All posts for the month March, 2020
No. 1 on the list? Finland, which blows away the competition by consuming 12kg of coffee per capita every year. According to the U.K.’s Independent newspaper, this is due in part to the fact that coffee breaks at work are protected by law. Coffee is also a big part of the social scene; it’s custom to offer coffee whenever you have a guest. Don’t expect to find a Starbucks on every corner, though — local or national establishments far outnumber multinational chains, per Culture Trip, possibly thanks to the Finns’ preference for very light brews. They share their love of coffee with other Nordic countries including Norway, Iceland, and Denmark, which rank second, third, and fourth on the ICO’s list of the world’s biggest coffee drinkers.
Ecuador’s production of cocoa cannot match the global cocoa superpowers in West Africa in terms of gross output, but many chocolate connoisseurs feel Ecuador is tops in terms of quality. While many multinational companies turn to Africa for the base of their processed chocolate treats, smaller artisan chocolatiers look to Ecuadorian cocoa to provide the complex tastes they crave.
“I hover over the expensive Scotch and then the Armagnac, but finally settle on a glass of rich red claret. I put it near my nose and nearly pass out. It smells of old houses and aged wood and dark secrets, but also of hard, hot sunshine through ancient shutters and long, wicked afternoons in a four-poster bed. It’s not a wine, it’s a life, right there in the glass.”—Nick Harkaway, author, The Gone-Away World
Verjus, basically, is grape juice — typically made from pressing slightly underripe wine grapes before they get too sweet. (It’s an elision of the French vert jus, or green juice.) If you have any verjus in your home, it’s probably in your kitchen cabinet alongside your vinegars and oils; verjus’ sweet-tart harmony is great for salad dressings.
Viva Les Veuves!
The history of Champagne is liberally sprinkled with the success of larger-than-life women, many of them widows. Unlike many women in the early 19th century, widows (veuve, in French) enjoyed the independence necessary to run a business. While unmarried women were dependent on their fathers or brothers and married women were forced to rely on their husband’s money, widows were allowed to own property and businesses and control their own finances. In fact, the Champagne Widows were so successful that some Champagne houses without their own widow added “Veuve” to their labels anyway! Some of the most famous widows and their iconic Champagne houses include:
Barbe-Nicole Ponsardin Clicquot –
Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin
Louise Pommery – Pommery
Mathilde Emilie Laurent-Perrier –
Elisabeth “Lily” Law
de Lauriston-Boubers Bollinger –
The dark green wine bottle was an English invention, the work of Sir Kenelm Digby (1603-1665). Previously wine had been kept in goat skin bags.
Bubbles in wine have been observed since ancient Greece and were attributed to the phases of the moon or to evil spirits. And you know how much I love bubbles.
The average age of a French oak tree harvested for use in creating wine barrels is 170 years.
I have published this before, but it seems quite popular:
Capacity (Liters) followed by the number of standard size wine bottles that would be:
- Standard (.75) 1
- Magnum (1.5) 2
- Jeroboam (3) 4
- Rehoboam (4.5) 6
- Methuselah (6) 8
- Salmanazar (9) 12
- Balthazar (12) 16
- Nebuchadnezzar (15) 20
With that, let me sign off of another episode of “wine with Gerry”, or that is way more than I ever wanted to know about wine!
St. Patrick’s Day is the perfect time to have one of my favorite dishes, corned beef and cabbage. So, aside from buying and preparing this dish, I wondered about the origin and history of corned beef. The term “corned” comes from the large rock-salt kernels, or “corns of salt” covering beef in a crock. This process preserves the meat. The term has been in the dictionary since 888 AD.
Leave it to the Irish to be the largest exporters of corned beef, at least until 1825. It turns out that corned beef and cabbage is not very Irish. But corned beef certainly is. The area of Cork, Ireland was a big producer of corned beef in the 1600s, until 1825. It was sent in cans and was their chief export, sent around the world. According to historians, the British army survived on canned corned beef during the Napoleonic Wars.
Corned beef and cabbage is essentially an American tradition on St. Patrick’s Day, started by Irish-Americans in the 1800s. But traditional Irish feel that beef was reserved for royalty, since cows were prized more for their milk. It was more common to celebrate a holiday meal with ham or bacon with their cabbage and potatoes. When the Irish immigrants came over to America, they had to replace the hard to find bacon with beef. They found that Jewish corned beef was similar in texture, so they began using it in their celebrations.
Abraham Lincoln’s Inaugural dinner was corned beef and cabbage. It was served with mock turtle soup and blueberry pie. Somehow, I doubt President Obama would replicate this dinner, despite his fondness for the Lincolns. But cabbage soup recipes abound for weight loss. And who can argue with the fiber? Only the folks at Benefiber or Metamucil.
Corned beef, called salt beef in the U.K. are types of salt cured beef products. The three main types are 1) wet cured in spiced brine (brisket or round steak), 2) dry cured with granular salt (various cuts of beef), and 3) canned, minced salted meat, oily and crumbly (made from various cuts of beef).
In the United States, corned beef is usually purchased ready to eat from delicatessens. It is the key ingredient in a Reuben sandwich. And the best is served at the Carnegie Deli in Vegas and New York City. Corned beef hash is commonly served with eggs for breakfast. Smoked corned beef becomes pastrami with the addition of spice mix. Most of us just buy the corned beef in a ready to cook preparation in the meat section or butcher counter.
St. Patrick’s Day in the U.S. centers around corned beef and cabbage. It is not an Irish national dish as we are led to believe. The closest Irish dish is Bacon and Cabbage. But we do thank the Irish immigrants for substituting corned beef for the pork products. New Englanders commonly add the root vegetables, like potatoes, carrots, and turnips.
When cooking the corned beef, I prefer to cook the potatoes, carrots, and cabbage in a separate pot. Otherwise, the oily liquid from the corned beef changes the flavor and texture of the other ingredients. Then to top it off, skip the fancy mustard, and just go with old fashioned French’s yellow mustard. Many people also prefer rye bread for sandwiches the next day. The brisket must be cut cross grain or will be impossible to chew.
Personally, this is a meal I enjoy on St. Patrick’s Day, or for any other day when the weather is cool. It is high in salt, but oh so tasty. And all the food groups are represented. A taste trio worthy of anyone, Irish or not. Remember the Seinfeld episode where George finds the cured, salted meats to be an aphrodisiac? Give me Carnegie Deli or give me something healthy to eat instead!
Perhaps the real reason I love March 17? My Father was born on March 17, 1920. He would be 100 today.
The travel industry’s refund policies are changing almost by the minute. Here’s what they look like now:
- Airlines are waiving their change fees for flights in March and April.
- Cruise lines are offering credit for sailings until the end of spring.
- Hotels are loosening their cancellation policies for certain areas affected by the coronavirus outbreak.
While many companies have relaxed their refund rules, some have gone the other way to stem their losses. The travel industry’s coronavirus refund policies show how it really feels about you. It’s something to note for when you start traveling again.
So, I cancelled a one night stay in Scottsdale, when we decided to drive home a day early. It was not due as much to corona, as it was to another heavy day of rain in the desert. With baseball cancelled, I saw no reason to make Lexi walk in heavy rain, requiring another expensive, grooming visit upon return to home.
But it was the infamous, or famous physicist, Larry Shaw of the San Francisco Exploratorium who first popularized pi day back in 1988. To celebrate, he, his staff, and numerous guests walked around in circles, then consumed some fruit pies. To this day, pi day celebrations are still held. I am sorry to miss yet another one today.
On March 12, 2009, even the U.S. Congress passed a resolution proclaiming March 14 as National Pi Day. For some mathematics enthusiasts, the entire month of March is celebrated as pi month. In the year 2015, Pi Day will have special significance on 3/14/15 at 9:26:53 a.m. and p.m., with the date and time representing the first 10 digits of π!!!!!
So, I encourage you to celebrate national pi day any way you wish. You can throw a pie, hit someone in the face with a pie (like the Three Stooges), and discuss the greatness of pi. Further, MIT has often mailed their acceptance letters to applicants on Pi Day. And Princeton, N.J. celebrates National Pi Day and Albert Einstein’s birthday with a combined celebration. Turns out Big Al lived in Princeton for twenty years while working at the Institute of Advanced Study. The highlight appears to be an Einstein look-alike contest!!!!