Brown’s Edible Examiner (Volume XXV)
In case you missed it, Friday, June 6, 2013 was NATIONAL DOUGHNUT DAY!
Most themed food holidays sound more like marketing schemes than true reasons for a national day of remembrance. But there is a bona fide historical reason to chow down on a deep-fried pastry to mark National Doughnut Day. During World War I, women volunteers with the Salvation Army would fry up and hand out doughnuts as a form of comfort food to American GIs serving overseas. To honor these women’s service and raise funds during the Great Depression, in 1938 the Salvation Army’s Chicago branch declared the first Friday in June to be National Doughnut Day. These “dough girls” or “dough lassies,” as they were called, continued the tradition during World War II. Doughnuts held a special place in American servicemen’s hearts during the Vietnam War as well. Vietnam POW Orson Swindle was held at Son Tay prison camp (known as one of the worst and for the failed rescue attempt) for six years. He convinced his captors that November 10 was National Doughnut Day, which he described as a big national holiday for Americans. To the great surprise of all, on November 10 the prisoners were served sticky buns and Orson was the hero of the day!
Move Over Cupcakes: Invasion of the Doughnuts—and Cronuts - Lynn Kuntz, Food Product Design
Maybe it is because last Friday was National Doughnut Day, but all of a sudden there are a rash of doughnut stories in the news. Could this be the next Big Food Thing? Cupcakes being “out” and all. In the spirit of excess, doughnut sandwiches have started appearing: There’s the Dunkin’ Donuts’ Glazed Donut Breakfast Sandwich (soon to be rolled out nationally) followed closely by the Krispy Kreme Sloppy Joe. Then there’s the Cronut, an unholy nutritional hybrid of a croissant and a filled, glazed doughnut. Ironically these items are becoming popular while the food industry is being bombarded for marketing unhealthy foods.
Rachel Tepper, Huffington Post
Jasmin Sun, Eater
On Saturday, chef Charlie Boghosian of Chicken Charlie’s in Del Mar, CA unveiled a sloppy Joe sandwich made with a Krispy Kreme donut. The dish, which features meat, cheddar cheese and two halves of a glazed donut, debuted at the San Diego County Fair. Chef Boghosian was also the mastermind behind deep-fried Kool Aid and deep-fried cereal. Contrary to previous news reports, Krispy Kreme did NOT collaborate with Boghosian according to Krispy Kreme Director of Corporate Communications Brian Little. Little said that the sandwich is in no way, “created, endorsed, or marketed by the company.”
Hillary Dixler, Eater
In California restaurants and other food businesses are forbidden to sell foie gras, but a loophole in the law allows them to give it away. And that’s precisely what popular California donut shop Psycho Donuts did on National Doughnut Day. They doled out free foie gras donuts topped with crispy sage and injected with a honey, fig and balsamic vinegar reduction. Dubbed “The Foie Bomb,” it’s supposedly the world’s first foie gras mousse donut. But the promotion sparked outrage from some vocal supporters of the foie gras ban in the form of harsh criticism on their Facebook page and even death threats. The controversy did not seem to impact the promotion’s success. More than 100 people were waiting in line for the donuts at 6 a.m. on Friday morning and more than 400 foie gras donuts were given out during the day.
David B. Caruso, Huffington Post
The number of fatalities related to diabetes in New York City has reached an all-time high, nearly doubling over the past twenty years according to New York City Health Department data. Health Commissioner Thomas Farley cited obesity as the “heart of the epidemic.” Farley also linked widespread consumption of sugary drinks to obesity. The city is in the process of appealing a ruling striking down Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s controversial soda ban. A state appeals court panel had few sweet words Tuesday for the regulation. The four justices peppered a city lawyer with tough questions during a Manhattan court session aimed at determining whether health officials exceeded their authority in placing a 16-ounce limit on most sweetened beverages at city-licensed eateries. During oral arguments, the judges repeatedly challenged city attorney Fay Ng to defend the rule’s scientific and legal underpinnings. The court didn’t indicate when it might rule.
Elaine Watson, Food Navigator-USA
A new analysis of where Americans are getting their calories has thrown up some surprising results, with the percentage of energy derived from so-called ‘junk-food’ such as soda, burgers and fries from fast-food chains proving to be somewhat lower than is often claimed. All foods consumed by participants in the government-run National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys (NHANES) are now color coded by location of purchase (eg. Stores, quick-service restaurant/pizza [QSR], full-service restaurant [FSR), school/workplace café, vending machine, etc.), making it possible to determine much more accurately where our calories are coming from. Contrary to popular belief, restaurant-sourced pizza, burgers, chicken and French fries accounted for less energy than store-sourced breads, grain-based desserts, pasta and soft drinks. Overall analysis of three sets of NHANES data (2003/4, 2005/6 and 2007/8) shows that 63-76% of calories in the US diet depending on age group are from products bought at stores, while quick- and full-service restaurants contribute 17-26% of calories. The rest come from multiple sources including vending machines and school and work cafeterias. Teens get 17.5% of calories from quick service restaurants and 7% form full-service restaurants. Adults aged 70+ obtained more than 76% of energy from grocery stores. The top sources of energy are grain-based desserts such as cakes, cookies and donuts, and yeast breads. As for soda, a hot-button political issue as NYC Mayor Bloomberg squares up with industry opponents in court this week over his proposed ban on big sodas—energy intakes from sugar-sweetened beverages from QSRs were very low at 1-1.4%, said study authors Adam Drewnowski and Colin D. Rehm. Four times that amount came from soda purchased at supermarkets and in grocery stores. The study, published in Nutrition Journal, May 2013, was funded by the National Restaurant Association—a vocal opponent of Bloomberg’s proposed soda ban—and provided further evidence that singling out sodas sold in foodservice outlets, but not grocery stores next door, did not make sense. “So if you are going to target a given food or beverage, at least be aware of where it is coming from,” said Drewnowski. The Bloomberg initiative specifically exempted grocery stores. He added: “the store-bought sugars and carbs provided most of the calories—suggesting that, if we want to reduce calories, then supermarkets ought to be included in the battle against the obesity epidemic.”
Eliza Barclay, NPR
The farm bill is expected to pass in the Senate on Monday night. And to the dismay of some, it likely won’t include an amendment that would have eliminated a controversial program to keep a closer eye on a food product you probably weren’t even worried about: catfish. The amendment included $15 million a year to fund a US Department of Agriculture catfish office. Here’s the backstory: US catfish farmers have been struggling for a while. Total acreage of catfish ponds has dropped from a high of 196,760 acres in 2002 to 83, 020 acres in January 2013. Lack of water, high temperatures and feed prices are part of the problem. But more threatening, as far as the people still in business are concerned, are the foreign companies who now dominate 78 percent of the US market for frozen catfish and similar species. These companies, mostly in Viet Nam and China, have found ways to raise catfish more cheaply and efficiently. Congressmen from Alabama, Arkansas and Mississippi, the top three catfish-producing states, have been looking for ways to bolster the domestic industry by limiting imports. Critics say they figured more inspectors might do the trick. Seafood inspection is the job of the Food and Drug Administration and opponents and the Government Accountability Office are against having another agency duplicate the FDA’s efforts. The GAO recommends that Congress help FDA do a better job inspecting seafood.
Maria Godoy, NPR
Huffington Post, AP
Amazon.com says it has expanded its grocery delivery service to Los Angeles and may add more markets in the future. AmazonFresh, the home delivery service of meat, dairy and other fresh and frozen foods has been field-testing in Seattle since 2007. Amazon.com Inc. says it is excited to test out a new market in LA, but the company remained vague about any future expansion plans, saying only that they know customers value the service but “the economics remain challenging.” But home grocery delivery could prove to be a Trojan horse for Amazon to get inside your home more frequently, says Justin Bomberowitz, a senior analyst with RetailNet Group, which released a research note on AmazonFresh in April. Right now, Bomberowitz says, most Amazon customers tend to make small purchases, one or two items at a time. But if Amazon can bundle your bananas with your books and batteries, it can make that stop at your door all the more profitable. As for the grocery business itself, analysts say Amazon’s goal is to break even while using the service to grow Amazon’s same-day-delivery service. Amazon has been busy building smaller distribution centers in more populated areas to stock items for same-day delivery. Amazon hopes that grocery delivery will get its trucks in these denser neighborhoods on a daily basis, RetailNet Group’s report notes. In Seattle the service includes delivery of goods from a select group of “favorite” local vendors, from artisan breads and doughnuts to craft beers and local restaurants. The targeted consumers are busy, moneyed professionals who will happily delegate the task to someone else.
Eliza Barclay, NPR
Our fascination with prison food is usually limited to death row prisoners’ elaborate last meal requests and urban legends about disturbingly low-grade meat. In early June, the Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia sponsored a tasting of prison food through the years. Now a museum, the penitentiary closed in 1970 but reopened to give visitors a sensory experience of prison life. Lately that experience has been expanded to include taste. Food served in prisons today tend to be heavily processed—canned, frozen or friend. According to Sean Kelley, senior vice president at the penitentiary, back in 1949 and 1830—the two eras highlighted in the penitentiary’s tasting–the menu was less predictable and almost always made from scratch. In 1830, the food was monotonous but hearty: A typical meal was salted and broiled beef, served with “Indian mush,” or boiled cornmeal flavored with molasses. “During all those periods, the food was relatively high quality and nutritious” Kelley said. Ironically, today one of the most nutritious meals served to Pennsylvania inmates may be “food loaf,” an intentionally bland meal used as punishment food. It’s made from carrots, potatoes, garbanzo beans, cabbage and oatmeal—but no seasonings. While using food in punishment is common practice, some prisons also try to turn food into an opportunity for inmates. At Angola Prison in Louisiana, inmates have long been involved in growing corn, wheat and soybeans to feed themselves and inmates at other correctional facilities. Northeastern Correctional Center, a minimum-security prison in Concord, MA, has a restaurant open to the public, staffed by inmates enrolled in a food service training program. Clink Charity, an organization that opened a restaurant serving seasonal fare at High Down prison in 2009, says that the recidivism rate among inmates who participate in their program is 12.5 percent, compared with a national average of 47 percent. Apparently, American restaurateurs believe that jails can stimulate the appetite as well. In Salem, MA, the Great Escape Restaurant is housed in a building that used to be America’s oldest active jail until it closed in 1991. Over in Jefferson City, MO, Prison Brews opened a brewpub located in the city’s historic east side, two blocks from the old Missouri State Penitentiary. One thing they better not be serving there: pruno, that homemade hooch that’s been the source of several cases of botulism in prisons in the past year.
Kyle Hill, Scientific American
The UN’s Food and Agricultural Organization recently released a report touting the nutritional and environment benefits of eating our many-legged friends. The gist is that insects may end up solving a real food crisis. To most of the world, this was old news—insects are considered staples and even delicacies in many cultures. But Western media still let out an audible cringe at the thought of crunching down on chitin. Ignorance is bliss…..Try as we might with insecticides and other engineered poisons, bugs crawl all over our food to feed (and procreate) on it. When we harvest and package our crops, a lot of bugs come along for the ride. Be aware, all the hitchhikers aren’t removed. Why else would the FDA have to limit how many bugs we are allowed to unknowingly consume. Bugs like thrips and aphids have to be tiny indeed to pepper our food with their parts without us noticing. It is estimated that 5,000 aphids weight about the same as a paperclip. If you are feeling adventurous, that means you could mash and mold about 567,000 of them into the leggy equivalent of a MacDonald’s quarter pounder. Following FDA guidelines, by the time you eat 1,000 kilograms of spinach you have eaten a quarter pounder’s worth of aphid. Bug beer is even better. Many of the bugs and bug parts will be filtered out during brewing, but the FDA’s limit on the hops that go into the tank is 2,500 aphids per 10 grams of hops. So 5% of the total weight of the hops making your summer ale can be bug. Dessert is the same. Once you eat around 100 kilograms of your favorite chocolate, you’ve eaten a full kilogram of bug. And if you fancy making bread from scratch, about one and a half kilograms of insect is sprinkled into every 100 kilograms you use. We do our best to minimize our contact with them, but insects are a viable and plentiful nutritious food source, and maybe we should embrace that.
Marina Koren, Smithsonian
In recent weeks, photos of lobsters have been floating around social media with captions calling the crustaceans, “biologically immortal.” The viral scientific tidbit can be traced back to a brief 2007 news story that reports that lobsters don’t show typical signs of a phenomenon known as senescence. In plain terms, the report says that lobsters don’t age the way other living creatures do—they don’t lower their reproductive ability, slow their metabolism or decrease in strength. It’s true that lobsters continue eating, reproducing and growing until the end. And there is an end—they’re not immortal. But like most decapod crustaceans, which also include crawfish and shrimp, they have indeterminate growth. That means they don’t reach a set size limit in their lifetimes, continuing to grow until they die of natural causes or are killed. Lobsters grow by molting their hard exoskeleton, and they do so a lot: the average lobster can molt 44 times before it’s a year old. By the time lobsters reach the age of seven, they molt once a year, and after that, once every two to three years, growing larger with each successive shedding of its exoskeleton. The largest lobster on record, caught in Nova Scotia in 1977, weighed 44 pounds, six ounces and measured 3.5 feet in length. Molting is a stressful process. According to Carl Wilson, lead lobster biologist with the Maine Department of Marine Resources, between 10 and 15 percent of lobsters die naturally each year as they shed their exoskeletons because the exertion proves to be too much. Each molting process requires more and more energy than the one before it as lobsters grow in size. Finally, older crustaceans stop shedding their exoskeletons altogether—a clue that they’re near the end of their lifespans. But one question about lobsters’ lifespans still remains. Scientists do not yet have a truly validated way of determining the age of lobsters. When they molt, they molt their entire exoskeleton so there are no hard parts left. Some research suggests that the European lobster males in the wild live an average of 31 years, and the females an average of 54 years. This work is based off assumed accumulation rates of fat residues found in the creature’s eyestalk. Other scientists are approximating the age of lobsters by measuring a pigment called neurolipofuscin that builds up in the crustaceans’ brains over time. Scientists, however, are not looking for the secret of lobster immortality—it doesn’t exist.
Daniella Hernandez, Wired
Have you ever dreamed of owning a personal robot servant to pour your beers for you? The idea is now one step closer to reality. Researchers at Cornell University have programmed a robot that can predict what you’re about to do and offer up a helping hand. The robot watches your body movements. Then, it accesses a video database of about 120 household activities—ranging from putting food in the microwave, eating, brushing teeth, making cereal, and yes, pouring booze—to predict what your actions will be a few seconds into the future. The robot can then make a decision about what you’re likely to do next, and what it can do to assist you in that task. This technology has applications beyond helping you ease into inebriation. It could pave the way to finally getting a real version of Rosie the Robot, having better telepresence robotics, and creating robots that work better alongside humans in factories, offices, or hospitals. It could also help seniors maneuver around their homes, giving them a fuller sense of independence. Cheers to that!