AND WHAT will 1981 bring that we never had before and wondered how we lived without?
Nothing as exciting as "sliced bread" looms on this year's horizon. So far it's just more variations on old themes, some of them interesting, some totally depressing.
If you don't already own a food processor you might as well wait until the competition heats up. You won't have long to wait. The company which had been manufacturing Cuisinart, Robot-Coupe of France, has severed its relations with the Greenwich, Conn., firm. It's opened its own offices just up the Connecticut Turnpike in Norwalk, Conn., and will market food processors under its own name, Robot-Coupe, Cuisinart food processors will be manufactured in Japan. From now on you will find both brands side by side on the shelves. Robot-Coupe, better known for its commercial kitchen equipment, invented the food processor. Carl Sontheimer, president of Cuisinart, made arrangements with the company to manufacture a home-kitchen version for the American market and sell it under his company's name, Cuisinart. No longer.
As of Jan. 1, the former director of marketing and product development for Cuisinart, Alvin Finesman, is selling Robot-Coupe machines. But as president of the new firm, he will not say how his machines will differ from those sold by his former employer, nor how much they will cost. All will be revealed at the National Housewares Show in Chicago next week, Finesman said.
Like Sontheimer, Finesman hopes the machines are sold only in appropriate stores. "Obviously, I don't want Robot-Coupes next to lawnowners or wire fencing." He also hopes they won't be sold in catalogue stores where there is no place for demonstrations.
Will be sell to Zabar's, the New York food market which sued Cuisinart because the company refused to sell machines to them? (Zabar's discounted the machines, as it does much of the equipment it sells. Cuisinart was not happy with the practice. Cuisinart settled the case out of court.) "I don't want to sell to food stores. I don't want the machines next to the smoked salmon," Finesman said.
Asked how he would stop a place like Zabar's from selling Robot-Coupe, Finesman said if they want to buy them from a second party, that was up to them.
What happens if Zabar's or other places want to discount the machine? "It's of no consequence to me. We will put a suggested retail price on it, but they can sell it for anything they want."
Watch this space.
You will have to wait a little longer for the next culinary thrill: nouvell cuisine in the land of Mickey Mouse. Sometime at the end of 1982, Florida's Disney World will open a French brasserie-restaurant, to be called Aux Trois in honor of its three part-time chefs, Paul Bocuse, Roger Verge and Gaston Lenotre. From time to time the three chefs, who are among the best-known names in the French culinary world, will put in appearances at Aux Trois . Whether the food will be different when one of them is in residence is unknown. Whether they will do more than visit briefly is also unknown, but it has become quite commonplace for French chefs to lend their names to large-scale commercial enterprises, some say at the expense of the quality of their own restaurants.
Verge, owner-chief of Moulins de Mougins , near Cannes, is also working on a chain of restaurants in New York, Paris and Tokyo.
Michel Guerard, the chef who really confused cooks several years ago, by inventing cuisine minceur -- diet cooking -- at the same time nouvelle cuisine -- which is far from diet food -- was gaining a toehold, has plans now in the frozen food department. Guerard has hooked up with Nestle, a multinational corporation that owns Stouffer's along with several other companies in this country. Guerard has lent his name in Europe to several frozen dishes manufactured by a subsidiary of Nestle, and is experimenting with frozen dishes for Stouffer's in the United States.
Even Alain Chapel, whose restaurant near Lyons is considered a must for any serious gastronome, has plunged into the world of big business. He is producing jams, preserves and cooked dishes in limited quantities for Bloomingdale's and two stores in Europe.
Don't be too surprised if these offshoots of the three-star chefs don't measure up to the originals.
While the three-star chefs are trying to figure out how to bring something of themselves to the masses, the chefs who cater to the masses are trying to figure out how to bring them something new.
Apparently impressed with the interest in health foods, General Mills has purchased the 15-unit Good Earth Restaurant chain headquartered in San Diego, Calif. These "health food" restaurants could be but the first links of a nationwide chain.
Long John Silver, a fried fish chain, is experimenting with baked and broiled fish items, much to the chagrin of some of its executives. According to Chain Report, an industry newsletter, "The people opposed to the move question the value of the change and say it would be too much trouble to redesign all the kitchens."
If some food company executives want to reach out to the people who are worried about fat and calories, they are in the nick of time. The Department of Agriculture has just released a report with the nutrient content of typical meals at several fast-food chains. If you eat a Burger King Whopper with cheese, french fries and a chocolate shake, you have taken in 1,141 calories, nearly half the Recommended Daily Allowance of calories for an adult male, well over half for a woman and the entire caloric allowance for most women on a diet.
Forget about calories when you run across the latest ice cream out of New York, Alpen Zauber. Gael Greene, New York magazine's food critic, called this Brooklyn-born ice cream "creme de la creme." Reaction to a few small samplings in Washington has been mostly positive. The vanilla and coffee brought swoons. The strawberry did not do as well, though it may have defrosted and been refrozen, which would account for its graininess.
Available at Sutton Place Gourmet, International Safeway, the Candy Parlor Emporium and the Potomac Village Deli, Alpen Zauber, which means Alpine magic, sells for about $1.89 a pint, putting it in the same category as Haagen-Dazs, the premium-priced ice cream that has already taken Washington, and the country, by storm.
With 16 percent butterfat and a 20 percent overrun, Alpen Zauber is rich, rich, rich. In addition to the above-mentioned flavors it is also available in chocolate chip, butter pecan, honey, carob and vanilla chocolate chip.
Several weeks ago I wrote an article about wild rice and the development of a farming technique which makes it possible to better control wild rice production.
B. E. Shetterly of New Osnaburgh, Ontario, has written to say that paddy rice is not the same as real wild rice. Shetterly sent along a package of real wild rice and asked me to make a cooking comparison, convinced that I "will discover that the people who are buying paddy rice, thinking they are getting wild rice, are being ripped off. They simply are not getting the product for which they are paying.
"Unfortunately," Shetterly goes on, "the Indian harvesters of real wild rice are being ripped off even worse. It is a new twist on the old land grab. rIn this instance there was no need to grab the land -- just take the product, adapt it to farm growing conditions, take away the market, and leave the Indian harvesters to sell their green rice to commercial processors at a price set by the processor. This year that price was 50 cents per pound for green rice. It takes approximately three pounds of green rice to make one pound of finished rice; handling and processing amounts to approximately $1 per pound finished rice -- you do the arithmetic!
"I think articles like yours are most helpful for everyone involved in wild rice, but I do wish a clear and strong distinction would be made between paddy rice and wild rice. If this distinction were made clear from a culinary viewpoint, I believe it would be of great help from a sociological viewpoint as it would help the Indian people regain their traditional markets."
We tried the cooking test suggested and asked three other people to sample the results before anything had been added to each batch of rice. All of us detected a difference; three of the four preferred the wild rice to the paddy rice. It looked better and in a blind tasting had a bit more flavor. But as one of the participants said, "The difference is so small, especially after you add other things to it, I doubt anyone would notice." The wild rice, however, did yield more cooked rice: One cup uncooked produced three cups cooked; one cup uncooked paddy rice produced 2 1/2 cups.
And now, to start the New Year off and help you keep all those resoltions, treat yourself to a "Please, No Junk Foods" sign. Produced by the Center for Science in the Public Interest, it features a hot dog and cola inside a red circle with a slash through them. Printed on heavy cardboard, the sign is available for $1.50 from CSPI, 1755 S St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20009.