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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Resolution #3: Get Cultured

There's nothing like the zeal of the convert, and ever since I started getting regular doses of probiotics in my diet, I can't shut up about 'em.

After years of having a constantly grumpy tummy, the belly is soothed and I feel my overall health is better. Thank you, gut flora.

Fermented milk products like yogurt or kefir are an obvious way to get the probiotic party started, but not everyone eats dairy, so those folks can look to fermented plant products like pickled vegetables, sauerkraut, kimchi, tempeh, miso and kombucha for their healthy bacteria.

Probiotic Party

I eat yogurt almost daily now and have a happy flora party rocking out in my guts, so as a good party host, I want to make sure my little guests have snacks they enjoy.

As it turns out, gut flora like soybeans, unrefined oats, wheat and barley and foods that contain inulin, like onions, garlic, jicama, burdock, Jerusalem artichokes, chicory root and dandelion.

So in that spirit, this wellness resolution is all about getting (and growing) my active cultures. I'll now be on the lookout for ways to boost inulin, like adding jicama to my favorite mango salsa. After all, what's a probiotic party without salsa?

Jicama Mango Salsa (Makes 6 to 8 servings)
1 lb jicama (1 medium root): peeled diced
1 medium cucumber: peeled, seeded and diced
2 mangoes, peeled and diced
1 small red onion, minced
1/2 jalapeno pepper, minced
1/4 cup chopped cilantro leaves
1 tsp ground cumin
1/4 cup fresh lime juice (about 1 lime)
2 to 3 Tbsp olive oil
Salt, to taste

1. In a large bowl, combine diced jicama, cucumber and mango with minced onion, jalapeno and cilantro.
2. In another bowl, mix together the cumin and lime juice. Slowly pour in the olive oil, incorporating it with a whisk.
3. Dress the jicama-mango mix with the lime dressing and season to taste with salt. Spoon over grilled meat, chicken or fish, or serve with tortilla chips or tacos.

Two more wellness resolutions on the way...

To our health!
Miss Ginsu

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Faux Yo?

With new fro-yo joints spreading like a plague around the city, proclaiming health superiority, probiotic power and "live & active cultures," I got to thinking back to junior high biology... could frozen yogurt really could support active bacterial cultures? I mean, isn't freezing one of those things we do to food to stop the growth of bacteria?

Susky Banana Rama
Fro-Yo... no better than the Susky Banana Rama?

So I wrote to food science writer Harold McGee for the, er, scoop:
Mr. McGee,

I've seen a lot of ads for probiotic products at frozen yogurt shops as of late. I understand the desire for healthy flora, but doesn't the process of freezing a yogurt kill off the little buggers? It doesn't seem like a frozen yogurt could possibly do much good for the intestines.

Best Regards,
Miss G.


Miss G,

Freezing does kill some but not all of the bugs, so if they've "fortified" with probiotics, you'll get something. If it's just standard froyo, then the yogurt is diluted with lots of sugar and other stuff and you'll get less.

Best wishes,

Aha! So it is possible to get some helpful cultures in the tummy though your Pinkberry, but somehow I think it's still better for the belly to eat un-frozen yogurt.

Heidi Swanson of (101 cookbooks) posted a very tasty-looking (not to mention easy looking) vanilla frozen yogurt on her site that I'm planning to try out, but I view that as fun, not filled with health benefits.

Meanwhile, I'll stick with morning yogurt and granola or smoothies to feed my belly buggies. But given the popularity of fro-yo, I'm probably alone in my suspicions that it's no good for you at all.

So what about you, reader? Do you consider the care and feeding of your internal flora? Or do you let the little guys fend for themselves? If you've got a minute, drop a note and let me know.


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