Ask Carb Diva: Questions & Answers About Food, Recipes, & Cooking, #121
Have You Heard of Cook90?
Cook90 is a cooking plan invented by David Tamarkin of Epicurious magazine. Cook90 means that in one month (the average number of days in a month is 30) you will prepare every meal (breakfast, lunch, and dinner) in your home rather than relying on take-out, drive-thru windows, or the lunchroom cafeteria.
Now, before you jump to the next article, this doesn't mean that you are a slave to your stove for 90 meals. If toast and a cup of tea is your normal breakfast routine, then that's what you should do. Leftovers from dinner can be the next day's lunch. However, David does say that a food cannot be used more than twice (it's his concept, so he gets to make up the rules). That means that you can't cook a huge pot of chili and eat it for 4 consecutive days. But, you could eat it twice and then repurpose the remainder by turning it into tacos, or adding cooked pasta and making a casserole of it, for example.
Why do this? Well, in theory, it should reduce waste, it should greatly improve your food budget for the month (eating out is expensive), and even if you don't groove on cooking as much as David and I, it should make you happy (or at least, happier). Cooking is creative, it's entertaining, and (we think) that it can be fun.
What are your thoughts? Are you willing to give it a try? Let me know in the comments below what you think of this. Is it a hairbrained idea, or genius, or somewhere in the middle? And, can I help you in any way to fashion a Cook90 plan?
I'm all ears.
Before We Get Started
I want to share with you the happy news that a dear friend has recently self-published her first novel, "The Holding of Badger Creek." I asked what her inspiration was for this children's book and she said that she had always loved animal stories like "The Rescuers Down Under."
And, here's a recent review on Amazon:
"I was told this was a children's book but I am 86 years old and found this book to be delightful. It's all about animals but shows how they can get along even if at one time they were enemies. It would be nice if the human race could do the same. Everybody helping each other and looking out for one another. I hope she writes another book real soon."
The Mailbox Was Full
Let's get started with today's mailbox. If you're an old friend, you already know how this works. But, if this is your first visit, let me introduce you to my kitchen.
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; 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.
How to Cut Even Slices from a Loaf of Bread
The first question is from Mary (Blond Logic) who commented on Rinita's problems with sandwich bread crumbling.
"Regarding bread that falls apart when cut, the same thing happens to me. I too prefer a diagonal cut and often end up with bits and pieces. While we are on the subject of bread, do you have any tips for cutting a slice off a loaf? I end up with something that looks like a wedge of cheese."
Mary, you're not alone. I've noticed that the bread in my house also has ends that are aslant rather than with a vertical 90-degree edge. Maybe these tips will help:
- Open a can of patience and apply a liberal dose to the situation at hand.
- Grab a sharp serrated knife with your dominant hand (I'm left-handed so won't attempt to demonstrate).
- Now here's where it becomes a tad counter-intuitive. Turn your loaf of bread on its side so that instead of the bottom of the loaf resting on the cutting board, the bottom is facing you and one of the two sides is down. (If, by chance, your bread does not have vertical sides, straight up and down, 90-degree stuff, shave a bit off of one side to make it more up-and-down.) Why would you do this? Well, many/most loaves are wider than they are thick unless you are dealing with a square sandwich loaf.
If your bread has a sturdy (crusty) top, it takes a lot of pressure to cut through that top layer. Rotate the bread onto its side and now you can penetrate the top and bottom (also a challenge) with each saw of your knife.
Remember the patience called for in step 1? Take your time with the sawing (not pushing the blade through the loaf). Concentrate on keeping the knife vertical (straight up-and-down).
And then Bill Holland (billybuc) had this:
"Here's a question for your mailbag—why do different people have specific taste preferences? Nature vs nurture...let's see you tackle that one Oh Wise One!"
Bill, over the past seven decades I've been called many things, but "oh wise one" is not one of them. I think you were half-kidding, but it's an interesting problem and one that does not have a simple answer. Actually nature and nurture play almost equal parts in our food/taste preferences. Here are some examples:
- Some people find the taste of cilantro to be objectionable; to them, it tastes like eating a bar of soap. This isn't because they weren't introduced to it as babies, nor is it because they are being snobbish or picky. They actually have olfactory-receptor genes that allow them to strongly perceive the aldehydes in cilantro leaves as soapy-tasting.
- Beets. This one is near and dear to my heart (actually the opposite is the case). I absolutely loathe beets and have had an aversion to them ever since mom tried to foist them on me as strained baby food. I spat them back at her and (according to the story) clamped my jaws tightly when that baby spoon dripping with a bloody-looking substance came anywhere within a mile of my face.
Beets contain geosim, an organic compound produced by microbes in the soil. Geosim gives off a smell like freshly plowed earth. Some people enjoy it, while others have the Carb Diva reaction.
- Other people have a sensitivity to anethol, an aromatic that gives fennel, star anise, and licorice their distinctive flavors and aromas.
- Scientists believe that the preference for certain tastes can develop in utero. The nutrients in and constituents of amniotic fluid are affected by the mother's diet. These preferences are reinforced by the flavor and composition of the mother's breast milk.
Those obviously fall into the nature category. But what about the flip-side? My mom was raised on a farm and was forever marked with the opinion that corn is "pig food." She famously hated it and instilled that dislike in her youngest child. I'm going to call that one "nurture." My daughters do not share my scorn of corn, but perhaps their dad's love of kernels on the cob is a dominant gene.
Even very young children are amazingly observant, and they pick up cues from other family members. A child raised in a home where hamburgers, pizzas, and french fries are the norm will associate those foods with comfort and will learn to prefer those instead of carrot sticks and non-fat yogurt.
A recent study found that repeatedly exposing children to a novel food within a positive social environment was especially effective in increasing children’s willingness to try and preference for the novel food, as well as other novel foods not targeted by the intervention. These findings suggest the importance of both the act of repeatedly exposing children to new foods and the context within which this exposure occurs. (Science Direct "Current Biology" Vol. 3, Issue 9, 6 May 2013)
And then, Dr. M. Krondl's research shows that the science of food preference is even more complex, that heredity, culture, and even socio-economic status can play a part in our likes and dislikes. Here's the chart that he developed to explain his theory.
There is one more factor that I should mention—a normal part of the aging process is a decline in the number of taste buds and receptors (my father-in-law liberally dosed all of his food with ketchup.) Medications and illnesses (such as Alzheimer's) can also affect how foods taste.
Bill, how'd I do?
Hot Pans and Vinegar: A Deadly Combination?
Another question from Mary:
"I was wondering if you could shed some light on an incident we had a couple of days ago. Ian was cooking chilies (hot ones) in some oil and then added some vinegar. He was using a cast iron skillet. Oh my goodness, we were coughing and gagging, and sneezing.
He didn't want to open the back door because he didn't want the gas flame to blow out. The cooker is next to the door.
Was this the chilies or a combination of them with the vinegar? We now have a sauce that is possibly too hot to consume. Did he make the equivalent of pepper spray or can we still eat the sauce (in small amounts)?"
Mary, I looked and looked and simply could not find any information on the danger of combining chile peppers and vinegar. However, I was suspicious of the vinegar itself hitting a scalding hot pan. Vinegar fumes are not toxic but they certainly are pungent and I can understand the coughing and gagging that you and Ian experienced.
So, I reached out to a friend who worked as a food scientist for our county. She gave me this information:
"Another name for vinegar is acetic acid. This may shed some light on the problem. If the result was chemicals that are useful in colorants, then they could easily be irritants to the eyes or lungs or mouth. Iron powder reacts with hot acetic acid to give the product: Fe + 2 CH3CO2H → Fe(CH3CO2)2 + H.
The reaction of scrapiron with acetic acid affords a brown mixture of variousiron(II) and iron(III) acetates that are used in dyeing."
I think what you experienced was a chemical reaction that created nasty fumes in your house. Did it "infect" the actual concoction in the pan? I don't know, but to err on the side of caution, I'd toss it away and start over. (Perhaps useful as a good pesticide?)
Did you know that there is a Table of Contents for this series? I have created an article that provides a detailed listing of each question I've received. It's broken down by category, and within each category, the questions are listed alphabetically. Each question is actually a hotlink back to the original post.
Here's a link to that Table of Contents.
I have also cataloged all of my personal recipes that I have shared with you in this weekly Q&A series and in all of my other articles as well. The link to that Index is here. There are hotlinks to each recipe and this will be updated as new recipes are shared.
Let's do this again next week. If you have questions about foods, cooking techniques, or nutrition you can ask them here. If you are in search of an old recipe or need ideas on how to improve an existing one I can help you. If you want to learn more, let's do it together. Present your questions, your ideas, your comments below. Or, you can write to me personally at this email address: email@example.com.
And, I promise that there will always be at least one photo of a kitty in every Monday post.
© 2020 Linda Lum