27 February 2011

Lentil Chips!

One thing that really irks me after learning about celiac disease is that "gluten free" is not "healthier" than a normal diet. Celiac disease is when your body can not break down gluten; celiacs lack the enzyme. This does not mean that gluten is bad for you. GLUTEN IS DELICIOUS. It is a protein found in bread! "Gluten-free" food does not mean it's somehow more salubrious, or more "natural". Gluten-free wheat bread is well... not really "natural" [although I'm starting to despise that marketing gimmick too]. Yet, "Gluten Free" appears right under "Trans Fat Free!" and "No Cholesterol!" Now, I know that the Mediterranean Snack Foods company is not the only company that does this [Pirate's Booty is another], but in general, this practice is like labeling an apple as "No Cholesterol!", or water as "Calorie Free!". It's stating the obvious to appeal to the public, because advertising and journalism tell the public that "x-Free!" = healthy.

A diet for celiacs is not deemed healthy, since many of the foods aren't fortified with vitamin B12 and folate, whereas most grain/gluten-containing foods have fortified vitamins/minerals from some law in the 1970s [in the U.S., at least]. Going on a "gluten free" diet as a non-celiac is like going on a "peanut free diet because some other people are allergic to peanuts".

How many people do you know are true celiacs? I know one. Apparently it is 1% of the population, although this doesn't state much since Graves' disease is also 1% of the population and I know 3 other people with it [not including myself].

Anyway, I had to put this out there because I'm getting sick of hearing people/girls [yes, sexist generalisation, but I believe more girls do this than guys] talking about their salad and their complete abstinence from bread and cool foods, not that salad isn't cool.

I got these Lentil Cucumber Dill chips [no packaging image, but here is the shiny image for the website] because there was a rather high protein content compared to potato/corn chips, and cucumber dill seemed like an amazing combination! I was thinking that it'd taste something like dill pickles. That would've been amazing; imagine a sour, watery, crispy chip like that! Speaking of which... are there burger flavoured chips out there?

Unfortunately, I was really upset with the quality and taste of these chips. Firstly, there was an overwhelming amount of saltiness. I just checked the sodium content: 260 mg/serving. In comparison, Lay's Original Potato Chips has 180 mg sodium/serving, and I think those are salty already... So, I believe there is 44% more sodium in the lentil chips. Uh, bleh.

The second part that I was highly discontent with was that it tasted like there was sour cream powder smothered over it, but it wasn't even fresh sour cream. It was like... salty, garlicky, pungent sour cream.

No cucumber taste.
Some dried dill flakes.
No lentil taste.

Super crunchy, though.
In other words, stay away. They're also kind of very expensive [probably due to the high markup. I'm telling you, a Dining Dollar equals at least 2 real dollars...].

26 February 2011

Pirate Brand Puffs

Since I, like all other first-year students, was conned into buying a meal plan and dining dollars [okay, I've never understood why people want a meal plan with "all dining dollars". That's what PennCash is for! But for printing and buying non-food items too!], I decided I might as well spend my dining dollars on food that I can review...so I bought all five flavours of Pirate brand puffs and figured it'd be great to review them all. Judging by the first flavour I've ever tried, the white cheddar one, I had excheesingly high expectations.

I was wrong. I forgot to take a picture of the Barbecue flavoured one, so that's why it's pictured above. I would like to say that it does give a rather sweet barbecue aftertaste, and it is rather tangy, but the seasoning is erratically mixed into the puffs. There were some puffs that were absolutely bland, wheras others were 200% seasoning [which was nice. The whole package should just have a ton more seasoning dumped in!]. There was a nice umami taste, even though the sweet taste was more prevalent.

I also forgot to take a picture of the sour cream and onion flavour, but no matter; it was a boring one anyway.
Veggie. Tastes like super-mild kelp. Super-mild. No hint of parsley, even though it was stated on the package. No hint of anything, whatsoever. Have you ever wondered what a corn puff tastes like without salt and flavouring? Well, you have it right here. I know it looks really pretty and earthy, but I guarantee it tastes bland.
Okay, this one tastes a bit more flavourful than the Veggie one; there IS a hint of onion, but if you're expecting something like the Frito-Lay sour cream and onion-ness, you will be highly disappointed. Again, this is a rather bland flavour and actually tastes kind of sweet rather than savoury.
Now THIS! is the best flavour, by far. It is extremely cheese-flavoured, melts in your mouth [literally], sticks to your teeth with cheesiness, and crunches satisfyingly between your teeth. They are all rod-shaped. They are salty [but not too salty], tangy, and will most likely not make you smart.
This was another disappointment, because I was expecting something like Calbee's pizza flavoured potato chip that is so popular in Hong Kong. This flavour...was a tad sour ["tomato"], a tad sweet [?!], and a tad bland. There was nothing that made it taste like pizza. It was just a crunchy puff with a sweet aftertaste. There was nothing pizza-y: no cheese, no vegetable chunks, no dough, no crusty parts, no mushrooms... nothing.
This is the second best flavour, since the seasoning actually is spread out well, and there are no bland pieces. This is distinct from the Wisconsin Cheddar flavour because it is more sour and tangy, and it's softer in texture and more soluble [yes. More soluble.]. Therefore, it sounds quieter when you, with your saliva encrusted teeth, chew on it. I imagine myself chewing those styrofoam packing peanuts when I eat these, whereas the Wisconsin Cheddar flavour reminds me more of chewing sponge toffee. Fortunately and unfortunately, respectively, I have not done those tasks. So, depending on the texture/tangyness, take your pick. I decided to use the word "respectively" because I wrote a lab report and included it a few times. I haven't been updating much because I've been really busy with schoolwork. I have another exam on Wednesday!

In summary: buy the White Cheddar flavour and the Wisconsin Cheddar flavour, because, well, they actually have a FLAVOUR. Try out the Barbecue if you're in for some sweet, albeit, unevenly-distributed seasoning. Ignore the other 3 flavours because they are just a marketing gimmick [like my meal plan!].

18 February 2011

Eco-Reps RecycleMania Party

Guess what February and March are! Why, yes, they are the two months in which 600+ colleges across the US and Canada participate in a competition called RecycleMania! The winner is the school that recycles the most/wastes the least. According to the people who I've talked with in the Penn Environment/Facilities department, Penn came 5th out of 8th in a competition with the Ivies. However, does that mean that
1. We don't recycle that much
2. We don't use that much recycleable stuff/plastic bottles in the first place?

I've become skeptical of pretty much every statistic now... even RCTs! I don't NOT believe, but I'm starting to have qualms about any statistic presented to me, because in some way another, it can be interpreted differently. Confounding factors will never cease to exist.

Anyway, my college house had an Eco Reps party and I don't think any of the stuff we bought was environmentally friendly. They included Frito-Lay brand foods, sodas, Papa John's pizzas, Jimmy John's sandwiches and Insomnia cookies. Oh, and a fruit platter.

Within 30 minutes, perhaps 30 or 50[?] people devoured all 15 large pizzas, all 30 cookies, a whole party tray of [50?] sandwiches, and most of the fruit.

[Image: Insomnia Cookies puts its cookies in pizza boxes. Funny how they don't advertise themselves.]
As a member of the bureaucratic Eco Reps group, I think that this was quite a liberal party we threw. Actually, who am I kidding? This was the cliche party that every club can produce, and it's exactly what they expected from us. They/Penn didn't expect a party with sustainable food. They didn't expect local/slow food. Nuh uh.

One triumph was that Papa John's gave us a zillion red plastic plates and a huge stack of napkins and I hid them. People in my dorm house are conditioned to bring their own plates/utensils, so generally people DO follow that rule. I may be over-reacting, but I saved two plates.

I'm sure you think that I was really mean for hiding the plates, but the whole point of this party was to educate people about not being wasteful. One person asked me where the plates were and I said that she had to get her own reusable plate, because the whole point of this was to raise awareness of all the waste we generate [considering we ditched basically every other point of being non-wasteful in transportation of food/ingredients, and being thrifty...]. She seemed kinda irked but ... hey, free pizza comes with your own plate. Or no plate at all. Really, is it necessary to get a plate for lukewarm pizza?

[The pizza was quite nice; I've never had Papa John's pizza before. Even the olives weren't overwhelmingly salty! The vegetable sandwich from Jimmy John's was kind of boring though, despite the fact that there were bean sprouts in it [which were nice...]. Greek Lady sandwich platters are much better for vegetarians, as there was onion and tomato in the one I had last time when my dorm house ordered Greek Lady sandwiches]

The party was a success, the message of recycling got through, but this was all trite and typical. There was no LOCAL, no SEASONAL [watermelon is not seasonal in February...], no organic/pseudoorganic/farmer/non certified but close to the certification [did you know that certification costs money? Do you know how much that sucks for farmers who actually make real organic stuff, but don't have enough profit to certify it?], no VEGETARIAN/LOW ON THE FOOD CHAIN, no PASSION TO SPREAD THE MESSAGE THAT WE ARE MESSING UP THE WORLD.
[Image: I somehow took a really interestingly tinted picture.]
In retrospect, however, the best way to make the environment better is to just kill off everyone. "But, what about the world for future human generations?!" Okay, kill off all the people who can't reproduce anymore, and the ones who use up all of Medicare and are responsible for the Dept. of Defence.

The point is that, despite not really making a really environmentally "friendly" party, anything we do is pretty bad for the environment.

In terms of waste, instead of each of the 30-50 people obtaining food in disposable styrofoam/plastic/ceramic/paper containers covered in plastic bags [think food carts], we fed them all using 15 to-be-recycled pizza boxes and a few to-be-recycled plastic containers.

17 February 2011

My Brain Isn't Fried!!

...But my food is.
Today I did absolutely no work. I had an extra half an hour of spare time because we finished comp sci recitation early, and I had an extra two hours of spare time because we got out of bio lab early. My Thursdays usually go from 9 to 2, then 4:30 to 7:30. Today, however, I had all this extra time! Perhaps I should've done some homework. I used it very unwisely, but very wisely all the same; I slept, I read The Hobbit , I went to Quiz Bowl, I watched Robocop ... and I fried apples!
At 10pm, my dorm house had Fry Night; there were fried Oreos, fried apples, fried pop-pastries, and one fried cherry pie [which I fried!]. I wanted to fry an orange, but apparently oranges are too watery...
So, here is a fried Oreo. Since the kitchen table area apparently lacks lights, I had to use flash, and with oily hands and people swarming around picking up food, picture-taking was a bit difficult. I'm quite unhappy about this image, but I can say that the oreo cream was literally dripping, and it looked like icing. The cookie was moist, and the batter was...well, fried batter. 90% oil.

The rejects...
...tasted great too!
These are a close up of the fried Oreos; they look so perfectly elliptical!
After a while, I decided to help out at the fryer, and this reminded me of Spongebob although I don't think I've actually seem him frying fries; he does have a deep-fryer though [I think?]. J, who had been at the fryer, had burned himself a bit when the oil splattered on him, which made me scared to use a wooden stick to flip the fried items over... but I did it anyway, so now I smell like fryer oil. It was fun, though!
I made a few batches of stuff, and this was the last batch; the huge thing in the middle is a cherry pie. A pre-packaged oblong cherry pie. I couldn't flip it over with a wooden skewer/stick, so I had to use a knife, and it was seriously difficult to manoeuvre it, with oily hands. I thought this was really fun, though, and a few specks of oil did fling onto my arms but they were really minuscule, so it's alright.
I really loved the fried apple; it reminds me of fried apple pie which I used to adore in HK, from McDevil. It was perhaps more enjoyable than the fried Oreo, to be honest. I accidentally ate some fried pop-pastry, because I thought it was just an abnormally small piece of fried Oreo. It tasted like melted pop-pastry, and I decided just to finish the rest of my chunk instead of wasting it, despite the fact there were PHO and HFCS in it. Oh, that reminds me; today I was eating a calzone and realised that there was small cubes of ham in it...because I suddenly tasted ham. I suppose that was a bit upsetting. Oh well...
Here is the fried cherry pie...cut into pieces because it was really huge. I didn't eat it, though. They also tried to fry chocolate but the batter kept slipping off or something.

I'm really glad I went and helped out. It was all delicious and fun, and I have to say I did have an amazing day!

16 February 2011

Trustees Dinner

Alright, I have to admit that food draws me to places. Greedy, right? For every student, whether in high school or college or even kindergarten, [and, okay, maybe the workplace but I wouldn't know], food is a motivator.
It's a good motivator too, because otherwise, I probably wouldn't have met the Trustees of UPenn, which was pretty cool because they're pretty accomplished people. Although they state that they don't get paid to do anything, I kind of doubt it ... because would they truly fly over [from Hong Kong! London!] to Penn 3x a year [or more] to just... meet up? Do their loyalties really lie that deeply with Penn? Then again, I'm just a first year student, so I probably haven't gotten to the point where I simply adore UPenn.

There was a lot of leftover food and a lot of the stuff was actually vegan. Vegan orange vinaigrette dressing [which I really... didn't like], vegan asparagus [well, duh.], amazingly crispy roasted roots/tubers, vegetarian lasagne, and "seasonal" fruit, which included the most unseasonal fruits ever for February: blueberries, strawberries, and pineapple.

This was catered by Bon Appetit although TJ refused to believe it since the food was "so good". I think the food was quite nice and my picture is terrible.

It's kind of funny how context changes how "delicious" food is perceived; in a dining hall, the same cooked asparagus appears much less savoury than a nice metal tray of perfectly organised asparagus on a heating block. Fruit that's usually in a metal canister plopped on ice appears much less "exotic" [I guess?] compared to fruit that's thinly sliced on a tray.
That's the theory of plating, anyway, but I don't think I believe in it. My brother does though, so he always reprimands me for not plating my food whenever I cook. Really, why does plating matter so much? Is it really necessary to have a small 5cm^3 chunk of lasagne, cut perfectly, on a 24-cm diameter white plate, with exactly 3 sprigs of parsley as garnish? Does that really taste better than a lump of badly cut lasagne splattered onto a plastic plate that's also filled with carrots and salad and other stuff that make a meal [save plates!! Save dishwashing liquid!! Save water!]? I think I prefer the latter...

Another reason I went to this dinner was that they were giving out scarves and shirts. The really sad part was that for the class of 2014, there were T-shirts, not scarves. These weren't even new shirts; they were the ones we got during Orientation! They were leftovers! The scarves were leftovers too, but they only had the class of 2011/12/13.

The smart thing to do, of course, was to take a 2011 scarf and using thread to sew the 1 into a 4.
Which I did later, and it looks alright from far way. TJ has decided just to wear a 2011 scarf. It's not everyday we can be seniors, after all.

15 February 2011

Rold Gold White Dipped Honey Braided Twists

Rolo Gold. For the past four years, that's what I thought "Rold Gold" was. I thought it said Rolo. I'm not the only one; googling "Rolo Gold" actually yield pretzel results too. It's funny, because Rold Gold makes so much more sense as a brand name ["Rolled" Gold, it rhymes, it sounds swanky...]. In fact, I've been eating the Honey Braided Twists since November-ish, and I never noticed it said Rold on the package.
I decided to buy these white covered ones [note that there is no mention of "white chocolate" covered twists, since there is no actual chocolate inside it. In fact, I was going to buy the milk chocolate version, but that one had PHOs and probably didn't contain much chocolate either.

I'm not really into pretzels. I like them, but I'm not super obsessed. The Honey Braided Twists are pretty good, especially if the edges are a tad burnt. Actually, the pretzels that I enjoy the most [solely because of the flavouring, so I might as well buy the flavouring in bulk, right?] are the honey mustard and onion ones from Snyder's of Hanover.

These pretzels are basically the honey braided twists that are covered in fatty sugar. The coating is super saturated and sore-throat-inducingly sweet. However, it also tastes creamy and smooth, which is a really nice change and contrasts with the malty crunch of the pretzel. There was a bit of waxiness directly after consumption...but it's not too noticeable.
The pretzels are difficult to snap into halves, and it can't fit into my mouth at once, and the white coating melted quickly, so I suppose it's an annoying snack to eat while typing.

Overall, it was a typical snack with no real nutritional value. Should've bought noodles...

11 February 2011

Double Dinner Friday!

...Last Friday!
Double Dinner Friday is a not-dorm-house-sanctioned "cult" activity that some people in my dorm house do every month except November. We all gather in the basement [which is pretty nice and has carpet and stuff, so it's not like hazing and it isn't really cultish or freaky; I suppose if our basement was like the cliche movie basement, Double Dinner Friday would be quite quirky]. On the first Friday at 9pm of each month [except November!], we gather, share [usually unhealthy] food, dance, chat, and have fun.
Double Dinner Friday occurred last Friday, but I didn't have time to write about it. I decided to live in this same dorm house [but I got a double instead of a quad!] solely because there is a lot of food here, the environment is nice [yes, our own bathrooms!], and DOUBLE DINNER FRIDAY EXISTS! Now, last time I went, there was microwaved mac and cheese-flavoured sauce, a lot of chips, candy, soda, etc. This time, there was actually a nice cheese bowl and a vegetable bowl! Whoo!
Also, the smoked cheese kettlecorn doesn't taste like smoked cheese. For anyone who intends to try out Indiana Popcorn Smoked Cheese Kettlecorn, it doesn't taste that great... It tastes like popcorn with sour cream. So, if you like sour cream, I suppose it'd be amazing.
The cocoa flavour one tasted good, except it was literally drenched in sugar, so it's terribly bad for my body and makes my adipose tissue grow.

07 February 2011

Peanut Butter Filled Pretzels.

It is terribly trying to take pictures without sunlight. In my opinion, the best light in which one should take pictures of food is definitely bright sunshine. There is no better way to highlight each crevice and every crumb.

However, sunlight rarely filters into my room since the sun sets to the left of my window and rises on the right side [I think? I really don't know, but I do know that sunlight never streams into my room].
Maybe I should clarify.
Light from the sun comes into my room through a crack called a window, but beams of beautiful, bright, sunlight does not enter my room. So, my room is always a greyish colour, unless my fluorescent light bulb...which is yellow... is on.

This is why it's terribly annoying taking pictures in my room, since I have to move the food to the edge of the table between the hours of 7am and 5pm, and usually I'm sleeping or out [I leave around 9 every day and get back from 6pm to 9pm. Nice life, I know].

So, here is a wonderful picture I took of my newest New Food:

I present you with Peanut Butter Filled Pretzels. And what a sight they are! You can see every grain of salt, every burnt corner, and even the thin layer of peanut butter enclosed by the hard, not-so-flaky pretzel!

The moral of this story is that I should take pictures of food when I get up at 8:30am in the morning and while I'm rushing around trying to leave by 8:45am so I can get to class at 9am. The second moral is that these Peanut Butter Filled Pretzels weren't desirable at all, although they look so inviting.
I eat peanut butter with pretzels all the time. So, what's the issue?

The issue is NaCl.
These pretzel pillows are so cute and enrobe a delicate, purely-saturated-peanut-flavoured [not sweet, not honey, not salty, not sesame, not fake, not waxy] chunk of peanut butter. These pretzel pillows are whole wheat. They're even coloured aesthetically!
The only problem is that they are dotted with chunks of NaCl/salt that shatter your tongue and throat the way glass decimates a piece of silk, or the way ice destroys a ship. These chunks of salt are huge! It's like having sand in a sandwich. It's unpleasant and leaves you wondering why you're stuck in a desert [metaphorically, both for the sand/wich and the pretzel pillows].

Even after scraping off salt crystals with my nails, the pretzel pillows tasted like they were smothered in salt. I sure wish they were salt-less; I would have enjoyed them so much more :(.

This may be why there is a glass of milk on the package, although I really needed to drink a LOT of water to feel as though I was at homeostasis, if at all.

04 February 2011


I love potatoes! I love potato salad, too! However, by "potato salad", I mean the cliche vinager+mayo+American potato salad, with chunks of apple and celery, perhaps. Today I found out that I'm not too sure that I like any other type of potato salad.

Today, Commons had a field day - well, not really. They just obtained a lot of potatoes, presumably from a field nearby [since they always boast about how a lot of their ingredients come from within a 150-mile radius]. I've never understood why they always have tubs of raw food just sitting out there; the fruit is for people to take, but apparently they get irked when you take vegetables. Potatoes aren't that aesthetically-pleasing when they look raw and muddy [well, they're still cool, I understand], so why were they on display?

The only conclusion: STUDENTS MUST TAKE POTATOES!!
I am probably wrong.
To use up the huge surplus of potatoes [Seriously, they should have a giant bin that is labeled "free for all!" and dump in vegetables and fruits that they don't want to use to cook, but are perfectly edible - oh wait, those small tubs everywhere? Are those for us to take? I never know.], the fine cooks at Commons made one, I mean, two, no, I mean, seven potato salads.
Going anticlockwise:
The super-white potatoes on the left hand side tasted like coconut. They tasted super creamy, but not fatty or buttery [coconut milk?] and the potato chunks were not starchy; they were sort of raw and apple-like.
The slices were from a German potato salad. These tasted very much like vinegar-potatoes, and the potatoes, again, had an apple-like texture.
The next ones were normal, but not as tangy as cliche potato salad.
The ones without the dressing, and with the French bean, were just ok. Just potato.
The next creamy potatoes were...well, I'm sort of put-off by the idea of having apple-like-textured potatoes. I like potato salad with starchy potatoes that are almost mashed and have a nice, sweet, aftertaste [due to the amylose on our saliva breaking it down]. Most of the potatoes I had today were too solid, firm, and not too flavourful, save the dressing. So, this one would be an example of the potato salad that directly opposes what I envision in a potato salad.
Back up top: These were beautifully coloured and looked practically gourmet, and although the dressing was quite nice [perhaps I was deceived by the looks?], the potato itself wasn't ka-bang.
Centre: Wow. This one was amazing! I love purple potatoes now. The dressing wasn't sour enough for my liking, but the texture of these mini, irregularly-shaped, rainbow potatoes was just amazing! Fluffy, melt-in-your-mouth-after-you-chew, dense, and flavourful!
Overall, I'm surprised Commons decided to stick something at the "special stuff bar" of the dining hall. For the past few weeks, it's been either dips or apples/oranges. Oh, and for the last half of last semester, it was mainly just sandwiches. Except for the one time there were apple items on "Apple day" [which wasn't even that day!]