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CookingFilter: Ten Home Cooking Mistakes
June 17, 2008 9:17 AM   Subscribe

Keith Law's Ten Common Home Cooking Mistakes. Law, better known for his sports writing, lists ten pitfalls the home chef can fall into and how to avoid them.
posted by robocop is bleeding (73 comments total) 23 users marked this as a favorite

 
Uh, these are tips, not mistakes, although the mislabeled headline is in the original article too. Because if making sauce is wrong, I don't want to be right.
posted by GuyZero at 9:26 AM on June 17, 2008 [2 favorites]


11. You haven't used enough garlic.
posted by Jofus at 9:31 AM on June 17, 2008 [8 favorites]


Hah, you're right. I wiffled back and forth between tips and mistakes for a goodly while in Preview. I eventually decided that not using enough salt is a horrible mistake that should never plague our nation ever again, so went with the original headline.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 9:33 AM on June 17, 2008


Salt intensifies other flavors in every dish by hitting the fifth taste known as umami

Hm. My understanding is that salt has its own set of receptors, and umami has its own set of receptors. Also, recently physiologists seem to have decided that there are a few more than five kinds of taste receptors on the tongue.

Now that I'm rereading, he notes that he was called on it. Whatever he's remembering, though, still isn't right. Umami doesn't need a delivery system using salt, because it has its own set of receptors.

Buy whole when you can, as it lasts longer and avoids risk of cross-contamination at the store. Carrots with the leaf stems on top are better than trimmed carrots, which are better than peeled carrots...

I totally contest this. Leaving leaf tops on can be nothing more than a Whole Foods-style gimmick. What really makes the difference is how fresh the carrots are, how long they've been in storage. The carrots that show up at my farmer's market later in the year are trimmed, but very flavorful and fresh. Farmers use the leaves for compost or pig feed, and you can transport more carrots in a smaller box without the leaves.

the only acceptable foods in cans are beans

Come on! I couldn't run my kitchen without canned Italian tomatoes, whole, crushed, and stewed.

Other than that, this is all fine basic advice for a beginning home cook. But nothing that watching a couple of seasons of Good Eats wouldn't teach you.
posted by Miko at 9:37 AM on June 17, 2008


^
Metafilter: Teaching you things you could have learned by watching a few seasons episodes of Good Eats.
posted by jckll at 9:39 AM on June 17, 2008 [5 favorites]


Hey, but in the end it's all worth it, because a commentor on this page linked to Michael Ruhlman's awesome food blog, which was previously unknown to me!
posted by Miko at 9:40 AM on June 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


Ah, salt. Nothing better. A shit-ton of salt, applied well before cooking, rescued a mediocre supermarket ribeye in my kitchen last night.

Really, though, I think the biggest problem--and the one that makes necessary many of these tips--is that so many people are afraid of the kitchen, of cooking, or of real food. So many people I know are absolutely terrified of cooking without a recipe, or of modifying a recipe to suit what's available. It's a real shame.
posted by uncleozzy at 9:42 AM on June 17, 2008


MSG has a nasty reputation and can trigger a fatal reaction in a person allergic to it (a close friend of our maid of honor’s sister died of anaphylaxis after eating MSG), so it’s not for everyone,

Oh c'mon.
posted by bobo123 at 9:42 AM on June 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


the only acceptable foods in cans are beans and, if the quality is high enough, pears, which are nearly impossible to get out of season because they store and travel poorly.

Not only is Miko right about canned tomatoes (generally much more flavourful than fresh, except in season, at least around here), but canned beans do nothing but save a bit of time. I'm not sure why the author can't get pears out of season, because they store a lot better than apples.
posted by ssg at 9:52 AM on June 17, 2008


a close friend of our maid of honor’s sister

It's amazing the things that "my friend's relative's friend" tend to experience. Everything from dying from MSG poisoning to waking up in a motel missing a kidney.
posted by dersins at 10:00 AM on June 17, 2008


For a sports writer he seems to know a little about food.
posted by Floydd at 10:00 AM on June 17, 2008


I agree with adding canned tomatoes to the list of ok foods in cans (and pineapple pieces, too -- it's nothing like fresh pineapple, but I use those little cans of pineapple pieces as a treat in the same way some people use cheesecake -- yum!).

I don't know anything about taste receptors, but as the unhappy recipient of too many undersalted dinners, I agree with his basic point: salt makes things taste good. As with anything, too much isn't good for you, but that's such a universal point that it shouldn't need repeating.
posted by Forktine at 10:10 AM on June 17, 2008


And probably because he's a sports writer, the guy seems to be able to make an utter idiot of himself in just four paragraphs.
posted by Laotic at 10:12 AM on June 17, 2008


Butter is the secret to true happiness!
posted by bitteroldman at 10:20 AM on June 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


the guy seems to be able to make an utter idiot of himself in just four paragraphs.

Exactly four paragraphs, in fact.Right here:
EDIT: A few commenters have said that salt and umami hit different receptors on the tongue. I remember reading in a technology magazine - might have been Red Herring seven or eight years ago about umami, where the writer identified salt as the primary flavor enhancer and thus primary umami delivery mechanism in our diets.
"I'm right and you're wrong because I think I remember reading something in some magazine a while ago."
posted by dersins at 10:20 AM on June 17, 2008 [3 favorites]


On the other hand...
Herve This's 10 Elements of Basic Kitchen Knowledge:

1. Salt dissolves in water.
2. Salt does not dissolve in oil.
3. Oil does not dissolve in water.
4. Water boils at 100 C (212 F).
5. Generally foods contain mostly water (or another fluid).
6. Foods without water or fluid are tough.
7. Some proteins (in eggs, meat, fish) coagulate.
8. Collagen dissolves in water at temperatures higher than 55 C (131 F).
9. Dishes are dispersed systems (combinations of gas, liquid or solid ingredients transformed by cooking).
10. Some chemical processes - such as the Maillard Reaction (browning or caramelizing) - generate new flavors.

posted by dawson at 10:25 AM on June 17, 2008 [2 favorites]


I believe you have that wrong. The correct rule is:

11. You are using too much garlic.

Seriously. I used to believe that garlic was the uber-spice. If one clove is good, two are better. If two are better 4 are great. If 4 are great, you may want to try 6, etc. But the last couple of years I've cut way down on my garlic. Half the time I take foods where I used to load up on the garlic, and just throw in a few unchopped cloves to brown in the oil and take them out at the end. And you know what, things taste better. Garlic is a strong flavor that cuts all the subtlety out of you ingredients. Yes every now and then you want something like greens cooked in way too much garlic, some hot pepper and a little soy sauce, or roasted root vegetables with whole garlic cloves, but when garlic becomes your main source of flavor you are seriously limiting your palate.

My cooking rules: 1. Do not fear the bitter. 2. A little acid at the end goes a long way. And 3. Cook what is in season.
posted by aspo at 10:28 AM on June 17, 2008


To muddy the essentially uninformed waters of the umami debate: My understanding is not that the salt taste has anything to do with hitting "umami receptors" (whatever that may actually entail), but pre-salting brings out the umami-hitting flavors. Whatever is actually going on, salting meat well in advance of cooking it makes an astounding difference. No perceptible salt taste at all if done judiciously. It just tastes... more like whatever it is.

About the beans - I avoid anything in cans. Not only do I not trust aluminum, I don't trust the canners to cook them to my taste. They overcook them. Plus, it's simply not that hard or time consuming to cook a shitload of beans. It probably takes 5 minutes total of actual activity to make beans. And they keep well.

Tomatoes - I might be in a privileged situation in North Texas with several local farms and tomato-growing relatives to keep me supplied, but I always opt for wrinkly tomatoes over canned. ESPECIALLY for sauce.

Pears - you can always get pears! wtf!
posted by cmoj at 10:29 AM on June 17, 2008


umami: the g-spot of flavor.
posted by dawson at 10:33 AM on June 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


And the missing 11. It's not spicy enough.

There are countless kinds of spicy (hot) to well compliment any flavors, and fine cuisine is seriously lacking in entheogens.
posted by cmoj at 10:33 AM on June 17, 2008


My cooking rules: 1. Do not fear the bitter. 2. A little acid at the end goes a long way. And 3. Cook what is in season.

Ha!. My 3 rules of deliciousness are pretty much a combination of yours and the linked article:

1. Don't fear the fat.
2. No, that's not too much salt.
3. Finish with acid.
posted by dersins at 10:40 AM on June 17, 2008


I hate salt - my biggest complaint in food is, usually, it is too salty.
posted by plexi at 10:41 AM on June 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


Salt is the refuge of the uninspired cook.
posted by plexi at 10:42 AM on June 17, 2008 [2 favorites]


But, my corollary to that would be : the best way to do steak is

1. lots of sea salt and freshly ground pepper
2. on the grill
3. on high heat
posted by plexi at 10:47 AM on June 17, 2008


Salt is the refuge of the uninspired cook.

Don't cook much, do you?
posted by dersins at 10:48 AM on June 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


Avoid home sharpeners, though, which “sharpen” your blade by destroying it.

Thank you! I got a friend a Shun as a wedding gift, and he, as an after thought, wanted to know which of the drag-the-blade-through-the-tiny-V sharpeners he should get. I explained to him that if he did that, the kitchen knife would leap out of his hand and skewer his foot to the floor in protest.

(I also put him in touch with the best sharpener I know of and showed him how to use it.)

His knives are happy now.
posted by quin at 11:02 AM on June 17, 2008


Salt is the refuge of the uninspired cook.

A witty saying proves nothing.
-- Voltaire
posted by splice at 11:17 AM on June 17, 2008 [2 favorites]


My pet peeve - "How long do I cook it?"
The answer is "Until it's done".
Check the temp, stick a toothpick in it, whatever, but timers are just to remind you to check it.
posted by 2sheets at 11:20 AM on June 17, 2008


So many people I know are absolutely terrified of cooking without a recipe, or of modifying a recipe to suit what's available.

And rightly so, in my opinion. Skilled and experienced cooks may have learned about the various reactions and combinations that go well together and work. Unskilled and inexperienced cooks will often make a sow's ear out of a silk purse because of random substitutions, or an inability to figure out how recipes work.

The amount of times I've been served gray, greasy mush by people who, say, don't understand that fat needs to be a certain temperature for something to cook the way its supposed to continually shocks me. If they'd bothered to actually *read* and *follow* a recipe, their food wouldn't turn out so appallingly bad. Unfortunately, they see 'fry' and think that means 'place in a pan of fat of indeterminate temperature until the colour changes to gray'.

Also: my understanding of the salt/umami issue concurs with cmoj. Law wasn't saying that they're the same thing -- simply that salt activates umami flavours in food that you wouldn't notice without it.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 11:31 AM on June 17, 2008


Peter: By far the fastest way to cook food that isn't "gray, greasy mush" is to experiment. If all you ever do is follow a recipe then all you can do is follow a recipe. Yes, experimentation can leads to disaster; backup plans are good (or just accept that some days you are going to have to force down your dinner). But experimentation is also how you learn what does and doesn't work, not to mention how you can stumble on awesome signature dishes that can help define you as a cook.
posted by aspo at 11:49 AM on June 17, 2008 [3 favorites]


His take on cheese buying is inconsistent and mostly garbage.

You absolutely can get great parmesan outside of italy or any other varieties from outside their source region. Too many people get caught up in "de Origin" nonsense. Like the cheese 10 miles outside of some magical barrier is going to be wildly different. The wine people do this trick all the time too.
posted by ozomatli at 11:49 AM on June 17, 2008


3. Finish with acid.

I tried that once, but I kept tripping through Thanksgiving dinner, 1974.
posted by rokusan at 11:51 AM on June 17, 2008 [3 favorites]


My personal rule: I hate peppers, and any more than the slightest bit of onion. I'm a bit of a supertaster, though, and all I can ever taste is the damn peppers and onions once they're in.

But yes, more salt please! And for the love of God, stop asking me if I want cream gravy. Give me good meat that doesn't need a gravy jacket to be edible. Thanks.

Am I the only one who judges cook time by her nose? It's usually more reliable than timers, although I do have to a) pay attention and b) stay in the kitchen. But I can usually tell when it's just about done.
posted by emjaybee at 12:02 PM on June 17, 2008


I'm a bit of a supertaster, though

Supertasters are the new Aspergers!
posted by Justinian at 12:19 PM on June 17, 2008 [2 favorites]


If all you ever do is follow a recipe then all you can do is follow a recipe.

Oh, not at all. If you follow recipes, you soon understand that they are built on basic, common templates. Once you are aware of basic techniques and proportions, you can experiment - with a much higher success rate. For instance, if you follow recipes for blueberry muffins, and then banana muffins, odds are you can turn out a passable pumpkin muffin. If you follow a recipe for stir-fry with chicken, broccoli, and water chestnuts, you will likely have a much better basis for making a stab at stir-fried pork with peppers and garlic. Same with risotto. Same with cakes. Same with grilled fishes. Same with roasted meats. Same with casseroles based on white sauce. Recipes are teachers, and when you compare as few as two or three, you will notice the similarities that reveal the basic structures of the dish you're trying to create. People tend to say they "don't use recipes" in a bragging way; but usually, those people were already taught how to cook through demonstration, or have already cooked with so many recipes they no longer need to rely on them for basic preparations. They may also mean that they are now good at "eyeing" measurements, and can confidently cut off a glob of butter and know that it's about three tablespoons, or take a handful of flour and know that it's a quarter cup.

And yet, the best cooks in the world DO use recipes. In fact, they tinker with them obsessively, making small variations in flavor balance, moisture, cooking heat, technique, food shape, acidity, and so on - and they are careful to note their successes, so that they can be repeated. Thankfully, this is why when you go to your favorite restaurant, your favorite dish usually tastes roughly the same as it did last time. Thank goodness they're not truly winging it - because I agree, people who don't know how to cook, and don't teach themselves using recipes, usually don't cook very well. They certainly can't bake anything.

salt activates umami flavours in food that you wouldn't notice without it

Salt makes most flavors more pronounced, and Cecil says that it increases the volatility of compounds in food so that they release more aromas, but I'm not sure you could say it "activates" any other of the basic flavors, which already have their own receptors. The umami taste comes from glutamic acid (it's the same stuff in the salt MSG) and does some of what salt does - what this great umami website calls a "synergistic effect" - it enhances flavors, but not by increasing volatilty of aroma. It adds a sense that is often described as "richness." The wikipedia page says "There is a cortical map representation for the taste of glutamate separate from that of other taste stimuli like sweet (glucose), salt, bitter (quinine), and sour (hydrochloric acid)," indicating that it is also a true taste of its own, not just an activator or enhancer of other flavors. Here's another nice writeup on the history and science of umami. So I would say it adds flavor, rather than simply enhances other flavors.
posted by Miko at 12:24 PM on June 17, 2008 [2 favorites]


Am I on Metafilter? Where's the bacon?
posted by kozad at 12:28 PM on June 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


A witty saying proves nothing.

A witty saying proves nothing.
-- Voltaire
posted by rakish_yet_centered at 12:52 PM on June 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


Although salt can make a dish, far too often it destroys it. Salt enhances flavours, if your dish has hardly any flavour to begin with salting it up won't do much good. Too many times a prefectly good soup has been ruined by salt.
posted by Vindaloo at 1:19 PM on June 17, 2008


So great points here, even if most of it smells like something cooked in the green.

I must point out, though, that many many times salt is easy to add to taste. Lots of times it's hardly necessary to the actual cooking process and that preference for it is highly variable. Just because you like the vile stuff that reliably makes my mouth raw doesn't mean it's some sort of universal truth-producing-flavour-making-supar-chef producing ingredient.

There's a time and a place for everything. Except, maybe, whingeing because you just had to use the salt shaker with your own wrist instead of having it done for you.
posted by mce at 1:23 PM on June 17, 2008


Although salt can make a dish, far too often it destroys it. Salt enhances flavours, if your dish has hardly any flavour to begin with salting it up won't do much good.

Yes! I tend to think that Just Salt is a perfectly respectable way to season food - if the food is any good to begin with. I think the problem is that our cooking hasn't kept up with how much food's changed. A pork chop, properly browned, and seasoned with just a little salt and pepper is a beautiful thing - if it's from good old-fashioned pork, and if it isn't cooked to a dried-out well-done, if it tastes like pork to begin with. Ripe tomatoes are never tomatoier than when they're sprinkled with a few flecks of coarse-grained salt - except that most tomatoes nowadays are pallid, wan, watery-celled lumps of pink styrofoam that have no inherent flavor anyway.

People, unfortunately, keep seasoning as if we're all still cooking in season, with local (fresh) stuff, with honest produce and meat that hasn't been bred more for resistance to disease or longevity or beauty than flavor. If you're going to choose super-lean saline-injected supermarket pork cooked to the recommended 180 (180!), farmed fish, green-picked and shipped produce - well, they all need bolder spicing to compensate for the fact that they're as bland as tofu, but people don't seem to have caught on to that. Instead, they just...add...more...salt.
posted by peachfuzz at 1:40 PM on June 17, 2008


Miko: there is a huge difference from "uses a recipe for reference" and "only follows recipes." I know people who need to measure the water they boil for pasta or the amount of milk they add to a roux, and as a rule none of them feel comfortable deviating from what's written down.

Yes, a lot of cooking is use the same basic techniques. Yes learning those is important, and early on the best way to do that is to learn from someone else, preferably directly, but a cookbook can do the job. But it's important to experiment early. Once you think you understand a technique try it with your own creations. That way you can tell if you actually have mastered the skill or if you've missed something important. Not to mention it's a great way to learn what works together and what combinations taste foul. Cookbooks generally don't tell you what not to do, especially when it comes to pairing spices with your main ingredients.
posted by aspo at 1:52 PM on June 17, 2008


honest produce

Produce today... so full of lies!

I don't disagree with your points, I just found the turn of phrase amusing. I imagine a bunch of asparagus saying "we're tomatoes!"
posted by flaterik at 2:00 PM on June 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


I basically agree with you, aspo, but to some people, experimentation isn't important. And if you're getting good results and making food that satisfies you and others, there's no need to experiment. Doesn't mean you can't cook; only that you can't cook creatively. And restaurant chefs, in particular, value consistency more over creativity. Most pastry chefs I know, in particular, don't deviate from successful recipes. A good recipe already represents the best results of much experimentation.
posted by Miko at 2:25 PM on June 17, 2008


Plus, it's simply not that hard or time consuming to cook a shitload of beans. It probably takes 5 minutes total of actual activity to make beans.

I must be missing the bean-making magic then, because for me cooking beans is always time-consuming and turns out a fucking disaster. Yay for canned beans.
posted by Squeak Attack at 2:28 PM on June 17, 2008


Half the time I take foods where I used to load up on the garlic, and just throw in a few unchopped cloves to brown in the oil and take them out at the end.

Save yourself time and money by infusing your cooking oil with garlic. It's easy and delicious.
posted by peeedro at 2:35 PM on June 17, 2008


Save yourself time and money by infusing your cooking oil with garlic. It's easy and delicious.

I'm not sure that it saves that much time and money, especially since you are supposed to throw it out after a month in the fridge, in order to avoid botulism poisoning.
posted by oneirodynia at 2:57 PM on June 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


Do I need to be the first to point out that you guys are actually, literally, overthinking a plate of beans? I don't know whether to be proud or ashamed.
posted by Riki tiki at 3:17 PM on June 17, 2008


I'm not sure that it saves that much time and money, especially since you are supposed to throw it out after a month in the fridge, in order to avoid botulism poisoning.

I'm not saying that you should infuse two liters of oil at a time. That would be wasteful and dangerous. But if you infuse a cup of olive you're pretty sure to use that in a month, right?
posted by peeedro at 3:19 PM on June 17, 2008


This fellow's article reads like the advice of someone who eats his oversalted dinner while watching sports on television.
posted by optovox at 3:26 PM on June 17, 2008


It takes 3 seconds to pop off a garlic clove and throw it in the oil. You don't even need to remove the papery skin.
posted by aspo at 4:02 PM on June 17, 2008


cmoj writes "I avoid anything in cans. Not only do I not trust aluminum, I don't trust the canners to cook them to my taste. "

Most canned food is canned in tin coated steel cans, not aluminum. You can tell the difference pretty easily by the mass of the empty can.

'Course beans may be an exception to this, I don't know as I can my own in glass.
posted by Mitheral at 5:53 PM on June 17, 2008


* Use a fire extinguisher. Duh.
ha! he cooks like i do!

I use those little cans of pineapple pieces as a treat in the same way some people use cheesecake -- yum!
me too, though i prefer the rings...try this: store the can in the fridge, but pop it in the freezer about 1/2 an hour before you eat it...the goal is just before frozen...*drools*

you do realize that using salt to trap liquids in meat also traps liquids in your meat. i eat like a pig, i rarely, rarely, rarely use salt, i weigh 125 pounds...do the math. (this maillard process does sound interesting though...i may do half a dish and compare) if you want to eliminate salt from your diet, do what i did and just use less gradually...u will eventually just lose the desire for it...totally agree with his idea of replacing it, flavor palette-wise, not with msg, but with other flavors, sour, spicy, sweet, etc.

but while we're talking food, i really wanted to ask if anyone had any tips for the single cook or any links to a compendium of tips for those who cook alone, especially those that focus on FAST...i'm just kinda tired of eating the same thing for a week if i do cook, wasting food if i go for variety, or being salted to death if i eat out. help! in exchange i will trade you: BBC Food...great(!) for cleaning out the fridge...just type what ingredients u have lying around into the box and it will whirl out some recipes for you. i will also throw in my Ultimate Vegetable Sauce recipe free of charge: 1) REAL(!) mayonaise (seriously, dont fuck around, life is too short for fake mayo) 2)(fresh) lemon juice 3) stir...that easy, SO good (, maybe not so healthy). you WILL be surprised. if you want to get fancy, add no more than 1 spice (black pepper, dill both good), it ruins it if you overdo it.

and since there is a topic here:
11) add your (black, red, white, etc)pepper at the very end, heat ruins it, makes it bitter.
posted by sexyrobot at 6:49 PM on June 17, 2008


Mitheral: Yeah, you're right. I chose my words hastily. They still overcook them, though, and I still don't trust aluminum.
posted by cmoj at 6:51 PM on June 17, 2008


you do realize that using salt to trap liquids in meat also traps liquids in your meat. i eat like a pig, i rarely, rarely, rarely use salt, i weigh 125 pounds...do the math.

You have a wonderful metabolism - congratulations! But salt is not the reason you weigh only 125 pounds. The amount of water weight maintained due to salt in the body is minimal, rarely more than a few pounds. If you don't believe me, I have a bunch of salt-free fat blood-pressure patients to show you.
posted by Miko at 9:05 PM on June 17, 2008


You can get good cheap knives and throw them out when they get dull. People don't get a really nice razor and shave their face with it and the try and sharpen it when it gets dull people throw out the dull blade unless they are playing dress up and the same goes for knives.
posted by I Foody at 9:37 PM on June 17, 2008


Someone asked in chat what I would recommend for someone with high blood pressure who has to limit his salt intake.

Yeah, you know sodium has been implicated in high blood pressure in some people...

The best answer is an unfortunate one, but the reason that monosodium glutamate originally became popular is that it’s a tremendous flavor enhancer that delivers that same umami hit that salt does, perhaps even more powerfully.

Wow. This is the Joe Morgan of food.
posted by dirigibleman at 10:44 PM on June 17, 2008


i eat like a pig, i rarely, rarely, rarely use salt, i weigh 125 pounds...do the math.

Anecdote+unsubstantiated handwaving=data?

i will also throw in my Ultimate Vegetable Sauce recipe free of charge: 1) REAL(!) mayonaise (seriously, dont fuck around, life is too short for fake mayo) 2)(fresh) lemon juice 3) stir...that easy, SO good (, maybe not so healthy). you WILL be surprised.

Or, better yet, just use a little olive oil and a little red wine vinegar and some lemon juice and some salt. Much better for you. (You are talking about salad dressing, right?)
posted by nasreddin at 11:43 PM on June 17, 2008


I still don't trust aluminum

People are exposed to aluminum on a daily basis: it's the third most abundant element in nature: it's in the soil, air, and water. People take in signficant amounts of aluminum over their lifetimes, because it's naturally occurring everywhere. Additionally, if you use anti-perspirants or antacids, you are using aluminum. Considering that no one has yet proved a link between aluminum storage and cooking utensils and aluminum concentrations in the body, I think aluminum cans are probably more deserving of "trust" than otherwise.
posted by oneirodynia at 9:28 AM on June 18, 2008


It's true that the link between food storage and leeching is unproven. Much like Bisphenol-A's leaching properties were unproven for 120 years. It is proven, however that aluminum can be profoundly damaging to the nervous and lymphatic systems, and can inhibit food digestion/absorption. It is also known to sublimate easily when heated. So if it's not leaching into canned food or the food in our pots, you're still breathing some amount when you use aluminum cookware (teflon too, we come to find out).

No, I don't use antiperspirants or antacids. It challenges a lot of people's assumptions beyond credulity that healthy people don't stink. Nor do they need antacids. Drink some milk. Eat a banana.
And yes, full blown aluminum toxicity takes pretty high levels of aluminum in the system, but you've been swabbing sublethal doses of it into a place that is not only packed with blood vessels but directly adjacent to a lymph node. Two of these places. For most of your life. Would you do that with sublethal doses of mercury? Arsenic? Mystery-substance-A? Store your food in it? Cook with it?

Not me. It's too easy to avoid.
posted by cmoj at 11:25 AM on June 18, 2008


sorry about the salt bashing, but it really aint all that healthy...tiny amounts=necessary, added to evrything you cook=shorter life...i'm gonna keep avoiding it for the most part.

nasreddin...no i meant more for like steamed veggies...particularly good for asparagus, artichoke, broccoli... my salad dressing is pretty similar to yours (minus the salt of course) but i use: white wine vinegar, olive oil, a spoonful of dijon mustard, pepper, maybe some herbs, whisk or shake to break up the mustard...

cmoj...remember, there is a big difference between aluminum METAL, and aluminum OXIDE. its the metal that is the potentially dangerous one as it is so reactive, but even in metal form it is not often a potential danger as, when exposed to air, it quickly seals itself with a (very) thin oxide layer (its so resistant to corrosion because it protects itself with corrosion)...the real danger comes almost exclusively from the cookware, because of the scratching or scraping involved.
and yeah, food cans aren't usu aluminum like drink cans are...

it's the third most abundant element in nature
actually in all of nature, it doesn't even make the top ten, but it is the second most abundant in the earths crust (second to oxygen, which it is mostly combined with)
posted by sexyrobot at 12:36 PM on June 18, 2008


it's the third most abundant element in nature
actually in all of nature, it doesn't even make the top ten, but it is the second most abundant in the earths crust (second to oxygen, which it is mostly combined with)


"In the Earth's crust, aluminium is the most abundant (8.13%) metallic element, and the third most abundant of all elements (after oxygen and silicon)."

We live on the earth's crust, and consequently the water, soil, plants, animals, and air all contain naturally occurring aluminum. I'm not sure how that counts as not nature, but possibly "nature" is too vague a word.

Not me. It's too easy to avoid.

My point is, that it's not- it's in drinking water, it's in the foods you eat that are leavened with sodium aluminum phosphate, it's in the air you breathe, it's in plants. There's nothing wrong with avoiding as much as possible, but it's unreasonable to think that aluminum accumulation can be avoided, because it happens to everyone.
posted by oneirodynia at 2:04 PM on June 18, 2008


I know it can't be avoided entirely, but I can avoid it in concentration. There are bigger health problems with both leavened bread and tap water. Yeast helps set up an acid, fungus-friendly environment in your gut. Chlorine scars the arteries badly and fluoride is linked to everything from neuro-degenerative disorders to low sperm counts, though, curiously, not to less tooth decay.
So no, it can't be avoided, nor do I expect to avoid it entirely. However, I avoid it when there's something to avoid, if you know what I mean. In general, there are worse things to worry about.

sexyrobot - aluminum oxide is identified mainly as a risk due to simple particle inhalation... dust. However I am unaware of any long-term studies specifically questioning this beyond survey studies looking for a link with breast cancer. Beyond that it's unnecessary, so I don't use it.

All of this really falls under a general philosophy of keeping my body's chemistry set as stock as possible. Nobody has any idea how these dozens of synthetic chemicals behave when mixed into our even less understood body chemistry, and it's just not necessary to mix most of them in anyway.

I am not a scientologist, conspiricist, christian scientist, hippie, yippie or vegan, btw.

Does this count as us derailing this thread? Mefi rulemaster?
posted by cmoj at 3:07 PM on June 18, 2008


There are bigger health problems with both leavened bread and tap water. Yeast helps set up an acid, fungus-friendly environment in your gut. Chlorine scars the arteries badly and fluoride is linked to everything from neuro-degenerative disorders to low sperm counts, though, curiously, not to less tooth decay.

Oh dear sweet Jesus you're just a fountain of crackpot ideas and poor science reasoning, aren't you? I'm just going to address the bread since that's a new one on me. Just how exactly does leavened bread "set up an acid, fungus-friendly environment in your gut?" The yeast is quite dead after it's been baked and it's easily (and nutritiously) digested by your stomach. The bread itself is only slightly acidic, with a pH in the range of 5-6 (neutral being 7). This is far less acidic than all citrus fruits (2-4), apples (3-4), grapes (3-4), bananas (4-5), and just about every other fruit on the planet. So what, exactly, makes leavened bread more acidic and fungus-friendly than the carbs and acidity of an apple? Heck, the apple skin even has live yeast and other fungus living on it, unlike bread. Please try to frame your answer in terms of peer-reviewed studies, extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof you know.
posted by TungstenChef at 1:13 AM on June 19, 2008 [3 favorites]


I enjoyed the link and the conversation in the post is fascinating as usual - just one thing, could we please try to specify units - what is 180? (not meaning to single you out peachfuzz...
posted by Samuel Farrow at 2:23 AM on June 19, 2008


TungstenChef: Oh dear sweet Jesus you're just a fountain of condescending yes-mannery aren't you?

The yeast is quite dead after it's been baked and it's easily (and nutritiously) digested by your stomach.
Indeed. Not the point. Also negates the (non)point you're making with the rest of that paragraph.

Google "candida." Yes, you'll have to wade through spam sites, but the information is there. For the rest this guy Kevin Trudeau is a good place to start. He's a carpetbagger, but he has an extensive base of research. Don't give him any money.
posted by cmoj at 11:00 AM on June 19, 2008


For the rest this guy Kevin Trudeau is a good place to start. He's a carpetbagger, but he has an extensive base of research.

Awesome. He's a fucking loon and a con man. That guy's your source for health information? Good luck with that.
posted by dersins at 11:19 AM on June 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


Like I said...
posted by cmoj at 12:11 PM on June 19, 2008


So what you're saying is, he's not trustworthy enough to give money, but he is trustworthy enough to be a counterexample to thousands of years of human experience and hundreds of scientific research?
posted by flaterik at 12:42 PM on June 19, 2008


For the curious, this seems to be a pretty straightforward description of the "candida diet" that I think cmoj is referring to. It looks pretty pseudo-sciencey to me, but I'm no expert.

Some alternative practitioners believe that overgrowth of candida albicans yeast in the intestines is responsible for a yeast syndrome that results in symptoms such as fatigue, headache, mood swings, sinus congestion, depression, poor memory and concentration, and cravings for sweets.

The excess Candida yeast in the intestines is then thought to penetrate the intestinal wall, causing yeast and other unwanted particles to be absorbed into the body. The absorbed yeast particles are believed to activate the immune system, resulting in an allergic hypersensitivity to Candida.

This yeast syndrome, popularized by William Crook, MD, in his 1983 book, The Yeast Connection, is considered highly controversial. Most conventional doctors think this syndrome is overdiagnosed by holistic practitioners and many disagree with the validity of the diagnosis.


A few years back I used a cross-country move as an excuse to toss my aluminum pots and bought some stainless steel ones instead. I doubt very strongly that there is any great health impact from an aluminum pot, and I still happily drink out of aluminum cans and so on. But I like how the steel pots cook better anyway, and I think that a little harmless indulgence of one's inner crackpot is an acceptable thing from time to time, as long as you are honest about the lack of foundation these ideas usually have in real science.

could we please try to specify units - what is 180? (not meaning to single you out peachfuzz...

That was almost certainly degrees Fahrenheit -- a reference to the excessive recommendations that are sometimes made for internal temperatures when cooking meat. If you follow the worst of the recommendations, you probably won't get sick, but in exchange you are guaranteed to eat a dessicated and overcooked lump of meat.
posted by Forktine at 12:50 PM on June 19, 2008


For those salt-phobic individuals out there, often times the late addition of an acid can help boost flavor better than salt.
posted by ozomatli at 12:53 PM on June 19, 2008


Oh dear sweet Jesus you're just a fountain of condescending yes-mannery aren't you?

Actually a biochemist who gets passionate about food science and cooking. That's pretty much what I expected, a non-answer demonstrating no understanding whatsoever of any of the processes you're making extraordinary claims about. Citing a convicted con-man as evidence is a just bonus. I guess I'm just not a true believer like you, when I want to exercise my faith I go to church—not the kitchen.
posted by TungstenChef at 9:54 PM on June 19, 2008


I'm just going to end this since it's clear that neither of us has any faith in the intelligence or motivation of the other, and this will only turn into a larger fountain of snarks.
posted by cmoj at 10:38 AM on June 20, 2008


It's amazing how much identity and import we project upon food.
posted by Miko at 8:47 PM on June 21, 2008


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