Saturday, January 08, 2005

Science and History of the Really Rotten (Food)- Part I Salt & Spices

It's just plain spooky that someone can deny that they ever meant something written in a memo by saying that it was simply just a draft. What's even more eerie is that the American public or at least half of it will stand behind that assertion. "Oh, all that stuff about torturing people... We weren't really serious about that, we would have erased that all.. never mind, my bad."

People can argue all the want about Gonzales'justification, but I'm becoming more and more convinced that we're living in a world that promotes outright denial of truth (especially if it's ugly or in opposition to their values).

I can't help but feel and think that there's something terribly wrong and rotten with our society today. Did the conservatives feel this way when Clinton was in office, most likely; however, there's always been something slightly shady about the denial one must engage in to be truly conservative or support the conservative platform as it stands today. They are a group that supports the notion that the end justifies the means. Therefore, torture is possible. They are a body which feels that it's acceptible to lie or denounce what they're said publically simply to be granted the freedom and power to have their will be done. I'm not saying that the other side of the spectrum doesn't have it's faults, obviously a loaf of bread can be moldy on both ends.

Subsequently, I've been thinking a lot of the science of the rotten, rotten food that is. Let's think about it refrigeration is an invention of the last century. Now with the help of science and industry, can keep foods even longer so that they will eventually mold and rot slowly in our refrigerator crisper. J often has to remind me to shave the nasty end of the cheese off other than throwing the entire thing away. Why are we so obsessed with having perfect looking and smelling food? When our ancestors discovered the joy and good taste off eatables that have gone slighly bad. Today have this obsession with perfection when it comes to the foodstuffs we choose to put on our tables. This may explain why grocers or meat distributors (butchers are few and far between these days. I have to travel 30 minutes with no traffic to get to a real butcher around here) color meats with red dyes to make them appear fresher and therefore more appealing or why we won't eat apples that are not waxed. But food is organic matter, and organic matter deteriorates with time. This is rot, which is as inevitable as the day. But people still had to eat, and they made do with the foods they had even without a "cold box." Two methods of dealing with rot were flavoring and preservation.

In certain cases, herbs and spices are used to mask the smells and tastes of lightly rotten foods. Traditional mincemeat is a good example of this. In fact, during the Middle Ages spices were often used to disguise the taste of meats that had gone bad. Ginger, saffron, cinnamon, juniper berries were common spices in Medieval cooking after the Crusades. If people were not masking the taste of rotten food, they were finding ways to preserve it. Salting, Pickling and Smoking were common ways of ensure that food could be eaten weeks or even months after it was harvested or caught. The Romans discovered that salting and fermenting of fish heads and other fishy scrap products (this mixture of salt and seafood was called liquimen) produced a flavorful by-product in a sauce called garum. Modern-day fish sauce from your Asian grocery store is similar to the delicious sauce used as a common flavoring in Ancient Roman cuisine. On a search I found a modified recipe for Roman sausage which calls for the salty sauce. I think when they're referring to pine kernels they must mean pine nuts. This is one I will actually try, without the casings.

Other famous rotten foods:


Articles on rotten and fermented foods:


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