👓 Cornell researcher who studied what we eat and why will step down after six studies are retracted | Los Angeles Times

Read Cornell researcher who studied what we eat and why will step down after six studies are retracted (Los Angeles Times)
Cornell University says Brian Wansink will step down at the end of the academic year after a review of his work turned up many problems.
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👓 Aviation Cocktail Recipe | Kitchen Swagger

Bookmarked Aviation Cocktail Recipe (Kitchen Swagger)
The Aviation cocktail is a Prohibition-era cocktail, consisting of gin, maraschino liqueur (cherry), crème de violette, and fresh lemon juice.

I can’t remember where I heard about this in the last week (perhaps a reference on a television show?), but it sounded interesting. Sadly, it’s got one exotic and infrequently used ingredient, so I’m debating about making some…

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👓 Watch How Steel Ribbons Are Shaped into Cookie Cutters | Colossal

Read Watch How Steel Ribbons Are Shaped into Cookie Cutters (Colossal)
CookieCutter.com makes and sells exactly what you think they do. The Missouri-based company uses a combination of hydraulic and hand-operated machines to shape steel ribbons into classic shapes like gingerbread men, along with more complicated designs like deer and even the Statue of Liberty.
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📺 “Kids Baking Championship” You’re in the Ballpark | Food Network

Watched "Kids Baking Championship" You're in the Ballpark from Food Network
With Duff Goldman, Valerie Bertinelli, Matthew Azuma, Darci Lynne Farmer.

Hmmm… I can only think that the producers had all the kids watch some episodes of America’s Got Talent so they would even know who the guest was.

While the kids look a bit talented and sophisticated as cooks, I’m painfully disappointed that only one tried (and failed miserably) to pop their own popcorn. Not a single one used the two hours to make their own caramel sauce and instead they all used the same canned dulce de leche. Even worse, one of the kids that actually incorporated popcorn into their dish natively didn’t win the challenge. Where is the humanity?

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👓 It’s time to reconsider low-dairy diets, new study suggests | NBC

Read It's time to reconsider low-dairy diets, new study suggests (NBC News)
Cheese and yogurt were found to protect against death from any cause, and also against death from cerebrovascular causes, like stroke.
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🎧 Nikolay Ivanovich Vavilov | Eat This Podcast

Listened Nikolay Ivanovich Vavilov | Our Daily Bread 08 by Jeremy Cherfas from Eat This Podcast

This short episode fails to do justice to the man who, more than anyone, first grasped the importance of knowing where and how wheat arose. It does, however, explain why Vavilov wanted to collect the building material of future food security, for wheat and many other crops. In more than 60 countries, Vavilov and his colleagues gathered diversity from farmers’ fields; they died protecting their collections.

Thanks to Luigi Guarino for the photograph of Vavilov’s desk with his route across Ethiopia, and much else besides.

One day I’d like to get a solid biography of Vavilov’s to read, but until then, this short, but excellent story will have to suffice.

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Our Daily Bread — A short 30 day podcast history of wheat and bread in very short episodes

Drop what you’re doing and immediately go out to subscribe to Our Daily Bread: A history of wheat and bread in very short episodes!

Subscribe: Android | Google Podcasts | RSS | More

The illustrious and inimitable Jeremy Cherfas is producing a whole new form of beauty by talking about wheat and bread in a podcast for thirty days.

It’s bundled up as part of his longer-running Eat This Podcast series, which I’ve been savoring for years.

Now that you’re subscribed and your life will certainly be immeasurably better, a few thoughts about how awesome this all is…

Last December I excitedly ran across the all-too-well-funded podcast Modernist Breadcrumbs. While interesting and vaguely entertaining, it was an attempt to be a paean to bread while subtly masking the fact that it was an extended commercial for the book series Modernist Bread by Nathan Myhrvold and Francisco Migoya which had been released the month prior.

I trudged through the entire series (often listening at 1.5-2x speed) to pick up the worthwhile tidbits, but mostly being disappointed. As I finished listening to the series, I commented:

Too often I found myself wishing that Jeremy Cherfas had been picked up to give the subject a proper 10+ episode treatment. I suspect he’d have done a more interesting in-depth bunch of interviews and managed to weave a more coherent story out of the whole. Alas, twas never thus.

A bit later Jeremy took the time to respond to my comment:

I’ve no idea how the series actually came about, or what anyone aside from Chris really thought about it. It would be nice to see any kind of listener engagement, but it’s hard to find anything. There are three tweets over the entire series that use the show’s official tags.

Still, what’s done is done, and I doubt anyone would want to support another series all about bread. Or would they … ?

I’ll admit I did spend a few long and desperate weeks salivating with \hope over that ominously hanging “Or would they…?” statement. Ultimately, I let it pass distracted by listening to Jeremy’s regular Eat This Podcast episodes. Then this past week I’ve been bowled over by discovering what has obviously been fermenting since.

I’d love to take credit for “planting the seed” as it were for this new endeavour, but I suspect that the thousands upon thousands of adoring listening fans that Mssr. Cherfas’ podcast has, he’s heard dozens of similar requests every day over the years. Even more likely, it’s his very own love of bread that spawned the urge (he does, after all, have a bread blog named Fornacalia!), but I’ll quietly bask as if I had my very own personal suggestion box to have a first-class production staff at my beck and call to make me custom podcast content about food, science, and culture.

It’s always amazing to me how scintillating Jeremy Cherfas’ work manages to be in these. What is not to love about his editorial eye, interview skills, his writing, his production abilities? I’m ever astounded by the fact that his work is a simple one man show and not a 20 person production team.

I’m waiting for the day that the Food Network, The Cooking Channel, HGTV, or a network of their stripe (or perhaps NPR or PBS) discovers his supreme talent and steals him away from us to better fund and extend the reach of the culinary talent and story-telling he’s been churning out flawlessly for years now. (I’m selfishly hoping one of them snaps him up before some other smart, well-funded corporation steals him away from us for his spectacular communication abilities to dominate all his free time away from these food-related endeavors.)

Of course, if you’re a bit paranoid like me, perhaps you’d find his fantastic work is a worthwhile cause to donate to? Supporting his work means there’s more for everyone.

Now, to spend a moment writing up a few award nominations… perhaps the Beard first?

 

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🎧 At last: agriculture | Our Daily Bread | Eat This Podcast

Listened At last: agriculture | Our Daily Bread 05 by Jeremy Cherfas from Eat This Podcast

Cultivation is not the same as domestication. Domestication involves changes that do the plant no good in the wild, but that make it more useful to the people who cultivate it. Seeds that don’t disperse, for example, and that aren’t all that well protected from pests and diseases. In this episode, where did people begin the process of domesticating wheat, and what set them on the road to agriculture.

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🎧 What exactly is wheat? | Our Daily Bread | Eat This Podcast

Listened What exactly is wheat? | Our Daily Bread 04 by Jeremy Cherfas from Eat This Podcast

Modern bread wheat contains more than five times more DNA than people, in a much more complicated arrangement. As a result, it has taken a fair old while to decode wheat’s genome. Having done so, though, the DNA confirms what plant scientists have long suspected — that bread wheat is the result of two separate occasions on which an ancestor of wheat crossed with a goat grass. The DNA also tells us when those crosses might have happened.

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🎧 Crumbs; the oldest bread | Our Daily Bread | Eat This Podcast

Listened Crumbs; the oldest bread | Our Daily Bread 03 by Jeremy Cherfas from Eat This Podcast

Maybe you heard about the oldest crumbs of burnt toast in the world. But have you stopped to wonder how the archaeologists found those crumbs? The bread they came from was a fine, mixed grain loaf that might well have been a special dish at a feast. It is even possible that bread was the first elite food that became affordable thanks to industrial technology — agriculture.

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🎧 Boil in the Bag | Our Daily Bread | Eat This Podcast

Listened Boil in the Bag | Our Daily Bread 02 by Jeremy Cherfas from Eat This Podcast

When did people start to eat wheat? The date keeps getting pushed back, and is now around 35,000 to 45,000 years ago. That is long before the dawn of intentional agriculture. How do we know? Because a man who died in a cave hadn’t cleaned his teeth, and stuck in the tartar were grains of boiled starch. Which raises another set of problems that seem to have been solved by wilderness survival experts.

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🎧 Our Daily Bread 00 | Our Daily Bread | Eat This Podcast

Listened Introducing a series on the history of wheat and bread | Our Daily Bread 00 by Jeremy Cherfas from Eat This Podcast

It’s magic, I know. First a pretty ordinary grass becomes the main source of sustenance for most of the people alive on Earth. Then they learn how to turn the seeds of that grass into the food of the gods. Join me, every day in August, as I dig into Our Daily Bread for the Dog Days of Podcasting with short episodes on the history of wheat and bread.

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🎧 The Abundance of Nature | Our Daily Bread | Eat This Podcast

Listened The Abundance of Nature | Our Daily Bread 01 by Jeremy Cherfas from Eat This Podcast

In the 1960s, using the most primitive of tools, an American plant scientist demonstrated that a small family, working not all that hard for about three weeks, could gather enough wild cereal seeds to last them easily for a year or more. Jack Harlan’s experiments on the slopes of the Karacadağ mountains in Turkey offer a perfect gateway to this exploration of the history of bread and wheat.

Photo of Wild einkorn, wild emmer and Aegilops species in Karacadag mountain range by H. Özkan.

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👓 CNN's Anthony Bourdain dead at 61 | CNN

Read CNN's Anthony Bourdain dead at 61 by Brian Stelter, CNN (CNN)
Anthony Bourdain, the gifted chef, storyteller and writer who took TV viewers around the world to explore culture, cuisine and the human condition for nearly two decades, has died. He was 61.

I’ve only recently begun watching his show on CNN and have found it truly fascinating.

Obviously no one was expecting his death as there was very little reported here beyond the obvious.

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🎧 Food Safety | Eat This Podcast

Listened Food safety and industry concentration: How the back seat of a car is like a bag of leafy greens by Jeremy CherfasJeremy Cherfas from Eat This Podcast

In the previous episode, I talked to Phil Howard of Michigan State University about concentration in the food industry. Afterwards, I realised I had been so taken up with what he was telling me that I forgot to ask him one crucial question.

Is there any effect of concentration on public health or food safety?

It seems intuitively obvious that if you have long food chains, dependent on only a few producers, there is the potential for very widespread outbreaks. That is exactly what we are seeing in the current outbreaks of dangerous E. coli on romaine lettuce and Salmonella in eggs. But it is also possible that big industrial food producers both have the capital to invest in food safety and face stiffer penalties when things go wrong.

Are small producers and short food chains better? Marc Bellemare, at the University of Minnesota, has uncovered a strong correlation between some food-borne illnesses and the number of farmers’ markets relative to the population.

Phil thinks one answer is greater decentralization. There’s no good reason why all the winter lettuce and spinach in America should come from a tiny area around Yuma, Arizona. Marc says consumer education would help; we need to handle the food we buy with more attention to keeping it safe. Both solutions will take quite large changes in behaviour, by government and by ordinary people.

Right now, it probably isn’t possible to say with any certainty whether one system is inherently safer than the other. But even asking the question raises some interesting additional questions. If you have answers, or even suggestions, let me know.

Notes

  1. Phil Howard’s work on food-borne illness is on his website.
  2. Marc Bellemare’s work on farmers’ markets and food-borne illness has gone through a few iterations. He’ll email you a copy of the final paper if you ask.
  3. An episode early last year looked at aspects of food safety in developing countries. Spoiler: shorter food chains are safer there.
  4. Banner photo, norovirus. Cover photo, E. coli. Both public domain to the best of my knoweldge.
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