The Secret of Caffeine, the World’s Most Popular Drug.

giant-coffee-cupBy Justin Beach, Daily Digest News
Somewhere in the world, 71 cups of coffee are consumed every second of every day for a total of 2.25 billion cups per year. Worldwide the consumption of coffee provides 26 million jobs and $15.4 billion in exports, much of which goes to very poor coffee producing countries.
Those numbers do not even take into account the consumption of tea, chocolate and other caffeinated beverages.
No one is sure, however, exactly why plants such as coffee, tea and cocoa produce caffeine in the first place. New research published in the September 5 edition of the journal Science provides new information, but also produces more mysteries.
“Coffee is as important to everyday early risers as it is to the global economy. Accordingly, a genome sequence could be a significant step toward improving coffee.
By looking at the coffee genome and genes specific to coffee, we were able to draw some conclusions about what makes coffee special,” said Philippe Lashermes, a researcher at the French Institute of Research for Development (IRD), in a statement.
The newly sequenced genome of the coffee plant sheds light on the evolution of caffeine.
Interestingly, the plants which produce caffeine appear to have evolved separately to produce the same chemical. In other words, coffee, tea and cocoa do not appear to share a common caffeine-producing evolutionary ancestor.
via Coffee genome reveals secrets about the world’s most popular drug, caffeine | Daily Digest News.

Durian the Stinky but Great Tasting Fruit, Indonesia,

Crash!  The huge male orangutan swings over into another tree, searching for fruit.
He climbs higher, overlooking the canopy searching for another meal. Every day while following orangutans I notice how many different fruit trees they go to, usually around 15 or so.
They crash and clamber through the forest like hungry, hairy acrobats searching for the most nutritious meals.
One of the orangutan’s favourites is a fruit called durian.
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Picture of a split-open durian fruit. The interior of a wild durian, split open with the sections of creamy flesh visible.
I am basically crazy about durian, maybe even more than the orangutans. Most people probably don’t even know what it is, especially if they don’t live in Southeast Asia.
Durian is a pineapple-sized yellow or green fruit that is covered in sharp spines. It grows on large trees and is cultivated by the local people in Borneo. The fruit has concealed sections that contain their seeds covered in edible flesh.
To open a durian, I have to carefully search for the place where the sections meet. Then I insert a large knife and twist, popping it open.
The orangutans however pry them open with their teeth and bare hands, seemingly with ease.
The pulp that covers the seeds is unlike any other fruit. It is creamy yellow or white. It tastes a little like butter with a hint of banana creaminess, but each fruit tastes different and it is virtually impossible to describe in words.
To really understand the taste and why I love them, you have to try them yourself
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Picture of Russell Laman with an orangutan researcher examining cultivated durians at a fruit stand.
Each year that I visit Indonesia with my family, my first question is always, “Is the durian in season?”
It is sold all over the small towns in Indonesia. Probably the most popular fruit, it dominates the market. As I drive down the streets I am immediately aware when durians are near.
The odour that they release will clog your nose and overpower your sense of smell. Yet for me the smell holds the promise of durian, and so I have come to love a smell that many find so repulsive that the fruit is banned in hotels and on planes.
Read more via Postcards From Borneo: The World’s Stinkiest (but Best) Fruit | PROOF.

Coffee Houses of London, 17th and 18th Century.

Stretching from the West End to the City, the coffee-houses of 17th and 18th century London formed the capital’s intellectual and social heartbeat.
Coffee, a relatively new and exotic import, was only half the attraction: coffee-houses were forums for intellectual discussion, havens for dirty business deals and places where lords and sharpers won and lost enormous fortunes.
When coffee-houses first appeared in London in the mid-17th century they were largely indistinguishable from one another.
However, as they faced ever-stiffer competition over time, each coffee-house developed its own character, playing host to diverse clienteles and catering to different needs.
Some coffee-houses became so closely identified with specific groups or interests that Tatler, an early newspaper-journal, decided to group its stories under the names of coffee-houses.
The first issue, in 1709, proclaimed that “all accounts of Gallantry, Pleasure, and Entertainment shall be under the Article of White’s Chocolate-house; Poetry, under that of Will’s Coffee-house; Learning, under the title of Graecian; Foreign and Domestick News, you will have from St James’ Coffee-house”.
There were many coffee-houses frequented by literary men, the first famous one being Will’s Coffee House in Covent Garden.
John Dryden and his literary circle, known as the ‘Wits’, gathered there to discuss and review the latest plays and poems, and to read out their own work. As well as serious literary criticism, much amusement was to be had over the latest scurrilous pamphlets.
Samuel Pepys records having heard a “very witty and pleasant discourse” at Will’s, though whether this was about weighty matters of allegory and hexameters, or gossip about Charles II’s latest mistress, he doesn’t say.
After Dryden’s death, Will’s began to decline: in April 1709, Steele lamented in Tatler that “this place is very much altered since Mr. Dryden frequented it; where you used to see Songs, Epigrams, and Satires, in the Hands of every Man you met, you have only now a Pack of Cards, and instead of the Cavils about the Turn of the Expression, the Elegance of the Style, and the like, the Learned now dispute only about the Truth of the Game”.
Read on further via  Food & drink |

Early Aussie Tucker: Parrot Pie and Possum Curry.

Tea and Damper by A . M. Ebsworth. Image Credit: From Digital Collection of the State Library of Victoria
by Blake Singley,
The first European settlers in Australia used a dizzying array of flora and fauna in their kitchens – but they cooked them in a traditional British style.
The relationship between European settlers and native Australian foodstuffs during the 19th century was a complex one.
While the taste for native ingredients waxed and waned for the first century of European settlement, there’s ample evidence to demonstrate that local ingredients were no strangers to colonials’ kitchens or pots.
British settlers needed to engage with the edible flora and fauna of the continent almost immediately upon arrival.
The journals of First Fleet officers record not only their reliance on native food, but the relish with which they enjoyed it.
For example, First Fleet surgeon George Worgan noted in his diary a feast held to celebrate the King’s birthday:
We sat down to a very good Entertainment, considering how far we are from Leaden-Hall Market, it consisted of Mutton, Pork, Ducks, Fowls, Fish, Kanguroo, Salads, Pies and preserved Fruits.
Now read on via Parrot pie and possum curry – how colonial Australians embraced native food – Australian Geographic

Ernest Hemingway’s Hamburger Recipe.

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Photo: Ernest Hemingway Collection, John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston.
Here is Papa’s favorite recipe for pan-fried hamburgers, as reported by Cheryl Tan: (The Paris Review).
http://goo.gl/movtd1
Ingredients–
1 lb. ground lean beef
2 cloves, minced garlic
2 little green onions, finely chopped
1 heaping teaspoon, India relish
2 tablespoons, capers
1 heaping teaspoon, Spice Islands sage
Spice Islands Beau Monde Seasoning — 1/2 teaspoon
Spice Islands Mei Yen Powder — 1/2 teaspoon
1 egg, beaten in a cup with a fork
About 1/3 cup dry red or white wine
1 tablespoon cooking oil
What to do–
Break up the meat with a fork and scatter the garlic, onion and dry seasonings over it, then mix them into the meat with a fork or your fingers.
Let the bowl of meat sit out of the icebox for ten or fifteen minutes while you set the table and make the salad.
Add the relish, capers, everything else including wine and let the meat sit, quietly marinating, for another ten minutes if possible. Now make your fat, juicy patties with your hands.
The patties should be an inch thick, and soft in texture but not runny. Have the oil in your frying pan hot but not smoking when you drop in the patties and then turn the heat down and fry the burgers about four minutes.
Take the pan off the burner and turn the heat high again. Flip the burgers over, put the pan back on the hot fire, then after one minute, turn the heat down again and cook another three minutes. Both sides of the burgers should be crispy brown and the middle pink and juicy.
Spice Islands stopped making Mei Yen Powder several years ago, according to Tan. You can recreate it, she says, by mixing nine parts salt, nine parts sugar and two parts MSG. “If a recipe calls for 1 teaspoon of Mei Yen Powder,” she writes, “use 2/3 tsp of the dry recipe (above) mixed with 1/8 tsp of soy sauce.”
via Ernest Hemingway’s Favorite Hamburger Recipe | Open Culture.

“Let’s go Dirty Cooking.”

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Steak and cauliflower cooked in charcoal – but don’t use cheap briquettes.
Photograph: Katherine Anne Rose for the Guardian
Dirty food, to most people, is burgers served in doughnuts, deep-fried birthday cakes or some diabetes-inducing culinary challenge served in a hubcap.
Thankfully, we’ve moved on. It’s no longer 2014. This summer, for me, is going to be all about dirty barbecue.
This has nothing to do with the other dirty food. This is way more literal. The late, great Josh Ozersky cooked me some dirty steaks last year.
If I’m honest, Ozersky had had a few bourbons and they could have been a little better, but he learned this trick from my mentor and United States barbecue guru Adam Perry Lang, who also taught me a few years ago.
He calls it “clinching”.
a016cc8c-7e2d-4a7f-943a-553ec96ffde4-2060x1236Most people fear the meat will burn, but it won’t. Photograph: Katherine Anne Rose for the Guardian
Dirty cooking is awesome in its simplicity. Instead of using fancy grills and barbecues, just grill the food directly in or on the hot charcoal. The most important thing is to use decent charcoal.
Don’t use cheap briquettes and dispense with chemical lighter fuels, too.
Get some nice charcoal online or from your local butcher that is made from wood and nowt much else – there are plenty of companies that sell additive-free briquettes.
You don’t even really need a barbecue, just charcoal, air and something to cook. I
f you have a normal barbecue, use that without the grill. Or you could “acquire” something like a metal shopping basket, placed on a few house bricks and filled with charcoal.
You could probably use a cake cooling tray on some concrete or an old colander. Be innovative. All you need is something to put the charcoal in, air to get to the coals and a base that won’t go up in flames.
Read on via The dirty barbecue – awesome steaks made simple | Life and style | The Guardian.