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Archive for November 24th, 2021

10 more cooking skills: Mike of Pro Home Cooks tells us what he wishes he had known

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Although he’s making a meat dish to showcase the 10 things he wishes he had known, the lessons learned in general can be applied directly to whole-food plant-based cookery. 

And a sequel:

Written by Leisureguy

24 November 2021 at 5:47 pm

10 small changes that will dramatically improve your cooking

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I concur with the tips in this video, and over the years I’ve gradually incorporated many of them, but it’s nice to have them collected and to serve as a good reminder. Her point on salt is well taken: if you don’t eat bread, cheese, cured meats, highly processed foods (potato chips, frozen dinners, and manufactured foods like, say, Cheez Whiz), or restaurant or fast-food meals, but instead do your own cooking using whole foods that are plant based, you probably have good control of your sodium intake and can use modest amounts of salt in cooking with no worries. (Chicken and other meats are often injected with saline solution to increase moistness and also profits: selling brine at meat prices is very profitable.) I have used Diamond Crystal kosher salt for years. (Morton’s kosher salt is in little pellets and is terrible to use.) Lately, I’ve been using grey sea salt for the mineral content (Diamond Crystal is pure sodium chloride). It’s somewhat more expensive, but then I don’t use all that much salt.

Anyway, she has some good tips.

Written by Leisureguy

24 November 2021 at 12:54 pm

The Odor of Things: Solving the mysteries of scent

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Scott Sayare writes in Harper’s:

Like many of the great perfumers, Jean Carles was a son of Grasse, a country town in the hills north of Cannes, on the French Riviera. Grasse, once a state unto itself, sits in a natural amphitheater of south-facing limestone cliffs, at the head of a valley of meadows sloping gently to the sea. The combined effect of this geography and the dulcet Mediterranean climate is a harvest of roses, jasmine, and bitter-orange blossoms that is exceptionally fragrant, and for hundreds of years the town has been known as the capital of the perfume trade. When Carles began his training, early in the twentieth century, a priesthood of Grassois perfumers presided over the industry. These so-called nez, or noses, were regarded with an awe of the sort that attaches, perhaps especially in France, to artistic genius. They were vessels of divine talent, their creations as wondrously perfect as the flowers of Grasse.

Would-be nez were initiated through an apprenticeship of several years, during which the secrets of the perfumer’s method were carefully revealed. The language of perfume is borrowed largely from music. Perfumers are said to “compose” their fragrances, merging individual “notes” into sonorous “accords” and arranging those accords in “harmony.” As his training progressed, Carles came to realize with some dismay that, for all its pretensions to art, perfumery proceeded almost entirely by trial and error. The noses selected ingredients by little more than instinct, and dosed them nearly at random. Perfumers worked, Carles later wrote scathingly, “in haphazard fashion, in the expectation of a potential miracle.” Many of the best formulas had been discovered “almost by chance,” he reported, “to the unfeigned surprise of their authors.” He set out to systematize perfumery, to establish a comprehensive theory of fragrance creation.

Carles proposed to arrange the scent realm in an orderly grid. He began by decreeing the existence of two dozen categories: citrus, agrestic, minty, woody, jasminic, musky, animalic, and so on. He then sorted the scents of each group according to their behavior over time. The most volatile, those that were first to hit the nose but also first to vanish, he designated top notes; those of middling volatility and duration were the modifiers, or heart notes; those that were last to reveal themselves in full but longest to endure he called base notes.

He invented perfumes from the bottom up, like pyramids. For each level, he selected a harmonious accord of scent categories, then searched each category for appropriate ingredients. It was a simple method, but far more of a method than perfumery had ever known, and it seemed to be extremely effective. In the Forties, Carles created Ma Griffe and Miss Dior, two green-floral chypres that remain among the world’s most celebrated fragrances. It is widely believed that, by that time, Carles had lost his sense of smell. The perfumes were works of memory and imagination, guided by the system he’d devised.

One version or another of the Carles method is now the standard curriculum for trainee perfumers, and the approach is treated with some of the same awe once reserved for the mystical anti-method it replaced. Carles, the un-smelling master, is likened to Beethoven gone deaf. Yet in the end, he was guessing just like everyone else. Natural as they may have seemed, his categories were basically arbitrary; he had invented them to match the auras as he knew them, not any underlying truths about the nature of scent. His taxonomy could not say what formulas would actually smell good, or why. At best, it could help to organize the process of trial and error that would inevitably precede the discovery of one that did. If Carles was able to compose perfumes without the use of his nose, it was because, before it gave out on him, he had run years and years of experiments, and remembered the results.

Carles’s advice for perfumers was not less experimentation, but more. He urged them to dose ingredients at two, three, even ten times the levels that seemed reasonable, and then take a whiff. “One should never believe, before actually experimenting, that a formulation contains an excess of a given product,” he said. “Such ‘faults’ have quite often been responsible for tremendous commercial success.” The world’s best-known perfume, Chanel No. 5, was said to be an accident of this sort, its famously bright and soapy aspect the result of an assistant’s massive dosing error. That formula was conceived in 1920. At the time, the only reliable way to know how a novel mixture would smell was to prepare it and put it under your nose. Methodologically speaking, almost nothing has changed since.

We tend to experience the olfactory realm as a shapeless suffusion, forever shifting, eluding description the way fog eludes the grasp of one’s hand. Smell does not produce objects in our minds so much as auras, but these can be the most vivid of our sensory experiences. Smell is the sense most deeply entangled with memory and emotion. It functions as a kind of psychic mortar, binding together all the richness of past experience, such that a familiar scent can instantly overwhelm us with remembrance and feeling. And yet we strain to describe even the simplest odors; we retreat into simile and metaphor, or cadge the terminology of other senses, or designate smells, rather prosaically, by their source. The scent of a rose is “soft,” or “rosy,” or perhaps “evocative of decorous passion,” but none of these descriptions would let you imagine it if you didn’t know it already. Nor does smell lend itself to quantification. Sound and light fall along well-defined spectra of wavelength and frequency, but we have no such scale for odor, no metric by which to relate the aroma of cinnamon, say, to that of burnt rubber, or that of old books.

Nor can we say with certainty why anything smells the way it does. Lucretius, the Epicurean polymath, believed that odor was a function of geometry. “You cannot suppose that atoms of the same shape are entering our nostrils when stinking corpses are roasting,” he wrote, “as when the stage is freshly sprinkled with saffron of Cilicia and a nearby altar exhales the perfumes of the Orient.” A number of alternative theories have since been advanced. Some have imagined odors as chemical reactions between the nose and the molecules that enter it. According to “vibrational” theories, a molecule’s scent depends upon its infrared or ultraviolet emissions. Shape-based theories are still the most prevalent, though, and Lucretius is thought to have been basically right, apart from the correlation he imagined between harmoniousness of form and loveliness of smell. The scent of a rose is the combined effect of about 260 volatile compounds, some as jagged as the flower’s thorns.

If shape does indeed account for smell, however, we are far from knowing exactly how. Molecules of widely divergent structure can smell nearly identical. Muscone and Helvetolide, for instance, both smell of musk, but one is shaped like a ring, the other a kinked chain. Conversely, molecules of nearly identical structure produce odors that are completely distinct. The compound L-carvone smells of spearmint, while its mirror image, D-carvone, smells of caraway seed. Certain substances have unrelated smells at different concentrations. Gamma-undecalactone generally smells fatty and aversive. Heavily diluted, it smells of ripened peach.

We speak of scent as if it were a property intrinsic to a given substance, but odor is not simply “out there.” It is a co-creation of the nose. At the very top of the nasal cavity, up between the eyes, sits mucosal tissue known as the olfactory epithelium. It is dense with neurons, and embedded in these neurons are proteins known as odorant receptors. Odorant receptors bind the volatile compounds we inhale, converting them into electric signals that will, eventually, register in our consciousness as smell. The nature of these receptors—how many kinds there are, which molecules they respond to—is central to our experience of scent. It is also, for the most part, a mystery.

Throughout the twentieth century, the leading hypotheses about odorant receptors were  . . .

Continue reading. There’s more.

Inexplicably, the article does not mention Chandler Burr’s book The Emperor of Scent, about Luca Turin, whose theory of scent involved quantum responses to the molecules that carry the scent. It’s a book worth reading (and very enjoyable). The link is to inexpensive secondhand copies.

Written by Leisureguy

24 November 2021 at 12:17 pm

Thought Control and the Psychology of Totalism

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David Troy points out a program of indoctrination and enforcement that resembles what we now observe in some parts of modern American society. He points to this from a Wikipedia article:

In the book, Lifton outlines the “Eight Criteria for Thought Reform”:

  1. Milieu Control. This involves the control of information and communication both within the environment and, ultimately, within the individual, resulting in a significant degree of isolation from society at large.
  2. Mystical Manipulation. The manipulation of experiences that appears spontaneous but is, in fact, planned and orchestrated by the group or its leaders to demonstrate divine authority, spiritual advancement, or some exceptional talent or insight that sets the leader and/or group apart from humanity, and that allows a reinterpretation of historical events, scripture, and other experiences. Coincidences and happenstance oddities are interpreted as omens or prophecies.
  3. Demand for Purity. The world is viewed as black and white and the members are constantly exhorted to conform to the ideology of the group and strive for perfection. The induction of guilt and/or shame is a powerful control device used here.
  4. Confession. Sins, as defined by the group, are to be confessed either to a personal monitor or publicly to the group. There is no confidentiality; members’ “sins,” “attitudes,” and “faults” are discussed and exploited by the leaders.
  5. Sacred Science. The group’s doctrine or ideology is considered to be the ultimate Truth, beyond all questioning or dispute. Truth is not to be found outside the group. The leader, as the spokesperson for God or all humanity, is likewise above criticism.
  6. Loading the Language. The group interprets or uses words and phrases in new ways so that often the outside world does not understand. This jargon consists of thought-terminating clichés, which serve to alter members’ thought processes to conform to the group’s way of thinking.
  7. Doctrine over person. Members’ personal experiences are subordinated to the sacred science and any contrary experiences must be denied or reinterpreted to fit the ideology of the group.
  8. Dispensing of existence. The group has the prerogative to decide who has the right to exist and who does not. This is usually not literal but means that those in the outside world are not saved, unenlightened, unconscious, and must be converted to the group’s ideology. If they do not join the group or are critical of the group, then they must be rejected by the members. Thus, the outside world loses all credibility. In conjunction, should any member leave the group, he or she must be rejected also.[3]

That entry includes a reference to an entry on Thought-Terminating Clichés, which includes examples (that, unfortunately, are all too familiar):

  • “That’s just your opinion.” – Implying all opinions are of equal value, suggesting that you shouldn’t try to push your “opinion” on other people, but this is false when talking about factual matters.[10]
  • “It is what it is.” – Adds no value to any debate; it intends to disengage. “Why is it so?”[2]
  • “Lies of the devil.” – Used as a response to any fact that threatens the integrity of an individual/group.[11]
  • “Stop thinking so much.” – Redirects attention from the topic, idea, or argument at hand to the alleged overuse of thought itself.[12]
  • “It’s all good.” – Nullifies, without evidence, any possible debate by asserting the issue is already settled.[13]
  • “Here we go again.” – Implies that the redundant, cyclical nature of a given disagreement means it will never be resolved.[14]
  • “You are too negative.” or “You can never admit you’re wrong.” In both of these cases, either one agrees, in which case one is discredited for being too negative or unreliable, or one disagrees, thereby illustrating the very point one is trying to deny. This is a subtle form of a complex question, as the very act of replying assumes an implicit argument.[15]
  • “Now is not the time.” – Used to indefinitely postpone discussion instead of directly stating that the subject should not be discussed.[16][17]
  • “So what, what effects do my actions have?” – Used to dismiss an individual’s involvement in a larger cause on the grounds that one person is too insignificant to ever have a meaningful impact.[4]
  • “Let’s agree to disagree” – Used to cease discussion, often when it may become too emotive.[18]

The example “You are too negative” or “You can never admit you’re wrong” is akin to the accusation “You’re being defensive,” lobbed at someone who is not, in fact, being defensive, but simply stating a position with which the accuser disagrees. If the person responds to the accusation in any way, the accuser says, “See — there you go,” and thus avoids address the person’s argument or position.

I see a lot of this nowadays in the Republican party. For example, Milieu Control requires that adherents pay attention only to Fox News and dismiss any reports from CNN, the NY Times, the Washington Post, the Atlantic, or what is (contemptuously) referred to as the “lamestream media.”

The Demand for Purity is in full display in Congress, where Republicans who vote in favor of bills that help their constituents are being driven from the party because Democrats introduced the bills. Even conservative Republicans who don’t follow the Trump herd — Sen. Lisa Murkowski and Rep. Lynne Cheney, for example, who have decades of service to the Republican party and the conservative cause, are being primaried because they will not acknowledge Donald Trump as the True Leader and Final Arbiter. Purity of the Party demands that they go.

I fear for the future of the US.

Written by Leisureguy

24 November 2021 at 12:04 pm

Dr Selby and the Ascension

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I got that little Vie-Long from Bullgoose Shaving years ago. He gave it the name Bombito, and it’s a grand little brush, and Vie-Long says that it’s a boar brush, though the bristles seem quite fine for boar. I do let it soak before the shave, and this morning it made a wonderful lather from Dr Selby’s 3X Concentrated Shaving Cream, which in effect is just a very good soap with a lavender fragrance. As you see, the lid functions as a stand, and after Steve Riehle’s suggestion, I do the same now with all my shaving soaps: remove the lid, place it on the counter, and perch the tub on top of the lid. It keeps the footprint small and the bottom of the tub dry.

The Phoenix Artisan Ascension is a remarkably good razor, with a comb cap and guard, and in three comfortable passes my face was totally smooth.

A splash of La Toja After Shave Locion, with just a squirt of Hydrating Gel, and I’m ready for the day, which so far delivers no rain. That will come later this week. 

Written by Leisureguy

24 November 2021 at 10:13 am

Posted in Shaving

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