The Times had a great article about a matzo company called Streits that has been in business since the 1916 and hasn’t changed a thing about how they work. What’s especially interesting is why matzo is a tough business for your average food company to get into:
So it’s actually the big snack brands that are stuck. To get in the matzo game, they would have to make a huge investment in new machinery, Jewish law expertise and worker training. Alternately, they could make a nonkosher flatbread knockoff and lose out on that significant kosher-loving base. In either case, Manischewitz would have to become a huge business before it attracted any real competition, and by then the company would be so rich that it probably wouldn’t mind.
For awhile I was reading this restaurant trade magazine religiously and I loved it. There’s something about the food business that fascinates me. I think it has to do with the connection to the American palatte, there is something very basic and real there.
Anyway, the Wall Street Journal had a good piece on how Olive Garden (and other casual dining restaurants) design menus. The gist:
Americans are more adventurous eaters than ever thanks to the popularity of the Food Network, among other TV cooking programming, and the visibility of celebrity chefs. “People will say their favorite fruit is a blood orange,” not just an orange, says Shannon Johnson, executive director of culinary innovation and development for Applebee’s, which is owned by DineEquity Inc.
But for chains that aim to entice almost every demographic group through their doors, there are limits. In several years of tests, Olive Garden diners often deemed pesto too oily, bitter or green. Capers, with their salty, pickled flavor, are too unexpected for many customers, says a spokeswoman.
Gizmodo has a super interesting wrapup on a Nature paper about why Asian and Western food taste so different:
According to the study, Western cuisines have a tendency to pair ingredients that share many of the same flavor compounds. East Asian cuisines, however, do precisely the contrary, avoiding ingredients that share the same flavor compounds. The more flavors two ingredients share, the less likely they would be paired together in Asian kitchens.
Boy, the creation story for breakfast cereal doesn’t make the stuff sound so appealing:
The [Kellogg] brothers developed breakfast flakes by accident in 1893, when Will abandoned a pot of cooking wheat to attend to business matters. He returned to find a mixture with a stale and hard consistency. Unwilling to waste the food, the brothers forced it through rollers with the hope of forming long sheets of dough. Instead, they created wheat flakes, which they toasted and served to the San’s patrons as a breakfast cereal.
I always ask friends of mine who play the guitar who their favorite guitar players are. There’s something fun about hearing from knowledgeable people about why they look up to someone else who is talented in their field. For the same reasons, I really like this roundup of favorite meals from chefs and foodwriters. You get stuff like this from the owner of the restaurant Porchetta:
Porchetta sandwich at a butchers in Bevagna, Umbria. As the owner of Porchetta I feel it is my duty to eat as much porchetta as I can when visiting Italy just so I can make sure I remember what its supposed to be. In recent years however I am sad to say that the environment usually blows away the product. Like everything else the truck stands I loved as a child seem to have become industrialized shadows of their former selves. The bread is dry and tasteless the porchetta even more so. But stumble into the dark butcher shop in Bevagna where the ceiling is covered with house-made hams, guanciale, pancetta and lonzo and in the back behind the case is a glorious porchetta. The skin is crisp and crackly, the tender moist meat perfumed with all the aromatics that it was stuffed with, sliced thick with ample pieces of crisp skin its placed into bread from stone ground wheat fired in a wood fired oven. This is where the inspiration comes from, this is what it used to be and this is still something for me to strive to reach.