dinsdag 29 april 2014

The Fromond List [Herbys Necessary For A Gardyn]

"Our medieval ancestors actively encouraged weeds in their vegetable plots. The Fromond List, compiled by Surrey landowner Thomas Fromond in about 1525, is a list of “herbys necessary for a gardyn”. He recommends many of today’s weeds for sauces, salads, soups and so on." (source).

Here is the full list in original spelling, (source). The obvious thing to note is that the notion of a weed did not exist.
Herbys Necessary For A Gardyn By Letter

R. Rapes (Brassica Napns), Radyche, Rampsons (Allium ursinum), Rapouncez (Campanula Ranunculus), Rokettf (Hespcris matronalis), Rewe.

S. Sauge, Saverey, Spynache, Sede-wale (Valeriana pyrenaica), Scalaceh (? Sinapis arvensis), Smalache (Apium graveolens), Sauce alone (Erysimum Alliaria), Selbestryne, Syves (Allium Schceno-prasum), Soreft, Sowthistelt, Skabiose, Selia, Stycadose (Lavandula Sta'chas), Stanmarch (? Smyrnium Olusatrum).

T. Tyme, Tansey.

V. Vyolettf, Wermode, Wormesede (Erysimum chciran-thoides), Verveyfi.  
Of The Same Herbes For Potage

Borage, Langdebefe, Vyolettf, Malowes, Marcury, Daunde-lyoh Avence, Myntf, Sauge, Percely, Goldes, Mageron, Fenelt, Carawey, Rednettyff, Oculus Christi, Daysys, Chervelf, Lekez, Colewortes, Rapez, Tyme, Cyves, Betes, Alysaundr', Letyse, Betayn, Columbyn, Alia, Astralogia rotunda, Astralogia longa, Basillican, Dylle, Deteyfi, Egrymon, Hertestong, Radiche, White pyprr, Cabagez, Sedewale, Spynache, Coliaundr' Foothistyll, Orage, Cartabus, Lympons, Nepte, Clarey, Pacience.  
Of The Same Herbes For Sauce

Hertes tonge, Sorett, Pelytory, Pelytory of Spayh, Detey, Vyolettf. Pcrcely, Myntf.  
Also Of The Same Herbes For The Copp

Cost, Costmary, Sauge, Isope, Rose mary, Gyttofr', Goldez, Clarey, Mageron, Rue.*  
Also Of The Same Herbes For A Saladc

Buddus of Stanmarche, Vyolette flourez, Percely, Redmyntf, Syves, Cresse of Boleyn, Purselah, Ramsons, Calamyntf, Prime Rose buddus, Dayses, Rapounses, Daundelyon, Rokette, Red netteft, Borage flourez, Croppus of Red Fenett, Selbestry", Chykynwede.  
Also Herbez To Stylle

Endyve, Red Rose, Rose mary, Dragans, Skabiose, Ewfrace, Wermode, Mogwede, Betayii, Wylde Tansey, Sauge, Isope, Ersesmart (Polygonum Hydropiper).

  * Rue is added in fainter ink.

  * " Seynt Mar' Garlek " is added by another hand.
Also Herbes For Savour And Beaute

Gyllofr' gentyle, Mageron gentyle, Basyle, Palma Christi, Stycadose, Meloncez, Arcachaffe, Scalaceley, Philyppendula, Popyroyatr, Germaundr', Cowsloppus of Jerusalem, Verveyh, Dyll, Seynt Mar' Garlek.*
Also Rotys For A Gardyn

Persenepez, Turnepez, Radyche, Karettes, Galyngale, Tryngez, Saffron.

maandag 28 april 2014

Molecular gastronomy in 1932

'Experimental cookery, from the chemical and physical standpoint' (1932) by Belle Lowe is meant for the domestic cook but I think the chemical detail would scare most of them. Molecular Gastronomy had antecedents.

donderdag 24 april 2014

The Phantom Recipe Constructor [notes on food pairing](mini_edit 1)

Over Easter I have been putting together a new page for Foodmap that allows the user to select 3 ingredients from a list (and/or 3 randomly chosen ones) to find out what foodstuffs are commonly used in combination with it. Optionally it can also display for some ingredients what odor compounds they contain. You might of heard of this as Food Pairing, a theory coming from within molecular gastronomy HQ that states that "foods combine well with one another when they share key flavor components". The ur-example is white chocolade with caviar.

Ever the keen student of Horace Walpole I named the project the Phantom Recipe Constructor and for me it was mostly the challenge of Proof of Concept: could I get the data into manageable shape and would it work as a service.

The question of whether it's working I will leave to your discretion. I would here like to share my reservations about the data, my use of it and the food pairing theory itself.

There are two sources of data:

- Flavornet, a website where some brave soul plowed through the scientific literature to create "a compilation of aroma compounds found in human odor space". I believe that these are the flacor components food scientists are using to pair foods that could be expected to taste well.

- A file with 220.000+ food pairs taken from a file provided as an extra to the 2011 paper 'Flavor network and the principles of food pairing' by Ahn, Ahnert, Bagrow and Barabási. In this they analyze 56,498 recipes from two US recipe repositories (Allrecipes and Epicurious) and a Korean one (Menupan). The latter "to avoid a distinctly Western interpretation of the world's cuisine", which is important but I wonder if Korean cuisine is not too much of a minority cuisine to be representative of anything but itself: its skews the results. Another issue is that some common ingredients are missing or underrepresented. Spinach has only 4 appearances and that is in dried form (never heard of before, maybe a Korean delicacy). Gherkin, eggplant, alfalfa, couscous are all not present. Not a major deal, but important to keep in mind. I use Allrecipes quite a bit when looking for example recipes for specific cuisines (Filipino say) and it is a great resource but once it is parsed straight and verbatim into a database to represent something larger than itself I wonder if its collections of family recipes and the latest inventions of amateur cook can live up to this claim. Not that I would know how to tackle this problem of representation: any recipe collection represents a paper reality and never really touches on what people actually eat. 

What the authors have done to collect recipes is as any programmer would solve the problem but I doubt if a historian would be satisfied with this make-do approach to data. There are a huge number of historic, out of copyright cookbooks available and if these could be processed and added to this data, classic flavor combinations might be better represented. It might even be used to trace changing tastes through the centuries. The data also has the huge gap of Indian and Chinese cuisines: the food of over 2 billion people is underrepresented. Adding all of the world's cuisine to a database would however also be a bad idea if it would not allow you to trace differences within culinary traditions, especially as tradition fall apart once you look closer. A workable solution would be to attempt to represent tiny sections of the food spectrum: food pairs of French cuisine between 1880 and 1940, food pairs of bestselling cookbooks in the 1980ties, food pairs in Anglo-Indian cuisine since 1800 and so on.

To add stupidity to the mix I have filtered (got rid of the pairs with a frequency less than 4) and butchered the data (turning boiled, cooked, fried and raw potato into one item: potato) to make it workable within the constraints of a webservice. I would need to look at it properly but I actually think that preparation method is a minor and/or random differentiator in this contect. If you select 3 ingredients, 3 random ingredients and want to see the flavor compounds your browser will show you what I mean (patience it will come). Preparation obviously does much to the taste to ingredients, this data is available in the data file but absent from the Phanton Recipe Generator.


My main problem with food pairing is that it is so horribly reductive. What tastes well shares common characteristics?! What a dull concept and a boring theory.  The presence of trimethylamine makes white cholocate and caviar taste well together? But it is a fact that comes out after the fact but might as well be explained as a random event.

Reason by analogy: A dating agency matching you with a future partner might select for you someone equally passionate about music only to find out that your tastes are far apart and incompatable. What you share is what separates you, music is not just sound, it is culture. A dating agency might not suggest a future partner because of different music tastes which may be insignificant once you would actually meet. What makes a good match is not determined by one shared commonality. It is about how differences and similarities balance and contrast each other overall. 
Opposites always attract: This is why the Phantom Recipe Constructor offers the reverse function: select an ingredient and it suggests what does not go with it.

The idea that flavors in a dish need to compliment each other is an implicit Western practice and Asian cuisines instinctively do the opposite. Given the ongoing and enthusiastic adaptation of Asian foods in the Western diet I predict that food pairing has little future anyway.

zaterdag 19 april 2014

Wild plants in Berlin after 1945

Without a countryside to go to the plant watchers of West Berlin looked within the city and urban ecology was born out of the surprise of what they found. So the story goes. A very nice article is 'Flora and Vegetation Reflecting the Urban History of Berlin' by Herbert Sukopp (2003). The effects of the Blitz on the wild plants of England and especially London has been covered here, here and for WW1 France here. Sukopp writes about Berlin in '45.
In a historical context, sites bombed during World War II have played an important part in the development of the urban flora and its investigation. Only few years after the bombing various plants had colonised the ruined houses. In many cities the war damage and its effects gave rise to special studies of the rubble flora and fauna (Düll and Werner 1955/56, Scholz 1960 and others). During the colonisation of rubble, which offers warmer and drier conditions than natural habitats, plants and animals from warmer regions of the world found suitable conditions. Many plants that had been rather rare have become permanent membersof the urban flora in war-damaged Berlin.

After World War II an intensive and spontaneus development of vegetation began on the rubble, proceeding in more or less rapid succession from short-lived and perennial stages of herbaceous vegetation to shrub and forest-like stands. The variety of species on such inner-city waste land is surprisingly large. Thus a site at Lützowplatz in Berlin-Tiergarten accommodated 140 species of seed plants and at least 200 taxa of insects (Weigmann et al. 1978).

Dispersal of organisms and development of vegetation can be studied on rubble sites on a large scale and in an environment that differs considerably from previously known ruderal places. As Pfeiffer (1957) wrote: “The recolonization of rubble, created in many cities due to the activity of bombers in the last war, has unintentionally become a tremendous natural experiment, which with respect to its size, must be compared to the colonisationof new habitats created by volcanic activity”

zondag 13 april 2014

Polemobotany or war botany


Polemochores, 'seeds distributed by dispute'.  Quote from.

vrijdag 11 april 2014

Ruminating majestic reindeers

Norway! Land of difficult spelling.
Hiding your beauty behind strange vowels.
Land of long nights, short days, and dots over 'O's.
Ruminating majestic reindeers
Tread wearily on ice floes
Ever aware of what happened to the Titanic
One day I will sojourn to your shores
I live in the middle of England
Norway! My soul resides in your watery fiords fyords fiiords

- Adrian Mole

woensdag 9 april 2014

Surtsey and the tomato as weed

The island Surtsey arose from the sea, south of Iceland, in a volcanic eruption that took from 1963 to 1967 to complete. Like Krakatau it has been extensively monitored by ecologists and biologists studying biological succession.

Here is how John McPhee writes about in The Control of Nature (1990):
From Surtsey's inception, scientists of many disciplines have carefully observed the island, taking advantage of any number of exceptional opportunities - for example, to observe the very beginnings of the process of forest succession, as seeds from who knows where invade and colonize freshly forming soil. For many months, they watched intently for the first green shoot to make its appearance in the black grit. This could offer insight so deep it might extend illumination even as far as the Silurian world. At last, a leaf appeared, unfurled, and was followed by a vine - a tomato plant.
The first plant to arrive was actually sea rocket, but the story of the vagrant tomato is well known. Introduced by human defecation (it was well manured, yes) and removed. 

If you want to know history, know the plants.

donderdag 3 april 2014

Guestimate the cuisine ingredients mapped.

My personal favorite feature of Map your Recipe is the Guesstimate function that from the ingredients of a recipe will guess/estimate the cuisine it represents. It is far from perfect and only knows a limited number of cuisines but I find it amazing that it manages to produce results that are relatively often decent. Having produced the above network of the ingredients (click to enlarge) it looks for however it looks all wrong, almost like a parody on national cuisines.