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Put Your Chef’s Hat On

June 08, 2016

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I recently received a free copy of Reader’s Digest in the mail asking me if I’d like to subscribe to the magazine. Frankly I was taken aback by this and said to myself, “Is Reader’s Digest still around?” I haven’t seen this publication in years and it looked quite different to me.

However, when I leafed through I found myself sitting down and reading closely. Reader’s Digest has not lost its touch: the articles are succinct but timely, the jokes and cartoons are as funny as ever and, best of all, it’s chock-full of interesting information. In particular, I really liked the one titled What’s the Difference? by Kelsey Kloss who explores the subtle differences between the staple foods that most of us buy and eat. Here’s a short version of this list that appeared in the May 2016 issue. Let’s take a look.

  • YAMS VS. SWEET POTATOES

True yams have rough, scaly skin, purple or red flesh and are often starchier than sweet potatoes. But they’re hard to find in American supermarkets. Often orange-fleshed sweet potatoes are called “yams” to differentiate them from white-fleshed sweet potatoes.

  • PASTA VS. NOODLES

Pasta dough is made from wheat and water. It has a stronger, more elastic texture than noodles and is usually dressed with sauce. Noodles are made from a soft paste of eggs plus flour and served in a broth.

  • CLUB SODA VS. SELTZER

Both are water with carbonation, but club soda has additives that give it a slightly saltier taste than seltzer.

  • JAM VS. JELLY

Jam is fruit chopped, crushed and cooked with sugar so it is chunky while jelly is made from fruit juice boiled with sugar that results in a firm, gel-like texture.

  • CHICKPEAS VS. GARBANZO BEANS

These can be used interchangeably. Both refer to the same fibrous legume that has a bit of a chestnut flavor. Garbanzo is Spanish while chickpea is the English term.

  • NECTARINES VS. PEACHES

Almost genetically identical, these can be used interchangeably in cooking. Peaches have a soft, fuzzy skin while nectarines have a fuzz-free, smooth skin and are smaller than peaches. Both grow in white and yellow varieties.

  • BANANAS VS. PLANTAINS

Plantains are members of the banana family and are ready to use when green. Bananas are high in sugar; plantains are high in starch. This makes them better for cooking – they’re often treated as vegetables.

  • ICE-CREAM VS. GELATO

“We all scream for ice cream” because it is made with milk, cream and often egg yolks. Then it is churned quickly to make it light and fluffy. Gelato has more milk and less cream and is churned slower. This results in a silkier texture and a stronger flavor than ice cream.

  • COLD-BREW VS. ICE COFFEE

Cold-brew has become increasingly popular. Coffee grounds are steeped in water for a day. The essence is then diluted with water and served chilled. On the other hand, iced coffee is brewed hot with half the usual amount of water and poured over ice. Cold brew is made with cooler water, so it often has a mellower, less acidic taste than iced coffee.

Shaun Nelson-Henrick


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