Belcher Gastronomique

A cheerily unalphabetical dictionary of food terms


Biodynamic = organic + voodoo


January 20, 2010 Posted by | Bi, Bio, Uncategorized | , , | Leave a comment

The Dying Fields

The name given by PBS to a spate of farmer suicides in central India where Monsanto’s campaign to promote Roundup® resistant GM Bollgard® cotton seeds began. The cost of the GM seeds such as Bt cotton, which are aggressively marketed as delivering high yields, is twice that of ordinary seeds, which, where successful, can be reused. This leads to farmers, who were already struggling with low prices, being even more reliant on local moneylenders. Furthermore, since GM seeds cannot be reused, and since the promise of high yields is tied in to liberal use of the equally costly Roundup®, this debt can soon escalate. Since farming in areas like India’s Vidarbha are rain-dependent, GM crops of this nature, designed primarily for a more intensive form of agriculture, multiply the already substantial risks of farming. The New York Times puts the figure of farmer suicides in India as 17,000 in 2003.

January 20, 2010 Posted by | Dy, Dyi, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Bronze die extrusion

Bronze die extrusion is a traditional method of making pasta. Using bronze dies in the manufacturing process is said to ensure that the surface of the pasta remains rough, with what are called microstriations, so that it can best adhere to sauces. Bronze die extrusion demands a higher pressure than methods which use Teflon or other non-stick surfaces but is said to produce better results because of the smooth surface that results from lower friction die-surfaces. Traditionally, bronze-die extruded pasta should be dried relatively slowly to ensure the best results. Modern methods which use Teflon and other non-stick surfaces, typically use much faster drying methods.

a form of die extrusion

January 13, 2010 Posted by | B, Br, Bro | , , | Leave a comment

Giorgetto Giugiaro

Giorgetto Giugiaro is an Italian car designer, famed for such designs as the Ferrari 250 Berlinetta Bertone, the De Tomaso Mangusta, and the BMW M1, as well as more affordable designs for Seat, Škoda and VW. He was named car designer of the century in 1999 and inducted into the Automotive Hall of Fame in 2002. One of his other claims to fame is that, commissioned in 1983 by Voiello, an innovative pasta manufacturer, he designed a new pasta shape, Marille, which was designed to hold the maximum amount of sauce. Marille was, like other pasta, manufactured using die extrusion. Though Marille is no longer in procuction, there being some talk of difficulty with uneven cooking of the various parts of the design, it attracted some attention, and the traditionally-minded Antonio Carluccio, who went as far, in a book published ten years after the designer pasta was commissioned, of creating a new sauce for it, gave it high praise, saying “this was not just a publicity gag, marille’s ribbed tubular shape holds as much sauce as is possible”: Marille al sugo con piselli is collected in Carluccio’s BBC book A Passion for Pasta.

January 13, 2010 Posted by | Gi, Giu | , , , , | Leave a comment

Woolton Pie

Woolton Pie (or Lord Woolton Pie) was one of the most famous dishes created to suit the conditions of rationing in Britain during the Second World War. It was invented by Savoy maitre-chef Francois Latry and named after the Minister for Food, Lord Woolton. The dish was prepared from diced vegetables, usually potatoes or parsnips, cauliflower, swede, and perhaps turnip. Rolled oats and spring onions were added to the thickened vegetable water which was then poured over the vegetables. The dish was topped with wholemeal or potato pastry.

Though the dish was very quickly forgotten once rationing ended, Woolton Pie is often collected in books published on significant anniversaries to mark the war and wartime rationing. Most recently, for example, Valentine Warner will tackle the dish in a one-hour special on the Yesterday Channel entitled Ration Book Britain to be aired on the 15th January. He has stated that Woolton Pie was his favourite recipe of those he encountered on the series.

January 13, 2010 Posted by | Wo, Woo | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment



Brawn is a dish made from jellied pork. The head, and sometimes also the trotters, are used to make the dish. The meat is first cooked in brine before being removed and picked off the bone. The cooking liquid is then reduced until it begins to set with the gelatine released from the bones of the head and/or trotters. Finally, the meat is recombined with the reduced cooking liquid and set, usually in a loaf tin.

Brawn often inspires divergent extremes of opinion. The revulsion that many feel at even the idea of jellied meat from the head of a pig has led to a gradual but steady decline in the dish’s popularity in the anglophone world, though, in common with many unfamiliar cuts of meat, it is experiencing something of a renaissance of late; it has also led to the dish being expressed at times as a form of culinary euphemism, coloured with red dye, for example, to conform to popular (though not always natural) ideas of what healthy meat ought to look like.

January 10, 2010 Posted by | B, Br, Bra | , | 2 Comments

Sandor Ellix Katz

Sandor Ellix Katz is an author, food campaigner and self-confessed “fermentation fetishist”. Katz, who is openly gay, is a long-term AIDS survivor who lives in a queer intentional community off-the-grid in Tennessee. He attributes his continued health to his love of cooking, and, in particular, fermenting foods. Katz’s first book, Wild Fermentation, has been hailed as a classic and is responsible for introducing many thousands of people to foods that were staples in cultures the world over, the passing of which, many nutritionists, such as Natasha Campbell-McBride, lament as being the cause of many contemporary civilisational diseases.

Katz’s second book, The Revolution will not be Microwaved, was published by sustainable publisher Chelsea Green in 2006 and has attracted praise from, among others, Sally Fallon, Michael Pollan and Howard Zinn. It documents the underground food movements and activism currently taking place in America against the ever increasing corporate control of food.

January 10, 2010 Posted by | Ka, Kat | , , , , | Leave a comment

Food in popular culture #1: In The Loop on cling film

Toby Wright talks to his girlfriend Suzy on the phone as he enters a lift with Malcolm Tucker on his first morning at work.

Malcolm Tucker: [on phone, trails off as exits shot] Fuckety bye.

Suzy: Sorry darling just a quick thing, did you put away the lasagne?

Toby: Of course, it’s in the fridge, it’s got cling film on it and everything.

(Toby Enters lift and steps to the back. Malcolm hovers in the foreground, pacing occasionally as he talks into his phone.)

Malcolm and Toby later in the film

Suzy: Why d’you put cling film on it?

Toby: Because that keeps it fresh. That’s the point of cling film.

Malcolm Tucker: Can I speak to James Lewis of the PM programme please?

Suzy: [Indistinct due to Malcolm Tucker talking in foreground] …keep it fresh.

Malcolm Tucker: No I don’t want to hold. He’s had me on hold already.

Toby: But but but, It might dry out, that’s an amateur mistake you’re making.

Suzy: [indistinct]

Malcolm Tucker: I’m not holding any longer right, what’s he waiting for a fucking sex change?

Toby: It’s not carcinogenic

Suzy: [faint, exasperated] It is.

Toby: …Cling film doesn’t give you cancer… this is insane, what kind of a country do you think this is? Cling film doesn’t give you cancer

Malcolm Tucker: What, Simon Foster? ‘Diarrhea for nobody’ yeah I like that.

Toby: …any more than aluminium foil gives you…

Malcolm Tucker: Ok, apropos of that, tomorrow I want… [becomes indistinct]

Toby: …AIDS or, you know, lasagne gives you syphilis. That’s, it’s not a.. thing.

Malcolm Tucker: [shouting] NO YOU RELAX!

Suzy: [indistinct].. god who’s that?!

Malcolm Tucker: [shouting] GET ME FUCKING BRIAN!

Suzy: [indistinct] …cream on your way home.


Opening credits.

Continue reading

January 6, 2010 Posted by | commentary, Food in popular culture | , , , | Leave a comment


Soffritto is an Italian term referring to various incarnations of a base common to a wide variety of Italian dishes. A basic soffritto typically consists of chopped onions, parsley, and carrots or celery fried in olive oil (though butter, or a combination of oil and butter may be used, especially in the North of Italy). Though there are many regional variations, the soffritto is ubiquitous as a first step in the preparation of risotto, marinara and other ragu, soup, and many other dishes.

“Was there ever a dish more misunderstood than spaghetti Bolognese?… Some vague folk memory of the soffritto (the sautéed mix of onion, parsley and carrots and celery that forms the base of almost every Italian pasta sauce) dictated that carrots were usually present, but usually accompanied by all sorts of surprising vegetable additions.”

– Heston Blumenthal, In Search of Perfection, p. 172

January 6, 2010 Posted by | S, So, Sof | , | Leave a comment


Cathepsins, abbreviated CTS, are a family of proteases (proteolytic enzymes) found in all mammals. Most of these enzymes are activated in the low pH found in lysosomes, (the organelles within cells which contain enzymes).

“At the lower temperature muscle proteins contract and squeeze out water far more slowly, which is crucial to keeping the meat moist. But it also needs to be tenderised, which at this temperature is done by enzymes, particularlycalpains and cathepsins that weaken or break down collagen and other proteins. Calpains stop working at 40°C/105°F, cathepsins at 50°C/120°F, but below these cut-off points, the higher the temperature, the faster they work. Heating the meat slowly means these enzymes can perform their magic for several hours before denaturing, effectively ageing the meat during cooking. The result is the tenderest, tastiest meat imaginable.”

– Heston Blumenthal, In Search of Perfection, p. 166

January 6, 2010 Posted by | c, Ca, Cat | , , , | Leave a comment