Jim Hiller’s Blog


“What is that thing she asks” ?” “It’s a Kumquat says I”… “What does it taste like” ?”
“Well…” says I, “it’s sweet, bitter, puckery, zesty, citrusy but never demure.”
“May I taste one ?”
“Of course,” says I. “Let me wash it first….”
“How do I eat it?”
“You eat it like a grape,” says I. “Just pop it in your mouth.”
A leap of faith followed by a puckered face and a grimace. “Wow it’s bitter but sort of sweet…”
“Yup says I.”
“I’m not sure I like it,” says she. A moment passes along with a migration of the flavor from the tip of the tongue to the sides and even the taste buds at the rear. “I’ll take the lot says she…”

Kumquats-with-vertical-slices-cut-into-themThe foregoing fictionalized drama is a common occurrence in real life when I stand in the produce aisle and hawk kumquats like a common street peddler.

I love the things and have as long as I can recall.

Kumquats originated in the East, likely Japan or the Philippines. They were first brought to England in 1846 and have been cultivated in California for nearly a century. The most common variety in the US is the Nagami variety. A near perfect oval and as pretty as a California orange but all comparisons stop there. Often candied and used as garnish the kumquat has the fortitude to stand on its own as a citrus snack. The cognoscenti gobble them up skin and all. The more timid skin them and eat only the sweet flesh.

I say skinning kumquats before eating them is like taking a bath with your socks on. Pop the entire thing in your mouth and enjoy the widest array of flavor and taste nature can provide.

You’ll find them in the produce aisle at Hiller’s

Spoiled milk is nothing to cry about

greek-yogurtOne of the most interesting parts of my job is answering customer emails. Most of them begin with; “I’ve looked everywhere for product x can you help me?”. About 95% of the time my answer is yes.. Hiller’s has it. That’s because Hiller’s offers far more choices than any of our competitors. One example is yogurt. At Hiller’s we have more than 175 varieties.  We have Coconut milk yogurt, Lactose free yogurt, Soy yogurt, Almond milk yogurt, Probiotic yogurt, goat milk yogurt, Icelandic style, Australian style, Greek style, even labneh, Quark and Yakult the unique Japanese probiotic. Lot’s of organics too. And that’s not counting the dozens of varieties of Kefir we carry.

When it comes to yogurt, Hiller’s most definitely has it.

A Fine Holiday Stink

O Lutefisk, O Lutefisk, how fragrant your aroma,

O Lutefisk, O Lutefisk, you put me in a coma.
You smell so strong, you look like glue,
You taste just like an overshoe,
But lutefisk, come Saturday,
I tink I eat you anyvay

Cloistered among the oddest of holiday traditions is the Scandinavians’ consumption of Lutefisk.

It seems only natural that the descendants of the Vikings, perhaps history’s greatest tough guys, would celebrate a food prepared with a caustic and highly dangerous substance. Lute –(cod) fisk preserved in lye (lut)—is both a delicacy and a tradition among Scandinavian-Americans, who serve the chemical-soaked, gelatinous fish with a warm and friendly smile. Lutefisk, or lutfisk in Swedish, is a traditional dish in Norway, Sweden, and parts of Finland.

These days the consumption of Lutefisk is mainly limited to the Northern tier of American states where those same descendants of Vikings now reside and consider it a connection to their ancestral home.

A Lutefisk starts as cod, traditionally caught in the cold waters off Norway. It’s then dried to the point that it attains the feel of leather and the firmness of corrugated cardboard. Water alone can’t reconstitute the fish, so it’s soaked in lye. Yes, lye, the industrial chemical used to unclog drains and dispose of murder victims, the one that explodes when it comes in contact with aluminum. Incidentally, it’s the same chemical that gives pretzels that deep, shiny brown, cures fresh olives for eating, and what makes bagels gleam; these foods just don’t advertise this fact like lutefisk does. The fish is then repeatedly rinsed before being shipped off for cooking and eating. But it’s still so close to toxic that the state of Wisconsin specifically exempts lutefisk from classification as a toxic substance in Section 101.58 (2)(j)(f) of its laws regulating workplace safety.

Traditional lutefisk preparation is simple. Merely place it in a pan, (do not use an aluminum pan as the lye in the fish will discolor the pan)salt it, seal the lid tightly, and let it steam-cook at very low heat for 20–25 minutes.

You can also make traditional Minnesota lutefisk recipes in your oven. Place the fish in an ovenproof dish, cover with aluminum foil, and bake at 225 °C (435 °F) for 40–50 minutes.

Toppings vary from bacon or pork drippings, white sauce, mustard sauce, or melted butter still the most traditional way to top the lutefisk.

Boiled and steamed potatoes, stewed whole, and green peas are a traditional “must” as vegetable accompaniments or side dishes. The one other “necessary” addition is lefse a type of flatbread

And if you’re wondering… Hiller’s does carry Lutefisk but only during the holiday season. Look for it with the other frozen fish products if you have the stomach for it….

It’s on my personal holiday menu this year.

Hiller’s is your Huckleberry

doc-holidayI’m always amused when I meet customers who tell me that they only shop at Hiller’s for holidays and important events. They believe we’re too special for everyday shopping… Apparently they have overlooked the fact that we have Froot Loops , Pepsi, Spam,Tide and Charmin toilet paper and all at very competitive prices… It’s true… Hiller’s has everything from Spam to caviar; not only caviar. There’s about 50,000 items in between that covers everything a family needs day to day and week to week. Best of all it’s all under one roof so you don’t need to waste fuel driving to different places to satisfy your grocery needs.  We even give you loyalty club points for every dollar you spend at Hiller’s which translates to special offer’s, free products, reduced prices and even charitable donations.

Am I biased? Of course I am, but why not see for yourself. Compare our aisles to any or all of our competitors. I’m confident that you’ll conclude what so many of your friends and neighbors already have. Hiller’s provides genuine value. And, when price and value coexist it’s a beautiful and rare thing…

The Rite of Spring

Spencer-HillerThe 3rd Friday of March is a singularly important day to a singularly important part of the future health and wellbeing of these United States.

It is none other than National Residency Match Day and for the graduates of medical schools every year it determines where they will train in their respective specialties’ on the road to becoming practicing physicians anywhere from 3 to 12 years thereafter.

I have been fortunate to be immersed in the ritual fire dance that finding a desirable residency match entails twice in my life. Most currently with my son Spencer who graduates in May 2014 from University of Michigan Medical School.

Securing a spot in a choice residency program is no easy thing. Spencer chose a career in Urology which is a particularly tough to get specialty and much hard work is involved on the student’s part he or she is to succeed. In Spence’s case, he spent a month working in a Urology program in California at Keck School of Medicine at USC, at University of Michigan Hospital Department of Urology and at Beaumont Hospital Department of Urology. During each of those rotations every day was a two-way audition with each seeking to demonstrate worthiness of the others’ desire. Naturally the prospective resident needs to work the harder of the two in order to demonstrate their worth; especially when seeking a career in a specialty like Urology where only about 60% of applicants find a matching program.

In a perfect situation every residency program would have hundreds of medical students to choose among and every program would want every student but that is far from the case. Obtaining a spot in a storied and top quality residency program is highly competitive and there is a paucity of available openings.

Following this period of rotating through numerous programs by the students, both the medical students and the residency programs rank each other in order of desirability.

Finally… through the facilitation of a third party corporation the lists of both the medical students and the residency programs are spun through a wash and dry cycle and for many or most medical students and residency programs a match occurs.

On Friday March 21, 2014 I sat in a room at University of Michigan Medical School as the drama of the residency match came to its conclusion. At precisely 12:00 noon envelopes were distributed to each medical student containing a letter advising them where they would be spending the next phase of their training.

For many there were tears of joy. At U of M Medical School most students get their first or second choice. For a few there were tears of sadness that they did not and for one or two there was no match at all so other paths to the future have to be explored.

In case you’re wondering. Spencer Charles Hiller, University of Michigan medical class of 2014 will be a Urology Resident at Beaumont Hospital.