Category Archives: Food

Food, Mostly Hot Pot

Ramen Bowls

Ramen Bowls

Carol is allergic to any food containing cow dairy products.  It is like she has been poisoned.  With my ADD, foods containing gluten tend to make me irritable, as gluten is a precursor for glutamine, a neurotransmitter ADD’s have too much of.  It is always a bit of an adventure when we go to a restaurant.

The upshot is we are fairly aware of the dietary requirements many people have these days.  Entertaining is a challenge, preparing vegetarian, vegan, gluten free, dairy free, organic, free range, sugar free, low salt, on and on.  Maybe hosts should just serve organic oatmeal with rice milk and be done with it.

Carol belongs to a cookbook book club at the library.  That means interesting and sometimes weird food and cooking techniques.  Currently we are engaged in a ramen quest.  Previously we had never been to a ramen restaurant.   So far every one has been an adventure, with different ingredients and sauces.  Denver is such a great town for exploring cuisines.  By the way, the ramen is only distantly related to those ramen packets you ate in your impoverished youth.

Japanese Hot Pot

Japanese Hot Pot

I like ramen so much we acquired a Japanese Hot Pot to do ramen and other hot pot dishes at home.  Years ago I liked to cook Mongolian Hot Pot meals for friends.  The Mongolian hot pot for heating the broth was a charcoal burner, and I always worried about carbon monoxide.  Our new hot pot is electric, not exactly traditional, but safe and controllable.  I am just learning what to do.  The pot has a divider in it, so it an heat two kinds of broth.

When we think of Japanese food it is usually sushi or teriyaki.  Typical Japanese at home food is usually from the hot pot.  Broth, vegetables, noodles or rice, maybe some meat, and family.  The broth is either a simple meat broth or dried seaweed with some dashi for umami.



Two Dishes, One Pot

Two Dishes, One Pot

I have cooked two meals so far with the hot pot.  Both went pretty well.  We have two cookbooks, but they aren’t really necessary.  You heat some broth, throw your veggies, meat, tofu, mushrooms, dumplings, and anything else in the pot, let it cook, and fish it out with the little baskets on a handle that come with the pot.

You have two choices for the noodles.  Cook them separately and put the stuff  from the pot on then and eat, or cook them in the broth after you are finished with the meat and veggies and have noodle soup for the last course.  The kind of noodle is up to you. Ramen, or any other variety is fine.  Wheat, rice, buckwheat, or corn noodles are fine. You can also put your stuff on cooked rice, preferably short grain sticky rice so you can use chopsticks.

Have condiments on the side.  Condiments can be soy sauce, hot mustard, wasabi, srirachi sauce, or anything else.  I get the sense that every Japanese household has its own way of doing hot pot.  It is a fun way to eat, and keeps you at the table instead of in front of the TV.

Unjustified Causes Part Two: GMO’s

GMO-Dangers-300x215In this part two of my series on spurious causes I address the campaign against genetically modified organisms. The  GMO’s most people are concerned about are in foods.  Despite an overwhelming body of research confirming that GMO’s are safe, there is a huge movement opposing their use in foods.  The illustration at left is an example of truths and falsehoods mixed together.

This brings me back to a common theme underlying many causes: fear. I would like to think most fearmongers are Republicans; they have Karl Rove and Dick Cheney.  In these three popular campaigns, however, many of the adherents are mostly liberal in their thinking.  It just illustrates that I am the only truly rational person around.

So, here we go on applying my advanced reasoning powers to examining how the international agribusiness conspiracy is systematically poisoning the world population, producing hordes of mutants ready to run amok killing the innocent. Oh, wait, I have seen too many zombie movies.

I think Anti-GMO activists have also seen too many Zombie movies as well. There are no studies showing any adverse effects on humans or livestock from GMO’s.   In the U.S., most of the corn, and soybeans produced are GMO varieties.  No ill effects.

The opponents cite studies that have been refuted or make claims with no scientific basis. They are also concerned that there may be problems from GMO’s in the future.  Well, folks, we are in the future.  These products have been around for more than 20 years in many cases.  No zombies yet.

The health food industry has jumped on the no GMO bandwagon in a big way. They accuse big agribusiness of dangerous practices for profit, but they sell No-GMO products with big markups and scared people who have bought into the hype into paying inflated prices.

The justified fear of adverse health effects from pesticides and herbicides in the diet and drinking water has spilled over into the GMO movement. The anti-pesticide movement has strong scientific support.  The anti-GMO movement has none, but the fear spills over.

Marketers are exploiting the fear by putting organic foods and No-GMO foods In the same category. Who loses?  The Whole Foods customer.  The customer is subjected to the classic propaganda technique of the half-truth.  Pesticide residue bad, true;  GMO’s bad, false.  The association is what sticks in people’s minds, scientific fact notwithstanding.  This technique is one the Nazi’s used to justify killing Jews.  Good people were taken in.  Good people are beIng taken in today for profit, not genocide


Recently my wife and I started revising the way we eat.  We eat more organic food, search out meat from humanely raised animals, and cook more.  We bought a half-share of Community Supported Agriculture produce from an organic farm that sells at our local farmer’s market.  We did all this for two reasons.  We remodeled our kitchen and now have more than six square feet of counter space and more room to move.  We also read some of Michael Pollan’s books.

Pollan is a journalism professor at the University of California Berkeley who writes about food.  The book of his that inspired me to go to work in the kitchen is Cooked, where he writes about food preparation and preservation.  The Omnivore’s Dilemma is about where our food comes from and if, indeed, it is truly food.  Because of Michael Pollan’s books our food now costs more, but it tastes better and is from safe and humane sources. He also helped to get us using our new kitchen having fun cooking new things.

I have tried several cooking methods using Pollan’s suggestions, most successful, but I also turned a good pork roast into leather on the charcoal grill.  I am shopping for a better grill.  Now I am trying some food preservation, namely fermentation.  My first effort is Kimchi.

Kimchi is the Korean national dish.  It is spicy fermented Napa cabbage and other ingredients with lots of chile powder.  Kimchi may be fermented cabbage, like sauerkraut, but the taste is not at all like sauerkraut.

Koreans use kimchi as a side dish and add it to many other foods.  There are about as many recipes for kimchi as there are people making the stuff.  Onions, daikon radishes, carrots, garlic, scallions, ginger, bok choy, and other vegetables go into the preparation.  The big ingredient, Napa cabbage, is soaked in brine, mixed with a paste made from the other components, and allowed to ferment.  The brine draws most of the water from two pounds of cabbage, yielding about three pints of finished kimchi.

The kimchi I made fermented for a week sitting on the kitchen counter.  Next time, I will use less onion, but this batch is good on hamburgers and eggs.  It also went well with some fried potatoes, is good as a dip, and will work on nachos.  My wife won’t eat it.  She won’t even try it.

Most of the recipes call for Korean chile powder from the Asian market.  This is silly for us, living just north of the chile pepper world capital, New Mexico.  I used my blend of Chimayo and Chile Molido Puro.  Kimchi may be Korean, but chiles are a New World vegetable, unknown elsewhere before Columbus. Once discovered, they rapidly spread to the rest of the world, including Korea.

Besides the taste, kimchi is an excellent food.  In Korea’s cold climate it keeps well, providing vitamin C, useful probiotics, and other important nutrients.  The Koreans often make it in large stoneware crocks and bury them below the frost line to allow fermentation.  I find the kitchen counter works fine.  Fermentation makes delicate vegetables like cabbage available all winter, allowing us to eat locally after the growing season.

The preservation method, fermentation, is a bacterial process.  In our germ-phobic culture this seems strange, but we need fermented foods.  Beer!  The bacteria that produce fermentation in any material containing sugars are everywhere.  I didn’t use any kind of a starter culture, just letting the microbes in the kitchen’s air go to work.  The salt water brine tends to eliminate any harmful bacteria, and once fermentation begins, the alcohol produced does the rest.

If you want to make your own kimchi, recipes abound online.  Read several recipes and you will quickly learn the basics.  Go to the market, get the cabbage and the other veggies you decide on and do it.  I do suggest organic vegetables to eliminate the chance of including pesticides and herbicides in your recipe.  Chlorine-free water is also a good idea.  Chlorine kills bacteria.  Use filtered or bottled water.  I used the filtered water from our refrigerator water dispenser.  Oh, and read Michael Pollan.