Gadget: Aluminium Butter Knife

The high thermal conductivity knife melts the butter with the body heat.

Why Fine Dining Is Like Boxing

Dave Chang wrote . . . . .

To me, there is no better analogy for fine dining than boxing.

The comparison starts outside of the ring, with training and dedication and preparation and the choice to pursue the path. There is no room for a halfhearted boxer. When you sign up, you are signing up for a beating, for countless years in gyms and weight rooms and at the other end of another guy’s gloved fists.

For the past hundred years or so, the only path to the top of the best kitchens has been paved with the promise of giving away every waking hour of the better part of your early adulthood. Most of the hours will be spent being bad at the task you are doing, and there will be a generation of men standing over you who will let you know you are a fuckup in creatively abusive terms. From hauling incredibly heavy and hot things to doing tiny, precise cold work, you will be expected to be excellent and obedient and fast. Your ego will be black and blue by day two.

Even if you can manage the commitment, there’s more than will or strength required to get into the ring. If that’s all it took, every oversized knuckle-dragging genetic misfit could be a boxer. The sport requires speed, strategy, precision, focus, technique, a particular kind of smarts—and to get to a point where they put a shiny belt on you, you need those things in quantities that other people don’t have. If you weren’t born with them—and few are—that’s a whole lot of extra work for your brain to do when your body’s already pushed to the max.

It’s not that different in the kitchen: everybody’s compensating for what they don’t have. You have to adapt to each new fight, learn a lexicon of techniques particular to the cuisines and kitchens that you work in. My hands are garbage compared to many cooks’. If all you have are knife skills or a killer left hook, somebody’s going to come along with a more complete package and lay you out cold. I had to think about food and restaurants and how to get ahead, because no one was ever going to promote me on the merits of my kitchen skills alone.

And let’s say you’ve got those things, the will and some modicum of talent that keeps you upright through the training process. Guess what? There are untold piles of bullshit that accompany you on the way to practice what you do: all the promoters and profiteers, the Don Kings and Bob Arums of the game. As a chef, no one prepares you for publicists and investors and a whole class of criminals who know how to profit off of people, and know that if you’re not willing to play, another kid will pop up with the same dreams next week or next month.

Once you’ve run that gauntlet, what you get is a chance to get your ass kicked every time you go out. But that’s when all your training kicks in. You do it. You feint and jab and see lighting-fast punches in slow motion and duck out of the way. You take the carcass of a dead animal and turn it into poetry. If you’ve done everything right in the lifetime leading up to those moments, you swing and connect and you win. It’s worth it, because you’ve decided it’s worth it, and if there are legions of people who think your choice is invalid—that boxing is brutality, that refined cooking is pointless frippery—then that’s on them, not on you.

But the real connection between boxing and cooking occurred to me when Muhammad Ali died. Most people under forty didn’t seem to care, or they didn’t care in the way the generation who saw him as the heavyweight champion of the world did—who saw him as a conscientious objector to the Vietnam War, as a poet and a leader and an icon. Ali’s death mattered to my dad and grandpa—he was an idol to them—so it mattered to me. While this is, of course, a function of age, it’s also a function of what’s happened to boxing: it is no longer central, it is no longer a part of our national dialogue.

Fifty years ago, that would have been unthinkable. If what happened to Deontay Wilder happened during the early years of the Cold War, we might’ve fired missiles. I’m imagining you have no idea who Deontay Wilder is. When the most legitimate American heavyweight prospect in at least a decade missed out on the biggest fight of his career because his Russian nemesis got caught doping, hardly anyone noticed or cared. Today, kids idolize UFC guys with face tattoos in cage matches. If they’re going to practice something that involves hitting another human, it’s far more likely to be Brazilian jiujitsu or an Asian martial art. This is the march of time. Boxing still exists, sure, and I’m sure there are some great guys out there lacing up the gloves. But the days when their names rang out like Rocky Marciano or Joe Louis or Joe Frazier? Gone.

And that’s what’s happened with fine dining. There was a time—and I know because I came up in it—when fine dining was the only game in town worth playing. To be at the helm of a three-Michelin-star restaurant was to be a heavyweight champ; fine dining was the highest level of achievement in my field. I’d talk about which chefs stole which chefs’ dishes with the same excitement kids used to recount Ali and Frazier at the Thrilla in Manila.

At the present moment, the generation that’s entering kitchens and culinary school is growing up in a world where there’s greater access to better food than ever before. (And of course we’re talking about people in food-secure situations here; fine dining is the purview of the rich and pretend-rich.) There are a dozen different ways to gain notoriety and put dinner on the table. You can study Muay Thai, Brazilian jiujitsu, judo, Greco-Roman wrestling, karate. Even within boxing, the welterweight and middleweight divisions have become more profitable and interesting than the heavyweights.

For a long time, if you were a fighter and you wanted to make it on the world stage, you had to be a heavyweight boxer. That was where the talent went. For a long time in the Western world, you had a consolidation of talent in fine dining. The concentration of talent made it so that fine dining restaurants served the food that you had to want. Sure, there were other styles of food. But if you were really good, you weren’t going to open up a barbecue place or do take-out, you were going to work for the best.

All of this is not to say that people in fine dining aren’t doing good work. They are! And they’re still going to do great work. I just believe the great work being done in fine dining today is an anomaly. It is the work of people who have chosen the punishing path of the sweet science and the limited rewards it offers them. Fine dining was once the only place to go, the only way to do things, and today it is just another mode of cooking.

Things have changed. There are options. Wait a second, I don’t want to serve fine dining, this is stupid, I just want to make food. If I just want to make food, why do I have to do it in a fine dining environment, why do I have to cater to these people? People should embrace that. People should embrace the pluralism and the diversity. It’s exciting that there are many avenues to eat well. But there will not be another Bocuse, another Muhammad Ali, not in the way that those giants once strode across society. That time has passed.

Source: Lucky Peach

Easy Portugese-style Seafood Risotto

Ingredients

4 large prawns
4 mussels
4 scallops
1 squid
1 garoupa fillet, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 onion
5 tomatoes
1/2 green bell pepper
1/2 red bell pepper
1 can tomato paste
1 cup fish stock
6 pieces black olive
1 tbsp minced garlic
2 bay leaves
1 cup white wine
salt and pepper
1 sprig cilantro, chopped
4 cups cooked rice

Method

  1. Dice the onion, tomatoes, and bell peppers. Cut squid into rings.
  2. Heat 2 tbsp olive oil in a wok. Saute garlic until fragrant. Add prawns and stir-fry until slightly pink. Season with salt and pepper. Remove and set aside.
  3. Add squid to the wok and stir-fry briefly. Remove.
  4. Saute the mussels and then the scallops separately in the wok. Set aside.
  5. Clean wok and fry the garoupa in some olive oil until golden brown. Remove.
  6. Add onion, bell peppers, tomatoes and tomato paste to the wok. Toss to combine.
  7. Mix in seafood, black olives, bay leaves, white wine and fish stock. Add rice and cook until the seafood are cooked through. Garnish with chopped cilantro before serving.

Source: Hong Kong magazine

In Pictures: Kid’s Meals of Restaurants in Japan

Dessert

Even a Little Exercise May Help Stave Off Dementia

Couch potatoes have a higher risk of developing dementia in old age, a new study reports.

Seniors who get little to no exercise have a 50 percent greater risk of dementia compared with those who regularly take part in moderate or heavy amounts of physical activity, the researchers found.

Moderate physical activity can include walking briskly, bicycling slower than 10 miles an hour, ballroom dancing or gardening, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“It doesn’t require intensive physical activity to decrease risk of dementia,” said senior researcher Dr. Zaldy Tan. He is medical director of the Alzheimer’s and Dementia Care Program at University of California, Los Angeles. “Even moderate amounts are fine.”

Study participants aged 75 or older gained the most protective benefit from exercise against the onset of dementia, the findings showed.

“The message here is that you’re never too old to exercise and gain benefit from it,” Tan said. “These patients derive the most benefit from exercise because they are the ones who are at the age of greatest risk for dementia.”

Brain scans of participants showed those who exercise are better able to withstand the effects of aging on the brain, the study authors said.

With age, the brain tends to shrink. But people who regularly exercised tended to have larger brain volumes than those who were sedentary, Tan and his colleagues found.

The new study involved about 3,700 participants in the Framingham Heart Study, a federally funded health research project begun in 1948. All were 60 and older.

Researchers measured how often the participants exercised, and tracked them over a decade. During the study, 236 people developed dementia.

To see how physical activity might have affected dementia risk, the researchers broke the study population down into fifths that ranged from sedentary to highly active.

The one-fifth containing the most sedentary people were 50 percent more likely to develop dementia than the other four-fifths, the investigators found. In other words, even a little exercise helped.

The research team also compared physical activity to brain scans taken of about 2,000 study participants, and found a direct connection between exercise and brain size as people aged. Those who worked out had more total brain volume.

There are several theories why exercise might help brain health. Increased blood flow caused by physical activity might “beef up” the brain, increasing its volume and promoting the growth of additional neurons, said Dr. Malaz Boustani. He is research director of the Healthy Aging Brain Center at the Indiana University Center for Aging Research and a spokesman for the American Federation for Aging Research.

“Physical exercise might end up leading to increased density of the connections between the neurons and create alternative pathways for signals” that might otherwise be impeded due to age-related brain shrinkage, he added.

Boustani likened this process to a street system in a city. The more alternative routes are available to drivers, the less likely it is that a blockage on one street will lead to a city-wide traffic jam.

Exercise also promotes secretion of helpful brain chemicals such as brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). Tan explained that “BDNF actually encourages the growth of new neurons, and the preservation of those we already have.”

Heather Snyder, senior director of medical and scientific operations for the Alzheimer’s Association, said that the true answer is likely a combination of factors related to exercise.

“It’s likely there are multiple benefits, and they all funnel together,” Snyder said.

According to Boustani, these results support other studies that have shown an association between exercise and protection against dementia, but clinical trials aimed at proving a definite link have so far been disappointing.

“When we take it to the next step and start doing experiments, randomizing patients to physical exercise versus no physical exercise and see if that will protect their brain, the story becomes a little bit muddy and unclear,” he said.

Regardless, Boustani said he prescribes moderate intensity physical exercise to his patients as one way to preserve their brain health — 5,000 steps a day for about a month, increasing to 10,000 steps over time.

“Given that there’s no harm, and there’s a possible benefit to the brain that hasn’t been fully explained, I work with my patients and their families to help improve their physical activity,” he said.

The findings were published online recently in Journals of Gerontology: Medical Sciences.

Source: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services


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