About Mental Masala

Real name Marc Rumminger | Email me: ment@gmail.com

Ethicurean name Mental Masala
Why’d you pick that?
My mind is a bit like a masala (spice mixture): a jumble of disparate ingredients, never the same thing twice.
Real job
Engineer at a company that develops, builds, and sells air-pollution reduction equipment for diesel engines.
Best meal ever Tempura at Ten-Ichi in Tokyo or my first Thanksgiving in California (at a friend’s uncle’s house in San Jose) marc1.jpg
Favorite fruit
Nectarine or orange
Favorite vegetable
Tomato (or is that my favorite fruit?) Vegetable I eat only when I have to be polite Raw celery, brussel sprouts
Favorite dinner growing up
Something called “Old Faithful,” pork chops and rice cooked in a tomato-onion sauce
Processed crap I can’t manage to live without
Crackers, granola
Most traumatic food experience
My first attempt at making masala dosa. I didn’t know anything about Indian food, had never eaten one, and didn’t have the right tools. The result was masala blob-a, and completely inedible.
Attitude about sell-by dates
To be interpreted with wide latitude. I’d eat a 3-month out-of-date yogurt or canned good, but not a non-cultured dairy product.
Food background
marc2.jpgI grew up in Michigan in the 70s and 80s — the heyday of processed food. I ate a lot of Jell-o, processed cheese, cans of soup, fast food, and surprising few vegetables or fruits.

During my sophomore year of college, I became a vegetarian, and soon after that started to seriously learn to cook. I was an OK cook in college, but moving to Berkeley, California, made a huge difference. My culinary world opened up. Vegetables that had seemed hideous to me soon became delicious (fennel is one I can think of at this moment), the mysteries of Indian cooking started to become less mysterious, and I slowly became infused with the bigger issues related to food.

I cook for nourishment and direct sensory pleasure, but also as a way to nearly instant gratification (compared with the time-frames of my projects at work, anyway), and as a creative outlet. Sometimes it is also a form of meditation — total concentration on the task at hand. Although I enjoy cooking international foods, I try to be a locavore to a large extent. Locavorism gives me a chance to explore new ways of cooking, try unusual vegetables, and — I hope — learn how to capture the seasons by preserving, canning, and pickling.

I started blogging about cooking and food as a creative outlet, and as a motivation to answer questions I had (such as, where did the burrito come from?). Then, as I started to become more interested in food policy and food ethics, I began to write about those subjects too. At the Ethicurean, I hope to cover a wide range of topics, but my main interests are how food relates to politics, government, energy and the environment. My personal blog is Mental Masala, and I also write now and then for Growers and Grocers and Eat Local Challenge.