internet, food, and soap

Whilst tramping about the internet lands today, I have learned that:

1. Mercury has been discovered in about half of all high fructose corn syrup. A study last January found mercury in about a third of brand-name products like Coke, Hershey’s chocolate syrup, Smuckers jam, Hunts ketchup. Oh, and guess what, neither the industry nor the FDA is taking any particular action, so have fun playing Mercury Roulette.

2. I have a strong desire to make soap. I have all these vanilla beans that so badly want to get inside a batch of luxuriously rich soap.

3. Hand pollination of vanilla orchids was discovered by a 12-year-old slave boy named Edmond Albius. His method, which is still used today, enabled the entire vanilla industry outside of its native Mexico, but Albius lived and died in poverty. Vanilla orchids only bloom for one day, so each plant must be inspected daily. Later, they are inspected daily in order to catch a similarly narrow window for hand-harvesting. Historically, vanilla beans have sold wholesale at $20/kilo, but in 2004 a typhoon drove the price up to $500/kilo. The price has settled back to about $40/kilo now. I paid $5 for about 12 pods in Bali because Indonesia is a big producer.

4. Cooks Illustrated tested imitation vanilla versus the real thing and was horrified to discover that people couldn’t tell the difference in baked goods.

5. To make ice cream, all you need is a small container that fits in a big container, plus salt, ice, and motion. For example, you can put all the ice cream ingredients in a small coffee can, seal it, pack a large coffee can with ice and salt, and throw the contraption around at a picnic for 20 minutes. I love magic.

6. I’ve been fridge-brewing jasmine tea to beat the heat, and it’s a gateway drug. Next I must make fridge-brewed iced tea concentrate, fruit cordials, and iced coffee.

What fruits pair well with vanilla?


9 responses to “internet, food, and soap

  1. mmmn vanilla beans
    any kind of stone fruit – plums, apricots, even cherries
    happy vanilla-ing!
    (and be sure to make vanilla sugar to savor after your vanilla beans are gone:
    1 vanilla bean, whole or scraped
    2 cups granulated sugar
    If vanilla bean is whole, slice down side of bean with back of knife and scrape seeds into airtight container with the sugar. Bury bean in sugar and seal tightly with lid. Let sit for 1 to 2 weeks. Use as regular, granulated sugar.)

  2. What fruits pair well with vanilla?

    A lot of the dark fruits — tart cherries, blackberries, plumbs.
    …she says from vast vanilla vodka experience.

  3. Knowledge grenades! That’s super interesting about the pollination. Also, I like peach+vanilla. Good peaches here in the last few weeks.

    • Also, I don’t think I’ve had any high-fructose corn syrup for months. Phew!

      • I have, dammit. Thanks, Gatorade. And thank you, livingbyfiction, for giving me something else to be freaked out about. My favorite quote from the article – “We now have mercury-free sources of hydrochloric acid and caustic soda, which are important reagents in this process.” In Omnivore’s Dilemma (great read, btw) Pollan was never given access to a corn wet milling plant or a cattle slaughterhouse. So not even a credentialed journalist is now allowed into the shadow realms where our nations food is aggregated. Yummo!

      • Not eating high-fructose corn syrup is downright un-American. My soy milk and UK breakfast cereal are both made with actual sugar.
        I’ll have to check my yogurt and ice cream. I don’t even have much of a sweet tooth, but fake food is eerily pervasive. I can’t believe I have to be a hippie just to eat normal fucking food.

      • Omnivore’s Dilemma sounds like a great book to get Flatmate to read and summarize to me. I learned a lot when she read a book about how corn is the root of all evil in the world today.

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