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Ask Carb Diva: Questions & Answers About Food, Cooking, & Recipes #78

Updated on March 31, 2019
Carb Diva profile image

Linda explores food facts, folklore, and fabulous recipes, one ingredient at a time.

I Feel Vindicated

This past week I had the pleasure of reading an article by J. J. Goode, an internationally recognized travel and food writer. He has co-authored four cookbooks and writes for The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Gourmet, Saveur, Bon Appétit, Food & Wine, and Every Day with Rachael Ray.

Mr. Goode validated every thought I have held about carelessly crafted recipes; he says that short recipes are to be feared, not desired. The devil isn't in the details. Evil lurks in those instructions that are left unsaid (or unwritten). His musings were published online by Taste on March 26, 2019. The entire article "The Case for Very Long Recipes" is here. If you are interested in food and/or cooking, and especially if you appreciate good writing, you should take the time to read this article.

Sorry for the Interruption In Our Previously Scheduled Program

OK, let's get back on track. Each week I receive questions about food ingredients, cooking or baking terms or methods, requests for recipes, and queries about nutrition. Just about anything food-related has been covered here.

I'm sharing this past week's questions and my responses and it happens every Monday. Want to join in the fun? You can leave your question in the comments below, and next week the answer will be right here. It's that easy.

More About Tapping Trees for Sap

Last week I wrote an article about maple syrup, its history, how the process works today, and (of course) some recipes with maple syrup as a key ingredient. That prompted several questions. This first one is from Shauna (Brave Warrior).

After reading this article, I'm wondering if maple trees ever run out of sap. Do they regenerate? How exactly does the sap form? Is it possible to literally drain a tree dry? Inquiring minds want to know. :-)


Shauna, because of your question I learned something new today; in fact I learned a lot (and that's the really fun part of this for me). The physical process of sap "running" is complicated and fascinating. But first, let me tell you about the source of my information. Alan Suddaby was pursuing a degree in electrical engineering but got a part-time job in the kitchen of Hulbert’s Restaurant to pay for his tuition. He began his work at Hulbert's with nothing more than a slight understanding of how to boil water but soon learned that he enjoyed the science of food. As he explained:

Food marries art and science. In a conversation about cake you are as likely to mention the hygroscopic properties of sugar as you are Marie Antoinette. When cooking, you are as likely to use an immersion circulator with a feedback temperature controller as you are a match or a piece of wood. Food encompasses endless variety that all drives towards the same, gratifying end.

A year after taking that job Alan had graduated with a degree in hand, was working as a full-time cook, writing on a blog called Button Soup, and was then accepted into the NAIT culinary arts program. A star was born.

Alan enjoys researching and writing about food, and wrote an amazingly detailed explanation of the process of why sap runs (and why sometimes it doesn't). His article is here. The Readers' Digest version is:

  • There are two types of wood in a maple (or any other tree that is tapped for its sap) tree—heartwood (which is basically inert), and the living, sapwood close to the surface.
  • Sapwood transports food (sugars) and water to the limbs, branches, and leaves.
  • Freezing and thawing cycles build up pressure in the wood fibers. Bore a hole in the tree and the sap will be squeezed out.
  • Tapping does not harm the tree; new sapwood is produced with each growing cycle. Some trees have been giving sap for more than 100 years.

And Mary (Blond Logic) asked

"Do people tap other trees such as the maple?"

Ohmygoodness, yes! There are 22 varieties of trees that can be tapped for their sap.

  • Nine varieties of maple (including the sugar maple),
  • Gorosoe
  • 3 walnuts
  • Heartnut
  • 6 birches
  • Sycamore
  • Ironwood.

Details of those trees and how their saps are used is here.


Fire and Ice

My mom made a fairly simple dish she called fire and ice. It could be a side of any meal. It was something like vinegar and oil and onion and tomatoes. Do you know of it and recipe. You know I no longer go on line to research I rely strictly on you.


Eric you have made me happy, but boy now the pressure is on. So I'm your Google? Ohmygoodness!

I've not heard of "fire and ice" (at least as you describe it, but I think it was a Robert Frost poem).

I digress but wait while I check my sources {click, click, click, click, click}.

OK, I'm back. Thank you for filling this hole in my culinary knowledge. I had never heard of the summer salad named "Fire and Ice." However, now I know that it's a common attendee at luncheon and dinner tables in the South.

I found this recipe by Louise on AllRecipes. As you said, it begins with firm, summer-ripe juicy red tomatoes. Bell peppers and cucumber provide a crunchy texture and the combination of vinegar, black pepper, and cayenne are the fire.

How To Scale a Fish Without Making a Mess

I have just finished gutting and cleaning a fish to make some fish cakes. Do you have any tips for scaling fish? I am donned in tiny scales at the moment.


Mary, depending on the size of your fish, this method may or may not work. The next time you have a fish to de-scale, get a large trash bag (big enough to not only hold the fish but to plunge your arms into as well). You won't be able to get ALL of the scales that way, but a significant amount and the scales will be trapped in the bag instead of flying like confetti.

I don't know if you have them available in Brazil, but here in the states, we can get clear (see-through) disposable bags for lining our garbage bins.

A New Topic

For the past 26 weeks, I have been running a series called "Alphabet Soup." Each week I gave you a nourishing soup recipe; the first installment began with the letter A (Albondigas Soup), the next was letter B (Beef and Barley), and so on.

So next week we will begin a new chapter. I asked friends for suggestions on what the next topic should be and Flourish Anyway said this:

How’s this for an idea? “Don’t Throw That Away!” Basically, leftover things in the kitchen that we’d ordinarily toss out as trash ... are there alternative uses, whether in the kitchen or out? For example, one week consider used coffee grounds, another week consider leftover egg shells, etc. I did a brief search for eggshells and was amazed! My dad always asks (perturbed) why are you throwing that out?!? He can find a use for nearly anything. I knew about eggshells and warding off slugs but not the other things. He saves bones from meat that most people throw out, leftover lemon and orange peels, pickle juice, you name it. Very eccentric, but it may be entertaining and useful.

I LOVE this idea. It totally fits in with my "let nothing go to waste" upbringing. But it also alleviates another problem I've been puzzling over. On the first day of each month, I have given you ideas on how to re-purpose leftovers. Together we've explored how to deal with Thanksgiving turkey leftovers, excess rice or mashed potatoes, unused egg whites or yolks, overripe bananas, and even an over-abundance of summer zucchini. But, I'm running out of "leftovers." Flourish's suggestion will keep this thread going for a while and it will take the place of the "1st of the month" article.

So next week you will see a new topic here called "Don't Throw That Away!"

© 2019 Linda Lum


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    • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Lum 

      2 years ago from Washington State, USA

      Hi Rinita and welcome back. You have been missed.

      As for drying meats without a dehydrator--believe it or not I am in the midst of writing an article about making beef jerky and other dried meats. I'll pass on a few tips in next week's Q&A and then will push that article on jerky up closer to the front of the list (I had planned on releasing it in June since I have about 10 or 12 hubs already written and just waiting for me to hit the publish button).

    • Senoritaa profile image

      Rinita Sen 

      2 years ago

      I missed the last couple of weeks (work pressure), so really happy to be back on your page. I agree with Eric, these days whenever I have a food related question, my first choice is you over the internet. Of course this is still the internet, but it feels more personal.

      Speaking of questions, do you know anything about dehydrating veggies/meat without a dehydrator, for camping or other outdoor activities? How long does it take, best practices, is it possible to dehydrate cooked meat/veggies, etc.?

      Thanks in advance, and I look forward to the new leftover section.

    • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Lum 

      2 years ago from Washington State, USA

      Shauna, I have not discarded your suggestions, but I can only tackle one thing at a time (both for my sanity and for the sake of the readers).

      Yes, I think you can rest assured that you can enjoy maple syrup without fear that a tree gave up its life for your breakfast.

      Yesterday the Carb Diva family created the "perfect chicken and waffles" and although maple syrup was not the star of the show, it certainly made a huge impact with its guest appearance. You (and everyone else) will be seeing the results of that "feast" in a few weeks.

    • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Lum 

      2 years ago from Washington State, USA

      Ann, using coffee grounds for a facial is new to me, but in a twisted sort of way it makes sense. I wonder if there is some benefit from the acid, caffeine, or any other fun ingredients that might be lingering in those grounds? I will certainly add this to the list of things to research. Thanks so much.

    • bravewarrior profile image

      Shauna L Bowling 

      2 years ago from Central Florida

      Thanks for delving into the tree sap issue, Linda. Very enlightening. I'm relieved to know taking sap from a tree doesn't zap it of its life!

      Great suggestion from Flourish. Her idea is much better than mine!

    • annart profile image

      Ann Carr 

      2 years ago from SW England

      I saw a programme yesterday that mentioned using used coffee grounds as a skin scrub! Never knew about that so your new series sounds interesting too.

      Love the fire and ice idea and your info on sap was educative.



    • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Lum 

      2 years ago from Washington State, USA

      Mary, you never fail to educate me. Sapodilla is something new to me, but I promise I'll get right on it.

    • Blond Logic profile image

      Mary Wickison 

      2 years ago from Brazil

      Thanks for those answers about the sap and the fish scaling. I was surprised to see ironwood there, as my roofing timbers are made of Brazilian ironwood. Apparently there are many trees called that. The Latin names are different though.

      My mother used to do a similar 'fire and ice' although I had never heard it called that before.

      Your new topic sounds like a winner!

      I've got a bit of a sticky question for you. Literally! I have a sapodilla tree here at my house. It has now replaced bananas as my favorite fruit. The problem is the latex gummy goo that is left behind on my knife when I cut it. I know this used to be an ingredient in chewing gum but is there a way to remove the peel without gumming up utensils?

    • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Lum 

      2 years ago from Washington State, USA

      Eric the people in your neighborhood are so fortunate to have you in their lives. I can just envision you spreading happy sauce everywhere you go. Have a great day and don't forget to let me know about those baking recipes.

    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 

      2 years ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Wow that is on the table. I will swap some of my Chard for some of those eggs down the road and do it. We have a Mexican "problem" here. These "wetbacks" (no it is not derogatory) Well they work their butts off and they get the "fallen fruit" to sell some times. Strawberries and Avocados to die for. We are talking ambrosia. They sell on certain roadsides. Do not tell anyone but if you know the deal you buy some fruit and you can pull a couple of dollars out and get some early Tamales and Tacos or soup, Not for sale but their daily fair. Personally I buy some fast food burgers and we swap.

      Nothing better than food swapping.

    • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Lum 

      2 years ago from Washington State, USA

      Eric, good morning to you. Our friend billybuc tells me that you can put quail eggs in the blender, shell and all, and make scrambled eggs. Your words give me joy.

    • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Lum 

      2 years ago from Washington State, USA

      Bill, I knew nothing of fire and ice. That was sonething from Eric's childhood. My daughter and I were talking about the market just last week. Looking forward to it.

    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 

      2 years ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Fish scales. We just catch the big ones (of course small are catch and release and we use a #12 hook) We use a sharp throwing knife to "de-scale" and then jump in the river or creek to clean up.

      One of my best friends who was a Ranger and jumped out of planes in the Vietnamese conflict as an adjunct as a Vietnamese. Had a plantation of rubber trees. You left out rubber trees for tapping. OK he became my father in-law and rubber/latex is not food but still.... hihihi.

      I hope Billybuc chimes in with mulching about don't throw that away.

      In my undergraduate days of poverty I took a pistol and mortar and got my calcium from my chicken's egg shells. We called the pistol and mortar a "metate'", great for Indian corn for "tortillas") And so that is what I mixed my shells with.

      I could go on and on here because you are so eloquent of a writer your "stir me up", says Paul/Saul. "Food is to nourish the body, food with love mixed into it nourishes the soul". You provide me with wonderful nourishment.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      I've never heard of "fire and ice" even though our parents are from the same era. Very cool! I wouldn't eat it, but cool nonetheless. :)

      Have a great week ahead, Linda. I'll be busy gearing up for the Market on the 17th.

    • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Lum 

      2 years ago from Washington State, USA

      Flourish, I've been penning a few of these "don't thow it out's" in my spare time and have about 3 or 4 ready to load.

      Your story about the turkey would be funny if it wasn't so frustrating. I'm sure everyone has at least one similar story to tell of foods gone wrong because of poor instructions.

      I hope you have a great week and thanks again for the idea for the new topic. I think it will interest a lot of readers.

    • FlourishAnyway profile image


      2 years ago from USA

      Yay! I can’t wait for your thrifty “Don’t Throw That Away!” series. I was wondering whether you thought that idea was useful or a dud. The cranky orange tabby photo is the perfect way to introduce it.

      You’re right about recipe directions. I once baked one of those ready to bake turkeys in a bag that I don’t think is on the market anymore. Perdue sold it. The directions said poke several holes in the bag and put it right in the oven at whatever temperature. What they did NOT say is that the thing was double bagged and I should have removed the outer bag that the turkey was sold in THEN poke the holes in the inner bag and put the thing in the hot oven. The thing tasted like plastic and I didn’t know why. My husband and I ate it. My parents cracked up when they found out what I had done. I followed directions to the letter though.


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