Cooking Utensils: the Truth Behind the Hype

Using the most suitable cooking utensils can make the difference between a wonderfully planned gastronomic banquet and an awkwardly made excuse-for-food. Or so the celebrity chefs who are sponsored by the major kitchenware companies would have us believe. The question we novice chefs have to ask is, ‘Do the correct tools genuinely make all the difference?’ ‘Does the way you chop, slice, dice and dish out your meat and two veg physically affect the flavour?’

Okay, granted, if you lack the appropriate utensils, it may be tricky to drain your pasta without picking up a couple of third degree burns, and you might find those curly radishes to top your salad bowl difficult to pull off, but is there really an optimal shape and size for food intended for the human mouth? To get a short answer to this question, we need to take a look at Chinese cuisine.

Chinese recipes emphasize the importance of presentation. Eating is a sensory experience. If the food looks, smells and even sounds good (think of sizzling woks wheeled to your table in a good restaurant) we’re salivating even before the first morsel gets anywhere near our mouths. Chinese chefs have long understood that your senses are connected. Your senses all lead to the same place – your brain. And it’s your brain that makes the final assessment. As innumerable sponsored-up-to-their-eyeballs master chefs will fall over each other to inform you, the way you prepare your veggies and present your dishes will have an enormous affect on the way your meal will taste The other definitive feature of Chinese cooking is the way the vegetables and meat are cut. There are strict rules concerning the size and shape of the food on the plate. Each dish should be easy to handle – it should invite you to pick it up… but then again you’ll have to use chopsticks.

Cooking utensils, it would seem, really can transform a mundane meal into a feast… if you know how to use them. Owning the appropriate set of knives to chop and cut, nip and tuck, is one thing; owning the skills to use them is another. However, to develop your technique, you need to own the utensils in the first place. You have to start somewhere, and leafing through a kitchenware brochure at the behest of some celebrity chef or other is as good a place to start as any – the best place to start is from the recipe. After all, the recipe is what you are interested in, and what you and your family is going to end up eating.

What makes a cook into a master chef? The salient factor is their ability to shower their creations with loving care and attention, as anyone who has read an Isabelle Allende novel will testify. Once you have your tools and skills, the possibilities for experimentation and gastronomic exploration are boundless. And you can bet there is a specially designed set of cooking utensils to cope with any culinary creation you might dream up. For the majority of us, one appliance can be adapted to manage a diverse range kitchen tasks, but for the experts there is a specific tool for each and every kitchen task.

This apparently trivial distinction between the two ways of thinking about cooking can have a profound affect on your meals. Take an onion, for example. According to the experts, it should be sliced a particular way to enhance the flavour, although, as we have learnt from the Chinese, the visual result is at least as big a factor in determining how the food will taste. Viewed in this way, slicing the onion ‘after the book’ becomes as important as, say, the amount of oil you add to the pan. It would seem that using the right kitchen utensil in the chef’s domain is imperative. In short, prepping your ingredients by following someone’s mealtime master plan can transform the appearance and flavour of the final dish. Get this right and you are no longer a cook. You are a chef

Selecting The Best Utensil

Selecting the right set of cooking utensils is dependent on the content of each individual recipe. Suggestions for cooking utensils are very often presented within the cooking book or online recipe page and, traditionally, they are accompanied by clear instructions to enable you to choose the right utensil for the right job. Cooking utensils, it would seem, do have a central role to play. Your family is certain to enjoy the excellence of your cooking if it is prepared with skill and loving care, but if not, they may reach for an entirely different set of utensils.

There are many companies that produce fine cooking utensils, but on balance, it is better to start from the recipe book and build up a collection of what you need as needs arise before you start leafing through the pages of glossy catalogues.

Affiliate Programs To Sign Up With

Make money online with affiliate programs can be tough but it can be the most rewarding choice you have ever made. Choosing an affiliate program to start with is the most important part of your online business.

There are so many affiliate programs to choose from. It can be difficult to know which one to sign up with. I personally recommend Clickbank for a comprehensive list of top ranking and highest paying affiliate programs. You will receive a check from Clickbank for your contracts earned twice a month.

If you prefer to receive payments via PayPal, then go to PayDotCom. It is a huge affiliate center with marketplace of products you can promote.

When considering which affiliate programs are best for you, I recommend that you choose one that is specifically related to your site's content and target audience. You can also promote a variety of online digital products as an affiliate. I personally recommend that you choose an affiliate program or products that you are familiar with. This way, it is better for you to recommend these to other. Imagine you are selling something that you know nothing about, you are not going to convince someone to buy it from you.

Personally, I mostly use Clickbank and PayDotCom but I suggest you look around because most companies offered free affiliate programs. Some only allowed affiliates to sell their products after they have purchased it. Whichever websites you are viewing, just scroll down to the bottom and look for affiliate link. Some business owner does not like to display the link in the homepage for everyone to see, so sometimes the affiliate link could have been found in the "about us" page.

Traveling in Mexico: Internet Cafes in Mexico City’s Zona Rosa

INTERNET CAFES IN THE ZONA ROSA

While you're tooling around Mexico, you'll want to stay connected. Mexico City has excellent internet café facilities even for those who Spanish is not the greatest. English is spoken in many internet cafés in the Zona Rosa and Historic District. Here are some of your e-café options.

Café Internet Victal

Address: Hamburgo No. 108 local 101 at the corner of Genova

Phone: 514 – 4161, 672 – 3821

With a going rate of 20 pesos per hour, this is one of the cheapest full-service Internet cafés in the area. Chats, computer games, and office programs (word, Excel, etc.) are also available. The staff is knowledgeable and helpful. The Victal is open from 9am to 9pm Monday through Saturday and is open on Sundays half a day. There are many computer-related services available – if it has to do with computers, they can probably do it or have it. Getting into the place is tricky at first. From the corner of Genova walk down Hamburgo about a quarter of a block. Enter the building through an arcade doorway and go up to the second floor. The entrance will be there but you'll have to look closely for the signs. The only visible signs from the street are above your head at the second story level with no clue for finding the entrance. You may have a short wait to get onto a computer but this place is worth the trouble.

Coffee Net – Zona Rosa

Address: Florencia No. 35 Local E (between Hamburgo and Londres)

Phone: 533 – 0844, 533 – 1760

An Internet café – cafeteria featuring a variety of gourmet sandwiches, salads, gourmet coffes and cappuccinos. The hourly rate is 25 pesos. Services are acceptable quality but a bit costly. Centrally located with good quality but pricey food.

Coffee Mail

Address: Amberes No. 61

A 24 pesos hourly rate internet café with standard fare. Similar in structure and price to Coffee Net but with less selection of sandwiches, coffees and foods. Regular customers typically come in to check or send e-mails. Other services are available but not heavily used.

Café Internet Red 2000

Address: in the Insurgentes metro station plaza

Phone: no phone

After exiting the metro at the Insurgentes station, this Internet café is in the outside plaza surrounding the station entrances. Long distance phone services are available through the internet. Rates are: 15 minutes 8 pesos, 30 minutes 16 pesos, 45 minutes 24 pesos, one hour 30 pesos. Only sodas and packed snacks are available.

Conecte Cafe

Address: Liverpool No. 140 (near Amberes)

Phone: 587 – 6179, 587 – 7737

A very well run internet café with full computer services including scanner, photoshop, translations, printing, Microsoft office and MP3 software available, all at reasonable rates. The internet use rate is 20 pesos per hour but there are only a few computers. Located across from Harmon Hall and Quick Learning building. There is also another Zona Rosa location at Genova No. 1. 71 on the first floor near Londres.

NOTE: There are other Internet cafés around the Zona Rosa area with varyingly higher prices for similar services.

In the Historic District:

LAFOEL Internet Service

Address: Doncelles No. 80 first floor (two blocks from the cathedral)

Phone: 512-3584, 521-2978

Open Monday to Friday from 9 am – 8 pm and Saturdays from 10 am – 5 pm. Rates for services are: 10 pesos for 15 minutes, 20 pesos for 30 minutes and 30 pesos for one hour. Conveniently located near the Zocalo but a bit on the high side for service costs. Okay just to check mail or send a quick message though. They also rent computer equipment. Just be sure to confirm the rates before signing anything or leaving the promises with equipment.

Finally, be sure to check out my other articles in the two continuing series: Teaching English in Mexico and Traveling in Mexico. If you would like more information, have questions or comments, the author can be e-mailed, see below.

Thunder Megaphone – A Glacial Valley Can Focus and Amplify Thunder Into a Most Extraordinary Sound

We’ve all heard thunder, and we all know what causes it. Many of us have heard two distinct kinds of thunder, but perhaps we never really noticed or thought about it. Recently, I heard a third kind of thunder.

“Ordinary” thunder – a thoroughly extraordinary sound, but the kind of thunder we hear most often – happens when lightning occurs at some distance from the observer. The initial sound of the lightning bolt echoes off surrounding objects and air masses. Because it is echoed so many times, the thunder stretches out into many, many seconds, even though the initial sound might have lasted a second or two at most. Moreover, because the initial sound echoes off soft things with indistinct surfaces – clouds, thermoclines, and weather fronts – and because many echoes reach the ears of the observer at different times, the original sound is greatly distorted. Almost all high frequency components are filtered out, and the observer hears mostly a low-pitched rumble.

When lightning strikes very close to the observer, within a few hundred feet, the sound is entirely different. The observer might not hear echoes of the thunder at all, but only the pure initial sound. It is a single, sharp, intense “POW!” It may be followed by a much quieter, but still loud, whistling or hissing sound.

But what about that third kind of lightning?

I was camping alone in Crawford Notch State Park in northern New Hampshire, when thunderstorms began rolling into the valley just after dinner. I tidied up my campsite just before the rain started, then retreated to my tent. One thunderstorm passed without much incident.

Darkness had fallen by the time the second thunderstorm rolled up from the south. I occupied myself by counting the time interval between lightning and thunder to track the movements of the storms. Fifteen seconds before the thunder rolled up from somewhere west of Mount Bemis, and I knew the storm was just under three miles southwest of me. Seven seconds between the flash and the rumble beyond Frankenstein Cliff, and I knew the storm was passing nearly a mile and a half to my west.

And then it happened!

A flash. I counted eleven seconds. And I heard a sound unlike any thunder I had ever heard before.

The cacophony included at least half a dozen rapid repetitions of the “POW!” of a nearby lightning strike. But at the same time, there was the rumbling and roaring of “ordinary” thunder, but much, much louder than usual.

Before I could figure out what that sound was, there was another flash somewhere to the north. Again I counted eleven seconds, and again I heard that utterly incredible crackling and powing and rumbling and roaring.

This time, I figured it out.

It was a lightning strike right within the upper reaches of Crawford Notch just a couple of miles north of me. It was right within a gigantic stone megaphone formed by Webster Cliff on the east, Mount Field and Mount Willey on the west, and the old glacial cirque of Mount Willard for a backstop on the north.

And this 1,500 foot deep, three-mile-long granite megaphone was pointed right at Dry River Campground.

Yes, the beautiful U-shaped glacial valley of Crawford Notch is a nearly perfect megaphone, albeit open on top. The bare stone faces of Mount Willard and Webster Cliff echoed the initial “POW!” of the thunder almost undistorted. The western slope of the notch is a bit more heavily wooded, but there’s enough bare ledge and rockslide there to provide a pretty good echo. The open top of the notch was covered by the underbelly of the thunderstorm itself, which provided enough of a soft echoic surface to create the usual rumbling of thunder in addition to the clean “POW!” echoes off the rock faces.

But all of this sound was extraordinarily loud because of the megaphone that focused it all right on me and my campsite.

After I got this all figured out, there was a third lightning flash in the north. Yes, eleven second later, there was that glorious, unearthly sound again.

I wondered why I had never heard this kind of thunder before. I have probably experienced thunderstorms in Crawford Notch at least a dozen times over the years, but never heard the Thunder Megaphone.

My best guess is that I probably have heard it before, but never noticed it. Most of the times I’ve camped there, it was with a crowd of friends and family. Much goes on when a thunderstorm rolls in. Ponchos have to be broken out and put on, while at the same time, various disorderly what-nots need to get stashed into cars and tents before they get soaked. There is a bit of yelling and shouting to be done, and paradoxically among the mayhem, kids and dogs need to have their fears calmed. Meanwhile, tarps over the tents and picnic tables are flapping in the gales, making a poor imitation of thunder themselves.

In all my 25 years camping in Crawford Notch, this may have been the first time I experienced a thunderstorm while I was camping there alone. There was no tarp over the tent, and I had anticipated the thunderstorm well enough to get everything into the car long before the rain started.

So, when the lightning and thunder came, I had nothing to do but observe.

What a treat!

I half hope we get a thunderstorm the next time we go camping in the mouth of the Thunder Megaphone.