Lobster and grits with grilled green tomatoes

My girlfriend’s family just moved from New England to the South, so I tried “fusion” for Christmas brunch – a variation on the traditional shrimp and grits.  It’s not trivial to find lobster in upcountry South Carolina; we believe the enormous creature below is a “rock lobster”, also known as a “spiny lobster”, which has similar taste but slightly different appearance and texture.

This was my first time cooking grits, and they turned out a little clumpy, but the addition of Gruyère and gouda cheese kept anyone from complaining.  I have never been a big fan of fried, battered vegetables, so we grilled the green tomatoes, which turned out to be delicious.

Bellini cocktails are not Southern, per se, but peaches are, so they seemed like a reasonable substitute for brunch mimosas.



Rouladen with spaetzle

The first of two holiday meals I cooked for my girlfriend’s family: rouladen with spaetzle.  I’m an outspoken fan of the cheaper cuts of beef, which are often more flavorful than the more expensive cuts; thin-slicing and pounding is one of many ways to tenderize them.  Spaetzle can be made with a specialized tool, but fortunately we found a colander with large holes that made a fine substitute.


Tacos with ground pork, black beans, and acorn squash.

People who consider vegetarian or veganism for environmental or animal welfare reasons should also consider the venerable practice of stretching meat. For example, these tacos were filled with a mixture of ground pork, black beans, and textured vegetable protein (TVP). TVP is a soy product with a texture – but not flavor – very similar to that of ground meat, meaning that it substitutes well for ground meat in dishes that are heavily spiced, or that also contain some meat to provide flavor.


Braised tofu with minced pork and stir-fried kale

I always thought “braised” meant “simmered for a long time,” but actually it means “cooked once with dry heat, then simmered for any length of time.”  For this dish, the tofu was stir-fried until lightly golden, then simmered briefly in thickened broth.

As in many (most?) Asian dishes, the tofu is a “meat replacement” in an economic sense only; it accompanies meat rather than fully replacing it.

The broth was flavored with some ginger, sriracha, and leaks, sauteed with some rice wine, soy sauce, and oyster sauce; for the broth, I used chicken Better Than Bouillon thickened with corn starch.  I ended up overdoing the salty/savory a bit, an overcorrection to my previous experiments with Cantonese recipes.


On Eating Moderately

Disclaimer: Nothing I write here is a criticism, in the pejorative sense, of Guyenet’s advice; he reports scientific findings faithfully and we can ask no more than that.  Instead, I want to explore why some people find his advice discouraging.  Also, note that Guyenet’s advice involves more than just reducing food reward – he says you can also lose weight by eating a high-protein diet, exercising more, sleeping better, and reducing stress.

Scott Alexander suggested that the implications of The Hungry Brain are “neo-Puritan”, and I more or less repeated that claim in my review of the book.  However, it could be argued that every diet plan is puritanical – after all, every diet plan, from the quackiest to the most scientifically sound, offers the same basic promise: Restrict in some way your consumption of delicious foods, and you will lose weight.  Is Guyenet’s advice any different?

I think it is.

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Book Review: The Hungry Brain

It was joked, of Soviet factories, that if performance were measured by the number of nails produced, they would produce a multitude of nails too small to use; if performance were measured in tonnage, they would produce only one, gigantic nail.


Capitalism has sort of the opposite problem with food – regardless of what you say you want, capitalism will give you what you crave, for a low, low price.  You say you want less fat, capitalism will produce food in which the fat has been replaced by sugar.   You say you want less sugar, capitalism will replace sugar with cane syrup.  You say you want simple foods with only a few ingredients, capitalism will ensure that three of those ingredients are sugar, fat, and salt.  Natural foods? Capitalism will find a way to source commercial additives naturally.  Local foods?  Capitalism will build factory farms locally.

This tendency was on my mind as I read The Hungry Brain, by Stephan Guyenet.  I learned of the book from Scott Alexander’s recent review, and Guyenet’s blog had previously been recommended to me by several very smart people.  Scott’s review is thorough, which spares me the effort of recapping every argument in the book; however, it seems to me Scott reads the book through a certain lens (asking whether weight loss is a matter of willpower, and what the role of genes is) whereas I read it through another.  For that reason, I will focus on what I think the book’s argument has to say about two questions:

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