Miss Ginsu: About/Bio


New Favorite Thing: Hidden Kitchens Podcasts

I haven't done a plain old-fashioned passionate rave for a while, so it's probably about time.

Now, I admit, sometimes I'm slow to catch on to stuff. "Hidden Kitchens," a terrific NPR mini-show that sometimes appears buried within Morning Edition broadcasts, is sort of a case-in-point.

I'd heard a few of the shows in the past, but I just never got around to subscribing to the podcast. Silly me!

In the mere minutes each episode contains, the Kitchen Sisters plunge a listener into worlds that contain so much more than cooking and food.

Peppered with music and history, voices and visions, "Hidden Kitchens" adventures range from the past to the present, from Outer Space to a Louisiana prison.

Do yourself a favor and check out some of the audio on the website. Everything from 2004 onward is archived. The stories are fascinating and the recipes are beguiling...

I'm looking forward to trying out the allspice-spiked lamb stew recipe from a recent episode on Basque sheepherders.

Miss Ginsu

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Food Gaming a National Sensation. Who Knew?

Despite the fact I live in one of the world's largest cities, I somehow wonder if I'm not simultaneously living under a rock.

Case in point: The pack of popular food and restaurant-based video games that have apparently surfaced over the last five years. Somehow, thousands and thousands of people are loving food-related games, and I've missed the whole thing.

I was just reading an article at Forbes.com about women's increasing interest in gaming.

Therein I discovered that a game called Diner Dash, released in 2003, was not only one of the top downloadable games of 2004, but the makers, PlayFirst, spun the game and its indefatigable heroine, Flo, into a series popular sequels: Diner Dash 2: Restaurant Rescue, Diner Dash: Flo on the Go, Diner Dash: Hometown Hero.

Diner Dash
And Flo follows her food service dream...

For the eduction of those troglodytes like myself, Flo is apparently a former stockbroker who burned out, dropped out, tied on a pair of zippy sneakers and took up in the diner business.

The game involves doing some mind-reading, analyzing different customer types and single-handedly running various food service enterprises. You can play all night with no risk of sore feet at the end of your shift. ('Course, there's no fat wad of tips for all your troubles, either...)

And it turns out Flo's not alone in virtual service work. Now there's so many food-tie in games, you can pretty much pick your poison: Turbo Pizza, Coffee Rush, Burger Rush, Go-Go Gourmet, Family Restaurant, Chocolatier and Chocolatier 2, Cake Mania, Burger Island, Pizza Chef, Betty's Beer Bar...

Having worked for so many years of my life in the food industry, I must admit the initial appeal was a little lost on me. Endless shifts? Cranky customers? No chance for financial gain? How does all that add up to a recipe for a popular leisure activity?

Burger Rush
The Burger Rush origin story.

That said, the more I think about it, the better virtual business ownership sounds. Restaurant simulation gaming offers all the fast-paced drama with none of the real restaurant risks... things like permanent bodily injuries, drug-addicted employees, violent or drunken customers, unreliable suppliers, liability issues, mob interactions and bankruptcy threats.

Here's a thought... Maybe culinary schools and restaurant business programs should run potential students through a few rounds of Diner Dash before allowing those bright-eyed would-be entrepreneurs the opportunity to lay their unmarred hands on a pile of application forms. Give 'em an opportunity to feel the heat before they drop a bundle on tuition fees.

Yours in simulated burgers and virtual fries,

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