Posts Tagged ‘junk food


what are corn nuts?

crunchy toasted corn by velkr0 on flickr

cancha serrana by Dtarazona public domain on Wikimedia Commons

I only ate at my first Peruvian restaurant a couple of years ago, and the appetizer cancha seemed new and foreign, but somehow familiar. Then I realized its close relation to CornNuts. (When I was in school, I thought CornNuts were the most disgusting snack around, because every variety was coated in nasty flavor powder. I decided I could like plain cancha anyway.)

It appears that Albert Holloway, inventor of the CornNut, came up with his version without knowledge of the Andean snack, but when he learned about the large-kerneled variety used around Cusco, he brought it back to California to make bigger, better CornNuts.


ways with avocado

I haven’t known many Filipinos or Filipino-Americans, but enough to form a theory. Our two peoples, Filipino and Mexican, were twins, separated at birth–and after that, things got weird.

For instance, one night at Paulie and Jessamin’s place, we were making guacamole, a properly savory Mexican avocado preparation. I described a recent experiment with avocado fool–avocado beaten smooth with lime juice, then folded together with whipped cream. A funny fusion idea that tasted great and certainly wasn’t good for you.

Jessamin, with a background in the Philippines, grinned diabolically, confiscated an avocado, and fished a can of sweetened condensed milk out of the cabinet. She mixed the two together and invited us to try the authentic Filipino version of avocado fool. Paulie (another Mexican-American) and I found it oddly compelling but refused to call it good. J-P declared it revolting. Call it another example of junk foods translating poorly across cultures. It definitely put me in mind of Jell-o molds, avocado pie, and other mid-century experiments with processed foods.

A Twisted Family Tradition ~ The Lime Jello Brain
(Click for Elisabeth Feldman’s Jell-o Brain recipe.)


three summer salad recipes

July in San Francisco is cool and foggy, but I have been hearing cries of “too hot to cook!” from friends on the east coast. (The Texans, one presumes, are blithely air-conditioned.) These minimal-heat recipes might help; they’re even useful to San Francisco summer chefs, since we have all of this glorious fresh produce to use up.

Carrot and blueberry salad: Grate three medium carrots. Add a handful of blueberries. If you can stand the heat, toast a half teaspoon of cumin seeds and then a handful of slivered almonds and add these to the salad. (If not, omit the toasting.) Chop the leaves from a dozen or so sprigs of parsley and add them, too. Zest half a small lemon, add the zest to the salad. Put some salt in a glass or jar, then juice the lemon over it. Stir to dissolve the salt, then add extra virgin olive oil to make a dressing. Mix the salad and dressing and let sit a while. You can add a dollop of strained yogurt to this when it’s time to eat. Yield: my lunch yesterday. Good for two as a side salad.

Watermelon and cherry tomato salad: Cube a small watermelon. Halve a pint of cherry tomatoes. Add slivers of red onion, crumbles of feta, and a good handful of spearmint, chopped. Season with coarse salt and freshly cracked black pepper. J-P and I gorged ourselves on this last night; you could probably serve it as a side salad at a dinner for 4-6 people.

Green salad with cheese, mint, and honey: I had a version of this at the Fountain Inn on the Isle of Wight. Combine mixed greens, cubes of cheese (they used Wensleydale; I’m going to try it with feta tonight), and cherry tomatoes. Add a generous helping of chopped spearmint and some sweet fruit (they used grapes; I’m trying nectarine tonight), and dress the whole thing with just a little honey. Season with salt and black pepper.

In other news, we tried Montezuma’s milk chocolate with nutmeg last night. With five flavors tried, this is the first that we haven’t absolutely loved. It’s not bad at all–it’s just a good but unremarkable milk chocolate with the tiniest hint of nutmeg. We wished the nutmeg was bolder.

As to what makes good versus bad milk chocolate: Montezuma’s ingredients list implies that, although sugar is the dominant ingredient by weight, it can’t make up more than about 42% of their milk chocolate bar. Cocoa solids are 34%, and milk solids clock in at 22.5%. For comparison, Hershey’s milk chocolate is 53.5% sugar, leaving the cocoa matter and milk solids to fight it out for most of the remaining 46.5%. Hershey’s ingredients list indicates that there’s more milk in Hershey’s than either cocoa butter or “chocolate” alone, but whether the latter two combined make up more weight than the milk is an open question. The short answer seems to be that good milk chocolate has a higher percentage of cocoa matter and a lower percentage of sugar than bad milk chocolate.

Pictures from our trip to England and Finland here and here.


Montezuma’s chocolates: the best English junk food

Before you protest that chocolate transcends junk food and is therefore equally good across cultures, I would like to say this to you: apple-flavored gummies covered in milk chocolate.

Maybe it’s your thing, but those convinced me that at least the Japanese can do chocolate terribly wrong.

The English, on the other hand, get chocolate surprisingly right:

We first had Monty’s chocolates when Ginny brought some to us as a thank-you gift for putting her up during a visit to Boston. She brought three: dark chocolate with chile, dark chocolate with orange and geranium, and milk chocolate with peppermint and vanilla. The orange and geranium was easily my favorite, and the chile chocolate was perfectly respectable. J-P and I are both wary of milk chocolates, but Montezuma’s milk with peppermint and vanilla blew us away. Not too sweet, not too minty, but very flavorful and super creamy.

You can’t get them to ship their chocolates to the States, so we had to wait a couple of years to get more. J-P went to a conference in London last year with strict orders to return with more Montezuma’s, or not at all. So it was tense when his carry-on got pulled for a search before his return flight. The guards said that they thought the chocolates might be explosives, and that even though they were clearly chocolates, they would have to take one bar for “testing.” J-P asked that they take the milk chocolate, and they did. Its loss was sorely felt back home.

All of this gave me one goal for English souvenirs: more Montezuma’s. I spied a Montezuma’s store as we traipsed through a glass-ceilinged arcade of shops, and I dragged J-P (who hadn’t yet noticed it) there by the hand, chanting
“chocolate, chocolate, chocolate.” It was a tough decision which ones to get, but we settled on the Radical Stack. It had the three we had tried before, plus intriguing new flavors.

So far we’ve eaten the milk chocolate, chile, and lime. Super creamy, just like the other milk variety we’ve tried, with the barest hint of chile but terrific sweet lime flavor. We’re looking forward to trying the rest, and working hard not to eat them all at once.


Fentiman’s sodas

We tried three of Fentiman’s Botanically Brewed Beverages while in England.

The first, Dandelion and Burdock, while lunching at Burroughs market in London. (J-P and Ginny had well-done beef burgers, and Ian had a chicken version, while I felt I got the best deal with a Malaysian yellow coconut curry from a steel vat, ladled out by an Afro-Caribbean Londoner.) The soda was not unpleasant, but a little earthy. It lead to remarks about how much two of our non-American friends hate root beer and birch beer, saying they taste like medicine, or at best, toothpaste. We had a similar reaction to dandelion and burdock soda, though I don’t have any bad associations with any of the flavors. I could probably learn to like it. I do like beets because they’re earthy, after all.

Fentiman’s the second: Curiosity Cola. We had this at an inn in Shorwell on the Isle of Wight, mid-bike ride. It starts off as RC Cola, though kind of flat, then veers off to some place neither of us had ever been before, and that neither of us could identify, not even by reading the ingredients list.

Third: Lemonade, with ginger. Post-bike ride in Cowes, this should have been manna from heaven. It wasn’t, quite. A little too bitter (it seemed like it was the ginger’s fault, not the lemon), a little too astringent. It reminded me of some of our less successful household experiments making yeast-carbonated ginger beer.

J-P believes that junk food varies more across cultures than real food does. He figures it’s because junk food isn’t actually food to begin with. Vegetables and fish and whatnot are identifiable as food, even if you don’t appreciate particular preparations, but confections and decoctions of sugar, cornstarch, and artificial flavorings…?

Tex-Mix's Photostream