Friday, October 17, 2008

AFJ in Houston Day Two recap

First of all, the second day of the conference was nonstop knowledge absorption and bus time. We started at the Omni with a pair of sessions with noted editor Judith Jones (John Updike, Julia Child) talking about the world of cookbook publishing and how the rise of celebrity chef cookbooks is more or less dumbing down the cookbook. For those of you who want to check out more of Jones' wisdom, your humble blogger debuted her Flip video camera and uploaded the 14 segments to AFJ's own YouTube channel. The sound isn't great but it's worth checking out.

After Jones, Marion Nestle, author of Pet Food Politics: The Chihuahua in the Coal Mine, gave an enlightening presentation on food safety as it affects our animal companions. The AFJ published a biography from some of Nestle's detractors that made her sound like the scourge of the food industry. She's not. She's woman committed to digging down into the quicksand of research studies, corporate practices and chemical mayhem exacerbated by the emerging free market in the developing world. She also informed the assembled of the existence of a food study and food science library at New York University which is open to the public. Since your blogger lives 12 minutes away by subway, she'll check it out and post about the collection once she gets home to New Jersey.

After Nestle and Jones, we all boarded a bus down to Alvin, home of Hall of Fame pitcher Nolan Ryan, to visit Rice Tec. The company is famous for its Texmati rice and also for developing different hybrids and seeds. We toured their greenhouses, which lost their roofs during Ike, and saw their labs where they test rice for water absorption, gelatinousness and other properties important to consumers. We ate BBQ before the tour that included Texmati rice and beans as sides.

Then we were off to NASA to check out space food. NASA is located in Clear Lake, which is about 20 minutes north of Galveston. More damage from Ike is evident in this part of town with blue tarps everywhere and broken trees by the road side.

The visit to NASA expanded on much of what Michele Perchonok talked about in the tech food session on Day One. We were shown how some of the food is packaged and how to control liquids in space. A favorite astronaut meal is freeze-dried shrimp cocktail which has something of a kick due to horseradish in the cocktail sauce. There is some sensory impairment in space so food needs to convey tastes.

After that, we bused to Central Market in the Highland Village to check out its stunning array of products. I found out the fish guy was originally from Ivory Coast. I have also run into immigrants from Senegal and other West African countries. I would predict more African food restaurants in Houston in the near future.

After ogling the displays at Central Market, were retired to the Central Market kitchen to sample barbecue from Pizzatola's, beers from the craft brewers St. Arnold and Shiner, local cheeses from Houston Dairymaid and chocolates from Vosges and Paper Bag Chocolate. We talked about and experienced beer and food pairings.

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