New Blog: The Savage and the Sage

Salt-rising bread: it’s made with botulism!

Since January, I’ve been working with an intern, Jill Paradiso. She has been helping me with my book (recipe testing and research, amongst other projects). I have been helping her launch a food blog–which is now live!

Welcome to The Savage and the Sage! Jill is a divine technical chef; join her as she explores recipes that are bizarre (monkfish liver), complex (puffed beef tendon), and simply delicious (super easy sour cherry jam). And, like me, Jill loves the historical; so be sure to check out her posts on candied angelica, a historic ingredient in European confections, and salt rising bread.

Jill is continuing to work with me even though her formal term as my intern is done. She’ll be getting a huge thank you in my book for all the grunt work she’s done so far, but she’s also going to be one of my official recipe testers moving forward.

If you’d be interested in an internship opportunity at Four Pounds Flour, I’m looking for a new assistant for the fall. They’ll be more details posted here soon, but you can also send me an email for details. 

Podcast: We are SWEET on You: Sugar, HFCS, & Artificial Sweetners

Hey, hey! Another podcast from MSG! While we’re taking a break from our live shows these summer months, we wanted to give you something to tide your over. This week’s podcast is all about sugar & sweeteners! And we spend a bit of time talking about artist Kara Walker’s piece at the Domino Sugar Factory in Brooklyn. Today is the last day to see it, as well as the factory itself, which is being bulldozed to make way for condos. Get there before it’s gone!

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This time on the Masters of Social Gastronomy podcast, we’re talking about **sugar and artificial sweeteners**

If you’ve ever crossed the Williamsburg Bridge, then you’ve surely noticed the towering structures of the defunct Domino’s Sugar factory. In this month’s MSG we’ll explore Brooklyn in an era when sugar was king, as well as take a behind-the-scenes peek at its modern day inheritor Sweet n’ Low.

But is giving in to our sweet tooth digging our own graves? Let’s break down the science behind the fear of sugar, from carcinogenic artificial sweeteners to the possible perils of that ubiquitous high fructose corn syrup.

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Further Reading: Eat the City: A Tale of the Fishers, Foragers, Butchers, Farmers, Poultry Minders, Sugar Refiners, Cane Cutters, Beekeepers, Winemakers, and Brewers Who Built New York & Sweet and Low: A Family Story.

Podcast: Sriracha, Ghost Peppers, and The History of Heat

This month on the Masters of Social Gastronomy podcast, we break into the secret world of hot peppers to pull back the curtain on everyone’s favorite Rooster-branded hot sauce and the worldwide affection for spicy, spicy food.

Follow Sriracha from its humble baby-food-jar beginnings to its current status as a Tabasco-challenging juggernaut. We’ll take a behind-the-scenes look at its California factory and see how sriracha just might be as American as apple pie.

Once you escape the potatoes-and-cream tyranny of European cuisine, a culinary dedication to heat can be found everywhere. We’ll examine what makes Thai food tick and where Indian vindaloo gets its muscle. From mild jalapeños to record-holders like the Ghost Pepper and Trinidad Moruga Scorpion, find out what makes a veggie pack such a powerful punch!

Event: A Walking Tour of Little Tokyo!

octoballsFried octopus balls! Photo by Alpha.

Umami: A Yummy Walking Tour of Little Tokyo
East Village; Meet at Astor Place, New York
Saturday, June 14th 12pm or 2:30pm
$30, Buy tickets here!
This price of this tour includes four tastings

Learn to eat in the neighborhood where New York and Tokyo meet.

In the past decade, the East Village has transformed from a post-punk wasteland to an east-coast outpost of Japanese culture. From noodles to squid, bubble tea to curry, we’ll explore all the internationally influenced food Little Tokyo has to offer.

Which fast food chains have their only American outposts in Little Tokyo? What’s the difference between traditional and modern Japanese desserts? What are the three primary flavors of Japanese street food? The answers to these questions and more as you learn to eat in the neighborhood where New York and Tokyo meet.

This price of this tour includes four tastings! We meet in front of the Cube at Astor Place and the tour is 90 minutes long. Tickets!

The Soda Fountain: The Founding Father of Seltzer & A Brooklyn Egg Cream

seltzerMany flavored egg creams from the Brooklyn Farmacy. Recipe below.
Photograph (c) 2014 by Michael Harlan Turkell.

Today we have a guest post from Elizabeth Kiem, a writer who helped research The Soda Fountain: Floats, Sundaes, Egg Creams & More–Stories and Flavors of an American Original by Brooklyn Farmacy & Soda Fountain founders Gia Giasullo and Peter Freeman. The book contains over 70 recipes for updated soda fountain classics like egg creams and milkshakes using seasonal ingredients. There’s also a hearty helping of  the history and the stories behind the drinks–like the nugget below!

downloadJoseph Priestley is the founding father you never heard of. A chemist, educator, linguist and philosopher, Priestly was a real poster child of 18th Enlightenment. But he was also the proud papa of 18th century Effervescence.

That’s right. Joseph Priestley, a dead white guy who’s right at home among the stocking-legged, powder-haired, long-nosed Constitution signers, is a true Founding Father … of the American soda fountain.

You’d have to call him an immigrant since he didn’t cross the pond until 1791, but when he did, it was in classic fashion: he was fleeing persecution back in England where his small-minded neighbors had ransacked and burned his home and laboratory.

His sins?

Well, Priestley criticized the church, fraternized with revolutionaries (Jefferson wrote regularly; Ben Franklin called him “an honest heretic”) and had been impregnating water for years. If that sounds mildly ludicrous today, in the 18th century it was wildly reckless. Priestley, after all, discovered “dephlogisticated air,” a.k.a oxygen. And that’s a dangerous thing to throw on the fire. But “impregnate” water with it and voila, you have carbonated water.

The attack on Priestley’s home! (source)

The first thirty souls to enjoy the fruits of Priestley’s impregnations was the crew of Captain James Cook. The self-taught scientist had hoped to join the famous explorer’s second voyage to the South Seas as the resident astronomer. That didn’t pan out, but Cook took barrels of Priestley’s impregnated water on the HMS Resolution when it sailed in 1773. Refreshing stuff – soda water in the South Seas –even if it doesn’t (as Priestley had boasted) prevent scurvy.

So here’s to the founding father you never knew. Joseph Priestly, the discoverer of oxygen and creator of soda water. We owe a great debt to his rational politics, his scientific reason, his theological dissent … and his bubbles.

Now let’s put that impregnated water to use.

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BROOKLYN EGG CREAM
From The Soda Fountain: Floats, Sundaes, Egg Creams & More–Stories and Flavors of an American Original

1⁄4 cup plus 2 tablespoons (3 ounces) cold whole milk
3⁄4 cup (6 ounces) plain cold seltzer
3 tablespoons (11⁄2 ounces) Fox’s U-Bet chocolate syrup

Pour the milk into an egg cream glass and add seltzer until froth comes up to the top of the glass. Pour the syrup into the center of the glass and then gently push the back of a spoon into the center of the drink. Rock the spoon back and forth, keeping most of the action at the bottom of the glass, to incorporate the syrup without wrecking the froth. Serve immediately.

Reprinted with permission from The Soda Fountain by Brooklyn Farmacy and Soda Fountain, Inc. copyright (c) 2014. Published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Random House LLC.

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For more history, read about the egg cream adventure Elizabeth, Gia and I went on last year. The Soda Fountain: Floats, Sundaes, Egg Creams & More–Stories and Flavors of an American Original goes on sale TODAY! To buy a copy, go here!

Events: Masters of Social Gastronomy Present Food of the High Seas!

Andy-Warhol-and-CaptLearn the secrets of cruise ship food!

Tuesday, May 20th - Doors at 7:30pm, talks start at 8pm


FREE FREE FREE, 21+ RSVP please
Littlefield, 622 Degraw Street in Gowanus

Every month, Masters of Social Gastronomy Sarah and Soma take on the history and science behind some of your favorite foods. This month, MSG takes to the high seas to explore the culinary world of drunken sailors, seventeenth-century pirates, and the modern-day cruise ships that rule the waves.

We’ll be trumpeting the salty secrets of maritime alcohol: the legendary rum rations of the Royal Navy, the invention of the gin and tonic, and how you come down with a case of scurvy.

And when it comes to food, how did we get from surviving on dried beef and hard tack to the elaborate all-you-can eat buffets of today? From Booze Cruises to the Love Boat, the Midnight Buffet to viral food poisoning, we’ll learn about the magnificent accomplishments of feeding a 3,000 passenger ocean liner–as well as the horrors that can be found in a kitchen at sea.

RSVP HERE!

Masters of Social Gastronomy: The Mysteries of ICE CREAM

We couldn’t wait for summer, so we’re bringing summer to us!

Tuesday, April 29
FREE FREE FREE, 21+ RSVP
Doors at 7:30pm, talks start at 8pm
Littlefield, 622 Degraw Street in Gowanus

Every month, our MSG lectures take on the history and science behind some of your favorite foods. Up this month: ICE CREAM.

Hear the tale of vanilla ice cream, a commonplace flavor with a rare and exotic past. We’ll take a hard look at the science that makes ice cream tick and see if we can harness the DIY spirit to craft up astronaut ice cream in your very own kitchen.

The wide range of curious flavors will be on full display, with 19th-century artichoke-and-tomato ice cream and other adventuresome (and masochistic) creations.

The History Dish: Maple Syrup Brittle

maplebrittleA glass-like maple brittle.

The warming weather means the end of maple sugaring season. It’s not a sad thing, it just means it’s time to enjoy the spoils!

I’m experimenting with a recipe for Maple Sugar Brittle for an upcoming family event at the New-York Historical Society. Now through August 2014 they have an exhibit up called Homefront & Battlefield: Quilts & Context in the Civil War. The primary focus is on 19th century quilts, but it looks at larger material culture with items like a pattern for a homemade mitten–with the index finger separated for a trigger finger.

Trigger finger mittens.

Free labor dress: noble, if a little dowdy.

One item I found particularly interesting is the “Free Labor Dress,” a dress made from cloth not produced by slave labor. Before and during the Civil War, advocates in the North were choosing clothing made from wool, silk, linen in an effort to not support slavery. Cotton was only used when it was certified from a free labor source.

There’s a parallel to this idea in food: many people encouraged the use of maple sugar instead of cane sugar. Cane sugar was also produced on plantations using slave labor, while maple sugar was made in the North by “…only the labour of children, for that which it is said renders the slavery of the blacks necessary,” as Thomas Jefferson put it. Yep, it only took underage farm children hours of collecting sap and boiling it down to make maple syrup.

With this idea in mind, I uncovered a recipe for Molasses Candy by Catherine Beecher. Catherine, a famous cookbook writer in the 19th century, was the sister of Harriet Beecher Stowe, author of Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Her brother, Henry Ward Beecher, was also an fervent abolitionist. And although not as outspoken on abolition as her siblings, Catherine does suggest the use of maple syrup instead of cane molasses in her candy recipe.

Molasses Candy, from Miss Beecher’s Domestic Receipt-book, 1871.

I’m working on a fussier interpretation of this recipe, but in the meantime, I stumbled upon a process that’s quite simple and exceedingly delicious.

To make my maple sugar candy, I boiled maple syrup on high heat until it began to darken. While the sugar was boiling, I greased a rimmed baking sheet with spray Mazola oil, and spread roasted, salted nuts in an even layer. Catherine suggests roasted corn–we know it better as “corn nuts“–which I think would make an awesome brittle.

I poured the maple sugar over top of the nuts and then used a fork to press and then gently pull the sugar and nuts into a thin layer. The sugar is very stretchy after just a moment of cooling and gives you plenty of flexibility before it gets too brittle.

After the sugar was cool to the touch, I broke it into pieces with my hands. Done. Super simple, super beautiful, and incredibly delicious.

From the Piggly Wiggly to King Kullen: How We Got to Grocery Shop

Interior of a grocery store, 1936. Source: The New York Public Library.

We’ve got one more guest post this week from Carly Robins, an actress, writer, producer, and voice over artist. She is also a lover of food and creator of  Grocery Tales (coming soon to a TV near you).

I love grocery shopping! There. I said it! What most people think of as a chore, I relish. Even when I travel, I love to stop at the local grocery store because I find it is the only way to truly feel and understand the local culture.

Dutch Grocery on Broad St., 1859. NYPL.

Many years ago when my husband and I were in Laos we had the most amazing crème brulee with this sugared topping that I had never tasted before. I couldn’t stop dreaming about it all night and the following day, through lots of hand gestures and pointing to the menu, the waiter came back with a package, written in Thai, and gave us directions to the local grocery store. I discovered it was coconut palm sugar, and I was mesmerized by it. This experience confirmed not only my obsession with grocery stores, but where our food comes from, what foods we are exposed to, and how the grocery store experience has evolved.

In 1859, George Huntington Hartford and George Gilman founded The Great American Tea Company, which later became Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Company or A&P. It was a storefront on Vesey Street in New York City that also had a mail order business. In the beginning, they sold mostly coffee, tea, spices and other dry goods. However, by the 1880s, they were operating a hundred stores across the USA,becoming the first grocery store chain. They stocked their shelves with the help of their own invention, the first refrigerated rail cars.

A&P, 1936. Source: New York Public Library.

The next big advancement came when Clarence Saunders invented the first ever “self-service” grocery store in 1916, and called it The Piggly Wiggly.  Saunders noticed how much time and money was wasted by having clerks wait on each customer individually, fill orders, and often deliver groceries to the customer’s home. The Piggly Wiggly allowed customers to self-select the items they would like to purchase and then, in what was also a new innovation, have a cashier ring them up. These items were individually price-marked and displayed into categories, birthing the need for branding and packaging to grab the attention of the shopper.

These stores were hugely successful and franchises were sold nationwide to hundreds of grocery retailers. In the 1920’s and 1930’s, an explosion of family chain stores like Ralph’s, Safeway, and Kroger opened, mimicking the Piggly Wiggly model. There were all kinds of buying and selling and merging of stores, along with anti-trust problems and other legal battles, that made for a little bit of chaos, but there were also opportunities for great wealth. Within this explosion, stores started including different sections such as dairy, meat, and produce, offering their patrons the convenience of going to one store for all their shopping needs. A juicy little tidbit: Saunders, the Piggly Wiggly founder, eventually ran into some financial trouble trying to manipulate stock prices and lost control of his company. Is that an American story or what?

The next innovation came from a former employee of a Kroger Grocery Store: Michael Cullen opened his first King Kullen Grocery in Queens, August of 1930. His business model focused on high volume at low profit margins. It was a smashing success; specialty groceries couldn’t compete with massive stores, large volume, and low low pricing. And according to the Smithsonian Institute, King Kullen is considered America’s first ‘supermarket’.

Living in New York City affords me the luxury of many grocery stores, whether specialty or otherwise. Just like on that trip to Laos, my eyes are now open to the global possibilities that ingredients provide and how we can incorporate those ingredients into our daily lives. It’s all about the ingredients and where to find them! Speaking of, I have a fantastic Gluten Free Banana Bread that is moist and delicious. I am able to buy most of the ingredients at one of my favorite specialty stores, Sahadi’s Importing Company. It’s a Middle Eastern grocery store founded in 1898 in Manhattan until it got displaced because of construction for the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel. Sahadi’s is now located on Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn Heights and is known for their bulk section options, including various alternative flours.

Gluten Free Banana Bread

½ Cup Dark Chocolate Chips
2 Eggs
2 ripe Bananas, mashed
1/2 cup Coconut Nectar
1/2 Stick or Less of Butter
1 tsp. Real Vanilla Extract
3/4 cup Brown Rice Flour
1/4 cup Coconut Flour
1/4 cup Almond Flour
1 tsp. Baking Soda
1/3 cup Melted Coconut Oil

  1. Preheat oven to 350. Line a bread loaf pan with parchment paper over sides to easily lift and add the chocolate chips to the bottom of the pan. (You can always incorporate the chocolate chips into the batter after all ingredients have been combined BUT…chocolate chips that have been melted and baked at the bottom of the pan are a delight to behold. I learned this trick because apparently my mother in-law, who had a lot of tasty cooking accidents, did this in error while cooking a bundt cake and my husband swears it was the best thing he has ever eaten. It also allows you to use less chocolate if you want since it is concentrated in one area only. You can use this method on any sweet bread.)
  2. In a mixing bowl, beat eggs lightly. Add mashed bananas, butter, nectar and vanilla and mix thoroughly.
  3. Add melted coconut oil, then add Rice flour, Coconut flour, Almond Flour, baking soda. Mix until all ingredients are moist.
  4. Pour batter into loaf pan. Bake for 45 – 55 minutes or until bread is no longer wet in the middle.

Event: Masters of Social Gastronomy and the Rise of Chocolate

Chocolate by Windell Oskay

MSG PRESENTS The Rise of Chocolate: The Heated History of the World’s #1 Candy

Tuesday, March 25th
FREE
Doors @ 7:30
Littlefield, Gowanus, Brooklyn
RSVP PLZ
This month MSG tackles the world’s most popular candy: chocolate!
We’ll track the history of chocolate from its roots as an ancient Mesoamerican beverage to its current world-championship status. You’ll learn how a yellow, football-shaped tropical fruit transforms into something Whole Foods can charge you $10 for, and what “Mexican Hot Chocolate” actually has in common with what Montezuma drank.
Peek at Europe’s decades-long war about British chocolate and uncover why the whole continent seems to have it out for its American counterpart. Burning questions of modern confectionery will be answered: What’s better, milk or dark? Why does Hershey’s have its own theme park? Do M&M’s actually melt in your hand?
And of course, it wouldn’t be spring without a discussion of Easter candy, including everyone’s favorite, the Cadbury Mini Egg. In fact, I may have just purchased $50 in mini eggs to share at the event…RSVP HERE!