chaos and claustrophobia, or the daily shop

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For sheer chaos and claustrophobia, it’s hard to beat the daily market in Siem Reap. (The smells, too, are something I’ll not soon forget.) Most of the meat and fish is killed and cleaned to order, so you know it’s all as fresh as it gets – if not exactly on par with Western standards of safe and sanitary. I left wondering what, if anything, might make these women – mostly barefoot in and among the blood and guts – squeamish.

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street meat

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tastes like communism

While the Hong Kong History Museum provides a fascinating and in-depth look into the city’s place within the context of two great empires, I must at all costs advise against a sidetrip to the cafeteria. Less a culinary adventure than an unappealing survival course, it is the first disgusting meal of the trip. Honestly, I can’t even remember what it is I had ordered at this point. What arrived was a study in browns: brown beans in brown sauce accompanying brown meat; a brown vegetable chunk in a bath of brown broth. Had there been a brown-shirted staff in Mao jackets I wouldn’t have flinched. The rice, however, was white.

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butchery is back

In a time when many Americans yearn to know the origins of their food, meat education has become a hot topic. As has whole-animal cooking, at-home butchery, and other trendy meat techniques. The current DIY spirit has inspired more home cooks to branch out, turning casual carnivores into informed authorities.

In The Art of Beef Cutting: A Meat Professional’s Guide to Butchering and Merchandising, Kari Underly, a third-generation butcher, reaches out to this new generation of serious home chefs, covering all the fundamentals of butchery, with photos of every cut, step-by-step instructions on technique, and the best beef-cutting tools as well as cooking methods. Her book starts big – at the carcass level – and walks the reader through parts of the animal and individual cuts: from primals and subprimals, all the way down to ground beef. In a word, she is the go-to expert for all things meat.

Whether you’re a connoisseur or simply a curious at-home chef, Underly’s book makes for fascinating – if somewhat niche – reading. But if butchery doesn’t exactly scream out to you as proper bedside reading, here is a clip of a recent crash course Underly gave viewers on the Today show.

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smoke this

An unexpected prezzie arrived at my desk yesterday:  my very own smoker!  Which is funny because just last week I was rambling on about how I wanted to smoke my own my meat.  It’s electric, so no open flames or burning coals, thankfully.  The question remains:  do I attempt to use it inside my apartment or snake a power-cord  out onto the fire escape?  Or up to the roof? Plus, there’s the excitement of what do I smoke first!  Stay tuned – my new toy should make for a fragrant fall weekend.

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