essays

The hoarding habit

The disaster zone kitchen has been largely cleared up now. The kitchen table is still piled up with foodstuffs that need to be re-housed, but otherwise things are mostly back to normal. Except that is for my general will to do some serious cooking. There is something about throwing away bags of ruined flour, sugar, and formerly dry pasta that damages ones will to live, er, that is cook with a light heart.

What I did discover though is that I am a hoarder. With a small household, there’s no need at all to have so many things stockpiled. Why did we even have 6 bags of sugar and buy flour by the ten-pack anyway, when it’s not even cheaper to do so? I don’t bake that much, and I only need sugar in large amounts during jam and preserve making time, which is still weeks down the road. Likewise, we have still 10 cans of tuna when we barely eat the stuff at all. continue reading...

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How far do you go for food knowledge?

After writing my previous entry about The Sushi FAQ site, I received a very nice email from Warren, the site owner (which I especially appreciated since I wasn’t totally positive in my review). One question he raised which got me thinking is where he should go from here to get more information and knowledge about sushi. I think this question can be extended to all areas of life, but keeping it in the food realm: how far should you, and do you, go to gain knowledge and experience, especially about food and cuisines you didn’t grow up with?

Let’s say you fall in love with Thai food as it’s served at your local restaurant. You might search out for other Thai restaurants. You might buy some cookbooks. That far I think almost anyone remotely interested in food will do. The next step might be to take a class in Thai cooking. So far, so good. A trip to Thailand? Maybe, if budget allows.

What beyond that though? Would you move to Thailand for an extended period (more than a few months) to immerse yourself in the food, language and culture? Would you learn Tagalog? Would you apprentice with a Thai cook? How far would you go?

I’ve gotten to to the trying various restaurants and buying cookbooks stage on numerous cuisines, and the travel level on a few more. I’ve gone to the learning-language and living there level too. I didn’t do this just for the food, but my decision to take French for three years in college certainly had a lot to do with the fact that I fell absolutely in love with the food I ate at small, inexpensive restaurants around Paris the first time I went there by myself.

Years later I ended up living here in Switzerland, which wasn’t a food based decision, but there’s no denying that living here gives me great access to great cuisines around Europe. And there’s the great cheese and chocolate of course…two of my favorite foods in the world.

I have a feeling that I am much more obsessive than the average person in this way, but surely I’m not alone…

The place and cuisine I’m most interested in immersing myself in at the moment is Hawaii. Spam musubi, here I come! (One day, soon I hope.) continue reading...

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A lonely way to die

Yesterday, I found out that one of the most talented sushi chefs I’ve ever known had died. He was still relatively young (in his 50s). He was at one time one of the itamae at the late, lamented Sushisay in New York.

The authorities are investigating the cause of his death. They have to do this, because his body was found in his bath, at least a month after he had died. continue reading...

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Chef Morimoto disses the "authentic" Japanse certification plan

On the New York Tiimes Diners Journal blog, which is no longer just written by Frank Bruni, Julia Moskin writes about a Japanese food symposium held at the Japan Society. She reports that “Iron Chef” Masaharu Morimoto called the Japanese government’s plans to certify “authentic” Japanese restaurants “nonsense”. Now, fans of the original (and best) Japanese version of Iron Chef may remember Chef Morimoto’s ongoing “battles” with chefs who cooked “authentic Japanese”; while a lot of it seemed like fake drama for the cameras, perhaps there was some truth in it after all. He did make some pretty outrageous, not to mention downright odd, things under the guise of “nouvelle Japanese” on occasion, which seemed to get some more “authentic” Japanese chefs rather upset. If we assume that the standards of ‘authenticity’ might be dictated by such chefs, people like Chef Morimoto, not to mention Nobu Matsuhisa, may not pass muster. Not to say they don’t produce good, even great, food. (Though I must admit I’m not a big Nobu fan. To be fair I’ve only been there once, years ago, and had a ‘server problem’ which clouded things. And I’ve never been to a Morimoto restaurant.)

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Authentically Japanese?

Recently there was an article in the Washington Post about some attempts by the Japanese government to set up some kind of authenticity certification for Japanese cuisine served abroad. continue reading...

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An about page, please

I often find blogs that are new to me via my referer logs. If I see an unfamiliar URL, I will usually go and check it out. (I’m much less likely to go check out a site that’s just emailed to me, so the best way to get my attention is just to link to this site somewhere.) I’ve discovered quite a lot of great food blogs that aren’t that well known yet that way.

One thing that isn’t always on some new blogs is an about page. I would really love to know even a little about who is behind the blog. It doesn’t have to be as long as the one on this site but - just a little bit. Like, where do you live? Where are you from? Who do you cook for, and why? What do you like to cook or eat? Why did you start a food blog? What’s the objective of your site? Just a couple from that list would really bring your blog to life for readers.

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Free advice for PR people

Hi there, intrepid PR person who wants to get in on this new “blog marketing” and “viral marketing” thing. I have some free advice for you, especially if you are trying to sell some kind of packaged, manufactured thing that only vaguely resembles real food.

Don’t try to get food bloggers to try your stuff. Or let’s put it this way: the owners of any food blog with a following, a reasonable backlog of articles, and enough traffic and Alexa ranking etc. to matter for you, is likely to be a Food Snob. That’s the kind that your clients dread: they use real food, worry about seasonality (tomatoes in February make them gag), and, worst of all, actually cook. Or if they don’t cook they eat out at places that serve real food. continue reading...

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Food-oriented goals and plans for 2007

In 2006 most of my food-oriented goals were external in nature, oriented towards restaurants and such. This year my goals are quite different. continue reading...

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Looking back at 2006

At the tail end of 2005, I set myself a list of food related things I wanted to accomplish. I didn't get to do all of these things but nevertheless, it was a very good year. continue reading...

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Three years of Just Hungry

Three years ago, I decided on a whim to branch off a bit from my main blog, which was mostly about web development and other matters, and start a blog about food, just food - and Just Hungry was born. On November 29, 2003, I posted my first entry. 450 or so entries later it's still here! It's now become a much more visited site than I ever imagined, and I am constantly amazed and surprised at how many people take the time to write me great emails or leave comments. continue reading...

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Surviving Thanksgiving, a Don't Panic! list for new cooks

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I've been living off and on in Switzerland since 1995, but I think this is the first year that I've actually not been in the U.S. for Thanksgiving. I usually made an effort to go there around that time, even if I didn't always spend it with my family. Of course there is no Thanksgiving celebration in Switzerland. We've already moved directly to Christmas season (which also encompasses St. Nicolas Day on December 6th). There are several Christmas markets on already in the area.

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75% vegetarian: meat is just a side dish

After reading my post yesterday about, among other things, the offal challenge on Top Chef, someone emailed me expressing surprise that I was not a vegetarian. I have been asked before by readers of this blog whether I was a vegetarian. I'm not, but let me qualify that. continue reading...

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The U.S. (allegedly) bans Vegemite...can Marmite be far behind?

I really had to look twice at the calendar to make sure I hadn't suddenly skipped ahead a few months to April 1st when I read this news story: continue reading...

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Truly hungry

Today, October 16th, is World Food Day, a day designated by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations since 1945 as a day for promoting awareness of issues related to hunger, agriculture and food production.

While much of the time this site, like most food blogs, talk about indulging personal hunger and food cravings, there's a lot to think about on this subject these days, much of it rather sobering. continue reading...

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The $9 organic burger at Farm Aid

I am old enough to recall the '80s rather clearly (and, isn't it a bit scary how '80s fashion like humongous oversized sweaters seem to be making a comeback now? What's next, the return of footballer-sized Dynasty shoulder pads?), so I remember when the first Farm Aid concert took place. At that time, family farms in the U.S. were in dire straights, so a bunch of musical artists, inspired by the massive Live Aid concert, got together to raise money and awareness for the plight of the American farmer. continue reading...

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Expat food bloggers of the world, unite

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While going through the entries for Food Destinations #2, I was struck by the number of people who are expatriates. Alanna Kellogg wrote about this briefly on BlogHer a while back too. I am myself an expat, even several times over: born in Japan, American citizen, lived for some time in England, living in Switzerland now, but who knows where I’ll be in 5, 10 years?

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BlogDay linking to non-food sites

Today, August 31st, is Blogday 2006, the idea of which is to link to 5 blogs that you would normally not link to on your blog. (The site seems to be having some issues right now, hopefully they will recover before the day is done.) One of my other major passions besides food and cooking is design, and there are a number of great blogs that concentrate on what's new in the design world, from various angles.

It was really hard to pick just five out of many great design blogs, but here are some of the best out there. continue reading...

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Let there be butter

butter sizzling

Over on my GenevaLunch blog, I've written about the wonderful taste and smell of Swiss butter. If you have a chance to come here please make an effort to try some, and if you can, melt some in a hot pan. continue reading...

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Some thoughts on food and photographs, and food photography

The Observer Food Monthly, one of the best food-related publications available online, recently held a food photography competition. The results have been posted, and all the winning and runner-up photos are terrific. The winner of the "Food Glorious Food" category, a very humorous arrangement of some jelly babies, made me laugh out loud, but the one that struck me the most is the overall winner, a beautiful black and white photo by Ikuko Tsuchiya titled "The Widow in her kitchen". continue reading...

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The Refrigerator Buyer's Dilemma

subzero.jpg Ooh, baby. This is the Sub Zero Pro 48, aka Fridge Porn.

Our old refrigerator is dying.

It's about 15 years old, so I suppose it has a right to die. Still, it depresses me to think about it. On a list of indispensable appliances in the modern household, fridges have to be near the top. When it malfunctions, it's like your heart beating irregularly. It's really stressful. continue reading...

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Animals need ice treats too

You may have already seen this story about the animals in the Zürich Zoo being fed frozen meat and fruit "alternative ice cream" to cool them down. It seems that this isn't so uncommon. 20 Minuten, a free paper that's distributed in Zürich and other Swiss cities, has a great slide show on their web site of animals cooling down, using ice treats and other ways. continue reading...

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More about soy, manufactured food, and food trends

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Just in case you missed it, this article about soy that plume linked to in the comments to the previous entry about the anti-soy article in the Guardian is excellent.

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A problematic report on the 'dangers' of soy

There was a report in yesterday's Guardian about the supposed dangers of soy products. I am rather dubious about the claims, simply because some of the 'facts' stated about the use of soy beans in Asian cuisine, or Japanese cuisine in particular, are just plain wrong. The implication made in the article is that all soy products are fermented for a long time in Japanese cuisines, but this is simply not true. Only miso and soy sauce and like products - which are only consumed in very small quantities, since they are quite salty - fit that description. continue reading...

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What does that mean? Food terms that make me go "huh?"

Since I started this site almost three years ago, there have been a plethora of food related terms cropping up that I have no idea of the meaning of. This worries me a bit since I'm supposed to be a Serious Foodie. Thankfully, the interweb allows all of us to fake being an expert. Here are a few phrases that have entered my consciousness lately. continue reading...

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Pondering infomercials and other TV ads

I try to do various things to minimize jetlag, but my body clock is still slightly screwed up whenever I fly over the Atlantic. After all it is a 6 hour time difference. So I've found myself waking up faithfully at 4:30am every day since I got to New York. This isn't all bad...it means I can deal with all the emails waiting and so on while it's still quiet, though it does mean that by 10pm I'm already nodding off. continue reading...

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My restaurant review philosophy

I'm about to post a couple of restaurant reviews, but before I do that I thought I might as well put down my thoughts on how, and when, I do restaurant reviews.

I don't post a lot of restaurant reviews here. That's not to say I don't eat out - I do! Though I guess when I am at home, I don't really eat out that much, since I made a conscious effort to cook at home as much as possible. When I'm on the road as I am now, I do eat out a lot. I always make it a point to try at least one 'top' restaurant in whatever region I find myself in. continue reading...

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The real taste of food

I found this New York Times article article about the "bad rap" of high fructose corn syrup, aka HFCS, very interesting. Before I proceed though, here are two other opinions you may want to read: continue reading...

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Let's hear it for ugly fruit

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A common complaint that food lovers and cooks have with supermarkets is that they sell smooth, perfect looking fruits that are hard and tasteless. Tomatoes and peaches come to mind as the top offenders. continue reading...

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Do you do dessert?

Reading the IMBB 24 "Make It In 30 Minutes" entries hosted by Too Many Chefs, it struck me that a lot of the participants were sure to include a dessert in their meal. When I was ruminating over what to make it never even entered my mind that I should make a dessert, because I'm not a dessert person. continue reading...

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The choices we make

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Women's History Month: The Women Who Have Influenced My Food Life

March is Women's History Month, and today, March 8th, has been declared as International Women's Day. The theme of Women's History Month this year is Women: Builders of Communities and Dreams. continue reading...

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Some thoughts on food blogging

The latest brouhaha to hit the world of food blogs is this article in Food and Wine Magazine in which Pete Wells criticizes what he calls "cheese-sandwich meanderings". While it's easy to dismiss the entire article, which is not the best example of journalism to ever exist, I think there are some things to be learned from his off-hand comments about food blogs.

My comments here are, of course, my opinion only, and my focus is on personal food blogs rather than food blog aggregators and the like. continue reading...

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Recipes and copyright - followup

Some very thoughtful responses were left to my previous post, about recipes and copyright. Rather than trying to squeeze all my responses in a comment, here is a folow-up:

Rachel, who was quoted in the Washington Post article, says: continue reading...

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Recipes and copyright

The Washington Post has an interesting article titled Can a Recipe Be Stolen?. It addresses the question of copyright and recipes. Can recipes be copyrighted? If you take an existed recipe, and change around a couple of ingredients, does it make it your own? How much change is enough? continue reading...

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Food P*rn

Happy New Year!

There is an interesting article in Salon today, where a former food writer relates how she got disenchanted with the food world (though she did not actually quit, she was replaced by someone cheaper.) continue reading...

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Take care of your tummy

Well it has been a while since my last post... I have just been occupied with other things (trying to catch up with work, reading, taking care of family, enjoying the summer, etc etc.)

It's not that I haven't been eating of course. That is one thing about having a food blog: you rarely run out of things to talk about. That is of course, unless you get too sick to enjoy eating. continue reading...

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Excess and fixations

My favorite television program at the moment is The Amazing Race. In case you have never watched this U.S. program, it's a reality/adventure show where 11 teams of 2 (the combinations vary from married or dating couples to parent and child, roommates, best friends, and so on) race around the world and try to end up being the first at each leg's destination. The final winner wins $1 million. It's really a fun show that even many reality genre haters like. continue reading...

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Julia

Julia Child passed away yesterday, at the age of 91. Probably most people who are passionate about food and cooking, and spent any time in the U.S. in the last 30 years or so, have felt her influence. I'm no exception - one of my standby cookbooks is her Way to Cook (a perennial recommended book in my sidebar here). continue reading...

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Standing on the buffet line

The appeal of a buffet is rather obvious. It’s that notion of having no limits. No limits, unlimited, all you want—all you can eat. Human beings respond to the notion of no limits very positively.

And yet…about 99% of the buffets I’ve encountered are pretty bad. Food is either dried out horribly (such as chicken, or the surface of sushi rolls), is overcooked (such as…chicken again, or fish), or smothered in an insulating blanket of sauce that effectively chokes out any kind of real flavor. continue reading...

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Chocolate May (June) bug

maier

People in the northeast and mid-Atlantic states of the U.S. are now experiencing an assault of cicadas, that only occurs once every 17 years or so. No such insect attack here in Switzerland fortunately, but one sort of "bug" we see a lot of around this time are chocolate Maierhäfer, or May (June) bugs. They come in all sizes, from tiny foil-wrapped ones to monster bugs up to around 30cm long with bristling legs, which frankly look way too scary to eat to me. continue reading...

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The creative balance

There are two types of cooking for me. One is the type you do for sustenance, since we do have to eat every day. The other type of cooking I do for the creativity and the relaxation. Putting together a delicious, pretty, or ideally both delicious and pretty dish is a challenge, and a lot of fun. And that's the type of cooking that I write about mainly here. continue reading...

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Spring is just a few weeks away

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Cooking disasters

I had been eyeing an interesting looking recipe in the weekly paper / advertising rag from Coop, one of the two big supermarket chains in Switzerland, for several days. The recipe was for a lentil loaf, with potatoes, leek, dried mushrooms, cheese and cream, held together with eggs. Since I have been on a sort of sort of lentil kick recently, it was something I really wanted to try. continue reading...

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Does food make you feel sexy?

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It hasn't been a good cooking week for me, since I've been very busy. Saturday is my birthday though, and we have been wondering whether or not to go out for dinner, or to cook something (well, for Max to cook something) at home. continue reading...

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Travelling food memories

window of a boulanger (bakery) in Beaune, France
The window of a boulanger (bakery) in Beaune, France continue reading...

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Fusion, be gone.

In case this looks familiar, this is an entry that was originally posted to my main site. Since it's food related it's been moved here. continue reading...

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maki Just Hungry is a site about food. There are lots of recipes and much more. You may want to read about Just Hungry, or contact the site owner, Makiko Itoh. To dive in real deep, try the site map.

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