Fat milk

Ok, this was going to be one of those innocuous Facebook posts, but then I decided to dedicate a modicum of net-poking to this… and fell down a rabbit hole of breath-takingly esoteric information.

First, the original post:

FB Milk

I will spare you the info I found regarding German dairy farming and the non-Fair Trade issues regarding the industry, and exactly what constitutes “Fresh Milk” and “Bio/Organic.” Suffice it to say everyone thinks they’re getting ripped off, and that everyone else is to blame. Start reading here if you’re really interested in German milk production, or here if you care about farming…

I began wondering what the caloric differences between the two types of milk might be, and what the long-term ramifications are. Karen and I believe strongly that Low Fat milk SUCKS. We assumed that there’s little point in drinking it, because the nutritional advantage is negligible, but the taste delta is huge. Larry Krug, my friend and former trainer/nutritionist, told me that ultimately it makes no difference. As the milk fat goes down, the lactose rises (in proportion) and the body simply turns that into fat anyway…

…but I have love handles now, and want a quick fix to my weight issue. Switching milk seems the perfectly consumerist solution to me. A decrease in the quality of life MUST somehow mean it’s good for me, right?

Right, I use about 150 ml per cup of frothy-milky coffee, and I have at least four home-made Lattés a day.

So, extrapolating from the label info on the cartons, which are now sitting on my desk and rapidly approaching room temperature, this means (Normal vs. Skim):

Fat – 5.70 g   –  2.25 g

Carbs – 7.2 g   –  7.35 g

Protein – 4.95 g  –  4.95 g

Calories – 100  –  70

No surprises, just as Larry said. The fatter milk has more fat (duh!) but the low fat stuff actually has slightly more sugar. They have the same amount of protein, but there is a notable caloric difference.

I don’t know how to create a nice comparative table for this blog, so follow me: When I multiply the 30 calorie difference times four, and then times 365, I calculate a calorie delta of 43,800. Considering that my daily caloric need (assuming I work out) is 2,600, this little analysis means my coffee habit is delivering 16 days worth of burnable fuel directly to my fat ass every year. But I don’t work out every day, and I have milk on cereal as well… and there’s cheese, and yogurt, and pancakes, and left-over Greek food…

Bummer, looks like I’m going to do what the Walrus suggested, and switch to Espresso.

I am NOT googling wine. I DON’T want to know…

Inventor of the döner kebab dies

Quoted from the highly readable Local, Berlin’s most interesting English-language news site:

In sad news for anyone who has been drunk and hungry at 2 am, the man who invented the döner kebab sandwich nearly four decades ago in Berlin has passed away.

Mahmut Aygün, the Turkish immigrant who revolutionised German fast food with his tasty creation, died at age 87 this week after a serious illness.

Aygün came up with the now ubiquitous döner while working at the “City Imbiss” snack shop in West Berlin in 1971. Cutting meat off a huge rotating spit, he was inspired to put it in pita bread and dress it up with vegetables and yoghurt sauce. Selling for two marks, the döner quickly became a staple of German street food alongside Teutonic favourites such as the bratwurst.

Although Aygün went on to considerable culinary success in Berlin, he didn’t make money from the thousands of kebab shops across Germany that copied him because he failed to patent his invention.

Still, he will be remembered by countless legions of döner kebab fans around the world.

Of course, döner kebap has existed for 250 years in Turkey… but Aygün was the first guy to make a sandwich out of it, and thus was created an easy and portable meal. And if you find a good busy place that sells a lot of them, they are actually pretty healthy. No preservatives, relatively lean meat, and a lot of salad.

I used to like the döner stand on Wilmersdorfer Strasse (right past the S-Bahn bridge) but Karen and I these days prefer the Pergamon Grill, a walk-in place in the Friedrich Strasse train station that also serves really good Turkish roll-up pizza.

Ice Cubes

A few days ago I had a really bad stomach incident, and was forced to forgo food for a couple of days. In the course of the day I ate a bagel, and drank some Gatorade to ensure I kept up with my electrolytes. It was warm when I bought it at the store, so I got some ice cubes out of the freezer in the house we’re renting in Los Angeles.

Well, the drink was foul-tasting, because the ice was yucky. There’s no other way of explaining it. Even though it came from the freezer, it was obvious that it had acquired whatever smells had been in the fridge over God knows how long, and the tap water it was using as a source was running through 50 year old pipes as well.

That afternoon, while suffering on the couch like a Civil War amputee, I opened the New York Times to find an article about a phenomenon I had already noticed previously: there’s an ice age going on.

What do I mean? Go down to Whole Foods, Bristol Farms, or any number of premium supermarkets or liquor shops, and you will find a whole range of high-end ice makers selling bags of super-clear, differently shaped ice in the freezer section.

Bottled water is finally on the decline. It has become unfashionable to drink bottled water in a time when people realize that the carbon footprint of mineral water is unacceptable – shipping it, cooling it, the petroleum and energy necessary to manufacture plastic bottles, and the fact that they’re non-biodegradable. My friends and family already know that bottled water is my little personal pet peeve – though I’m sure they’d be quick to point out places where I’m not that environmentally sensitive.

…but I guess the same people that used to sell bottled water have now moved on to pre-bagged ice. It’s a whole science, and of course there are plenty of internet sites dedicated to the methodology of “farming” ice. A big hit seems to be boiling distilled water, in order to release any remaining air. When you freeze that, it comes out crystal clear, not like that white ice coming out of the Sub-Zero freezer in the kitchen. The Japanese, as often, are leading this particular food science.

Shape matters too. You can get hollow tubes of ice, perfect cubes, bigger orbs (think small rugby balls) that have a minimum amount of surface area and thus melt slower while keeping your drink cool. There are also ices available specifically “dimpled” for those who enjoy chewing ice… to me those were always the nervous kids, or those too lazy (or tapped out) to go back to the bar for a fresh one.

I am glad I’m no longer at the age where I hang around bars. That post-teen early-career phase in life where you go to a cocktail lounge was never really my thing, though in retrospect I remember doing an awful lot of it, and actually having a good time. I guess I’ve always complained preemptively. Anyway, I was frequently annoyed by the slicker in a suit jacket who would order a highly specific drink in order to seem sophisticated – not in terms of its preparation, I do that, too. I mean the people who swear they can taste the difference between one version of a brand vodka and the other, specifying the mixer, and the garnish. “I’ll have a Grey Goose Limited martini with Noilly Prat vermouth, and a twist of organic lemon.”… Yeah, you’re a pratt alright… Well guess what: now you can hear them add the ice brand… “… with some Hoshizaki chips” or maybe some old-school Kool-Draft cubes.

One thought though… since reading the article last week, I have noticed the clarity and shape of ice with every drink that’s been served to me, and I can’t help but notice when they’re clear and cubed. I really like that.

Trust Me!

My favorite Sushi restaurant in Los Angeles has always been Sasabune. Like most people, I preferred it when they were in that little weird abandoned gas station on Sawtelle, but the new place is fine. It’s big and sort of antiseptic, but the food remains great.

There is no menu. However, there’s a sign on the wall, and it says: “No California Roll, No Tuna Roll, Trust Me.” They just bring you food, and at some point the food stops arriving. You’re welcome to give some guidance of course. Karen isn’t big on shelfish, so she foregoes the scallop in favor of some albacore.

I will not attempt food writing, it’s a discipline that eludes me. But I can tell you they use the freshest and best fish available, and they make the sushi with warm rice. This brings out the flavor of the fish even more, and ensures that the food is made just before you eat it – nothing pre-made that morning for the lunch rush.

But one thing that’s always baffled me is the poem on the disposable chop stick wrapper. It’s unchanged in the eight years that I’ve been going there. I will share it with you here, because every Friday ought to end with a poem:

Sushi – Delicate Snowflakes rest on warm, sweet rice beds flavors interwined. Transclucent jewel -(sliced) natural perfection – slide into my mouth. Trust Me!

Spelling, boldness, and punctuation left intact for your pleasure.

Shabbat Shalom, have a good weekend.

Slow Food

One of the best movements to have come about in the last ten years has got to be the Slow Food Movement. As the name implies, it is an antidote to the Fast Food approach, but it goes beyond that. It was founded by Italians, but quickly achieved global reach.

Originally the intent was pretty straight forward: use local products as much as possible, use them seasonally, and take pride in what is around you. When my wife and I went on our Honeymoon in 2002, we drove through Italy with a Slow Food guide as the core component of our route planning. Francino had given it to us, and it was the best suggestion we had gotten in a long time.

Slow Food is now evolving, in ways that makes a lot of sense. The emphasis on local food is a positive contribution to reducing transportation costs – why use up so much energy to eat beef from across the country if a local farmer has something fresher near by. We live in a world in which people have lost contact with their food source. Even sophisticated, educated consumers don’t really spend much time thinking about where food comes from. At the supermarket, the lamb in the freezer is from New Zealand, the pork from Germany and the beef from Florida (or Argentina, if you’re lucky.)

So the next time you go out to eat, keep an eye on what’s local. Chances are its fresher, and not always available.