Posts from September 2008

Ready to Make some Dough and Bake Bread: Check 'The Fresh Loaf'

I have always thought of being a baker as hard work, rising early, the flour dust, the heat.
Especially if you shop is/was of the traditional type rather than a factory like production line.

When I pick a loaf of bread, I will touch it to see if it feels fresh.
I cannot really put the experience into words. The loaf either feels right in my hand or it does not.

Making bread or pizza or pie crust for that matter has a physical aspect to it

I cannot remember ever baking my own loaf of bread yet at home bread making has become popular.

Communities come in all flavors, and for the amateurs boulangers (bakers in French) a natural home is The Fresh Loaf. They also appeal to what they call 'the artisan bread enthusiasts'.

With their forum you can delve into heady topics such as How to manage a wet, amorphous blob of pizza dough.

More practical are the 5 Lessons including Number 5 Ten Tips for Better French Bread which of course I had to read (tip 10: use good ingredients, tip 7: the wetter, the better).

They offer much more. I will let you explore on your own.

If you made some dough recently, let me know what came out of the experiment.

Send a photo.

Du Pain, du Vin et du Boursin?

Related: Pain Quotidien (Daily Bread), Crusty Ficelle and Tomme Crayeuse


Humor Me: Bailout as a Nigerian Request for Help

A sense of humor can help in stressful times.

From The Nation to the nation:

"Dear American:

I need to ask you to support an urgent secret business relationship with a transfer of funds of great magnitude.

I am Ministry of the Treasury of the Republic of America.  My country has had crisis that has caused the need for large transfer of funds of 800 billion dollars US.  If you would assist me in this transfer, it would be most profitable to you.

I am working with Mr. Phil Gram, lobbyist for UBS, who will be my replacement as Ministry of the Treasury in January.  As a Senator, you may know him as the leader of the American banking deregulation movement in the 1990s.  This transactin is 100% safe.

This is a matter of great urgency.  We need a blank check.  We need the funds as quickly as possible.  We cannot directly transfer these funds in the names of our close friends because we are constantly under surveillance. My family lawyer advised me that I should look for a reliable and trustworthy person who will act as a next of kin so the funds can be transferred.

Please reply with all of your bank account, IRA and college fund account numbers and those of your children and grandchildren to wallstreetbailout@treasury.gov so that we may transfer your commission for this transaction.  After I receive that information, I will respond with detailed information about safeguards that will be used to protect the funds.

Yours Faithfully Minister of Treasury Paulson"

Bailout as a Nigerian Request for Help

Via Capitolism (Christopher Hayes)

Related: Truth in Advertising, Does it Apply to Politics?


When did Eating Homemade Mayo become a Luxury?

I don't really use mayonnaise these days yet I can remember my mother always making it fresh.
I continued the tradition for a while.
Call me a traditionalist or a food conservative if you like but I am not crazy about buying a jar of the stuff.
You will not find me buying any salad dressing either (not for myself at least).
All I need for my vinaigrette is olive oil, red wine vinegar and preferably (to my taste) whole grain mustard.

OK, I am digressing here. I was reading At Berkeley Bowl, the nuts are off the shelf (LA Times, September 22) an entertaining piece on this food emporium which they might as well call the Berkeley Brawl from the sound of it when I decided to segue to the Food section of the paper.

I was scanning the page when A mayo clinic: basic homemade mayonnaise by Amy Scattergood (September 10) caught my eye.

Her opening sentence "Eating homemade mayonnaise is the kind of luxurious pleasure -- like eating chocolate in the bath -- that shouldn't require apology" made me scratch my head.
I do agree 100% with her next statement that "rich yet subtle in flavor, with a pillowy texture, homemade mayo is nothing like the pale, cloying stuff you get out of a jar."

Why did I scratch my head?
I felt like Amy was making a big fuss out of nothing.
Growing up my mother always made her own mayo.
It was especially great served with steamed fish (am I using the right words) and boiled potatoes.

Back then there was a saying that women who had their periods should not try their hand at making mayo or they would make it turn, imagine.

Why are many things nowadays made to sound like a culinary extravaganza when they are just basic things, you tell me?

Simple pleasures!

The opinionated French Guy from New Jersey

Related: Artichokes, How to cook and eat them (if you were born in Brittany)


Earth Friendly Wedding Tips that Might Even Save You some Green

Planning a wedding besides managing family feuds and sensibilities can turn into a small scale version of an Hollywood production.

Sophie Morris (the Ethics Girl) shares some Eco Wedding Tips on IndyBlogs (September 16).

If you are not fanatical about the earth friendly lifestyle, the thought that it might save you money and many headaches could help you make the switch:

Sophie Morris puts it very clearly in her piece:

"All too often weddings go hand in hand with wild excess. You want to have the best day and best party of your life, and the obvious way to do this is to throw money at the problem. If such Bridezilla behaviour has you Googling cheap flights to Vegas, planning a green-tinged wedding will excuse you from much of the frills and frippery associated with traditional white weddings.To be honest, you don't even need to be eco-minded. It is just a great excuse to cut down on waste, fuss and cost, and have a truly original wedding into the bargain. And no one can accuse you of skimping on the canapes if you're caring for the planet into the bargain."

She mentions Silverchilli which sells Fair Trade rings for example.

North Carolina based Zebra Crossings promotes itself as offering 'sustainably chic and globally stylish weddings' with the Fair Trade seal.

A few more ideas can be found on the Wedding and Anniversary page of Global Exchange's Fairtrade Online Stone.

In the UK, the Ethical Weddings blog (by the people who run Ethical Weddings, the business) gives plenty of examples on how to go about it from wedding favors to photography.

Or you could get married at the beach like Sergei Brin or in your backyard with a picnic.

That's it for Green Day #45

Previously: Will Tapped Out Consumers Go Back to Tap and Drop Bottled Water?


In Touch with the World on OneWebDay 2008

If I had to pick one thing above all to describe how the Internet has changed my life on One Web Day 2008 (September 22), I would say that above all it allows me to Be in Touch with the World.

Beyond all the trivial and silly, it means a world of ideas, a big pot with many hands stirring the soup.
Most of the threads I follow from Monday Work Etiquette and Green Day to Tokyo Thursdays and Consumed to Thrifty were inspired by voices I discovered on the web in places near and far away.

Happy One Web Day 2008!

Related: One Wish for One Web Day 2008 (September 22nd)


UK Middle Class goes Hunting for Discounts and Coupons Online, Are you?

In the UK at least, members of the middle class are more and more "using price comparison websites, downloading sales vouchers, looking for moneysaving tips and shopping at online budget stores" according to a survey by Hitwise quoted by Carol Lewis in First in line: online habits during the credit crunch (The Independent, September 22).

One of the most visited destinations online in the UK is Money Saving Expert by Martin Lewis which I never heard of being based in the US and as most American residents and citizens not always aware of what's happening in the wider world.
Does it soothes its readers anxieties? I will let you decide.

I was actually surprised to hear Cub Reporters in a Bear Market a segment of On the Media (September 19) mention that the Columbia School of Journalism had difficulty recruiting students for their Business and Financial reporting classes. Cheryl Strauss Einhorn said that this year only four students enrolled in her class.

Another thing that amazed me was the throngs shopping at a local mall, the past Saturday.
I wondered if most were oblivious to what happened during the week or just did not care...shop til you drop.

A simple explanation could be that for the most part we are financially illiterate.

Monday morning Consumed to Thrifty musings on trends, shopping, money, meaning and middle class angst.

Related: Leftovers is the new Molecular Gastronomy, Polly Vernon Survival Tips


Elements of Style: Knomo Bungo, A Cool Laptop Bag for the 'Just Over 50' Crowd?

For older lads like myself, trying hard to be a cool cat can instead turn into looking like a fool.
One of my favorite columns, Technopolis by Jonathan Margolis (How to Spend It, FT, September 20) suggests a remedy for bad backs and a low key fashion statement when lugging your tech tools around town.
Can you imagine a laptop messenger bag that even gets your kids approval as in I could be seen around you if you convert to one of these, namely the Knomo Bungo.

Bungo

Besides its fine design and being made of leather not cheap materials, its main attraction according to Jonathan is the use of magnets rather than Velcro to close essential pockets.

It is available for both 15" ($295.00) and 17" ($325.00) Laptops.

Thanks Monsieur Margolis for the tip!

A practical Monday Work Etiquette #55

Previous Technopolis pick: Goodbye Receipts Box, Hello Snapexpense, Get Reimbursed!


One Wish for One Web Day 2008 (September 22nd)

If it was not for Jay Sulzberger (via PhoList) forwarding an update by Evan Korth on the New York Events, I might have missed completely One Web Day 2008 which takes place on September 22nd so if you are in a different time zone than I am (US, Eastern Standard Time), say in the Asia- Pacific region it has already started.

Let me just make a wish for One Web Day 2008: don't ask me for another password and ID.

Ask me for my name, e-mail address and even a Captcha but please for basic things such as comments don't get the database spinning.

As for the Big Apple events, here are details on the Main Event:

Where: Washington Square Park, Teen Plaza (SE part of the park)

When: Monday, 9/22/2008, 11:45am to 2pm Who: Moderator Sree Sreenivasan (Columbia Journalism & WNBC-TV), plus Tim Westergren (Pandora), Prof. Lawrence Lessig (Stanford), Craig Newmark (craigslist), Dharma Dailey (Ethos Group), City Councilwoman Hon. Gale A. Brewer, John Perry Barlow, Andrew Baron (Rocketboom), SJ Klein (OLPC), Jonathan Zittrain (OII), others.

What: FREE event

As for the World follow the thread on Twitter/OWD: New Zealand said "crisis equals opportunity.  Grab with both your hands"  

Watch this space tomorrow for my itsy bitsy take on what the web (toile d'araignee?) means to me.

Related: From Gauchos to Green Things: My 5 Picks for BlogDay2008 (August 31st)


Put Flamenco, Jazz and A Great Voice in the Blender: You get Buika

Once in a while, a talented artist springs to your attention coming out of nowhere, or so it seems.
A good example of that is Buika which I discovered thanks to her third and recent album Nina de Fuego ('Child of Fire) (cover below).

Buika_2

Put Flamenco, Jazz and and a great voice in the blender with some Cuban flavors here and there (the end of 'Culpa Mia') and you get Buika (her site is Spanish only).

Africa meets Spain as Buika was born in Spain to parents who'd emigrated from Equatorial Guinea, Concha Buika grew up among the gypsies of Mallorca, absorbing the sounds and duende of flamenco (according to her Rhapsody profile).

A sense of drama, tango like, marks 'Mienteme bien'...

See or rather listen and find out for yourself!

A once in a while music note on StC.

Related: Dancing Under the Stars...Nimes goes Flamenco in January


Leftovers is the new Molecular Gastronomy, Polly Vernon Survival Tips

After a week when the financial markets suffered convulsions are you ready to hit the Consumed to Thrifty path.

Time to cut down on your Whole Foods outings and get back to food basics in order to keep your balance sheet balanced.
Stop crying in your soup, Polly Vernon has it all covered in How to be a thriftysomething (The Observer, September 21st) her guide to scrimping stylishly on credit crunch cuisine.

Number 1 is Ask for a Doggy Bag when you eat out: Reheated leftovers is the molecular gastronomy of the credit-crunched future, Polly states.

At Number 2: Game over for the Wine Snob: "Ghastly, sneering, superior creature who doesn't understand that wine is for fun and for getting drunk, and not for waffling on about tiresomely at every opportunity. Happily, the Wine Snob's fondness for expensive and challenging booze is somewhat nixed by current trends in absolute flat brokedness".

Not sure if 'brokedness' is really a word but it's true that a number of wines were picked just to show off.

RIP these wines who were getting high 90's rating and commended prices way beyond their worth.

Not sure that you can find too many good bottles for as low as $7.40 (or 3.99 in British pounds as the piece suggests) but around $10/$12 definitely.

Another category that might shrink is the fancy schmaltzy Olive Oil section thinks Polly.

What I call designer water will also take a dive?

I don't see too much minced meat on my horizon.

Nothing wrong with a simple pasta with meat sauce or vegetables or both.

Baking at home rather than buying $2 or $3 cookies also makes sense.

It doubles as a fun family activity.

Any suggestions of your own.

Related: Will Tapped Out Consumers Go Back to Tap and Drop Bottled Water? and Ready to Draw Back? 'Recession has its blessings' says Harry Eyres