moon_custafer: (acme)
So, IBM is still seeing what they can do with Watson the computer. Recently they've tried feeding in data about foodstuffs and how humans react to different flavours, and tried having the machine generate recipes. It's rather reminiscent of Eddie, the Heart of Gold's computer, trying to make proper tea (as opposed the usual sweet brown liquid almost-but-not-quite-totally-unlike-tea), based on Arthur's descriptions. Watson's BBQ sauce is said to be quite good.

The comments, I notice, seem to contain a lot of complaints that this is a waste of time, seasoned with the occasional argument that creating a recipe is meaningless if the computer itself can never taste it as a human could.

Later the same day, in another article on a different topic, someone snarked about how if (people who are not them) have the time to indulge in (a hobby that is not theirs), they should be spending that time volunteering with local service groups instead. So apparently the world is full of people who dedicate all their free time to Good Works. Well, good for them. I guess we can forgive them the time they spend each day to running down other peoples' activities on the internet.

Meanwhile, IBM will not be mass-producing Watson's BBQ sauce, as the computer declined to use any filler ingredients (the AI was told to make something tasty, not inexpensive). They've posted the recipe, however, for those who'd like to try it: Bengali Butternut BBQ Sauce.

Fish!

Jul. 31st, 2013 08:39 pm
moon_custafer: (Default)
Price Chopper/FreshCo had a sale last week on frozen bala fillets (2 for $2, where one is usually enough for a light dinner for two), so I bought a bunch and have been defrosting and cooking them in various ways. Tonight I tried frying them in batter, which turned out to be the tastiest so far. I've never made battered fish at home before. I used this batter recipe (scaled down); they didn't say how to actually fry the fish, but another recipe I'd looked at had said to pat them dry, roll them in some flour and then dip them in the batter. Another site said to make the batter thicker than you think it ought to be, and it will be lighter when it's cooked. I followed these ideas and then put the battered pieces into a pot with about an inch and a half of hot olive oil in the bottom. The batter turned a lovely golden brown, but when I cut the fish open it was still raw inside. So I put it in the microwave to finish it. Then for the second half of the fish, I tried zapping it for a minute *before* putting it in the batter. Andrew seems to think both turned out well, but if I have to cheat, I prefer the second method.

Scottishness Score +3
moon_custafer: (Default)
Yesterday I made spaghetti carbonara (only with macaroni) for the first time, and considered it a success. Consequently I've been thinking about Italian cookery. Carbonara, at least according to wikipedia, is likely a dish invented in the post-war period. All I know about pre-war Italian cuisine is the weird recipes concocted by the Futurists.

The Italian public was not won over by Marinetti's manifesto regarding cuisine. Immediately following its publication the Italian press broke into uproar. All classes participated in the dispute that ensued. Every time pasta was served in a restaurant or a private house there was heated debate. Doctors were measured in their response, agreeing that habitual consumption of pasta was fattening and recommending a varied diet; but the Duke of Bovino, Mayor of Naples, was firmer in his views: "The angels in Paradise," he told a reporter, "eat nothing but vermicelli al pomodoro [fine spaghetti with tomato sauce]." Marinetti replied that this confirmed his suspicions about the monotony of Paradise.

I actually went to a presentation on Futurist Cooking, many years ago at an art gallery. Afterwards we were served "elastic cakes," which were cream puffs, filled with whipped cream that had been dyed hot pink, and topped with a prune and a piece of black liquorice. At least they were meant to be topped thusly -- the presenter suddenly remembered that she'd forgotten the prunes, which was probably a mercy; the liquorice was already pretty hard to contend with on its own. It occurred to me this afternoon that the emphasis on meat and fats, especially locally sourced, together with the avoidance of pasta, made this a version of the "paleo" diet and that it might be due for a revival, preferably without the Fascist undertones.

Per Cabinet magazine:Marinetti launched his attack against pasta just when Italy, hit hard by the Depression, was struggling to achieve one of Mussolini’s great dreams: autarchy, or the elimination of Italy’s economic dependence on foreign markets. Pasta, quintessentially Italian as it was, depended on expensive imports of wheat. The regime thus launched a campaign in favor of homegrown rice as a better substitute. Rice, we are told, was more virile, more patriotic, and more suitable for fighters and heroes. Rice also had its part in the history of Italian cooking as the great rival of pasta; it came from the Po valley in the industrial North, while pasta, with its hypothetical birthplace in Etruria and its triumph in Naples, was identified with the center, and even more with the agrarian and backward South. This was a battle that could thus be waged on familiar Futurist geopolitical territory. 


Of course, it doesn't seem very consistent as a philosophy -- while the Futurists were were in favour of meats, fats and local Italian-produced foods (except pasta), their recipe book contained things like the aforementioned cakes, which contain flour -- but I suppose that's the result of being an aesthetics-based food movement, as opposed to a nutritional one. Also one of the recipes mentioned in the Wiki entry calls for pineapple, which I think of as an import, but then I'm in Canada. Perhaps Italy was able to grow their own.
moon_custafer: (Default)
Spent most of yesterday at a party, from 2 pm to around 1 am when I green_trilobite and handful_ofdust got into a taxi. Lots of good conversation with people, including a tax accountant, Sunny, who's really interesting -- she apparently plays the ukelele (sadly, she did not bring it to the party), knows the founder of Knitty.com through the ukelele community, and also very much enjoys handful_ofdust's Oz slashfic. I think we convinced her to read the rest of the Hexslinger trilogy (she likes Chess and Rook so much she can't bear to see something bad happen to them). We talked about Sherlock Holmes with Dave, who has just begun reading the originals. He also mentioned that he'd love to see a James Bond movie that is a faithful adaptation of one of Fleming's original stories, set in the post-war period, and which demonstrates what always struck him about the originals, which is that the luxuries Bond manages to enjoy during the course of his missions are usually very simple ones -- thing like real eggs, not powdered, cooked the way he likes them. He lives under rationing when he's in England, after all.

Green_trilobite snagged a chair upon arrival and seems to have enjoyed holding forth on whatever subjects came up, with whomever came by. towards the end of the evening he was showing his trilobite photos to a poet with a day job at the Royal Ontario Museum.

Our hostess made ice cream; it was indeed very creamy. I had made a (not large enough) Eton mess, after reading about the dish a few weeks back; given that the ice cream recipe calls for egg yolks, and the Eton mess includes meringue, I think next time we should coordinate our efforts in order to use both parts of the eggs.

(Edited to correct the spelling of Sunny's name)
moon_custafer: (Default)
Today I established that trying to use yogurt as an ingredient in cake icing isn't a very good idea.
moon_custafer: (antlers)
Awoke from a dream about cooking lamb chops, to reflect that one area where Deadwood handwaves things a bit is kitchen staff. I can believe that Cy keeps his out of sight; maybe the Gem girls pull a second shift watching pots for Jewel; but E.B. and Richardson appear to be running the Grand Central entirely on their lonesomes - granted, it's supposed to be a terrible hotel, but they still have to somehow supply lousy food to dozens of diners every day. My local McDonalds gets crazy when there's a half-dozen lined up, and they've got four times as many workers and a modern kitchen.

Even when Hearst brings in Aunt Lou, she only seems to have Richardson to assist her, and one would think if she'd been head cook for a big house in San Francisco, she'd be used to more help than that.

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