Archive for the ‘Food and Drink’ Category

A tipping point

How much should you tip in buffet restaurants? Interesting discussion over at the Volokh Conspiracy. Unless there’s an unusual reason I only leave a token tip at buffets, because sometimes I don’t even see a waitress. Takeout and fast food? Not a chance. Pizza delivery? Sure, keep the change.

To be honest I have very mixed feelings about tips. The evil part of my nature secretly agrees with Mr. Pink’s famously obscene rant (warning: strong language). However hard they work they’re not my employees, and there’s no rational reason to pay one group of service workers tips and not another. Restauraunts should stop expecting special legal treatment and pay their employees what they’re worth, like everywhere else.

In practice I’m really pretty softhearted.  If someone does a good job and is reasonably attentive then they get 15% (and it’s easy to work out – just multiply the 5% tax here in Maryland by three.) If they do a sucky job and ignore us, then they get less. It’s been a long time since I haven’t left any tip at all. We (the wife and I) try very hard not to punish the waitstaff for things that aren’t their fault. If the cook is slow or the manager is goofing off and messing things up then it’s not the waitresses’ fault. We’ve had ocassion to walk out of Denny’s with our meal on the table because of stupid mistakes by the cook, but the waitress who was almost reduced to tears by the whole situation still got a nice tip.

What does bother me is the expectation that tips need to constantly go up. If you do a particularly good job then you deserve a good tip. But pushing the "minimum" tip upward from 10% to 15% to %20 and higher is just silly. The cost of the food has already gone up over the years, right? So the fixed percentage of that amount that’s given as a tip also went up at the same time. I know waitresses work hard, but no harder than a lot of other people. Unless you can make a case that the waitstaff is working 5% harder now than they were before I don’t see any justification for giving them a higher and higher percentage of my bill. (And yes, I know it’s not an exact coorelation, but I think it’s close enough.)


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An article from last week’s Washington Post asks Why the Red Delicious No Longer Is. It’s interesting reading.

After years of avoiding apples I’ve started eating them almost daily. It seemed to me that these apples weren’t as good as they used to be, and I was right. Modern Red Delicious apples are just about tasteless, except for those that have a thin, sour aftertaste.

The growers and the distributors and the marketers were so engrossed in
their preconceived notions of what the consumer wanted (shiny, crayon
red) that they lost sight of the most important thing about any fruit:
the taste. Habit and interia will let you slide by with lower quality
for a little while, but eventually people will start to drift away.
After that point it’s very hard to get them back.

I prefer Fuji apples lately. I have fond memories of Winesap apples
from my childhood, but they never turn up in grocery stores anymore.
Maybe I should check out a few roadside stands. My father-in-law grows
apples, too, and his are very good, if a bit tart. I’m not sure what
variety they are.

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I’ve previously linked to the famous Table of Condiments That Periodically Go Bad. This page of Surprising Expiration Dates also looks handy.  Looks like the winner in the condiment category is Worcestershire sauce (Lea & Perrins of course) at 10 years.

The food expiration dates seem reasonable, but I don’t know about some of the household items. Why would bleach go bad after 6 months? What is there to go bad? Dish detergent expires after a year? Dunno ’bout dat.

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Soda cans

Come with me and view soda cans from the beginning of time!

I like the style of the cans from the 60’s, lemon lime sodas like Mountain Dew and Sprite seem to have the livliest designs. There are some I’ve never heard of, like this Yoo-Hoo like concontion called Devil Shake. And, of course, failures like the infamous New Coke and the freakish Crystal Pepsi, aka Pepsi Clear.

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Before I bias you with my opinion, go take this survey on Nutritional Labeling and Related Issues (by Michael McCann). It’s short and for a good cause. (via Volokh)

Ok, proceeding. There are many good reasons for staying at a healthy weight (and I fully admit that I need to lose some weight) but exaggerating the dangers of obesity and making public policy based on incorrect data isn’t helping anyone. Unfortunately we now discover that that’s what the CDC has been doing for years. The earlier numbers on obesity and early death that we’ve heard as fact on the news for years were apparently estimates based on flawed and incomplete data (a nice way of saying they made it up).

Newly revised numbers take obseity from the 2nd leading cause of premature death down to around the 7th, and the new numbers are probably still too high. Nor is there any real evidence that being overweight leads to early death, or that the number of people dying from heart disease is increasing.

But these trends are less surprising when you consider who’s compiling the data. When
all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail. And when you’re
the Center for Disease Control, every problem looks like a disease. Even
if it isn’t.

Yes, people need to exersize more and eat better. (If only so we can stop seeing those endless clips of Headless Fat People in Shorts walking around on the news every night.) But I’ve always thought it was silly to talk about an "obesity epidemic". Obesity isn’t contagious and it’s not a disease. Certain diseases and disorders can cause obesity, but they can also cause poor eyesight, bad breath, and thinning hair, none of which are declared to be "epidemics". Apparently the real epidemics here are junk science and reporters who can’t be bothered to check their facts.

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Just a couple random food-related links I’ve come across recently.

Joe Grossberg presents a handy universal curry recipe. I’ve never made curry, but this looks pretty simple.

I’m usually happy if I can slice my veggies without losing too much blood in the process. But sometimes it really does make a difference, and random sized chunks don’t always work very well, and if you’re not careful you really can hurt yourself.

The beautifully illustrated How to Cut…. guide explains various types of cuts you find in recipes and demonstrates proper cuttting techniques for lots of different vegetables and fruits.

I was preoccupied with homeowner stuff this past weekend and forgot to visit the April 9th Carnival of the Recipes. Highlights include an interesting recipe for bread pudding, one of my favorites. This oven-fried whole wheat chicken and this rich baked bean recipe sound good too.

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Carnival of the Recipes #33 is ready for your eating pleasure! From this batch I plan to (eventually) try…

Le Frutta del Diavolo del Mare, but minus the Habanero sauce and probably with just shrimp (the wife doesn’t care for most seafood, but she loves shrimp).

Spinach Souffle in 3’s. Super easy spinach souffle. Yum.

Orzo and Roasted Vegetable Salad looks great. And the blog Eat Your History looks cool too, combining a "this day in history" idea with historical recipes.

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