👓 Facts | Herve This, vo Kientza

Read Des faits by Herve This (hervethis.blogspot.com)
Il se dit beaucoup de choses à propos de la gastronomie moléculaire et de la cuisine moléculaire, il se publie beaucoup de choses à propos des rapports entre la science et la cuisine, et je vois une immense confusion.

French scientist and molecular gastronomist Herve This bemoans the state of molecular gastronomy and provides some early recollections of his experience in the field.

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🎧 Hunger and Malnutrition | Eat This Podcast

Listened to Hunger and malnutrition by Jeremy Cherfas from Eat This Podcast

One week jam, the next global hunger and malnutrition. That’s the joy of Eat This Podcast; I get to present what interests me, in the hope that it interests you too. It also means I sometimes get to talk to my friends about how they see the big picture around food. Dr Jessica Fanzo, Assistant Professor of Nutrition at Columbia University’s Insitute of Human Nutrition, Special Advisor on Nutrition Policy at the Earth Institute’s Center on Globalization and Sustainable Development, also at Columbia, and much else besides, is one such friend. She was in Rome recently for a preparatory meeting for a big UN conference on nutrition next year, so I took the opportunity to catch up, and to ask some very basic questions about global hunger.

I confess, I have very little time for the global talk shops that meet so that, somehow, magically, the poor can eat. And having attended a few, there does seem to be a dearth of people who have studied malnutrition and hunger first hand, and made a difference. Jess Fanzo has been promoting the idea of nutrition-sensitive agriculture as a way to make a difference locally, while recognizing that there can be no simple, global solutions. You have to see what works in one place, and then adapt it to your own circumstances. There are no simple global solutions. The primary point – that governments have some responsibility for ensuring that their citizens at least have the opportunity to be well-nourished – seems often to be lost in the din of governments talking about other things. And interfering busybodies declaring war on hunger don’t seem to have much luck either. I don’t have any solutions.

Notes

  1. Check out Dr Fanzo’s credentials at the Institute of Human Nutrition and the Center for Globalization and Sustainable Development.
  2. She was also the first winner of the Premio Daniel Carasso; there’s a videoabout that too.
  3. She’s written about her fieldwork and how it informs her global view. (And, as an aside, how come big-shot bloggers don’t care about spam? Come on, people. Your negligence makes life worse for everybody.)
  4. The Integration of Nutrition into Extension and Advisory Services: A Synthesis of Experiences, Lessons, and Recommendations reports on ways to promote nutrition-sensitive agriculture. And the research extends to social media.
  5. The paper I mentioned, from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, is Comparative impact of climatic and nonclimatic factors on global terrestrial carbon and water cycles.
  6. Photo of Jess Fanzo in Timor Leste by Nick Appleby.

I love plumbing the archives of this podcast and relistening to old episodes. This is easily my second time around on this episode.

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🎧 Season 2 Episode 9 McDonalds Broke My Heart | Revisionist History

Listened to Season 2 Episode 9 McDonalds Broke My Heart by Malcolm GladwellMalcolm Gladwell from Revisionist History

McDonald’s used to make the best fast food french fries in the world — until they changed their recipe in 1990. Revisionist History travels to the top food R&D lab in the country to discover what was lost, and why for the past generation we’ve been eating french fries that taste like cardboard.

I love the double entendre “broke my heart”! This does make me curious to try making my own beef tallow french fries.

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👓 Certification schemes are holding back true sustainability, says report | Food Navigator

Read Certification schemes are holding back true sustainability, says report (foodnavigator.com)
Many certification schemes are blocking true sustainability by watering down standards in order to get stakeholders on board and even providing 'green cover' for firms that are destroying the environment, according to a report.

I’ve always suspected things in this area weren’t great, but I didn’t know it was likely this horrific.

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👓 24,000 Liters of Wine in the Hold: 40 Years of Globalization | Rachel Laudan

Read 24,000 Liters of Wine in the Hold: 40 Years of Globalization by Rachel Laudan (Rachel Laudan)
Remember that song “99 bottles of beer on the wall?” Singing down the numbers helped children endure long car journeys before tablets, even if it drove their parents to distraction.  We…
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👓 The ship’s biscuit | Royal Museums Greenwich

Read The ship's biscuit (Royal Museums Greenwich | UNESCO World Heritage Site In London)
The ship’s biscuit was an important part of the sailor's sea diet before the introduction of canned foods. 
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🎧 Episode 05 Food Fight | Revisionist History

Listened to Episode 05 Food Fight by Malcolm GladwellMalcolm Gladwell from Revisionist History


Bowdoin College in Maine and Vassar College in upstate New York are roughly the same size. They compete for the same students. Both have long traditions of academic excellence. But one of those schools is trying hard to close the gap between rich and poor in American society—and paying a high price for its effort. The other is making that problem worse—and reaping rewards as a result.

“Food Fight,” the second of the three-part Revisionist History miniseries on opening up college to poor kids, focuses on a seemingly unlikely target: how the food each school serves in its cafeteria can improve or distort the educational system.

It would be nice to figure out a way to nudge some capitalistic tendencies into this system to help fix it–but what?

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📺 “Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown” West Virginia | CNN

Watched "Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown" West Virginia from IMDb
Bourdain digs deep into the proud, often misunderstood culture of West Virginia, as he traverses a 5,000 foot mine, observes the demolition derby-like sport of rock-bouncing and dines on signature Appalachian dishes.

There’s some interesting simple honesty to this show. Reminds me a bit of a more serious and food centric version of what W. Kamau Bell is doing with his show on CNN.

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🔖 Moving chairs in Starbucks: Observational studies find rice-wheat cultural differences in daily life in China | Science Advances

Bookmarked Moving chairs in Starbucks: Observational studies find rice-wheat cultural differences in daily life in China by Thomas Talhelm, Xuemin Zhang and Shigehiro Oishi (Science Advances)
Traditional paddy rice farmers had to share labor and coordinate irrigation in a way that most wheat farmers did not. We observed people in everyday life to test whether these agricultural legacies gave rice-farming southern China a more interdependent culture and wheat-farming northern China a more independent culture. In Study 1, we counted 8964 people sitting in cafes in six cities and found that people in northern China were more likely to be sitting alone. In Study 2, we moved chairs together in Starbucks across the country so that they were partially blocking the aisle ( n = 678). People in northern China were more likely to move the chair out of the way, which is consistent with findings that people in individualistic cultures are more likely to try to control the environment. People in southern China were more likely to adjust the self to the environment by squeezing through the chairs. Even in China’s most modern cities, rice-wheat differences live on in everyday life.
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📺 Martha Stewart’s Cooking School: Stews of the Arabian Gulf | PBS

Watched Martha Stewart’s Cooking School: Stews of the Arabian Gulf from PBS
Follow the flavor as Martha puts her spin on the stews of the Arabian Gulf. Each dish is layered with stick-to-your-bones satisfaction. Arabian Gulf potpie, braised lamb shanks with okra, curried swordfish stew and red lentil vegetable stew… these slow cooked treasures offer nourishing comfort with ease.

I find Martha Stewart a bit on the droll side.  Here she essentially makes a chicken pot pie and calls it Arabian Gulf cuisine?! Anthony Bourdain she is not. Even worse, she takes a taste of the stew for seasoning and then drips the remnants into the dish before using the same spoon to continue stirring. Yes, you read that right. She double dipped her spoon! Alas…

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👓 With the grain: sociology | Espresso: The Economist

Read With the grain: sociology (The Economist (Espresso))
Research has shown that wealthier, urbanised regions tend to harbour more individualistic personalities, while poorer, agrarian areas have more collectivist, community-minded ones. But why? A study from the University of Chicago published this week suggests such differences could be down to a region’s predominant crops—an insight gleaned, improbably, from observing nearly 9,000 customers in Chinese cafes. People in China’s south farm rice, which requires a whole village’s co-operation on irrigation; in the north, they grow wheat, far less demanding of collective effort. The researchers’ first observation was that latte-lovers in wheat-growing regions were far more likely to be alone. Then the team surreptitiously blocked thoroughfares with chairs. Among northerners, 16% shifted the chairs (individualism is marked by actively modifying one’s environment), while only 6% from the rice-cultivating south did so (collectivists tend to work with what they’ve got). It’s an intriguing sociological suggestion, perhaps to be filed under “you are what you eat”.

Randomly ran across this over the weekend and seems like the kind of cultural/food-related study that Jeremy Cherfas would enjoy.

References this study: Moving chairs in Starbucks.1

References

1.
Talhelm T, Zhang X, Oishi S. Moving chairs in Starbucks: Observational studies find rice-wheat cultural differences in daily life in China. Science Advances. http://advances.sciencemag.org/content/4/4/eaap8469. Published April 25, 2018. Accessed April 28, 2018.
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🎧 Barges and bread | Eat This Podcast

Listened to Barges and bread: A new book looks at London and the grain trade by Jeremy Cherfas from Eat This Podcast

Time was, not so long ago, when you could barely move on the Thames in London for ships and boats of all shapes and sizes. Goods flowed in from the Empire in tall-masted sailing ships and stocky steamers and were transferred to barges and lighters for moving on. The canals, too, were driven by, and served, the industrial revolution, bringing coal and other raw materials to factories and taking away the finished goods by water, the cheapest and quickest system for bulk transport. By the late 1960s, much of the waterborne traffic had gone. Ships unloaded in the docks and goods were transferred by road and rail. A bit of freight continued to move on the water, some of that in the hands of Tam and Di Murrell. Di Murrell’s new book, Barges & Bread: canals & grain to bread & baking traces the interwined development of the grain trade and bread as it played out in the Thames basin and beyond.

The importance of bread (and beer) to the people is encapsulated in the Assize of Bread and Ale, a statue of 1266 (though it appears to have codified earlier laws) and the first law in England to deal with food. Loaves were sold by size for a penny, a half-penny and, most commonly, a farthing (quarter of a penny). The finer the flour, the smaller the loaf you got at each price point. The price of grain naturally varied from year to year and from place to place, but the Assize fixed not the price but the weight of a penny loaf and also regulated in minute detail the baker’s profit and allowable expenses.

Very roughly, if the price of wheat was 12 pence a quarter (a quarter weighing 240 pounds) then the baker had to ensure that a farthing loaf of the best white bread, called Wastel bread, weighed 5.6 pounds. Wastel bread was not the most expensive. Simnel bread, “because it has been baked twice,” cost a bit more and so called French bread, enriched with milk and eggs, a bit more still. The coarsest “bread of common wheat” was less than half the cost of wastel bread.

From every quarter of wheat, the baker was permitted to sell 418 pounds of bread. Anything he could squeeze above that was called advantage bread, and was essentially pure profit. There was, naturally, every incentive for bakers and millers alike to add all sorts of things to increase the weight of flour and bread.

It is the connection between money and the weight of bread that is most intriguing. Weights, like money, were expressed as pounds. A pound in money was the pound-weight of silver, while the penny – the only coin in circulation – was a pennyweight of silver. But how much was a penny weight? 32 Wheat Corns in the midst of the Ear according to the Assize of Bread and Ale, which then explained that the 20 pence-weight made an ounce, and 12 ounces made one pound.

Notes

  1. Di Murrell’s book Barges & Bread: canals & grain to bread & baking, is available from Amazon and elsewhere, including direct from the publisher, Prospect Books.
  2. Di also has a website, Foodieafloat.
  3. If you really want to get to grips with the Assize of Bread, you need to read Alan S. C. Ross. “The Assize of Bread.” The Economic History Review, vol. 9, no. 2, 1956, pp. 332–342. JSTOR.
  4. Incidental music is the Impromptu from Zez Confrey’s Three Little Oddities, played by Rowan Belt

Sad that they managed to win their court case for shipping grain, but were still frozen out of the market.

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🎧 Whatever happened to British veal? | Eat This Podcast

Listened to Whatever happened to British veal? Too cute to eat, or the only ethical response? by Jeremy Cherfas from Eat This Podcast
Dairy cows unavoidably produce male calves that are of no use to the dairy industry. They used to end up as veal, and in 1960, Britons ate more than 600,000 calves worth of the stuff. By the 1980s, that had dropped to less than 35,000. Ten years ago, a UK trade magazine said that “public opinion … generally regards veal as ethically somewhere between dodo omelettes and panda fritters”.

And yet, today there’s no shortage of veal and no surplus of dairy bullocks.

Time was when veal calves were kept in the dark. These days, it may be the shoppers who have helped to solve the problem of surplus male dairy calves. Behind the shift is a complicated story of moral outrage, utterly unpredictable disease outbreaks and the willingness of some strange bedfellows to work together to solve a difficult problem for the food supply system.

Notes

  1. Gillian Hopkinson is a senior lecturer at Lancaster University School of Management.
  2. Clips from BBC Radio 4 – You and Yours and BBC World Service – Witness, Mad cow disease – CJD.
  3. Music by Podington Bear.
  4. Banner photo of two Dutch dairy calves by Peter Nijenhuis and cover by debstreasures.

The realities of milk and beef production may not always square with our societal morality. Things are more complicated than they may seem and require second and third level thought and problem solving to come up with worthwhile solutions. I remember outcry when I was younger and knew that things had shifted, but haven’t heard any follow up stories until now. Glad to know that things seem to have reached some sort of equilibrium that seems generally acceptable.

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🎧 Hoptopia | Eat This Podcast

Listened to Hoptopia How the Willamette valley conquered the world of tasty beer by Jeremy Cherfas from Eat This Podcast

Brewers have long appreciated the value of hops from the Pacific northwest, but it was Cascade, a variety practically synonymous with craft brewing, that made the area more generally famous among beer drinkers. Cascade was named for the Cascade Range, which runs down the west coast of North America. The home of the Cascade hop is the Willamette valley, roughly halfway between the mountains and the coast. Cascade was released in 1972, but the history of hops in the Willamette valley goes back to the 1830s. The industry has seen more than its fair share of ups and downs, all examined by historian Peter Kopp in his book Hoptopia.

The whole question of changing tastes in beer, and how that affects the fortunes of different hops, is fascinating. If you’ve been a listener forever, you may remember a very early Eat This Podcast, about the rediscovery of an English hop known prosaically as OZ97a. Deemed too hoppy and abandoned when first tried, the vogue for craft beers resurrected its fortunes. It’s a fun story, though I say so myself.

Notes

  1. Peter Kopp’s book is Hoptopia: A World of Agriculture and Beer in Oregon’s Willamette Valley.
  2. Cover photo is Ezra Meeker, the early grower of hops in the Willamette valley who pioneered the global marketing of Oregon hops. The booming hop business made him the territory’s first millionnaire, and perhaps also its biggest bust. Hop King: Ezra Meeker’s Boom Years chronicles that part of his long, rich life.
  3. Banner photo of hops by Paul on Flickr.

I had a roommate in college from the Czech Republic who fondly remembered spending time on hops farms picking what he called the county’s “green gold”. It’s interesting to think about the economic and cultural differences and norms built up around such a product. I hadn’t known that the Pacific Northwest figured so prominently in production and find it amazing that the economic timing for the industry was so fortuitous.

What a fantastic episode on all fronts.

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