Saturday, January 26, 2013

What the Dog Saw- Malcom Gladwell

Elizabeth thought I'd like this book.  I've enjoyed the Tipping Point and Blink.
This is a collection of NY Times essays and I did like the first one on kitchen gadgets which is why Elizabeth perhaps brought the book.

It is not written as well as the Birdseye book and they are very similar, being a celebration of invention and the ability to market new things.  Still, I liked it.

When I finished I wanted to buy the Ronco rotisseri which is very ironic since I'm not eating meat.  Ron "Ronco" Popeil  was quite a character.

Once in the middle of my career a woman who taught with us left to sell microwave ovens and she told me I would be great at such a job, that I could sell things.  Interesting.  I never thought of myself as a salesperson.

When I was a kid my brother-in-law gave me boxes of go-sticks to sell door to door.  One stick was a quarter and there was a discount on a box.  These were long tubes of grit wrapped in fragile paper and meant to be placed under the car wheels when they were spinning on ice to easily gain traction.  I don't know if they actually worked.  I sold some, but it was more work than it was worth and not as steady as delivering papers.

Sunday, January 20, 2013


This reminded me of the Mississippi River book I read about the approaches to controling the river and the flood of 1927.

Well, I have almost finished this book  It is with me down here as one on the list. 
(On a side note, this blog does not seem to keep the margins readable on the links, but by setting the type at large on the tT  menu and then reducing it using the control -  key, it will keep the margins when I type.  Strange.)

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Salt and Birdseye both by Kurlansky

I started Kurlansky's Salt book again as I always do down here in Florida and was depressed that although I've read this book through a couple times, I did not remember the information on the first page.
I hate this part of aging, the inability to retain and then access information.
In 475 BC the Chinese politician Fan Li wrote the earliest book on fish farming and breeding fish for development on farms. Yang Y Chung is the title and the original is in the British museum.
Then it would have been a very healthy practice. There were no pesticides in the surrounding farm land, nor would the fish be fed on meal that contained PCB or inundated with antibiotics.
Kurlansky speculates that the idea for farming fish probably came when carp were flushed into backwater ponds by floods.

American ponds rasing trout, especially in Idaho, catfish in the Southern states, and tilapia do still provide us with a good source of safe and usable fish. Winn Dixie, one grocery store here has a sale on some fish this week and it will beat the high prices of the fish market, but not be quite as wonderful or local.

I do identify and get quite a kick out of how Birdseye mentions whatever he eats in whatever he writes, even articles for publication.  I know Kurlansky wants to set us up for the frozen veggie process he creates, but for me it just justifies my own recording of everything I eat or make.

He eats so many things none of us would eat, even big horned owl and the front part of the skunk.  I can appreciate the enjoyment, but again not the killing. 

Grenfell comes up quite a bit.

Another place to visit

101  Birdseye was a great saleman and he conviced people to invest in his ideas.  Here it is 8000$ for investment in furs to be sold in America.  By 1914 he had cornered the Labrador fur market by buying cheaply what the fur trappers had to sell.  Europe in war had no money for fun.  He made enough money to feel prepared to marry Eleanor Gannet.

He writes little about Eleanor or his relationship.  He honeymooned at this place
Is this the Berlin right down the road from us?  I don't remember this place.

Eleanor welcomed the experiences in Labrador.  Once on a dog sled trip, Bob missed that she had fallen off the back and did not notice she was missing for about a mile.  He went back for her, but she must have been frightened.
Kellog is born and Bob drops journal writing.


Now we get to the meat of the Birdseye invention.  The idea is to be able to develop a process for freezing food that will keep it from losing its taste and value.
Interesting the iced drinks go all the way back to the Romans.  Pliny invented the ice bucket so that wine might be chilled without being diluted.
In April of 1626 Sir Francis Bacon died trying to invent a way to freeze chicken.  He got out of his coach in March, bought a chicken, had a woman clean it and he "snow packed" it. 
"The cold affected not only the chicken but also Bacon who became extremely ill. When he was taken to a nearby house, his condition grew worse.  He wrote that the experiment in chilling the chicken 'succeeded.' Only hours after writing the note Bacon died of pneumonia."

Next Robert Boyle experimented to try to define coldness and where it came from.
A Maryland engineer, Thomas Moore, first used the word "refrigerator" He invented a box that would keep his butter hard on the way to market.
Frederick Tudor and Jarvis Wyeth deomocratized ice, making it less a luxury for the aristocarcy and in expensive enough to be used for preserving meat and veggies, fish and milk.  Jarvis added the saw toothed ice cutter and the use of sawdust for insulation to Tudor's developement of an ice market that went even to the Carribbean.
Tudor became a multimillionaire.  Much of the ice was cut from Thoreau's walden pond.
This bibliography lists the book by Dewey Hill from Utica.
Also, ice harvesting was done on Lime Lake for years

Charles Saint-Ange Thilorier (Paris chemist)  mixed dry ice, snow, and ether to produce a temperature of -104 F but he was not interested in practical applications.
In 1890 an unusually mild winter hurt the natural ice industry and started people using artificial ice as invented by Ferdinand Carre. another Frenchman.
First patent for frozen fish process 1862  Enoch Piper.  He froze salmon.

Interesting that fish drove this industry because it had the greatest losses from spoilage.
In the beginning frozen fish was of poorer quality because only the fish that had not sold as fresh was then frozen.

Finally in 1923 Birseye figured out how to fast freeze fish and get it to -45F with very little time spent in a temperature above that.  he discovered that to be successful small amounts of food needed to be frozen rather than large whole pieces, like a side of beef.

Birdseye invests all the money he has, even selling his life insurance and goes broke.
Then he sells his house and moves to Glouchester.
Eleanor never faltered in her support for Clarence.  She was behind him all the way.  She was pregnant with a fourth child when they went to Glouchester.
He presents an interesting overview of the Glouchester of this time period, being a true fishing village with the smell of drying salmon permeating the ambiance of the town.

Named the company General Seafoods but experimented with freezing bakegoods as well.

They focused on inventing machinery and processes.  One was exposing the fish to light brining to accelerate the freezing process.    This was why freezing bluegill was recommended with first brining.    He invented a fish scaler that would not stop the minute that it hit a fin.
It was important the the freezing process was "indirect" so the fish had no contact with the refrigerant. 
He developed "multiplate freezing" and this solved all the problems.
p.159  "  Multiplate freezing could produce a large amount of frozen food, cold enough and frozen quickly enough;  the freezing was indirect, the air-space problem was eliminated, and the final boxed product was in a convenient form suitable for marketing."
Kurlansky calls the transportation problem the "Adam Trask" problem after a Steinbeck character in East of Eden.  Distributing the frozen food was now the challenge.

Then there was the politics.  Unions feared the frozen food would put traditional workers out of a job.  The canning industry fought the competition and can makers fought him because his packaging would not be made by them.  Birdseye also was influencial in getting cellophane produced.  For a while he was the only customer, but soon it caught on.

Birdseye is least remembered for his invention of the reflecting light bulb. He dies of heart failure. In today's world he could have been treated and would have lived much longer. Although his values no longer fit our modern world, and perhaps his excessive hunting never was a good thing at all, his personal nature was very attractive. And he certainly has changed my life. We had a frozen sheepshead baked for dinner last night and for breakfast this morning as well.