Archive for the ‘Language and food’ Category

Return to the crab feast

August 28, 2015

In a posting on the 15th I recalled an odd experience with tv commercials: back in July a commercial went by for a fast-food or casual-dining restaurant (possibly Red Lobster, though I didn’t catch the name) advertising specials on crab, a feast of snow crab and king crab. The commercial — which was indeed for Red Lobster’s 2015 Crabfest — then mysteriously disappeared from the channels I watch, only to reappear yesterday, just as (it seems) the special offer is about to end.

But the commercial provided an opening for me to talk about kinds of crab (and “crab”). And now I’ll say a bit more.

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At the fair

August 23, 2015

Bulletin from Chuck Shepherd’s News of the Weird in the September 2015 Funny Times:

Summer is state-fair season, i.e., the time of sugar- and fried-fat-based comfort snacks that rarely appear anywhere except at state fairs. Recent samplings: caviar-covered Twinkie (Minnesota), mac-and-cheese cupcake (Minnesota), deep-fried Oreo burger (Florida), deep-fried gummy bears (Ohio), deep-fried beer (Texas) – and old favorites such as chicken-fried bacon (Texas), spaghetti ice cream (Indiana), Krispy Kreme chicken sandwich (California), and the hot-beef sundae (Indiana, Iowa).

Lots of fried things:

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Plus, for a change of pace, a grinder in Iowa:

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A grinder is essentially a loose-meat Italian sausage sandwich, with red sauce, onions and green peppers served topped with melted cheese on a hoagie bun.

There’s more, so much more.

Annals of cultural diversity: B&H Dairy

August 22, 2015

The latest episode in the tale of B&H Dairy, in NYC’s East Village: from yesterday’s NYT, a triumph: “B&H Dairy in the East Village Reopens After Months of Red Tape” by Jim Dwyer:

At lunchtime Thursday, there wasn’t an empty stool or seat to be had at B&H Dairy, a venerable 400-square-foot restaurant in the East Village that survived the Second Avenue gas explosion in March but appeared doomed when it was bound and gagged in red tape. The place managed to reopen a few days ago, and everyone has come back.

… Working the cash register, Ola Smigielska, who owns B&H with her husband, Fawzy Abdelwahed, greeted each customer who stopped to chat and wondered how they had lasted so long without the stick-to-the-kishkes blintzes.

… B&H is a kosher dairy restaurant created 80 years ago for a generation of Jewish immigrants that has long since moved on. It is now run by a Polish Catholic, Ms. Smigielska, and an Egyptian Muslim, Mr. Abdelwahed. They sell T-shirts printed with the words “Challah! Por favor.”

A triumph of cultural diversity, pretty much possible only in a cosmopolitan city: a highly culture-specific resource maintains itself even after the people who originally used and staffed it have moved elsewhere, only to be replaced by people from other cultures. It’s as if Kosher Dairy Restaurant had taken on a life of its own. B&H Dairy is now staffed by a Polish Catholic and an Egytian Muslim (who are, wonderfully, married to one another) and its clientele, all devoted to the food, are drawn from a huge slice of urban groups.

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Seedy invasives

August 22, 2015

In my “More plant families” posting yesterday, I turned to two big families I’d missed in an earlier posting and then to my recollections of plants in my Columbus OH garden that were self-seeding and/or self-hybridizing: cleomes, California poppies, opium poppies, foxgloves, borage, columbines, tradescantia, nasturtiums, and then I looked at the plant families they belonged to — a project that added 8 more families to the 9 I’d looked at in the earlier posting and the two I’d looked at in my “Penstemon” posting. (If you’re counting families, the score is now 19.)

Now I want to switch my focus from the intricacies of botanical taxonomy (without abandoning the topic entirely) to the significance of self-seeding (or self-sowing), one form of invasiveness in the gardening world, one way in which plants can spread so as to take over parts of a garden. The other is vegetative spread, by division or, especially, by creeping (via underground roots or surface runners). You’ve got your seedy invasives and you’ve got your creepy invasives.

Of course, the topic goes well beyond these homey horticultural matters, to invasive plants — and animals — on a much larger scale, where invasiveness has taken on political significance of several kinds. Eventually I intend to post about a piece by Andrew Cockburn in the September 2015 Harper’s, “Weed Whackers: Monsanto, glyphosphate, and the war on invasive species”.

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Back to San Marzano

August 18, 2015

On the 10th I posted here on pizza, especially Neapolitan pizza, where I quoted from Wikipedia:

Authentic Neapolitan pizza (pizza napoletana) is typically made with San Marzano tomatoes grown on the volcanic plains south of Mount Vesuvius, and mozzarella di bufala Campana made with the milk from water buffalo raised in the marshlands of Campania and Lazio. This mozzarella is protected with its own European protected designation of origin.

Then on the 16th, along came Nicholas Blechman (website here), the art director for the NYT Book Review, with a 10-panel piece “The Mystery of San Marzano”, in the Sunday Review about those tomatoes: it turns out that their name is protected in the E.U. too. The third panel:

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As Blechman notes in the sixth panel,

In the European Union, tomatoes can be labeled San Marzano only if they meet the stringent criteria of a government-approved consortium, or consorzio. Every detail is regulated.

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Crab feast

August 15, 2015

Some time ago a tv commercial went past me in the middle of the night: a commercial for a fast-food or casual-dining restaurant advertising specials on crab, a feast of snow crab and king crab. So I wondered about the crab in these two names, suspecting that we might be in a world where the referent of one or both of these names is unclear — where there are several distinct creatures called snow crab, say — and maybe also in a world where biologists claim that some things called crabs (or X crabs, for some specific X) are not in fact crabs at all, or aren’t “true crabs”. My suspicious are justified.

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Annals of phallicity: the hardness score

August 14, 2015

In the September 2015 issue of Out magazine (p. 20), Aaron Hicklin’s Editor’s Letter, “The Audacity of Cucumbers”, a rave tv review:

If you are among the paltry 55,000 people that tuned in to Logo earlier this year to watch the premiere episode of the British import Cucumber, or the paltrier 24,000 that watched its sibling, Banana, both helmed by the Queer as Folk originator Russell T. Davies, I hope you stayed beyond those establishing episodes. Cucumber and Banana were slow to warm up, but by episodes three and four there was little doubt that Davies had created the most audacious and original queer series ever. Two of them, in fact. They were funny; they were sad; they were mischievous. Sometimes they were even profound.

With titles taken from designations for the Erection Hardness Score, developed by the European Association of Urology, Cucumber and Banana were so audacious that I sometimes felt almost embarrassed to be watching. Yet how utterly novel to see gay sex treated in such a frank and casual manner. The shows are complementary but separate, with characters flitting from one to the other… In fact, I’ve never seen the LGBT community treated with such equity, in which all the constituent parts of the acronym are present and fully fleshed out.

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You can watch some scenes from the shows  here.

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Ice cream, roadside fiberglass, Caillebotte, and more

August 13, 2015

Today’s Zippy takes us lots of places:

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It shows our Pinhead talking French Impressionism with a roadside ice cream stand that happens to be a fiberglass replica of an ice cream cone. (In Zippy, roadside fiberglass artifacts are almost always chatty.)  Degas (gauzy ballerinas), Monet (soft-focus water lilies), but especially Gustave Caillebotte: men scraping floors and flying, drying, laundry.

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Pizza that doesn’t exist

August 10, 2015

Passed on by Kim Darnell, a BBC News piece from the 5th by Dany Mitzman, “The day I ordered pizza that ‘doesn’t exist'”:

Bologna, Italy — One of my favourite things about living in Italy is the pizza, and it’s recently given me an insight into how our brains are wired differently.

Pizza has taught me that logic can be subjective and that subjective logic can be cultural. It has also made me humbly realise that, in some ways, I’ll probably always be considered here as an ignorant foreigner.

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Food names, and plant names too

August 10, 2015

Some background for a posting on Italian names for pizza. It’s about the names for food, with some parallels to common names for plants.

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