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deconstructing

A weekly serving of food news and views

Compiled by Janet K. Keeler from staff and wire reports

deconstructing

explanations from the inside out

cranberries

Forget watermelon. Forget strawberries and apples. The cranberry is the most American fruit that ever was. Before there was a United States, before a Pilgrim set foot on a rock, American Indians were munching on "sassamanesh," the tart red berries sometimes sweetened with maple sugar.

To the pilgrims, sassamanesh were a little like the lingonberries back home in Great Britain but too sour to eat on their own. One of only three native North American fruits of significant commercial value (the others are blueberries and Concord grapes), cranberries became a crop shortly after the Revolutionary War.

Nearly a dozen states grow cranberries today, but Wisconsin and Massachusetts dominate the market. Together, they produce about 80 percent of U.S. cranberries, which are grown in bogs. Americans consume more than 400-million pounds of cranberries each year, some 80-million pounds during Thanksgiving week alone. Much of that, we suspect, is the jellied relish that plops from a can.

There is something new under the sun, and that's the white cranberry. Ocean Spray is making white cranberry juice from it; the fresh berry is available in some markets in the Northeast but not in Florida. The white juice is likely to be a hit in mixed drinks to which they would contribute taste but not color.

Like many of mother nature's goodies, cranberries have claims to healthfulness. A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association last summer said that drinking cranberry juice regularly may offer protection against certain antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

cooking class

If you have a fresh pumpkin you want to cook with, the chefs at www.allrecipes.com suggest cutting it into five or six big chunks to start. Scrape out seeds and stringy bits. Place in a shallow dish filled with an inch of water and bake at 350 degrees for about 45 minutes, until the flesh is tender. Cool. Scoop out the flesh and puree in a blender or processor until smooth.

constant comment

"No one who cooks, cooks alone. Even at her most solitary, a cook in the kitchen is surrounded by generations of cooks past, the advice and menus of cooks present, the wisdom of cookbook writers." _ author Laurie Colwin (Home Cooking)

One fish, two fish, red fish . . .

Orange you glad that Goldfish now come in violet and red? The snack food found in one-half of all houses with kids under 12 adds colorful crackers to its ever-expanding product line. Remember when Goldfish first smiled? The new vivid red and violet fish don't taste different from the original cheesy orange but might be more fun for the wee ones to eat. At least it will help teach them their colors. Look for Goldfish Colors in stores this month for $1.79 a bag.

garbage can turkey

Need another extreme way to cook turkey? Check out chef Gerard Marquetty's eight-minute Garbage Can Turkey video. Filmed outside Raymond James Stadium and in the aisles of a Tampa Safeway, the instructional video by the Odessa chef leads you through one of the craziest ways yet to cook a turkey. Among the equipment needed is a 20-gallon metal garbage can, charcoal, garden shovel and heat-resistant welders gloves! A 12- to 14-pound turkey cooks in one hour, but your grass might take a beating. The video is $9.95 through chef Gerard's Web site, www.garbagecanturkey.com.

national exposure

Jim and Maria Kantzios of Clearwater are featured in this month's Bon Appetit. Mr. Kantzios, who retired to Florida from Cleveland, and a nephew, George Pappas, formed the Athens Pastries & Frozen Foods company in 1969. You probably recognize the name if you've ever bought frozen phyllo dough. Athens, which was purchased by Krinos Foods in 1982, makes 90 percent of the phyllo dough sold in America. In the early days of the company, phyllo was shipped to Greek churches all over the country by Greyhound bus.

swordfish comes back

The folks who persuaded chefs and diners to give up swordfish a few years ago say new research shows that the fish population has rebounded. The North Atlantic swordfish have recovered to 94 percent of levels considered healthy, according to SeaWeb and the Natural Resources Defense Council. Credit goes to the Give Swordfish a Break campaign, which urged restaurants, consumers and the government to support swordfish conservation. For more information, visit seaweb.org.

correction

Two weeks ago we sang the praises of the online cooking magazine Seasoned Cooking; however, we gave you the wrong Internet address. You can find the magazine at www.seasoned.com.

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