[extropy-chat] The Extropy of Cooking

Amara Graps amara at amara.com
Tue Jun 27 20:27:43 UTC 2006

J. Andrew Rogers:
(responding to a couple of your messages)

>The Italians have
>built a brand with respect to food, but do not produce remotely
>enough food for the export market.  For many typical "Italian export"
>items, they do not even produce enough for their domestic market.

Right, I don't think that many Italian companies want to scale up from
their present family-sized operations. 'Competition' and 'efficiency' is
not very important; what exists is 'comfortable enough'. Perhaps one
could say that it is the flip side of the culture where friends and family
and food and sun and soccer are the most important.

Those that do want to scale up, or run an efficient business, then face
something different. The infrastructure is broken in many places you
would need for an efficient business (mail, telephone, internet,
reliable equipment). Then the legal network must be navigated because
the powerful lobbies/syndicates have found ways to fix a law to protect
their interests so that they don't have competition. Finally, the high
taxes compound the business problems. In general, Italy is not business
friendly, and I'm pessimistic that anything significant will change for
that in the next decade (China is beating on their doorstep, though, so
the next few years should be interesting.)

So while I have no trouble finding many varieties of mozzarallla di
bufala because some person carries it in to my local alimentaries from
the countryside, the good dark viscous balsamic vinegar from Modena is
in quantities of a just a few sitting on the top shelves. It's there,
but not in abundant quantities.

Those of you who were not aware that balsamic vinegar is as much an art
as making wine can look here:

>An incredible amount of culture flows from food, and
>expressing it as a fine art gets its energy from a different place
>than the usual technical intellectual pursuits.

I'm surrounded. :-)  In my first week in Italy while I was sharing a
large office with another person (scientist named 'Giuseppe') I heard
one morning a heated discussion between Giuseppe and a colleague of his.
It went on for about 20 minutes. When I deciphered a few words, I
discovered that they were arguing about how much 'al dente' the pasta
should be cooked in a particular dish!

The following is my favorite Italian dish. I haven't made it completely
correct yet, but it's almost there. This recipe has gone through several
iterations; each time I tell my Italian colleagues what I did, and they
correct my mistakes, so the recipe has been transformed into a group
Italian planetary scientists + Amara result.

Also, I should say that the temperature might not be quite right (it
should be baked in slow oven), because it also depends on how watery is
the mixture, which is dependent if fresh tomatoes are used and the water
content of the mozzarella.

Melanzane alla Parmigiana (Eggplant Parmigiana)

(English units)

4 aubergines/eggplants/melanzane
extra virgin olive oil
1/2 c grated Parmesan cheese
2 medium or 1 large (3/4 lb.) fresh mozzarella di bufala
Lots of fresh basil
3-4 c canned peeled tomatoes
or 2 lb fresh ripe tomatoes, peeled and chopped

Wash and dry the eggplants, slice them into thick slices and lay them on
a tray. Sprinkle salt over them and leave for an hour.

In the meantime prepare the tomato sauce: puree, heat and add some
sprigs of basil. Rinse off the brown juice from the eggplants and pat
dry with a paper towel.

Cover the bottom of a frying pan with olive oil and fry the eggplants, a
few at a time, until they are soft and golden. At first the eggplants
soak up the oil then it seeps out. You have to add a little for each new
batch of eggplants. Put them on kitchen paper to drain off the excess
oil. Cut the mozzarella into thin slices and then strips and grate the
Parmesan cheese.

Grease a large oven dish with olive oil and lay a first layer of
eggplants to cover the bottom. Pour on a little tomato sauce, some
Parmesan and some mozzarella strips. Continue layering until you have
finished all the ingredients, finishing the top layer with just the
tomato sauce and Parmesan. Cover with aluminum foil. Pre-heat the oven
to 350°F and bake for at least 1/2 hour. Remove the aluminum foil after
20 minutes.


Amara Graps, PhD          email: amara at amara.com
Computational Physics     vita:  ftp://ftp.amara.com/pub/resume.txt
Multiplex Answers         URL:   http://www.amara.com/
"Honor thy error as a hidden intention."  -- Brian Eno

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