Monday, January 30, 2012

Around The Culinary World

Hello again everyone! What a difference a week makes. Here in the greater Iowa / Midwestern US, we’ve switched from 1-6 inches of snow (and freezing rain) last week to 50 degree temperatures this week. Currently in the greater Des Moines metro, we have absolutely no snow on the ground and the forecast calls for rain (!) and 50 degree temps all week. Beautiful!

There’s no better way to start a beautiful week than with a trip around the culinary world looking at all of the food news, stories and reports for the coming week.

Before we start, no – we’re not giving any more page time to that horrible human Paula Deen whose crappy cooking gave her diabetes, which she hid from her fans for three years (so she could keep peddling her crappy cooking). When she finally revealed that the horrible way she prepares food has given her a completely preventable disease, she did so alongside an announcement that she was ‘partnering’ with a diabetic drug company. This woman had her publicist quit over her handling of this situation (I wonder why..) and her own kids feel like she’s making a cash grab. Oh, and she is still out eating cheeseburgers and carrying on like it’s all great. Paula Deen is everything that is wrong with the culinary world’s image. Chefs like this give the real ones a bad name; the professional & amateur ones who are trying to show that cooking can be a HEALTHY option have to fight the fat chef, diabetic chef, unhealthy chef notions that this “chef” has put into people’s heads. No, we will no longer discuss this woman’s activities or actions on our blog. Chefs like Anthony Bourdain and others in the food world have absolutely (and deservedly) skewered Deen recently– Bourdain's comments are especially true. (End of rant)

On to the actual news for the week: If you ever needed more motivation to find out where your food comes from, here you go. US exports of pork are coming under fire from China and the European Union due to the usage of the drug ractopamine. The drug is injected into pigs (and other animals) right up until they’re slaughtered. It’s meant to keep the animals lean (more meat per pound) and increase their growth. It does this by mimicking stress hormones in the animal, increasing their heart rate and relaxing their blood vessels. 13 years ago, upon its introduction to the food industry, the FDA deemed the drug to be safe for use and consumption. It has been tested multiple times over the past 13 years and each time the FDA ruled that consuming small levels of ractopamine posed little to no health risk for the end consumer. It should be noted that the drug has only ever been tested on animals, and that it was never rated for human consumption.

The catch is the drug doesn’t seem to be overly safe for the animals (surprise, surprise). In fact, ractopamine has sickened or killed over 218,000 pigs since its introduction. It’s common to see pigs or other livestock unable to walk or even stand after they’ve been introduced to the drug. In 2002, the FDA forced the manufacturer to disclose a warning on the drug after they saw a surge in ‘lame pigs’ during that year.

Ractopamine is banned in many other countries due to the possible effects the drug could have on humans consuming a product containing the drug. According to the manufacturer, 85% of the ractopamine content should have been lost from the animal within 24 hours of being treated, with the remaining content being lost over the next few days. However, countries like China and organizations such as the European Union have sent back entire US pork shipments because they found traces of the drug in the meat. The Department of Agriculture states that they have found levels of ractopamine during inspection of pork or beef products in the US, but they were below the levels of concern, so the products were allowed through production.

This whole story acts like a giant advertisement for the organic food industry. Food production standards in the US have been under fire for quite some time, and until the lobbyists and corporate money are removed from the law making process, this issue will continue. I’d hesitate to eat any animal that has been treated with a drug as harsh as ractopamine. The secondary effects on humans have to be a concern, and in some countries, they clearly are. This just goes to show, it’s worth spending the extra time to know where your local grocery store obtains its meat – or even spending the extra $2 to $4 to get a certified organic meat product. That way you know the pork you’re eating is simply pork – not pork with a cocktail of chemicals and additives. You can read a lot more on this story HERE.

Moving on to a more humorous story involving pork products, The Guardian recently shared the findings of a new medical study on nosebleeds. The result? The next time you have a nosebleed, you may want so shove a little cured pork up there to take care of it. You read that right, according to new medical research, “Cured salt pork crafted as a nasal tampon within the nasal vaults successfully stopped nasal hemorrhage promptly” The research was done in order to find a solution for a girl suffering from a form of nasal hemorrhaging that can actually be life threatening – so it’s a very important study. That being said, I just typed the phrase “nasal tampon” and we’re being told to shove a little pork up our nose to stop bleeding. Despite the significant medical findings…it’s still pretty humorous. (Note, this applies to cured pork – not bacon, there is a difference. Don’t go shoving bacon up your nose during your next nosebleed. You may not enjoy the results). Check out the full story HERE.

Scientifically referred to as "Nose tampon"

One of the greatest pleasures for any food lover is a fresh loaf of bread. Fresh, crispy and delicious, fresh bread is a great culinary treat that anyone can enjoy. (Not to mention, it’s fairly easy to make on your own). However, what do you do with the bread after a few days have passed and the bread is not so fresh any longer? Food52 has a list of 5 uses for leftover bread that will help you clear out the last of the old bread in some pretty inventive (and tasty) ways. Check out their ideas HERE.

You may be familiar with the website Zagat, they compare restaurants and bars and compose a score for the eatery based on customer feedback, user input and reviews. In fact, you may have seen some of your local restaurants boasting “#1 Zagat rated sandwich shop” or something similar on their doors or front windows. When your job is to review restaurants, you begin to see some trends – some of which are cause for concern. We previously shared their “Most annoying” list of restaurant trends in a past edition of Around The Culinary World – and now they’re back with part 2. Check out the trends that are beginning to annoy diners everywhere. Does your favorite eatery commit any of these no-no’s? Check out the list HERE.

One of our favorite restaurants is Smashburger. The fresh, juicy burgers, amazing fries and atmosphere make it one of the best places to get a burger in the Des Moines metro. Recently, Reuters previewed Smashburger, taking a deeper look into how the company works and what it has done to separate itself from the fast food burger crowd. It’s an interesting look into a younger, progressive ‘fast food’ chain that is everything but your traditional fast food chain. Check out the full profile HERE.
That’s all the news that’s fit to blog about this week. (With a free Paula Deen rant too!) We’ve got another full week of healthy and delicious cooking lined up for you – Maggie will take to the kitchen on Tuesday with a dish that has her feeling like she’s on a Food Network show. I’ll follow her on Wednesday night with my attempt to recreate the delicious seasoned chicken that Chipotle serves up in their burritos. I’ll even try to make their recipe a little bit healthier too. It’s sure to be a fun week of cooking, so be sure to stop in tomorrow night to see what Maggie’s got cooking. Until then,


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