Dateline: October 2, 2004

The air conditioner in the window of the doctor's office is working overtime removing the Texas heat and humidity. If business stays good, the doctor says he will get another magazine for the waiting room.

The doctor has a good variety of problems to deal with this month - everything from cookware to food-judging schools. Also, it seems the doctor has picked up an international following. This month's piece has visitors from Australia and India. Questions have come in from Africa, Malta, France, Norway and most of the U.S. states. It just goes to prove that Texas Cooking is popular everywhere. The doctor is waiting for a question from the space station so he can be universal.

Let's get busy.

Cynthia writes: I wanted to know, how does one become a food judge. I am especially interested in the barbecue competitions. Thank You

Hi Cynthia: Run a Google search for "barbecue judging school" and you'll get a whole list of people who run the schools. As for things other than barbecue, the best way to get started is to volunteer to judge in any cooking contest that comes along. After you get a couple under your belt so to speak, invitations will start to come in. Good judges are at a premium. Just remember to mind your manners and follow the instructions given you. Thanks for writing.
Dr. John

From Dave: What is the best type of pot to cook chili in? What type gives a nice even radiation of heat without scorching the contents? Thanks!

Hi Dave: Most of the competitive chili cooks seem to be using heavy aluminum pots with stainless liners. If you could find a cast iron pot with a porcelain liner, it would be ideal. I like cast iron. There are a lot of chili pots listed on eBay. You might find a bargain there. Thanks for writing.
Dr. John

Charlene says: A short time back, I use to bartend at United Airlines Red Carpet Club. A customer came in and ordered a Bloody Mary. I made what I thought was a Bloody Mary with vodka and the works. The customer told me I did not make the drink correctly, and that the very first Bloody Mary consisted of beer and tomato juice. Is this true?

Hi Charlene: According to the mother of Bloody Mary was first made in Harry's New York Bar in Paris. It was made with gin and called a Red Snapper. Harry moved to New York in the 1930s, and started making the drink with the newly discovered vodka. He renamed the drink Bloody Mary.

Beer and tomato juice is called either "What me worry?" or "Bloody beer". My guess is that your customer was just looking for an excuse to make conversation with you.

Down here in Texas, we lean toward the Bloody Maria made with tequila. Thanks for writing.
Dr. John

Ann from India asks: How do you get clear iced tea? I run a café, and the iced tea I make and keep turns cloudy. Can you give me some advice?

Hi Ann: Several things can cause the tea to be cloudy. First you want to let the freshly steeped tea cool to room temperature before you refrigerate it. Cooling it too quickly causes cloudiness. And minerals in the water can turn the tea cloudy. Try some distilled water and see if that helps.

Cloudy tea can be cleared up by adding a little boiling water to it. As a last resort you may have to filter the tea after it is steeped. I hope this helps. Thanks for writing.
Dr. John

Manny from Australia wants to know: What is the difference between marinades and pastes? One packet says tandoori paste, and the other says tandoori marinade. What's the difference? They both taste the same. Please explain.

G'day Manny: To marinate something is to season it and let is set a while before cooking to absorb the flavors. The marinade can be dry (like a dry rub), paste or liquid. Some folks like paste because it sticks to the meat real good, and the meat doesn't have to be turned during the marinade process. Thanks for writing.
Dr. John

Marilee asks about seasoning turkey burgers: Please suggest some seasonings for grilled turkey burgers using ground turkey. We recently ate them at Fuddrucker's in Euless and thought they were wonderful. Also, any grilling tips? Thanks!

Hi Marilee: Oh gosh, I don't know what Fuddruckers uses. If you want the burgers to taste like turkey use a mix of onion powder, pepper and celery salt. Easy on the celery salt. I like Lawry's seasoned salt for nearly anything. You might try that.

You want to grill the burgers over hot coals. Cook 'em quick. Don't make them over a half-inch thick. Turn them when they start to bubble on top. Oil the grill before you start so they don't stick. Secret tip, make a dent about the size of a fifty-cent piece in the center of each patty and then it won't swell up in the middle. It will stay flat. Thanks for writing.
Dr. John

Melvin has a corny question: What is the difference between the corn that is available in the beginning of summer (sweet corn) and the field corn that is on the market now?

Hi Melvin: Sweet corn is a variety that is grown for the table. Field corn is for livestock feed and other uses.

The time corn comes in depends on where it is grown and when it was planted. Field corn is good for the table if you catch it young. Thanks for writing.
Dr. John