Friday, September 14, 2012

Hot Links

Researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology have completed the reconstruction of the Denisovan genome. It still blows me away that the entire collection of physical remains of this group of ancient humans (as different from modern humans and Neanderthals as they are from each other) consists of one finger bone fragment.

Underwater archaeologists have located the wreck of the USS Hatteras off the Texas coast. The USS Hatteras was a Union gunboat sunk in a Civil War sea battle in 1863.

A few years ago, I posted about grits, a staple of Southern cuisine that was finally getting well-deserved attention in the foodie world. This week the NY Times tells us buttermilk, another Southern staple, is finally getting its due.

Last month, Steve posted about ancient Central Asian tattoo designs. This week I just saw this article about the excavation of the tomb of a Siberian "princess" buried in 500 BC. Her body and grave goods were preserved by burial in permafrost, and several tattoos are still visible on her skin.


Anonymous said...

Grits have been a STAPLE for me all my life. I am always amazed at the disdain most non-Southerners(U. S.) have for them. They will pay exorbitant prices for polenta(which is basically just grits-in-a-tube!), and gag at the mere mention of true grits! Not only is it a GREAT, healthy, low fat(depending on how you season them, of course) carbohysdrate/energy source, they are INCREDIBLY cheap! I guess I should be thankful they haven't become a "trendy" food like polenta! My FAVORITE way to make them is to just prepare them as instructed(I use plain "quick grits" mostly--the instant are chock full of carcinogenic preservatives, usually....) with a bit of salt(I am one of those few people that don't tend to get ENOUGH salt in my diet--but that can be dispensed with, if so desired, with this recipe), and heat up a half-a-can of 100% pureed PUMPKIN, and mix it in the cooked grits, until uniformly orange!. Simple, cheap, and nutritious! You get an orange vegetable along with your good carbs--the pumpkin makes the grits especially creamy and sweet. I don't know of anyone else that does this(I came up with it experimenting around one day), but I wouldn't be a bit suprised if ancestral Southeastern American Indians had some sort of corn/pumpkin combo dish like this, that has just been lost over time. Try it, you'll like it!....L.B.

Steve Bodio said...

Thanks Lane-- agree with all about grits but still,though I know it is true, can hardly get my brain around polenta as trendy or expensive-- and what is this TUBE??

That peasant staple of my youth was a cheaper, less fancy alternative to that other now- elevated basic dish , risotto ("risott") about which more later. All we ever did to make it was trickle basic coarse old fashioned corn meal from a box into boiling water or better stock, stirring constantly until it got thick it into a pan or onto a board to set up for a few minutes and serve-- thicker grits for Alpine hillbillies.

The REALLY hard core version, made by my Italian born grandmother, was topped by a rich dark sauce made from little birds, usually sparrows caught in the chicken coop: "dirty polenta". I doubt my grandparents would have understood the CONCEPT of

Corn meal in some form is poor folks' food everywhere-- I once ate a cornmeal mush just like grits or polenta in a village in Zimbabwe, topped with goat stew seasoned with hot pepper sauce.

Anonymous said...

Yes! Grits in South Africa is called "posho" I believe!...And maybe polenta didn't USED to be "trendy" or expensive, or maybe it isn't where you are, but dang, it's EXPENSIVE in any store around where I live! And always in the "gourmet" or deli sections(where everything tends to be higher priced!)! Or maybe MY perception of "expensive" is on a lower peasant-level than yours! And regarding the "tube"(UK readers please don't get confused)--the polenta I've seen(and bought oncet, until I discovered it wuz jist fancy-fied grits) was packaged in a long, clear, plastic tube--like a grits "sausage"! Maybe I'm just polenta-ignorant, and it comes in various shapes/packages--the polenta "tube" is the only way I've seen it!.....L.B.

Steve Bodio said...

Lane (I may have to make this a post): BUYING polenta is-- or may be-- expensive; I have no idea. Because (listen) POLENTA IS NOT A SUBSTANCE; IT IS A METHOD.

Go to the store and get one of those big cylindrical cardboard containers of Quaker medium corn meal.

Set a pot of salted water to boiling or better good stock- just think grits for analogy.
Trickle-- I mean, TRICKLE-- the meal in. stirring. To make it right is labor intensive for a bit. Do not go fast.

Just keep stirring, until eventually it thickens. The family rule is to stir and keep adding meal until it begins to stiffen a bit and pull away from the sides of the pot (I ALWAYS use a wooden spoon). By then it will also begin to "hold" the hole where the spoon is.

Now if you want to be Grandma authentic, stir a bit more and thenturn it out on a bread cutting board, and flatten with spoon or wooden paddle into a sort of cake or loaf about--?-- 1 1/2 or 2 inches thick and let it cool a bit; then cut into soft wedges & serve with whatever sauce on top.

REALLY authentic? Cut it using an 18" piece of string instead of a knife (it sticks to knives if right texture) and use a sauce of songbirds or even put spit roasted sparrows on top.

Infinitely improvable with good stock, pepper, grated cheese -- I am Italian enought to like Parmesan but good ones can be expensive-- but really any cheese-- JUST LIKE GRITS.

Can be refrigerated and fried in butter next day.

Cheap enough?

You don't need arborio rice for risott' either-- just medium or short grain...

Anonymous said...

NO WONDER Polenta is expensive-when-bought! Very interesting, but I AM NOT one for complicated, time-consuming recipes! Mass quantities prepared quickly and cheaply--that's my M O! All this pertikyuler carrying on regarding cooking I just DON'T git--if that damn chef Ramsey guy(on T. V.) EVER yelled at me for one of my dishes, I'd feel obligated to teach him some manners!

Steve Bodio said...

Time consuming yes, compared to boiling an egg. But complicated? You pour common corn meal in a pot and stir it!(;-))

I think it is expensive because of marketing pure and simple. If they called it Italian cornmeal mush nobody would buy it.

Agree 100% re Ramsay BTW. And I LIKE cooking.

Anonymous said...

"Time consuming" and "complicated" are the same things to me! Except for maybe napping. Or reading, IF the book isn't too complicated.....And WHAT IS THE DEAL with that chef Ramsey guy? I've never actually watched an entire episode of any of his shows(too infuriating!)--just got glimpses channel surfing--but that sucker is on T. V. about every frikkin' night! Is he REALLY that popular? If he had a dog training show, and yelled at the dogs the way he does people, he'd be CANCELED in a heartbeat! Yet it seems to be okay in most peoples' minds to treat other humans like crap--a sad commentary on our present society(and what it regards as "entertainment".) It would be most appropo, I think, for him to end up in a New Guinea cannibals' cooking pot, one day--although he'd probably be belittling and screaming at the natives for improper technique as long as he was conscious....L.B.