Saturday, December 31, 2005

Some of my favorite non-food bloggers on food

Every now and then I find some of the best posts on food by non-food bloggers. Recently I have been slacking due to the flu and have found a couple of great posts regarding food, food companies and becoming food professionals. My two favorites I've listed below:
The first is by my very favorite web writer. Tony Woodlief authors a blog called Sand In the Gears. I have been reading Tony's blog for about two years now and have read the archives all the way through. He has an amazing ability to capture and retell the stories of home so well. I live through my own childhood and that of my children's while reading his blog. However, I read the post I linked to in December. it made me laugh out loud. I love his take on the Swiss Miss pudding cup fiasco and he also has one to the Frito Lay company a little later in the month. If you need a good laugh, Tony is your guy.

Second, is the blog of one incredible person. Superhero journal is the blog of Andrea Scher. Most of you are probably familiar with her blog and love going there as much as I do. What I like about her is the way she is able to see with different eyes and point out to all of us the wonder of the world we live in. She posts great photos everyday and the photos alone are enough to make you want to grab a camera and see what you haven't seen. Recently she had posted this picture and story. It helps to remind us that we all work hard and mess up and work hard some more. That even talent takes work and incredible things happen when we try try again.

Tony and Andrea are two of my favorite non-food bloggers!

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Friday, December 30, 2005

I'm a different kind of food blogger

Most food blogs you visit always have a nice picture or a recipe of something they've recently cooked or eaten at a restaurant. I find myself half way through preparation, and then think oops, should've grabbed my camera. Or, if I'm eating out, the light isn't right or I've already eaten the best part.

To tell you the truth, I don't think it's the picture. It's the passion. I love food. Most food bloggers love food. But I come at it from a different angle. I like origins. It's why I began in the business those oh so many years ago. At 15 and a half. My first job: fast food. It was exhilarating, it was humiliating. Exhilarating because I got a job for the first time ever. It gave me independence. It also came at a price. When all the kids were at the football game on Friday night, I was slinging tacos. Then when the game was over, they'd come in and I'd have to take orders and feed them. It was humiliating at times. I didn't last in fast food long.

I quickly accepted a job at a photo shop down the street. Mr. Holt introduced me to the best optics available. With my very first tax return I bought the best camera money could buy. An Olympus OM-1. I still own that camera. It has taken many, many pictures. Not many of food.

I didn't last long at the photo shop. Mr. Holt retired and so did his business. I was again without employ. I wrote about the next job I landed in one of my very first posts here. It was for a big box grocery company. It has now been assimiliated through acquisition after acquisition. However, food became an obsession of mine.

I even married a farmer's son. We began dating in high school. I remember being at their home during lunch hour in the summertime. His dad would come in from the field dirty and worn looking. He'd laugh at my then boyfriend and tell him he wouldn't last a half a day working with him. It was true. The man was a worker. A hard worker. He grew the best melons and tomatoes I've ever had the pleasure to enjoy.

He introduced me to farming. Tractors, combines, drying sheds, sulphur. We lived in a farm community. We still do. People laugh when I tell them where I live. I ask them why and the explanation is always the silliest to me. "It stinks there". I tell them it keeps the riff raff away. And the smell to me, is the smell of money. Dairy farmers used to be on three sides of the valley, now just two. And they will disappear from the landscape soon, I'm sure.

Before the farmer's son, I had a crush on another farmer's son. He was the smartest guy I knew. He went to the rival high school in the valley. His dad had about 2000 acres of apricots. I pitted apricots at his dad's farm to earn camp money two summers in a row when I was younger. He was so cute back then, and we're still friends today. In fact when we needed a new driveway a couple of years ago, he did the cement work.

So what I'm trying to say is food began to be all around me. Farming, grocery, as a brokers seeling stock talking about food companies, and finally managing a food production facility. Where does it all grow, how is it all packed, who does all that work? That's what interests me. In the next few months that's where the focus will go with this blog. I'll still talk about recipes and favorite places I eat, but there will also be more emphasis on the stuff I love about food.

Come along, share the journey, add comments as you please.

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News Flash

Whole Foods is replacing MBNA on the S&P 500 list beginning January 1st!

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Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Just in case you haven't heard

The news on Albertson's. They have decided that they are no longer for sale. They will be revamping their operations and getting rid of underperforming assets. Albertson's will be focusing on their core business and improving the company from within.

Good for them! (now if they'll just kick the manager in my town's store in the butt and make him clean up his store!)

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Saturday, December 24, 2005

Merry Christmas

Originally uploaded by foodchronicles.
Hreed's wishing all of you a very Merry Christmas. Thank you for your support this year!

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Thursday, December 22, 2005

Presents for me!

Presents for me!
Originally uploaded by foodchronicles.
I rarely ask for persents. It makes me feel weird. "what do you want?" Well, what i really want is a trip to Ireland for four weeks, but that ain't happening so really nothing is usually my response.

I do keep a wish list at Amazon, just so I can remember all the cookbooks I want to purchase. I am severely lacking in the retention mode as far as book titles and Amazon helps keep me informed, thus the list.

So the big guy went to look at my list and got me this book. It is really nice! I always say used is good on my list just in case someone wants to buy me something they never have to pay full price. It also is a good way to know what recipes are good, if the pages are dog eared and all. This book was listed as used, but it evidently was a gift for someone who didn't want it or some other reason. It had never been opened! It's a great book, I will spend a lot of time with in the future.

The second wonderful gift pictured was from my great sister s'mee! She made this plate for me because she knows my love for all things chocolate. She hand painted all the chocolates and they look very much like the real thing! They even have ridges and swirls like the real thing.

Her best statement about the plate was that her grandson, was upset because the chocolates weren't real. He didn't find the illusion to his liking at all.

Wonderful unexpected gifts. They're the best kind!

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Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Light Blogging

Blogging has been and will continue to be light through the 28th or so. I have a few pics I will post, not food related, however, in keeping with the season.

See you soon!

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Sunday, December 18, 2005

The Bride was different

Chocolate Cake
Originally uploaded by foodchronicles.
Every now and then an adventurous bride will walk through the door. One who knows exactly what she wants, and she doesn't want the same old thing. Buttercream in stark white, a white or lemon cake with simple dots all around and live (well looking live while dying) flowers in pink or orange or rose.

She'll be daring enough to say something like chocolate. I want it all chocolate. Chocolate cake, with chocolate mousse filling, iced with ganache beat to a light buttery chocolate cream!

Or possibly a flourless chocolate cake served in individual servings. Or a pavlova with passion fruit and guava.

Something different. Adventure! It's worth it usually.

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Friday, December 16, 2005

Bite Me!

Originally uploaded by foodchronicles.
This is Canada MINI's Christmas greeting to all of us enthusiasts. They actually had a cookie cutter download so we could reproduce our own cookies!

So in the spirit of Canada's Christmas greeting, I downloaded it and made my own cookies. Mmmmm.!

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Tuesday, December 13, 2005

This one's for Lisa - Chinese Fried Walnuts

Out of the hot oil
Originally uploaded by foodchronicles.
These are a holiday favorite. Very easy to make and simply one of the best salty/sweet snacks around!

I got the recipe from a Good Housekeeping magazine back in the late 70s. It takes a bit of time, but it is well worth the effort.

Start with 6 cups of water. 4 cups of California walnuts (any states walnuts will do, but I am true to my homeland!)
1/2 cup of granulated sugar, your favorite oil (not olive oil - too much flavor) and a bit of salt.

You'll also want a sieve, like in the picture, ora draining/cooling rack. Also a colander on hand.

Place the sugar in a bowl; set side.

Bring the water to a boil. Add the walnuts and bring to a boil. Then let them cook for one minute (or so).

After the minute of cooking pour the walnuts into the colander and rinse well with hot water to remove all residue for about 30 seconds.

Once rinsed, drain well and then add to sugar that you earlier set aside. Roll the warm walnuts in the sugar until glazed. While you're waiting for the sugar to melt heat your oil.

In a pot, add about an in to two inches of oil and heat to 350 degrees. When sugar is melted add half of the walnuts to the oil and cook to a golden brown, about five minutes. Remove from oil, and let cool. Bring oil up in temperature and add remaining walnuts. Repeat.Frying

One important note! Do not cool on paper! The sugar will stick and you'll have a mess to throw away - believe me!

Once the walnuts have cooled, salt to taste. Store in a tightly covered container. Share with friends.
Ready for a little sea salt

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Food for Models!

I have read in the past that runway models eat only ice. Ugh! Such slaves to fashion that they restrict all caloric content to have a figure (to literally) die for.

Well, the New York Times has an article that will make them smile! I can't imagine anyone else finding this foray into gourmet eating very inviting or filling. Chicago's trendy Moto Restaurant has introduced a new 20 item tasting menu. You can begin with "sushi" and end with a peppermint, all printed on paper - edible paper. The paper is infused with flavors and pictures are good enough to resemble the real thing, maki, candy canes, filet mignon! It has zero caloric content, yet may contain amino acids and other nutrients. The chef - Homaro Cantu - has designed this edible paper from modified food starch and uses food grade inks, infused with intense flavors, to print the pictures. Many who have tried them have enjoyed them enough to book meal, a $240 meal. That would be the meal for non-models, they'll have to stick to the paper stuff!

Chef Cantu has applied for three patents for the process and is very tight lipped about exactly how the paper is made and infused. If a journalist would like to sample a prototype, a four page non-disclosure agreement must be signed. Cantu is already developing ads for magazines and thinks the possibilites of his inventions are expansive.

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Monday, December 12, 2005

Sugar, sugar

Not the song, the real thing, refined sugar.

Sugar prices have risen about 50% due to hurricane Katrina. Most of the Gulf Coast's cane fields were wiped out during the storms of '05. So, make the best of your holiday sweets! In january you'll see a significant price increase.

Why so long before the increase? Well, vendors set their prices long before a season is upon them, so they have to wait for the new season before they can raise prices. Contracts are contracts, and hopefully your favorite retailer has locked their prices in before the hurricane season hit. So many candy, ketchup and confectioners will wait until the beginning of January to raise their prices and recover a bit of the losses they've incurred. Many have said they've a stack of price increases just waiting for January. So if you have a favorite, stock up or enjoy now.

January has always been a good month to give up sweets anyway!

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Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Update on Albertson's

It looks as though three bids have been submitted for Albertson's. It will be the end of December before we hear if any of them have been accepted.

I looks like Kroger has taken a pass on Albertson's and that Supervalu has joined the group. Supervalu, a Minneapolis wholesaler, has joined with Cerebus Capitol Management and Kimco Realty in making a bid. Hmmmmm. A Whole sale grocer, a money manger and a realty firm. Just where does Albertson's stand with these guys?

Then there is the team of KKR (famous for the RJR Nabisco fiasco), Apollo Management and Texas Pacific Group. Apollo Management is the firm that acquired Borden Chemicals last year. They are a described to the press as a provaste investment management company. Borden is now listed as an operating company of Apollo Management. Texas Pacific Group is an investment firm described by Hoover's in this way: "Texas Pacific Group (TPG) has staked its claim on the buyout frontier with a reputation for roping in companies other investors wouldn't touch with a 10-foot pole. TPG, an active investor with over $20 billion under management, often takes control of the companies in which it invests. The firm is generally interested in resuscitating well-known consumer and luxe brands that have fallen on hard times." I would be very interested in seeing that bid for certain, and seeing who's giving what in what percentages.

Third is the Yucaipa Companies with Dubai Investment Group. Dubai??? Yes, they are an international real estate investment firm. They have 26,500 investors on record. Their focus is real estate. Albertson's owns quite a bit of real estate. Real estate that is believed to be under-utilized in the real estate market. Yucaipa Companies is the only grocery based investment firm in the group. From Hoover's: "Yucaipa has a hungry eye for picking out ripe bargains in different industries, but made its name with grocery stores. The investment company forged its reputation as the ultimate grocery shopper, executing a series of grocery chain mergers and acquisitions that put the company on the supermarket map. The Yucaipa Companies owns Jurgensen's, Falley's, and Alpha Beta, among other chains. The company's chairman, billionaire Ron Burkle, is a prominent Democratic activist and fundraiser; former president Bill Clinton and the Rev. Jesse Jackson serve on the company's board." I would venture to say the Yucaipa Companies couldn't compete on its own in this negotiation and has put together a bid with Dubai on the agreement that some real estate and under-performing store will be closed and sold off. Others will be kept alive and remodeled to increase market share. Purely specualtion on my part, but I've seen this type of deal before.

Then there is the bell of the ball in all these negotiations. Bristol Farms. Bristol just announced last week the acquisition of Lazy Acres. Lazy Acres is a natural and organic grocer with a 19,000 square foot store in Santa Barbara. They have been in operation since 1991. Bristol will keep the Lazy Acres name and has pledged to open additional location throughout the Santa Barbara area.

UPDATE: The Yucaipa offer was classified as timid. Albertson's had their hopes pinned on the Supervalu bid and still is hoping for a firm offer from them. However, the only tabled bid was from the KKR bid. Albertson's had asked for a "whole company" deal, KKR/Apollo were the only firm to deliver just that. Unfortunately it was not the price they were expecting, yet it is close. All I can say about these developements is that if I were Kevin Davis I'd be very concerned.

2nd Update: It looks as though there is now clear winner to the bidding auction. There is large speculation that the company will be broken apart at sale. The Jewel/Osco division going to none other than CVS. The grocery portion possibly will be split between Kroger and Safeway, an east/west divide.

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Monday, December 05, 2005

Blogging by Mail #3

Originally uploaded by foodchronicles.
Yahoo! Today is Monday. I have had a difficult time getting the motivation to do anything today! Last night we did a dinner for 120 and I'm just set back by that a bit.

I was sitting, taking a view of outdoors, when the postman pulled up. He got out, fished for something in his truck, and came to the door. I asked my husband if he was expecting a package. No, came his reply.

I opened the door and said thanks to the postman and began inspecting the package. Singapore! Who do you know in Singapore? Not a soul. Hmmm. Thank it hit me! This must be my blogging by mail package! Yay! Yay!

I quickly opened it to find the nicest things!My blogging by Mail person just happens to be Mumu, the author of A Curious Mix! I hoped my package would be from an international blogger! You see I don't travel much at all, and any way to get to learn about other people and places is welcomed!

And, wonderful is how I would describe this box of goodies and info! Mumu included a good list of items, including dried guava! She remembered reading that I wondered what it must be like dried and sent me some! Along with the guava came all sort of good things: A Curry premix and a chicken rice mix! Some Bak Kwa - barbecue pork slices, mmmm! Some Rice Krispies from Shanghai! Along with those items a couple of pouches of sauce mixes for sweet and sour and a lemon chicken dish. Wow! I will have a feast!

Mumu included these items as the holiday she chose to share is the Chinese New Year. I probably won't wait that long to try some of these items. Some things look too good to put off until later.

Mumu also included a couple of really great looking recipes that I will definitely try. One for steamed fish with fermented soy beans and the other for sweet taro sticks. The taro is readily available so this one will be made shortly. Along with the recipes, she included the food section of the local English paper on Sunday and the local Wine and Dine magazine.

Thank you! Thank you so much Mumu for sharing a bit of Singapore with me! I will keep in touch with you through your blog!

And, my neighborhood grows day by day. ;-)

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Thursday, December 01, 2005

Ribbon Candy

Ribbon Candy
Originally uploaded by foodchronicles.
Mom brought me some ribbon candy! It comes from Washburn Candy Company. Nice website!

Just a little inspiration for you to help with those "aaaaccck! the holidays are coming!" blues.

See the little reindeer nose in the background? Cute.

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We are so lucky

Those of us who live in the US that is. New statistic: Citizens of the US use only 11 cents of every dollar for food expenses. Wow. Now remember that is an average not specific to everyone. Of course most food bloggers spend a higher than average amount, and certainly there are other that spend even less!

There's a problem though. Food manufacturers recently met in an annual conference and were stymied over the problem of how to get more healthful food to the consumers, while at the same time, making it profitable, and keeping costs current. That's a big problem. In order to make food more healthful, it's going to cost more. That's a fact. If we don't want added chemicals, or preservatives or a litany of other ingredients (that most of us can't pronounce) we have to give up shelf life. That factor alone adds a huge cost to mass marketers, or what we like to call those big box stores the average American shops in.

We have two choices. Eat more healthy foods and pay more. Or accept what major manufacturers offer and take our chances, but it'll be inexpensive. Two choices? Possibly three. We could become proactive consumers. We've all seen and read about the Slow Food movement. Eat foods locally grown and packaged and be willing to accept that not everything will always be available.

Manufacturers don't know what to do because they process data. To quote a recent article, "In his opening remarks at the Ronald Reagan Center on Tuesday, Hershey Co. President-CEO Rick Lenny said "the rate of change is going to accelerate" as innovation in food technology and biotechnology drive companies closer to the "holy grail" of products that offer convenience, taste and nutrition. But at the same time attendees and speakers acknowledged the difficulties marketers face in trying to profitably develop healthful fare even as the threat of government regulation and the continued rise of obesity-related health-care costs demands that they do so.

"There is always pushback from upper management when we come up with new ideas [for more-healthful foods] because they cost too much and it's difficult to come up with meaningful communication that will help sell them at a higher price," said Lamar Johnson, a veteran food developer who recently left General Mills to join Bush Brothers as director of product development.

Consumers blamed Mr. Johnson, like other industry executives at the meeting, lamented that despite all the hype about health, "the majority of consumers have not grasped what it means to lead a healthier lifestyle, which makes it hard to justify development of healthier products as a profitable endeavor."

Parade magazine confirmed Mr. Johnson's supposition with data from its annual consumer food survey that showed health ranked far below other factors, including price and taste, in purchase decisions. Only 12% of respondents cited nutrition as factor in purchasing food."

We can't rely on mass producers for our health needs or concerns. They are assigned the task of feeding the world. We are responsible for our health. They cannot and will not take on that role. Well, at least for now they won't.

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