We often talk about books as we do meals. Something we devour and savor page by page, word by word. In “The Language of Food,” Dan Jurafsky serves up delicious nugget after nugget. Each fact is just so juicy. Ketchup was originally a fermented Chinese fish sauce? Ceviche and fish and chips are cousins? Delectable!
The only sour note with the book is it’s San Francisco-centricity. San Francisco is not the only cultural melting pot within the United States Mr. Jurafsky. However, as it is clearly his hometown, it is easy to see how he would gravitate towards it so easily.
Regardless, food nerds we have your next read right here. I will be sure to divulge some more tasty facts shortly.
I have long struggled with my illicit love of ketchup. Of course it goes on my burger (unless it’s Minetta) and my fries (unless I have a lovely mayo option). And yes, I have been known to occasionally put ketchup on my eggs. Forgive me, but ketchup is rather tasty and so often can boost the flavor of something bland or fried. Up until recently I used Heinz, the standard and household ketchup brand, because I really didn’t have a choice. I struggled with this decision as Heinz is full of my least favorite ingredient, high fructose corn syrup. I would shiver a little each time I squirted the shiny red stuff out of the bottle with mild disgust as a stream of clear liquid pooled out onto my plate. I ate it nevertheless. What other options did I have? I tried a local New Jersey ketchup- First Field and I’m sorry to say it just didn’t cut it. The flavor, the texture- everything was just off. Then I was introduced to Sir Kensington’s and everything changed. No more high fructose corn syrup. Honey & Agave. The texture is smooth but actually resembles something that can be made by humans. The flavor still maintains the lovely tomatoey sweetness that I expect from my ketchup, but is a bit more complex than Heinz. The lime, pepper and spices all work together to make Sir Kensington’s into a condiment that I am now proud to consume. You can find Sir Kensington’s at a number of classy retail shops as well as on the table of forward thinking restaurants. The price per jar ranges from $3.50 to $10 depending on where you go (I recommend Lobel’s market for the best price). I know it’s a bit more than your Heinz, but if you care about what you put into your body, I assure you, it is worth the difference!
If you live in New York and feel like schlepping to Fort Hamilton Parkway, it just might be worth the trek for this granola. Brooklyn Commune, the home and mother to this beautiful sweet toasted oat child, is a bare but generally delightful place to enjoy lunch. Their menu is seasonal and I don’t recall ever having a sandwich I did not thoroughly devour. I especially remember some lovely pickled beets (perhaps my favorite pickled thing) accompanying my sandwich. If you decide to take the trip, STOCK UP ON THE GRANOLA. I recently purchased a bag of Cranberry, Orange & Fennel Granola and despite my occasional aversion to fennel, I found it to be just delicious! The sweet tang of the honey and sugars mixed with the array of vibrant spices such as ginger and cinnamon made for a complete treat. They have different ones virtually every time I’ve been there. I recall a glorious fig and ginger. They generally have a chocolate for you chocolate lovers and I also saw an African Peanut and Date. A bag will run you $8 and it’s worth it because it is enough to motivate you to get out of bed in the morning. I also eat for a special late night snack or just a pick me up.
Have you ever had Peking Duck? A succulent layer of crisp duck skin, julienned scallions, a thin slice of cucumber and a handsome dollop of hoisin all served atop a squishy little bun? If this combination of delight has yet to cross your palette, seek it out!
I like to get my Peking Duck on at Oriental Garden in Chinatown, NY- a fantastic Hong Kong style establishment. This leads me to my first rant: directed to white people who eat Chinese food. General Tso’s Chicken has a time and a place and it’s NOT at an authentic Hong Kong inspired seafood restaurant. Sure they have it on the menu to appease the ignorant customer, but DONT order it. You are bringing shame to all Caucasians. Wait to you go to your Wok n’ Roll to indulge in all that MSG goodness/badness.
When my family started going to Oriental Garden we were the only Caucasians there. Now thanks to a review from Monsieur Bouley or Boulud, I don’t remember which one, the restaurant is packed with them! I don’t care if white people go there (though I have to say I liked thinking it was our family find) but I do care if they respect the restaurant by ordering actual Cantonese dishes. So my final wish, and this is generally how I feel about all food that has been Americanized to the point that it has become its own cuisine, when in Rome eat as the Romans do. Try the Country Style Crab, the Snow Pea Greens or whatever looks good, but you’re probably not familiar with. Eating is an adventure into other cultures, so at least attempt the journey.