Research: Quick Questions #1

Wednesday, January 18, 2017
Sometimes, small research topics pop up. There's not enough info to delve too deeply into these questions, but they're certainly worth looking into. Here's a handful that we covered for one episode of the podcast, but I should definitely start collecting more.

What’s the difference between crawfish and crayfish?

That depends. Where do you live? If you live in the South, the Rockies, the Mid-Atlantic, or the part of the Midwest that stretches from St. Louis to Chicago, you probably call them crawfish. If you live in the North or New England, you’ll likely refer to them as crayfish. And if you’re one of those weirdos in the middle of the Midwest or the Pacific coast, you’ll disdain both, and opt for crawdad, instead. Here’s a handy visual representation.

OK, but what’s the biological difference between these critters?

There isn’t one. It’s all linguistic. Oh, America. Never change.

What is “Carolina Gold” rice?

A restaurant menu took the time to point out that one of their entrees was being served with Carolina Gold, and it struck Kyle and me as strange that a rice would need such a specific description. We wondered what makes Carolina Gold so special. Well, it turns out that it’s special because it’s basically the progenitor of all long-grain rice in the Americas. According to the Carolina Gold Rice Foundation (which...exists), this rice originated in Africa and Indonesia, but once it arrived on our shores, it took hold in the Carolina Territory by 1685.

It became the standard for all rice served in the States, but after the Great Depression, new rice varieties crowded it out of the public eye, to the point that it became virtually extinct. Luckily for Carolina Gold, an eye surgeon named Dr. Richard Schulz collected stores from a USDA seed bank in the 1980s, and repatriated it to the Carolinas. Nowadays, it’s considered an heirloom rice, so it’s no wonder that it’s an attractive grain to serve in nice places. It’s tasty! Give it a try if you see it somewhere.

What are hoecakes, exactly?

They’re basically an unleavened cake made with cornmeal. They’re called hoecakes because they were originally baked on hoes. Hoecakes are also known as Johnny cakes, and they differ from traditional pancakes in that pancakes are generally leavened. Pancakes are also considered a sweeter dish, while hoecakes tend toward the savory.

Paella is stuffed with seafood, but do clams belong in there or not?

Do they ever! Or they don’t. Paella is one of those endlessly tweakable dishes; I found plenty of recipes that made sure to include clams, and plenty that made sure to exclude them. The meats and shellfish that go into paella have infinite permutations, but I’d suggest making sure you at least include some chorizo as one of the meats, and shrimp as one of the shellfish. Here’s a paella recipe with clams that looks fairly complex, but wow, would it be tasty.