Thursday, June 26, 2003

Fruit Salad Gravy

Quasi-Political Rant (you are warned)
AND ONE RECIPE below for Fruit Salad Gravy

Yesterday, I declared Danger! Men Cooking! as a weblog for the food adventurous. Today I want to touch briefly on the anomalous minded character of food and food safety in the U.S. currently.

As a child, growing up in Saint Louis, one of my memories is eating at a Jewish delicatessen on (what was then) Olive Street Road in the suburb of University City. A small and unassuming place, Formica tabletops and thinly padded chairs; what it did have was a crock of dill pickles and a crock of sauerkraut on each table. A bowl of butter pats as well. Once seated the owner would bring a plate of bread, some rye and pumpernickel mixed. One could slather the bread with the butter and nosh a pickle while one waited to order. That's probably the last place I ever had a Ruben sandwich with real Russian dressing. Shortly after this narrative, I moved to Los Angeles California. They have only so-so deli here. I don't know why. There are probably more Jews in LA than Saint Louis by far. Yet, the deli-food isn't as good.

ANYWAY. My point is that never again did I see pickles or kraut on the table. Now I'm told that leaving food "open" is a health hazard. I don't believe it and in the coming months, as this weblog develops, I will prove it: scientifically. Or at least allow my readers to draw a reasonable inference of such a conclusion.

By way of example as to how silly the Environmental Health Departments around the nation have become (mostly since the badly made 'Americans With Disabilities Act" became law), I can give an example from my experience.

In Beverly Hills California, there is a restaurant known as Spago. It sits on Beverly Drive. It is a nice place. A fine dining establishment. Everything is clean and well appointed. And well kept. In fact, the bathroom is sparkling clean, although I've never seen a bathroom attendant.

The place has a bar immediately as you walk in. Opposite the bar are 16 foot tall glass doors that open onto a tiled terrace. The back of the restaurant is fully enclosed as is the kitchen where the salads and hot foods are prepared and served from. The doors are open most of the year, even at night, 'cause LA isn't ever cold like the rest of our nation.

I was sitting in Spago pretty regularly, smoking cigars. One night I arrived to see the doors closed. When I asked the bartender why the doors were closed, he told me that the Environmental Health Department (LA County), had forced them to be closed. I was incensed. I couldn't smoke. Oh--I could have, but it might have been a bigger bother than I want to create. So I went somewhere else that night.

Next day, I called the LA County Environmental Health Department and asked to speak to the head honcho. He was out to lunch or out of it, I don't quite remember, so I asked to speak with the inspector who inspected Spago. He was there. So I queried him about the doors and learned that he suspected that a bird could fly into the restaurant, through the open glass doors and dirty someone's drink or food. I said good-bye to him. Next, I wrote a letter about this to the head of the Envoi. Health Dept. Terrence something or other. What with that and the weight of a few bigwigs here in LA, the restaurant has it's doors open again. But sadly, the politically correct got a law passed banning smoking in restaurants and I can no longer go there and have a cigar. Aha . . . so much for progress.

When six or eight people got sick from botulism poisoning a few years ago. The cause was garlic paste. So the gov't stepped in and now requires all garlic paste be "fixed" with preservatives. I regularly make pastes and marinades and such and because I cut out the brown spots and am clean with both the food and containers and utensils, I don't have foodborne illness. I make homemade sausages, using typical curing salts (nitrate and nitrite) and don't get sick. I pickle cucumbers, cabbage and many other veggies. And I have yet to even see mold or other microorganisms on my food. I make jams and jellies and don't see health problems there, either. So what gives? How can the food manufacturers with access to food science and the world's greatest technology and know-how be recalling food like GM is recalling vehicles?

Those who got sick from the garlic paste all had botulism poisoning. I couldn't find all the details, but I recall that some of the problem had to do with the paste not being kept refrigerated or allowed to stand on the counter. Maybe the jars should have had instructions on them, but, honestly, we can't put WARNING LABELS across our foreheads in hopes that people will like us better. After the newsmedia got hold of the story and the people were incensed, the gov't. stepped in and ordered the paste off the shelves, only returning it after ludicrous hearings and the addition of preservatives. None of this would have come about but for the anomalous news media "attacking" the "problem". I believe that a few people die everyday from food poisoning in the U.S., but the news media can't gather up the reasons and sensationalize the events; so your potato salad is safe for now.

Another example: the Food Section of the LA Times newspaper ran a story about Salmonella in raw eggs. Next thing you know, the State Legislature passes a law that diners at restaurants have to be told that they may be eating raw eggs and be given an option to refuse the food. Restaurateurs caved quickly. They don't want to be seen serving toxic foods. It used to be LA had a snack food place (all over town) named Orange Julius. For 25 cents extra, they would whip a raw egg into your drink. Take that: JAMBA JUICE. The odds of getting an egg with salmonella in it are around 20,000 to 1. I eat four eggs a week; about 200 a year. So I would have to live to be 100 years old before the chance of eating a bad egg would come up. What gives with the fools?

Fruit Salad Gravy (ok ok Dressing)
1/3 cup Valencia Orange Juice (freshly squeezed)
1/3 cup Pineapple Juice (canned and unsweetened)
1/3 cup Lime Juice (freshly squeezed)
8 egg yolks. (save whites in the freezer for clarifying meat stocks)
1 cup of sugar (note: unless otherwise stated, all callouts for sugar are the sugar that sells in typically five pound packages. Call it table sugar, granulated sugar, common sugar, white sugar or what have you. If a recipe needs brown sugar or such it will say so. I haven't tried substituting other sugars with this recipe so don't ask me about that.)

Juice the fruits. Strain the pulp, extracting as much juice as possible. Open the pineapple juice can. Measure the juices to equal one cup. Measure the sugar. Crack and separate the yolks. Drink the pineapple juice or put it in the fridge for later.

In a double boiler, heat the juice with the sugar. When the sugar is completely dissolved, add the yolks all at once. Beat with a whisk and simmer the gravy for 15 MINUTES. No longer. Stir constantly or the yolks will curdle. After the end of the 15 minutes, remove from the flame. Remove the top of the double boiler. Allow it to cool to room temperature. Transfer the gravy (about 16 oz.) to a jar and store in the fridge. Use within 2 weeks. It won't keep much longer than that. Put it on all kinds of fruit salads. It's too yummy for words.

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