Bacon and Lentil Soup


2 lb bacon knuckle
8 oz orange lentils
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 large carrot, peeled and diced
2 celery sticks, sliced
1 sprig parsley
salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 large tomatoes


  1. Soak the bacon joint in cold water overnight.
  2. Drain the bacon and discard the soaking water.
  3. Place the bacon joint and lentils in a large saucepan with 3 pints of water. Bring to the boil, cover and simmer for 1 hour.
  4. Add the onion, carrot, celery, parsley and pepper. Simmer for about 30 minutes.
  5. Remove the bacon joint, cut off the meat and chop it into bite-sized pieces.
  6. Return the meat to the soup and discard the bone.
  7. Cut a cross in the base of each tomato and dip into boiling water for 30 seconds. Peel off the skin, cut into quarters, remove the skin and chop the flesh. Stir into the soup and reheat.
  8. Sprinkle with extra chopped parsley, if liked, and serve with bread.

Makes 4 to 6 servings.

Source: Soups and Starters


In Pictures: Food of Lumi in Hong Kong

Borderless Cuisine – European, Moroccan and Japanese

The Restaurant

Study: Frequent Red Meat Consumption Lead to High Levels of Chemical Associated with Heart Disease

Researchers have identified another reason to limit red meat consumption: high levels of a gut-generated chemical called trimethylamine N-oxide (TMAO), that also is linked to heart disease. Scientists found that people who eat a diet rich in red meat have triple the TMAO levels of those who eat a diet rich in either white meat or mostly plant-based proteins, but discontinuation of red meat eventually lowers those TMAO levels.

TMAO is a dietary byproduct that is formed by gut bacteria during digestion and is derived in part from nutrients that are abundant in red meat. While high saturated fat levels in red meat have long been known to contribute to heart disease—the leading cause of death in the United States—a growing number of studies have identified TMAO as another culprit. Until now, researchers knew little about how typical dietary patterns influence TMAO production or elimination.

The findings suggest that measuring and targeting TMAO levels—something doctors can do with a simple blood test—may be a promising new strategy for individualizing diets and helping to prevent heart disease. The study was funded largely by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), part of the National Institutes of Health. It will be published Dec. 10 in the European Heart Journal, a publication of the European Society of Cardiology.

“These findings reinforce current dietary recommendations that encourage all ages to follow a heart-healthy eating plan that limits red meat,” said Charlotte Pratt, Ph.D., the NHLBI project officer for the study and a nutrition researcher and Deputy Chief of the Clinical Applications & Prevention Branch, Division of Cardiovascular Sciences, NHLBI. “This means eating a variety of foods, including more vegetables, fruits, whole grains, low-fat dairy foods, and plant-based protein sources such as beans and peas.”

“This study shows for the first time what a dramatic effect changing your diet has on levels of TMAO, which is increasingly linked to heart disease,” said Stanley L. Hazen, M.D., Ph.D., senior author of the study and section head of Preventive Cardiology & Rehabilitation at the Cleveland Clinic. “It suggests that you can lower your heart disease risk by lowering TMAO.”

Hazen estimated that as many as a quarter of middle-aged Americans have naturally elevated TMAO levels, which are made worse by chronic red meat consumption. However, every person’s TMAO profile appears to be different, so tracking this chemical marker, Hazen suggested, could be an important step in using personalized medicine to fight heart disease.

For the study, researchers enrolled 113 healthy men and women in a clinical trial to examine the effects of dietary protein—in the form of red meat, white meat, or non-meat sources—on TMAO production. All subjects were placed on each diet for a month in random order. When on the red meat diet, the participants consumed roughly the equivalent of about 8 ounces of steak daily, or two quarter-pound beef patties. After one month, researchers found that, on average, blood levels of TMAO in these participants tripled, compared to when they were on the diets high in either white meat or non-meat protein sources.

While all diets contained equal amounts of calories, half of the participants were also placed on high-fat versions of the three diets, and the researchers observed similar results. Thus, the effects of the protein source on TMAO levels were independent of dietary fat intake.

Importantly, the researchers discovered that the TMAO increases were reversible. When the subjects discontinued their red meat diet and moved to either a white meat or non-meat diet for another month, their TMAO levels decreased significantly.

The exact mechanisms by which TMAO affects heart disease is complex. Prior research has shown TMAO enhances cholesterol deposits into cells of the artery wall. Studies by the researchers also suggest that the chemical interacts with platelets—blood cells that are responsible for normal clotting responses—in a way that increases the risk for clot-related events such as heart attack and stroke.

TMAO measurement is currently available as a quick, simple blood test first developed by Hazen’s laboratory. In recent published studies, he and his colleagues reported development of a new class of drugs that are capable of lowering TMAO levels in the blood and reducing atherosclerosis and clotting risks in animal models, but those drugs are still experimental and not yet available to the public.

Source: National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute

Kidney Disease More Deadly for Men

Chronic kidney disease is more likely to progress to kidney failure and death in men than in women, a new study reveals.

“We found that women had 17 percent lower risk of experiencing [kidney failure] and the risk of death was 31 percent lower in women than in men,” said study author Dr. Ana Ricardo. She’s an associate professor of medicine at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

More than 26 million people in the United States have chronic kidney disease, which causes a gradual loss of kidney function. In some patients, it can lead to kidney failure and the need for dialysis or a kidney transplant.

The study included nearly 4,000 chronic kidney disease patients. After a median follow-up of seven years, the rate of kidney failure was 3.8 per 100 people in men and 3.1 per 100 in women. Rates of death were 3.6 and 2.6, respectively.

“We’ve known for a long time that women are more likely to be diagnosed with chronic kidney disease, but there has been conflicting research on chronic kidney disease outcomes by sex,” Ricardo said in a university news release.

“The results of this study suggest that biology and psychosocial factors may be the driver of the sex-related disparity observed in patients with chronic kidney disease,” Ricardo suggested.

She added that she hopes the report might boost awareness among patients and their care providers of the higher risk of kidney failure and related deaths among men.

The study was published in the December issue of the Journal of the American Society of Nephrology.

Source: HealthDay

Today’s Comic

How Oreos Got Their Name: The Rise of an American Icon

Stella Parks wrote . . . . . . . . .

In the mid-19th century, America’s commercial bakeries graduated from a cottage industry focused on simple crackers to the more formal factories we know today, producing a range of fancy biscuits, cookies, and other “dainty goods” (as they were known in the trade). It was during this time that brothers Jacob and Joseph Loose bought a controlling interest in the Corle Cracker and Confectionery Company, down in Kansas City, Missouri.

Guided by Jacob’s expansionist philosophy, the newly named Loose Brothers Manufacturing became a multimillion-dollar business within a few years. But Jacob didn’t see the sense in competing with his fellow bakers in the Midwest when they could all benefit from joining forces as a corporation. So, in 1890, he hired a big-city lawyer named Adolphus Green to oversee the negotiations and paperwork needed to wrangle everyone together. The moment the ink dried, the American Biscuit and Manufacturing Company became the second-largest corporate bakery in America. Naturally, Jacob named himself president, then appointed Joseph to the board of directors and Adolphus to general counsel.

On the national stage, American Biscuit fell between the New York Biscuit Company and the United States Baking Company. For the next seven years, the trio duked it out in a competition so fierce, reporters called it “the biscuit war.” The battle took its toll, and, in 1897, poor health forced Jacob to step down as president.

That put Joseph in control, and he’d seen enough war. He decided to end the biscuit battle and make peace, or profit, at least. With Adolphus Green’s legal savvy, ABC entered into an agreement with NYBC and USBC. Jacob fiercely opposed the alphabet-soup merger from his sickbed, and he begged Joseph not to go through with it, but alas: His two most bitter enemies gobbled up American Biscuit, creating the super-giant National Biscuit Company (Na. Bis. Co.). On its board of directors: three of Jacob’s former board members, his former lawyer, his treasurer, and his own brother.

So you’ll understand that when Jacob recovered his health, he had something of an ax to grind. From his perspective, the National Biscuit Company was resting on his laurels. In 1902, he teamed up with John Wiles to form the Loose-Wiles Biscuit Company. Setting out to reclaim all that was lost, Jacob pushed his new company through a decade of exponential growth, until he once again had one of the largest corporate bakeries in America, second only to Nabisco—but a distant second. In 1912, Nabisco made $45 million to Loose-Wiles’s $12 million. To make matters worse, his old pal Adolphus had worked his way up to president.

Yet Jacob’s success demanded attention. With headlines such as “Exchange National for Loose-Wiles?” suggesting the National Biscuit Company had already peaked on the New York Stock Exchange, shares of Loose-Wiles seemed to offer nothing but growth. The popularity of Jacob’s company hinged in no small part on one biscuit, a best-seller so in demand that groceries bought it by the ton. A little something called Hydrox.

Hydrox was an instant classic, a national favorite and an ice cream parlor staple, the original pairing of cookies and cream. Bitter chocolate shortbread joined with sweet vanilla fondant gave Hydrox a mighty crunch that put Nabisco’s dainty Sugar Wafers to shame. Loose-Wiles advertised Hydrox as “a dessert of itself,” but it looked like a work of art. Each wafer had a scalloped edge, a border of scrollwork, and six seven-petaled flowers chained together by leaves and stems, with a laurel wreath at their heart.

Whether through coincidence or spite, Nabisco unveiled the Oreo on Loose-Wiles’s 10th anniversary. The clone advertised “two chocolate-flavored wafers with a rich, creamy filling,” competing directly against Hydrox’s “two chocolate wafers filled with sweet vanilla cream.” Oreo couldn’t match the detail of the Hydrox design, but it imitated what mattered most: the laurel wreath.

That swipe went deeper than copycat aesthetics, straight to the heart of Oreo’s darkest mystery: its name. Nabisco has always shied away from explaining its origin, which inspired decades of speculation. The most common version asserts that Oreo derives from or, French for “gold” and supposedly the color of the original packaging. Others say it stands for “orexigenic,” a medical term for substances that stimulate the appetite (including cannabis). Another popular explanation proposes an elaborate symbolic scheme, wherein the two Os in “Oreo” represent cookies sandwiching cREam in the middle, a theory that makes more sense if you put on a tinfoil hat.

But consider the roster of Nabisco’s fancy biscuits in 1913: Avena, Lotus, Helicon, Zephyrette, Zaytona, Anola, Ramona, and Oreo. It seems like a random collection of exotic names, but I noticed a pattern. Avena is Latin for “oats,” and we all know the famous lotus blossom. “Helicon” comes from Heliconia, a genus of flower native to Florida. “Zephyrette” matches with Zephyranthes, the genus of the tropical lily. Zaytona is Arabic for “olive,” “Anola” was shortened from “canola” (one of its defining ingredients), and ramona is in the buttercup family (buttercups dotted each box). Someone at Nabisco clearly had a thing for botany, and to understand Oreo, you don’t have to look any further than the mountain laurel on every Hydrox—Oreodaphne. It was a copycat in every way.

For a time, Hydrox remained the “King of Biscuits,” and one of the most widely consumed cookies in America. Despite what you hear today, Oreo didn’t have much initial success. Groceries struggled to entice customers away from Hydrox, and advertisements tied Oreos to sales on other Nabisco products to help unload their inventory. In 1914, one store found itself with a 700-tin stockpile that refused to budge, so they slashed the price and berated their customers: “Yesterday we advertised those splendid Oreos and they were a great bargain. While we sold a few, they didn’t move anything like we expected. It’s simply a case of your not knowing what a fine biscuit delicacy they are.”

Meanwhile, Loose-Wiles took a more diplomatic approach. In 1924, the company partnered with the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America (OU) to create the country’s first kosher-certification program. The OU seal fostered tremendous support for Hydrox within the Jewish community. Twenty years later, Oreo didn’t even make it onto a list of Nabisco’s most popular products, much less one worth the expense of certification.

Whatever success it amassed in those early years, though, it’s hard to see Hydrox as anything other than the Titanic. Despite its craftsmanship, beauty, and popular appeal, it harbored a fatal flaw. When Hydrox debuted in 1908, its pseudoscientific name (hydrogen + oxygen) was common to all manner of goods, from Hydrox Aerated Table Water to Hydrox Ice Cream and Hydrox Ginger Ale. Cashing in on the Hydrox fad gave Loose-Wiles a bit of street cred, but it later meant they couldn’t defend their brand in court. Eventually, the number of random Hydrox products on the market stained the word with an inescapably generic vibe, and an icky one at that, as chemical companies in particular took a shine to the term.

Loose-Wiles realized they had an image problem, but instead of renaming Hydrox, they renamed the company: Sunshine Biscuits. Admittedly, “Loose-Wiles” sounds like the sort of insult parents throw at the cigarette-smoking neighbor kid (“In my day, we didn’t tolerate those types of loose wiles!”), but “Sunshine” didn’t put Hydrox in a more appetizing light.

A decent PR team could have turned things around, but Sunshine’s advertisements took a weird, curmudgeonly tone. From 1915 to 1965, Hydrox seemed hell-bent on exposing Oreo as an impostor, even going so far as advertising a tiny bear cub literally crying over stolen cookies. They relentlessly billed Hydrox as the “first,” the “finest,” the “original,” the “only,” and the “classic,” shaking a finger at America: “Don’t be fooled by look-alikes!”

They might as well have told Oreos to get off their lawn. That cranky campaign did nothing to win anyone’s heart. Consumers wanted a tasty treat, and Oreo offered exactly that, with happy, colorful advertisements about crisp, chocolaty sandwich cookies crammed with more filling than any other brand. Nabisco had the stamina and financial resources to sell Oreos at a loss. In the mid-1950s, the rope-a-dope strategy paid off when Nabisco sprang into action with a completely redesigned cookie and a snazzy campaign for “new Oreos.” Simultaneously, they jacked up the price—reverse psychology at its finest. Americans didn’t flock to the suddenly affordable Hydrox; they shunned it as cheap in every sense of the word—the kind of low-budget, fuddy-duddy knockoff favored by penny-pinching grandpas. Indeed, by the 1960s, grandpas were just about the only ones who could remember the glory days of Hydrox.

The lights went out at Sunshine shortly thereafter, and the Hydrox brand bounced around the industry like a third-string baseball player, first sold to the American Tobacco Company, then resold to G. F. Industries, Keebler, and later Kellogg’s, which formally pulled the plug. In something straight out of a Greek tragedy, Kellogg’s returned Hydrox to production for the sole purpose of crushing them into bits for the wholesale market, supplying manufacturers who can’t afford a license from Oreo. With Hydrox dead* and buried in off-brand ice cream, Oreo celebrated its 100th birthday as the uncontested king of cookies.

If opposites attract, Oreos generate a force nothing short of gravitational. Black and white. Creamy and crunchy. Bitter and sweet. Chocolate and vanilla. Recent years have sadly added “natural and artificial” to the list, but we can make like Jacob Loose and reclaim what’s been lost by striking out on our own.

Source: Serious Eat