Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Science- ology

Science is pretty amazing, huh?

Personally, I was never able to memorize the periodical chart in 10th grade, so I gave up pursuing a career in science pretty early. Trust me, the science world is no worse off without me. But I do have a great deal of respect for everything scientists do, even the little things. Especially the little things. I mean, I could sit and focus on all the horrible diseases we haven't cured yet, but they're working on it. I have faith we will get there. So, while I eagerly await the complete eradication of all diseases, I will salute my favorite scientific successes, as judged by what makes my life better on a day to day basis. And since I'm not a glass totally full kind of gal, I will also question my scientific nemeses... yes, I'm looking at you blue food coloring.

Satsumi (or whatever the plural of Satsuma is)
I just bought a bag of oranges (ok, they were actually tangerines) only to discover after peeling the first one that they have pits. Pits! Can you believe it? In this day and age?? They still have the nerve to sell fruit with pits? I mean, we have not yet found cures for Cancer or AIDS, but we have discovered how to make fruit without pits. I've seen it. I've enjoyed it. Frankly it is an insult to all of the scientific work that was done on pitless fruit's behalf to continue with the inferior fruit. And by inferior, I mean pitted.
Of course there is a part of me that remembers Biology class and doesn't understand how fruit without pits can reproduce or re-grow naturally, but then I remind myself that thinking about Biology class is futile now. If I wanted to know those answers I should have paid attention back then. Fruit without pits is the way forward. The next time I bite into a "seedless" grape and find a seed, heads are gonna roll.

Freedom to choose
Next up on my list of Why Do They Bother With Anything Else When They Have Discovered The Superior Version Of Something: Select-a-size paper towels.
Why are they still making full size ones? It's really not that confusing... You have the option of taking the equivalent of a full size one if you just rip off two of the select-a-sizes. Are you super messy? Then help yourself to three or four. But for those of us that only ever need a tiny square at a time, let us have that option. Freedom of choice is not just something I demand for my body, but also for my paper towels.

Another great addition to the list Why Do They Bother With Anything Else When They Have Discovered The Superior Version Of Something comes from my wise, equally food obsessed friend Jenna: "Why do they even make "single stuf" Oreos? Who chooses single, when double is an option?"
I am so happy to have insightful, brilliant friends like that. I find it hard to imagine someone passing up a double stuf because it's just too much stuf, but hey, I find it hard to imagine someone passing up a double stuf for any reason. Thank you Jenna. And thank you scientists for inventing Double Stufs (or the scientific folks in Nabisco's test kitchen, whoever it was).

Japanese straightening:
Ok, I'm not sure if there are actual scientists responsible for this, but as someone who has always had, shall we say "hard to tame" hair, I am sincerely grateful for the method by which the kink, frizz and curl are removed from my hair once a year by a lovely Japanese man named Nao. I am not quite as impressed by the Brazilians in this field... The formaldehyde in their keratin treatment makes my eyes tear and doesn't actually straighten my hair. It washed out the first time I went swimming. So my award goes to the Japanese for getting my hair wash-and-wearable in the unbearable months of summer when I end up putting it in a ponytail half the time. Yes, but I could wear it down if I wanted to... and for that, I have science to thank, I think.

Enough of all that scientific praise... onto my burning questions:
Back in my day, the word upgrade meant something... it meant improvement. How come every time my phone has an operating system upgrade available, my phone stops functioning properly... and I'm talking about before I have downloaded the upgrade? (ha! DOWNloaded the UPgrade... aren't we just so futuristic!) By "upgrade" I am led to believe that you have improved upon the original, but my phone WAS working just fine. And then boom, my perfectly functioning phone stops functioning. That also tends to coincide with everyone on Facebook b!tching about how long the upgrade takes, how many people's phones have crashed and how they've lost everything. It leaves me at a crossroads: do I join the scores of people complaining about what a crock the new upgrade is and how it makes their phone suck or do I just have a phone that sucks. Choices choices. 

The Blue Devil... and I don't mean Duke!
Why in g-d's name do the candy companies persist with Blue flavors?? I know, kids love them... because I literally have to wrestle them out of my kid's hands every time she grabs one at the bank, dry cleaner, stranger handing out candy in the park, etc. But why? It doesn't taste better than the other flavors, in my opinion. It's sole purpose is to turn their mouth, as well as every single thing they come in contact with for the following hour or so, blue. Not even a nice blue... artificial blue. The same blue used in those neon blue icing flowers on a supermarket birthday cake that just scream "I will destroy your kitchen if you let me into your home."
Let's pretend for a sec that I seriously care about terrible additives in our food... (I mean, of course I do care, but I also likes me some good bad food), but how is this blue sh!t still street legal? I don't get it. Yet somehow my kid continues to get it every chance she gets. We simply don't need blue as a candy/icing/bad food color. Oh cream soda dum-dums... you are not only the tastiest, but so tidy too... la la la la la la your praises la la la la la.

If it was only her tongue that turned blue, I wouldn't mind so much

Friday, September 6, 2013

Stuff Your Punim

A few months ago during Passover, I wrote about the food we consume during those eight crazy days... I called it Eight Crazy Days (go figure!). Please feel free to go back and read it if you missed it and want to learn about or just laugh about Passover food.

Of course there is much more to Jewish food than unleavened bread and coconut based desserts. It's not all worth complaining about. There is much to celebrate. This holiday week is meant for reflection, and what better to reflect on than all the foods I have been enjoying through many years of high holy days. And since the holidays are early this year, (they are either early OR late but strangely never "on time") it gave me something to write about this week.

Challah! (That's pronounced "Hollah!" in a somewhat hip-hop style sing-songy voice)

Friday nights are a time to gather the family, reflect on the week, light the candles, say a prayer over the challah and enjoy the world's best bread. I mean, pound for pound, it is hard to top a good challah. And by top, I mean beat... it is actually quite easy to top a challah: Temptee whipped cream cheese and a bit of raspberry jelly does the trick. 

Challah dominates the French toast world (brioche my a$$!) for good reason, and if you haven't ordered a grilled cheese on challah from your local diner, I suggest you run right now and do it. You can thank me later. A testament to the strength of challah in the bread category is the fact that it is the only bread I can mindlessly eat in its entirety just by sitting and ripping massive chunks off, one by one, until I have a challah brick in my stomach that doesn't actually feel as bad as it sounds. So yes, our staple bread is unbeatable. That is why we roll it out for every special occasion: Baby Naming, Bar/Bat Mitzah, Wedding, Bris... sure, let's get a crowd together and say a prayer over the challah to kick the party off. Great call peeps.

But the ever present challah is only a part of the Jewish food big picture here. 

Most of the our (Ashkenazi) food is sweet... and I'm talking about the main dishes, not just desserts. I never realized that was weird until we started having non-family members over for the holidays. Vegetables are not our priority unless they are potted with prunes and a sub-par cut of beef. Brisket in tzimmes makes appearances at several of our holidays and I never remember which one until that delicious pot of tender meat and sweet potatoes is before me. Mmmmmm, sweet meat. Delicious, even if it is a bit controversial.

Lots of "earth" tones on the plate, very little greenery

At the start of the Jewish new year we get the brisket, which is why it is not only fresh in my mind, but still possibly in my system. Kugel is a noodle based casserole dish, and for Rosh Hashanah we get two: a savory onion one and a lokshen one (slightly sweet, often with raisins or other fruit). Both are delicious, but really just a dress rehearsal for what I deem the *main event kick-ass kugel* (patent pending) of Yom Kippur.

Ah, Yom Kippur: one day of fasting to rid yourself of all your sins from the past year. Not a bad deal, I will tell you. You always know you've been particularly naughty if the final 4:00 - 6:00 pm window is slightly more painful than the year before. But then in absolution we find halvah, bagels, cream cheese, smoked fishes and if you're very very lucky, a sweet kugel. This kick-ass kugel is truly the main event for me, being the best and worst thing you can do to a nearly starving body. It's a noodle based pudding laced with cheese, butter, another cheese, sugar, possibly another cheese and crunched up sweetened cornflakes on top. Whatever it is, it is worth the sin of sitting and dreaming about it all afternoon when you are supposed to be repenting. I am already dreaming about it and my fast is still a week away. Oy.

Sukkot is the holiday celebrating the harvest and calls for lots of fresh fruit and vegetables. For holidays like that, I recommend a nice dose of chopped liver. Chopped liver is similar to pate, minus any fanciness one might associate with pate (sh!t, I can't get the accent over the e, so if any of you are thinking I am saying pate, like rhymes with state and not pate, like rhymes with satay, might I ask what the hell you think pate, like rhymes with state is?? ya weirdo). 

Anyway, back to the organ meat... there is nothing fancy about chopped liver. It's chicken livers (because we don't waste food), nearly burnt onions, mixed with schmaltz (that's grease and fat to those of you who don't speak yiddish). It is at once horrifically unhealthy and shockingly tasty, particularly on kichle (pronunciation has one of those throat scratching "ch" sounds, as our best yiddish words do) or a garlic tam-tam cracker... mmmmm. That should get you through to the next holiday with some signature food, Hanukkah. But I'll get to that when Chanukah rolls around... whenever that is this year. Those damn dates!