Since the evening of April 3, Jews throughout the world have been celebrating Passover. Passover marks the Biblical release of Israelites from bondage under the Egyptian Pharaoh.
One of the symbolic foods eaten during Passover is matzo, an unleavened ‘bread’ (some people would add far more quotation marks) that is made with wheat flour and water only. It commemorates the urgent escape of the Israelites, led by Moses, who left in such a rush that they baked their bread without waiting for it to leaven.
Why do I mention Passover? The keen reader will note that:
a) Passover marks the release of Israelites from bondage and
b) this is my last food blog…
but that’s not the reason!
I was reading the back of a box of Manischewitz matzos, and I saw the following: “Every time you open a packet of ketchup or soy sauce you can thank Jewish inventor, George Brusak, whose Bell-Pak and Bursa-Fill machines packed liquids, creams, powders, and solids into disposable sterile packets.” I just couldn’t pass over the opportunity to learn more (haha! “pass over… like Passover). But first, let me cite my source.
OK… uh… hmm… no author. Machischevitz Corporation…? Or maybe the back of the box is technically provided by “Jewish American Heritage Month”… uh… Company… ok… date: Passover-ish… 2014. Production code 0976B. So.
George Bursak Biography [no title given], Manischevitz Matzo
Box. Back of box. Corporation of Jewish American Heritage
I will be looking for matzo boxes in the next MLA handbook.
Anyway: George J. Burskak (Apr. 18, 1913 – Apr. 15, 2005) was a notable Jewish resident of Milwaukee. He lived through two World Wars, the Great Depression, and the birth of computers. Woah… Bursak was born with dyslexia, a reading disorder that slows a reader and may make them more prone to error. As a child, dyslexia was still not well understood, and Bursak’s teachers assumed that he was not intelligent. Throughout his life, he would grapple with dyslexia, and eventually wrote the book, “If I Can Do It, So Can You: Triumph Over Dyslexia”.
From an early age, Bursak showed technical prowess, and entered trade school after he completed grade six. Let me repeat that: he entered trade school after he completed grade six. After work in a defence plant during the Second World War, however, he finally focussed on machinery totally.
I also learned that in 1941, Bursak was the managing director of the The Service Health Club, Inc. It was located at 2124 W. North Avenue. This fact is unrelated to the rest of this blog.
While running manufacturing operations with his wife, Ida, Bursak developed medical supplies, a hand lotion, and THE REASON FOR THIS BLOG POST: one-time-use ketchup packets (though the packets can hold all kinds of stuff).
In “If I can Do It, So Can You”, Bursak writes: “Believe in yourself. Keep trying, and keep on trying again. Reach out to the people around you. And finally, give something back.” (qtd. in The Wisconsin Jewish Chronicle).
So where was I? Ah yes. Disposable sterile packets for sauces. Portable food is important. It’s important if you are…fleeing a wretched Pharaoh. It’s also important if you are buying food in one place and wish to consume it elsewhere (home, car, desert…). Bursak’s innovation can be thought of as each of the following:
– an idea, for he first had the thought, “Hey, what if I squirt some ketchup into a packet so that people can carry ketchup around without having to literally hold the ketchup in their hands?”;
– technology, for Bursak developed the mechanical means of filling these sterile packets;
– product, for disposable ketchup was not available until Bursak made it so; and finally
– service, for though this is a bit iffy, the portability of the ketchup has value to it and could be considered a service of sorts.
The importance of this innovation has led to: portable, fast-foods as well as THE ABILITY TO MAKE YOURSELF SUSHI AND THEN BE SAD BECAUSE YOU HAVE NO SOY SAUCE BUT THEN BE HAPPY BECAUSE YOU FOUND SOME SOY SAUCE THAT WAS IN YOUR FRIDGE, HIDDEN UNDER SOME JARS, WAITING FOR YOU IN ONE OF GEORGE BURSAK’S LITTLE PACKETS.
Thank you for reading! It has been an honour to food-blog you all!
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Firstly, some people have asked me, “Matt, what does it look like behind the scenes at MattChefInTraining? How do you write your glorious prose and, occasionally, poetry?” My adoring fans, I grant you a rare photo. Here is my typical blog-writing set up.
Now the main event. People: I went vegetarian for a week. I’ve eaten as a vegetarian before, though for different reasons. I’ve been an I-don’t-want-to-clean-up-the-chicken-juice vegetarian, a maybe-I’ll-wait-until-payday-before-I-buy-a-big-piece-of-meat vegetarian, and a my-housemates-are-all-vegetarians-and-let’s-just-see-how-this-goes vegetarian.
This time around, I became a vegetarian for one reason: to get a mark on my blog assignment. “But what kind of vegetarian should I strive to be?” I asked myself. “WELL, SELF?! GIVE US AN ANSWER.”
Here it is: I will be a vegetarian whose refusal to eat a) the flesh of animals and b) any product whose production requires the death of an animal. By “animal” I mean any organism belonging to the kingdom Animalia. There are some caveats, here, as you would expect with many moral positions. Eating wheat that has been harvested in the Prairies probably led to the deaths of many insects. The wheat was transported along rail lines that displaced natural habitats during construction. Maybe there was road kill along the way as a delivery truck brought bread to the city centre. But, like… what do you want from me? We have to draw a line somewhere. (This, coincidentally, is the basic retort to many challenges to moral positions: “What do you want from me? Come on! I’m trying…”)
Breakfast: eggs and toast. I visited the hen that laid that egg, and it’s doing ok. Thus have I started my journey into vegetarianism. I should buy some anti-meat pamphlets.
Lunch: tri-citrus shallot dressing over arugula with goat cheese and roasted pecans. More animal products, here, though not requiring anything to be killed.
Dinner: I went to a vegetarian restaurant. I didn’t cook, but I ate a veggie burger at F**** (no free advertising on MattChefInTraining). Here’s the thing: this is a delicious vegetable burger partially because it doesn’t try to look like or otherwise imitate meat. It is a proud assemblage of spices and grains and vegetables and flours. It was topped with a peanut Thai sauce, thinly sliced green onion, and bean sprouts. Good work, F****.
Breakfast is not the most important meal of the day. I didn’t have it.
Actually, I didn’t even eat much today. If you don’t eat any food you’re also not eating meat, so it counts as vegetarian!
I procured some anti-meat pamphlets. They’re pretty convincing. So, in the real world, I’m not a vegetarian. I recall a conversation I had with a committed vegan. I said that I thought abstaining from meat was morally virtuous but was not a moral duty. She thought a vegan lifestyle was an imperative. Thus did we disagree.
I received a gift. I clutched the wrapped gift to my bosom and felt its exterior. Hmm… a book… sharp corners. But the book cover is soft… like a cushy leather bible. “It’s not a bible, Matthew.” What was it? A vegetarian cookbook by Yotam Ottolenghi.
Let me share with you an example recipe: take some carrots, cut them up into big pieces, toss in olive oil and honey, salt, pepper, crushed coriander seed, and toasted whole cumin seed. Then roast the carrots until done. It was tasty. I promise.
But that is not the recipe that I will share with you for the purposes of getting a grade. Please proceed to tomorrow (below, “Friday”).
Check this sick recipe out:
3 c. leeks, rough chop
4 c. cremini mushrooms, rough chop
4 c. vegetable stock, fortified
3 Tbsp. butter
1 c. milk
pinch Herbes de Provence
4 sprigs fresh thyme
kosher and ground black pepper (to taste)
My dear mother gave me this recipe, and I altered it slightly.
HERE IS HOW YOU MAKE THE RECIPE IN CASE YOU WANT TO MAKE THE RECIPE.
Sweat the vegetables in butter.
Add Herbes de Provence.
Add fortified vegetable stock (which I made by adding mirepoix to some store bought veg. stock and simmering for half an hour) an simmer for five minutes.
Blend well in food processor.
Add milk and thyme and heat it right good!
Season with salt and pepper.
Eat as you wish.
Clean up your freaking mess (this step is left out of many recipes).
Here is what I thought when I ate it: “This is really good but it would’ve been slightly better with chicken stock instead.” Sigh…
I ate some food, which included: chocolate chip banana bread, buttermilk scones and homemade strawberry jam, pain au lait with tahini and garlic yogurt spread, roasted pecan, roasted almond, raw cashew because I didn’t bother to roast it, pasta in tomato sauce, garlic bread, RED WINE, and some raw vegetable that bored me.
I really wanted to eat some smoked meat though. I didn’t eat it, but I reaaaaaally wanted to. Oh, yeah, I also had a tri-citrus dressing over arugula with goat cheese and maple syrup infused salt.
And in the end, I come to the day before my vegetarian diet’s expiry. You know, during the week I told one Chef that I was a one-week-vegetarian. He laughed at me. But, you know, you gotta take as good as you give.
I think the easiest way to maintain this diet while being a chef is to simply remove meat from the diet and not worry about approximating the flavour or taste of meat using vegetables. I think it’s a big hassle to try to make vegetables seem like meat. As Ottolenghi says in his most recent cookbook, ‘Vegetables deserve to have a starring role at the table; they shouldn’t always be a side dish.’ Chef Ottolenghi does eat meat however. He likes it, he eats it, but he thinks that vegetables are more versatile than often thought.
I will not be continuing with this diet. I enjoy eating meat. I like the flavour and I like the texture. This is a selfish reason to eat an animal that has been killed for your pleasure, so perhaps I will undergo an existential crisis in the next few months. In the end, however, I think I will eat meat with more awareness.
Greetings! Welcome (back) to my humble blog. First, a note on etymology. Did you know that “blog” is a truncated form of “weblog” from the internet’s earlier days? It’s true. “Blog”, therefore, takes out the “we”. But when you read my words, Gentle Reader, “we” are brought back together. Harmony, Gentle Reader. Harmony.
This assignment is grounded in the need to hug a farmer. But more important than the hugging, I contend, is the attempt to understand the work of farmers around us. I did not hug my farmer, but I spoke with her. I learned a bit of her life.
I would to share my findings with you.
In a feat of GREAT INTERTEXTUALITY, let me remind you of an earlier blog submission in which I documented some Royal Eggs that I had cooked. Guess what? Those eggs WERE FROM THE FARMER I WILL NOW DISCUSS!!!!!!!
I went to a local farm. Not local to where I am right now (i.e. Toronto) but local to where I was (i.e. Lafontaine, Ontario). In Lafontain, Ontario is a truly charming farm, whose main business is equestrian stuff: riding lessons, boarding, and the like. They have a website: http://www.celticrootsequestrian.ca/index.php
On this farm is a henhouse, and in that henhouse are some hens. Those hens produce eggs, which are sold on the farm property (for cheap!).
The current owners of the farm have been tinkering away and expanding for more than three decades. For most of its time, the farm was operated as a dairy farm. The switch to eggs came about during what I assumed was a 4 A.M. early milking epiphany: “Dairy farming is freaking hard. Enough of this.”
The owners love horses and love their hens. But only the hens lay eggs.
Is it totally organic farming? Nah… (too much hassle). But let me transcribe what is printed on the exterior of all egg cartons: “Our hens run around, socialize and eat / local grains, forage and seasonal veggies. / Happy Hens : Health Eggs.” Sounds good.
From this, we can gather the following vis-a-vis the farmers’ support for political or environmental initiatives: the farmers support local farming (i.e. sourcing their grains locally), perhaps due to the combined political effect of supporting local economies as well as the environmental effect of reducing emissions incurred by transporting food great distances. They have also committed themselves to a free-run atmosphere in which the hens are not combined to BARBARIC battery farm cages.
I visited the hens, to tell the truth. In all honesty, I wouldn’t have loved living in there, but the hens seemed OK with it.
It did not seem appropriate to take a photo with the farmer at the time, so what I have done instead is taken a photo of the combined fruits of our labours (the farmer’s and mine). From the farmer, I feature a carton of eggs that I bought on the farm premises. From myself, I give you another peek of my beautiful anti-plagiarism key. Would you like to see the photo, Gentle Reader? It is below.
So, if you’re still reading, Gentle Reader, what can I tell you?
Here’s what I learned from the experience… There seems to be a hierarchy or at least a sense of increasing reverence divided amongst strata of farmers. The egg farmers look to the dairy farmers and think “Boy, that is hard!” And maybe the hemp farmers look to the egg farmers and think “Boy, that is hard.” I also learned that hens like to peck at snow off one’s boot. That was good knowledge to acquire.
Bonus farm-related Canadian theatre history interview: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_T-EMQfqcjA
Or What We Talk About When we Talk About Filet Mignon
I went to a butcher shop and I explored their products. I chose a cut I was not familiar with and I noted the cost. Dear reader, I will reveal all momentarily.
I went to Brown Brothers Meat & Poultry, which is located in St. Lawrence Market. My most experienced readers will recall that St. Lawrence market also once served as the jail to my fruit prey. But that was back when I was a fruit hunter… young… foolish. Times have changed.
We’re talking meat now. What meat? Filet mignon, which the butcher suggested should be pan fried. But why are we talking about filet mignon? I’ll tell you. My love affair with filet mignon began while watching Law and Order (the real, original one) with my brother. So there Ben was, trying to push a difficult case through the courts when the common law and political will were both opposed to his position. Tough slog, yes. But Ben is a bright guy. But in Adam’s office (Adam’s the District Attorney and Ben is the Assistant District Attorney, you see), Adam tell him: “Drop it, Ben! It’s no good. Your evidence is weak. What do you want me to tell you? Mincemeat is filet mignon?” The price by the way, is $28.95 for each cryovac package. There is no weight listed.
Inspired by Law and Order and then also excited by the butcher’s suggestion that I “pan-fry the meat”, I did some in depth research.
A recipe that uses my cut is pictured above. Filets mignons (plural!) with balsamic pan sauce and truffle oil. The source for this groundbreaking recipe is: Denis Kelly’s “Steak & Chop”, a Williams Sonoma cookbook published by Simon & Schuster.
Filet mignon is French for “cute fillet”, and it is beef, from the tenderloin’s smaller end.
I would prepare the product by rubbing it down with salt and pepper before cooking it in a hot buttery pan. Basting the filet mignon with truffle oil would allow those delicious flavours to infuse into the meat.Following the recipe, I’d charge about $30 bucks a plate, and that plate would be good quality. There would also be good service in this restaurant of mine, and people would be overjoyed to pay $25.
I have to say, the recipe from the Williams-Sonoma cookbook is pretty straightforward, so I don’t foresee special accommodations being required for the cooking method.
Would it be effective in a fast-paced restaurant? Yes, depending on what we’re talking about. This is an expensive cut of meat, and it wouldn’t fit well at a cheap, quick service place. I would prefer to serve it over dinner service rather than lunch. I would cook it to order and allow the guests to revel in the beautiful ambience of my restaurant.
POST UPDATE: Speaking of restaurants, here are the members of Rush getting drunk at a fancy hunting lodge. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zb-MwVUUy3g
By appointment to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II:
I am hereby pleased to submit for Your Majesty’s pleasure, the work which Your Majesty decreed that I should carry out. Your most loyal subject, I obey.
Your Majesty, I have scoured Your vast realms to determine the best means by which one may soft boil an egg.
First, Your Majesty, I carry out the requisite steps to guarantee the academic integrity of this work. By Your wise decree Your Majesty forbade—upon great penalty—the most heinous crime of plagiarism. Thus, Your Majesty, I have undertaken to uncover the ancient culinary symbol of my House. This ancient culinary symbol, which I refer to as a “key” shall henceforth identify all original photography used in the submission to Your Majesty.
The ancient culinary symbol of my house, described in the old heraldry texts is as follows:
Upon a sock of barren white folded to half along its horizontal axis: elastic band to bind it along its middle, holding in place a spoon of silver, partially obscuring and bound by tape, one photograph of Premier the Twenty-Fifth of Ontario—most loyal— with chef jacket unbuttoned. Appearing from bottom left, most inconspicuous: an obscured sketch of a gas plant, near unrecognizable when compared to the gleam of the Premier’s chef jacket, unbuttoned.
I trust that this “key” shall serve to identify my work as unique. If any man has copied the ancient culinary symbol of my House, let him face me with his steel.
Returning, now, to the eggs, Your Majesty:
I sought the wisdom of an experienced chef to resolve Your Majesty’s burning question. I turned to Your Majesty’s loyal subject, Heston Blumenthal, a noted chef in your Realm. Through an exhaustive internet search I discovered Mr. Blumenthal’s video on cooking soft boiled eggs. I reproduce a link to said video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WiUZzEbtwqw
Essentially, Mr. Blumenthal suggests that Your Majesty may place or cause to be placed a medium egg in a small pan filled with cold water.
Your Majesty would then, if it should please Your Majesty, place or cause to be placed the pan on highest heat.
As soon as the water begins to boil, Your Majesty would remove or cause to be removed the pan from the heat source, allowing the egg to sit for exactly 6 minutes. The residual heat from the pan and water will continue to cook the egg in that time.
Your Majesty could then dry or cause to be dried the egg in question.
The egg should at that point be ready for consumption. If the egg should displease Your Majesty, I am led to believe that a slight push of said egg from a wall would be of sufficient strength such that not even your finest men would be able to put it together again.
This cooking method, I hasten to add, should be adequate in preparing up to 50 eggs. In truth, it would take more time to boil the cold water if there were 50 cold eggs in it, but, once boiled, it shouldn’t take much longer than six minutes to fully cook the eggs. The trouble comes with removing the eggs.
As Your Majesty will recognize, removing 50 eggs will take more time than one egg. Removing 500 eggs, on the other hand… Your Majesty would benefit from a good number of kitchen servants in such a case. The trouble is that any egg left too long in the water will overcook, and its beautiful runny yolk will harden. As such, it would be best to place the 500 eggs in a large basket so that it could be removed at once from the hot water. Your Majesty would require a large steam-jacket kettle to accommodate so many eggs.
It would be my humble suggestion that a soft boiled egg could be enjoyed with sliced “fingers” of toast, tossed in olive oil and salt before being toasted. Though I am a simple man from one of Your Majesty’s colonies, I have taken some amount of pride in procuring English muffins, which I have sliced and tossed and toasted. This way, one may dip the bread into the yolk. It is quite an amusing endeavour!Your most faithful and obedient servant,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is with the thickest of pleasure that I present the return of the culinary blog.
Posted in full on Thursday shall be the next exciting chapter.