September 09, 2008
"How much does hair weigh?"
Posted by Gordon Smith

This is another one of my weight loss posts, so don't bother clicking through if that's not what you want to read.

I used to joke about my weight and my poor eating habits. As of last year, however, I decided to do something about it. When we arrived in Utah last summer, I weighed 240 pounds, more or less, and I was feeling horrible about my long-term prospects. So I decided to use the move to Utah as an impetus for change: I started walking to work (three miles, one way), enrolled in a fitness counseling program at BYU, and lifted weights three times a week with my oldest son. By the end of the year, I had lost 30 pounds. Weight loss seemed so easy then.

It took me another three months of waxing and waning to lose 10 pounds, but I had reached my intermediate goal of dipping below 200 on the scale. And I assumed that the heat and increased activity of the summer months would result in even more rapid weight loss. Unfortunately, summer also brought conference season. Lots of airplane travel, restaurant food, conference snacks, and disrupted routines. Suddenly, I found myself gaining again at an alarming weight rate. By mid-July, I was back up to 208 pounds. Ugh!

With most of my conferences complete, I re-asserted control over my diet and exercise. I cut out desserts for the rest of the summer, ate lots of fresh fruit and vegetables, and started running. Again. I had first taken up running last fall, but I had lapsed. Now I decided to run the three miles to work. Unfortunately, I couldn't run much more than a mile without breaking down. So I did the run-walk as well as I could manage, and after a few weeks, I was running the whole way. Is there any better way to lose weight than running? Well, hunger strike, I suppose. Anyway, in the month and a half or so that I have been running, I have lost 12 pounds, which puts me around 196 and falling. I feel a new wardrobe coming on.

I decided to write this post because I got my hair cut this morning. As I was sitting in the chair at the BYU barbershop, watching my gray and brown hair fall to the ground, I asked, "how much does hair weigh?" When I am in weight-loss mode, I am looking for every angle. If hair made a material difference in my weight, I would seriously consider shaving my head. But the barber didn't know the answer to my question, and by the end of the cut, I was convinced that the answer was, "not enough to justify shaving your head."

If you have ever had to lose weight, you know that crazy things like this go through your mind all of the time. One day last year I asked my wife how much one of my legs weighed. Amputation wasn't a real option, but I was just curious how quickly I could reach my weight goals by shedding body parts.

And, of course, I think constantly of the wrestlers at my high school, who used to run around in sweat suits, spitting to get down to the necessary weight. Spitting is gross. And the effect on weight lasts only until you get to the next drinking fountain. But like I said, crazy thoughts.

My ultimate goal is to weigh between 165-170. One of my neighbors told me the other day not to lose any more weight or I would look emaciated, but he is delusional. My ability to lose weight from doing what I am doing right now will taper off soon, and I will need to redouble my efforts if I am going to reach that goal. The next frontier: portion sizes. I have been working half-heartedly on this one for awhile, but it's time to get serious. If last spring is any guide, it's the last 10 pounds before reaching the goal that are really tough.

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August 27, 2008
We have no bananas?
Posted by Gordon Smith

bananasSo I was listening to Kai Ryssdal's interview with Peter Chapman, author of Bananas: How the United Fruit Company Shaped the World, when Chapman remarked casually, as if we all knew already, "it's a highly vulnerable crop and at the moment is suffering from diseases which might soon -- within the next decade or so -- wipe it out."

A world without bananas!?

As it turns out, I probably am the last person in the world to get the news. Websites on the Panama Disease are abundant. Bananas have a fascinating history, and clearly the most popular fruit in the Smith household. I will be so sad if they vanish ...


Thanks to loop_oh for the photo.

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July 01, 2008
Grape Nuts
Posted by Gordon Smith

Somehow I learned to love Grape Nuts when I was a child, and I still eat them from time to time with yogurt. I did that this morning, and I can't get through a bowl without thinking of Euell Gibbons.

Cattails are edible? We used to smash cattails on the road so the seeds would fly through the air. It never occurred to me to eat one. Though I still like the taste of alfalfa.

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March 29, 2008
Local Eats: Pizzeria Seven Twelve
Posted by Gordon Smith

Good restaurants are scarce in Utah Valley, but I discovered one tonight, thanks to a tip from my colleague, Fred Gedicks. Inspired by an offer to publish my article -- and the fact that my wife and daughters went to SLC for the evening -- I took my sons to Pizzeria Seven Twelve. (A restaurant with it's own light-content blog.)

We walked in and got a table at 6:30 pm on a Saturday, but it won't be long before this place will require an hour wait. It's all about the pizza, and this is the best pizza I have ever eaten. Sorry, New York.

If you don't believe me, read some of the other reviews.

By the way, the "712" is a reference to the temperature of the brick oven, imported from Italy. The server told me on the sly that the oven actually cooks at 780 degrees, but the owners liked the sound of "Seven Twelve." I am in favor of whatever it takes to get pizza that good.

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March 09, 2008
Cereal Entrepreneurs: Follow-Up on Cereal Restaurants
Posted by Christine Hurt

Last year, I blogged about a restaurant called Cereality, which is simply a restaurant that sells existing cereals, either alone or in combination with other cereals, toppings, and milks.  While visiting the University of Arizona in connection with the Law & Entrepreneurship Retreat (thanks to Gordon and Darian Ibrahim, our organizers!), I had the chance to visit The Cereal Boxx, a smaller-scale copycat.

The Cereal Boxx seems to be a local establishment ("Tucson's Premier Cereal Restaurant"), and did not seem to have the wide array of offerings as Cereality.  However, I really enjoyed it, and I loved my cereal.  I ordered the Health Nut, which had Kashi Go Lean, Special K, bananas, blueberries, cranberries and almonds.  Yum. 

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February 19, 2008
Baumgartner's Cheese Store and Tavern
Posted by Gordon Smith

Today I visited Wisconsin's cheese mecca, Monroe, home to the Monroe High School Cheesemakers. I stopped for lunch in Baumgartner's Cheese Store and Tavern, where I snarfed down a Limburger Cheese sandwich. Have you ever eaten Limburger cheese? If you haven't, let's just say this: Baumgartner's serves the sandwich with an after-dinner mint.

If you have tasted Limburger, chances are it was made in Monroe at the Chalet Cheese Cooperative, the only Limburger manufacturing facility in the U.S. Unfortunately, Chalet has been closed, so I haven't been able to visit on this trip. I hope to get back in June.

By the way, as I sat eating my sandwich, the sound system was playing "Feelin' Groovy" by Simon and Garfunkel. Indeed.

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February 05, 2008
Currywurst and Champagne
Posted by Gordon Smith

If you have been to Berlin, I assume that you have sampled Currywurst. I prefer Bosner (or Bosna) Wurst, which I encountered as a Mormon missionary in Linz, Austria, but the core ingredients are the same: sausage/hot dog, ketchup/tomato sauce, and curry powder. (The Bosner also has onions and a bun.)

Butchers in Berlin who make sausages for Currywurst are upset by imported sausages from other EU member states. So the butchers have applied for "geographic indication" protection, like that afforded "Champagne" or "Parmigiano Reggiano." The butchers want their sausage to be known as "Berliner Currywurst." The problem is that the sausages don't become "Berliner Currywurst" until you top them off with tomato sauce and curry powder. As explained by Axel Nordemann is an attorney with Boehmert and Boehmert, one of Germany's top intellectual property law firms:

The sausage itself is not a Berliner currywurst, it needs something additionally to become a currywurst. You see, you can take this ground sausage for the currywurst, you can take it and eat it with mustard, and then it's certainly not a Berliner currywurst.

As noted by Nordemann, the average consumer of Berliner Currywurst can't tell the difference between the local sausages and the imports. "Es ist mir wurst," so to say.

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January 30, 2008
Finally, a Market in Good Ice
Posted by Christine Hurt

I admit it -- I'm an ice connoisseur.  I love good ice.  Good ice to me is pellet ice, or crushed ice (if it is crushed small enough).  Little bitty ice with lots of surface area.  My interest in good ice is both for chilling drinks -- I have a hypothesis that it cools drinks better -- and also for the chewing after the drink is gone.  I can tell you all the places I know that have good ice, which convenience stores (mostly in Texas, especially the QT, but also the Sheetz in Virginia and the Marathon here in Champaign), which restaurants (Sonic, hands down).  Pellet ice is much more available in Texas than either Wisconsin or Illinois -- no one can beat Texas for super-huge convenience stores with soda fountains that take up an entire wall!

The WSJ today finally gives ice love some respect.  Apparently there are many closet ice connoisseurs out there (I prefer this term to the kind of gross "ice chewer" term the WSJ uses).  I, too, have purchased ice in bags from Sonic.  My spouse has also priced pellet ice machines, which are far more expensive than cube ice machines.  I 'll have to tell Paul that Amy Grant gave Vince Gill a pellet ice machine.  Surely I'm worth one, too!

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December 26, 2007
It's Official: I'm "Overweight"!
Posted by Gordon Smith

Regular readers of Conglomerate know that I have been working to reduce my weight. When I initially disclosed my plan on October 5, I was down 12 pounds since early August. In a comment to that post last month, I noted that I had lost 23 pounds. Today, I reached my goal for 2008 (a week early): down 30 pounds!

One of the gazillion imperfect measures of health and well-being is the Body Mass Index (BMI), which is a rough measure of body fat based on height and weight. When I started focusing on my weight, I was well within the BMI "Obesity" category. As of today, I am merely "Overweight."

The change is noticeable enough that people have started asking, "How did you do it?" Which makes me think that I should plan this out. Maybe I could end up with an endorsement, like Jared the Subway guy. One of the many problems with that idea is that my approach has been mind-numbingly obvious: start exercising and eat less.

Of course, the simplicity of my approach and the ensuing success makes me wonder why I waited so long to start ...

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October 08, 2007
Tanka Bar
Posted by Gordon Smith

Even if I weren't trying to cut back on meat consumption, I would have a hard time getting excited about the Tanka Bar: "100% Natural Buffalo Cranberry Bar." Here is the sales pitch:

Based on traditional wasna and pemmican, we combine high-protein, prairie-fed buffalo and tart-sweet cranberries with our secret, patent-pending herbal-based preservative. Then we slow-smoke it to perfection for 9 hours. At only 70 calories, these bars are perfect for today's nomadic Native always on the go! Take some with you next time you hit the trail.

So, this is like jerky with cranberries added?

Even if that doesn't appeal to you, the business behind this story is interesting. Here is the scoop from Marketplace:

Trendy as energy bars are, in point of fact Native Americans have been onto the secret for ages. Last December Steve Tripoli brought us the story of a company in South Dakota hoping to repackage and market a more traditional high-protein snack. The Tanka bar is a combination of dried buffalo meat and cranberries. Tanka roughly translates to Big Idea. A fitting name, says company president Mark Tilsen:

MARK TILSEN: Coming from the pioneer reservation, which is one of the poorest places in the country, this is as grand and as big as you could think of to launch a nation and hopefully someday an international brand.

We talked to Mark at the Black Hills Pow Wow in South Dakota where he's launching the bar today. He says his company, Native American Natural Foods, has produced 100,000 bars for the launch and they've almost sold out.

TILSEN: Every time somebody tastes it their eyebrows go up and they say, "That's not what i expected." Because it's all natural and the cranberries are almost whole in there and you get this burst that we call the taste of energy.

As opposed to the sawdust most of 'em taste like. But good flavor's not cheap. A Tanka bar will set you back $2.25.

This is the first product for Native American Natural Foods, but it's not the first business with big aspirations riding on buffalo ... or, more properly, bison. Remember Ted Turner's Montana Grill? (Which, oddly enough, has no restaurants in Montana.)

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September 17, 2007
Juice Must Have a Great PR Person
Posted by Christine Hurt

How can you be anti-juice?  Commercials with cute kids singing songs about their juice, which looks jummy and sweet through the TV.  But is juice all that great?  Yesterday, the NYT had an article entitled Sugar Finds Its Way Back to the School Cafeteria.  The gist of the article is that Coca-Cola, Pepsi-Co and Cadbury Schweppes were very "shrewd" in voluntarily agreeing to only supply water, low-fat milk and juice to elementary and middle schools and additionally other drinks with less than 66 calories per 8 ounces, light juices and diet sodas to high schools.  The reporter wants us to be outraged that this will open the door to drinks like Gatorade, Propel and Vitaminwater that are "enhanced" with vitamins our kids don't even need!  And of course we all know that (gasp) Coke owns Vitaminwater!!

Why not be outraged about juice?  First of all, (gasp) who owns the juice companies?  Coke owns Minute-Maid, Pepsi owns Tropicana, and Cadbury Schweppes owns Mott's.  Ah, shrewd.  Second, juice is very high-calorie.  If all this whoopla is about preventing obesity in children, then shouldn't we really be worried about calories?  According to the Minute-Maid website, an 11.5 ounce can of grape juice has 180 calories.  That's more than the 140 calories in a can of Coke.  And what nutrients do children get?  100% of Vitamin C.  And that's about it, plus 40 grams of sugar.  Compared to Propel (15 calories per 12 ounces, 3 grams of sugar, 15% of Vitamins C and E, 40% of Niacin and B6), I'd rather my kids drink Propel (which also now comes with calcium).  Vitaminwater has a few more calories (8 ounces has 55 calories, 13 sugars, 40% Vitamin C, 20% of various B vitamins), but it still seems better than juice.  Every pediatrician we've ever known has warned against giving kids, especially older than toddlers, juice.  Many parents I know water down juice, and Mott's has just figured this out and will now sell diluted juice that's part water/part juice

The funniest part of the article was a principal basically saying "jsut put in working cold water fountains."  Our kids go to a school where every student has a water bottle and fills it up with water throughout the day, even at lunch.  Look Ma, no calories!

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August 10, 2007
Campbell's to Sell Godiva Chocolate
Posted by Gordon Smith

Here is the press release from Campbell Soup Company: "Although the premium chocolate category is experiencing strong growth and Godiva is well-positioned for the future, the premium chocolate business does not fit with Campbell's strategic focus on simple meals,-including soup-baked snacks, and vegetable-based beverages."

Apparently, Campbell's wants to focus more on "wellness" (see the latest Campbell's 10-K) and premium chocolate doesn't fit the bill. That's not what they told me at the Schokoladenmuseum in Cologne! If you are interested, here is a nice rundown on the health effects of chocolate.

Finally, a word about Godiva. When I was in Brussels earlier this year, people steered me away from Godiva and toward Wittamer and Pierre Marcolini on the ground that "Godiva is now American."

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March 19, 2007
Kono Pizza or Conizza?
Posted by Gordon Smith

Either way, it's pizza in a cone. Here and here.

I can definitely see this succeeding on State Street in Madison.

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February 25, 2007
Pizza From Hell
Posted by Gordon Smith
December 16, 2006
Tiroler Knödel
Posted by Gordon Smith

With seven people in my family, each of us is assigned a day to cook the family dinner. (My oldest daughter threw a wrench in the system by moving away to college! But we work around that.) Sunday is my day, and I decided to go Austrian today. I spent a good chunk of my Saturday afternoon with my son making Tiroler Knödel ... mmm. Here is a step by step guide. (But use Kaiser rolls, not French baguettes!)

We will have some Wiener Schnitzel, too, but for me the Knödel is the star of the show. Now, if I could just learn how to make Apfelstrudel.

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