I rant you risten

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

topics on my menu

A little bit of random information for you on a very popular fish: Chilean Seabass is actually called Patagonian Toothfish. Some 30 years ago, Augusto “I’ll show you Junta” Pinochet opened up Chile’s waters to foreign fisheries, and it didn’t take long for the competition to heat up and fishing grounds to dry up. Local fishermen were forced to venture out into deeper more dangerous unchartered waters in which they pulled out an ugly looking, but very meaty whitefish (an anomaly of evolution). The meat was oily, meaning that it was very difficult to overcook and it worked with just about any way you’d prepare it, plus more meat meant more money. In order to market the fish, a snazzier name than the Patagonian toothfish was needed, so they went with the exotic yet sophisticated choice - Chilean Seabass. The popularity of this fish went through the roof and was in such high demand around tables all over the world that fishermen started to overfish those waters. Piracy and illegal fishing of the Chilean Seabass became a serious problem; prompting Government imposed restrictions to calm the frenzy, harboring worries that our craving for this delicious fish would lead to its extinction. With all the negative media involved around the illegal fishing of Chilean Seabass, restaurants have moved on to the next big whitefish… and it be called, barramundi, or Australian Seabass. Although the barramundi is quite popular in Australia, it’s only now starting to cause waves in North America and Europe. Now you know.

Another bit of food related talk: stemming from a conversation with my girl, which got us discussing a product I’m not too crazy about but popular in the Middle East, camel milk. The benefits from camel milk are supposed to outweigh regular cow milk with a much higher fat content and more proteins, but I just can’t seem to get myself to drink it. I read recently that a UAE camel farm in Al-Ain has teamed up with an Australian Company and they’ve developed ultra fine Camel Milk Chocolates. Now I’m not that into camel flavored chocolates, but I think it’s one of those gourmet weird foods that I could understand. I do like the direction that’s been taken with the camel milk chocolates and I’m thinking we should push more of the products from our region out there to different palettes. Camel milk could be the beginning: Chocolate flavored camel milk, Vanilla Camel Milk Shakes, cookies n camel cream ice cream.. the thought does merit further research doesn’t it? Are you listening ben & jerry’s? the end is near..

Since I can’t seem to get off the food subject.. After reading and thoroughly enjoying Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain, I learned something very interesting about people in restaurants that order their steaks well done. In my previous life, I used to cringe at my fellow diners when we’d go to a good steakhouse and they’d order their meat well done. I had visions of the chef flipping out over the customers' demands for overly cooked meat, sucked of all juices and flavor. I secretly hoped the chef would come bursting out of the kitchen, brandishing a cleaver , ready to give whomever a verbal lashing about the quality of the meat and how they were tainting the reputation of the dish by wanting it cooked well done. The truth is, chefs love people that order their steaks well done. A well done steak gives the chef the opportunity to get rid of his/her most horrible cut of meat, or the one that doesn’t look too good.. since you, the diner, don’t give a damn about the flavor of the meat and how well it’s been aged, the chef doesn’t have to worry about grilling it perfectly. Instead the chef can afford to give you whatever’s at the bottom of the meat bin, the stuff that’s going to expire soon.. Next time you order your steak well done, think about that.

And Finally, there’s a huge Vodka debate going on.. On one side of the argument, you’ve got Poland, Finland and Sweden arguing that if you’re going to call it Vodka, then you should distill the hooch from potatoes or certain grains. While France, Italy, Netherlands and other non-baltic states claim that you can use grapes or maple syrup to make vodka. The potato/grain-vodka is made a certain way argument is citing examples of how unless the cheese is made in Greece then you can’t call it feta (much to the disappointment of Danish and French white cheese producers). Another example is that unless it comes from the northeast region of France, it’s called sparkling wine, not Champagne. So the countries that produce Vodka the way it’s traditionally been produced should have the right to call their spirit Vodka right? The counter argument is that Vodka can be distilled a number of different ways, and that there are recipes to produce vodka that go back hundreds of years, that use a number of different ingredients: potato, certain grains, apples, plums, molasses, etc. The copout counter argument is that vodka is mainly consumed to be mixed with something else and that it has no distinct flavor, so who cares what it’s made with… It’s all very interesting, for you drinkers, how do you feel about this issue? Should Vodka, distilled from potatoes or grain be called Vodka and everyone else need to find another name? I’m a little torn..

Hope that’s some food for thought, or maybe thought for food..

6 comments:

SillyBahrainiGirl said...

Your posts are as usual .. a pleasure to read!!

Seroo said...

I read the bit about the well-done steak in a newspaper before - with illustrations of what your meat would like like before charring it to a perfect crisp. Gross. I never understood it when people ask for their chicken to be "well done" too - who likes eating half cooked chicken anyway?

Notes from behind the bike shed said...

I wonder what will happen to our seafood diets in the Gulf as reclamation and pollution destroy more of the undersea habitats; we already have very high levels of contaminants from the oil and petrochemical industries. Maybe a new form of 'oily' hamour will be integrated into our menu?

Does anyone know how camel dairy affects the lactose-intolerant?

How my steak looks worries me less than the general hygiene situation in the kitchen.

The vodka debate is another argument in a long line of marketing claptrap; is cadbury's really chocolate if it has less than the requisite amount of cocoa beans? Dunno, but like the vodka, it does the job...

Amunki said...

It's funny how the phrase "Food For Thought" ALWAYS reminds me of This 1987 Classic

Every time, without fail...

s.j.simon said...

lol. did you know that chocolate was banned in switzerland for many years. read this

Umm Badr said...

Hello

Speaking of camel milk, where can I buy it in Bahrain?