Monday, August 29, 2022

Rant: You Should Drink Rosé After Labor Day!

Next weekend is Labor Day weekend, and that means that one particular type of wine will start vanishing from numerous wine store shelves. It's a tragedy as this type of wine should be available year round. It's delicious and versatile, and great with a multitude of food pairings. 

I'm referring to Rosé

With the coming of fall and winter, wine drinking habits tend to change, as many people will tend to drink more red wines. as well. However, plenty of people will still drink white wines, from Chardonnay to Riesling, during the fall and winter. Even though these white wines might be seen as better during the summer, wine stores continue to stock them on their shelves year round. 

However, Rosé often gets mistakenly labeled as a "summer only wine" and far too many people won't drink it in the fall and winter, despite the fact it can and should be consumed year-round. The situation has slowly improved during the last several years but change is still needed. The myth that Rosé wine is just for the summer needs to be shattered.

The media is partially responsible for perpetuating this myth, especially with the pre-summer deluge of articles declaring that it will soon be "Rosé season." These articles lead consumers to believe that Rosé is for summer only. Distributors play their part in this myth, promoting Rosé for the summer, and often stopping their promotion once Labor Day arrives. 

It's interesting that many of these individuals responsible for promoting this Rosé myth actually know better. They understand the truth, that there is absolutely no reason you should stop drinking Rosé just because fall arrives. Rosé is appropriate year-round, especially because it pairs so well with a diverse selection of foods. For example, it works very well with a Thanksgiving dinner. If you can drink white wine in the fall and winter, there is absolutely no reason you cannot drink Rosé too. I drink Rosé all year round and strongly encourage everyone else to do so as well.  

There are some wine stores which stock Rosé throughout the year and if your local shop doesn't, then you should recommend that they stock some. And if they don't bring in some Rosé, then seek elsewhere for this wine. Share some Rosé this fall and winter with your friends, showing them the potential of this delicious wine. Don't ask if they want Rosé but just pour them a glass. Once they taste the wine, they'll probably come to the realization of what they have been missing.

We also need more wine writers to pen Rosé articles during the fall and winter, to persuade consumers that this pink wine is appropriate during every season, and not just during the summer. Raising consumer awareness is vital to spreading a passion for Rosé year round.

Drink more Rosé, now and throughout the fall, winter and spring.

Friday, August 26, 2022

The Early Boston/China Trade: Ginseng & Tea

During much of the 18th century, Americans didn’t know much about China, but they were intrigued by the trade goods coming from China, from silks to tea. At this time, one of the most famous books about China was The General History of China by Jean-Baptiste Du Halde, a Jesuit priest. Interestingly, Jean-Baptiste never journeyed to China, compiling his book from numerous reports of other Jesuit priests who had travelled there. The book was translated into English in 1738, and it also had a powerful impact in Europe, leading to a thirst for more knowledge of China.

The British East India Company began importing tea from China in the latter half of the 17th century, though initially it was an expensive luxury. However, over the course of about thirty years, the price dropped until eventually it was cheap enough for everyone, spreading tea consumption throughout the country. In addition, as the 18th century began, the East India Company had garnered a monopoly in the British Empire of trading with China. Thus, no one from the American colonies were permitted to trade with China.

Tea was introduced into the American colonies during the mid-17th century. Around 1650, Peter Stuyvesant, the director-general of New Amsterdam (which would become New York), introduced tea to the colony, where it became extremely popular. By the end of the century, it’s said that more tea was being drunk there than in England. During the 18th century, tea spread throughout the colonies, becoming common for all social classes, and by the middle of the century, the average colonist was consuming at least one cup of tea per day.

In general, the colonies had to purchase their tea from British traders, although sometimes they bought it from smugglers. During the early 1770s, as tensions with Britain increasing and war came, it’s said that about 75%-95% of the tea drank by colonists was then smuggled into the country. Even with the Boston Tea Party and similar protests, colonists continued to drink plenty of tea, simply obtaining it elsewhere than from the British.

After the Revolutionary War, when the U.S. was no longer part of the British Empire, they were finally able to begin their own trade with China, and over time would sell to China ginseng, sea otter pelts, silver, sandalwood, sea cucumbers, cotton fabric, and other items. American ships sailed around the Cape of Good Hope on their way to China. U.S. received silks, porcelain, furniture, and hundreds of thousands of tons of tea.

The first American ship to engage in trade with China, traveling across the seas to the port of Canton, was the Empress of China, a former 360-ton privateer, in 1784. At this time, Canton was the only Chinese port open to Westerners, and it had first been visited by Europeans, the Portuguese, in 1516. The English didn’t begin visiting Canton until 1637.

As an aside, a ship from Boston should have actually been the first American merchant ship to sail to Canton. In 1783, the Harriet, a 55-ton sloop under the command of Captain Hallet, set sail for Canton with a full cargo of ginseng root. However, while passing around the Cape of Good Hope, they encountered a ship owned by the East India Company. Possibly to protect their trade with Canton, the British ship offered to buy their ginseng, for double its weight in Hyson tea. Hyson tea, also known as Lucky Dragon tea, is a Chinese green tea. Captain Hallet chose to accept this deal, turn his ship around and return to Massachusetts. Accepting this lucrative deal was obviously much less dangerous than continuing to sail to Canton.

However, the Empress of China still had a significant connection to Boston. Backed by Robert Morris, who previously provided financial support during the American Revolution, the objective of the mercantile journey of the Empress of China was to obtain Chinese tea. To trade with the Chinese, the vast majority of the cargo of the Empress was ginseng, about 30 tons.

According to The Old China Trade by Foster Rhea Dulles (1930), ginseng was “.., a root used by the Chinese for its supposed miraculous healing qualities. It grew wild both in Manchuria and in the forests of the New World.” In addition, ginseng was “Known as the ‘dose for immortality,’ it was worth its weight in gold.” The forests of the U.S., including New England, were searched for ginseng root, which was considered inferior to the native Chinese ginseng, but still garnered quite a high price.

Robert Morris chose Samuel Shaw, a Bostonian and Revolutionary War hero, to be the supercargo, essentially the man in charge of selling the cargo, of the Empress of China. This was a hugely important role, and the very success of the journey was dependent upon Shaw’s mercantile and negotiation skills. 

Shaw, who was born in 1754, worked in counting houses prior to the Revolutionary War so was familiar with business. In 1775, when he was about 21 years old, Shaw joined the militia during the Siege of Boston, which lasted for nearly a year. He was promoted multiple times during the War, eventually ending up in 1780 as a Captain of the 3rd Artillery.

The Old China Trade by Foster Rhea Dulles (1930), stated Shaw was ”Shrewd, far-sighted, and of keen judgment, he was well equipped to deal with the merchants of Canton, but even more important, his tact and understanding were the qualities most necessary to win their friendship…” Shaw didn’t seem to possess any prejudices against the Chinese.

The Empress of China departed from New York on February 22, 1784, arriving in Canton on August 28. Shaw kept a journal of his experiences in Canton, concentrating primarily on the business aspects of his journey. He didn’t feel qualified enough to make general conclusions about the Chinese people as he saw only a very limited slice of their society, just a portion of their business aspect.

His journal also had an interesting passage which showed the nature of his soul and morality, and which was indicative that he was probably an excellent choice for the endeavor to Canton. During the sea voyage, Shaw passed by a French slave ship, and was outraged by what he saw, being a fierce opponent of slavery.

In The Journals of Major Samuel Shaw, the First American Consul at Canton by Samuel Shaw and Josiah Quincy (1847), Shaw wrote, “A number of the naked blacks were on deck,--poor creatures, going to a state of hopeless slavery, and, torn from every tender connection, doomed to eat the bread and drink the water of affliction for the reside of their miserable lives! Good God! And is it man, who distinguishing characteristic should be humanity and the exercise of every milder virtue, who wears sweet smiles and looks erect on heaven,--is it man, endowed by three with a capacity for enjoying happiness and suffering misery, to whom thou hast imparted a knowledge of thyself, enabled him to judge of right and wrong, and taught to believe in a state of future retribution,--it is man, who, thus tramping upon the principles of universal benevolence, and running counter to the very end of his creation, can become a fiend to torment his fellow-creatures, and deliberately effect the temporal misery of beings equally candidates with himself for a happy immortality.”

One matter he did mention was that the Chinese were initially confused about Americans, believing at first they were Englishmen. The Old China Trade by Foster Rhea Dulles (1930), it noted, “Among the Chinese the Americans were regarded as the ‘New People,’ and Shaw took great pains to explain the extent of the country from which he came and the possibilities of trade which his initial venture opened up.”

During his time in Canton, he was involved in a precarious situation which became known as the Canton War. A British ship, the Lady Hughes, had issued a gun salute in honor of some guests who had just dined on board. However, it accidentally killed a Chinese man and wounded two others on a ship located alongside the British vessel.

The Chinese demanded that the British turn over the gunner to them to face Chinese justice, which would have been a death sentence. The British refused, and two days later, the Chinese captured the supercargo of that British vessel, holding him hostage. They also suspended all trade and tensions were very high, with armed vessels on both sides gathering together, presenting an obvious threat.

In a letter printed in The Pennsylvania Packet & Daily Advertiser (PA), September 10, 1785, Shaw wrote, “It is a maxim of the Chinese law, that blood must answer for blood; in pursuance of which they demanded the unfortunate gunner. To give up the poor man was to consign him to certain death.” He also stated, “Humanity pleaded powerfully against the measure.” Obviously Shaw didn’t believe the gunner should be handed over to the Chinese.

As noted in The Old China Trade by Foster Rhea Dulles (1930), “Shaw now took the lead in urging a united front on the part of all concerned to force the Chinese to surrender their hostage and reach a peaceful solution of the controversy. But there was no feeling of unity among these rival traders. The French, the Danes and the Dutch frankly refused to risk hostilities on behalf of the English.” Despite their refusals, Shaw continued to support the British, even though their two countries had been at war recently.

Eventually, as there appeared no other viable option, the British surrendered, and turned their gunner over to the Chinese, who executed him by strangling. That action restored peace and commerce to Canton, albeit at a terrible price.

On December 28, 1784, Shaw sailed back home, having sold all of his cargo, acquiring 2460 piculs of black tea, 562 piculs of green tea, plus some silk, chinaware, and other assorted items. A picul is approximately 133 1/3 pounds, so the cargo included about 164 tons of black tea and 37.5 tons of green tea. The ship arrived back in New York on May 11, 1785. With a capital investment of $120,000, their profit was about 25%, or around $30,000.

The Empress of China planned to make a second voyage to Canton, and wanted Shaw to participate once again. Unfortunately, Shaw’s portion of the profits of the first journey hadn’t been significant so he had quickly acquired a new job, being appointed the First Secretary of the War Department. He decided not to accept the offer to rejoin the Empress.

However, China seemed to call to Shaw, and he soon resigned his position with the War Department to join a different ship travelling to Canton. In fact, five mercantile vessels (including one from Salem, Massachusetts) traveled to Canton within a year of the return of the Empress.

One of the other ships leaving New York was the Hope, and Shaw joined this voyage, leaving New York in February 1786, and arriving back in Canton in August. In 1786, Shaw was also appointed Consul to China by Congress, a position which would be renewed by President George Washington in 1790.

During this second voyage, Shaw found that nearly all of the tea prices in Canton were at least 25% higher than his prior voyage. In The Journals of Major Samuel Shaw, the First American Consul at Canton by Samuel Shaw and Josiah Quincy (1847), Shaw wrote, “The inhabitants of America must have tea,--the consumption of which will necessarily increase with the increasing population of our country.” Shaw remained in China until he sailed back to the U.S. in January 1789, finally reaching Newport, Rhode Island in July 1789. 

In addition, some statistics on this early China trade were provided by The Trouble with Tea by Jane T. Merritt (2017). “All told, between 1784 and 1790, forty-one American maritime ventures exchanged goods in Canton markets; some ships, such as the Empress of China, made several voyages. Over the next decade (1791–1800) another 166 American vessels sailed directly to China.” As for the tea trade, Merritt wrote, “Into the 1790s, tea made up at least half of the cargo value for most American ships trading in China.” In addition, “Whereas Samuel Wharton had reckoned that Americans drank 2 pounds of tea annually in the 1770s, a typical family of the 1790s might purchase and drink 4 to 5 pounds each year.

While in Canton on this second voyage, Shaw had also commissioned a new ship to be built in Quincy, Massachusetts. It was to be the largest American ship, at 800 tons, ever launched and was named the Massachusetts. It was launched in September 1789 and Shaw underwent a voyage to Canton in March 1790, arriving in September. However, this trip encountered difficulties, and Shaw had trouble selling all of his cargo.

Curiously, Shaw decided to sell his new ship, and it was either bought by the Portuguese or the Danish (dependent on which source you consult). Shaw acknowledged that it was a very well built ship, but its size was more of a detriment than an asset. Such a large cargo posed a greater risk for investors and Shaw felt it was probably better to have smaller cargos, and thus less risk, attracting more potential investors.

He returned to the United States in 1792 but sailed again for China soon after, which would prove to be his final voyage. During this journey, he stopped Bombay, due to typhoons, where he contracted a serious liver disease. He reached Canton in November 1793, but, still ill, he chose to leave China in March 1794, but never reached the U.S. On May 30, near the Cape of Good Hope, Shaw succumbed to his illness and was buried at sea. Samuel Shaw was instrumental in establishing good relations with China, leading to a successful mercantile trade.

Over time, American merchants attempted to seek other trade items, besides ginseng, which would satisfy the Chinese, and this eventually led to a trade in sea otter fur pelts obtained from the Native Americans of the Northwest Coast. In September 1787, a group of six Boston merchants financed two ships, the Columbia and Lady Washington, to sail to the Northwest, obtain furs, and then travel to China.

The two ships encountered numerous difficulties on route, so that only the Columbia eventually made the journey to Canton. In August 1790, the ship successfully returned to Boston with 350 chests of Bohea tea, a black tea. Soon thereafter, other ships started buying furs to trade with China.

The Old China Trade by Foster Rhea Dulles (1930) stated: “Boston had initiated the trade; Boston kept a virtual monopoly of it.” For example, from 1790-1818, 108 U.S. vessels traveled to the Northwest and traded furs to China. There’s a partial list of these ships, with the names of 63 of them, and of that group, 52 were from Boston. That definitely shows Boston had a near monopoly on that trade.

How important was the China trade to the U.S.? According to When America First Met China: An Exotic History of Tea, Drugs, and Money in the Age of Sail, by Eric Jay Dolin, “The China trade was critical to the growth and success of the new nation. It bolstered America’s emerging economy, enabling Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Salem, Providence, and other ports to thrive after the ravages of the war. In doing so it helped create the nation’s first millionaires, instilled confidence in Americans in their ability to compete on the world’s stage, and spurred an explosion in shipbuilding that led to the construction of the ultimate sailing vessels—the graceful and exceedingly fast clipper ships.”

Who would have thought that the trade in Chinese tea could end up being so important to the future of the U.S.? 

Thursday, August 25, 2022

Thursday Sips & Nibbles

I'm back again with a new edition of Sips & Nibbles, my regular column where I highlight some interesting, upcoming food and drink events. I hope everyone dines out safely, tips well and are nice to their servers.
1) Saloniki Greek is expanding with two new locations, in Boston’s Back Bay and Beacon Hill neighborhoods, set to debut in September 2022. 

Inspired by the Saloniki in Harvard Square, the new locations will accommodate about 30 guests. Both locations will feature ‘first come, first serve,’ casual seating options, and the Back Bay location will offer a walk-up take-out window. Owner, Eric Papachristos, born and raised in a Greek family, along with partner and owner Jon Mendez, have brought "the authentic flavors and culinary traditions of the typical cuisine found in the native land" to the Boston-area.

The first location, located at One Beacon Street in Boston’s historic Beacon Hill, is set to open its doors September 15th. The second of the two locations, is set to open September 28th at 316 Newbury Street in Boston’s Back Bay,.

The menu will feature Greek cuisine like the signature Spatchcock Chicken, served with crispy smashed potatoes and tzatziki, as well as Chicken Souvlaki, Griddled Spanakopita, Classic Greek as well as Seasonal Salads, dishes with Braised Pork, Spicy Lamb Meatballs and Zucchini-Feta Fritters, and Saloniki’s own frozen yogurt.

Located in Vermont, Barr Hill produces some excellent gins, including some amazing barrel-aged gins, from honey. As a fascinating aside, back in 1820, there were over 200 distilleries and Vermont and gin was the most commonly produced spirit. Check out my prior review of the Barr Hill gins, and I'll note that I currently have some Barr Hill aged gins in my home bar. 

In 2016, Barr Hill started their annual Bee’s Knees Week initiative, which takes place every September.  This year, it will be held from September 23-October 2. The 10-day celebration honors the Bee’s Knees Cocktail, shines a light on the importance of pollinators and creates a community of cocktail lovers working together to save the bees. 

During Bee’s Knees Week, individuals are invited to order a Bee’s Knees Cocktail at their favorite bar and share the photo on social media. For every photo posted using the hashtag #beeskneesweek, Barr Hill partners with one of several non-profit organizations located throughout the U.S. to plant 10 square feet of pollinator habitat, in order to save the endangered bees and pollinators. This initiative is especially important in an era where honeybees face colony collapse disorder (CCD) and other threats - Barr Hill wants to keep them buzzing not only for their own spirits, but for the 90 different food crops and 90% of flowering plants that these bees pollinate annually. Last year generated world-wide participation and Barr Hill planted 200,000 square feet of pollinator habitat which was an increase of 2.5 times the previous year’s impact.  

The phrase “bee’s knees” was prohibition-era slang for “the best.” This classic cocktail born from the prohibition era combines gin, lemon, and honey. 
2 oz Barr Hill Gin 
.75 oz Fresh Lemon Juice
.75 oz Raw Honey Syrup (2 parts honey to 1 part hot water. Let cool.)
Lemon Twist Garnish

3) Hub Hall, the new food hall on Causeway Street, next to TD Garden, is now offering some interesting wine pairings for some of the various foods available at the hall. They offer five specific wine pairings, with the wines available by the glass, carafe or bottle. Glass prices range from $9-$12, with bottle prices ranging from $35-$45.

The pairings include: 
Ferrari Trento Brut and Fried Chicken (Lily P’s)--This is my favorite pairing of the five. Sparkling wine and fried chicken is such an excellent pairing.
Trimbach Dry Riesling and Oysters (Reelhouse)--This is my second favorite pairing, as I love the Trimbach winery
Saracina Unoaked Chard and Lobster Roll Sampler (Cussers)
Los Vascos Carmenere and Ribs (Smokeshop)
Los Vascos Syrah and Pizza (Apizza)

Tuesday, August 23, 2022

Wusong Road: First Impressions

I recently trekked into Harvard Square, the first time I'd been there since the pandemic began. As I walked around, I was disappointed to see so many closed and shuttered businesses, including places which used to be some of my favorites. Hopefully, that will turn around in the near future, with new and interesting businesses taking over those empty spaces.

One of my objectives on my journey to Harvard Square was to have lunch at a new restaurant, Wusong Road, which opened in December 2021. I'd read raves about this restaurant, and the menu looked interesting, so I wanted to check it out myself. 

Their website states: "Overall Wusong Road is a Tiki bar where we match old school American Chinese restaurant affordability, plush midcentury modern comfortability and top it off with a splash of rum and good old fashioned hospitality." The website also continues, "Wusong Road is not intended to be a ‘political’ or ‘social’ commentary on Tiki culture. Instead, Wusong Road is a celebration on the Asian American restaurant experience that is so engrained in our history and culture."

The main restaurant and bar is on the second floor, and as I walked up the stairs to reach it, I liked the decor of the restaurant, which I found interesting and fun. 

The monkeys hang above the tables in the small dining room, which occupies the initial part of the restaurant. That is where everyone was seated for lunch.

The largest part of the restaurant is the lengthy bar area with hightop tables. This is definitely a spot I'd love to hang out and drink some cocktails, while noshing on snacks.

Even the water glasses have a Tiki flair. 

You might suspect that cocktails would be expensive here, but that is definitely not the case. Most of their cocktails, including the Painkiller, Zombie, Scorpion Bowl, Singapore Sling, Aku Aku, Sub Tropical Itch, are only about $12. Their Scorpion Bowl is $20, but is intended for two people (with a $40 version for 4 people). 

I opted for the Mai Tai ($10.88), which is made with Jamaican, Guyana and Martinque rums, almond orgeat, curaçao, and lime, and served with a metal straw. Most other places that offer a Mai Tai don't make it with such a different selection of rums, instead using much more common and less expensive rums. I enjoyed the complex taste of the Mai Tai, which was refreshing, with a noticeable alcohol content (but not overly so). I suspect their other cocktails would be equally as delicious.

The small Lunch menu has about four appetizers and nine lunch plates, and prices are reasonable. The menu is intended to be fun and not trying to adhere to any specific Chinese cuisine. For example, one of the lunch plates is "New England Chop Suey" with an Asian flair. It's made with Ma La spice, grilled tomato 'bolognese', home-made shanxi maoerduo noodles, spring onions, crispy garlic chips and Thai basil. I'd like to try that on a future visit. 

For lunch, we began with an order of their Ma La Tater Tots with a sambal ketchup. The tots are made with chili oil, ma la spices, crispy garlic, & scallions. The tater tots were delicious, perfectly crispy and crunchy, with a mild spicy heat to them, enhanced by the sambal ketchup. A great bar snack, this would go with any cocktail you wanted. 

We also began with the Pork & Chive Dumplings ($10.88), made with a Chikang black vinegar % ginger sauce, chili crisp, spring onion, and crispy garlic. A firm dumpling, with some crispness from the frying, they were filled with plenty of tasty meat and spices, enhanced by the interesting sauce.

The Lunch Plates, which are generally all $14.88, come in this stack of metal containers, broken into three separate sections, which contain your entree, side and dessert. Some of the entrees include Lettuce Cups, Hand Pulled Noodles, and Yong Kan Beef. For your side, you get a choice of House Fried Rice (vegetarian or pork), Jasmine Rice, Papaya Salad, or Ma La Tots. And for dessert, you receive Daikon pickles, a fortune cookie, and a daily pastry. 

Note: Most of their prices end in "88" which is considered a very lucky number to the Chinese. 

I opted for the Lunch plate of Mandarin Chicken, which is crispy chicken, with togarashi seasoning, scallions, sesame seeds, Thai basil, and accompanied by a Mandarin orange & samba ldipping sauce. The chicken was moist and tender, with a thin and crunchy fried coating. Overall, excellent fried chicken, especially with the seasonings on it. The dipping sauce was tasty too, and not the thick, cloying orange sauce you find at some other restaurants. I'd definitely order this again.

The House Fried rice with pork was also very good.

The dessert plate had Daikon pickles, a fortune cookie, and heart-shaped cookie (which was also very fresh and good, and not overly sweet. 

The other entree we ordered was the Wusong Road Bao, where you get your choice of two bao, including the BBQ Char Sui Pulled Pork or Chicken Katsu, each with sriracha aioli, bread & butter pickles, napa cabbage, & General Tso's sauce. We got one of each, and as you can see, they make faces on the bao to represent the animal it represents, a pig and a chicken. Both were excellent, with moist and tender meat, and a pleasing blend of flavors. 

I was impressed with my first visit to Wusong Road and can't wait to return, to taste more of the menu. I'd definitely recommend it to my readers, for the quality of their food and drink, as well as the reasonableness of their prices. 

Monday, August 22, 2022

Rant: Who Can You Trust? Seeking Accurate Information

"There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics."

When you read a food or drink article, you'll find a number of alleged "facts" within that article. However,  are those alleged facts the truth, or merely errors which are being offered as "facts?" The same can be said for articles about all other topics as well. We are flooded with information from the media and plenty of it isn't true. 

The key question is always: Who can you trust for accurate information?

That cannot be easily answered. In the end, it's an assessment based on various factors, including a source's motivations, biases, knowledge base, experience, skills, and more. It's a crucial assessment if we want accurate data, if we want correct and honest information. If these matters are important to us, then it is our duty to seek the truth, or at least as close as we can get to the truth. And that is a sentiment applicable to so many topics, not just food and drink.

If you want information about a wine, spirit, or beer, who do you trust? A distributor, a liquor store employee, a professional drink critic, a drink blogger, a friend? Distributors and liquor store staff have a financial motivation to sell wine, which could bias their opinion. Other biases exist which could affect the other potential sources of drink information. Does a blogger only review free samples? Then their opinion might be biased, in order to continue receiving free samples. In addition, all of these sources will have different levels of knowledge about different wines.

If you want information about sustainable seafood, who do you trust? A fisherman, seafood purveyor, marketing company, professional writer, blogger, etc.? Once again, some of those will have a financial motivation and that could taint their opinions. Others may have their own biases which need to be taken into consideration. Sources will also have different knowledge levels, from scientists to informed citizens. I have seen marketers claim a seafood is sustainable, though by examining other evidence, it appears the marketers were not correct.

You'll sometimes hear the phrase "Data is truth," but it's not accurate. Data may or may not be accurate dependent on numerous factors, such as who is collecting the data, how they are collecting it, any definitions that were used, and much more. Plus, one's interpretation of that data may not rise to the level of fact or truth. Statistics can be easily manipulated to prove one's own agenda. Facts can also be cherry picked to do the same. We see this occurring all the time in the media. 

During the course of researching and writing my numerous historical articles, I've found plenty of claims, which were "common knowledge," and accepted by many as the truth, yet in the end, proved not to be true. It was easier for some media sources to repeat this common knowledge rather than do their own detailed research. Even some authoritative sources make errors, and sometimes those errors can be easily discerned through additional research. 

For a recent example, a writer on Facebook alleged that a certain phrase was coined by a specific person during the 1970s. However, it took me about 30 seconds of research to determine that was incorrect, that the phrase extended back to the early 1950s. Why didn't that writer do more accurate research? It certainly wouldn't have taken him much time to find what I had found. Was it a case of lazy journalism?   

The key to discerning an accurate source, to determine what to believe, is to question everything. Question motivations, knowledge levels, biases and more. Don't accept anything at face value. Yes, it takes more time to do this, but it pays off in the end by providing you better and more accurate answers. That questioning can help you trust your source more. For example, the longer you follow a writer, the better you will understand them, and the better you can assess their biases, preferences, and knowledge level. That will lead to a better bond of trust.

Besides questioning everything, you should also consult other resources and not just a single one. The more references you consult, the better your chances of getting accurate information. Don't just consult Wikipedia for your information. Yes, it might take longer to do all of the necessary research, but in the end, you will get closer to the truth, a worthy goal. 

With the information overload found online, please remember that not everything can be trusted. Question everything, and seek as many references as possible. Trust and accuracy comes with time and effort.

Tuesday, August 16, 2022

Bringing Back a Thanksgiving Tradition: Doughnuts

Think about all the delicious, traditional dishes on your Thanksgiving table. The roast turkey, cranberry sauce, sweet potatoes, gravy, stuffing, pumpkin pie, mincemeat pie, and more. However, there's probably an item, with over 100 years of tradition, that isn't on your Thanksgiving table. And it's time to bring back that tradition, making your Thanksgiving feast even tastier.

The Doughnut.

The tradition of Thanksgiving doughnuts extends back at least to the 1830s (and likely even earlier) and continued until around the early 1940s, when it largely seemed to die out for unknown reasons. We need to revive this tradition, to bring the beloved doughnut back to the Thanksgiving table. I'm sure plenty of people would embrace this tradition, and revel in the delectable taste of a doughnut with their turkey dinner. 

So, start making your plans now, whether you decide to make your own doughnuts at home or purchase them from your favorite doughnut shop. Hopefully, local doughnut shops will get behind the revival of this tradition as well, creating special flavored doughnuts for the holiday. However, many doughnut shops appear to be closed on Thanksgiving, so you may need to purchase them the day before. Making them at home might be your best option for getting the freshest doughnut.

Let's delve into the fascinating history of the Thanksgiving doughnut.

The first reference I found was the Daily Evening Advertiser (ME), November 17, 1834, which stated: “The Journeymen Printers from New England in the city of New York, have agreed to celebrate the forthcoming Thanksgiving in true Yankee style. Roast turkies, pumpkin pies, molasses gingerbread, dough-nuts, and all the etceteras of this well known Yankee holiday, are to crown the festive board.” 

This indicates that doughnuts were part of the "Yankee" tradition of Thanksgiving, although it doesn't state how long that tradition had been in place. So, we can safely say the tradition extends back at least to 1834, although it's very likely the tradition is even older. We don't know how or why the tradition started, but this brief article didn't make it seem this was an oddity.  

The Tennessean (TN), September 24, 1836, in an article on Thanksgiving, noted that a woman, preparing for the holiday the day before, had made “..a lot o’ pies, and cakes, and sausage-meat, and dough-nuts,..” We should note as well that around this time, doughnuts lacked the "holes" we now know. They were more like little fried cakes. 

The Nantucket Inquirer (MA), February 3, 1836, mentioned, "So the day afore thanksgivin' she called me into the tether room, that marm Peabody christened the parlor, to see what a lot o' pies and cakes and sausagemeat and dough-nuts, she'd got made up, and charge me not to lay the weight on my finger upon one of 'em."

In a more local mention, The Baltimore Sun (MD), December 4, 1838, printed, “The Boston Times, describing Thanksgiving day, says ‘All is joy and cider, frolic and fried dough-nuts. Where were the pumpkin pies?”

There was another brief reference to the New England Thanksgiving tradition and doughnuts noted in the Rutland Weekly Herald (VT), October 15, 1839. The newspapers also stated that in Manhattan, doughnuts were called “Crawlers,” like a precursor to the word "Cruller." 

In the Baltimore Clipper (MD), November 13, 1839, it mentioned, "Life does not consist in merely breathing, as the Yankee said when he sat down to his thanksgiving dinner--and the way he swallowed the doughnuts and molasses gingerbread was a mercy to the turkies and other sweetmeats.

In another local mention, a more poetic note, the Richmond Dispatch (VA), November 25, 1852, stated: “The Boston Post commemorates a thanksgiving raphsody (sic) as follows, “Yes, ye trencher-men, rejoice and be exceeding glad, for thanksgiving is nigh at hand. Let the good house wife bake up a goodly number of pumpkin pies, fix up the chicken fixens, and get their nice cakes and doughnuts ready---for thanksgiving is coming right along.”

There was another Thanksgiving poem in the Hillsdale Standard (MI), November 22, 1853. which stated: “Hark! The Turkies’ plaintive cries! Puddings rare, and pumpkin pies, Chickens fat and doughnuts round,..” This poem would be repeated in other newspapers through at least 1855. Doughnuts were definitely considered a Thanksgiving tradition. 

The Amherst Collegiate Magazine conducted by the Students of Amherst College (Massachusetts, 1853) published an article state noted, "Thanksgiving at home--what a medley of good things are suggested by the words! What visions arise of puddings plum and plump, of swollen cakes and plethoric pies, of cranberries, apples, doughnuts, walnuts;.."

In My Sister Margaret: A Temperance Story by Mrs. C.M. Edwards (New York, 1859) there was a discussion of a Thanksgiving dinner, mentioning, "Loaves of cake and pots of doughnuts stood side by side; a large turkey was roasting before the kitchen fire,..."

There were a number of brief mentions of doughnuts and Thanksgiving dinners in the Cleveland Daily Leader (OH), December 2, 1861, Orange County Telegraph (VT), December 12, 1862, Pittson Gazette (PA), November 24, 1864, the Rock Island Argus (IL), November 26, 1870, Guard of Honor Monthly (NY), December 1, 1872, Daily Kansas Tribune (KS), November 20, 1873, Champaign County Gazette (IL), November 27, 1878, and the Down Times (KS), November 20, 1890.  

In Our Young Folks: An Illustrated Magazine for Boys and Girls, edited by J.T. Trowbridge and Lucy Larcom (Boston, November 1870), there was The Soldier's Family--An Opera For Children, which had a discussion of Thanksgiving, and some of the treats served for that holiday, including "Doughnuts and apples and walnuts all cracked!" In a later passage, it was mentioned the doughnuts were fried.

The Vermont Gazette (VT), November 18, 1871, mentioned: “Thanksgiving occurs a fortnight from last Thursday. Get ready your turkies, cranberries, doughnuts, pumpkin pies and sich.” And the Richmond Weekly Palladium (IN), November 25, 1874, published an advertisement offering “Thanksgiving doughnuts at the Quaker City Bakery.” The Clinton Advocate (MO), November 26, 1885, offered a Thanksgiving poem, with a line stating: “Round the platter of doughnuts and pumpkin pies;

The Miami Herald (FL), November 26, 1891, discussed a woman who was going to her New England home for Thanksgiving, and she looked for to assisting her mom, "Doughnuts were to be fried, pumpkin pies baked, the turkeys to be prepared, the one for boiling with its dressing and sauce of oysters, the other suitably stuffed to be roasted and eaten with its accompanying cranberries;..." 

The Pittsburgh Press (PA), November 28, 1894, had a brief ad for a leaf lard, stating your "Thanksgiving Doughnuts" would be "doubly delightful" if they were made with this lard. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (PA), November 18, 1895, printed: “The chilly evenings and frosty mornings remind us that Thanksgiving is almost here. The turkey is fattening, the doughnuts are frying, and as for pies, none other than mince pies will be considered for the Thanksgiving dinner.

A Thanksgiving song. The Appleton City Journal (MO), November 26, 1896, printed a "Thanksgiving Song" and one of the lyrics stated, "Heigh ho! for dear jolly Thanksgiving, with doughnuts and cranberry sauce." The New Herald (PA), November 18, 1897, briefly mentioned a "Thanksgiving Doughnut Feast" was to be held by a local church. 

This is the only doughnut recipe I found that specifically named them "Thanksgiving Doughnuts." The recipe was in the Tulsa Sunday Times (OK), November 26, 1916. It's not a difficult recipe and you could make them yourself this upcoming Thanksgiving. 

The St. Joseph News-Press (MO), November 26, 1919, published an ad for a new doughnut shop, which stated "Get your Thanksgiving doughnuts tonight." The doughnuts included: perfect cream doughnuts, frosted doughnuts, nut top doughnuts, French doughnuts, and chocolate top doughnuts. 

Another lard advertisement! The Evening Times (PA), November 19, 1920, printed an ad about Bailey's Home Rendered Lard, which stated, "The minute you drop a Thanksgiving doughnut in the fat, it starts frying at once. When done the doughnut will be tender and delicious."

Thanksgiving doughnuts even extended as far west as Hawaii! They were no longer just a New England tradition. The Honolulu Advertiser (HI), November 22, 1921, posted an ad asking people to order their Thanksgiving Doughnuts from the Doughnut Shop. 

The Daily Times, November 22, 1921, also had an advertisement for Thanksgiving doughnuts, noting "Doughnuts are a balanced food--Fat, Starch, Eggs and Milk."

The Knoxville News-Sentinel (TN), November 28, 1928, mentioned that women from a local church were holding a "Thanksgiving doughnut" sale. There was another advertisement in the The Record (NJ), November 26, 1929, which briefly stated, “Doughnuts and Thanksgiving go hand in hand.”

It seems Thanksgiving doughnuts might not have been popular all across the country. In the The State (SC), November 18, 1930, it noted, “The difficulty in writing ‘household hints’ for the whole country is illustrated by the Thanksgiving bill of fare proposed by the Associated Press ‘Homemaker,’ Loise Bennett Weaver, which makes doughnuts an important item. Imagine doughnuts on a Southern table on Thanksgiving Day!”

The Indianapolis Star (IN). November 27, 1935, ran a news article about a new doughnut machine at Sears, Roebuck & Co., where customers could watch them being made. The machine could produce 35 dozen Thanksgiving doughnuts in an hour.  

The Commercial Appeal (TN), November 27, 1935, had a Thanksgiving recipe for Molasses Drop Cookies, which was made with a special new lard shortening, and it was noted, "... it clicks with everything. For roasting the Thanksgiving turkey, for frying the Thanksgiving doughnuts..."

One of the last mentions I found of Thanksgiving doughnuts was a brief note in the Troy Daily New (NY), November 21, 1942, which mentioned a "Thanksgiving doughnut sale" at a local church. After this time, the newspapers apparently stopped almost all mentions of Thanksgiving and doughnuts. It's possible that World War II, where doughnuts played an important role in some respects, might have contributed to the elimination of the tradition of doughnuts on Thanksgiving, although that is only speculation. 

The Windham County Observer (CT), November 18, 1947, provided a little info on Dave's Doughnut Shop, noting it "... has just what you want for that Thanksgiving social. Doughnuts, light as a feather,.." They cost 35 cents for a dozen of the plain doughnuts. They also sell frosted, cinnamon and powdered sugar doughnuts.  

There was a brief mention in the Los Angeles Evening Citizen News (CA), November 20, 1954, of a Thanksgiving doughnut sale by the PTA. And the Berkeley Gazette (CA), November 11, 1955, also had a brief note of Thanksgiving doughnuts. 

Thanksgiving Doughnuts in Canada! The Montreal Star (Quebec), September 29, 1956, had a lengthy article about Thanksgiving dinner, with a number of recipes. One of those recipes was for "Thanksgiving Doughnuts." These were plain, fried doughnuts, without an inner hole. This recipe would also be printed in a couple newspapers in Ontario.

The largest Thanksgiving doughnut. The Hood County News (TX), November 25, 1979, briefly related that, "The world's first and largest Thanksgiving doughnut.." was recently unveiled. It weighed over 40 pounds and was said to be able to feed 300 people. A local doughnut shop spent 32 hours making this doughnut. 

It's time to revive this Thanksgiving tradition! I plan on having doughnuts this year, and hopefully home-made ones. I'm sure everyone at my Thanksgiving table will be very happy to see fresh doughnuts. Who else believes we should bring back this tradition? Which doughnut stores will help to lead a path to the revival of Thanksgiving doughnuts?

(This article was revised/expanded on November 7, 2023)

Monday, August 15, 2022

Rant: Wander & Discover

The city of Boston has easily over 3,000 eating and drinking establishments, but how many of those places do you know? Even if you live in Boston, you probably still don't know all of the existing spots just in your own neighborhood. You probably know even less about the other Boston neighborhoods. If you live in Cambridge or Somerville, or even a suburb, you also probably don't know all of the eating and drinking spots near you. 

That should change!

There are likely numerous excellent restaurants, bakeries, markets, and bars you've never visited, or even know. Some may have received many accolades but you've never actually stopped there. Others are more hidden treasures, which rarely, if ever, get media attention, but are worthy spots anyway. You can return time and again to your favorite places, but it's probably better to also take some time to explore what else exists. You never know when or where you might discover a new favorite. 

So, during the rest of the summer as well as through the fall, why not revel in a sense of discovery. Be an explorer of your own neighborhood, and surrounding areas, and check out some of the interesting spots which you've never visited before. Expand your palate and try something different. Spend your time walking the streets, finding new places, getting to know the area much better. 

If you'd like some inspiration, then check out the example of my friend, Patrick Maguire of Server Not Servant, who has started a walking exploration of all of the neighborhoods of Boston. Check out his initial post about this endeavor, which explains his mission, as well as an article & video from CBS Boston. Patrick's post states that his primary objective is to: "Explore and showcase Boston’s neighborhoods by walking deep into every one of them, discovering hidden gems and the real ‘heart and soul’ of each hood." In addition, he will be raising money for two local charities, Make-A-Wish MA & RI and Stride for Stride

His endeavor will begin tomorrow, Tuesday, September 16, as he walks the streets of East Boston, planning to cover over 13 miles. He'll be writing about his experiences on his blog with plenty of photos, so nee an eye out for everything he finds on his walks.

And make plans for your own walking explorations, to wander & discover everything in your own neighborhood, as well as the surrounding ones.

Best of luck to Patrick!

Monday, August 8, 2022

Rant: More Bread Pudding!

For many years, I've been saying that we need more Bread Pudding, more restaurants willing to place it onto their dessert menus, more bakeries willing to offer it, and I'd even love to see a bakery specialize in Bread Pudding. There once was a bread pudding bakery in California, which advertised 108 flavors, broken down into Classics, Chocolates, Fruits and Seasonal. Why can't such a bakery start up in the Boston area?

The origins of Bread Pudding extends back to the 11th century, as people tried to find ways to use their stale bread. A couple hundred years later, in England, it was known as "poor man's pudding" because it was popular with the lower classes. Essentially, Bread Pudding is made with some type of bread over which a custard-like sauce is poured before it is cooked. Numerous other ingredients can be added, from nuts to fruits, and you can use any type of bread, or bread-like food, such as muffins or donuts. 

It's relatively easy to make, versatile and can be absolutely delicious so why isn't it more prevalent? I still don't understand why it remains relatively rare in the Boston+ area. A few local restaurants offer Bread Pudding, and my favorite is created by Chef Marisa Iocco at Spiga, in Needham, and which is pictured at the top of this post. 

I first tasted her Bread Pudding back in 2009, and it captivated me then, being just as delicious now as it was all those years ago. I've told people they should start their meal with the Bread Pudding, to prevent them from being otherwise too full to eat it after dinner. What brought the topic of bread pudding back in the front of my mind was news concerning Chef Iocco.

Chef Iocco has recently opened Market-Tiamo in Newton Centre, a market specializing in imported Italian delicacies, handcrafted prepared items for takeout, hard-to-find Italian wines, dry and fresh pastas, cheeses, and more. In addition, her superb Bread Pudding will also be available for sale, so you can enjoy it at home! I'll soon check out this new Italian market and will report back in the near future. 

If you'd like to make her Bread Pudding at home, Chef Iocco allowed me to post a recipe for her Bread Pudding, though you're on your own for creating an interesting sauce to top it.

2 lbs. crusty, day-old Italian bread
1 quart heavy cream
1 quart whole milk
6 eggs
2 cups sugar
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise

--Remove the bread heels and cut bread into small cubes
--In a saucepan, combine cream, milk, sugar and vanilla bean, and bring to a slow boil. Remove the mixture from the heat and allow it to cool and steep for one hour.
--In a bowl, whisk the eggs, then pour in the vanilla-cream mixture and stir. Next, add the bread cubes and allow it to sit just long enough to soak up most of the liquid.
--Pour mixture into a rectagular cake pan at least 4” deep. Cover tightly with foil. Place that pan into a slightly larger pan, then add about two inches of water to the larger pan to create what’s called a “bain marie” or water bath. This provides moisture during baking.
--Bake at 375 degrees for two hours. Remove from oven; let pudding “set” briefly. Cut into squares. Serves 8 generously.

Readers, would you support a local bakery specializing in bread pudding? What local restaurants have you enjoyed bread pudding? Do you make bread pudding at home?

(This is a revision/update of a prior post which is just as relevant now as it once was.)

Thursday, August 4, 2022

Thursday Sips & Nibbles

I'm back again with a new edition of Sips & Nibbles, my regular column where I highlight some interesting, upcoming food and drink events. I hope everyone dines out safely, tips well and are nice to their servers.
1) Happy Hour doesn't have to be about alcohol! At Karma Asian Fusion, at the Burlington Mall, hosts their own Happy Hour, on Monday to Friday, from 3pm-5pm. During this special time period, you can obtain $1 Oysters, straight from Duxbury, and accompanied by an Asian-inspired brine. Happy Hour also includes $5 Spicy Salmon & Tuna Maki, $6 Spicy Salmon & Tuna Hand Rolls, $5 Crab Rangoon (6 pieces) and $5 Salt & Pepper Calamari. This is the time to check out Karma and get a great deal on some oysters and Asian-inspired snacks.

2) R.F. O’Sullivan & Son, in Somerville, is debuting a “Board of Burgers Challenge” where hopefuls will try to polish off a massive platter of food. Challengers order up a board of five half-pound burgers, of their choosing, that are complemented by a bed of onion rings and French fries in addition to five pickle spears. The mission is to clean the board in one sitting (no time limit) without an assist from your friends. To the victors go the spoils: your photo on the Hall of Fame board, a commemorative t-shirt and RFO’s will comp your conquest.

The burgers cover more classic preparations like The Celtic with lettuce, tomato, onion, bacon, pickles and American cheese; BBQ with bacon, onion rings, pickles, bourbon BBQ and cheddar; Bloody Mary with tomato, onion, bacon and sriracha; The Pub with lettuce, onion, tomato and mayo; and Mushroom & Swiss with horseradish pepper sauce. Twists on the basic burger are seen in The Greek with lettuce, tomato, onion, tzatziki, roasted red pepper and feta; Don’t Poke the Bear with bacon, maple bacon glaze, fried egg and cheddar; Bacon & Blue with crumbled blue cheese, lettuce, tomato and mayo; The Green Monstah with chipotle mayo, lettuce, pickles, beer cheese, sauteed onions and peppers; The Krabby Patty with pineapple, lettuce, onion, pepper jack cheese and a sweet ginger glaze; and newcomer the PB&J with peanut butter, bacon, jalapeño, onions and cheddar. There also is The Impossible, a plant-based patty topped with lettuce, tomato, onion and pickle.

The “Board of Burgers” is available for $60, if you want to share it with friends or if you cannot finish the challenge.&

3) Sumiao Hunan Kitchen is very busy this month. First, they are participating in Dine Out Boston, from August 7-20, offering a 4-course lunch for $27 or 4-course dinner for $41. Plenty of excellent choices on their menu. Second, they are also participating in World Baijiu Day on August 9. Although they always have Baijiu cocktails available, they have created two new ones this month, including the Fung Wah (Sesame Baijiu, Chrysanthemum, Honey, Ginger, Lemon, Peated Scotch) and the Baijiu Blast (Baijiu Gin, Green Tea, Midori, Pineapple, Lime)

So, next week, you can actually participate in both of these events at the same time. Check out my experiences at Sumaio from last year, where I did just that, enjoying a 4 course lunch with their new Baijiu cocktail. And I'll probably dine there again, to check out their newest Baijiu cocktails.

Monday, August 1, 2022

Rant: Eating Salad With Your Hands

Over the weekend, I watched a movie with a scene of a man eating a salad with his hands. Someone asked him if he needed a fork and he responded, "No. I prefer to use my hands. I believe people have lost their relationship with food. They do not think 'this is something that died for me so that I would not go hungry.' I like that connection with something you die for. I appreciate it more."

There is truth in his words. 

It's probably not a coincidence that some of our favorite foods, from pizza to burgers, tacos to cupcakes, are eaten with our hands and not utensils. This creates a greater connection between us and our food. There isn't an intermediary of metal, wood or plastic utensils which might interfere with our enjoyment of these foods. 

Yes, it's a psychological issue, and one which most people don't even think about except on an unconscious level. They understand they enjoy these foods and can detail the reasons for their enjoyment, but they will rarely mention that part of the reason is that they can touch the food.

Eating with your hands can even lead to you licking your fingers, savoring the sauce, condiments, cheese, frosting, and other items that might accumulate on your skin. There is a certain intimacy involved in eating food with your hands, one which we appreciate though usually on a deeper level. Yes, you can enjoy food which you eat with a knife and fork, but there is something more satisfyingly primal with being able to use your hands.

What may make us think more closely about this issue is when we are confronted with a situation outside of the norm, when we are unable to eat a certain item with our hands that usually we should be able to do so. For example, sometimes burgers contain so many ingredients, especially messier ingredients, that you can't just pick it up and eat it. You need a knife and fork to eat it, thus losing part of the essential aspect of the dish, the direct connection of flesh to food.

I'm not sure all restaurants understand how certain foods should not require utensils to enjoy, that part of the allure is being able to hold them in your hands as you eat them. Do your own test at home. Try eating some of the foods with your hands and try some with utensils. And I bet, if you're being honest, you will notice a difference.

Enjoy touching your food!