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

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

     

    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”*… 

     

    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, survival cracker,   

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

     

    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”*… 

     

    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”*… 

     

    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”*… 

     

    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, farming, , horticulture, nutrition, Peter Henderson, seeds,   

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

     

    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”*… 

     

    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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  • feedwordpress 08:01:20 on 2015/08/17 Permalink
    Tags: accident, Bridgette Driscoll, caffeine, , , , , Monsanto, nutrition, pedestrian,   

    “I never drink coffee at lunch. I find it keeps me awake for the afternoon”*… 

     

     

    email readers click here for video

    U.S. coffee consumption peaked around 1950, then declined dramatically– displaced, largely, by soft drinks, 8 of the top ten selling of which are loaded with caffeine…

    With protagonists like Monsanto and Coca Cola, it’s a tale with which to conjure.

    Read more at “The buzz(kill) about caffeine.”

    * Ronald Reagan

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    As we top up our cups, we might recall that it was in this date in 1896 that the first pedestrian was killed by a motor car in Great Britain.  A Benz automobile, being demonstrated on the grounds of the Crystal Place, struck Mrs. Bridgette Driscoll, who died minutes later of head injuries.  Though the driver, Arthur James Edsall, was accused of tampering with the governor (which was meant to hold the car’s top speed to 4 miles per hour) and of being distracted as he drove by conversation with the young woman who was his passenger, a Coroner’s Inquest return a verdict of accidental death.

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  • feedwordpress 08:01:51 on 2015/04/09 Permalink
    Tags: , , Ingrid Kosar, insulated bag, , nutrition, , , , William Prout   

    “There’s no better feeling in the world than a warm pizza box on your lap”*… 

     

    Ingrid Kosar always dreamed about running her own business. She didn’t know what kind of company it would be, but she liked to picture herself carrying a little briefcase. As it turns out, a very different kind of bag would define her career. It’s a bag that appears on doorsteps millions of times a week for Friday family movie nights and college study sessions.

    It’s the insulated pizza delivery bag, and Ingrid Kosar invented it…

    Read Kosar’s captivating tale at “Life of Pie.”

    * Kevin James

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    As we agree with the King of Queens, we might spare a thought for William Prout; he died on this date in 1850.  A physician and chemist, Prout is probably best remembered for Prout’s hypothesis (an early attempt to explain the existence of elements via the structure of the atom; memorialized by Ernest Rutherford, who named the newly discovered “proton”” in Prout’s honor).  But Prout was also noteworthily the first scientist to classify (in 1827) the components of food into their three main divisions: carbohydrates, fats, and proteins.

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