Sheryl Canter

Archive for the ‘Life’ Category.

Bad Business at Empire Cake

Empire CakeOn October 18, 2012, I was accused of stealing at Empire Cake (formerly Lulu’s) on 8th Avenue between 15th and 16th Streets. I’ve never been accused of stealing before since I’ve never stolen. It was a shocking, insulting, and humiliating experience that I did not deserve.

I made a $5.90 purchase, and paid with a $20 and a $1 (as I recall). The cashier gave me $5.10 in change, and I said I’d given her a $20. She gave me the additional $10, but looked uncertain, so I offered my phone number in case her drawer was short.

Just then, two men (I believe the owners – they wouldn’t tell me who they were) came out from the back and accused me of stealing $10. I said I was just offering to leave my phone number in case the drawer was short. The short one sneered, “You’d never return the money.” He said I could come downstairs and watch the security video that “proved” I was a thief. It showed the cashier placing my bill in a slot where there now were no $20s. Okay, so either the $20 bill disappeared somehow, or I made an honest mistake. But he wouldn’t let me speak. He said I’d been harrassing the cashier and I called her a cheat. This was completely untrue. We’d been making small talk about salted chocolate, and when she gave me the change I thought she’d made an honest error. But nothing I said mattered. He insisted that I came into the store with the intent to steal, and demanded that I return the $10 or he’d call the police. I gave him the $10 and left.

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Why Mayor Bloomberg Is Right About Sugary Drinks

The arguments to Mayor Bloomberg’s proposed ban on super-sized sugary drinks show the ignorance that proves why the ban is necessary. There is no comparison between the health hazards of a large pastrami sandwich and a giant sugary drink (as Jon Stewart complained). Saturated fat isn’t dangerous, as the blog post linked below explains. Nor does the argument that “donuts are dangerous, too” make sense. A large sugary drink is more dangerous than a solid sugary dessert because of the speed with which the sugar hits the liver. Plus the danger isn’t only obesity – it’s heart disease, obesity, cancer, and more.

Most people are unaware of the dangers of sugary beverages – or the debate from the early 1970s over which dietary factor caused heart disease: sugar or fat (it is sugar, not fat – Ancel Keys is now widely thought to have been wrong).

Read this blog post: Sugar Is Toxic: Heart Disease, Cancer & More. It clearly explains the biochemistry of sugar metabolism, and why large-sized sugary beverages are the greatest threat to health of any food.

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Book Review: Cooking for Geeks

Cooking for Geeks

I was attracted to the basic concept of this book: an analytic approach to cooking that includes the whys and wherefores, not just the whats. But, for the record, I would like to clarify that as a software engineer I would call myself a “nerd” rather than a “geek”. The word “nerd” derives from the word “drink” spelled backwards. The nerds were the ones who stayed back at the dorm and studied while everyone else went out and got hammered. Geeks, on the other hand, have no special technical or intellectual gifts. They’re just inept – socially and physically uncoordinated, messing up even the simplest tasks.

The first two chapters of this book are targeted towards geeks – people who have never stepped foot inside a kitchen and don’t have any concept of nutrition. The author uses programming code as metaphors for basic cooking concepts. Now who could possibly be this in-the-dark about cooking, and find computer code enlightening as metaphor? They would have to be male. No girl grows up without any exposure to the kitchen. So the target audience is apparently the stereotypical male programmer sitting behind a keyboard 18 hours a day living on pizza and soda pop. I thought these were creatures of the 1980s and now extinct – either dead from the all-pizza diet or evolved into healthier eating, while younger programmers were not spoiled by homemaker mothers into total kitchen ignorance. Perhaps I’m wrong. Are you still out there??

The book gets much better after the first two chapters, which – in the author’s defense – he does say you can skip if you are experienced in the kitchen.

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Movie Review: “The Kids Are All Right”

"The Kids Are All Right"

I didn’t like this movie half as much as I thought I would, for two reasons:

(1) The trailer gives away too much.

(2) The part the trailer doesn’t give away is the worst part of the movie.

I actually liked the trailer more than the movie.

What follows is a spoiler, so if you don’t want to know, do not continue reading!


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Recipe for Authentic English Muffins with Natural Nooks and Crannies

I was surfing around the Web last week and came across a picture of English muffins cooking in a cast iron skillet. I’m always interested in recipes that make special use of cast iron, and I didn’t realize until I saw this picture that English muffins were made in a skillet. I like English muffins and I’m getting a little tired of popovers for breakfast, so I thought I’d look up the recipe.

Well, it turns out there are a million different recipes for English muffins, and they vary widely. Some are rolled out and cut like biscuits into circles. Some use a wet batter that is poured into crumpet rings. Some are baked in an oven rather than cooked on a skillet – either partially or completely. Some are cooked in a covered skillet (news flash: that is baking, not skillet cooking).

Judging from reviewer comments, most of the recipes lacked the large holes and sourdough flavor characteristic of English muffins. A few tried to correct this problem by the addition of vinegar for the sour flavor, and baking soda just before cooking to create holes. That sounded like artifice to me so I continued my research, and eventually discovered the authentic source of that characteristic taste and texture. I tested my theory with a recipe of my own creation, and the result was fantastic. Here is my recipe – with pictures!

Homemade English muffin with natural nooks and crannies.

Homemade English muffin with natural nooks and crannies.
Homemade English muffin, nooks and crannies filled with butter.

Homemade English muffin, nooks and crannies filled with butter.


 

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“Black Rust” and Cast Iron Seasoning

My previous post on the chemistry of cast iron seasoning focused on fat polymerization – the transformation of an oil into a hard, slick glaze. After I posted that, someone sent me some links that talked about two other elements in cast iron seasoning: carbon and magnetite.

Carbon is the black stuff that’s left after something is burned. A certain amount of carbon gets bound up in the polymerized fat when food is cooked in the pan. This may darken the pan, but does it make it more nonstick? Some say it does, though I don’t see the mechanism.

More interesting to me is the third element: magnetite.

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Chemistry of Cast Iron Seasoning: A Science-Based How-To

The post after this one on “black rust” describes why you should heat the pan before applying oil for seasoning. This helps the seasoning to adhere and makes the pan pleasantly black.

http://sherylcanter.com/wordpress/2010/02/black-rust-and-cast-iron-seasoning/


In a previous post, I illustrated how I cleaned and reseasoned an antique cast iron popover pan. This was my first attempt, and my seasoning technique was somewhat haphazard because I couldn’t find consistent, science-based advice. I used a combination of organic avocado oil and strained drippings from organic bacon. This worked pretty well on the popover pan, which doesn’t have a polished surface. But the smooth inner surface of a skillet showed an unevenness of color and texture, and the seasoning wasn’t hard enough. It was too easily marred by cooking utensils or scraping against oven racks.

I wanted to understand the chemistry behind seasoning so I’d know how to fix this, but there is nothing that addresses this issue directly. A Web page on cast iron posted by someone similarly obsessed with the science gave me two crucial clues, the phrases “polymerized fat” and “drying oil”. From there I was able to find the relevant scientific literature and put the pieces together.

The pictures below are both of the same antique cast iron skillet. The “before” close-up on the left is from a picture of the skillet in my previous blog post on making German Pancakes. I stripped the pan with oven cleaner and reseasoned it based on my new understanding. The “after” close-up on the right shows the result.

Griswold skillet closeups: old seasoning on left, new seasoning on right

Griswold skillet closeups: old seasoning on left, new seasoning on right

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Universal Remote Control Fine Points

In a previous post, I wrote about how I was able to use a learning remote from Universal Remote Control (the URC-WR7) to set up a Bose Wave Radio as the audio for my TV, cable box, and Blu-ray player. At the time I hadn’t fully configured everything. Now that I have, I want to share a few more things I discovered:

  • The secret to learning from the Time-Warner Cable remote, which at first appears not to work
  • What to do if you want to access more device features than the WR7 has buttons
  • Tips on using the punch-through and macro features

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Control a Bose Wave Radio with a Universal Remote

The picture on my new 40″ Samsung LCD HDTV is amazing, but the sound, not so much. So I plugged the audio output of the television into the auxilliary jack for my Bose Wave Radio (model AWRCC1). Much better! But then I encountered a new problem. When the TV audio is external, the TV remote can’t control it. Luckily the radio has a remote (otherwise I’d have to walk across the room to mute the TV when the phone rings), but I’d rather have the TV volume on the same remote as the rest of the TV controls.

First I tried to set the auxilliary button on my Time-Warner Cable remote to the Bose radio. The cable remote instructions list these codes for Bose audio equipment: 070, 170, 224, 374, 409, 460, 532. I tried them all, but none of them worked. So then I tried the scanning method, holding down the channel button until the radio turns off. But it never turned off.

I did an internet search on controlling Bose devices with universal remotes and found a plethora of contradictory information, none of which solved my problem. So I called Bose customer support. Their products may be pricey, but they sure have good customer support. I got someone on the phone immediately, and he was knowledgeable. He explained the problem instantly and gave me the solution.

And now I’m sharing it with you.

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Recipe for Cast Iron: German Pancake with Apples

As part of my recent purge of nonstick cookware, I acquired my very first cast iron skillet – a vintage large-logo Griswold. I removed all the old crud with oven cleaner and then reseasoned it. Rust was minimal, so I was able to scrub it off with steel wool. (For more on cleaning and seasoning cast iron, see my previous post.)

Griswold #7 cast iron skillet, large logo

Griswold #7 cast iron skillet, large logo

Griswold #7 cast iron skillet, large logo

Griswold #7 cast iron skillet, large logo

I’ve been interested in recipes that use the skillet’s unique properties: nonstick, stove to oven, even heating, and good heat retention. So I decided to make a German Pancake – also known as a Dutch Baby – stuffed with apples. I looked at several recipes and then came up with my own spin on it. I’d never had a German Pancake before so I didn’t know what to expect. I was amazed when I took my first bite. It was exquisitely delicious. Here’s the recipe.

German pancake with apples in cast iron skillet

German pancake with apples in cast iron skillet

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