Monday, October 17, 2005

Autumnal Nesting: Cooking & Brewing

Compared to many of my summer weekends, this weekend was downright lame. I loved it.

On Friday night Paul and I scurried around after work to prepare and bike down to the UIC campus for its Bicycle Scavenger Hunt. We decided to do it just for something fun to do, and not to be competitive. Paul rode his low-geared, single-speed folding bike (aka the ‘Clown Bike’). I am exclusively riding the Bianchi until my knee feels completely healed.

We joined up with two women to create ‘Team Fun’ and were one of the last teams to leave the pavilion. We didn’t understand most of the clues. The girls took the Southside clues, while Paul and I biked back to get the Downtown & near North clues. We met back up near Second City in Old Town during the Friday night yuppie/tourist/taxi clusterfuck. I hate these areas of the city.

Then we scooted around our neighborhood before heading to a checkpoint at the Hbar to catch a drink. We went back to our respective homes to grab additional points. Fixies got extra points, so I rode the Julep for the first time in a long while – she makes my knee feel funny. Paul hit the money load in this last leg: he picked up a traffic cone, snagged a parking ticket off an SUV and also brought an 8' 2" x 4". I’m sure that was fun to carry back to West Town Bikes.

Still, Team Fun sucked. At least we didn’t come in last, though. Still, it was a better way to spend the night than just catching dinner.

Saturday was supposed to be a busy ‘getting shit done’ day – but a lot of things didn’t even get started. Our first task was biking to the Farmers’ Market to get apple cider to brew into hard cider. Paul likes to brew his own beer, but I don’t drink beer. He thought this would be a nice way for me to understand brewing and become interested in it without ending up with yucky beer at the end. Besides beer, we also picked up foodstuffs for dinner and Hbar brunch recipe testing.

The Farmers’ Market takes us through the heart of yuppieville. I hate going through these neighborhoods. People drive so poorly and selfishly and just seeing all of the yuppies walking their dogs and pushing their strollers en route to a coffeshop or other shopping creeps me out.
After lunch at Paul’s, we headed back into another yuppie-filled neighborhood so we could go The Spice House. It is not a porn store, but instead sells herbs and spices. I was out of vanilla and good cinnamon and in general needed to restock my spices. That store smells so damn good. Paul decided he needed a good vegetable peeler, so we ventured into Crate & Barrel. This was a day of yuppying out. I hate that technically I am a yuppie (young urban professional) and that some of my interests overlap with yuppie interests. However, I am not into status symbols or crass consumerism. Crate & Barrel used to have a much better cookwares section, but it seems
to be shrinking to make room for more decorative crap. Grrrrr.....

Anyway, we finally got out of that horrible place and Paul almost got hit by an SUV driven by a woman who apparently doesn’t believe there is any reason to look before pulling out into traffic. He wasn’t in her blind spot or anything and they certainly would have collided if he was a car lacking the nimbleness and smallness of a bike. I yelled at her to ‘Look before you drive’ and she and her passenger gave me a dirty look. We were stuck at the same lights for a stretch and I totally wanted to go over and just bitch at the dumb yuppie cunts, but restrained myself.

We moved onto Stanley’s Produce for more veggies and ingredients. Then we went to a discount wine store and finally went to Brew and Grow. This store supplies beer-brewing ingredients/supplies and supplies to grow plants hydroponically. All of the pictures seemed to suggest people growing lettuce in their closets under strong lighting, with special filters and fans to prevent your ‘garden odors from disturbing your neighbors.’ Yes, everyone is concerned that the smell of lettuce is going to bother your neighbors. It is so obvious that this place is for potheads.

We bought yeast for the cider. I completely embarrassed the two guys behind the counter by asking a totally reasonable question. They went from know-it-all, cooler than you counter-culture stoners to stuttering, blushing, fidgeting men. When they handed over the packet of yeast I asked if brewers’ yeast is similar to bakers’ yeast so that women have to be particularly cautious about it. (Women need to be wash their hands very well during bread baking or risk getting a yeast infection). They didn’t know the answer and apparently had never even thought that it might be a concern. Paul was laughing his ass off when we left at how flustered they were. He seemed to imply that my question was meant to embarrass them – it wasn’t, I just wanted to know the answer. Besides the actual brewing, for the next week or two Paul’s home is going to have a fermenting back of cider venting into the air. Yeast can certainly become airborne and I wanted to know whether there was a risk of nastiness during this process. Since these guys seemed to be brewing experts, it certainly is reasonable to expect them to know about a possible health risk to women from brewing. Alas, no answer, but at least three men now know that it has the potential to be a problem.

We steeped over two cups of chopped ginger to flavor the brew and sanitized Paul’s kitchen.

Then we headed over to my place to cook dinner. We were going to turn my basil plants into a huge batch of pesto. Wine was drank, squash and mushrooms were roasted as we made the pesto. Then we got down to the cooking lesson part of the dinner and I showed Paul how to make pasta from scratch. He kneeded the dough a bit and then turned the crank of the pasta maker. He was very cute to watch as he saw the flour turn to rough dough, turn to ever finer and thinner sheets, and then finally become linguine ready for the pot. Fresh pasta cooks in only a minute or two and we added a bit of cream and pesto for a yummy dish aside our roasted herbed squash and mushrooms. He denounced dried pasta as inferior and a poor substitute for fresh. He wants to make homemade lasagna and try some ravioli, too. Very, very cute.

He is trying to harvest the seeds from my basil plants to grow next year. Organic seeds are hard to find, so these seeds he know were at least grown from plants without herbicides or pesticides. In another week or two we will dig up my herb garden and bring the plants inside for the winter. We also need to spend a good solid day making stock – beef, chicken & pork. It is so exciting to be cool enough to want to cook again.

The next morning we finished preparing the cider and started the fermentation process. I was hung over from too much wine the night before. I am such a lightweight. I napped for most of Sunday afternoon and finally roused myself to make goat cheese flan and do a load of laundry.

Besides being hung over, it was a totally fun weekend, even though it was all about getting ready to nest for the winter.


At 2:10 PM, Blogger Kati said...

I did not know about the danger of bakers' yeast + women! Luckily you don't have to handle (actually shouldn't handle) brewing yeast because you risk contamination. Just dump the yeast in from the package.

At 8:00 PM, Blogger Frick said...

oh yeah, something else I forgot to tell you about you knee.

you should also be stretching your quad muscles on a regular basis.

90% of knee injuries such as yours are actually caused by imbalanced quads. This can come from poor training, or episodes of extra stress on the muscles(sprinting on a fixie) If there was any sort of minor strains in your quads on that leg, the increased tightness could be perpetuating you knee injury.

At 5:14 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Actually, both brewers and bakers yeast are essentially the same thing, Saccharomyces cerevisiae. They are different strains of yeast, each exhibiting a particular phenotype which makes them compatible with the different uses, namely brewing (low fermentation rate but high alcohol tolerance) vs. baking (high fermentation rate but low alcohol tolerance).

Biology is fun. :)

At 2:51 PM, Blogger michael said...

I don't profess to be an expert on yeast infections, but the yeast that infects humans is candida albicans and is found in humans quite often with no adverse symptoms ( The yeast infections that occur are not invasions, per se, but overgrowths--usually the result of a change in chemical balance. The fungus does affect men as well (we're just lucky to possess less tissue that is ideal for such cultivation).

So what I'm asking is, where did you get this idea that women need to be concerned about getting yeast infections from baker's yeast? I spent a few years working in a vegetarian restaurant with women who baked bread every day and never evinced any concern about baker's yeast. I've read quite a few cookbooks devoted to whole foods and baking and the use of yeast (including nutritional yeast--which many vegetarians eat raw without any concern about candidiasis whatsoever) for cooking. I've been baking bread from scratch for over fifteen years in my home and never once have I seen any warnings that I can recall that a woman would need to take special care to prevent this sort of infection.

At 3:37 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was going to pose the same question. I am a microbiologist, and although I do not work with human yeast infections (typically referring to vaginitis). I was quite surprised to see this claim. I knew that Saccharomyces cerevisiae, the yeast used in baking and brewing, did not cause disease in animals, but I did some searching of the literature to be sure. I found that there are some references to S. cerevisiae causing incidents of human clinical disease, albeit extremely rare (>1%), and typically only occurring in immunocompromised hosts, such as AIDS patients, transplant patients, etc. There are some instances where the levels of infection from S. cerevisiae are higher including people who take azole agents such as fluconazole, which acts on natural flora, but is not active against yeast.

The yeast that typically causes human disease is Candida albicans, although there are other pathogenic yeasts, including ones from the genera of: Cryptococcus (especially C. neoformans), Torulopsis, Trichosporon, and Rhodotorula.

Hope this helps clear up some misconceptions.

At 3:44 PM, Blogger jojo said...

Wow -- I hope the scientists are correct!

I was warned of the risk of yeast infections when I worked at a cooking school and later as a pastry chef.

We were always very careful about washing our hands after handling the raw dough.

At 6:48 AM, Blogger michael said...

I can think of lots of good reason to continue washing hands before, during, and after cooking... especially given how messy baking can get. :)


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