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Stream of consciousness-y post about some ideas (probably bad ones) that I have accumulated on this subject.

Food Pairings vs. Spiciness

food-pairing

Simas et al. (2017) – Food-Bridging: A New Network Construction to Unveil the Principles of Cooking

1. There are cultures that pair ingredients with shared flavor compounds, and those that contrast them instead (Ahn et al. 2011).

High food pairings:

  • North American
  • West European
  • East European
  • Latin American
  • South European

Low food pairings:

  • South-East Asian (though with they have high “food-bridging” – including ingredients in between contrasting flavors to mitigate the sharp contrast, see Simas et al. 2017)
  • South Asian (see Jaim et al. 2015, though there are regional specifics: Maharashtrian and Gujarati cuisine has the lowest food pairings, while Central Asian-influenced Mughal cuisine has the highest)
  • East Asian

Interesting pattern. A few exceptions regardless, most notable South Asians, could Caucasians and Mongoloids have evolved to generally prefer similar/assimilar flavors, respectively?

We know that this sort of thing does go on. Most famous example is ofc lactose tolerance. But Indians are also more adapted to vegetarianism (and IMO, they’re the only people who know how to do vegetarianism well).

map-world-spice

2. Different levels of spiciness (my classification as I don’t fully agree with that map).

  • Low/bland: North American, European (West, East, South), Middle Eastern
  • Intermediate: African, Central Asian, American American, Chinese (but the north and coastal areas are Low, while Sichuan is high; though that said, its hotness isn’t based on capsaicin)
  • High: South Asian, Southeast Asian (but Indonesian is intermediate)

The evolutionary drives behind this are pretty obvious. Hot, humid climes, especially in densely populated areas = more spices to prevent spoilage. No such pressing need in northern areas, where in any case salt was traditionally the key preservative. Curiously, Asians (and Africans) are more salt-sensitive than Caucasians, so this might also explain this differential (e.g. Koreans are pretty far north, but their food can be pretty spicy).

Drastically simplified, the resulting schema would look something like this:

High Food Pairing Low Food Pairing
Bland European East Asian
Hot Central American South Asian

Europeans might have made far bigger achievements in science, literature, etc. than all the world’s other civilizations put together, but we do sort of fail at cooking.

Apart from desserts and booze. I don’t think anyone even comes close to Europeans there.

Health and Russian Cuisine

There this impression that Russian cuisine is highly unhealthy.

I’m not sure if it’s really true, though.

The soups are basically a vitamin hothouse. You could probably live on just, say, sorrel soup (“green borscht”). And it’s trivial to make it ketogenic (just remove the potatoes).

kholodets

Then there’s also kholodets, which is a form of aspic. It looks disgusting to Westerners, but it’s really nothing more than a congealed meat broth soup.

French Cuisine is Overrated

I don’t dislike it by any means, but I think they just invested more than anyone else into making their food seem hip and elite.

The Brits were too self-deprecating to try.

Most likely Russia could have done the same if the Bolsheviks hadn’t forcibly “proletarianized” Russian culinary culture. Nor did they have any hope of international success amongst the American-dominated lowest common denominator, because a stolovaya can’t compete against the Mackie D or Colonel Sanders.

Hot Russians

As I have frequently noted, Russians don’t do spices. Hot chillies or cayenne aren’t even sold in the typical supermarket. To approximate the levels of hotness you get at a typical British or American Indian curry house, you have to demand and emphasize that they make it “extremely hot”/”like in India” – and even then, it’s not a sure deal. (To date, the only places that have satisfied on this front in Moscow are Khajuraho and the Moscow Deli vegetarian Indian place).

I suppose this is the result of Russian being a northern country that hasn’t been acculturated into heat like the UK and select parts of the US through Indian immigration.

OTOH, there’s still some fascinating patterns. My dad, who is pure r1a master race, doesn’t do spices at all. Hates them. I love them. So does my mom. And even her mom (my maternal grandmother) enjoys them. Even though she lived most of her life in the USSR, where the culinary culture was bland as potatoes and mayonnaise. I wonder if this could be genetic, namely, my grandmother’s Jewish and Italian maternal ancestors from Odessa.

Hopefully global warming will make Russia as hot as India by the next century (Tropical Hyperborea), with matching developments in culinary practices.

Georgian Food

Nothing to write home about, even – especially – though it had the highest prestige in the USSR, and enjoys lingering respect in modern Russia despite the proliferation of better (and cheaper) establishments from other countries.

From here:

One partial and amusing exception [to good service]: Georgian restaurants, especially those with a long pedigree for supposed “excellence.” My theory is that in the USSR, Georgian cuisine was considered to be the most exotic cuisine accessible, at least to people outside the high nomenklatura, so those establishments continued to be patronized by Soviet people, with their less demanding requirements. Since people with the Soviet mentality primarily went to restaurants to network and to show off how rich they are, as opposed to just having a good time, you tend to get much less enjoyment for the ruble at those places.

The food itself seems overrated too. Khachapuri is just bread + cheese + egg. Khinkali are another variety of dumplings – big deal. Wontons are better in soups, while pelmeni are superior as just dumplings. Adjika is a saltier and less spicy version of salsa. Really, the best thing they have is kharcho, IMO.

Food Adoption

It seems to me – in Russia, at any rate – that the only cuisines which “make it” there are from regions in broadly similar climate zones.

Successes:

  • Central European/American beer culture
  • Burgers
  • Japanese
  • Korean

Failures:

  • Indian
  • Tex Mex

Curiously, Vietnamese and Thai seem to be enjoying modest success, even though they’re southern and highly spicy (in my experience, you actually have a better chance of experiencing a nice capsaicin kick at Korean and Vietnamese establishments in Moscow than at Indian ones). Possibly on account of many Russians holidaying in those areas. But Goa is also a popular holiday and downshifting destination, but Indian food isn’t making any headway.

Biggest missing opportunity: Poutine.

There’s a place where you can get Boston clam chowder in Moscow. Ergo for philly sandwich. Several places where you can get Mac & Cheese.

No place, so far as I’m aware, where you can get poutine.

Which is pretty strange since poutine is Canadian and possibly one of the most naturally transferable foods there is so far as Russia is concerned.

Perfect bland, high caloric food for a cold northern clime.

I suspect the businessman who opens up the first poutine chain in Moscow or SPB could make quite a killing.

 
• Category: Miscellaneous • Tags: Food, Nutrition 
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  1. Biggest missing opportunity: Poutine.

    Poutine isn’t successful in the US either. I’m not sure why – running theory at the moment that one of its vital components of “squeaky cheese curds” is somehow difficult to replicate non-locally.

    New York Fries
    , probably one of the best Poutine joints in the world and widespread in Canada, might not even have a location in New York City.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Anatoly Karlin
    When I left the US this chain was spreading at a fast rate.

    It seemed to me like a very "Americanized" thing. Americans have this habit of shamelessly pilfering food from all over and transforming it into something better/monstrous - pizzas, sushis, etc. (This is not a critique but a compliment). So the poutines there, in addition to the default version, can be modified to make it Tex-Mex (add jalapenos), country style (add mushrooms and peas), Indian (curry), etc.

    This American approach is very good at conquering markets so I can definitely see it being successful in Russia (where you'd just need an option to add sour cream and pickles, lots of pickles).
    , @Anonymous
    Maybe because we already have our own popular disgusting looking french fry dishes, namely cheese fries and chili cheese fries. Chili cheese fries are delicious, but they look like someone squatted over a plate of fries and sprayed diarrhea all over them. Poutine looks more like chunky vomit on fries.

    For whatever reason, America doesn't really have a good cheese culture. There are lots of fancy cheese aficianados in the US, and quality cheeses made by dairies in places like Wisconsin, but standard and classic American fare usually includes the lowest quality cheeses like American cheese, Cheez Whiz, etc., stuff that wouldn't even qualify as cheese in Europe.
    , @AKAHorace
    New York fries is not that good for poutine, a lot of fries, not much to go with it.

    Poutine is not really Canadian, but Quebecois. It has only become adopted by Canadians over the last 15 years as we don't have many dishes that can be called local.
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  2. ERM says:

    I had a truly excellent Chinese meal in Moscow this summer, and the dishes that were meant to be hot and spicy really were.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Anatoly Karlin
    What was the restaurant, if you recall?

    I was going to try out Китайские новости ("Chinese News") one of these days, which seems to have high ratings, but one of my friends who was there warned me off.
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  3. melanf says:

    because a stolovaya can’t compete against the Mackie D or Colonel Sanders.

    In Russia (in St. Petersburg at least) stolovaya are much better than Mackie D or Colonel Sanders

    OTOH, there’s still some fascinating patterns. My dad, who is pure r1a master race, doesn’t do spices at all. Hates them. I love them. So does my mom. And even her mom (my maternal grandmother) enjoys them. Even though she lived most of her life in the USSR, where the culinary culture was bland as potatoes and mayonnaise. I wonder if this could be genetic, namely, my grandmother’s Jewish and Italian maternal ancestors from Odessa.

    I’m a dark haired, love to lay in the sun – I love spices. Wife blonde with very light skin (can not stand the sun) – she hates spices. Can be really the pattern

    Read More
    • Replies: @reiner Tor
    My parents are both extremely light-skinned (especially my mom) and blonde (my mom is dark blonde, my dad is lighter), and they like chili despite not having eaten much until they turned older.
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  4. I don’t understand how you can say European food is bad. I like French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, but I’ve been to an excellent Russian restaurant, too. Outside Europe Chinese (which is actually many different cuisines), Japanese and Vietnamese are what I really like (Thai can be good, too), though I don’t know many others. I don’t like Indian. (What I tried, maybe there are better ones.)

    Read More
    • Agree: utu
    • Replies: @reiner Tor
    Balkan and Hungarian food can be excellent, too, but I ate a lot of the cheap and low quality versions of both (especially the latter) to usually be wary of them.

    Even other countries (like Poland or Germany) can have the occasional good dish, which, if prepared correctly, can be quite good. But they unluckily (??) fall on the other side of the “good food, bad government vs. bad food, good government” divide.

    , @Dmitry
    Quality of the chef and ingredients is usually the determining factor regardless of the cuisine.
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  5. @Daniel Chieh

    Biggest missing opportunity: Poutine.
     
    Poutine isn't successful in the US either. I'm not sure why - running theory at the moment that one of its vital components of "squeaky cheese curds" is somehow difficult to replicate non-locally.

    New York Fries
    , probably one of the best Poutine joints in the world and widespread in Canada, might not even have a location in New York City.

    When I left the US this chain was spreading at a fast rate.

    It seemed to me like a very “Americanized” thing. Americans have this habit of shamelessly pilfering food from all over and transforming it into something better/monstrous – pizzas, sushis, etc. (This is not a critique but a compliment). So the poutines there, in addition to the default version, can be modified to make it Tex-Mex (add jalapenos), country style (add mushrooms and peas), Indian (curry), etc.

    This American approach is very good at conquering markets so I can definitely see it being successful in Russia (where you’d just need an option to add sour cream and pickles, lots of pickles).

    Read More
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  6. Singh says:

    Jewish and Italian maternal ancestors from Odessa.

    This, explains everything।।

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  7. @ERM
    I had a truly excellent Chinese meal in Moscow this summer, and the dishes that were meant to be hot and spicy really were.

    What was the restaurant, if you recall?

    I was going to try out Китайские новости (“Chinese News”) one of these days, which seems to have high ratings, but one of my friends who was there warned me off.

    Read More
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  8. @melanf

    because a stolovaya can’t compete against the Mackie D or Colonel Sanders.
     
    In Russia (in St. Petersburg at least) stolovaya are much better than Mackie D or Colonel Sanders

    https://i0.photo.2gis.com/images/branch/38/5348024558285490_7f64.jpg


    OTOH, there’s still some fascinating patterns. My dad, who is pure r1a master race, doesn’t do spices at all. Hates them. I love them. So does my mom. And even her mom (my maternal grandmother) enjoys them. Even though she lived most of her life in the USSR, where the culinary culture was bland as potatoes and mayonnaise. I wonder if this could be genetic, namely, my grandmother’s Jewish and Italian maternal ancestors from Odessa.
     
    I'm a dark haired, love to lay in the sun - I love spices. Wife blonde with very light skin (can not stand the sun) - she hates spices. Can be really the pattern

    My parents are both extremely light-skinned (especially my mom) and blonde (my mom is dark blonde, my dad is lighter), and they like chili despite not having eaten much until they turned older.

    Read More
    • Replies: @melanf

    My parents are both extremely light-skinned (especially my mom) and blonde (my mom is dark blonde, my dad is lighter), and they like chili despite not having eaten much until they turned older.
     
    So it was just an accident.
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  9. neutral says:

    There was mention in one of Sailers articles what the deal was with the stereotype with blacks liking grape drink (which is not grape juice but an artificial drink), the theory was that Africans prefer things sweeter. Is there truth to race and preferences for sweetness as well?

    Read More
    • Replies: @JW
    I think everybody likes sweet. Higher class people “dislike” sweet food because of social conformity.

    There’s a YouTube skit of Chinese American kids disliking places like Panda Express (fast food Chinese) but their immigrant parents thought it quite tasty.
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  10. @reiner Tor
    I don’t understand how you can say European food is bad. I like French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, but I’ve been to an excellent Russian restaurant, too. Outside Europe Chinese (which is actually many different cuisines), Japanese and Vietnamese are what I really like (Thai can be good, too), though I don’t know many others. I don’t like Indian. (What I tried, maybe there are better ones.)

    Balkan and Hungarian food can be excellent, too, but I ate a lot of the cheap and low quality versions of both (especially the latter) to usually be wary of them.

    Even other countries (like Poland or Germany) can have the occasional good dish, which, if prepared correctly, can be quite good. But they unluckily (??) fall on the other side of the “good food, bad government vs. bad food, good government” divide.

    Read More
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  11. Aylok says:

    “Chinese (but the north and coastal areas are Low, while Sichuan is high; though that said, its hotness isn’t based on capsaicin).”

    That’s not right – Guizhounese, Hunanese and Sichuanese cuisine constantly use capsaicin and it’s used all over China at least a bit – dried whole or flaked chillies (乾辣椒), chilli oil (紅油), chopped pickled chilli (剁辣椒)- the last is the emblem of Hunanese cuisine.

    Read More
    • Replies: @utu

    Guizhounese, Hunanese and Sichuanese cuisine constantly use capsaicin and it’s used all over China at least a bit
     
    Correct. And try to tell them that this ingredient (chilis) came from America after Columbus. They had no-capsaicin hotness as well but not as hot and much more expensive that's why they took to chilies.
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  12. melanf says:

    Failures:
    Indian
    Tex Mex

    Mexican restaurants in St. Petersburg are quite common

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  13. inertial says:

    - Spicy food is for people with fried taste buds.

    - You are trying to fit unfamiliar foods into familiar categories. Adjika is not “a version of salsa,” etc.

    - Are you sure you tried good French food?

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  14. melanf says:
    @reiner Tor
    My parents are both extremely light-skinned (especially my mom) and blonde (my mom is dark blonde, my dad is lighter), and they like chili despite not having eaten much until they turned older.

    My parents are both extremely light-skinned (especially my mom) and blonde (my mom is dark blonde, my dad is lighter), and they like chili despite not having eaten much until they turned older.

    So it was just an accident.

    Read More
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  15. utu says:

    Obviously one can try but trying to explain differences between foods in different cultures by genetic predispositions seems to be very premature and immature. Perhaps one should learn history of foods a little better first.

    First of all, hot foods even in India, Thailand or Sichuan are relatively recent. Keep in mind that w/o peppers from the New World they would never achieve that kind of spiciness as they have now with locally available hot spices. Obviously you can’t tell them that just like you can’t tell Sicilians that tomatoes are relative newcomers in their cuisine and ask them what is the original Italian cuisine.

    Hungarians got into paprika just in 19 century.

    Russians got into sun flowers and their kabachki relatively recently which also came form the New World.

    Not everybody knows that most beans came from Americas. In Europe and Asia only peas, lentils, fava beans, chick peas and some lupin beans were the only edible legumes.

    Orange carrots and red beets are relatively new cultivars. Borscht was not originally based on red beets. The name borscht comes form a weed Heracleum sphondylium which used to be eaten in the past.

    Cucumbers that were fit to be pickled in salt brine did not appear in Russia or Poland until 18 century.

    What is traditional African food? Manioc/cassava are from South America just like potatoes.

    Why Mexican food is spicy while next door Central American food is very bland? In Nicaragua they refuse to eat other beans than black.

    My personal observation is that Central and Northern European foods have slightly different combinations of saltiness, sweetness and sourness. Saltiness goes down as you go East, so Russian food seems to be the least salty (apart from dry fish) and it goes up as you go South. Hungarian salami is less salty than Italian salami.

    Amounts of salt and spices were also economically driven. In some countries spices were more affordable. Cinnamon and cloves are heavily used in Netherlands and much less so in Czechoslovakia.

    Read More
    • Agree: Mr. Hack
    • Replies: @Mr. Hack
    A fascinating read about the history of spices and incense can be had from ethnobotanist Paul Nabhan's 'Cumin, Camels, and Caravans' that includes detailed information (including his own family's role) about the important role of the spice trade as a precursor to modern globalization. This review of the book does not point out that Dr. Mabhan's book includes many recipes for dishes that include the spices that he describes. A real page turner for me:

    traveling along four prominent trade routes—the Silk Road, the Frankincense Trail, the Spice Route, and the Camino Real (for chiles and chocolate)—Nabhan follows the caravans of itinerant spice merchants from the frankincense-gathering grounds and ancient harbors of the Arabian Peninsula to the port of Zayton on the China Sea to Santa Fe in the southwest United States. His stories, recipes, and linguistic analyses of cultural diffusion routes reveal the extent to which aromatics such as cumin, cinnamon, saffron, and peppers became adopted worldwide as signature ingredients of diverse cuisines. Cumin, Camels, and Caravans demonstrates that two particular desert cultures often depicted in constant conflict—Arabs and Jews—have spent much of their history collaborating in the spice trade and suggests how a more virtuous multicultural globalized society may be achieved in the future.
     
    An interesting thread by Karlin, nevertheless!
    , @Pseudonymic Handle
    Indeed. "cuisines" are historically recent not only because the ingredients are often introduced during the Colombus Exchange, but also because cooking on a fire pit and ovens were the only ways to cook until mid 1800's when the cooking stove was invented. Because of the difficulty of temperature control until than most foods were boiled into soups and stews while meat was often roasted.
    Restaurants appeared in late 1700's and the food they serve is pretty different from home food, so in an ethnic cuisine there is a restaurant cuisine and a home cuisine.
    Serving courses one after the other is called "service a la russe" and was introduced in the West in early 1800's.
    Pretty much everything we call cuisines were developed since the industrial revolution and are of dubious ancestry and authenticity.
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  16. utu says:
    @Aylok
    "Chinese (but the north and coastal areas are Low, while Sichuan is high; though that said, its hotness isn’t based on capsaicin)."

    That's not right - Guizhounese, Hunanese and Sichuanese cuisine constantly use capsaicin and it's used all over China at least a bit - dried whole or flaked chillies (乾辣椒), chilli oil (紅油), chopped pickled chilli (剁辣椒)- the last is the emblem of Hunanese cuisine.

    Guizhounese, Hunanese and Sichuanese cuisine constantly use capsaicin and it’s used all over China at least a bit

    Correct. And try to tell them that this ingredient (chilis) came from America after Columbus. They had no-capsaicin hotness as well but not as hot and much more expensive that’s why they took to chilies.

    Read More
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  17. g2k says:

    I seem to comment on all of these types of threads with pretty much the same ponits. Georgians tend to oversell the boring aspects of their cuisine (khinkhali and khatchapuri) and undersell the more interesting. At its best, Georgian cuisine is as spicy as Indian, but with herbs and spices unique to that area, and without the booze and pork prohibitions: More exotic to a brit used to uk-pastiche curry. Chakapuli, Chakhokhbili, Chanakh, Tabaka, , satsivi, schpinat c orekham, badrijan, adjpasandali etc. are good. Their shashlyk is worse than the Armenians’ though.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Ali Choudhury
    Personally I quite like khachapuri when made with sourdough bread. The best lunch wrap made here is by a local Georgian vendor, a chicken thigh wrap marinated in adjika and bazhe sauce.

    Iranian and Afghan food is probably better suited to European palettes than spicy Indian food. Food is seasoned with saffron, salt and peppers not chilis and the lack of spice means the flavours are not overpowered.

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  18. Nibba French Cuisine is the closest thing to a universal high standard across the planet!

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  19. g2k says:

    The Ukrainians seem to have successfully commercialised their stolovas but kept the food pretty much the same. Putzata Khata anyone? In poland, by contrast, the milk bars are living museums to communism.

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  20. Not much to agree with here. And this comes from a chili fiend.

    I assume you take “spicy” to mean “rich in capsaicin,” but if we take it to mean “hot” or “piquant” in general, which I think better reflects how people relate to food, then chili is far from the only source of spiciness. In Northern Europe, we have mustard (Russian mustard is hot as hell), horseradish (very common in North and Eastern European cuisines), and garlic (never used in Swedish home cooking but popular in Eastern Europe). One might also argue that vodka (Eastern Europe), aquavit (Scandinavia), and Swedish Punsch (Sweden and Finland) fill a similar function in giving dishes a certain “bite”; these beverages are sometimes also used in foodstuffs (e.g. brännvinsost — a Swedish vodka cheese).

    But there is a more fundamental error with your argument that spicier (or “hotter”) equals better, which is that a good few of the world’s finest dishes rely on a finely-tuned blend of flavors. The least bit of chili in a sausage will instantly kill our densely rich, but fragile, Swedish mashed potatoes, and I shudder to think of what it would do to subtle masterpieces such as foie gras, or asparagus with sauce hollandaise, or spaghetti with grated truffles. Indeed, I can think of very few Northern European dishes, out of many hundreds, that benefit from chili. The cuisines of the Mediterranean are another matter, of course, but even there, few dishes benefit from your piling on the chili. Pesto and tapenade, for instance, are both exercises in balance, and so is true Italian pizza. (Puttanesca is an interesting counterexample. I suspect it works well as a “hot” dish since the chili is paired with such unsubtle flavors — anchovies, briny olives, lots of garlic.)

    As for French cuisine, I would think that even the most “fried tastebuds” — to borrow inertial’s phrase — would approve of the french fries, gratins, quiches, baguettes and croissants that it has blessed the world it. And that’s not even mentioning cheese and wine and drink.

    Speaking of wine. Another oddity about your love for chili is that you are also a wine lover, and wine goes terribly with chili. Each to his own taste, of course, but good food and wine pairings make half the experience.

    Read More
    • Agree: reiner Tor, melanf, Mr. Hack
    • Replies: @utu

    Indeed, I can think of very few Northern European dishes, out of many hundreds, that benefit from chili.
     
    Agree. And not only Northern Europeans.
    , @Anonymous
    I like Swedish meatballs or sausages and mashed potatoes with Tabasco or Sriracha or some other hot sauce. I don't like it with the Lingenberry sauce. If you like salty, spicy flavors and don't have much of a sweet tooth, then it tastes good with hot sauce and without the Lingenberry sauce. For me, things like Lingenberry sauce or Cranberry sauce are too sweet and don't go well with the rich, hearty meat and savory gravy. Salty and spicy flavors go well with rich and savory flavors.
    , @Chet Bradley

    ...a good few of the world’s finest dishes rely on a finely-tuned blend of flavors.
     
    I agree completely, and that reminds me of how the truth of your statement can be completely lost on people from some cultures.

    I went to college here in the U.S. with a girl from India (born in India, not a Desi). Any time that the group from our department went out to eat together, she'd complain that the food is bland. I tried explaining to her that in Western cuisine the purpose of spices is to enhance the flavors of the ingredients, however subtle, not to mask them. That was something she simply could not comprehend, and she kept saying "the food is bland."

    I really believe that once you get used to the overpowering spiciness of many Indian dishes, you can't appreciate subtle flavors. Maybe your taste buds are fried, maybe it's your brain synapses.

    , @Mr. Hack
    I too enjoy spicy (hot dishes) and am a Thai food aficionado, however, stating that I would never dream of adding anything capsaicin related to a dish that incorporates the incredibly flavorable porcini mushroom...there's a time and place for everything (including hot spicy peppers). Actually, my favorite curry dish is the least spicy (hot) of all, the wonderful massaman dish!
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  21. utu says:
    @Swedish Family
    Not much to agree with here. And this comes from a chili fiend.

    I assume you take "spicy" to mean "rich in capsaicin," but if we take it to mean "hot" or "piquant" in general, which I think better reflects how people relate to food, then chili is far from the only source of spiciness. In Northern Europe, we have mustard (Russian mustard is hot as hell), horseradish (very common in North and Eastern European cuisines), and garlic (never used in Swedish home cooking but popular in Eastern Europe). One might also argue that vodka (Eastern Europe), aquavit (Scandinavia), and Swedish Punsch (Sweden and Finland) fill a similar function in giving dishes a certain "bite"; these beverages are sometimes also used in foodstuffs (e.g. brännvinsost -- a Swedish vodka cheese).

    But there is a more fundamental error with your argument that spicier (or "hotter") equals better, which is that a good few of the world's finest dishes rely on a finely-tuned blend of flavors. The least bit of chili in a sausage will instantly kill our densely rich, but fragile, Swedish mashed potatoes, and I shudder to think of what it would do to subtle masterpieces such as foie gras, or asparagus with sauce hollandaise, or spaghetti with grated truffles. Indeed, I can think of very few Northern European dishes, out of many hundreds, that benefit from chili. The cuisines of the Mediterranean are another matter, of course, but even there, few dishes benefit from your piling on the chili. Pesto and tapenade, for instance, are both exercises in balance, and so is true Italian pizza. (Puttanesca is an interesting counterexample. I suspect it works well as a "hot" dish since the chili is paired with such unsubtle flavors -- anchovies, briny olives, lots of garlic.)

    As for French cuisine, I would think that even the most "fried tastebuds" -- to borrow inertial's phrase -- would approve of the french fries, gratins, quiches, baguettes and croissants that it has blessed the world it. And that's not even mentioning cheese and wine and drink.

    Speaking of wine. Another oddity about your love for chili is that you are also a wine lover, and wine goes terribly with chili. Each to his own taste, of course, but good food and wine pairings make half the experience.

    Indeed, I can think of very few Northern European dishes, out of many hundreds, that benefit from chili.

    Agree. And not only Northern Europeans.

    Read More
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  22. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:
    @Daniel Chieh

    Biggest missing opportunity: Poutine.
     
    Poutine isn't successful in the US either. I'm not sure why - running theory at the moment that one of its vital components of "squeaky cheese curds" is somehow difficult to replicate non-locally.

    New York Fries
    , probably one of the best Poutine joints in the world and widespread in Canada, might not even have a location in New York City.

    Maybe because we already have our own popular disgusting looking french fry dishes, namely cheese fries and chili cheese fries. Chili cheese fries are delicious, but they look like someone squatted over a plate of fries and sprayed diarrhea all over them. Poutine looks more like chunky vomit on fries.

    For whatever reason, America doesn’t really have a good cheese culture. There are lots of fancy cheese aficianados in the US, and quality cheeses made by dairies in places like Wisconsin, but standard and classic American fare usually includes the lowest quality cheeses like American cheese, Cheez Whiz, etc., stuff that wouldn’t even qualify as cheese in Europe.

    Read More
    • Replies: @inertial
    That's because in America the overwhelming majority of cheese is consumed in a melted state.
    , @Wency
    I agree that America lacks a good cheese culture. Though to be fair, Cheez Whiz and American processed cheese food are legally not cheese in the U.S. either. Then again, many of the best gourmet European cheeses are illegal in the U.S.

    In some ways American cheese culture is akin to our beer culture. If you're enjoying a craft beer with your cheeseburger, it probably has a decent slice of cheese on it. If you're drinking a Bud Light ("Wasser" in German), your "cheeseburger" probably doesn't legally qualify as having cheese.
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  23. inertial says:
    @Anonymous
    Maybe because we already have our own popular disgusting looking french fry dishes, namely cheese fries and chili cheese fries. Chili cheese fries are delicious, but they look like someone squatted over a plate of fries and sprayed diarrhea all over them. Poutine looks more like chunky vomit on fries.

    For whatever reason, America doesn't really have a good cheese culture. There are lots of fancy cheese aficianados in the US, and quality cheeses made by dairies in places like Wisconsin, but standard and classic American fare usually includes the lowest quality cheeses like American cheese, Cheez Whiz, etc., stuff that wouldn't even qualify as cheese in Europe.

    That’s because in America the overwhelming majority of cheese is consumed in a melted state.

    Read More
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  24. JW says:
    @neutral
    There was mention in one of Sailers articles what the deal was with the stereotype with blacks liking grape drink (which is not grape juice but an artificial drink), the theory was that Africans prefer things sweeter. Is there truth to race and preferences for sweetness as well?

    I think everybody likes sweet. Higher class people “dislike” sweet food because of social conformity.

    There’s a YouTube skit of Chinese American kids disliking places like Panda Express (fast food Chinese) but their immigrant parents thought it quite tasty.

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  25. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:
    @Swedish Family
    Not much to agree with here. And this comes from a chili fiend.

    I assume you take "spicy" to mean "rich in capsaicin," but if we take it to mean "hot" or "piquant" in general, which I think better reflects how people relate to food, then chili is far from the only source of spiciness. In Northern Europe, we have mustard (Russian mustard is hot as hell), horseradish (very common in North and Eastern European cuisines), and garlic (never used in Swedish home cooking but popular in Eastern Europe). One might also argue that vodka (Eastern Europe), aquavit (Scandinavia), and Swedish Punsch (Sweden and Finland) fill a similar function in giving dishes a certain "bite"; these beverages are sometimes also used in foodstuffs (e.g. brännvinsost -- a Swedish vodka cheese).

    But there is a more fundamental error with your argument that spicier (or "hotter") equals better, which is that a good few of the world's finest dishes rely on a finely-tuned blend of flavors. The least bit of chili in a sausage will instantly kill our densely rich, but fragile, Swedish mashed potatoes, and I shudder to think of what it would do to subtle masterpieces such as foie gras, or asparagus with sauce hollandaise, or spaghetti with grated truffles. Indeed, I can think of very few Northern European dishes, out of many hundreds, that benefit from chili. The cuisines of the Mediterranean are another matter, of course, but even there, few dishes benefit from your piling on the chili. Pesto and tapenade, for instance, are both exercises in balance, and so is true Italian pizza. (Puttanesca is an interesting counterexample. I suspect it works well as a "hot" dish since the chili is paired with such unsubtle flavors -- anchovies, briny olives, lots of garlic.)

    As for French cuisine, I would think that even the most "fried tastebuds" -- to borrow inertial's phrase -- would approve of the french fries, gratins, quiches, baguettes and croissants that it has blessed the world it. And that's not even mentioning cheese and wine and drink.

    Speaking of wine. Another oddity about your love for chili is that you are also a wine lover, and wine goes terribly with chili. Each to his own taste, of course, but good food and wine pairings make half the experience.

    I like Swedish meatballs or sausages and mashed potatoes with Tabasco or Sriracha or some other hot sauce. I don’t like it with the Lingenberry sauce. If you like salty, spicy flavors and don’t have much of a sweet tooth, then it tastes good with hot sauce and without the Lingenberry sauce. For me, things like Lingenberry sauce or Cranberry sauce are too sweet and don’t go well with the rich, hearty meat and savory gravy. Salty and spicy flavors go well with rich and savory flavors.

    Read More
    • Replies: @utu
    What is your point?
    , @Swedish Family

    I like Swedish meatballs or sausages and mashed potatoes with Tabasco or Sriracha or some other hot sauce. I don’t like it with the Lingenberry sauce. If you like salty, spicy flavors and don’t have much of a sweet tooth, then it tastes good with hot sauce and without the Lingenberry sauce. For me, things like Lingenberry sauce or Cranberry sauce are too sweet and don’t go well with the rich, hearty meat and savory gravy.
     
    Most store-bought lingonberry jams are far too sweet. Good cooks make their own jam, or better yet, simply stir the berries with some sugar and let them sit until the sugar crystals dissolve. They should be quite sour. The trick is to add only so much sugar that the lingonberries don't make you frown, if that makes any sense.
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  26. utu says:
    @Anonymous
    I like Swedish meatballs or sausages and mashed potatoes with Tabasco or Sriracha or some other hot sauce. I don't like it with the Lingenberry sauce. If you like salty, spicy flavors and don't have much of a sweet tooth, then it tastes good with hot sauce and without the Lingenberry sauce. For me, things like Lingenberry sauce or Cranberry sauce are too sweet and don't go well with the rich, hearty meat and savory gravy. Salty and spicy flavors go well with rich and savory flavors.

    What is your point?

    Read More
    • Replies: @Anonymous
    It's an example of a Northern European dish that goes well with chili.

    Fish and chips is another dish that's good with hot sauce.
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  27. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:
    @utu
    What is your point?

    It’s an example of a Northern European dish that goes well with chili.

    Fish and chips is another dish that’s good with hot sauce.

    Read More
    • Replies: @utu

    It’s an example of a Northern European dish that goes well with chili.
     
    It goes well with chili for you. Perhaps because you are a barbarian. When in sushi bar they will consider you a barbarian if you overdo wasabi. It may depend on your cultural trajectory, i.e., what foods did you grow up with. It is possible that people once exposed to lots of chilis are unable to appreciate tastes on more subtle scales. Just like a miner working in a coal mine won't be able to appreciate various degrees of snow coloration like Inuits can or a heroin slamming junky won't be impressed by different flavors of pipe tobacco.

    While the ancient Romans teach us that de gustibus non est disputandum I still believe there are better and worse method of making a simple bread and butter sandwich. There is also a matter of respect for culture. I would not go to European restaurants with bottles of ketchup and tabasco or habanero sauce to improve on their food.
    , @Swedish Family

    It’s an example of a Northern European dish that goes well with chili.
     
    I don't want to get too presciptive here, but I think it's worth your while to consider what makes mashed potatoes special. To my mind, it's the taste of perfectly cooked potatoes (in the north, we typically use "almond potaoes," which have a very pronounced, "earthy" taste), fortified by the best heavy cream and butter you can find -- the butter should be browned a little -- and then given maximal flavor by a good amount of salt (any non-iodized salt will do) and a pinch of grated nutmeg. When done right, this is a delicacy in itself, and I find that the least bit of chili masks all the other flavors.
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  28. Twinkie says:

    Koreans are pretty far north, but their food can be pretty spicy

    This is a relatively recent development (c. 17th century). Koreans used fermented foods long before this, but it was in the aftermath of the Imjin Wars (Toyotomi Hideyoshi’s invasions) that the chili peppers were introduced to Korea via the Portuguese from the Americas.

    The famous/infamous Korean side dish, Kimchi, was somewhat pungent, but not spicy prior to this period and was white in color, and usually was served with cold “clean-tasting” broth as a summer dish. This still persists in Korea, especially in northern areas, as white Kimchi or Dongchimi Kimchi.

    Once the chili spread, though, it spread fast and Koreans took to it with almost reckless abandon.

    Even now, royal or temple style Korean food is delicate and mild and relies on natural flavors and texture s rather than heavy spicing. It is completely unknown in the West.

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  29. utu says:
    @Anonymous
    It's an example of a Northern European dish that goes well with chili.

    Fish and chips is another dish that's good with hot sauce.

    It’s an example of a Northern European dish that goes well with chili.

    It goes well with chili for you. Perhaps because you are a barbarian. When in sushi bar they will consider you a barbarian if you overdo wasabi. It may depend on your cultural trajectory, i.e., what foods did you grow up with. It is possible that people once exposed to lots of chilis are unable to appreciate tastes on more subtle scales. Just like a miner working in a coal mine won’t be able to appreciate various degrees of snow coloration like Inuits can or a heroin slamming junky won’t be impressed by different flavors of pipe tobacco.

    While the ancient Romans teach us that de gustibus non est disputandum I still believe there are better and worse method of making a simple bread and butter sandwich. There is also a matter of respect for culture. I would not go to European restaurants with bottles of ketchup and tabasco or habanero sauce to improve on their food.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Anonymous
    It goes well with chili for me and apparently lots of other people. Many people like spicy meatballs, sausages, and potatoes. Spicy Italian meatballs and sausages are popular. Regular grocery stores usually carry mild and spicy versions of packaged meatballs and sausages.

    Actually, I can and do enjoy non spicy meatballs and sausages and potatoes as well. It just depends on what I'm in the mood for. Just like sometimes I like scrambled eggs with Tabasco sauce, and sometimes without. They both taste good to me.

    There are non-spicy, non-Japanese ingredients and flavors that are used in sushi these days that I like such as cream cheese and avocado. I don't care that it's not traditional. It tastes good to me, as do the traditional sushi varieties.

    I don't think there's anything wrong with using hot sauce with something like Swedish meatballs and potatoes. Hot sauce is usually fine with simple, hearty fare like meat and potatoes. It depends on the dish and what you're in the mood for.
    , @AKAHorace
    Utu,

    A Japanese Hawiain guy told me that you should mix the wasabi with soy sauce until you get a paste, then apply it to sushi. Is this Japanese tradition or just this guys taste ?
    , @Swedish Family

    When in sushi bar they will consider you a barbarian if you overdo wasabi. It may depend on your cultural trajectory, i.e., what foods did you grow up with. It is possible that people once exposed to lots of chilis are unable to appreciate tastes on more subtle scales.
     
    Just like with the arts -- or women's fashion, if you are into that -- few people like to believe that they have poor sense of taste. So our ego-defence mechanisms kick in. (I'm not saying Anonymous is one of those people, but I have friends who are. It's no biggie.)

    There's actually some science on this. One theory is that having more taste buds, all else equal, makes people more sensitive to chili.

    "Prescott summarizes the basics of what we know about why people can or cannot tolerate spicy foods—and whether or not they like it: Research shows that some people are more sensitive to heat, he says, but there is no certainty about why. They could have more taste buds, or there may be other genetic differences. But, 'regardless of sensitivity, we can all develop a liking for spiciness through repeated consumption.'"

    (https://firstwefeast.com/features/2016/05/spicy-genetics-investigation/stomach)

    We also know that women, on average, have more taste buds than men (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7878086), which would explain both why they are more sensitive to chili and why they have a more sensual relationship with food than men.

    This last observation shouldn't be taken to far, however. Impressions from the tongue only play a minor role in how we perceive taste. What something tastes like is actually a function of an interplay between all senses. Smell, in particular, always plays a part, which is one reason food is less enjoyable when you have a stuffy nose.

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  30. Dmitry says:
    @reiner Tor
    I don’t understand how you can say European food is bad. I like French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, but I’ve been to an excellent Russian restaurant, too. Outside Europe Chinese (which is actually many different cuisines), Japanese and Vietnamese are what I really like (Thai can be good, too), though I don’t know many others. I don’t like Indian. (What I tried, maybe there are better ones.)

    Quality of the chef and ingredients is usually the determining factor regardless of the cuisine.

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    • Agree: reiner Tor
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  31. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:
    @utu

    It’s an example of a Northern European dish that goes well with chili.
     
    It goes well with chili for you. Perhaps because you are a barbarian. When in sushi bar they will consider you a barbarian if you overdo wasabi. It may depend on your cultural trajectory, i.e., what foods did you grow up with. It is possible that people once exposed to lots of chilis are unable to appreciate tastes on more subtle scales. Just like a miner working in a coal mine won't be able to appreciate various degrees of snow coloration like Inuits can or a heroin slamming junky won't be impressed by different flavors of pipe tobacco.

    While the ancient Romans teach us that de gustibus non est disputandum I still believe there are better and worse method of making a simple bread and butter sandwich. There is also a matter of respect for culture. I would not go to European restaurants with bottles of ketchup and tabasco or habanero sauce to improve on their food.

    It goes well with chili for me and apparently lots of other people. Many people like spicy meatballs, sausages, and potatoes. Spicy Italian meatballs and sausages are popular. Regular grocery stores usually carry mild and spicy versions of packaged meatballs and sausages.

    Actually, I can and do enjoy non spicy meatballs and sausages and potatoes as well. It just depends on what I’m in the mood for. Just like sometimes I like scrambled eggs with Tabasco sauce, and sometimes without. They both taste good to me.

    There are non-spicy, non-Japanese ingredients and flavors that are used in sushi these days that I like such as cream cheese and avocado. I don’t care that it’s not traditional. It tastes good to me, as do the traditional sushi varieties.

    I don’t think there’s anything wrong with using hot sauce with something like Swedish meatballs and potatoes. Hot sauce is usually fine with simple, hearty fare like meat and potatoes. It depends on the dish and what you’re in the mood for.

    Read More
    • Replies: @utu

    I don’t think there’s anything wrong with using hot sauce
     
    Wrong? Is it wrong to play laud heavy metal or rap music? Now and then not. But if you desensitize yourself to the point that you won't be able to ever appreciate, say Debussy, I would say it is wrong in some sense.

    I like hot sauces but I am a bit concerned by their overuse and the expansive trend in their world usage. We hear it is taking over Moscow and so on. Just like I am concerned about expansive trend of loud and trashy American culture in the world.

    It is possible that too much hot and spicy foods can make permanent change in human brain. My concern stems from the conservative principle to be cautions about any irreversible changes. It is possible that we will evolve (devolve) to an animal with even fewer taste buds if we keep using them at their saturation point. Cattle have two to three times as many taste buds as humans so they can appreciate subtle flavors of grasses. Perhaps from the taste pleasure principle point of view being a cow would be better than a future human with just one taste bud and big bottle of habanero sauce. Though the big food corporations may like this trend. BTW, how come Americans became so enamored with Mexican hot food? There is something macho about ability to handle hot food. Women are less into it, I think. Yes, Mexico is next door but there is more to it. I do not think that Italians or French would take to Mexican food the way Americans did.
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  32. Tulip says:

    Two thoughts:

    1.) Spicy food tends to cluster around the Equator because hot food tends to spoil slower.

    2.) If the food is really spicy, food pairing seems like a waste of time because you won’t taste anything except the spice.

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  33. E says:

    Yeah, I’m also going to dissent from the “more spicy means better cuisine” line that Karlin seems to be pushing here. Herbs (not necessarily spicy ones) can and do add very interesting flavors, but too often can be used to mask bad ingredients, or used to get a “jolt” for people who have “friend taste buds”.

    Hypothesis: are the people who can’t stand spices better able to tell when food has begun to go bad, or whether a particular plant is poisonous or not? You need finely-tuned taste buds for that, which might become overstimulated by spices.

    It would be analogous to how a friend of mine, who’s a classically-trained musician, is able to make out distant sounds really well but not able to handle loud sounds as well as normal people (and so has to cover ears sometimes).

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  34. utu says:
    @Anonymous
    It goes well with chili for me and apparently lots of other people. Many people like spicy meatballs, sausages, and potatoes. Spicy Italian meatballs and sausages are popular. Regular grocery stores usually carry mild and spicy versions of packaged meatballs and sausages.

    Actually, I can and do enjoy non spicy meatballs and sausages and potatoes as well. It just depends on what I'm in the mood for. Just like sometimes I like scrambled eggs with Tabasco sauce, and sometimes without. They both taste good to me.

    There are non-spicy, non-Japanese ingredients and flavors that are used in sushi these days that I like such as cream cheese and avocado. I don't care that it's not traditional. It tastes good to me, as do the traditional sushi varieties.

    I don't think there's anything wrong with using hot sauce with something like Swedish meatballs and potatoes. Hot sauce is usually fine with simple, hearty fare like meat and potatoes. It depends on the dish and what you're in the mood for.

    I don’t think there’s anything wrong with using hot sauce

    Wrong? Is it wrong to play laud heavy metal or rap music? Now and then not. But if you desensitize yourself to the point that you won’t be able to ever appreciate, say Debussy, I would say it is wrong in some sense.

    I like hot sauces but I am a bit concerned by their overuse and the expansive trend in their world usage. We hear it is taking over Moscow and so on. Just like I am concerned about expansive trend of loud and trashy American culture in the world.

    It is possible that too much hot and spicy foods can make permanent change in human brain. My concern stems from the conservative principle to be cautions about any irreversible changes. It is possible that we will evolve (devolve) to an animal with even fewer taste buds if we keep using them at their saturation point. Cattle have two to three times as many taste buds as humans so they can appreciate subtle flavors of grasses. Perhaps from the taste pleasure principle point of view being a cow would be better than a future human with just one taste bud and big bottle of habanero sauce. Though the big food corporations may like this trend. BTW, how come Americans became so enamored with Mexican hot food? There is something macho about ability to handle hot food. Women are less into it, I think. Yes, Mexico is next door but there is more to it. I do not think that Italians or French would take to Mexican food the way Americans did.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Anon
    I have never seen or eaten Mexican food in the US, however. Mexican food is labor intensive: lots of chopping and grinding, lots of layers, most fresh cooked. Fruits and vegetables are cheaper also. For example, 'divorced eggs' require fresh tortillas, heated on the stove, then 2 fried eggs, then dousing in half green sauce, half red sauce (made and kept heated separately), plus refried beans (two step process), preferably with grated fresh cheese and sliced avocado. No chili required but that's according to taste. That's a fairly common breakfast dish, and it means plenty of dirty pots and pans. There are some places --I have this from reliable authority-- where guacamole follows an authentic recipe and is supposed to be like entertainment, with the waiter making it at the table. Like a flambé or something.

    American food often relies on processed short-cuts: canned tomatoes, canned stock, hash browns, frozen veggies..

    Too much chili kills the palate. And it is kind of addictive, with some people needing more and more. In that sense, it meshes well with the very sweet, very salty, very greasy cheap American food. Tabasco sauce, for example, is in Mexico often used for crudités and potato chips. Not for proper food.
    , @Anonymous
    I don't think that's a good analogy because using hot sauce doesn't necessarily mean dousing a dish in hot sauce. Just as seasoning food with salt and pepper, which presumably you're not opposed to since that's standard in many dishes, doesn't necessarily mean caking the entire dish with salt and pepper. People who like and use hot sauce use it to varying degrees and at different occasions, depending on their particular mood and preference.

    I enjoy the same dish, like meatballs and potatoes, with or without hot sauce. It depends on what I feel like at a particular time.

    I disagree that simple dishes like meatballs or sausage and potatoes necessarily have all these subtle flavors that are ruined by hot sauce. Most of the ingredients in them such as bread crumbs, eggs, cream, etc. are for texture.

    The popularity of Mexican food has little to do with spiciness. It's mainly popular because it's simple combination of starch and meat, which is a universally popular combination. Everybody like starch and meat together.
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  35. Dave Pinsen says: • Website

    Stolovaya sounds good, judging from the Yelp reviews and pictures. Brooklyn is a pain in the ass to get to from me, so not something I’d make a trip for.

    Something else that would probably do well in Moscow (and Chicago, etc.) is this specialty mac & cheese place in Manhattan, S’Mac. Started by an Indian engineer couple, so they even have a spicy masala version.

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  36. Anon • Disclaimer says:

    This is one of those articles that leave me thinking that seeing a pattern/patterns really is not a sign of intelligence. On the other hand, it might be blogger’s replication, for example, the Thompson fellow trotted out a couple of diet articles that seemed to ellicit commenters’ interest, hence this one. Sailer did the same w/Nietzsche. Not a pattern, I hope.

    Read More
    • LOL: utu
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  37. AKAHorace says:
    @Daniel Chieh

    Biggest missing opportunity: Poutine.
     
    Poutine isn't successful in the US either. I'm not sure why - running theory at the moment that one of its vital components of "squeaky cheese curds" is somehow difficult to replicate non-locally.

    New York Fries
    , probably one of the best Poutine joints in the world and widespread in Canada, might not even have a location in New York City.

    New York fries is not that good for poutine, a lot of fries, not much to go with it.

    Poutine is not really Canadian, but Quebecois. It has only become adopted by Canadians over the last 15 years as we don’t have many dishes that can be called local.

    Read More
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  38. AKAHorace says:
    @utu

    It’s an example of a Northern European dish that goes well with chili.
     
    It goes well with chili for you. Perhaps because you are a barbarian. When in sushi bar they will consider you a barbarian if you overdo wasabi. It may depend on your cultural trajectory, i.e., what foods did you grow up with. It is possible that people once exposed to lots of chilis are unable to appreciate tastes on more subtle scales. Just like a miner working in a coal mine won't be able to appreciate various degrees of snow coloration like Inuits can or a heroin slamming junky won't be impressed by different flavors of pipe tobacco.

    While the ancient Romans teach us that de gustibus non est disputandum I still believe there are better and worse method of making a simple bread and butter sandwich. There is also a matter of respect for culture. I would not go to European restaurants with bottles of ketchup and tabasco or habanero sauce to improve on their food.

    Utu,

    A Japanese Hawiain guy told me that you should mix the wasabi with soy sauce until you get a paste, then apply it to sushi. Is this Japanese tradition or just this guys taste ?

    Read More
    • Replies: @utu
    That's what also I was told by various Japanese to mix wasabi with soy sauce before dipping sushi or sashimi in it. Though I was ridiculed when I dipped it too much because that indicated to them that I wanted to mask the unpleasant flavor of the fish or clam or whatever, meaning being a wimp. Too wasabi hot means being wimpy and silly because refusing to enjoy what is really good.
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  39. Anon • Disclaimer says:
    @utu

    I don’t think there’s anything wrong with using hot sauce
     
    Wrong? Is it wrong to play laud heavy metal or rap music? Now and then not. But if you desensitize yourself to the point that you won't be able to ever appreciate, say Debussy, I would say it is wrong in some sense.

    I like hot sauces but I am a bit concerned by their overuse and the expansive trend in their world usage. We hear it is taking over Moscow and so on. Just like I am concerned about expansive trend of loud and trashy American culture in the world.

    It is possible that too much hot and spicy foods can make permanent change in human brain. My concern stems from the conservative principle to be cautions about any irreversible changes. It is possible that we will evolve (devolve) to an animal with even fewer taste buds if we keep using them at their saturation point. Cattle have two to three times as many taste buds as humans so they can appreciate subtle flavors of grasses. Perhaps from the taste pleasure principle point of view being a cow would be better than a future human with just one taste bud and big bottle of habanero sauce. Though the big food corporations may like this trend. BTW, how come Americans became so enamored with Mexican hot food? There is something macho about ability to handle hot food. Women are less into it, I think. Yes, Mexico is next door but there is more to it. I do not think that Italians or French would take to Mexican food the way Americans did.

    I have never seen or eaten Mexican food in the US, however. Mexican food is labor intensive: lots of chopping and grinding, lots of layers, most fresh cooked. Fruits and vegetables are cheaper also. For example, ‘divorced eggs’ require fresh tortillas, heated on the stove, then 2 fried eggs, then dousing in half green sauce, half red sauce (made and kept heated separately), plus refried beans (two step process), preferably with grated fresh cheese and sliced avocado. No chili required but that’s according to taste. That’s a fairly common breakfast dish, and it means plenty of dirty pots and pans. There are some places –I have this from reliable authority– where guacamole follows an authentic recipe and is supposed to be like entertainment, with the waiter making it at the table. Like a flambé or something.

    American food often relies on processed short-cuts: canned tomatoes, canned stock, hash browns, frozen veggies..

    Too much chili kills the palate. And it is kind of addictive, with some people needing more and more. In that sense, it meshes well with the very sweet, very salty, very greasy cheap American food. Tabasco sauce, for example, is in Mexico often used for crudités and potato chips. Not for proper food.

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    • Replies: @utu
    It is hard to imagine Mexican flavor w/o cilantro and cumin yet these are European imports.

    Cheese, cumin, cilantro/coriander, garlic, onion are the most important European contributions (apart from beef and pork) to Mexican cuisine.

    All traditional cooking used to be very time consuming. Nowadays it is different. Eg.: Italians do not make their own pasta at home anymore. How many Russians still make pelmeni from scratch at home or Czechs their houskovy knedlik? German beef rouladen are time consuming. But some techniques are simpler than others. It seems that Chinese wok cooking is very fast and does not require much preparation. A Chinese cook will prepare meal much faster than a European cook.
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  40. songbird says:

    We call it New England clam chowder generally. That type anyway, though I can see how “Boston” would make more sense on a menu.

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  41. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:
    @utu

    I don’t think there’s anything wrong with using hot sauce
     
    Wrong? Is it wrong to play laud heavy metal or rap music? Now and then not. But if you desensitize yourself to the point that you won't be able to ever appreciate, say Debussy, I would say it is wrong in some sense.

    I like hot sauces but I am a bit concerned by their overuse and the expansive trend in their world usage. We hear it is taking over Moscow and so on. Just like I am concerned about expansive trend of loud and trashy American culture in the world.

    It is possible that too much hot and spicy foods can make permanent change in human brain. My concern stems from the conservative principle to be cautions about any irreversible changes. It is possible that we will evolve (devolve) to an animal with even fewer taste buds if we keep using them at their saturation point. Cattle have two to three times as many taste buds as humans so they can appreciate subtle flavors of grasses. Perhaps from the taste pleasure principle point of view being a cow would be better than a future human with just one taste bud and big bottle of habanero sauce. Though the big food corporations may like this trend. BTW, how come Americans became so enamored with Mexican hot food? There is something macho about ability to handle hot food. Women are less into it, I think. Yes, Mexico is next door but there is more to it. I do not think that Italians or French would take to Mexican food the way Americans did.

    I don’t think that’s a good analogy because using hot sauce doesn’t necessarily mean dousing a dish in hot sauce. Just as seasoning food with salt and pepper, which presumably you’re not opposed to since that’s standard in many dishes, doesn’t necessarily mean caking the entire dish with salt and pepper. People who like and use hot sauce use it to varying degrees and at different occasions, depending on their particular mood and preference.

    I enjoy the same dish, like meatballs and potatoes, with or without hot sauce. It depends on what I feel like at a particular time.

    I disagree that simple dishes like meatballs or sausage and potatoes necessarily have all these subtle flavors that are ruined by hot sauce. Most of the ingredients in them such as bread crumbs, eggs, cream, etc. are for texture.

    The popularity of Mexican food has little to do with spiciness. It’s mainly popular because it’s simple combination of starch and meat, which is a universally popular combination. Everybody like starch and meat together.

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    • Replies: @utu
    I get it. Yes, moderation. I am with you. But there is another issue. However I think I failed what I wanted to convey to you because you are not there yet. It is not about you and what you like or not. It is about an idea and an understanding and that you as an individual are subservient to this idea and you fail to grasp it instead you have an audacity to claim that your empirical experience takes precedence. You experience only matters when you experience it but to draw from it conclusions you need a broader view and concepts you need to bering in from without. Because if you do not have it you are just like a monkey or a butterfly jumping form flower you like to flower you do not like and so on.
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  42. @Swedish Family
    Not much to agree with here. And this comes from a chili fiend.

    I assume you take "spicy" to mean "rich in capsaicin," but if we take it to mean "hot" or "piquant" in general, which I think better reflects how people relate to food, then chili is far from the only source of spiciness. In Northern Europe, we have mustard (Russian mustard is hot as hell), horseradish (very common in North and Eastern European cuisines), and garlic (never used in Swedish home cooking but popular in Eastern Europe). One might also argue that vodka (Eastern Europe), aquavit (Scandinavia), and Swedish Punsch (Sweden and Finland) fill a similar function in giving dishes a certain "bite"; these beverages are sometimes also used in foodstuffs (e.g. brännvinsost -- a Swedish vodka cheese).

    But there is a more fundamental error with your argument that spicier (or "hotter") equals better, which is that a good few of the world's finest dishes rely on a finely-tuned blend of flavors. The least bit of chili in a sausage will instantly kill our densely rich, but fragile, Swedish mashed potatoes, and I shudder to think of what it would do to subtle masterpieces such as foie gras, or asparagus with sauce hollandaise, or spaghetti with grated truffles. Indeed, I can think of very few Northern European dishes, out of many hundreds, that benefit from chili. The cuisines of the Mediterranean are another matter, of course, but even there, few dishes benefit from your piling on the chili. Pesto and tapenade, for instance, are both exercises in balance, and so is true Italian pizza. (Puttanesca is an interesting counterexample. I suspect it works well as a "hot" dish since the chili is paired with such unsubtle flavors -- anchovies, briny olives, lots of garlic.)

    As for French cuisine, I would think that even the most "fried tastebuds" -- to borrow inertial's phrase -- would approve of the french fries, gratins, quiches, baguettes and croissants that it has blessed the world it. And that's not even mentioning cheese and wine and drink.

    Speaking of wine. Another oddity about your love for chili is that you are also a wine lover, and wine goes terribly with chili. Each to his own taste, of course, but good food and wine pairings make half the experience.

    …a good few of the world’s finest dishes rely on a finely-tuned blend of flavors.

    I agree completely, and that reminds me of how the truth of your statement can be completely lost on people from some cultures.

    I went to college here in the U.S. with a girl from India (born in India, not a Desi). Any time that the group from our department went out to eat together, she’d complain that the food is bland. I tried explaining to her that in Western cuisine the purpose of spices is to enhance the flavors of the ingredients, however subtle, not to mask them. That was something she simply could not comprehend, and she kept saying “the food is bland.”

    I really believe that once you get used to the overpowering spiciness of many Indian dishes, you can’t appreciate subtle flavors. Maybe your taste buds are fried, maybe it’s your brain synapses.

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    • Agree: utu
    • Replies: @Anonymous
    "Bland" is not necessarily pejorative and can just mean a lack of spicy flavors. Sweet and savory are types of flavors that are generally bland. It's about preference. If you really like spicy food, you're generally not going to like sweet or savory flavors by themselves that much. And vice versa.
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  43. utu says:
    @Anonymous
    I don't think that's a good analogy because using hot sauce doesn't necessarily mean dousing a dish in hot sauce. Just as seasoning food with salt and pepper, which presumably you're not opposed to since that's standard in many dishes, doesn't necessarily mean caking the entire dish with salt and pepper. People who like and use hot sauce use it to varying degrees and at different occasions, depending on their particular mood and preference.

    I enjoy the same dish, like meatballs and potatoes, with or without hot sauce. It depends on what I feel like at a particular time.

    I disagree that simple dishes like meatballs or sausage and potatoes necessarily have all these subtle flavors that are ruined by hot sauce. Most of the ingredients in them such as bread crumbs, eggs, cream, etc. are for texture.

    The popularity of Mexican food has little to do with spiciness. It's mainly popular because it's simple combination of starch and meat, which is a universally popular combination. Everybody like starch and meat together.

    I get it. Yes, moderation. I am with you. But there is another issue. However I think I failed what I wanted to convey to you because you are not there yet. It is not about you and what you like or not. It is about an idea and an understanding and that you as an individual are subservient to this idea and you fail to grasp it instead you have an audacity to claim that your empirical experience takes precedence. You experience only matters when you experience it but to draw from it conclusions you need a broader view and concepts you need to bering in from without. Because if you do not have it you are just like a monkey or a butterfly jumping form flower you like to flower you do not like and so on.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Anonymous
    I disagree that there are necessarily a myriad of subtle flavors in certain dishes that can't be detected by people who like spicy food. I don't think someone who dislikes spicy food is tasting all these various subtleties in something like Swedish meatballs and mashed potatoes. I think it's simply that they prefer the sweet and savory flavor of the meatballs and potatoes over spiciness.
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  44. 5371 says:

    Spices are disgusting and vegetarianism an atrocity.

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  45. Not an article on absolutely any subject by Mr. Karlin without kicking that dead Soviet lion. I wonder did Anatolii read and used that famous book about Tasty and Healthy Food? While Olivia or as some call it meat salad was and is popular there was a lot more on the table than mayones Madden salads. The issue here is that Anatolii being blue blood envision himself in pre 1917 Russia as one who could enjoy Russian high cuisine which excellently described in Gilyarovski “Moscow and Moscovites” book. That sort of food was not affordable and available to vast majority who barely could afford bread and buckwheat and rarely saw meat. Soviet cuisine was democratic , took into account time and availability constrains and population health. Food in Stolovkah was healthy. Food in local northern american joints is not. Now, I would not say Russian food lacks in hot aspects. Holodez for example is rarely eaten as is but either with Russian mustard or horseradish which both are very hot but act differently from chillies. Holodez takes long time to make. It is mainly cooked on cold months. Soviet food included many meals from Caucasus and central Asia and absorbed them. Imho there is no better soup than Borsh. Russian food evolved under certain climate and agricultural conditions. Just like Chinese cuisine for example or Italian one.

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    • Replies: @Anatoly Karlin

    Soviet cuisine was democratic , took into account time and availability constrains and population health.
     
    It failed at both the elite level (where French, Italian, Japanese dominate) and at the mass consumer levels (which Americans dominate, though Italian, Chinese, Mexicans, Japanese also make a good showing).

    And no, it wasn't healthy by any stretch of the imagination.

    Food in local northern american joints is not.
     
    American food isn't especially unhealthy. The burger for instance is a one meal food pyramid (the food pyramid itself is a somewhat bunk concept but still). It doesn't seem obvious to me that burger + fries is much less healthy than potatoes and onions fried in sunflower oil with cutlets.

    Soviet food included many meals from Caucasus and central Asia and absorbed them.
     
    Incidentally, I will take the opportunity to note that plov is far inferior to biryani.

    Imho there is no better soup than Borsh.
     
    The soups are indeed probably the best element of Russian cuisine. Sorrel soup, ukha, solyanka, rassolnik - at least as good as borscht, if far less known.
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  46. whahae says:

    Apart from desserts and booze. I don’t think anyone even comes close to Europeans there.

    As a German I have to add: Bread (‘though this is more of a German than a general European thing).

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  47. @Sergey Krieger
    Not an article on absolutely any subject by Mr. Karlin without kicking that dead Soviet lion. I wonder did Anatolii read and used that famous book about Tasty and Healthy Food? While Olivia or as some call it meat salad was and is popular there was a lot more on the table than mayones Madden salads. The issue here is that Anatolii being blue blood envision himself in pre 1917 Russia as one who could enjoy Russian high cuisine which excellently described in Gilyarovski "Moscow and Moscovites" book. That sort of food was not affordable and available to vast majority who barely could afford bread and buckwheat and rarely saw meat. Soviet cuisine was democratic , took into account time and availability constrains and population health. Food in Stolovkah was healthy. Food in local northern american joints is not. Now, I would not say Russian food lacks in hot aspects. Holodez for example is rarely eaten as is but either with Russian mustard or horseradish which both are very hot but act differently from chillies. Holodez takes long time to make. It is mainly cooked on cold months. Soviet food included many meals from Caucasus and central Asia and absorbed them. Imho there is no better soup than Borsh. Russian food evolved under certain climate and agricultural conditions. Just like Chinese cuisine for example or Italian one.

    Soviet cuisine was democratic , took into account time and availability constrains and population health.

    It failed at both the elite level (where French, Italian, Japanese dominate) and at the mass consumer levels (which Americans dominate, though Italian, Chinese, Mexicans, Japanese also make a good showing).

    And no, it wasn’t healthy by any stretch of the imagination.

    Food in local northern american joints is not.

    American food isn’t especially unhealthy. The burger for instance is a one meal food pyramid (the food pyramid itself is a somewhat bunk concept but still). It doesn’t seem obvious to me that burger + fries is much less healthy than potatoes and onions fried in sunflower oil with cutlets.

    Soviet food included many meals from Caucasus and central Asia and absorbed them.

    Incidentally, I will take the opportunity to note that plov is far inferior to biryani.

    Imho there is no better soup than Borsh.

    The soups are indeed probably the best element of Russian cuisine. Sorrel soup, ukha, solyanka, rassolnik – at least as good as borscht, if far less known.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Mr. Hack
    I'v tried all of the soups that you've mentioned, but none IMHO compare to the majesty of a red Ukrainian borschch! The natural sweet/sour taste that results from the marriage of sweet red beets along with cabbage and tomato is a hard combination to beat. Include the melange of other garden vegetables, meat, dill and garlic?...yum! :-)
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  48. Hot chillies or cayenne aren’t even sold in the typical supermarket.

    Utterly false. Chili pepper is solid in literally every supermaket and every outdoor market.

    (This is due to Korean and Caucasian influence, but still.)

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  49. utu says:
    @Anon
    I have never seen or eaten Mexican food in the US, however. Mexican food is labor intensive: lots of chopping and grinding, lots of layers, most fresh cooked. Fruits and vegetables are cheaper also. For example, 'divorced eggs' require fresh tortillas, heated on the stove, then 2 fried eggs, then dousing in half green sauce, half red sauce (made and kept heated separately), plus refried beans (two step process), preferably with grated fresh cheese and sliced avocado. No chili required but that's according to taste. That's a fairly common breakfast dish, and it means plenty of dirty pots and pans. There are some places --I have this from reliable authority-- where guacamole follows an authentic recipe and is supposed to be like entertainment, with the waiter making it at the table. Like a flambé or something.

    American food often relies on processed short-cuts: canned tomatoes, canned stock, hash browns, frozen veggies..

    Too much chili kills the palate. And it is kind of addictive, with some people needing more and more. In that sense, it meshes well with the very sweet, very salty, very greasy cheap American food. Tabasco sauce, for example, is in Mexico often used for crudités and potato chips. Not for proper food.

    It is hard to imagine Mexican flavor w/o cilantro and cumin yet these are European imports.

    Cheese, cumin, cilantro/coriander, garlic, onion are the most important European contributions (apart from beef and pork) to Mexican cuisine.

    All traditional cooking used to be very time consuming. Nowadays it is different. Eg.: Italians do not make their own pasta at home anymore. How many Russians still make pelmeni from scratch at home or Czechs their houskovy knedlik? German beef rouladen are time consuming. But some techniques are simpler than others. It seems that Chinese wok cooking is very fast and does not require much preparation. A Chinese cook will prepare meal much faster than a European cook.

    Read More
    • Replies: @AP

    How many Russians still make pelmeni from scratch at home
     
    My mother-in-law, who is actually a Pole (though raised in the Russian region where the best pelmeni are made) always makes them fro scratch. The local butcher here in the USA knows her because on her visits she picks out the specific beef and pork combo to be ground.

    In general, Europeans or Russians who know how to cook well believe that large amounts of spices are a way of covering up or compensating for poor cooking. Preparing brilliant food is a subtle art and Europeans are the best at it.

    , @Anon
    @ All traditional cooking used to be very time consuming.



    Though not all countries developed complex cuisines, or high cuisine. The cuisines held to be more developed are the sophisticated French, as well as Chinese, Japanese, Mexican and "Mediterranean" (one suspects the last term really means Spanish and Italian). It is a mixture of art and practice. Variety of ingredients, techniques, harmony of flavor, 'layers' to a plate, regional specialties, and of course, artistic presentation. As the Spanish say, "from sight, love is born". UNESCO has even recognized these culinary cultures as "intangible world heritage". Complex cuisines reflect and enrich what is commonly eaten by the man in the street, or everyday food. 

    All countries have, of course, signature tasty dishes. Wiener Schnitzel is wonderful, as is "tortilla de patata", spanish potato omelette, and they are not bland, but rather subtle and satisfying favors. As are bread, wine and cheese.

    I like the U.S., but the restaurant experience is not good. People very much dislike service jobs (waiting tables or chopping food)  and like to spend money elsewhere, like clothes or gadgets. Common restaurant food (salads, sandwiches/burgers, grilled steak) doesn't offer much culinary depth. Neither does it rely on fresh ingredients, freshly prepared. Hence the guacamole-as-sideshow. Desserts are often very good, though.

    And the huge availability of processed food makes inevitable the reliance on sugar, salt and fat. All three can vitiate the palate. Potatoes and eggs per se are not bland. Processed ones are, maybe that accounts for the surprising eggs with Tabasco.

    Mexican everyday food relies on fresh red and green tomatoes, onion, garlic. (thank you Spain!) coriander and fresh green chilies. Add beans with the epazote herb, and some sort of corn dough (on the insipid side, because it is largely mass-produced). Cumin is rarer, mote expensive. It's a large country, with plenty of regional dishes. Seafood on the coasts, better beef on the northern plains, and so on. Mexican sophisticated food elaborates from all of that but is of course more expensive. Throughout, a love of long, shared lunches with family and friends.

    Judging by the number of words I wrote, blog replication works.
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  50. utu says:
    @AKAHorace
    Utu,

    A Japanese Hawiain guy told me that you should mix the wasabi with soy sauce until you get a paste, then apply it to sushi. Is this Japanese tradition or just this guys taste ?

    That’s what also I was told by various Japanese to mix wasabi with soy sauce before dipping sushi or sashimi in it. Though I was ridiculed when I dipped it too much because that indicated to them that I wanted to mask the unpleasant flavor of the fish or clam or whatever, meaning being a wimp. Too wasabi hot means being wimpy and silly because refusing to enjoy what is really good.

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  51. Mr. Hack says:
    @utu
    Obviously one can try but trying to explain differences between foods in different cultures by genetic predispositions seems to be very premature and immature. Perhaps one should learn history of foods a little better first.

    First of all, hot foods even in India, Thailand or Sichuan are relatively recent. Keep in mind that w/o peppers from the New World they would never achieve that kind of spiciness as they have now with locally available hot spices. Obviously you can't tell them that just like you can't tell Sicilians that tomatoes are relative newcomers in their cuisine and ask them what is the original Italian cuisine.

    Hungarians got into paprika just in 19 century.

    Russians got into sun flowers and their kabachki relatively recently which also came form the New World.

    Not everybody knows that most beans came from Americas. In Europe and Asia only peas, lentils, fava beans, chick peas and some lupin beans were the only edible legumes.

    Orange carrots and red beets are relatively new cultivars. Borscht was not originally based on red beets. The name borscht comes form a weed Heracleum sphondylium which used to be eaten in the past.

    Cucumbers that were fit to be pickled in salt brine did not appear in Russia or Poland until 18 century.

    What is traditional African food? Manioc/cassava are from South America just like potatoes.

    Why Mexican food is spicy while next door Central American food is very bland? In Nicaragua they refuse to eat other beans than black.

    My personal observation is that Central and Northern European foods have slightly different combinations of saltiness, sweetness and sourness. Saltiness goes down as you go East, so Russian food seems to be the least salty (apart from dry fish) and it goes up as you go South. Hungarian salami is less salty than Italian salami.

    Amounts of salt and spices were also economically driven. In some countries spices were more affordable. Cinnamon and cloves are heavily used in Netherlands and much less so in Czechoslovakia.

    A fascinating read about the history of spices and incense can be had from ethnobotanist Paul Nabhan’s ‘Cumin, Camels, and Caravans’ that includes detailed information (including his own family’s role) about the important role of the spice trade as a precursor to modern globalization. This review of the book does not point out that Dr. Mabhan’s book includes many recipes for dishes that include the spices that he describes. A real page turner for me:

    traveling along four prominent trade routes—the Silk Road, the Frankincense Trail, the Spice Route, and the Camino Real (for chiles and chocolate)—Nabhan follows the caravans of itinerant spice merchants from the frankincense-gathering grounds and ancient harbors of the Arabian Peninsula to the port of Zayton on the China Sea to Santa Fe in the southwest United States. His stories, recipes, and linguistic analyses of cultural diffusion routes reveal the extent to which aromatics such as cumin, cinnamon, saffron, and peppers became adopted worldwide as signature ingredients of diverse cuisines. Cumin, Camels, and Caravans demonstrates that two particular desert cultures often depicted in constant conflict—Arabs and Jews—have spent much of their history collaborating in the spice trade and suggests how a more virtuous multicultural globalized society may be achieved in the future.

    An interesting thread by Karlin, nevertheless!

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    • Replies: @utu
    Local populations of Europe obviously were using their own spices of various dried herbs and seeds. There were different varieties of oregano depending on region and thyme and then there is lost of usage of marjoram in Eastern Europe. But many of these herbs were pushed out by the stronger spices coming form the East and Africa. The rich were snobbish for the novelty and then their habits were adopted by poorer as they wanted to imitate the rich and when spices became more affordable. The end result is that many local herbs were forgotten like the weed that gave the name to the borscht (barszcz) from which the original soup was made before red beets were introduced in Eastern Europe. There were also herbs used to fortify beer that had hallucinogenic effects that also were completely forgotten. People used psychoactive mushrooms like toad stools for their muscarine but I haven't heard of psilocybin mushroom in Europe and Siberia. Muscarine can be fatal and leads to diarrhea so landing from the trip might be of dubious quality.
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  52. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    French food is world class and universally it is respected as so. You must have had bad French food which is understandable as the French have become lazy ie McDonald’s is now popular there.

    Russian food is surprisingly good. Even though it is bland, I could happily eat the food regularly.

    Indian food is great, but extremely inconsistent. I find it hard to find a good restaurant actually.

    I find it interesting that all Asian food, even Cambodian, is great!

    But what most interests me is who has the worst food. The British and Jews have by far the worst cuisine. Those populations always saw cooking as beneath them and would always rather import others who could cook than learn to do it themselves.

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    • Replies: @utu

    The British and Jews have by far the worst cuisine.
     
    I do not agree. British food has a bad rap however they have excellent food and it keeps getting better and better. Their old traditional dishes are great. They have probably best bacon, beef and lamb in Europe and they really know how to make a lamb. Their fish dishes are rather disappointing which is strange as they being Island surrounded by sea though they have an interesting jellied eel. The same goes for Irish who practically do not eat fish. This is strange. Do not know the reason. Did Brits did not let them fish? Argentinians have a fishing fleet along the long Atlantic coast but do not eat fish they catch unlike Chileans.

    I do not know Sephardic food but Ashkenazi I like. Most of it is pretty much Polish and Russian food though it has less variety because of kosher restrictions so there are no creamy sauces with meat and obviously no pork and no crayfish and no eel. But they make good fresh water fish in creamy sauces. Pastry are central European with lots of poppy seed. Strudels, kugel and blintzes with sweet cheese. And obviously latkes are potato pancakes everybody does there. No Jew yet could answer my question what did they make latkes from for Hanukkah before Columbus. Traditions are not ancient and many modifications and introductions are very recent. Jewish red borscht is very similar to Polish borscht (barszcz) varieties hot and cold. The clear one is very good but a better one you can get in Poland with croquet or small dumplings (uszka). But cold borscht varieties with fresh cucumbers and lost of fresh dill are very interesting as a summer dish.
    , @Dmitry

    But what most interests me is who has the worst food. The British and Jews have by far the worst cuisine. Those populations always saw cooking as beneath them and would always rather import others who could cook than learn to do it themselves.
     
    It seems to be another false trope. The food and restaurants in Israel are the best I have experienced. Even things like ice-cream in Israel is the best I ever had, and I have been to quite a few countries (Israelis are the geniuses at any kind of dairy food).
    , @inertial

    I find it interesting that all Asian food, even Cambodian, is great!
     
    Bon appetit!

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dxQmOR_QLfQ
    , @Ali Choudhury
    I would say the Czech Republic. I spent a week and a bit there and was very underwhelmed by the food. Fried cheese? Dumplings? There was a heavy emphasis on stodgy potatoes. Mostly the food seemed to be an afterthought and mealtimes a justification to down beer. In Germany by contrast, the bread was consistently amazing such that I cannot abide mediocre baking any more.
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  53. Mr. Hack says:
    @Anatoly Karlin

    Soviet cuisine was democratic , took into account time and availability constrains and population health.
     
    It failed at both the elite level (where French, Italian, Japanese dominate) and at the mass consumer levels (which Americans dominate, though Italian, Chinese, Mexicans, Japanese also make a good showing).

    And no, it wasn't healthy by any stretch of the imagination.

    Food in local northern american joints is not.
     
    American food isn't especially unhealthy. The burger for instance is a one meal food pyramid (the food pyramid itself is a somewhat bunk concept but still). It doesn't seem obvious to me that burger + fries is much less healthy than potatoes and onions fried in sunflower oil with cutlets.

    Soviet food included many meals from Caucasus and central Asia and absorbed them.
     
    Incidentally, I will take the opportunity to note that plov is far inferior to biryani.

    Imho there is no better soup than Borsh.
     
    The soups are indeed probably the best element of Russian cuisine. Sorrel soup, ukha, solyanka, rassolnik - at least as good as borscht, if far less known.

    I’v tried all of the soups that you’ve mentioned, but none IMHO compare to the majesty of a red Ukrainian borschch! The natural sweet/sour taste that results from the marriage of sweet red beets along with cabbage and tomato is a hard combination to beat. Include the melange of other garden vegetables, meat, dill and garlic?…yum! :-)

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  54. Mr. Hack says:
    @Swedish Family
    Not much to agree with here. And this comes from a chili fiend.

    I assume you take "spicy" to mean "rich in capsaicin," but if we take it to mean "hot" or "piquant" in general, which I think better reflects how people relate to food, then chili is far from the only source of spiciness. In Northern Europe, we have mustard (Russian mustard is hot as hell), horseradish (very common in North and Eastern European cuisines), and garlic (never used in Swedish home cooking but popular in Eastern Europe). One might also argue that vodka (Eastern Europe), aquavit (Scandinavia), and Swedish Punsch (Sweden and Finland) fill a similar function in giving dishes a certain "bite"; these beverages are sometimes also used in foodstuffs (e.g. brännvinsost -- a Swedish vodka cheese).

    But there is a more fundamental error with your argument that spicier (or "hotter") equals better, which is that a good few of the world's finest dishes rely on a finely-tuned blend of flavors. The least bit of chili in a sausage will instantly kill our densely rich, but fragile, Swedish mashed potatoes, and I shudder to think of what it would do to subtle masterpieces such as foie gras, or asparagus with sauce hollandaise, or spaghetti with grated truffles. Indeed, I can think of very few Northern European dishes, out of many hundreds, that benefit from chili. The cuisines of the Mediterranean are another matter, of course, but even there, few dishes benefit from your piling on the chili. Pesto and tapenade, for instance, are both exercises in balance, and so is true Italian pizza. (Puttanesca is an interesting counterexample. I suspect it works well as a "hot" dish since the chili is paired with such unsubtle flavors -- anchovies, briny olives, lots of garlic.)

    As for French cuisine, I would think that even the most "fried tastebuds" -- to borrow inertial's phrase -- would approve of the french fries, gratins, quiches, baguettes and croissants that it has blessed the world it. And that's not even mentioning cheese and wine and drink.

    Speaking of wine. Another oddity about your love for chili is that you are also a wine lover, and wine goes terribly with chili. Each to his own taste, of course, but good food and wine pairings make half the experience.

    I too enjoy spicy (hot dishes) and am a Thai food aficionado, however, stating that I would never dream of adding anything capsaicin related to a dish that incorporates the incredibly flavorable porcini mushroom…there’s a time and place for everything (including hot spicy peppers). Actually, my favorite curry dish is the least spicy (hot) of all, the wonderful massaman dish!

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    • Replies: @utu

    I would never dream of adding anything capsaicin related to a dish that incorporates the incredibly flavorable porcini mushroom
     
    Agree. I can't imagine mixing porcini with tomatoes either.
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  55. AP says:
    @utu
    It is hard to imagine Mexican flavor w/o cilantro and cumin yet these are European imports.

    Cheese, cumin, cilantro/coriander, garlic, onion are the most important European contributions (apart from beef and pork) to Mexican cuisine.

    All traditional cooking used to be very time consuming. Nowadays it is different. Eg.: Italians do not make their own pasta at home anymore. How many Russians still make pelmeni from scratch at home or Czechs their houskovy knedlik? German beef rouladen are time consuming. But some techniques are simpler than others. It seems that Chinese wok cooking is very fast and does not require much preparation. A Chinese cook will prepare meal much faster than a European cook.

    How many Russians still make pelmeni from scratch at home

    My mother-in-law, who is actually a Pole (though raised in the Russian region where the best pelmeni are made) always makes them fro scratch. The local butcher here in the USA knows her because on her visits she picks out the specific beef and pork combo to be ground.

    In general, Europeans or Russians who know how to cook well believe that large amounts of spices are a way of covering up or compensating for poor cooking. Preparing brilliant food is a subtle art and Europeans are the best at it.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Daniel Chieh
    A Russian friend of mine introduced me to pickled tomatoes. One of the best things ever I tasted in my life.
    , @utu

    My mother-in-law [...] always makes [pelmeni] from scratch.
     
    Good. The real news would be if your wife also did. But anyway all those dumplings are very time consuming to make. Now in Eastern Europe people are buying frozen and make the ones from the scratch only on big occasions. For four people you need to make at least 120 pelmeni, right? I have participated in several sessions of making them in my youth. They are harder to make than raviolis or tortellinis. Many years later I lived with a Chinese woman and then I realized that Chinese skills and techniques exceed those of all Russian and Polish women I saw making stuffed dumplings. Those Chinese are just better. I can't do with two hands what they can two with one. Also they do not roll out dough and out out square s or circles form it. They just scoop enough dough with one hand and flatten it within the same hand and then scoop the filling with the same hand and are able two seal it together and form some kind pierogi shaped dumpling. Amazing.

    AK has mentioned wontons that he likes them in a soup only. I agree that wontons are not that interesting perhaps because they are from preprepared hard pressed dough that you glue with water. There are excellent Chinese dumplings that have soup inside. They make them using jellied cold soup as a stuffing. It dissolves into a soup when you boil the dumplings. As far as stuffed tiny dumpling in a soup the best one are Lithuanian/Belorussian kolduny that are made from suet, coarsely chopped lamb and beef with lots of garlic and marjoram served in a beef broth. Just for this dish I would go to Vilnius or Warsaw. I have to stop now.
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  56. Anon • Disclaimer says:
    @utu
    It is hard to imagine Mexican flavor w/o cilantro and cumin yet these are European imports.

    Cheese, cumin, cilantro/coriander, garlic, onion are the most important European contributions (apart from beef and pork) to Mexican cuisine.

    All traditional cooking used to be very time consuming. Nowadays it is different. Eg.: Italians do not make their own pasta at home anymore. How many Russians still make pelmeni from scratch at home or Czechs their houskovy knedlik? German beef rouladen are time consuming. But some techniques are simpler than others. It seems that Chinese wok cooking is very fast and does not require much preparation. A Chinese cook will prepare meal much faster than a European cook.

    @ All traditional cooking used to be very time consuming.

    Though not all countries developed complex cuisines, or high cuisine. The cuisines held to be more developed are the sophisticated French, as well as Chinese, Japanese, Mexican and “Mediterranean” (one suspects the last term really means Spanish and Italian). It is a mixture of art and practice. Variety of ingredients, techniques, harmony of flavor, ‘layers’ to a plate, regional specialties, and of course, artistic presentation. As the Spanish say, “from sight, love is born”. UNESCO has even recognized these culinary cultures as “intangible world heritage”. Complex cuisines reflect and enrich what is commonly eaten by the man in the street, or everyday food. 

    All countries have, of course, signature tasty dishes. Wiener Schnitzel is wonderful, as is “tortilla de patata”, spanish potato omelette, and they are not bland, but rather subtle and satisfying favors. As are bread, wine and cheese.

    I like the U.S., but the restaurant experience is not good. People very much dislike service jobs (waiting tables or chopping food)  and like to spend money elsewhere, like clothes or gadgets. Common restaurant food (salads, sandwiches/burgers, grilled steak) doesn’t offer much culinary depth. Neither does it rely on fresh ingredients, freshly prepared. Hence the guacamole-as-sideshow. Desserts are often very good, though.

    And the huge availability of processed food makes inevitable the reliance on sugar, salt and fat. All three can vitiate the palate. Potatoes and eggs per se are not bland. Processed ones are, maybe that accounts for the surprising eggs with Tabasco.

    Mexican everyday food relies on fresh red and green tomatoes, onion, garlic. (thank you Spain!) coriander and fresh green chilies. Add beans with the epazote herb, and some sort of corn dough (on the insipid side, because it is largely mass-produced). Cumin is rarer, mote expensive. It’s a large country, with plenty of regional dishes. Seafood on the coasts, better beef on the northern plains, and so on. Mexican sophisticated food elaborates from all of that but is of course more expensive. Throughout, a love of long, shared lunches with family and friends.

    Judging by the number of words I wrote, blog replication works.

    Read More
    • Replies: @utu

    I like the U.S., but the restaurant experience is not good.
     
    You have to know where to go. Certainly in NYC, Chicago, SF and LA you can find hundreds of inexpensive restaurants with excellent food for lunch and dinner. In smaller cities and towns food is actually more expensive and often worse.

    People very much dislike service jobs (waiting tables or chopping food)
     
    Mexicans and Southern Americans do the food chopping. As far as waiting staff in the US it is often not as professional as in Europe but always more friendly. Unfortunately they have a habit of pushing you out when you finish eating. Young waitresses are useless in giving info about food. But what can you expect form a young girl who probably is on a diet and still is grossed out by some foods. But usually they look good and are really friendly.

    Neither does it rely on fresh ingredients, freshly prepared.
     
    No, it is no longer true. Good restaurants get fresh produce daily often from local farms. The snobbery of yuppies and now hipsters did something good to America. The yuppies starting in 1980s gave America better bread, better coffee, better chocolate and better beer and later hipsters gave new food movements like eating the whole animal, stop being picky eater... If you got money things are really good.

    Cumin is rarer, mote expensive.
     
    Are you really sure? It should very cheap. It is grown locally.
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  57. @AP

    How many Russians still make pelmeni from scratch at home
     
    My mother-in-law, who is actually a Pole (though raised in the Russian region where the best pelmeni are made) always makes them fro scratch. The local butcher here in the USA knows her because on her visits she picks out the specific beef and pork combo to be ground.

    In general, Europeans or Russians who know how to cook well believe that large amounts of spices are a way of covering up or compensating for poor cooking. Preparing brilliant food is a subtle art and Europeans are the best at it.

    A Russian friend of mine introduced me to pickled tomatoes. One of the best things ever I tasted in my life.

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  58. @utu
    Obviously one can try but trying to explain differences between foods in different cultures by genetic predispositions seems to be very premature and immature. Perhaps one should learn history of foods a little better first.

    First of all, hot foods even in India, Thailand or Sichuan are relatively recent. Keep in mind that w/o peppers from the New World they would never achieve that kind of spiciness as they have now with locally available hot spices. Obviously you can't tell them that just like you can't tell Sicilians that tomatoes are relative newcomers in their cuisine and ask them what is the original Italian cuisine.

    Hungarians got into paprika just in 19 century.

    Russians got into sun flowers and their kabachki relatively recently which also came form the New World.

    Not everybody knows that most beans came from Americas. In Europe and Asia only peas, lentils, fava beans, chick peas and some lupin beans were the only edible legumes.

    Orange carrots and red beets are relatively new cultivars. Borscht was not originally based on red beets. The name borscht comes form a weed Heracleum sphondylium which used to be eaten in the past.

    Cucumbers that were fit to be pickled in salt brine did not appear in Russia or Poland until 18 century.

    What is traditional African food? Manioc/cassava are from South America just like potatoes.

    Why Mexican food is spicy while next door Central American food is very bland? In Nicaragua they refuse to eat other beans than black.

    My personal observation is that Central and Northern European foods have slightly different combinations of saltiness, sweetness and sourness. Saltiness goes down as you go East, so Russian food seems to be the least salty (apart from dry fish) and it goes up as you go South. Hungarian salami is less salty than Italian salami.

    Amounts of salt and spices were also economically driven. In some countries spices were more affordable. Cinnamon and cloves are heavily used in Netherlands and much less so in Czechoslovakia.

    Indeed. “cuisines” are historically recent not only because the ingredients are often introduced during the Colombus Exchange, but also because cooking on a fire pit and ovens were the only ways to cook until mid 1800′s when the cooking stove was invented. Because of the difficulty of temperature control until than most foods were boiled into soups and stews while meat was often roasted.
    Restaurants appeared in late 1700′s and the food they serve is pretty different from home food, so in an ethnic cuisine there is a restaurant cuisine and a home cuisine.
    Serving courses one after the other is called “service a la russe” and was introduced in the West in early 1800′s.
    Pretty much everything we call cuisines were developed since the industrial revolution and are of dubious ancestry and authenticity.

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    • Replies: @utu

    Serving courses one after the other is called “service a la russe” and was introduced in the West in early 1800′s.
     
    Supposedly fast service in bistro also has Russian origins from Russian troops in Paris after Napoleon defeat when Russian officers/soldiers wanted their food fast so they called: быстро (quickly). Wiki says that etymology is certainly Russian but the story is not really true.
    , @Swedish Family

    Indeed. “cuisines” are historically recent not only because the ingredients are often introduced during the Colombus Exchange, but also because cooking on a fire pit and ovens were the only ways to cook until mid 1800′s when the cooking stove was invented.
     
    Yes, but the defining elements of any good cuisine, locally-sourced ingredients, were for the most part around long before the rise of national cuisines. The peasantry of the Arctic regions would have munched on cloudberries and Arctic raspberries -- arguably the finest in the world -- and maybe even had them with whipped cream. (In the north, whole milk was thought a luxury well into the 1800s, since the fat was needed for cream and butter.) Things like sturgeon roe and vendace roe must also have been popular.

    And some classic dishes are found in old records. Swedish pea soup -- still a national favorite -- sustained Charles XII's army at Narva and Poltava (1700s) and was the weapon of choice in the killing of King Erik XIV (1570s; died from poisoned pea soup). Gravlax, too, is at least half a millennium old. Same with many Italian dishes, although it's true that tomatoes are a relatively recent import.

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  59. utu says:
    @Anonymous
    French food is world class and universally it is respected as so. You must have had bad French food which is understandable as the French have become lazy ie McDonald's is now popular there.

    Russian food is surprisingly good. Even though it is bland, I could happily eat the food regularly.

    Indian food is great, but extremely inconsistent. I find it hard to find a good restaurant actually.

    I find it interesting that all Asian food, even Cambodian, is great!

    But what most interests me is who has the worst food. The British and Jews have by far the worst cuisine. Those populations always saw cooking as beneath them and would always rather import others who could cook than learn to do it themselves.

    The British and Jews have by far the worst cuisine.

    I do not agree. British food has a bad rap however they have excellent food and it keeps getting better and better. Their old traditional dishes are great. They have probably best bacon, beef and lamb in Europe and they really know how to make a lamb. Their fish dishes are rather disappointing which is strange as they being Island surrounded by sea though they have an interesting jellied eel. The same goes for Irish who practically do not eat fish. This is strange. Do not know the reason. Did Brits did not let them fish? Argentinians have a fishing fleet along the long Atlantic coast but do not eat fish they catch unlike Chileans.

    I do not know Sephardic food but Ashkenazi I like. Most of it is pretty much Polish and Russian food though it has less variety because of kosher restrictions so there are no creamy sauces with meat and obviously no pork and no crayfish and no eel. But they make good fresh water fish in creamy sauces. Pastry are central European with lots of poppy seed. Strudels, kugel and blintzes with sweet cheese. And obviously latkes are potato pancakes everybody does there. No Jew yet could answer my question what did they make latkes from for Hanukkah before Columbus. Traditions are not ancient and many modifications and introductions are very recent. Jewish red borscht is very similar to Polish borscht (barszcz) varieties hot and cold. The clear one is very good but a better one you can get in Poland with croquet or small dumplings (uszka). But cold borscht varieties with fresh cucumbers and lost of fresh dill are very interesting as a summer dish.

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  60. utu says:
    @Mr. Hack
    A fascinating read about the history of spices and incense can be had from ethnobotanist Paul Nabhan's 'Cumin, Camels, and Caravans' that includes detailed information (including his own family's role) about the important role of the spice trade as a precursor to modern globalization. This review of the book does not point out that Dr. Mabhan's book includes many recipes for dishes that include the spices that he describes. A real page turner for me:

    traveling along four prominent trade routes—the Silk Road, the Frankincense Trail, the Spice Route, and the Camino Real (for chiles and chocolate)—Nabhan follows the caravans of itinerant spice merchants from the frankincense-gathering grounds and ancient harbors of the Arabian Peninsula to the port of Zayton on the China Sea to Santa Fe in the southwest United States. His stories, recipes, and linguistic analyses of cultural diffusion routes reveal the extent to which aromatics such as cumin, cinnamon, saffron, and peppers became adopted worldwide as signature ingredients of diverse cuisines. Cumin, Camels, and Caravans demonstrates that two particular desert cultures often depicted in constant conflict—Arabs and Jews—have spent much of their history collaborating in the spice trade and suggests how a more virtuous multicultural globalized society may be achieved in the future.
     
    An interesting thread by Karlin, nevertheless!

    Local populations of Europe obviously were using their own spices of various dried herbs and seeds. There were different varieties of oregano depending on region and thyme and then there is lost of usage of marjoram in Eastern Europe. But many of these herbs were pushed out by the stronger spices coming form the East and Africa. The rich were snobbish for the novelty and then their habits were adopted by poorer as they wanted to imitate the rich and when spices became more affordable. The end result is that many local herbs were forgotten like the weed that gave the name to the borscht (barszcz) from which the original soup was made before red beets were introduced in Eastern Europe. There were also herbs used to fortify beer that had hallucinogenic effects that also were completely forgotten. People used psychoactive mushrooms like toad stools for their muscarine but I haven’t heard of psilocybin mushroom in Europe and Siberia. Muscarine can be fatal and leads to diarrhea so landing from the trip might be of dubious quality.

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  61. utu says:
    @Pseudonymic Handle
    Indeed. "cuisines" are historically recent not only because the ingredients are often introduced during the Colombus Exchange, but also because cooking on a fire pit and ovens were the only ways to cook until mid 1800's when the cooking stove was invented. Because of the difficulty of temperature control until than most foods were boiled into soups and stews while meat was often roasted.
    Restaurants appeared in late 1700's and the food they serve is pretty different from home food, so in an ethnic cuisine there is a restaurant cuisine and a home cuisine.
    Serving courses one after the other is called "service a la russe" and was introduced in the West in early 1800's.
    Pretty much everything we call cuisines were developed since the industrial revolution and are of dubious ancestry and authenticity.

    Serving courses one after the other is called “service a la russe” and was introduced in the West in early 1800′s.

    Supposedly fast service in bistro also has Russian origins from Russian troops in Paris after Napoleon defeat when Russian officers/soldiers wanted their food fast so they called: быстро (quickly). Wiki says that etymology is certainly Russian but the story is not really true.

    Read More
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  62. utu says:
    @Anon
    @ All traditional cooking used to be very time consuming.



    Though not all countries developed complex cuisines, or high cuisine. The cuisines held to be more developed are the sophisticated French, as well as Chinese, Japanese, Mexican and "Mediterranean" (one suspects the last term really means Spanish and Italian). It is a mixture of art and practice. Variety of ingredients, techniques, harmony of flavor, 'layers' to a plate, regional specialties, and of course, artistic presentation. As the Spanish say, "from sight, love is born". UNESCO has even recognized these culinary cultures as "intangible world heritage". Complex cuisines reflect and enrich what is commonly eaten by the man in the street, or everyday food. 

    All countries have, of course, signature tasty dishes. Wiener Schnitzel is wonderful, as is "tortilla de patata", spanish potato omelette, and they are not bland, but rather subtle and satisfying favors. As are bread, wine and cheese.

    I like the U.S., but the restaurant experience is not good. People very much dislike service jobs (waiting tables or chopping food)  and like to spend money elsewhere, like clothes or gadgets. Common restaurant food (salads, sandwiches/burgers, grilled steak) doesn't offer much culinary depth. Neither does it rely on fresh ingredients, freshly prepared. Hence the guacamole-as-sideshow. Desserts are often very good, though.

    And the huge availability of processed food makes inevitable the reliance on sugar, salt and fat. All three can vitiate the palate. Potatoes and eggs per se are not bland. Processed ones are, maybe that accounts for the surprising eggs with Tabasco.

    Mexican everyday food relies on fresh red and green tomatoes, onion, garlic. (thank you Spain!) coriander and fresh green chilies. Add beans with the epazote herb, and some sort of corn dough (on the insipid side, because it is largely mass-produced). Cumin is rarer, mote expensive. It's a large country, with plenty of regional dishes. Seafood on the coasts, better beef on the northern plains, and so on. Mexican sophisticated food elaborates from all of that but is of course more expensive. Throughout, a love of long, shared lunches with family and friends.

    Judging by the number of words I wrote, blog replication works.

    I like the U.S., but the restaurant experience is not good.

    You have to know where to go. Certainly in NYC, Chicago, SF and LA you can find hundreds of inexpensive restaurants with excellent food for lunch and dinner. In smaller cities and towns food is actually more expensive and often worse.

    People very much dislike service jobs (waiting tables or chopping food)

    Mexicans and Southern Americans do the food chopping. As far as waiting staff in the US it is often not as professional as in Europe but always more friendly. Unfortunately they have a habit of pushing you out when you finish eating. Young waitresses are useless in giving info about food. But what can you expect form a young girl who probably is on a diet and still is grossed out by some foods. But usually they look good and are really friendly.

    Neither does it rely on fresh ingredients, freshly prepared.

    No, it is no longer true. Good restaurants get fresh produce daily often from local farms. The snobbery of yuppies and now hipsters did something good to America. The yuppies starting in 1980s gave America better bread, better coffee, better chocolate and better beer and later hipsters gave new food movements like eating the whole animal, stop being picky eater… If you got money things are really good.

    Cumin is rarer, mote expensive.

    Are you really sure? It should very cheap. It is grown locally.

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  63. utu says:
    @AP

    How many Russians still make pelmeni from scratch at home
     
    My mother-in-law, who is actually a Pole (though raised in the Russian region where the best pelmeni are made) always makes them fro scratch. The local butcher here in the USA knows her because on her visits she picks out the specific beef and pork combo to be ground.

    In general, Europeans or Russians who know how to cook well believe that large amounts of spices are a way of covering up or compensating for poor cooking. Preparing brilliant food is a subtle art and Europeans are the best at it.

    My mother-in-law [...] always makes [pelmeni] from scratch.

    Good. The real news would be if your wife also did. But anyway all those dumplings are very time consuming to make. Now in Eastern Europe people are buying frozen and make the ones from the scratch only on big occasions. For four people you need to make at least 120 pelmeni, right? I have participated in several sessions of making them in my youth. They are harder to make than raviolis or tortellinis. Many years later I lived with a Chinese woman and then I realized that Chinese skills and techniques exceed those of all Russian and Polish women I saw making stuffed dumplings. Those Chinese are just better. I can’t do with two hands what they can two with one. Also they do not roll out dough and out out square s or circles form it. They just scoop enough dough with one hand and flatten it within the same hand and then scoop the filling with the same hand and are able two seal it together and form some kind pierogi shaped dumpling. Amazing.

    AK has mentioned wontons that he likes them in a soup only. I agree that wontons are not that interesting perhaps because they are from preprepared hard pressed dough that you glue with water. There are excellent Chinese dumplings that have soup inside. They make them using jellied cold soup as a stuffing. It dissolves into a soup when you boil the dumplings. As far as stuffed tiny dumpling in a soup the best one are Lithuanian/Belorussian kolduny that are made from suet, coarsely chopped lamb and beef with lots of garlic and marjoram served in a beef broth. Just for this dish I would go to Vilnius or Warsaw. I have to stop now.

    Read More
    • Replies: @AP

    The real news would be if your wife also did. But anyway all those dumplings are very time consuming to make. Now in Eastern Europe people are buying frozen and make the ones from the scratch only on big occasions.
     
    My wife actually never makes pelmeni. But she makes many pastries and cakes from scratch, her 7 layers of "dry" flaky Napoleon cake takes hours of work and is to die for, it looks a little like this:

    https://thumbs.dreamstime.com/b/puff-pastry-napoleon-cake-flaky-layers-selective-focus-72423113.jpg

    ::::::::::::::

    It is more time-efficient to make pelmeni in bulk - mother-in-law and children working together make enough to fill the freezer and feed the family for weeks.

    Your description of Chinese dumplings is fascinating.
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  64. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:
    @Chet Bradley

    ...a good few of the world’s finest dishes rely on a finely-tuned blend of flavors.
     
    I agree completely, and that reminds me of how the truth of your statement can be completely lost on people from some cultures.

    I went to college here in the U.S. with a girl from India (born in India, not a Desi). Any time that the group from our department went out to eat together, she'd complain that the food is bland. I tried explaining to her that in Western cuisine the purpose of spices is to enhance the flavors of the ingredients, however subtle, not to mask them. That was something she simply could not comprehend, and she kept saying "the food is bland."

    I really believe that once you get used to the overpowering spiciness of many Indian dishes, you can't appreciate subtle flavors. Maybe your taste buds are fried, maybe it's your brain synapses.

    “Bland” is not necessarily pejorative and can just mean a lack of spicy flavors. Sweet and savory are types of flavors that are generally bland. It’s about preference. If you really like spicy food, you’re generally not going to like sweet or savory flavors by themselves that much. And vice versa.

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  65. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:
    @utu
    I get it. Yes, moderation. I am with you. But there is another issue. However I think I failed what I wanted to convey to you because you are not there yet. It is not about you and what you like or not. It is about an idea and an understanding and that you as an individual are subservient to this idea and you fail to grasp it instead you have an audacity to claim that your empirical experience takes precedence. You experience only matters when you experience it but to draw from it conclusions you need a broader view and concepts you need to bering in from without. Because if you do not have it you are just like a monkey or a butterfly jumping form flower you like to flower you do not like and so on.

    I disagree that there are necessarily a myriad of subtle flavors in certain dishes that can’t be detected by people who like spicy food. I don’t think someone who dislikes spicy food is tasting all these various subtleties in something like Swedish meatballs and mashed potatoes. I think it’s simply that they prefer the sweet and savory flavor of the meatballs and potatoes over spiciness.

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    • Replies: @utu
    This is a free country. Vibrant through diversity of disagreements.
    , @Swedish Family

    I don’t think someone who dislikes spicy food is tasting all these various subtleties in something like Swedish meatballs and mashed potatoes. I think it’s simply that they prefer the sweet and savory flavor of the meatballs and potatoes over spiciness.
     
    I believe it was Ferran Adrià (of El Bulli, once one of the world's top restaurants) who said that his last meal would be freshly-baked bread with olive oil (or maybe it was butter?). As a Spaniard, he would know a thing or two about chili, and yet he chose this deceptively simple combination. I think there's a clue in there.
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  66. utu says:
    @Anonymous
    I disagree that there are necessarily a myriad of subtle flavors in certain dishes that can't be detected by people who like spicy food. I don't think someone who dislikes spicy food is tasting all these various subtleties in something like Swedish meatballs and mashed potatoes. I think it's simply that they prefer the sweet and savory flavor of the meatballs and potatoes over spiciness.

    This is a free country. Vibrant through diversity of disagreements.

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  67. AP says:
    @utu

    My mother-in-law [...] always makes [pelmeni] from scratch.
     
    Good. The real news would be if your wife also did. But anyway all those dumplings are very time consuming to make. Now in Eastern Europe people are buying frozen and make the ones from the scratch only on big occasions. For four people you need to make at least 120 pelmeni, right? I have participated in several sessions of making them in my youth. They are harder to make than raviolis or tortellinis. Many years later I lived with a Chinese woman and then I realized that Chinese skills and techniques exceed those of all Russian and Polish women I saw making stuffed dumplings. Those Chinese are just better. I can't do with two hands what they can two with one. Also they do not roll out dough and out out square s or circles form it. They just scoop enough dough with one hand and flatten it within the same hand and then scoop the filling with the same hand and are able two seal it together and form some kind pierogi shaped dumpling. Amazing.

    AK has mentioned wontons that he likes them in a soup only. I agree that wontons are not that interesting perhaps because they are from preprepared hard pressed dough that you glue with water. There are excellent Chinese dumplings that have soup inside. They make them using jellied cold soup as a stuffing. It dissolves into a soup when you boil the dumplings. As far as stuffed tiny dumpling in a soup the best one are Lithuanian/Belorussian kolduny that are made from suet, coarsely chopped lamb and beef with lots of garlic and marjoram served in a beef broth. Just for this dish I would go to Vilnius or Warsaw. I have to stop now.

    The real news would be if your wife also did. But anyway all those dumplings are very time consuming to make. Now in Eastern Europe people are buying frozen and make the ones from the scratch only on big occasions.

    My wife actually never makes pelmeni. But she makes many pastries and cakes from scratch, her 7 layers of “dry” flaky Napoleon cake takes hours of work and is to die for, it looks a little like this:

    ::::::::::::::

    It is more time-efficient to make pelmeni in bulk – mother-in-law and children working together make enough to fill the freezer and feed the family for weeks.

    Your description of Chinese dumplings is fascinating.

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    • Agree: Anatoly Karlin
    • Replies: @Mr. Hack
    Your photo of the luscious Napoleon torte brings back fond memories of the great Ukrainian and Polish women cooks in my childhood neighborhood that excelled at making tortes, cheesecakes pliatskis and khrustiki! My mother was one of the best, and her most popular torte was a walnut mocha spectacular.
    No matter how good the local tortes at the Polish and Russian stores are here in the states, they just don't match up to the home made ones. The last time I went on a bender, was at a Ukrainian wedding here, where they had 15-20 homemade tortes displayed. I skipped any alcohol all night long just so I could have more pieces of heavenly torte. I was once awarded the famous, but now defunct 'Karl Marx' Kyivan torte' for my 'heroic' efforts of keeping up with the walking routines of my Kyievan relatives. They were amazed that a pampered American boy could walk so much. :-)
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  68. Dmitry says:
    @Anonymous
    French food is world class and universally it is respected as so. You must have had bad French food which is understandable as the French have become lazy ie McDonald's is now popular there.

    Russian food is surprisingly good. Even though it is bland, I could happily eat the food regularly.

    Indian food is great, but extremely inconsistent. I find it hard to find a good restaurant actually.

    I find it interesting that all Asian food, even Cambodian, is great!

    But what most interests me is who has the worst food. The British and Jews have by far the worst cuisine. Those populations always saw cooking as beneath them and would always rather import others who could cook than learn to do it themselves.

    But what most interests me is who has the worst food. The British and Jews have by far the worst cuisine. Those populations always saw cooking as beneath them and would always rather import others who could cook than learn to do it themselves.

    It seems to be another false trope. The food and restaurants in Israel are the best I have experienced. Even things like ice-cream in Israel is the best I ever had, and I have been to quite a few countries (Israelis are the geniuses at any kind of dairy food).

    Read More
    • Replies: @Anatoly Karlin
    I agree that traditional Jewish cuisine (Ashkenazi European) has nothing to write home about, it is however perfectly plausible that Israel would be different (with its Sephardic and especially Levantine/Arabic influences).
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  69. Wency says:
    @Anonymous
    Maybe because we already have our own popular disgusting looking french fry dishes, namely cheese fries and chili cheese fries. Chili cheese fries are delicious, but they look like someone squatted over a plate of fries and sprayed diarrhea all over them. Poutine looks more like chunky vomit on fries.

    For whatever reason, America doesn't really have a good cheese culture. There are lots of fancy cheese aficianados in the US, and quality cheeses made by dairies in places like Wisconsin, but standard and classic American fare usually includes the lowest quality cheeses like American cheese, Cheez Whiz, etc., stuff that wouldn't even qualify as cheese in Europe.

    I agree that America lacks a good cheese culture. Though to be fair, Cheez Whiz and American processed cheese food are legally not cheese in the U.S. either. Then again, many of the best gourmet European cheeses are illegal in the U.S.

    In some ways American cheese culture is akin to our beer culture. If you’re enjoying a craft beer with your cheeseburger, it probably has a decent slice of cheese on it. If you’re drinking a Bud Light (“Wasser” in German), your “cheeseburger” probably doesn’t legally qualify as having cheese.

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  70. utu says:
    @Mr. Hack
    I too enjoy spicy (hot dishes) and am a Thai food aficionado, however, stating that I would never dream of adding anything capsaicin related to a dish that incorporates the incredibly flavorable porcini mushroom...there's a time and place for everything (including hot spicy peppers). Actually, my favorite curry dish is the least spicy (hot) of all, the wonderful massaman dish!

    I would never dream of adding anything capsaicin related to a dish that incorporates the incredibly flavorable porcini mushroom

    Agree. I can’t imagine mixing porcini with tomatoes either.

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    • Agree: Mr. Hack
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  71. @Dmitry

    But what most interests me is who has the worst food. The British and Jews have by far the worst cuisine. Those populations always saw cooking as beneath them and would always rather import others who could cook than learn to do it themselves.
     
    It seems to be another false trope. The food and restaurants in Israel are the best I have experienced. Even things like ice-cream in Israel is the best I ever had, and I have been to quite a few countries (Israelis are the geniuses at any kind of dairy food).

    I agree that traditional Jewish cuisine (Ashkenazi European) has nothing to write home about, it is however perfectly plausible that Israel would be different (with its Sephardic and especially Levantine/Arabic influences).

    Read More
    • Replies: @Dmitry

    I agree that traditional Jewish cuisine (Ashkenazi European) has nothing to write home about, it is however perfectly plausible that Israel would be different (with its Sephardic and especially Levantine/Arabic influences).

     

    The street food in Israel (like Sabich) is from Arab Jews. The local Arabs and Druze have a lot of restaurants as well.

    But overall standard of every type of food is high (pizza, Japanese sushi, ice-cream, donuts, salad, cottage cheese, milk, hamburgers). The best hamburger I've eaten was there.

    Maybe this happens because the population are mostly native Middle Eastern people, and taking food seriously is regional culture, where customers are demanding better food compared to in Northern Europe.

    The negative in Israel is that the restaurant prices are very high. And streetfood service from the Arabs and Arab Jews isn't always great.

    My limited experience, it seems average restaurant standard is clearly higher in Israel than places like France, Italy and Greece.

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  72. Mr. Hack says:
    @AP

    The real news would be if your wife also did. But anyway all those dumplings are very time consuming to make. Now in Eastern Europe people are buying frozen and make the ones from the scratch only on big occasions.
     
    My wife actually never makes pelmeni. But she makes many pastries and cakes from scratch, her 7 layers of "dry" flaky Napoleon cake takes hours of work and is to die for, it looks a little like this:

    https://thumbs.dreamstime.com/b/puff-pastry-napoleon-cake-flaky-layers-selective-focus-72423113.jpg

    ::::::::::::::

    It is more time-efficient to make pelmeni in bulk - mother-in-law and children working together make enough to fill the freezer and feed the family for weeks.

    Your description of Chinese dumplings is fascinating.

    Your photo of the luscious Napoleon torte brings back fond memories of the great Ukrainian and Polish women cooks in my childhood neighborhood that excelled at making tortes, cheesecakes pliatskis and khrustiki! My mother was one of the best, and her most popular torte was a walnut mocha spectacular.
    No matter how good the local tortes at the Polish and Russian stores are here in the states, they just don’t match up to the home made ones. The last time I went on a bender, was at a Ukrainian wedding here, where they had 15-20 homemade tortes displayed. I skipped any alcohol all night long just so I could have more pieces of heavenly torte. I was once awarded the famous, but now defunct ‘Karl Marx’ Kyivan torte’ for my ‘heroic’ efforts of keeping up with the walking routines of my Kyievan relatives. They were amazed that a pampered American boy could walk so much. :-)

    Read More
    • Replies: @Swedish Family

    I was once awarded the famous, but now defunct ‘Karl Marx’ Kyivan torte’ for my ‘heroic’ efforts of keeping up with the walking routines of my Kyievan relatives.
     
    Still alive and kicking, but now made by Roshen (Poroshenko's company). I find them much too sweet, but I'm sure home-made ones are a treat.
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  73. Dmitry says:
    @Anatoly Karlin
    I agree that traditional Jewish cuisine (Ashkenazi European) has nothing to write home about, it is however perfectly plausible that Israel would be different (with its Sephardic and especially Levantine/Arabic influences).

    I agree that traditional Jewish cuisine (Ashkenazi European) has nothing to write home about, it is however perfectly plausible that Israel would be different (with its Sephardic and especially Levantine/Arabic influences).

    The street food in Israel (like Sabich) is from Arab Jews. The local Arabs and Druze have a lot of restaurants as well.

    But overall standard of every type of food is high (pizza, Japanese sushi, ice-cream, donuts, salad, cottage cheese, milk, hamburgers). The best hamburger I’ve eaten was there.

    Maybe this happens because the population are mostly native Middle Eastern people, and taking food seriously is regional culture, where customers are demanding better food compared to in Northern Europe.

    The negative in Israel is that the restaurant prices are very high. And streetfood service from the Arabs and Arab Jews isn’t always great.

    My limited experience, it seems average restaurant standard is clearly higher in Israel than places like France, Italy and Greece.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Dmitry
    It seems that American food critics are starting to discover that my point, about Israel being good for food. On youtube food critics drive into working class ghettos of Ashdod (probably the first tourist ever to end up there) just for a meal


    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GOV_sN9e5LM

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  74. Dmitry says:
    @Dmitry

    I agree that traditional Jewish cuisine (Ashkenazi European) has nothing to write home about, it is however perfectly plausible that Israel would be different (with its Sephardic and especially Levantine/Arabic influences).

     

    The street food in Israel (like Sabich) is from Arab Jews. The local Arabs and Druze have a lot of restaurants as well.

    But overall standard of every type of food is high (pizza, Japanese sushi, ice-cream, donuts, salad, cottage cheese, milk, hamburgers). The best hamburger I've eaten was there.

    Maybe this happens because the population are mostly native Middle Eastern people, and taking food seriously is regional culture, where customers are demanding better food compared to in Northern Europe.

    The negative in Israel is that the restaurant prices are very high. And streetfood service from the Arabs and Arab Jews isn't always great.

    My limited experience, it seems average restaurant standard is clearly higher in Israel than places like France, Italy and Greece.

    It seems that American food critics are starting to discover that my point, about Israel being good for food. On youtube food critics drive into working class ghettos of Ashdod (probably the first tourist ever to end up there) just for a meal

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  75. utu says:

    service from the Arabs and Arab Jews isn’t always great

    I was wondering how bad it really is in Israel with service. Haven’t been there but heard a lot how rude they are. Some Israelis tried to explain it by blaming it on Eastern European roots, i.e., the customs of primitive Russian and Polish peasants or on the Soviet roots. But in Eastern Europe since the collapse of communism service has improved a great deal. They no longer ignore you when you walk into a store or restaurant. They even smile to you. So is being rude more Jewish or Israeli quality? It seems to be the best explanation:

    Why are kosher restaurants so bad?

    https://forward.com/scribe/372167/why-are-most-kosher-restaurants-so-terrible/

    More specifically, why do proprietors and their patrons willingly accept gaping inconsistencies in service, food, price and cleanliness? Is it because of the talmudic laws disallowing competition between Jewish-owned businesses? Does this lack of Adam Smith’s invisible hand encourage kosher restaurants to limp lamely to just above tolerable? Or might kosher dining and its concomitant failures fall on the patrons who refuse to treat the waitstaff or their fellow diners with anything approaching civility? Are we too worried about surviving the next Holocaust to say excuse me? Or are we so heady a people that we simply don’t notice taste and ambiance, don’t have time for courtesy and respect of employees and each other?

    (1) I did not know that Talmud forbids mutual intra-Jewish competition. I thought it was just an anti-semitic slur.
    (2) Was anti-semitism curtailing some of bad Jewish behaviors?

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    • Replies: @Dmitry

    I was wondering how bad it really is in Israel with service. Haven’t been there but heard a lot how rude they are. Some Israelis tried to explain it by blaming it on Eastern European roots, i.e., the customs of primitive Russian and Polish peasants or on the Soviet roots. But in Eastern Europe since the collapse of communism service has improved a great deal. They no longer ignore you when you walk into a store or restaurant. They even smile to you. So is being rude more Jewish or Israeli quality? It seems to be the best explanation:

     

    No it's very much the Arab Jewish men and Arab (non-Jewish) men which are giving a very very rude service in Israel. They all act like they tough-guy gangsters, who it's beneath their level to serve you. They kind of have a look of contempt to you on their faces.

    By the way, it's generally cultural thing with them. The Arab Jewish guys are unfriendly the first time you meet them anywhere - (but then the second or third time they can start getting friendly with you). When they think they know you, they can become over-the-top friendly. They have tough hostile act towards strangers.

    With the Russians in Israel - sometimes the old women are grumpy. But in general, Russians in Israel are very friendly and helpful, and the young people (generation 1.5) are very helpful.

    I actually find the European origin (Ashkenazi) secular people in Israel in general are usually very friendly and helpful, usually much more friendly than people in Europe.

    If you ask for directions, I even experience of Israelis trying to walk me the whole way to the place and want to know everything about my life.

    -
    This is representative of my experience with (European) origin people in Israel:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CWW7LUTIKWU

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  76. @Anonymous
    I like Swedish meatballs or sausages and mashed potatoes with Tabasco or Sriracha or some other hot sauce. I don't like it with the Lingenberry sauce. If you like salty, spicy flavors and don't have much of a sweet tooth, then it tastes good with hot sauce and without the Lingenberry sauce. For me, things like Lingenberry sauce or Cranberry sauce are too sweet and don't go well with the rich, hearty meat and savory gravy. Salty and spicy flavors go well with rich and savory flavors.

    I like Swedish meatballs or sausages and mashed potatoes with Tabasco or Sriracha or some other hot sauce. I don’t like it with the Lingenberry sauce. If you like salty, spicy flavors and don’t have much of a sweet tooth, then it tastes good with hot sauce and without the Lingenberry sauce. For me, things like Lingenberry sauce or Cranberry sauce are too sweet and don’t go well with the rich, hearty meat and savory gravy.

    Most store-bought lingonberry jams are far too sweet. Good cooks make their own jam, or better yet, simply stir the berries with some sugar and let them sit until the sugar crystals dissolve. They should be quite sour. The trick is to add only so much sugar that the lingonberries don’t make you frown, if that makes any sense.

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  77. @Anonymous
    It's an example of a Northern European dish that goes well with chili.

    Fish and chips is another dish that's good with hot sauce.

    It’s an example of a Northern European dish that goes well with chili.

    I don’t want to get too presciptive here, but I think it’s worth your while to consider what makes mashed potatoes special. To my mind, it’s the taste of perfectly cooked potatoes (in the north, we typically use “almond potaoes,” which have a very pronounced, “earthy” taste), fortified by the best heavy cream and butter you can find — the butter should be browned a little — and then given maximal flavor by a good amount of salt (any non-iodized salt will do) and a pinch of grated nutmeg. When done right, this is a delicacy in itself, and I find that the least bit of chili masks all the other flavors.

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    • Replies: @utu

    it’s worth your while to consider what makes mashed potatoes special
     
    I have developed taste for potatoes later in life. I like various mashed potatoes or roasted in skins and so on but the ones I like the most are just whole peeled boiled potatoes. Only then you can tell the quality of potatoes and then serve them as a side dish with fresh dill and butter. Many kinds of potatoes are not suitable for this as they fall apart. You want them to stay whole and their consistency should be such that you cut them with knife like butter. They should not be too large. Real young watery potatoes are also very good this way. The dill is essential for me. One of the best potatoes in this form I had in Tromso, Norway. Eating potatoes this way is not too popular in the US but common in Central Europe. Kids prefer fried potatoes or mashed because they have stronger and more definitive flavor. You wrote about berries in Northern Scandinavia. Indeed they are the best. Like wild tiny strawberries. Do wild strawberries have a separate name in Swedish that is unrelated to strawberries?
    , @Anonymous
    I like all kinds of mashed potatoes. With and without chili, garlic, or any other flavors. I don't think chili masks those flavors. Heavy cream and butter are so rich that it's hard to mask them. I think cream and butter are good as a base for chili and other spicy flavors, just as olive oil is good as a base for sauces with spice in them. I also don't find chili masking nutmeg. In fact there are many chili recipes that incorporate nutmeg.
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  78. You need to ask the cook, assuming he’s Indian, when eating at an Indian restaurant in Russia to get anything like a Royal Bombay. He usually has some spices for himself and the other Indian staff. They won’t do it for Russians. Even Russians who demand hot curries always send them back. I am told this by Indian cooks.

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  79. @utu

    It’s an example of a Northern European dish that goes well with chili.
     
    It goes well with chili for you. Perhaps because you are a barbarian. When in sushi bar they will consider you a barbarian if you overdo wasabi. It may depend on your cultural trajectory, i.e., what foods did you grow up with. It is possible that people once exposed to lots of chilis are unable to appreciate tastes on more subtle scales. Just like a miner working in a coal mine won't be able to appreciate various degrees of snow coloration like Inuits can or a heroin slamming junky won't be impressed by different flavors of pipe tobacco.

    While the ancient Romans teach us that de gustibus non est disputandum I still believe there are better and worse method of making a simple bread and butter sandwich. There is also a matter of respect for culture. I would not go to European restaurants with bottles of ketchup and tabasco or habanero sauce to improve on their food.

    When in sushi bar they will consider you a barbarian if you overdo wasabi. It may depend on your cultural trajectory, i.e., what foods did you grow up with. It is possible that people once exposed to lots of chilis are unable to appreciate tastes on more subtle scales.

    Just like with the arts — or women’s fashion, if you are into that — few people like to believe that they have poor sense of taste. So our ego-defence mechanisms kick in. (I’m not saying Anonymous is one of those people, but I have friends who are. It’s no biggie.)

    There’s actually some science on this. One theory is that having more taste buds, all else equal, makes people more sensitive to chili.

    “Prescott summarizes the basics of what we know about why people can or cannot tolerate spicy foods—and whether or not they like it: Research shows that some people are more sensitive to heat, he says, but there is no certainty about why. They could have more taste buds, or there may be other genetic differences. But, ‘regardless of sensitivity, we can all develop a liking for spiciness through repeated consumption.’”

    (https://firstwefeast.com/features/2016/05/spicy-genetics-investigation/stomach)

    We also know that women, on average, have more taste buds than men (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7878086), which would explain both why they are more sensitive to chili and why they have a more sensual relationship with food than men.

    This last observation shouldn’t be taken to far, however. Impressions from the tongue only play a minor role in how we perceive taste. What something tastes like is actually a function of an interplay between all senses. Smell, in particular, always plays a part, which is one reason food is less enjoyable when you have a stuffy nose.

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    • Replies: @utu

    What something tastes like is actually a function of an interplay between all senses.
     
    Different peppers have different flavors but capsaicin I do not think have any flavor. Or is it sour? But clearly it does something brutal to taste buds and all surrounding area. You can suffer from hotness from capsaicin w/o taste buds as we all who did not wash hands after chopping jalapeños before going to bathroom. Actually I once developed blisters on my fingers from chopping lots of jalapeños with a small pocket knife.

    I can imagine that people who have more taste buds who can appreciate larger scale of tastes and more subtle flavors might be more reluctant to give up this experience by paralyzing the taste buds with too much of capsaicin. I like hot foods but I am kind of concerned by overuse of hot pepper sauces. It is like listening to music on too high volume.
    , @Anonymous
    Women don't have a more "sensual" relationship with food than men. The best chefs tend to be men, and the best dishes tend to be invented by men.
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  80. @Pseudonymic Handle
    Indeed. "cuisines" are historically recent not only because the ingredients are often introduced during the Colombus Exchange, but also because cooking on a fire pit and ovens were the only ways to cook until mid 1800's when the cooking stove was invented. Because of the difficulty of temperature control until than most foods were boiled into soups and stews while meat was often roasted.
    Restaurants appeared in late 1700's and the food they serve is pretty different from home food, so in an ethnic cuisine there is a restaurant cuisine and a home cuisine.
    Serving courses one after the other is called "service a la russe" and was introduced in the West in early 1800's.
    Pretty much everything we call cuisines were developed since the industrial revolution and are of dubious ancestry and authenticity.

    Indeed. “cuisines” are historically recent not only because the ingredients are often introduced during the Colombus Exchange, but also because cooking on a fire pit and ovens were the only ways to cook until mid 1800′s when the cooking stove was invented.

    Yes, but the defining elements of any good cuisine, locally-sourced ingredients, were for the most part around long before the rise of national cuisines. The peasantry of the Arctic regions would have munched on cloudberries and Arctic raspberries — arguably the finest in the world — and maybe even had them with whipped cream. (In the north, whole milk was thought a luxury well into the 1800s, since the fat was needed for cream and butter.) Things like sturgeon roe and vendace roe must also have been popular.

    And some classic dishes are found in old records. Swedish pea soup — still a national favorite — sustained Charles XII’s army at Narva and Poltava (1700s) and was the weapon of choice in the killing of King Erik XIV (1570s; died from poisoned pea soup). Gravlax, too, is at least half a millennium old. Same with many Italian dishes, although it’s true that tomatoes are a relatively recent import.

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  81. inertial says:
    @Anonymous
    French food is world class and universally it is respected as so. You must have had bad French food which is understandable as the French have become lazy ie McDonald's is now popular there.

    Russian food is surprisingly good. Even though it is bland, I could happily eat the food regularly.

    Indian food is great, but extremely inconsistent. I find it hard to find a good restaurant actually.

    I find it interesting that all Asian food, even Cambodian, is great!

    But what most interests me is who has the worst food. The British and Jews have by far the worst cuisine. Those populations always saw cooking as beneath them and would always rather import others who could cook than learn to do it themselves.

    I find it interesting that all Asian food, even Cambodian, is great!

    Bon appetit!

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    • Replies: @Chet Bradley
    I was told, by some people who spent quite a bit of time visiting Japan on business, that often in seafood restaurants you have to ask "is the food dead" in order to avoid the scene shown in the video. Apparently seafood is not always dead by the time it shows up in your plate.
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  82. inertial says:

    The food itself seems overrated too. Khachapuri is just bread + cheese + egg.

    Huh? Hot bread + cheese is the greatest comfort food in the world. Cf. pizza.

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    • Agree: utu
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  83. @Anonymous
    I disagree that there are necessarily a myriad of subtle flavors in certain dishes that can't be detected by people who like spicy food. I don't think someone who dislikes spicy food is tasting all these various subtleties in something like Swedish meatballs and mashed potatoes. I think it's simply that they prefer the sweet and savory flavor of the meatballs and potatoes over spiciness.

    I don’t think someone who dislikes spicy food is tasting all these various subtleties in something like Swedish meatballs and mashed potatoes. I think it’s simply that they prefer the sweet and savory flavor of the meatballs and potatoes over spiciness.

    I believe it was Ferran Adrià (of El Bulli, once one of the world’s top restaurants) who said that his last meal would be freshly-baked bread with olive oil (or maybe it was butter?). As a Spaniard, he would know a thing or two about chili, and yet he chose this deceptively simple combination. I think there’s a clue in there.

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    • Replies: @utu

    his last meal would be freshly-baked bread with olive oil (or maybe it was butter?)
     
    I had an argument once with Italian-American deli owner about sandwiches. He could not understand that I liked "monochromatic" open faced sandwiches made of rye bread+butter+X where X might be just tomato with salt or red radishes with salt or leaks with salt. He had to have a symphony of tastes: Italian role with thin slices of three or more different cold cuts, there different cheeses, lettuce, tomato... I like Italian deli sandwiches very much but I enjoy a slice of bread with butter and at most one ingredient so I know what I am eating. Italian sandwich is like a stew or like a symphony while my monochromatic sandwich is like a solo concerto when I can really hear how a violin sounds and whether the violinist is really good. You can make good Italian sandwich with mediocre products but a monochromatic sandwich requires good quality bread, butter and whatever you put on it. Rye or rustic wheat breads also taste very good when they are no longer fresh. It is different experience but also good. My father always preferred to have a stale bread. I always thought he did so we did not throw away leftovers but as I got older I developed taste for stale rye bread as well.
    , @Anonymous
    There's nothing deceptive about it. Starch plus fat is universally popular.
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  84. @Mr. Hack
    Your photo of the luscious Napoleon torte brings back fond memories of the great Ukrainian and Polish women cooks in my childhood neighborhood that excelled at making tortes, cheesecakes pliatskis and khrustiki! My mother was one of the best, and her most popular torte was a walnut mocha spectacular.
    No matter how good the local tortes at the Polish and Russian stores are here in the states, they just don't match up to the home made ones. The last time I went on a bender, was at a Ukrainian wedding here, where they had 15-20 homemade tortes displayed. I skipped any alcohol all night long just so I could have more pieces of heavenly torte. I was once awarded the famous, but now defunct 'Karl Marx' Kyivan torte' for my 'heroic' efforts of keeping up with the walking routines of my Kyievan relatives. They were amazed that a pampered American boy could walk so much. :-)

    I was once awarded the famous, but now defunct ‘Karl Marx’ Kyivan torte’ for my ‘heroic’ efforts of keeping up with the walking routines of my Kyievan relatives.

    Still alive and kicking, but now made by Roshen (Poroshenko’s company). I find them much too sweet, but I’m sure home-made ones are a treat.

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    • Replies: @Mr. Hack
    I know that for a long time the Kyivan tortes made in Kyiv by the now closed 'Karl Marx' bakery were considered to be the best and set the standard. For all of the flack that Poroshenko gets, his chocolate wares are pretty good, and I will assume that his tortes are good too. The last one that I ate was purchased from a local 'Russian' store close to wear I live. The cardboard box in which it came stated that it was actually made in Moldavia and it was pretty decent (probably a little bit too sweet).

    What next, mamaliga tv dinners made in Slovakia and sold in Greece? :-)
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  85. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    Hot, humid climes, especially in densely populated areas = more spices to prevent spoilage.

    A common misconception – and completely wrong. Capsaicin’s anti-microbial activity is pretty modest. The hot spices do not significantly prevent spoilage. And most other spices are not anti-microbial at all (mustard and horseradish are – but are not being used in a manner that makes them protective). What spices do rather exceptionally well, however, is to mask/disguise moderate spoilage. Moderate spoilage is fine most of the time (think any number of fermented foods that just happened to not induce evolutionary-selected revolting reflex), so your survival is enhanced if you make foods that you comfortably eat even if they turned a bit off.

    Read More
    • Agree: utu
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  86. utu says:
    @Swedish Family

    It’s an example of a Northern European dish that goes well with chili.
     
    I don't want to get too presciptive here, but I think it's worth your while to consider what makes mashed potatoes special. To my mind, it's the taste of perfectly cooked potatoes (in the north, we typically use "almond potaoes," which have a very pronounced, "earthy" taste), fortified by the best heavy cream and butter you can find -- the butter should be browned a little -- and then given maximal flavor by a good amount of salt (any non-iodized salt will do) and a pinch of grated nutmeg. When done right, this is a delicacy in itself, and I find that the least bit of chili masks all the other flavors.

    it’s worth your while to consider what makes mashed potatoes special

    I have developed taste for potatoes later in life. I like various mashed potatoes or roasted in skins and so on but the ones I like the most are just whole peeled boiled potatoes. Only then you can tell the quality of potatoes and then serve them as a side dish with fresh dill and butter. Many kinds of potatoes are not suitable for this as they fall apart. You want them to stay whole and their consistency should be such that you cut them with knife like butter. They should not be too large. Real young watery potatoes are also very good this way. The dill is essential for me. One of the best potatoes in this form I had in Tromso, Norway. Eating potatoes this way is not too popular in the US but common in Central Europe. Kids prefer fried potatoes or mashed because they have stronger and more definitive flavor. You wrote about berries in Northern Scandinavia. Indeed they are the best. Like wild tiny strawberries. Do wild strawberries have a separate name in Swedish that is unrelated to strawberries?

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  87. utu says:
    @Swedish Family

    When in sushi bar they will consider you a barbarian if you overdo wasabi. It may depend on your cultural trajectory, i.e., what foods did you grow up with. It is possible that people once exposed to lots of chilis are unable to appreciate tastes on more subtle scales.
     
    Just like with the arts -- or women's fashion, if you are into that -- few people like to believe that they have poor sense of taste. So our ego-defence mechanisms kick in. (I'm not saying Anonymous is one of those people, but I have friends who are. It's no biggie.)

    There's actually some science on this. One theory is that having more taste buds, all else equal, makes people more sensitive to chili.

    "Prescott summarizes the basics of what we know about why people can or cannot tolerate spicy foods—and whether or not they like it: Research shows that some people are more sensitive to heat, he says, but there is no certainty about why. They could have more taste buds, or there may be other genetic differences. But, 'regardless of sensitivity, we can all develop a liking for spiciness through repeated consumption.'"

    (https://firstwefeast.com/features/2016/05/spicy-genetics-investigation/stomach)

    We also know that women, on average, have more taste buds than men (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7878086), which would explain both why they are more sensitive to chili and why they have a more sensual relationship with food than men.

    This last observation shouldn't be taken to far, however. Impressions from the tongue only play a minor role in how we perceive taste. What something tastes like is actually a function of an interplay between all senses. Smell, in particular, always plays a part, which is one reason food is less enjoyable when you have a stuffy nose.

    What something tastes like is actually a function of an interplay between all senses.

    Different peppers have different flavors but capsaicin I do not think have any flavor. Or is it sour? But clearly it does something brutal to taste buds and all surrounding area. You can suffer from hotness from capsaicin w/o taste buds as we all who did not wash hands after chopping jalapeños before going to bathroom. Actually I once developed blisters on my fingers from chopping lots of jalapeños with a small pocket knife.

    I can imagine that people who have more taste buds who can appreciate larger scale of tastes and more subtle flavors might be more reluctant to give up this experience by paralyzing the taste buds with too much of capsaicin. I like hot foods but I am kind of concerned by overuse of hot pepper sauces. It is like listening to music on too high volume.

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  88. utu says:
    @Swedish Family

    I don’t think someone who dislikes spicy food is tasting all these various subtleties in something like Swedish meatballs and mashed potatoes. I think it’s simply that they prefer the sweet and savory flavor of the meatballs and potatoes over spiciness.
     
    I believe it was Ferran Adrià (of El Bulli, once one of the world's top restaurants) who said that his last meal would be freshly-baked bread with olive oil (or maybe it was butter?). As a Spaniard, he would know a thing or two about chili, and yet he chose this deceptively simple combination. I think there's a clue in there.

    his last meal would be freshly-baked bread with olive oil (or maybe it was butter?)

    I had an argument once with Italian-American deli owner about sandwiches. He could not understand that I liked “monochromatic” open faced sandwiches made of rye bread+butter+X where X might be just tomato with salt or red radishes with salt or leaks with salt. He had to have a symphony of tastes: Italian role with thin slices of three or more different cold cuts, there different cheeses, lettuce, tomato… I like Italian deli sandwiches very much but I enjoy a slice of bread with butter and at most one ingredient so I know what I am eating. Italian sandwich is like a stew or like a symphony while my monochromatic sandwich is like a solo concerto when I can really hear how a violin sounds and whether the violinist is really good. You can make good Italian sandwich with mediocre products but a monochromatic sandwich requires good quality bread, butter and whatever you put on it. Rye or rustic wheat breads also taste very good when they are no longer fresh. It is different experience but also good. My father always preferred to have a stale bread. I always thought he did so we did not throw away leftovers but as I got older I developed taste for stale rye bread as well.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Anonymous
    I am the Anonymous from above that defended spicy food.

    I love spicy food, and I also love both "monochromatic" sandwiches and Italian sub type sandwiches. For example I love cucumber or tomato sandwiches with just bread and mayonnaise. It doesn't get more "bland" than that, yet it's one of my favorites. And I don't just like spicy food, but I will often go for the spiciest dish or an extreme level of spice even though I know I will suffer after the meal. I don't think it's true that people who like spice don't like non-spicy flavors.
    , @reiner Tor
    Italian food often contains such “monochromatic” dishes, but they get distorted abroad in ethnic Italian restaurants. For example spaghetti alla carbonara contains just some bacon (not really the same as what you call “bacon” in English), eggs and spaghetti (and some cheese) in the most puritanical versions (not really puritanical in the sense that it’s delicious), but has to contain cream and often a whole range of other ingredients (like garlic) to make them “tastier” when done in restaurants (or by laypeople, like my friends) outside of Italy. Of course, the other ingredients often only mask the taste of the essential ones, so less is really more (except if those ingredients are of bad quality), but this concept is alien to people who don’t understand what makes food good.

    So... I’m just wondering, how Italian are those Italian sandwiches?
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  89. @inertial

    I find it interesting that all Asian food, even Cambodian, is great!
     
    Bon appetit!

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dxQmOR_QLfQ

    I was told, by some people who spent quite a bit of time visiting Japan on business, that often in seafood restaurants you have to ask “is the food dead” in order to avoid the scene shown in the video. Apparently seafood is not always dead by the time it shows up in your plate.

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  90. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:
    @utu

    his last meal would be freshly-baked bread with olive oil (or maybe it was butter?)
     
    I had an argument once with Italian-American deli owner about sandwiches. He could not understand that I liked "monochromatic" open faced sandwiches made of rye bread+butter+X where X might be just tomato with salt or red radishes with salt or leaks with salt. He had to have a symphony of tastes: Italian role with thin slices of three or more different cold cuts, there different cheeses, lettuce, tomato... I like Italian deli sandwiches very much but I enjoy a slice of bread with butter and at most one ingredient so I know what I am eating. Italian sandwich is like a stew or like a symphony while my monochromatic sandwich is like a solo concerto when I can really hear how a violin sounds and whether the violinist is really good. You can make good Italian sandwich with mediocre products but a monochromatic sandwich requires good quality bread, butter and whatever you put on it. Rye or rustic wheat breads also taste very good when they are no longer fresh. It is different experience but also good. My father always preferred to have a stale bread. I always thought he did so we did not throw away leftovers but as I got older I developed taste for stale rye bread as well.

    I am the Anonymous from above that defended spicy food.

    I love spicy food, and I also love both “monochromatic” sandwiches and Italian sub type sandwiches. For example I love cucumber or tomato sandwiches with just bread and mayonnaise. It doesn’t get more “bland” than that, yet it’s one of my favorites. And I don’t just like spicy food, but I will often go for the spiciest dish or an extreme level of spice even though I know I will suffer after the meal. I don’t think it’s true that people who like spice don’t like non-spicy flavors.

    Read More
    • Agree: Mr. Hack
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  91. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:
    @Swedish Family

    It’s an example of a Northern European dish that goes well with chili.
     
    I don't want to get too presciptive here, but I think it's worth your while to consider what makes mashed potatoes special. To my mind, it's the taste of perfectly cooked potatoes (in the north, we typically use "almond potaoes," which have a very pronounced, "earthy" taste), fortified by the best heavy cream and butter you can find -- the butter should be browned a little -- and then given maximal flavor by a good amount of salt (any non-iodized salt will do) and a pinch of grated nutmeg. When done right, this is a delicacy in itself, and I find that the least bit of chili masks all the other flavors.

    I like all kinds of mashed potatoes. With and without chili, garlic, or any other flavors. I don’t think chili masks those flavors. Heavy cream and butter are so rich that it’s hard to mask them. I think cream and butter are good as a base for chili and other spicy flavors, just as olive oil is good as a base for sauces with spice in them. I also don’t find chili masking nutmeg. In fact there are many chili recipes that incorporate nutmeg.

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  92. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:
    @Swedish Family

    I don’t think someone who dislikes spicy food is tasting all these various subtleties in something like Swedish meatballs and mashed potatoes. I think it’s simply that they prefer the sweet and savory flavor of the meatballs and potatoes over spiciness.
     
    I believe it was Ferran Adrià (of El Bulli, once one of the world's top restaurants) who said that his last meal would be freshly-baked bread with olive oil (or maybe it was butter?). As a Spaniard, he would know a thing or two about chili, and yet he chose this deceptively simple combination. I think there's a clue in there.

    There’s nothing deceptive about it. Starch plus fat is universally popular.

    Read More
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  93. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:
    @Swedish Family

    When in sushi bar they will consider you a barbarian if you overdo wasabi. It may depend on your cultural trajectory, i.e., what foods did you grow up with. It is possible that people once exposed to lots of chilis are unable to appreciate tastes on more subtle scales.
     
    Just like with the arts -- or women's fashion, if you are into that -- few people like to believe that they have poor sense of taste. So our ego-defence mechanisms kick in. (I'm not saying Anonymous is one of those people, but I have friends who are. It's no biggie.)

    There's actually some science on this. One theory is that having more taste buds, all else equal, makes people more sensitive to chili.

    "Prescott summarizes the basics of what we know about why people can or cannot tolerate spicy foods—and whether or not they like it: Research shows that some people are more sensitive to heat, he says, but there is no certainty about why. They could have more taste buds, or there may be other genetic differences. But, 'regardless of sensitivity, we can all develop a liking for spiciness through repeated consumption.'"

    (https://firstwefeast.com/features/2016/05/spicy-genetics-investigation/stomach)

    We also know that women, on average, have more taste buds than men (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7878086), which would explain both why they are more sensitive to chili and why they have a more sensual relationship with food than men.

    This last observation shouldn't be taken to far, however. Impressions from the tongue only play a minor role in how we perceive taste. What something tastes like is actually a function of an interplay between all senses. Smell, in particular, always plays a part, which is one reason food is less enjoyable when you have a stuffy nose.

    Women don’t have a more “sensual” relationship with food than men. The best chefs tend to be men, and the best dishes tend to be invented by men.

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  94. @utu

    his last meal would be freshly-baked bread with olive oil (or maybe it was butter?)
     
    I had an argument once with Italian-American deli owner about sandwiches. He could not understand that I liked "monochromatic" open faced sandwiches made of rye bread+butter+X where X might be just tomato with salt or red radishes with salt or leaks with salt. He had to have a symphony of tastes: Italian role with thin slices of three or more different cold cuts, there different cheeses, lettuce, tomato... I like Italian deli sandwiches very much but I enjoy a slice of bread with butter and at most one ingredient so I know what I am eating. Italian sandwich is like a stew or like a symphony while my monochromatic sandwich is like a solo concerto when I can really hear how a violin sounds and whether the violinist is really good. You can make good Italian sandwich with mediocre products but a monochromatic sandwich requires good quality bread, butter and whatever you put on it. Rye or rustic wheat breads also taste very good when they are no longer fresh. It is different experience but also good. My father always preferred to have a stale bread. I always thought he did so we did not throw away leftovers but as I got older I developed taste for stale rye bread as well.

    Italian food often contains such “monochromatic” dishes, but they get distorted abroad in ethnic Italian restaurants. For example spaghetti alla carbonara contains just some bacon (not really the same as what you call “bacon” in English), eggs and spaghetti (and some cheese) in the most puritanical versions (not really puritanical in the sense that it’s delicious), but has to contain cream and often a whole range of other ingredients (like garlic) to make them “tastier” when done in restaurants (or by laypeople, like my friends) outside of Italy. Of course, the other ingredients often only mask the taste of the essential ones, so less is really more (except if those ingredients are of bad quality), but this concept is alien to people who don’t understand what makes food good.

    So… I’m just wondering, how Italian are those Italian sandwiches?

    Read More
    • Replies: @utu

    The Italian sandwich was invented in Portland, Maine, in 1903 by Giovanni Amato, a baker. It is known as a submarine sandwich or a sub in Boston, Massachusetts, and as a spuckie in East Boston. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Italian_sandwich
     
    I was not writing about Italian food. Italian deli is an American thing. Family Italian restaurants in the US have simple food originated in Southern Italy. Things have changed more recently. Still 10, 20 years ago most Americans did not know what was risotto. There were no Northern Italian restaurants. Not much rice in Southern Italy. Mussolini wanted Southern Italians to eat more rice but I am not sure if he succeed.
    , @Anonymous
    Carbonara is not that common in the US, as it's originally a Roman dish. Where it does exist, it tends to be served in the traditional style with just bacon and egg. Italian food in the US is mainly Italian-American food, which is an Americanized Southern Italian style. A classic Italian dish in America is something like spaghetti and meatballs, which is not a dish in Italy:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spaghetti_and_meatballs

    Northern Italian food is not common in the US.
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  95. utu says:
    @reiner Tor
    Italian food often contains such “monochromatic” dishes, but they get distorted abroad in ethnic Italian restaurants. For example spaghetti alla carbonara contains just some bacon (not really the same as what you call “bacon” in English), eggs and spaghetti (and some cheese) in the most puritanical versions (not really puritanical in the sense that it’s delicious), but has to contain cream and often a whole range of other ingredients (like garlic) to make them “tastier” when done in restaurants (or by laypeople, like my friends) outside of Italy. Of course, the other ingredients often only mask the taste of the essential ones, so less is really more (except if those ingredients are of bad quality), but this concept is alien to people who don’t understand what makes food good.

    So... I’m just wondering, how Italian are those Italian sandwiches?

    The Italian sandwich was invented in Portland, Maine, in 1903 by Giovanni Amato, a baker. It is known as a submarine sandwich or a sub in Boston, Massachusetts, and as a spuckie in East Boston. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Italian_sandwich

    I was not writing about Italian food. Italian deli is an American thing. Family Italian restaurants in the US have simple food originated in Southern Italy. Things have changed more recently. Still 10, 20 years ago most Americans did not know what was risotto. There were no Northern Italian restaurants. Not much rice in Southern Italy. Mussolini wanted Southern Italians to eat more rice but I am not sure if he succeed.

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  96. Mr. Hack says:
    @Swedish Family

    I was once awarded the famous, but now defunct ‘Karl Marx’ Kyivan torte’ for my ‘heroic’ efforts of keeping up with the walking routines of my Kyievan relatives.
     
    Still alive and kicking, but now made by Roshen (Poroshenko's company). I find them much too sweet, but I'm sure home-made ones are a treat.

    I know that for a long time the Kyivan tortes made in Kyiv by the now closed ‘Karl Marx’ bakery were considered to be the best and set the standard. For all of the flack that Poroshenko gets, his chocolate wares are pretty good, and I will assume that his tortes are good too. The last one that I ate was purchased from a local ‘Russian’ store close to wear I live. The cardboard box in which it came stated that it was actually made in Moldavia and it was pretty decent (probably a little bit too sweet).

    What next, mamaliga tv dinners made in Slovakia and sold in Greece? :-)

    Read More
    • Replies: @Anatoly Karlin
    Not a fan of Kiev cake - can't stand meringue. The only good E. European dessert I can think of is Napoleon cake.

    Germans/French are much better at desserts.
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  97. @Mr. Hack
    I know that for a long time the Kyivan tortes made in Kyiv by the now closed 'Karl Marx' bakery were considered to be the best and set the standard. For all of the flack that Poroshenko gets, his chocolate wares are pretty good, and I will assume that his tortes are good too. The last one that I ate was purchased from a local 'Russian' store close to wear I live. The cardboard box in which it came stated that it was actually made in Moldavia and it was pretty decent (probably a little bit too sweet).

    What next, mamaliga tv dinners made in Slovakia and sold in Greece? :-)

    Not a fan of Kiev cake – can’t stand meringue. The only good E. European dessert I can think of is Napoleon cake.

    Germans/French are much better at desserts.

    Read More
    • Agree: AP
    • Replies: @AP
    Agree, although the butter cookies that eastern European grandmothers make are wonderful.

    Germans/French are much better at desserts
     
    Which is why the best desserts in the former USSR are probably in Lviv.
    , @Mr. Hack
    Kyivan torte is also not my favorite (although it's Okay) and is only one of very many Ukrainian/Polish tortes available. The nut infused (usually walnut) ones are fantastic, as far as I'm concened. The cheesecakes made in that part of the world are great too - the 'pascha' cheeze bread/cake is a sure winner. I never had the Kyivan torte in the states, and ate it for the first time sometime in Kyiv in the 2000's. My mother's strawberry cream torte was a big hit during the summer months. Although she didn't bake the Napoeon torte, she did bake a '7-up' one that was similar. The cream fillings were varied and thicker than in the Napoleon, and included: chocolate, butterscotch, mocha, cherry, apricot, vanilla and even peanut butter (an homage, no doubt to her newly adopted country) - it took a full two days to make - I don't think that I'll ever see it again. :-(
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  98. AP says:
    @Anatoly Karlin
    Not a fan of Kiev cake - can't stand meringue. The only good E. European dessert I can think of is Napoleon cake.

    Germans/French are much better at desserts.

    Agree, although the butter cookies that eastern European grandmothers make are wonderful.

    Germans/French are much better at desserts

    Which is why the best desserts in the former USSR are probably in Lviv.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Mr. Hack
    And the ponchki are 'chopped liver' that all the Babuhka's make? :-)
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  99. Mr. Hack says:
    @Anatoly Karlin
    Not a fan of Kiev cake - can't stand meringue. The only good E. European dessert I can think of is Napoleon cake.

    Germans/French are much better at desserts.

    Kyivan torte is also not my favorite (although it’s Okay) and is only one of very many Ukrainian/Polish tortes available. The nut infused (usually walnut) ones are fantastic, as far as I’m concened. The cheesecakes made in that part of the world are great too – the ‘pascha’ cheeze bread/cake is a sure winner. I never had the Kyivan torte in the states, and ate it for the first time sometime in Kyiv in the 2000′s. My mother’s strawberry cream torte was a big hit during the summer months. Although she didn’t bake the Napoeon torte, she did bake a ’7-up’ one that was similar. The cream fillings were varied and thicker than in the Napoleon, and included: chocolate, butterscotch, mocha, cherry, apricot, vanilla and even peanut butter (an homage, no doubt to her newly adopted country) – it took a full two days to make – I don’t think that I’ll ever see it again. :-(

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  100. Mr. Hack says:
    @AP
    Agree, although the butter cookies that eastern European grandmothers make are wonderful.

    Germans/French are much better at desserts
     
    Which is why the best desserts in the former USSR are probably in Lviv.

    And the ponchki are ‘chopped liver’ that all the Babuhka’s make? :-)

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    • Replies: @AP
    Never was crazy about those, actually.
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  101. AP says:
    @Mr. Hack
    And the ponchki are 'chopped liver' that all the Babuhka's make? :-)

    Never was crazy about those, actually.

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    • Replies: @Mr. Hack
    You must really find American donuts to be a drag then? I really like homemade ponchki, the exotic and rare ones made with hand picked wild rose petals are a real treat. I think all of the commenters here (including me), need to remember the very aptly put old Russian aphorism:

    на вкус и цвет товарища нет!
     
    :-)
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  102. Dmitry says:
    @utu

    service from the Arabs and Arab Jews isn’t always great
     
    I was wondering how bad it really is in Israel with service. Haven't been there but heard a lot how rude they are. Some Israelis tried to explain it by blaming it on Eastern European roots, i.e., the customs of primitive Russian and Polish peasants or on the Soviet roots. But in Eastern Europe since the collapse of communism service has improved a great deal. They no longer ignore you when you walk into a store or restaurant. They even smile to you. So is being rude more Jewish or Israeli quality? It seems to be the best explanation:

    Why are kosher restaurants so bad?
    https://forward.com/scribe/372167/why-are-most-kosher-restaurants-so-terrible/
    More specifically, why do proprietors and their patrons willingly accept gaping inconsistencies in service, food, price and cleanliness? Is it because of the talmudic laws disallowing competition between Jewish-owned businesses? Does this lack of Adam Smith’s invisible hand encourage kosher restaurants to limp lamely to just above tolerable? Or might kosher dining and its concomitant failures fall on the patrons who refuse to treat the waitstaff or their fellow diners with anything approaching civility? Are we too worried about surviving the next Holocaust to say excuse me? Or are we so heady a people that we simply don’t notice taste and ambiance, don’t have time for courtesy and respect of employees and each other?
     
    (1) I did not know that Talmud forbids mutual intra-Jewish competition. I thought it was just an anti-semitic slur.
    (2) Was anti-semitism curtailing some of bad Jewish behaviors?

    I was wondering how bad it really is in Israel with service. Haven’t been there but heard a lot how rude they are. Some Israelis tried to explain it by blaming it on Eastern European roots, i.e., the customs of primitive Russian and Polish peasants or on the Soviet roots. But in Eastern Europe since the collapse of communism service has improved a great deal. They no longer ignore you when you walk into a store or restaurant. They even smile to you. So is being rude more Jewish or Israeli quality? It seems to be the best explanation:

    No it’s very much the Arab Jewish men and Arab (non-Jewish) men which are giving a very very rude service in Israel. They all act like they tough-guy gangsters, who it’s beneath their level to serve you. They kind of have a look of contempt to you on their faces.

    By the way, it’s generally cultural thing with them. The Arab Jewish guys are unfriendly the first time you meet them anywhere – (but then the second or third time they can start getting friendly with you). When they think they know you, they can become over-the-top friendly. They have tough hostile act towards strangers.

    With the Russians in Israel – sometimes the old women are grumpy. But in general, Russians in Israel are very friendly and helpful, and the young people (generation 1.5) are very helpful.

    I actually find the European origin (Ashkenazi) secular people in Israel in general are usually very friendly and helpful, usually much more friendly than people in Europe.

    If you ask for directions, I even experience of Israelis trying to walk me the whole way to the place and want to know everything about my life.

    -
    This is representative of my experience with (European) origin people in Israel:

    Read More
    • Replies: @Dmitry
    Also the Arab/Middle Eastern Jewish (Mizrahi) women are often extremely friendly and helpful in Israel.

    I have also had good service experience from the African illegal immigrants (a lot them working in restaurants).

    In my experience, it's always been Middle Eastern guys in Israel that act tough and rude to me (a lot of them are basically 'wannabe gangsters').

    , @utu

    they can become over-the-top friendly
     
    I know what you mean. It is a trait of men form ME. I really do not like it. This over-the-top friendly pose is nothing else but another form of aggressive dominance.

    Now, about Israelis being rude or not and you saying that it is all Arab fault I will not argue with as I haven't been to Israel but the peachy picture of Israelis you paint is at odds with the commonly believed stereotype. I think I will go with the majority view here. Since you are doing such a good job in improving the image of Israel and Jews perhaps you could check out some kosher restaurants when in NYC and perhaps you would find them friendly and then write about it.
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  103. Dmitry says:
    @Dmitry

    I was wondering how bad it really is in Israel with service. Haven’t been there but heard a lot how rude they are. Some Israelis tried to explain it by blaming it on Eastern European roots, i.e., the customs of primitive Russian and Polish peasants or on the Soviet roots. But in Eastern Europe since the collapse of communism service has improved a great deal. They no longer ignore you when you walk into a store or restaurant. They even smile to you. So is being rude more Jewish or Israeli quality? It seems to be the best explanation:

     

    No it's very much the Arab Jewish men and Arab (non-Jewish) men which are giving a very very rude service in Israel. They all act like they tough-guy gangsters, who it's beneath their level to serve you. They kind of have a look of contempt to you on their faces.

    By the way, it's generally cultural thing with them. The Arab Jewish guys are unfriendly the first time you meet them anywhere - (but then the second or third time they can start getting friendly with you). When they think they know you, they can become over-the-top friendly. They have tough hostile act towards strangers.

    With the Russians in Israel - sometimes the old women are grumpy. But in general, Russians in Israel are very friendly and helpful, and the young people (generation 1.5) are very helpful.

    I actually find the European origin (Ashkenazi) secular people in Israel in general are usually very friendly and helpful, usually much more friendly than people in Europe.

    If you ask for directions, I even experience of Israelis trying to walk me the whole way to the place and want to know everything about my life.

    -
    This is representative of my experience with (European) origin people in Israel:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CWW7LUTIKWU

    Also the Arab/Middle Eastern Jewish (Mizrahi) women are often extremely friendly and helpful in Israel.

    I have also had good service experience from the African illegal immigrants (a lot them working in restaurants).

    In my experience, it’s always been Middle Eastern guys in Israel that act tough and rude to me (a lot of them are basically ‘wannabe gangsters’).

    Read More
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  104. utu says:
    @Dmitry

    I was wondering how bad it really is in Israel with service. Haven’t been there but heard a lot how rude they are. Some Israelis tried to explain it by blaming it on Eastern European roots, i.e., the customs of primitive Russian and Polish peasants or on the Soviet roots. But in Eastern Europe since the collapse of communism service has improved a great deal. They no longer ignore you when you walk into a store or restaurant. They even smile to you. So is being rude more Jewish or Israeli quality? It seems to be the best explanation:

     

    No it's very much the Arab Jewish men and Arab (non-Jewish) men which are giving a very very rude service in Israel. They all act like they tough-guy gangsters, who it's beneath their level to serve you. They kind of have a look of contempt to you on their faces.

    By the way, it's generally cultural thing with them. The Arab Jewish guys are unfriendly the first time you meet them anywhere - (but then the second or third time they can start getting friendly with you). When they think they know you, they can become over-the-top friendly. They have tough hostile act towards strangers.

    With the Russians in Israel - sometimes the old women are grumpy. But in general, Russians in Israel are very friendly and helpful, and the young people (generation 1.5) are very helpful.

    I actually find the European origin (Ashkenazi) secular people in Israel in general are usually very friendly and helpful, usually much more friendly than people in Europe.

    If you ask for directions, I even experience of Israelis trying to walk me the whole way to the place and want to know everything about my life.

    -
    This is representative of my experience with (European) origin people in Israel:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CWW7LUTIKWU

    they can become over-the-top friendly

    I know what you mean. It is a trait of men form ME. I really do not like it. This over-the-top friendly pose is nothing else but another form of aggressive dominance.

    Now, about Israelis being rude or not and you saying that it is all Arab fault I will not argue with as I haven’t been to Israel but the peachy picture of Israelis you paint is at odds with the commonly believed stereotype. I think I will go with the majority view here. Since you are doing such a good job in improving the image of Israel and Jews perhaps you could check out some kosher restaurants when in NYC and perhaps you would find them friendly and then write about it.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Dmitry

    I know what you mean. It is a trait of men form ME. I really do not like it. This over-the-top friendly pose is nothing else but another form of aggressive dominance.

    Now, about Israelis being rude or not and you saying that it is all Arab fault I will not argue with as I haven’t been to Israel but the peachy picture of Israelis you paint is at odds with the commonly believed stereotype. I think I will go with the majority view here. Since you are doing such a good job in improving the image of Israel and Jews perhaps you could check out some kosher restaurants when in NYC and perhaps you would find them friendly and then write about it
     

    My view of Israelis being friendly and helpful, is pretty much the majority view of all normal who immigrated in Israel.

    Here she explains at 4:30 in the video (what she says after 4:30 is exactly my own experience)

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=462D7NTNt2k

    ---

    That doesn't take away from the fact that half of the Jews in Israel are of Arab origin and about half are of European origin. Also about 20% are the population Arab Muslims.

    My experience of Israel - where I had immigrated for several months in the past, is that it has some of the more civilized people in the world, and the least civilized people in the world.
    And it is the Arabs and Middle Eastern Jews, which are the uncivilized component (at least from my European perspective). That doesn't mean there's not rude peasants as well, and from all over the Soviet Union. But in general their culture becomes a modern, secular culture, with a lot of social capital (people helping each other out)

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  105. Mr. Hack says:
    @AP
    Never was crazy about those, actually.

    You must really find American donuts to be a drag then? I really like homemade ponchki, the exotic and rare ones made with hand picked wild rose petals are a real treat. I think all of the commenters here (including me), need to remember the very aptly put old Russian aphorism:

    на вкус и цвет товарища нет!

    :-)

    Read More
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  106. Dmitry says:
    @utu

    they can become over-the-top friendly
     
    I know what you mean. It is a trait of men form ME. I really do not like it. This over-the-top friendly pose is nothing else but another form of aggressive dominance.

    Now, about Israelis being rude or not and you saying that it is all Arab fault I will not argue with as I haven't been to Israel but the peachy picture of Israelis you paint is at odds with the commonly believed stereotype. I think I will go with the majority view here. Since you are doing such a good job in improving the image of Israel and Jews perhaps you could check out some kosher restaurants when in NYC and perhaps you would find them friendly and then write about it.

    I know what you mean. It is a trait of men form ME. I really do not like it. This over-the-top friendly pose is nothing else but another form of aggressive dominance.

    Now, about Israelis being rude or not and you saying that it is all Arab fault I will not argue with as I haven’t been to Israel but the peachy picture of Israelis you paint is at odds with the commonly believed stereotype. I think I will go with the majority view here. Since you are doing such a good job in improving the image of Israel and Jews perhaps you could check out some kosher restaurants when in NYC and perhaps you would find them friendly and then write about it

    My view of Israelis being friendly and helpful, is pretty much the majority view of all normal who immigrated in Israel.

    Here she explains at 4:30 in the video (what she says after 4:30 is exactly my own experience)

    That doesn’t take away from the fact that half of the Jews in Israel are of Arab origin and about half are of European origin. Also about 20% are the population Arab Muslims.

    My experience of Israel – where I had immigrated for several months in the past, is that it has some of the more civilized people in the world, and the least civilized people in the world.
    And it is the Arabs and Middle Eastern Jews, which are the uncivilized component (at least from my European perspective). That doesn’t mean there’s not rude peasants as well, and from all over the Soviet Union. But in general their culture becomes a modern, secular culture, with a lot of social capital (people helping each other out)

    Read More
    • Replies: @utu
    I begin to suspect that you have never been to Israel or if you did you do not know Hebrew so you have no idea what transpires during person to person interactions there. Internet is full of articles about Israelis impoliteness and how rude they can be in Israel as well as tourists. Many articles try to whitewash it though never deny the facts like you it your Pollyannish descriptions. You are not a reliable narrator. I do not think your soft version of hasbara is professional because you sound so naive like being smitten or in love: my-girlfriend-shit-does-not-stink infatuation phase. Possibly it is the earnestness of a neophyte like a young Russian who discovered his Jewish roots and tries to be more Catholic than the Pope. If this is the case, believe me, it won't last.

    Here is a sample:

    In Defense of Israeli “Rudeness”
    http://www.amotherinisrael.com/defense-israeli-rudeness

    'Ugly Israeli' goes viral
    https://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2015/04/ugly-israeli-rude-agressive-citizens-phenomenon.html

    Are Israelis Rude? Learning Not To Be Polite In Israel
    http://therayve.blogspot.com/2010/09/are-israelis-rude-learning-not-to-be.html

    The Problem With Israeli Travelers
    https://www.haaretz.com/jewish/1.5212611

    Why Israelis Make the Worst Tourists
    https://www.haaretz.com/opinion/.premium-why-israelis-make-the-worst-tourists-1.5341538

    Are Israelis Rude?
    http://mostlykosher.blogspot.com/2011/08/are-israelis-rude.html
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  107. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:
    @reiner Tor
    Italian food often contains such “monochromatic” dishes, but they get distorted abroad in ethnic Italian restaurants. For example spaghetti alla carbonara contains just some bacon (not really the same as what you call “bacon” in English), eggs and spaghetti (and some cheese) in the most puritanical versions (not really puritanical in the sense that it’s delicious), but has to contain cream and often a whole range of other ingredients (like garlic) to make them “tastier” when done in restaurants (or by laypeople, like my friends) outside of Italy. Of course, the other ingredients often only mask the taste of the essential ones, so less is really more (except if those ingredients are of bad quality), but this concept is alien to people who don’t understand what makes food good.

    So... I’m just wondering, how Italian are those Italian sandwiches?

    Carbonara is not that common in the US, as it’s originally a Roman dish. Where it does exist, it tends to be served in the traditional style with just bacon and egg. Italian food in the US is mainly Italian-American food, which is an Americanized Southern Italian style. A classic Italian dish in America is something like spaghetti and meatballs, which is not a dish in Italy:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spaghetti_and_meatballs

    Northern Italian food is not common in the US.

    Read More
    • Agree: utu
    • Replies: @reiner Tor
    It’s very common in Hungary, and usually way worse than the original. The spaghetti and meatballs also exists in Hungary as an “Italian” dish.
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  108. utu says:
    @Dmitry

    I know what you mean. It is a trait of men form ME. I really do not like it. This over-the-top friendly pose is nothing else but another form of aggressive dominance.

    Now, about Israelis being rude or not and you saying that it is all Arab fault I will not argue with as I haven’t been to Israel but the peachy picture of Israelis you paint is at odds with the commonly believed stereotype. I think I will go with the majority view here. Since you are doing such a good job in improving the image of Israel and Jews perhaps you could check out some kosher restaurants when in NYC and perhaps you would find them friendly and then write about it
     

    My view of Israelis being friendly and helpful, is pretty much the majority view of all normal who immigrated in Israel.

    Here she explains at 4:30 in the video (what she says after 4:30 is exactly my own experience)

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=462D7NTNt2k

    ---

    That doesn't take away from the fact that half of the Jews in Israel are of Arab origin and about half are of European origin. Also about 20% are the population Arab Muslims.

    My experience of Israel - where I had immigrated for several months in the past, is that it has some of the more civilized people in the world, and the least civilized people in the world.
    And it is the Arabs and Middle Eastern Jews, which are the uncivilized component (at least from my European perspective). That doesn't mean there's not rude peasants as well, and from all over the Soviet Union. But in general their culture becomes a modern, secular culture, with a lot of social capital (people helping each other out)

    I begin to suspect that you have never been to Israel or if you did you do not know Hebrew so you have no idea what transpires during person to person interactions there. Internet is full of articles about Israelis impoliteness and how rude they can be in Israel as well as tourists. Many articles try to whitewash it though never deny the facts like you it your Pollyannish descriptions. You are not a reliable narrator. I do not think your soft version of hasbara is professional because you sound so naive like being smitten or in love: my-girlfriend-shit-does-not-stink infatuation phase. Possibly it is the earnestness of a neophyte like a young Russian who discovered his Jewish roots and tries to be more Catholic than the Pope. If this is the case, believe me, it won’t last.

    Here is a sample:

    In Defense of Israeli “Rudeness”

    http://www.amotherinisrael.com/defense-israeli-rudeness

    ‘Ugly Israeli’ goes viral

    https://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2015/04/ugly-israeli-rude-agressive-citizens-phenomenon.html

    Are Israelis Rude? Learning Not To Be Polite In Israel

    http://therayve.blogspot.com/2010/09/are-israelis-rude-learning-not-to-be.html

    The Problem With Israeli Travelers

    https://www.haaretz.com/jewish/1.5212611

    Why Israelis Make the Worst Tourists

    https://www.haaretz.com/opinion/.premium-why-israelis-make-the-worst-tourists-1.5341538

    Are Israelis Rude?

    http://mostlykosher.blogspot.com/2011/08/are-israelis-rude.html

    Read More
    • Replies: @Dmitry
    I have Israeli citizenship and funniy I am in Israel right now this week (this minute, I am writing this post to you, in Israel). Also I've been here dozens of times, have lived here for months before, and have a lot of friends here. I do not work or live here most of the time - I work in Western Europe this year, and I also live in Russia. I have little interest in Judaism or religion.

    As for your posts.

    It's a bunch of American links about rudeness. And you were telling me about not knowing Hebrew (I am talented at languages, and speak intermediate Hebrew). I don't read American nonsense about countries where I have lived.

    This is the comedy of the internet - I'm talking to some guy who knows nothing about the subject, as someone who knows about the subject. And this guy is telling me he knows more than me? Lol.

    I'm talking about how friendly and helpful the Israelis are (they are easily one of the most helpful people in the world).

    The bad customer service in Israel, I only have experienced from Arab and Arab Jews.

    The issue of 'rudeness' is something different.

    The Israelis don't have an American or Western concept of politeness. They do a lot of things in a different way. Like sitting in the pavement, or turning up late to meetings, and not dressing in smart clothes.

    But if you talk about helpful and friendly - it is a country with a lot more social capital than America or Russia. Probably only comparable to this social capital is Western European countries.

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  109. @Anonymous
    Carbonara is not that common in the US, as it's originally a Roman dish. Where it does exist, it tends to be served in the traditional style with just bacon and egg. Italian food in the US is mainly Italian-American food, which is an Americanized Southern Italian style. A classic Italian dish in America is something like spaghetti and meatballs, which is not a dish in Italy:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spaghetti_and_meatballs

    Northern Italian food is not common in the US.

    It’s very common in Hungary, and usually way worse than the original. The spaghetti and meatballs also exists in Hungary as an “Italian” dish.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Anonymous
    Does that dish come from American influence? Or did it develop independently in Hungary? If it does come from the US, that's interesting given that Italy is much closer geographically. You'd think there'd just be genuine Italian dishes rather than Italian American ones.
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  110. @Anonymous
    French food is world class and universally it is respected as so. You must have had bad French food which is understandable as the French have become lazy ie McDonald's is now popular there.

    Russian food is surprisingly good. Even though it is bland, I could happily eat the food regularly.

    Indian food is great, but extremely inconsistent. I find it hard to find a good restaurant actually.

    I find it interesting that all Asian food, even Cambodian, is great!

    But what most interests me is who has the worst food. The British and Jews have by far the worst cuisine. Those populations always saw cooking as beneath them and would always rather import others who could cook than learn to do it themselves.

    I would say the Czech Republic. I spent a week and a bit there and was very underwhelmed by the food. Fried cheese? Dumplings? There was a heavy emphasis on stodgy potatoes. Mostly the food seemed to be an afterthought and mealtimes a justification to down beer. In Germany by contrast, the bread was consistently amazing such that I cannot abide mediocre baking any more.

    Read More
    • Replies: @AP
    Interesting, because the food in Krakow was incredible (except for the one time I tried a Jewish restaurant in the old Jewish quarter).
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  111. @g2k
    I seem to comment on all of these types of threads with pretty much the same ponits. Georgians tend to oversell the boring aspects of their cuisine (khinkhali and khatchapuri) and undersell the more interesting. At its best, Georgian cuisine is as spicy as Indian, but with herbs and spices unique to that area, and without the booze and pork prohibitions: More exotic to a brit used to uk-pastiche curry. Chakapuli, Chakhokhbili, Chanakh, Tabaka, , satsivi, schpinat c orekham, badrijan, adjpasandali etc. are good. Their shashlyk is worse than the Armenians' though.

    Personally I quite like khachapuri when made with sourdough bread. The best lunch wrap made here is by a local Georgian vendor, a chicken thigh wrap marinated in adjika and bazhe sauce.

    Iranian and Afghan food is probably better suited to European palettes than spicy Indian food. Food is seasoned with saffron, salt and peppers not chilis and the lack of spice means the flavours are not overpowered.

    Read More
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  112. Dmitry says:
    @utu
    I begin to suspect that you have never been to Israel or if you did you do not know Hebrew so you have no idea what transpires during person to person interactions there. Internet is full of articles about Israelis impoliteness and how rude they can be in Israel as well as tourists. Many articles try to whitewash it though never deny the facts like you it your Pollyannish descriptions. You are not a reliable narrator. I do not think your soft version of hasbara is professional because you sound so naive like being smitten or in love: my-girlfriend-shit-does-not-stink infatuation phase. Possibly it is the earnestness of a neophyte like a young Russian who discovered his Jewish roots and tries to be more Catholic than the Pope. If this is the case, believe me, it won't last.

    Here is a sample:

    In Defense of Israeli “Rudeness”
    http://www.amotherinisrael.com/defense-israeli-rudeness

    'Ugly Israeli' goes viral
    https://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2015/04/ugly-israeli-rude-agressive-citizens-phenomenon.html

    Are Israelis Rude? Learning Not To Be Polite In Israel
    http://therayve.blogspot.com/2010/09/are-israelis-rude-learning-not-to-be.html

    The Problem With Israeli Travelers
    https://www.haaretz.com/jewish/1.5212611

    Why Israelis Make the Worst Tourists
    https://www.haaretz.com/opinion/.premium-why-israelis-make-the-worst-tourists-1.5341538

    Are Israelis Rude?
    http://mostlykosher.blogspot.com/2011/08/are-israelis-rude.html

    I have Israeli citizenship and funniy I am in Israel right now this week (this minute, I am writing this post to you, in Israel). Also I’ve been here dozens of times, have lived here for months before, and have a lot of friends here. I do not work or live here most of the time – I work in Western Europe this year, and I also live in Russia. I have little interest in Judaism or religion.

    As for your posts.

    It’s a bunch of American links about rudeness. And you were telling me about not knowing Hebrew (I am talented at languages, and speak intermediate Hebrew). I don’t read American nonsense about countries where I have lived.

    This is the comedy of the internet – I’m talking to some guy who knows nothing about the subject, as someone who knows about the subject. And this guy is telling me he knows more than me? Lol.

    I’m talking about how friendly and helpful the Israelis are (they are easily one of the most helpful people in the world).

    The bad customer service in Israel, I only have experienced from Arab and Arab Jews.

    The issue of ‘rudeness’ is something different.

    The Israelis don’t have an American or Western concept of politeness. They do a lot of things in a different way. Like sitting in the pavement, or turning up late to meetings, and not dressing in smart clothes.

    But if you talk about helpful and friendly – it is a country with a lot more social capital than America or Russia. Probably only comparable to this social capital is Western European countries.

    Read More
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  113. AP says:
    @Ali Choudhury
    I would say the Czech Republic. I spent a week and a bit there and was very underwhelmed by the food. Fried cheese? Dumplings? There was a heavy emphasis on stodgy potatoes. Mostly the food seemed to be an afterthought and mealtimes a justification to down beer. In Germany by contrast, the bread was consistently amazing such that I cannot abide mediocre baking any more.

    Interesting, because the food in Krakow was incredible (except for the one time I tried a Jewish restaurant in the old Jewish quarter).

    Read More
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  114. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:
    @reiner Tor
    It’s very common in Hungary, and usually way worse than the original. The spaghetti and meatballs also exists in Hungary as an “Italian” dish.

    Does that dish come from American influence? Or did it develop independently in Hungary? If it does come from the US, that’s interesting given that Italy is much closer geographically. You’d think there’d just be genuine Italian dishes rather than Italian American ones.

    Read More
    • Replies: @reiner Tor
    It comes from the USA, obviously. There are no Italian immigrants in Hungary, so the people opening Italian style restaurants like pizzerias were Hungarian. They just copied the thing from wherever they found examples of Italian eateries. This included American chains like Pizza Hut. Yes, Pizza Hut is selling pizza and pasta in Hungary, and has been doing so since the early 1990s, shaping people’s perception of Italian food. (Well, by 2018 everyone has figured out that it’s just American crap, but it was different in the 1990s.)
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc. More... This Commenter This Thread Hide Thread Display All Comments
  115. @Anonymous
    Does that dish come from American influence? Or did it develop independently in Hungary? If it does come from the US, that's interesting given that Italy is much closer geographically. You'd think there'd just be genuine Italian dishes rather than Italian American ones.

    It comes from the USA, obviously. There are no Italian immigrants in Hungary, so the people opening Italian style restaurants like pizzerias were Hungarian. They just copied the thing from wherever they found examples of Italian eateries. This included American chains like Pizza Hut. Yes, Pizza Hut is selling pizza and pasta in Hungary, and has been doing so since the early 1990s, shaping people’s perception of Italian food. (Well, by 2018 everyone has figured out that it’s just American crap, but it was different in the 1990s.)

    Read More
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