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I remember this!

McDonald’s fries used to be cooked in beef fat. And they were unbelievably delicious. Do you remember?

Here’s a long-form article about the search for the original recipe. And by “long form” I mean “you just might not be this interested in Mickey D’s so I’m going to give you an executive summary.”

In 1966, a man named Phil Sokolof had a heart attack and went on a crusade against animal fat. From the time he got out of the hospital until 1990, he spent $15 million of his own money shaming companies into dropping “unhealthy” fats in favor of “healthy” ones. It was all part of a broad national orgy of (dietary) fat shaming.

Fun fact: this is when Kentucky Fried Chicken became KFC, because “fried” was such a dirty word.

At the very end, he finally succeeded with McDonald’s. I remember it well, mostly because their cherry pies were also cooked in beef tallow and have never been edible since. Broke my heart. And yet, and yet.

Exchanging beef tallow for pure vegetable oil in high-temperature frying introduced consumers to a different and arguably worse dietary threat than saturated fats: trans fats, which, as we now know, are a major cause of cardiovascular disease, digestive issues, and weight gain. Despite the best intentions, Sokolof ultimately made a bad problem worse, one that McDonald’s has spent decades trying to fix.

Anyway, the article isn’t really about that. It’s about the search for the old fry recipe. This led the author to a series of elderly McDonald’s employees, online forums and eventually to a somewhat mysterious online pdf called McMenu: Do-It-Yourself McDonald’s Restaurant Recipes.

If you want the exact recipe (he thinks, with a fairly high degree of certainy), it’s at the bottom of the article. And if you really are into Mickey D’s, I recommend the whole read. But here’s the gist:

•Cut the potatoes into shoestrings and soak them in sugar water with a bit of Karo syrup(!) in the fridge for 30 minutes
•Fry them at 400° F in six cups of Crisco(!). Wonderful, magical, fully hydrogenated Crisco
•Let them cool in the fridge for ten minutes
•Add 1/4 cup beef tallow to the Crisco
•Bring it up to temp and fry another 5 minutes, until brown
•Toss with powdered salt

So that explains why the dripping flavor wasn’t overwhelming.

It’s hard to see how this process would work in a fast food setting, so I’m going to guess that the soaking and initial frying was done earlier and the fries were delivered to the restaurant part-cooked and chilled, where the final frying happened.

I’d try it myself, but I live in fear of deep fat frying. In my heart, I always knew the Fryolater was out to get me.

December 1, 2020 — 7:55 pm
Comments: 12

I couldn’t resist…

The lamb from yesterday’s adventure. There aren’t many speckled flocks around. Incidentally, the lambing starts in earnest in about three weeks. Spring is coming!

I had some elderly bananas hanging around, so I have just made banana bread. This is one of those American foods that confuses Brits. For one thing, it’s clearly a cake, not a bread. They have banana cake here, but it’s light and fluffy not heavy and dense. At least, all my banana bread recipes are heavy and dense. And very rich.

I think they’re just being polite when they compliment it. They’re embarrassed for me and my inability to bake a light cake. If I called it a ‘heavy banana loaf’ or something, I bet it would go over better.

They have a thing called Soreen, which is denser even than banana bread, so it’s not outside the realm of British foods. There’s even a banana flavored Soreen.

It’s all in the marketing.

I would like British bacon 100% more if they relinquished the holy name of bacon and called it ‘chewy pork slices’ instead.

March 4, 2020 — 8:15 pm
Comments: 13

Romaine calm; lettuce not panic

Iceberg lettuce shortage. We went to two different supermarkets today with no success.

I Googled it when I got home and, sure enough, there were half a dozen articles about the February shortages of vegetables, particularly iceberg lettuce, due to colder than average temperatures in Spain.

In February 1997 and 1998. As an enthusiastic consumer of iceberg lettuce, you’d think I’d remember shortages every February, but no.

Which is why you can sucker people into believing this year’s hurricanes, wild fires, rainy season or any other regular weather phenomenon are the ZOMG Worstest Ever. We don’t remember for shit.

So I got a nice crispy looking romaine.

February 17, 2020 — 9:23 pm
Comments: 7

And the wind went ‘woo!’

Yes, you are correct. That is four people dressed as playing cards plus banjos. Came across my feed this afternoon. It’s the Court Cards Concert Company, 1899, from a newspaper in Bexhill in Sussex.

As I’ve told you before, Britain is the land of nutty banjos.

I’m currently listening to the wind howl (we’re having the tail end of Brendan tonight) and marinating chicken strips in milk and brine.

I make really bad Southern fried chicken for a Southern girl. I tried my mother’s recipe once and it was disgusting. Not when Mother made it, when I did. She’d start it with very hot oil, then turn it down, then turn the pieces over and ramp the heat up again. When I did it, it soaked up all the grease and was squishy.

So I burned up the Internet looking for recipes. The current one: milk and brine overnight (I don’t have buttermilk, so I added lemon to whole milk), then flour, then back in the fridge for at least an hour, then shallow fry for six minutes a side. It calls for hot-cool-hot again, so I’m apprehensive it will be another oily, horrible mess.

Who cooks good crispy fried chicken?

January 13, 2020 — 8:55 pm
Comments: 22

Urg.

I ate half an underripe avocado at lunch and it has given me a belly ache. Meh.

Or maybe I just don’t do avocado. They do sometimes bother me. According to the Internet (of course I looked it up), I could have latex-fruit syndrome, which isn’t about eating fruit made of latex. Apparently, 40% of people with a latex allergy are also allergic to avocados.

Am I allergic to latex? I don’t think so, but I may be allergic to Brazil nuts, which are also part of the syndrome. I blowed up after eating them once. As I don’t like Brazil nuts, I haven’t tried the experiment since.

That same site says the best part of an avocado are the peels and seeds, so they crazy.

I nicked that picture from the Wikimedia Commons, which says I must attribute it (Liz West), link to the license (the Wikimedia page for it?) and say if I altered it. Yes I did. I made it black and white and rotated it.

Probably would have been easier to go into the kitchen and take a snapshot of the other half.

January 8, 2020 — 8:53 pm
Comments: 6

This is seriously an argument that rages

What goes first on a scone, the jam or the clotted cream? Honest to god, the arguments.

If you’ve not had clotted cream (I hadn’t before I moved here), it’s heavy cream that is cultured until it’s thick and gooey, with a yellow crust on top. It’s gorgeous. But it obviously has to go on first, because considerable force is used. If the jam went first, it would squish out everywhere.

I say first, but they also serve it with pat of butter, and that goes on FIRST first. Argument raging here.

Changing the subject, I stood chatting with someone outside my place of work today and something thumped off the back of my head. It was a glob of moss. Thrown by a pigeon.

Then he did it twice more.

I had a poke around the web and it seems lots of bird pluck moss off rooftiles, presumably to get at the delicious bugs underneath. I didn’t learn why a belligerent sky rat would fling them at people, but I did learn you can run a copper wire down the peak of the roof and rainwater makes a gentle trickle of moss-spore-killing copper sulphate.

Neat. Except I like mosses.

January 7, 2020 — 8:56 pm
Comments: 11

…and a lady in a chicken costume…

Specifically, Maude Adams, appearing as a rooster in the 1911 Broadway adaptation of Chantecler. Look at that costume! Look at the those feet! I want this. (O would I put the fear of God into Mo).

But that’s not what I want to talk about.

I want to talk about how the eco-nazis have done a hard pivot to veganism. Isn’t it stunning how they coordinate these things? It’s almost like they have some kind of list.

I was going to ask if they were droning on about it in the States in quite the same way, and then I remembered last night’s Golden Globe Awards dinner went vegan. All those private jets leading to all those idling private limousines were surely ecologically balanced by the lack of meat on the table.

(psst…if you haven’t seen Ricky Gervais deliver his savage opening monologue, it’s worth 8 minutes of your day).

How typical. Let’s concede meat is bad for the planet (I don’t, but let’s). If you harped on this loudly and longly enough, you could probably guilt people into cutting down. Maybe go for Meatless Monday — do it for the planet! It’s not a lot, but it’s achievable.

You might even get a few takers on vegetarianism. Maybe a few people who were already leaning that way could nudged over the line.

But full on veganism? Pushing that to all of Great Britain? Or the U.S.? That’s a big ask of a largely indifferent population. Ain’t nobody going to make that sacrifice just to appease the Swedish Doom Goblin.

So they’d rather make no improvement than improve less than the maximum. If that isn’t empty virtue signalling, I don’t know what is.

January 6, 2020 — 8:09 pm
Comments: 8

No sooner finish one turkey…

I put down a deposit on our Christmas turkey today. As soon as we take out a second mortgage, I can pay off the rest.

Going to be around £45 for the smallest turkey they offer (a ten pound bird), which is about $60 at today’s exchange rate. I was pissing and moaning about turkey being a cheap meat in the States, and Uncle B said I’d better ask around to see if it still is.

We hear rumors that things are getting expensive over there.

Bear in mind, this is a free range bird that probably had a name. What would you expect to pay for such in ‘Merica today?

December 5, 2019 — 9:33 pm
Comments: 21

Happy Thanksgiving, fellow Yanks!

Oh, yes. We observe Thanksgiving. And then some. We do it as a late night meal, though, so I’m just doing prep now.

Candied yams. Which the Internet tells me is almost certainly sweet potatoes. Apparently, the two plants aren’t even related. The more I look at pictures, though, the more confused I am as to what they sell here. Seeing as we’re closer to Africa (yam country) than South America (land of the sweet potato).

Sweet potato. I think.

Picture nicked from the North Carolina Sweet Potato website, which has many excellent recipes and other sweet potato facts. Please don’t hurt me, ncsweetpotatoes.com.

I’ve never understood why candied yams are a side dish and not part of the dessert course. Where I hail from, those suckers are sweet. Also, they taste so much like pumpkin, it’s kind of redundant if you’re having pumpkin pie.

Oh, and somebody once told me the canned pumpkin pie filling in the States is almost always really butternut squash. So much disillusion.

Happy, happy! I have tomorrow off and I hope you do, too!

November 28, 2019 — 7:51 pm
Comments: 10

Oh, and I can’t get this, either…

Pimento cheese. Fortunately, this one is super easy to fake.

When I first made this, I went out and bought a jar of pimientos. This was super expensive and, as it turned out, completely unnecessary. That’s right: the least important ingredient in pimento cheese is pimientos.

I get the same color (and flavor) from a big ol’ squeeze of Sriracha.

So it’s just cream cheese, mayo, shredded cheddar and Sriracha. And whatever else you want to fancy it up. Black pepper. Green olives. You shoulda seen Uncle B’s face when he walked in on me smashing this all up in a bowl today.

Oh, and another culinary note: if you order a chicken salad sandwich, you will get a chicken sandwich with a salad on it. Chunks of chicken with cucumbers and tomatoes. On buttered bread, as are all sandwiches. I have had to up my sandwich game to manage my homesickness.

Yeesh, food looks awful in black and white.

November 13, 2019 — 8:15 pm
Comments: 14