Uninformed Comment

Hazelnuts & technology

Posted in Food, Internet, Technology by uninformedcomment on May 24, 2009

One of the most enduringly astounding developments of the 20th Century is the personal computer, and in particular the Internet.  I shan’t rehash the clichés about “empowering individuals” or “bringing knowledge to the masses”, but like most clichés, they’re popular because they’re true.  And just how true they are is something worth keeping in mind, even if only at the back of your mind along with all those unfinished chores and half-remembered song lyrics.

Here’s one example, of how a trivial question that until recently would have proved almost impossible for an everyday guy like me to answer – and a very trivial (but rather tasty) question at that.  Please welcome to centre stage a packet of lovely Rulokat:

RulokatThere’s a box of these on some shelves next to the counter in my local grocery store, along with a host of other confections from throughout Eastern Europe and the Middle East, and one day I bought some, tried them and liked them.  Ever since, I’ve picked up a packet or two on occasion, and I can report that they’re very more-ish indeed – extremely sweet and crunchy, with a kind of hazelnut taste.

But what on Earth are they, and where do they come from?  And is that really hazelnut?  The Iranian shop owner doesn’t know – they just turn up in a selection of stuff from the importer.  The labelling is of little help, although I can just make out the words “Findik Kremali Rulo Gofret” in gold above the weight.  That means nothing to me – the language looks Turkish, but that’s only a guess.  I don’t know any Turkish people who might be able to translate.  The reverse has a lot of very small print, but it’s completely illegible due to its tiny size and the shininess of the paper.

Before personal computers, that would have been the end of it.  I wouldn’t go to the trouble of insisting that the shop-owner – a busy man – ask his equally-busy importer’s rep, who might not even know himself.  Note that I’m not saying it would have been impossible to find out what this stuff is, just that it would have involved more work than I’d be prepared to invest.  But with a personal computer, it’s a different story.

They’re Turkish, and they contain hazelnuts, egg whites and cocoa.

How do I know?  Well, the first step is Google.  That gives us the manufacturer’s website, but that doesn’t contain any more information other than confirming that they’re from Turkey (the address of the company, and also the .tr domain). and showing different packet sizes.  Still, that’s answered half the question.  For the other half – the ingredients – we don’t even need to go online.

Scanning the reverse of the packet into Photoshop, the print is still unreadable until enlarged, brightened and contrast-enhanced.   The result here is about 25% bigger than life-sized (the ruler shows centimetres), with about 50% additional contrast, and we can begin to make out some words:

Rulokat back

… and even then, it’s hard to make out, being dark brown on slightly-less-dark brown .  That’s not a problem – with Photoshop’s “Select/Color Range …” tool, I can enlarge further, isolate the text from the background and replace the latter with white.  And even with a 1990s scanner like my Epson Perfection 1240U, there’s plenty of resolution to be going along with.  After isolating the English translation, and a touch of crude paragraph reformatting (for the benefit of the blog layout), we have those mystery ingredients en clair:

Rulokat fine print

Mmmm, cottonseed

It’s an educated guess only, but maybe that”Findik Kremali Rulo Gofret” on the front means, literally, “hazelnut cream roll confection”.  I’m fairly sure Turkish sweets are Gofret from shops I’ve seen visits to Turkey, and the rest is vague word-similarity and elimination.  But that’s not as important as what we know of those ingredients.

OK, so it’s not health-food, and the standard of English is sub-Oxford, the amount of cream (~0%!) is laughable, and most of the other ingredients give no indication of quantity but … our questions are answered thanks to the enduring magic of modern home computing.  And should you be thinking “but this is so trivial”, remember, it’s not how important the facts are, it’s the fact that they’re out there and they’re knowable.  It’s the principle of the thing.

Incidentally, the biggest surprise of all is that those hazelnut rolls still taste heavenly after reading the ingredients, though you’ll have to take my word for that unless you can track down your own packet of delicious Rulokat.  Please do.  They’re worth it.


One Response

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  1. Greg Goss said, on May 31, 2009 at 2:20 am

    Translate.google.com chokes on gofret, but you’ve already managed that yourself. The machine translation service on the web says that these are creamed gofret rolls. Or coil. You have to be familiar with the vagaries of machine translation to convert coil back to roll.

    The better translation service that I still have bookmarked from my days of modifying programs with german commentary doesn’t do turkish, though it now has about three times as many languages as it did when I got laid off.

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