The Weekend List 03/30/13

30 Mar

What a week. Snow. Wind. Stay off dairy for 2 weeks (what???). Busy life. Not much time to cook. What is going on with the universe? At least I have you, blog, my nifty friend. Almost immediately after we ringed in the New Year, I made myself a promise: Chiara, get your blogging duties under control and re-start The Weekend List for crying out loud. So, here we are.

I love reading about food as I do cooking it. I have a running list of my favorite articles, profiles, recipe books and chef biographies that I have yet to share. But I will.
Let’s start with what captured my eye and brain this week.

1) Mary Roach‘s brilliant study of the mechanics of eating. ( The Marvels in Your Mouth in the New York Times. Roach is the author of Gulp: Adventures on the Alimentary Canal.) Have you ever thought about how your mouth chews the food your ingest? She does just that, focusing on a study of the “human food processor” (your mouth) and how the chewing action or how you use your mouth tells something deeper about you. She writes:

Think of a peanut between two molars, about to be crushed. At the precise millisecond the nut succumbs, the jaw muscles sense the yielding and reflexively let up. Without that reflex, the molars would continue to hurtle recklessly toward one another, now with no intact nut between.

To keep your he-man jaw muscles from smashing your precious teeth, the only set you have, the body evolved an automated braking system faster and more sophisticated than anything on a Lexus. The jaw knows its own strength. The faster and more recklessly you close your mouth, the less force the muscles are willing to apply. Without your giving it a conscious thought.

I certainly have never given this much thought. Do you?

2) Richmond’s Style Weekly has turned the tables of a customers and interviewed chefs about what makes them tic (Cuts Both Ways). The results are not really surprising, but they certainly made me do an attitude check. Chefs apparently really dislike coupons and actually consider them “devaluing” their work. For one chef, free Wi-fi has become a “money killer”: customers come in, buy the least expensive items and plop their lovely behinds at a table and won’t move for hours. It’s not a coffee shop. It’s a casual eatery, and when you take up space the staff could be using differently…well, he has a point there.

My favorite quote: “Be a little more open-minded when ordering,” Doetzer also suggests. “That’s the only way Richmond can make any real progress. We’re not going to get anywhere serving crab cakes, but people expect them.” Completely agree – and not just about Richmond, everywhere.

3) This is a sore subject. I heart Trader Joe’s, but I have asked myself the same question. Where does Trader Joe’s Food Come From? As the Chow.com article points out, there are no TJ factories where the company could be producing food. And they are uber secretive about their product and marketing – I found out the hard way when I worked at an alternative weekly and rumors ran wild that a J was coming. They didn’t judge. Back to the article, this is chilling:

Those private-label products are made for it, in factories owned and operated by what is essentially TJ’s competition: name brands that can be purchased in other grocery chains.

I am heartbroken. Is it really true? Some of the examples on their list are uncanny. Food for thought?

4) Completely unrelated to food. I have often tried to pick up running regularly, but I stopped at the first hurdle. I have joined a running training program, I subscribed to running magazines, but nothing worked. The winter in Central Virginia is just too bloody cold for me to strap on any type of athletic gear. But this article caught my attention. The Barkley Marathon: A 100-mile foot race with unmarked trails and runners cannot use a GPS device or cellphone.

barkely-composite-articleLarge-v2

Image: The New York Times

 

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