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Tag: food

Understanding Whipped Cream

I use cream for cooking and also make whipped cream for desserts, a quart at a time, about once a day. Sometimes I make it several times a day. These are sweetened with sugar and flavored with vanilla, sometimes banana, lemon, or chocolate.

Doing this for years with a hand mixer, I’ve noticed big differences between brands and types of cream. My favorite that I use the most is Glenville Farms Heavy Cream. It whips fast, becomes very stiff, and is stable. You can quickly ice a cake with it and it stays put. It never creeps or sags. This cannot be said of any other brandsI’ve tried, and I’ve tried all kinds.

If you make things with whipped cream, you might like to know why Glenville is the best I’ve found and what to look for. Cream is cream, right? It’s the stuff at the top of raw milk. Not exactly. It varies.

What varies is the fat content. The higher the fat, the faster it will whip and the more stiff and stable it will be. Fat is expressed as a percentage. Finding out the percentage can be challenging because it’s usually not printed on the carton or bottle.

The minimum fat content needed for it to whip is 30 percent. The result will be okay for some purposes but will be soft, light, less stable. This is often labeled “whipping cream”. A much better result occurs with fat content of 37 to 38 percent and this often labeled “heavy cream”. Glenville has 40 percent and its superiority is evident in the result.

I was going to publish a list comparing different brands, but accurate info is difficult to get hold of, so I decided not to, for now.

However, I did notice something to beware of if you are a dieter or paying close attention to your nutrition. I found that several nutrition sites on the web do not show accurate information. Some sites allow you to search products by brand and type. I found that the information they publish for all brands and types of cream is identical. They just copy-pasted the exact same information on every brand and type — the same calories per tablespoon, the same grams of fat per 15 ml. We know that’s not true.

No Chocolate, Potatoes, or Tomatoes in Europe?

If you took a trip to 16th Century Europe, you could meet or see Michaelangelo, da Vinci, Martin Luther, Charles V, Henry VIII, and many other fascinating people from that period. But, you’d also be shocked by many things, especially everyone’s diet.

Michaelangelo never tasted marinara sauce on his pasta because tomatoes were unknown in Italy. No Irishman, German, or Pole had ever seen a potato. No German, Swiss, or Frenchman had ever tasted chocolate, nor vanilla.

What? It’s true. Foods from the Americas started coming to Europe in 1493 when Columbus brought bell pepper seeds and a few others. But it took decades for these to become noticed and spread. Some items like tomatoes took a long time to catch on. It was believed that tomatoes were poisonous until a Frenchman demonstrated that they were not. Cortez first learned of chocolate from Moctezuma in 1520.

European Diet

Fundamental to Italian cuisine are the fagioli soups. Fagioli means beans — the common bean like navy, kidney, black, lima, northern, and pinto. There were none of those in Europe, just fava beans. Nor was there corn, squashes, yams, strawberries or pineapples — no peanuts, so no peanut butter — no zucchini, pumpkins, avocados, or cashew nuts.

There were no hot chili peppers in Europe. The only hot spices were pepper, mustard, and horseradish. But what about Asia? The Chinese and Indians love chili peppers. Chili peppers were brought there from the Americas by European sailors, and they became extremely popular. In fact, chili peppers found their way to Europe from the Americas, to India, then to England. There were no bell peppers either, of any color.

There was no white or brown sugar, just honey for sweetening. No Englishman puffed on a pipe, nor did any Frenchman smoke a cigarette — tobacco was unknown. No green beans, tapioca, papaya, guava, passion fruit, cranberries, sunflowers, pecans, allspice, or chicle (chewing gum).

The European diet was bland. Nourishment came from breads, pasta, grains and meat porridges, apples, pears, berries, beer, eggs, fish, and dairy foods. There was no coffee at this time either, although coffee came from Arabia, not the Americas.

Sound boring? It was. Most of the foods for which European countries are famous like Swiss chocolate, and Irish potatoes, were introduced in the past 400 years. Yet, most people I know think that potatoes came from Ireland.

Negative Side Effects

I find it interesting to observe the effects of introducing new food sources to a place. We’ve all heard of the great impact of the Irish Potato Famine. How did that happen?

The potato was brought to Europe in 1536 and was spread by seafarers to the rest of the world. It quickly became a staple food crop in Europe. It was so successful at feeding the people of Ireland that it touched off a population explosion, resulting in hordes of Irish immigrants to North America. By 1800 it was not unusual for an Irishman to eat an astonishing ten pounds of potatoes a day! Many Irish were literally surviving on potatoes.

For over 7,000 years, the Indians of South America cultivated more than a thousand varieties of potato. But the lack of genetic diversity in Europe left the potato vulnerable to various diseases. One potato disease known as Late Blight, caused by a fungus-like oomycete called Phytophthora infestans, was responsible for the Great Irish Potato Famine of 1845. It spread rapidly in western Ireland and resulted in widespread crop failures. More than a million Irish died of hunger and 1.5 million more emigrated to the United States, resulting in a huge increase in demand for the potato in the USA.

So, introducing a great source of nutrition to a region triggers a population explosion. This makes sense. And, it happened again. Africa never had an overpopulation problem before. What happened?

Corn was domesticated from a wild plant called teosinte more than 7,000 years ago in Central America. Corn is fundamental to the Mayan creation myth and is considered a sacred plant. The ears of the wild teosinte plant were small but years of domestication resulted in larger plants and larger ears of corn. Corn spread throughout the Americas. Popcorn was invented by North American Indians. Corn was brought to Europe as a curiosity by the first explorers and Europeans were not much interested in it. However in Africa, it spread quickly, and together with the peanut and cassava from the Americas, completely transformed the diet of much of Africa. The productivity and nutritional value of these foods resulted in a rapid rise in population in Africa, similar to the effect of the potato on Ireland.

Another negative side-effect came from the introduction of tobacco. In the Americas, tobacco was smoked in moderation, often associated with religious or other ceremonies. In Europe, and throughout the world, it became a highly addictive drug, smoked excessively, resulting in millions of premature deaths.

Lastly

To finish off the list of foods from the Americas, we have turkeys, brazil nuts, prickly pear, huckleberries, annatto (achiote), and maple syrup.

Lastly, although not foods, many other important substances came from the Americas such as rubber, mahogany, hickory, cochineal dye (Natural Red Dye #4), and logwood. Logwood was a very important commodity, driving politics, economics, and piracy in the Caribbean until the invention of aniline dyes in the 19th Century.

If you plan to travel by time-machine to Europe of the past, be prepared for extremely disappointing dining.

Please comment below.

Food Labeling Discrepancy

About one percent of the U.S. population suffers from a sensitivity to peanuts. Accordingly, foods are labeled to warn if any peanut products are contained. Even packages of roasted peanuts that are labeled “PEANUTS” in giant letters, also include a list of ingredients showing peanuts, plus a warning that says, “Warning: Contains Peanuts”, as though a package labeled PEANUTS might not contain peanuts.

About the same percentage of the U.S. population, about one percent, suffers from a gluten sensitivity that sickens and causes physical damage to the digestive system, yet there is no requirement for food labels to show a warning for gluten or ingredients that contain gluten. Why?

A few specialty food makers produce gluten-free products and label them as such but most mainstream food makers do not. Wal-Mart’s Great Value brand does label gluten-free products, which is great, but products without the gluten-free label are a guessing game. They might or might not contain gluten. Kraft Foods has promised to label anything containing gluten by including “wheat” in the ingredients list. That’s very nice of them still does not provide much comfort since nobody is under government mandate to label foods properly like they are when it comes to peanuts.

Gluten is normally associated with wheat but it’s not that simple. That’s why proper labeling is very important when it comes to gluten. Gluten can appear in foods in unexpected ways. Flavorings such as caramel, stabilizers and thickeners used in ice cream, ketchup, salad dressings, and many other ingredients can contain gluten depending on how they are made. There’s no way for the customer to know. And just because one bottle of A1 Steak Sauce does not make you sick does not mean the next bottle won’t because the source of caramel in the product might change from a gluten-free source to one that contains gluten. Nothing on the label will change to show the difference. There’s no way for the customer to know unless the maker is required to specifically put gluten or “wheat” on the label.

I don’t know why this is not done–why the FDA does not require gluten warnings on foods.

What Does this Label Lead You to Believe?

Ocean Spray 100% Juice

“Ocean Spray 100% Juice” means what, exactly?

Ruby Red Grapefruit, 100 percent juice, no sugar added. And the price is higher than an equivalent amount of refrigerated fresh 100 percent orange juice, so it must be pure grapefruit juice right? Wrong. It does not say “pure grapefruit juice” and it’s not.

If one reads the ingredients one learns that it contains grapefruit juice plus two other juices. Talk about deceptive labeling. I hope you are reading the labels in the “juice” section of the market. The only pure juices one can find these days are certain grape juices and most prune juices. All others, like 95 percent of the “juices”, are blends and “cocktails”, and are also spiked with high fructose corn syrup to help you get fat faster. Why? If I wanted soda pop or candy I can go to the soda pop or candy sections of the market. This is supposed to be the juice section, or it used to be anyway.

Be very careful when buying fruit juices. “Pomegranate juice” is mostly grape juice. “Blueberry” is mostly grape juice. Read the label and you’ll find that nearly all of them except grape and prune are not what they appear to be.

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