#56 | Shoot To Kill (and Eat)

The black art of blackberry-making


It’s late September and we saved our favorite blackberry poem for last:


I love to go out in late September
among the fat, overripe, icy, black blackberries
to eat blackberries for breakfast,
the stalks very prickly, a penalty
they earn for knowing the black art
of blackberry-making; and as I stand among them
lifting the stalks to my mouth, the ripest berries
fall almost unbidden to my tongue,
as words sometimes do, certain peculiar words
like strengths and squinched,
many-lettered, one-syllabled lumps,
which I squeeze, squinch open, and splurge well
in the silent, startled, icy, black language
of blackberry-eating in late September.

"Blackberry Eating" from Mortal Acts, Mortal Words by Galway Kinnell.

By the way, I'm Bruce Cole, Publisher of Edible San Francisco. Welcome to all the new subscribers this week! But if you'd like to hop off anytime, simply unsubscribe. I appreciate you reading (and sharing) this newsletter.

Here we go.

Shoot To Kill: We’ve been finding it increasingly difficult to buy meat these days, but it’s not that we don’t want to eat it; there’s just a disconcerting disconnect. Tamar Haspel reminds us that “Our food supply distances us from all the things that have to happen for beef — or pork or chicken — to be what’s for dinner. We would prefer not to know the animal, and how it lived and died. It’s much easier to buy the burger, or the pork chop, or the chicken nugget, once all that work has been done by someone else, and the little cubes, unrecognizable as animals, are lined up in the nice clean display case.” We did grab a rib-eye at Bi-Rite today, but that’s a reflex move. Would you be eating meat if you were raising a cow for food in your backyard? Could you pull the trigger, literally putting a gun to its head, when the time came to harvest it for food? Haspel’s solution, dust off the old Remington: “Think about getting your hunting license. Venison is the most eco-friendly food on the planet — if you hunt the deer yourself. Our world could be the better for it.” The Washington Post

Shoot to Kill, Part Two: We’re all in on the hunting, easier said than done though. But here’s a well-reasoned argument (be sure to read the entire caption) for eating what you shoot. Graphic photo: Brian Call on hunting bear for food.

Shoot to Kill, Part Three: By harvesting your own meat, whether it’s a cow or a bear, you’re blessed with a substantial amount of precious (cooking) fat. As further evidence of how our “food supply distances us from all the things,” you rarely see beef tallow (fat) in the butcher case. Too bad because it makes the best french fries (McDonald’s famous fries were originally cooked in beef tallow). And did you know that whipped tallow was the ingredient (lard too) that made up the middle of an Oreo for years? Bear fat, in particular, was used for centuries for cooking, well before the modern industrialized food system introduced us to butter and vegetable oils. Or as cookbook author and hunter Hank Shaw, who makes his buttermilk biscuits with bear fat, notes: “Bear fat was once the Swiss army knife of North America.” Atlas Obscura

In Search Of The Perfect Veg Burger: Mark Bittman with an update on his Burgerville initiative with recipes for the best vegan and vegetarian patties. Bittman Project

The Alt-Meat Mirage: Lab-grown meat companies are still raking in millions of dollars in investments, but “extensive new research suggests the industry may be on a billion-dollar crash course with reality.” The Counter

One Giant Leap: “Is Lab Meat About to Hit Your Dinner Plate? Splashy headlines suggest it might be. But experts say it’s still a “moonshot” away.” Be sure to check out the chart that shows 15 years of claims about when lab meat will hit the marketplace. Hint: still waiting. Mother Jones

Re, Ezra Klein’s Faceplant: “Let’s Launch a Moonshot for Meatless Meat.” The New York Times

Cooking At Full Blast: We’ve gotten take-out a few times from Mamahuhu on Clement and at first bite, we noticed the distinctive wok hei flavor of the dishes. You don’t usually get that sensation with take-out. The Mamahuhu menu is chef Brandon Jiu’s (of Mister Jiu’s) tribute to classic American-Chinese dishes like Sweet and Sour Chicken, Kung Pao Chicken, and Broccoli and Beef, and they are executed to perfection. Wok hei, as explained by Kenji Lopez-Alt in his trademark meticulous detail, comes “from a combination of polymers and oil breaking down within the skillet, and from microscopic droplets of fat vaporizing as you toss food up and over the edge of a wok into the hot column of air created by the intense burner below.” In other words, it’s that savory, smoky flavor that you can’t replicate on a home stove because Chinese restaurant wok stations are blasting a torch-like flame around 100K BTUs while your kitchen stovetop is spitting out a measly 15K. May as well be cooking with a cigarette lighter when you compare it to the wok stove because there’s no chance you’ll be able to vaporize those microscopic droplets of fat with such a wimpy heat source. To make it even harder for home cooks to achieve wok hei, the majority of stir fry recipes call for putting too much food in the wok, which lowers the heat of the pan even more and you end up with a mushy stir fry anyway. But there’s a new toy in town that looks like it’ll get home cooks closer to the elusive wok hei, the Wokmon, a stovetop wok rack that funnels all of the flames from the burner into a central column, replicating the way a wok station works. Check out the video here.

Everybody Got Choices (yeah, yeah, yeah): “The book itself came out of this youthful intuition that something as personal as food—that we make every day, that is essential to life itself, that connects us with each other and the Earth—had a special power. We don’t buy a computer every day or decorate our homes. But we do choose food multiple times a day, and so we have to think about it. What are the ripple effects of my choices?” Frances Moore Lappé on the 50th anniversary of Diet for a Small Planet for Civil Eats

Pull Up A Stool: “For the North American non-alcoholic-beer drinker, who was until recently shut out of the craft-beer revolution of the past twenty years, these are hoppy times.The New Yorker

Define Despicable: Most restaurant hosts are young women with little or no experience in navigating the demands of increasingly belligerent diners. “I have been screamed at. I have had fingers in my face. I have been called names. I have had something thrown at me.” Caroline Young, a host at Café Poêtes in Houston. “Our manager bought us this air horn to keep at the hostess stand in case somebody does get disruptive or too violent,” said Michelle Chan, 22, a host at a Manhattan location of the Grey Dog in The New York Times

The City That Knows How: El Farolito can't open taqueria in North Beach under chain ban, city says. SF Chronicle

🎧 Listen: New podcast from Ruth Rogers of The River Cafe in London. Guests to include Michael Caine, Glenn Close, JJ Abrams, Steve McQueen, Victoria and David Beckham, and Lily Allen. But first up is actor Jake Gyllenhaal.


Cake Nightmares:

That’s all for this week.

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Have you listened to our September playlist yet? Includes some vintage Tony Bennett, because we could always use a shot of that sweetness.


We’re outta here. Be well and take care,

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