch with the MC (Mini Chef).

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

More Food Fun at the Fair

The Minnesota State Fair is all about food on a stick. We trekked about with a not-so-impressed guest, so I didn't get the coverage I'd hoped for, but here is a sample:

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Cheese Curds

I was at the fair yesterday. Keep an eye on this spot, there will be more to come.