Monday, March 30, 2009

Butter Milk

I'm a simple [minded] man. Upon encountering a compound word I, like many of my fellow humans, naturally assume it to be a portmanteau word, where the meanings of the root words are also combined. One great example of this concept is the spork. Spoon + fork = spork. Even if you'd never encountered such an implement, it's easy to imagine what it would look like. Food is not excluded from my blind assumptions. After all there are so many examples that wholly support my bias. Take for example

the strawberry,

the watermelon,

and my favorite of all

the crab apple.

I'll admit, my natural assumption is highly illogical but is it the fault of my misguided brain or the inconsistencies of the English language that are to blame here?


I don't do the typical breakfast foods but I associate buttermilk pancakes and biscuits with creamy buttery goodness since the pictures of said items always show a steamy mound of carbs slathered in creamy, melting butter. With this association stuck in my mind and my biologically driven love for butter, I had always assumed butter milk was just as the name implied: some unsalted, half-churned stop off between whole milk and butter.

I hadn't given the stuff much serious consideration until I saw it on the menu at a local restaurant. For a week I couldn't get my fabricated idea of buttermilk out of my head and I leisurely daydreamed of drinking this frothy fat smoothie. It took some frantic searches of a few local stores to find it, but on my next shopping trip I was able to secure a liter of the mythic buttermilk. Immediately upon arriving home I dispensed with the requisite pictures and got down to business.


The slight scent of salt hit my nose and I initially thought that, like most butter, it was just salted but then the culture followed. Sour milk. Intentionally sour milk at that. We were dealing not with the formula buttermilk = butter + milk. Instead, like many of life's mysteries, the answer to the equation x = buttermilk - milk was far less obvious. In this case, solving for x would give us an approximation of yogurt + salt.

According to Wikipedia, fount of all modern knowledge:

Buttermilk is a fermented dairy product produced from cows' milk with a characteristically sour taste. The product is made in one of two ways. Originally, buttermilk was the liquid left over from churning butter from cream. In India, buttermilk, widely known as "chaas" is known to be the liquid leftover after extracting butter from churned curd (dei). Today, this is called traditional buttermilk. On the other hand artificially made buttermilk, also known as cultured buttermilk, is a product where lactic acid bacteria called Streptococcus lactis have been added to milk.

See, "originally" I wasn't as wrong. In the original meaning, the fat was mostly removed from the milk/cream leaving a leaner liquid behind, not the fatty broth I was dreaming about, and still tart due to the high lactic acid concentration. Quite possibly to increase its longevity, the beneficial bacteria were added to the mix in other cultures, giving it more of a sour, yogurt-like taste.

I drank up and I drank deep but by the end of my little glass I couldn't stomach the thought of tasting any more until the next day when I'd slightly forgotten what it was like. Rather than comparing it to yogurt, I guess it would be more apt to describe the texture and taste as being like a blended and slightly diluted batch of cottage cheese. Not bad, but not something I could drink with any regularity.

Health nuts take note, it is quite a nutritionally sound beverage. There is less fat than whole milk, high levels of potassium, vitamin B12, and calcium and the added bacteria aids in the absorption of the protein.

So there you have it, further evidence of my shocking ignorance but at least I now know to be a little more careful next time when making assumptions about foods with compound names (at least I still have the Aprium to back me up). I think I'll go knock back a few shots of pure cream to lift my spirits.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Buzz Bites

I spent my childhood in Australia jealously shaking my fist at the fortunate youth across the ocean, the kids in America. These kids had it all. Movie stars walking the streets, gadgets galore, and a holiday like none other; a holiday where all young people prowled the streets in fantastic costumes, collecting enormous amounts of FREE candy.

Australia didn't celebrate Halloween when I was young. Oh, we knew about it of course, but good luck trying to squeeze some chocolate out of your neighbors, you'd be more likely to get hit with an empty beer can.

But in my 10th year of life I was given the greatest gift any young Australian child could hope for. No, not an anti-venom variety pack; that would be the second greatest. I was given the gift of relocation to the holy land: The United States of America.

So I hit the Halloween scene late. At first I hated all of the candy. My first of many major illusions about the US to be shattered was the realization that you guys have it bad in the chocolate bar department... really bad. However, even before I became accustomed to the sweets of the land, there were a few varieties that stuck out as being the worst of the worst and the dreaded Tootsie Roll may very well be at the top of that horrid list.

What the hell are Tootsie Rolls? I know they mention something about sugar but, as far as I'm concerned, they're just brown colored taffy flavored with the same dirty mop water used to make Yoohoo.

buzz bites wrapper

ANYWAY, this isn't about Tootsie Rolls so I'll cut that rant short. However, I needed to use these vile little pieces of sugary excrement as a point of reference.

You see, or perhaps you've already seen, I'm a depraved caffeine addict. All you have to do is mention the word coffee in a product description and I'm already at the checkout, shoving it in my face and looking for my debit card. And this is how I was stung by the Buzz Bite.

Buzz Bites are little "chocolate" squares that contain as much caffeine as a cup of coffee. It even says so on the label through the use of very clever symbology. For a more in depth description, this is what the buzz bites website says about them:

Buzz Bites - Chocolate & Mint Chocolate Energy Chews contain a proprietary blend of caffeine, ginseng, taurine and B vitamins, which enhance performance, increase endurance, stimulate metabolism and sharpen that edge that lets you take on life!

Oh yeah! Sharpen that edge! What am I saying? Who am I to criticize? That's exactly what drives me to consume dangerous levels of caffeine in the first place, the desire to maximize focus and productivity. So sure, Buzz Bites definitely deliver in the caffeine department, but it's how they do it that's the problem.

buzz bite

Buzz Bites taste like Tootsie Rolls. But wait, that's not all! Buzz Bites taste like those "cream filled" Tootsie Rolls but instead of the "creme" filling they shoved a caffeine pill inside. At 50 cents or more a pop, you'd be better off doing just that yourself. The vile, bitter taffy may give you the kick you're looking for but there's no benefit in the delivery.

Drink a cup of coffee, drink a red bull, or swallow a caffeine pill with some chocolate milk. Just don't waste your money on these. But if you do decide to buy some, I definitely won't turn them down when I'm standing at your door with my pillow case in my hands and my moth-eaten bed sheets draped over my head.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Coffee Berry Juice

One day I was in the midst of consuming excessive amounts of coffee, a regular occurrence, when I started wondering about what happens to the fruit surrounding coffee beans after they are harvested. You see, coffee beans come from berries that look like cherries, little red orbs that grow on a vine. In some places civets eat these berries and poop out deliciously adulterated coffee beans which are then roasted and sold to rich Americans as Kopi Luwak. But is the flesh of coffee berries/cherries fit for human consumption?

Soon after posing this question I discovered that O.N.E. (One Natural Experience), makers of the strangely delicious Cashew Juice and refreshing Coconut Water, offer a beverage made from the flesh of coffee cherries.

coffee berry juice

Continuing in their line of intriguingly unorthodox and deliciously nutritious drinks, O.N.E. combine the nutritious coffee fruit, the benefits of which are typically destroyed and discarded during the processing of the beans, with strawberry puree and Acerola (Amazon Cherry). This mixture of fruits results in a potent nutritional cocktail high in antioxidants and Vitamin C. In fact, Acerola juice itself contain 32 times the amount of vitamin C as an equal volume of orange juice.

coffee juice breakfast

The coffee berries themselves are said to be a bit bland but I think I detect some hints of the typical astringent qualities of coffee. The flavor of the juice is dominated primarily by the strawberry puree which, along with the meaty texture, results in a drink that is akin to the expensive, exotic juice blends at high end natural food eateries. There's about as much caffeine as green tea so, while it won't give you a huge boost, there's enough stimulation to kick your brain into gear. Add to that the almost paradoxical filling and refreshing nature of the beverage and there's no reason not to fill half of your refrigerator with cartons of this stuff (the other half, of course, being reserved for chilled coffee). Unfortunately, I only have one left at the moment but I can't bring myself to drink if because I can't stand the idea of not having anymore (I'm in the same situation with the Cashew Juice as well).


Nothing will ever replace coffee as my one true love but, not wanting to have a heart attack before I'm 30, I can't very well drink it all day. With its delicious flavor, high nutrient levels, mild caffeine concentration, and pure convenience, I'd gladly make Coffee Berry Juice my beverage of choice in between shots of espresso.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Heater Meals

What happens when a company consolidates various edible items from a series of low quality food producers to create a gigantic mass of meal for people on the go? Well, you might get something like HeaterMeals©, the self-heating meal that is perfect for anyone lost in the wilderness, embedded in a war zone, or hopelessly wandering across the charred remains of a post-apocalyptic wasteland.

heater meal top down

For my birthday, many months ago, I was given a HeaterMeals Plus™ by a co-worker. This may have been because he knows about my penchant for trying strange foods. More likely is that, having just returned from training with the Army Reserves, it was "leftovers" and he thought it would be funny to pass it on. Either way, I was quite grateful to be the recipient of such an odd parcel and, noting the expiration date of nearly a year later, promptly stuck it in the cupboard to be used on some future adventure. Well, the adventure never came and one day I was hungry, curious, and looking to free up some cabinet space and decided this was the day I would put the self-heating meal to the test.

Innotech invented their Flameless Ration Heater technology, TRUETECH™, in 1990 which has been used to heat over 1 Billion Meals for the U.S. Armed Forces.

Using this self-heating technology, Innotech developed, copyrighted, and branded an array of ready-to-eat meal options including:

  • HeaterMeals© Self-Heating Meals - "a tasty, nutritious mobile, hot meal"

  • HeaterMeals Plus™, The Self-Heating Meal, Plus all The Fixings™ - a HeaterMeal with some snacks, condiments, and a drink

  • HeaterMeals3© - a HeaterMeal© with a 3 year shelf life

  • HeaterMealsEX (which, curiously, isn't listed with a copyright next to its name... I guess they reached their quota on the number of copyright symbols one can use on a web page and still be standards compliant) - a HeaterMeal© with a 5 year shelf life!

Whew, that was a lot of product. Within each of these categories are a variety of meals for carnivores, omnivores, and herbivores alike. Some of the options include:
  • Chicken Pasta Italiana

  • Green Pepper Steak with Rice

  • Homestyle Chicken & Noodles in Gravy

  • Mushroom Gravy, Mashed Potatoes, & Beef

  • Vegetarian 3 Cheese Lasagna

  • Zesty BBQ Sauce & Potatoes with Beef

  • Southwest Style Chicken with Rice and Beans

  • Pancakes, Real Blueberry Topping and Bacon Slices

  • + many, many more!

heater meal malnutrition

I had the "Pancakes, Real Apple Topping & Bacon Slices" from the HeaterMealsPlus breakfast series. Weighing in at a whopping 1240 calories, this is one burly breakfast! Included were two little pancakes, some strips of bacon-esque material, trail mix, raisins, apple juice, apple topping, a fruit cup, and the TRUTECH™ heating aparatus itself. There were more raisins and apple products than you could shake a stick at. Were these the fruits harvested towards the end of the season? Dried grapes and mushy apples rendered palatable through desiccation, liquefaction, and juice extraction? Well, it's a better fate than letting them go to waste.

heater meal steaming

To heat the food you place the appropriate items into the orange heater bag, pour in the provided pouch of water, and fold the bag in half to keep the heat in and prevent resultant chemical reaction from making a mess. At first the steam trickles out slowly but before you know it you're witnessing a violent boil. This thing really does get quite hot so one must take great care when removing the contents for consumption. I'm not a stickler for hot meals and can very well enjoy my food cold or tepid (I actually prefer to not heat up leftovers) but I could absolutely see this being indispensable in a cold environment where lighting a fire is not an option.

heater meal prepared

Now onto the food itself: basically it tasted like crap. The raisins, fruit cup, juice, and trail mix had enough sugar to kill an entire army of diabetics. The bacon was like fat jerky and, although it didn't taste too bad, it's not something I'd choose to eat again. Although most would disagree with me on this point, the pancakes were quite palatable. They were dry and rubbery but that just tricked me into thinking they were some sort of healthy, whole grain pancakes (is that an oxymoron?). But seriously, taste and enjoyability are not the point of these meals; this is not food you're supposed to choose to eat. You eat HeaterMeals because you have to. Despite my biting criticism about the quality of this product, there's no denying how incredibly essential it could be in a time of need. So while it may not win out in the taste arena (and I must admit, I only tasted one and it could very well be the poorest of the bunch) they certainly do excel in terms of:

  • Longevity: 1 - 5 years is a long shelf life for a meal and could mean the difference between life or death.

  • Nutrition: sure, not the "healthiest" food around but it provides all of the essentials and more for dire situations. The high calorie content could again mean the difference between life and death.

  • Warmth: because there's no socket for your spot heater out in the wild.

  • Portability: you can fit a lot of these in a backpack, particularly if you ditched the box and sorted everything out before packing it, and there's no need for extra cooking equipment.

If I was roughing it or surviving in a bind then these types of products would be essential. So yeah, they may not taste very nice to the comfortable and well fed but these are the best post-apocalyptic meals money can buy.

heater meal pancakes and bacon

Wow, I had planned on just making a bunch of disparaging remarks about this meal, particularly considering I couldn't even finish it (no need for the excess calories) but it appears as though I instead formulated a mini-infomercial. If only my endless drivel made any sense, then I might be able to capitalize on this aimless venture.