Originally created 02/26/97

Small portions - news and notes about food

Teatime tasting

Members of the Junior League of Augusta will be making dishes from their cookbooks Teatime at the Masters and Second-Round Teatime at the Masters from 1 to 5 p.m. Saturday, March 22, at Barnes & Noble bookstore, 1336 Augusta West Parkway. Visitors are invited to taste samples and try their own culinary skills.

ONE BRAN BURGER, EXTRA CHERRY: Low-fat beef has, let's say, juiciness and tenderness issues. To deal with them - and an issue that, as far as we know, nobody had raised: absence of dietary fiber - a butcher named Raymond Pleva has invented a form of ground sirloin that's 15 percent cherries and oat bran.

Well, there was another issue too; Mr. Pleva, of Cedar, Mich., is also a cherry grower. But his cherry-sirloin product, Plevalean (he has more than a dozen others, including a cherry pepperoni), has convinced a lot of people. It's authorized for the National School Lunch Program.

And you'll be seeing Mr. Pleva himself one day soon, if you haven't already. He's appeared on Oprah, with Jay Leno and on Good Morning America, Tim Allen of Home Improvement, a Michigander himself, sometimes has the show's cook serve the crew Plevalean.

THAW OUT, DUDE: Winter means ... pizza, say supermarkets around the country. It seems frozen pizza sales climb during the cold months, presumably because people aren't toasting weenies out in their backyards.

The winner of the 1996 Tabasco Community Cookbook Awards was Stop and Smell the Rosemary, published by the Junior League of Houston. Its most intriguing sounding recipes: Champagne Camembert Soup, Artichoke Cheesecake, the $10 Hamburger.

We know little about what French people ate in the early Middle Ages. The main source is a 6th century Greek doctor named Anthimus, who had been exiled from Constantinople to the court of Theodoric, the king of the tattered Western Roman Empire. Theodoric in turn sent Doc Anthimus as his ambassador to another barbarian ruler, a Frankish prince confusingly named Theuderic.

For Theuderic, Anthimus wrote a dietary manual in a sort of overripe colloquial Latin that was rapidly turning into Old French. Printed editions (including the latest, Anthimus: On the Observance of Foods, translated by Mark Grant, Prospect Books, 1996) always polish up his grammar and correct his spelling mistakes.

The book makes it clear that cooking had changed a lot since the days of the Caesars. Butter, which the Romans had despised as anything but a medicine or an athlete's rubdown, was a major food and cooking fat. He doesn't mention bitter spices the Romans admired, such as asafoetida and cumin, but he does call for some of the sweet spices, such as clove and ginger, that were to be so popular in the later Middle Ages.

He gave only a few recipes, but here's one: Simmer cooked beef an hour with vinegar, leeks, pennyroyal (a loud member of the mint family) and celery root or fennel root. Then add honey and cook until it reduces. Finally, season with cloves, the herbs costmary and spikenard and 50 peppercorns.

Proper hand-washing by food handlers could have prevented one-third of the outbreaks of food poisoning caused by the deadly bacteria E. coli 0157:H7, according to a recent study by researchers from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the New Jersey Department of Health.

The researchers studied 48 cases of this infection among New Jersey residents who were diagnosed in July 1994; 80 percent of them got sick within a week after eating hamburgers prepared at home.

Unlike the most famous outbreak, which was traced to undercooked hamburgers served at Jack-in-the-Box restaurants in four Western states in 1993, the illnesses described in the Jan. 27 article in the Archives of Internal Medicine were not attributable to a single source or cooking error.


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