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  • feedwordpress 09:01:59 on 2019/02/01 Permalink
    Tags: , , food pyramid, , James L Kraft, Kraft, , Michael Pollan, nutrition, pasteurized process cheese,   

    “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”*… 


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    food

    Food pyramids and the like – the sort that have defined how everything from hospital meals to school lunches to Meals on Wheels funding have worked for decades, all over the world – are bastardised, imperfect things, a product of industry lobbying and backroom deals as much as they are of good nutrition science. Every time we link to an article about obesity or food security, it’s a given that these broken guides and the politics and economics around them come up. But for this one, the Canadian government has tried something different, as all those responsible for the report were kept safe behind a DMZ, away from lobbyist influence. It is, its makers claim, a scientifically pure guide to what it is to eat well, and it is radically simple (and no doubt problematic in ways we haven’t really absorbed yet) – almost Michael Pollan’s “not too much, mostly plants” mantra in manual form.  Of course, initial reaction has been a lot of “that’s great, but poor people can’t afford tofu”. But we think guides like this should be idealistic, and if based in good science, they should be seen as a provocation, not pipe dream: “that’s great, but if this is eating well, how do we build the systems that allow everybody to eat this way, and to enjoy it?”…

    From the ever-illuminating newsletter Buckslip, an appreciation of Canada’s new nutrition guidelines: “Canada’s Food Guide.”

    Contrast with the U.S. healthy eating guidelines, and its “food pyramid.”  For an account of the lobbying that went into those U.S. recommendations, see here and here.

    * Michael Pollan

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    As we parse prudence, we might spare a thought for James L. Kraft; he died on this date in 1953 (though some sources give the date as September 16).   A wholesale cheese distributor and producer, he patented pasteurized process cheese in 1916.  A  low-cost cheese product that would not spoil, it wasn’t an immediate hit with the public, but the U.S. army purchased over 6 million tins of it during World War I.  During the depression, it became more broadly popular because of its low cost.

    james_lewis_kraft source

     

     
  • feedwordpress 09:01:53 on 2019/01/23 Permalink
    Tags: , , , home cooking, hunter gatherer, nutrition, , , , Wilhelm Koppers, working class   

    “Despair is perfectly compatible with a good dinner, I promise you”*… 


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    Retro Wife Family Woman Housewife Kitchen Cooking

    And it’s even more compatible with a dinner that’s not so good…

    Today’s prominent food writers… do not hesitate to instruct us on the types of food we should buy (healthy, fresh, organic), the way it should be prepared and served (at home, from scratch, family style), and how harmful it would be—for our bodies, our families, and the planet—to deviate from this model.

    In Pressure Cooker: Why Home Cooking Won’t Solve Our Problems and What We Can Do About It, the anthropologists Sarah Bowen, Joslyn Brenton, and Sinikka Elliott do not deny the value of healthy, home-cooked dinners. Instead, they argue that the way our food gurus talk about dinner is fundamentally disconnected from the daily lives of millions of Americans, especially but not exclusively low-income Americans. This discrepancy matters, the authors insist. When Michael Pollan, Mark Bittman, and Jamie Oliver preach their influential, well-compensated sermons about how you—yes, you!—can (and should) improve your family members’ lives by buying healthier food and preparing it at home, they implicitly frame the quality of our dinners as something over which we all wield a considerable degree of control. If you aren’t doing dinner right, it’s because you aren’t trying hard enough for your family: not shopping smartly enough, not doing the right prep work, not using the best recipes. In addition to creating a lot of angst and guilt whenever we fall short, this censorious approach shifts our collective attention away from the bigger forces shaping our lives and meals, blocking the way to more realistic solutions located beyond the kitchen…

    Insights into the cooking habits—and daily struggles—of working-class Americans: “The Limits of Home Cooking.”

    * William Makepeace Thackeray

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    As we ponder prandial pressure, we might spare a thought for Wilhelm Koppers; he died on this date in 1961.  A cultural anthropologist, he developed influential theories on the origins and development of societies based on his studies of hunter-gatherer tribes.  A Jesuit priest, who began his career in the intellectual embrace of the Vienna School, his later work– conducted in India and elsewhere while he was a refugee from his home due to his criticism of Nazism– was more scientifically neutral.

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  • feedwordpress 08:01:51 on 2018/06/13 Permalink
    Tags: , , , Jimmy Dean, , nutrition, ,   

    “All food is comfort food… maybe I just like to chew”*… 


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    To understand the evolution of macaroni and cheese is to realize that pursuit of the “cheapest protein possible” has been a longstanding quest of the American food system. At times, cheese itself has shared a similar trajectory. Cheesemaking, which began 10,000 years ago, was originally about survival for a farm family or community: taking a very perishable protein (milk) and transforming it into something less perishable (cheese) so that there would be something to eat at a later date. Many of us today think of cheese in the context of tradition, flavor, or saving family farms, but a basic goal—whether a producer is making farm-made cheddar or concocting the cheeseless dairy product Velveeta—has always been getting as much edible food from a gallon of milk as possible…

    Macaroni and cheese has been served as long as there has been a United States of America, but in a 20th-century economy driven by convenience packaging and industrialization, it was elevated to an ideal American food: Pasta and processed cheese are very cheap to make and easy to ship and store, and they certainly fill up a belly…

    The story of a the versatile dish, popularized by Thomas Jefferson, that satisfied the quest for “the cheapest protein possible”: “A Brief History of America’s Appetite for Macaroni and Cheese.”

    * Lewis Black

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    As we dig in, we might spare a thought for Jimmy Ray Dean; he died on this date in 2010.  First successful as a country singer (he’s in the Country Music Hall of Fame), he later found success as an actor (as Fess Parker’s sidekick in Daniel Boone), a television host (The Jimmy Dean Show, which introduced Jim Henson and the Muppets to the wider world), and as a businessman.  With his brother Don, he founded Jimmy Dean Sausage Company, for which he served for many years as its TV pitchman.

    Jimmy on the right

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  • feedwordpress 09:01:11 on 2018/02/15 Permalink
    Tags: , Cyrus McCormick, , , mechanical reaper, nutrition, nutritious foods,   

    “First we eat, then we do everything else”*… 


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    Imagine the ideal food. One that contains all the nutrients necessary to meet, but not exceed, our daily nutrient demands. If such a food existed, consuming it, without eating any other, would provide the optimal nutritional balance for our body.

    Such a food does not exist. But we can do the next best thing.

    The key is to eat a balance of highly nutritional foods, that when consumed together, do not contain too much of any one nutrient, to avoid exceeding daily recommended amounts.

    Scientists studied more than 1,000 foods, assigning each a nutritional score. The higher the score, the more likely each food would meet, but not exceed your daily nutritional needs, when eaten in combination with others…

    See the top 100, ranked at “The world’s most nutritious foods.”

    * M. F. K. Fisher

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    As we help ourselves, we might send bounteous birthday greetings to Cyrus Hall McCormick; he was born on this date in 1809.  Widely credited as the inventor of the first mechanical reaper, he was in fact just one of several contributing to its development.  His more singular achievement as a creator was his success in the development of a modern company, with manufacturing, marketing, and a sales force to market his products.  His McCormick Harvesting Machine Company became part of the International Harvester Company in 1902.

    Interestingly, the grains that McCormick’s reapers helped harvest appear nowhere on the list…

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  • feedwordpress 09:01:32 on 2017/12/18 Permalink
    Tags: , , , Joseph Grimaldi, , nutrition, preppers, , survival cracker,   

    “This is the way the world ends / Not with a bang but a whimper”*… 


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    It’s been decades since most Americans have thought seriously about nuclear war, although we’re regularly entertained with reality TV shows about “preppers” readying themselves for it, or a zombie invasion. What if, though, it turns out that they’re the smart ones? If, in the coming months or years, the standoff with North Korea turns hot and we confront a nuclear holocaust, and millions of people flee toward long-forgotten fallout shelters, one of the first questions we’ll face is the simplest: What do you eat when the world ends? It’s actually a question that the government has spent a lot of time — and millions of dollars — struggling with. The answer, though, may not encourage you to survive…

    Meet the all-purpose survival cracker– and the balance of the US government’s Cold War-era nutrition solution for life after a nuclear blast: “The Doomsday Diet.”

    * T.S. Eliot, “The Hollow Men”

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    As we stock up, we might send silly birthday greetings to Joseph Grimaldi; he was born on this date in 1778. The most popular English entertainer of his day, Grimaldi was an actor, comedian and dancer who effectively invented the character of The Clown as today we know it.  He became so dominant on the London comic stage that harlequinade Clowns became known as “Joey”; both that nickname and the trademark whiteface make-up that Grimaldi created were, and still are, used widely by all types of clowns.  His catchphrases “Shall I?” and “Here we are again!” still get laughs in pantomimes.

    Grimaldi’s memoir, edited by his fan Charles Dickens (who had, as a child, seen Grimaldi perform), was a best-seller.  The annual memorial service held for him (in February at Holy Trinity Church in the London Borough of Hackney) is attended by hundreds of clown performers from all over the world– who attend in full make-up and costume.

    Grimaldi, au naturel

    Grimaldi, in character

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  • feedwordpress 08:01:01 on 2017/09/15 Permalink
    Tags: , , , ketchup, nutrition, school lunch, Surrealists, , USDA   

    “Art is the lie that enables us to realize the truth”*… 


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    Your correspondent is headed into the woods, beyond the reach of signals; so (Roughly) Daily will be more roughly than daily until regular service begins again in Monday.  In the meantime…

    Arcimboldo’s portrait of Rudolf II, Holy Roman Emperor, painted as Vertumnus, the Roman God of the seasons, c. 1590-1

    Nearly half a millennium after their creation, artist Giuseppe Arcimboldo’s vegetal visages live on through a handful of kitschy European food brands. From the southern tip of Sicily, his painting Summer (1563) solicits buyers of oblong and ox heart tomatoes. Further north, Vertumnus (c. 1590) has been adopted by the Bertuzzi juice company. And at an amusement park outside Paris, his work has been taken to epic proportions by a commemorative restaurant flanked by mountains of oversized phosphorescent fruit.

    Together, these are but a few modern inheritances of Arcimboldo, a 16th-century Italian artist famous for his kaleidoscopic “composite heads.” For scholars of his oeuvre, the most protracted and contentious debates in the field revolve overwhelmingly around a single, seemingly simple question: Just how seriously should we regard a man whose most enduring legacy is—in the words of one author—“fruit faces”?…

    The story of an artist who influenced Picasso and Dali: “The Renaissance Artist Whose Fruit-Faced Portraits Inspired the Surrealists.”  See also this earlier almanac entry on Arcimboldo.

     

    * Pablo Picasso

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    As we consider a salad, we might recall that it was on this date in 1981 that the USDA announced that ketchup could be counted as a vegetable in computing the nutritional value of meals served in school lunch programs.

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  • feedwordpress 08:01:33 on 2017/07/25 Permalink
    Tags: burrito, , , hot fudge sundae, Mexican food, nutrition, , Taco, trans fat,   

    “I’ve seen zero evidence of any nation on Earth other than Mexico even remotely having the slightest clue what Mexican food is about”*… 


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    Still, we try…

    Americans love the genre of cuisine generally known as “Mexican food”. The cuisine of our southern neighbor has been ingrained in our culture since the early 20th century. In many respects, it has evolved beyond its origins to become something uniquely American (think Tex-Mex and giant breakfast burritos). 

    You can find it anywhere, from just across the border to the farthest corners of our northern states. This presents a great opportunity to explore which parts of the country offer the most for Mexican food aficionados. Which city has the most Mexican restaurants? Do some regions of the United States exhibit any preferences for tacos versus burritos?…

    Follow the data at: “Tacos vs Burritos Index: The Great Divide in Mexican-American Cuisine.”

    * “I’ve seen zero evidence of any nation on Earth other than Mexico even remotely having the slightest clue what Mexican food is about or even come close to reproducing it. It is perhaps the most misunderstood country and cuisine on Earth.”  – Anthony Bourdain

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    As we’re careful not to double dip, we might recall that it was on this date in 2008 that Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed legislation making California the first state to ban trans fats in restaurants and retail food establishments. The ban went into into effect on January 1, 2010.  Other states followed suit, and in 2015, the FDA moved to ban trans fats across the nation.  Trans fats have been shown to consistently be associated with increased risk of coronary artery disease, a leading cause of death in Western nations.

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    Oh, and Happy Hot Fudge Sundae Day!

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  • feedwordpress 09:01:53 on 2017/02/13 Permalink
    Tags: , Doritos, , , , , , Malthus, nutrition,   

    “The man who invented doritos has passed away at the age of 97. He asked to be buried with the creators of Fritos and Cheetos in a variety pack”*… 


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    All told, there are 26 separate ingredients in Doritos Nacho Cheese Tortilla Chips…

    While most of these individual ingredients aren’t all that bad for us, they’re a cheese-dust-covered grenade when consumed together. “The more you mess with food, the more you’re demanding your immune system to figure out what the heck all these new things are — and it can make mistakes,” Shanahan says. For instance, studies show that over-processed foods have contributed to the rise in food allergies in Western countries.

    Weirdly, while the ingredients that sound like they’d be unhealthy (i.e., disodium inosinate) aren’t really all that bad, the ingredients we think we recognize (i.e., vegetable oils) are slowly waging the real war on our insides. “The main thing people need to pay attention to are the first few ingredients in these foods, like vegetable oil,” Shanahan urges. “Vegetable oils alone can cause diabetes, and they don’t even contain any sugar.”

    All 26 ingredients in America’s favorite cheese-flavored chip, singly and as a whole, explained:  “What’s in This?: Doritos Nacho Cheese Tortilla Chips.”

    * Jimmy Fallon

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    As we wipe our fingers, we might send apocalyptic birthday greetings to The Reverend Thomas Robert Malthus; he was born on this date in 1766.  An English cleric and scholar, he was influential both in political economy and demography.  He is best remembered for his 1798 essay on population growth, in which he argued that population multiplies geometrically and food arithmetically; thus, whenever the food supply increases, population will rapidly grow to eliminate the abundance, leading inevitably to disastrous results – famine, disease and/or war… a conclusion that remains controversial to this day.

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  • feedwordpress 08:01:35 on 2016/06/09 Permalink
    Tags: Ajo, American Futures, , Fallows, , , horticulture, nutrition, Peter Henderson, ,   

    “The ultimate goal of farming is not the growing of crops, but the cultivation and perfection of human beings”*… 


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    Deb Fallows, who (with her husband Jim) is driving the American Futures project (which readers can– and should– follow here), has just posted a fascinating piece on the way that the local food movement, often assumed to be a (privileged) feature of upscale urban life, is taking hold and changing prospects in the rural U.S.– specifically, in a remote desert town with very modest financial resources, and with a long history of the health problems that arise from poor nutrition.

    Ajo, Arizona, the small desert community we have visited several times and written about for American Futures, offers something unique: a thriving local agriculture and food movement in the middle of the Sonoran Desert. For starters, conditions are about as challenging as you can imagine: desert temperatures with freezes in the winter and 110 degrees in the summer; poor soil with low organic and microbial content, high alkalinity and caliche (a natural cement); and four inches of rainfall annually, often arriving in downpours.

    Undeterred, the active Ajo community pooled their energy and opportunities to build an intricate, cooperative network around food. Cooperating together in this town of only a few thousand people are the school, the clinic, local gardeners, the farmers’ market, local restaurants, the town’s grocery store, student interns, adult volunteers, the food bank, the CSA, and the anchor of the Sonoran Desert Conference Center, with its spaces for gardens, a chicken coop, celebratory events, teaching and demonstration space, and a newly-finished commercial kitchen…

    Read the full story– important and heartening– at “Farming in the Desert.”

    * Masanobu Fukuoka

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    As we tend our gardens, we might send cultivating birthday greetings to Peter Henderson; he was born on this date in 1822.  An immigrant from Scotland, he settled in New Jersey, where he became a market gardener, florist, seedsman, and prolific author, publishing best-selling books like Gardening for Profit and Practical Floriculture.  The Henderson Seed Co., which he founded in 1847, operated until 1953… for all of which he is widely known as “the Father of America Horticulture.”

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  • feedwordpress 08:01:23 on 2015/10/09 Permalink
    Tags: , defects, FDA, , impurities, nutrition, , , , ,   

    “Anyhow, the hole in the doughnut is at least digestible”*… 


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    Because of the way foods are mass harvested, factory processed and packaged in the States, the FDA has to allow food companies to include a certain number of “defects” in the final products. The term “defects,” is code for the inclusion of “foreign matter” in canned and packaged foods, including insects, insect parts, rodent hairs, larvae, rodent poop, mammal poop, bone material, mold, rust, and cigarette butts. These “defects” are not dangerous in the quantities they’re allowed, the FDA says, but still: what was that about ignorance and bliss?..

    From the “20 maggots ‘of any size’ and 75 mites, per 100 grams” permitted in canned mushrooms to the “30 or more fly eggs per 100 grams” allowed in tomato sauce, “What Defects the FDA Allows in 11 Types of Food.”

    [As a bonus (if that’s not a perverse way of putting it), “The 20 Unhealthiest Foods on the Planet.”]

    * H.L. Mencken

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    As we eat a peach, we might send a basketful for birthday greetings to Clarence Saunders; he was born on this ate in 1881.  A Memphis grocer, he developed the the modern retail sales model of self service– he received U.S. Patent #1,242,872 for a “Self Serving Store”– and thus had a massive influence on the development of the modern supermarket.  His Memphis store grew into the Piggly Wiggly chain, which is still in operation.

    The first Piggly Wiggly store

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    Clarence Saunders

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