Curious Appetite

Month: March 2013

The Monsanto Protection act digest

What the hell, America. I leave for 5 minutes and you (they) pass an act that could quite possibly destroy American agriculture as we know it. All of the strides the local organic food movement now trampled on. All of the earnest efforts of  unbiased scientists sounding alarms to ecological and human health can now be officially plunged down the toilet. And the big wigs at Monsanto are smug about having put one(a big one) past the system and a whole gigantic country of people who will now be their lifelong customers- whether they like it or not.

I can write a digest of all the proven risks of GMO’s, all the fears, how Europeans refuse to accept GMOs, all the realities, how MNC’s manipulate the poor for their gain, all the governmental back scratching, fear mongering and all the scandal. But you can inform yourself. You can search for that in your engine, or as the cool kids say “google it.”

America, why do you let big business take over common sense?  It is time to wake up. It is time to defend our food. It is time to start respecting our home. It’s time to start making some decisions that will improve the future of food. It is not my place to tell you how. There is loads of information out there, figure it out. I am concerned that our children will grow up in a world where clean water is scarce, air is filthy and food is concocted in a laboratory. I know as a human race we have to keep innovating,  like a plane in ascent that can’t exactly stop its climb. But I think we can be innovative with how we turn the tide and save our planet before we destroy everything that has been gifted to us so mysteriously.

Wake up, people. Walk away from your packaged convenience food, your favorite name brand junk food and flip off the telly of your reality show. This is reality. The US just signed a bill that is allowing GMOs to take over the food supply, and will never be taken off the shelf even if science proves (again) that it’s exposure will harm human health.

Get up, stand up and do something! Before it’s too late.

Curious Appetite.

Italian food and restaurant empires back home

My current read is Garlic and Sapphires by Ruth Reichl, who was the food critic for the L.A. times and the New York Times. I really enjoy this read for many reasons, one is that it was set in the 90’s…the age before food bloggers, popular online publications and before the trend of hipster boutique restaurants. It’s hard to explain and I am well aware of this hypocrisy for slamming bloggers, but I really look fondly upon newspaper journalism and carefully selected (and paid) food critics. Nowadays everyone thinks they’re a chef, a photographer, a critic just because they have a food blog.

Granted, blogs are good and have a purpose, but they also have undermined journalism in a way and undercut the industry because people with little talent and a poor ability to captivate are willing to give their work away for free (or for an “internship”) just for status. The blogosphere and twitter has become a big arbitrary popularity contest. Furthermore, I think this blogosphere culture has created a supply of cheap, search engine optimized information that crowds out talented writers like Ruth Reichl to the point that if she were to have started her career in the age of the blog, who knows if she would have had the same broadcast and reach.

I’m not trying to be the next best blogger or the most read. I just want to blurt out my million opinions about food and dining and I have no interests hiding behind my blog. I can’t say I believe the same for other bloggers who have their page loaded with advertising.

I started reading up on online food critics from back home on at least a newspaper’s website, The Seattle Times and I was reading up on one of the critic’s raving of a new Ethan Stowell restaurant that supposedly is supposed to represent Roman food and derives its style inspiration from the lovely gorgeous quarter of Trastevere. It was quite weird to read some of the comments, being that I lived in Rome (and live in Florence now), I was amused by some of the sincere ideas about food in Rome from this restaurant review by the Seattle Times. I saw a mention of his “Roman street pizza”. Give me a break! I really resent how trendy putting the word “street” onto a menu item has become. I can just imagine all the “ooooh roman STREET pizza- let’s get that!” coos from foodie hipsters and Seattleites. Serves them right to be paying a whopping $16 for a pie which here costs about 5 euros. In my opinion, the pizza in Rome kinda sucks! After reading, I began to wonder how Ethan Stowell got his idea for a posh Italian restaurant chain/empire. I am sure he spent time traveling in Italy, doing research and reading books…but did he really live and breath the air in Trastevere?

Did he understand the Romans on motorinos howling out mortacci tua! to the insanely packed disorderly traffic jams that make Rome so chaotic? Has he ever eaten trippa alla romana? I don’t even want to start with asking if he knows what lampredotto is. Perhaps he is well informed, but I doubt he even scratched the surface of Italian life. Like most well-off Americans, he doesn’t even know what Italians have to live with everyday. I doubt he gets that the restaurants in Italy that he tries to replicate abroad get taxed to their eyeballs and can’t afford to take on more staff at even poverty-level wages. Meanwhile, the well-tipped staff at any given Stowell establishment I imagine can’t even pronounce conchiglie or most other Italian food terms without a nails on the chalkboard American accent.

And I bet this highly pretentious chain of restaurants can overcharge for Italian-style food without realizing that most of the recipes were originally designed to be filling for Italians in times of austerity, not filling pockets abroad for trend savvy restauranteurs.

But just like the oversaturation of food bloggers and everyone thinking they are as worthy of readership as Ruth Reichl in her days as the New York Times food critic, the chef world has also become undercut with people like Ethan Stowell who think their superficial relationships with Italy can earn them the badge as an Italian chef.

Ciao for now;)

Sincerely yours,

a very cynical (and ironic) curious appetite…

Homemade fresh pasta and wild boar ragù

A lot of people I know who like Italian food love pasta. It is the cornerstone of Italian cuisine, it is what makes Italian cuisine, at least modern-day Italian. I go through phases of shunning carbs and gluten but during the winter months like January and February- I can’t seem to help myself.

Recently I have had to attend some culinary dinner events which included pasta making top chef-like challenges. So after one weekend of an event I borrow a pasta maker because I’m really curious if I can do it on my own after observing it at these events. All I gotta do is look up a recipe, give me a machine and I’ll figure it out, right?

So I call a pal to see if she is game for an afternoon of pasta making. She trumps my request by adding that we make our fresh pasta with a ragù of cinghiale (aka wild boar ragù). The game is on.

The night before I was excited. I told some Italian friends about my plans for the next day, they seemed impressed and respond by saying basically how weird is it that a couple of Americans are making something that Italians themselves are forgetting about.  Italy is being colonized by the Big Mac meanwhile American foodies teach themselves how to make the traditional dishes their grandparents used to make. Incredible.

After some trials and tribulations of finding wild boar meat in the city of Florence, my trusty sidekick succeeds in finding some from a local butcher and marinates it overnight with garlic, rosemary and wine.

We spend about 3 hours simmering a wild boar ragù– which is basically a red meat sauce starting with a battuto of carrot, celery, onion, peeled tomatoes, red wine and ground marinated cinghiale.

While the sauce is simmering we mak’ala pasta!

Start with 1 cup of all purpose flour and a cup of whole grain flour (believe me the consistency and texture is real nice- plus the fiber will make you feel less guilty for eating pasta! score!) mix it in a bowl with a pinch of sea salt. Pour it on a dry surface and stick your fingers in the middle to form a volcano

Then when you get a deep valley in your lump of flour, crack 4 eggs into it, careful to not let the lava spill quite yet.

Then you put a few drops of olive oil in your egg lava nest and try to whisk the mix without letting it spill of the sides. But if it does, don’t worry. I did and the pasta came out just fine. Once the lava is all mixed, start incorporating flour in little by little with a fork.

Then just say screw it with the dainty fork and just get your hands all up in it and capture all your flour and knead like crazy- pasta dough is very kneady process and needs a lot of kneading care. get it…get it??!!! It’s a PUN!!!! No? Just me? Okay moving on….

Once your dough has got all it has kneaded..(okay, I promise to stop…) Tada! Let it rest, it’s taken quite the beating. For about a half an hour. In the meantime, feel free to eat chocolate, drink coffee and sip on wine. Yep, that’s Italy!

After the rest and by now I hope you’re buzzing and cracked out on caffeine…it’s the perfect time to do something time consuming and somewhat tedious- and that’s rolling out the pasta dough and cutting it! Good thing we were making a slow cooked ragù…maybe that’s why it was discovered! Maybe someone left some meat sauce on the stove while making fresh pasta and it turned into a delicious melt-in-your mouth wonder!

Be sure to keep your surface nice and floured as you are slicing your dough and flattening it out a bit.

When using a pasta machine and making sheets of pasta from the dough, start with the lowest setting and work your way up to your desired thickness/thinness. Once you make flat sheets of pasta, you put it through the cutting attachment as seen here in exhibit: z.

After you cut your pasta, you lay them on a flat plate-object like a plastic sheet or cutting board make sure they don’t stick together by adding a bit of flour, untangling the strands like hair.

And you must have a fun face on while you are doing it. Otherwise, you’re doing it wrong. In fact, in life you must always have a fun face on.

Your slow cooked ragù is almost ready. So boil up a large pot of water, add all your hard earned pasta in and cook for no more than 3 minutes. A spectator in the peanut gallery of this adventure said “how funny that something that takes so long to prepare takes so little to cook.” Deep thoughts about pasta, yes this is Italy.

When your pasta is cooked and drained, pile some on a few plates and dollop a nice ladle of your slow simmered wild boar cinghiale ragù on top. Grate some aged pecorino on top and you got yourself a plate of pasta that will knock Dante Alighieri’s socks off.

Don’t forget to stop and smell. Watch. Drool. Devour.

Don’t forget to pair with some red wine. Chianti Classico, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, Brunello di Montalcino…heck just make sure you have some goddamn red wine, preferably from Tuscany. Oh and make sure it’s daytime. Drinking during the day is totally okay. Only in Italy can you drink all day and be called a wine expert. Back home we call that a lush or an alcoholic! What a relief to live with real culture!

I think I will use this post as blackmail to get my friends and family back home to come visit. You want this? Then come visit me. Mwahahahaha! I mean, hundreds of dollars on a plane ticket is sooooo worth a lunch like this…and with me- hello! Sheesh. NO BRAINER! See you soon! 😛


Thanks to Sarah, my partner is cinghiale crime, for the lovely photos. You can follow her blog on her adventures as a movement theater teacher at Helikos in Florence here:

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