The Surprising History of Biscuits and Gravy
Biscuits and gravy now seems to be a ubiquitous dish in diners, cafes, restaurants, and food trucks. But it has humble and difficult beginnings born out of circumstance and necessity. In the late 1800s in Appalachia, biscuits were referred to as “beaten biscuits” because the batter was repeatedly beaten and folded. The work of making biscuits often fell to enslaved cooks or domestic servants, according to food historian John Egerton in Southern Food: At Home, On the Road, In History. Biscuits back then were sturdier and less flaky, so gravy added sustenance and made the biscuits more palatable. As for sausage gravy? “Biscuits with ‘country’ or ‘white’ gravy scratched together from sausage, pan drippings, flour, and milk were affordably made from the foodstuffs that were in low supply after the American Revolutionary War,” writes Heather Arndt Anderson in Breakfast: A History. Gravy ingredients changed over the years depending on what was affordable. During lean times, gravy was often made without meat or cream, or it was made with pan-fried ham drippings and brewed coffee for “redeye gravy.” But biscuits have always been staples. While they have historical origins in the American South, biscuits eventually became something you could pop out of a can to bake anywhere in the country.
Bakers Against Racism Raises $1.9 Million For Social Justice
What started as a doughnut sale to help furloughed immigrant restaurant employees has blossomed into the global fundraiser Bakers Against Racism. The organization was started by Willa Pelini, Paola Velez, and Rob Rubba, and word spread quickly in the culinary and social justice communities. Since late May, more than 2,500 bakery owners, pastry chefs, and home cooks around the world have participated in the decentralized online bake-sale fundraiser.
Part of the success of Bakers Against Racism is the universal appeal of baking. While chefs are well known for community activism, bakers and pastry chefs are not as widely known, even though bake sales for civil rights causes have a long history among African Americans. “Just being a minority in the kitchen and in life turns you into a natural activist,” said Thai-American Dianna Daohueng, the culinary director for Black Seed Bagels in New York City.
Through its online bake sales, Baker Against Racism has raised nearly $1.9 million so far, benefitting Black Lives Matter chapters and other social justice groups. “I don’t know policy, I am not a lawyer who can get people out of prison, but I can make cookies,” said co-founder and pastry chef Willa Pelini. “And maybe if I sell someone cookies, it can open a conversation about why we are making them.”
Why Perilla Oil Is Key For Korean Cooking
Chef David Joo was making kimchi pancakes but couldn’t replicate the taste until he phoned his mother, who provided him with the missing ingredient that made the Korean dishes of his childhood come to life: perilla oil. Available toasted or untoasted, this unique oil is made by cold-pressing the seeds of the perilla plant (a.k.a. Japanese shiso). According to Joo, it tastes “nutty, earthy, with a licorice-anise finish.” Joo, the executive sous chef at the Peninsula New York, says his family drizzles it over bibimbap, over stir-fried fish cakes, and over sauteed spinach, among other things. He prefers richer-tasting toasted perilla oil for most cooking, marinating, and finishing. Just avoid extremely high heat to keep the toasted variety from burning and turning bitter. Joo especially likes to use toasted perilla oil in the hotter months, as it complements lighter vegetable dishes and the fat amplifies flavor, even in dishes that aren’t strictly Korean. Try it on grains such as freekeh or drizzled over fresh tomatoes, burrata, and basil.
A Primer On World Barbecue From India to Russia
The appeal of outdoor cooking is shared around the world. Charcoal and wood are the most popular fuels worldwide, but cooking techniques vary widely. In the Philippines, chicken or pork are often “half-grilled, half-marinated” in a mix of lemonade (usually lemon-lime soda), soy sauce, and sugar cane vinegar (or watered-down cider vinegar), along with garlic, pepper, and sometimes banana ketchup. In the Caribbean, barbecue cooks spend years perfecting jerk chicken, usually served with callaloo and fried plantains. Indian and Pakistani barbecue is incredibly diverse, but here’s a taste: Punjabi-style chicken wings marinated in ginger, garlic, fresh turmeric, honey, green chilies and lime juice, then grilled over charcoal. Or try what food writer and chef Romy Gill suggests: simple skewers of cubed meats marinated in a paste of ginger, garlic, green chilies, and garam masala. In Russia, even brutally cold weather conditions don’t stop Russian traditions of cooking over fire. Baked potatoes may be tossed on the grill and loaded up with sour cream and dill, particularly to accompany a meal of shashlik pork kebabs marinated in beer or Georgian-style beef marinated in red wine, tomatoes, and onion. And in Peru, the submerged firepit known as the pachamanca cooks entire meals, including unique skewered kebabs known as anticuchos.
Meet The New Faces And Flavors Of West Coast Barbecue
With various influences from Central Texas and Mexico, California is developing its own distinctive barbecue culture. A handful of pitmasters are forging a tight-knit community and unique style based on their personal histories and preferences. One of them, Daniel Castillo, will soon open Heritage Restaurant in Orange County, California, after running a barbecue operation out of his backyard for years. At Moo Craft Barbecue in Los Angeles, Andrew and Michelle Muñoz incorporate Mexican flavors into their barbecue, sausage, and sides. And Burt Bakman of Trudy’s Underground Barbecue and Slab wants to take the flavors of his upbringing and open an Israeli restaurant, combining smoked meat with zhoug and hummus.
What unites these pitmasters is not only a dedication to barbecue but also an open and inclusive approach, sharing images, tips, recipes, and resources with each other and with those who ask for them. They also like to challenge assumptions that people have about barbecue and seek to put California on the barbecue map. “We all support each other wholeheartedly,” says Bakman. “The idea is for others to follow and do even better and better and better until California develops its own sound. I want California to be recognized as a barbecue territory. Until California barbecue becomes its own category in the barbecue competitions, we still have work to do.”
16,000 Restaurants Have Permanently Closed Since March, Says Yelp
According to Yelp, 60% of the roughly 26,000 restaurants that have closed since March have become permanent, about 16,000 permanent restaurant closures in total. The highest number of closures have occurred in California, Texas, and New York, which are states with more restaurants per capita than most. And permanent closures are likely to increase. “We anticipate states will roll back or delay reopening plans,” said Justin Norman, vice president of data science at Yelp, “which will inevitably impact the future success of businesses, possibly turning even more temporary closures into permanent ones. That said, we are seeing temporary closures reduce, which is a promising signal for many businesses.”
At the start of the pandemic, Swiss investment bank UBS predicted that 1 in 5 restaurants worldwide would close. While the industry’s fate hasn’t been quite so dire, another wave of shutdowns could result in more closures. “Unfortunately, we do expect closures to continue,” said Norman. “The virus isn’t going anywhere soon, so businesses will need to be resilient.”
Rare Blue Lobster Found At Red Lobster Is Donated To Zoo
About 1 in every 2 million lobsters are blue, due to a genetic anomaly. In Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, a Red Lobster employee spotted one of these rare blue lobsters in a recent shipment to the restaurant. Instead of cooking it, restaurant management set out to give the lobster, which they named Clawde, a new home. Red Lobster is a partner at Seafood Watch, the sustainable seafood organization run by the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Seafood Watch helped the Ohio Red Lobster management team secure a new home for Clawde at the Akron Zoo. Soon afterward, one of the zoo’s veterinarians determined that Clawde was a female lobster, so they renamed it Clawdia. “Shortly after we introduced Clawdia to her aquarium,” said Vince Jeffries, director of marketing and public relations at the zoo, “she started moving rocks around to create her own cave. That was a good sign. It means she’s doing well.” .
Why American Craft Brewers Hunt For Salted Nut Rolls
Craft brewers find flavor inspiration everywhere, and one of the latest is the old-fashioned candy, Pearson’s Salted Nut Rolls. But why would different craft brewers around the country draw inspiration from the same obscure candy? If you know, you know. It all started at the Great American Beer Festival in Denver with Jagged Mountain Brewing and its milk stout brewed with lactose, peanut butter, and salt to conjure the classic flavors of this treat. And now it’s the biggest inside joke among brewers, whose supplier, Brewers Supply Group, would often throw the candy into shipments of barley, rye, and wheat as a bit of a scavenger hunt to break up the monotony of unpacking of bag after bag of these essential brewing ingredients.
“We definitely fight over the Nut Rolls in the shipments,” says Andy Bobst, the Operations and Marketing Manager for Tin Whiskers Brewing in St. Paul Minnesota. “Sometimes you’ll see shorter brewers’ feet sticking out of the top of a pallet, because they dove in head first looking for the candy.” The Brewers Supply Group has dedicated a social media account to the candy, and breweries like Tin Whiskers, Oklahoma’s Prairie Artisan Ales, San Diego’s AleSmith Brewing Company, and Crafty Bastard Brewery in Knoxville have all recently created beers inspired by the candy.
Johnnie Walker Releases 200th Birthday Bottlings
Johnnie Walker, the world’s bestselling brand of Scotch, began when its namesake John Walker started selling whisky out of his family’s grocery store 200 years ago. This year, Johnnie Walker will release four different spirits in honor of the brand’s 200th anniversary. “Each of these exclusive releases bring a fresh perspective to our 200th anniversary story and are the perfect way to celebrate this huge moment for Johnnie Walker,” says Master Blender Jim Beveridge. “It feels very apt to be announcing them this week to coincide with John Walker’s birthday.”
The new bottlings are named Johnnie Walker Blue Label 200th Anniversary Limited Edition Design; Johnnie Walker Blue Label Legendary Eight; John Walker & Sons Celebratory Blend; and John Walker & Sons Bicentenary Blend. The limited edition bottles will go on sale in October.
USDA To Offer $15 Million To Socially Disadvantaged And Veteran Farmer Groups
The U.S. Department of Agriculture is making approximately $15 million in funding available to socially disadvantaged and veteran farmers and ranchers. The 1990 Farm Bill defines these farmers and ranchers as “subjected to racial or ethnic prejudice because of their identity as members of a group without regard to their individual qualities.” The groups include African-Americans, American Indians, Alaskan Natives, Hispanics, Asians, and Pacific Islanders. Nonprofits, community-based organizations, and higher education initiatives that serve these populations are all eligible for funds.
Funding will come the USDA’s Outreach and Assistance for Socially Disadvantaged Farmers and Ranchers and Veteran Farmers and Ranchers Program (a.k.a. the 2501 Program) and will increase through fiscal year 2023. The assistance may come in the form of initiatives such as farmer training and education, demonstrations, and conferences on farming and agri-business. Financial awards can be up to $450,000 per applicant. The deadline to apply is August 26, 2020.
The Promise Of Subterranean Farming
Sangdo Station in Seoul Korea is home to an unusual, eye-catching installation: an underground farm. The subterranean hydroponic concept, called Metro Farm, is a walled-off vertical organic farm whose water, LED light, and other metrics are automated by technology. Metro Farm harvests about 66 pounds of vegetables a day that feed as many as 1,000 people on a daily basis at a nearby cafe, reducing the carbon footprint, protecting crops that are increasingly affected by climate change and pollution, and using a farming method that is 40 times more efficient than traditional farming. Farm8 is the technology firm behind the venture, which plans to open three more farms in Seoul metro stations in 2020. If successful, the concept can be used in areas whose climates are not hospitable to traditional growing methods.
More Than 200 Colorado Restaurants And Bars Sue Over 10pm Last Call Order
The Tavern League of Colorado represents more than 200 restaurants and bars in this state. The League just sued governor Jared Polis and the state health department regarding the newly instituted last call mandate at 10 p.m., instituted to combat a recent surge in COVID-19 among 20 to 29 year olds.
The suit contests both the last call order and capacity limits in bars and restaurants. “Defendants have singled out bars and restaurants for unfair and different treatment, despite the lack of any evidence that bars and restaurants are unique vectors for the spread of COVID-19,” the suit states. Governor Polis responded with a statement, saying “The State is looking at data showing that more Coloradans in their twenties are participating in social activities that increase the risk of spreading COVID-19.” The mandate is valid for 30 days.
Spanish Authorities Bust An International Illegal Wine Ring Worth More Than $100 Million
Six people were arrested in Madrid and Castilla La-Mancha in conjunction with what Spanish authorities describe as an international crime ring. The suspects are accused of producing wine with substitutes such as grain alcohol and corn syrup, ingredients so unusual they tipped off Castilla La-Mancha’s tax office, according to Wine Business International. The crime ring has been linked to acts of fraud, smuggling, money laundering, and criminal organization. It’s estimated worth is $116 million (100 Euros), and the illegal network encompassed many countries, including Austria, Belgium, France, Holland, Moldova, Russia, and Spain. This high-value case is the latest in a recent spate of European wine fraud busts.
USDA Commits To Promoting Direct To Consumer Meat Sales
In this crazy year, when grocery store shelves were empty, many shoppers turned to local meat purveyors who had product available. But most USDA food safety regulations are geared toward the huge meatpacking companies, making it difficult for smaller regional retailers to sell to direct to consumers. Certain codes have also made it challenging for mobile meat processors to travel among smaller regional farms and ranches, restricting production.
That situation is about to shift, according to a recent USDA report detailing the steps the USDA will take to improve direct access to ranchers and farmers who sell meat. The report says: “We understand the addition of direct-to-consumer options for beef producers, small processors, retailers, and others must be done in a way that does not compromise federal food safety standards…USDA is committed to working with stakeholders to balance food safety with these growing consumer preferences and growing e-commerce platforms.”
How One Restaurateur Is Using UV Light To Kill The Coronavirus
Ultraviolet (UV) light has a demonstrated ability to inactivate airborne viruses and may help reduce transmission in small, poorly ventilated indoor spaces. Research from the National Institutes of Health found that close to 90% of airborne particles from a previous coronavirus (SARS-CoV-1) were inactivated in about 16 seconds of exposure to germicidal UV (GUV). “Although it’s not perfect, it probably offers the best solution for direct air disinfection” in the current pandemic says David Sliney, a faculty member at Johns Hopkins University and longtime researcher on germicidal UV. But “There needs to be vertical air exchange,” such as ceiling fans, says Silney, so “it’s not just sterilizing the air in the upper space of the room.”
While much more research is needed, promising study results inspired Musa Firat, owner of Marlaina’s Mediterranean Kitchen near Seattle, to install a germicidal UV system in his restaurant’s dining room. The system is located above the ceiling tiles with horizontal UV lights angled away from customers. Ceiling fans help direct air toward the lights. Firat also installed a sign outside the restaurant door that says “Coronavirus disinfected here!”
Firat’s initial inspiration came from a customer, physician Bruce Davidson, who was known as Philadelphia’s “tuberculosis czar” in the mid-1990s. At that time, the U.S. was battling a new outbreak of TB, and some of the strains were resistant to existing drugs. Studies suggest that GUV systems are about 80% effective at eliminating the spread of tuberculosis. According to Davidson, UV light was crucial to the public health strategy back then, and it may be helpful against the novel coronavirus. “It really ought to be in most indoor public spaces now,” says Davidson.
Experts say that GUV technology has not been looked at more closely or promoted more widely for several reasons: the technology just isn’t as familiar; there are concerns about its safety; scientists are focused on developing a vaccine; and there’s a general reluctance to acknowledging the role of aerosols, which remain in the air longer than the heavier droplets that fall to the ground after a person coughs, sneezes, or exhales. In recent weeks, however, more scientists have acknowledged that the coronavirus can indeed be spread through aerosols. Amid the current pandemic, GUV technology is already being used to clean surfaces on public transportation vehicles and in hospitals, and to disinfect N95 masks for reuse, so it holds promise for indoor restaurants struggling to reopen safely.
Tesla Engineer Retools The Chocolate Chip
Remy Labesque, a Los-Angeles based industrial engineer working for Tesla, has re-engineered the chocolate chip. As part of a side project working for Dandelion Chocolate in San Francisco, Labesque recognized the limitations of the popular chip’s tear-drop shape and set out to design something better. “The chip isn’t a designed shape,” says Labesque. “It’s a product of an industrial manufacturing process.” Labesque created a multi-faceted chocolate geode that will “melt at the right rate,” according to Todd Masonis, co-founder of Dandelion Chocolate. The chips are designed to melt more slowly so that you can taste more nuances of the cacao bean in the chocolate.
“We did 3-D renderings of different options for shapes, test prints of a few molds and, of course, baking tests,” said Masonis. Labesque designed the chip’s edges to not only melt slowly in your mouth but also hold the shape during baking. “They stay whole,” says Dandelion’s pastry chef Lisa Vega, “but once they’re baked, the center of the chip gets soft.” The redesign also solves a real problem at Dandelion: Vega had been creating chocolate chip cookies and piping quarter-size discs of chocolate by hand, a time-consuming and inconsistent process. The new design will help Dandelion keep up with demand for its cookies, which had sales of 30,000 units last year.