Sunday, July 18, 2021

Vitality

 I've been on an internship at Hill Farmstead Brewery in Vermont and thought I would collect some thoughts on what makes good beer great, hopefully with some connections to bread and gastronomy more generally:

Unpasteurized beer is alive. By manipulating yeast cell counts, fermentable sugars, and temperature, brewers try to capture lightning in a bottle.

How should one talk about vitality? One might talk about beer quality from any number of angles. Just as a poorly roasted coffee bean will yield a coffee that is flat in the cup, the same would be true for beer (bad process usually equals bad flavor).

Great beer achieves balance and depth from a number of different factors:

Yeast strain

Attenuation

Sweetness

Bitterness

Hop aroma /aromatics

Carbonation

Crispness

Softness/Minerality/Mouthfeel

Temperature


The balance and specificity of execution necessary to deliver great beer oddly reminds me of this article on the commercial production of ketchup by Malcolm Gladwell:

https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2004/09/06/the-ketchup-conundrum



Literature and bread might be all we have in this postmodern world

tomato cheese bread trifecta

There’s something about pizza that is so essential, quintessential even, such that I think I will never go a month without eating it. What else can we say that we will not touch all the rest of the days of your life except pizza?

Friday, June 4, 2021

Beat the Old Lady Out

 Another woman told of growing up in Finland and of a particular cold winter day when a cow was slaughtered for meat. The mother in the kitchen stirred a vat of sliced onions in butter, and the girls one at a time rushed into the field with deep metal pans to catch blood gushing from the cow’s slit throat. The blood was poured over the onions, and then that mixture was transferred into their largest mixing bowl, along with flour and salt and homegrown yeast. Now the girls took turns kneading, palpating the ingredients with their chapped hands as if restarting a stopped heart, their shoulders bent with the effort, their mother reminding them that this blood bread would be all they’d have to sustain them in the cold days ahead, while the meat cured. “Beat the old lady out,” the mother called to her daughters. Beat out the cranky lumps until the dough in your hands is elastic, forgiving. Leave nothing behind, not a speck of flour nor smear of blood in the shiny bottom of the bowl.

https://www.thesunmagazine.org/issues/544/beat-the-old-lady-out

Monday, May 17, 2021

 Coronavirus gave us the opportunity to be the best society we could be. Let’s not lose it.

Thursday, May 6, 2021

Madame Bovary

"And what should I do here gentlemen, pointing out to you the uses of agriculture? Who supplies our wants? Who provides our means of subsistence? Is it not the agriculturist? The agriculturist, gentlemen, who, sowing with laborious hand the fertile furrows of the country, brings forth the corn, which, being ground, is made into a powder by means of ingenious machinery, comes out thence under the name of flour, and from there, transported to our cities, is soon delivered at the baker’s, who makes it into food for poor and rich alike. Again, is it not the agriculturist who fattens, for our clothes, his abundant flocks in the pastures? For how should we clothe ourselves, how nourish ourselves, without the agriculturist? And, gentlemen, is it even necessary to go so far for examples? Who has not frequently reflected on all the momentous things that we get out of that modest animal, the ornament of poultry-yards, that provides us at once with a soft pillow for our bed, with succulent flesh for our tables, and eggs? But I should never end if I were to enumerate one after the other all the different products which the earth, well cultivated, like a generous mother, lavishes upon her children. Here it is the vine, elsewhere the apple tree for cider, there colza, farther on cheeses and flax. Gentlemen, let us not forget flax, which has made such great strides of late years, and to which I will more particularly call your attention."

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Graison Gill, Bellegarde Bakery

From Bellegarde's newsletter:

 But, as always, we’re here for the bread. And we’re here for the bread because our passion for it is insurmountable. What we need people to understand—us bakers, cooks, farmers, fishers, chefs—is that our careers are our identities. Baking is not just what I do: it is who I am. And I sit with a lot of gratitude for where I am and where I’ve been. But I am admittedly afraid of where we are going. Because I don’t think society is visualizing the extent of vulnerability that many of us are in: literal and existential. And despite some politicians and cultural figures who have attempted to disrupt our basic relationships, we have to admit how brutally interdependent we are and have become in the past year. We shouldn’t be in the business of building levees, or in the business of keepings things out. You don’t build bread with walls and boundaries. Because if it keeps on raining, the levees are going to break. No matter what, I know that me and the bakers at Bellegarde use our passion for bread not as a defense against the world; but as an offense. It doesn’t merely protect us, it preserves us.

Thursday, January 28, 2021

On the Road

 “In the window I smelled all the food of San Francisco. There were seafood places out there where the buns were hot, and the baskets were good enough to eat too; where the menus themselves were soft with foody esculence as though dipped in hot broths and roasted dry and good enough to eat too. Just show me the bluefish spangle on a seafood menu and I’d eat it; let me smell the drawn butter and lobster claws. There were places where they specialized in thick and red roast beef au jus, or roast chicken basted in wine. There were places where hamburgs sizzled on grills and the coffee was only a nickel. And oh, that pan-fried chow mein flavored air that blew into my room from Chinatown, vying with the spaghetti sauces of North Beach, the soft-shell crab of Fisherman’s Wharf — nay, the ribs of Fillmore turning on spits! Throw in the Market Street chili beans, redhot, and french-fried potatoes of the Embarcadero wino night, and steamed clams from Sausalito across the bay, and that’s my ah-dream of San Francisco…”

- Jack Kerouac