Saturday, January 20, 2018

Exotic/Disgusting Foods and Beverages Forum--Alternative Nut and Seed Butters

     While I was in my local supermarket recently, I found myself in the "spreads" section.  Just about all I saw were types of jams, marmalades, jellies, and such that are very common, or else aren't, but were ones I'd had before (see the May 22, 2015 and November 23, 2016 posts).  But this time I took more notice of the other nut and seed butters besides the normal peanut butters.  I didn't retry the hazel nut ones, since I consider these, especially Nutella, to be fairly common.  I went with almond butter, cashew butter, and sunflower seed butter.
     Almonds, as I learned, are native to North Africa, the Middle East, and the Indian subcontinent.  Now they're also grown in places with a warm enough climate, such as Spain, Australia, and California in the U.S.  Also, if there are any botanist reading this and becoming enraged (and in a weird way I kind of hope that's true), yes, technically the almonds we eat are not nuts, but are drupes.  Wild almonds are toxic to humans, so people should only stick to the domesticated kinds.  Nutritionally, almond butter has more manganese, potassium, fiber, and calcium than does peanut butter, and it's also a good source of magnesium, copper, iron, riboflavin, and Vitamin E.  On the negative side, some folks have criticized the growing of almonds in times of drought, since the plant requires unusually high amounts of water.
     I recently discussed another part of the cashew plant in my post about Brazilian beverages (see my October 21, 2017 post).  Cashew butter is high in protein, Vitamin B, and unsaturated fats.  During the Cold War Era in the U.S. (after World War II to the fall of the Soviet Union) cashew butter was a staple of many U.S. Civil Defense survival kits  Consumers sometimes dip apple slices in it as a dip, or add it to smoothies and oatmeal.
     In the U.S., sunflower butter was first tried commercially in the early 1980's.  However this attempt didn't catch on, probably due to the spread's overly bitter taste, and unappetizing greenish color.  In 2000 a division of the U.S. Department of Agriculture teamed up with Red River Commodities to come up with an improved version.  They altered the degree of roasting, experimented with different amounts of added sugar and salt, and used canola and cottonseed oils as a stabilizer.  (And, they must have done something to diminish the green color, too.)  The result was SunButter, which rolled out in 2002.  This product did well enough that by 2011 it was available nationwide in big chains like Whole Foods, Trader Joes, Walmart, Super Valu, Kroger, and Target.  Sunflower butter is a good source of protein, Vitamin B, iron, fiber, and zinc.  It's also eaten as a dip, or mixed into sandwiches.  And once again, to quell the plant scientists' fury, the sunflower "seed" is actually a cypsela.
     All three of the above are often used as other spread choices for people who have serious peanut allergies.  But on to the ratings.

1) Barney smooth almond butter.  Barney & Co. is California based, and the jar was 10 ounces (284 grams).  Ingredients are blanched roasted almonds, organic and fair trade cane sugar, palm fruit oil, and sea salt.  It's also Non-GMO, gluten-free, made in a peanut-free facility, kosher, certified vegan, and BPA-free.  By color and texture this butter closely resembled peanut butter, as it was a light brown hue and a thick texture.  I also thought it tasted a bit like peanut butter.  I'm guessing the salt and sugar helped the flavor, too.  I thought this was the best of the bunch.  I had it plain, on Wheat Thins crackers, and then as a "AB & J", or a almond butter and (Welch's grape jelly) jelly sandwich.  So pretty good overall.

2) Crazy Richard's cashew butter.  Crazy Richard's is based out of Ohio, and the jar was 312 grams (11 ounces).  Ingredients are only dry roasted cashews and sunflower oil.  Product is gluten-free, non-GMO, BPA-free, vegan, and has no cholesterol, palm oil, trans fat, or salt and sugar.  This one was light brown, and extremely oily in consistency.  At room temperature it was almost a liquid, and even after being in the fridge for days it was still a thin goo.  As with the almond kind I had this plain, on Wheat thins, and then with grape jelly as a sandwich.  It was just okay--a tad bland.  I suspect I would have liked it better if it had had salt and sugar in it.  It did taste best in the CB & J format.

3) Wholesome Pantry organic sunflower butter.  This was specially made for Shop-Rite supermarkets, and distributed by Wakefern Food Corp., out of New Jersey (no word on where the sunflowers were grown.)  The ingredient list for this one is even more succinct--only sunflower seeds.  The label further boasted that the product was certified organic, and didn't use processing methods like ionizing radiation and genetic engineering.  Came in a 16 ounce (454 gram) jar.  This butter was also very oily--soupy at room temperature, slightly more gooey after being chilled in the fridge.  The color was a darker brown--reminiscent of darker mustards.  Its flavor was a bit bitter and astringent.  It was better on a Wheat Thin than plain.  But definitely the weakest of the three.  After reading about it, I wonder if I would have liked SunButter brand better, as once again, the bitter taste is presumably cut by the sugar and salt.

     I should probably state that when it comes to the dry roasted nuts or seeds, I love cashews, think sunflowers are just okay, and only like almonds chopped up and mixed in other things, like in cookies, for example.  Furthermore, peanut butter is my second favorite food, period, after cheese, so it was very unlikely that any of these would exceed, or even equal, my love of this food.  But, none of these were completely horrible, either.  Given my lukewarm-at-best reaction to them, coupled with their high prices (each was about $6-7), I don't think I'll get these again.  Although I should say that my parents tried these, too, and liked them better them me.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Exotic/Disgusting Foods and Beverages Forum--German Butterkase Cheese

     I stumbled upon this one while shopping in my local Shop-Rite grocery.  I selected it both because I'd never heard of it, or had it, and also because I haven't had many German cheeses in general.  Evidently, England, France, Italy, and The Netherlands in particular are more proactive about exporting their cheeses, at least in the supermarkets and stores that I've checked.  The brand I bought was made in Germany, by King's Choice, and imported/distributed by the DCI Cheese Company out of Wisconsin in the U.S.
     Butterkase means "butter cheese" in German.  It's a semisoft cheese made from cow's milk.  It's mostly produced in Germany, Austria, and in Wisconsin.  The history of this dairy product is surprisingly brief.  It was invented in 1928, as a variant of an Italian cheese called Bel Paese, which in turn only dates back to 1906, from the town of Melzo.  Butterkase is known for its buttery taste (of course), and consumers often compare its flavor to Muenster and Gouda.  Its hues range from white to yellowish-orange, and its aging time is a scant 3-4 weeks.  One website which I looked at called it a "new secret weapon for recipes or your next wine and cheese party," which I found amusingly dramatic.  That website also touted its flavor as being mild enough for kids to enjoy, but sophisticated enough for adults.  Butterkase is sometimes called "damenkase," ("ladies cheese" in German) because of its lack of odor and delicateness.  You don't often see cheese-related examples of sexism, but I guess this is one, albeit a fairly innocuous one, I suppose.
     The King's Choice website notes that they sell cheese from Denmark and Holland.  But they don't mention Germany, nor is butterkase included on their product list.  I'm pretty confident that this is the right company, as their logo is identical to that on the label for the cheese I got, so apparently their selling of butterkase is fairly recent, and the website hasn't been updated.  The American distributer, the DCI Cheese Company, sells cheeses from Australia, Canada, Denmark, England, France, Germany, Greece, Holland, Ireland, the Isle of Man, Italy, New Zealand, Norway, Spain, Switzerland, and the U.S.  One of their products is the Spanish Manchego cheese, which I posted about on August 29, 2015.  Also, this was the first time I recall seeing the flag of the Isle of Man, and I immediately liked its design.  It's rather stylized and strange, being three legs stuck together in a wheel shape.
     Anyway, the butterkase I purchased was a light yellowish color.  I cut it up into small pieces and ate them plain.  As reported, it was semisoft in texture.  Also as advertised, I did think it had a mild, and buttery flavor.  It had a slight tang to it as well.  Overall I found it very pleasant.  My father tried some too, and came away similarly impressed.  So no real surprises here--the guy who adores cheese more than any other food in the world, who's never found a type of it that wasn't at least decent, enjoyed yet another.  I certainly recommend it, and will probably buy this again.  It was a tad expensive, being about $6 for an eight ounce (226 gram) chunk.

     Also, forgive the repetition, but the Kickstarter for the "Hidden Animals: A Collection of Cryptids" horror anthology (in 2 volumes) is still ongoing, and I encourage folks to check out the book's information video, and consider contributing to what is shaping up to be a fun, interesting book.  Thanks!  The address is below:

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Exotic/Disgusting Foods and Beverages Forum--Spanish Cookies, Plus More Anthology News

     I'll start with some gratuitous self-promotion once again.  Back in my July 15th, 2017 post, I mentioned an upcoming anthology that accepted one of my short stories.  Now I have more news.  That anthology, "Hidden Animals: A Collection of Cryptids" is still a go.  However, its publication date was pushed back a little, from Winter 2017 to Spring of 2018--probably in May.  Also, in July I detailed 19 stories, along with the authors and cryptids that each featured.  Evidently Dragon's Roost Press received more stories that they wanted to include, so now this anthology is being released, simultaneously, in two volumes, and featuring over 30 stories.  These anthologies are Land Cryptids, and then Air/Sea/Vegetable Cryptids.   (I'm very curious to read about vegetable-based monsters!)
     Anyway, owner/editor Michael Cieslak has started a Kickstarter campaign to raise money for the author's reimbursements, as well as for the Last Day Dog Rescue in Michigan.  As is typical for these campaigns, donating gets you various perks, depending on the amount, including copies of one or both Cryptid volumes, other Dragon's Roost Press books, and even a dinner with the Dragon's Roost Press folks.  Obviously much more information is present at the Kickstarter address.  So I encourage everyone to head on over, and check it out.  Luddite that I am, I wasn't able to get the link working smoothly; but if you type in the address included below, it will take you there.  The campaign runs up to February 3, 2018.  And I'll include more information on the anthologies as I get it.  Thanks. 

     As for the cookies, I discovered these randomly at the local Food Lion grocery in Sneads Ferry, North Carolina.  These were all distributed by the Goya company (see May 25, 2016 post about Brazilian cookies), but were all made in Spain.  I tried their Maria cookies, the chocolate Marias, and the Palmeritas.
     Maria cookies go by several, albeit similar names, as they're also called Marie, Mariebon, and Marietta cookies.  Or as Maria/Mariebon/Marietta biscuits, in certain areas of the world, especially Europe and former English colonies.  Whatever they're called, they were invented in 1874, in England, to honor Grand Duchess Maria Alexandrovna of Russia, who married Prince Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh.  Alfred was the son of Queen Victoria, and Maria was a member of the Romanovs, and was the aunt of the last Russian Emperor, Tsar Nicholas II.  (For the record, the marriage reportedly wasn't the happiest, given the couple's lack of common interests, and Alfred's alleged philandering.  Also, Maria's support of Germany (where she and Alfred lived and "ruled" as figurehead royalty for a time) against both her native Russia and her husband's native England during World War I didn't go over well, obviously.)  However, despite what people may have thought of the real life impetus for the food, the biscuit/cookie proved to be very popular.  They are eaten both as "tea biscuits" and sometimes mixed with other sweet spreads and desserts.  They're also sometimes dunked in milk and then fed to infants as one of their first solid foods, as they're easy to digest.  Marias are enjoyed on all the six settled continents, including in Canada, Australia, North Africa, Indonesia, Mexico, Sri Lanka, much of South America, and especially Spain.
       Palmeritas, in contrast, aren't named for anyone famous--instead they're titled after their shape, which is usually patterned after a palm leaf.  They're also sometimes known as elephant's ears, or pig's ears.  (For an account of eating literal pig's ear, please see my January 20, 2013 post.)  These pastry-like concoctions are French in origin.
     Anyway, here's what I thought of these:

1) Maria cookies.  These were round, and a yellowish-brown color.  They were about 6 cm. in diameter (about 2.25 inches), and had a pattern etched along the circumference, along with tiny holes in the middle and "Goya Maria" embossed in the center as well.  They were very plain.  Not very sweet.  Not bad, but not great, either.  Mediocre.

2) Chocolate Maria cookies.  Identical in shape, size, and etchings/embossments except that they were dark brown in color.  Their flavor was pretty much the same, too.  The chocolate did make these taste a bit better.  Still fairly bland, though.  I tried one dipped in milk, and this was somewhat better, too, but still only alright at best.  (To be fair, my father tried these, too, and liked them more than I did.)

3) Palmeritas.  These were yellowish-brown, and almost round, with a tiny indentation on one end, and long grooves inscribed along them.  (I looked at other companies' take on this cookie style, and some of those were more heart-shaped, or elephant/pig-earred shape, I guess.)   They were about 2 inches in diameter (about 5.5 cm.), and had visible whitish grains (sugar, I suppose) sprinkled on them.  These were very reminiscent of the plain Marias--not very sweet, plain and blandish.  Or disappointing--not terrible, but just.....blah.

     Overall then, my impression of all 3 of these Spanish cookies wasn't very positive.  Maybe it's a cultural, "ugly American" part of me, but I prefer my cookies to have a stronger, and sweeter taste.  Like a Thin Mint, or a Pecan Sandy, or an Oreo, or a Nutter Butter, to name just a few off the top of my head.  I can see how they would make good baby food, as they were so inoffensive and dull that they can surely be eaten by even the most delicate of constitutions.  I won't be buying these again.
     I'll conclude this by briefly mentioning some other foods that were named after people.  Some were homages to famous people, some were named after their chef creators, and some were even titled after fairly random, anonymous folks.

1) Alexandertorte.  This Scandanavian treat was believed to have been named to honor the visiting Tsar Alexander I in 1818.

2) Big Hearted Al candy bar.  Named after early 20th century American politician Al Smith.

3) Lobster Alexis.  After Grand Duke Alexis.

4) Fettucine Alfredo.  Invented by, and named after Alfredo di Lelio, who said he created it for his pregnant wife.

5) Caesar salad.  Invented by chef/hotel owner Caesar Cardino in his Tijuana establishment in the early 20th century.

6) Cobb salad.  Some arguments about this one, but most attribute this food's invention to the owner of Hollywood's Brown Derby restaurant, Robert H. Cobb.

7)  Bananas Foster.  This dessert was invented by New Orleans restaurant owner Owen Brennan, to honor his friend, and loyal customer Richard Foster, who was the New Orleans Crime Commissioner.

8) Oh Henry! candy bar.  Reportedly named after a boy who used to frequent the Williamson chocolate company, and hit on the girls working there.

9) Kaiser rolls.  These are one of the older ones.  Invented in 1487 in Vienna, Austria, to honor the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick III.

10) Oysters Rockefeller.  Named after, of course, John D. Rockefeller.

11) Baby Ruth candy bar.  There's compelling evidence that this was named after famous baseball player George Herman "Babe" Ruth.  However, when the athlete threatened to sue the candy company, they claimed, dubiously, that it was named after former President Grover Cleveland's daughter.  (I guess they thought the Clevelands wouldn't be as litigious.)

12) Salisbury Steak.  This was invented and promoted by Dr. James H. Salisbury (1823-1905).  He was apparently an early forerunner of the Atkins-type diet, as he thought people should avoid carbs, starches, fruit, and "poisonous" vegetables, and instead eat lots of meat.

13) Nachos.  I was pleased to see that this one's history is definitively known.  In 1943, in Mexico, hotel runner Ignacio "Nacho" Anaya needed a snack food for some customers, but the kitchen was nearly bare.  He managed to come up with the first nachos, and they were given his nickname ever since.


Saturday, December 30, 2017

Unlikely NFL/AFL Championship Game Heroes

     One of my pet peeves is the general public's lack of historical knowledge.  We've probably all seen the "person on the street" interviews where passersby can't answer the most basic history questions.  Therefore, it's not surprising that this also happens with sports.  It seems like many/most NFL fans don't seem to know (or care, at least) that the Super Bowl has only been played since the 1966 season.  But the NFL originated well before that, and had different ways of determining which team was considered to be the champion for each year.  From 1921-32, there was only one NFL division, and the champion was simply the team with the best won-loss percentage.  (Although, at this time tie games were just disregarded, and not counted as half a win and half a loss as they are now, leading to many controversies.)  From 1933-65, the leaders of the two divisions (the Eastern and Western Divisions for most of this time, although there were years when they were called the American and National Conferences, or the Eastern and Western Conferences) played each other in the NFL Championship, with the winner being the NFL champion.  Meanwhile, another professional league, the American Football League (AFL) started in 1960, and its champions were also determined by a title game between its two division leaders.  Then from 1966-69 the champions of the AFL and the NFL played each in what was eventually known as the Super Bowl, and in 1970 the AFL was absorbed into the NFL as the American Football Conference (with 3 NFL teams joining it).  So the point of this post is to highlight the men who starred in these title games from 1933-65 for the NFL, or 1960-65 for the AFL.  And they're unlikely because they were not famous, Hall of Famers, and often were not even starters.  If you're interested in reading about unlikely Super Bowl heroes, consult my blog post from January 30, 2014.
     Also, the players mentioned in this post will tend to be those who played mainly on offence rather than defense.  That's in part because statistics for these early days weren't as well kept, especially for defensive numbers.  (Tackles and most of the sacks, most notably, aren't recorded.)  Furthermore, position names were a little different back then.  "Flanker" and "end" roughly correspond to the modern wide receiver, for example.  Also, teams played shorter schedules (usually 10-14 games in the regular season), and offenses were limited by certain different rules, such as what constituted pass interference, etc.  Finally, note that for much of the time period we're discussing, the leagues usually had 10 teams, as opposed to the current 32.  Meaning there were correspondingly fewer players in the league, so making the Pro Bowl was a bit easier.  (Obviously, it was more difficult to become a pro football player, with fewer teams, but once you did it was slightly easier to be named to the Pro Bowl.)  Also, many/most of the players I'll talk about probably would have been named Most Valuable Player, but this award wasn't given until the Super Bowl.  But let's get to it.  I'll go generally in order, oldest to most recent.

1) Bill Karr.  Karr played with the Chicago Bears from 1933-38.  He played in 63 total games, starting 46, at end.  His career numbers are modest, even for the time period--48 receptions for 1032 yards (21.5 average) and 18 touchdowns, 6 rushes for 27 yards and another touchdown.  He was named as All-Pro once, and also one year he did lead the NFL in receiving touchdowns.  He did have a very good game in the first ever Championship game, in 1933 versus the New York Giants.  Karr scored both of the Bear touchdowns in their narrow 23-21 win.  The first came on an 8 yard pass from Bronco Nagurski, and the second came on a 19 yard lateral from Bill Hewitt, after a 14 yard pass again from Nagurski.

2) Ed Danowski.  Danowski played back/quarterback for the New York Giants from 1934-41, starting 40 of a total 71 games.  Lifetime he completed 309 out of 637 passes (48.5%), for 3817 yards, 37 touchdown passes, 44 interceptions, and a passer rating of 58.1.  He played in 1 Pro Bowl, and was named to 2 All-Pro teams.  He also led the NFL in completions and completion percentage twice, and passing yards and touchdown passes once each.  Danowski added 1173 yards on 425 rushing attempts (2.7 average), and 4 touchdowns.  He played in 4 NFL championships (1934, 1935, 1938, and 1939), and won 2 (1934 and 1938).  It was the 1938 contest versus the Green Bay Packers that he really excelled.  In it he completed 7 of 11 passes for 74 yards and 2 touchdown passes, with no interceptions.  He also rushed twice, for 2 yards, and on defense he intercepted a pass.

3) Charles "Hap" Barnard.  Barnard is probably the most obscure name on this list.  He only played one year, 1938, with the New York Giants.  In fact, he only played in 5 games, as an end.  His lifetime stats are remarkably succinct--one reception for 33 yards, and no touchdowns.  Despite this, he somehow made the Pro Bowl in his only year.  (The New York Giants sent 20 players to that game that year, suggesting it wasn't quite as special as in most years.)  Anyway, in the 1938 Championship game versus the Green Bay Packers he caught one pass, for 21 yards and a touchdown.

4) Joe Laws.  Laws played as a halfback/defensive halfback with the Green Bay Packers from 1934-45, starting 51 of 120 total games.  His lifetime totals include 470 rushes for 1932 yards (4.1 average) and 9 touchdowns, and 79 receptions for 1041 yards (13.2 average) and 9 more touchdowns.  On defense he totaled 18 interceptions for 266 yards and 1 touchdown.  He played on 3 NFL title  winning teams, in 1936, 1939, and 1944.  In the 1944 game he was spectacular, contributing on offense, defense, and special teams.  He rushed 13 times for 74 yards, returned one kickoff for 12 yards and 3 punts for 37 yards, and intercepted 3 passes for 19 yards and recovered a fumble.  Along with Rod Martin, he still holds the record for most interceptions in an NFL/AFL Championship game or a Super Bowl.

5) Dante Magnani.  Magnani was a halfback/wingback from 1940-43, 1946-50 with the Cleveland Rams, Chicago Bears, and Detroit Lions.  He started 41 out of 84 total games and was named to 1 Pro Bowl.  His lifetime stats are 331 rushes for 1466 yards (4.4 average) and 3 touchdowns, and 79 receptions for 942 yards (11.9 average) and 10 touchdowns.  On special teams he contributed 11 punt returns for 121 yards (11.0 average) and 0 touchdowns, and 37 kickoff returns for 947 yards and 2 touchdowns.  On defense he intercepted 8 passes for 127 yards and 0 touchdowns.  He was one of the star players on two NFL Championship winning teams, in 1943 and 1946 while with the Bears.  In 1943 vs. the Washington Redskins, he caught 4 passes for 122 yards and 2 touchdowns, while rushing 2 times for 6 yards, and returning a kickoff for 18 yards.  Then, in the 1946 game vs. the New York Giants, he starred on defense, intercepting 2 passes for 49 yards, and 1 touchdown.

6)  Jim Gillette.  Gillette played in 1940, and 1944-48 with the Cleveland Rams, Green Bay Packers, Chicago Bears, and the wonderfully named Boston Yanks.  His totals are 16 starts in 52 total games as a halfback.  He accrued 172 rushes for 831 yards (4.8 average) and 4 touchdowns, and 24 receptions for 376 yards (15.7 average) and 2 more touchdowns.  Also 23 punt returns for 309 yards (13.4 average) and 0 touchdowns, and 14 kickoff returns for 290 yards (20.7 average) and 0 touchdowns.  On defense he intercepted 14 passes for 59 yards.  He was at his best in the 1945 Championship game while a Cleveland Ram vs. the Washington Redskins.  He rushed for 101 yards on 17 carries, and added 45 yards and a touchdown on 2 receptions.

7) Elmer Angsman.  Angsman played halfback for the Chicago Cardinals from 1946-52, starting 26 out of 83 total games.  He was named to 1 Pro Bowl.  His lifetime totals include 683 rushes for 2908 yards (4.3 average) and 27 touchdowns, and 41 receptions for 654 yards (16.0 average) and 5 more touchdowns.  Also 10 kickoff returns for 147 yards (14.7 average) and 0 touchdowns.  In the Cardinals win versus my Philadelphia Eagles in the 1947 Championship game he rushed 10 times for 159 yards and 2 touchdowns.

8) Leo Skladany.  Aside from Charles Barnard, Skladany has to be the most obscure player on this list.  He only played a total of 7 games, over 2 seasons with the Philadelphia Eagles (1949) and the New York Giants (1950) as a substitute defensive/offensive end.  He doesn't have any offensive or defensive stats listed on any of the websites I consulted.  However, in the 1949 Championship vs. the Los Angeles Rams while playing with the Eagles, he did block a punt and return it for a touchdown.  Since the final score was only 14-0, it was obviously an important moment.  (The game was played in a torrential rain storm, one which dumped a total of 3 inches in Los Angeles.)

9) Wilbur Moore.  Moore played with the Washington Redskins as a wingback/halfback/defensive back/fullback from 1939-46, starting 37 out of 72 total games.  Career, he rushed 183 times for 901 yards (4.9 average) and 8 touchdowns, while catching 91 passes for 1224 yards (13.5 average) and 16 touchdowns.  On defense he intercepted 13 passes for 167 yards and 0 touchdowns.  On special teams he totaled 6 punt returns for 29 yards (4.8 average) and 0 touchdowns, and 11 kickoff returns for 206 yards (18.7 average) and 0 touchdowns.  He was named to 1 Pro Bowl.  In the 1942 Championship vs. the Chicago Bears he caught 2 passes for 39 yards and a touchdown, returned a kickoff for 25 yards, and intercepted 1 pass for 14 yards, helping the Redskins win 14-6.

10) Chick Jagade.  Jagade played fullback for the Baltimore Colts, Cleveland Browns, and Chicago Bears in 1949, and 1951-55.  All told he played in 68 games.  He accumulated 412 rushes for 1728 yards (4.2 average) and 13 touchdowns, and caught 68 passes for 628 yards (9.2 average) and 1 touchdown.  He also returned 23 kickoffs for 387 yards (16.8 average) and 0 touchdowns.  He had two remarkably similar Championship games in two losing efforts against the Detroit Lions.  In the 1952 Championship he rushed 15 times for 104 yards and a touchdown, and returned 1 kickoff for 17 yards.  In the 1953 game he rushed 15 times for 102 yards and a touchdown, while also catching one pass for 18 yards and returning one kickoff for 29 yards.

11) Henry Moore.  Moore played defensive back/halfback for the New York Giants and Baltimore Colts in 1956-57, totaling 16 games.  His lifetime stats are 1 interception for 0 yards, 2 rushes for negative 2 yards, and 1 kickoff return for 16 yards.  However, while playing for the Giants in their 1956 Championship game win against the Chicago Bears, he recovered a blocked punt in the endzone for a touchdown.  (He also rushed once, for 0 yards.)

12) Tobin Rote.  Rote had a long, but mostly mediocre NFL and AFL career, playing quarterback for the Green Bay Packers, Detroit Lions, San Diego Chargers, and Denver Broncos from 1950-59, 1963-4, and 1966 (he played in the Canadian Football League from 1960-62).  All told he completed 1329 out of 2907 passes (45.7%), for 148 touchdowns and 191 interceptions, and a 56.8 passer rating.  He led the league in passing attempts and completions twice, in passing yardage once, in touchdown passes twice, in completion percentage once, and yards per attempt once.  He was also named All-Pro once, and voted to the Pro Bowl twice.  He was also a fantastic rushing quarterback, accumulating 3128 yards on 635 attempts (4.9 average) and 37 touchdowns, and led his team in rushing 4 times.  He seemed to play his best in Championship games, though.  In 1957 with the Lions he took the starting reins when Bobby Layne got injured late in the season.  Then in the 1957 Championship game vs. the Cleveland Browns Rote played great, completing 12 of 19 passes for 280 yards, and 4 touchdowns with 0 interceptions.  He also rushed 7 times for 27 yards and a touchdown.  In 1963, while with the Chargers, he did his part to trounce the Boston Patriots.  He completed 10 of 15 passes for 173 yards, 2 touchdowns, and 0 interceptions, while rushing 4 times for 15 yards and 1 touchdown.  He also holds the distinction of being the only quarterback to lead his team to victory in both a NFL and AFL title game.

13) Steve Junker.  Junker had a brief, 55 game career with the Detroit Lions and Washington Redskins from 1957-62, playing end.  He totaled 48 receptions for 639 yards (13.3 average) and 6 touchdowns.  However, in the Lion's 59-14 dismantling of the Cleveland Browns in the 1957 Championship game he caught 5 passes for 130 yards and 2 touchdowns.

14) Ted Dean.  Dean played fullback/running back for the Philadelphia Eagles and Minnesota Vikings from 1960-64.  In 44 total games he rushed 263 times for 923 yards (3.5 average) and 2 touchdowns, while catching 51 passes for 684 yards (13.4 average) and 4 touchdowns.  On special teams he returned 46 punts for 279 yards (6.1 average) and 0 touchdowns, and returned 70 kickoffs for 1553 yards (22.2 average) and 0 touchdowns.  He led the NFL in kickoff returns and yardage in 1960, and was named to the Pro Bowl in 1961 as a punt returner.  In the Eagles 1960 Championship game win vs. the Green Bay Packers he rushed 13 times for 54 yards and 1 touchdown, caught 1 pass for 22 yards, returned 1 punt for 10 yards, and returned 1 kickoff for 58 yards.  Dean's career was cut short by various injuries.

15) Jim Collier.  Collier only played 27 games total, with the New York Giants and Washington Redskins in 1962-63.  A tight end, he returned 1 kickoff for 0 yards, and caught 1 pass for 27 yards, and 0 touchdowns.  He also recovered 1 fumble.  However, in the Giants loss to the Green Bay Packers in the 1962 Championship, he scored his team's only touchdown when he recovered a blocked punt in the end zone.

16) Gary Collins.  Collins was a very good, but not quite Hall of Fame caliber flanker/wide receiver/punter for the Cleveland Browns from 1962-71.  In 127 games he caught 331 passes for 5299 yards (16.0 average) and 70 touchdowns, while rushing 4 times for 60 yards and 0 touchdowns. As a punter he averaged 41.0 yards on 336 punts.  He led the NFL in receiving touchdowns once, and was named to 2 Pro Bowls.  In the Browns shellacking of the Baltimore Colts in the 1964 Championship, Collins put on a show, catching 5 passes for 130 yards and 3 touchdowns.  (To date Jerry Rice tied Collins' receiving touchdown record twice in Super Bowls, and several players have scored 3 touchdowns total (rushing and receiving) in a Super Bowl.

17) Keith Lincoln.  Rather like Collins, Lincoln was a very good but not quite Hall of Fame worthy player in his career at fullback/halfback with the San Diego Chargers and Buffalo Bills from 1961-68.  All told he played in 99 games, and was named All-Pro twice, and to the Pro Bowl 5 times.  In his career he rushed 758 times for 3383 yards (4.5 average) and 19 touchdowns, while catching 165 passes for 2250 yards (13.6 average) and another 19 touchdowns.  He returned 25 punts for 342 yards (13.7 average) and 1 touchdown, and returned 39 kickoffs for 1018 yards (26.1 average) and 1 touchdown.  As a kicker he made 5 out of 12 field goals, and 16 out of 17 points after touchdown.  He also completed 8 out of 17 passes for 240 yards and 5 touchdowns, with 1 interception.  In the Chargers 1963 AFL Championship game beatdown of the Patriots Lincoln had the game of his life, rushing 13 times for 206 yards and 1 touchdown, and catching 7 passes for another 123 yards and 1 touchdown.

     So there they are.  I realize this article will only be interesting to a limited amount of people, but I thought it might be a nice NFL/AFL history lesson.  Perhaps in the future I'll do a post on the unlikely heroes of the All America Football Conference (AAFC) Championship games, or of the United States Football League (USFL) Championships games.  I'm kidding.  I think.


Saturday, December 23, 2017

Exotic/Disgusting Foods and Beverages Forum--Canned Sausages

     Today I thought I'd try to embrace the "disgusting" part of the title that I use for these food and drink themed blog posts.  While I was strolling down the aisle in the local Food Lion grocery recently, I came upon several kinds of canned sausages.  One of them even had the appetizing name of "bulk sausage," whatever that is.  (Since, I've heard that this might refer simply to sausage that doesn't have a casing around it.)  Therefore, I snapped up three cans--one from Banner, one from Prairie Belt, and one from Beverly.  This can be seen as a companion piece to my post about various potted meats, such as Spam and Treet, from November 8, 2013.  I was further amused when I googled the names of these products, and on the first page I saw blogs calling one "unspeakable," and another titled, "Ewwww, They Call This Food," about the Beverly one.
     Banner is a brand of the giant Pinnacle Foods company, based out of New Jersey here in the U.S.  Pinnacle's website boasts that their products are found in 85% of American households.  Given that their brands include Birdseye, Log Cabin, Mrs. Paul's, Duncan Hines, Van de Kamps, Mrs. Butterworth, Aunt Jemima, Vlasic, Armour, Celeste, and Hungry-Man, this might not be an exaggeration.  The elder statesman of their brands appears to be Armour, which was started in Chicago back in 1867.  (And, to be negative, this company had some problems with their food safety, and was probably one of the companies loosely fictionalized in Upton Sinclair's muckraking novel "The Jungle," published in 1906.)  Also, Clarence Birdseye reportedly discovered the secret to making palatable frozen food while traveling in the Arctic--flash freezing minimizes ice crystal formation, which means there is less tissue damage, and therefore a better flavor.  Finally, the Hungry-Man frozen dinner line seems to be the youngest child of the family, only dating from 1973.  (Incidentally, I wonder if this sexist name has ever sparked any protest.)
     The Beverly bulk sausage is from Boone Brands, out of Sanford, North Carolina.  This company was started by the Patterson family, and they've been in business for over 75 years.  Aside from the canned sausage, they also market canned seafood products, and prepared Brunswick Stew.  Also, their Harris line markets a "she-crab soup," whose name I find mystifying.  Aren't crabs of both sexes eaten pretty much interchangeably?
     I wasn't able to locate a website for Prairie Belt, so my info about them is basically limited to where they're based (San Diego, California), and what's on the can label.  I was very excited, though, to read that one of the ingredients in their smoked sausage is pork spleens.  I pride myself on trying as many different organ meats as I can, but thus far spleen has escaped me.  (At least as far as I know--I guess hot dogs and other sausages and potted meats may contain bits of spleen in their mishmashes of largely trash meat, but I never had them definitively.)  The spleen is essentially the blood filter of the body--it removes old red blood cells, holds a blood reserve, stores white blood cells and platelets, synthesizes antibodies, and recycles iron.  It's also an organ that people can live without, like the stomach, gall bladder, colon, reproductive organs, and even kidneys (if you get dialysis).  Spleens aren't that popular as food, however.  One of the exceptions is the Sicilian spleen sandwich.  Nutritionally it's high in both iron and cholesterol.
     But, on to the ratings.

1) Banner sausage (Pinnacle Foods).  This came in a 10.5 ounce (298 gram) can.  The ingredients were pork, mechanically separated chicken, water, modified corn starch, salt, vinegar, natural flavors, and sodium nitrate. This looked like pink grainy glop.  The texture was also like grainy glop.  The taste was very salty.  It was also reminiscent of some of the weaker potted meats I've had, which isn't an endorsement.  It was fair at absolute best.  I didn't finish it.  I should mention, though, that I had it unheated, and plain, right out of the can.  Maybe it would have been better heated up with eggs, as was suggested on the label.

2) Prairie Belt smoked sausage (Prairie Belt company).  This can was 9.5 ounces (269 grams).  Inside were seven individual sausages, which looked like a half or even a third of a thick pink hot dog.  Once again I had them right out of the can, unheated, and plain.  Their flavor was very much like a hot dog, too.  So alright, but not great.   I then put some Taco Bell sauce on them, and this improved them nicely.  These were decent, and I did finish the can.  I would even consider getting these again.  It's just a shame that I couldn't detect the individual pieces of spleen within the overall sausages, to properly judge this organ's taste.  Incidentally, the other ingredients were mechanically separated chicken, water, chicken skin, pork skin, corn syrup, salt, mustard, spices, paprika, natural flavoring, pork stomachs, sodium tripolyphosphate, sodium nitrate, hickory smoke flavor, and chicken broth.

3) Beverly bulk sausage (Boone Brands).  Can was 283 grams/10 ounces.  Ingredients were pork stomachs, beef tripe, beef, beef heart meat, water, wheat flour, pork, salt, vinegar, spices, and sodium nitrate.  As with the others I had this one unheated, straight out of the can.  This looked like pink mush with yellowish globs (fat?) on it.  It reminded me a lot of the Banner kind, only less salty.  It was slightly better with Taco Bell sauce on it, but only slightly.  Overall then, not good, and I didn't finish it.  Once again, though, maybe this would have been significantly improved if I'd followed the preparation directions and had this with toast, or cooked and mixed up with eggs.

     Therefore, then, two out of three of these weren't good.  But, even these two weren't among the grossest things I've ever eaten or anything.  And admittedly the ingredients don't inspire much confidence, because they're mostly odds and ends, or trash meat, but you can make the same accusation about regular sausages, too, or hot dogs.  In a way I'm disappointed that these weren't absolutely revolting, because at least then they'd be more memorable.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Exotic/Disgusting Foods and Beverages Forum--Some Traditional Southern U.S. Cuisine

     I've been working in the South a bit this year, so I thought I'd explore some of their traditional dishes.  In some cases I'd tried these before, but I went back and sampled them again, both to give disappointing kinds another chance, and to revisit ones that I found palatable.  Specifically, I'm reviewing hoppin' Johns, butter beans, boiled peanuts, sweet tea, Coca-Cola with peanuts in it, and Moon Pies.  And, as usual, I chose items that I didn't have to prepare, both because I hate cooking, and since I'm currently staying in a hotel I don't have access to a full kitchen.
     Hoppin' Johns are traditionally made with blackeye peas, rice, onions, bacon, and salt.  Other common ingredients include green peppers, sausage, ham hocks, spices, and red cowpeas instead of the blackeye ones.  The derivation of the name isn't conclusively known.  One explanation is that it's a corruption of the Haitian Creole word for blackeye peas.  It also possibly has a unfortunate connection with the West African slave trade, as it was sometimes fed to the poor kidnapped souls traveling to the endless Hell of bondage in the U.S.  Moving to non-depressing things, there are a couple of whimsical traditions incorporating hoppin Johns on New Years Day.  In one it's served on that day to bring good luck for the year.  A coin may be placed in the pot.  Greens on the side represent American currency.  Corn bread on the side represents gold.  In another practice a diner leaves 3 blackye peas on their plate after finishing a serving of hoppin' Johns, to ensure good luck, fortune, and romance in the coming year.  And a Cuban variant of this dish which substitutes Cuban black beans for the blackeye peas is evidently known as "hoppin' Juans."  Finally, a website I consulted postulates that the hoppin Johns served in the past were superior to the modern kind because they used red cowpeas instead of blackeye peas, prepared the rice differently, and used better bacon flavoring.
     I was surprised to learn that butter beans are a type of lima bean.  Namely, a yellow, flat version of them.  This family of beans is also called a Madagascar bean, for reasons I couldn't discover--I mean, I'm guessing that some kinds are grown on that island, but I couldn't find out the specific details.  Lima beans were first grown in the Andean region of South America, in 2000 B.C.  And these beans are toxic if they're not boiled for at least 10 minutes.
     Boiled peanuts are simply, peanuts boiled in a salt water solution.  Sometime, Old Bay seasoning, ham hocks, hot sauce, or even beer are added for flavoring.  The peanuts used are either "green" (uncooked, undehydrated peanuts) or "raw" (uncooked, but dehydrated and then rehydrated peanuts). It's thought to have started as a way to use surplus and unsold peanuts after harvest time. This concoction is especially popular in Southeastern Virginia to Florida, Mississippi, and even Ohio.  But then boiled peanuts are popular in many places around the world, including South America, the Philippines, Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam, China, Taiwan, Nigeria, Ghana, and South Africa.  Some research suggests that boiling may denature some of the proteins that cause the extreme reaction in peanut allergy sufferers.  Although this hasn't been conclusively proven, so don't throw out your EpiPens and chow down on boiled peanuts if you have that particular condition.  Boiled peanuts are also the official snack food of South Carolina since 2006.
     Sweet tea is produced by adding sugar (or sometimes syrup) to a bag of black tea brewing in hot water.  The resulting beverage is then chilled and served as a sweeter version of iced tea.  Many kinds have twice the sugar of a serving of Coca-Cola.  The recipe formerly used green tea, but switched to black tea during World War II, when the American sources for green tea were controlled by the Japanese, and the only viable substitute was the tea grown in British-controlled India.
    The Coke with peanuts in it I only learned about recently.  Apparently a former boss of mine liked to do this, too.  After reading up on it online, it seems to be a Southern tradition, especially in rural farming areas.  It's apparently  almost a type of sports drink or Gatorade, a way to get salt back into you while enjoying a cold beverage on a hot day.  Or a way to get a snack and a drink all in one convenient package.  Various accounts included several kinds of soft drink bases, but RC Cola and particularly Coke were the most popular.  Since Coke was the easiest soda to get, too, I went with that.
     Moon Pies are the one item in this post whose history is definitively known, and which comes from one business.  They're made by Chattanooga Bakery, out of the town of the same name in Tennessee.  In fact, they're celebrating their centennial this year, as they were "born" on April 29, 1917.  Moon Pies are two disc-shaped graham crackers, dipped in chocolate, vanilla, banana, strawberry, or salted caramel coatings, with marshmallow filling in between.  Or orange and coconut cracker dips during Mardi Gras.  There's also a double decker version using three graham crackers, and two layers of filling.  Earl Mitchell, Jr., says that his father got the idea for this dessert by asking a Kentucky miner what his ideal snack would be, and being told it would involve graham crackers and marshmallow "as big as the moon."  Hence the main ingredients, and the name.  A Moon Pie and a RC Cola was also known as the "working man's lunch" in parts of the South.  The town of Mobile, Alabama drops a giant metal Moon Pie to signify the start of the New Year, a Southern version of the famous Ball dropping in New York's Times Square.  There's an annual Moon Pie festival in Belt Buckle, Tennessee, and an annual Moon Pie eating contest in Bessemer, Alabama.  The current record for consuming these treats is held by Matt Stonie, who downed 73 single Moon Pies in 8 minutes on October, 14, 2017 in Memphis Tennessee.  Similar desserts, or more unkindly, ripoffs of Moon Pies include Scooter Pies, Marshmallow Pies, and Mallomars in the U.S., Wagon Wheels in the U.K., Canada, and Australia, Choco Pies in South Korea, Japan, and Taiwan, Mamut and Rocko in Mexico, Halley in Turkey, Bimbo in Egypt, and Alfajor in Argentina.
     But let's move on to my impression of all these items.
1) Hoppin' Johns.  I had the 14.5 ounce (411 gram) can from Margaret Holmes, distributed by McCall Farms out of South Carolina.  This was yet another variant on the tradition, as there was no rice in them.  Also, there were peppers, tomatoes, garlic powder, and several other flavorings and preservatives.  I didn't like this.  I'm evidently not a huge fan of blackeye peas, and overall I thought the hoppin Johns were very dry, and not tasty.  I didn't finish the can.

2) Butter beans.  These came from Glory Foods, out of Columbus, Ohio, and once again came from a 14.5 ounce (411 gram) can.  They were largish (about an inch by .5 inch, or 2.5 cm. by about 1.25 cm.) yellowish beans.  I had some cold, and some warmed up in the microwave.  They were alright, maybe a tad bland.  With Taco Bell sauce they were quite good, and that's how I finished them.  When I learned they were a type of Lima bean I was very shocked, as Lima beans are one of my least favorite foods.  Either the slight variance with that bean makes a lot of difference, or else my tastes are changing in my middle age.

3) Boiled peanuts.  I bought a 13.5 ounce/ 378 gram can from Peanut Patch, which was once again distributed by McCall Farms out of SC.  The can claims they are, "Delicious chilled, heated, or right out of the can."  Also, it notes that these peanuts are non-GMO, gluten-free, protein rich, and contain no artificial colors or flavors.  I had boiled peanuts years ago, and absolutely hated them.  These were somewhat better, but still pretty bad.  They were peanuts, some still in their shells, floating in brine.  They were way too overly salty.  I love peanuts plain, and peanut butter, and in desserts and entrees, etc., so it's very difficult to mess this food up for me.  But boiled peanuts managed.  I could only stomach a few, and didn't even come close to finishing the can.

4) Sweet tea.  I had several options, so I chose the one made in the South, specifically the Gold Peak line of the Coco-Cola company, from Atlanta Georgia.  This was a 16.9 ounce/500 ml. bottle, and was made with real sugar instead of high fructose corn syrup.  As with the boiled peanuts, I'd had this before, years ago in a restaurant.  I found it much too sweet, and didn't enjoy it.  The Gold Peak was okay, but not great.  It was sweet, but not ridiculously so like the other example.  Maybe because it was a Coke product it's not considered "authentic."  I'm not a big iced tea guy, and when I do indulge I'll probably stick with a flavored Snapple or something, instead of sweet tea.

5) Coke and peanuts.  As per online recommendations, I opted for a Coca-Cola made in Mexico, so it was made with sugar and not corn syrup.  Also, happily the local supermarket sold these in glass bottles, rather than plastic ones.  Finally, I was able to get a sleeve of peanuts from the Lance company (Snyders-Lance, actually, but still pretty traditional) out of Charlotte, North Carolina.  I followed the serving instructions and drank a little off the top, and then poured in the peanuts.  They sparked a little fizzing.  I then consumed the result fairly rapidly so the peanuts didn't get soggy.  The result was alright--the salt of the peanuts contrasted nicely with the sweetness of the soda.  I like honey-roasted peanuts, for example, as another sweet and salty peanut snack.  So this was not a bad combo, even if it seems and looks a little weird.

6) Moon Pies.  I found this in a vending machine in a laundromat.  It was a chocolate double decker kind, 2.75 ounces/78 grams.  The chocolate-coated graham cracker discs were about 4 inches in diameter (about 10 cm.)  This dessert was also decent, but unspectacular.  I'm rather "meh" about marshmallow in general, so there's that.  Also, the sweetness was fairly overpowering.  I don't think I could have eaten another--it would have been too cloying.

     Therefore, to sum up, of these 6 consumables I liked 1, thought 3 were okay, and disliked 2.  And, amazing to me, my favorite of the bunch was the cousin of the Lima bean!

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Exotic/Disgusting Foods and Beverages Forum--Turkish Canned Fried Eggplant

     Granted, this entry stretches the "exotic" part of the title a bit--eggplant isn't that rare a food, obviously.  But, the combination of it being fried, canned, and Turkish puts it over the boundary line, I think.  To at least "slightly unusual."
     The importing company of this food was Galil, out of New York, U.S.A., while the eggplant itself was grown and prepared in Turkey.  Galil has existed since 1985, and, "Specializes in the importation and distribution of gourmet and specialty foods from around the world."  It has many lines in its fold, including Bright Morning, Shams, Nature's Envy, Lior, and Zweet.  The products it makes include breads and cheeses, cookies/biscuits/wafers, canned fruit and vegetables, candy, couscous and pasta, cereals and breakfast foods, desserts, soups, nuts and seeds, fish, preserves, Passover products, sauces and spreads, coffees and teas, and salt and spices.  Or, to put it more succinctly, basically everything that humans eat and drink.  In addition, they distribute other companies' products, including Joyva (see June 8, 2016 post), Mentos, and many others.
    Switching to the food I consumed, eggplant is in the nightshade family, meaning it's a relative of potatoes and tomatoes, among others.  Botanically speaking, it's a berry, and its edible seeds, like others in the nightshade family, contain nicotine.  (In case you're wondering, as I was, the amount of nicotine in eggplant is tiny, so people who eat it won't become addicted, as they do with tobacco products.)  From the evidence, eggplant is thought to have been first domesticated in two separate areas, in South Asia, and East Asia.  The earliest reference to it in writing is from 544 A.D., in China.  It wasn't introduced to the Mediterranean area until the Middle Ages.  As with the tomato, there have been periods when people thought its fruit was poisonous, even though it clearly isn't (see my November 21, 2012 post for more info).  However, if eaten in large quantities the leaves and flowers of the eggplant can be toxic, due to the solanine in them.  Another health theory about eggplant, courtesy of 13th century Italian folklore, is that eating it causes insanity.  (Spoiler alert--it doesn't.)  Myths like these are presumably why one of the alternate names for this food is the "mad apple."  The eggplant fruit itself has many variations.  Some subspecies' fruits are smaller, rounder, and yellow or white colored, meaning they actually do closely resemble goose or chicken eggs.  Others are green, reddish purple, or the common dark purple, and some are shaped like a classic cucumber.  The top five producers of eggplant are China, India, Iran, Egypt, and Turkey.  Finally, I was surprised to learn that eggplant isn't that great, nutritionally speaking.  It only provides more than 10% of the Recommended Daily Allowance for one vitamin or nutrient--11% for manganese.
     I wasn't taking much of a chance buying this food, as I'm quite the fan of eggplant.  More specifically, I've eaten many pounds of it, both in eggplant parm sandwiches, or the same without the roll, as an entree.  Although I also have been disappointed sometimes--it seems to be a little tricky to make, or else maybe eggplant that isn't fresh is notably deficient in taste.  Anyway, the Galil eggplant came in a 14 ounce (400 gram) can, and besides the eggplant it contained tomato, tomato paste, onion, sunflower oil, salt, garlic, and spices.  It had a wet and soft texture, and was brownish in color.  It wasn't breaded, as it usually is in eggplant parm dishes.  It was good.  I had mine cold, right out of the can, but it was still quite appetizing.  Spicewise it had enough to make it more interesting, but not so much that it was overpoweringly hot.  I'd definitely recommend this, and will buy it again the next time I see it.  I'd also consider purchasing other Galil products.  And any insane or neurotic behaviors on my part are almost certainly from other, non-food related causes.