Welcome to the Crackerman Cracker Blog.
Since we all do more than just work, eat, drink and sleep, we thought of passing on some of the ideas we have come across. Here we will try to publish our very subjective ideas on matters related and unrelated to crackerman crackers. Comments are welcome, as long as they choose decent wording and common courtesy.
A chef often receives questions about food recipes, on the shelf life of products or how to prepare certain vegetables. The greatest revolutionary in food within the last 20 years is probably Ferran Adria, whose mantra is " create, don't imitate ". He offers advice on how to accomplish this and suggests to first be aware of all the possible textures of, for instance, a hummus or a dip. Adria proposes to try anything from converting them into soup with a little stock to creating a salad dressing with a bit of good vinegar or acids like lime, lemon or yogurt plus a drop of olive oil, sesame oil, nut oil, depending on the style of salad.
Generally a dip profits from the right temperature. Just like bread should always be toasted or served warm at least ( pastry as well ) , if a salad is being served, the components should be having ambient temperature to unfold their full flavor potential. Note to some restaurants here: Never ever serve a tomato straight out of the refrigerator.
As for the question which greens and vegetables go well with which dip, here are some guidelines: There are universal vegetables like cucumber, ( roasted ) onion and tomato, beets or blanched potato which fit in nearly every dish.
Serve what the country has to offer: In tropical countries this could be avocado, ( blanched ) jicama or chayote with a lime dressing, in Northern countries if you prep a salad and add raspberries, nuts and arugula you won't go wrong.
If you enjoy your dip as is, try warming it to body temperature, add some vegetables ( you could microwave a single portion with a spoon of water and a pinch of salt in 2 minutes ), toasted chips ( they keep warm under a kitchen towel ) and you will see the difference.
As for the shelf life of foods, evolution has equipped us with an almost perfect detector, our nose. If you smell a food and it smells unpleasantly sour, moldy or fermented, it is probably a goner. Visual clues include a slimy film, bubbles and discoloring.
, or what a horse and a gourmet have in common…….
Ready to wreak havoc, Napoleon Bonaparte came to the German city of Aachen with his troops, back in 1801,
The story goes that, in order to avert eventual looting, raping, torturing, burning and other inevitable consequences of war, the mayor decided to have a messenger bring food for the emperor’s troops and welcome them according to the good old hospitality traditions of the conquered. Napoleon himself was given a chunk of that famous black German bread , which mainly consists of soaked and shredded Rye and wheat berries baked at low heat for 12-16 hours.
Used to the new white bread the back then noveau riches consumed all over Europe he was repulsed by the offering and told his marshall:
“ C’est bon pour Nickel “ Nickel was his horse, and the sentence meant it was only good enough for his horse to munch on. But a bread name was born: Pumpernickel .
In the long run, Pumpernickel has succeeded world wide, unlike Napoleon.
Anywhere from the Philippines to Paraguay one can find genuine crumbly, black, coarse grain slices packed in plastic or preserved in cans . German and Russian expat stores carry them, Thais and Tibetans alike have heard of that power pack.
Naturally, as flavors change from culture to culture, foods assimilate,
and adopt to regional palates. The American pumpernickel’s whole grains disappeared over time and instead of rye berries companies use caraway, a spice widely used for Rye breads to enhance flavor and digestion. Instead of molasses now factories use sugar and food coloring and instead of whole wheat there is more white flour in order to facilitate an easy chew.
This is about to change: a growing part of the population instead seeks food made by skilled individuals , manufactured from scratch with untainted ingredients.
And in the case of Pumpernickel, a tiny but slowly increasing number of bakers are happy to deliver.
Knowledge apprentices have long ago seized to train on, those bakers unearth. They ferment breads for days instead of hours, know when to feed a mother culture and precisely when the bread has its perfect volume before it enters a 500 degree deck oven.
Artisans are passionate and value the result of their efforts not in cold, hard cash alone, but in terms of taste, texture and the excitement in their customers eyes.
Online Communities pass on knowledge, farmers plant heirloom varieties and baking aficionados are now willing to shell out a buck more for loaves with 30 ingredients less than what they find in stores.
Consumers find products made from just flour, water and salt.
Pretty much what Napoleon’s horse had.
Bread, organic food and hunger in 2013
How elitist are consumers shopping for organic breads and groceries when faced with 18 % of the population going hungry at times ?
We will soon see ten dollar heirloom salad in stores while millions of individuals live on 40 cent hamburgers and meaty buns produced with 70 ingredients.
I would take a look at this situation and dare to look ahead on food in a few years. This is a realistic view on what the situation is given the premises of today.
Those premises are as follows:
Consumption of organically grown food is steadily growing, small scale producers increasingly enter the markets though very few multinational companies proceed to further monopolize both the organic and conventionally produced industry.
In the U.S. companies take advantage of decade old government subsidies on soy and corn, producing several thousand products from them. Few of them are food related.
They provide the population with inexpensive foods, at the same time several thousand additives keep this food tasty, cheap and shelf stabile for long range consumption.
For the future lobbyists for big food companies argue the sharply increased meat consumption world wide requires genetically modified foods. The counterpart argues optimized farming techniques and better distribution could achieve the same. Without active democratic engagement by the population the winner in this field is already clear.
It should be worth to take a look at the educational status on food world wide: With the advent of canned food, a more mobile life style and increased consumption of convenience food a break in food education happened. Grandmothers didn’t cook from scratch anymore and seasonal cooking using local ingredients vanished from the face of the earth like an evil.
This gap in education has not been filled until now, schools don’t teach nutrition or food classes and family members lost traditional food tutors.
As a result few people nowadays actually know about seasons, ingredients, cooking and storing. This lack of information access hits especially the poorest, who turn to inexpensive foods making them sick.
It also hits the upcoming middle class in developing countries like Mexico and Thailand. There families turn to status symbols like hamburger and pizza, thus loosing knowledge about cooking healthy, locally sourced foods.
At the same time, obesity rates are exploding in those countries.
In the near future governments will recognize the toll on society and the immense health care cost this situation causes . Schools will take over the role of family members and teach the topic, though highly influenced by the food industry.
Individuals will receive incentives to lead a less fat and sugar loaded life, ideally with a higher percentage of home cooking involved. This way the circle will close once consequences like heart disease force individuals to reconsider, often this will happen too late.
Given better education, access to unprocessed food and incentives,
poor and rich will benefit from better health, acquire more personal productivity, have more social interaction and attain higher overall happiness.
Without change the following will happen:
A sharper divide in population, social tensions, less quality of living through impeded health, more additives in food, still less biodiversity ( we now have a fraction of vegetable, fruit and cheese varieties we had even 50 years ago, thanks to mass marketed food ) and more food borne illnesses. At the same time society achieves higher age through better health care.
Individuals shopping organic will be considered more elitist than even today. Food without additives will only be available when self raised or at a substantially higher price than today.
Overall food ( and additive ) input will be determined by very few gigantic producers.
The conclusion is a urgent need for government induced education on food,
Public access to information, also for the poor and better distribution of food, for the benefit of society, because no society can afford to leave the potential of its citizens on the ground while putting profits first.
And then there are pleasures we do not want to loose:
This could be just the Poppia wraps Malaysians make a cult out of, Mole Poblano in Mexico, a bun with Leberkaese in Northern Bavaria or the world's best Baguette manufactured by a Libyan in Paris.
Ask a Chinese millionaire why he drives 200 miles to buy fried rice from a street vendor, ask your neighbor what makes him spend 40 minutes on the road to pick up his morning bagels.
Change happens, whether we want it or not. Every day and every individual makes a difference, sometimes a huge one.
Through personal engagement within communities,
personal change in behavior, small steps like local shopping, engaging actively in the democratic system, because change we can.
Yesterday a truck passed by with a photograph of a contemporary production kitchen on its trailer.
Sysco with chefs in aprons, whisk in hand , ready to whip up some macaroons, a pound or two of chicken salad, all in small quantities with top fresh ingredients, cooked exclusively for one small family, maybe two.
Apparently 47 000 employees work in those micro environments for them, how fortunate are they ?
Fields sway with the wind, poppy flower blooms red in the midst of it, a golden sunset on the horizon.
Wheat harvested with a sickle by old Italian farmers, then after a short stop at Mama Leone, who manufactures noodles, right after this brought to Costco on a donkey cart, where it sells as pasta for 87 cents a pound.
There is a cow grazing on a pasture smiling for the dairy producer. Evil people say the animal has never seen daylight, must be a lie, because companies are telling the truth and only the truth. And they have high ethics.
Am loving all those Mama Italia Marinara sauce pictures on cans, plastic containers and jars.
All those heavy weight ladies with glasses seemingly are related, maybe from the same clan or at least village,
where they hand pick tomatoes and carefully slow cook them with sprigs of rosemary from the back of the garden,
garlic certainly had been previously contributed by a well meaning neighbor.
Every single Sicilian housewife in her mid sixties is canning tomato based sauces for the world these days, one 3 gallon pot at the time, this is reality.
Meanwhile Swiss pastry chefs are in the midst of making chocolate for the Northern American market. I see three colleagues interacting and consulting each other, one cracks a hazelnut- wait, this was the world production for
Nutella - while the other chocolatier stirs a copper pot of liquid chocolate intended to feed China for a year.
" These Chicken Nuggets provide an excellent source of calcium from breading with 0 grams of trans fats per serving and no fillers. “ - and the chicken had fun growing up as well, lots of it.
‘Tis the reason they call them fun nuggets, or is it because the ingredient list is fun ?
You gotta love them for their excellent products.
Wonderbreads landing page says it all : " Always Wonder " - yes, we do and yes, we can.
Be glad things are wonderful at Wonderbread and they are really engaged for the consumer. Their first concern right there is : “ How do your kids grow so fast ? “ Am wondering too.
We learn Monsanto is a “ sustainable agriculture company “.
I did not know that, but am elated all my preconceived notions are without any basis.
They are sustainable and deal with agriculture, meaning something good, trustworthy and in a not so clear way, promote organic food, right ?
McDonald’s says “ Delicious starts right here “ and we know it doesn’t stop here.
You visit one of those video channels and see how their burgers look just as delicious even after a year, or two.
Puratos, the world’s largest producer of bread additives, does a great job of offering simple solutions for a hungry world, just read a bread label.
We also know that Givaudan, the largest producer of flavor out there, “ engages the senses “. And I shall be grateful for having this pointed out to me.
Food advertisements fulfill an important task because there is no other source to tell you more about the food those companies make, apparently all of it by hand.
Countless Luigis make pasta and convenience Italian dishes you buy in the freezer aisle, those Mama Leone and Donatellas with their tomato sauces and pickled vegetables,
Aunt Jemima who still makes all those pancake batters at her home, what a busy lady she must be.
I thank all of them for doing what they do. And I will sleep well tonight, having silenced all those Naysayers who argue against those men and women because I know this is how food should be done, by man and woman, with good ingredients, in small batches, without cruelty against animals and without cheating consumers.
Fruitful shall be the precious advice of our new editor, Ellen Kannerand I nourish hopes for a more regular blog here, will try at least, with a little help from my friends.
I was sitting on my South Beach balcony watching the world go by. Pelicans were gliding just an inch above the Intracoastal waterway, manatees grazed the seagrass pastures below, crows performed stunts in mid-air, an occasional ray jumped out of the water. Maybe it was mating season.
And suddenly, I was plucking dandelion, cress, sage and chervil growing wild by a gurgling creek, my sparse hair flowing in the mild mid-February wind, my mood undisturbed by a grumbling New Yorker passing by. A recent shower had coaxed the crocus into blooming. Hazelnuts waited to be collected, as did wild strawberries. Thornless bushes sprouted glistening raspberries. Blackberries grew underneath, big as quail eggs. Tiny white and yellow blooms peeked through the juicy green grass.
The lush forest, just a stone’s throw away, hosted an abundance of chanterelles, porcini and fat morel mushrooms. In this far more nutritious parallel universe, I knew how to read the forest floor, searching out small circles devoid of certain plants, signifying the habitat of white truffles, the diamond of the kitchen, tuber magnatum pico. I unearthed a small fortune’s worth of them, making sure tonight’s homemade pasta had the right partner.
As I swayed home at sunset, I stopped to drink the milk and honey flowing freely from a nearby spring and culled for my dinner an organic grilled chicken from the wild flock roosting there. At the doorsteps of my cottage, Marilyn Monroe offered me Krug champagne and a smile that spoke a thousand words.
You realize I dreamed all this.
You like to think the food you buy comes from somewhere close to paradise, too -- even more so since you buy from Whole Foods once a month.
You fix your own meals, lots of veggies, ah, but the slab of pork ribs is cheap and you gotta save money. Three pounds is just enough to feed one mouth, one helping as they call it. It’s mostly bones anyway. Since you buy most of your stuff at Costco, you save lots. Might as well have lunch there after shopping.
Enjoy that huge $1.49 piece of pizza along with a soda pop, it’s included in the bargain. Maybe have a $.99 hotdog with it -- they give you a quarter pound of sausage with all the trimmings.
Nope, this food is not from paradise nor from your garden. You don’t want to know where it comes from, how it is made or about what the thousands of artificial additives do to your intestines or the environment,
The same applies when you pick the banana without blemishes. It might look nice, but it’s been forced-grown with chemical fertilizers, picked under ripe and shipped from far away. And that’s how it tastes -- sweet but far away from the full, lush flavor of banana.
There is no good meat at $2.99 a pound. There is no cheap food that’s rich-tasting and aromatic, unless it’s in season or because you grew it yourself.
Mr. Fred Myer did not grow everything himself. His huge company and others like it use methods nobody should know about. Companies selling processed foods employ tons of really smart people who do nothing but to try and enhance profits for their employer. The problem is, for you at least:
Cheap food has cheap ingredients which in turn gives you a health problem because you will have to stomach those cheap ingredients. So the next time you visit your pal, the doctor, don’t be surprised if after the weigh-in, he says you’re obese. You will likely spend tens of thousands of bucks to fight this pot belly you carry, you will sweat like a pig and be the disgrace of your partner.
Or take the easy way. Use that noggin of yours. Read labels next time you go shopping. If something is made with nasty ingredients, don’t buy it.
To find out more about these issues, as well as great food and drink and hot sex in old age, take a look at our real food project.
food often came from farmers around us and our kids were not all fat and unhappy.
Together with Food writer Ellen Kanner and traveller/ computer genius Khim Rojas we created a forum to change this deplorable state, if just a tiny bit.
We invite anyone who likes apples better than aspartam and yellow squash better than yellow number five, we ask cattle ranchers and nutritionists for their input.
We aim to be as impartial as possible and equip this not for profit page with a basic structure and some links to nurture the mind. We shall have tons of fun and hopefully many people will offer opinion, links, videos, stats and whatever they feel like posting, as long as it is in the name of the good food and great spirit.
An appeal for more natural food and less additives in our groceries and food supplies.
You and everyone else who want real food without additives, preservatives, mysterious chemicals or genetic modifications.
Everywhere around the globe.
Become a fan, choose food without additives, read labels, join as we speak out for real food and better quality in our nutrition.
Because everyone deserves access to real, whole, unprocessed food.
We, the writers of this appeal, ask you to read and possibly approve the following statement on the need for pure, fresh, unadulterated food on our plates:
Fruits and vegetables are available only in a few varieties compared to the last 2000 years, because promoting a few choices is more profitable than reintroducing local and heirloom selections to grocery stores.
Our food is contaminated. It carries countless preservatives FDA Website and real buggers 24 Additives. It is often poor quality in order to maximize profit and minimize health damage to the consumer. Restaurant food often is laced with salt, fat and sugar. It often makes us and our children sick.
Our seas are overfished and polluted. Scientists estimate we have removed as much as 90% of large predators like cod and swordfish from the oceans.
We deserve a change and so does our planet.
We ask our readers to pay attention to labels and demand more flavorful varieties of vegetables and fruits from their grocery. We would not be condemn merchants who offer local varieties.
We ask USDA to step up pressure on corporate food giants like Monsanto and Nestle to give back a little of their monocultured earnings to reintroduce as many products of heirloom varieties as possible. We encourage adults and children to plant their own pot of tomato, chili or basil in their gardens or near their window.
We demand bread and pastry made without bleach, potassium bromate and other countless additives in our meals. We do not approve of vitamins and minerals in rice, pasta and flour because we want a choice when we purchase those items. We choose real food.
We demand the absence of 'natural' flavors in food. We encourage research on the impacdt of plastic and artificial ingredients on humans and animals. We disapprove the use of genetically modified foods. We want these foods restricted or at least clearly labeled as such.
Through eating locally farmed vegetables and fruits, we promote the idea and feel of where we live, we taste and celebrate the abundance around us.
Local food initiatives bringing regional foods directly to consumers.
Real Food in our school lunchrooms.
Fresh, sustainable and organic foods -- these help support us and the planet, so it can recuperate and replenish after the century-long insult of industrialized farming.
School gardens to reintroduce real food to the population, starting with our children.
Families who cook together.
Families who eat together.
Basic cooking, sourcing and nutrition taught in all schools.
Companies that reward employees who make real food a priority.
Meat produced with dignity for omnivores.
Sustainably caught fish and seafood.
One day without eating meat per week.
Multinational food conglomerates.
Byzantine food distribution systems.
Perverted meat production methods.
Genetically modified food.
Mystery chemicals and additives.
Misleading food labels.
Obese, unhappy children.
Obese, unhappy adults.
Our national productivity, creativity, economy and medical system crippled by obesity related illness.
We are more obese as a nation than ever.
Obesity-related illness puts us and our economy at risk.
Our own frail humanity -- we're hard-wired to want fat, sugar and salt. But we don't have to eat it every time. We can eat Real Food instead.
Join our project. We aim to get your approval and support, plus the support of 20 million others. Working together, we can make companies, institutions and government listen. We can make the move, make the change to real food. Become a fan now. We encourage you to post links, comments, photos and videos. We ask you to network in order to profit from an ever growing web of well eating individuals. Introduce your project, co-op, company, community and even post jobs here.
The only restriction we apply is that the postings are in compliance with our goals, and we do not publish recipes as every palate is different. Engage and live better.
Welcome to the Real Food Project, please contribute..
What an interesting statement I thought, someone who does not enjoy food, that under the United States Department of Agriculture definition is generally free of synthetic substances, contains no antibiotics and hormones, has not been irradiated or fertilized with sewage sludge, was raised without the use of most conventional pesticides, and contains no genetically modified ingredients.
This little incident was typical for a row of reactions from people who regard the concept of organic food production as superfluous and laden with leftist philosophy.
Though some visitors focus on other delights like pork sandwiches or soy milk cakes depending on the type of show there is a broad range of friends we make during tastings and fairs Farmers markets to me always are enriching: People tell me what they like or dislike about food, they allow me to become part of their lives, when they paint a picture about their father loving our bread chips or how they would fly in bread from Boston because it was the best, crunchiest Italian bread ever. They fill me in on their fears as well. Fears about chemicals from plastic containers leeching into foods and about gluten allergy or celiac disease.
I take those statements seriously and do my homework.
I research the background of informations passed on to me (what is gluten allergy? How did celiac disease come about), but I rarely come across information judging organic food as damaging for the body. Yet, there are numerous customers who in very clear words judge organic food as bogus.
I can relate to that: the very first encounter I had with organic food was during the shopping spree for a michelin star restaurant I worked in many years ago. Back then we used the best ingredients possible, but not organic ones, those were almost unknown back then in the early nineties in Germany. Together with the executive chef of said eatery I went to an organic market to purvey all the goods needed for an organic dinner for 45 guests.
Big surprise as the food tasted pretty much the same as it always tasted. It was stupendous, but not more stupendous than usual. so why buy organic then, I thought.
In 2010 I know the food was not contaminated by pesticides which is an advantage I learn to appreciate.
Then there is the issue of season:
Now I find organic glasshouse tomatoes raised in Seattle in February ( if there is such a thing) do not actually fit into a growing season and so I wouldn’t expect them to be outrageously great tasting.
Season is king, was king, will be king forever as far as fruit and veggies go.
Another contributor to food quality is the amount of chemicals used when growing fruits and veggies.
This are the ones most sprayed:
Peach, Apple, Sweet Bell Pepper, Celery, Nectarine, Strawberries, Cherries, Kale, Lettuce, Grapes-imported.
The least contaminated are:
Onion, Avocado, Sweet Corn, Pineapple, Mango, Asparagus, Sweet Peas, Kiwi, Cabbage, Eggplant, Papaya, Watermelon, Broccoli, Tomato, Sweet Potato
Absence of chemicals in farming sometimes means higher presence of nutrients:
Rutgers university found higher levels of minerals like Calcium and Magnesium in organic food. Vitamins in the form of pills are no substitute for fruits and vegetables since there often are hundreds of healthy components interacting within a single apple or a pear.
Organic to me also is important and welcome when it comes to meat: Torture factory farms add animal feed with unnecessary chemicals and after a life in a constant nightmare the meat of said animals is sold for a bargain. I get what I pay for.
This all comes from a consumer’s perspective. As a manufacturer of organic breads (and we will turn all organic with our dips by fall ), we use all organic ingredients, source the best flour possible from Montana, where the ideal soil conditions and climate make for the best wheat. In addition to that we finally found a small, family owned mill which stone grinds our flour. This means that the cylinders run at a low temperature, thus preserving flavor for the consumer to enjoy. Stoneground flours are very rare since it is cheaper to run big cylinders involving heat to grind the flours.
Yet we can not write “ Organic” or even “made with organic ingredients” on the bags we sell, because we are not a certified organic operation. At this point we can not afford to become certified since we do not own the bakery we produce in.
When I talk to famers they come up with similar comments: Certification is too costly for many a small business and even if they become certified they face massive regulations, outlined here, a page by the Minnesota department of agriculture about going organic.
A loophole exists however; I am allowed to put the name “organic” on the ingredient list. This is a small consolation prize and keeps me on track to become certified should I ever be able to afford the fees. Consumers should have a reference point looking at a certified label and should access information about what they eat. This is the reason I find the current USDA organic program useful.
Having stated this, I admit to love the produce of many friends who are not certified. I am also glad to know that the herbs in our garden are organic like all the mushrooms, berries and wild veggies we collect in the North.
Friends often ask what life is like for a food aficionado settling down in Miami.
Probably the first impressions of newbies to the city are not favorable. Apart from serving as a party place Miami has a high crime rate and Floribbean cuisine is not really well known in places like North Dakota.
One is tempted to come up with a few statistics like the one which attributes us with the highest amount of corrupt officials in the U.S.
or the most dangerous interstate section in this country, I- 95 in Dade county, comes to mind. For foodies there is a restaurant scene which seems ever changing save for a few fixtures like Michael’s or Michy Bernstein. High end culture aficionados will miss the vast choice of outstanding venues in places like Chicago or New York.
When we arrived in this city almost three years ago in the dead hot air of summer all I did for the first weeks was sweat. The first few trips up to Sunny Isles and down to South Beach revealed a touristy area, densely packed with high rises housing visitors of every orientation and country. A second glimpse into Miami Beach resulted in bright pastel colored Art Deco buildings, low rises all of them, with an aura of melancholic happiness if this can ever make sense.
Miami Modern on Biscayne Blvd. has its architectural gems, each with his own story. Art Deco has its highlight in the Bacardi building, yet another great story about spectacular design involving a Cuban dynasty.
Beaches, beaches and more beaches line Miami. To me it feels like once people have acquired a certain state of mind they don’t walk to the sea to bronzeate anymore. Other more blissful moments are to be had near the shoreline.
The sea is the great counselor, large parts of the globe could be saved just by sitting in the sand around sunset watching the world go by. Nothing seems more fortifying for the body than a walk or run on the beach. During the week nobody is there anyway save for a few runners/walkers, or the hobby fisherman at Haulover jetty. At the other end of the Bal harbor bridge lays the marina for charter boats, 30 bucks for a few hours out on the ocean. Late afternoon the catch is laid out for sale, Bloody bonitos, long, elegant sailfish, enormous grouper, you name it.
Another option to explore the town in search of culinary truffles, retail stores, chocolate shops or restaurants, are bikes. Bicycles offer a great way to scout the environment, up close and personal, to traffic, nature and people. It also trains not only the gluteus maximus but also sharpens the senses cruising through town.
Caribbean bakeries with their dense breads dot corners in little Haiti, Virgin Mary statues stare at passers by from the window of a voodoo store, which doubles as a spiritual healing center.
If I don’t speak Creole, then a little French will carry me a long way into getting the right treatment.
South of downtown in Coral Gables, built by George Merrick, lays a Spanish inspired part of the city. It sure feels like a summer holiday driving under the enormous canopies. Down there the city seems to open up, relax from the hustle in the downtown area just a few miles North. The Venetian pool, a spring fed former coral rock quarry, next to the enormous and extremely venerable Biltmore hotel add to the picture of an almost rural enclave. I strongly recommend a breakfast at the Biltmore on a Sunday morning with someone you love.
Just a few blocks away Cubans play Dominos on Calle Ocho, street number eight, in Little Havana.
From one block to another, Nicaraguan style food joints change with eateries from Honduras, Guatemala or El Salvador. People here often wear shirts in their national colors and they do so proudly. Brazilians have their little niche near North Bay Village, just like Argentinians flock to Buenos Aires Bakery on Collins and 71st or get an empanada ( Bolivian, Venezuelan, Chilean or Argentinian style) down the street at Moises bakery, just opposite of Mr. Pasta, the best place in town to pick up homemade noodle merchandise.
If it took me a year to make friends back in good old Germany, here people smile at me just for saying “Hola”.
The number of immigrants without papers in this city must be exorbitant, but it seems like almost everyone here tries to achieve something. This city might not hum like New York but it surely sings songs from all over the world.
Its cuisine highlights the fare of an immigrant city, nothing fancy on the mainland, rice and beans, seafood, chicharron and fried plantains, green or sweet, Latin sausages and grilled meats prevail. Local chefs on the beach mostly cater to tourists, meaning lots of burgers, sandwiches and baked Alaska, flourless chocolate cake or flan for dessert. For foodies though there is hope:
A bunch of chefs turned in another direction, work their own style. Away from mainstream munchland, they carefully assemble new dishes, often using local ingredients which abound in this part of the world.
Hundreds of types of mango can be found here, along with dozens of different avocados,
because there was this guy named David Fairchild, not one but THE horticultural expert in this country who introduced countless fruits to Florida. His home the Kampong is home to several hundred fruits most people have never heard of, me included.
At the moment candy cotton berries are ripe, they taste just like their name and come from a tree known as the strawberry tree. White Sapote are in peak season and snake tree fruit, with mango coming up.
Aquatic life is still abundant, we all hope for the oil catastrophe to settle far offshore, so we at least don’t see it. Just kidding...
Yes, I shall continue: Because of the warm gulf stream this part of the world remains one if not the best spot for deep sea fishing, until further notice. The water temperature allows for all kinds of aquatic life from conch, oysters and clams, to lobster and Florida’s own yellowtail snapper. A large variety of mostly endangered species in the tuna family has their home here as well as a ton of reef dwellers and pelagic sharks. From tame tarpons to wild wahoos, from turtles to dolphins they are all out there, in open waters.
Offshore from Key Biscayne, in the distance, lies a village of wooden buildings, Stiltsville. Long abandoned, it was was built in the 1930’s as a retreat for fisherman, businessman and others looking for fun. Some of its wooden structures served as fuel supplier, others as restaurants and clubs for those who prefered a more secluded kind of fun.
Key Biscayne and Virginia Key like so many other islands in Miami are connected to the mainland by a bridge, which among cyclists, is known as the Miami mountain.
The view from the Rickenbacher causeway bridge towards downtown, the banking area in Brickell and the docks of the port of Miami is incomparable.
I like this view best when as many cruise ships as possible are docked to take up loads of supplies or when they make their way out to the open sea. They glide by the newly designed South Point Park and the container terminal making their way one or ten day cruises.
The other end of Miami in the south, the Redlands couldn’t be further away. This is farm country, hot, mosquito ridden and rural. Trees are planted by drilling holes into the coral, the fertile soil forms just a thin layer over the rocks, but the subtropical climate promotes plant life and with the help of countless workers miracles happen year after year. Coming from a northern world I first was incredulous when someone told me that during the paralyzing South Florida summer mostly tropical fruit are ripening, because it is too hot for a lot of veggies. Only later I discovered that during the northern winter a great variety of locally produced vegetables and fruits is to be had, often straight from a farm.
Just like getting to know nature,it often takes newcomers a while to find their niches in Miami.
Maybe because the city is so diverse, one has to look for the favorite hang out, the best baker, the bar that fits one’s taste just right. But these places can be found where a novice feels at home, others share the same interests and help discover the new life in a new city. For me this search also took its time, but the rewards are well worth the peeking around corners and the bike rides.
Miami with its several million people is just over a hundred years old but is home to an array of ethnicities who all want three things: Eat, drink and sleep. They strive to do so, but they also laugh and sing together, and sometimes cry.
A thing called life, set under 91 degrees with a 70% humidity. Nothing could stay tough here.
"You are to pay them in silver for the food you eat and the water you drink." ~Deuteronomy 2:6
I want real food, or don’t I ?!
Within the past few weeks more additive laden food has crossed my hearth than was needed. Fortunately there is Total Wine so I could avoid having to drink beer made with rice. Mind you, in Germany, we do not tolerate rice in beer or even “light” brews.
The mere existence of this haven of joyful inebriation has resulted in a still voluminous Crackerman.
Running still feels like a hippo typewriting, but my education is ongoing . All the additives that were consumed within the last four weeks now hang on my fridge door, bathroom door, all the dressers and garage doors, the neighborhood ones.......
Since I forced myself to write down food ingredients on paper, I quickly realized that the 17 ingredients in a mindlessly used non dairy coffee creamer would take longer to pencil down than to forget about it.
The same thing happened with a tiny cup of ice cream: It took longer to write down the Frankenstein cabinet of additives than to devour the little bugger.
Other chow like hotdogs cried out to me asking to find a version closer to nature. Oh, yes, the meat issue: Bummer I couldn’t abstain for a whole month.
I am glad though, because with eating less meat and better quality ones, I felt better. Obviously all that didn’t help reduce the 30 pounds dangling around my waist by much.
After paying attention to food additives for a month, I feel deprived though. I feel deprived of real food.
I believe we need a change in food quality, variety and in promoting real food.
There is a certain line drawn in the sand which allows companies to produce food of an inferior quality. This line enables food operations to maximize profits and lower prices.
There is a line not far away, which makes people sick, and the producers of said foods rich at the same time. Those food companies earn profits at the expense of the population. Do we need fillers for hotdogs, chemicals to extend shelf life indefinitely?
Do we need concentration camp meats, have animals eat their own poo and then we eat the animals?
Do we need foods that make us sick ?
Do we need over salted, overly sugary and fatty foods for ourselves and our children at restaurants and in schools?
Should we and our children have food loaded with unhealthy ingredients? Should we, as a consequence, be in pain and take our money to hospitals to spend it on surgery and life sustaining measures, or should we strive to get better quality in our daily food?
Don’t we have the right not to be taken for fools when we buy foods?
Is it acceptable to have a fraction of the variety in vegetables and fruits we had 50 years ago?
Shouldn’t there be an effort to reintroduce heirloom plants in the Northern half of the planet?
Shouldn’t there be money to explore the impact of plastic on food and as a consequence, on us?
Shouldn’t it be prohibited to eat bleach and potassium bromate in our daily bread? Shouldn’t it be a NO NO to have cancer causing ingredients in food?
Shouldn’t lobbyists lobby for the health of people rather than for the sickness of them?
In an age where daily life seems so sophisticated and science is progressing quicker than ever before, we have a wasteland in the variety and quality of foods. Many chefs complain about the lack of taste in vegetables and fruits. Many of my pals did not enjoy a strawberry that bore any resemblance to a flavorful strawberry this year. Same thing happens with apples, pears etc. Great flavor is possible as a newly discovered love for heirloom tomatoes and arugula grows.
Real food should be a human right, but obviously it is not. Just check for yourself and stroll the aisles of your local grocery store, read the labels and ask yourself, is this real food? I do not mean to say we don’t have the right to eat freaky ingredients, but we should at least have a choice not to eat stuff from this FDA website:
I just think it is about time to speak up and promote real food, because for the longest time now, food advertising screams at us in a language foreign to real food, more related to maximize profit and fast, trashy food.
Oh, and do I eat Oreos sometimes ? Absolutely !