Miss Ginsu: About/Bio


Grocery Store Tourism

This may seem a bit strange, but one of my very favorite overseas travel activities isn't visiting the museums or galleries (though they're very nice, of course)... it's touring local grocery stores and food shops.

I like to see how the average person lives. In Italy, for example, your average shopper has access to powerful traceability and sourcing information.

Behold! Egg coding!

Italian Egg Coding

The eggshells come with printed sets of numbers. The packaging includes the key to translating the numbers.

What do you find in that code? Everything about where that egg came from, including the state, province, municipality and farm where it was produced, the breed of the chicken and of course, the date on which the hen produced the egg.

Pretty cool, no? One glance at the eggshell, and you know just where it came from, what kind of chicken made it and how fresh it is.

Similarly, when I visited both Italy and France, I noticed that the produce is all labeled with the country and/or region of origin... even at the farmers' markets.

Farmers' market labeling

The second reason I enjoy checking out other peoples' groceries: they have things we don't.

While looking in rural France (Les Eyzies) for food that would work well on the grill, we were delighted to find an upgrade on the traditional canned campsite "pork 'n beans" duo. This canned duck confit and lentils heated up just fine on the grill and made couple of très magnifique dinners.

The same shop also had shelf-stable jars of duck rillettes (essentially a fatty duck spread), which tasted amazing when spread across a fresh baguette.

Can of Lentils & Duck Confit

And finally, there's the joy of discovering cool packaging logos and graphic design. You'll find some of my recent favorites, below:

Goat's Milk Yogurt
An adorable goat's milk yogurt label from Trento, Italy

Devilish Rotisserie Chicken Bag
A devilish rotisserie chicken bag from Toulouse, France

Devilish Rotisserie Chicken Bag
A charming nut sack from Berlin, Germany

Corleggy Cheese Label
A lovely little cheese label from Belturbet, Ireland

I know I can't be alone in my tendency toward grocery store tourism. Anyone have foreign food discoveries to report? Let me know in the comments or link me over to your adventures.

Miss Ginsu

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The Butcher Who Broke My Heart

Free-Range Duckies

Occasionally, my job has unusual perks. Last week they sent me out to visit a free-range duck farm on Long Island with the butcher, the photographer and a few important decision-makers.

The ducks were healthy, terribly clean, seemingly happy and surrounded by grass, trees, sunshine, spring water, fresh breezes... all the stuff you'd hope a duck's life would entail.

Sadly, the less uplifting part of the story is that these little guys are a meat commodity. Their lives are short (just a few months) and after their speedy dispatch (a quick cut in the jugular) the ducks get dipped in parafin, stripped of their feathers (which are cleaned and used in pillows and coats) and prepared for sale.

Whole ducks for Chinese markets are prepped "Confucian-style" (whole, organs and all) and frozen, while breasts and legs for standard sale are trimmed by a loyal staff of workers who've been with this family business for years. Tongues and feet are also beloved by the Chinese restaurants, so they're frozen for sale by the pound.

This was such a meticulously clean and efficient farm, I came away with a feeling of satisfaction. My post-vegetarian guilt was assuaged. The ducks have short lives, yes, but their handful of numbered days seem pleasant, unlike the crowded, stifling chicken mills and turkey barns I've had the misfortune of encountering.

The butcher, a self-described "man at the top of his game" with more than thirty years in the business, left the farm shaking his head and sighing. "I hope someday in the future we humans won't have to do this," he said. "It's different when you get the meat on my end. You package it, and it's a product."

"But when you're here and you're looking at them... I mean, this is a beautiful farm, you know? It just seems so barbaric that we have to do this."

In competition for the deeper soul, I think I was out-hearted by the man who deals in death. I'm still not sure if the water rimming up in my eyes was more about fate of the ducks or my own loss of innocence.

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The Year of the Cock

Ugh... A Blogger publishing issue erased my post, and I'm too depressed to recreate it right now.

Here's the short version: Chinese New Year. Golden Unicorn restaurant in Chinatown. Awful Service. Decent Food. And a good time was had by all.

And... a photo of the Peking Duck Sandwich preparation for your viewing pleasure.

Peking Duck

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