Category Archives: Booze

Greenberg’s Food Combining Principles

The book Healing With Whole Foods by Paul Pitchford (North Atlantic 1993) offers advice on traditional, healthy food-pairing. Pitchford looks to ancient Chinese medicine and current nutrition research. He claims the only vegetables good to eat (combine) with fruit, for proper digestion, are lettuce and celery, and that beans are best eaten with green vegetables (such as kale).

But the movie Greenberg, starring Ben Stiller and directed/written by Noah Baumbach, offers alternative, intuition-based food combining principles. Here are the top three combinations from the movie, followed by one example that is not a food combination exactly but relevant nonetheless. See the movie for more.

1. Whiskey and Ice Cream Sandwiches
The movie’s plot revolves around Stiller’s character, Greenberg, watching his brother’s house while his brother is gone on business in Vietnam. When his brother’s assistant swings by to get her paycheck, she offers to pick up anything Greenberg needs from the store. “Make a list,” she says. Greenberg writes a list including, and limited to, whiskey and ice cream sandwiches. The most interesting thing about this food combination is that it is exactly the opposite of what anyone sincerely interested in food combining would choose if asked to plan ahead.

2. Whiskey and Raisins
Greenberg makes a habit of writing letters of complaint to companies that piss him off. His snack during one particularly eloquent letter-writing session (to Starbucks) is whiskey with raisins. The two most interesting things about this combination/scene are first, that Greenberg takes the opaque inner bag of raisins out of the box, so that the fact he is eating raisins is not explicit. Second, this combination is like a recipe for chocolate sorbetto (sorbet), made from cocoa powder sweetened with whiskey-soaked raisins.

3. Whiskey and Instant Noodles
There are a lot of eating scenes in Greenberg but Greenberg never cooks. His dinner one night is cup noodles and whiskey at the living room coffee table. Did you know that George Ohsawa, the founder of macrobiotics, is said to have enjoyed whiskey? The Japanese are also fond of noodles. And, the MSG in cup noodles is one thing that might stand up to the strength of pure whiskey when tasted together.

4. Whiskey and Inappropriate Behavior
All whiskey drinkers know about this classic combination. Actually it works best without any food at all! Greenberg gives several examples combining whiskey or another booze with inappropriate behavior; sexual and vulgar. See for yourself in the movie, as I wouldn’t want to spoil it for anyone.


Noodle Bowl Winter Night

Tuesday 8 December 2009

Laura, Emily, Hilary (V), Tyler (D) and Hilary (M-B, myself) made five at the eighth meeting of the Macrobiotic Cooking Club.

One Degree, Fahrenheit

Laura four-wheel-drove us through the frozen outdoors to get sake and ingredients. Steaming noodle bowls and sweet roasted squash added another sixty or so degrees to the one outside.

The Menu:

Baked Puffed Mochi
Soba Noodles in Japanese-Style Broth (Fish-less Dashi)
Roasted Buttercup Squash
Brown Rice

We drank Corn Silk tea and Odell’s Isolation Ale while chopping the Buttercup and bringing seaweed to boiling. After adding a splash of sake to the noodle broth, we let the bottle bubble in the noodle-water pot to heat.

Pounded or Purchased Sweet Rice Snacks

Mochi is a Japanese snack food made from sweet rice. Grainaissance, the same company that makes sometimes-available commercial amasake, also makes widely available commercial mochi.

Commercial mochi is a ‘slice and bake’ pounded sweet rice snack that is packaged as flat rectangular cakes. The cakes are hard until you cut them into small squares with a sturdy knife and bake them in a hot (450 degree) oven.

Mochi puff in the oven, becoming light and chewy.

Dashi, Traditional As You Like

Japanese Dashi is made by bringing water to boiling with a piece of kelp submerged, then adding shaved dried bonito fish, briefly, before straining it all. The resulting stock is light and used in everything from vinegar dressings for salads to clear, hot still-life soups. The Japanese often use granulated instant dashi now, but traditional homemade dashi will lend authentic Japanese flavor even to American-made noodle bowls.

We combined two styles of Japanese dashi for a vegetarian noodle broth. First, we made Kombu Dashi by placing a few squares of kombu in cold water and bringing it to boiling. Then, we removed the kelp and transformed the liquid into Shiitake Dashi with dried shiitake mushrooms.

Noodle Broth
Adapted from Shizuo Tsuji’s recipe in Japanese Cooking; A Simple Art

8 cups cold water
4-5 pieces kombu (kelp), about 4″ x 4″ each
7-8 dried shiitake mushrooms
4 Tablespoons tamari soy sauce
2 Tablespoons brown rice syrup
2 Tablespoons sake
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
3 Tablespoons kudzu root starch, ground and dissolved in cold water

These measurements are approximate. The soy sauce, rice syrup, sake and salt must be adjusted to taste. You will know when the seasonings are balanced by tasting a distinct Japanese flavor. The kudzu is optional. It thickens the broth.

Place the kelp and cold water in a pot over medium heat and bring just to boiling. Remove the kelp and add the shiitake mushrooms. We let the mushrooms simmer for 10-15 minutes to infuse their flavor into the broth.

Strain the mushrooms out, reserving them and returning the pot to heat. Add the tamari, rice syrup, sake and salt, adjusting to taste once they are all in.

When the broth is seasoned, add the dissolved kudzu and stir, simmering, until the broth thickens.

Steaming Noodle Bowls

You must have heard somewhere about the Japanese custom of slurping noodles hot. They slurp to eat noodles steaming hot without burning their mouths. In order to serve hot noodles, keep the broth simmering while you boil the noodles; and have all of the other components ready.

We topped the soba noodles with shiitake mushrooms cooked in oil, then added the hot dashi and a garnish of sliced green onions.

Cutting the Round Vegetables

You must be cunning for the task of cutting round vegetables, such as onions, winter squash and cabbage. If their size and solidity aren’t deterrents enough, you will cuss the challenge of making uniform pieces from the shape of a globe.

For winter squash, thick wedges are satisfying. However, because of their layers, onions and cabbages are easier to cut uniformly if you slice them thin as you can.