Category Archives: Food

Balzana Olive Oil

I wasn’t going to say anything about the 2005 batches of Balzana California Extra Virgin Olive Oil (more for me, you know) but some friends convinced me that I should be generous and share the news. It’s an oil derived from several varieties of olives chosen by Mr. Edmunds himself with an unbelievably smooth and rich hint of pepper. The “extra virgin” means the olives are grown very near the place that the final oil is produced. Seriously good stuff. The last thing I can remember from Santa Cruz that tasted this good was a 2000 Bonnie Doon Big House Red. Give ol’ Merritt a call and get some for yourself:

Merritt Edmunds, Balzana
2655 Warren St., Santa Cruz, CA, 95062
831.475.7873 or 800.815.9775

Actually, is it single barrel oil or small batch…? I’m going to have to buy a case of the stuff just to be sure I don’t run out.

It seems to go well with anything, but I’ve been tasting it with the Explorateur triple crème, a super buttery and almost grotesquely moldy cheese from Ile de France.

Roaring Forties Australian Blue

The cheese of the day was the King Island Dairy Roaring Forties Blue. Another discovery at a local grocery store, the Blue had the appearance (and name) of a typical American blue cheese, but had far less bite and an awesomely smooth texture that is hard to find in domestic varities that tend to be dry and crumbly. After I polished off the last bit this evening I searched for the King Island website and found this helpful description:

A full flavoured blue with a sweet, slightly nutty character and good aftertaste. A rindless cheese matured in wax thus retaining its moisture and creating a smooth and creamy texture. A Roquefort style mould is used to create this unique and exciting cheese style.

Mmmm. A really great cheese. A bit of googling uncovered a recent newspaper review in the San Francisco Chronicle, which might be related somehow to the appearance of the cheese at a local grocery that boasts of a selection of over 3,000 wines:

My favorite among those I’ve tasted is the Roaring Forties Blue, a creamy, mild, blue-veined cheese from pasteurized cow’s milk. Local retailers tell me it is a customer favorite, too. […] Under the wax, you’ll find a moist, smooth and creamy blue with a mellow, almost sweet taste. It has neither the saltiness nor the pungency that characterizes many blues, which probably accounts for its popularity. Its lush, velvety texture calls for an equally luscious wine. Lustau’s Rare Cream Sherry, Solera Superior, accompanies it beautifully.

I couldn’t (and didn’t) say it any better myself, especially since I’ve never heard of those wines. I can just imagine that groceries in the future will have “hyper-linked” food. For example, when you pick up a cheese and put it in your cart, the cart’s interface will alert you to the appropriate selection of crackers and wine. Talk about a powerful and ubiquitous commerce model for information…

In the meantime, does anyone ever taste cheese with bourbon?

Real Cheese

It was only a matter of time before I created a food category. A small block of Taleggio Cheese finally pushed me to document a few fun food facts:

First of all, who knew that a cheese might have a union? After tasting a fine slice of Taleggio this evening I found a site called the Consorzio per la Tutela del Taleggio, which provides English information under the title “The Union of Teleggio Cheese”. According to the Union:

“The Taleggio cheese is, therefore, one of the Italian cheeses whose peculiar characteristics are protected by the European Union, and it is for that reason that milk supplying, its production and its seasoning must be effectuated in the area indicated by the Italian and community legislation.”

Second, the Taleggio moniker apparently requires a certain degree of enforcement. Perhaps if you eat enough of the stuff you might develop a taste for it like bourbon versus rye whiskey, or merlot versus pinot, etc. It thus stands to reason that if a Taleggio doesn’t achieve compliance with Union cheese laws it will not get the required stamp of approval:

“The Union was, since 1981, charged to the vigilance on production and on commerce of the Taleggio cheese, the Union marks each cheese conforming to the requisite specified in the disciplinary of production.”

Sadly, I must confess that I was uninformed as a consumer about how to validate the authenticity of my cheese until after I had eaten it. Next time I will definitely check to see whether I am about to purchase contraband Taleggio, or at least cheese with a forged seal of authenticity.

Real Taleggio

Warning: This entry was written while under the influence of Taleggio

Happy Thanksgiving

One day I became curious how Lincoln’s Presidential Proclamation to reunify America turned into a feast of turkey legs, mashed potatoes, and pie.

I mean it seems fairly certain at first glance that the American holiday today was a result of President Lincoln’s third day of Thanksgiving, October 3, 1863, when he brought to national attention the cause for a November holiday to give thanks for “general causes” rather than “special providences” such as wartime victories. He thus declared a general and national Thanksgiving that year to be held on the last Thursday in November. Lincoln proclaimed:

Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defense have not arrested the plow, the shuttle, or the ship; the ax has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well as the iron and coal as of our precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege, and the battlefield, and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is
permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom.

The actual origins appear to have been based in the observance of the bounty of peaceful industry and labor in-spite of ravages from a brutal civil war. And it was this particular Thanksgiving that was the first in the unbroken series of the national holiday tradition celebrated today. Unfortunately I never see this little bit of history brought to light during the holiday season.

Where did Lincoln get the idea from? It seems that the Thanksgiving holiday is evolved from a very routine English Puritan religious observation, which was irregularly declared and celebrated “in response to God’s favorable Providence”. Over time these observations by early settlers turned into a single, annual, quasi-secular New England autumnal celebration, but this was still a very small minority of Americans and it is not clear what Lincoln’s relationship with them might have been.

It is sometimes claimed that the first actual recorded “national” Thanksgiving was a formal declaration in 1777 by the Continental Congress. This event, however, had very little popularity outside a few peculiar and religious sects and “Thanksgivings” subsequently were only declared occaisonally and infrequently until 1815 when they apparently disappeared altogether.

The holiday thus was seen mainly as a regional observance until 1863 when President Lincoln declared three Thanksgiving days, two of which to celebrate Union military victories; the first following Shiloh on April 13 and the second a national day of thanks for the Gettysburg victory on August 6. The third day is the one described in the proclamation above. Perhaps Lincoln’s own family ties had some relevance to Thanksgiving, or perhaps he encountered it among his constituents and decided to expand the practice. Either way, today’s national holiday celebration was clearly founded at the end of the Civil War and not by the pilgrims or the Founding Fathers, as is often incorrectly claimed.

In fact, presidential declarations of Thanksgiving made absolutely no mention of the Plymouth Pilgrims or a “First Thanksgiving” until Herbert Hoover’s proclamation of 1931. This revision was apparently due to a change from how Pilgrims (and Indians) were perceived. Depictions of the settlers in America before the 19th century showed violent confrontation with people they encountered. As late as the 1910s a typical Thanksgiving “Pilgrim-puritan” image is more likely to have suggested settlers were fleeing a shower of arrows and running to safety than sitting down for a friendly meal with the “natives”.

The more modern imagery of Pilgrims and Indians sharing a communal and harmonious meal most likely found its place as an icon of American history in the early 1900s. The U.S. was concerned at that time with large numbers of immigrants and the related issues of integration into American culture. A Thanksgiving image of dissimilar ethnic communities co-existing amid peace and plenty was considered an effective message to help avoid confrontations. It was out of this school of thought that Jennie Brownscombe’s “First Thanksgiving” was painted in 1914 for Life magazine. Pilgrims were cast in a role to provide an example of the close-knit, religiously inspired American community. This also gained popularity as an image of American values and virtuosity to help boost morale during the dark days of the First World War.

Support for the holiday then unravelled a bit when President Roosevelt tried in 1936, against opposition, to move the day forward by a week to extend the Christmas shopping season. By 1941, during his administration, Congress declared the fourth Thursday in November to be the legal Holiday known today as Thanksgiving. However, since there are five Thursdays in November (two out of every seven years) several states continued to celebrate on the fifth Thursday for at least the next 15 years. Any guesses which states refused to comply?

Finally, in 1956 the fourth Thursday in November became the national holiday that Americans recognize today, observed similarly by every state in the Union.

The relevance of turkey to the holiday celebration is even more unclear than the origins of the celebration. Perhaps it stems from an early description of “men out fowling” for ducks, geese, and turkey (e.g. as described in the Bradford document, “discovered” in 1854). Or perhaps it is due to sentiment expressed in Benjamin Franklin’s note that “The turkey is a much more respectable Bird and withal a true original Native of North America”. Franklin actually was so enamored of the bird that he was in favor of using the turkey as the national Bird, instead of the Bald Eagle. Thus, perhaps he is not the person to have suggested it as a centerpiece for the dinner-table.

And so, today, I have yet to meet an American who has any idea why Lincoln started the holiday, why they are asked to celebrate the image of Indians and Pilgrims, or even why they are eating a native bird.

Packet Trap

There’s something really nice about a good pasta sauce. There are so many recipes on the web, it’s hard to know where to begin. My favorite, of course, is the easiest: a bit of your favorite oil, add some basil, pine nuts, and garlic in the blender. Just press a button and…pesto!

There’s something really suspicious about a product called the White Glove, but there’s no doubt that Fred Cohen has a unique view. In light of this, I think when I build a DMZ for a client tomorrow I will try to convince them to call it a “Packet Trap.”

It’s good to be back…sort of

Hello again! I am back from the Comoros. I have to admit it was nice to have virtually no access to electricity, let alone a phone line, for a whole month — surrounded by mangos, coconuts, guava, bananas, fish, bats…not to mention a dance every night. More news tout de suite.

Auscats

AuscatYesterday’s wind was light but Julian and I raced the auscats out to mile buoy and back while the sun set in a huge pool of orange and purple stripes. Julian said it looked like someone was painting the sky. The boats are amazingly sensitive, so I discovered that fiddling with mast rotation in light air is a bad idea. Basically, 45 and 90 degrees of rotation are the optimum angles for upwind and downwind respectively. The slumbering seals at the buoy were less than happy to see Julian when he swung close and gave them a big toothy grin. Back on land, here’s the recipe of the day: peanut-butter cookies from allrecipes.com.