Tuesday, December 25, 2007

I'm Lovin' It?

Wow, I never realized how different advertising is between us and other countries. I was looking up some information for my thesis and came across some youtube.com videos that were advertisements for McDonald's. The difference however is that Ronald's daughter (?) is the headline for the current commercial.

I however was not shocked by the commercial as I recalled a report that was put out last year by McDonald's marketing committee. They found that advertising to children was not only seen as negative by parents, but that style of advertising was outdated and pas see. Before you ladies out there say that McD's is objectifying the female figure (in an odd and creepy way) make sure you ladies look at McD Junior here (equally creepy).

I gotta say though, do they really think people are going to buy into this? Eat McD's and look like that, or is it an attempt to be hip? Either way I think I'm a little creeped out and I'm still not going to eat McDonald's. Instead I am just going to have a little snicker and maybe watch the creepy Burger King guy.

Currently reading :
Food Nations: Selling Taste in Consumer Societies (Hagley Perspectives on Business and Culture)
By Warren Belasco
Release date: 12 October, 2001

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Temporary Hiatus

My blog is on a small hiatus until after the holidays, as I am in the process of moving and then spending time with my family who I haven't spent time with in awhile.

Chef Christopher Allen Tanner

Sunday, December 16, 2007

My Year in Boston Has Come to a Close

Alright, so the semester is just about over for me here at Boston University. I have one more class tomorrow in which I present my final paper. I'm sure it is going to be an odd feeling, as it is my last class for my master's degree. I am by no means finished, as I now go into thesis mode.

This last year here in Boston has been great. Not only did I learn quite a bit in school, I opened up my mind to a whole new look on food in general. Before BU I had a basic understanding of cuisine and culture, relegated mostly to the kitchen and business. This degree has given me the ability to analyze the social and historical aspects of cuisine.

Getting into this degree also inspired me to write even more, which this blog was born out of. When you work on research for a paper, so many other thoughts come out in the process which one doesn't always have time to put into another paper. This blog has been an outlet for some of that writing. I have also gotten the chance to try so many new restaurants and in the process many of you have been able to read about those experiences.

Now you are probably sitting there thinking, "but Christopher, you are not all that opinionated," oh wait no there is no way any of you could be thinking that. Anyone want to pull up an old post on the Food Network from the last few months on Batali, Emeril or The Next Iron Chef. It's funny though, I wouldn't write about that channel if I didn't have respect for them though. I'm sure I heard a saying somewhere, you criticize those you have the most respect for when they seem to be sliding. Here's to hoping that they have a plan to this whole change up that in the end we might enjoy.

Also while I lived here in Boston, I have been able to make so many great friends. I've made new friends while in classes at BU, but also in my wanderings around Boston. I have made some great friends and acquaintances at Cigar Masters in Boston's Back Bay, some nights are less clear than others haha. Then I have also met some great chefs and cooks that work in the restaurants here in Boston. With so much talent and skill in this city, I can certainly see this cit turning into a full-blown "foodie" destination city. Currently there are some awesome places that people should be visiting, such as Clio, No.9, The Butcher Shop, B&G Oysters, L'Espalier, Jasper White's Summer Shack, Hamersly's Bistro, Craigie Street Bistrot, Toro and others. Wow, I really go out to eat a lot.

In the last year I have also had the opportunity to meet so many influential people through the Boston University Gastronomy program and wandering through Boston restaurants and foodie events. In just this year alone I have had the opportunity to meet Warren Belasco, Jacques Pepin, Thomas Keller, Harold McGee, Shirley Corriher, Darra Goldstein, Masaharu Morimoto, Ken Oringer. I was supposed to see Judith Jones speak, but alas I had to miss meeting her as I had to be back in New York for something. I am sure I will be coming back on a regular basis to meet others while working on my thesis, or just as an excuse to come to Boston.

While here I was also able to start apprentice judging a couple of American Culinary Federa
tion competitions. Although I am not an official apprentice judge, the opportunity was still given to me by friends and colleagues that were hosting or lead judges for shows and those were great opportunities as well. I was also able to go down to Florida to compete in an ACF competition which I took first place in for my Festive assortment of Indian Hors D'Ouervre.

So this past year at Boston has been a rewarding trip and for at least part of it many of your were able to either take part in it directly, or by reading my blog. This blog in going to continue following me while I move back to New York and beyond. In the next month I am going to be working on expanding it into a larger site for some of you to find resources for different culinary and food activities, along with some other tidbits which you should all find exciting.

For those of you who read my blog through MySpace, I will have links posted on a regular basis to get you to come over to the new site. For those of you that do not know, this blog is actually at http:www.gastronomicalinspirations.com I repost it on MySpace. Myspace is a pain however, because each time I goto put something new in there, it seems to screw up something else. So after January I'm going to promote you guys to come over to the regular website so that you can get the full effect. I will let you all in on when the site changes.

So, although the year still has a few weeks left in it, my year here at Boston comes to a close this week. As such I thought I should thank all of you who have been loyal readers of my blog. I assure you there will be many many more fun things to come in the next year, I will also keep you all apprised of my thesis, as I am hoping to have it be my first published work. So thanks again, and here's to the "next step" in the process.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Does the Unted States Have a National Cuisine?

Do you think a national cuisine of the United States even exists? It is a question I have been pondering for the last year and quite honestly it is an issue of quite heated conjecture at times with my friends and I. I myself used to spout off about how we are a capitalist economy, and as such the fast-food model of hamburgers and fries fits the bill. Simple, economical, fast like main stream America. It is also exportable, as there are now American fast-food joints all over the globe.

I eventually earlier this semester, amended that proposal to state that there is a "meat and potatoes" diet that stemmed most probably from Protestant simplicity from our colonial roots. Especially when I began to read about how mutton and other English ingredients were no longer eaten as boycott against the various "Acts" Britain placed upon the colonists, and the Scottish and Irish immigrants began growing larger amounts of cattle for meat during that time (See Townshend Act, Stamp Act, Boston Port Act, etc.) In addition, colonists began growing more potatoes as they were easy to grow and kept well, where as most wheat for bread at the time had to again, be imported from Britain and the West Indies.

Strengthening this was our national leaders, such as John Adams, who was an avid beer drinker and tea drinker, but changed to cider and coffee as protest against the "acts" as did much of the burgeoning country. Linked together with presidents like Thomas Jefferson, whom were isolationist, we get a picture of self-dependency. However, what many of us miss is the alliance with the French during the American Revolution, which brought many of them to our country and then afterwards the French Revolution that brought even more of them to our country to open restaurants and work for men like Jefferson.

So we then arrive at the arrival of this giant melting pot that people spout off about all the time. "We can't have a national cuisine because we are a country of immigrants." Well where do you think all of the other people came from prior to the founding of France, Italy, Germany and most of the other Western cultures, mostly from the Eastern cultures and other areas. Pretty much all nations at one time were nations of immigrant, well most Anthropologists will argue, not Iraq or most of the Middle East, but that isn't really the point here.

Everybody came from somewhere else, and in order to create a cuisine, you need a model. A model built from a previously acknowledged cuisine to map your upon. Is there such a map available today? I think there is, and it is part of my current study of American cuisine and building around another persons work to help identify ours. We live in an age where books are easily printed, restaurant guides proliferate, not only the amateur rated Zagat guide, but also the Guide Michelin is in the US now, along with the Mobil guide and AAA which rate restaurants now.

The chef of Alinea (who happens to have tongue cancer right now, which is heart breaking for someone so young 33 years old) Grant, along with Charlie Palmer of Auorele fame, and Wylie from WD-50 all claim to be New American Cuisine, what is New American Cuisine though.

What about James Beard, did he not write the book American Cookery in 1972? Seems like a while ago, but it really isn't. Then we have the changes to The Joy of Cooking, starting back in 1997 the book is now edited by a large number of chefs in the United States, and food writers that specialize in certain aspects of cooking, many considered to be American cookery as well the once ethnic recipes all have American equivalents written with them.

I think I have seen a little light turn on back in perhaps the 1970's that has been slowly getting brighter and brighter and I believe we may be on the cusp of what could actually be called a national cuisine. I figure I'd post this and get some people's opinions.

Currently reading :
James Beard’s American Cookery
By James Beard
Release date: 30 Septem

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Recipe for New England Pie

In my research for my term papers, I was reading A Tramp Abroad to look for some Americana quotes. I came across this hilarious line that Mark Twain made in expression of American cookery. (Bet you thought I was going to be sharing a serious recipe here haha)

Recipe for New England Pie

To make this excellent breakfast dish, proceed as follows: Take a sufficiency of water and a sufficiency of flour, and construct a bullet-proof dough. Work this into the form of a dish, with the edges turned up some three-fourths of an inch. Toughen and kiln-dry it a couple days in a mild but unwavering temperature. Construct a cofer for this redoubt in the same way and of the same material. Fill with stewed dried apples; aggravate with closes, lemon peel and slabs of citron; add to portions of New Orleans sugar, then solder on the lid and set in a safe place until it petrifies. Serve cold at breakfast and invite your enemy.

-Mark Twain
A Tramp Abroad (1897)

Friday, December 7, 2007

Wine as a Vehicle for Discourse and Discussion

Wine has the ability to transform conversation from the mundane lecture to an elaborate show. Wine was the pivotal device used during Roman convivium as well as Greek Symposiums, the word symposium in Greek meaning drinking together. A dozen or more men would drink wine in this formal occasion and discuss the subjects of the time. Today we have events where social elite gather sometimes a dozen at a time for a class, or other times a multitude numbering over one thousand participants for discussion and discourse. Wine is prevalent at these events as well; however wine is the center of discussion at these events. Instead of wine being the vehicle to spur discussion, the wine itself not only spurs the discussion, but is the center of the conversation.

During the time of the Greek and Roman social gatherings, wine was not what we think of wine being today. Although texts speak of the social elite of the time drinking a fuller-bodied wine than the lower classes, this by no means is to relate the difference between Beaujolais and Bordeaux. Instead the differences were more on the difference of wine being fermented from grapes or a liquid fermented from the addition of water to grape skins and stems which had already been pressed for wine to be drunk by the upper classes. The wine was also heavily adulterated with any manner of spices, herbs, honey and was watered down to a lower alcohol level. One would surmise that this watering down of the wine, would explain the ability for people at these gatherings to drink vast quantities of wine and still be able to speak. The wine was mixed at different proportions but the standard measures of water-to-wine seem to be 3:1, 5:3, and 3:2. Evidence in carvings does show us that the occasional "social" drinker of the time, did succumb to vomiting from the excessive drinking of wine, so the social speaking may not have always been of the utmost of character or content.

Although there were certain differences in the custom of the events between the Romans and the Greeks, a few things were constants. The groups were of varying sizes ranging from a dozen or more men. They were attended to by young boys, women who could have been dancers or prostitutes, and musicians were there for entertainment as well. The attendants were of varying use, perhaps in the beginning of the evening, more there for attendance to bring more wine or in the case of the convivium where food was present, more food would be brought to them. On occasion, women were also allowed to partake on occasion of wine that attended from the same class. This was a debated issue in both gatherings, as women who drank were often seen as harlots and easily succumb to adulterous ways when influenced by drinking wine. As the evening progressed in "social" conversation it would not be uncommon for men to excuse themselves from the conversation to partake in the sexual use of one of these attendants, be it one of the young boys or women or even one of the other members of the event. The men obviously had no issue of adultery when it came to their own practice. The theme of such events could range from varying ideas, but often the Greek or Roman Gods of wine Dionysus and Bacchus would be proper discussion.

We fast-forward to the 21st century to see the changes from the Greek and Roman days, to the days of wine gatherings here in Boston. Wine has now not only become the physical stimulant that it was during the past, but it is now part of the intellectual conversation. Here in Boston, the largest expo of wine exhibits some of the top producers of wine in the world along with its own symposiums on wine including topics such as New Zealand Pinot noir, food and wine pairing and emerging wine regions of the world. The Boston Wine Expo even offers a Grand Cru Wine Lounge. One could compare this lounge to the small group of men discussing their topics in their chambers, except in this case, the wine surely again is the topic of discussion. One would surmise in this case that this room is of the more elite social members of the event. Classes are held at Boston University through it's Wine Studies at Boston University's Elizabeth Bishop Wine Resource Center. As well as a Readings in Wine History class offered to Boston University's Masters Of Liberal Arts in Gastronomy students.

The similarities and differences abound between the Roman/ Greek events and the modern day events. Both are centered on wine which is obvious. One could argue that both events attract a particular class of individual. Although the Boston Wine Expo has become quite large in it's sixteen years, it still requires an entrance fee, and the individual classes require an average of eighty-five dollars for the tasting fee. The classes at Boston University range from twelve hundred dollars and upward of twenty-five hundred dollars, while a semester at Boston University is upwards of seventeen thousand dollars. With these price-points as reference, one would say that they are generally priced out of the common-man's price range. So like the Greek and Roman events, these modern day events are centered on an elite and usually educated class of individual that looks toward at time a "class distinction" that the "wine-culture" brings to them. Differences abound however, the debauchery associated with the prior events of sexual discourse are publicly not evident; as well the normalcy of the regular attendee vomiting from excess is not readily seen either. Both of these ideas in modern civility are frowned upon.

One can see that wine has changed in matter and form from the days of the Greek and Romans to modern day. What was once a vehicle for discussion has now become a topic of civility and social/cultural phenomenon. Although the debauchery of days past has left the modern style of wine centered symposium, what has not left is the idea that wine is an integral part of our society. The modern events not only have added true civility to wine, but have all but removed the uncivil acts that were once part of the wine drinking elite's events. Wine events have now come to a point where we actually study these events of the past and are able to draw conclusions such as these, that wine is an integral part of our society and will remain so into the distant future as it was with our Greek and Romans ancestors.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Term Paper Break

I just wanted to let everyone know that I will be off line in my blogging capacity until the end of the week as I am working heavily on my term papers. I will give a couple posts over the weekend however and then all my papers are due the first few days of next week. So I will talk to all of you soon.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Coffee and Coffee-Houses Symbols of Conquered Lands

Coffee much like other beverages in the world, has a mysticism attached to it. Much like wine and distilled beverages coffee has a unique history that links it to a time and place. However unlike many of these other beverages, coffee is a beverage of conquest, world domination and intellectual stimulation based upon superiority over other cultures. Whereas wine and other beverages already existed in Europe, coffee had to be discovered, taken and then worshiped in its own local, the coffee-house.

It is true that alcoholic beverages had their place in cafes and restaurants when coffee became popular, but the creation of the single location for coffee alone shows the subjection of the foreign drink for the civilized members of society. This subjugation of coffee was not unlike tea conquered from Asia. However, tea had already been an important part of European, especially British culture for some time. These other beverages could be enjoyed by the common man, however coffee was reserved for those of wealth and intellect.

Coffee-house such as Llyod’s Coffee-house were created where intelligent discussion could take place. Unlike the drunken conversations taking place in taverns and cafes, the conversation in coffee-houses was of a sober nature. Some noted that caffeine was a stimulant that promoted intellectual conversation. The manner in which coffee was served was special in itself; served by a barista that would custom mix blends of coffee and additives for additional flavor, one is reminded of the modern day Starbucks cafes that proliferate on college campuses with intellectuals ordering the same way today.

Other coffee-houses in the 17th-18th century, such as Tillyard’s, were havens for student’s clubs that read poems and handed out material on the intellectual culture of thetime. Political conversation was also a hot topic in coffee-houses of the time. So much so that spies would be sent into coffee houses to check up on those who were meeting behind the secretive, exclusive doors. Conjecture has been made that these gatherings gave way to secret college clubs (“invisible colleges”) and private political societies, but that idea can only be taken at face-value as many clubs come out of informal gatherings such as these.

The question that remains however is, why the coffee house for such gatherings? These gatherings were surely taking place before the discovery of coffee and the creation of the coffee-house. These locations were largely English Spanish and French, which were all world powers and land conquerors from the 17th-18th century. This leads one to the possible conclusion that coffee wasn’t just another beverage and not just another way to gather. It was a beverage to be controlled as were the conquered lands it came from.

One simply did not go to the coffee shop and order a cup of coffee, it was served in unique china which civilized the coffee which was from an uncivilized land. Next the coffee was poured and served by a barista. The barista was given an order by the patron to make the coffee the way they desired it. The barista may represent the slaves that the conquerors subjugated in the lands where the coffee was taken from. When the barista made the beverage, it had other ingredients from subjugated lands added to it, such as sugar. In addition very European additives such as honey or otherwise which civilized the beverage even further. Finally it was enjoyed in a coffee-house with all male, intellectual and political figures who were potentially in charge of theirr countries’

Coffee’s appearance in the European world was extremely unique. Unlike other beverages, it earned its own place in society. Not in main stream society however, but in the elite social, political and intellectual realms. This seat in European culture can easily be said to be offered by its symbolism for what the European countries of the time were trying to accomplish, which was the expansion of their known borders and subjugation of all lands they came into contact with. So coffee becomes a symbol of the European conquest for power and as such earned its place in separate coffee-houses during the 17th-18th centuries.

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