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Young Upwardly Mobile Mushroom

July 16, 1992|CHARLES PERRY

People who eat at stylish restaurants won't be surprised to learn that the United States produced 4 million pounds of shiitake mushrooms last year (you just about can't order a mushroom pate without getting some shiitake in it). That 4 million pounds, however, is only a shade over 0.5% of all mushrooms grown in this country--virtually all the rest are the familiar white supermarket mushrooms.

Call Dr. Pepper, MD

The best nutrient sources are mostly boring things such as liver, kidneys, fish flour, brewer's yeast and seaweed. But black pepper happens to be a good source of vanadium, and soda pop is one of the best sources of phosphorus. Granted, phosphorus deficiency is rare, and nobody knows whether there actually is such a thing as vanadium deficiency, but hey, do you want to take any chances?

The Red and the Black

Some of us dream of steak charred black on the outside but still red-rare all the way through, impossible on the average back-yard grill. So an engineer named Bill Burkhart has designed a sort of charcoal-fired steak furnace called the Superchar Grill that can char a one-inch steak in 90 seconds per side (the meat has to rest on a slice of bread for five minutes afterward to absorb what has happened to it). The patent-pending grill burns at 2,000 degrees so the charcoal produces no smoke. Drawbacks: The steak can't be bigger than 6 by 7 inches; the firebox, which has to be made from a cousin of space-shuttle tile, must be handled carefully--it's a lot more fragile than sink tile; and that tile makes it expensive, $195 plus tax and $3.50 shipping from Bar-B-Quick, (800) 660-6079. Real charred-steak lovers may not find that price so steep, though, and anyway, Bar-B-Quick offers a 30-day return guarantee.

Goodbye, Pork Pie

"Jazz Cooks: Portraits and Recipes of the Greats," by Bob Young and Al Stankus (Stewart, Tabori & Chang: $24.95), profiles nearly 100 jazz musicians and gives the food philosophy of each, together with one recipe and three recommended tracks by the musician. A lot of the recipes are "soul food" of one kind or another, whether from the South, the Caribbean or any of the countries from Poland to Japan that jazz musicians now hail from, but the surprising thing is how many jazzers are health nuts. Almost half talk about about being on a diet, about 20 are or have been vegetarians, and three give swinging tofu recipes.

A Cold Scoop

This is National Ice Cream Month, and the California Milk Advisory Board proudly announces that California leads in ice cream production. And, by the way, that ice cream contains only 130 calories per scoop. So there's no problem--just eat one scoop. (Sure.)

The Bulgarian Borgasmord

In Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union, an anti-alcohol drive has reduced wine consumption almost 25%. However, the local wine industry is hoping for foreign aid--Moldova and Georgia already export to more than 20 countries, and Bulgarian wine has proved popular in Scandinavia.

The Wine Cure

Epidemiology magazine reports that one cocktail or glass of wine reduces the risk of getting hepatitis A from eating any number of raw oysters by 90%.

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