Friday, July 9, 2010

Telephone Brand Agar-Agar

[Photograph by Michael Leddy.]

Agar-agar! The substance so nice, they named it twice. (Like New York, New York.) I long knew agar only as a word in crossword puzzles. I noticed the thing itself (derived from red algae) in a market this past weekend.

Wikipedia says that agar-agar can be used “as a laxative, a vegetarian gelatin substitute, a thickener for soups, in jellies, ice cream and other desserts, as a clarifying agent in brewing, and for paper sizing fabrics.” I have verified none these uses: I take agar-agar’s versatility on faith. I do know from experience that agar-agar can be used in blog posts, at least when it’s packaged in such a striking way.

On the back of the package, a glossy woman speaks. Listen: do you hear what she is saying? Yes, she is telling a friend about Telephone Brand Agar-Agar Powder.

comments: 6

Elaine said...

Persons of the elderly persuasion (ha ha) or individuals with disabilities can struggle with swallowing disorders (think post-stroke, CP, and so on) and the thickening action of agar-agar can prevent choking incidents, which can be serious.

There's got to be an interesting story behind the association with a Telephone as a brand name, though. I can't come up with anything plausible.

Michael Leddy said...

I didn’t know about an anti-choking use. Now that I think about it, liquid would seem to pose more problems than something semi-solid.

Rachel said...

There are a lot of brilliant vegan recipes that use agar-agar! Here is a basic pudding recipe in case you ever decide to open the package (but the blogger uses a magic bullet, boo!).

Michael Leddy said...

Thank you, Rachel. I will pass this info on to Mom.

Maybe we should see Mick and Mimi about the Magic Bullet.

Berit said...

Awesome packaging--I know of Agar-agar though boyfriend Marc's Filipina mother. I always figured it was a Tagalog word because of the doubling--they do that a lot with adjectives and adverbs; nice-nice, hot-hot, etc. When I say it, it sounds rather primitive, but she is a degree-holding school teacher, and it works for her.

Have you ever made anything with real Gelatine? (It smells like the devil himself, or at least like the room in which your your large dog's been working a rawhide over for the last half-hour.) I've been considering my alternatives for my next recipe--maybe I should call that lady up and place an order for Telephone Brand!

Michael Leddy said...

Wikipedia covers many names for agar (my favorite, in translation: “vegetable swiftlet”). Agar-agar is Malay, and Tagalog and Malay are related, and both languages involve reduplication (repeating words or parts of words), so Tagalog is an excellent hunch.

I’ve never cooked with gelatine, though I remember as a kid seeing vaguely sickening ads about drinking Knox Gelatine as a means to better fingernails. That may explain why I’ve had nothing to do with gelatine, aside from Jell-O. But now that I know what it smells like, I’m tempted. : )