Sometimes Food Just Doesn’t Matter

On the Rhine

 

In the grand scheme of things, all that happened is that a friend and I had a meal of fruit, cheese, and crackers by a river on an overcast Tuesday afternoon. Painted by these words, the moment seems a bit mundane, even hackneyed.

Let’s take a moment to dress it up a bit. The river was the Rhine, and the location was found in a stretch of road certified by UNESCO as being a World Heritage site. The scenery was beautiful with castles overlooking the river from high atop of hills that seemingly run straight down into the river’s valley. Barges laden with products from north and south lazily found their way around the many twists and turns. Senior Citizens traveled with purpose either upon bicycles or within RV’s. Green was everywhere. The hills were peppered with grape vines and deciduous trees just on the verge of changing their colors for the annual autumn explosion. No one seemed in a hurry, including Andrea and myself, who, on a whim, ventured into a small grocery store to pick up a lunch.

Here’s where I had an epiphany. The food purchased was nothing more than a bit of apple, some cheap crackers, and some cheese that can best be described as “workman-like”. It was good, but not great.

It didn’t matter one bit. I was sitting on the shores of the Rhine, watching the world go by, and sharing the moment with a  friend. It was as perfect of a moment as one can get on this planet, and the size of the grins on our faces was all the evidence I needed to prove this fact.

We who are passionate about food sometimes forget that there is more to life than what we are eating. There are times when what’s on one’s plate does not matter one iota. The law of diminishing returns kicks in, and if everything else is near perfect, the quality of the food does not need to be considered. Sometimes, in the quest to get the best out of life, we forget that some moments do not need micro managed. Fussing over food in moments like these are a horrible waste of energy.

Simply put, sometimes the best way to enjoy a moment is to let it be exactly the way it appears.

(Originally published on Accidental Hedonist on October 7th, 2009)

The Science of Ethanol Fermentation

A foundation of knowledge must be set before I can write/talk about the history of liquor. This is how I operate. In order for me (or anyone else) to talk/speak about, oh I don’t know, let’s say…vodka, a fundamental understanding of fermentation, distillation, and the history of similar such topics is a necessity. This is a subjective opinion, but it has worked well for me in the past, as I feel more confidence in experts when they can not only speak well of a topic, but also to items that directly (and in many cases, indirectly) influenced said topic. Consider this post my initial effort at establishing a solid foundation.

Fermentation sits firmly at the core of any alcoholic beverage. Without it, our planet would be a far more boring place. There would not only be no alcohol, but no leavened bread, no yogurt, no kimchi, nor even a bottle of Tabasco. But what is fermentation?

Simply put, fermentation is the conversion of a carbohydrate, typically sugar,  into an acid or an alcohol.  There  two types of fermentation that are usually studied.  There is Lactic Acid Fermentation, which converts sugar into lactic acid. Then there is the type which brings us our happy goodness, namely ethanol fermentation, or alcoholic fermentation.  This type of fermentation  is the biological process in which glucose is converted into cellular energy and result in ethanol and carbon dioxide. It looks like the following from a chemical formula perspective:

C6H12O6 + Zymase → 2 C2H5OH + 2 CO2

We start with a mole of glucose (C6H12O6) and add zymase, an enzyme complex found in yeasts. This enzyme is a catalyst that takes the six carbon molecules, twelve hydrogen molecules, and six Oxygen molecules within the glucose , and creates a chemical reaction that results in two moles of Carbon Dioxide (with combined total of two carbon molecules and four oxygen molecules) and two moles of Ethanol (with its combined total of four carbons, twelve hydrogen molecules and two oxygen molecules).

Those two moles of ethanol are what makes life more enjoyable, and their creation are as rudimentary of a biochemical reaction as we can see on a day-to-day basis. We don’t even need a laboratory environment to see it happen. Many grapes contain all there needs to start fermentation, as their fruits have the requisite sugar, as well as ambient yeasts on the grapes themselves. If you find the correct kind of grape, all you need to is wait. 

From this process, we get dozens, if not hundreds of drinks that have resulted in several multi-billion dollar industries. All of them combined affected our culture for almost 10,000 years.

This is where we start.

 

 

 

Why I Vanquished My Post Archives

When rebooting this site, I intentionally removed posts from Accidental Hedonist’s previous incarnation. It seems counter intuitive, doesn’t it? After all, it removed all relevant traffic from Google for posts that were (up to) ten years old. Why break that connection? Why lose that access to things previously written?

I did it for a couple of reasons. For one, the archives were a mess. When I migrated to WordPress back in 2012, it played havoc with my 3000+ posts including the tags and categories attached to the posts, and I had neither the time nor inclination to clean it up.

Secondly, they were collectively disjointed. Having 3000+ posts meant there was no cohesiveness to them. Sure, at first glance (and first approach), Accidental Hedonist was a food blog, but at some point it moved beyond that, as my interests and approach to blogging changed. This only increased my perception of the archives as being a chaotic mess.

Finally, and most importantly, I felt beholden to them in a way that was illogical.  The fact was, I felt proud that I was part of the initial introduction of food blogs upon the internet, and the small role I played in publicizing the and advocating the medium.  But at some point, I moved beyond food blogs. Or rather, I moved in a different direction from what food blogging had become. Food blogs, as they became known, rarely talked food politics, rarely discussed food history, and became less and less inspiring to me. As food blogs became its own genre, I found myself less and less motivated by the characteristics that defined food blogging.

If you talk to parents for any extended times, they will eventually tell you an anecdote relating how they spent hundreds of dollars on a gift for one of their children, only to have themselves exasperated when the child shows more interest in the box and wrapping paper that the gift came in. I am that child. While the gift is all well and good, I am more fascinated by, not just the box, but the history of the box, the influences that the discovery of boxes had upon a culture, and who garnered social benefits from said box discovery. How this manifested itself upon my blog is that, while at one point it would have been enough for me to write about going to a restaurant, or tasting the latest food-craze-du-jour, at some point, I became interested in something else.

The archives, however, reminded me of my interests of 2004.  And every time I sat in front of my monitor, I felt the necessity to connect my writing to the archives in some manner.  And as I evolved AH into its last incarnation back in 2012, it showed little connection in ways of themes and approach that defined AH’s previous incarnations. This certainly relates to my second point above, but it’s more than that. The archives became to represent the divergence from myself and food blogs. Having the blog hold that divergence became similar to a small gnat by my ear drum, namely, an annoyance that only I could hear. Regardless of the size of the annoyance, it still needed to be addressed.

I collected the posts I liked, and set free the rest. I will post the ones I saved from time to time, but the others are gone to the great bit bucket in the sky.  In essence, I gave myself a clean slate. I have no idea what I will draw upon this new easel, but it will be for me, first and foremost.

I will say this. Expect liquor, art, and soccer. Especially liquor.

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