Saturday, April 22, 2017

Exotic/Disgusting Foods and Beverages Forum--Amish Cup Cheese

     We return once more to Amish cuisine.  Or the Pennsylvania "Dutch," as they're often called, which is incorrect and confusing.  That's a corruption of the word "Deutsch," or what the Germans call themselves.  So the Amish are originally from Germany, not The Netherlands.  The Amish, and the related Mennonites, are best known as being hardcore pacifists, who live a traditional, rural life, eschewing many modern technological inventions, such as zippers, computers, cars (for the Amish, that is, Mennonites sometimes drive black, nonfancy autos), etc.  The Amish and Mennonites live in other U.S. states (and parts of Europe and Canada), such as Delaware, Ohio, and Indiana, but the Keystone State-dwelling ones are the most famous.
     I happened to be in the heart of Pennsylvania "Dutch" country, near Lancaster, when I came upon something new in a huge grocery called Maple Farms.  It was authentic Amish cup cheese.  This is a soft, spreadable cheese, which gets its name from the container it's usually stored in.  Appropriate--a simple, basic name from folks who value plain things as a philosophy.  The cheese dates back to the late 1600's. when the Amish first settled in Pennsylvania, before it was even a U.S. state.  It's based on the German cheese called Kochkase (aka Koch Kse), and is also sometimes referred to as "soda cheese."  Cup cheese is made with soured milk which is then heated, strained, and melted.  Many consumers report a mild flavor, similar to French brie.  More infamous, though, is the purported odor.  Some think it has a strong, rank smell, akin to the notorious limburger cheese (see September 24, 2012 post).
     The kind I got was made by September Farms, out of Honey Brook, PA.  The label listed its ingredients as being processed American cheese, pasteurized milk, salt, rennet, and cheese culture.  It was about $5 for an 8 ounce (226 gram) container.  The cheese was light yellowish in color, and was indeed very soft.  Gooey, almost like a dip in texture.  I was surprised, and oddly disappointed, sort of, to discern no horrible scent.  In fact, I couldn't detect much of any odor, good or bad.  The taste was mild, and similar to liquidy American cheese, only a tad saltier.  Basic, but tasty.  Good both by itself, and on a cracker.   I was maybe a little let down that the flavor wasn't more strong and distinctive, but it certainly wasn't negative  My father tried it and had the same positive reaction, and echoed my opinion about the cheese's lack of terrible odor.
     All in all, then, I would recommend Amish cup cheese.  But if you're looking to gross someone out with a foul-smelling food, I'd look elsewhere.  (Or at least not buy September Farm's kind--it's possible this dairy tones down the smell.)

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Exotic/Disgusting Foods and Beverages Forum--Fijian Ginger Candy

     As with previous posts, the topic's origin is more than one place.  The ginger does indeed come from Fiji, but the company that packages it and distributes it, the Ginger People Group, is based in the U.S., California specifically.  This business is aptly named, as their products all revolve around ginger.  They make several kinds of ginger-based candies, ginger beer, and ginger energy drinks.  Also various products designed for ginger's alleged medical benefits, which are said to aid in digestion, help battle prostate cancer, nausea, and arthritis, and boost circulation, immunity, and energy, among others things.  The wonderful cable television program "Mythbusters" actually tested the notion that ginger pills can ward off seasickness, using a bizarre seasickness torture chair, and found that they actually worked, with no side effects.  (It was graded "plausible" for other, more detailed reasons--see episode guide for more information, if you care.)  According to the Ginger People Group, Fiji boasts some of the best ginger on Earth.  They cite the island nation's nutrient-rich soil, pristine ecosystems, and natural tropical rainfall irrigation.  Also, the farmer's strategy of rotating the crops with cassava and taro supposedly pays dividends, too.
     To give a very brief overview, Fiji consists of over 330 islands, and over 500 islets, in the Melanesian area of the Pacific.  The island's inhabitants traditionally used the term "Viti" to refer to their home, but their neighbors the Tongan Islanders used the name "Fiji."  English explorer Captain James Cook help promote the Fiji term, and it's stuck.  The island group has been independent since 1970, and a republic since 1987.  Alas, it's also been marked by political instability, with several military coups and other governmental changes during this time.  One of its old nicknames particularly interested me--the "Cannibal Isles."  In this case the title, often used inaccurately to deride an enemy country, appears to be accurate, as there is evidence that Fijians did partake in this controversial practice.  The Guinness Book of World Records even has one for the person who ate the most people in their life.  A Fijian chief, Ratu Udre Udre is listed as the champ, with at least 872 (and perhaps up to 1000) individual human victims consumed.  (This number was taken from the tradition of keeping a type of stone for every human eaten, and counting the pile later.)  (Furthermore, I don't mean to pick on the Fijians here.  Every country has had, shall we say, morally questionable cultural practices at one time or another.  This particular bit of historical trivia just piqued my interest.)
     But back to the product.  I ate a bag from the company's gin-gins line, the basic crystallized ginger flavor.  Other flavors in this line include spicy apple, peanut, uncrystallized ginger drops, double strength, super strength, and hot coffee.  The individual pieces were about .75 by .75 inch cubes (or about 2 cm. by 2 cm.), which were light brown in color, coated with crystallized sugar.  The texture was firm and chewy, but not exactly crunchy.  To be blunt, these candies were very much like the other dried, crystallized ginger candies I've had over the years.  Which is to say, excellent.  A nice spicy "bite," but not too much.  I love ginger, and ginger candy such as this has always been very tasty.  I don't know that the Fijian ginger was better than the other company's ginger, but it certainly wasn't any worse, either.  If you like ginger, you'll probably enjoy these.  Also, not surprisingly, these candies are billed as being all-natural, fat free, vegan, and gluten free, if you care about any of these things.  Finally, don't know if this is coincidental, but the gin-gins cartoon logo mascot is a little funny and strange.  It's a anthropomorphized piece of ginger, complete with limbs and a face, who's reclining on a pile of dried ginger, and tossing a piece in his (or her, that's not clear!) mouth.  Or, put another way, this individual is lying on the dried, dismembered corpses of his/her comrades, while also cannibalizing them!

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Exotic/Disgusting Foods and Beverages Forum--Mexican/Japanese/American Peanut Snacks

     As readers can tell from all the slashes in the title, this one is more than a little confusing.  When I first picked these up, again from a Wegman's supermarket, I thought these were Mexican, since they were clearly marked, "Made in Mexico."  That the product name was "Samurai," complete with the appropriate sword in the logo, I figured, was kind of random, just a marketing decision.  But it turns out I was wrong.  "Japanese peanuts," usually referred to as "cacahuates japoneses" or "mani japones" in Spanish-speaking countries, and as "cracker peanuts" in English-speaking nations, were invented by a Japanese-Mexican.  Yoshigei Nakatani immigrated to Mexico in 1932, married a local Mexican woman, had kids, and converted to Catholicism.  Somewhere between 1945-1951 (sources vary), he developed a new kind of snack, by coating peanuts in wheat flour dough and then frying them.  He sold these in Mexico City, and they quickly became popular throughout the country.  Several others came up with versions of his snack, so now you can buy many variants of these special peanuts.
     Alas, I purchased an American knockoff.  From Tuty, a company that started in 2005 in Texas, and now has plants in Mexico, too.  (They also make other peanut-based snacks, cheese snacks, sweet bar snacks, and alternate flavors of cracker peanuts, including chili, habonero, and sriracha.)  According to a blog I read, although Tuty's Samurai peanuts are popular in Mexico, many Mexicans consider the Nishikawa ones to be the best.  Tuty's website is rather sparse about its history, or other information, but, to be fair, they are pretty new.  Also, they sometimes refer to this brand as "Samura," since the handle of the sword hanging below the word in the logo makes the "i" at the end of the word.  Even though it's clearly meant to be "samurai,"--it doesn't make much sense.
     Anyway, I had the classic Samurai coated peanuts, the coated peanuts with lemon, and the cacahuates, the uncoated chili-flavored peanuts.  My notes for each are below.

Samurai classic coated peanuts:  Look like tiny potatoes with their coating.  Taste pretty good, but since I really enjoy peanuts, this isn't unexpected.  Slightly salty, and tangier than most peanuts.  Overall were more than solid.

Samurai coated peanuts with lemon:  Slight lemon tang.  Didn't like as much as the classic one, or the chili ones.  Lemon flavor not as good. Not a very pleasing flavor pairing.  Not atrocious, but not especially tasty, either.

Samurai uncoated chili-flavored peanuts:  Just peanuts covered in reddish spice powder.  Spicy as advertised.  Not overly hot, but a nice "bite."  Pretty good--liked these better than the lemon ones, but not quite as much as the classic coated.

     Therefore, I would recommend these, except maybe for the coated kind with lemon.  It's pretty difficult to mess up peanuts as a food, and the "cracker peanuts" seem like a decent to very good variant of them.  (One notable peanut-based snack that is terrible is the Southern U.S. cultural abomination known as "boiled peanuts," which take a tasty treat and turn it into a revolting, salty mush.)  I wish I'd tried a more authentic Mexican/Japanese type, though.  Hopefully I'll get the chance, and then I can compare them to the Tuty ones.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Unique or at Least Rare Major League Baseball Feats and Records

     The baseball season is nearly upon us, so today I thought I'd discuss some unusual happenings in its history.  And good luck to my Phillies in the upcoming season.  Assuming that their young players progress nicely, and that they don't have too many injuries, I think they could possibly win 75-81 games this year.  (I'm realistic.)  As usual, I'll use some statistical shorthand here and there.  A three part "slash," such as .250/.320/.430 indicates, respectively, batting average/on base percentage/slugging average.  And for position players, a number followed by a plus sign, like 100+ indicates OPS adjusted, or on base plus slugging average, adjusted for time period, stadium, etc., with 100 being average, and above that good, etc.  Positions are abbreviated 1B for first baseman, SS for shortstop, OF for outfielder, P for pitcher, etc.  Let's get to it.

   Sometimes, baseball is a family affair, with brothers, or fathers and sons all having time in the majors.  Here are MLB's 3 generation families:

1) OF Gus Bell (1950-64) sired 3B/OF Buddy Bell (1972-89), who then fathered 3B/PH Mike Bell (2000), and 2B/3B David Bell (1995-2006).

2) 3B/SS/1B Ray Boone (1948-60) fathered C Bob Boone (1972-90), who in turn produced 2B Bret Boone (1992-2005), and 3B/1B Aaron Boone (1997-2009).

3) Then there's the pitching Colemans, with Joe (1942-55), Joe, Jr. (1965-79), and then Casey (2010-14).

4) PH/C Sam Hairston (1951) produced PH/OF/1B Jerry (1973-89), who then sired 2B/OF/3B Jerry, Jr. (1998-2013), and OF/PH/2B Scott (2004-14).

5) SS/2B/3B Dick Schofield (1953-71) produced SS Dick (1983-96), who in turn was the uncle to OF Jayson Werth (2002-present), who's stepdad was 1B/OF/C Dennis Werth (1979-82).

    Sometimes, fathers and sons even played on the same team.  For example, Hall of Fame OF Tim Raines played with his son, Tim, Jr., also an OF, with the Baltimore Orioles in 2001.  OF/1B Ken Griffey (1973-91) played with Hall of Fame OF Ken, Jr. (1989-2010) on the Seattle Mariners together in 1990.  They even hit home runs back to back on Sept. 14, 1990.

     Moving to umpires, Hall of Famer Ed Runge, his son Paul, and his son Brian, all umpired in the Majors.

     On Sept. 15, 1963, the San Francisco Giants had an all-Alou outfield, with Felipe, Matty, and Jesus all playing at the same time.

     Incredibly, 5 brothers from one family all played in the Majors.  Most notably, Hall of Fame OF/1B/2B Ed Delahanty, along with 2B/3B/OF Jim, 3B/2B/SS Tom, OF Frank, and OF/2B Joe, in the late 1890's, early 1900's.  Next up is the O'Neill family, who sent brothers Steve (catcher and manager), C Jack, SS/2B/3B Jim, and P/OF Mike to the Majors in the early 1900's again.  To be fair, if it wasn't for MLB's shameful race barrier from the late 1800's to 1947, the Bankheads might have had 5 major leaguers, too.  Pitcher Dan did make the Majors in 1947, while his brothers Sam (INF/OF), Fred (INF), Joe (P), and Garnett (No positional information) all played in the Negro Leagues.

     Obviously, the most exciting way for a game to end is on a walk-off play, when the home team wins instantly in the last inning.  It's happened eleven times in the final game of a World Series.  Winning teams listed first.

1912 Boston Red Sox vs. New York Giants, Game 8 (Game 2 called for darkness).  Larry Gardner's sacrifice fly wins the championship in the 10th inning, 3-2.

1924 Washington Senators vs. New York Giants, Game 7.  Earl McNeely's double (some sources claim it was a single) knocks in the winning run in the 12th inning, 4-3.

1927 New York Yankees vs. Pittsburgh Pirates, Game 4.  Pittsburgh hurler Johnny Miljus's wild pitch allows Yankee Earle Combs to score the winning run in the 9th inning, 4-3.

1929 Philadelphia Athletics vs. Chicago Cubs, Game 5.  Bing Miller's double in the 9th inning wins the Series, 3-2.

1935 Detroit Tigers vs. Chicago Cubs, Game 6.  A single by Goose Goslin plates the winning run in the 9th inning, 4-3.

1953 New York Yankees vs. Brooklyn Dodgers, Game 6.  Billy Martin's single knocks in the winning run in the 9th inning, 4-3.

1960 Pittsburgh Pirates vs. New York Yankees, Game 7.  Bill Mazeroski hits the first walk off, Series-winning home run in the 9th inning, Pirates winning 10-9.

1991 Minnesota Twins vs. Atlanta Braves, Game 7.  Gene Larkin's single over a pulled in outfield wins the game 1-0, in the 9th inning for the Twins.

1993 Toronto Blue Jays vs. Philadelphia Phillies, Game 6.  Joe Carter's home run in the 9th inning wins the Series for the Jays, 8-6.

1997 Florida Marlins vs. Cleveland Indians, Game 7.  Edgar Renteria's single scores the winning run in the 9th inning, 3-2.

2001 Arizona Diamondbacks vs. New York Yankees, Game 7.  Luis Gonzalez singles in the winning run in the 9th inning, 3-2.

     Two players have hit a grand slam home run on the first pitch they saw in the majors--Kevin Kouzmanoff did it for the Cleveland Indians on Sept. 2, 2006, and Daniel Nava did it for the Boston Red Sox on June 12, 2010.

     The record for the most total bases in one game is 19, set by Los Angeles Dodger Shawn Green on May 23, 2002.  He hit 4 home runs (tied for the all time record), 1 double, and a single.

     The record for most rbi in one game is 12, held by two St. Louis Cardinals players.  Hall of Fame 1B Jim Bottomley got his on Sept. 16, 1924, while OF Mark Whiten did it on Sept. 7, 1993.

     Probably the ultimate sign of respect is when a batter is intentionally walked with the bases loaded, since that guarantees that one run will score.  It's been done 6 times:

1) Abner Dalrymple of the Chicago Cubs, on August 2, 1881.

2) Nap Lajoie of the Philadelpia Athletics, on May 23, 1901.  (He won the Triple Crown that year, leading the league in batting average, home runs, and rbi.)

3) Del Bissonette of the Brooklyn Dodgers, on May 2, 1928.  (I'd never heard of Bissonette, but he hit .320/.396/.543 that year, so it makes sense.)

4) Bill Nicholson of the Chicago Cubs, on July 23, 1944, second game of doubleheader.  (Nicholson had already hit 4 home runs total that day, over the two games, so this is very understandable.)

5) Barry Bonds of San Francisco Giants, on May 28, 1998.  (All time home run leader Bonds was obviously an incredibly dangerous hitter, a sure fire Hall of Famer if he hadn't done PED's.)

6) Josh Hamilton of the Texas Rangers, on Aug. 17, 2008.
         (One source claimed this was done to Mel Ott, too, but I couldn't confirm it.)

     Toby Harrah did something no other shortstop ever did before, or since, on June 25, 1976.  He played an entire doubleheader while having no defensive chances.

     On August 4, 1982, Joel Youngblood became the only man to get hits for two different teams, in two different cities, on the same day.  He got the first as a New York Met in a day game in Chicago.  Then, he was traded after the game to the Montreal Expos.  He flew to Philadelphia in time to play in their night game vs. the Phillies, and got his second hit.

     Consider poor Larry Yount. On Sept. 15, 1971, while playing for the Houston Astros, he was announced as the next pitcher late in the game.  This was his debut in the majors.  However, he injured himself while making his warm up throws, and had to leave the game without throwing a single pitch.  So by league rules he's credited with appearing in one game, since he was officially announced, but he's the only guy to never actually participate in any game action!  And alas, while he healed up and pitched in the minors afterwards, he never was called up to the majors again.  He's also the older brother of Hall of Fame SS/OF Robin Yount.

     The most batters faced by a pitcher without getting a single out in a career in held by Elmer "Doc" Hamann, with the Cleveland Indians on Sept. 21, 1922 vs. the Boston Red Sox.  He faced 7 batters and gave up 3 hits, walked 3, hit 1 batter, and threw a wild pitch for good measure, giving up 6 runs.

     On a similar note, the highest lifetime ERA for a pitcher (excluding men like Hamann, who's ERA is infinity because he didn't record an out), is 189.00, set by Joe Cleary of the Washington Senators on August 4, 1945.  He gave up 5 hits, 3 walks, 1 wild pitch, and 7 earned runs in one third of an inning.  (He's also the last Ireland-born major leaguer.)  He was relieved by Bert Shepard, in his only major league appearance, who pitched 5 and a third innings, and gave up only 3 hits, 1 walk, and 1 run.  Shepard's unique because due to a war injury he only had one leg!

     The record for most lifetime at bats without a hit, pitchers excluded, is 23, held by 2 players.  Larry Littleton, with the 1981 Cleveland Indians, and Mike Potter, with the St. Louis Cardinals in 1976-77.  Potter did walk once, and Littleton 3 times.

     Continuing with negative individual records, only one guy ever made 4 errors on one play--Mike Grady, with the 1899 New York Giants (couldn't find the exact date, or much detail.)  Reportedly, while playing third be first booted a ground ball for error #1.  Then he threw the ball over the first baseman's head for error #2.  The right fielder then threw the ball to Grady to catch the baserunner near third.  Grady dropped the ball for error #3.  Then, as the runner broke for home, Grady threw the ball over the catcher's head, into the stands, for error #4!  Although he was terrible on this play, Grady was a good player overall, in his career from 1894-1906.  He finished at .294/.374/.425, with an adjusted OPS of 126.  He also helped save a family from a fire about a year later.

     The all time worst choke by a team leading with 2 outs in the 9th inning, and no baserunners, was the Washington Senators vs. the Cleveland Blues (later Indians) on May 23, 1901.  Pitcher Casey Patten had a 13-5 lead, and opened the 9th by getting the first two outs.  Then, he, and a reliever, proceeded to give up 6 singles, 2 doubles, 1 walk, a hit batsman, and a passed ball, total, as well as 9 runs, to lose 14-13!

     Outfielder Rick Bosetti had an obscure career from 1976-82, with the Philadelphia Phillies, St. Louis Cardinals, Toronto Blue Jays, and Oakland Athletics, finishing with a line of .250/.288/.338, and an OPS+ of 72.  However, in 1979 he told the press of his, shall we say, unorthodox accomplishments.  He claimed to have urinated on the grass of every ball park in the league.  In interviews he said this was done before the games, while the stands were empty, but others claimed he sometimes did it during the games, during pitching changes, just to prove that he could do it without being caught (supposedly he stood up against the outfield wall, covered himself with his glove, and went).  Assuming the rumors were true, he certainly risked being arrested for public urination/indecent exposure in one of the more dramatic, weirdest ways possible!

     Enjoy the season.  Thanks to, several blogs, and "The Baseball Hall of Shame" book series ( by Bruce Nash and Allan Zullo).

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Exotic/Disgusting Foods and Beverages Forum--A Scottish Drink and Candy Bar

     These two were yet another Wegman's international aisle find.  Today I'll be discussing Lees Jaffa orange chocolate candy bar and A.G. Barr's Irn-Bru soda.  Lees has been around since 1931, and basically makes desserts.  Snowballs, teacakes, meringues, and confectionery bars.  For the latter, aside from the one I was able to get, they also make macaroon, creamy strawberry, raspberry coconut ice, mint chocolate, Scottish tablet, and Scottish fudge.  Their website also has a place where kids (or adults, I suppose) can play a "Space Invaders" ripoff called "Cake Invaders."
     A.G. Barr started as a cork-cutting business in 1830, but in 1871 they ventured into carbonated soft drinks, then called "aerated water."  The business promptly flourished, partially for depressing reasons.  As reported on the website, many Scottish industrial towns at the time were known for their poor sanitation, and correspondingly bad quality water, so a soft drink made from clean water and ingredients was the safer bet.  (Of course, taken to an extreme this would lead to severe dehydration, but in small doses it seems to have helped.)  In 1901 the company launched their signature drink, Iron Brew.  It became known as "Scotland's National Drink," after whisky (also spelled whiskey in much of the world),  They even made fun of the drink's orange color, by having the slogan, "Made in Scotland from girders."  One of Iron Brew's earliest celebrity pitchmen was Alex Munro, who was a champion in a quintessentially Scottish sport--caber tossing.  Due to World War II's strict rationing of food and beverage supplies, Iron Brew was not made from 1942-47.  When A.G. Barr found out that this rationing would end soon, they decided to change the drink's name, out of fear of reports about the new food regulation labeling laws.  The rumor was that labels and names had to be absurdly literal, so much so that calling their drink Iron Brew might be targeted because while it did have some iron in it, it wasn't technically brewed.  So Iron Brew became Irn-Bru.  One additional odd detail about this is these laws reportedly didn't go into effect until 1964, and when they did they weren't as ridiculous as feared.  So, basically the name was changed for nothing.  Once the drink was produced again, it was as popular as ever.  Currently it's the most popular soft drink in Scotland, beating out Coke and Pepsi, even.  And, like Coke, the recipe for Irn-Bru, using 32 ingredients, is a strict secret, known by only 3 people.  Aside from their signature drink, A.G.Barr also sells fruit drinks, drink cocktail mixes (their Funkin line), original, old timey soda styles, and other soft drinks.  The one that really caught my eye was D'N'B, a dandelion and burdock flavored drink (see the January 12, 2015 and April 13, 2013 posts for more info on these foods).  Irn-Bru does have some controversy, though.  It uses the Sunset Yellow FCF and Ponceau 4R food colorings, which are thought to possibly cause hyperactivity and ADHD in children.  Also, quinine, which in extreme cases can cause nasty side effects like headaches, irregular heartbeat, deafness, and other symptoms, some pretty serious.
     The Jaffa orange bar looked like a typical one, covered in wavy dark chocolate.  The inner portion was a yellowish-orange color, not surprisingly.  Since I prefer milk chocolate to dark chocolate, this bar had that hurdle to overcome, for me.  It was okay--the filling was noticeably orange-y, and it somehow had a York Peppermint Patty thing going for it.  So overall, it was pretty average for a chocolate bar.  Of course those who prefer dark chocolate would probably enjoy it more than I did.
     The Irn-Bru was in a 16.9 ounce (500 milliliter) bottle, and had the expected orange hue.  The 32 secret flavors were hard to pin down.  I kind of associated it most with a root beerish flavor.  Once again, I didn't hate it, but also didn't love it.  Alright, kind of "meh."  Famous Scottish comedian Billy Connolly had a bit on his 1975 album extolling Irn-Bru's alleged benefits as a hangover cure.  I didn't test this property myself.
     In conclusion, then, I wouldn't really recommend either the Irn-Bru or the Lees Jaffa orange bar, but I wouldn't warn against them, either.  If/when I get the opportunity, I think I'll go with other A.G. Barr and Lees varieties.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Exotic/Disgusting Foods and Beverages Forum--Sour Oranges

     Sour oranges (aka bitter oranges, Seville oranges, marmalade oranges) are native to Southeast Asia, as are many/most citrus fruits.  They're a hybrid of the mandarin orange and pumellos.  Currently they're grown all over the world, at least the parts of the world that have hot enough climates.  Here in the U.S. they're cultivated in Florida, and obviously the area around Seville, Spain, is another spot that produces a lot of them.
     In looking this fruit up, I learned that is has many non-edible uses.  Perfumes sometimes use the essential oils from sour oranges.  The wood from their trees is used for carved items.  Soap can be made from their fruit.  Plus, sour oranges are utilized in herbal medicine, usually as an appetite suppressant or as a stimulant.  (More on this later.)  Not to say that they're not used in edibles, of course.  One of their nicknames reveals that they're used in making marmalade.  And the Belgian witbier (white beer) style sometimes uses the peel of this fruit as a flavor additive.
    There are several subspecies of sour orange.  The one I bought was greenish-yellow in color, and small, maybe the size of a typical tangerine, or a small orange.  The pulp inside was roughly the same hue.  The taste was.....absolutely wretched.  Here are the notes that I wrote after eating it:  "Ugh.  Tastes like grapefruit--sour as hell.  Awful.  Why do people eat this?"  I choked down two segments, then I stopped punishing myself.  I squeezed some juice out of the remaining pulp, and tried that separately.  This was similarly crappy.  The sour orange was definitely one of the worst fruits I've tried, and probably one of the worst foods, ever.  It was an even more atrocious version of grapefruit. Maybe the scent is good, or the marmalade made with it.  I've liked some Belgian wit biers, so it's possible I've enjoyed sour orange in that limited context.  But as a regular fruits, as a snack, or in a salad, I would only wish it upon my worst enemies, and even then I'd have to think about it.  It was cheap, at least, being about $0.80 for the one I got.
     As for sour oranges in herbal supplement form, there are many red flags.  Evidently its negative side effects are similar to ephedra, with an increased chance of angina, ischemic colitis, and strokes.  So beware of sour orange in that form, too.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Exotic/Disgusting Foods and Beverages Forum--Israeli Snacks

     I'm heading to the Middle East for this post.  Wegman's grocery came through yet again.  Today I'll be talking about two products from Osem--Bamba peanut snacks and Petit Beuree biscuits.  And then two products from Unilever--the Klik La-Hit and the Klik Choko-kid candy bars.
     I'd never heard of Osem or Unilever, which shows how little I know about European and Middle Eastern companies.  Because both are absolutely huge.  Osem started in 1942, as a consolidation of several noodle factories, accomplished by a group known as the Amazing Seven.  "Osem" means "plenty" in a Yom Kippur prayer.  Osem started off making pastries, baked goods, sauces, ketchup, and soup.  Then, in 1995 they partnered up with the immense international company Nestle.  Nestle now owns a majority of the company.  Through this merger, Osem now also manufactures pet food, pickles, canned foods, and jams.  And probably many other things--I grew exhausted reading through their website!
     Unilever began in 1929, as the Dutch margarine company Unie and the British soupmaking Lever Brothers combined, and merged their name as if they were a Hollywood acting couple in a tabloid.  It was a natural marriage, since both companies depended heavily on palm oil.  Unilever grew into the mammoth outfit that they are today.  It has offices and factories on every continent save Antarctica, and they're presumably negotiating with the few scientists on that icy world to eventually open some there, too.  Included in the Unilever umbrella are Dove, Lipton, Lux, Sunsilk, and Hellmann's to name just a few of its brands.  Unilever's main competitors are Proctor & Gamble and.....Nestle.
     But enough about business, let's get to the food.  The Klik La-Hit candy bar is a crispy bar filled with nougat, coated with milk chocolate.  The one I had was good sized, being about 5 inches by 1 inch (or about 12.5 cm. by 2.5 cm.).  Its texture was rather like a Kit Kat bar, and the filling was certainly distinct.  It was good.  Not spectacular, but tasty.  I've found it's difficult to truly mess up a chocolate candy bar, and this was no exception.  The Klik Choco-kid bar was a bit smaller, about 4 inches by 1 inch (about 10.5 cm. by 2.5 cm.), and strange looking.  To use a particularly unappetizing comparison, it looked somewhat like a turd.  It was composed of about 20 roundish shapes pressed into each other.  Its color was brownish, with a white coating.  This bar was milk chocolate around an milk cream filling.  And the taste was really top notch.  The milk cream filling really made it stand out.  An excellent example of a chocolate candy bar.
     The Osem Petit Beurre biscuits were pretty big, about 2.5 by 2 inches (about 6.5 cm. by 5.5 cm.) roughly rectangular shaped.  It had regular protuberances around its edges, like it was a badge or something, and was yellowish-brown in color.  The company and product name were etched on the front of the cookie.  The flavor was not as sweet as most American cookies.  But it was still okay.  I should explain, in the U.S, a "biscuit" is like a dense roll, a dinner side, often buttered or covered with gravy.  And a "cookie" is the sweet dessert baked good, such as an Oreo, vanilla wafer, chocolate chip, etc.  Apparently in much of Europe a biscuit is their name for cookies.  Cultural differences, like football/soccer all over again.  Moving on, the Osem Bamba is a peanut snack, which looks like a yellowish-brown cheese curl, or cheese doodle.  When the Bamba was first developed, in 1964, it was very similar to a cheese curl, since it was also cheese-flavored.  However, in 1966 they were switched to be peanut flavored.  And they flourished.  To a ridiculous degree.  I read that Bambas are the most popular snack in Israel, as an astounding 90% or households buy them regularly.  They're reportedly healthier than most snacks, jam-packed with vitamins.  (I noticed an irregularity, here, as the nutrition information on the label for mine listed 0% Vitamin A, C, calcium, and iron.  Don't know what the deal is.)  A recent British study suggests that snacks like Bamba might explain why Israeli children suffer from less peanut allergies than American kids do.  Supposedly the Israeli tots eat lots of peanuts when young, unlike Americans, and as a result they don't develop that allergy.  (I want to stress that this study isn't completely substantiated, or the situation may not be this cause-and-effect, so don't feed your toddlers tons of peanuts based on this!)  I thought the texture of the Bambas was just like a cheese curl.  The taste was a little weird at first--kind of like a salty snack, but the peanut flavor made it seem a little sweetish, too.  It really grew on me, though.  I finished the bag eagerly, and really enjoyed it.  I also found the product's character logo to be amusing--it's a baby, lifting a huge barbell with one hand while the other is giving a "thumbs up."
     All in all, then, the Israeli snacks I tried were pretty impressive.  Even the weaker ones were solid, and the stronger ones were quite tasty.  I'd advise grabbing them if you can.  And given how ubiquitous their manufacturers are, you probably can locate them fairly easily.