🎧 Neanderthal Diets | Eat This Podcast

Listened to Neanderthal Diets from Eat This Podcast, April 29, 2013
Neanderthals did not descale their teeth regularly, for which modern scientists can be very thankful. Embedded in the fossilized calculus, or tartar, on teeth from the Shanidar cave, in Iraqi Kurdistan, and elsewhere are some remarkable remains that are beginning to shed far more light on what Neanderthals ate. I don’t want to give too much away just yet. Let’s just say that if, like me, when you think of the Neanderthal diet you think of a bunch of cavemen and women sitting around chewing their way through a woolly mammoth, you’re in for a surprise.

My guide through the recent discoveries on Neanderthal diet is John Speth, Emeritus Professor of Anthropology at the University of Michigan.

Amanda Henry’s research clearly points to moist-cooked starch grains in the mouths of Neanderthals (but did they swallow?). Archaeologists, however, have found almost no evidence of Neanderthals using the hot-rocks boil-in-a-bag method of modern people who lack fire-proof containers. And surprisingly, they didn’t know what John Speth discovered while watching TV in a motel room: that it is perfectly possible to boil water in a flimsy container over a direct fire. In the interests of time I had to cut his fascinating description of an experiment to make maple syrup by boiling the sap in a birch-bark tray over an open fire, which concluded that it was “both efficient and worthwhile”. So, now that they know it can be done, how long before they discover it was done?

There is evidence that Neanderthals ate moist-cooked starch. There is evidence that one can moist-cook without fire-proof containers and hot rocks. All we need now is evidence that Neanderthals used similar techniques, and the palaeo-dieters can add a nice mess of potage to their daily fare.

Notes
  • Microfossils in calculus demonstrate consumption of plants and cooked foods in Neanderthal diets (Shanidar III, Iraq; Spy I and II, Belgium). (A scientific paper.)
  • National Geographic’s early report on Amanda Henry’s discovery of plant remains on Neanderthal teeth and a more recent report from the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History.
  • More on Neanderthal diets at John Hawks’ weblog.
  • Photograph of the Regourdou Neanderthal mandible used by permission of the photographer, Patrick Semal, and the Musée d’art et d’archéologie du Périgord.
  • Intro music by Dan-O at DanoSongs.com.
  • Final music played by Ljuben Dimkaroski on a replica of a Neanderthal bone flute found in a cave in western Slovenia.

While I’ve read lots of research surrounding this area, this is the kind of area which more mainstream food journalists, entertainers, and educators could and should be covering. Aside from a semi-regular appearance of Deb Duchon, a nutritional anthropologist, appearing on Alton Brown‘s Good Eats, this may be one of the few places I’ve seen such an interesting interview of this type.

🎧 Air-cured sausages | Eat This Podcast

Listened to Air-cured sausages from Eat This Podcast
Among the more miraculous edible transformations is the one that turns raw meat, salt and a few basic spices into some of the most delicious foods around.

Time was when curing meat, especially stuffed into a casing to make a sausage, was the only way both to use every part of an animal and to help make it last longer than raw meat. Done right, a sausage would stay good to the next slaughtering season and beyond.

The process relied on the skill of the sausage-maker, the help of beneficial bacteria and moulds, the right conditions, a great deal of patience, and sometimes luck. Luck is less of a factor now, because to keep up with demand the vast majority of cured meats are produced in artificial conditions of controlled precision. Here and there, though, the old ways survive. Jan Davison spent months touring the sausage high-spots of Europe looking for the genuine article, and shared some of her favourites at the Oxford Symposium on Food and Cooking last year.

This tempts me greatly to consider decommissioning an incubator from science related use to food related use…

🎧 Bog Butter | Eat This Podcast

Listened to Bog Butter from Eat This Podcast, March 4, 2013
Peat diggers in Ireland and elsewhere have occasionally unearthed objects, usually made of wood, that contained some kind of greasy, fatty material with a “distinctive, pungent and slightly offensive smell”. Butter. Centuries-old butter.

Who buried it, and why, remain mysteries that motivated Ben Reade, an experimental chef at the Nordic Food Lab in Copenhagen, to make some himself. He brought some of his modern-day bog butter, still nestled in moss and wrapped in its birch-bark barrel, to share with the Oxford Symposium on Food and Cookery last year.

Notes:
Ben mentioned two plants that have been found around bog butter, hypnum moss (Hypnum cupressiforme) and bog cotton (Eriophorum angustifolium).
The Nordic Food Lab research blog details all of their astonishing edible experiments.
I found Seamus Heaney reading his poem Bogland at The Internet Poetry Archive.
Caroline Earwood (1997) Bog Butter: A Two Thousand Year History, The Journal of Irish Archaeology, 8: 25-42 is available at JStor, which has a new scheme allowing you to read up to three items at a time online for free.
Music by Dan-O at DanoSongs.com.

An awesome little podcast I found recently, so I’m going back to the beginning to catch up on all the past episodes. Science, food, heaps of technical expertise, great interviews, and spectacular production quality. Highly recommend it to everyone.

Trump’s inaugural cake was commissioned to look exactly like Obama’s, baker says | The Washington Post

Read Trump’s inaugural cake was commissioned to look exactly like Obama’s, baker says by Amy B. Wang and Tim Carman (Washington Post)
Food Network star and celebrity baker Duff Goldman posted a side-by-side comparison of the strikingly similar cakes on Twitter.

🎧 A deep dive into cucurbit names | Eat This Podcast

Listened to A deep dive into cucurbit names from Eat This Podcast
Continuing the short season of bits and pieces that didn't quite fit in the year's episodes by getting to grips with the origin of "gherkin" and other names we give cucurbits.

🎧 Long live the Carolina African Runner | Eat This Podcast

Listened to Long live the Carolina African Runner from Eat This Podcast
Is the Carolina Runner No.4 peanut "the first peanut cultivated in North America" and does it matter anyway?

🎧 India’s bread landscape and my plans here | Eat This Podcast

Listened to India’s bread landscape and my plans here from Eat This Podcast
I’ve hinted before that I’d like to do more constructed shows here, where I speak to a few different people about a topic to try and get a broader sense of the subject. They’re harder to do, but more rewarding, and they consistently get more listeners. The problem is that as a one-man band, I don’t have the time I need to do that kind of show very often. As an experiment, I’m going to try chunking episodes into seasons, with a break between seasons when I’ll be working on those more complex shows. I’m not sure yet how long either the seasons or the breaks will be.

📺 Watched Cast Iron Staples S17 | E1

Watched Cast Iron Staples S17 | E1 from America's Test Kitchen
Hosts Julia Collin Davison and Bridget Lancaster debunk cast iron myths and share the basics for cast iron care. Then, Julia shows Bridget how to make the ultimate Cast Iron Steak. Next, equipment expert Adam Ried reviews paper towel holders in the Equipment Corner. And finally, test cook Dan Souza uncovers the secrets to Crisp Roast Butterflied Chicken with Rosemary and Garlic. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nMxOU7Ach8c

📖 On page 157 of 206 of The Science of the Oven by Hervé This

📖 On page 157 of 206 of The Science of the Oven by Hervé This

… an odor in the kitchen is a symptom of odorant molecule loss (logically, kitchens should not smell good, because then we would be sure that the pleasing odors remained in the pots.)

–Hervé This, on page 154

Book cover for The Science of the Oven

📖 On page 127 of 206 of The Science of the Oven by Hervé This

📖 On page 127 of 206 of The Science of the Oven by Hervé This

Chapter 5 has had some of the most useful bits for the experimenting chef.

Book cover for The Science of the Oven

📖 On page 95 of 206 of The Science of the Oven by Hervé This

📖 On page 95 of 206 of The Science of the Oven by Hervé This

Oh, if only more of my cookbooks had fantastic sentences like this one:

Now the flow of a liquid in a canal varies as the fourth power of the diameter.

Then there’s this lovely statement, which is as applicable to jellies and consommés as it is to our political leaders:

Today, as heirs to the (political) ancien regime, we all want jellies, like bouillons and consommés, to be transparent.

I’ll note that chapter 4 has some interesting recipes as well as one or two long-term experiments which may be interesting to try.

Book cover for The Science of the Oven