Burt Wolf's Table: Hamilton, Bermuda - #226

BURT WOLF:   Hamilton is the capital city of Bermuda and the cultural center of a group of islands just off the Atlantic coast of North America;  islands with a special climate made possible by the warm waters of the Gulfstream.  It's the place to scoot around and visit some of the most beautiful beaches in the world and to taste some top-class cooking.  So join me in Hamilton, Bermuda at Burt Wolf's Table. 

Hamilton has the island's major shopping streets, the world-famous Royal Bermuda Yacht Club, and about 2,000 residents, among whom is an old friend of mine, Charles Webb.  Charles being a typically hospitable Bermudian, has agreed to take us on a tour of Hamilton and some of his favorite spots on the island.  (SOUND OF MOTOR)

WOLF:    Historically, Bermuda has been opposed to the automobile and only allowed them onto the island after the Second World War.  As a result, the vehicle of choice for most locals and tourists is the motor scooter.  The maximum speed limit for everything on Bermuda is 20 miles per hour.  Bermuda's drivers are extremely polite, and everyone gets an introductory lesson and a helmet that must be worn.

CHARLES WEBB:    This is the Sessions House, which houses the Parliament and the Supreme Court.  It was built in around 1814.  The Gothic towers and the terra cotta colonnades were added later on.  But in this building you'll see robed judges with wigs, and lawyers with wigs.  So all the miscreants of the country end up in the lower floor of this house.

Upstairs, you have 40 members of Parliament, a leader of the government and the loyal opposition, all sort of umpired by the -- the Speaker Of The House, who wears what we call a full-bottomed wig.  Magisterial at its best.

This is the government tennis stadium, one of about 400 tennis courts throughout the island.  You may be interested to note that Bermuda actually introduced tennis to the United States.  What happened, we had a judge here who led a very dignified lifestyle.  And he had a tennis court on his property, which is just across the harbor.  And he decided that tennis was just a little too undignified for his lady, so we decided then, or at least he did, that he would just transport this very reckless game off to the United States.  And we sent it off to the Staten Island Tennis Club, where it still exists today.  Bermuda is well-known for tennis.  We have tennis courts that are lit at night, and we play tennis during the day.  You can play tennis at private clubs or public tennis courts.  It's all over the island.  Everywhere you go, you'll see a tennis court.

WEBB:    Burt, within these acres of landscaped gardens, the Botanical Gardens, it's officially called, houses an aviary, a fern collection, an arrowroot factory.  It even has a garden for the blind so the blind can actually walk through and smell the various species of flowers.

Now behind us is that beautiful Victorian residence, which the premier uses only for official entertaining.  He doesn't live there.  There are no bedrooms at all.  It's strictly for, only when he has local and out-of-town guests.  So, since it's close to tea time, I think we should stop in and have a cup of tea with him.

BURT WOLF:     That's fine with me.

WEBB:  Okay.

BURT WOLF:     When I was a kid, I saw a Marlon Brando movie called "The Wild One."  And it sent me into my biker period.  When I almost did myself in by skidding off an icy road in the Swiss Alps, I ended my biker period and entered my mall-walking period.  Ahh, but it feels good to be back, especially in a safe environment.

WEBB:   Burt, this Fort Hamilton is  probably the finest example of mid-Victorian polygonal fort.  And its job was to protect the Royal Navy Dockyard over that side, and still be able to cover the southern perimeters of the island.   It affords panoramic views of the island and, indeed, the City of Hamilton and every Thursday during what we call our November to March season, the skirling ceremony takes place here.  And these are the guys with the Scottish bagpipes and the kilts.  And they stand back, because if they stay too far over there, the wind comes and lifts up the skirts and you know what happens then. 

WOLF:    You find out what a Scotsman really -- (OVERLAPPING CONVERSATION)

WEBB:    -- really wears under his kilt, right.

WOLF:    Bermuda's South Shore has over 20 of the world's most beautiful beaches.  Now, you'd think that Mother Nature would have spread them around a bit more evenly.  But it appears that the unspoiled charm of the area just held her attention.

As you come to the eastern edge of the area, you are confronted with Elbow Beach, which is the longest stretch of beach on the island, and clearly one of the most dramatic.  Elbow Beach is also the setting for one of Bermuda's most famous hotels.  It's called Wyndham's Elbow Beach Resort, which is a great help to me because it gives me two pieces of information at the same time:  the name and the location.   Now with all the detail that I'm trying to store in my aging brain, a small efficiency  like that is actually  appreciated.  The Elbow Beach Resort first opened in 1908 and has maintained an outstanding reputation ever since.  Its owners recently spent a considerable amount of money restoring the property. 

The entrance has the kind of stately elegance that reminds me of Tara, Scarlett O'Hara's magnificent estate in  "Gone With the Wind."  I half-expected Vivian Leigh to come popping out and welcome me home.  Well, she didn't, but so many other hospitable people did, that it still feels pretty good. 

And as I recall, Tara never looked like this.  It was clearly unable to offer a Olympic-size, climate-controlled swimming pool, or five tennis courts by the ocean, two of which are lit for night play;  a couple of excellent restaurants, a considerable assortment of water sports, or the Fritholme Mansion.

The Fritholme Mansion is one of Bermuda's historical estates.  And a while back, it was reconditioned to become a guest house for special guests.  It has a living room, four bedrooms,  a formal dining room, a breakfast room, a steam room and exercise room, a sun room, a room in which they keep a list of the other rooms, and a room that is particularly dear to my heart, the television room, which down-links my reports every day.  It's quite a place.  And it's right smack in the middle of the 50 acres that make up Wyndham's Elbow Beach Resort.

On the other hand, Tara did have Clark Gable.  But Elbow Beach has chef Norbert Stange.  And I think he could compete with Clark Gable for Scarlett's affection.  I base that opinion on the old adage, “kissing doesn't last, but cooking does.”  Today, Chef Norbert is preparing a classic Bermuda onion soup. 

First thing, two tablespoons of oil go into a hot saute pan, along with two tablespoons of butter.  As soon as the butter is melted, in go three cups of sliced Bermuda onion.  They cook for about a minute.  Then in goes a teaspoon of chopped garlic.  Three minutes of cooking and the onions and the garlic are transferred to a big saucepan.  Some thyme and a bay leaf go in.  Six cups of beef stock and an ounce of Outerbridge's sherry pepper sauce. 

Years ago, local sailors would make an all-purpose seasoning sauce by taking some chopped hot peppers and mixing them together with sherry, and letting them sit in a cask for a couple of days.  Then they'd pour that on all of their foods.  The Outerbridge's Original Sherry Pepper Sauce is the local favorite here in  Bermuda, and made from the Outerbridge family's secret recipe.  If you can't get it in your supermarket, a reasonable substitute would be some chopped hot peppers sitting together with either vinegar or sherry in a jar for about 48 hours.  You can use that.

All that comes to a boil and simmers for 30 minutes.  The finished soup is ladled into a heat-proof bowl, a slice of toast that has been rubbed with garlic goes on top.  Plus two thin slices of mozzarella cheese.  The cheese is melted under a broiler and the soup is ready to serve. 

There's an ancient legend about the first two steps that Satan took when he was cast out of heaven.  It says that the spot where he first placed his left foot produced garlic, and the spot where he first placed his right foot produced onions.  Gee, I wouldn't give credit to Satan for onions.  They have a wonderful way of adding flavor to a dish, and they have a long history of being healthy, especially for your heart.

Now I think anything that is heart-healthy is heavenly, and that's much more in keeping with what the ancient Egyptians felt about onions.  They thought the onion was an ideal offering to the gods, and very often you will see drawings and paintings of onions on the walls of ancient Egyptian tombs, which is a good reminder on storing onions.  Always keep them in a dark and dry place.

The first onion seeds to arrive in  Bermuda came from England in 1616.  They may have been the forefathers and mothers of the famous Bermuda onion, or that honor may belong to an onion variety that came to Bermuda with the Portuguese, who started to arrive here during the 1840s.  No one knows for sure, but what we do know is that somewhere along the way, a particular variety of onion seed began to grow extremely well in Bermuda soil.  The seeds, the soil, and the climate combined to produce a very special onion, with a wonderfully sweet taste. 

Shortly thereafter, Bermuda began to devote more and more of its farmland to the cultivation of onions.  It grew to a rather large size for an onion, and their mildness made them very popular throughout Europe, South America, and the United States.  The exporting of onions became such a big business, that Bermuda sailors became known as “onions” and Bermuda itself as “the onion patch.”

Bermuda onions became extremely popular along the east coast of the United States.  Old advertisements that announced what was for sale from various cargo ships showed that thousands of tons of Bermuda onions came into  American markets each year. 

This story may not be true, but I have heard it so many times that I thought I would pass it on, but only the heading of “unsubstantiated folklore.”  People around here say that at one point in time, the Bermuda onion became so popular, that a bunch of Texas farmers came here to make a deal so they could grow the Bermuda onion in Texas and sell it under the Bermuda Onion name.  Well, these were the days before Ralph Lauren and Calvin Klein and Mickey Mouse, and the people of Bermuda didn't understand the concept of a licensing deal.  They actually thought that if an onion was called a Bermuda onion, it should be grown in Bermuda  by Bermudians.  Can you imagine that?  So they turned down the Texas farmers.  Ahh, but that didn't stop Texans.  They went back home, changed the name of their town to Bermuda, Texas, got a copyright on the Bermuda onion name from Washington, and helped pass a law that made it hard to import Bermuda onions to the United States.  Well, if that story is true, then on behalf of U.S. onion lovers, I'd like to apologize.

About 70 million years ago, a three-mile high volcanic cone of rock came shooting up out of the floor of the Atlantic Ocean.  The water was warm and attracted millions of tiny sea animals, whose skeletons eventually compressed together to form what is now the Island of Bermuda.  Being an island, well out in the Atlantic Ocean, it's a great place to cook up some fish, which is precisely what Chef Norbert is going to prepare for his next recipe.

A little vegetable oil and a little butter are heated together in a saute pan.  The butter is used because of its rich flavor, but butter can easily burn at low temperatures.  The oil has a much higher burning point, so by mixing the two together, you get a rich flavor plus the ability to cook at a higher temperature.  As soon as the butter melts, in goes a sliced onion, some sliced ginger, a touch of white wine.  All that cooks together for a minute.  A filet of red snapper gets a light dusting of paprika, cayenne pepper, and salt.  A little oil is heated in a pan and the fish is cooked for two minutes on each side.  At that point it goes onto the onions.  Slices of green, yellow, and red bell peppers are sauteed and placed on top of the fish.  The pan goes into a 350 degree oven for two minutes.  The finished fish goes onto a serving plate, and it's ready to go.

The early colonists to arrive in Bermuda were English, and they left their mark culturally, militarily, and of course linguistically.  As Great Britain moved through its various fashions and fancies, so did Bermuda. 

WOLF:    One of the strongest social influences to pass through the British Empire during the last few centuries was Victorianism.  Queen Victoria ruled from 1837 to 1901, setting the standards for behavior in all things, including gastronomy.  Victorian ladies made a public display of being very delicate.  And that was particularly true in things that had to do with cooking.  They even developed these little covers to put on the legs of roasted meat and poultry, because they thought it was offensive for a lady to see legs in any situation.   Well, excuuuuse me.

They even began to use arrowroot instead of flour, as a thickening agent in sauces.  Arrowroot will give you a sauce that's clearer, cleaner, more delicate and therefore thought to be more lady-like. During the 1800s, Bermuda became the source for the world's best arrowroot. Arrowroot is a fine white powder that is made from a South American plant.  The plant is ground into a dust and refined through a process that mixes the dust with water and then strains and dries it.  Arrowroot is 80 per cent starch.

Because the individual grains of starch are so small, it's easily digested and often used for puddings that are going to be given to adults or children on a restricted diet.    It does its job at low temperatures, lower than flour or cornstarch, and therefore, it's ideal for egg dishes or custards or any recipe where you don't want to bring the food to a boil.   It has no taste and it does its job with twice the effectiveness of standard wheat flour. 

The general rule of thumb is to use one tablespoon of arrowroot where you would usually use two tablespoons of flour.  One tablespoon of arrowroot will thicken slightly more than a cup of liquid.  To use arrowroot to make a sauce, just add it to a little water.  Make sure it's fully dissolved and stir it into the pan drippings.  Then add broth to develop the sauce.  The result will be a sauce with a very delicate texture. 

One of the most impressive and enjoyable aspects of Bermuda is that everyone is dedicated to preserving their history.  Through a number of organizations, including the Bermuda National  Trust, citizens of Bermuda have been able to hold onto an enormous number of objects and properties that bring their history to life.   One of the most fascinating is Verdmont, a private home that was built in 1710, and has remained virtually unchanged for almost 300 years.  The south side was the original front.  The placement was made in order to give the building this splendid outlook over the south shore of the island.  The sash windows, 12 over 12, follow a style that was extremely fashionable in England during the early 1700s.  The two large reception rooms downstairs were used as a formal drawing room and a parlor. 

The double doors between the two rooms were left open for large parties.  Hey, even in the 1700s, they were party animals.  The white planking on the walls is made of Georgia pine and was thought to have been installed as a backing for wallpaper.  This portrait is of the Honorable Thomas Smith, who was a ship owner and the collector of customs.  The other paintings are of his four daughters and their families:  Elizabeth, Honore, Catherine, and Mary. 

These portraits were painted by Mary's husband, John Green.  He had been a judge and a portrait painter in Philadelphia, but his political loyalties lay with the King of England.  When the War of Independence got started, he moved to Bermuda and married Mary Smith. 

The house also has some great furniture.  Many of the pieces are made of Bermuda cedar and show the skills of the local craftsmen.  The sides of this desk are made of a single plank of wood.  This tallboy has all its legs put on facing into the room.  Bermuda cabinet makers originated the form and called them “marching legs.”  The design allows the tallboy to fit flushly against the wall. 

The nursery has a collection of children's objects that give you a look at what it was like to be a kid in the old days.  The dining room has a collection of Chinese export porcelain that ranges from 1680 to 1820.  The bathrooms were just that, bath rooms.  The toilet facilities were outside.  But with Bermuda's wonderful climate, that was less of a burden than it was in, say, Boston. 

The kitchen was also in a second building, and there were two reasons for that.  First of all, there was an enormous fear of fire.  True, there were fireplaces in the main building, but the idea of a working fireplace, the kind you'd find in a kitchen, was just too scary.  Second of all, they wanted to keep the heat of the kitchen out of the main building.

Because the island of Bermuda is warmed by an ocean current, it has a mild climate, and that's great for growing fruits and vegetables which are usually associated with the tropics.  A perfect example of that are the many fields filled with banana plants.  The banana, by the way, is neither a fruit or a vegetable.  The banana is, in fact, an herb; actually it's the world's largest herb.

Chef Norbert is using bananas to make a banana bread.  He starts by taking a large electric mixer, which is a good idea because he's making a large amount of batter.  Four cups of sugar are creamed together with 16 ounces of butter.  Twelve ripe bananas are added in.  Eight eggs are beaten in one at a time.  Two teaspoons of baking powder, plus a teaspoon of sugar and a little cinnamon are mixed together and added.  Add eight cups of flour, and two cups of chopped walnuts.   The batter gets divided into rectangular baking pans and popped into a 300 degree oven for two hours, at which time you have Bermuda banana breads.

Cecille Snaithe-Simmons was born in Bermuda and by profession is a registered nurse.   Her husband, Lionel Simmons, was  for many years a member of Parliament.  She's the author of "The Bermuda Cook Book," which contains recipes passed down from both her family and that of her husband.  She's been kind enough to stop by the kitchen of the Bermuda Hotel School and demonstrate her recipe for Spanish rice.

A Spanish recipe makes perfectly good sense in Bermuda.  The Spanish knew about Bermuda before the English.  As a matter of fact, the name Bermuda comes from the Spanish explorer, Juan des Bermudez, who stopped in here in 1511, a hundred years before the English.

Cecille's recipe starts with two strips of bacon that are cooked until they are crisp.  Then they are removed from the pan and crumbled.  Chopped onion goes in.  A chopped green pepper.  A minute of cooking, then two cups of chopped tomato are added, a quarter cup of tomato paste.  The bacon returns, plus a cup of water, two cups of medium-grain rice.  Everything comes to a boil and then into a 300 degree oven for 30 minutes.  That's it.  A rice dish like this is easy and convenient, and tastes so good because rice has a natural ability to carry the flavors of the the other ingredients. 

Long-grain rice is best for this dish, because it's extra fluffy and each individual grain tends to stay separate and hold its shape.

Princess Louise was the daughter of England's Queen Victoria.  But because she was married to the Governor General of Canada, she lived in North America. 

“North” is the operative word here.  Canadian winters can be quite cold and quickly turn your mind to thoughts of warm winter vacation.  The problem was that those were the days before air travel, and the amount of time you could spend on a vacation was severely limited by the amount of time that you were willing to spend on a boat. 

Florida and the Caribbean were warm, but they were pretty far away.   Bermuda was warm and only 600 miles off the Carolina coast.    Bermuda is a three-hour flight from Toronto, less than two hours from New York, and only two and a half hours from Atlanta. 

Princess Louise must have had a similar view of the geography, because she was the original discoverer of Bermuda as a vacation destination.  Her first trip here had an enormous amount of coverage in the press, and lots of public attention.  It transformed Bermuda into the ideal spot for a holiday.

Part of most vacations is the vacation postcard, which has really become an art form. While I was doing my research for this report, I discovered a wonderful collection of old Bermuda postcards at the Bermuda archives.  Karla Heywood is the curator of the photographic collection, and she's brought out some of the best examples.

KARLA HEYWOOD:     Nicholas Lusher was really the first photographer in Bermuda to develop or have his stock shots turned into postcard format.  When postcards were first developed, Lusher really got on the bandwagon quite quickly.

This is a postcard that's dated, I believe, 1905.  But you can see that this is exactly the same view that was taken of the lily field at Bellevue in the 1880s or '90s.  So obviously Lusher is sending his prints over to Germany or Austria and having them published and tinted, because you can see the color in this.  

Here's another example of a very early postcard. This is, again, October 29th, 1905.  The early postcards are actually -- you can't -- you can't write on the address side, so there's only one little area that you can write on, and that's at the bottom here, and they've sent a little message home. 

WOLF:     Interesting. So the whole back side is your address.

HEYWOOD:    That's right. 

WOLF:    It says, this side for address only, and you get this tiny little area for your message.

HEYWOOD:    Yup.  And here's the same view, a postcard from after World War I, although I can't--

WOLF:    Then they start dividing it.

HEYWOOD:    Absolutely.  So there's-- there's a view of Gibbs Hole Lighthouse.  What's missing are the shots of the-- of the beaches and the water at the south shore, which is, of course, why our visitors come here today.  But 19th Century and early 20th Century visitors came in the winter and they weren't interested in-- in bathing and sunbathing so much as we are today.  They were more interested in seeing sort of phenomena like rock formations, aquarium, public gardens.

WOLF:    And just being out of the cold. 

HEYWOOD:    That's right. 

WOLF:    Interesting.  We certainly do change.

That's it from Hamilton, Bermuda.  Please join us next time as we travel around the world looking for good things to eat and the reasons why people eat them.  I'm Burt Wolf. 

Burt Wolf's Table: Cultural Southland of Taiwan - #225

BURT WOLF: The cultural southlands of Taiwan.  home to the people of Lukang, whose town looks much as it did some 200 years ago.  We'll visit the Temple of the Goddess of the Sea.  We'll find out how Taoist teachings continue to control the work of Chinese cooks.  We'll visit one of the favorite honeymoon spots in the Far East, and learn some interesting recipes.  So join me in the cultural southland of Taiwan at Burt Wolf's Table.

BURT WOLF: The Ming Dynasty of China began in the middle of the 1300s and ran for almost 300 years.  It was one of the great periods in Chinese history.  Artists, writers, poets and scientists were supported by the Ming rulers.  Their works produced one of the golden ages of Chinese culture.  But by the early 1600s the administration had become totally self-serving and corrupt, while at the same time, their Manchu neighbors to the Northeast developed a well- trained and efficient army.  When the Manchu forces attacked, the Ming defenses disintegrated and their troops retreated to the South.  The last great Ming defender was a warlord named Cheng Cheng-Kung.  With an army of over 100,000 men he tried to hold back the Manchu advance.  But by 1661 he was forced to abandon the mainland and move his troops to the island of Taiwan.  Taiwan, however, was a major trading post for the Dutch who controlled the area from Fort Zeelandia.  Under the theory that “this town ain't big enough for both of us,” Cheng Cheng-Kung laid siege to the fort.  The battle lasted for two years.  At which point the Dutch were compelled to surrender and Cheng Cheng-Kung took control of Taiwan.  This is the Cheng Cheng-Kung Shrine in the city of Tainan, just down the road from what remains of Fort Zeelandia.  It's a quiet and peaceful place, a testimony to Cheng’s cultural interest; his statue rests in the main hall.  There's an ancient plum tree in the garden which is said to have been planted by Cheng himself.  When Cheng Cheng-Kung arrived in Taiwan he brought with him his army, but he also brought thousands of painters, writers, scholars and master chefs.  He did everything he possibly could to preserve classical Chinese culture... and the lifestyle that had existed under the Ming Dynasty.  It's amazing to think about it, but some 300 years later, just about the same thing happened, when Chiang Kai-Shek arrived in Taiwan in 1948 with millions of people from the mainland who wanted to avoid Communism.  Once again these days, Taiwan is the major repository for classical Chinese culture and cooking.

Chinese noodle making seems to have gotten its official start during the Han Dynasty, which ran from roughly 200 B.C. to 200 A.D.   It was during this time that people mastered the technique for grinding wheat into flour, which made noodle production obvious and easy, since a noodle dough in its simplest form is just wheat mixed with water.  This dish is called noodles Ming Jiang style. Ming Jiang is the name of a river in the province of Fukien.  The recipe uses the common Chinese cooking technique of cooking the noodles with two different methods:  first boiling, then stir-frying.  A cup of pre-cooked noodles are heated in hot water, then drained.  The water is removed from the wok and then vegetable oil goes in.  That's followed by a quarter cup of sliced cabbage, a few mushrooms, some sliced carrots, a few green beans and some minced pre-cooked ham or pre-cooked bacon.  All that gets stir-fried for two minutes, then the noodles return, plus a quarter cup of chicken stock.  Tablespoon of soy sauce, a little white pepper, another few moments of stir-frying, and it's ready for the serving plate.

Chinese cooks are great lovers of mushrooms and they've been cultivating them on a commercial scale for about 1500 years...which gives them a thousand year lead on everyone in the West.  These days there are about 300 different types of edible mushrooms available to the Chinese chef.  But in the United States when we reproduce a Chinese recipe, we tend to focus on three:  The cloud ear, the straw mushroom and the black mushroom.  Straw mushrooms are sold in cans and should be washed under running water before they are used.  And then leftover straw mushrooms should be stored in water in an airtight jar in the refrigerator.  They'll keep there for about a week.  But it's a good idea to use these small delicate mushrooms as quickly as you can after you open the can.

The town of Lukang is one of the earliest ports in Taiwan.  The first Chinese to arrive in the area came over from the mainland in the early 1600s and by the middle of the 1700s it was a major trading center.  These days there are parts of Lukang that look very much the way they did almost 200 years ago when it was at the peak of it's commercial history.  Yaolin Street is a good example of the old architecture of the town, a narrow roadway lined with homes that open out into the street.  Some front rooms are used as family rooms, others are shops or offices.  All of them however have similar altar tables that are given over to the artifacts of worship.


Lukang's main street is Chungshan Road.  It used to be called See No Sky Street, because the roofs of the houses had been extended into the road until they met in the center.  The covered street that resulted allowed people to conduct their business from shop to shop without being inconvenienced by bad weather.  Amazing -- 200 years ago the Chinese were building covered malls.  About 50 years ago, however, they took down the road cover but it's still a great place to shop.  Lukang is also home to the Matsu Temple which was built in 1647.  It is a Taoist temple and named after the Goddess of the Sea.  She is protected by two of the most powerful guardians.  On one side is Thousand Mile Ears, who has mastered the art of listening through the wind.  On the other side is Thousand Mile Eyes, who can see for a thousand miles.  Having just increased the strength of my prescription in my reading glasses, I must say I am particularly impressed.


In front of the Temple is an area devoted to street food vendors.  After all, once you've fed the soul it is time to feed the body.  The stalls are famous for their oyster soups and oyster omelettes, and they also have moon cookies.

They also have a food specialty that I had heard a bit about before I came here.  Although I knew I would have to taste it for professional reasons, I was really not looking forward to the experience.  They had been described to me as ox tongue cookies.  Fortunately the name is based on the shape, not the ingredients.  They're kind of crispy and like a pancake, with jelly inside.  Very good!

As you can see, the Matsu Temple is very much a part of the neighborhood and it's people.  And that's very common for Taoist temples.  Taoism had its beginning in the ancient Chinese Shamanistic culture that goes back in history for well over 4000 years.  But its formation into a philosophy appears to have taken place during the 6th century B.C. and is attributed to a man called Lao Tzu, which literally translates as “the old master.”  He was the keeper of the royal archives in the Court of the Chou Dynasty Emperors.  Eventually he got fed up with the Government and decided to leave the country.  When he came to the Western border, the guards recognized him as one of the wise men of the court and would not let him pass until he wrote down the sum of his wisdom.  So the old master sat down, penned a 5000 word manuscript, handed it to the border patrol and headed off, never to be heard of again.

There's a certain similarity here with what's been going on in the United States Government.  When you're finished with your government service and you want to leave Washington, you also get to write a book with the sum of your knowledge, but unlike Lao Tzu, before you get to head west you have to stop and cash a check from your publishers for a few million bucks.

The English title of the great Taoist work is The Way of Nature.  It's not really a religious text in the Western sense but much more a short poetic statement of moral philosophy.  It talks about the way the force that is in each individual thing, and yet greater than all things.  It's very much concerned with balance, which it describes as yin and yang.  And it has had an enormous effect on the way the Chinese cook.  Yin is the feminine force.  It is the earth.  It is cool.  It is shade.  It is fruit.  Green vegetables, clear soups and, quite amazingly, in the light of modern medical information on diet, it is low-fat, low-calorie and complex carbohydrates.  Yang is the masculine force.  It is the sky.  It is hot.  It is bright white.  It is red meat, saturated fats, peanuts and beer -- and keep in mind this information was compiled over 2,500 years ago.  Today's Chinese cooks are very much concerned with finding the right balance between Yin and Yang.  This balance represents the Taoist way of nature.  And a recipe or meal that fails to find that balance is believed to cause illness.  On any single day, thousands of Chinese who are not feeling well will stop into their herbalist to try and find out what's going on.  The herbalist will check the balance of the Yin and Yang forces in their body by taking their pulse and then prescribing a diet that will bring those forces back into line with the Taoist way.  That's kind of interesting.  In the Western media we're very busy promoting the relationship of good food to good health like it was a new discovery.  Here in China, they've known about the relationship of good food to good health for over 4,000 years and worked with it very effectively.

In Chinese cooking the chicken is a symbol of good luck and has become a regular part of the offerings to the Gods.  To great and powerful Gods who can easily do their own cooking, the chicken is offered raw.  To Gods of less strength and influence, and for honored ancestors, the chicken is offered already cooked.  This dish is a casserole of chicken with Chinese sesame oil.  It has a very rich and nutty flavor and it's very simple to prepare.  First thing, a cup of vegetable oil gets heated in a wok and in go two cups of chicken that have been cut into bite-sized pieces.  A minute of cooking and the chicken is drained from the oil.  All the oil is removed from the wok except for two tablespoons.  Those are re-heated and as soon as the oil is hot, in goes a quarter cup of sliced bamboo shoots... a few cloves of garlic and a few slices of red bell pepper.  A minute of stir-frying and the chicken returns to the wok.  Two tablespoons of Chinese sesame oil are added.  Two basil leaves, a little more stir-frying and into a hot casserole dish for serving.

Chinese sesame oil is made from toasted sesame seeds.  It has a light brown color and a really rich flavor.  The thicker it is, the better the flavor.  Don't try to substitute standard cold- pressed American sesame oil in any Chinese recipe, it's just not gonna have the flavor that you want.  On the other hand, Chinese sesame oil burns at a very low temperature so we don't want to cook in it.  Chinese sesame oil is really just a flavoring agent.

Ginger is one of the most common ingredients in Chinese cooking, but remember, what Chinese recipes you're talking about is the fresh ginger root and you can't substitute powdered or dry ginger.  Fortunately, these days you can get fresh ginger in many standard North American supermarkets.  When you're picking out ginger, make sure that it is smooth, full of soft spots and generally firm to the touch. 

At the very center of Taiwan is Sun Moon Lake.  It sits 2,500 feet above sea level in the hills of the mountain range that form the backbone of the island.  It's called Sun Moon Lake because from some viewpoints it looks like a round, shining sun.  And from other vantages it takes on the shape of a crescent moon.  It is surrounded by dramatic mountain peaks that are covered with dense tropical forests.  Mists float across the landscape.  Paths along the shore offer walkers a private moment in a drifting, moody, jade-colored world.  It's become one of the favorite honeymoon spots for the people of Taiwan.  Kind of like a Niagara Falls of the Far East.  It's also home to one of the great Taoist shrines.  It is called the Temple of Wen Wu.  The largest stone lions in the world guard the entrance.  The overall scale and workmanship are quite extraordinary.

On the first floor is a temple building that  contains the statues of two great warriors.  On the floor above them is the statue of the moral philosopher, Confucius.  The message is clear.  The pen is mightier than the sword.


Sun Moon Lake is also the home of the Hsuan-Tsang Temple. Hsuan-Tsang was a monk who lived during the 600s, travelled to India and spent 17 years studying Buddhist traditions.  When he returned to China, he translated the most important Buddhist teachings from Sanskrit to Chinese and was, therefore, a key figure in bringing Buddhism to China.  This is his temple and it contains some of the most valuable relics in Buddhist culture.  These little round balls are called Shou-lee-zu.  Buddhist tradition holds that when an important monk is cremated, these small stone balls will be found among the ashes.  The monks here will tell you that Shou-lee-zu cannot be destroyed and they get bigger or smaller depending on the number of people who come to worship at the shrine.  Western scientists will tell you that they're probably kidney stones.  But the Western scientists cannot tell you why an honored Buddhist monk, who died as recently as 1950, left over 10,000 of these kernels with a volume of half the size of his body.  The other day I saw a report from a group of American scientists that clearly indicated that, what you are thinking about when you are in front of your computer, even though you are not touching your computer, affects the way the computers work... so... I'm open to anything.

And one of the things that I am always open to is the cooking at the Grand Formosa Regent.


It was the European explorers of the 1600s who brought cattle to the island of Taiwan.  But it was the traditional Chinese chefs who developed the beef recipes.  Cattle raising has always required large amounts of grazing land, something that China has never had.  And beef cookery usually demands a lot of cooking fuel.  Something else that China has not had.  So when the Chinese cooks had their first contact with beef as a food, they approached it with their traditional cooking methods.  No big steaks, no heat-intensive roasts, they just cut it up into small pieces and stir-fried it.  And that's exactly what we're about to do with beef and scallions.

A quarter cup of oil is heated in a wok until it's just shimmering and in go two cups of beef that have been sliced into bite sized pieces.  Tenderloin would be the best cut of beef for this recipe.  The beef cooks for a minute, at which point it is drained of the oil and all the oil is removed from the wok except for two tablespoons’ worth.  That oil is heated up and in goes a half cup of sliced green onion and  a half of a red bell pepper that's been cut into small chunks.  That gets stir-fried for a few minutes.  Next a tablespoon of soy sauce is added, and a mixture of half a tablespoon of cornstarch that has been dissolved in two ounces of warm water.  Another minute of stir-frying and the dish is ready to go along to the serving plate.

One of the common condiments in Chinese cooking is oyster sauce.  It's made by grinding oysters together with an assortment of flavorings.  It's used to give a dish a darker color with a kind of a meaty flavoring.  In spite of the fact that it is made from a shellfish, it should never have a fishy smell. If it does, that's the first sign that it's a poor quality product.

The Republic of China, situated on the island of Taiwan, has thousands of miles of coastline and hundreds of rivers and lakes.  They have been a valuable source of an extraordinary variety of fish an shellfish.  Seafood has always been an important part of Chinese cooking.  But of all the seafood available, none is more popular than shrimp.  The recipe coming up is a simple combination of shrimp and vegetables that stands in the perfect balance of yin and yang that is recommended in the ancient gastronomic instructions of the Taoists.

The green leafy spinach is one of the cool foods in the female yin group.  The high protein shrimp is one of the male foods, the yang group.  There is also a balancing of cooking techniques.  The shrimp is first deep-fried and removed from the oil and finally stir-fried.

Chef Lee starts by heating a cup of oil in his wok.  In goes a cup of shrimp.  A minute of cooking and they're out.  Then the oil is removed from the wok, except for two tablespoons’ worth.  Some spinach arrives for a minute of stir-frying, after which it goes off to a serving plate.  Then the oil comes back into the wok.  Followed by a sliced clove of garlic.  A few pieces of red bell pepper, green onion and the return of the shrimp.  A teaspoon of cornstarch dissolved in some warm water.  Another moment of stir-frying and the dish is finished.

The idea of cooking a food with two or three different types of heating is a specialty of Chinese chefs.  In the West we usually decide to heat the food with one system, and that's it.  We roast it or fry it or saute it.  But normally only one cooking method is used.  The Chinese will use two or three different techniques in order to vary the taste in textures.  It's a little more work, but not much, and the results are quite interesting.  And even though many of the recipes start out with deep- frying you can contain your general fear of frying to some extent, because these dishes don't cover the foods with batters or coatings.  And that is normally where all the extra fat calories are held in deep frying.

Another example of a recipe that uses two heating techniques is sesame walnuts.  A few cups of water are brought to a boil and in go two cups of shelled walnuts.  A minute of cooking and they're drained from the water.  The wok is cleaned out and reheated.  Half cup of water is brought to a boil and the nuts go back in.  Cup of sugar gets mixed in.  Then the nuts are cooked and stirred until all the water has evaporated.  The nuts are taken from the wok, a tablespoon of water goes in and the nuts return.  Plus a second cup of sugar.  Stir-fry for a minute and, once again, take out the nuts.  Keep two cups of oil in the wok and deep fry the nuts for two minutes.  Drain them from the oil and mix in the sesame seeds.  It's kind of a nutty recipe with the walnuts constantly going in and out of the wok, but they end up tasting fantastic.

Anthropologists tell us that when a society starts to develop a written language, the first form is usually based on a picture of the thing being described.  As a written language develops, the lines are modified so that the words are easier to write.  There are some 50,000 images in the Chinese language, but only about 5,000 are in common use.  When they first developed, they were written on thin strips of bamboo, which is why the Chinese got into the habit of writing from top to bottom.  People who have mastered the technique of writing these words are considered major artists in Chinese society.  One of the leading practitioners of this art form is Milo Chang.  He works in the only major writing system in the world that has continued its pictographic development without interruption.  Which means that the average Chinese student can read manuscript that was written over 4,000 years ago.  And that includes cook books.  Milo is demonstrating the style "cursive script".  Chinese cursive script is thought of as a part of the mainstream of Chinese art.  But it is also a practical tool of everday life.  You will find examples of cursive script in major art collections.  But you will also find it on the menus of restaurants.

Each time I visit the Republic of China in Taiwan, I spend a little time with a friend of mine named Richard Vuylsteke.  For the past 30 years he has been studying and writing about Chinese culture.  This time I went to see him about my total failure to understand how traffic works in this country.

For me, and most Western visitors to Taiwan, the local traffic is utterly chaotic.  But it is really just another example of how Chinese thought patterns, and their physical manifestations, differ from those of the West.  Local traffic is totally understandable once you view it in the light of Taoist doctrine.  Central to Taoist teaching is the idea of flow.  Free, yet disciplined movement.  A good metaphor would be a young and quickly flowing river, a rapid mountain stream.  The water fills the space between the banks racing over rocks, under fallen trees and around any obstacle in its path.  Similar to the traffic in Taiwan.  Just a stream fills its banks, so do the vehicles fill the space between the curbs, and between other objects on the road.  Instead of the Western idea of parallel streams of traffic clearly marked by lines that can only be crossed under rigidly defined rules, the Chinese draw upon... different... less legalistic traditions.  Anywhere there is room there is a vehicle.  This means faster flow, and more effective utilization of space.  And a better chance of ultimately reaching your destination within a reasonable time.  The Taiwanese driver also has a different idea of what constitutes a near-miss.  The Western measures in feet, the Chinese mind in inches.  What would send the average North American motorist into a fit is totally ignored here, or at the very worst gets a honk of a horn.  Ancient Chinese concepts of flow and space have been adopted to modern traffic.  But it is also an illustration of the Taoist idea of balance.  The ability of two totally opposite forces to co-exist in one object at the identical moment.  Clearly, the drivers of Taiwan are at the same time the best, and the worst, drivers in the world. 

I've been reporting about food since 1965 and there really isn't a day that goes by where I don't learn something new about the relationship of food to history.  I was quite surprised to find out that the Dutch East India company centered its spice trade here in Taiwan and the enormous profits from that trade went back to Amsterdam to support Dutch artists like Rembrandt.  It's very much as the great thinkers have said, if you've got the information from the teachings of Buddha or the formulas of Einstein, it's the same.  We are all connected and everything is relative.  It's a great pleasure to follow these stories and I hope you'll join us next time as we travelled around the world looking for good things to eat and the reason why people eat them.  From the Republic of China, I'm Burt Wolf.

Burt Wolf's Table: The Island of Formosa - #224

BURT WOLF:   The island of Formosa...  where some of the most interesting temples of China show us how the teachings of Buddha and instructions of Confucius have changed the way the Chinese cook.  We'll see how seventeenth- century Europeans came here to control the spice trade, and accidentally influenced the course of Western art.  We'll take a look at the story of tea, and learn some great-tasting and easy recipes.  So join me on the Island of Formosa for Burt Wolf's Table.

The time period between the fall of Rome and the beginning of the Renaissance is often described as the Dark Ages.  From the point of view of food, much of that time period could also be described as the Dull Ages.  The ancient Romans had a big spice trade going with Asia ... and they used an enormous amount of spice in their cooking.  But with the fall of Rome you also see the fall of those commercial systems that brought the rare spices from Asia to Europe. 

With the Renaissance you find the real awakening of the interest in spices.  And those spices became so rare and so important that many of them were worth their weight in gold.  Every spice trader in Europe was looking for a direct deal with the suppliers in Asia.  But getting one wasn't so easy.

Between Europe and the spices of India and China lay the vast Muslim world.  The Islamic nations controlled the spice trade, and the European nations felt a constant frustration over the issue.  Every European monarch was interested in eliminating the Arab middleman ... and that is precisely why the Portuguese government sent out Vasco DeGama and the Spanish sent out Fernando Magellan, and of course, Christopher Columbus.

The first great European explorers were the Portuguese ... their navigators were charting distant oceans long before everyone else.   And they were the first Europeans to really start doing business in Asia.  They sailed along the coast of China and made a series of early charts showing the mainland, and the island of Taiwan. 

They gave the land the name Formosa which is Portuguese for “beautiful island” ... but they never actually set foot on the territory or considered building a colony.  The Portuguese ran their business out of Macao in the same way the Spanish ran theirs out of Manila.  The real action was in the Chinese coastal cities.

But then in 1602 the Dutch set up the Dutch East India Company with the express purpose of getting a piece of the spice action from the Portuguese and the Spanish.

One of the locations that the Dutch used to develop this trade was Fort Zeelandia ... it was constructed in the 1620's on a protected sand bank along the southwest coast.  The area was called Taiwan which means “terraced bay” ... and the Dutch began to use that word to describe the entire island. 

The site of the fort is at the edge of the present Taiwanese city of Tainan.  One of the original walls is still standing.  The bricks were held together with a mixture of sugar syrup, rice and oysters.  Makes a nice recipe, and a great wall.  It's thirty feet thick and high in complex carbohydrates. 

There's a small museum on the top of the hill that will show you what the fort looked like in its good old days.

Having come from an agricultural nation, the Dutch were quick to spot the high quality soil locally ... and set up a system of farms.  They were able to grow and successfully export wheat, ginger, and tobacco.  They also had a thriving trade with the mainland in sugar and porcelain. 

During the 1600's, the Dutch East Indian company exported fifty million pieces of porcelain to their customers back in Europe.  The center of the Dutch trade in Asia was right here on Fort Zeelandia ... and they used this fort to make an enormous fortune for their shareholders back in Amsterdam.

When you look at the amazing canal houses that stand in Amsterdam today ... the great furniture inside them ... or the fabulous art of the 1600's from people like Rembrandt or the VanLoons ... you're looking at things that came from the wealth created in Asia.  And to a particular extent, with the aid of Fort Zeelandia.

The bay that fronted on Fort Zeelandia has silted up ... and the fort now sits on the edge of the city of Tainan. 

Tainan is the cultural center of Taiwan and for over two hundred years it was the island's capital.  The local government has followed a policy of preservation that presents the visitor the a unique look at Chinese tradition and lifestyle.

Tainan has also had a long history as a gastronomic center.  One of Tainan's most famous dishes is called dan-dan noodles.  The recipe was described to me as combing the best qualities of pasta bolognase and noodle soup in one dish.   And that turned out to be pretty accurate.   Here's how it's prepared by the chefs in the kitchens on the Grand Formosa Regent.

First, the sauce is made by heating some oil in a wok ... adding a little chopped fresh ginger ... a few mushrooms ... and a cup of ground pork.  A little soy sauce ... a pinch of cinnamon ... a half cup of chicken stock.  That simmers for thirty minutes.  Then into the restaurant for the final presentation.

Pre-cooked noodles are heated and turned out into a serving bowl ... the shrimp on top ... a touch of soy sauce ... the pork sauce ... a little cilantro ... and the chicken stock.

Once upon a time in the not-too-distant past I actually made my chicken stock from scratch ... but as time’s winged chariot has drawn on I have reorganized my priorities.  And quite frankly, homemade chicken stock just doesn't have the thrill that it used to.  These days I use canned chicken stock ... it's pretty good ... and it's a lot faster ... one tip, however, that I'd like to pass on.  I do not store my canned chicken stock in a cabinet at room temperature.  I keep it in the refrigerator.   I take them out and open them up just before I'm gonna use the stock.  The cold air has turned the fat in the stock to a solid ... and you'll find it floating on top ... spoon it off ... and you'll have saved yourself at least a hundred calories.  And those were fat calories too.  Easy thing to do ... and quite healthful.

Of all the philosophies and teachings that have been developed in China ... none has been more powerful than the work of Confucius.  He was born in 551 B.C. during a period of political and moral chaos.  The ruling dynasty was crumbling, and petty factions were at war throughout the country.   Confucius wanted to reestablish the ethical principals that had guided much of China during an earlier time. 

He spent his life trying to teach people that true happiness could only be found in acts of generosity and the promotion of peace and friendship.  By the time he died at the age of seventy-two, over three thousand students had been trained in his teachings.

He wrote a series of books that recommended the proper behavior for just about every situation that might come up in life.  He told his students to be tough with themselves but easy- going and benevolent with other people.

He believed that the government was designed for the benefit of the people ... not the benefit of other government officials.  What an amazing concept.  Too bad no one has heard of Confucius in Washington. 

From the second century B.C. until 1905, the teachings of Confucius were literally the official body of moral and intellectual information for China.  He established what is known as the Five Cardinal Relationships ... and explained how each should be handled.  They cover the relationships between the individual and the government ... between husband and wife ... parent and child ... older and younger siblings ... and friends.


Today, some two thousand five hundred years after Confucious lived ... the people of Taiwan still follow his teachings ... and hold a giant birthday party for him each year on September 28th.

I'm particularly interested in that celebration because my birthday is also on September 28th ... and my Chinese name ... Wu Bor Da ... is associated with travelling scholars.  Two fortuitous facts that get me a lot of extra mileage when I'm working in China.  Though I must admit that the first time I heard of Confucius was in one of the old Charlie Chan movies when he was theoretically quoted by the great philosopher/detective Mr. Chan.

Chan would wait for a key moment in the film ... and then say something like ... “old Chinese philosopher Confucius say ‘to hide stone, place stone with other stones.  To hide man, place man with other men.’  We must look for killer in crowd.”


Confucius was clearly one of the world's great thinkers when it came to morals.  But it was also a big deal when it came to meals.  Many of the texts associated with him have large sections that are devoted to the proper preparation and consumption of various foods.

He was also an expert on the gastronomic hygiene of the time ... and particularly interested in the relationship of good food to good health.  Many historians actually give Confucius credit for the devotion of Chinese cooks to fresh ingredients.

And nowhere is that Confucian devotion to freshness more pronounced than in the area of seafood.  If it is at all possible, the Chinese chef will select his seafood while it is still alive.  And that way he can determine its true level of good health.

Most of the original Chinese immigrants to the island of Taiwan came over from the main land province of Fukien.  They started arriving over 400 years ago and they have come to represent a major portion of the present population.  Their ancestral province is famous for its seafood cookery.   And this dish of squid with sesame oil is an example of the Fukienese influence in Taiwanese cooking.

Chef Lee starts this recipe by heating a cup of vegetable oil in a wok.  In go two cups of squid that have been cut into bite-size pieces.  Two minutes of cooking ... and they're drained of the oil.  And all of the oil is removed from the wok except for two tablespoons’ worth.  Those are reheated.  Then in go a few garlic cloves, some fresh minced ginger, coarsely-chopped red bell pepper, and some sliced bamboo shoots.

A few moments of stir-frying and the squid comes back into the wok.  A tablespoon of sesame oil is added.   A little more stir-frying.  And then the final ingredient.  A cup of basil leaves.  One more minute of stir-fry and the dish is ready to be served.  It's turned out onto a warm serving dish ... and heads for the table.

It's usually pretty hard to find fresh bamboo shoots in the average North American market.  But if you have a market with an Asian section you ought to be able to find canned bamboo shots.  They come whole and chunked and sliced and pre-minced.  When you get them home, separate the bamboo shoots from the liquid that they come in in the can.  Give them a wash under fresh running water.  Any bamboo shoots that you don't use in the recipe should be stored in a glass jar tightly closed in the refrigerator.

You change the water every couple of days; the bamboo shoots will last for about two weeks.  Traditionally, bamboo shoots are used to lighten a recipe and that's what they're doing in this dish.

There are a number of Chinese folk legends that tell the story of the origin of tea.  They all describe it as an accident in which a tea leaf drops into someone's boiling water ... and they seem to date the drinking of tea back some four thousand years.  After the Chinese scholar Lu Yu published his book on tea in the year 780 A.D. ... tea became the most important beverage in Asia. 

Yu told his readers that tea would temper the spirit ... calm and harmonize the mind ... arouse thought ... prevent drowsiness ... and enlighten and refresh the body.

They also believed that tea would break down the protein and fat in a meal in a way that made that meal more digestible.  Obviously, in those days there was nothing like our federal Food And Drug Administration requiring scientific proof for all medical claims on food.  If there had been, it might have been a very small book with maybe one lovely page that contained the Chinese tea equivalent of “good to the last drop.”

Tea also appears to have the ability to remove stains and grease from various surfaces.  That is why in an old traditional Chinese restaurant ... you may see a waiter pour the remaining tea out of a teapot onto the surface of the table and the wipe it up to remove the grease.

Sunpoling is the tea producing area of Taiwan ... and though Sunpoling translates into English as “pine bluff” ... there are no pine trees in the district.  Just rolling hills covered with bamboo groves and giant palm trees that were planted to shade acre after acre of tea plants.

Sunpoling produces some of the finest tea in the world.  Part of its success comes from the unique climate in the region ... and part from the unusual soil.  But there's also an ancient tradition of exceptional craftsmanship that follows the techniques that have always resulted in the highest grades of tea.

The pickers move through the fields, selecting only those leaves that are at the perfect point of growth.  In the center of the district is the village of Sunpoling.  The main street of the town is literally lined with shops selling tea that was grown in the nearby fields.  Shop after shop ... street after street.  And each one offering a service called “old folks’ tea” that takes a full hour to perform.  It's called “old folks’ tea” because these days it seems that only old folks and television food reporters have the time to enjoy it. 

Actually I could qualify for the service based on my chronological age but I'm gonna use my press pass instead.

Their finest teas come from little leaves that are grown on the top of mountains.  If you want to taste it you can probably get some in a good shop in a Chinatown.  The manufacturers of tea in Taiwan do an enormous export business with their fellow tea lovers in Chinatowns all over the world.  But if you get to Sunpoling you can get it wholesale.

There are over four thousand species of crab ... all appear to be edible.  And Chinese cooks have known this for over four thousand years.  The succulent taste of the crab's meat has attracted the Chinese cook ... but he's also been drawn to the crab because of its visual beauty.  Many of the most popular crab recipes of China present the crab whole in order to show off its dramatic appearance.

This recipe steams the crab over fried rice ... the flavors blend together and the dish is sent to the table in the steamer basket.  It tastes as good as it looks.  First, the rice is prepared by heating two tablespoons of vegetable oil in a wok.  Half cup of shrimp go in ... a few sliced mushrooms ... quarter cup of ground pork ... a little soy sauce ... a few shakes of white pepper ... a half cup of chicken stock ... two cups of pre-cooked glutinous rice ... and a few minutes of stir-frying.

A leaf is used to line a Chinese steamer basket and the rice goes in.  The crab goes on top.  The basket is covered and the ingredients are steamed over hot water for six minutes, at which point it's ready to serve.

Glutinous rice is a round-grain rice which gets very soft when its cooked.  But also develops a glutinous surface that makes the individual grains stick together.  In Chinese cooking it's traditionally used for stuffings and desserts.  In this recipe it's used very much the way we would use stovetop stuffing in Western cooking.  The rice is cooked and instead of being placed into something ... it's served as a bed by itself. 

What's particularly interesting about this recipe is that the rice stuffing is used as a base on top of which the crab is steamed.  So the flavor of the cooking crab is added to the rice.

I tested this recipe substituting shrimp for the crab and it worked quite well.  I also tested it with regular long-grain rice instead of the glutinous rice, and though obviously I lost the glutinous quality it still tasted wonderful.

When you're buying whole crabs in the market make sure they're alive and moving about.  That's the only way to be sure that they're fresh.

The people of Taiwan have managed to blend together three philosophies and an assortment of folk religions in order to produce a body of beliefs and customs that appear to satisfy the spiritual needs of the community.

Two of these systems ... Taoism and Confucianism were developed in China during the sixth century B.C.  The third, Buddhism, also began in the sixth century B.C. but was imported to China from India.

Buddhism is based on the life and teachings of Siddhartha Gautama. Siddhartha is though to have been born about five hundred and fifty B.C. in a small town in Nepal.  He was a local prince and lived in great luxury.  But in his twenties he left his family and their palace in search of spiritual enlightenment.  For years he wandered the countryside, avoiding all material comforts.  At one point he began a long meditation under a fig tree ... and eventually found the enlightenment that he had been searching for.

From then on he was known as the Buddha ... the Enlightened One.  And he traveled about teaching his philosophy.  His teachings revolve around the Four Noble Truths.  The first is that all life contains suffering.  The second is that the suffering comes from desire.  The third is that if you can get rid of the desire you can get rid of the suffering ... and if you do that you end up enlightened.  And fourth, enlightenment is available to everybody.

Buddha rejected the difficult life of the ascetic, but he also opposed the pursuit of pleasure for its own sake.  He recommended what he called the Middle Way.  The same trade routes that brought Chinese spices, silks and potteries to the west brought Buddhist monks to China. 

For centuries Buddhist monks had been vegetarians.  And they introduced vegetarianism as a formal food style to China.  But the idea of a mostly vegetable diet had been around in China for a long time... not as a basis of a religious principal but out of simple necessity.  China's always been short on land for cattle ... and poultry and fish were not the easiest things to come by.  So vegetables were always on the top of the shopping list.

These days there's a constant stream of scientific information that clearly shows that a diet high in fresh vegetables is better for our health.  As a general rule you should get fifty percent of your daily calories in form of complex carbohydrates from fresh fruits and vegetables.  And Buddha knew it all along.

The vegetarian diet of Buddhist monks may have gotten started out of necessity, or it may have originated in the Buddhist philosophy of “responsibility to all living things.”  Most likely it was a little bit of both.  The result, however, is that the kitchens of Buddhist temples have some of the world's best vegetarian cooking. 

An example of this style is this dish of sauteed eggplant with basil.  Chef Lee starts by heating a cup of vegetable oil in his wok ... then in go two cups of eggplant that have been cut into bite-sized pieces.  Chinese eggplant is thinner than our traditional North American variety.  If you can't find it in your local market, you can substitute our standard eggplant and the recipe will still work fine.

A minute of cooking and the eggplant is drained from the oil.  All the oil is then removed from the wok except for two tablespoons.  In goes a quarter cup of green onion.  A sliced clove of garlic.  A few pieces of red pepper ... a little soy sauce ... a touch of sugar ... and an ounce of chicken stock. 

The eggplant returns, followed by a quarter cup of basil leaves ... another movement of stir- frying and it's ready to serve.

The eggplant is a native of Southeastern Asia where it has been cultivated for over four thousand years.  It probably got its start somewhere near or actually in India and moved east from there to China.  It shows up in Chinese paintings and recipes somewhere around 600 B.C., and was a common ingredient in cooked dishes.  But it was also eaten raw as a fruit.

In the the thirteenth century it became one of the foods that was specifically recommended as an offering at the shrines of royal Chinese ancestors.

It was also used as a cosmetic.  At that time it was fashionable for Chinese women of social standing to stain their teeth black ... and they used the skin of the eggplant to do the job.  About fifteen hundred years ago, Arab traders brought the eggplant from Asia to the mediterranean area ... and it looks like the Spanish were the first people in Europe to take a real interest in eggplant cookery.

Most of the eggplant dishes that we see in North America today come from countries that border on the Mediterranean Sea.  The French like to slice it and grill it.  Or make it into ratatouille.  Whatever the eggplant recipe, it usually tastes better if you start with young, thin plants.  As they get bigger and older they lose their best texture and taste.

Of all the Chinese seasonings, the single most important is soy sauce ... it's made from fermented soy beans ... wheat ... yeast ... and salt.  There are two types.  One is called dark soy sauce ... the other's called light.

The light sauce is thinner and is used for delicate dishes and as a dipping sauce.  The dark sauce is a bit darker in color ... thicker, and has a slightly sweeter smell.  It's used to give a dish a rich color and for marinating.  Both forms of soy sauce have the ability to tenderize meat and poultry and no matter which form you use, if you're gonna store for any length of time, store it in a glass container with a tight closing lid.

And as the great chefs of Taiwan point out to me over and over again ... never substitute Japanese soy sauce for Chinese soy sauce ... it won't give you the same flavor and it's politically incorrect.

The Sung emperors ruled China from the mid-900's to the middle of the 1200's.  It was a time of peace and prosperity, which gave the royal families an opportunity to devote a considerable amount of their time and money to eating and drinking.  Thousands of people worked in the imperial kitchens and produced meals that offered hundreds of different dishes.  This was going on every day. 

Not only did the cooks do the cooking for the royal family, their guests and the supporting staff ... but they also prepared the dishes that were offered at the temples to appease the gods and honored ancestors. 

If it's true that a nation must decide between guns and butter, then a period without war could easily raise the national cholesterol level.  And that seems to be what happened with the Sung dynasty.  Their imperial court was right smack in the middle of a fabulous agricultural area near the port of Shanghai.  If you could catch it, raise it, grow it or import it ... a Sung chef would make a deal with you.

It was also the time when the first Chinese cookbook was published with very specific amounts to the ingredients.  It was written by a a Madame Wu, and because the Chinese had already invented printing, it had a pretty good distribution.  In the West we had to wait until the 1800's before we got a cookbook with really specific amounts.

It was during the last years of the Sung dynasty that Marco Polo showed up in China and took note of what was going on in the Asian kitchen.  His accounts give us a second and confirming opinion as to the opulence of Chinese food at the time. 

After the Sung rulers came the Ming dynasty.  And they just made everything bigger and better.  They even established a ministerial position to oversee court banquets.  This was also the time that European trade began to pick up.  Spanish and Portuguese ships sailed into the neighborhood and introduced an entirely new collection of foods, including potatoes, corn and chili.  I was quite surprised to find out that the hot dishes of China, including those from Seczhuan and Hunan, got their heat from chili peppers that had come from South and Central America with European traders.


Before I shove off for my next report I wanted to say a few words about my Chinese pronunciation.  Actually, I want to apologize.  I thought it would be more interesting for me to use my limited Chinese vocabulary rather than the words that have been invented to make life easier for English speaking tourists.  But if you speak Chinese and from time to time my pronunciation has made your ears hurt ... bow chen.  Which means, “sorry about that.” 

I hope you'll still join us next time ... as we travel around the world ... looking for good things to eat and drink.  From Taiwan, the Republic of China ... I'm Burt Wolf.

Burt Wolf's Table: Island of Bermuda - #223

BURT WOLF:  Bermuda, only 600 miles off the coast of Carolina; it's an ideal spot for an easy vacation.  The British have been here since the early 1600's and have packed the place with interesting architecture and traditional English culture.  Bermudians are also interesting cooks with a 400 year old history of local specialties.  So join me on the Island of Bermuda at Burt Wolf's Table.

The islands of Bermuda were well-known to the Spanish explorers who followed Columbus to the New World.  Their ships, filled with valuable cargo, started home by sailing north along the coast of Florida.  The islands of Bermuda were a navigational marker.  They told them it was time to make a right and head home.

The first written description of Bermuda appears to be the work of a Spanish sea captain who's ship ran aground here in the early 1500's.  Hey, hey, cut that out, come on, back up here.  In Bermuda, Bermuda shorts are the preferred form of dress for men.  As a matter of fact, they are actually considered conservative.  And I could go to the most serious business meeting in my Bermuda shorts and be told that I was properly dressed.

As I was saying, the first written account of Bermuda was made by a Spanish sea captain in the 1500's.  And the document really interests me because it’s the country's first shopping list with recipes.  I quote: "The birds came to us and perched on our heads, we brought more than five hundred to the ship.  We cooked them with hot water and they were so fat and good, that every night the men went hunting for them.  We dried and salted more than one thousand for the voyage home.  We also caught great numbers of fish.  Groupers, parrot fish and especially red snappers which were so plentiful, we were able to catch them with our hands.” So from the very beginning Bermuda was a great spot for a good meal.

The story of England's involvement with Bermuda begins with Sir George Summers.  He was the Admiral of a small fleet that had set sail from England with colonists who intended to settle in Virginia.  On July 28, 1609, a huge storm drove the Admiral's ship onto the rocks that surrounded Bermuda.  On board the ship was Sir Thomas Gates, who was going to Virginia to become the Governor of the colony.  Summers, the professional seaman and Gates, the professional politician, had different views on building a ship to continue the voyage to Virginia.  And so each built to their own design.  A full sized replica of Gates' ship, named Deliverance, now stands on a small island in front of the town of St. George. 

Summers' ship was named Patience, and both Patience and Deliverance showed up in the Virginia colony of Jamestown in 1610.  Jamestown was in terrible shape and Summers had no real interest in hanging around, but he had to have an excuse to leave, so he told everybody he was going back to Bermuda to get them more food.  Whether he really intended to do that, or just push on to England, we'll never know because when Summers got to Bermuda he died.  His heart was removed and buried here and the rest of him shipped back to England.  Which I guess makes Summers the first tourist to leave his heart in Bermuda. 

The description of Bermuda given by Sir George's nephew, Matthew, was so positive that it convinced the king to grant a new charter for the development of Bermuda.  In 1612, the first intentional settlers arrived on these islands. 

The islands that make up Bermuda are some six hundred miles out in the Atlantic Ocean, in an area long famous for exceptional fishing.  The result is a four hundred year old history of outstanding fish cookery.

A private home that is over a century old has been restored and transformed into one of Bermuda's finest restaurants.  It's called Once Upon A Table and its run by Lou Harvey.  The interior has been decorated in the Victorian style of the 1800's and the food is basically French with a Bermudian influence.  If you're in Bermuda and you give Lou thirty-six hours notice, he will  produce a traditional Bermudian meal. 

LOU HARVEY:  Today, Burt, we're going to start with traditional Bermuda fish cakes.  A fish cake of course you can present it with ... as I present it here today with a honey mustard sauce and topped with banana.  Also, you can make fish pies out of the codfish, you can do a whole host of different things.

BURT WOLF:  Codfish is really an old standby here isn't it?

LOU HARVEY:  Codfish is a basic yes, a very traditional Sunday morning breakfast that we have here in Bermuda.  And after that we're going to follow along with a ... with a Bermuda fish chowder which is very traditional.  And it's made from fish stock and other herbs and spices.  And that ... has been laced with black rum and sherry peppers.

BURT WOLF:  Everybody puts in a little bit Gosling's rum and Outerbridges’ Sherry Pepper Sauce.

LOU HARVEY:  Most certainly, the fish chowder without Outerbridges’ Sherry Pepper and black rum, isn’t really fish chowder.  And after that we can go into a pan-fried yellowtail and the yellowtail is really from our local waters.  And what we're presenting it on today is crushed pink peppercorns and also a black rum butter sauce.  After the snapper we're going to have a little pork noisette.  And again with the pork which was ...  eaten quite a bit in Bermuda, due to the fact that we had a lot of hogs running wild here.

BURT WOLF:  I saw the original map of Bermuda drawn by Admiral Summers, and in the lower right hand corner, there were a group of hogs that they feel were left here by a Spanish galleon.  They were, I guess, the original inhabitants of the island.

LOU HARVEY:  Yeah, exactly, well ... Bermuda as you know is named after Juan DesBermudez, and ... this is where we had the rock named Spanish rock where he came in, down there by Smith’s Parish, and of course that hearing these wild hogs, he probably thought that it was devils.  That's why Bermuda is also named Devil's Island.  Yeah.  Mhmm.

BURT WOLF:  The fish cakes and the fish chowder are traditional Bermudian dishes, but because the ingredients are generally available and the technique is so simple, it's just the kind of recipes I like to learn.

Let's start with the fish cakes.  They're being prepared by the chef at Once Upon A Table, Gerhard Lipp. 

This recipe starts with a pound of dried codfish, which looks like this.  You soak it in water for about eight hours, changing the water twice during that time period.  If you don't like codfish or you can't get it, you can use any white firm-fleshed fish; you don't have to soak it, but you do have to cook it.  And then you'll need three or four potatoes that you've boiled and cut into pieces so you can mash that together. 

The fish and the potatoes go into a mixing bowl, followed by two tablespoons of chopped onion, two tablespoons of chopped parsley, a tablespoon of basil, a hit of Outerbridges’ Sherry Pepper sauce and some ground black pepper.  All that is mashed together.  The final ingredient is a tablespoon of Worcestershire sauce.  The mixture is formed into little cakes about three inches in diameter and given a light coating of flour.  Two tablespoons of vegetable oil and two tablespoons of butter are heated together in a frying pan and the fish cakes are sauteed until they develop a golden brown color.

CHEF:  You fry them very crispy on the outside so when you bite in it they're nice and crunchy.

BURT WOLF:  When they come out of the pan, they go onto some paper toweling to drain, and then onto a serving plate with a sauce made from mayonnaise, mustard and honey.

Wherever the sea meets the shore, cooks use seafood to make a soup. 

As soup gets thicker, it becomes a stew.  But when does a fish soup become a chowder?  Not an easy distinction to make.  The word chowder appears to point to a thick soup made along the east coast of Canada.  First time you see the word in print is in the mid 1700's and Herman Melville uses it in his novel, Moby Dick.  He talks about towns along the east coast where you've got seafood chowder for breakfast, seafood chowder for lunch and seafood chowder for dinner, until you got to a point when you start looking at your clothing to see if fishbones are sticking out.

In Boston itself, and going north, chowders almost always have a milk base.  Starting in Rhode Island and going south, chowders are usually based on tomatoes and their juices.

It was a highly charged emotional issue.  There were actually governments in New England that passed laws saying that it was illegal to make a chowder without using milk.  Here in Bermuda they make a chowder without milk.  Is that simply because cows were never really important in Bermuda?  Or is it a political statement, a reference to the fact that not everybody in Bermuda was loyal to the King of England during the  War of Independence.  I'll have to get back to you on that.

Two quarts of fish stock or chicken stock go into a large saucepan, followed by a cup of chopped onion, cup of chopped celery.  A cup of chopped carrots.  Then in goes a chopped tomato and its juices.  A half cup of parsley, three bay leaves.  Two tablespoons of basil, two tablespoons of oregano, a tablespoon of Worcestershire sauce and finally a tablespoon of rosemary.   All that is brought to a boil and simmered for thirty minutes, at which point in go two pounds of boneless, skinless fish filets that have been cut up into bite- size pieces.  The best fish for a Bermuda fish chowder is porgy, rockfish or grouper, but any mild-flavored, firm-fleshed fish will do the trick.  Ten minutes more of cooking and the chowder is ready to go into serving bowls.  Just before it goes to the table, the chef adds a touch of Bermuda Black Seal Rum and a little of Outerbridges’ Sherry pepper sauce.

The success of the revolutionary forces during the American War of Independence against England, deprived the British Navy of its ports on the east coast of North America and placed the British fleet in a somewhat insecure position.  The young American Navy was quite aggressive, and England feared that their position as ruler of the seas might soon be challenged.  So in the late 1700's England devised a plan to construct a naval fortress on Bermuda.  And by 1807, the work was well underway.  The most interesting structure is the Clocktower building.  It was meant to be a very dull simple Navy warehouse.  Ah, but the wrong plans were sent from London.  Bermuda totally by mistake got the architectural renderings that were supposed to be the British Embassy in Khartoum.  And they used those in error to produce this magnificent building.  It does really make you wonder what the British Embassy looks like in Khartoum.

The Clocktower has four faces and everybody around here calls it the “four faced liar,” simply because no one face can keep time with the others.  It has some value though; if you're late for work you can select which face you want to refer to, and the same is true if you want to leave early.  The towers are a hundred and one feet high and they have become one of Bermuda's most recognizable landmarks. 

The U.S. Navy never really gave any trouble to the Royal Naval Dockyards, but the yards were an incredible source of aggravation to the U.S.  It was from these docks that a British invasion force crossed over and attacked Washington during the War of 1812.  They actually burned down part of the White House.  It was the only time that the United States was invaded, assuming of course you exclude British rock bands and Japanese investment bankers.

When the First World War started in 1914, the Bermuda dockyards became a key element in Great Britain's defense.  And that role was repeated for both the English and the U.S. forces during the Second World War.  This yard was a major port for ship repairs and anti-submarine patrols. 

But in 1950, the British Navy closed the dockyard and it fell into a state of neglect.  Fortunately, a group of local citizens realized that the dockyard was a valuable historic property and began bringing it back to life.

The keep-yard has become the setting for the Maritime Museum, where Bermuda's maritime history is on display.  The old Cooperage where storage barrels were once made, is now the Frog And Onion Pub.  The name was a somewhat rude reference to the fact that the establishment is owned by a Frenchman, the Frog, and a Bermudian, the onion.  That seems rather unfair: onions are on the menu, but no frogs. 

Next door is the Bermuda Art Center, with regular exhibitions by local artists.  When the Clocktower was first constructed, it was regularly visited by the captain in charge and his cashier,  and housed the Naval Store Offices.  Today it is a residence for all sorts of local stores, each with its own cashier and ready to accept your charge cards.  Proving once again that the more things change, the more they are the same.

The dockyard hosts the Island Pottery, where potters pot jugs, bowls, teapots and vases to your order.  The husband’s waiting chair is a somewhat sexist element, but clearly quite functional.  There's also a craft market which sells works made by Bermudian craftsmen and women.  As well as a complete selection of locally-produced foods and beverages for tourists to take home. 

The Fourways Inn is one of Bermuda's best restaurants, and enjoys a worldwide reputation for excellent food and service.  The building was originally constructed as a private home in 1727.  In 1975, the property was purchased by Walter Sommer.  Walter was trained at the famous hotel school in Lausanne, Switzerland and spent many years developing some of the most important hotels and restaurants in the Carribean and on Bermuda.

After he got the restaurant in top shape, he began to develop a series of Bermudian food products, including an instant souffle.

WALTER SOMMER:  We discovered we'd be the first company to develop such a product.  Now the product is in a powder form.  You can have four different souffles.  That will mean that a lady or gentleman that can do the souffle without having a dirty kitchen, and a guaranteed product in twelve minutes.

WOLF:  The Bermuda Hotel and Catering College opened in 1965; today it’s part of the Bermuda College.  The school actually built its own hotel so the students could have a real working environment.  It's called the Stonington Beach Hotel, and the food and the restaurant's services are top-notch. 

Fred Ming is one of the leading instructors at the school and today he's giving me a private class.  The subject of which is his recipe for roast loin of pork with papaya stuffing.  The stuffing is made from chopped onion, garlic, sausage, bread crumbs and papaya.  A rack of pork is sliced almost in half, stuffed with a stuffing and roasted in a 375 degree oven until a meat thermometer indicates an internal temperature of 160 degrees.

FRED MING:  So that when you do sink your teeth into it, it's not going to sort of pull out any of your teeth to any extent.  It's going to be still be nice and ... nice and soft, nice and soft.

BURT WOLF:  The sauce is made from vinegar, sugar and crushed pineapple.  A little cinnamon and some brown sugar go onto two rounds of pineapple, which are then seared in a grill pan.  The pork comes out, some red cabbage goes onto a serving plate and the sauce, a slice of the stuffed pork, the pineapple rings, some carrots, a little broccoli and its ready to serve.

In 1964, Argosy Magazine ran an article that described the unexplained disappearance of an extraordinary number of ships and planes in a triangular area between Bermuda, the coast of Florida and the island of Puerto Rico.  The article told the story of a British ship named the Ellen Austin.  In 1881, the Austin came upon an abandoned vessel in the triangle; the craft was in perfect working order.  There was no crew on board.  The captain of the Austin put some of his own men onto the empty ship and instructed them to head for Nova Scotia on the coast of Canada.  A few days later, the two ships met up, and once again, the crew on the mystery ship had vanished.

The legend of the Bermuda Triangle also includes the story of the flight of five U.S. Air Force fighter planes that took off on a routine patrol from Fort Lauderdale, Florida in 1945.  At one point the flight leader of the group radioed ground control that he was lost.  The rescue plane was sent out to help.  All six planes disappeared without a trace.

Since the original publication of the story about the Bermuda Triangle, there have been dozens of additional newspaper and magazine articles, a couple of television specials and even a movie.  Eventually somebody decided to take a real close look at this material.  It happened to be a man who was the head of the library at the University of Arizona.  And he used his research skills to scientifically evaluate all of the material.  He got hold of this stuff from the 1800's.  He was able to put his hands on a copy of the military transcript of the conversation between the five fighter pilots and the ground controllers.  And he tracked down all of the stories about the triangle.  When this material is subjected to scientific analysis, the conclusion is obvious:  none of it is true.  There is nothing going on in the Bermuda Triangle that doesn't go on every place else. 

There is however, one mysterious element that remains.

Bermuda Chef Norbert Stange at the Wyndham’s Elbow Beach Resort, baked something called The Bermuda Triangle Cookie.  And there are continuing reports of their disappearance in extremely large numbers.  I felt I should investigate the situation in some detail. 

The recipe starts with four cups of heavy cream being heated in a sauce pan.  And in go four ounces of butter, four cups of sugar, and a cup of honey.  All that cooks for about five minutes.  And add in four cups of sliced almonds.  Another five minutes of cooking and the mixture is ready to be poured onto a sheet of pre-baked pastry dough that has been used to line a jelly roll pan.  Twenty minutes in a 350 degree oven, and the sheet is cut into triangles. 

And it is at this very point that the disappearances occur.

The people who came to vacation in Bermuda during the past two centuries represented hundreds of different occupations.  Businessmen and women, doctors, lawyers, factory workers, even television reporters have come here for their holidays.  And they have all shared at least one objective, and that was to leave their work at home.

Nobody paid any real attention to the occupations of the tourists, except for a small group of people who were inspired by the vision of Tom Butterfield.  Mr. Butterfield realized that not all of the tourists left their work at home.  Some of them continued their craft when they were here and actually did some of their best work on Bermuda.  Those people were artists...  as a matter of fact, some of the world's most famous artists.  Only problem was when they finished their vacation, they brought those paintings and drawings back home.  To solve that problem, the Masterworks Foundation Gallery was formed, with the objective of bringing those works back to Bermuda.

It's organized as a charitable trust and run completely by unpaid volunteers.  Some of the works in the collection have been purchased, others are here on loan.  Each of them gives you a unique look at Bermuda through the eyes of an outstanding artist. 

TOM BUTTERFIELD:  This is a work by E. Ambrose Webster; it's a large oil of a family, painted in 1922, and this is the first portrait that we've ever been able to find of any Bermudian, black or white, painted on a non-commissioned purpose.  And we were very excited to find it.  This is a work by Jack Bush.  What's exciting about it is that Jack Bush to many Canadians is known as an abstract painter, and it is, it's a work that is just so charged with energy and light and life and vitality, that we love having it.  And just one ... a little anecdote, I had to run the London Marathon to raise the money to get it, but it was worth every mile.  This is a work by Ogden Pleisner; when we originally found it, it was titled The Mango Tree; however it is more correctly the PauPau tree, and just in interest, we use paupau here on this island to thicken our fish chowders.  Pleisner has no other peers in the watercolor medium, except for obviously the likes of Winslow Homer, so having six in our collection means a lot to us.  And he is nothing less than genius.

BURT WOLF:  The great American master Winslow Homer visited Bermuda and produced some twenty works.  This picture, called Bermuda Settlers, illustrated Homer's vision of the wild hogs that were found on Bermuda by the early English settlers.  The hogs we think had been left here by the Spanish explorers who had to stop back later and use their increased numbers to resupply their ships.  Good food has always inspired good art.

Bermuda's first settlers built cedar-framed all- timbered houses that were thatched with palmetto leaves.  During the early 1700's, the desire to conserve cedar for the profitable construction of ships led to the increased use of limestone.  Whatever material was used, the design had to meet the very unique environmental demands of these islands.

First of all, as the original settlers knew only too well, having arrived here as a result of a horrendous ocean storm, this island can from time to time be in the path of some difficult weather.  Second of all, there is no source of fresh water, save that which descends from the heaven in the form of rain.  And finally there are fabulous ocean breezes that come off the sea and you wouldn't want to miss them during the warm summer months.

The result of these elemental forces is an architectural style that is truly unique to Bermuda, that is valid today as it was almost three hundred years ago when it was originally developed.  Logs were used to build a basic frame, slices of limestone called slates were layered down like dominoes.  The bottom slate went on first, the bottom limestone layers went on in a way that formed a set of steps.  The final form was sealed with a wash of lime.  Downpipes pulled the raindrops together and directed them to a holding tank dug into the rock next to the building.  That was the basic plan for the original structures and even today, Bermuda's buildings are topped with a roof that acts as a giant rain pipe.  Even the chimneys are topped with forms that are designed to save rainwater.  The only major difference appears to be that these days the storage tanks are under the buildings rather than next to them.  The walls of the buildings are thick and sturdy and well suited to withstand the occasional passing storm.  They're also ideal for capturing the cool and gentle breezes that come off the ocean.  Around each window are a set of shutters that help contain the cool air.  Many buildings have open porches that give the building more roof area for the water works and a shaded area for outdoor living.  Bermuda's limestone met the most important needs of the island's early home builders, but it’s not a material that lends itself to architectural detail.  There are few decorative elements in the buildings of Bermuda.  On the other hand, they have a certain sculptural quality with clean crisp lines that reflect the ever-changing light patterns.

In many ways, the architecture of Bermuda is extremely natural and therefore very pleasing.  It’s done a good job of withstanding both the physical and critical tests of time.  Well, that's our report from Bermuda.  Please join us next time as we travel around the world looking for good things to eat and the reasons why people eat them.  I'm Burt Wolf.

Burt Wolf's Table: Halifax - #222

BURT WOLF:   Halifax ... on the east coast of Canada.  Surrounded by clear clean waters that produce some of the world's finest seafood.  It's the place to look at the magnificent, natural charm of North America.  To learn how to take the meat out of a lobster...  Cook up some great tasting and easy recipes...  And find out what politicians and crabs have in common.  So join me in Halifax at Burt Wolf's Table.

The first Europeans to see the coast of Nova Scotia were probably the Vikings who stopped by during the eleventh century.  But they were just visiting.  The first fellow to drop in with the idea of claiming the land for a European king or queen was the explorer John Cabot, who arrived here from England in 1497. 

They used Cabot's voyages as the basis of their claim of discovery.  They believed that the area was destined to become New Scotland, in the same way that they believed the shores to the south were destined to become New England. 

And so in 1749 Colonel Edward Cornwallis showed up here with 2,500 British Colonists, and they proceeded to build a classic replica of an English town.  They called in Halifax.

He built it on the world's second largest natural harbor ... the British being ever-intent on ruling the waves.  And he reproduced everything he could to remind him of jolly old England ... including the food.  Roasts, puddings, biscuits, double-crusted fruit pies, and an elegant tea service that is still in fashion.

Every day the mayor of Halifax has an open tea.  All of the citizens are invited in the hope that they will come and speak their mind.

The town itself and the surrounding countryside with its coastal villages presents some of the most beautiful parts of North America's east coast.  Bill Goddard is a native of Halifax and a pilot with Cougar Copters. 

BILL GODDARD:   When the first explorers came to Halifax from the sea, this is what they saw ... it's a fabulous coast ... that strip of land down there is called McNab's Island.  It looks beautiful now ... but in the old days ... if they caught a deserter from the British Navy they'd hang him from the gallows right there on the shore.  As the other British ships would come in they'd see the deserter hanging there ... it was like a stop sign that said “don't desert here.”

BURT WOLF:   Um ... that's a pretty effective sign I bet.  (LAUGHS)

BILL GODDARD:   The sea is central to the story of Halifax ... that's the world's largest natural harbor ... and it's ice-free all year ... the only one that's bigger is in Australia.  That's Peggy's Cove ... it's a fishing village that sits right on the granite rocks ... it looks just the way it always has.  They say it's the most photographed fishing village in the world.

You know, Captain Kidd buried his treasure around here ...


BILL GODDARD:   There are a number of groups trying to figure out how to find it.  This was a big area for pirates.

BURT WOLF:   Sure, they must have loved it.  After a tough season of sinking ships and stealing treasures and looting and killing ... you know, there's a lot of pressure to being a pirate ... it must have been really nice to come up here and mellow out ... and relax in a seaside village.

But it looks like most of your visitors are families just relaxing or couples taking time off.

BILL GODDARD:   True.  Or lovers of good food -- like you.

BURT WOLF:   I'm definitely a food lover in terms of eating.  But I'm even more interested in food folklore and history.  And as I look at Nova Scotia's past ... I see a very strong New England influence.

The original French settlers to arrive in Nova Scotia called themselves Acadians ... after an ancient Greek word that meant “dwellers in the land of innocence.”  They had been the first European colonists in the area ... but by 1755 they were living on territory controlled by the British.  And there were ten thousand Acadians.

Now, that made the British nervous.  They were afraid that the Acadians were going to side with the French in the constant Anglo-French wars of the period.  And so the British troops gathered up all of the the Acadian families and forced them out of Nova Scotia. 

They scattered them all over North America ... some as far south as New Orleans.  As a matter of fact, the people in the New Orleans area who are known as cajuns are actually the descendents of the Acadians who were forced out of this area.  And the British took the farms that belonged to the Acadians, which just happened to be on the best farm land in the area, and sold them to loyal British subjects in New England.

That influx of New Englanders became even greater during the American Revolution, when thirty thousand people loyal to the king of England moved up here. 

At one point in time there were so many people from New England in Nova Scotia that they represented two-thirds of the local population.  And they gave the cooking of the area a distinctly American colonial flavor.

There are recipes all over Nova Scotia that clearly come from kitchens of eighteenth century Virginia and the Carolinas.

The local hearts are definitely Canadian.  But part of the local stomachs came up from down South.

The town of Halifax has a number of restaurants along the waterfront that have become well-known for their seafood cookery.  Perhaps the most famous is called The Upper Deck.  The chef is Chris Profit.  And one of his signature dishes is called Upper Deck Lobster.

Chris starts the dish by removing the meat from a lobster that was cooked by boiling.

CHRIS PROFIT:   Son of a gun ... put him up on his head with his legs ... like hold it back.

WOLF:   Um-hmm.

CHRIS PROFIT:   Off come his legs.  Take his tail ... just twist it from the body ... set that guy aside ... this is gonna push down cause you're gonna ... (CRACKING SOUNDS) ... crack on one side ... cracked on the center on the other side.  That's the tail.  Now, on the claws ... just push down and snap ... and off come the joints.  One, two.  This is like a pump.  Pull 'er out ... off she goes ... same action ... pumpin' up the jam ... out comes the click ... turn her over so the claws down ... line up her ... crack it open and out comes your claw.  And that's the lobster out of the shell.

BURT WOLF:   Then he crushes two tablespoons of black pepper into small pieces ... using the bottom of one of his sauce pans.  A little tarragon ... the black pepper ... the lobster meat ... and a splash of white wine cooked together in a sauce pan for a few minutes.  Cooked pasta is added.  A third of a cup of cream.  Three minutes of high heat to thicken the sauce, and it's ready to serve.

Until recently lobsters were so plentiful that all you had to do was walk along the beach and pick them up.  A British visitor to Nova Scotia in the mid-1800s wrote a letter back home to London describing the fact that there were so many lobsters all over the beaches of this area that farmers were picking them up by the thousands and using them as fertilizer.  Hm-um.  Boy, how times have changed.

It as the introduction of high-speed transportation that gave fresh lobster a much bigger audience ... and increased both its popularity ... and unfortunately its price.

It's important, however, that lobsters be alive when they're cooked.  As soon as a lobster dies ... its uncooked flesh begins to attract the bacteria that can be very dangerous.  Lobsters should be moving about when you start the cooking process.  The restaurant lobster tank is a really great idea.

Nutritionally, lobsters are a good source of low-fat protein ... they contain some calcium ... and much less cholesterol then we used to think.  Good stuff!

An American statesman named John Hay once pointed out that he believed politicians were very similar to crabs.  They both seem to be coming when they're actually going ... and seem to be going when they're actually coming.

There are over four thousand different species of crab ... and the one thing they all have in common is that they are all edible.  North America's fortunate in having more different types of crab than anywhere else in the world ... and we respond to that bit of good luck by making crab our second most popular shellfish.  The only shellfish that we eat more of is shrimp.

Most of the crab that we get at home is pre-cooked and pre-cleaned.  But it always isn't as pre-cleaned as we'd like it to be.  It's a good idea to sift through your pre-cooked crab meat ... and make sure that all of the bits of shell are out of it before you start using it in a recipe.

If you're going to buy live crab in your supermarket ... always pick out the ones that are more active.  And the heavier the crab the better.  Make sure the claws are bound and can't grab at you.  And remember, crabs are cannibals and will eat each other ... so don't leave two of them alone in the same place. 

And like lobster, crab must be cooked while it is still alive in order to be safe to eat.

The waters of Nova Scotia produce an enormous amount of seafood.  The vast majority comes from the clear, clean seas ... just the way Mother Nature set things up.  There's also a farm- raised source.  British farms have been around for thousands of years ... and the people of Nova Scotia put them to good use. And so do the local cooks.

Alan Johnson is the executive chef at the Upper Deck Restaurant in Halifax.  Today he's using the local seafood to make a chowder.  A little butter goes into a saucepan ... followed by chopped celery, chopped onions, and chopped pre-cooked bacon.  That's cooked together for a few minutes.

Meanwhile, in another saucepan, stock is heated and used to cook some haddock, baby shrimp and baby clams.  A little flour goes into the vegetable mixture to absorb the butter.  That's cooked for a moment ... then the fish-cooking liquid is added to the vegetables and whisked in.  Three cooked potatoes go in ... the fish goes in ... some parsley ... white pepper ... paprika ... and cayenne.  That's it!


By the middle of the 1700s, it was apparent that France and England were about to go into a final contest for the posession of North America.  In preparation for this military conflict, the British founded the city of Halifax, and the Halifax Citadel was constructed on a hill overlooking the town.

It was built in four stages.  The first one was constructed as a defense against the French and the local native tribes.  The second one was set up to defend against the troops and the American Revolution.  The third one was actually installed in the fear that the troops of Napoleon Bonaparte might show up in the New World.  And the fourth one was once again to defend against American troops who might come up here during the war of 1812.

My favorite piece of equipment at the Halifax Citadel is this stove which would sit out on the ramparts next to the cannons.  A convenient little hot plate for preparing a quick cup of tea?  Not quite.  That stove was used to heat a cannonball until it was red hot.  And the hot ball would be fired at a wooden target.  The heat of the ball would set the target on fire.  It was perfect for a ship.  The wooden decks ... the sails ... the masts... they'd burst into flame.

The heated cannonball was called a Hotshot.  And that's where we got the word “hotshot” from.

In 1794 England's Prince Edward was installed as Commander of the Halifax Citadel in Nova Scotia.  By far, his most important military project was the improvement of the Citadel's defenses. 

In order to get the job done, they imported a group of workers from the British colony of Jamaican in the Caribbean.  They were known as the Maroons.  When Canadian historians think about the Maroons, they think about a group of people with such extraordinary strength that they could move these huge stones and construct the Citadel. 

When I think about the Maroons I think about an even more important achievement.  An achievement which is still affecting tens of thousands of people in the United States of America.

When the British arrived in Jamaica, they were greeted by the guns of the Maroons.  Slaves that had escaped from the Spanish.  The Maroons were fabulous fighters ... and no one has ever been able to fully subdue them.

Between battles with the British the Maroons would hunt for wild pig.  When they caught one they would cook some of it right away ... but preserve the remainder in a mixture of very hot peppers wrapped in a banana leaf.  Next time there was a break in the battle ... they'd take some out and cook it over some hot coals. 

The result of this technique is something called jerk pork... rapidly becoming one of the most popular foods in North America.  And we owe it all to the Maroons.

The Maroons were not the only non-British group that the British put to work in order to develop their North American colonies.  The British liked to do the concept ... and have someone else do the work.

Accordingly, it was an English nobleman named George Dunk who drew up the plans for the British settlement of Nova Scotia in the mid-1700s.  Thankfully, his name was not used for the city.  Instead, they chose his title:  Lord Halifax.

But the British subjects who colonized the area were not very good at farming and so they sent word back to the King of England and asked him to ship over some German farmers who had a reputation for doing things right agriculturally.  As a result ... during the 1750's a couple of hundred German farmers moved to Nova Scotia and settled down in an area ... just south of Halifax known as Lunenberg.

The Germans proved to be excellent farmers and equally good ship builders.  During the days of sail, Lunenberg was famous as the village of wooden ships and iron men.  Today, Lunenberg is one of the most picturesque seaside towns in North America.  Still carrying on its nautical traditions ... looking much as it has for the past two hundred years ... and cooking with a distinctly German accent.

Potato salads, herring dishes, sauerkraut ... and rye breads.  The rye breads come with a local superstition.  A Lunenberg baker would never turn a rye bread over.  They feel that it would temp fate to capsize a ship at sea.  And ... uh . that's not so good for the bread either.

Nova Scotia is Latin for New Scotland.  It's the ancestral home of the Native American Micmac tribe ... the original French colony in North America ... a major colonial outpost for the English ... and a welcome residence for tens of thousands of immigrants from the United States.  And  a joyous haven for Germans who escaped world poverty to come here in the mid-1700s.

The only group that had a consistently terrible time coming to New Scotland were the Scots.  They were forced to come here in the middle of the 1800s when the clan system in Scotland just collapsed.  They were poor ... they were uneducated... and they had a really difficult time adjusting to the New World.

But with traditional Scottish determination and frugality ... they managed to hang on, and eventually they brought their traditional foods to the area.

Their beloved oats took hold in the soil ... mills were built ... and before long, oatmeal ... oat cakes ... oat breads ... and any other oat-based recipe that you could think of became part of the cooking of Nova Scotia. 

The Scottish are well known for their open hospitality ... and that affects the kinds of recipes they like to use.  Particularly true when it comes to baking.   They like to use quick cakes and quick breads that are made with baking soda.

I once spent some time with a famous Scottish cook who said that she would only do cakes and recipes that could be prepared in the time that it took someone to come up her driveway and sit down in the living room.  And she didn't even have a very long driveway.

I came through the door ... the cake went into the oven ... and fifteen minutes later we sat down to tea.  Scottish hospitality.

The Silver Spoon Restaurant in Halifax is famous for its warm and hospitable atmosphere.  It's owned by Deanna Silver ... who was forced into the restaurant business because her friends loved her baking.  A good example is her blueberry oatmeal muffins.

A cup of oatmeal goes into a bowl, plus a cup of hot water.  Zest of an orange and a cup of orange juice.  A little vegetable oil is sprayed into a muffin tin ... then paper cups go in.  Five ounces of butter or margarine go into an electric mixer and are creamed together with one cup of brown sugar.  Four eggs are added.  And the oatmeal / juice mixture. 

The dry ingredients are mixed together.  Two and a half cups of flour ... two teaspoons of baking soda ... two teaspoons of baking powder ... and tablespoon of salt . .two tablespoons of vanilla extract.  The dry ingredients go in ... two cups of blueberries ... everything is gently mixed together ... and spooned out into the muffin tin.  That bakes at 350 degree for twenty-five minutes and the muffins are ready.

Oats are the berries of a cultivated grass that is native to Central Europe.  They've been grown by European farmers since about 1500 B.C.  Oats grow best in cool wet climates like England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland.  In Scotland, oats are the staff of life.  Scottish cooks will take oats and put them into cookies and cakes and breads and stuffings and just about anything else they can think of.

I knew a Scottish cook who would toast oats and put it on her children's ice cream.  The madness for oats in North America got started a number of years ago when a study at Northwestern University outside of Chicago indicated that two ounces of oats or oat bran each day would reduce your cholesterol.  It's actually the soluble fiber in the oats that does the job.  It turns into a gel as it passes through your body and reduces your cholesterol.

Two cups of breakfast style oatmeal ... or two medium-sized oat muffins contain the two ounces of oat fiber that you need.

But remember, if you're getting your oat bran in the form of oat muffins ... you want oat muffins that are made with a low level of saturated fat.  Saturated fat can increase the cholesterol in your body and cancel out the effect of the oat bran.  Oat bran only works as part of a low saturated fat diet.

Halifax was founded by the English in 1749. Shortly thereafter, a law was passed which forbade the immigration of Irish to the colony.  Nevertheless, within ten years, one out of every three people living in Halifax was of Irish ancestry.

By the end of the 1700's, virtually all of the anti-Irish legislation had disappeared.  As a matter of fact, British royalty was attending the local St. Patrick's Day celebrations.  On August 31st, 1843 the Church of Our Lady of Sorrows was erected in one day.  Two thousand parishioners showed up and built the entire structure by dinner time. 

Today, ten percent of Nova Scotia's citizens are of Irish ancestry and their foods are eaten throughout the community.  Besides the potatoes, corn beef and cabbage, soda bread ... and green colored St. Patrick's Day specialties ... the Irish were responsible for many of the really good beef and pork recipes.  And the idea of having porridge for breakfast, which is a really good idea.  Because breakfast is still our most important meal.

At the Compass Rose Inn in the town of Lunenberg, Nova Scotia ... Roger Pike and his wife Susanne have taken an old recipe from Susanne's Irish heritage ... and used it to give new meaning to the St. Patrick's Day idea of “the wearing of the green.”

It's an ice cream cake and it's quite frankly irresistible.  Start with a cup of oreo cookie crumbs ... add two tablespoons of melted margarine and mix the two together with a fork.  That mixture gets pressed into the bottom of springform pan to make a crust.  And in goes a quart of chocolate chip mint ice cream ... green of course.  That gets patted down to form a layer.  A little creme de menthe -- optional.  A second layer made from one quart of ice cream ... into the freezer for three hours.  When it comes out, run a knife along the inside edge ... remove the pan ... put your slices onto a plate ... and decorate the serving with chocolate sauce and whipped cream.  Fabulous!  And that's no blarney!

The word “mint” comes from an ancient Greek legend about a nymph named Mintha.  She was kissing the god Pluto when Pluto's wife came in and discovered them.  Pluto's wife, by the way, was a goddess of considerable power in her own right ... and she was furious.  And so she crushed Mintha into the earth.

Pluto took pity on Mintha and saw that she survived in the sweet smell of the plant.  Elizabethans in England love this story ... and they planted mint along their garden paths.  As they walked along, their feet would crush the mint and perfume the area in which they walked.  That perfume, by the way, comes from a chemical called menthol which is found in the stems and leaves of the plant.

If I remember my menthol commercials properly, that meant that the Elizabethans had feet that were kissing sweet.

In 1970 ... the City of Halifax had a plan to demolish the old waterfront buildings here ... and construct an expressway.  What their plan didn't plan for were the walls of the building behind me.  That's the old Privateers’ Warehouse.  And the walls are over two feet thick.  The wrecker's ball ... it just bounced off them like they were a backboard at an NBA game. 

Instead, the citizens of Halifax constructed what is known as the Historic Properties.  It preserves the look and feel of the place as it was in the 1800's ... and seven of the oldest structures on the waterfront.  This was the city's commercial center during the 1800's.  Today, it's home to a maritime museum that tells  the story of this area's four hundred year old relationship to the sea.

There's a shopping area ... some excellent restaurants ... the dock for Bluenose II...  a replica of the most famous Grand Banks fishing vessel, and so powerful a symbol of Canada's relationship to the sea ... that you find a picture of it on the Canadian dime. 

They've also held on to the last remaining Korvette...  The H.M.C.S. Sackville.  It was this class of ship that escorted the supply convoys across the Atlantic during the Second World War.  And it tried to protect them from the German U-boats.


As part of preserving its past, the Historic Properties have included a town crier.

TOWN CRIER:   Oyez... oyez...

BURT WOLF:   The idea of a town crier has been around for well over a thousand years.  They were the original anchormen ... Brokaw, Rather, Jennings, Shaw ... the town criers were there first.  They gave people the news ... but most importantly, they warned everyone about impending dangers ... and with each new danger they altered their warning.

Peter Cox is the town crier for the city of Halifax ... and he is sending out the word on what Nova Scotia can tell us about the relationship of good food to good health.

TOWN CRIER:   Take heed up ... and listen.  Many small meals during the day ... especially for you ... than just two or three big ones.  Try and get more than half your daily calories from fresh fruits and vegetables ... grains ... and cereals.  Lobsters ... hm ... excellent low-fat protein with much less cholesterol than we once thought.  Soluble fibers from oat bran or any other source can help control cholesterol levels.  But remember ... there are no magic foods ... oats only do their job effectively when they are part of a proper balanced low-fat diet.


BURT WOLF:   That's all from Halifax, Nova Scotia.  Please join us next time as we travel around the world looking for good things to eat and drink at Burt Wolf's Table.

Burt Wolf's Table: St. Croix - #221

BURT WOLF:   St. Croix, in the U.S. Virgin Islands.  Relaxed and easy-going with one of the most beautiful old towns in the Caribbean.  We'll tour a fascinating botanical garden ... find out what the galley cooks on sailboats can teach us about making life easier in our kitchens... and learn some recipes that are simple to prepare and taste great.  So join me on the island of St. Croix at Burt Wolf's Table.

During his second voyage in 1493, Columbus came upon this group of islands and named them the Virgin Islands after the legend of St. Ursula.  The story tells of a pagan prince who demanded the hand of Ursula in marriage.  Ursula was the beautiful daughter of the King of Britain ... but she was not too happy about marrying a pagan prince because he had pledged herself to a life of saintliness. 

Anyway, to save her old man and his kingdom ... she agreed to marry the prince.  However, there was a catch.  Eleven thousand of the most beautiful virgins from the two kingdoms had to come and live with her for three years.  And during those three years she trained them into an army of amazons.

Well, when the pagan prince heard about this. he was furious!  And he took his own army and went into battle against the amazons.  The battle is said to have taken place during the year 238 outside the German city of Cologne.  And, unfortunately, all of the virgins were martyred.

When Columbus saw the beauty of these islands they reminded him of the legend of St. Ursula ... and he called them the Virgin Islands.  What a story!  And what a group of islands.  There are actually dozens of islands in the group, but the three most famous are St. Croix, St. John and St. Thomas.

This is St. Croix.  It's the largest of the U.S. Virgin Islands.  Twenty-six miles long and six miles wide ... with a surface of about eighty square miles.  And most of those square miles are flat enough for farming, which is not true for St. Thomas and St. John.  As a result, St. Croix developed as an agricultural base.

At first it was home to the Arowak, Taino and Caribe tribes that had come up here from South America.  Then the Spanish came in ... but when they had trouble controlling their widespread interests in the Caribbean it gave a chance to the French.  The Knights of Malta opened up a branch office ... the Dutch were here ... and for over two hundred years, the Danish were in charge.

The area was known as the Danish West Indies until 1917 when the United Sates government plunked down twenty-five million dollars in gold and purchased the property from Denmark.  Acre for acre it's the most money that the federal government has ever paid for land ... but it was well worth it.

The main town on the island of St. Croix is Christiansted.  And it is one of the most beautiful and unspoiled towns in the Caribbean.  During the 1700's it was a major port in the sugar trade.  And many of the buildings that were constructed during that period are still standing.  It's the kind of town that lends itself to a walking tour which usually starts from the old Scale House.

Today, it's the home of the Visitor's Bureau.  But in the old days it was the spot where commodities for commercial shipment came in to get a true weight on the official scale.  True weight ... a subject dear to my heart ... and to my heart doctor.  And though I am technically not a commodity for sale ... I am very much interested in my true weight.

What someone should or should not weigh these days is certainly open to debate.  When I was a kid, the Metropolitan Life Insurance scales were the last word and whatever they said, we believed.  But these days there are number of other organizations with very dependable information ... and I leave the determination of your proper weight to you.

I will use the Scale House to give you some tips on how to check your proper weight.  First of all, if you're really serious about knowing what you're weighing you should use a balanced scale ... you know, the one with a bar and a couple of little weights that slide up and back.  That's much more accurate than a spring scale.

Second, you should try to weigh yourself on the same day of the week each week and at the same time of that day.  Your weight can really bounce around within the day and within the days of the week.  I always weigh more on Sunday night.

There's a general rule of thumb as to how many calories you should take in each day to maintain, gain or lose weight.  Every pound of body weight requires ten calories per day to stay in place.  So if your proper weight is a hundred and fifty pounds ... fifteen hundred calories per day will keep you there.  If you take in more calories, your weight will gradually go up.  If you take in fewer calories, your weight will gradually go down.

But please remember, ten calories per pound per day is just a general rule.  Your exercise level can have a great effect.  It's just a way of keeping the picture in scale.

Directly across the street from the old Scale House is the old Customs House ... where they keep track of old customs, like saying “please” and “thank you,” eating together like a family ... but most important ... being a member of Congress and not being interested in ripping everybody off for your own benefit or the benefit of your friends.  You know, those old customs that are so hard to come by.

These days the building is the home of the National Park Service, who are doing a great job watching out after the old fort and the area around it.

The fort was built by the Danish in the 1740's as part of a defense plan for the port.  Never actually saw any military action because the Danish knew that it wouldn't hold up very well.  Every time there was a powerful wind, it fell apart.  It's an interesting place to visit and it has some great views of the area.

Just down the street is the Christian Hendricks Market Square.  It was set up in 1735, and every Saturday it is packed with farmers and vendors ... .all whom are offering their produce and goods at real bargain prices.  Unfortunately, this is not Saturday ... it's actually Thursday ... I'm here ... my camera crew is here ...that's pretty much it.  There was a chicken here earlier but she left.  On Saturdays, however, this place is awesome.


Christiansted also has some excellent places to eat and drink.   There's the Top Hat, which has been run by Bent Rasmussen and his wife Hannah, who came here from Denmark in the 1960's.  This restaurant is probably the strongest Danish influence still on the island. 

The town is filled with small eateries that occupy picturesque courtyards.  St. Croix, like all of the U.S. Virgin Islands, is a duty-free port with great places to shop. 

One of the most interesting is the store belonging to clothing designer Wayne James. 

His real love is anything that reflects the history of the Virgin Islands.  He's even developed a line of seasonings. 

There are a number of elements that give each regional cuisine its distinct flavors.  And the most important are the seasonings.  When we think about the flavor of Louisiana, what comes through most often is cayenne.  In Italy it's oregano ... and sesame is regularly associated with the taste of China.

Mike Smith is the executive chef at the Brass Parrot Restaurant at the Buccaneer Resort here on St. Croix.  And he's been studying the use of seasoning by world latitude.  He sees a pattern of spices based on the area's relationship to the equator ... and he is testing his theory in his kitchen.

MIKE SMITH:   Hello!  Welcome.

BURT WOLF:   Now, normally Mike cooks in a regular restaurant kitchen ... but as an accommodation to the shortness of my visit and the really great weather ... today we're gonna do our cooking on the beach.  Now ... what we're gonna cook is a fillet of fish that's being flavored by the seasonings that are traditional to this area's world latitude.

The seasoning mixture is made from a half cup of chopped peanuts ... a half cup of ground coffee beans ... and a quarter cup of curry powder.  Yeah ... I said ground coffee beans ... I think you'll just have to trust me on this one.  The fish filets get coated with that mixture on both sides.

MIKE SMITH:   To the oven, Burt.  Ten minutes three hundred and fifty degrees.

BURT WOLF:   Right. 

A white bean stew goes onto the plate.  The fish returns from the oven and goes onto the beans . the dish is finished off with two sauces.  One made from a puree of cooked red peppers ... mixed with a little sherry ... and the other from yellow peppers.

When Mike Smith first started cooking at the Buccaneer Resort he noticed that dried beans and lentils were a regular part of the diet ... and they had been a part of the diet of the people on St. Croix for hundreds of years. 

The reason is very simple ... the people who came here came by way of a long ocean voyage. And when they got to this island community they had to be sure that their food supply would store for long periods of time without spoiling.  They also had to get the most nutrition for the least costs.  Dried peas and lentils will store indefinitely.  And when it comes to good nutrition for low cost, dried peas and lentils are unbeatable.

Today, Mike's making an orange and lentil stew.  A little oil goes into a saute pan ... some small pieces of carrots, celery and onion are added.  Cook together for about five minutes.  Two cups of lentils and a cup of chicken stock.  Everything simmers for an hour and a half.  Meanwhile, an orange is sectioned and some basil leaves are sliced.  Both are added to the lentils when they come of the heat.  And, finally, the juice of lemon.  Nice dish.

The lentil is one of the first foods brought under cultivation.  The ancient Greeks had them as part of their diet ... and so did the Romans.  Lentils are very valuable from the point of view of good nutrition.  But they are also very inexpensive.  In ancient times if you became rich but still ate lentils it was a sign that you had not lost touch with reality and become a snob.

Today almost all of the lentils available in the United States come from the northwest ... from an area that spans between the border between Washington State and Idaho.  It's called the Palouse, which is a French word meaning “green lawn.”  Not a bad name for an area that's very busy growing peas and lentils. 

Lentils are packed with potassium and protein and a substance called foliate or folic acid.  A lot of research has come in during the last few years that indicate the importance of folic acid in the diet of pregnant women.  And there are group of organizations that are interested in the health of the United States ... like the March of Dimes ... who very busy spreading the information on how important folic acid is. 

The Bible says that Esau sold his birthright for a bowl of lentil stew.  Now, from a financial point of view, that may not have been the best deal.  But when it comes to nutrition, Esau was moving in the right direction.

The Danish purchased St. Croix from the French in 1733.  They were looking for good agritcultural land for the development of sugar plantations ... and boy, were they right on target. 

St. Croix's rich soil and tropical weather are ideal for plants.  These days there is virtually no sugar grown on the island ... but the environment is put to great use at the St. George Village Botanical Garden.  The gardens were an Arowak tribal village in one hundred A.D. ... then a Danish sugar plantation ... a cattle ranch ... and since 1972, the Botanical Garden.

The garden's sixteen acres of lush tropical vegetation are looked after by Ken Jones ... the horticulturalist of the facility. 

KEN JONES:   This is an interesting tree also.  This strange looking thing that I'm holding in my hand looks like a sausage ... actually it's the seed pod off of this tree. 

BURT WOLF:   A sausage tree.  What a wonderful idea.  Now, what you need over here is a pizza tree right next to the sausage tree and I bet you Domino would put up the money for the research.

KEN JONES:   I thought it was being funded by a cheese company.


BURT WOLF:   What else is growing along here?

KEN JONES:   Right now we're in the cactus garden ... and we have over a hudnred different species of cacti and succulents in here.  This particular plant is an Agave ... and it's the source of sisle hemp.

BURT WOLF:   Cause they make a sisle rug from ... 

KEN JONES:   Uh-huh.

BURT WOLF:   Interesting.

KEN JONES:   And also it's the source of tequila as well.


KEN JONES:   Next, we're gonna take a look at a tree over on the other side that has a really interesting history behind it.  It's called a Fish Poison tree ... and the Indians used to mash up the leaves of this tree and then throw it in a pond containing fish.  aN alkaloid in the leaves would stun the fish ... they'd raise up to the surface, float ... and the Indians would be able to take them home for dinner.

BURT WOLF:   It's like nature's fish net.

KEN JONES:   Exactly.


BURT WOLF:   What an extraordinary thing.

KEN JONES:   Exactly.

BURT WOLF:   The slogan on the license plates of the U.S. Virgin Islands reads "The American Paradise."  And one thing that makes you feel that you've arrived in a bliss-filled environment are the flowers.  There are yellow trumpet flowers, hibiscus, bougainvillea; it's like living in the center of a bouquet ... with each flower contributing its sweet perfume.

Flowers have always been a great source of beauty in man's environment, as well as the origin of many of our perfumes.  But flowers have also been an important part of gastronomy.  The different aroma of each flower has a culinary significance. 

It's the aroma-filled nectar of a flower that gives honey its flavor and color.  There are over three hundred honeys available ... and each one comes from a different flower.  The blossoms that the bees visit affect the color range.  It goes from nearly colorless to dark brown.  And the flavors vary from light and mild to quite intense.  As a general rule, the lighter the color of the honey, the milder the flavor.

The most common floral source for honey in the United States is clover.  But you'll also find orange blossom ... wild lower ... tupelo ... alfalfa ... and buckwheat.  Alfalfa and buckwheat ... interesting ... never really occurred to me that honey was named after the Little Rascals. 

Honey has an enormous color range and each of those colors are associated with a different flavor.  The Bible says that paradise is the land of milk and honey.  And that's because milk and honey are the only two foods produced by other animal life forms that are ready to eat for human beings.  And I guess “no cooking necessary” was always a little bit of paradise.

The cone-shaped towers that dot the landscape of St. Croix are monumental reminders of the island's agricultural past.  They are the remains of windmills that were used to power grinders that crushed sugar cane.  

When the Danish brought St. Croix from the French, they turned it into one of the most important sugar-producing colonies in the Caribbean.  Europe had developed an almost insatiable sweet tooth.  And the sugar plantations of the West Indies became the source of their satisfaction.  It also became the source of extraordinary wealth for the planters.

Today, on the west end of St. Croix there is an excellent restoration of a plantation from the 1700's known as Estate Whim.  It has a team of well-informed guides to take you through the property and explain its history.

THELMA CLARK:   Now, in those days ... they didn't have machinery to cut the sugar cane ... people actually had to do it themselves.  And I can remember as a child ... I did a lot of tying the bundles of sugar cane where my mother had leased some land from the Shabirs.  And, I tell you, that was a lot of work.

Now all you do when that sugar cane is ripe ... you get a knife ... of course, in my days I didn't need a  knife ... because I was young and my teeth was good ...


THELMA CLARK:   Today I need a knife.  But in those days you just peel it ... and you throw away the top ... and you suck the juice from it.

BURT WOLF:   Oh, yeah.

THELMA CLARK:   And you got your sugar juice.

BURT WOLF:   Beautiful.



THELMA CLARK:   Now, they would feed the sugar cane through these rollers which crushes the sugar cane ... and it extract the juice.

BURT WOLF:   The rollers were powered by the windmill.

THELMA CLARK:   That's right.

BURT WOLF:   The juices would come out.


BURT WOLF:   And drain away.

THELMA CLARK:   That's right ... to a different division.  And then it will go again to another boiling house ... but there it remains there to be crystalized ...

BURT WOLF:   First it was put into big vats and boiled?

THELMA CLARK:   That's right ... uh-huh.  And you will see that when you go to the Great House.

BURT WOLF:   Alright.  Let's go to the Great House.  (PAUSE)  On days when there was no wind there would be ... uh ... horses ...

THELMA CLARK:   Oh, yes.  Animals such as ox and donkey mules and so on ... helped to do that when the wind was slow.  Now, going up this stairway here to the gallery ... planters and traders would come up the stairway and they would do their business in here. 

Now, we're entering into the dining room.  Now, this Great House was not built typical West Indian.  It is built European style.  Now, as we step into the other room which is the front room ... I'd like to point out ... these rocker chairs.  They are one of our local West Indian furniture.  They were made from the mahogany here and caned here.

Now, this is a child's rocker.

BURT WOLF:   Oh, that's so cute!

THELMA CLARK:   It is.  And both of these are the lady's rocker.  And the huge one is the gentleman's rocker.

BURT WOLF:   Uh-huh.  It's like the three little bears. 

THELMA CLARK:   That's right.

BURT WOLF:   There's different sized seat for each people.

THELMA CLARK:   That's true.

BURT WOLF:   I never saw that.

THELMA CLARK:   Good.  I'd also like you to notice the upside-down tray ceiling.  You see, back in those days they had no air condition ... and the height, which is sixteen and a half to seventeen feet ... the outer walls were three feet thick.  So all that made it easy for the air to flow.  And even in the summer months, this house is fairly nice and cool.

BURT WOLF:   So if you design a house properly and build it properly you save all that energy of the electric ...

THELMA CLARK:   Exactly.

BURT WOLF:   ... air conditioning.


BURT WOLF:   And the Whim Estate is not the only property on St. Croix with a fascinating history ... the Buccaneer Resort is a classic Caribbean property in the great tradition of the tropical resort. 

In 1653 this area was the site of the castle of Martel.  Martel was a Knight of Malta who decided to set up his west coast office on St. Croix.  It was set up on the back of the hill facing the area that's now the pool.  Of course, there was no pool at the time.  Guys like Martel wouldn't even take a bath, much less go swimming.  And the reason he set it up on the back was because he wanted to hide it from the pirates who were sailing along in the front.  Those days were tough for knights.

When the Danes bought the island in the 1700's, the Danish Governor built his home here.  He also put in a sugar mill.  Later on it was used to grow cotton ... and still later as a cattle ranch.  In 1948, the Armstrong family turned it into a guest house with eleven rooms. 

These days the ninth generation of the family operates the property which has a championship eighteen hole golf course ... tennis courts ... three separate beach coves ... three hundred acres of tropical vegetation and some great food.


The great agricultural estates of the Caribbean had only one objective.  To grow and process as much sugar cane as possible.  And the first commercially available product of the procedure was molasses, a valuable ingredient on its own. 

Michael uses molasses to make a basting and barbeque sauce that adds a rich flavor to just about anything.  The sauce starts with the juice of six limes ... a quarter cup of molasses gets whisked in ... a half cup of ketchup ... a quarter cup of vegetable oil ... and a little allspice ... a little chili powder and some salt and pepper.

At this point Mike usually adds a few drops of tabasco ... but someone has taken the tabasco bottle off the dock ... and quite frankly, we're just too lazy to go up the hill to the kitchen to get it.  Hey, nobody's perfect!

We now have the basting sauce.  Half gets held aside, and a little more oil added to what's left.  The chicken goes in for half an hour ... then heads for the barbeque.  The original basting sauce is then used on the chicken.  A few slices of sauteed sweet potato go onto a serving plate ... and when the chicken is fully cooked it goes on top.


The first Europeans to set foot on what is now the island of St. Croix were a couple of sailors who came ashore from Christopher Columbus's ship during his second voyage in 1493.  Since then there has been considerable Spanish influence on the island's history.  Not the least of which can be found in the kitchens.

Today Mike is preparing a gazpacho, which is a classic soup in Latin countries.  But Mike makes his with pineapple, which produces a refreshing and interesting soup.

A ripe sweet pineapple is peeled, cored, sliced into chunks and placed into a blender.  A little vegetable oil goes in and a splash of tabasco.  And a pinch of salt.  The top goes on ... and everything is blended into a smooth puree.  A quarter cup of fresh mint leaves are added and blended.  Everything goes into a bowl.  A minced red onion is added ... a minced red pepper ... and a minced green pepper.

And now ... for a stirring experience.  And into a serving bowl with a garnish of a mint and yogurt puree.  That's it!

When I was in my late twenties I took all of my life savings and a considerable bank loan and put the money into a purchase of a sailboat.  I learned quite a bit from the experience.  The first thing I learned is the truth of the old saying that “a boat is a large hole in the water into which you throw money.”

I also learned how wonderful it is to get away from everything and feel the real rhythm of nature ... the sky and the sea.  To wake up because of the sun and not because of your alarm clock.  And to go to sleep because of the moon and not the Tonight Show. 

I also learned a lot about making good food under bad conditions ... and a lot of what I learned in the galleys at sea can be applied to the  kitchen.  Here are a couple examples of what I mean.

Breakfast is our most important meal.  But not everyone is ready to do much cooking first thing in the morning.  So do a little the night before.  Good old-style oatmeal is one of my favorite breakfasts and one of the healthiest too.  Oats appear to have the ability to lower cholesterol levels. 

Instead of facing twenty minutes over a simmering saucepan in the morning ... I put the oats and boiling water into a wide-mouthed insulated bottle ... close it up and let it cook over night.  In the morning, my oatmeal is ready.  A good thing for the office or the ocean.

When you're pouring something into a glass or a cup, do the job over the sink.  If anything spills you save the cleanup work and the surface of your counter. 

Cookie dough freezes well, so mix up a batch of your favorite cookie dough ... roll it out into portion sized balls ... and freeze them.  And keep the balls frozen until you're ready to bake them off. 

And something that works well for picnics as well as boating is to freeze water and juices before you start out on your trip.  You'll save ice and energy.

Finally, a tip that sounds totally off the wall but really works.  One of the best sources of rood for a yachtsman is the fish you catch while you're cruising.  But it can be a real messy job to kill a fish that's flopping around on your deck.  A great way to render the denizens of the deep into a state of total unconsciousness and to do it really easily is to pour vodka on their gills ... they'll just pass out.  Strange ... but true.


Just off the island of St. Croix is Buck Island Reef.  It's a national park that covers over eight hundred and fifty acres, which include some outstanding beaches.  It's also home to the only national park that is underwater.  The reef has two major underwater trails with signs that tell you what you're looking at. 

You can go along with a snorkel, which is just a pipe to breathe through while your face is in the water... or if you're qualified, you can go down with scuba gear.  And if you're not a qualified scuba diver ... St. Croix has a bunch of scuba instructors who will teach you how it's done.

Please join us next time as we travel around the world looking for good things to eat.

I'm Burt Wolf.

Burt Wolf's Table: Washington State - #220

BURT WOLF:  The Pacific coast of Washington State:  one of the most beautiful parts of North America; the source for some of our best foods, and home to one of the country's most interesting public markets.  The area has become a major center for the production of films and television shows, which gives us the opportunity to visit the set of "Northern Exposure."  We'll also do some cooking with some of the town's best chefs.  So join me in Washington State at Burt Wolf's Table.

Native Americans have been living in the Pacific Northwest for at least 13,000 years.  And for most of those years, it was a perfect spot.  The area has an unusually mild climate, considering how far north it is; and when it came to food, the place was literally Mother Nature's supermarket.  The local rivers were home to hundreds of thousands of salmon, who each year returned from the ocean and swam upstream to spawn.  It was just sex for the salmon, but it was a dependable supper for the tribes.  The sea also offered up dozens of other types of fish and shellfish:  the famous Olympia oyster, the Dungeness crab, and a variety of clams.  The forests were packed with elk and deer and bear.  Wild ducks and geese regularly passed through the area.  And the wild berries and nuts were fabulous.

The first Europeans to really settle into the region were agents of the Hudson Bay Company who were here for the fur trade.  They planted gardens which, surprisingly, contained potatoes --- potatoes that had come here not with the Irish immigrants, the way they came to the East Coast, but from the Spanish missionaries who had learned about potatoes in South America and taught their cultivation to the Native Americans here, who in turn showed it to the fur traders.  Today, Washington potatoes are a major crop for the state, and a big deal to potato lovers all over the country.

Seattle, Washington has also developed a corps of really excellent chefs.  The Dahlia Lounge is one of the most respected restaurants in town, and Tom Douglas is the chef-owner.  The type of cooking that is his specialty is called cross-cultural.

TOM DOUGLAS:  I'm a world traveler, it's my favorite thing to do in the world, is to travel around and to take things that I've had, that I love, dissect them, think about them, try and recreate them, and do them either a little bit better or a little bit different, or ... have fun with it.  So it doesn't matter whether it's Mexican or Japanese or Italian or my mother's cooking, I'll steal it and do my best with it.

Crab cakes made me famous in Seattle.  You know, on the East Coast you go to a diner, you go to a hotel, you go to the finest restaurants, every restaurant offers a crab cake, especially the Eastern Shore area near the Chesapeake, where I'm from.  And when I come to Seattle, there's these huge Dungeness crabs in the market, there's king crab from Alaska, there's Tanner crab, snow crab, crabs everywhere, and not one restaurant had crab cakes.  And so I got this quote-unquote gourmet reputation over my fresh Dungeness crab cakes.

There's a couple of things I want to show you before you get out of here.  My favorite, fish lamps, which have been the most popular thing since we opened our restaurant.  The person who made these lamps has sold close to 500 of them, because they're the coolest things ever... they were even in the movie Sleepless in Seattle ... so those are great things.  My red walls, that my wife and I fought over ... we finally mixed our two favorite paints together and came up with this color.  And don't forget my knees.  Most chefs don't cook in shorts, but I do, because ... most chefs wear whites, but I don't ... I'm kind of the irreverent chef in Seattle, I'm the only who doesn't necessarily follow all of the rules.  There's just something about people that take food too seriously, and I don't ... I don't ever want to do that.

DOUGLAS (in kitchen):  Hey, J.P.

COOK:  I messed up your tomatoes.  (LAUGHS)

WOLF:  "Northern Exposure" is a television series set in the fictitious town of Cicely, Alaska, but actually filmed just outside of Seattle, Washington.  Dr. Joel Fleischmann, a classic New York kid, played by Rob Morrow, makes a deal with the state of Alaska to pay for his medical education in exchange for four years of practice after his graduation.  The series traces his adjustment to his new and rather quirky environment.  The show has great ratings, the critics love it, and it gets special attention from me because there's always something in the script that deals with food.

DAVE THE COOK:  I wonder how they get that sweetbread so crisp.

RUTH-ANN:  It's the batter.  Oh --  I'd like some more of those delicious little olive rolls.

ADAM:  Souffle de clam.

MAURICE:  You made this?

ADAM:  No, Maurice.  I got a mix from the convenience store, just plopped in an egg and a cup of water.  Of course I made it, you imbecile!

DAVE:  Is that Red’s order?

SHELLY:  Uh-huh.  Pancakes and ... shrimp salad.

DAVE:  Supposed to be link sausages.


HOLLING:  Oh, and there was this mile-long table bearing sweets of every kind.  Italian plum tartlets and marzipan cakes, and my favorite ... coq am bouche.  You just pick off the little cream puffs and pop them into your mouth one by one.  Oh ...

SHELLY:  Oh, yeah.

ADAM:  Why do I bother?  Why do I even cook?

COOK:  Because you're hungry?

WOLF:  Sicily's best restaurant — actually, Sicily's only restaurant — is called the Brick.  It's owned and operated by Holling Vincoeur and his wife Shelly, played by John Cullum and Cynthia Geary.

SHELLY:  Mondo weirdo.

“HOLLING” (John Cullum):  Well, moose is our main meat.  We do have some ... sort of ... not many of our clientele like salads and things of that nature.

“SHELLY” (Cynthia Geary):  Exactly.  You know, they're really into mooseburgers and reindeer patty and stuff like that.  But ... I think that's kind of a hype.  I mean, seriously, people really want beef.  I mean, they want hamburgers, they want bacon, they want stuff like that.  So ... yeah.

WOLF:  I think it's interesting that Holling is resisting the idea of franchising.

SHELLY:  I don't know what it is, but Holling kind of likes just having the one place and everything.  But I've been telling him, we should expand.  I think the Brick could go international.

HOLLING:  I might do some franchising ... but just in this area, because I don't really think that mooseburgers would go over too well in Tallahassee, Florida.

WOLF:  I've noticed that in the Lower 48, there's an increased interest in the relationship of good food to good health.


WOLF:  I wonder, is anything happening here in Cicely along those lines?

HOLLING:  Not really.

SHELLY:  I've got the greatest recipe for Hershey bars!  You take Hershey bars and you melt them in with peanut butter, and then you take real nuts, you take almonds and cashews, and melt that all in together, and put it over ice cream.  It is so good!  Holling loves it.

WOLF:  Oh, that's wonderful.  Why don't you put it on the menu?

SHELLY:  I will.  See, Holling won't let me tell anybody, cause that's his special thing I make for him, but I think I'm gonna do that.

HOLLING:  We have some pretty horrendous desserts here at the Brick, mainly since Shelly's arrived.  It's not that we serve very fancy things, but there's ... since Shelly, we serve a lot of different colors.  (WOLF LAUGHS)

SHELLY:  Well, yeah.  I guess that's one of my fortes.  I'm pretty artistic, and so ... you know, I like to put these little colored umbrellas in a whole lot of different colors, because ... you know, I guess I kinda got a flair for fashion, and color and things, and ...

HOLLING:  It's amazing, what color ... apple pie can turn into.  I mean, peppermint-colored ... even she has a way of making separate colors, striped apple pie and things like that, it's really nice.

WOLF:  To further confirm my judgement that the people who produce this show are really serious about food, they've gone and written the “Northern Exposure Cookbook”:  clever recipes and really nice text written in the style and voice of the characters.  A recipe I want to test is Ruth-Ann's meatloaf.

RUTH-ANN:  Meatloaf?

RUTH-ANN’S SON:  Mm-hm.  With bacon and catsup on top.

WOLF:  Ruth-Ann Miller, played by Peg Phillips, is the 75-year-old owner of Cicely's general store, which also serves as the town library, video shop, and local post office.  She's the kind of person you can trust with a meatloaf.  So I borrowed a little spot in the kitchen of Seattle's Four Seasons Olympic Hotel, and chef Brooke Vosika, to test out the recipes.

Ruth-Ann's meatloaf recipe starts with a big bowl, into which goes one egg, a pinch of salt, a little black pepper, some thyme, two tablespoons of prepared mustard, a cup of milk, a half-cup of chopped celery, a half-cup of chopped onion, and a quarter-cup of catsup.  All that gets mixed together.  Then in goes a pound and a half of ground chuck, and one and a half cups of soft bread crumbs.  The beef mixture goes into a loaf pan.  Two tablespoons of catsup are spread on top, and finally three strips of uncooked bacon.  Into a 350-degree-Fahrenheit oven for an hour, and Ruth-Ann's meatloaf is ready.  The loaf comes out of the pan and gets sliced.  Two slices go onto a plate, some scalloped potatoes, and a few vegetables.  The stage direction reads:  "Enter Hungry."

The choice of a meatloaf recipe for Ruth-Ann's character is really ideal.  Beef contains iron, and iron is the nutrient that is most often missing in the diet of adult women.  Beef also contains the kind of iron that is most easily absorbed by your body.  Beef also has zinc, and zinc is essential to your cells when they are trying to repair themselves from a cut or a wound.  But the thing that fascinates me most about zinc is it helps you taste and smell, so beef is kind of fascinating:  it gives you the zinc that helps you taste it.


During the 1930s, the Saturday Evening Post magazine carried a series called "Tugboat Annie."  The storyline was so popular that it became the basis for two movies.  There actually was a Tugboat Annie, but her real name was Thea Foss.  She and her husband Andrew were immigrants from Norway who arrived in Seattle, Washington in 1889.

Her husband was a boat-builder, and one day while he was away working in a shipyard, she purchased a beat-up old rowboat from a neighbor who was about to move away.  She paid $5 for it, fixed it up, and sold it for ten, and she liked that experience.  Who wouldn't?  She doubled her money.  And that meant, for a while, Thea continued to buy old boats, fix them up, and sell them.  And then one day she realized that she could actually make more money taking these rowboats and renting them to people who just wanted to spend a relaxing day on the water.  And that eventually led to the development of a sizable Foss fleet.

After a while, some of the boats began to be used to take people and supplies to the larger ships anchored in the harbor.  Little by little, Thea went out of the rowboat-rental business and into commercial maritime services.  Her husband stopped making boats for other people, and concentrated on the design and construction of boats for Thea.  He developed the teardrop design that eventually became the world's standard for tugboats.  These days, the Foss Tug Company is one of the most important organizations in the business, operating on a worldwide basis.  To honor their contribution to maritime history, Thea and Andrew have been inducted into the Maritime Hall of Fame.

Now, quite frankly, I came on board to track down a story.  For years I had been hearing that the men and women who work on tugboats are real serious about good food, and that there is some fabulous cooking going on right here on the tugs.  Well, the first indication that I had that this story might actually be true was quite obvious:  Foss has their own cookbook.

Then when I came on board, I could easily see that the largest space on the boat after the engine room was the cooking area ... a good sign.  Finally, I tasted cook Joe Goodman's seafood stew.

Joe starts by putting a little melted butter into a frying pan, adding a chopped onion, two chopped stalks of celery, and cooking that for two minutes.  While that's cooking, two Washington State russet potatoes get peeled and cut into small cubes.  The potatoes go into a stock pot along with a cup of clam juice and a 14 and a half ounce can of chicken stock.  The pot goes onto the heat until the stock comes to a boil, and it's kept boiling until the potatoes are cooked.

While that's happening, Joe takes a piece of halibut, slices off the skin, and cuts it into bite-size pieces.  He also cleans a pound of shrimp and slices them in half lengthwise.  The cooked celery and the onions go into the stock pot for five minutes of heat.  Two 12-ounce cans of evaporated milk go in, plus two cups of chopped clams, the shrimp, the halibut, and three cups of fresh oysters.  A little thyme, a little pepper, a little stirring.  Five minutes of cooking, into a bowl, some parsley, and it's ready to serve.


Fish stew's ready on the fan-tail.

Seattle's Olympic Hotel opened in 1924.  Its construction had been financed by 4,500 individuals as a community effort; they felt that it was important for the city to have a great hotel.  And ever since then, the Olympic Hotel has been special to the residents of Seattle, especially these days.  $16 million were recently spent on its restoration.  The general manager is Peter Martin, and now the hotel is known as the Four Seasons Olympic.

The hotel has three interesting restaurants:  the Garden Court, which is a pleasant, airy space where they serve lunch and English tea; Shucker's, a popular oyster bar with an extensive selection of beers from Northwest micro-breweries; and the Georgian, which has been described by a national food magazine as, and I quote, "an impressive showcase of culinary talent."  Well, I'm not exactly sure what all of those words mean, but if they're trying to say that the chef is a very good cook, you're absolutely right.

The hotel's executive chef is Kerry Sear, and he's well-known as one of the most talented chefs in the country.  His artistry starts with his own drawings of the dish he is about to create.  And though his menus are packed with a fine selection of meats, his own diet is vegetarian, and today he's going to prepare a series of vegetable recipes.  The first is a lasagna made with spaghetti and asparagus.

A little vegetable oil goes into a saucepan, and a tablespoon of chopped garlic; a quarter-cup of chopped onion; a quarter-cup of chopped fresh basil; two cups of chopped tomato; a half-cup of water; and a little fresh pepper.  That simmers together for 15 minutes.  Two pounds of pre-cooked Washington State asparagus go into a heatproof pan.  A layer of tomato slices goes on top, then a layer of pre-cooked spaghetti, some grated mozzarella cheese, a few spoonfuls of ricotta cheese, a layer of the tomato sauce, another layer of each of the ingredients.  Then into a 375-degree oven for 45 minutes.  When it's finished, the serving goes into a bowl and it's ready to eat.

Cool nights, warm days; clean, clear water; mineral-rich volcanic soil:  conditions that make Washington State the ideal place to grow asparagus.  Washington State has about four hundred farmers who are dedicated to growing asparagus, and they produce about 100 million pounds of asparagus each year.  Most Washington asparagus have tips that are purple, which indicates a high sugar content, and explains their sweet flavor.

The ancient Greeks and Romans considered asparagus to be a gastronomic delight, but they also valued asparagus in terms of its medical properties.  And, boy, were they right on.  These days scientists are telling us that asparagus contains a compound which is one of our most powerful cancer blockers.  Asparagus also contains folic acid, which is very important to proper cell growth, especially during pregnancy.

Look for spears with closed and compact tips and a firm stalk; those are the signs of freshness.  And pick out spears of the same size, so they will cook evenly.  Plump spears are the most tender.  The best way to store asparagus is in a moist paper towel inside an open plastic bag -- but not for long; it's best to eat asparagus the same day you buy it.  And keep the cooking time short:  five minutes of steaming should do the trick.

The Native American tribes called it Fire Mountain, and on May 18th, 1980, it lived up to its name.  After two hundred years of snoozing, Mount St. Helens woke up in a terrible mood and blew its stack.  The eruption caused over one billion dollars worth of damage and sent out clouds of ash that circulated around the globe.  Those clouds of ash had a silver lining for the potato farmers of Washington State.  For millions of years this part of the world has had active volcanoes.  As they erupted they deposited layer upon layer of volcanic ash... ash that is packed with valuable nutrients.  As a result, the potatoes grown in Washington State have an extraordinary high level of nutrients. 

For years I have used baked potatoes as a snack food.  I wash it off.  Rub a little oil on it.  Put it into a four hundred degree oven for an hour.  When it comes out I wrap it up and put it into the refrigerator where it will hold properly for a couple of days.  When I want one I take it out put it into the microwave for two minutes and it's ready.  I have a diet and exercise program that was specifically designed to control my high blood pressure, so a low-fat, high-potassium snack like this is absolutely perfect.  I don't want to blow my stack like Mount St. Helens.

Washington potatoes are put to excellent use in Kerry Sear’s vegetarian burger.  He starts by putting a little vegetable oil into a hot frying pan and following that with a sliced onion, glove of minced garlic, a cup of chopped pre-cooked beets - canned beets are fine - some grated yellow zucchini, carrots, dill, parsley, green zucchini and turnips.  All that cooks down for about five minutes.  And in goes some rolled oats and some fresh pepper.  A few more moments of cooking your mixture is turned out into a bowl.  At which point, two cups of mashed Washington State potatoes are blended in.  It's formed into patties and pan-fried in a little vegetable oil for three minutes on each side.  Everything has actually been cooked... the pan-frying is just done to develop a nice crust.  Ketchup goes onto a bun.  A little mustard and the veggie burger.

One of the most common shell beans in the United States is the baby lima bean.  It is named after the capital city of Peru, where they have been growing baby limas for over six thousand years.  And even now the name of that city is spelt L-i-m-a just like the bean it is pronounced “Lema,” not “Lima.”  So if you are ever in Peru and you need some baby lima beans it's important to remember to ask for Lemas.  Lima lovers need to know that. 

These days, however, baby limas no longer come from Lima.  Most of them come from California.  The dried variety is high in complex carbohydrates, protein and dietary fiber.  They're low in saturated fat and sodium and they're easy to prepare.  First thing you want to do is look through the beans and make sure that no small stones have come in with them from the field.  Wash off the limas and put them into a large pot.  Remember that dried lima beans will increase by at least twice their volume when they finish absorbing water.  Then pour in ten cups of hot water for every pound of beans.  Bring the water to a boil and let it boil for three minutes.  Then turn off the heat and let the beans soak for one to four hours.  At that point, you drain off the water that the beans soaked in and they're ready for a soup or a casserole or a salad.

Seattle's Pike Place Market opened up in 1907.  The basic idea behind the operation was very simple.  Local farmers wanted to have a place where they could sell their produce directly to the public without price increases from middlemen.  The farmers would get more money for their crops and the consumers would get lower food prices.  The idea worked so well that within a few months there were over two hundred farmers renting space.  The market continued to expand as a public source of good food, but it also began to develop as a social center.  It did particularly well during the Great Depression of the 1930s, when people were looking for both low food prices and a place to just hang out. 

Everything worked fine until the end of the Second World War.  That's when people began to move to the suburbs and shop in supermarkets.  At one point, it even looked like they were going to sell this area to a group of commercial real estate developers who had a vision of a modern commercial shopping area.  Well, the people of Seattle just would not stand for that and so they formed a grass roots committee and began a "save the market" campaign.  And that is exactly what they did. 

In 1971, the citizens of Seattle voted overwhelmingly to place the market under public ownership with the clear object of preserving and restoring it to its former glory.  I like that.  Hopefully when I get on in years someone will be interested in preserving and restoring me, too. 

Roy Fearing is with the preservation and development authority that oversees the markets operation.  He's the perfect person to give us a tour.

ROY FEIRING: Our farm tables are low stalls.  Our high stalls are high stalls.  And, and the way that we tell the difference around here is if you're eye to eye with an artichoke you're at a high stall. 

WOLF: Look how beautiful they're laid out.

FEIRING: Yeah.  And don't even think of distributing those.  Those are for display only.  You tell 'em what you want and you get the same product from behind.  You want an avocado, be sure and tell 'em when you're gonna eat it, because they'll pick one exactly ripe for you.  If you want it tonight, want it tomorrow, this weekend for a salad. 

Local berries, here's our pride.  Here's what really gets the city excited every year is when the berries are on.  They're the raspberries.  We usually have, say, two crops.  We have a fall crop of raspberries too, a little different.  These would be the real sweet summer berries, the early berries.  We have one grower does seven acres of blueberries and does nothing but make jam, chutney and blueberry vinegar out of 'em. 

Everyone has a speciality.  Cut flowers, dried flowers.  Here's “Piroschki Piroschki.”  This is all Russian pastry baked in the window.  Cooked in the oven and sold over the counter.

WOLF: Oh, I got to have one of those.

FEIRING: These people are immigrants from Russia.

WOLF: Yeah, I heard.

FEIRING: And they recently got a small business award.  And that's what the market's all about.  No businesses from outside can come into the market.  You have to start here and grow out.  You can't start outside and grow in. 

WOLF: What a wonderful idea that is.

FEIRING: It's a, it's an incubator.  Start-up, start-up place. 

Here's another food service.  This is a day- old bread store.  And we have... here on this, this... commercial corner which would probably support a very expensive jewelry store, we sell day-old bread.  Because serving the low-income people who live downtown is a mission.  It's a very important one.

WOLF: That was part of what the market was about from the very beginning.

FEIRING: That's right.  That's right.  So, being a non-profit agency managing the market, we have the luxury to be able to not be in it for the money, so we're in, we're in it for... the cultural opportunities, the nutrient opportunities.  We're here to fill people's needs and so it works out very well.

Cheese.  I think...we have something in the market something like a hundred kinds of cheese just from Great Britain.  I mean, it's... amazing. 

And on our right is the... Oriental Market where you'll find every kind of sauce, seasoning, noodles that you can imagine for Asian cooking.  Pakistani, Mid-Eastern spice store.  Speciality... and then over here we have the Bavarian meat store.  You remember the days when your local supermarket had one kind of mustard?

WOLF: Yes.

FEIRING: Here's a place where you can find dozens and dozens of different kinds of mustard.  This is...the...Italian grocery.  DeLorenti Speciality Food Market. This is a favorite with everyone in Seattle.  I think you’d best know what you're doing when you come into a store like this, right?  You can spend a hundred dollars and go home and not know what you have.  (LAUGHTER)

WOLF: But you know it's good.  (LAUGHTER)


WOLF: That’s something valuable. 

WOLF (new scene):  People who live in Seattle are always telling reporters like me to inform our audience that Seattle is cold and grey and overcast.  They just don't want anybody else to move here.  Well, I've been here for awhile.  I didn't see any more cold or grey or overcast than you'd see anyplace else.


WOLF: Please join us next time as we travel around the world looking for good things to eat.  I'm Burt Wolf.

Burt Wolf's Table: Down Under, Australia - #219

BURT WOLF:  Australia ... it's called the land “down under” because it sits in the southern half of the globe.  But when it comes to eating and drinking, it's totally on top.  Local chefs are producing some great food, the country has some of the world's leading wineries, and it looks like everybody is rediscovering their 30,000-year-old past and what it can teach us about good food.  So join me down under in Australia, at Burt Wolf's Table.

As you head north from the bottom of the world, one of the first continents that you come to is Australia, which is why it's often referred to as "down under."  Well, it may be down under geographically, but when it comes to food, it's right on top.  Because Australia is so far away from every place else on the planet, it had to become self-sufficient in terms of food production.  And because Australia is so far away from every place else on the planet, the food that it produces comes from a relatively unpolluted environment.

They have fish farms in Tasmania, which is a devil of a place to get to.  It's actually an island between the continent of Australia and Antarctica.  The deep, cold waters around it produce some of the finest fish in the world.  But Australians also come up with great prawns, which North Americans call shrimp.  There is wonderful salmon, lobster, orange roughy, and just about every other type of seafood you could possibly want -- over 3,000 different varieties.  They produce excellent lamb, which is delivered fresh to North America within four days of processing.  They developed the Granny Smith apple.  They even have an olive-oil industry.  And during the 1980s, their wine producers won many of the world's most important competitions, and began to develop a major overseas market for their vintages.

Because Australia has a land mass about as large as the United States, with as varied a climate, you'll find production areas that range from subtropical banana plantations to wheat and rye producers in regions that are similar to Canada.

But food in Australia wasn't always what it is today.  The first 150 years were pretty tough going for the settlers.  They often gave the recipe for galah soup as typical of the Australian kitchen.  Galah is a local bird, and the recipe goes like this:  take a galah and a stone and put them in a large pot; cover them with water; bring the water to a boil, and continue boiling until the stone is tender; then throw out the galah and eat the stone.

Because the English colonization of Australia began only a little over 200 years ago, and the history of photography is 150 years old, much of the story of Australia has been documented in photographs.  The best place to see the photographic chronicle is the picture collection at the State Library of New South Wales, right in the heart of Sydney.  Alan Davies is the curator of photographs, and he's put together a selection that does a great job of showing us what life was like in the early days of colonial eating and drinking.

ALAN DAVIES:  And this is my favorite photograph of a late 1890s family having dinner together.  You can see the head of the family here, typical Victorian male, carving the roast.  The handmade bread.

WOLF:  Judging from the shape of the base of the bread, it looks like it was cooked in a frying pan.

DAVIES:  Could have been.  It's an extraordinary photograph, full of wonderful detail.  I find it rather amusing, of course, because after this photograph was taken, with a great magnesium flash, the whole family would have been covered with white magnesium powder, so they would have been choking and coughing after this photograph was made.  But it's an extraordinary image.

This photograph shows us what it was like in the kitchen.  Here we have Mrs. Donohue, a family cook, and here you can see her kitchen has a bare floor.

WOLF:  The walls are actually made out of some kind of cloth, so the air can go in and out.

DAVIES:  That's right, it's Haitian, a very loose-weave cloth.  See how she's gone to great trouble to sort of cut out a newspaper valence for the shelves here.  There's just so many English things in this photograph.

Here we have a great photograph of the Dick brothers in Kempsey.  They had found a glut of lobsters, wonderful-size lobsters, in Port McQuarrie.  They took them up to inland, 50 kilometers into Kempsey, to sell these and make a profit.  Of course, no one knew what they were.  (WOLF LAUGHS)  So they had to sort of trudge home empty-handed; they had to bury the lobsters on the way back, cause they'd gone off in the summer sun.  Extraordinary, isn't it?  Wouldn't we just love to have those lobsters today?

WOLF:  It was only a wooden shed and a single biplane that carried farmers and grazers around the Australian outback.  They called it the Queensland And Northern Territory Aerial Services.  And if you take the first letter of each of those words, you will end up with the name Qantas.  Today it's the national airline of Australia, and the oldest airline in the English-speaking world.

Now, when most international airlines got started, the distance between nations was not a significant factor in their operations; the plane crossed a border, and suddenly you were an international flight.  France to Germany, Italy to Switzerland, USA to Canada ... no big deal.  But that is not the case for Australia.  From the very beginning of their airline industry, Australians needed to be able to fly for hundreds of miles over the Pacific Ocean before they constituted an international flight.  As a result, Qantas pilots are the ultimate long-distance pilots in the business.

(AIRPLANE RADIO VOICES)  [Editor’s note:  I can’t make a lot of this out, but it isn’t important -- if you’re dubbing, you can make something up.]

PILOT:  Qantas 2, we’re established on final runway one-six.

CONTROLLER:  Right, Qantas, descend to one thousand.

PILOT:  Okay, getting ready for the approach.

CONTROLLER:  That's Qantas four-niner, lift seven thousand.

PILOT:  Engage landing flaps.

CONTROLLER:  Tango F-zilla, turn left heading three-six-zero vectoring route...

WOLF:  If you saw the film Rain Man, you may remember that Dustin Hoffman's character refused to fly on any airline but Qantas.  Well, that was because of Qantas's extraordinary safety record.  And Tom Cruise was totally unable to convince him otherwise, which really surprised me, because the women I know tell me that Tom can be quite persuasive.

The original settlers to Australia arrived on what came to be known as the First Fleet.  Most folks coming to Australia today still arrive on the Fleet, but these days it's the Qantas fleet.

All of that actually took place in the Qantas flight simulator.  And in the same way that computers can be used to simulate flight, different herbs and spices can be use to simulate the taste of salt. 

Cheong Tse is the executive chef at Qantas.  His extensive knowledge of herbs and spices has given him the ability to produce intensive flavors without using salt.  A perfect example is this dish of vegetable soup, accompanied by sauteed Australian prawns.

A little vegetable oil goes into a saucepan.  As soon as it's hot, in go some sliced carrots, peas, tomato, and zucchini.  That cooks for about five minutes; then in goes some chicken broth.  The ratio is two cups of chicken broth for every cup of vegetables that are in the pot.  That simmers for five minutes.  While it's cooking, a frying pan is heated.  A touch of vegetable oil goes in; a little sliced garlic, shelled prawns, a little chopped basil, and some lemon juice.

Cheong does an interesting thing:  he takes a wide toothpick and sends it down the center of the prawn, and in that way the prawn will not curl up when it hits the heat of the pan.  It also gives you something to hold onto if you're using it as finger food.

Then, two minutes of cooking and stirring; a few thin strips of asparagus and some slices of red pepper are added.  A few grinds of fresh black pepper; a few flips; a tablespoon of chicken stock; and everything is ready to serve.  The soup goes onto a plate, followed by the Australian prawns and the vegetables.  A low-sodium light meal, all on one plate.

The interaction of the basil, coriander, garlic, lemon juice, and pepper, stimulate many of the same taste buds that are normally stimulated by salt, so you end up with a dish where you don't miss the salt.

Chef Tse has been interested in art since he was a child, and he uses his drawing skills to plan the look of his finished dishes.  Today, the design is for a dish of sauteed chicken breast with a tomato and onion sauce.  He starts by putting a little vegetable oil into a hot saucepan, followed by sliced red onion.  A little stirring and flipping.  A teaspoon of chopped garlic.  Some chopped sun-dried tomatoes.  A few cherry tomatoes.  A twist of pepper.  A little chicken stock, and fifteen minutes of simmering.

While that's cooking, the chicken gets underway.  Chef Tse takes a skinless piece that is the breast and wing, with the bones removed except for one of the wing bones.  That bone is there for looks only, and you can do this dish with a boneless, skinless chicken breast and it'll work fine.  The chicken is cut almost in half and opened up butterfly-style.  A little oil goes onto some plastic wrap and the chicken gets wrapped in it.  Then it's pounded until it's flat, and about the same size as the inside rim of the serving plate.  The plastic wrap comes off, and some seasonings go on:  white pepper, basil, coriander, and black pepper, first on one side, then on the other.

A little vegetable oil is heated in a frying pan.  The chicken goes in and cooks for a minute or so.  Chef Tse checks to make sure that it has developed a good color from the cooking.  Then over it goes, and the second side cooks for about two minutes more, until the chicken is fully cooked.  Then onto a serving plate.

A second frying pan is used to pan-fry some chopped garlic, some pre-cooked green beans, and a few strips of spring onion.  A third pan browns some pre-cooked potatoes.  A few whole cherry tomatoes go into the onion sauce that started this recipe.  The reason for the late arrival is that Chef Tse wants the tomatoes to cook for only a few moments, so they will hold their shape.  The tomato and onion sauce goes onto the chicken; the green beans and spring onions go on next to the onion and tomato sauce; and finally, the potatoes.  Art you can eat -- good thing.


When the First Fleet arrived in Sydney Cove in 1788, the settlers brought with them the first vines to be planted in Australia.  They'd actually weathered the voyage without difficulty, and were planted soon after the fleet came in.  The vines grew rather well in the fertile areas near the coast.

The long hours of warm Australian sun produce excellent grapes, which in turn produce excellent wine.  As a matter of fact, a while back the Australians entered their wines in a European wine-judging competition.  The judges wouldn't judge it.  They tasted the wine and felt it was so good that the Australians must have taken French wine and put it into Australian bottles.  If those judges were still around, they'd probably feel the same way.  Australian wine is top-notch, and one of the reasons for that high quality is the extraordinary dedication of the early Australian wine-makers.

One of the first was Dr. Henry John Lindeman.  Dr. Lindeman had been a medical officer with the British Navy, and emigrated to Australia in the mid-1800s.  He had decided that wine was a great source of happiness to all mankind, and began to produce his own.  My kind of doctor!  These days, Lindeman wines are some of the finest, and they are produced right here in the Hunter Valley just north of Sydney.

The wine-maker at Lindeman's is Patrick Auld.  He's actually the fifth generation of his family to make great wine right here in Australia.

PATRICK AULD:  We make outstanding wine.

WOLF:  And you're very focused on the idea of good fruit.  You don't make yourself crazy about a particular piece of land, the way the French do; you get the best grapes that you can from wherever you can get them.

AULD:  Well, very much so.  What we try and attempt to do is to first get the right country to grow grapes in, and that's done by careful selection; and secondly, the best fruit we can produce makes the best wine we would like to produce, obviously.

WOLF:  You also mark the label with the alcohol content, which affects the flavor of the wine.

AULD:  Yes.  In certain styles of wine, the higher the alcohol content, the better the wine we make.  Now, I don't mean to say you just keep on hoping to add more and more alcohol to get better wine; but alcohol and flavor go together.  And if I can just explain, it all comes from the amount of sugar level that are in the grapes on the vine when we pick them, and what happens is that that flavor of the grape is slowly fermented, along with the sugar, into the wine itself.  And we believe that the more flavor, and the more alcohol, the better.

WOLF:  In 1844, Dr. Christopher Rawson Penfold came out to Australia from London in order to develop a medical practice.  He brought along a few vine cuttings and planted them around his new home.  His medical practice flourished, and so did the vines.  Within a few years, the wines that were produced from those vines became so popular that Dr. Penfold became more interested in healthy grapes than healthy patients.  Today, Penfold's is probably the most famous winery in Australia, and many of its vintages have won the most important international awards.

And unlike many wine-makers, they produce product at a wide range of price points.  Penfold's has bottles that sell for $9 and $90, and that's very much part of the Australian love of democracy:  everyone should get a fair shot at the good stuff.  But one of the most appealing things about Australian wine-makers is that they are not particularly interested in making wine that ends up being stored in cellars and talked about for 20 years before it gets into a glass.  They're much more interested in drinking their wine.  But having said that, and not wishing to offend the late Dr. Penfold, I should point out that his company does produce some great wines that improve with age.

A good wine deserves a good glass.  But if you'd like to buy an all-purpose wine glass that'll do a pretty good job for just about any wine, here's what to look for.  First of all, you want a glass that comes in at the top, a tulip shape; that will concentrate the aroma inside the glass at the tip of your nose -- and what we call flavor is actually 75% smell.  Second, you should only fill a glass halfway, because you need the air inside to build up the aroma.  Since most of our portions are four ounces, you need a glass that will hold eight ounces or more.  Third, you should get a glass that's clear; you want to be able to look inside and appreciate the color of the wine.  And lastly, just before you use the glass, you should rinse it with clean water and dry it out; you don't want any musty smell inside, and you certainly don't want the taste of soap.  And then you are ready to taste something quite extraordinary.

Just to the west of Sydney is the Blue Mountain National Park, and it actually looks quite blue.  The reason for the color are the eucalyptus trees.  Eucalyptus give off a fine haze of oil that lingers in the air; when the sun hits the haze, the reflected light looks blue.  The district got its start about 300 million years ago, when the weight of accumulated sediment began to sink the Sydney area.  The rocks of the Blue Mountains are what remain.  As the lowlands continued to sink, successive layers of rock were exposed.  Some of the rock was softer and weathered more easily.  Wind, rain, and the action of the mountain streams, created the grandeur of the great ridges.

And it was this ridge face that saved the area from development and kept it in its pristine state; there isn't much you can do in a place like this except enjoy the awesome beauty of nature.  There are over a thousand different species of plant life, from heathland shrub to subtropical rainforest, and almost everything in between.  And to have this enormous area for recreation, right on the doorstep of Australia's largest city, is truly a gift from Mother Nature.

The Blue Mountains were an obstacle that prevented access to the west, until the construction of the railroad in the 1860s.  Suddenly they wealthy people of Sydney arrived and began to build country homes.  Perhaps the most beautiful was Lillianfels.  It was constructed as the summer residence of Sydney Chief Justice Sir Frederick Darley, and named after his daughter Lillian.  Today it's a graceful and elegant guest house.


The original residence area has been restored as the setting for Darley's Restaurant.  Chef Ralph Potter presides over the kitchen, and today he's preparing a plum pudding.

Into a mixing bowl go two cups of currants, two cups of raisins, one cup of dried apricots that have been chopped, and one cup of blanched almonds.  All that gets mixed together and chopped up.  Ralph adds rum to soften the dried fruit and add flavor; if you don't like the flavor of rum, you can soften the fruit with fruit juice.  Next, into a mixer:  sixteen ounces of butter, one cup of brown sugar, a half-cup of dark karo syrup, mix all that together, and add in eight eggs.  The batter goes into a mixing bowl; in goes the rum and fruit mixture.  Then a tablespoon each of cinnamon and allspice, zest of two lemons, and a cup or so of dried grapes.

RALPH POTTER:  There you go.

WOLF:  Finally, a little salt, and three cups of self-rising flour.  All that gets mixed together.  The insides of individual cup molds are given a light coating of butter.  If you don't have molds like this, you can use any heatproof form, from coffee cups to clean tuna cans.  The batter goes into the molds.  Make sure to hit the bottom of the mold against your work surface; that settles the batter to the bottom and gets out the air holes.  A piece of parchment paper that has been buttered on its bottom side goes onto each mold, and the molds go into a steamer for an hour.  This recipe will make about 16 puddings of about three-quarters of a cup each.  When they're fully steamed, they're unmolded, garnished, and served.

A sister property to Lillianfels is the Observatory Hotel in Sydney, where the sous chef is Anthony Musarra.  Anthony's father came to Australia in 1939, which was one of the early years of a major migration of Europeans to Australia -- a migration that changed the way the Australians eat.  Quite frankly, they went from a really boring, bland, English food, to the best of the European tradition.  And it was the Italians that were at the forefront of this move.  Today, Anthony is carrying on that tradition, but not just with European foods; he's interested in the foods of all nations, and he tends to take the common ingredients of Australia and use them in recipes that come from other places.

Today, he's preparing a lamb tortilla.  Lamb is a traditional meat in Australia; tortillas are clearly Latin American.  He starts by making a marinade:  a little soy sauce, sesame oil, garlic, freshly ground chopped chili peppers, mustard, and vinegar.  That gets mixed together and poured into a pan.  Then in goes a loin of lamb.  It marinates there for a minimum of one hour, though overnight will give it a richer flavor.  When the lamb's ready, a little oil gets heated in a frying pan, and in goes in the lamb.  It's seared for one minute on one side, then flipped over and seared for another minute on the other.  The final cooking time is 15 minutes in a 375-degree oven.

While the lamb is cooking, Anthony makes a very easy fresh tomato salsa:  chopped tomato, salt, pepper, chopped mint, and a little vinaigrette dressing.  He also makes a small Greek salad from feta cheese, black olives, cucumber slices, chives, and a little of the same vinaigrette.

The lamb comes out of the oven, and is sliced thinly against the grain.  A tortilla is placed on the work surface.  A little plum chutney goes on; a thin layer of iceberg lettuce; the sliced lamb; and some of the tomato salsa.  The tortilla is rolled up tightly, sliced into two-inch pieces, and put onto the serving plate next to the Greek salad.  Waste not, want not.  An interesting blend of Latin American, Australian, English, and Greek.

At the edge of the Sydney business district are the Botanical Gardens.  Its winding paths take you on a tour of the unique flora of Australia.  Most people who stop for lunch in this splendid setting must bring their own food, but that was not the case for me.  I walked through the Gardens with Vic Cherikoff, who is a specialist in the wild foods of this continent.  He runs a company called Bush Tucker Supply, which is beginning to supply indigenous Australian foods to markets all over the world.

VIC CHERIKOFF:  It looks a little bit like bubble gum, but crush it and just smell it.  It's got what we call subcutaneous oils; the oils are deep down ...

WOLF:  Mmmmm.

CHERIKOFF:  ... deep down within the leaf.  It's called lemon myrtle or sweet verbena tree.  I'm very keen to get Ben and Jerry's homemade ice cream to use this as a food flavoring, because in ice cream it is just stunning.

WOLF:  It's a wonderful lemony smell.

CHERIKOFF:  Yeah.  How about a smell ... how about using it perhaps in an aftershave or some such?

WOLF:  Aftershave?

CHERIKOFF:  Yeah ...

WOLF:  You and I are going to talk about aftershave?

CHERIKOFF:  (LAUGHS)  Oh, there's a thought.  So here we've got a bush supermarket.  It's a fairly uninspiring little tree, but the amazing thing is, this ... first off, the papery bark:  as the bark comes off in big shoots, you can use it for food wrap; it's the aboriginal tissue paper, toilet paper, oven bag, Glad Wrap.

WOLF:  It's quite amazing.  It really is a supermarket in a tree.

CHERIKOFF:  Exactly.  This tree is also like a pharmaceutical ... a pharmacy, a chemist's shop.  The new leaves are picked, very small leaves, the ones that you want, and these are crushed, either just ... rubbed in the hands, and ... well, you can smell the menthol in it; it'll clear the head.  Have a ... just rub it in your hands and give it a good whiff.

WOLF:  Mmm!  Why, that's quite wonderful.  My stuffed nose is all gone!

CHERIKOFF:  Well, these things are ... the nuts from a large tree, they grow in a big banana-shaped pod like that.  They're actually a food, but they're not something you can eat straightaway.  The aborigines baked them in a ground oven, removed that brown covering, grated them ... they actually cut them, often with the shoulderblade of a kangaroo, so that's your chopping knife ... cut them up finely, and then you put them in a dilly bag, which is a string bag, put them in your local creek, and leave them there for ten days.  Then drag them out, pound it to a flour, and make bread out of it.

WOLF:  They're like a chestnut.

CHERIKOFF:  They're like a chestnut.  They taste ... well, in fact, I've heard folks who say they're tasteless.  But they are interesting these days, not so much as a food, but because some of the chemicals that the aborigines were washing out are in fact effective against certain types of cancer.  And we've ... well, Australia has exported tons of these to companies in America to actually evaluate the alkaloids that are responsible for the anti-cancer effect.

WOLF:  Amazing.

CHERIKOFF:  A lot of work still to be done, but that's really the secrets that many of our rainforest trees still hold.

WOLF:  What's over there?

CHERIKOFF:  This tree here is probably one of the most well-known of Australian species, the macadamia.  And everybody thinks the macadamia comes from Hawaii — the "Hawaiian nut" is actually a marketing tool — but it comes from Australia.  It was found ... once, it was only found in Australia.

WOLF:  Never knew that.

CHERIKOFF:  Never, yeah.  And now these nuts are all ... I mean, they're regarded as the best eating quality nuts in the world.  There's another plant just over here as well; there's one of the fruits.  It's called a Davidson plum, it's after a fellow by the name of Davidson who named the first plum.

WOLF:  Can I just eat it?

CHERIKOFF:  Well, yeah.  Another name, I warn you, is the sour plum.

WOLF:  (EATING)  Now you tell me.

CHERIKOFF:  (LAUGHS)  It's very, very sour.

WOLF:  Augh!

CHERIKOFF:  It's amazing to be out with aboriginal kids and they just pick these up by the bucketful and just scoff them whole.

WOLF:  I'll never forget the name of this.


WOLF:  It's so amazing to have this kind of a garden right in the center of the city.

CHERIKOFF:  And very convenient.

WOLF:  Well, that's all from down under, Australia.  Please join us next time as we travel around the world looking for good things to eat and drink at Burt Wolf's Table.

Burt Wolf's Table: Holland - #218

BURT WOLF:  Holland -- the country that was created by its people when they reclaimed their land from the sea. It's the place to see the paintings of Dutch artists like Rembrandt and Van Gogh and find out what they are eating in those paintings.  We'll discover why Holland produces some of the world's best fruits and vegetables, and we’ll trace the creation of cheese right up to today's market in Gouda. So join me in Holland at Burt Wolf's Table.

WOLF:  The two most powerful forces in the history of Holland are wind and water. For over a thousand years, the people living in this part of the world have had an amazing ability to take advantage of these two forces.  Perhaps the most obvious example is the windmill.

WOLF:  The Dutch used windmills to turn the pumps that drew the water off the land, over the dikes, and back to the sea.  Much of Holland’s actual land surface was created by windpower moving water.  The farmland that evolved from this system formed the basis for Holland's extensive agricultural and dairy industries. It was also windpower that moved the Dutch ships across the surface of the seas during the 1600's and made Holland the most powerful trading nation of the time, and the absolute center of commerce and culture.  During the early 1600's there was an extraordinary expansion in worldwide trade. In  Europe just about everybody who had a boat wanted to push off for some distant port in the hope of buying something there and bringing it back home and selling it for big bucks. For the Dutch, it created a giant worldwide trading empire -- and back home in Holland, an enormous amount of money. A lot of that money was used to commission works of art. Art that the Dutch appreciated in terms of aesthetics, but that they also considered to be a great commercial investment -- and boy, were they right.

WOLF:  Holland's golden age of the 1600's was the time of Rembrandt -- not a bad investment -- and Van Dyke, Franz Hals and Vermeer. These works can give us a detailed picture of what Dutch life was like at the time, especially when it comes to food.  The Dutch masters have left us a picture of the period's menu: cheese, fresh fruits and vegetables, milk, fish, beer.  The same foods and drink that make up the traditional meals of today's Dutch family. Very often the way a food was shown was meant to tell a story. The Merry Family by Jan Steen looks like a great Sunday afternoon lunch with the kids -- but when you look at it closely you see that the children are following the bad habits of their parents: drinking, smoking, overeating. The painting is actually a warning against weak morals, a seventeenth- century cry for improved family values. The Dutch love of art has continued, and so has their ability to produce some of the world's finest painters. 

WOLF:  Vincent Van Gogh was born in Holland in 1853 and died in 1890. Almost all of his paintings were made during the 1880's, and though he was able to sell only a few of his works during his lifetime, his paintings have since become the most valuable in the international art market. In 1990 a Van Gogh sold for more than eighty million dollars. In the center of Amsterdam is the Van Gogh Museum, built to make his works available to the public. Over one hundred Van Gogh works are on continual exhibition.  Food has always been an important subject for Dutch painters and Van Gogh was no exception. This still life of apples and pears was a color study producing a completely yellow picture.  He also presented people eating and drinking in cafes and one of his favorite works was The Potato Eaters.

LOUIS VAN TILBORGH: He...he tried to do something with the light which is...very difficult.  I mean he... from the beginning...

WOLF:  Louis VanTilburg is the curator of the museum's Van Gogh collection.

VAN TILBORGH:  The Potato Eaters is an important painting because it's actually the first mature painting that Van Gogh really made. Before that time, that means from l880 until '80...'85... he made more or less studies. He didn't make... pictures which he thought were good enough for the market... for the art market. He was just learning the trade more or less, and with The Potato Eaters he first thought that he could launch own career... artistically and commercially. He thought that he could send it to...to an exhibition in Paris and could present himself with that picture to... art dealers.

WOLF:  It doesn't have any of the bright colors that so many of us expect in a Van Gogh.

VAN TILBORGH:  He... always like to exaggerate.  He did that in France and he also did that in Holland and in Holland at that time... gay colors were not in fashion but dark colors were, that he exaggerated.  I mean if you would compare  his pictures to the pictures of his... of his colleagues at the time... his... his pictures are much more...darker ...even...even more to say black.

This pic... picture... if you very... look very carefully at the... the hands... the way it is constructed it's very... I mean the people are sitting there... cramped. They're not looking at each other.  For instance, the lady on the right has to pour coffee.  Someone has to... take a fork and take in the potato. It's all very clear... very defined but as a total... it's not sensible at all because there is talk at a table.  They interact and they do that... don't do that in that picture and... I think he himself was aware of the fact that he did not succeed in that, because he never made a picture like this any more... five persons around the table that... was too... too difficult for him.

WOLF:  The fact that they were using potatoes to make an entire meal is an interesting reminder of how important the potato was to the European peasant farmer.  During the seventeen and eighteen hundreds it was very often the only food they had, and because of its high nutritional content, was actually enough to keep them alive. For Van Gogh, the peasant and the potato were examples of a purer and simpler lifestyle, but in the case of the potato that's only true if you leave off the sour cream.

Vincent Van Gogh painted The Potato Eaters  in 1885 and regarded the work as one of his best. He believed that the peasant was in many ways better than the more sophisticated people in the city and that there were lessons to be learned from them. When it comes to cooking, that may very well be true. There are a lot of things going on in the simple foods of the European farmer than can teach us a lesson about good cooking. 

Robert Kranenborg, the executive chef at Amsterdam's Amstel Hotel, has used Van Gogh's painting of The Potato Eaters as a starting point for a Dutch potato recipe.  Thin discs of potatoes and onions are overlapped in a heatproof serving dish.  A broth is made from chicken stock and a few juniper berries, an optional ingredient; if you have some and you like the flavor of gin,put 'em in.  In goes a bay leaf, a few slices of fresh ginger, five minutes of simmering, a tablespoon of mustard, then through a strainer and onto the potatoes and onions until they're almost submerged.  Then into a three hundred and seventy five degree fahrenheit oven for fifteen minutes.  And it's ready to serve. 

WOLF:  When Van Gogh lived in Paris during the 1880's, he would often pay for his meals at the local cafe by giving the owner a painting of flowers or food which was then used to decorate the restaurant. One of my favorite paintings of food by Van Gogh is The Flowerpot With Chives that he painted in Paris during the spring of 1887. 

VAN TILBORGH:  It...it shows you a...how Van Gogh's interested in little details...small, interesting details of...life. You see...just a simple pot with chives in it and that's...that's all....not more, not less but that's what it shows and... many people would think that it's easy to paint something like that. It isn't.  For instance, you have painters who... want to... are looking for motives and it's very difficult to find motives. You've got to artists ... art history can prove to you... that who are... go out the door and think “now I'll motive to paint” and they do not find it  because they're not actually satisfied with what they're finding. It does not fit. Van Gogh was not that kind of person. He went out.  He did see something and immediately his easel was there and then he painted it and that is...shows something of his remarkable attitude I think to life and nature. It was for him very easy at finding motives in real life and this is one of them because it's such a charming picture.

WOLF:  KLM Chef Paulo Arpasanna was inspired by this work and responded by creating a chicken recipe with chives.  Boneless, skinless chicken breasts are cut into bite-sized pieces and mixed with a little rosemary and garlic. A few tablespoons of oil are heated in a saute pan.  Some chopped onion goes in and cooks for two minutes. Then the chicken pieces.  When the chicken is browned, it comes out and it's held aside. Back in the same pan:  two cups of sliced mushrooms, half cup of white wine, a couple of tomatoes in their juices. The chicken returns to the pot. A little cream or milk.  Fresh chives are cut from a plant with a scissor and added to the recipe.  Onto the plate and it's ready to serve.

WOLF:  About an hour's drive into the Dutch countryside from Amsterdam is the small village of Zundert.  This is the building that put Zundert on the map. Zundert is where Vincent Van Gogh grew up and did his early work. They even have a small museum dedicated to him.  The museum has a small collection of things that relate to the period when Van Gogh lived in Zundert, as well as his other years in Holland.  Van Gogh made a number of drawings that showed the landscape and the people of the village. He was fascinated by the life of the peasant farmers who worked the land, and there are many drawings that depict them at work in the fields and in their homes.

Certainly a fitting tribute but the sweetest tribute of all is just down the street at the Luijckx [“Likes”] Chocolate Factory. Almost every morning you will find the shiny steel tank-truck outside the building, a tank-truck filled with twenty thousand gallons of the finest chocolate.  Chocolate that goes into the building to be molded. The free-flowing chocolate is poured into molds moving along a track. They're shaken to take out any air bubbles, then flipped so the form has only a thin coating. It's turned again and weighed to make sure it holds the proper amount. The chocolate cools and hardens to become little cups but the Luijckx system can form just about anything.  A substantial part of their business comes from producing special designs, things for Christmas, Easter, McChocolates, and the local specialty -- a reproduction of Vincent Van Gogh's self-portrait in chocolate. This is great stuff. It nourishes the mind and the body at the same time and it does it either in milk or semi-sweet chocolate. How few works of art can make that claim?

WOLF:  The idea of decorating a cake or forming it into a sculpture goes back for thousands of  years.  For centuries, cake makers and sugar workers were considered more as architects or builders than bakers. This is the preliminary design for the wedding cake at the marriage of the Princess Royal of Britain to Prince Frederick Wilhelm of Prussia.  All of these designs were great to look at but murder to construct.  But modern technology has changed that.  Machines have been invented that mass produce many of the forms used by serious bakers, and Luijckx Chocolate pioneered much of the technology.

They're able to make a mold in almost any shape. The mold becomes the basis for a process that's very similar to that used for making pottery, another Dutch specialty.  The mold is either filled or coated with chocolate, and then the shape comes off.  From then on it's up to the cake decorator. A chocolate cup gets filled with whipped cream, soft ice cream or frozen yogurt; then a disc of cake goes on top.  The cup is flipped over and a touch of whipped cream goes on, a decoration of chocolate and a few slices of fruit. The pastry specialist starts with discs of cake that he coats with whipped cream, covers with chocolate blossoms and decorates with chocolate shapes and fruit. 

One day back in 1887 a Dutch farmer took a boatload of his cauliflower to town. He tied up at the town market and got ready to do some business. Unfortunately cauliflower was not on anybody's menu that day, and so he developed a new way of selling his entire boatload of cauliflower.  He announced that he would yell out a price for the entire boatload. Nobody made a bid.  He would come up with a lower price a few seconds later.  The first one to respond got the whole boatload -- and that is how the Dutch Fruit and Vegetable Auction System got started. Today the farmer yelling out his ever-decreasing price has been replaced with a computer, and the purchasers have buttons next to their seats to signal their purchase.  Farmers bring in their products, each is checked for quality, which is a primary responsibility of the system, a particular batch is selected and the auction begins.  The buyer wants the price to  go down as far as possible but there is always the danger that a competitive buyer will press his button first, purchase the lot and force you to go home without the product that you need. Talk about a job with pressure.  So next time you taste a Dutch endive or tomato or pepper, remember that it was a man with nerves of steel that made it possible.


WOLF:  Holland's central location between Germany, France and England has made it a major export area for many centuries, particularly in the area of agriculture. The Dutch produce over a hundred and twenty vegetables for export as well as home use.  Chef Robert Kranenborg is well known for his Dutch vegetable cookery and he has some good tips for vegetable cooking in general.

WOLF:  How did you get into that?

ROBERT KRANENBORG:  Well vegetables ... I... I love to do fish but to give... to add to fish... beautiful flavors you come to... do herbs and vegetables and people are always thinking that in Holland we eat a lot of vegetables but vegetables are always a garnish with fish or meat and it's never or... very less in function of the taste of the fish and meat.  So that's why I... I specialize myself in vegetables and to give the flavor... the taste of each vegetable has to go with something and it is not only a garnish which you can put with everything.

WOLF:  What are some of the tips that I should know as a vegetable cook?

KRANENBORG:  The cutting of the... of the vegetable is very important. If you want it... crispy you have to cut it thin and cook very less and if you... not blanch always the... the... the vegetables because... you... you lose a lot  of... of... of flavor into the water. Steaming it...

WOLF:  And nutrients.

KRANENBORG:  Yeah and nutrients... vitamins... and... steaming... steaming... vegetables can be very good or... just... stir-fry.

WOLF:  When I was flying into Amsterdam I noticed acres and acres of greenhouses. How did that business get started?

KRANENBORG:  Well it is all about weather who... make changes... who  changes everything.

WOLF:  Right.

KRANENBORG:  And in a little country ...which a lot of people are living... we're very democratic and we want everybody to have tomatoes, endive... or bell, bell peppers. We have too less... too less beautiful weather to grow that... in season. So we wanted to have more of that the whole year.  So we started to build greenhouses and to cultivate with... with temperature and... and... moisture... controlling.

WOLF:  So it gave you a lot of control over the environment.

KRANENBORG:  Over the environment.

WOLF:  It's a lot like building the dikes.

KRANENBORG:  No, no, no.

WOLF:  (LAUGHS) The question I hear most often is when you get the green vegetables, do you cover them or uncover them when you cook 'em?

KRANENBORG:  Yeah, that's a rule.  Green vegetables... don't put a cover on green vegetables when you blanch them and what is very important that you have to... to salt the water in green vegetables.

WOLF:  Why?

KRANENBORG:  It keeps the color. It keeps the color very good and... it is... it is necessary to have... to have it not...without salt.  It is... better, better taste. 

WOLF:  What are your favorite vegetables?

KRANENBORG:  Oh my favorite vegetables is sweet... sweet bell pepper. I can do everything with that.

WOLF:  The Dutch are famous for their sweet bell peppers that they grow in dozens of different colors, and they grow them in hothouses. This recipe starts with a red bell pepper that's peeled, cut into big flat strips and cooked in oil for about ten minutes until it's soft. A little vegetable oil is heated in a saute pan and in goes a half cup of chopped red pepper, half cup of chopped onion, a sliced tomato with the seeds removed, a little water and a clove of garlic. That's covered and simmered for seven minutes.  And into another pan: a little oil, strips of fennel or celery, leeks, eggplant, mushrooms, carrots, cilantro, coriander, tarragon.  That simmers for seven minutes. A heatproof baking pan is used for the final assembly.  In go the flat strips of red pepper, then a layer of the cooked vegetable strips, more red pepper, more vegetable strips, more red pepper. That's heated in a three hundred and fifty degree oven for three minutes.  A mixture of onions and peppers and tomatoes go into a blender for sixty seconds.  The layered peppers come out of the oven onto a serving plate and the sauce on top. That's it.

Holland's mild climate, high quality marshy soil, and regular rainfall promote the year-round growth of excellent grass, grass which in turn produces excellent cattle, cattle that have been used to produce milk for at least four thousand years and cheese for a least a thousand.  The country's natural waterways played a big part in the development of the cheese business. Almost every farmer had a waterway touching some point on his land.  When his cheese was made, he would load it onto a barge and sail off to market.  It could have been a small town just down the canal from his farm or he could join up with a major river like the Rhine and end up selling his cheese in France or Germany. Because the Dutch sailors were such good navigators, they were able to develop a coastal trade and end up selling their cheeses as far south as Portugal and Spain.  At  one point in time, cheese became so valuable that it was used a form of money -- but it was very difficult to keep any small change in your pocket.

Over the years the technology of cheese making has changed some, but the story is more or less the same. Today Holland is the world's largest exporter of cheese. It ships out millions and millions of pounds of cheese each year.  So if you want to get an accurate picture of the history of the Dutch, just say cheese.

The Denboer family farm has been here in Holland for at least three hundred years. The land was reclaimed from the sea and a giant dike stands right behind the farmhouse, just in case the sea ever tries to get it  back. The Denboers raise their own cows and use the milk to produce cheese in the most traditional of  Dutch farmhouse methods.  The milk goes into a large tub.  An enzyme from the lining of a calf's stomach called rennet is added to the milk. The rennet causes the milk solids, called the curd, to separate from the liquid, called the whey.  The milk solids are taken out and placed into a form. Pressure is added to squeeze out additional liquid and give the cheese its shape. At that point the  cheese is submerged in a brine bath, really just salted water but it adds flavor to the cheese... and the cheese comes out of the bath and sits on the shelf to mature for two weeks.  At that point the cheese is ready to go to market.  Cheese is just an ancient method for preserving the valuable nutrients in milk.  All of the calcium and protein that's in the milk is not in the cheese but it's in there in a concentrated form. It takes about ten pounds of milk to make one pound of cheese, and in moderation, cheese is an excellent source of nutrients.

WOLF:  It's pronounced "houda" in Dutch and Gouda in English. It's the name of the most famous cheese produced in Holland, and it's also the name of the town where the cheese was originally developed.  Starting in the 1200s, if you lived in a Dutch town, you wanted that town  to have weighing rights; that is, the right to weigh the cheeses made by the local farmers and put the town's official seal of approval on those cheeses. It was the equivalent of today having a major league football franchise.  Big deal stuff.  And as soon as your town got weighing rights, it got a weigh house in which the activity was conducted, like building your own stadium.  Gouda got theirs in 1668.  It's right across the street from the city hall, which just serves to point out the importance of the cheese business to the town fathers. Most of the cheese exported from Holland is named after the towns from which it comes. Edam: skimmed milk, mild flavors, smooth texture, easy to spot because it usually comes in a red ball. Masdam: it's Holland's answer to Swiss cheese with a mild, nutty flavor.  And of course gouda: starts mild and creamy but becomes more robust the longer it's aged.  So check the cheese to make sure it has the town seal on it.  That's the only way to be sure it's gouda enough.

WOLF:  This the VanLoon House in Amsterdam, built in 1602. This is the master bedroom, the small bedroom, the painted room, the drawing room, the dining room, the smoking room, the garden room, no bathrooms, but a splendid garden and a coach house behind, with fake windows on the first floor. Curtains were painted on the glass windows so the coachman and his family couldn't look into the garden. These days it's a museum. 

It's also available for private parties. About twenty years ago KLM, the Royal Dutch Airline of Holland, figured out that they were throwing a dinner party every day for about forty thousand people. Just happened that that party was on board their airplanes.  Well, they couldn't hold on to all of that knowledge and keep it private so they opened up KLM Party Services. It's a catering operation that'll throw a party for you anywhere in Holland.  And because it's an airline, they'll fly your guests in from anywhere in the world. They'll do a big bash for twenty thousand businessmen or they'll do a small private candlelit party just for two in this romantic museum.  One thing, however, that they do feel very, very strongly about: during the romantic candlelit dinner for two, you must keep your seat belt lightly fastened at all times.

The VanLoon Museum is a fascinating restoration of a private home as it was in Amsterdam during the 1700's.  The dining room has a two-hundred-and-forty-piece Amstel china service, particularly impressive because it was purchased before the invention of the dishwashing machine.  Portraits of the VanLoon brothers as newlyweds with their wives... the perfect setting for a romantic supper.  And if you come to dinner here, one of the KLM master chefs like Paulo Arpasanna will cook any menu that you like.  Today he's preparing a Dutch cheese soup.

A little butter goes into a pot, followed by a cup of sliced leeks and two cups of peeled new potatoes. Two cups of sliced broccoli stalks, six cups of chicken stock. Cover goes on... and the soup simmers for twenty minutes.  Then the broccoli flowerettes go in for the last two minutes of cooking... nto the blender... touch of cream or  milk, back into the pot to heat up. While that's happening, a wedge of Dutch cheese is cut from a baby wheel and grated.  About a cup of  gouda or edam goes into the soup.  Stir that for a minute then into a bowl, a little garnish  and it's finished.

WOLF:  One of the reasons for all of the good food here in Holland was the Dutch approach to their colonies during the sixteen- and seventeen-hundreds.  When the English, French or Spanish would develop a colony, many of their citizens would move in and stay there.  But not the Dutch. They loved their home country too much. They would go to their colonies, do their business and come home.  And when they came home, they brought the best of that colony’s cooking with them. 

WOLF:  Please join us next time as we travel around the world looking for things that taste good and make it easier to eat well.  I'm Burt Wolf.

Burt Wolf's Table: Ponce, Puerto Rico - #217

WOLF:  The  Puerto Rican city of Ponce, called the “Pearl of the South.”  For three hundred years it has been one of the artistic and literary centers of the New World. We'll visit the finest classical art museum in the Caribbean and see what it can teach us about good eating, and we'll learn the recipes for some of the best tasting dishes on the island. So join me in Ponce, Puerto Rico at Burt Wolf's Table.

WOLF:  Ponce is Puerto Rico's second largest  city with a population of just under two hundred thousand people. It was founded in 1692 and recently spent some four hundred and fifty million dollars in restoration projects to help celebrate its three-hundredth birthday.  The city was named after Juan Ponce De Leon, who arrived on Puerto Rico with Christopher Columbus.  He was the island's first governor and more than anyone else responsible for its early development.  The city of Ponce is situated on the south coast of Puerto Rico and faces the Caribbean Sea rather than the Atlantic Ocean, which runs along the north coast. The Caribbean gives Ponce a much more gentle and picturesque shoreline. Ponce is also located in what meteorologists call a rain shadow. The rain- filled clouds coming down from the north are pushed up or trapped behind the peaks of the central mountain range.  As a result, Ponce has some of the best weather in the Caribbean.  That good weather has allowed the town to develop a fascinating blend of open architectural styles. Isabel Street is a perfect textbook example of the seven basic architectural styles that are found throughout this community. If you've ever been to the old French Quarter in New Orleans you’ll recognize these buildings, and that's because the people who originally built the French Quarter in New Orleans came there from this part of the Caribbean. 

The core of the city is the Plaza Central -- actually two plazas landscaped with giant Indian laurel trees that shade the local residents.  In the middle of the Plaza is the Cathedral Of Our Lady Of Guadeloupe.  The Cathedral concentrates most of its activities on the delights of heaven -- but directly behind it is a structure that is concerned only with the fires of hell. It is the Parque De Bombas; Ponce's Victorian firehouse and one of the most photographed structures on the island of Puerto Rico. It was originally constructed as part of a fair and exhibition that opened up in 1882. The architecture was meant to echo the Arab and Moorish influences that are so much a part of Spanish history, not only in architecture but even more important, in food. 

The reason that rice is a basic part of many Spanish dishes results from the fact that Spain was under Arab control for many years, and it was the Arabs who brought rice to Spain from the Middle East.

Rice is one of the world's most important foods. It's also quite healthful, low in fat, no cholesterol, no salt and a good source of complex carbohydrates. Chef John Carey of San Juan, Puerto Rico's El San Juan Hotel combines rice with fiber-filled crunchy walnuts to make the stuffing for a classic Puerto Rican dish of stuffed beef. Two cups of cooked rice go into a mixing bowl; two cups of  chopped walnuts are blended in. A two and a half pound eye round of beef is set on a flat work surface and a long, thin knife is used to poke a hole down the center.  Stuff the rice and walnut mixture into the beef. Close the ends of the meat with toothpicks. Pour a little oil into a pan. Put the beef in.  Add a sliced onion, some sliced peppers, tomato cut into strips, plus a half cup of beefstock. Into a three hundred and seventy degree fahrenheit oven, uncovered, for two and a half hours. When it comes out... it's sliced into rounds and served with a tomato and onion sauce on top.

WOLF:  The Arabs also brought sugar and coffee to Spain and gave the Spanish an introduction to the idea of sweet desserts.  You can see that influence here in Ponce by looking at the city's seal.  The leaves on the left represent a coffee plant. The right side has a group of sugar canes.  For centuries these were the crops that made Ponce rich.  Directly across the street from the old firehouse is a shop that is famous for it's use of sugar.  It is the King's Cream Store which makes sorbets from the local fruits and nuts.

Quite frankly if there was nothing else going on in Ponce, I'd make the hour or so trip from San Juan just for this place. They make their sorbets from coconuts and almonds and peanuts and lots of exotic fruits from the island.   The sugar that sweetens those treats was responsible for one of Puerto Rico's most important industries: rum. 

WOLF:  It was during Columbus's second voyage to the New World in 1493 that he first set foot on the island of Puerto Rico.  That was also the voyage during which he brought sugar cane to the Caribbean.  He brought it here from the Canary Islands, which are in the Atlantic just off the coast of Africa. By 1515 the Spanish colonists on Puerto Rico had planted fields of sugar cane and were very busy building up a sugar export business. Columbus's introduction of sugar cane to Puerto Rico has had a longstanding impact on the island's economy.  The actual production of sugar for export has come and gone, but a byproduct of sugar refining has become a permanent and important part of the island's economy. It was actually during the early 1500's that the owners of the sugar plantations noticed that when they were taking sugar out of the sugar cane, the molasses that was left over had a natural tendency to ferment into a kind of wine. Yeast in the air would turn the sugar in the molasses into alcohol.  The Spanish would distill the molasses and produce rum.

For decades rum was the single most important distilled spirit in the American colonies.  Not only did we import it from the Caribbean but we actually had our own distilleries all over New England. We only began to reduce our consumption of rum when the English government introduced an outrageous tax on sugar and molasses.  We stopped drinking it as part of the American Revolution but things are changing; our taste for rum is coming back. Over the years, the federal government has passed a series of laws to encourage the production of rum in Puerto Rico. As a result, Puerto Rico is now home to the largest distiller of rum. 


For almost five hundred years, rum has been the most important distilled alcoholic drink in Puerto Rico. It's been a major item of export from the very beginning of its manufacture in the 1500's.  As a drink it's fame is legendary, but it is also a basic part of many recipes -- especially in the area of desserts.  Chef John Carey of the El San Juan Hotel uses rum to make a rum and banana sauce that he pours over ice cream to make a fabulous dessert. Two cups of sugar are heated in a pan.  The heat causes the moisture in the sugar to come out and turns the sugar into a liquid sauce.  Stir the mixture as it starts to brown.  The process is called caramelizing and that's perfectly descriptive.  The sugar develops a caramel flavor. Next add in two tablespoons of butter and a quarter cup of Puerto Rican rum. Quarter cup of heavy cream and a few sliced bananas; mix that together for a few minutes. Pour the sauce over vanilla ice cream. Sugar, rum, bananas... that's about Puerto Rican as it gets.

WOLF:  The first people to arrive on the island of Puerto Rico showed up about forty-five hundred years ago.  They may have come down from Florida or over from Mexico. No one's quite sure.  Second group to arrive, however, clearly came from the Orinoco Valley of Venezuela in South America.  They took up residence here about three hundred A.D., settling along the coasts and rivers and developing a rather advanced culture.

The basis of their agriculture was the cassava plant, also known as yucca.  It's a starchy vegetable that grows as a root plant, usually about two inches in diameter and ten inches long.  They used it to make a bread and a wine -- very much the way the people in Asia use rice, or farmers many years ago in Europe used wheat to make their bread and a beer. It comes in two forms. One is sweet.  One is bitter.  The sweet form is edible all the time.  The bitter form is poisonous until you cook it. 

The Tibes Indian Ceremonial Park is situated just outside the Puerto Rican city of Ponce. The ancient native inhabitants of this island lived on this site until some time in the 1100's, when flooding from a series of hurricanes forced them to move to higher ground. Their village remained covered with earth for over six hundred years until 1975, when another hurricane came through, flooded the area again and this time uncovered the site.

A team of archeologists, historians, engineers and geologists moved in and started studying the tract. Carmen Martinez is the resident archeologist.

CARMEN MARTINEZ:  And... as you can see there are two different types of... huts. The round one was made for the... common Indian and the casique or the chief, he lived in the rec... rectangular one.

WOLF:  Why is that?

MARTINEZ:  Number one, status symbol. Also he was allowed to have more than one wife. So he needed a bigger space.

WOLF:  For more kids, more wives, it gets longer.

MARTINEZ:  Um hmm.

WOLF:  (LAUGHS) Okay.  It's building an extension. Carmen, what's planted over there?

MARTINEZ:  That's yucca. That was the main staple of the Indian diet and it's very interesting to point out that when the Spanish arrived they used it also as their diet and it was called pan de las indias.

WOLF:  Bread of the Indians.

MARTINEZ:  Um hmm.

WOLF:  Was the translation of that.


WOLF:  I gather that when the Spanish got here they had a lot of trouble getting there regular staples from Spain.

MARTINEZ:  Um hmm.

WOLF:  There was no Federal Express at the time and they adapted a lot of their eating pattern to the foods that we available from the Indians.

MARTINEZ:  Yeah.That's correct.

WOLF:  What's happening here?

MARTINEZ:  This is a ball court we call the horsubate [?]  and it was used by the Indians to play a ballgame which was like a volleyball...but there were not allowed...allowed to use their hands. They played with a ball that sometimes weighed forty pounds and it was made from grass... roots and leaves and the purpose of the game was to keep the ball in the air without hitting the ground.

WOLF:  The Taino tribes that came to Puerto Rico from South America were skilled farmers who had developed a series of planting methods that were ideal for their environment.  They planted a number of different crops in the same mound of earth.  Those that required lots of water went on the bottom, those that needed great drainage went up on top. They actually grew quite a series of different vegetables. They had yams and corn, a whole bunch of different squashes and beans. They gathered fruits and nuts from the trees.  They made nets and fished the waters around the island and they used bows and arrows to hunt for small game.

One of the old Taino recipes calls for the frying of fish in corn oil. John Carey is going to prepare this red snapper dish much as it was done a thousand years ago. Snapper goes into a pan containing a quarter cup of heated corn oil and cooks on each side for five minutes. While it's cooking, a black bean salsa is made.  The salsa goes on to the plate and the fish goes right on top. 

The Museo De Artes in Ponce is clearly the finest classical museum of art on any Caribbean island. Louis Ferre, a former Governor of Puerto Rico, is responsible for the museum's coming into existence and it was his own collection of paintings that became the basis for the original exhibitions.  Today the museum contains an amazing collection of  works by outstanding Dutch and English artists, and of course the finest collection of classic Puerto Rican artists.  For me, however, there is one central question about a work of art that makes it truly interesting:what are they eating in that painting? Doctor Carmen Ruiz Fischler is the museum's director.

WOLF: This one's one of your favorites.

CARMEN RUIZ FISCHLER:  Of course. It's from...a Ponce artist from Puerto Rico named Miguel Poe. I think he could not have...paid a much gallant homage to...young peasant girl in the...60's when he painted this work.

WOLF:  He was from Ponce and the young woman was from Ponce too.

FISCHLER:  Yes she was, because he always would look for specific characters of the countryside, of the town, people everybody knew and they immediately recognized 'em in the paintings.

WOLF:  Oh, interesting... and those are mangoes in the  bowl.

FISCHLER:  Yes they are, and they're delicious -- especially the ones he's showing there. These... they're very important in this area, in the south and western part of Puerto Rico.  This is a  still life of the Spanish School. It was painted at the end of the sixteenth century by Alonso Vasquez and he's very interesting... for me because of the many textures and feeling for different materials, that you almost feel like you can touch each one of them and feel in your own hands how they are.

WOLF:  The painting scares me a little. It's filled with saturated fats, and that chicken in the top corner there that's dead, it may be a warning to have more complex carbohydrates in our diet and less saturated fat.

FISCHLER:  That would be very interesting for the sixteenth century. (LAUGHS)

WOLF:  The mango is celebrated in the art of Puerto Rico but it is also an important part of the gastronomy.  Chef Ramon Rosario of the Sands Hotel has a favorite recipe for chicken breasts in a mango sauce.

A mango that had been peeled and sliced into small cubes goes into a saucepan.  Then in goes a quarter cup of rum, two cups of pureed mango and two tablespoons of sugar.  That's heated and stirred for a few moments and left to simmer over a very low flame. While that's simmering, a skinless boneless chicken breast is lightly floured. A little vegetable oil is heated in the saute pan. Chicken goes in to the pan, cooks for three minutes on one side and then cooks for three minutes on the second side.  It's very important to make sure that the chicken is fully cooked all the way through. It's the only way to be sure that the chicken is safe to eat. Professional restaurant chefs are aware of the problem and make a real effort to protect the public.  At home be careful. Make sure your chicken is fully cooked. When it is, it goes onto a serving plate and the mango sauce goes on top. 

Well, the mango is known as the “apple of the tropics” and it is certainly as popular in the warm parts of our planet at the apple is in the colder areas. People have been growing mangoes for so long that we've actually forgotten where they got started, but the general consensus is that it began somewhere in Asia -- probably in the most eastern provinces of India.

All mangoes start out green, but as they ripen they change color. A ripe mango can range in color from green to rose to red.  The best way to tell if a mango is ripe is to press the outside skin. It should yield to a gentle pressure. Mangoes range in weight from about ten ounces to over four pounds, and considering the fact that they are not the easiest fruit in the world to peel, bigger is better.  A ripe mango is eaten as a fresh fruit. It also goes into pies and drinks and ice creams, uncooked relishes and salsa.  An unripe mango can be used in a cooked chutney.  The people of Puerto Rico often refer to the mango as the “king of fruits” and I think it certainly deserves its royal reputation.

WOLF:  The people of Puerto Rico also extend royal treatment to their favorite entertainers, including Nydia Caro, who is a superstar of  Puerto Rican music and television. 

WOLF:  Tell me a little bit about yourself.

NYDIA CARO:  I was born in New York City. I was raised in the Bronx.  When I was... seventeen my dad passed away and my mom wanted to come back to Puerto Rico.  What I thought I'd do was come here, get her settled, become twenty-one and  go back to New York.  I wanted to be an actress.  The funny thing is that... t's very dif... difficult to be indifferent in Puerto Rico. People... stay here. I said I was going to leave when I was twenty-one and I wound up staying and I never went back.

WOLF:  What kind of work did you do?

CARO:  I came to Puerto Rico and I started working on television...on a teenaged show that was  called “The Coca-Cola Show” and I would sing rock and roll in English... and two years after that I had my own show.


CARO:  The show was called “The Nydia Caro Show” and it was a variety show, and since we had very little money to do it what we would do would be, you know, kind of be as creative as we could about getting... getting things to present on television that looked like a million bucks and maybe cost... you know, ten dollars. (LAUGHS)

CARO:  I think that that's really the best way to work.  It certainly saves... a lot of time and it makes you not be lazy about things, you know. You're... you're always exploring.  You're always....

WOLF:  You have to.

CARO:  ...looking, you know, where...the next piece of serendipity is going to come from.

WOLF:  What's special about Puerto Rico?

CARO:  I used to say to myself why... do  Puerto Ricans in New York wear... bright purple and bright green together for example... until I came here and I realized that that's Puerto Rico, that's the nature.  You know, when you're filming here it's... it's really hard to film during the day  when the sun is up because everything is so bright. You know, you see it. You go into the island, you see these... beautiful red anabolla flowers next to very rich green... anything that you plant grows here, and the color of the ocean.  I mean it's very rich... and it's also very passionate. It's a very passionate place to be.

WOLF:  If this was my first visit to Puerto Rico, what should I eat?

CARO:  Well, the rice and beans probably comes from our Indian heritage... and it's something that we eat every day almost.  For example, my son... needs to eat rice and beans every... you might serve him pasta and you might serve him anything else... they eat very well but... what they do like is to have that.  Which is great because it's very... nutritious and it's got a lot of protein and... it's a complex carbohydrate.  So actually it's... it's something good to have.

WOLF:  And Nydia's going to let us have her favorite recipe for it too.  Pot goes on.

CARO:  Pot goes on.

WOLF:  Pour the water in.

CARO:  Water goes in.

WOLF:  A few cups of water go into a sauce pan to heat up.

CARO:  Okay.

WOLF:  Some chicken broth.  Some pre-cooked beans.

CARO:  Oh.

WOLF:  And some sofrito. Sofrito is one of the traditional seasoning agents of Puerto Rico.

WOLF:  I love it.

CARO:  Sofrito are tomatoes, onion and garlic...green peppers and red peppers.

WOLF:  And they've been sauteed together in a little olive oil.

CARO:  They've been sauteed.  Right. And then we put salt and pepper in.

WOLF:  Right and they’re pureed...

CARO:  And then we...and we...puree them.

WOLF:   Right.

CARO:  Then we take...then we do...one... two. Okay. That's for two cups of beans.

WOLF:  Okay. And your mother made the soafrito for you today.

CARO:  My mother makes the sofrito.  She's wonderful with this.  What I do is I have her make a... a lot of it and then I freeze it.  And I take out a little bit at a time.

WOLF:  Time.

CARO:  Because in...my children eat this every day. Whatever else we make we have to have ri... a little portion of rice and beans. I guess it's like the Italians do with pasta,you know.

WOLF:  Oh you have to have pasta.

CARO:  Then we'll take a little bit... here of the... tomato paste... that's a big spoon, Burt.

WOLF:  Yeah, you can use a small spoon.

CARO:  That's a better one.  Why don't we just rub it off there. What that does is thicken it. Okay.

WOLF:  All right.

CARO:  And then we put some potatoes in.

WOLF:  Okay.

CARO:  Not so many, just a little bit, about one-fourth. Right.  And the potato also thickens.

WOLF:  Okay. The heat comes up and everything simmers together for twenty minutes.

CARO:  What this is served with is rice... white rice.

WOLF:  On top of it or the rice goes in...

CARO:  Just on the side of it. In other words you have the rice here and you have the...red beans is here and then you mix it as you eat it.  Okay.

WOLF:  Portion by portion as you...

CARO:  Portion by portion.

WOLF:  And...and is that just a polite...thing or is there a reason for that?

CARO:   Well it's usually the way it's done. I mean if you...you don't want to eat it that way you don't have to.  (LAUGHS) You can mix it up altogether. And then...that kind of accompanies every thing.You can accompany it with...with meat or with chicken... with fish.

WOLF:  What's really wonderful about it is that between the rice and the beans.....

CARO:  Um hmm.

WOLF:  ...you have all the amino acids that  you would find in a piece of meat or fish or poultry and none of the....

CARO:  And proteins.

WOLF:  ...saturated fat. Right.

CARO:  And then there's another ingredient that you have to put in it.

WOLF:  What is that?

CARO:  The most important one, you have to be happy when you cook it.


WOLF:  Well, I was so happy cooking the rice and beans that I asked Nydia to show me another one of her favorites.

CARO:  This is gazpacho.  Gazpacho comes to us... from Spain actually.  But Puerto Ricans like it a lot.  They serve it... before the rice and beans some times or you can serve it with anything you like and it's really easy to make.

WOLF:  Okay, let's make it.

CARO:  What we do... is in the blender we take some olive oil.

WOLF:  Okay, that's my job.

CARO:  Let's make some for four okay?

WOLF:  Okay.

CARO:  Which would be about...two big tablespoons, a little more.  Okay.  Okay.  Then we'll take... a little bit... tomato sauce.

WOLF:  All right.

CARO:  And then we'll take... four... tomatoes that we have boiled for one minute and peeled. Okay.  And then...what we do, we put this in the blender as well as the tomatoes. This makes a great first dish. Okay.  Then we'll put... green and red peppers... okay.  Then we'll put... a little bit onion, say we'll put... two of these in... then we'll put a little garlic in it.

WOLF:  Ummm.

CARO:  For taste...you like garlic, huh?

WOLF:  Ummm.

CARO:  Then we'll put...(LAUGHS)...a little pinch of oregano.  Like that.  A little bit of salt. There about half a spoon of that.  Then a little bit of pepper to taste.  Okay. 

WOLF:  That's it?

CARO:  That's it.

WOLF:  Okay. Top on.

CARO:  And then...we blend that.

WOLF:  Make sure that's secure so we don't wear any of it.  Okay.  Ready.

CARO:  Ready.


WOLF:  I can do that.

CARO:  Anybody can do that.  This is the easiest thing and it's very tasty. And what you do is you chill it. You put it in the refrigerator for about an hour.

WOLF:  Right.

CARO:  And... or if you... if you want to do it right now, let's say you want to eat it right now,you can put some ice in it and... then you put it... in this... in... in the blender again and chill it.

WOLF:  Oh so just drop ice in and thin it out a little and chill it.

CARO:  Exactly.

WOLF:  The same time.  Great idea.

CARO:  And then what you do is to take the ingredients that you've put in.... and... you chop it up real fine and then you...put a little tablespoon of that on top of the soup.

WOLF:  Garnish on... top of the soup.

CARO:  Exactly.

WOLF:  Great.

CARO:  And it's delicious.

WOLF:  Okay.

CARO:  And easy.

WOLF:  So what have we seen here out on the island of  Puerto Rico in terms of good food for good health?  Rice, low in fat, no cholesterol, no salt, a good source of complex carbohydrates. The native tribes had a diet that gave them more than half their daily calories in complex carbohydrates in the form of fruits, vegetables, grains and cereals; good idea.  The cooks of Puerto Rico are updating their traditional recipes to reduce the amount of saturated fat, very important. The lower your intake of saturated fat, the better off you are. 

Well that's what's happening in Ponce, Puerto Rico and out on the island when it comes to good food.   They're preserving their classic and traditional recipes and making it a real pleasure to eat here.  Please join us next time as we travel around the  world looking for taste good. I'm Burt Wolf.

Burt Wolf's Table: The Food of China - #216

BURT WOLF:  The Republic of China.  A stronghold of traditional Chinese culture.  A place to look back at over 6,000 years of art, history and food.  We'll discover what the Chinese people do to keep hungry ghosts in the supernatural world, visit a traditional market and cook up some easy and great-tasting recipes.  Join me as we sample the food of China at Burt Wolf's Table.


BURT WOLF:  The original inhabitants of the Island of Taiwan arrived here some 10,000 years ago.  About a quarter of a million of their descendants remain on Taiwan and are called the Aborigines.  They maintain their traditional music, dances, costumes and customs.

Chinese contact with the Island goes back to about the year 200 A.D.  At that point in time the Kingdom of Wu sent about 10,000 troops over to check out the neighborhood.  I had to get the word “Wu” in because that's my Chinese name.

Anyway, since then, there have been pretty regular migrations from the mainland.  Different ethnic groups for different reasons.  Most often, however, it was to escape persecution or in search of better economic conditions.

During the late 1800s foreign trade between Taiwan and British and American businesses became a major enterprise.  European missionaries showed up and competed for areas of influence in the same way as the trading companies. 

Through it all, however, the Chinese managed to hold onto their culture and keep the island for themselves.

The most significant event in modern Taiwanese history took place in 1949 when Chaing Kai-Shek and over 2 million of his followers left mainland China and moved to Taiwan in order to avoid Communist domination. 

They brought a high level of entrepreneurial skill and transformed the island into one of the world's most successful industrialized nations.  Today Taiwan's standard of living is higher than any other Asian country with the exception of Japan.  And in two very interesting aspects of life, the people of Taiwan have a better existence than the Japanese.  They have more living space and they eat more food.

When Portuguese traders first saw the island of Taiwan in the 1600s, they called it Formosa, which is Portuguese for “beautiful.”  And that is an excellent description.  The island has a rugged beauty that is quite extraordinary.  Much of the land is covered with majestic mountains that look just like classical Chinese landscape paintings. 

There are over 700 miles of picturesque coastline with some amazing rock formations that are unlike those found anywhere else in the world. 

The natural beauty of the island has made it a favorite spot for hikers and campers.  Taiwan is also, in many ways, the most authentically Chinese society on Earth, continuing the traditions that began thousands of years ago with the stories of the legendary Yellow Emperor.

The National Palace Museum houses over 600,000 works of art from every major period of Chinese history.  Porcelains, paintings, ancient bronzes.  Taiwan also has a full range of buildings in the classic Chinese architectural styles.  The roofs are often the most interesting, with ornate detail provided by the most skilled craftsmen.  They're alive with mythological heroes who have reputations for bringing good luck and preventing evil.

The dragon is a symbol of strength, intelligence and good luck.  The pagoda represents a stairway to Heaven.  You'll often see the depiction of a magic gourd designed to capture and hold onto evil spirits.  Kind of the original Ghostbuster.

Some of their buildings are truly astonishing.  Taiwan is also very busy preserving classical Chinese theatre and music.  Every day throughout the island, people are practicing the arts that have made Chinese culture the longest-running show on earth.

And much of the art is available for purchase.  From its very beginning, the story of Taiwan has been a story of trade.  The artists and craftsmen of Taiwan produce their work for a very appreciative audience.  The result has made the island a favorite spot for shopping.

The Taiwanese capital city of Taipei is today's epicenter of Chinese Gastronomy.  This city, more than any other city in the world, offers the resident or the visitor the widest selection possible of Chinese food... food from all of the great regions of China.

There are, however, a couple of dishes that you should not miss.  These are the classics of Chinese food and their preparation is better and more interesting right here. 

My favorite is Peking Duck, an exceptional dish that is made by inflating the duck with air between the meat and the skin which produces a space for the fat to drip out...  then tightening the skin with boiling water, coating it with sugar water and then roasting it.

The duck is served with a sweet sauce, green onions and fresh pancakes.  The making of Peking Duck is an art form, and some of the finest artists are found in Taipei. 

Another must is Dim Sum.  The words mean “point to your heart,” suggesting you eat to your heart's content.  When you sit down, tea is brought to your table.  All around you there are rolling carts with small portions of food:  steamed buns, baked dishes, fried specialties.  You point to what you want and you eat 'til you've had enough.

You might also include a taste of Shark Fin Soup.  It's said to have the ability to revive a man's youthful strength.  You also owe yourself a bowl of Dan Dan Noodles.  It's reminiscent of a perfect noodle soup topped off with a spicy marinara sauce.  Excellent stuff.

Finally, any of the traditional hot and spicy dishes.  They're usually prepared in Taiwan with the height of gastronomic skill.

It is a longstanding tradition in classic Chinese cooking to serve at least one soup at every meal.  Very often at the end of that meal.  At breakfast, it is always a simple rice recipe called Congee.  At lunch and dinner you can select from some 10,000 classic soup recipes.  Talk about over-choice.

An old favorite in the Chinese restaurants of North America is Chicken Egg Drop Soup.  Here's how it's prepared by Chef Kow at Taipei's T’sai Fun Schwei Restaurant.

Two cups of chicken stock go into a hot wok to heat up.  A little salt and white pepper are added in.  As soon as the stock comes to a boil, the chef pours in two eggs that have been well beaten.  Just to see if it worked as well without the egg yolks, I tested the recipe with egg whites only.  No problem in terms of taste and texture.  As a matter of fact, when I tasted the two side by side, they were virtually identical. 

The hot chicken stock turns the eggs into solid strands and it's soup.  Into a serving bowl, a few slices of scallion, some chopped cilantro on top and it's ready to go.

A group of scientists have been studying the history of Chinese cooking and they have been able to document their work as far back as 5,000 B.C.  The result is a food tradition that has been going on longer than any other eating system that we know.

From the very beginning, the Chinese believed that there was a direct relationship between food and health.  What you ate at any particular moment in time, determined your health at that particular time.  A couple of hundred years ago they set up a group of general rules that are quite fascinating.  Fascinating because our medical research today is proving that these rules are correct.  Take the ancient concept of fan and t’sai.

The word fan is used to describe grains and starches.  T’sai is the word that is used primarily for fish, meat and poultry, mixed with fruits and vegetables.  A properly balanced Chinese meal combines specific proportions of Fan and T’sai.  The result is a 7,000 year old recipe that gives the eaters about 70 percent of their calories from complex carbohydrates in the form of grains, fruits and vegetables, and about 30 percent from meat, fish or poultry mixed with the fruits.

And most of the time, that last thirty percent is low in fat.  Sounds pretty modern to me.

The ancient Chinese system of balancing Fan foods,which are primarily grains, with T’sai foods which are usually meat, fish or poultry, makes much of  Chinese home cooking extremely healthful.  Lots of complex carbohydrates, very few saturated fats.  It's a great way to eat.

An excellent example of a recipe using the Fan and T’sai balance is Cantonese Shrimp and fried rice.  Chef Kow uses a 2,000 year-old recipe as he cooks in Taipei's T’sai Fun Schwen Restaurant. 

Vegetable oil is heated in the wok to a proper temperature of 375 degrees, which is ideal for frying.  Then in goes a half cup of ham that's been cut into small cubes, and a half cup of shrimp. 

Those cook for twenty seconds, then they are drained of the oil.  The wok is back on the heat with about a tablespoon of hot oil inside.  In go two beaten eggs.  As soon as the eggs are solid, a cup of pre-cooked cold rice goes in.  That's stir-fried for a minute.  Then the shrimp and the ham return.  A little salt and pepper, a quarter cup of shredded lettuce, a quarter cup of sliced green onions, and that's it.


BURT WOLF:  For thousands of years the Chinese have believed that the universe follows the principles of Yin and Yang.  Yang is hot and masculine.  Yin is cool and feminine.

It's believed that when Yin and Yang forces in your body are out of balance, you're in for physical and emotional  problems.  One of the ways of correcting that balance is the use of food.  If there's too much Yin in your body, then you start eating foods that are high in Yang.  If there's too much Yang in your body, you eat foods that are high in Yin.  As a result, there are extensive lists of foods that are high in Yin and others that are high in Yang.

Yang, the masculine foods, include chicken, chilies and ginger.

Yin, the feminine powers, are found in cabbage, seafood and spinach.

To eat more than you need or to waste food is a vice of major proportions.  The Chinese believe that you should stop eating when you are only 70 percent full.

I don't know how you tell when you are precisely 70 percent full so I'm implementing a program by reducing the size of my food portions by 30 percent.  The math works and I think the meal does too.  You know, in North America, the size of restaurant food portions is much bigger than it has to be and we tend to overeat in restaurants.  So sharing that restaurant food or bringing some home for later makes good sense.


BURT WOLF:  It was during China's Tang Dynasty in the 600's that a group of herbal pharmacologists decided what was good to eat in terms of health.  The cosmic forces of Yin and Yang set the recipes and told you what you should eat and when you should eat it, and the proper amounts, in order to achieve internal harmony.

Chef Yeh at Taipei's T’sai Fun Schwen Restaurant demonstrates a recipe in perfect Yin / Yang balance:  Beef with broccoli.  Some oil is heated in a wok, two cups of broccoli are cooked for five seconds and taken out.  Water goes into the wok to heat up and the broccoli goes back in to cook for thirty seconds more.  The water gets drained, the broccoli goes back in, a little salt, then off to be plated.  Oil goes into the wok, two cups of beef cut into bite-sized pieces.  Thirty seconds of cooking and it’s drained, then back into the wok.  Slices of green onions, carrots, red peppers, mushrooms, bamboo shoots and chopped garlic, a little oyster sauce.  The beef returns, thirty seconds of tossing and turning and its ready to go into the ring of broccoli.

According to Chinese folk religion, the world that one goes to after life is very similar to the world one lives in during life.  And many of the same needs exist.  Food, clothing, money, all are required in the other world.  And it is the responsibility of the remaining family members to send those things along to the deceased.  Fortunately they can be delivered in symbolic form.  There's a special spirit money that gets transferred by burning, and similar substitutes for just about everything else.  Every year during the seventh lunar month, which usually falls in August and September, there is a Festival Of The Hungry Ghosts.  It's your last chance to properly feed and care for your deceased family members.  Miss this and you are letting hungry ghosts loose in the world.  And the fewer hungry ghosts in your town, the better off you are.  During the festival period, everybody makes a great effort to feed their own ancestors, as well as any hungry ghosts that just may be wandering around.  As you walk through the cities of Taiwan these days, you'll actually see plates set out in front of homes and businesses to feed these ghosts.  It's thought if they are not fed properly, they will group up in bands and cause an enormous amount of damage as they search for sustenance.  On the other hand, if they are well-fed, they feel content and return to the other world without causing any trouble.  Sounds like a great idea to me.

People who are knowledgeable in the art of feeding hungry ghosts tell me that chicken recipes are always popular with beings in the supernatural world.  So after you find out who you're gonna call, here's the recipe for what you're gonna cook.  It's chicken with a lemon sauce.

Almond coated chicken with lemon sauce is one of the classics of Chinese cookery; it's a combination of different textures and flavors and shapes that show you what a Chinese recipe is all about. 

Chef Kow at Taipei's T’sai Fun Schwen Restaurant starts by sprinkling a little salt on two chicken breasts that have had the skin and bone removed and the fat cut off.  Two egg yolks are then added; I tested the dish with four egg whites instead and it worked just as well.  A little cornstarch is added as a thickener.  And a half cup of sliced almonds.  The chicken is turned around and around until it has a good coating of the almonds.  Some vegetable oil goes into a hot wok.  As soon as it gets to a temperature of 375 degrees Fahrenheit, in goes the chicken.  Two minutes of cooking and it's drained away from the oil.  The chicken goes onto a cutting board, where it's sliced into bite-sized pieces, then onto a serving plate... at which point the lemon sauce goes on top.  The lemon sauce is actually a very simple mixture.  You just put together a little lemon juice, white vinegar, sugar and cornstarch; that's it.

One of the things that accounts for the worldwide reputation of the Chinese cooks of Taipei is their ability to get the freshest and the highest quality ingredients on a reliable basis.  The relationship between the local farmers and the markets make that possible.

The Nanmen Market in Taiwan's capital city of Taipei is a traditional Chinese market.  And though Taipei has all the modern supermarkets you would expect to find in an industrialized metropolis, this old-style marketplace is still very popular.  One reason for its continued success is the enormous selection of fresh vegetables that come in daily from the local farms.  Vegetables are very important to the Chinese cooks of Taiwan; almost every Chinese dish includes at least one vegetable and it's extremely unusual for any meat, fish or poultry to be served without some vegetables as part of the finished dish.  On average, a typical family style meal will include five to seven different vegetables, and they are all very well prepared. 

The soggy, tasteless and overcooked vegetables which were so much a part of the food of my youth never had a chance here.  A Taiwanese mother never has to say “eat your vegetables.”  And unlike many other parts of the world, Taiwan is devoting more of its land to vegetable farming, not housing developments.  As consumers here earn more disposable income, they confirm their society's ancient love of good vegetables and demand even higher quality and greater variety.

When I came to this stand I was really surprised; I thought I had discovered somebody in Taiwan baking American bagels.  They even do a sesame seed version.  But in talking to the owner, I discovered that this was a bread developed in the Ming Dynasty in the 1500's by a famous general.  He wanted his troops to be fed all of the time.  So he had this bread baked, put a hole in it, and then would give it to the men on a necklace.  They'd wear it around their neck.  And whenever they were hungry they'd pull one off and eat it.  Fortunately the general did not have access to smoked salmon or cream cheese, or he might have ruled the world.  (taking a bite)  Pretty good.         Richard Vuylsteke is an American editor and journalist who's been based in Taiwan for a number of years.  His special area of interest is food and he makes the Nanmen market scrutable. 

RICHARD VUYLSTEKE:  Ah, this is a good place to stop.  These are things that are used in all Chinese cooking.  But the ...  baitai, or the Chinese cabbage ...

BURT WOLF:  Bok choy is like Chinese cabbage.

RICHARD VUYLSTEKE:  Bok Choy, Chinese cabbage. 

BURT WOLF:  Right.

RICHARD VUYLSTEKE:  Ah, the mushrooms, both these style of mushrooms are very popular to use. 

BURT WOLF: What's that? 

RICHARD VUYLSTEKE:  Ah, this is ... this is something that I think Americans have seen, Europeans have seen, in its later form, this is loofah gourd.

BURT WOLF: Loofah gourd ...

RICHARD VUYLSTEKE:  Loofah gourd...

BURT WOLF:  ... and you use it as a food?

RICHARD VUYLSTEKE:  Yeah.  When it’s young like this, you cut it in small pieces, they're great in soup, great in soup.  Inside's white, very ... very tender taste.  But you let it dry out, then it becomes a sponge.  The inside fiber of this becomes ... has a nice spongy coarse sponge kind of feel to it.  They re-use it many, many times. (LAUGHS)

BURT WOLF:  So in a way it's really efficient --  anything you don't eat goes into the shower for later.

RICHARD VUYLSTEKE:  That's right, that's right.

BURT WOLF:  This is a great looking thing.  What is this little baby?

RICHARD VUYLSTEKE:  This is an East Indian lotus and it's a major symbol of Buddhist imagery.  The lotus plant grows in the mud.  Stem comes up through the water, the flower comes out below the surface of the water.  It's not spoiled by the mud, it's a pure beautiful blossom. Like the Buddha right?  Pure, clean, unsullied, above the sludge and mud of everyday existence.  The Buddha rises above it all.  And quite frankly the taste rises above it all too as far as I’m concerned.

This is winter melon.  The whole vegetable is three feet, four feet, five feet long, fifty pounds, maybe more.  So you buy it by the slice obviously.  Big slices for big families, small slices for small meals and families.  Used in soups, primarily.  A very delicate soup ... soothing soup, I might add.  When the white part is cooked, it becomes somewhat transparent; it's very popular here.

BURT WOLF:  There are over a hundred different vegetables available in this market, and the home cooks of Taiwan use them all.  That gives them a great variety of vitamins and minerals.  Variety is the spice of life, but it is also the key to good nutrition.

A good place to put some of those fresh vegetables  to perfect use, is in this recipe for chicken with cashew nuts and a spicy sauce.

The rules that govern what a proper Chinese recipe should be, go back for thousands of years. They really have searched for the right balance and contrast.  And in the area of texture, the Chinese are the absolute masters.

A good example is this recipe for chicken with cashews.  The Chef at Taipei's Regent Hotel heats a little water in a wok, then in goes a half cup each of bamboo shoots, celery, carrots and mushrooms; they cook for a minute and they're drained.  The wok is cleaned and some oil goes in.  A cup of cashew nuts are fried for fifteen seconds.  A boneless skinless chicken breast cut into bite- size pieces cooks in the oil for thirty seconds.  The wok is cleaned out and in goes a quarter cup each of sliced green onion and red pepper, plus a few tablespoons of garlic.  The other vegetables return.  A tablespoon of Chinese chili paste, the chicken, a teaspoon of sesame oil, a half teaspoon of cornstarch mixed into water to thicken things up.  The cashew nuts come back, everything heats up for another half minute, and its ready.

Chinese food is probably the most well- travelled cuisine in the world.  As a matter of fact, Chinese food has been available on a high level to so many people in so many cities around the world, that there has been very little interest in Chinese home cooking, except in the Chinese communities.  But in 1960, all that began to change.  Since then there has been an increasing interest in Chinese home cooking in the western home kitchens.

Our supermarkets offer all of the basics in terms of Chinese ingredients, and there are really only a few items that are needed in the area of condiments.  Chili sauce or paste made from crushed fresh chile peppers; it'll last for a year in the refrigerator. 

Hoi-sin sauce made from soybeans, flour, sugar, salt and garlic.  Gives food a sweet peppery flavor and a reddish brown color.

Oyster sauce is made primarily from ground oysters. 

Sesame oil from roasted sesame seeds is a flavoring agent, and sesame paste is also a general flavoring agent.  Star anise, which has a licorice like flavor, and of course soy sauce. 

Those are only seven different ingredients but they should give you just about all the flavors that you need to give a dish its Chinese taste.  Remember though you're not going to use them every day, so buy them in small quantities.

Tea is not an ingredient, but it is clearly the single most important element in Chinese gastronomy, and some of the world's finest examples are produced here in the mountains.


The mountains of Taiwan are wrapped in mist and gently heated by the sun.  The result is a warm and moist climate that is perfect for growing tea.  Tea is a basic part of Chinese culture and goes back in Chinese history for hundreds of years.  Tea to the Chinese is very much like wine to the French.  Very serious stuff.  They want to know what variety of bush was used.  Where on the island it was planted, what time of year was the leaf plucked?  How long was the leaf allowed to dry in the sun after harvest?  Did it go inside for fermentation, and for what period of time?  Was it crumpled by hand or by machine?  Was it baked? 

And to think there was a time in my life where the only question I could ask about tea was, is it loose or in a bag?

The Chinese attribute some interesting medical benefits to tea.  They take it at the end of their meals because they think it breaks down fat, reduces the pressure on the liver and helps with digestion.  They feel that the high vitamin C content in green tea helps prevent illness and improves your physical and mental energies.

The medical claims for tea may not be scientifically proven at this point in time, but there is such a wide body of folklore in its favor that it’s something to think about.  Especially if you consider its real purpose is to give us a few moments of quiet relaxation in our very busy and confusing world.

So what we have we seen here in Taipei in connection with eating well?  Okay:  the ancient idea of balance between fan, made up of grains and starch and t’sai, made up of meat, fish, poultry fruits and vegetables.  It reminds us that more than half our daily calories should come from complex carbohydrates and that our saturated fat intake should be as low as possible.  There's also the Chinese belief that you should stop eating when you are seventy percent full.  A good way to start doing that is to reduce portion size.  Vegetables: they're one of our best sources of important vitamins and nutrients and the greater variety we eat, the better off we are.

The Ancient Chinese sage Kwan Su lived some two thousand seven hundred years ago.  And he had some interesting observations about life.  He said that to a ruler, the people were heaven, but to the people, food was heaven.  It does really remind you of what the actual priorities in life are, doesn't it? 

Please join us next time as we travel around the world looking for things that taste good and make it easier to eat well.  I'm Burt Wolf.

Burt Wolf's Table: Across Canada, Via Rail Part 2 - #215

BURT WOLF:  Canada's Transcontinental Railway:  it passes through some of the world's most beautiful scenery.  And through Via Rail, it maintains the traditions of the Golden Age of passenger travel.  It's the place to take a look at the fascinating history of on-board food.  And to learn the recipes that have made the Via Rail chefs famous for the best Meal on a Wheel.  So join me on board Canada's Via Rail at Burt Wolf's Table.

BURT WOLF:  The Canadian is the name of the train that takes passengers across Canada from Toronto in the east to Vancouver in the west... or vice versa.

It passes through some of the most beautiful scenery on our planet.  Snow-covered mountains, unspoiled forests.  It's the kind of scenery that gives you a real appreciation of North America and it's amazing that it's still so easy to see.

During the past few years, Via Rail, which is directed by the Canadian Government, has made a great effort to bring back the good old days of railroad food. 


The earliest meals for train passengers were offered by track-side vendors.  The vendors would wait for the trains at the stations.  As soon as the train came in, they would sell the food to the passengers through the train windows.  Unfortunately, the coal-burning engines passed into the stations first and deposited a nice layer of soot on all the food just as it was about to be offered to the travelers.

Not very attractive, but perhaps an interesting source of additional nutrients.

The station vendor period was followed by the era of the “news butcher.”  The news butchers were characters who came on board the train and walked through the cars selling newspapers, magazines and food. 

Skilled practitioners of this craft always offered salted peanuts on their first pass.  That insured better beverage sales on their second. 

News butchers were still around during the early 1940s when I was making my first train trips.  My mother would send me to visit her sister in Boston.  She'd kind of plunk me down in the train seat and I would sit there until my aunt picked me up at Boston's Back Bay Station.

The news butchers would go through the train between stations and I even remember their pitch.  “Life, Look, Colliers, Reader's Digest, Fortune, Harper's Bazaar, Atlantic Monthly.  Candy bars, Hershey Bars, Almond Bars, Ju Ju's, Sandwiches, Coffee, Tea, Milk, what'll you have, kid?”

These cartoons show the next major development in the history of railroad meals.  It was the Eating House, built into the existing train station.

The train would come to a stop and the passengers would rush out to the eating area.  They would bolt down their food and bolt back onto the train.  The stop was scheduled for twenty minutes and was officially called a Meal Stop.  The passengers usually described it as an Indigestion Stop.

As railroad technology improved and trains began to cover more and more distance in shorter and shorter amounts of time, it became really impractical to stop three times a day for meals.  And so the first on-board food service was offered.

Very often it was just a buffet set up in the baggage car.

This is an old photograph of a Canadian National Train.  It was probably taken during the first years of this century.  The food and beverages were being served from a counter in the freight area.

Maybe it was an official service set up by the railroad company, or maybe it was a little free-lance operation undertaken by the train crews to earn a little extra money. 

There's actually a long history of entrepreneurial activities by those early train crews.  Very often, the restaurants that were set up first in the train stations were set up by the wives of the conductors.  The conductor would walk through the train, find out how many people wanted to have a meal at the next stop and then telegraph ahead to his wife and tell her how many people were coming to dinner.

In 1867, George Pullman introduced his hotel car.  It was the first car built specifically for cooking and serving meals while the train was in motion.

It changed the way both the railroad companies and the passengers thought about their meals.  Railroad dining cars became famous for top-quality food and service and they continued that tradition for almost 100 years. 

Having learned to offer their passengers a service that was basically a hotel and restaurant that moved, it was only logical that the railroads would get into the business of hotels and restaurants that didn't move.  The driving force behind this idea was a man named Cornelius Van Horne.  He was the president of the Canadian Pacific Railway.

He'd built a railroad through some of the most beautiful parts of our planet.  And he felt that if he could not export the scenery, the very least he could do was import the tourists.

And so the Canadian Pacific Railroad started to built resorts and hotels.  They also undertook an extensive communications program using artists to present Canada's natural beauty.  They wanted to show the country to potential visitors all over the world.  Paintings, posters, and eventually photographs and even films were commissioned by the company.

Directly across the street from the Toronto Train Station is the Royal York Hotel.  It was built in 1929 by the Canadian Pacific Railway.  At the time it opened, it was the largest hotel in the British empire.

It had 1,000 hotel rooms, a concert facility with 2,000 seats, its own small hospital, and a library with 12,000 books.  It also had a facility for demonstrating a new invention, the invention was called the “talking movie.”  Never worked.

Today the Royal York Hotel is an architectural signature for the City of Toronto.  It's surrounded by a cluster of bank towers that have risen in recent years, but its copper and limestone roof still stands out as the jewel in the city’s skyline.  The Royal York is a symbol of history.  It's been restored to its original grandeur on the surface, but it's also high-tech and up-to-date on the inside.  Different restaurants and bars offer an almost endless variety of culinary styles.

The lap-pool is as restful a place as you will find in a modern city.

The Royal York is a perfect example of the kind of hotel the Canadian Pacific built as it developed its non-moving facilities for travellers.

Crossing the border between Manitoba and Saskatchewan marks the midpoint in the transcontinental trip.  Saskatchewan is the center of Canada's vast expansive prairies.  It's the breadbasket of the nation, with some of the largest grain farms in the world. 

Historians tells us that when the last great glaciers began to recede, about 12,000 BC, the weather warmed up and we began to see the appearance of giant wild wheat fields.  This was easy food for our ancestors and they began to gather it and make it an important part of their diet.  They have to be right next to wheat when it's ready to harvest, and so small settlements began to develop at the fringes of these giant wheatfields.  Over the next 4,000 years, little by little, we learned to control and cultivate the wild wheat until wheat became our first real agricultural crop.  And that was an amazing thing to have done. 

Raw wheat is difficult to swallow and indigestible.  We learned to separate the edible part of the grain from the surrounding husks and to germinate or cook the wheat until it was edible.  Wheat was the basis of the porridges that sustained life for thousands of years.  It evolved into the breads which are still described as the staff of life. 

These are the wheatfields of Saskatchewan and these fields actually owe their rich soil to the glaciers that once covered them.

When you're looking at a wheat field, you're actually looking at the very beginning of agricultural civilization.

Saskatchewan is also the official home of the Northwest Mounted Police, who brought stability to this area in the 1800s.  That was followed by the arrival of the railroad, which resulted in a major immigration of Russian and Scandinavian colonists. 

On the second day of the trip I woke up in a Saskatchewan town called Bigger.  There was a wonderful sign on the train station; it said “New York is Big, But This Is Bigger.” 

Saskatchewan is also the place where Canada saw its last armed conflict.  There were a group of people who were the descendants of fur trappers and native Americans and they were having an ongoing dispute with the federal government.  In 1885, it broke out into an armed rebellion.  It was quickly put down because the railroads were able to get 3,000 troops to the place almost instantly.  The people loved the railroads, the government loved the railroads.  It gave the government an excuse to help with the politics and economics of the railroad expansion, and everybody thought of the railroads as essential to the defense of the nation.

These days, the people of Saskatchewan are dedicated to the defensive nature and when you get up to the northern part of the province, it's time to give them a gold star.  Especially if you enjoy fishing in some of the world's most beautiful country. 

Serious fishermen fly in by seaplane and spend their days casting for northern pike, walleye, whitefish, grayling, and giant lakers.  Like Magic Johnson?  No.

Anyway, a guy I met on the train told me that the last time he was fishing in Saskatchewan, the fish were biting so often that he had to take his line out of the water so he could have a peaceful moment to drink a beer.  Is that a fish story or a beer story?

There's a special spirit to the rural areas of Saskatchewan.  Visitors are always welcome at county fairs, farmers' markets and town suppers.  It's a spirit that speaks of family and oneness with the land. 

Saskatchewan also attracts tourists who are interested in wildlife.  Now, it’s not the kind of wildlife you find in Paris, but as I get older, it’s the kind of wildlife I like the best.  Saskatchewan prides itself on places designed to give tourists a good look at nature. 

As Via Rail's Transcontinental trail rolls through Saskatchewan, it passes some of the best fishing areas in North America, a fact which is regularly honored by the chefs on board.  You'll often see local fish on the menu.  Today it's pickerel, which is being prepared with tomato and basil. 

Via Rail chef David Kissack starts by making the sauce.  A little oil goes into a frying pan, followed by some chopped onion, and a chopped tomato.  It sautees together for about a minute.  Then in goes a tablespoon of capers and some chopped fresh basil.  Finally, a little Pernod.  Pernod is an alcoholic beverage that's very famous in the south of France.  It's really like a flavored wine and the flavor is licorice or anise.  Just about every country on the Northern side of the Mediterranean Sea has an anise-flavored alcoholic beverage.  If you were in Greece it would be ouzo.  If you were in Italy it would be Sambuca.  It's really an easy way to add that licorice flavor to a recipe.

The sauce is kept warm while the fish is cooked.  A boneless, skinless fillet of white fish is given a light coating of flour.  A little vegetable oil goes into a hot frying pan and as soon as it's hot, in goes the fish.  The fish cooks on one side for a minute, then it's flipped, and cooks on the other side for a minute more.  Then onto a serving dish.  The sauce goes on top, a few sauteed baby carrots, a mixture of wild and white rice, a few green beans and it's ready to serve.  Lots of taste for very few calories.

Capers are the buds of an unopened flower that have been pickled.

They're picked from a bush that we think originated in North Africa but these days they're growing in all countries that border on the Mediterranean Sea.  And we are beginning to see capers grown in the southern part of the United States. 

As a general rule, the smaller the caper, the better the quality.  The best are the tiny nonpareils.  The larger capers are very tasty, but stronger in flavor.  It's usually a good idea to chop up the larger capers before you use them in a recipe. 

It's also possible to change the flavoring that's been put in the capers by the pickling process.  When you get the jar home, pour off the liquid and pour in something that you like the flavor.  I usually put in sherry wine.  The alcohol in the sherry acts as a natural preservative and I really prefer the mild flavor of the sherry to the intensity of the brine that capers are usually packed in.

After a few days in the refrigerator, the capers will be milder and you will also have flavored the sherry which you can then use as a flavoring agent all by itself.

It's nice added to salad dressings or into the pan when you're making a quick sauce from pan drippings.  Especially with fish and poultry.


BURT WOLF:  Alberta.  Oil and natural gas below, fertile farmland in the middle, and cowboy culture on the top.  Canada is a large country.  It's the second largest country in the world, right behind Russia.  And Alberta gives you the opportunity to get a look at the variety and natural beauty of the nation. 

Rugged foothills in the eastern slopes of the great Rocky Mountains.  Great beauty, but not an ideal place for agriculture.  However, it is ideal for cattle, and Alberta has more beef cattle ranches than any other province in Canada.  Those ranches have given Alberta its cowboys. 

Every year the Alberta town of Calgary hosts the Calgary Stampede, ten days of the wildest part of the wild west, including the world's largest rodeo.  The most popular event is a chuck wagon race with $200,000 in prizes.  Only fitting that the big money go to the cooks.

Alberta's also home to the Jasper National Park.  Unspoiled despite the more than 2 million visitors that come here every year.  Waterfalls, gorges, the jagged peaks. 


BURT WOLF:  Even more important than Jasper's natural beauty is its role as a wildlife sanctuary.  Bighorn sheep, mountain goats, black bear and moose make Jasper their home.

Alberta is real cattle country.  You can see it in the land, you can see it in the culture and you can see it in the kitchens.  If you still want to know where's the beef, Alberta's a good place to look. 

And as Via Rail's Transcontinental passes through Alberta, it takes advantage of the area's great beef.

An example is this recipe from Medallions of Beef in a Tarragon Sauce.  Chef Kissack starts by heating a little oil and butter in a frying pan.  Then in go two medallions of beef, which are just thin slices cut from a tenderloin.  They cook for a minute on one side, and then a minute on the other.  David is using two spoons to turn the beef in order to be sure that he doesn't make any holes in the meat that would allow the juices to drain out.

As soon as the beef is cooked, it comes out of the pan and is held aside.  A little more oil goes into the same pan, plus a little chopped onion, chopped garlic, red wine, mustard, tarragon and beef stock.  Finally, a quarter cup of plain yogurt.  That cooks into a sauce that goes onto a serving plate.  Then the beef, some sauteed vegetables and some oven-browned potatoes. 

The herb tarragon seems to have originated in Asia and was brought to Eastern Europe by the invading Mongols, and it was the Crusaders who spread it out through western Europe.

The first time we actually see anybody writing about tarragon appears to be in the mid-1500s.  A botanist of the time wrote: “Tarragon is one of the most agreeable of salads, which requires neither salt nor vinegar for it possesses the taste of both these condiments.”  Good call.  Tarragon is actually an excellent replacement for salt, and anybody who is on a salt-restricted diet can use tarragon as a flavor enhancer. 

If you'd like to see what this stuff is really like, plant a few seeds of French tarragon in a window box.  When the leaves are ready to harvest, chop them up and add them to soups, sauces and salad dressings.  It's also an excellent addition to seafood and chicken recipes.

Most herbs have a stronger flavor in their dried form than when they are fresh.  Cooks usually use twice as much of the fresh herb in a recipe as they would if they were using the dried form. 

Tarragon is actually an exception to the rule.  When tarragon is dried, it loses much of the essential oils that contain its flavor.  So when you're substituting dried tarragon for fresh tarragon, use two or three times as much dried.


BURT WOLF:  British Columbia is Canada's most westerly province and with over 4300 miles of Pacific coastline, it is one of the most picturesque parts of North America. 

Hundreds of islands just offshore have made British Columbia a boater's dream come true.  Deep fjords cut into the land and offer protected areas for water sports.  Sailors, power boat lovers, and fishermen have all been attracted to British Columbia.  But the people of this province are good sports about almost everything.  When they're not on the water, they're in the mountains.

British Columbia is home to the Whistler and Blackcomb Ski Resorts, two of the most respected ski areas in the world.

Local instructors will start you off as soon as you can walk, and when you have mastered the art, local helicopter pilots will take you up to the most beautiful peaks so you come down through pristine snow.

At the base of the mountain is the Chateau Whistler Resort, managed in the great tradition by a division of the Canadian Pacific Railway. 

British Columbia's biggest city is Vancouver, with some of the best food in Canada.  Vancouver has a large Chinese section with dozens of excellent restaurants and food shops.

There's also a restaurant that offers the traditional food of the native tribes.  Good eaters should know about the Granville Island Public Market.  Every day small shopkeepers offer a wide selection of top-quality foods, from freshly-caught salmon to freshly-baked breads.

At the edge of the downtown district is Stanley Park, with a six-mile walk that presents some of the best views of the city and the surrounding waters.

One amazing thing about this park is that it is literally across the street from the city's commercial center.  There's also a neighborhood called Gastown, named after a fellow called Gassy Jack Deighton.  He was a local bartender with a real gift for gab.  Gassy's bar is gone but in its place are a series of charming streets lined with art, antique, and craft dealers.  They continue the tradition of gabbing, but the conversational content has been considerably upgraded.


BURT WOLF:  The oldest ongoing conversation in this area has been taking place for over 30,000 years and it's been between the Native tribes and their spirits.  As a result, British Columbia can offer the visitor a fascinating look into the culture of the first people to inhabit this part of the world.  If your timing is right, you might even get a chance to join them for a traditional salmon roast.


Since the time of the earliest human settlements in this area, the local waters have been the key to transportation.  During the last 100 years the canoe has given way to the famous B.C. Ferry service.  Their fleet is larger than most navies, and essential to the area's continued growth.

About an hour's ferry ride off the coast is Vancouver Island, home of the province's capital city of Victoria.  In the center of town is the Empress Hotel, which is like a time capsule from late 19th Century England.

Afternoon tea in the hotel has been a tradition since the building opened in 1908.  And each afternoon the restaurant serves a curry in remembrance of the days when India was part of the British empire.

But Vancouver Island, like the rest of British Columbia, is a major sports center.  Chartered fishing boats will take you out for salmon, hiking trails along the coast will invite you to a greater appreciation of nature, and the only bridge built specifically for bungy jumping will give you a chance to evaluate your sanity.

Why?  Why would you want to do this?  Aren't there enough ups and downs in life as it is?

One of the largest and most important ethnic groups in British Columbia are the Chinese.  They started arriving here in the mid-1800s as part of a work force to build the transcontinental railroad.  They stayed, expanded their numbers and became a vital part of the community, especially when it comes to food. 

They have a significant number of great restaurants and have influenced cooking through Canada. 

A perfect example is this dish of Beef and Broccoli prepared by George McNeill at the Royal York Hotel.  George starts by taking two cups of beef that have been cut into bite-size strips and mixing them together with two beaten egg whites.  And a dusting with a tablespoon of cornstarch.  A little oil goes into a hot wok, followed by a touch of sesame oil.  A few slices of fresh ginger, a half cup of chopped onion and the beef.  Interesting mixture of equipment.  A traditional Chinese wok with standard Western chef's tongs to do the stirring.  Some old habits just hang on.

A set of chef's tongs are like an extra hand.  And one that's heat-proof too.

Next, a little chicken stock.  Two cups of blanched broccoli flowerets, two tablespoons of oyster sauce, a few tablespoons of sesame seeds and it's ready to serve. 

A ceramic sculpture of a Chinese farmer goes on the place.  A truly optional ingredient.  Then some green onion made to look like leaves and flowers, carrots, and finally the beef.

George makes those carrot flowers by cutting a series of strips along the length of the carrot and then slicing the carrot into rounds.  Green onions are blanched for a moment in boiling water, then opened up flat and cut into leaves.


BURT WOLF:  The west coast of Canada is one of the most beautiful parts of our planet, and the native tribes have been here for thousands of years when the first Englishman showed up.  It was Captain Cook on yet another leg of his world tour of discovery.

The year was 1793 and ever since then, English culture has been in the neighborhood.  It is particularly evident in the daily afternoon service of English tea with scones.

Chef McNeill is Scottish and he can scone with the best of them.

What's the secret to making a great scone?

McNEILL:  The secret is to mix all the dry ingredients together before you add the liquids because the liquids will activate the proteins in the flour and that's what makes the scones tough.

BURT WOLF:  Gotcha.  He starts by mixing together four cups of all-purpose flour and a tablespoon of baking powder.  Then in goes a half cup of chopped walnuts, a half cup of raisins, and a half cup of apricots.  In a second bowl, a cup of milk is combined with one egg, a half cup of sugar, and a quarter cup of melted butter.  Both bowls of ingredients are mixed together to make a dough.  Baking soda and baking powder are chemically active ingredients that make dough rise.  The actual chemical activity starts when the powder or soda first comes in contact with moisture.  But you really want it to do its stuff while the dough is in the oven, so the trick is to shorten the time between the contact with the wet ingredients and the dough going into the oven.  The last-minute blending helps.  The dough is rolled out to a thickness of about an inch and cut into rounds.  The rounds go onto a parchment-covered baking sheet.  A quick paint job with an eggwash. 

A second tray goes underneath and that's important.  It spreads out the heat and prevents the bottom of the scones from burning.

Then in a 350 degree oven for fifteen minutes.  When they come out, they get a dusting of powdered sugar and they're ready for afternoon tea. 

Part of the increase in tea drinking is the result of a growing concern about caffeine and, of course, there's confusion.  Which has more caffeine?  Coffee or tea?  Well, here's where the confusion comes in.  If you take a pound of coffee and a pound of tea, there will be more caffeine in the pound of tea.  But that is only because you were measuring by weight.  Coffee is much heavier and there's much less of it in a pound. 

But when you go to make a cup of coffee, you use much more coffee than the amount of tea you use to make a cup of tea.  As a result, the amount of caffeine in a cup of coffee is much more than in a cup of tea.

However, there is one thing you should bear in mind in connection with tea and good health.  Tea contains a substance called tannin.  Tannin tends to bind up with iron and prevent that iron from being absorbed by your body.  And iron's a very important nutrient.

Scientists who are studying the problem suggest that we limit our tea consumption to two or three cups a day and that we add milk to that tea.  Milk binds up with the tannin, and that leaves the iron free to be absorbed by your body.

Well, that's the end of the line on board Canada's Via Rail.  Please join us next time as we travel around the world looking for good things to eat and drink at Burt Wolf's Table.

Burt Wolf's Table: Across Canada, Via Rail Part 1 - #214

BURT WOLF:  As the Via Rail trains of Canada travel from coast to coast, they give you a good look at the natural beauty of the second largest country in the world.  They also give you the opportunity to stop off and taste the foods that have become part of the nation's gastronomic history...  from the elegant influence of the French in Ontario, to the down-home meals of the Eastern Europeans in Manitoba.  So join me as we travel across Canada at Burt Wolf's Table.


In 1836, a tiny locomotive called the Dorchester hauled Canada's first train into the age of the railroads.  It was one of the most important events in the history of Canada.  At the time the movement of both passengers and freight was extremely difficult.  There was a great sense of isolation between many of the communities.

That sense of isolation was of enormous concern to a group of people who were trying to bring Canada together into one great nation, a nation that would stretch from the Atlantic Coast to the Pacific Coast.  As soon as the railroad pioneers got into business, it became apparent that the fastest way to build that nation was to connect everybody up with a coast-to-coast railroad.  Ah, but there was a problem.  In 1980, thousands of California gold miners had gone up to the western part of Canada to look for more gold.  The citizens there were in an area called British Columbia, and there was a real chance that that whole place was going to become part of the United States.  The Canadian government couldn't stand that, so they raced over to British Columbia and began to negotiate with the citizens there to join Canada.  And they said fine, but first you've got to connect us all up with a coast-to-coast railroad. 

The first contract for construction was signed in 1874.  Five thousand men and seventeen hundred teams of horses went to work.  The task was extremely difficult, especially in the mountains of the west.  Bridges had to be built over rivers that constantly changed their banks.  The road bed had to be blasted and chopped out of solid rock.  Getting supplies to the construction crews was a superhuman task.  The original funding proved to be insufficient and it looked like the company might fail.

And then a most unusual series of events came into play.  There were a group of people who were the descendents of French trappers and local natives who had had a longstanding dispute with the federal government.  In 1885, it broke out into armed conflict.  And it looked like it was going to get out of hand.  Until suddenly three thousand troops showed up right in the middle of the battle and put the rebellion to an end.  They were able to show up almost instantly because they came by railroad.  One result is that everybody who had anything to do with the railroad was suddenly a hero with the federal government.

That gave the government the popular support that it needed in order to help fund the railroad's construction.  On November 7, 1885, the last spike on the Canadian Pacific Railway was driven home and regular train travel between Canada's east and west coast got underway. 

The railroads had received large grants of land from the federal government, which they could lease for sale to settlers.  The railroads quickly realized that the best way to market their land was to do everything they could to encourage immigration to Canada.  The great waves of immigrants that arrived on the shores of North America during the second half of the 1800's represented a major commercial opportunity for the railroads.  This is a photograph from the 1890's showing a train packed with men newly arrived from Europe and on their way to the west.  It shows Eastern Europeans in what was called a colonist's car.  The racks above the seats were sold as sleeping areas.

There was a coordinated program to keep the new arrivals together by ethnic group, make them feel more comfortable in their new surroundings.  Then they would write back home and tell their relatives that everything was fine.  And more relatives would come over.  It became big business, it became good business and it met the government's objectives for greater and greater immigration.  Well, Canada is a huge country and from the beginning of its European colonization, it has been hungry for people.  And that makes perfectly good sense.  It is one of the most beautiful places in the world.  It would be a shame if there was nobody here to see it. 


During the Second World War, there was an enormous increase in passenger train travel.  Gas rationing and troop movement sent the railroads into a period of great expansion.  After the war, the Canadian railways built a series of cars specifically designed for sightseeing.  Cars with considerable luxury were introduced and the golden years of Canadian railroading got underway.  And rolled on right up to the end of the 60's. 

By the 70's, however, most people were doing their traveling by plane and car.  Passenger traffic on trains had dropped off to a point where it was no longer economically feasible for the railroads to run the kind of passenger service that they had run in the past.  But passenger service was too important to the people of Canada.  And so the Canadian government stepped in and organized a company called Via Rail.  Via Rail's job was to bring back the "Golden Age" of passenger trains and they're doing a great job.

This is Via Rail's most dramatic train; it’s called the Canadian and it runs right across the country from Toronto to Vancouver.  The trip takes three days, and its quite an adventure.

My favorite part of the train is the last car; it’s called the Bullet Lounge.  Armchairs rest against the walls of the car and passengers sit around the room chatting and watching the fast- changing scenery through the panoramic windows.  The clocks are set to each of the country's time zones through which the train travels.  In the center of the Bullet Lounge is a staircase that leads up to the observation dome, an extraordinary spot for viewing the Canadian  landscape.  Can't think of a nicer seat for a traveler.

When you get on board the Canadian you are given a guide book that does an amazing job for you.  When the railroads were first built, they were divided into “railway division points.”  And that's not a standard measure, like a mile or a kilometer; it’s actually the distance that a steel locomotive could travel in one day at the time the particular line was built.  Now, within those division points are standard mile markers.  Mile marker zero is where the locomotive started its day and two or two-fifty would be where it ended its day.  As you travel along and you look out the window, you'll see the mile marker number; you check it in the book and it tells you where you are and the significance of the place outside.  It's like having a personal guide with you through the entire trip, but you only get the information you want and when you want it.  It's a good system.

There are five different types of accommodations.  The largest is the drawing room which has three beds; next is the bedroom which has two beds; and third is the roomette with a single bed.  Each of these has its own armchairs and washroom facilities.  The train also has something called an open-section berth.  The seats are a little more or less public during the day, and turn into closed sleeping areas at night.  Finally there are standard coach seats. 

I went across Canada in this car with my son James, three days and three nights.  James got the top bunk, I got the bottom bunk and he got there before me.  Oh, maybe just a little bit.  At first I thought it was going to be a little cramped, but it turned out to be much more roomy than I thought, or maybe James was just better company than I expected.

It's interesting to see how the sitting room turns into the sleeping room.


Now that is an efficient use of space.


And of course there is the dining car:  linen- covered tables, porcelain, silverware, fresh flowers and excellent service.  Via Rail is achieving considerable success in its effort to bring back the good old days of restaurant gastronomy. 


Transcontinental trains going from east to west start out from the city of Toronto.  Toronto is the largest city in Canada and a major business and cultural center.  The CN Tower, which is the world's tallest free-standing structure, dominates the skyline.  CN stands for Canadian National, which is one of the two great companies that built this nation's railways.  Toronto is one of the most livable cities in North America; relatively clean and safe with an excellent system of public transportation.  Toronto is also a city of extraordinary ethnicity.  The Huron tribes who lived here for thousands of years gave this area the name Toronto, which means “a place of meetings.”  And that is still a perfect description.  During the last hundred and fifty years dozens of different immigrant groups settled here and carved out their own neighborhoods, with Greeks, the Italians, the Portuguese, the Chinese, the Ukrainians, the Japanese and a large group from the Caribbean.  They have each held on to just enough of their history and customs to give the city a rich and complex pattern of traditions.  They've also given the city a marvelous selection of restaurants.  Toronto is a great place for food lovers.  This is Toronto's Union Station which was built in 1927.  It is the departure point for all transcontinental passengers heading west, and today that includes me. 

Within an hour after departure, he urban surroundings give way to the countryside of Ontario.  Ontario is a native word that means “shining waters.”  The Iroquois people who named the area were right on target, since Ontario contains one-fourth of the world's entire supply of fresh water.  The train constantly passes lakes, ponds, rivers and streams as it zips through the province.  Ontario is huge, larger than any country in Europe and any state in the U.S. except Alaska.  And in spite of the fact that it contains Canada's largest urban center, ninety percent of the province is still unspoiled forest.

The kitchens on Canada's Via Rail trains are not the easiest kitchens that I have ever worked in, but they do have two distinct advantages.  First of all, they make the cooks select recipes that give you the most taste for the least work.  And second, the scenery outside the window is always changing.  One of the most popular dishes on the menu that also gives you lots of taste for very little effort is this chicken breast in a port wine sauce.  Chef David Kissack starts by giving a boneless skinless chicken breast a light coating of flour.  A little vegetable oil goes into a heated frying pan and then the chicken goes in and cooks for two minutes on one side and three minutes on the other.  When it’s cooked, it comes out of the pan and is held aside.  A quarter cup of milk goes into the pan, a tablespoon of low-fat cream cheese, two tablespoons of sun-dried tomatoes and about a tablespoon of port wine.  Then the chicken goes back in to mix with the sauce, and it’s ready to plate.  Half of the sauce goes onto the serving plate, then the chicken, the second half of the sauce, some sauteed vegetables and finally some potatoes. 

One of our earliest pieces of cooking equipment was the griddle:  a flat surface being heated from below, the food being cooked on top.  At some point in history someone decided that holding a little more moisture around the fruit was a good idea.  Edges on the cooking surface got turned up and the first frying pan went into action.  It's very similar to a saute pan; the only design difference is in the sides.  Frying pans curve out, saute pans are straight-sided.  The theory here is that the saute pan is used for flipping the food around; the word “saute” is French and actually means “to jump.”  The straight sides help keep the food in the pan.  The frying pan is used for foods that take a turn and then depart.

When you're buying a frying pan, it’s important to pick one out that's made of highly heat-conductive material.  You want the heat to get from the burner to the food as quickly and as intensely as possible.  Good materials are aluminum, lined copper and cast iron.  You also want to choose a pan where the handle is very well-connected to the pan.  This is the part of the design that's going take the most pressure, so you want it to work well.  It's also nice to have a pan with a handle that is heat-proof so you can put it in an oven.  There are lots of recipes where the pan starts out on the burner and then ends up in the oven.  So a heat-proof handle could be a great help.

As the Canadian continues its way through the province of Ontario, the chefs advance their preparations for the first dinner seating.  The dish that will be on the menu tonight is sauteed shrimp with paprika.

A little vegetable oil goes into a non-stick frying pan; as soon as it’s hot, in goes a quarter cup of chopped onions, followed by a few sliced mushrooms.  That gets sauteed for a minute, at which point the chef adds a tablespoon of chopped garlic and a quarter cup of chopped tomato.  Five shrimp and a half teaspoon of paprika.  Finally a splash of white wine, a little salt and pepper and some cilantro leaves.  Rice that's been colored by cooking it with turmeric goes on the plate, the shrimp in the center, a little more cilantro, and it’s ready to serve.

The simplest description of paprika is that it is a spice made by grinding red peppers into powder.  Paprika first got to Europe when Spanish explorers brought it home from the New World just after the time of Columbus.  It went from Spain to Italy, the Turks found it in Italy and brought it to Hungary where they were hanging out anyway.  It was a very important move for it; it was kind of like when Bette Midler moved from Hawaii to Hollywood -- things opened up.  It appears that Hungary has just the right soil and climate to get this stuff at its most intense heat and flavor.  But for the first two hundred years of growing it in Hungary, it was more heat and not enough flavor.  Then in the mid 1800's, two Hungarian brothers figured out how to make this stuff without the seeds and the veins.  Lots of taste, not too much heat;  it became a really important spice all over Europe. 

Paprika is thought of as being healthful, and these days we're finding out why:  it's packed with vitamins A and C.

Vitamin A and vitamin C are now described as anti-oxidants and it appears that they may retard the growth of cancer and reduce the effects of aging.  I should say the negative effects of aging, because as I grow older and encounter some of these effects, I find that some of them are wonderful and some of them are not so wonderful.

The most striking thing about a trip across Canada on a Via Rail train is the magnificent scenery.  The train's specially designed dome cars make it possible to really see what this country looks like.  Even though my job is to travel around the world making professional video pictures for television, I ended up taking my own home video of the trip.  A busman's holiday. 

As the train enters the Province of Manitoba, the land opens up into wide and level river valleys.  Manitoba has over two hundred major lakes, and their fresh waters offers some of Canada's finest fishing, for pike, perch and lake trout.  Manitoba's one of Canada's prairie provinces, part of the country's heartland.  The landscape was shaped by glaciers during the Ice Age, and it's marked by deep rivers and flat rich tablelands.  The first people to inhabit the area were nomadic bison hunters.  The first Europeans into Manitoba were French fur traders who had a bad habit of trading whiskey to the natives in exchange for skins. 

The Canadian Mounted Police came here to stop that practice and they eventually consolidated the area into what is today's province.  Many of the people who originally came here were brought by the railroads to settle on land owned by the railroads.  It was an early stop for the immigrant trains that brought people from Poland, Hungary, Germany, Greece and the Ukraine.

Manitoba is one of the most fertile farm areas in Canada.  It grows beets, corn, potatoes and wheat.  Wheat is one of Canada's major crops and millions of tons of it are exported every year.  And it was the need to move wheat from the center of Canada to its coastal ports that set Canada into developing its national railway system.  Freight trains carrying wheat are a standard part of the Canadian landscape.

Wheat is a form of grass, an essential element in the civilization of man.  Historians tell us that our ancient ancestors were nomadic.  They would wander from place to place in search of food.  But somewhere about seven thousand years ago, we began to settle down near stands of wild wheat.  And we figured how to plant the grain so we would have a dependable supply.

Next thing you know, we had jobs and mortgages and wheat became the staff of life.  Wheat plays a very important role in the stability of nations where wheat is the primary cereal.  Whenever a nation cannot deliver enough of its primary cereal to meet the needs of its people, it's on its way down the tubes.  We saw it in Ancient Greece, we saw it in Ancient Rome, and most recently we saw it in Russia.  For hundreds of years Russia produced so much wheat that it could meet the needs of its people and actually export some.  Then during its Communist period, wheat production became so bad that the Russians began importing wheat.  Millions and millions of tons every year from Canada and the United States.  A couple of years later, and you see the beginning of the end of its economic system.  As soon as a country cannot deliver its primary cereal to its citizens, it's on its way out.


The farms of Canada have been central to the nation's growth.  Farms that were settled in the 1800's by thousands of immigrants who came here from all over Europe.  One of the most important groups came from Germany.  And they produced the type of farm that they had worked on back in their original home towns.

They also tried to reproduce the recipes that they remembered from their childhood.  The meat that had been part of German cooking for hundreds of years was soon on their table.  That meat was pork, and it was there in just about every form you could think of.

Today Executive Chef George McNeill of Toronto's Royal York Hotel is preparing a traditional German stuffed porkchop.  A little vegetable oil goes into a frying pan.  As soon as it’s hot, in goes some chopped carrot, onion and celery.  Plus a few ounces of soup stock.  That cooks for two minutes and goes into a mixing bowl.  Cubes of pumpernickel bread are added and half a beaten egg.  All that's pressed together to make a stuffing; nutmeg, oregano and thyme are the seasonings.

At this point the stuffing goes into the refrigerator to cool down, which makes it a lot easier to stuff.

Next, a loin of pork with the bone in is cut into chops.  A pocket is cut into each chop and then stuffed with the stuffing.  A wooden skewer is used to hold the pocket closed.  A little vegetable oil is heated in a frying pan and in go the stuffed chops.  Two minutes of cooking on each side will give the chops color.

GEORGE McNEILL:  You notice that we have the very long toothpicks because we want to make sure that we remove them before the customer gets them.  A lot of people at home will put the very small toothpicks because they're more readily available.  Often they'll leave them in, but since it's family it really doesn't matter.

BURT (to George):   Not fair!

BURT WOLF:  Then onto a heat-proof dish.  A little apple juice goes into the pan and the drippings from the chops are scraped into it.  Half of that is poured on top of the chops, at which point they go into a 375 degree oven for forty minutes.  The remaining apple juice gets an addition of stock, a little salt and pepper and ten minutes of boiling to reduce and thicken.  The chops come out of the oven and they're ready to plate.  A little red cabbage, some German noodles called spaetzel, a chop, watercress and the pan gravy. 

During the 1980's there was a substantial decline in the amount of pork eaten in North America.  The reduction was in part caused by the public's interest in a diet that was lower in fat.  Medical researchers were discovering the importance of a low-fat diet.  At the time pork was very high in fat, and so it quickly got on the Very Limited Consumption list.  Well, the pork producers got the message, and today's pork is thirty percent lower in fat than it was in 1983. Which is not to say that pork has suddenly become a low-fat food.  We're not talking poached haddock here, but there is a place for pork in a healthful diet.

The leanest cuts of pork come from the loin.  And only about twenty percent of the calories in a pork loin comes from fat.  If you're looking for a low-fat alternative to regular bacon, take a look at Canadian bacon.  It's a pork loin that has been smoked and cured.  Only forty-one percent of the calories in Canadian bacon come from fat.  Regular bacon gets seventy-four percent of its calories from fat.

I say it over and over again to remind myself -- that's something you do as you get a little bit older -- there are no good foods, there are no bad foods, there are just inappropriate amounts.  If you choose your pork from a lean cut, serve it in moderate portions of about four ounces and cook it to 170 degrees, you should be fine.


The massive immigration of Europeans to North America started in the middle of the 1800's; millions of them came from Eastern Europe.  One of the largest groups of Eastern Europeans came from Poland.  Many of them settled in the prairie provinces of Canada and put the fertile farmland to good use.  Their cooking became a basic part of the ethnic cuisines of Canada.

Executive Chef George McNeill of Toronto's Royal York Hotel often uses typical Polish farm recipes as part of his home cooking.  Right now he's preparing stuffed cabbage.

Cabbage leaves are cooked in boiling water for three minutes, and then dried out.  The stuffing is made by sauteing a little vegetable oil with a chopped onion, a cup of ground pork and two cups of precooked rice.  That's placed onto the cabbage; the leaves are rolled up.  They go into a heat-proof dish, seam-side down.  A little stock goes in and they're off to a 350 degree oven for thirty-five minutes.  The sauce is made by sauteing chopped onion, mushrooms and a touch of cream.  Some of that sauce goes onto the plate.  The cabbage returns, a little more sauce and its ready.

That's the traditional Polish farm recipe, and the cream is fine because the Polish farmers were out there burning those calories.  I don't actually get to do much farm work these days, so I leave out the high-fat cream and I put in chopped tomatoes and their juices; it still works fine.

The round tightly closed cabbages that we use today were developed about a thousand years ago, by the farmers of Northern Europe.  Before then, cabbages were a much more open and loose affair. 

Cabbages like this, with their compact heads, became a very important food source to the people of Northern Europe.  They thrive in cold weather and they store well.  Along with broccoli, cauliflower and brussels sprouts, they are members of a family called the cruciferous vegetables -- and what a family it is, too.  You can spot a cruciferous vegetable by looking at its base.  You'll see a series of thick ribs that form a cross.  That's the “cross” in “cruciferous.”  Scientists have been studying these cruciferous vegetables, and they find that there is something in them that is a cancer blocker.  They don't know what it is, or how it works, but they've got enough research to tell us to get more cruciferous vegetables into our diet.

When you're picking out a cabbage in your supermarket, look for heads that feel heavy and look solid for their size.  You also want healthy- looking outside leaves without any cracks that are caused by drying out.  And the leaves should be tightly attached to the stem.

And don't cut your cabbage until you're just about to use it.  As soon as you cut a cabbage, it begins to lose its vitamin C.


Well we've come to the end of the line here  in Manitoba.  Please join us next time as we continue to travel around the world looking for good things to eat and drink at Burt Wolf's Table.

Burt Wolf's Table: Miami - #213

BURT WOLF:  Miami, Florida, the spot where millionaires built their winter castles.  We'll tour the art deco paradise of South Miami Beach, visit a five-star hotel in Coconut Grove, and make a batch of cookies that you'll really get a kick out of.  This is the land of surf and turf, the return of Miami Spice.  So join me in Miami at Burt Wolf's Table.

BURT WOLF:  The first people to move into the Miami area were members of the Native American tribes who came here from Alaska.  I guess that made them the first snowbirds.  They lived wherever there was fresh water and had a pretty good life.  The idea of fun in the sun was attractive even fifteen thousand years ago.  The first European to pop in was Juan Ponce De Leon who showed up in 1513 looking for the Fountain Of Youth, a fantasy that still attracts people to the neighborhood.  The English and the Spanish fought over the area until the early years of the 1800's when it became part of the United States.  But not much really happened around here until the very last years of that century.

The railroad finally arrived in Miami in 1896 and that really started heating things up.  Miami became America's sun porch; the rich and famous started coming down from the north and building their winter homes.  Land speculators sold everything they could think of, including thousands of acres that were actually under water.  During the Second World War, Miami became a major training area for the military.  One out of every four officers in the air corps trained in Miami.  And when the war was over, many of them headed back.  During the 1950's it was the hottest vacation spot in the Western Hemisphere.  There were some difficult times in the 70's and 80's, but Miami has bounced back.

Get a good look at how Miami Vice has turned into Miami Nice, Al Guthrie of International Helicopter Service is giving us the grand tour.

I first saw Miami Beach during the 1940's and it was quite a piece of work.  My hotel faced out on a beach lined with palm trees.  The Atlantic Ocean was right in front of my door and I was swimming while my classmates back up north were bundling themselves up against the cold.  My Uncle Maxwell had taken me here for a Christmas vacation and I loved it.

During the 50's Miami Beach became one of the world's great centers of excess.  Hotels turned up their air conditioning as high as possible, so guests could wear their mink jackets to dinner.

The biggest names in the entertainment world played the clubs, and “The Great One,” Jackie Gleason, broadcast his weekly TV series from a Miami Beach studio.

JACK BENNY:  Let me tell you what he had for lunch, you won't believe it, he had a shrimp cocktail, right?  He had a little small green salad...


JACK BENNY:  ... and ...  and an apple, isn't that right? 

JACKIE GLEASON:  Positively right. 

JACK BENNY:  Of course, the apple was in a pig's mouth...

BURT WOLF:  In the 70's things began to decline and Miami Beach fell into a state of tragic deterioration.  Miami Beach, however, has had more comebacks than Peggy Lee and it’s in the middle of one right now.

Today South Miami Beach is known as So Be, developers are calling it the American Riviera, and the celebrities are coming back.  Hundreds of millions of dollars have been spent to renovate the hotels and apartment buildings in the area.  Oceanfront cafes are packed, and the restaurants are the hottest on the East Coast.  One of the most important maitre’ds in New York City came down and opened up Cassis.  This is a community that eats out every night.  Of the city's top ten restaurants, half are on the beach.  A number of major modeling agencies have moved in and the entire area has become a set for photographers.  In 1979, a hundred and twenty-five block area was designated as the art deco district and entered into the National Register Of Historic Places.  They are the only twentieth-century buildings to be given that honor.

The art deco style got started at the turn of the century; the objective was to blend together the designs of decorative artists with the technology of mass production.  A lot of the details were taken from ocean liners that were popular during the period.

Over five hundred art deco buildings were constructed on Miami Beach; almost all of them went up during the Great Depression of the 1930's.  Part of the objective of the designers was to make people feel better about their environment.  Pastel colors were used, lots of racing stripes.  Round windows like those on ships.  Decorative designs that reminded everyone that they were in the tropics.  The particular style used on the beach became known as “tropical deco” and it feels as good today as it did back then.

Miami Beach is surrounded by the warm waters of the Atlantic.  Home for bathing beauties, boating enthusiasts, and some of the world's best seafood. 

The most famous local speciality is probably the stone crab.  Stone crabs are found all along the East Coast from North Carolina to Mexico.  But they're only taken commercially in Florida.  Stone crabs have an amazing ability:  they can lose a claw and grow it right back.  It's an adaptive survival process; when an enemy grabs ahold of a claw, the stone crab just gives it up and takes off.  But each of those claws can exert over thirteen thousand pounds of pressure per square inch.  They use that pressure to crack the shell of oysters, which is their favorite food.  When Florida fishermen harvest stone crabs, they bring them up, break off a claw and toss them back.

The restaurant that put stone crabs on the gastronomic map is called Joe's Stone Crab.  And it sits on the southern tip of Miami Beach.  It's only open from October to May, which just happens to be the stone crab season.  The restaurant serves almost a ton of crab every day.  Because the meat is so rich, there are only three to five claws to a serving.  And that's more than enough.  They come with a light mustard sauce, cole slaw and fried sweet potatoes.

Joe's Stone Crab is the oldest restaurant on Miami Beach.  It got started in 1913 when Joe and Jenny Weiss moved here from New York City.  They bought a bungalow on South Beach, cooked inside and served on the front porch.  Today it's in its own sprawling building, one of the most successful restaurants in the world.  And it is now training the fourth generation of Joe's family.

Steven Saurwitz is Joe's great-grandson and he's working with me to adapt for home use their famous recipe for key lime pie.

Start by mixing together one and quarter cups of crushed graham crackers, a quarter cup of sugar and a third of a cup of melted margarine.  Press that into a nine-inch pie pan to form a crust.  Bake that for 10 minutes in a preheated 350-degree oven.  While that's baking, mix together 28 ounces of sweetened condensed milk, five egg yolks, one cup of lime juice and the zest of one lime.

A couple of lime tips:  these days we raise our limes for shipping qualities as well as juicing qualities.  But when you get them home they're usually kind of tough.  What you want to do is squeeze them and break up the inside fiber or roll them on a hard surface.  If you do that you will get about twice as much juice out of them.  Also when you're zesting them, you want just the green outside surface, it’s a very thin skin.  If you get the white connective tissue right under that skin, it will be bitter.

Take the crust out of the oven, pour the filling into it, then back into the oven for 10 minutes more.

When it comes out of the oven, it goes into the freezer for at least one hour and then it’s ready to serve.

Just south of Downtown Miami is an area known as Coconut Grove.  The first settlers came in before the Civil War, but not much happened until the late 1880's, at which time Miami's very first hotel opened for business.  The prestigious Biscayne Bay Yacht Club came into existence.  James Deering, the man who made his millions with the International Harvester Company, built himself a seventy room Italian Renaissance mansion which he called Vizcaya.  These days it’s operated as a museum for Deering's collection of fifteenth and sixteenth century art.  Coconut Grove has one of the oldest homes in the area, built in 1891.  Its called The Barnacle, because its steep hipped roof is shaped like a barnacle.  Coconut Grove has been able to hold onto its past while incorporating the latest fashions.  The main street is lined with sidewalk cafes and boutiques and has much if not more street life than any other part of town. 

Coconut Grove is the site of Miami's first hotel and these days, its also the site of Miami's most elegant hotel, the Grand Bay.  Its the first of the CIGA hotels in the United States.  CIGA stands for The Italian Company Of Grand Hotels,  which is a pretty good description.  CIGA operates some of the grandest hotels in the world, including the Danielli that opened up in Venice in the 1300's.   You know, when you've been in business for 700 years, you pick up these little tips that make your hotel special. 

The Grand Bay in Coconut Grove is true to the tradition.  It’s the only Mobil five-star hotel in Florida.  Shaped like a Mayan temple, it looks out on beautiful Biscayne Bay.  A bright red Alexander Liebermann sculpture marks the entrance.  The public rooms are decorated with a collection of art and antiques, and the staff has been trained to the top European standards of CIGA.  The penthouse is occupied by Regine's Nightclub, which is available to hotel guests, as well as its private members.  For me, one of Grand Bay's most unique and valuable works is Katsuo Sugura.  Nicknamed Suki, he was chosen by Food and Wine Magazine as one of America's top new chefs.  Born in Japan and trained throughout Europe and the U.S., Suki makes art to eat.  This is his recipe for grilled Florida shrimp.

Jumbo Florida shrimp are peeled and cleaned. 

SUKI:  Well, shrimp is not very difficult to peel it, but not many people realize there is an end of the tail, there is a very pointed end to the shells.  I always take it out and because this is safer and sometimes hurting people for infected fingers.

BURT WOLF:  A marinade is made from a half cup of vegetable oil, the zest of an orange, the zest of a lime, a tablespoon of minced basil, thyme and parsley and a tablespoon of minced garlic.  All that gets mixed together and the shrimp get set into it for two to three hours. 

While the shrimp are resting in the marinade, Chef Suki sautes a few vegetables.  Slices of fennel, zucchini, hearts of artichoke, a little crushed garlic.  Slices of red bell pepper and a little salt and pepper.  Finally a splash of balsamic vinegar.  That cooks down for a minute, a vinaigrette sauce is made from a little oil, orange juice concentrate.  Grapefruit concentrate.  Lime juice, honey and mustard.  The shrimp come out of the marinade and are grilled for two minutes on each side.  The vegetables go onto the plate, then the shrimp, a little of the vinaigrette sauce on top.  Chef Suki's choice of Florida shrimp for his recipe is part of a long tradition in this state. 

Seafood is a billion dollar business in Florida with fisherman bringing in over a hundred different varieties.  Each area along the state's coast has a different seafood character and each has worked to the advantage of the seafood lover.  Commercial fishing is actually Florida's oldest industry.

The original Spanish colonists to arrive here in he 1500's started the practice.  They caught the fish in the waters around Florida, dried them, salted them and sold them to Havana and the other Spanish colonies in the West Indies.  Their biggest season was lent, when the Spanish Catholics gave up eating meat.  But the biggest breakthrough for Florida fishermen didn't come until 1950 when they discovered pink shrimp in the deep waters of the Tortugas.

The quality of the product is so high that it is almost always the first choice of chefs.  It’s also a good choice for a heart-healthy diet.  Shrimp is low in overall fat as well as saturated fat. 

Shrimp has some cholesterol, but remember, scientists are telling us that it’s fat, particularly saturated fat that's a problem.  Prepare your shrimp with a low-fat recipe and you're in good shape.

Florida's seafood industry goes back to the Spanish colonists of the 1500's.  And so does its involvement with cattle.  The state has a five hundred year history in surf and turf.

When the Spanish explorer Ponce De Leon made his second voyage to Florida in 1521, he brought the first cattle onto land that would eventually become part of the United States.  Which makes Florida the oldest cattle-raising state in the country. 

It's still a major cattle producing area, but the cattle that's being produced these days reflects the desire of the cattlemen to meet the interests of the consumer. We all want a diet that's lower in fat, so the cattlemen are using breeding and feeding techniques that produce an animal that's lower in fat.  But the cut of beef you choose in the market has a lot to do with the fat content.  The easiest way to remember which cuts are low in fat, is to remember the words “round” and “loin.”  The butcher might mark the package “round tip” or “eye of round,” or “top round.”  Loin could be “top loin,” or “sirloin,” or “tenderloin.”  As long as you see the words “round” or “loin,” you are buying a lean cut of beef with about a hundred and eighty calories in a three-ounce serving.  Beef is one our best sources of iron, which is the nutrient most often lacking in the diets of adult women and young children.  Its also a good source of zinc, niacin and vitamin B12.

When someone's described as “a real Florida cracker,” it usually means that they are country folk, or that they were born in the state.  But the phrase “cracker” actually goes back a couple of hundred years to the early Florida cowboys.  When they would move their herds around, they were assisted by an eighteen-foot-long rawhide whip.  They would use that whip to make a cracking sound and the cracking sound would scare stray animals back into the herd.  The cattlemen of Florida have been raising cattle for almost five hundred years, and the chefs in the state have the recipes and the skills to prove it. 

Chef Suki at the Grand Bay Hotel makes the point with grilled beef tenderloin.  First the marinade is made.  Three tablespoons of oil go into a bowl, some minced onion, fresh ginger, curry powder, lime juice and honey.   Small medallions of beef are sliced from a tenderloin and placed into the marinade for about thirty minutes.  While the beef is marinading, a sauce is made by heating together a little vegetable oil, some chopped shallots, white wine, pureed mango, sugar water, and beefstock.  The tenderloin is removed from the marinade and grilled for a minute on each side.  The steak goes onto the plate, a little candied fresh ginger on top and finally, the sauce.

Chef Suki made good use of the honey in that dish, which fits in perfectly with Florida's agricultural history.

Florida is the top honey-producing state in the nation, with beekeepers producing about twenty-one million pounds of honey each year.  And when you realize that one hive of bees has to fly over fifty-five thousand miles and tap two million flowers just to product a single pound of honey, you're talking about some serious activity.  And yet the average worker bee can make only one-twelfth of a teaspoon of honey in her entire lifetime.  And just in case you're concerned about American competitive productivity, I want you to know that the worker bees in Japan don't make any more honey.  We have about three hundred different varieties of honey, and what variety it is, is dependent on what kind of flower the bee drew its nectar from.  Some of them are clear, almost colorless and they have a very mild flavor.  They range all the way to a very rich dark brown and they have a much more robust taste.  The beekeepers of Florida produce two of the country's most unusual premium honeys.  Orange blossom and Tupelo.  Tupelo is a tree that grows in the northern part of the state and gives a mild and mellow taste to the honey.  One of my favorite uses for honey is to make a honey mustard yogurt sauce.  Its great for meat, fish, poultry and vegetables .  I take a quarter of a cup of honey, a quarter of a cup of mustard and I mix it together with a full cup of low fat yogurt.  Taste great, low in fat;  it’s a honey of a sauce.

The Bible describes the Promised Land as a place flowing with milk and honey.  And milk and honey are often coupled together in ancient myths.  One of the reasons for this is that of all the foods that we eat, only milk and honey are produced by other animals as food for their own species.  And milk and honey are probably the two foods in ancient times that were eaten and did not destroy life when they were eaten.  Whether it’s flowers or fish, once we eat it, the life is over. 

Bees have been producing honey for over fifteen million years.  And people have been eating honey for over three million. 

Paintings on the tombs of the Ancient Egyptians show that they were skilled beekeepers.  They treasured honey, and actually used it to pay their taxes.  Egyptian bridegrooms were required to give large amounts of honey to their brides at the time of their wedding.

The association between honey and marriage goes back for thousands of years.  The Ancient Babylonians made a drink called mead.  It was made from fermented honey and water, and it was the official drink at Babylonian weddings.  After the wedding, the parents of the bride were required to supply the newlyweds with a sufficient amount of mead to last them a lunar month.  And that's where the word “honeymoon” comes from. 

Man's three-million-year-old love affair with the honey bee is not just based on sweetness.  Honey bees pollinate our crops and make much of our agriculture possible.  The United States Department of Agriculture estimates that one third of the food that we eat in the United States  benefits from pollination.  Ralph Russ is a beekeeper here in the state of Florida; an expert on pollination and an expert on honey.  How does this work?

RALPH RUSS:  Well Burt, today we're going to look into a colony of bees and see where this comes from.  We put a little smoke on them.

BURT WOLF:  Why do you do that?

RALPH RUSS:  Well that calms the bees. They think they're home’s on fire, and they gorge their stomachs with honey.

BURT WOLF:  That slows them down?

RALPH RUSS:  That ... that slows them down.

BURT WOLF:  Yeah, my kids slow down when they're gorged too.

RALPH RUSS:  Now this is called a honey super, this is where they store their surplus honey.  Inside we find these frames.  They're covered with wax caps and their each little cell is like a little container.

BURT WOLF:  The honey is their food?

RALPH RUSS:  The honey is their food.  And we'll go into the ... we'll call this a brood chamber.

BURT WOLF:  Wow.   Look at that.

RALPH RUSS:  Look at the bees.

BURT WOLF:  How many bees are on there?

RALPH RUSS:  Well there's about thousand bees on this side.


RALPH RUSS:  And this is the baby bees here, we call that brood.  Here's the queen.

BURT WOLF:  Right.

RALPH RUSS:  See here she's bigger than the others.

BURT WOLF:  And she has that yellow dot.

RALPH RUSS:  (OVERLAPPING) And ... and I put that dot on her so I can find her when I go into the colony.

BURT WOLF:  How do you get the honey out?

RALPH RUSS:  Put it into a centrifuge and spin it out.

BURT WOLF:  It spins around, shoots the honey out.

RALPH RUSS:  Throws the honey off of the wall and it drains out into a container.

BURT WOLF:  The Miami Dolphins are one of the most successful teams in the National Football League and a big reason for that was their superstar punter Reggie Roby.   He continues to rank as one of the top ten kickers in NFL history.  But Reggie also gets his kicks from his own line of cookies.

BURT WOLF:  How did that cookie come about?

REGGIE ROBY:  I'm sort of what you'd call a cookie monster, what my wife calls me.  I asked her to make me cookies one night, she didn't want to do it.  So I got up and I made a cookie recipe and it came out good.  And I said, well you know, I ... I could probably do this, you know.  So what I did, I called my mother back in Iowa and got a plain sugar recipe, I took that recipe and I came up with four different type of cookies over a ... maybe a two month period, and since then I've got rave reviews from everyone.  I assume they like it, maybe they don't, they do, maybe it's because of my size, they don't want to insult me.  But I figured, you know, they like it well enough.  So it turned out pretty good.

BURT WOLF:  Okay, Reggie -- let’s get out there and bake!

Alright listen up -- here's how this one works.  Flour straight in, sugar straight in, brown sugar in behind it, baking soda in behind it, eggs in behind it, butter straight ahead, sour cream back here, chocolate chips back here, vanilla out on the flank, you got it?

Okay, here's how we handle it.  First out of the huddle and into the bowl, flour, two and a half cups.  Take your regular all-purpose approach, you know what I mean.  Next, white sugar, three quarters of a cup and mix it up in there, mix it up!  Third down:  brown sugar, again three quarters of a cup.  Pack it tightly, tight until the end.  And make the move to the baking powder -- make it gently, it's powerful stuff, a teaspoon's enough.  That should open up the center for the eggs, send them right in, two of them, one high, one low. Then the butter shoots in, three quarters of a cup.  (WHISTLE)

REF:  Fifteen yard penalty, unnecessary use of saturated fat.

REGGIE ROBY:  You've got to be kidding!  It’s a cookie!

BURT WOLF:  Hm.  Good point Reggie, everything's okay in moderation.  Alright, a quarter of a cup of sour cream comes in from the right flank, a teaspoon of vanilla develops the play’s flavor and we break free with twelve ounces of semi-sweet chocolate chips.  Huh?  Great idea.  Pile that batter onto a cookie sheet, but watch out for your spacing -- these guys spread out like crazy.  You don't want any unnecessary contact.  Then ten minutes at 375 degrees, and it's all over but the chewing. (CHEERS)

For over twenty years the coach of the Miami Dolphins has been Don Shula.  He's led the team to over three hundred victories and is the winningest coach in the NFL still on active duty.  And he's not just a coach, he's a culinarian, with two restaurants in Miami Lakes, Florida.  The latest to open is Shu's All-Star Cafe.  The theme of the cafe is “The Winning Edge,” and the Historical Association of South Florida has put together a collection of winning moments in South Florida's sports that hang on the cafe's walls.  The Chef, Dan Harry, is a good sport too; he's even willing to share his recipe for blueberry purses.       Blueberries are simmered together for five minutes together with some allspice, orange zest and juice.  A little water and cornstarch are added.  Four sheets of phyllo dough are buttered, layered together and cut into quarters.  A little cinnamon, mascarpone cheese and the blueberries go on.  The dough is shaped into a little purse and twisted at the neck to stay closed.  Onto a baking sheet, into a 375 degree oven for five minutes, out, onto a serving plate with a garnish of powdered sugar.

Miami is a sub-tropical city; it's as close to the equator as the Sahara Desert.  You know, for many years Miami was thought of as a gastronomic desert.  Things have changed.  Today the food in Miami is as interesting, varied and exciting as the food in any U.S. city, and it has a lot to show us about the relationship of good food to good health. 

Please join us next time as we travel around the world looking for things that taste good and are good for you too.  I'm Burt Wolf.

Burt Wolf's Table: St. Thomas and St. John - #212

BURT WOLF:  St.  Thomas and St. John.  St. Thomas is a port with the biggest duty-free shopping allowance ever allowed by the U.S.  We'll find out why.  We'll discover why we were told not to swim after we eat.  We'll take a tour through St. John and see one of the most beautiful spots in the Caribbean and we'll cook along with some great chefs.  So join me on the islands of St. Thomas and St. John at Burt Wolf's Table.

BURT WOLF:  The islands of the Caribbean form a chain that starts just off the southern tip of Florida and continues down to the northern coast of South America.  About midway through the group are the U.S. Virgin Islands.  There are actually about fifty islands.  But the most important are St. Croix, St. John and St. Thomas.  And each has its own unique quality. 

When Christopher Columbus first bumped in the islands of the Caribbean, he claimed them on behalf of the king and queen of Spain.  Nice try, but no cigar.  As soon as the other kings and queens of Europe found out what was going on, they began to challenge his claim throughout the area.

France, England, Holland and Denmark sent their ships across the Atlantic and battled for a piece of the pie.  For 300 years, European monarchs fought over the islands of the Caribbean.  The only reason for all the action was money.  European powers realized that the islands of the Caribbean were ideal locations for trade and profit.

For Denmark, the prize possessions were three parcels of land known as the Virgin Islands.  Two of them, St. John and St. Croix, became agricultural centers covered with plantations.  The third, St. Thomas, became a duty-free trading port.

The U.S. government purchased the islands in 1917.  It was the First World War and Washington was concerned that the Germans might use the area as a submarine base.

When the Danish finally made the sale, they insisted that the area be kept as a duty-free port.  And today it offers U.S. residents the dutiest-free port in the world.

Most of the action takes place here in the central shopping district of the town of Charlotte Amalie.  The old stone buildings that once housed cargos of rum and molasses bound for European and North American traders now hold jewelry, perfumes, watches, china, and cameras which are still bound for Europe and North America, but these days they go right into the hands of the vacationing customers.

Attention shoppers!  U.S. residents may bring back up to $1,200 worth of duty-free goods.  That's twice the amount for other Caribbean islands and three times the amount for most other foreign nations.  And while you are here, each day you can send back up to $100 worth of gifts, duty-free also.  And you should do it.  It's your duty.

Paintings of the St. Thomas port of Charlotte Amalie from the 1700 and 1800s clearly show the development of the town as a commercial center.  Buildings of merchants who were buying things from other parts of the world and selling them in the Caribbean.  A perfect example of that tradition today is a group of shops called Little Switzerland.  Their specialty, as you might expect from their name, is the Swiss watch.  But they also carry jewelry and pearls and precious stones.

But that's not what brought me here.  Little Switzerland is a major retailer of fine tableware.  And I find that interesting.  More and more of our food is coming to us in plastic bags and paper boxes and styrofoam cups.  So who's buying crystal stemware and porcelain plates -- and why?  The answer to “who” seems to be people who are going through a change of life.  Getting married and starting a new home.  Or they've come to a better economic environment.  Why they are buying these objects is also quite interesting.  Porcelain is harder than most other ceramics so it chips less and lasts longer.  The top-quality flatware has better balance and feels better in your hand.

When it comes to the stemware, it's because crystal sends more light into the glass and there's no distortion.  Everything looks better in crystal.

In the Western World we take the table fork for granted.  It can operate on its own, in combination with the spoon, and teamed with the knife, its potential is awesome.

The fork is the most recent of our common table tools to arrive on the scene.  It was first mentioned during the 11th century and it wasn't a very nice mention at that.  The Bishop of Venice had seen a woman using a fork at a dinner party and he threw an absolute fit.  He was thoroughly convinced that the fork had been invented by the devil and it actually took about 800 years before the fork came into common use in the west.  During those early days food would come to the table in a big bowl.  Everybody would reach in and take their portion and put it onto a piece of bread that sat in front of them like a plate.

If you use a fork on a hunk of bread, there's a good chance you'll make a hole in the bread and let the moisture drip out onto the table, then onto your lap.  Not good form.  Eventually, a hard wooden or pewter plate was introduced under the bread and that gave the fork a chance to get into fashion.

It was a three-pronged design and a four-pronged design and at one point, they introduced a five-pronged model based on the success of the five-fingered hand.  But in the end, it was the four-pronged fork that went out and became the most popular.

The fork has clearly become a fashionable part of western ritual.  But you never know what's going to happen.  Most of the people on our planet eat with their hands.  The next largest group eat with chopsticks.  The knife, fork and spoon gang is actually only a tiny minority.  And as people migrate from one part of the planet to another, it's impossible to know which fashions will take hold and which will disappear.  Here in the U.S. Virgin Islands, there is a blending together of many different cultures.

The beautiful enclaves of the U.S. Virgin Islands were first inhabited by native tribes that came here from South America, followed by the Spanish, English, French, Dutch, Africans and North Americans.  Each group has made some culinary contribution to the islands' kitchen.  Very often when you come to a place that's famous as a vacation spot, it's almost impossible to get a taste of the real local cooking unless somebody brings you home for dinner.

Fortunately, that is not a problem on St. Thomas.  There are a number of restaurants here that are famous for reproducing the classic local dishes of the area.  One of my favorites is Eunice’s Terrace on the Eastern end of the Island.

EUNICE:  The key to West Indian food is the seasoning.  We use thyme, chervil, onions, garlic, celery.  And we use the mortar and pestle and pound it with salt.

BURT WOLF:  So tell me what's cooking on St. Thomas.

EUNICE:  We have callalou, which is okra, spinach, conch, fish.  All like in a gumbo.  It's excellent.  This is our local boiled fish.  You haven't tasted anything like our local fish.  We have a fish called the Old Wife Fish.

BURT WOLF:  I had that the other day.  Why is it called Old Wife?

EUNICE:  It's a story.  Listen to the story.  It's a fish with a skin.  Alright?  And when they skin the fish, they take the skin off and put it in the sun to dry and the women used to use it as brillo.  So they ... it got the name Old Wife.  The correct name is Trigger Fish.

BURT WOLF:  I don't think that's fair.  If we're going to have an Old Wives’ Fish.  We ought to have something like an Old Husbands’ Shrimp, you know?

EUNICE:  I agree with you on that.

BURT WOLF:  We have to really correct these things.  What else is here?

We have our fungi, which is excellent.  It's yellow corn meal, we use okra and boiling water.  Whip it together, add a little margarine, no cholesterol, super dish. 

BURT WOLF:  Eunice also makes a traditional West Indian drink called Roots.  Eunice, what is in there?

EUNICE:  This is pure cane rum, catania roots, sea-grapes, cashew nuts and peanuts.

BURT WOLF:  And the rum soaks in all of that stuff?

EUNICE:  Soaks for two weeks.

BURT WOLF:  Two weeks!

EUNICE:  Yeah.

BURT WOLF:  Okay.  (PAUSE)  Mmmmm.  (COUGHS)  Not only is it an alcoholic beverage, but I now know where all my cavities are.  Whoa!

BURT WOLF:  The classic island specialty called Fungi makes an excellent side dish and it's very easy to prepare.  Here's how it's made by Chef Velda Brown at St. Thomas' Grand Palazzo Hotel. 

Okra slices are cooked in water.  Margarine is added.  Corn meal is mixed in.  And it's pressed against the sides to prevent lumps.  A margarine-coated bowl is used to flip individual portions into their traditional shape.  It's pretty simple.

Okra was believed to have special properties in connection with childbirth and was brought to the Caribbean by African slaves.  The African word for okra is “gumbo.”  And eventually, we began to use that word for any stew that we thickened with okra.  The techniques used in making the fungi are so ancient that they could have come here from anywhere in the world, including the original tribes that came up to this area from South America.  But the okra is clearly African.

BURT WOLF:  During the 1930s Sir Edward Cunard of the famous Cunard Steamship Company built himself a magnificent beach house here in the Caribbean.  He modeled it on his family's Renaissance palace in Venice.  And it was that piece of architecture that became the inspiration for St. Thomas' Grand Palazzo Hotel.  Stucco walls, gridiron balconies, classic Italian red-tile roofs.  That's what the great villas of the coast of Italy look like.  But those magnificent homes never look out on anything as beautiful as the Caribbean. 

Both the public and private rooms of the Grand Palazzo offer views that consistently remind you that the greatest architect of all is really Mother Nature. 

Their informal restaurant is called the Cafe Vecchio Terrace and it was a 180 degree view of the beaches and the island of St. John in the background. 

The more formal restaurant is the Palm Terrace and it really is an excellent example of good restaurant design.

One of the great challenges to a restaurant architect is to design a space that gets in as many chairs as possible, but doesn't give you the feeling that the people at the next table have joined you without your personal invitation.  You may also be discussing something of a highly private nature that you don't want anyone else to hear.  Like what you really think about the people your children are dating.

Well, the folks who designed this space did a fabulous job.  Because try as I might, I cannot hear what the people at the next table are saying and they ... look so interesting.

Great views to dine by have always been considered a valuable asset to a restaurant.  And certainly the vista from the Grand Palazzo is radiant.  For me, however, the most important view in any restaurant has always been the one directly down to the plate in front of me.

I've always believed that it's really the cooking that counts.  And fortunately, the cooking here is in good hands.

Patrick Pinon is a classic French chef who gave up bistros for beaches.  But he has never given up his grandmother's recipe for a traditional homestyle beef casserole.

A little oil and butter are heated together in a pot and two dozen baby onions are browned and removed.  Five pounds of beef chuck cut into small pieces are seasoned, lightly floured and browned on all sides.  A few tablespoons of tomato paste go in.  Wine, beef stock, the baby onions return, and everything goes into a 450 degree oven for an hour.  At which point some additional herbs and the zest of an orange are added.  A few carrots, and an hour of additional cooking and it's ready to serve.

Patrick has worked in many places around the world and he brings his recipes from place to place.  For a number of years, he was the chef to the Crown Prince of Oman, and this recipe travels from there.  It's a date-stuffed chicken breast.

The stuffing is made by sauteeing together some shallots, chopped California dates, pinenuts, and pistachio nuts.  That's flavored with cinnamon, cumin, cardamom and cayenne.  And it goes into a chicken breast which has been cut almost in half.  The chicken is browned on both sides and then braized in a 400 degree oven for twenty minutes.

A mold of couscous goes onto the serving plate, a saffron sauce, the chicken, and a few toasted nuts.

The date may be the world's oldest cultivated fruit.  Seven-thousand-year-old sculptures clearly show the date palm.  The date's been a basic part of Middle Eastern agriculture for centuries.  The Arabs brought the date to Spain and Spanish missionaries brought them to California.

As a matter of fact, the first date planted in California, was planted in a town called Mecca.  These days, California produces just about all of the dates grown in North America. 

A date palm has been described as living with its feet in the water and its head in the sun.  Perfect for the dessert oasis and the Cochella Valley of California.  Dry air above, irrigation below.  Date palms come in male and female forms, but that doesn't work too well for farmers because it means that much of their land would be giving over to male trees that don't bear fruit.  So date growers do their pollinating by hand. 

Dates are often called Nature's Candy because of their sweet taste and caramel flavor.  It also contains some valuable nutrients.  Dates are a very good source of potassium, which may turn out to be a valuable tool in controlling high blood pressure.

The best way to store a date is in the refrigerator, in an air-tight container.  They'll last there for about eight months. 

The actual date harvest takes place in the fall, but they're in the supermarket all year round.

When I was a kid and lucky enough to spend a day at the beach, lunch always seemed to be an unnecessary interruption.  And the worst part was that after lunch, my mother wouldn't let me go back into the water.  It was always this lecture about the dangers of swimming after eating.

As I got older, I found it harder and harder to believe that the weight of a bacon-lettuce-and- tomato sandwich was going to sink me.  But my mother had given me some pretty good advice and so I hung on. 

Eventually I discovered that there was considerable scientific evidence for her recommendations. 

When you eat, your system supplies an enormous amount of blood to the center of your body to help with digestion.  It draws that blood from your extremities.  Your brain, your arms, your legs.  The reduced blood supply in your brain makes it harder for you to think clearly and the reduced blood supply in your arms and legs increases your chances of getting muscle cramps. 

So there you are, swimming along in the ocean, not thinking clearly, and getting muscle cramps.  It makes a good case for waiting about an hour between eating and swimming.  That's okay with me.  The idea of taking a short siesta under the palms on the beach sounds pretty good.  But I'm sure that your idea of riveting and entertaining television is not watching me taking a nap.  So I asked my friend Brownie Brown to take you on a tour of the island.  Brownie is a very famous disc jockey in this part of the world and a reputed genius at guiding tours.  So, I'll see you when you get back.

BROWN:  Allow me to say a most pleasant good afternoon, everyone.  My name is Brownie, I am a taxi driver, I'm a disk jockey, I am a well-known person here on the island and I welcome you and thank you for coming and we're going to have ourselves a wonderful time on this little tour here in St. Thomas.  Good t’ing.

We're going to pass up through an area called the Back Street.  These old buildings in this area here, are more than 100 years old.  Remember the United States bought these islands from Denmark in 1917.  Before that, we were all Danes.  Now we are all American citizens.

We're going to take a little ride up to the Jewish Synagogue.  The Jewish Synagogue is the oldest Synagogue in the Western Hemisphere.  Now this Synagogue still has the sand on the floor.  In a lot of words but I'm going to break it down for you, this is in memory of all the Jewish people that crossed the desert ... that took forty years to cross the desert.  So the sand that is there is in memory of all these people that crossed the desert many many years ago.  Good t’ing.  So just a capsule explanation of the reason why the sand is on the floor.

In front of us, we're going to see Fort Christian.  It was first used for a Moravian priest and then it became a fort and it was a police station for many, many, many, many years and a jail.  Right now it is being used as a museum.

We're entering into an area that I really like.  It's called French Village or French Town.  A French settlement; they have a lot of restaurants in this area.  We're passing one just as we go by here.  The Normandie Bar.   Very good and very popular.  All the restaurants on the island, they have to be good because the competition is stiff. 

These are the homes of the French people here on the island and most of these people build their own homes.  And some of the nicest people you want to meet.

Okay, we're going downhill now into the Megan’s Bay area.  When we get onto the beach you will see one of the most beautiful sights.  Megan's Bay.  Something I'm very proud of.  You've got to come and spend some time here.  I know what I'm telling you.  And that definitely will be good t’ing.

Megan's Bay Beach is shaped like a heart.  That, along with sixty-eight acres of land, belongs to the people of the Virgin Islands.  That's why you'll never see a hotel or anything built down there.  Because we don't want ... we want it just the way it is.  We are on Megan's Bay Beach.  You will see most of the native people come here and practically everybody comes here on this beach.

I think there's a navy ship in town, that's why you see all these guys from here.


BROWN:  Oh, there’s my family -- hello, sweetheart. Good t’ing.  Oh, my kid should be over there.  Isn’t that something?  My whole family's over there.  Man!  That's the way it is.  Megan's Bay is the place.  Good thing.  That's the way we like to do it. 

Well, that is a small part of St. Thomas as you've just seen.  I hope you enjoyed our little tour.  I want ya'll to come to my island of St. Thomas and to the Virgin Islands.  It was just a little piece that you saw.  I know you're going to enjoy it when you come.  So you folks, I'm going to let you off now, and please, go wake up Burt.  Wake him up and tell him Brownie say, Good t’ing.

MAN:  Burt!  Burt!!

BURT WOLF:  Ah, you’re back!  I've been coming to the U.S. Virgin Islands for thirty years, so Brownie's taken me on that tour before.  But I thought you'd enjoy it.

But now, how about some water sports?

Good t’ing!

BURT WOLF:  The European explorers of the Caribbean spent a great deal of effort describing everything that grew in the New World.  But they never said anything about the coconut.  It appears that the coconut came to the Americas from the South Pacific after the landing of Columbus.  For one-third of the world's population, the coconut is a very important food, especially for people living in the tropics.

Fabrice Dubuc is a French pastry chef who performs his art at the Grand Palazzo Hotel.  His specialty is adapting classic recipes to local ingredients.  These coconut drop cookies are a delicious example.

Five cups of grated coconut go into a bowl, followed by five cups of sugar, six eggs, two ounces of melted butter, a little vanilla extract and a splash of rum.  That's mixed together and given a one hour rest in the refrigerator.  When the dough comes out, it's rolled into balls about an inch in diameter, placed on a parchment-covered baking sheet and baked in a 375 degree oven for ten minutes.  Out of the oven, a light dusting of powdered sugar, and they're ready.

During the last few years there's been a lot of talk about coconuts because coconuts are high in saturated fat and there appears to be a very direct relationship between a diet that is high in saturated fat and heart disease.  But you've got to remember, there are no bad foods and there are no good foods.  There are just inappropriate amounts.  Scientists are telling us that we can take five to ten percent of our daily calories in saturated fat and still be okay.  So, with these cookies and with everything else, moderation is the word.

BURT WOLF: Excuse me, is this where I buy a ticket on the ferry?

WOMAN:  Yes it is.

BURT WOLF:  Great.  How much is a round-trip?

WOMAN:  Six dollars.

BURT WOLF:  Six dollars.  Great thing about the U.S. Virgin Islands, they use the same money as we do in the states.  Here you go.

WOMAN:  Thank you.

BURT WOLF:  Wonderful.  By the way, where does the ferry go?

WOMAN:  To St. John.

BURT WOLF:  Great!  That's where I'm going!

 At the Eastern end of St. Thomas is the town of Red Hook, a major anchorage for local yachtsmen and the point of departure for the St. Thomas to St. John ferry. 

A twenty minute trip across Pillsbury Sound will bring you to the town of Cruz Bay, the metropolitan center of St. John... a dramatic example of what a commercial hub can be like if the primary desire of the developers is to keep the neighborhood an unspoiled paradise.

This is the world headquarters for Relaxing-R-Us.  Lawrence Rockefeller, who you might remember from the song “as rich as Rockefeller,” bought the island and in 1956 donated it to the U.S. government so they could turn two-thirds of it into a national park. 

About 3,000 people live on the edges of St. John.  The central area is still wild and wonderful. 

Ranger Paul Thomas of the U.S. National Park Service has agreed to introduce us to the island.

THOMAS:   ... take a good look at what we have here on St. John.  Because the first time you came in, you came by boat.  Kind of missed all the action by not being on land.  Okay.

Now, right now we're here in Cruz Bay, the Visitors’ Center, come around the hill and then we stop at Solomon Beach.  You can only get there by ... hiking or by boat.  No vehicle access, so there's no carbon monoxide to mess up your day.

After we come back into Cruz Bay, we're going to jump into our vehicle and we're going to head out along the North Shore Road.  Fantastic scenic driving.  One of the first beaches we're going to run into is Hawksnest, which is very nice for snorkeling and not too crowded.  Mainly you would find just local people at Hawksnest.  But it's not as beautiful as about three reefs inside the bay which are, of course, fantastic snorkeling.

From Hawksnest we head out over in Trunk Bay.  Now Trunk Bay is probably world-famous because of the underwater trail.  And it's a series of markers that you find underneath along the reef that tells you what you're looking at.  And explains it all to you.  From Trunk Bay, we head over into Cinnamon Bay.  That's an area that I love.  There's a series of trails ... there's a little trail that winds through the ruins because Cinnamon Bay was also a site of one of the old sugar plantations.

And then there's a nice trail that takes you up on to Centerline Road, crosses through the whole island from west all the way to the east.   There's also a trail that's not featured on the map that takes you up to America Hill.

Now there's the ruins of the Great House of the Cinnamon Bay Plantation that’s up there.  Folklore has it that the house is haunted.  Now you're welcome to hike up there, Burt, but I'm not coming with you.  Okay?

BURT WOLF:  (LAUGHING)  You mean to tell me that the National Park Service doesn't have a ghostbusting facility?

THOMAS:  No we don't.  And I don't plan to start one either.

BURT WOLF:  That's it from the U.S. Virgin Islands of St. Thomas and St. John.  Please join us next time as we travel around the world looking for good things to eat and drink at Burt Wolf's Table.

Burt Wolf's Table: Italian Food in America - #211

BURT WOLF:  For hundreds of years, the Italian cities of Florence and Venice have produced some of the finest food in Europe.  We'll learn a few of those recipes, and how those dishes were brought to America.  We'll also find out how the Italian cooks used the Prohibition years in the U.S. to make Italian food the most popular restaurant food in North America.  And we'll discover how they taught us to eat our vegetables.  So join me for Italian food in America, at Burt Wolf's Table.

During the 1880s, a conflict arose between the Italian immigrants to North America and the scientific community.  Researchers began to develop a series of theories about the relationship of what people ate and drank and their overall well-being, and to teach these theories as if they were new scientific truths.

They had some interesting ideas.  They thought that the tomato was poisonous and could actually kill you.  They thought that fruits and vegetables had so much water in them that from a nutritional point of view they were useless; they thought that green vegetables were the worst of all.  They thought garlic was so dangerous it was like a self-inflicted wound.  They were very nervous about you eating different foods at the same time; if you put meatloaf and mashed potatoes and peas and carrots on the same plate and ate them at the same time, it would put too much stress on your digestive system and you would get sick.  Ludicrous stuff.  Imagine a family showing up here in New York City from southern Italy, and the scientists and the government are telling them this stuff about food -- everything they love, and even more important, everything their mother tells them to eat, is now bad for them?  Outrageous.

Well, it's taken a hundred years, and what we've found out is everything that the Italians said was good for you ... is good for you!

When Americans talk about the food of northern Italy, we're usually talking about the cooking of the regional district called Tuscany.  Since the third century BC, Tuscany has been one of the great places for Italian cooking.  And for hundreds of years, the city of Florence has dominated the area.  The cooks of Florence prefer natural dishes without complex preparation.  They want the true flavors of the ingredients to come through, and they want them to come through without disguise.

When ancient Rome fell to the invaders, just about all the good cooking in Europe came to an end, and you don't see it make a comeback until the 1300s.  The big comeback came in Tuscany, and the city of Florence in Italy.  That was also the time where you see the first reemergence of a gourmet society.  It was called the Society of the Cauldron.  It had twelve members; each was a painter or a sculptor, and each had to come up with a new dish for their regular meetings.  Quite a bit of pressure.

You often see beans in their recipes.  Beans are very important in Tuscany.  As a matter of fact, other Italians often refer to Tuscans as "bean-eaters," and they really don't mean it in a nice way.  But if you know about good nutrition, to be skilled in bean cookery is a badge of honor.

This is the Tribeca Film Center in New York City.  On the first floor, there's a restaurant called Tribeca Grill, owned by Robert De Niro, Bill Murray, Mikhail Baryshnikov, and a few other famous eaters.

High ceilings, bare brick walls, and a relaxed, informal atmosphere.  The place has become popular for its seafood, homemade pastas, and a series of dishes with an interesting blend of French, Italian, and Asian influences.  The chef, Don Pintabona, is preparing an escarole and white bean soup.

A little vegetable oil goes into a hot pan; a little Italian bacon called pancetta; sliced onion; two cloves of chopped garlic; chopped carrot, chopped celery.  White beans that have been pre-cooked.  Chicken stock.  And some escarole or swiss chard or even spinach that's been blanched in boiling water for a few minutes and cut up.  A bunch of thyme.  Thirty minutes of cooking, and it's “thyme out” -- freshly ground pepper in.  And it's ready for the bowl.  Don garnishes the soup with a puree of basil, and finally there's a grating of pecorino romano cheese.

Beans are actually the seeds of plants in the legume family.  They're native to America, and were first brought back to Europe probably by Christopher Columbus.  When you're picking out beans in the market, go for the dried variety; they're more flavorful, more nutritious, and firmer than other kinds.

Central Park South is one of New York's most beautiful streets.  It runs along the park from Fifth Avenue to Columbus Circle.  Next to the statue of that famous Italian is one of the city's most famous Italian restaurants.  It's called Sandomenico, and it's owned by Tony May.  The chef is Theo Schoenegger.  One of his classic dishes is a large Roman pasta with fava bean sauce.

A little oil goes into a heated saute pan.  As soon as the oil is hot, in goes a cup of chopped shallots or onion.  That sautes for about two minutes, and a few red peppers get crushed and dropped in.  Three cups of chicken stock.  A little salt and pepper.  On goes the cover, and everything simmers for ten minutes, at which point it's ladled into a blender and followed by some pre-cooked fava beans.  If fava beans aren't available, use lima beans.  The pureed sauce is then strained and held aside.  Some chopped tomato and a few whole pre-cooked beans are sauted in a little oil.  The bean puree is added, and some pre-cooked pasta.  Some pecorino romano cheese, and it's ready to serve.

Mark Twain used to say:  "If you don't like the weather, just wait a minute; it'll change."  Sometimes I feel you can take the same approach to the history of nutritional advice.  If there's a scientific group and it's telling you you should or should not eat something, and you don't like the advice, hang on; in a couple of months they'll tell you something new.  My favorite flip-flop in the history of nutrition took place during the first two decades of the 20th century, right here in the U.S.

For centuries, the idea of good eating meant meat and fat.  Then in the early 1900s, researchers discovered vitamins and dietary minerals, and all the rules changed.  Suddenly, fruits and vegetables became good foods.

And that was very important to the Italians in North America.  The Italian immigrants here had a diet that was low in fat, low in meat, and very high in fruits and vegetables.  Magazines that had food columns were suddenly very busy looking for recipes that did a good job with fruit, and especially vegetables.  And the easiest place to find those?  The Italian community.  Within a few years, Italian food became the darling diet of the food reporter.

By the 1920's, Italian food had a status among the middle class; and today it is the most popular ethnic cuisine, and the original force behind our interest in vegetables.

Broccoli is a member of the cabbage family, and was probably first grown in Italy.  The ancient Romans had recipes for it; they used the flowerettes as if they were cauliflower, and the stems as if they were asparagus.  Broccoli is actually an Italian word, and it's used in many languages with very little change, which means that it was the Italians who introduced broccoli to the other countries of Europe.  And it was the Italians who popularized North America, and they did it during the early years of the century, at the exact same time that scientists were discovering the vitamin.  What a break for broccoli!

It's a good source of vitamin A and B, and it has more vitamin C than an equal amount of orange.  Broccoli also has significant amounts of calcium, iron, potassium, and fiber, and there are only forty calories in a full cup.  Make sure the buds on the plant are closed and bright green; if the buds are open or if they start to turn yellow, then it's past its prime.

My favorite story about broccoli deals with the opening of the Suffolk Downs racetrack in Boston, Massachusetts.  Just before the track opened, the Italian gardener who was in charge of the grounds was asked to plant something on the infield that was green and would grow quickly.  His choice was broccoli.  Great color; difficult to walk on.

Il Nido is Italian for "the nest":  a place where you will be protected and well-fed.  And that's a perfect description of one of New York's most respected Northern Italian restaurants.  Cozy, warm atmosphere, constant and professional attention, and great food ... my kind of nest.

Today, the chef, Luigi Campoverde, is preparing a dish of penne pasta with broccoli.  First the pasta goes into a pot of boiling water.  While that's cooking, the sauce is made by heating a little vegetable oil in a saute pan; two cloves of garlic are sliced and added to the pan; a cup or so of broccoli flowerettes go in; a little chicken stock; and a pinch of salt.  All that cooks together for five minutes.  At that point, the pasta is drained from the cooking water and added to the pan with the sauce.

One of the hallmarks of Italian chefs is to add the cooked pasta to the pan of sauce, so the pasta stays warm and it gets a good chance to absorb the sauce.  A minute more cooking to heat everything up; into a serving bowl; some grated pecorino romano cheese on top, and it's finished.  Lots of complex carbohydrates, low in fat.  Good dish.

On January 16th, 1919, the government of the United States passed the 18th Amendment to the Constitution.  That amendment prohibited the manufacture, sale, and distribution of alcoholic beverages.  For years, distilled spirits, wine, and beer were illegal.

NEWSREEL ANNOUNCER:  And then enforcement begins.  In Boston, as in every other city, government agents fight hopelessly against illegal liquor.  These homemade stills are but a few of thousands seized and destroyed.  Other thousands produce millions of gallons, and countless hundreds prosper in the business of bootlegging.

Government men get forty to fifty dollars a week for this.  It's work well done.  Here, as in all 48 states, still and product are discovered and destroyed.  Mash meant for market as bootleg booze is poured into the mud.

BURT WOLF:  Prohibition has come and gone with amazingly little impact on the way we drink in the United States.  But surprisingly, it's had an enormous effect on the way we eat.  Before Prohibition, when people went out to a restaurant, the restaurant served basically English food:  roasts, steaks, and maybe some French recipes adapted for the American market.

When Prohibition arrived, it was impossible for people to go to these restaurants and have a meal with a glass of beer or wine ... unless you went to the Italian neighborhoods and ate in the kitchens associated with the small rooming houses.  For decades, they'd been making their own beer and wine and serving it to the people who lived in the rooming house.  The local authorities more or less overlooked this brewing process and let them do what they wanted.  During Prohibition, the general public realized that they could go into the Italian neighborhoods, eat in these rooming houses, have a great meal and a glass of beer and wine at a low price; and suddenly Italian food became very popular.  As a matter of fact, today Italian restaurants are the most popular restaurants in the United States.  Here's to you.

But Italian recipes were not only for Italian restaurants.  Within a few years, classic Italian dishes began to show up in many other types of restaurants.  French restaurants began to serve pasta until the heading of "spaghetti a la Italiana."  The fashion for having Italian dishes on the menu in restaurants that are not just Italian is still quite popular.

An example of what I mean is the restaurant Adrienne, in the Peninsula Hotel on New York's Fifth Avenue.  One of their signature dishes is halibut with orzo and fennel.  Orzo is a traditionally Italian food.  Here's how the dish is prepared by chef Adam Odegard.

ADAM ODEGARD:  Okay, I'm going to steam the halibut ...

WOLF:  A filet of halibut goes onto a plate and into a steamer for ten minutes.  While that's cooking, a sauce is made.

ODEGARD:  And what I'm going to is I'm going to ... we're going to make a fennel emulsion, very light sauce, and I'm going to take a little bit of butter and a little bit of olive oil.  And we're going to sweat some garlic, chopped garlic.  Some fennel seeds.  Okay.  A bit of onion.  Fennel which has been Julienned.  A little seasoning there, and then we're going to put it on the fire.

WOLF:  The saute pan goes onto the stove and a little Pernod is added; Pernod is an alcohol-based drink with the flavor of licorice.  And finally some chicken stock is added.  While that's cooking, the pasta is made.  This is a very small pasta that looks like a rice; it's called orzo.  Orzo that's been cooked in boiling water goes into a saucepan, followed by the zest of a lemon, some chopped mint, butter, and chicken stock.  A few minutes of heat, and it's ready.  The presentation starts with a few slices of grilled zucchini, then the orzo, the steamed fish, the sauce, and some dried tomatoes.

Here's a second recipe from chef Adam Odegard.  It's a perfect example of how he takes a simple recipe and executes it with great technique.  It's a pan-roasted loin of beef.  The loin of beef is about the leanest cut; there are only about 180 calories in a three-ounce serving.  Beef is also a good source of iron, zinc, niacin, and vitamin B12.  The recipe starts by taking the loin and sprinkling on some chopped garlic, salt, and pepper.  Then place it into a frying pan that has a light coating of hot oil.  The meat is browned on all sides.  Vegetables are added.  Small pieces of celery go in, some onion, turnip, carrots, asparagus tips, and new potatoes.  Some chopped garlic and rosemary are added.  Five minutes of sauteing.  A little red wine.  Then into a 350-degree-Fahrenheit oven for 20 minutes.  When it comes out, the beef is sliced.  Then the vegetables go onto a serving plate; the beef; and finally the sauce.

Italians have not only influenced the way we eat and drink in America, but they have also played an important role in the hotel business.  One of the great examples is the Mayfair Baglioni in New York.

The Mayfair Baglioni opened in 1925, and quickly became a favorite gathering place for New York society.  The lobby lounge was the place to take tea to see and be seen.  President Franklin Roosevelt's New York City townhouse was just across the street, and he used the Mayfair as an extension of his home, often putting up his own house guests at the hotel.  These days, after a $30 million renovation, the Mayfair Baglioni is still a favorite gathering place, and the guests are just as impressive.  The registry lists the King of Spain, Nancy Reagan, the Dalai Lama, plus just regular folks like Placido Domingo, Sophia Loren, and Mel Gibson.

There are a number of things that make the Mayfair Baglioni special.  First of all, it has an ideal location at 65th Street and Park Avenue.  It sits in a landmark residential area that is extraordinarily charming.  It's half a block from Madison Avenue, which is lined with the finest boutiques in the city, as well as the major art galleries, important museums, and Central Park is just one street away, as is the midtown business district.  Everything in the Central Park area and the mid-city area is within walking distance.

The second major reason for the Mayfair's fame are the Mariottis.  Dario Marioatti has been the general manager of the Mayfair since 1978.  Shortly after taking the post, he moved his family into the hotel in order to be able to oversee its operations on a 24-hour basis.  His wife Gabriella watches out for many of the special details that make life at the Mayfair luxurious.  Dario's first action was to move his office to a space just behind the reception area, so he could see and hear the comings and goings of his guests.

Dario is a perfectionist.  He spends over $100,000 a year on fresh flowers.  When he discovered a pothole out in front of the hotel, he called the city to have it repaired; but they didn't come fast enough, so he got his own street-repair company.  When he wanted to serve tea in the lobby lounge, he made arrangements for Lord Twining, the managing director of Twining's Tea, to come over from London and show everybody how to make a proper cup.  And when the hotel renovation was finished, all of the high tech was on the inside; the new elevators are still operated by white-gloved attendants.

The Mayfair is also the first luxury property in New York to offer its guests unlimited local phone calls at no charge.  For a rental fee, the front desk will give you a pocket-sized cellular telephone that operates within Manhattan and can place and receive calls worldwide.  There's a fitness center with treadmills, stationary bicycles, Lifesteps, Nordic Track, rowing machines, and free weights; personal trainers are available on request.

I like the idea of a personal trainer.  I assume that's somebody you can hire to do your personal training for you so you can go lunch; nice concept.

The hotel also has a putting room; or you can have a putter, golf balls, and a putting machine delivered to your own room, in case you feel the need to putt in private.


The Mayfair has established a pillow bank.  They have sixteen different designs; my favorite is the Full-Body Pillow.  You can pick out any design you want, have as many of them as you want.  Once you've made your choice, the information goes into the computer, and when you return to the Mayfair, all of the pillows are laid out on your bed.

The world-famous Le Cirque restaurant is located in the Mayfair.  And if you're staying in your room because you have the sniffles and you feel the need to be mothered, the Mayfair will send you a bowl of hot chicken soup.  And in keeping with the hotel's attention to detail, that chicken soup is offered in various ethnic versions.

The Mayfair is like home ... a gentle, all-providing home, with the feeling of a great family residence.  And yet it's right in the middle of New York City.

The Italian city of Venice is actually made up of 118 little islands that sit in the center of a lagoon.  The islands are connected with about 400 bridges, and the only way to get around town is by boat; and it's been that way since the last years of the fifth century.  That was the time when a group of people headed over to these islands in the hope of escaping from an invading army that was ravaging the mainland.

Venice was in an ideal location to handle seaborne trade, and by the ninth century it was a major commercial center.  By the 1200s, Venice was the strongest sea power in Europe, and in virtual control of the major trade routes between Europe and Asia.  The influence of Asia and the Middle East on Venice can be seen in its architecture, art, cultural traditions, and its food.

The city of Venice sat right smack in the middle of the trade routes that brought rare spices from Asia and the Middle East to Europe.  As a result of the easy availability of those spices, plus exotic foods brought in from far-away places, and the great local ingredients, the cooking of Venice became quite spectacular.

Remi is the Italian word for the oars that are used to row boats, like the boats that are painted on the walls of the restaurant Remi in New York.  The mural depicts the Italian city of Venice, which is also the basis for the recipes created by owner-chef Francesco Antonucci.  A lover of seafood and pasta, he combines the two in a dish of tagliolini pasta and squid.

A little oil goes into a hot pan, followed by a chopped onion, some minced garlic, and thinly- sliced squid.  That's cooked and stirred for five minutes.  A splash of white wine, two chopped tomatoes, and some fresh herbs.  Francesco likes to use oregano, parsley, and thyme.  The sauce gets transferred to a saucepan, where it cooks for fifteen minutes.  Fresh pasta is cooked, drained, placed onto a serving dish, topped with the squid sauce, a few slices of pecorino romano cheese, a few more herbs, and it's ready to go.  Good taste and nice nutritional balance, too:  complex carbohydrates from the pasta and vegetables, and protein from the squid, all rather low in fat.

In most of the countries that border on the Mediterranean Sea, squid is a traditional seafood.  Even today, many Americans who are familiar with squad know it by its Italian name, calamari; and they usually had their first taste of it in an Italian restaurant.

Virtually all of the squid used in the United States comes from the Pacific Ocean just off the coast of California.  It's an excellent source of low-fat protein, and you find squid in most supermarkets; usually it's cleaned and ready to go right into your recipe, but every once in a while a little bit of extra prep is necessary, though not very much.

Inside the squid is a thin transparent bone.  It's important to remove this.  Just pull it out; usually it comes out in one easy motion.  Then check inside to make sure that you got all of it.  Then peel off any skin that's still on the outside; that should also come off very easily.

Then slice the squid or keep it whole, according to the recipe that you're going to use.  But don't forget about the tentacles.  Some of the best flavor is right there, so chop them up and get them in the pot.

The Chinese have been making something like ice cream for about 5,000 years, but it was the Italians who introduced ice cream to Europe, and eventually to the general public in North America.  The ancient Romans loved ice cream.  They would take a runner and send him up into the mountains to get ice, bring it back to town, mix it with crushed fruit and cream, and ended up with something that was a pretty good facsimile to what we have today.

Of course, the story of ice cream in ancient Rome followed a rocky road.  If you came back from the mountains and the ice had already melted, the emperor executed you.  Ha ha ... you think the Domino guys are in a hurry!

George Washington had an ice-cream-making machine, and Thomas Jefferson had his own recipe for it.  But it was up to the Italian immigrants to North America to make it the big deal that it is today.

The first advertisement in the United States for commercially-produced ice cream appeared on May 12th, 1777, in a New York City newspaper.  The manufacturer was an Italian named Philip Lenzi.  Over 200 years have passed since then, and Italians have continued to maintain an important position in the development of quality ice cream.  From Sedutto's in New York City to Ghiardelli in San Francisco, Italians have continued to garnish their just desserts.

The great migration of Italians to the United States that took place in the late 1800s took place only a few years after the unification of Italy into a single nation.  The immigrants arriving in the U.S. still thought of themselves as coming from a specific region as opposed to a nation.  And accordingly, they cooked the dishes of their old neighborhood, using their old neighborhood ingredients.

One of the classics is Bologna's rice and walnut cake.  Here's how it's prepared by chef John Halligan at New York's Righa Royal Hotel.

Milk, sugar, and medium-grain rice are simmered together for a few minutes, until the milk is absorbed, at which point the mixture is poured into a bowl.  A half-cup of walnuts are added, a little butter, candied fruit, lemon zest, and three eggs.  The batter goes into a cake pan, and the cake pan goes into a 400-degree-Fahrenheit oven for 30 minutes.  When it comes out, the cake gets a light dusting of confectioner's sugar and a fresh strawberry.

That's part of the story of Italian food in America.  Please join us next time as we travel around the world looking for things that taste good.  I'm Burt Wolf.

Burt Wolf's Table: Seattle - #210

BURT WOLF:  Seattle, Washington.  It's a town that's been able to preserve much of its past while building for its future.  We'll discover why the people of Seattle drink more top-quality coffee than anyone else in the U.S. and how America became a country of coffee drinkers.  We'll visit the most successful herb farm in the northwest and cook along with some of the area’s best chefs.  So join me in Seattle at Burt Wolf's Table.

The geography of the northwestern corner of the United States is dominated by a large body of water called Puget Sound.  It starts at the Pacific Ocean and cuts into the state of Washington for over 100 miles.  At its eastern end is the city of Seattle, which has often been described as one of the most livable cities in North America.

One reason that the city is so well thought of and perhaps the most important one, is the sense of civic pride.  The citizens of Seattle have been relatively successful as preserving their city.  They've held onto many of their most important structures and kept them in a state of good repair.  They have been able to defeat the type of urban planning that has obliterated the historical character of many American cities.  As a result, Seattle looks good and feels good.

Seattle has a program that directs one percent of the cost of a public construction project to artwork.  Artists have even brought their talent to the design of the town's manhole covers.  But the creative community is not just limited to painters and sculptors.  Seattle has become one of the most important centers for music, theatre, and literature.  And its film and television business is very busy competing with Vancouver for the title of Hollywood North.

The city of Seattle is shaped by the shores of Puget Sound and that is true in many different ways.  Seattle's docks are the closest North American docks to Japan, which has made the city an important commercial port. 

The accessibility to the sea has also made water sports a major area of recreation.  And the contours of the sound have turned the area's island and inlets into Seattle suburbs... thousands of people commuting to work on ferries. 

Down the road is Pioneer Square, clearly worth exploring.  There's the Merchant's Cafe which once sold beer to gold rush miners at 5 cents a glass.  Lots of art galleries and craft shops and book stores, including my personal favorite, the Elliot Bay Book Company.  Old books, new books, newspapers and magazines.  A place to just sit and read, and a cafe.  Hey, plus they had copies of my book.

This is an old trick for authors.  If you autograph a book while it's still in the bookstore, they will never return it to the publisher and you'll get your royalty.  Hey, every penny helps.  I paid for three kids to go to college and just when I thought I was going to have a few extra bucks, I find out that I'm going to help pay off the national debt, which is fine, but I think with all of the money they have in Washington, they could have hired one bookkeeper who would have told us the truth.

And there's the Smith Tower.  When it opened in 1914, it was the tallest building in the west.  And it held that title for many years.  The guy who built this building was L.C. Smith.  He had made his fortune as the Smith in Smith and Wesson, the gun manufacturers.  When he retired from Smith and Wesson and came out here, he started a second company and became the Smith in Smith Corona, the typewriter guys.  I guess he liked to make things with little moving hammers, huh?

Seattle has a large international district which is really a pan-Pacific community with lots of good restaurants serving food from Thailand,  Vietnam, Korea, Cambodia and Japan, as well as China.

Seattle is one of the first cities in the world to introduce free public transportation.  Just hop on board and head off.  It's faster than going by car, ecologically more responsible and perfectly priced. 

BURT WOLF:  The first European settlement in the Seattle area was built by a group of fur traders.  They bartered goods with the Native Americans and did a little trading.  The discovery of gold in California in 1849 brought hundreds of thousands of immigrants to the west coast of the United States.  In those days, it was not uncommon for a group of people to get together and plan a totally new city.  Some entrepreneurial settlers would group up, stake a claim to some land, develop a plan for a new city, and then do everything they could to get other people to buy into their dream.  They were kind of the Donald Trumps of the time.

In the case of Seattle, the first developer was David Denny, who arrived here with a group of twenty-odd people in September of 1851.  Denny was soon joined by three other visionaries: Charles Boren, William Bell and Dr. David Maynard.  Together they worked out the grand plan for the city that was to be.

One of Doc Maynard's friends was a Native American chief named Sealth, sometimes pronounced “Seattle.”  And it was the Doc's suggestion that the new city be named after his pal. 

The next heavy to arrive in town was Henry Yesler who built a saw mill and made lumber the area's major industry.

To get the logs from the top of the hill to the water below, a road was built and covered with wood.  The wood helped the logs skid down easily.  It was called a skid road.  Eventually it became a hang-out for drunken loggers and miners at the bottom of their luck.  At which point it became known as Skid Row, a phrase which is now synonymous with the down and out neighborhood of any city in North America. 

During the second half of the 1800s, the local Native Americans began to realize what the settlers were doing to the area and there was an uprising that was quickly put down by the U.S. military.  The leader of the uprising, a man named Leschi was tried for murder.  His lawyer was named Crosby.  Crosby lost the trial and Leschi lost his life. 

Eventually, Leschi became a local hero and today one of Seattle's most popular parks is named after him.  Crosby didn't do too badly either.  He ended up being the father of Bing.

BING CROSBY:  Oh, hello, Father.

PRIEST:  Hello, Bing.

BURT WOLF:  Meanwhile, up in Alaska, gold was getting ready to be discovered.  When word of the Yukon gold hit the newspapers in 1897, Seattle became the jumping-off point for thousands of miners.  In one year, the sales of the Seattle merchants went from under $500,000 to over $25 million.  This place was hustling.  And Seattle became the center for trade and commerce in the northwestern part of the United States.

One of the first things that you notice about Seattle is the town's unusual interest in coffee.  Seems like every available space has been given over to the selling of coffee.  There are hundreds and hundreds of coffee shops and coffee carts all over the town.  Even when you go into a store that has almost nothing to do with coffee, you'll find a coffee bar to welcome you into the space.  It's Mocha Madness.

The relationship between the United States and coffee makes a rather interesting story.  A story that actually began in London.  During the 1700s London was clearly a coffee-drinking town. 

The town had over 2,000 coffee houses and drank more coffee than any other city.  So the first English colonists to arrive in the New World came with a love of coffee. 

Ultimately it was economics that made England and its American colonies into tea drinkers.  Until the American Revolution of 1776 that is.  Of all of the taxes that the King of England placed on the American colonies, none was more offensive than the tax on tea.  And that frustration eventually boiled over to the Boston Tea Party and shortly thereafter, a general boycott of tea drinking by the patriotic colonial housewife. And it was at that point that Americans began their love of coffee.

But the history of how people really eat and drink shows that politics plays a very small role in our food selection.  Price, on the other hand, is a powerhouse and constantly alters the way we eat.  So when the American Revolutionary War was over and cheap tea showed up, we went right back to drinking it.  So what happened?

Well, what happened was the War of 1812.  During that war, the price of tea shot up.  We went back to drinking coffee.  Only this time the coffee was coming in from Latin America.  It was very inexpensive and it was also very good.  When the War of 1812 ended, tea came back, but this time it was not that inexpensive and it wasn't very good.

In the early days tea had been selected for us by the great English tea houses.  Now it was coming to us from American shippers who were interested more in tonnage than in taste.  And we stayed with coffee.  Why drink a terrible cup of tea when you could get an excellent cup of coffee and at a lower price?  It was then and for that reason that we became a nation of coffee drinkers.  Over half a billion cups every day.

If you want to try and find a reason for Seattle's passion for coffee, you might look at a number of factors.  Seattle has a rather gray climate which tends to keep people indoors, stimulating themselves with hot coffee.  And you might give some credit to the large number of Seattle's creative artists who like to hang out in coffee houses.  But the most important element in the passionate relationship of Seattle to coffee is a company called Starbuck's.

It was started here in Seattle in 1971 as a small coffee roasting company with a few retail outlets serving freshly roasted coffee.  Today it is America's leading importer and roaster of specialty coffee with over 230 company-owned stores, making it the largest coffee retailer in North America.

The company is run by a man named Howard Schultz who very well may have coffee running through his veins.  He definitely has it in his heart and his mind.  Take a look at this.

It's a series of architectural-styled drawings that explain each of the drinks that are regularly served at Starbuck's.  Seattle's favorite is called the Latte; it's a shot of espresso with steamed milk and a quarter-inch of foamed milk on the top. 

If Howard is the vision, then Dave Olson is the taste.  Dave is the guy who travels around the world to make sure that Starbuck's gets the beans that it wants and that those beans will brew the coffee it loves.  Back from his annual trip around the equator, I thought I'd ask him how to make the perfect cup of coffee.  Dave ought to know.

DAVE:  This is a method that comes real close to approximating what we do in the tasting room with nothing but ground coffee, glass, stainless steel, and hot water.  One scoop, or two level tablespoons ...

BURT WOLF:  A scoop is two level tablespoons?

DAVE:  Correct.  Per six ounces of water.  So now I have the grounds ... add a little water ...

WOLF:  Fresh water?

DAVE:  Fresh water, hot ... just off the boil.

WOLF:  Okay.

DAVE:  Stir it to get the grounds good and wetted ... fill it up ... now we have to wait for about three to four minutes while the coffee steeps.  While we're doing that, I'll explain some of the benefits here.  All of the water and all of the coffee are mixed together for the duration of the extraction period, unlike a drip method where the water slowly drips through and only a little bit is actually doing the extraction.  So now we'll imagine that those four minutes have passed, simply push down, press the grounds to the bottom of the beaker ...

WOLF:  Could I have just poured the water and the coffee together in that ratio in any kind of a pot and then drained it out?

DAVE:  Yes, yes. 

WOLF:  So the plunger system is just to separate the grinds from the ...

DAVE:  That's a real convenient way to accomplish the whole process.  So now we have six cups of hot, fresh, Gold Coast blend, just like we see it in the tasting room for us to buy.  Cheers.

WOLF:  And once you have a great cup of coffee, you might be interested in having a great cookie to go along with it.  And if that is the case, I would like to suggest the Chocolate Hazelnut cookies of pastry chef Regis Bernard at Seattle's Four Seasons Olympic Hotel.

Regis starts by putting ten and a half ounces of butter into the bowl of an electric mixer, followed by three-quarters of a cup of confectioner's sugar.  That gets blended together.  At which point, in go a cup of ground hazelnuts, three teaspoons of cinnamon, five egg whites and a cup and a quarter of flour.  That batter gets piped out onto a parchment-covered baking sheet in four-inch strips.  And into a 350 degree oven for fifteen minutes.  When they come out, every other cookie is turned over and given a coating of raspberry jam.  Regis has chosen raspberry jam but quite frankly, you can use whatever jam or fruit preserve that you like. 

The second cookie goes on top to make a sandwich which is them dipped into melted chocolate.

In 1938, Lloyd Anderson and a group of Seattle friends who enjoyed mountain climbing were bemoaning the fact that they were having a difficult time buying quality outdoor equipment at a reasonable price.  And so they decided to form a cooperative.  Their first retail space was a few shelves and a gas station.  Today that cooperative is called Recreational Equipment, Inc., or REI.  And it's the largest cooperative in North America.  Over 3 million people belong to REI though anyone can actually shop there.  They sell everything from a tent that will help keep you alive on Mt. Everest to a sensible pair of shoes for taking a walk.  But their heart still belongs to the great outdoors and the spirit of natural adventure.

Climbing over rock is definitely one of the more challenging experiences.  It challenges your body and it challenges your mind and it challenges your equipment. 

I think my favorite piece of equipment at REI is the one-cup outdoorsman's espresso maker.  You put in water and coffee and you heat it up and the espresso comes out.  I can just see Sir Edmund Hillary reaching the top of Mt. Everest, turning to his trusted Sherpa companion and saying, “Tenzig, old man -- twist of lemon?”  I should point out however, that it only makes espresso.  No steamed milk.  So cappuccinos and lattes are out.  You've got to understand that mountaineering is tough.

I originally came into this store looking for a new jacket.  But the more I walked around, the more cooking equipment I saw.  Cooking equipment that would be perfect for people who never intend to go camping or would never get involved in the adventure sports.  At least not the kind you play outside. 

This is a cooking fork that I liked because it came tightly folded up for backpacking but then I could extend it to any length I wanted for barbecuing back home in the back yard. 

A single spice bottle that's divided inside so it holds six different seasonings.  You flip up the top on the seasoning you want.  Not bad.

If you don't cook very much or you have a very small kitchen, this set of nesting pots could be kind of interesting.  It opens up to give you three small frying pans, two sauce pans, and a mini stock pot. 

I like this pan.  Non-stick surface on the inside, very very light.  Ideal for backpackers.  But also very good for anybody who has a problem lifting a heavy pot or pan.  A while back I developed a calcium deposit in my left shoulder and I just couldn't lift my regular pots and pans.  They were just too heavy.  Something like this would have been ideal. 

And when you're traveling to a part of the world where you're concerned about the safety of the water supply like, say, New York City, this awesome water purifier.  You pour in a little bit of the water you are concerned about, close the cap, and pump it into this glass.  Out comes water that is safe to drink.  Amazing, my dear Watson.  You never know where you're going to find something to make your life safer.

Just east of the city of Seattle is a place called the Herbfarm.  It got started in 1972 when Bill and Lola Zimmerman purchased a small piece of land and started to get ready for Bill's retirement from the Boeing Aircraft Company. 

One day Lola noticed that she had a few extra potted herb plants in her garden.  She put them into a wheelbarrow and put the wheelbarrow by the side of the road.  She also put in a little jar asking people to buy them and to pay for them by putting their money in the little jar.  Well, at the end of the day, Lola came back and the herbs were all gone.  Ah, but the jar was full.

Lola repeated the process until the Herbfarm grew into a business that produced over a quarter of a million plants a year.  It has a wonderful restaurant that is regularly chosen by the people of Seattle as one of their favorites. 

There's a gift shop, a national mail order catalogue, and an herbal education program that holds classes.  And these days, over 80,000 people stop by each season.

The Herbfarm had really not grown very much until 1986.  That was the year that Lola's son Ron and his wife Carrie Van Dyke took over the operations of the business and put Ron's marketing talents to work. 

CARRIE:  We have many different culinary herbs.  Probably several hundred varieties of oreganos and thymes and mints and lavenders.  And we also have all sorts of other products, a lot of books and things which we carry in our shop that we can ship anywhere.

BURT WOLF:  Um, I can smell this.

CARRIE:  That's my favorite plant.  That's the Tuscan Blue Rosemary.  It's very hearty and it has just real lovely thick foliage.

WOLF:  Pungent.


WOLF:  And then there's the restaurant.  It was originally opened by Ron, who had no formal training as a chef but clearly knew how to cook. 

As the business grew, it became necessary for Ron to bring in a professional chef.  His choice was Jerry Traunfeld, who's going to prepare two of the restaurant's recipes.

The first is a delicious soup based on carrots.  Jerry starts his recipe for carrot soup by toasting two tablespoons of coriander seeds in a frying pan for three minutes.

TRAUNFELD:  I'm just shaking the coriander seeds in the dry pan because once they're toasted, they have a completely different sort of a flavor and fragrance.  Before they're toasted, you can hardly smell them at all.  And I want to get them like a nice medium brown.

BURT WOLF: The seeds are then ground and held aside.  A little vegetable oil is heated in a saucepan and a large sliced onion goes in.  That's cooked and stirred for about three minutes.  A minced clove of garlic goes in.  A teaspoon of minced ginger, a pound of sliced carrots, six cups of chicken stock, a little salt and four tablespoons of toasted coriander.

All that simmers together for forty-five minutes.  Just at the end of the cooking time, Jerry adds in a quarter cup of freshly chopped mint.

TRAUNFELD:  It's really important with herbs to add them at the right point in cooking.  And a lot of herbs sort of lose all of their essential oils when they've been boiled for a while.  So, I often like to add to a soup or a sauce, the herbs at the very end and then ... you really get that fragrance and the full impact of the herb.

WOLF:  Then the soup goes into a blender and is turned into a puree.  Back into the pot.  A little pepper, a little lemon juice and it's ready to plate. 

TRAUNFELD:  And I'm always going to taste the soup because some carrots are sweeter than others, so if you're using ... carrots are very sweet, you can add a little more lemon juice.  If your carrots aren't so sweet, you can add a little bit of sugar.

WOLF:  The soup goes into a bowl, followed by a garnish of creme fraish, or yogurt, and a few edible flowers.

Carrots were one the very first foods in the human diet.  They got their start in Afghanistan and moved out to both Europe and Asia.  When they were brought to North American by the early colonists, some of the seeds escaped from the gardens and became wild carrots.  You see them all along the roadsides in the form of Queen Anne's Lace.

These days, the cultivated carrot is getting the royal treatment because of its nutritional value.  It appears that carrots help protect us against heart disease and cancer. 

The state of California cultivates 60,000 acres with carrots so the country has a fresh supply of carrots all year long. 

There are, however, a few things about carrots that should be remembered.  In order to get the full complement of Vitamin A in a carrot, it should be cooked.  Five minutes of steaming, or five minutes in the microwave will do the trick.

The darker the orange color, the more beta carotene in the carrot.  If you purchase carrots with the green leaves on top, take them off when you get them home.  The leaves draw moisture from the roots. 

And finally, don't store carrots next to apples or pears or other fruits that give off ethylene gas as they ripen.  That gas can cause the carrots to be bitter.  The best way to store carrots is in the refrigerator in the same type of plastic bag in which you find them in the supermarket.  These days, it looks like a carrot a day will keep the doctor away.

Jerry's second recipe is for an Apple Shortcake.  He starts by taking the leaves of some fresh rosemary and chopping them.

TRAUNFELD:  It's one of my favorites.  It's very, very versatile.  And it's a wonderful ... used in desserts with fruit.  Sort of like an Italian influence, but it's great with ... especially things like apples and pears.  If you grow it yourself, it tends to be tender in the colder parts of the country, so you'd have to bring it inside or grow it in a greenhouse or a sunny window or something.  But if you live in a climate where it will live through the winter, it gets to be a huge shrub and you have more rosemary than you could ever want.

WOLF:  Two cups of flour go into a mixer, followed by a tablespoon of baking powder, a half teaspoon of salt, a little sugar, three tablespoons of the chopped fresh rosemary and six tablespoons of butter.  All that gets mixed together.  Then in goes three-quarters of a cup of cream and a single egg yolk.  That's the dough, which gets rolled out on a floured surface.  When it's a half-inch thick it gets cut into three-inch rounds.

The disks get placed on a baking sheet that's covered with a piece of parchment paper.  A wash of egg white gets painted on.  Followed by a sprinkling of brown sugar.

The rounds rest in the refrigerator for half an hour and then go into a 375 degree oven for twenty minutes.  At that point, the shortcakes come out of the oven to cool.  While that's happening, three apples get peeled, sliced in half and cored.

TRAUNFELD:  I usually use melon ballers to take the cores out of the apples.  It really works better than anything else I've ever tried.  And whenever you have to do huge amounts of something like cases of apples, you always find the easiest way to do it.

WOLF: If I'd only had a melon baller in the army, it would have changed my whole approach to peeling and coring apples.

Next, three quarters of a cup of sugar go into a frying pan that's been placed over a medium heat.  A few minutes of cooking will draw the moisture out of the sugar.  As soon as that happens, three tablespoons of butter go in, the apple halves, and a few sprigs of rosemary. 

Then into a 375 degree Fahrenheit oven.  Fifteen minutes later, the apples get flipped over and go back into the oven for fifteen more minutes of baking. 

The cooked shortcakes are sliced in half.  The apples come out of the oven and are removed from the pan. 

The pan goes back on the range and six tablespoons of cream are used to deglaze the apple drippings.  The sauce gets drained out and the plating begins. 

The bottom of the shortcake goes onto the plate, the half apple goes on, scoop of ice cream, some of the sauce, then the second half of the shortcake on top.

Seattle is clearly becoming one of the better food towns in North America.  Excellent ingredients, many of which are produced locally,  fine chefs, and a general population that truly appreciates good cooking.

Please join us next time as we travel around the world looking for foods that taste good and make it easier to eat well.  I'm Burt Wolf.

Burt Wolf's Table: Jamaica - #209

BURT WOLF:  Jamaica, the land of relaxation, romance, reggae, and really great food.  We'll discover a 300-year-old cooking technique that is becoming a hot food fad in the U.S.  Meet the Prince of Reggae, Ziggy Marley, discover some easy down-home Jamaican recipes and check out a fruit that could come to haunt you if you don't open it properly.  So join me in Jamaica at Burt Wolf's Table. 

BURT WOLF:  The first people to live on the island of Jamaica were members of the Arawak tribe who had sailed over in their canoes from South America.  They did that in the mid-600s.  They were a seafaring people, they made their homes along the shores and they lived off seafood, roots and fruits.  Because Jamaica actually came out of the sea in a giant volcanic eruption, everything that grows on this island was brought here either by human travelers or dropped off by birds.  After the Arawaks, the Caribes came in.  Then the Europeans.  First the Spanish, then the English.  Europeans brought in the Africans.  There were also large immigrations of Arabic communities, Chinese and East Indians.  The national motto is "Out of Many, One People."  True, one people, but many pots.  Each of these ethnic groups arrived on the island, took their traditional recipes and adapted them to the local foods.  And there are some foods that are traditionally Jamaican.  Probably the most famous is Ackee.  Ackee is a fruit, red on the outside and yellow on the inside.  It has three large black seeds set between the yellow meat.  The meat of the Ackee is used to make the national Sunday morning breakfast dish, Ackee and Salt Fish.  The Ackee tastes a little like well-done scrambled eggs.  Ackee can only be eaten after the skin opens by itself and it's cooked.  When an Ackee is closed, and you can't clearly see the black seeds, it's poisonous.  There's also a Jamaican fruit called an Otaheite.  It looks like a pear and tastes like an apple.  It got its name because the first European to see it, looked at it and said, “Oh, Tahiti is where I saw a fruit just like that.”  And so everybody calls it an Otaheite.  I got that story from one of the leading authorities on Jamaica history.  I did not make it up. 

But you can make up a pot of Blue Mountain coffee.  The beans come from a small area in the Jamaican Mountains and are often thought to be the finest on the planet.  There is, however, a rather limited supply of authentic Blue Mountain coffee and last I heard, most of it was going to Japan, which is rapidly becoming a nation of coffee drinkers.  Another Jamaican specialty is the ortanique; it's a cross between an orange and a tangerine and it was developed by a local grower.

One of my favorite Jamaican specialties is called the jackfruit.  I was told that it's very important when you're picking one out to have the seller cut it open for you.  Otherwise, a Duppy Ghost will follow you home.  And if you're going home in a car or on a bicycle, the Duppy Ghost will give you a flat tire.  It's an interesting custom because the only way that you can tell if a jackfruit is ripe is to cut it open.  The superstition forces the seller to do the right thing. 

Jamaica is also well-known for its excellent bananas.  Some historians believe that the banana may have been the first fruit cultivated by man.  Though in reality it was more likely cultivated by a woman.  During the earliest times in our history, it was the lady of the cave that did the cultivation.  The banana is actually a giant berry that grows on a giant herb.  The banana starts out as a large purple bud.  As the bud develops, it opens up to reveal rows of tiny fingers.  Each of these fingers grows into a banana.  The fingers are clustered together into hands.  Several hands make a bunch.  Only one bunch grows on each plant during an entire year.  Side shoots are cultivated for next year's crop.  They're called daughters and granddaughters.  The banana is one of the most nutritious foods available.  It's low in sodium and low in fat with only about 100 calories in each.  It contains vitamin A, C and B6, iron and potassium.  These days, a number of medical authorities are suggesting that we increase our intake of potassium as part of an anti-high blood pressure diet.  Bananas are a good way to do that.

Jamaica also has a special relationship with the pineapple.  When a new food arrives on the shores of the foreign country, it usually takes many years before that food becomes a regular part of the local diet.  Often 200 or 300 years will pass before it becomes a basic food.  An outstanding exception to that rule is the pineapple.  Pineapples have grown wild in South American and the Caribbean for thousands of years.  The first Europeans to see a pineapple were the men who sailed here to Jamaica with Christopher Columbus on his second voyage.  They saw it, tasted it, loved it and brought it with them.  New World explorers would take pineapples aboard their boats to feed the sailors.  Pineapples are high in vitamin C and that protected the crews from scurvy.

When sailors would arrive in a new land, they would plant the pineapple crown to see if it would grow.  If it did, then they'd put down a crop in the hope that on some future voyage, they'd be able to return to that spot and the pineapples would be available to them.  Within fifty years, pineapples were growing in every major tropical area on the planet from Jamaica to Java.  The pineapple is a symbol of hospitality, especially here on the island of Jamaica.  It shows up on the country's coat of arms and there's a pineapple watermark on Jamaican money.  Interesting currency.  A source of funds and a shopping reminder all rolled into one.

Now, whether you're eating in a particular neighborhood or a particular nation, what you eat in that place is always the result of its economic and political history.  There are two keys to the contemporary cooking in Jamaica.  One is the wars that took place during the 1600s and 1700s between the European colonial powers, and the second is the introduction of the African people.  In the middle of the 1600s an English fleet attacked the Spanish colony on Jamaica.  The Spanish felt that they could not defend their position and withdrew to the safety of Cuba.  As they were leaving Jamaica, they freed and them armed their slaves.  The plan was to have these freed men wage guerilla war against the English until the Spanish could return with more troops.

Well, the Spanish never returned, but the freed slaves became such a powerful military force that eventually they were given a form of self- government.  The group was called the Maroons and even today they represent a distinct cultural group on the island of Jamaica.  For hundreds of years, the Maroons lived up in the mountains and harassed the British troops.  When they took a break from that, which wasn't very often, they'd go out hunting wild boar.  Some of the boar was cooked and eaten right on the spot where it was found.  But most of the boar was preserved in a secret recipe of hot spices and cooked between the battles.  Well, that recipe and that cooking technique eventually evolved into what today we call Jerk Pork.

As you drive along the roads of Jamaica, you are regularly confronted with the rich, pungent odor of outdoor cooking.  They're like patches of aromatic fog that have settled on the highway.  After a while, you realize that what you are smelling is a nearby jerk hut, a complex of simple shacks that form a gastronomic necklace around the island.  The central structure will be a circular counter with seats around the outside.  Nearby will be another building with the seasoning tables and the cooking pits.  Pork, chicken, fish and sausages are the usual menu.  The food is covered with a seasoning mixture and left to marinate.  Each Jerk chef believes that his or her seasoning is the best and keeps the recipe as a family secret.

The quantities vary from chef to chef but the basic ingredients in the seasoning is usually pretty much the same.  Nutmeg, thyme, hot peppers, scallions and onions and allspice.  While the meat marinates, a pit dug into the earth is lined with the wood of an allspice tree and set aflame.  When the wood is burned down to a bed of hot coals, the meat is put onto a grill about a foot and a half above the coals.  The meat is protected from the direct heat by aluminum foil.  As a result, the food is really cooked by the hot smoke.  Sheets of zinc roofing go on top to help contain the smoke.  At the end of the cooking time, which runs about thirty minutes for a whole fish, and 3 to 6 hours for large pieces of pork, the roofing is taken off and the meat receives some of the direct heat in order to give it a crisp outside surface.  Moist on the inside, crisp on the outside and great flavor.

The Jerk is always served with things that are bland or sweet in order to cut down on the impact of the spice.  Most often it's a sweet donut-like dough called “festival.”  There are always a few bottles of a local soft-drink type of grapefruit soda known as Ting.  But where did this word “Jerk” come from?  Well, some people feel it's a description of the constant turning or jerking around of the boar while it's cooking.  Other people think that it's a word used to describe the pulling apart or jerking apart of the pork just before it's served.  A third group thinks it's just a word that grew up to describe only the sauce.  I personally feel that it is the perfect word to describe what I would feel like if I came to Jamaica and didn't have some to eat.

The Enchanted Garden is a resort in the Ocho Rios area of the island of Jamaica.  It's set on twenty acres of tropical garden.  The structures are so cleverly placed that you can barely see them.  Twelve magnificent waterfalls run through the Enchanted Garden property and their gentle sound lulls you into a state of relaxation.

The objective of the management is to produce an environment that refreshes the soul.  A place to recharge and rejuvenate.  One of the things they did to achieve that was to set up a system where all the food and drink is included in the cost of the day.  From fruit punch in the pool, to the five-course dinners in the dining room.  You can eat what you want when you want.  And that can have a rather positive effect on your diet.  Instead of eating two or three very large meals, you end up with five or six smaller meals.  You spread them out throughout the day and you eat many more different foods.  Scientists are telling us that that is healthier for us and of course it makes perfectly good sense.  Throughout most of our history, we hunted and gathered our food.  That meant little bits throughout the day.  Find it, eat it.  Only when we moved to a more industrialized society did we develop our breakfast, lunch, and dinner mentality.  Great for industry, not so good for individuals.  You're better off spreading the food out throughout the day.  A piece of advice I think I'm going to take right now and spread out for a bowl of pumpkin soup. 

Enchanted Garden chef Patrick Rogers starts by cutting the rind off of a fresh pumpkin.  And he cuts the pumpkin meat into cubes.  If fresh pumpkin isn't available, you can use canned pumpkin or any fresh squash that you like.  Peel a large potato, cut it up into small chunks, then put the pumpkin and the potato into a pot of simmering chicken stock.  The recipe calls for equal amounts of pumpkin and potato and enough chicken stock to fully cover them in the pan. 

Pumpkin is a squash with a bright orange color and that orange color tells us that it contains beta carotene.  Beta carotene is a material that our bodies turn into Vitamin A.  And scientists are finding out that it's very important to our health.  It looks like it's a cancer blocker so the more fruits and vegetables that we get into our diets that have a bright orange color, the better off we are.

Next, we pop in a minced onion, a few cloves of minced garlic, a little thyme, and a bay leaf.  This is a local Jamaican chile pepper called the Scotch Bonnet and it has about the same heat as the surface of the sun. 

CHEF ROGERS:  That’s right.  And don’t cut it when you put it into the soup; you've got to put it in whole because it's got lots of power.

WOLF:  Put it in the soup whole?

MAN:  Right.

WOLF:  I can do that.

The Scotch Bonnet or Jalapeno goes into the pot and everything simmers for twenty minutes.  Then the bay leaf comes out.  That's very important.  The spine in the leaf is like a fish bone.  You don't want to get it caught in your throat.  The peppers come out.  The soup goes into a blender, then back into the sauce pan to heat up for a moment.  Finally, two ounces of buttermilk made from skim milk. 

What I love about this soup is it has a rich, creamy texture, but it is almost fat-free. 

Into a serving bowl with a garnish of fresh coriander and it's ready to go.

And to follow the pumpkin soup, the chef has a recipe for Jamaican chicken. 

Two tablespoons of vegetable oil go into a pan to heat up.  A mixture is made from a tablespoon each of cumin, turmeric, and coriander.  Also a stick of cinnamon.  The seasoning mixture goes into the hot oil.  The technique of heating dried seasonings in a little oil before adding them to a recipe is an old Indian method of increasing the flavor of the spices and it works well.  That cooks together over a very low flame for a minute.  Then in goes a cup of chicken stock.  That's brought to a boil and boiled for a minute.  An ounce of coconut milk goes in.  A clove of garlic is minced and added, plus some minced ginger, salt and pepper.  Chicken breasts with all of the fat and skin removed are given a light coating of oil to keep them from sticking to the pan.  Salt and pepper.  A little oil into the pan, in goes the chicken, thirty seconds of cooking on the first side, a gentle turn, and three minutes on the second side.  The chicken goes on to a serving plate, the sauce, some rice and peas and it's complete.

For centuries, the public art of Jamaica was an imitation of the art of Europe and Great Britain.  The classic woodcuts, etchings and paintings.  Representation of a significant event.  The local landscape.  Portraits of important people.  But after 400 years of suppression, on the walls of the buildings in one of the most economically depressed parts of Kingston, Jamaican art began to burst out.  The 1930's marked an incredible period.  In poetry, in literature, in music, in art, in sculpture.  Jamaica began to find its own voice.

In the Tivoli Garden district of Kingston, local artists began covering the walls of the buildings with wonderful, bright paintings of Jamaican life.  The tradition is called Yard Art and it is packed with powerful images for the community.  The Yard Artists evolved into a group of very talented painters.  They have a down-home, realistic vision of their country and they present their pictures with great honesty.

Just to the east of White River, along Jamaica's north shore, you will find Harmony Hall, a plantation great house built in 1886.  Today it is a restaurant downstairs and a gallery for artists upstairs.  Jamaicans love their local artists and turn out for their presentations.  They talk, they look and they buy.  Supporting your local artist and craftsman is important. 

The party that's taking place here is for Jonathan Routh.  He's an Englishman who spends half of each year in Jamaica.  There's a slightly wacky vision of food and his most recent paintings are fixated on fried eggs.  There is "The Day It Rained Fried Eggs on Port Antonio."  "Queen Victoria, Present At The Return of Jamaica's Great Fried Egg".  “A Simple Ocho Rios Egg Herder Minding His Flock."  Here's "Christopher Columbus Taking His Pet Fried Egg For A Walk On The Beach In Jamaica."  And "Ladies Washing And Ironing Fried Eggs on Jamaica's White River."

JONATHAN ROUTH:  If somebody would come along and explain uh, to me that it's absolutely wrong to paint eggs or “you're doing well, boy, paint the eggs,” uh, I'd love to hear what it’s all about.  Somebody got very near it the other day.  They said that “I’m no good at painting people, am I?”   And I said no, I don't know how to paint people.  I'm a sort of self-taught artist.  I cannot paint you, I cannot paint a nude ... a reclining nude.  And they said “ah ha, ah ha.  The egg is a reclining figure.  It is your substitution to being unable to paint a reclining nude.”  And I said really?  You mean hundreds of them at a time?  And um, because normally there are, at the minimum, nine eggs in any of my egg paintings.

BURT WOLF:  You focused on fried eggs as opposed to all of the other cooking forms you could have chosen.  Why was that?

MAN:  I think it's best for a beginner before you go on to something sophisticated like a scrambled egg.  A scrambled egg now ... to paint a scrambled egg is madness.  I don't think anybody's done it.  Ever. 

WOLF:  How many egg paintings did you do?

MAN:  I must have done ... I have no clue.  Let's say 100 just for the sake.  But one of them uh ... has got something like 5,000 eggs in it.  It's a tiny, tiny, tiny.  It's the one of eggs falling over on a place called Port Antonio here in Jamaica.

WOLF:  Have there been other foods that have inspired your paintings? 

MAN:  Yeah, pasta.  Pasta quite a bit.  I like the idea of pasta coming down great hills and engulfing villages and ... nobody gets hurt, mind you, but they just stay to eat it.

WOLF:  I find paintings like these extremely informative.  Not only are they interesting works of art, they suggest what's for lunch or dinner.

Chef Raymond Duthie at the Enchanted Garden must have been looking at these paintings.  He's preparing a roast loin with pasta. 

Pork loins are seasoned with salt and pepper and sauteed in a little vegetable oil for about two minutes on each side.  Turn them as they cook.  You want to get a nice brown surface all over.  Then cover and cook for about five minutes.  While the pork is cooking, some fresh ginger is peeled and sliced and minced.  Some scallions are cut up into small pieces, the pork loins come out of the pan, the excess grease is poured off, the ginger goes in.  The scallions, a tablespoon of white vinegar, and an optional ounce of white wine.  It boils down for a few minutes until you have about a tablespoon or so of liquid with a highly concentrated flavor.  And a pint of beef broth goes in.  Three tablespoons of honey, and a half cup of minced carrots.  Ten more minutes of boiling and the sauce is thick and ready.  The pork is sliced, fanned out on the serving plate, pasta in the center, sauce on top of the pork, and a green onion garnish. 

More than anything else, what makes Jamaican food Jamaican is the use of certain spices and chili peppers.  The most notable spice on Jamaica is all-spice.

When most people first see a jar marked allspice, they think it's filled with lots of different spices.  Not so.  Allspice is actually the hard, small, round berry of the pimento tree.  Pimento trees got their start in South America and the Caribbean and they grow particularly well here on the island of Jamaica.  When European colonists first saw the pimento tree, they took one whiff of it and decided that it smelled like cinnamon cloves, nutmeg and pepper, all rolled into one.  And so they called it allspice. 

Jamaicans use it in pies, cakes and cookies, but it's also a basic flavoring agent for pork and chicken dishes. 

When it comes to chili peppers, the superstar in Jamaica is the Scotch Bonnet.  It's actually the most popular chili in the Caribbean.  If you're handling hot chilis and you have sensitive skin, use a kitchen glove and don't put your hands near your eyes or your face until after you've washed them very carefully.  Chilis are hot stuff.  And from a nutritional point of view, so is the Jamaican favorite, peas and rice.

We don't call them peas in the United States.  We'd actually call them beans.  But whatever you call them, this is a great dish.

Half an onion is minced, then a green onion is sliced, little thyme, little garlic, and a hot pepper.  Jalapeno will do fine.  All that goes into a saucepan with four cups of boiling water.  A cup of beans go in, and a little vegetable oil.

Beans are actually the seeds of plants in the legume family.  And there are a couple of dozen varieties that have been growing all over the world for thousands and thousands of years.  They're a great source of iron and the B vitamins and they are packed with dietary fiber. 

Everything simmers together for forty-five minutes at which point two ounces of coconut milk are added in.  If you can't make coconut milk, or find a coconut milk or cream in your market, just go right on.  The dish will still taste great. 

Next a cup of uncooked rice is added and some freshly ground black pepper.  That simmers for twenty minutes.  The pepper comes out and it's ready to serve.

Nutritionists at the American Dietetic Association are telling us that we should get more beans into our diet.  They're packed with valuable nutrients and very low in fat.  If you're picking out beans in the market, try and get the ones that are raw, uncooked.  They have many more nutrients than those that are canned or frozen.  And it's really very easy to cook beans. 

Sort through the beans and make sure that no pebbles or twigs have come along from the harvest.  Place the beans in a large pot and cover them with water.  The water should come up at least two inches above the beans.  Bring the water to a boil, cover and cook for two minutes.  Then uncover and let the beans soak for an hour.  This is a much better system than letting the beans soak overnight.  With this method, you preserve many more of the valuable nutrients.

Next, you drain off the old water, cover the beans with fresh water and let them simmer for thirty-five minutes or until their tender and that's it.  Put those beans together with whole grain brown rice and you will have a nutritional package that has the same quality protein as you would find in meat, fish or poultry. 

BURT WOLF:  Reggae is the music of Jamaica, and these days one of the international stars of reggae is Ziggy Marley. 

He's very serious about what he eats and has been a vegetarian for a number of years.  To keep up his carbo power I thought that a suitable follow-up recipe would be a local specialty called Rasta Pasta. 

A little vegetable oil goes into a saute pan to heat up.  Add a clove of minced garlic.  That cooks for a minute and in goes a sliced onion.  A few more minutes of cooking and here come the ingredients that make the pasta Rasta.  These are peppers in the colors of the Rasta flag:  green, red and yellow.  Various local and imported herbs and seasonings are added according to your taste.  We used oregano, basil and tabasco.  Curly pasta is cooked, drained and added to the pan.  Curly pasta is very important.  It's a reference to the dreadlocks of the Rastas.  Tomato sauce goes into a serving dish and the pasta on top. 

BURT WOLF:  Ziggy did say he was allowing a little seafood into his generally vegetarian diet; in response to which I'd like to suggest this shrimp dish. 

A little vegetable oil goes into a pan to heat up.  Then a pound of shrimp with the shells off.  A little pepper, cook the shrimp for about two minutes, turning them as they cook.  When they're pink, take them out to a holding dish.  Then the shells that you took off the shrimp go into the pan.  Plus a chopped onion, a few cloves of minced garlic and a cup of sliced celery.  Time for some thyme, a bay leaf, a few tablespoons of tomato paste, a half cup of white wine and two cups of fish stock or just plain water.  All that simmers together for twenty minutes.  At that point, the sauce is strained.  It goes back into the pan and is joined by a series of bite-sized vegetables.  Potatoes, carrots and yams.  Add the shrimp.  Stir the sauce up to cover everything, let the mixture reheat, then onto a serving plate, garnish of tomato strips and a sprinkling of fresh parsley.

The people on this island are very friendly.  They have a great sense of humor and they've developed their own national cuisine that tastes great.  Please join us next time as we travel around the world looking for foods that taste good and are good for you too.  I'm Burt Wolf.

Burt Wolf's Table: France - #208

BURT WOLF:   France, the cultural center of the western world.  It's the place to take a look at how a classic chef is trained, to find out what the monks of a 16th century abbey were drinking to keep up their good health.  We'll find out about a widow who took over her husband's champagne business and made it famous.  And we'll cook up some easy and great-tasting recipes.  So join me in France, at Burt Wolf's Table.

If there's anything that fascinates the people of France, it's fashion. Many of the great fashion houses of France line the Avenue Montaigne.  Christian Dior, Chanel, and Christian Lacroix on one side.  Nina Ricci and Guy Laroche on the other.  Quite a street.

The Champs Elysees, with its Arc de Triomphe, mark the top of the Avenue.  The River Seine and the Tour Eiffel sit at the bottom.  The neighborhood is a namedropper's dream.  And right smack in the middle is the Hotel Plaza Athenee.  It's great from the outside, and everything gets better as you head in.  Look at the detailing on the door plates, and the workmanship in the lobby. 

Just to the right of the entrance area is the Galerie de Gobelins, which is named after the famous glassworks that made the chandeliers.  That's where the hotel serves its afternoon tea.

One of the most beautiful parts of the Plaza Athenee is the internal courtyard.  During the late spring and summer, the walls of the building are completely covered with ivy and the place is packed with tables, umbrellas and guests.

Well, as you probably guessed by now, it is not late spring or summer.  It's actually early April, and it's still pretty chilly in Paris.  Whoever it was who wrote the song "April in Paris", either he wasn't here at the time, or he was getting paid off big bucks by the French Tourist Association.  I did want you see the courtyard, however, when it's at its best.  Here’s a photograph.

Let me try that again. 

One of the most beautiful parts of the Plaza Athenee is the internal courtyard.  During the late spring and summer the walls of the building are completely covered with ivy, and the place is packed with tables, umbrellas and guests.

Hmm, I think the birds help a lot.

The main restaurant is Le Regence. The room is about as beautiful as a restaurant can get.  The hotel is also very proud of Le Relais.  It's a more informal restaurant that opened in 1937, and has been the place to see and be seen ever since.

Over the years I've looked at the famous guest list in hundreds of hotels.  The same names keep popping up.  Elizabeth Taylor.  Marcello Mastroianni.  The Queen of Denmark.  The King of Spain.  These folks are always on the road.  It's almost as if their parents won't let them come home.  But the most unusual name I've ever seen on a guest list is right here at the Plaza Athenee.

She was born in 1876 in the Netherlands, and her real name was Margrethe Zell.   She had a popular stage act, pretending to be a Javanese dancer.  When her show lost its popularity, she went to work as a spy for the Germans, and became one of the most famous spies of the 20th century.  She was known as Mata Hari.  And this was her room at the Plaza Athenee.  She would come here with French military officers, and use her.... (CLEARS THROAT)  “charms” to gain information. “Oh, my dear, did you have a hard time at the... oh, what unit did you say you were in?”  Seems to have worked.

The French Revolution of the 1780's changed the face of France in many ways.  It uprooted an ancient system of government and issued in a period of mass confusion.  During the reign of terror that was part of the French Revolution, thousands of nobles were sent to the guillotine.  One of the side effects of those executions was to put the cooks of the nobles out of work.  Thousands and thousands of cooks without any hope of ever getting their job back.  “Getting their job back,” they couldn't even get a letter of recommendation any more.  To earn a living, they literally invented the idea of the modern restaurant, and opened dozens of them all over Paris.

One of the functions that restaurants have served ever since then has been to give the people of a town or neighborhood a chance to get a good look at each other, to show off a bit.  Le Relais is famous for that.

Gerard Salle is the executive chef, and his job is to oversee every aspect of the hotel's food and wine service.  We were talking about the differences between the recipes used in home cooking, and those that are used in most restaurants, and I asked him about the traditional Sunday chicken dinners that were served in his childhood.  In response, he cooked the following chicken fricassee. 

A chicken is cut into twelve pieces and salted and peppered.  A little vegetable oil goes into a saute pan.  The chicken goes into the pan, skin-side down, and cooks for fifteen minutes.  Then the chicken comes out of the pan.  Two cups of button mushrooms get washed quickly and go in.  Cooking the mushrooms in the drippings from the chicken adds flavor and color.  A cup of cream goes in and cooks for a few minutes. Then the chicken goes back into the pan to mix with the mushrooms and the sauce.  In a separate saucepan, a cup of baby onions are cooked in a little water and butter.  At that point the chicken comes out of the pan, and the chef places it on a serving dish.  The onions go on, some asparagus, the mushrooms and the sauce.

Another piece of work in an entirely different way is the hotel's English bar, with its rather gentlemanly atmosphere. The walls of the bar have a collection of photographs that show the famous entertainers who have stopped in for a drink.

So what are the famous and fashionable drinking these days?  Well, it's actually a series of drinks that go back to the old Benedictine monks.  During the early 1500's, a monk by the name of Don Bernardo Vincelli began making an elixir. He made it in a Benedictine abbey in the French town of Fecamp.  


Bernardo had grown up with a great understanding of spices and how they were to be used both for flavoring and medicinal effects.  His secret formula for the distillation contains 27 different exotic spices and local herbs.  For almost 300 years the monastery reproduced Brother Bernardo's recipe.  The monks felt that the drink gave them strength and kept them healthy.  However, during the French Revolution, both the recipe and the manufacturing technique were lost.  During the early 1800's, however, a man by the name of Alexandre LeGrand was looking through a bunch of books in his family library, and he came upon a group that belonged to the monks.  Inside one of them was Brother Bernardo's original recipe.

LeGrand started to experiment with the formula, and was eventually able to produce an extraordinary drink which he began to offer to the public under the name Benedictine.  Monsieur LeGrand was kind of an amazing character.  He built this fantastic replica of a Renaissance palace to house both his manufacturing facility and a museum.

He was an early believer in advertising and commissioned artists to produce Benedictine posters.  He also asked them to design various other things that contained the Benedictine graphic. He was so successful in promoting his drink that soon people began to make counterfeits.  This display is made up of bottles that try to pass themselves off as the real thing, but are actually just fakes. 

As a result, LeGrand was deeply involved in the development of laws to protect brand identification.  Alexandre LeGrand translates into English as Alexander the Great, and in the history of distilled spirits, he sure was.

In 1937, a bartender at New York's 21 Club mixed some Benedictine together with some French brandy and created the drink called B&B.  Shortly after, the company that made Benedictine decided to do the blending themselves,  and began to offer B&B in a bottle.  Today these two products, Benedictine and B&B are still made in the little French town of Fecamp.

Today's drink at the Plaza Athenee is called a Marco Polo.  And it's made by mixing together one part Benedictine, one part cognac, and three parts of orange juice.  A variation of that is called a Sunny Day.  Two parts Benedictine to three parts of grapefruit juice.  They both get served with ice.

Well, those old monks certainly had a way with vitamin C.

The Plaza Athenee is named after the mythical Greek goddess Athena.  Athena is the goddess of wisdom, and I can't think of a more perfect symbol for the Plaza Athenee.  A number of America's most talented chefs got their training right here in this kitchen.  Two of the most famous are Pierre Franey and Jacques Pepin, both of whom have very successful television shows. 

Even today the hotel has a classic program for apprentices.  You start in the vegetable area where you learn to clean and prepare various vegetables.  Every once in a while, if you appear to be skillful, that is, you'll get a fruit to challenge your talents.  That goes on for about two months.  Then it's off to the breakfast and soup area.  That's your first contact with heat.  And now you're really cooking.  Actually you're just boiling most of the time, but it's clearly a step in the right direction . A few months more and it's off to sauces, followed by grilling, fish cookery, food purchasing and storage, and finally the arts of pastry and candy-making.

Two years of hard work, and they're ready to go out into the world and do some serious damage to other people's waistlines.  Actually, that's unfair of me to say.  Everything is okay in moderation.  It's just that in this environment, I find it very hard to be moderate.

Another dish from Executive Chef Salle is fish provencale.   Gerard starts by putting a little stock or vermouth into a saute pan, and a little vegetable oil.  Then the fish goes in, and the pan goes into a 350 degree fahrenheit oven for twelve minutes.  When the fish comes out of the oven, it goes onto a pan that allows the chef to trim off the bones that catch the juices that are dripping from the fish.  The fish will always have more flavor if it's cooked with its bones in.  The fish is transferred to a plate.  Some cooked spinach goes onto one filet, then some fresh tomato sauce.  A little more tomato sauce on the second filet, which is then placed on top of the first.  The sauce is made by taking the juice that drips off the fish during the baking, and heating it in a saucepan with a little butter, and a few pre-cooked fava beans.  The fish goes onto the serving plate, and the sauce goes on top.  A little more of the tomatoes as a garnish.

No discussion of French food would be complete without a souffle, and Gerard has one with a chocolate base - my favorite.

The technique for making a souffle is really pretty straightforward.   A little milk is heated in a saucepan, and some sugar goes in.  Some butter is melted in a second pan, and some flour is whisked in to make what is called a roux.

I love it when a great chef asks me to help him.

When the flour is fully incorporated in the butter, the milk is mixed in, and a few egg yolks.  And finally, melted chocolate.  What you have now is the basic chocolate mixture.  That sits aside while some egg whites are beaten until they stand in peaks.  That should take about five minutes of beating.  Just as they begin to get stiff, some sugar is added in.  The beaten egg whites are then gently folded into the chocolate mixture.  That gets poured into molds with inside walls that have been given a light coating of butter and dusted with sugar.

One of the tricks that professional chefs use to make a souffle rise is to coat the inside of the mold with butter, and then to coat the butter with sugar.  When the souffle starts to rise up in the heat of the oven, instead of crawling up a shiny, smooth wall that's difficult, it has a texture like sandpaper, and that makes it much easier for the egg whites to crawl up.  It's a great idea.

Then into a 400 degree fahrenheit oven for ten minutes, and they're ready to serve.

Well, I think it's time to get out of the kitchen, and take a look at some of the more famous sights of Paris.  Paris is a great city for walking, and for most people walking is a great thing for your body.  I'm walking at the pace of four miles per hour, so if I do this for 45 minutes I will have covered three miles.  And my doctors tell me if I do that four or five times a week, I will have the basis of an exercise program that won't stress my body, and will help me with my good health.   They also think it might actually retard the effects of aging.  So let's do it!

That's the Louvre.  Its construction began in the 1200's as a royal fortress.  It first became a museum just after the French Revolution.  Nice place.  Lots of paintings with food.

When you look down the street from the Louvre toward the Arc de Triomphe, you're looking down the Champs Elysses.  In the 1400's it was a dump for butchers.  But in the 1500's, the Queen Mother, Catherine DeMedici, built a little chateau here and began the development of a series of parks.  The place soon became the fashionable spot to hang out.

The Place de la Concorde.  One of the most beautiful and dramatic parts of Paris.  The aldermen of Paris wanted to get on the good side of King Louis XV, so they built this place in 1755 and gave it as a gift to... to the Well-Beloved.  That was his nickname, the Well-Beloved. 

Well, I promised to stop here at Place de la Concorde, and thank a well-beloved friend of mine.  He's the chef at Air France.  I flew here to Paris on an Air France Concorde.  Took me a little over three hours from New York City.  It's quite amazing.  Not only did they serve an excellent meal on board, but they were kind enough to let my camera crew go into the kitchen and film the recipe.

The recipe is for a classic French apple tart called a tarte tatin.  Chef Michel Martin starts by peeling, coring and quartering ten apples.  Then he butters a pan and coats the bottom with a third of a cup of sugar.  The slices from eight of the apples are arranged in the pan.  The two remaining apples are chopped and scattered on top.  A little sugar goes on, a few dots of butter.  And finally a sheet of puff pastry dough that's fitted to the top of the pan.  A few holes in the dough to let out the cooking steam, and into a 375 degree oven for 60 minutes.  When it comes out, the pan is heated on a burner to caramelize the bottom, and then it's flipped over so the dough ends up on the bottom, and the apples on the top.  The classic tarte tatin.

A little further along on this walking tour, and you're confronted by the Arc de Triomphe.  It was commissioned by Napoleon in 1806 to honor the French military.  The church St. Mary Magdalene, known to Parisians as La Madeleine.  It looks more like a Greek temple than a Christian church, and these days it's undergoing a major renovation.  To keep it looking good, a life-size reproduction of the facade has been painted and hung up.

An amazing piece of work, but not a new idea for this city.  In 1810, the Empress Marie Louise was supposed to make her triumphal entrance to Paris, and pass under the Arc de Triomphe.  The only problem was the arch was a little bit behind schedule, and only stood about a foot and a half high.  Not very impressive for an empress.   So the architect made a life-size painting on canvas, and hung it from some scaffolding.  Two hundred years later, they're still doing the same stuff.

And there is the most famous symbol of the city of Paris, the Tour Eiffel, the Eiffel Tower.

When it was completed in the late 1800's, it was the highest manmade object in the world.  As we all know, the highest manmade object in the world today is the U.S. national debt.  And speaking of debt, I'd like to talk about a lady to whom everybody who works in television owes a debt of thanks.

She came to us through the efforts of public broadcasting, and she changed the way millions of Americans cooked.  She was the French Chef.

But how did Julia Child get to be the French Chef?  The proper technique for the preparation of rognons de veau a la grande moutarde is not something you pick up on the way home from the supermarket.  She learned to be a French chef right here in Paris at a cooking school called Le Cordon Bleu.

The history of Le Cordon Bleu goes back to the 1500's.  There was a society of knights who wore blue ribbons to mark their membership.  They also had a big deal reputation for good eating.   King Louis XV once told his girlfriend, Madame Du Barry, that he thought only men made great professional chefs.  Well, a little while later in what appeared to be a totally unrelated event, Madame invited Louis over to her place for a little late supper.  It was a wipeout dinner, at the end of which the King commented that he thought the new guy working in Du Barry's kitchen was as good as anyone working in his own royal household.  At which point Du Barry informed the King that her chef was indeed a woman, and that she thought the King owed her chef a Cordon Bleu in honor of her skills.  From then on , Le Cordon Bleu has been associated with good cooking.

The Cordon Bleu cooking school got started here in Paris in 1895.  In the 1950's film "Sabrina", Audrey Hepburn is sent to the Cordon Bleu cooking school in Paris to get her culinary education.  It was the only proper thing to do since this place is really the world's top-ranked cooking school for French technique.

If Sabrina was going for the ultimate, the Grand Diplome, she'd be taking a series of five courses spread out over nine months.  What if she had to get back to making movies?  Okay... three- to five-day intensive classes.   What if she had to get back to Cary Grant?  No problem.  One-day workshops.  They'll have you back in time to dress for dinner.


This was the first school to set up a teaching system that starts with an instructor showing the students how to make the dish.  It allows them to sample the proper taste and finally sends them off to their own individual cooking area to reproduce the recipe.  It takes time to learn this way, and it takes money to give each student his or her own ingredients, and cooking equipment, including a four-burner range and oven.  The students come from all over the world.  Right now in these classes, over 30 different countries are represented, and it's been like this since the beginning.

This is Cordon Bleu chef Didier Chantefort, and he's demonstrating the technique for pork with prunes.

A little oil and butter go into a saute pan.  The pork filets go into the pan and they're browned.  While the meat is browning, an aromatic garnish is prepared.  Thyme, parsley and a bay leaf are wrapped in a leek.  When the meat is brown on all sides, it's removed to a large casserole.  The instructor uses a fork but doesn't press it into the meat because he doesn't want to make any holes that would let the meat juices drain out.  The aromatic garnish goes onto the meat.  Some chopped onions and chopped carrots are browned in a pan.  A little flour is added.  The flour will help bind the sauce that he'll be making in a minute.  The onions and carrots go in with the meat, and the pan that they were cooked in is deglazed with white wine.  Deglazing is a simple process.  Whatever is cooked in a pan is removed and a liquid is poured in.  The heat is turned up and the pan drippings are scraped into the liquid.  The liquid is cooked down to about half the original volume to thicken the sauce, and that's deglazing.  And that's poured onto the pork.  A little meat stock is added.  The cover goes on, and it's into a 375 degree fahrenheit oven for 25 minutes.  At that point the pork comes out of the oven, and out of the pan.  The sauce is finished off by skimming the liquid for any impurities, and passing the clean sauce through a sieve.  That particular form of sieve is called a Chinese hat.  The vegetables are pressed to get out all of the juices and their flavors.  The drippings are then heated and a little cream is added.  A cup of pitted prunes come in.  The prunes have a natural sweetness that gives the dish a rich flavor.  Prunes are actually an ideal flavoring for pork and poultry recipes.  A few more moments of cooking, and the dish is ready to plate.

In 1772, Philippe Clicquot announced that he was going into the wine business.  Philippe's family had been living in the champagne district of France since the 1400's, and had become rather prosperous middle-class merchants.  It was not unusual for a family of this type to make and sell a little wine from the vineyards on their land.  But now Phillipe was getting real serious about making great champagne.

In 1798, Philippe's son, Francois, became a partner in his father's business.  He had a plan for expanding the business by using traveling salesmen who would stop into any town in Europe where they thought they could get a respectable order.  Business was doing quite well when suddenly Francois died.  His widow took over the business.  She was only 28 years old at the time.  And what a time it was, too.  The Napoleonic wars were underway, and Europe was a wreck.

Nobody, but nobody was interested in ordering champagne, and besides, you couldn't deliver those orders anyway.  The British Navy was blockading all of the ports, and the overland roads were unsafe.  And if by some miracle you actually got a valid order and you were able to deliver it, you probably would not get paid.  And it was in this magnificent business climate that Madame Clicquot spent her first few years at the company. 

You have got to love this woman.  She must have been made of steel.

As soon as the war ended, and the royal house of France was restored, Madame Clicquot made a shipment of champagne to Russia.  The Russians loved the quality, and very soon Clicquot became a household name.  Of course, it was the household of the Czar, but it's always been important to have your name mentioned in places of power.

When Madame Clicquot took over the business they were shipping 50 thousand bottles a year.  When she died in 1866 at the age of 89, they were shipping 800 thousand bottles a year.  Quite an increase in the business, and all due to the efforts of this one woman.  She also bought some vineyards to make sure that she had a good supply of top quality wine, and she never gave up her search for improving the quality and techniques of her own champagne.  The business is literally named after her.  Veuve Clicquot means the Widow Clicquot.


This is Edouard Denazelle, whose family has been giving direction to the company for many decades.  And these are the company's ancient caves, through which he will direct me.

“Tell me about the caves.”

EDWARD DENAZELLE:   Well, these caves are quite ancient.  They are between 1800 and 2000 years old.  They were....

BURT WOLF:   These caves are made of limestone chalk that was deposited here thousands of years ago when this part of France was actually at the bottom of an ocean.  The ancient Romans knew about these caves, and used them to quarry large stones.  The stones formed the walls of the forts for Julius Caesar's army.  The champagne in these bottles starts out as the juice of a grape which is brought here in a wooden cask.  This is the most northerly area in Europe for quality wine grape growing.  North of here are the beer drinkers. 

The natural yeast on the grape turns to sugar and the grape juice to alcohol and carbon dioxide gas.  The result is called wine. 

The wine from each growing area is held in a separate barrel.  The art of the champagne house is really to blend together all the different wines to get a perfectly balanced champagne.  The wine sits in these bottles and the growing yeast inside causes bubbles to form, which is what champagne is all about.

The early champagne makers could only produce a champagne that was cloudy, because the dried yeast cells remained in the bottle.  And then a system called riddling was developed.  The bottles are slowly turned upside down until all the yeast sinks down to the neck.  The table that makes that easy is called a riddling table.  It was developed by Madame Clicquot from one of her desks.

After a few years in the cellar, the cellar master checks the yeast sediment in the bottle.  Then he opens the bottle...


And lets the pressure blow off the sediment.  At that point the bottle is recorked so we can open it later.

Well, that's all from France.  Please join us next time as we travel around the world looking for good things to eat and drink at Burt Wolf's Table.

Burt Wolf's Table: San Juan - #207

BURT WOLF:  San Juan, Puerto Rico, one of the most beautiful cities in the Caribbean, and home to some of the best cooking.  It's the place to see how the influence of the native tribes, the Spanish, and the Africans combined to produce some great dishes.  We'll get an overview of the famous walled city, discover Puerto Rico's healthiest snack foods, and sample the best local specialties.  So join me in San Juan, Puerto Rico at Burt Wolf's Table.

Sometime during the first century A.D., a tribal group from South America known as the Tainos settled down on the island of Puerto Rico. They appear to have been a rather peaceful group with a well-developed culture.  The biggest problems came from the aggressive Caribe tribes that moved through the area attacking the native islanders.

The Caribes considered the Tainos a local delicacy and tried to get them into their diet whenever possible.  As a matter of fact, the word "cannibal" came into European languages to describe the way the Caribe Indians ate. 

On November 19th, 1493 Columbus bumped into the island of Puerto Rico and claimed it for the King of Spain.  This was his second voyage, and he was really getting the knack of this “claiming thing.”

Like most people who visit the island, he was particularly interested in the local handcrafts, specifically the native jewelry.  It was made of gold.  In 1508, one of Columbus's shipmates, Juan Ponce de Leon, made a deal for the gold rights on Puerto Rico and moved in.  There really wasn't enough gold on the island to make anyone very rich, but Ponce did well selling supplies to the prospectors.  That, by the way, is a story that is continually repeated.  I can't think of anybody that made a great fortune in the California Gold Rush and kept that fortune after the rush was over, but the guy who sold the gold miners their pants? Levi, as in Levi jeans.

Anyway, when the little bit of gold that was in Puerto Rico ran out, the settlers turned to farming.

The children who were the product of the intermarriages between the Spanish and the natives, or the black slaves that had been supplied by the Portuguese traders, were unable to get land by grant.  So they settled up in the hills and farmed on small plots.  Thousands of their descendents are still there.  Those colonists who were considered by the Spanish authorities to be “the right stuff” were given plantations.  The cash crop of choice was sugar, which was worth big bucks back in Europe.  Sugar was also processed into molasses, and the molasses into run.  Settlers also built up a trade in coffee and spices.   

For the next 300 years or so the Spanish crown more or less abused the island's economy.  Then in 1898, with the conclusion of the Spanish-American War, Puerto Rico became a protectorate of the United States, and today it is a Commonwealth.

Of all the cities built by Europeans in the Western Hemisphere, Puerto Rico's San Juan is the oldest, and it is also the most picturesque.   There's a seven square block area designated as Old San Juan, and it is a showcase of Puerto Rican culture and architecture, museums, galleries, shops, all placed within structures that give you  the feeling of old Spain. 

The Plaza Colon, a shaded square with a statue of Christopher Columbus in the center; it's an excellent starting point for a tour of the old quarter.  The Paseo de la Princesa.  During the 1800's, it was an esplanade where the who's who of Spanish colonial gentry strolled along to see and be seen. 

As part of the area's reconstruction, a statue has been installed that represents the Indian, Spanish and African origins of the Puerto Rican population.  Behind the statue is a former prison that has been turned into the office of Puerto Rico's tourist commission, a reflection of the fact that pirating is out, and tourism is in.

Plaza de Jostas, the domino heaven of the western world.   The City Hall, built in 1602 as a precise replica of the City Hall in Madrid.  And the Capia del Cristo.  Built during the 1700's, it comes with an interesting legend.  The story tells of two men having a horse race as part of a competition to win the hand of a young maiden.  As one came to the end of the street, he missed the turn and flipped off the cliff.  His miraculous survival is attributed to the intercession of Christ, and the chapel behind me was built as a commemoration to that event.  It also was perfectly placed to prevent a replay of the accident.

The San Juan Cathedral.  It was the site of the first consecration of a bishop in the New World.  The Cathedral also contains the remains of Ponce de Leon, the first governor of Puerto Rico.

It's interesting to note that outside of Puerto Rico, Ponce de Leon is remembered primarily for his travels in search of the Fountain Of Youth, which, in fact, he never found, and was actually killed by Florida Indians during that very search.  Off the record, my own recommendation for a fountain of youth is a low-fat diet and a regular aerobic exercise program.  Now, I don't think that's going to extend my life one day, but I do think it will help postpone my final illnesses until maybe the last twenty minutes, and after all, one of my objectives is to die in perfect health.

And speaking of perfect health, here's a recipe for shrimp asopao that is perfectly healthy.

Asopao is a gumbo-like soup made with rice and seafood or chicken, and it's as traditional a Puerto Rican specialty as you can find.  Here's how it's prepared by Chef John Carey at San Juan's El San Juan Hotel. 

A little vegetable oil goes into a hot saucepan, and a half cup of chopped onion is added and cooked for a few minutes.  In go two chopped tomatoes.  A few more minutes of cooking.  Then add ten large shrimp that have been shelled and cleaned.  The next ingredient is called recaito.  It's a seasoning mixture.  In Puerto Rico most cooks buy it ready-made in a jar, but you can make a fairly close duplication by mixing together equal amounts of chopped onion, chopped jalapeno pepper, and chopped cilantro with a little bit of olive oil.  Three tablespoons of the sauce go in.   Then three cups of warm chicken stock are added and brought to a boil.  Two cups of cooked rice, a little cilantro, a few stuffed olives.  Some cooked asparagus tips, and some cooked peas.  As soon as everything is heated through, the asopao is ready to serve.

One of the world's finest collections of tropical and semi-tropical plants is to be found in the Botanical Gardens of San Juan...  over 200 acres  of vegetation that illustrates the richness of this island's agriculture.  Within the landscape is an area filled with exotic fruits that were once a major part of the Puerto Rican diet. 

That's a Caimito tree.  It has a star-shaped fruit with a pulp that tastes like a sweet jelly.  It's eaten raw for a snack or a dessert. 

That's a tamarind tree which can live for over two hundred years.  The fruit is inside this powder-packed shell.  It's a bit sticky and has a flavor that will probably remind you of Worcestershire sauce ... which makes sense because tamarind is used to make Worcestershire.

This is a Spanish lime, or a key lime ...  much smaller, much more tart in flavor and much more difficult to find in the supermarket than a standard lime.  It's what the bakers really had in mind when they made the original key lime pies.  And if you ever get to taste a real key lime pie ... you'll see that it has a much more intense citrus flavor than the key lime pies we make with our standard limes.

That fifty-foot tree is a Quenepa tree.  The fruits are small ovals that look like lichee nuts and you eat them the same way.  Peel off the hard skin and watch out for the large pit. 

During the summer these fruits are sold along the roadsides as a snack ... and a healthful one too. 

Dr. Henri Liogier was born in France, but by the time he was in his early 20's, he knew that his major professional interest was going to be the study of tropical plants.  Since 1934 he's been in the Caribbean investigating everything that grows.

DR. HENRI LIOGIER:   Here we have a nispero tree, which is a native tree, much in use  here.  You can find the fruit in the market really all year long, and you can see the fruits on the tree....

BURT WOLF:   What do they use it for?

DR. LIOGIER:   Just for eating.  It's... it's a... it's a nice fruit.

BURT WOLF:   Are those ripe?

DR. LIOGIER:   No, not yet.

Not yet. They are not ripe.

BURT WOLF:   So I go to the market for a taste.

DR. LIOGIER:   Yes.  

BURT WOLF:   This tree is offering its fruits to us, eh? 

DR. LIOGIER:    Yes.

BURT WOLF:   What is this?

DR. LIOGIER:   This is what we call a jobo, or cijuelo and this is also a native tree in... in the... all the West Indies.

BURT WOLF:   Hmmm.

DR. LIOGIER:    It... it has a... a tasty pulp, though the Puerto Ricans practically don't use it.

BURT WOLF:   I got the feeling that the people in Puerto Rico have to a certain extent lost touch....


BURT WOLF:   ... with the earlier fruits. 

DR. LIOGIER:   (OVER) That....

BURT WOLF:   (OVER) Is that because of the Spanish influence?

DR. LIOGIER:   Probably the Spanish influence, and also the American influence.  We had the... the apples and the pears, and the... all the fruits from the United States. Of course it's much easier to pick up the fruits at the supermarket than go to a tree and... try to down them.

BURT WOLF:   So the ease of access to North American fruits in the supermarkets....

DR. LIOGIER:    Yes.

BURT WOLF:   ... have helped them to lose contact.

DR. LIOGIER:   Yes. I think so.

BURT WOLF:   Ah, true, but sad.  (LAUGHS)



BURT WOLF:     Many of the chefs working in San Juan have come to Puerto Rico from other parts of the world.  But instead of trying to reproduce the cooking of their homeland, they quickly fall in love with the traditional dishes and ingredients of the island.  Example, Peter Ivanovick.  He came from California, and he's cooking fish with Puerto Rican limes at the Sands Hotel.

A little vegetable oil goes into a non-stick pan.  While that's heating up, a boneless, skinless filet of sole or flounder, or other firm-fleshed white fish, is given a light dusting of flour, and a coating of beaten egg.  You can use a whole egg or just egg whites.  In a recipe like this you can skip the yolks and the dish will still turn out fine.

Next the fish cooks for three minutes on one side, a gentle flip, and three minutes on the other. Then off to a serving plate.  The sauce is made in the same pan by adding in two cloves of garlic that have been chopped, the juice of half a lime, a little white wine, some chopped cilantro, a few capers, and a few slices of onion, carrot and green pepper.  That cooks for a minute and goes onto the fish.

The recipes and kitchen techniques that make up today's Puerto Rican cooking are really the result of three distinct culinary trends that have all been blended together . The first and the oldest was the cooking of the Taino Indians, who have been doing their cooking here since 300 A.D.   Superimposed on the work of the Indians is that of the Spanish, who came in during the 1500's.  And finally there are the dishes of the Africans.  The Africans have been cooking here for at least 400 years. 

The chili peppers, the root vegetables, corn, local fruits and fish were here with the Tainos.  The Spanish brought in beef cattle, goats, sheep, pigs, olive oil, and some new fruits and vegetables, including coconuts, bananas, plantains and citrus fruits.  They also brought in sugar and coffee.  The West Africans brought in an entire cooking style based on the slow cooking of one-pot dishes.  Many of the great soups and stews of Puerto Rico have their origins in the pots of West Africa.

The Africans brought okra to Puerto Rico, a vegetable that has become a basic part of many southern soups and stews.  The African word for okra is “gumbo,” so every time you're looking at a dish described as a gumbo, you're looking at a recipe that had its origins in West Africa, and was originally made with okra.

The faces of the people of San Juan tell the story of the major migrations to this island.  The Taino tribes of South America.  The Spanish.  The Africans.  They can be seen on the streets of the city, and the culinary traditions that each group brought can be seen in the town's pots and pans. 

Chef Ramon Rosario is the executive chef at the Sands Hotel.  He's preparing a Puerto Rican gumbo with a recipe that started in West Africa with okra, and finished off with the Spanish who gave Puerto Rico chickens, olive oil and carrots.

A little vegetable oil goes into a stockpot to heat up.  As soon as the oil is hot, Ramon adds in a half cup of chopped celery, a half cup of chopped green pepper, and a half cup of chopped carrots.  That cooks for a few minutes  Then in goes a boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into bite-size pieces. That cooks for a few minutes.  Then in goes a half cup of sliced okra, a quarter cup of sliced green onion, six cups of chicken stock, and finally two medium-size potatoes cut into small cubes.  All that simmers together for about 30 minutes, and then it's ready to serve.

Of all the elements in Puerto Rican cooking, none is more Puerto Rican than sofrito.  Sofrito is a seasoning sauce that's mixed into soups, stews, rice dishes and just about anything else that the chef feels is appropriate.  It's mild and delicate and it really deserves the big-deal reputation that it has here in Puerto Rico.  Traditionally it is made with pork fat, but I adapted the recipe and made it with vegetable oil, which is low in saturated fat. 

It's very important to remember that the less saturated fat that you have in your diet, the better off you are.  So here is a healthful version of the classic sofrito.

Some vegetable oil goes into a pan, and a little anado seed oil.  Anado are the seeds of a tropical plant which are used to flavor and color cooking oils.  If you can get anado seed oil in your market, fabulous.  If you can't, just add in a couple of tablespoons of paprika.

Next some chopped onion, garlic, green bell peppers, tomatoes, oregano, coriander,  30 minutes of cooking, salt and pepper, and the sofrito seasoning is ready to go.

The history of the native tribes, the Spanish and the African cooking will give you a good picture of the foods you'll find in San Juan.  But for a real overview of the island, it's helpful to spend some time with Bill Duncan of Hill Helicopters.

BILL DUNCAN:   The...first thing you'll notice as we take off from the airport is that on your left is the old city of San Juan.  As we approach El Morro, as you see on the high ground off to your right, you'll also begin to be able to see the walls of the old city.  Originally the city was completely surrounded by 50-foot walls that in many places are in excess of 20 feet thick.  Puerto Rico itself, or “rich port,” was a holding point for the riches that were brought from the New World that were being transported to Spain.  They would amass a tremendous amount of wealth here, and then put it on the treasure ships to take it back to Spain.  The problem is, once you get a bunch of wealth in an area, you also get a bunch of bad guys.  And so the pirates came along, and ... the pirates couldn't even keep their troops on board the ships, because it's such a beautiful place, the pirates would jump ship.  And as you see, the small little village of La Perla, formed in the late 1500's, and has been there every since.  The Spaniards didn't want these people living within the walls of the city, so they allowed them to develop the little barrio that still exists today outside of the city of Old San Juan.

As we round the corner, you'll see the Governor's mansion.  That's Fort Talesa, that's the white building with the green turrets.  It was the first building built officially in the city of San Juan after the completion of the fort itself.   It is the... was the original residence of the first Governor of San Juan and is currently the residence of the Governor of Puerto Rico today.

As we continue on, you'll be able to see the area of Candado, which is the nightlife portion.  The... high-rise hotels, casinos and the convention center, that are very famous in San Juan.

On your right-hand side, you'll see the Bacardi rum factory, one of the largest rum manufacturing plants in the world.  The land areas around the facilities at Bacardi are very beautiful.  The... open areas that you see on your right with the tents are available for weddings and open-air concerts, and anything that... that you wish to do in that area.

The beaches of Luquillo are probably the most beautiful beaches on the north side of the island.  As we approach it you'll see the water is quite shallow, the active live reefs off the beaches provide excellent skin-diving and scuba diving, for those that are interested in it.  Sailing, wind-surfing.  This is the site of the wind-surfing championships of Puerto Rico each year.

In the distance, as you look up to the south, and to your right, you can see El Junque, the rainforest, and the highest point on the eastern end of the island.  As you can see today, it's enshrouded in clouds.  It rains there almost every day of the year.  And...in... in my time here in the islands, I've only seen it clear twice, and that didn't last but just a few hours.      

As we approach back to the airport, we now have a ... a beautiful vista view of the... of the harbor, and the Bay of San Juan, a very beautiful picturesque view.

BURT WOLF:   And in keeping with the scenic beauty of Puerto Rico, there is the El San Juan Hotel.  

The El San Juan Hotel was originally built in 1959 on some of the most beautiful beachfront in Puerto Rico.  Since then it has been through a number of renovations and architectural updates.  Today it is clearly the resort and casino property in San Juan, and the only hotel in the Caribbean to be included in the listings of both the Preferred Hotels and the Leading Hotels of the World.

The man primarily responsible for this unique standing is Andreas Meinhold, the managing director.  He grew up traveling through the great hotels of Europe, and decided that he wanted to keep on living that way.  You definitely get the feeling that Andreas is personally watching out for you, and has told everyone on staff to attend to your needs.  It's quite a place.


The Hotel El San Juan has the casino and disco and great restaurants and sports facilities and shopping gallery that you would expect from a first-class property.  But it also has a number of special things that you would not take for granted.  Example:  in 1989, Hurricane Hugo came through Puerto Rico and pretty much devastated the area, including the hotel's 125-year-old prized flowering fig tree. 

The hotel spent 75 thousand dollars nourishing the tree back to health.  They even built a special sprinkler system that waters each root separately.  The garden area around the tree now contains over 440 different plant species with little signs that tell you what you're looking at.  When the flowers are cut, they become decorations in the hotel.  The grounds make a marvelous place for relaxing, and the same attention to detail that is put into nourishing the gardens goes into nourishing the guests.

John Carey is the executive chef at the El San Juan Hotel.  When he first arrived in Puerto Rico he realized there was an extraordinary local cuisine, and he's been collecting the recipes and adapting them to our latest information on good health.  His chicken with mint sauce is a perfect example.

Start by blending together a seasoning paste.  John uses an old-fashioned mortar and pestle to crush together two tablespoons of peppercorns, a little salt, four cloves of garlic, a little dried oregano, a few tablespoons of chopped fresh mint, a little olive oil, and the juice of half a lime.  That paste is spread onto a boneless, skinless chicken breast.  Both sides.  A few tablespoons of vegetable oil go into a hot saute pan.  And as soon as the oil is hot, in goes the chicken breast.  Shake the pan a little to keep the chicken from sticking to the surface.  After three minutes of cooking, open the chicken breast, keeping the seasoning paste up.  Add the juice of the other half of the lime, a few more minutes of cooking until the chicken is done, then onto a plate with the pan juices on top. 

Some of the best places to get a look at what traditional Puerto Rican cooking is really like are the local fandas.  They're modest small restaurants that cater to the tastes of their neighborhood.  A perfect example of this type of place is La Casita Blanca, near the resort area of Isla Verde Beach in San Juan. 

Jesus Peres takes care of the front of the house, and his mother's doing the cooking in the kitchen.  The foods on the table are the most customary and familiar in Puerto Rico.  Tostones, plantains deep-fried, then flattened out and fried again.  Easily as addictive as the ultimate potato chip. 

Bacalaitos.  Fried salt codfish fritters.  Pastalon, which is like a lasagna, but the pasta is actually replaced with ripe plantains. 

Arroz con Pollo -- Chicken with rice.  Virtually the national dish of Puerto Rico.

And to drink, a mabi.  A mabi is made from the fermented root of the mabi tree.  Water, sugar, a little cinnamon and some cloves.  It's very similar to an alcoholic beverage made by the Taino Indians, who arrived here in the year 300.  Well, if this was their favorite drink, and their primary mode of transportation was the canoe, I certainly hope they had a program for a designated paddler.

Clearly the strongest influences on the cooking of Puerto Rico are to be found in the traditions of the Taino tribes, the Spanish and the Africans.  But let's not forget that Columbus, who came to Puerto Rico in 1493, was Italian.  And the culinary heritage of his place of birth is not without representation on this island.  Most clearly it is to be found in the work of Chef Giuseppe Acosta, who directs three restaurants, including one at the Sands Hotel.

A little vegetable oil is heated in a saute pan, and in goes a few cloves of garlic that have been sliced, a little oregano, some chopped onion, and chopped anchovy.  Pinch of crushed red pepper.  Some slices of pitted black olives and stuffed green olives.  A half cup of white wine.  A cup of tomato sauce.  It cooks together for a few minutes.  And in goes a half pound of precooked linguini.  Everything is mixed together and heated through.  Finally a little grated parmesan cheese.  The pasta heats up, it's ready to go onto the serving plate.  I'm ready to eat.

So what have we seen here in San Juan?  Clearly the gastronomic base is a 2000-year-old culture that's been eating lots of fish, fresh fruits and vegetables.  Colonization by the Spanish introduced rice, pork, beef and olives.  West Africans brought in their one-pot cooking skills.  These days the native, Spanish and African influences have been blended together in the areas in the middle of culinary renaissance. 

There are excellent local recipes that take a little bit of meat, fish or poultry and make it go a long way by adding in lots of complex carbohydrates from rice and beans.

As I walk through the city of old San Juan, and see the statue of Ponce de Leon, I am reminded that it was Ponce who set sail from these shores looking for the Fountain Of Youth.  He never found it, and he actually died during the search.  Quite frankly, though, his best shot at the Fountain Of Youth would have been to stay home, eat a diet that was low in fat, and keep up a regular program of  aerobic exercise.

My first visit to San Juan took place in 1965, and it's amazing to see what's happened since then.  San Juan has become a sophisticated city, but it's been able to preserve and refurbish its most important historical neighborhoods.  It's also been able to hold onto its traditional foods, and in many cases, introduce new and healthier cooking techniques for those recipes.  As a result, San Juan is a great place for food lovers.

Please join us next time as we travel around the world looking for foods that taste good and are good for you.  I'm Burt Wolf.