AB’s BBQ Potato Chips

Alton-Browns-BBQ-Potato-Chips

BBQ Potato Chips

1 cup apple wood chips
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
 1 tablespoon dark brown sugar
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon garlic powder 
¼ teaspoon chili powder, optional
2 pounds russet potatoes, scrubbed and rinsed
2 quarts peanut oil
 

Procedure

NOTE: If you have not built a Steel Lotus - you can simply ‘smoke’ the potatoes in three batches on a single folding steamer basket for 10 minutes per batch.

Soak the wood chip in water for 30 minutes.

Slice the potatoes width wise into 1/8 inch thick rounds. Arrange the potatoes on the Steel Lotus dividing them into thirds and staggering any overlapping pieces.

Line an 8-quart stockpot with aluminum foil and set the drained wood chips in the bottom. Set the Steel Lotus in the pot over the wooden chips, cover, and set over high heat. “Smoke” the potato slices for 20 minutes (you may want to turn on your fan or hood vent) then remove the pot from the heat.

While the potatoes smoke, combine the paprika, brown sugar, onion powder, salt, chili powder, and garlic powder in a food processor or a small coffee grinder reserved for spices. Pulse to combine and form a fine powder. Set aside.

Remove the Steel Lotus from the pot and remove the potato slices to clean paper towels (this wicks away any residual moisture to prevent splattering oil later).

Heat the peanut oil in a 4-quart cast iron Dutch oven, over medium-high heat, to 300˚ F.

While the oil heats, line a large mixing bowl with paper towels. Carefully add the potato slices one at a time to the hot oil. Using a spider , fry 6 to 8 slices at a time in the hot oil for 3 to 4 minutes or until golden brown and crisp. Remove the chips with the spider and hold over the oil to drain as much excess oil as possible. Move the finished chips to the lined bowl and shake to remove additional oil. Adjust the heat as necessary to maintain 300˚ F and frying the potatoes in small batches.

When the final batch has finished frying, move the chips to a large brown paper bag. Sprinkle the chips with the spice mixture, fold the top of the bag over to seal and shake. Serve immediately.

Yield: 8 servings




Brown’s Edible Examiner XXXVI

 AB_edible-examiner_V6

11 Delicious Facts You Never Knew About Girl Scout Cookies

Renee Jacques

The bad news:  Girl Scout cookies are seasonal so they are not always available.  The good news:  they are in season now.  And this is the inaugural year for a gluten-free cookie, the Chocolate Chip Shortbread.  Here are some facts you might not know:

  1. Every year, since 1999, Girl Scout cookies bring in about $700 million in revenue.  75 percent of the proceeds go to the local council, while 25 percent goes to the bakeries.
  2. The whole operation started with a troop holding a small bake sale selling sugar cookies in 1917.  Two girl scouts started making the sugar cookies in the 1920s; then in 1922, a Girl Scout regional director in Chicago created a simple sugar cookie recipe and published it in the nation-wide newsletter, “American Girl.”  All 2,000 troops started baking and selling the sugar cookies.
  3. Thin Mints are the most popular cookies.  As of 2011, Thin Mints account for $175 million of the profits.
  4. Depending on your local council, your Girl Scouts will either call the cookies by their literal or creative names.  Girl Scout cookies come from two bakeries—ABC Bakers or Little Brownie Bakers–each of which titles the cookies differently.  Don’t worry, they all taste the same.
  5. During World War II in the 1940s, Girl Scouts started selling calendars instead of cookies due to the sugar, flour and butter shortages at the time.
  6. If you get your cookies from Little Brownie Bakers, no high fructose corn syrup was used to make them.
  7. All of the girls on the boxes are real Girl Scouts.
  8. Certain Girl Scouts get special awards at the end of season as awards for their cookie selling abilities.  Badges include the “Smart Cookie,” “The Cookie Connection” and “Cookies & Dough.”
  9. In 1985, one 13-year-old from Falls Church, Virginia, sold 11,200 boxes of Girl Scout cookies in one season.
  10. There have been a lot of failed flavors.
  11. You can track where and when to buy the cookies on your smartphone, just download “Girl Scout Cookie Finder” app.

 

11 Signs Fast Food Has Completely Taken Over America

Renee Jacques

Here are 11 signs that fast food has seeped into every crevice of our lives today:

  1. Fast food restaurants have added a new meal:  brunch.  Dunkin’ Donuts now provides eggs Benedict in a cheap sandwich form complete with a “creamy, lemony flavor of Hollandaise.”
  2. Our country celebrates “National Drive-Thru Day” on July 24th.  In his book, “The Omnivore’s Dilemma,” Michael Pollan estimated that about 20 percent of American meals are eaten in a car.  Also, 50-60 percent of McDonalds’ sales are made at the drive-thru.
  3. Some of our favorite snack foods have been turned into their own fast food meals.  Instead of grabbing a bag of Doritos, we can head over to Taco Bell and pick up a Doritos Locos taco.  We can get Oreos and ice cream all in one convenient cup with an Oreo McFlurry at McDonald’s.
  4. Our daily serving of vegetables always comes from potatoes—especially French fries.  Americans, on average, consume 30 pounds of fries a year.
  5. We can now eat every single meal at Taco Bell, from the newly unleashed Taco Bell breakfast menu to the end of day “fourth meal”.
  6. There is a fast food establishment on almost every corner.  In America, there are more than 14,000 McDonald’s, and as of 2012, there were 25,549 Subways and 18,000 Starbucks nationwide.
  7. Instead of coffee, we can order full meals at Starbucks.  The coffee chain has quite the varied menu, including paninis, “bistro boxes,” salads, and baked goods.  Last year one woman decided to eat every meal at Starbucks for a year.  She spent $500 to $600 a month.
  8. We’ve even discovered innovative ways to transform our fast food leftovers.  The folks at FoodBeast claim that reheating McDonald’s cheeseburgers and Gorditas in a waffle iron creates some delicious results.
  9. Kids between the ages of 6 and 14 in America eat fast food 157,000,000 times each month.  According to the Palo Alto Medical Foundation, 96 percent of kids can recognize the image of Ronald McDonald.
  10. We’ve even thought about wearing fast food logos.  During Paris Fashion Weeks this year, Jeremy Scott, creative director for Moschino, debuted bright red and yellow sweaters with a huge “M” emblazoned on them.
  11. We celebrate national holidays with special fast food.  We can celebrate St. Patrick’s Day at Dunkin’ Donuts with just released Mint Oreo and Mint Oreo Crème donuts.  During Lent, we can still indulge in fast food on Fridays since our favorite fast food restaurants are serving up some tasty fish options.

 

The 5-Question Starter’s Guide to Today’s Seafood

Josh Ozersky

Covering urchins, sustainability, and whether or not it looks, well fishy.

  1. What are the first steps to take in buying and preparing seafood at home if your choices are limited to those at the megamart fish counter?  First get a really good fish cookbook.  As with any protein you should cook different types just to get a sense of what they look/feel like when over or under done.  Start out steaming.  Heavier, steak-y fish, like swordfish, can be grilled or griddled, but like steak they need to be cooked to the right temp.
  2. Why do some fish need to be fully cooked through while some don’t?  Setting aside the issue of eliminating pathogens, it’s a question of the delicacy of the fish.  You don’t need to do much to flaky, low-fat fish, like trout and halibut, while heavier, greasier fish (i.e. mackerel or escolar) need a little more heat.
  3. Is seafood still safe to eat?  The short answer: start by eating local Atlantic fish, and generally the smaller the better.
  4. Are sustainable fish farms the only way we will get to enjoy seafood in the future, due to radiation and oil spills, etc.?  Sadly, there have been scarce few healthy and sustainable fish farms.  Basically, they just put the fish in a big pool and feed them millions of minnows—even species that naturally eat only plankton.
  5. Is sea urchin this year’s kale?  Chefs today do throw uni around like deviled eggs.  But, uni is difficult to source.  It’s a beautiful thing, but in the wrong hands it’s just…..gross.

 

Four gluten-free myths debunked

Maggie Hennessy

Few topics can spark a more spirited debate these days than gluten, and yet, as the Whole Grains Council/Oldways points out, misconceptions abound when it comes to gluten.  Cynthia Harriman, WGC’s director of food and nutrition strategies, outlines four primary consumer misconceptions about gluten and grains:

  • Myth 1: Gluten-free equals grain-free.  The only gluten-containing grains are wheat, barley, rye and triticale.  The 10 gluten-free whole grains are amaranth, buckwheat, corn, millet, quinoa, rice, sorghum, teff, oats and wild rice.  Oats, though inherently gluten-free, have drummed up some controversy, as they’re easily contaminated by wheat during production and processing.
  • Myth 2: Modern wheat is higher in gluten (and GMO).  Fueled by claims made in high-profile diet books like Wheat Belly and Grain Brain, many consumers believe modern wheat is higher in gluten.  In reality, USDA research shows gluten levels in wheat have not increased—but that levels of vital gluten in processed foods have increased threefold just since 1997 and are still rising.  In line with this is the misconception that all wheat is genetically modified by default.
  • Myth 3: You can self-prescribe a gluten-free diet.  Paraphrasing a portion of Alessio Fasano’s recent presentation at the International Celiac Symposium, Harriman said, “People don’t decide on their own that they have diabetes and start giving themselves insulin shots; why do they diagnose themselves when it comes to gluten?”
  • Myth 4: Gluten-free eating is as simple as having a burger with no bun.  Harriman said, “A lot of people say ‘Miley Cyrus is gluten free, so I will do it, too,’ meaning I won’t have a bun with my burger.  They don’t understand how different this is for celiacs—that trace amounts can cause problems, that gluten is in so many foods, the importance of totally separate equipment and using a dedicated production facility, etc.” …”The fad and fantasy side trivializes and endangers the medically necessary side,” she added.

 

Depressing Food Facts That We Refuse to Believe

Huffington Post

As food lovers, we pride ourselves on knowing a lot about food.  We’re constantly working to expand our culinary horizons.  Not all the information we accrue is gratifying, however.  Here are some facts that are somewhat alarming:

  • Watermelons and avocados, it turns out are berries, while strawberries are not.
  • Hawaiian Pizza was invented by a Canadian.
  • Americans eat nearly a ton of food in a year.  According to the USDA’s Economic Research Service, the average American ate 1,966 pounds of food in 2011.
  • Parmigiano Reggiano is not vegetarian.  Neither are a lot of cheeses.
  • Almonds are part of the peach family.  Almonds are actually a hard-shelled fruit from the almond tree.
  • Twinkies do NOT have an infinite shelf life.  They actually have a shelf life of about 45 days.
  • Honey, however, will stay good FOREVER.  It may crystalize or change color over the years, but it will always be safe to consume.
  • Your jar of peanut butter may contain rodent hair and insect parts.  The FDA has confirmed that there are an “average of 30 or more insect fragments per 100 grams” and an “average of one or more rodent hairs per 100 grams.”
  • The number of rows on an ear of corn will always be even because kernels come from pollinated flowers, and these flowers occur in pairs, or something like that.
  • Fast food signs can affect your behavior.  The mere sight of a fast food logo or packaging can stimulate a sense of impatience and lead to a decreased capacity to savor and enjoy a pleasant experience.  Yes, fast food is bad for you in more ways than one.
  • One in two sandwiches sold in France is now a hamburger, and many of them come from McDonald’s.
  • Most of the salmon we eat is dyed pink.  Wild salmon are pink in color because of the krill they eat, but farmed salmon are naturally grey.

 

Antonin Scalia Rules Deep Dish Is Not Pizza

Huffington Post

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia is no stranger to controversial rulings, and he’s just issued an opinion that might be his most divisive yet:  Chicago deep-dish shouldn’t be called pizza.  “It’s very tasty, but it’s not pizza,” he said recently at the Union League Club of Chicago’s 126th annual George Washington’s Birthday celebration.  “Real pizza is Neapolitan [from Naples, Italy], it is thin,” he was quoted as saying.  “It is chewy and crispy, OK?”  Scalia has also called New York pizza “infinitely better” than Chicago’s, but we should note possible prejudice in that he was born in New Jersey and moved to New York at the age of 6, where he remained through high school.

 

World’s most deadly mushroom smells delicious, is invading every continent

Ryan Whitwam

You can tell just from the name that a Death Cap mushroom is not something you ought to eat.  However, this fungus is spreading rapidly across the globe and it looks and smells a lot like a number of edible species of mushroom.  Amanita phalloides, as the Death Cap is more properly known, is stupendously toxic to humans.  As little as 30 grams of it can result in death, and it can be hard to even diagnose patients properly in time.  After eating a Death Cap mushroom, a person will usually feel no discomfort for 6-24 hours.  At that point nausea, vomiting and other GI tract issues will set in.  The delay makes it hard for doctors to connect the symptoms to mushroom ingestion.  As humans have become more mobile, we’ve been spreading the spores of Death Cap mushrooms around the globe.  The Death Cap is finding its way into the diets of more people largely because it has proven to be very adaptable by gaining the capacity to live in harmony with more tree species.  Places where all the similar-looking mushrooms were once safe are now peppered with colonies of super-deadly Amanita phalloides.  Originally native to Europe, the Death Cap is now on all continents, except Antarctica—feel free to eat any mushrooms you find there.

 

Ag-based Curriculum Invigorates Kansas School

Heather Hollingsworth

WALTON, KS—In 2007, Walton 21st Century Rural Life Center changed its educational focus to agriculture, which has saved the school from closing.  The school now attracts a steady stream of visitors from around the country who watch students learn through projects that range from selling eggs to showing pigs at the county fair.  Located in a farming community of 235 people, the Walton school had barely 80 students when the school district decided to transform the kindergarten to fourth-grade building into an agriculture-focused charter school.  Since then enrollment has grown to 183 students.  Student Cody Eye, 10, said students learn math by measuring food and make money for the school by selling the animals.  “It teaches us responsibility,” he said. The school’s profile got a boost when the US Department of Education, which provided a grant to get the school started, produced a video about the transformation.  The community also bought into the project, with one farmer donating runt pigs and another loaning a donkey during the year.  Today, parents call the school, eager to nab a spot for their children; one of the latest additions to the waiting list was a 3-week-old baby.  The farm curriculum, although still relatively unusual, has been replicated in other Kansas schools and proven successful in more urban environments, including Chicago and Philadelphia.  At the Chicago High School for Agricultural Sciences, students care for piglets, chickens and horses and grow plants.  More than 3,000 students apply each year for about 180 freshman-class openings.  In Philadelphia, the W.B. Saul High School of Agricultural Sciences’ 130-acre campus features an area for field crops and livestock pastures.  Students at the magnet school have designed an exhibit for a flower show and participate in meat and dairy cattle judging clubs.  The Walton school, though never low-performing, has seen test scores increase by about 8 percentage points since switching to the agriculture theme.  Walton Principal Natise Vogt said agriculture-themed schools owe much of their success to the hands-on projects.  Some fall flat, she says, recalling the boys who tried to make their own incubator to hatch duck eggs. The eggs went bad, but Vogt didn’t mind because the students figured out that the reason was the incubator wasn’t keeping the temperature consistent.  Other projects are wildly successful.  Take the students who worried the barn wasn’t warm enough for the newborn lambs, and designed a solar-powered heater.  Kindergartners make lip balm from soybeans, one of the crops they study, and sell it for $3 a tube.  They learn about liquids and solids, fill the order themselves and have used the money they’ve raised to purchase two iPads for the classroom.

 

Sriracha: the science of pain and pleasure

Food Product Design

Sriracha Chemistry: How Hot Sauces Perk Up Your Food And Your Mood

Michaeleen Doucleff

Anyone who has ever drizzled, doused or drenched their food with Sriracha knows the hot sauce can make almost anything taste better.  But could these spicy condiments also make us a little happier? Jalapenos, the main ingredient in Sriracha, and other chili peppers are packed with two potent compounds—capsaicin and dihydrocapsaicin.  These molecules perform a mind trick on our nervous system: They make us think our tongues have touched something scalding hot, like boiling water.  To keep the tongue from getting burned, the brain triggers the sensation of pain.  But your nervous system isn’t going to just let you suffer.  It also launches a whole series of action to help us deal with the pain. It releases endorphins—the morphine-like compounds that give you a natural high.  And it makes the nerves on our tongue more tolerant to pain.  In other words, spicy peppers may hurt at first, but then they have an analgesic effect.  A similar mechanism happens with mints and cough drops.  The menthol in peppermint and spearmint tricks your mind into thinking you’re eating something cold.

 

Eataly to Build Mega Food Theme Park in Italy

Hillary Dixler

The Wall Street Journal reports that the Italian gourmet grocery mecca Eataly is partnering with the city of Bologna to open Fico Eataly World—a food themed park.  The nearly 20-acre park will build “restaurants, grocery stores, food labs, and an aquarium” on grounds that are currently occupied by unused warehouses.  The project has been referred to as a “Disneyland of food.”  Footing the $54.9 million bill is “an Italian fund-management company” that has reportedly raised some $116.5 million in investments.  They are aiming for a November 1, 2015 opening.

 

Americans Are Making Bowls Out of Bacon at An Alarming Rate

James Joiner

We’ve got bacon floss, infused vodka, candies, soda, deodorant, toothpaste, coffee, condoms, pipe tobacco, the bacon bra and nationwide bacon fests…It’s reached the point of insanity, or maybe just inanity.  But the straw that may have broken the proverbial sow’s back:  The proliferation of the Bacon Bowl.  More than 2 million units sold thus far to bacon believers nationwide, and a steal at $10.99.  At least cleanup is kept to a minimum.  2012 and ’13 were banner years by butcher’s standards, with pork being the fastest growing protein in the food service industry.  We’re not even remotely opposed to bacon, but that doesn’t mean it has to be included in everything.  How’s that old saying go?  All things in moderation.

 

Waiter, There’s a Cigar in My Cupcake!

Barbara Herman

Banned in cigarette and cigar form from venues once considered its sacrosanct natural habitats—such as New Orleans dive bars and Parisian cafes—tobacco is popping up as an ingredient in the more socially acceptable forms of food, drink and even perfume.  If you can’t smoke it, this trend suggests, then you might as well eat it, drink it or at least smell like it.  Tobacco has been a base note in classic perfumes for more than a century, but it is beginning to be given top billing in fragrances such as Xerjoff’s Comandante, a perfume made for cigar-lovers.  And if you miss the smell of cigarette smoke in your clothes, hair and furniture, Rosy Rings will provide you with a more palatable, chic reminder with their Honey Tobacco-scented Room & Linen Home Fragrance Spray.  Ivanabitch’s tobacco-flavored vodka also comes in plain and menthal.  Brooklyn, New York’s ice cream shop OddFellows offers a tobacco leaf with smoked chili and huckleberry ice cream.  And then there is a venue in the Lower East Side called Prohibition bakery, which specializes in boozy cupcakes.  Its pièce de résistance:  a booze and tobacco-laced Laphroaig scotch and cigar cupcake with molasses.  Although the recipe for this cult favorite is a secret, its creator divulged that it has a base made with a tincture of tobacco leaves.  Tobacco is reported to have a bitter and earthy flavor reminiscent of a hot pepper and something you can feel at the back of your throat.  Some chefs use tobacco leaves to smoke vegetables and cook pork shoulders in it.  Renowned chef Thomas Keller of French Laundry made a tobacco-leaf and coffee custard for Anthony Bourdain for an episode of A Cook’s Tour.   Whatever the reasons for the current trend, what might be most compelling about using tobacco as an ingredient is the subversiveness of the trend—sneaking something naughty and adult into our childhood comfort foods of ice cream and cupcakes.

 

Are 3D printed insect snacks the taste of the future?

Annie-Rose Harrison-Dunn

A team of food scientists and product designers at the London South Bank University hope to bring the two together in their snack and breads project, Insects au Gratin, but before that can happen they must overcome challenges. There are a number of technical challenges in printing insect flour.  It must be mixed with a fondant or ‘carrier’ to give it some structure.  The large particle size and high fat content of the flour causes blockages in the injector heads.  The high fat content also causes the flour to quickly become rancid.  Current de-fatting techniques make it unsafe to eat.  Once these obstacles are overcome, the hope is that 3D food printing will enable them to explore the aesthetics of food and in this instance, insects, radical uses of 3D printing technology may enable them to overcome the traditional aesthetic issues of ‘eating insects’.

 

New lithium-ion battery design inspired by a pomegranate

Matthew Humphries

You only have to look at recent coverage of rechargeable battery research to notice we’re willing to try anything to pack more energy more safely, into tiny battery packs.  Now we have a new design idea—one that was inspired by a pomegranate.  A research team working at Stanford University and the Department of Energy’s SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory has used the design of a pomegranate to overcome a range of issues when creating a silicon-based lithium-ion battery.  A pomegranate holds its seeds tightly together as a cluster inside a thick skin.  Although silicon is desirable for use in batteries, it greatly expands and falls apart when charged repeatedly.  But the pomegranate design overcomes that issue because it tightly clusters together the silicon yolks inside a carbon shell.  Not only does that allow for the expansion without falling apart, it also drastically reduces the amount of silicon exposed to the electrolyte.  The pomegranate-like structures are not currently viable for mass production because of the expense involved.  The process must be simplified and the source of the silicon nanoparticles currently being used is too expensive.  However, it looks like rice husks may help solve the second problem.

 

Gadget Lust: Pass the Vibrating Fork, Please

Marissa Rothkopf Bates

With its well-intentioned slogan (“Eat slowly, lose weight, feel great”), Hong Kong-based HapiLabs offers our nation of car-meal-inhaling human vacuum cleaners a tool to make us all healthier, more aware slo-mo eaters.  The HapiFork, a Bluetooth-enabled electronic fork, which measures how quickly you eat, has emerged from the Kickstarter kitchen with a brain and, it seems, a conscience.  It will vibrate gently (the author described it as more of a short intense buzz) against your lips when you don’t allow 10 seconds between forkfuls of food.  Apparently, we are not supposed to feed ourselves in one continuous motion, but rather to stop between mouthfuls, chew our food appreciatively and even make conversation with our tablemates.  Eating more slowly not only lets you appreciate your food, but allows your brain to register satiety, which typically takes up to 20 minutes.  The HapiFork looks a little clunky and high-tech with its brushed aluminum handle.  The handle stores the electronic key, which houses the data recorder and accelerometer.  The handle is easily removed so the fork can be washed.  Before its first use the fork must be programmed to the user’s eating style.  There’s Scooping, or American style, European-style and even Data Lover, which is for someone who wants precise measurements of their meals.  The fork comes with its own carrying case and you are encouraged to dine with it wherever you go.  There are also different modes, including a simple tracking one that lets you eat without evil vibrations disturbing your dinner, but it still records the number of bites and length of your meal.  If you are willing to sit with your mobile device on the table, the Bluetooth capability can upload your bites in real time to an app that will alert you if you eat too fast.  For all its evil cleverness, the fork attacks only part of the problem.  It doesn’t know what you’re putting in your mouth.  It also doesn’t count the food we eat with a spoon or with our hands.  It is not effective for controlling calorie intake, but it will “encourage” you to eat more slowly.

 

 

 




Brown’s Edible Examiner XXXV

AB_edible-examiner_V6

‘Brie Mine,’ And The Best Food Cards For Valentine’s Day

Huffington Post

There are a lot of ways you can show your love this Valentine’s Day.  You can cook an elaborate meal, bake some heart-shaped desserts, or make reservations at a fine restaurant.  All that takes time and/or money.  All your loved one really needs to know you care is a thoughtful card.  If your Valentine is a “foodie”, nothing expresses your feeling any better than, “I love you more than grilled cheese!”  Now, that’s just downright romantic.  Here are a few other suggestions:

  • I Cannoli Love You
  • Brie Mine
  • I’m Fondue You
  • You Are the Cheese to My Crackers
  • I Like You an Offal Lot
  • You’re the Syrup to My Pancake
  • Let’s Canoodle
  • I Love You More Than a Giant Burrito
  • You’re the Chocolate In My Trail Mix

 

But if you feel like spending money instead…..

 

Behold the World’s Most Expensive Valentine’s Day Menu

Hillary Dixler

Attention rich people who like theme dinners:  The British luxury retail site VeryFirstTo and culinary website GreatBritishChefs.com offer an in-home dining extravaganza that costs a staggering £61,000 (about $99,478.80) which, according to the Daily Mail, makes it the most costly Valentine’s Day option on the planet.  And just what does that get you?  Michelin starred British chef Adam Simmonds will prepare “the most romantic Valentine’s dinner ever” with “aphrodisiac-infused” ingredients such as Almus white caviar, white truffles and gold leaf.  The menu also features Pacific Bluefin tuna, which is an endangered species.  The meal will be served with “the rarest and most beautiful wines” including a £17,000 ($27,742.30) bottle of 1990 La Romanee-Conti, Domain de la Romanee-Conti.  Along with a live harpist and “romantic poet,” the package also brings a dozen white doves and 50 candles to the lucky couple’s home.  Don’t worry, your meal isn’t just about burning piles of money and eating endangered fish…for each dinner purchased £1,000 (about $1,630) will be donated to charity.  Follow the link for a look at the full menu and how to order.

 

The Surprisingly Unhealthy Foods Olympic Athletes Eat

Huffington Post

Olympic athletes competing in Sochi at this year’s Winter Games must be some of the healthiest people on the planet right now.  They’re training for hours each day and fueling their bodies with incredibly nutritious food.  Except when they’re not.  Everyone needs to indulge every once in a while, and Olympic athletes are no different.  When they are in training up to five hours a day, athletes are burning up to 4,000 or 6,000 calories per workout.  The rest of the population really wants to know what the athletes eat when they are let loose to chow down on their favorite “empty calories”.  Not only does that humanize them, but it makes the rest of us feel less guilty about the “crap” we eat.  Michael Phelps eats Sour Patch Kids, Reeses, chips and he gorges on pasta and pizza.  Snowboarder Shaun White loves Chinese food that comes from fast-food type places such as random ones in airports.  Hurdler and bobsled athlete Lolo Jones’ 9,000 calorie diet includes Double Bacon Cheeseburgers from McDonald’s.  Skier Ted Ligety eats, “lots of ice cream.”  Showboarder Kelly Clark drinks lots of chocolate milk.  Cross-country skier Kikkan Randall loves maple glazed doughnuts.  So, Olympic athletes:  they’re just like us?

 

Russia Is Blocking Chobani Yogurt From Olympics

AP, Huffington Post

U.S. Senator Charles Schumer of New York is calling on the Russian government to allow Chobani Greek yogurt to be delivered to Sochi for US Olympic athletes and NBC Studio employees.  Schumer said Tuesday that a shipment of Chobani yogurt is being held up at Newark Airport because of “unattainable” Russian Customs certifications.  The US Department of Agriculture has requested that Russia approve a USDA safety certificate, but Russia still won’t allow the shipment.  Chobani, based in upstate New York , is an official sponsor of the US Olympic team and the shipment will only be consumed by US citizens in Sochi.  A call to Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak’s press office was not immediately returned.

 

Farm Bill Passes Senate, Heads to Obama for Signature

Mary Clare Jalonick

Farm Bill, Passed By Senate, Awaits White House Signature

Food Product Design

Congress has given its final approval to a sweeping five-year farm bill that provides food for the needy and subsidies for farmers.  The bill provides a financial cushion for farmers who face unpredictable weather and market conditions.  But the bulk of its nearly $100 billion-a-year cost is for the food stamp program, which aids 1 in 7 Americans.  The final compromise bill gets rid of controversial subsidies known as direct payments, which are paid to farmers whether they farm or not.  The legislation gives organic farmers access to the same agriculture research and promotion programs as conventional farmers.  American Farm Bureau Federation President Bob Stallman said, “We are particularly pleased with provisions…to provide risk management to fruit and vegetable farmers and to support livestock farmers during disasters.”  The food stamp program (SNAP) was cut about 1 percent.  The farm bill is said to make the first changes to SNAP since 1996.  Some reforms include closing a loophole that artificially boosts benefit levels, establishing a 10-state pilot program to engage adults in mandatory work programs and verifying that food-stamp recipients are not receiving benefits in multiple states.  According to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO), the farm bill will yield savings of $14.3 billion in commodity programs and $8 billion in nutrition programs from 2014 through 2023.

 

U.S. Food Labels to Get First Update by FDA in 21 Years

Anna Edney

Nutrition Facts Label to Receive FDA Overhaul

Food Product Design

Food labels that help US shoppers decipher nutrition content are set to get their first makeover in 21 years.  The share of people who say they often use food labels rose to 54 percent in 2008 from 44 percent in 2002.  Partially reflecting increasing awareness of the importance of a healthy diet, the FDA will make changes to include updates to the nutrition facts panel on most foods sold in grocery stores.  The most significant changes will be to serving sizes, said Robert Post, chief science officer at FoodMinds, a Chicago-based consultant group for the food, beverage and nutrition industries. Details of the draft regulations can’t be viewed yet by the public, and the FDA declined to comment on its plan.  Neither has the FDA specified a timeline on when it plans to release the draft rules.  Critics of the current facts panel have pointed out that some information is unnecessary, hard to read and difficult to understand.  In a 2010 report, the Center for Science in the Public Interest suggested such changes as listing calories more prominently and revealing nutrient content for realistic serving sizes.  The Mayo Clinic explains that a food label is particularly important for individuals who are suffering from health conditions such as high blood pressure or high cholesterol and need to eat a special diet.  The overhaul could help consumers make more informed choices that lead them to shun excess calories and select healthier foods.

 

New virus linked to bee colony collapse disorder

Geoffrey Mohan

A rapidly mutating virus has leaped from plants to honeybees, where it is reproducing and contributing to the collapse of colonies.  Tobacco ringspot (RNA) virus, a pollen-borne pathogen that causes blight in soy crops, was found during routine screening of commercial honeybees at a USDA laboratory.  Further study revealed the RNA virus was replicating inside its hosts and spreading to mites that travel from bee to bee.  Traces of the virus were detected in every part of the bee examined except its eyes.  Only about 5% of plant viruses are known to be transmitted by pollen, and fewer still have been known to jump form the plant kingdom to insects.  That adds a complex layer to the forces driving colony collapse disorder.  The RNA virus’ relative role in the demise of colonies has not been measured—it would be difficult to separate it from a cocktail of pathogens and stresses negatively affecting bees.  The new virus, along with the well-documented Isareli Acute Paralysis Virus, was correlated with colonies deemed “weak” due to a variety of stresses.  It also showed a similar seasonal fluctuation—infection rates rose to a 22.5% high in winter.  Researchers are uncertain about whether the infection persists without bees picking up more virus from visited plants, and whether the infected bees can spread the virus to otherwise healthy plants.

 

The internet of bees could save our food supply

Todd Woody

Australian scientists believe they have devised a way to pinpoint the causes of the global die-off of bees that pollinate a third of the world’s crops: Attach tiny sensors to 5,000 honey bees, and follow where they fly.  The sensors, each measuring 2.5 millimeters by 2.5 millimeters (0.1 inch by 0.1 inch), contain radio frequency identification chips that broadcast each bee’s location in real time.  The data is beamed to a server, so scientists can construct a three-dimensional model of the swarm’s movements, which will allow them to identify anomalies in the swarm’s behavior.  Worker bees are not called drones for nothing—they tend to follow predictable daily schedules.  Variations in their routines may indicate a change in environment, such as exposure to pesticides.  Previous studies of Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) have pointed to everything from pesticides, poor nutrition to stress to automotive exhaust.  Researchers suspect that some pesticides may interfere with bees’ abilities to orient themselves as they fly forage.  That’s crucial, as bees are social insects that communicate the location of pollen to others in the hive.  None of these studies have involved tracking bees’ behavior in real time in the real world.  Scientists at Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO) are planning to release 5,000 tagged bees in the Australian island state of Tasmania.  If the sensor-equipped bees transmit data indicating that they have changed their behavior, it may point to exposure to something in the environment and scientists can quickly pinpoint the location and identify the cause.  The project will be watched closely in the rest of the world, particularly in Europe where a recent study found that demand for pollination is fast outstripping the supply of bees.

 

Spices and Their Health Benefits

Casey Seidenberg

People once believed that cinnamon grew in deep caves infested with poisonous snakes and that winged monsters guarded other spices.  Though the monsters were legend, spices were for a long time deemed so valuable they were believed to need protection.  Spices made the same meat and rice palatable night after night.  Spices were seen as a sign of wealth: The more someone used, the more prosperous they appeared.  And spices weren’t just for seasoning food; they were also used as medicine.  People didn’t have antibiotics and cough suppressants; they had turmeric, cayenne and cumin.   Prices may have gone down, but that doesn’t mean spices aren’t a valuable part of a healthful diet.  Many spices aid in digestion and nutrient absorption.  Here are a few spices that are simple to incorporate into everyday meals:

  • Cardamom is used in alternative medicine to remove toxins.  It has also been linked to anti-tumor activity.
  • Capsicum, the active ingredient in Cayenne has been shown to increase circulation and contribute to weight loss.
  • Cinnamon is popular in Chinese medicine for its antioxidant properties.  It also can enhance glucose sensitivity.
  • Cumin was traditionally added to foods to aid in digestion and the absorption of nutrients.  Recently it has been shown to have antibacterial qualities.
  • Ginger is often recommended for nausea and upset stomach.  It has also shown anti-inflammatory properties.
  • Black Pepper was one of the most sought-after and expensive spices during the spice trade era.  It has been proved to lower blood lipids and inhibit cholesterol absorption.
  • Turmeric’s active ingredient curcumin, “Has been shown to exhibit antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antiviral, antibacterial, antifungal, and anticancer activities…,” according to a review in Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology.

Spices last a while, but they lose their flavor over time, so buy them in usable quantities, store them in tightly sealed glass containers in the dark away from the heat of the oven for optimal freshness.

 

Grade Inflation In The Maple Syrup Aisle: Now Everything is An “A”

April Fulton

Why would you choose a B grade if you can get an A?  Well, if you want a richer, darker, more intense maple syrup, you should pick Grade B.  But the idea that B beats A is counterintuitive to most consumers.  So this month Vermont became the first state to give all syrup sold to consumers a grade of A, and require labels that are more descriptive of the syrup’s flavor.  For example, the lightest kind of maple syrup sold, “Grade A, Light Amber” will become “Grade A Golden, Delicate Taste”.   Many bottles previously labeled “Grade A Dark Amber” and those labeled “Grade B” will become “Grade A Dark, Robust Taste”.  Consumers need to know what to expect.  Canada currently uses a numbers grading system, and the New England states where syrup is produced each have their particular additional rules on thickness.  But basically, the color descriptions have to do with how much light passes through the syrup.  Butternut Mountain Farms, one of Vermont’s biggest maple syrup producers, claims that “Removing the ‘inferior’ Grade B classification for the darkest syrups…will allow people to make decisions based upon taste rather [than] perceived quality.”  The new rules will also open up a whole new world of dark syrups to consumers who, up until now, couldn’t get syrups that didn’t let enough light in.

 

Chocolate flavor, without the sugar

Casey Seidenberg

Want a “chocolate milkshake”, “chocolate chip” pancakes, banana “chocolate chip” muffins or “chocolate chip” granola bars, all of which have loads of antioxidants and are free of processed chocolate, yet deliver that heavenly chocolate taste?  What’s the secret? Raw Cacao Nibs.  Cacao beans are the main ingredient in chocolate, so they have that delicious chocolate flavor without the unhealthful added sugar.  Cacao nibs and powder use the name “cacao” to designate the raw, unprocessed version of the bean.  In David Wolfe’s book Superfoods, cacao beans are:

  • Higher in antioxidant than blueberries, pomegranates, goji berries, acai berries and red wine.
  • A formidable source of magnesium, which is needed for a healthy heart and brain, muscles, bones and blood.
  • A solid source of iron, essential for healthy blood.
  • High in Vitamin C.
  • The mood-boosting amino acid tryptophan is also found in the bean.

Life with cacao nibs suddenly becomes a box of chocolates, except in this case, you know all the goodness you are getting.

 

Could this berry mean you can eat junk food guilt free? Lingonberries ‘halt the effects of a high-fat diet’

Emma Innes

Researchers at Lund University recently discovered that Scandinavian Lingonberries—which are sometimes known as cowberries in the UK—almost completely prevented weight gain in mice fed a high-fat diet.  The berries also lower blood sugar levels and cholesterol.  The study also showed that the ‘super berry’ acai can lead to weight gain.  The research team conducted their study using a type of mouse that easily stores fat.  Some of the mice were fed a low-fat diet, while the majority of the animals were fed a diet high in fat.  They were then divided into groups, where all except the control group were fed a type of berry—lingonberry, bilberry, raspberry, crowberry, blackberry, prune, blackcurrat or acai berry.  When compared after three moths, they observed that the lingonberry group had by far the best results.  The lingonberry group had not put on more weight than the control group and their blood sugar and insulin reading were similar to those of the ‘low-fat’ mice.  Their cholesterol levels and levels of fat in the liver were also lower than those of the animals who received a high-fat diet without any berries.  Blackcurrant and bilberries also produced good effects, although not as pronounced as the lingonberries.  The acai berries, on the other hand, led to weight gain and higher levels of fat in the liver.  The team will now continue to work on understanding the molecular mechanisms involved in the effect of lingonberries.  They will also see whether the effect can be observed in humans.  According to Karin Berger, diabetes researcher at Lund, “…the goal is to prevent obesity and diabetes by supplementing a more normal diet with berries.”  Lingonberries are very popular in Sweden and are commercially cultivated in some parts of the U.S.

 

Barbecue Tourism Is A Real Thing:  Here’s the 2014 Competition Calendar

Chis Chamberlain

In 2014, people will continue to travel the globe for barbecue.  In addition to competitive pitmasters, who pack up their rolling rigs to travel around the country to cook in contests every weekend of the year, there are now BBQ trails that allow casual enthusiasts to visit notable representatives of various regional styles of smoked meats.  Check out some of these upcoming U.S. events for 2014 and start blocking out time on the office vacation calendar.

  • February 21-23: Cattleman’s Caribbean BBQ Competition, San Juan, PR.  When there’s no more football to watch, why not hop a plane to old San Juan and watch he pros cook off for $5,000 in prize money?
  • February 27-March 1: Houston Livestock & Rodeo World Championship Bar-B-Que Contest, Houston, TX.  This competition is about as big as they come with 300 teams competing over three days.  Unlike some other competitions, there is plenty for the casual visitors to eat and drink in the Saloon, plus you can scoot your boots to some twin Texas fiddles.
  • April 18-19:  New York City BBQ Cookoff, Staten Island, NY.  This Kansas City Barbecue Society-sanctioned event qualifies as a state championship, so you know the pitmasters will be bringing their A game.
  • April 25-26:  BBQ Capital Cookoff, Lexington, NC.  This event basically shuts down the entire downtown of this smoky hamlet for a weekend of meat, music and merriment.
  • May 15-17: Memphis in May World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest, Memphis, TN.  Nobody parties like Memphis in May participants, and their massive rigs can reach three stories tall.
  • June 7-8:  Big Apple BBQ Block Party, New York, NY
  • August 23-24:  Music City Music & BBQ Festival, Nashville, TN
  • September 18-20: Murphysboro Barbecue Cook-Off, Murphysboro, IL
  • September 28-October 6:  American Royal BBQ Contest, Kansas City, MO
  • October 18:  Sam’s Club National Championship, Bentonville, AS
  • November 6-9: World Food Championships, Las Vegas, NV

 

Subway Removing ‘Shoe Rubber’ Chemical From Bread

Candice Choi

A popular food blogger recently launched a petition asking Subway to stop using the ingredient, called azodicarbonamide.  The petition noted that the azodicarbonamide used in its bread “as a bleaching agent” is also used to make yoga mats and shoe rubber.  The petition further noted that Subway doesn’t use the ingredient in its breads in Europe, Australia or other parts of the world.  A representative for Subway says that they are in the process of removing the chemical and that the change was underway before the petition was launched.  Subway says that the conversion will be completed soon, but did not give a timeline.  Even though Subway is not the only vendor to use the ingredient, Subway was chosen because it is trying to project a healthy image and has endorsement deals with Olympic athletes.

 

5 Outrageously Good Dishes You Can Make In A Waffle Iron

Lynn Andriana

No need to limit the waffle iron to lazy, Sunday-morning breakfasts.

  • Grilled cheese sandwich.  You can cook a grilled cheese in the frying pan, toast it in the toaster oven or stick it under the broiler, but none will give you the multidimensional crunch that a waffle iron will.  Two golden rules:  butter the outsides of your bread before placing in the waffle iron, then sprinkle with sea salt before serving.
  • Chicken and Waffles That’ll Cause a Double Take.  Sear the tenders, fold the chicken—along with bread crumbs that you’ve lightly browned under the broiler—into waffle batter and ladle onto the waffle maker.
  • Cheesy Pasta with 2 Crispy Sides.  Bread cold blocks of mac’n’cheese in flour, egg and breadcrumbs.  They hold up well to the machine’s heat and weight.
  • 90-Second Cookies.  Heating on both sides transforms a ball of dough (store-bought or homemade) into a hot and crisp cookie in a minute and a half, or less.
  • Portable scrambled eggs.  Whisk two or three eggs with a dash of milk and stir in diced peppers, mushrooms or onions; shredded cheese; or minced herbs.  Pour onto iron at medium-high heat and cook for about two minutes for a delicious portable breakfast.

 

The Next Hot Ice Cream Flavor Is Made From Bones?

Huffington Post

I scream, you scream, we all scream for….bone marrow?

Bone Marrow & Bourbon Smoked Cherries is one of the next must-try flavors in this summer’s upcoming lineup from Salt & Straw, a small-batch ice cream maker based in Portland, OR. To call the practice of eating bone marrow a current culinary trend wouldn’t be inaccurate, but it’s certainly nothing new.  Our primordial ancestors have been sucking marrow out of their prey’s bones for thousands of years.  Because bone marrow is primarily made of fat, it’s a natural fit in ice cream, which is one of the fattiest foods we know.  If that doesn’t “float your boat”, Salt & Straw’s lineup of summer flavors include:  Black Raspberries & Pork Belly, Melon & Prosciutto, and Goat Cheese Marionberry Habanero.  Don’t worry if you don’t live in the Portland area:  You can buy it online.

 




Brown’s Edible Examiner XXXIV

AB_edible-examiner_V6

With nearly a ton of butter, Texas gingerbread house sets record

John Herskovitz

Coming in at 35.8 million calories and covering an area of 2,520 square feet, the 21-foot high gingerbread house in Bryan, Texas, has been declared the biggest ever by Guinness World Records.  The house, with an edible exterior mounted over a wooden frame, was built by the Traditions Club near Texas A&M University to help raise money for a trauma center at the regional St. Joseph’s Hospital.  The previous record holder was a 36,600-cubic-foot model construction in Bloomington, Minnesota’s Mall of America in 2012.  The recipe: 1,800 pounds of butter; 2,925 pounds of brown sugar; 7,200 eggs; 7,200 pounds all-purpose flour; 1,080 ounces ground ginger and a few other ingredients, bake and form into panels for mounting.  The house withstood sun and a few storms.  One unanticipated problem:  bees.  The bees loaded up on so much sugar they stumbled around as if they were drunk!

 

The Year in Five (or so) Food Stories

Food News Journal

With food stamps going to record numbers of recipients, freaky food trends like cronuts and the ramen burger, and the usual assortment of trends and travesties, it isn’t easy to pick favorites.  But Food News Journal did.

  1. Fallen Stars.  Culinary luminaries Paula Dean and Nigella Lawson both suffered fairly ignominious falls from grace this year.
  2. Lost Icons.  The sudden death of Chicago chef Charlie Trotter at 54 rocked the national food firmament.  Widely regarded as the man who turned Chicago into a culinary hot spot, Trotter was known as much for his zealous sourcing of absolute-best ingredients as for his oftimes prickly nature.  Judy Rodgers left no less a legacy.  Though perhaps not as larger-than-life as Trotter, the 57-year-old chef at San Francisco’s Zuni was nonetheless as influential.
  3. Sriracha’s Death Knell?  When enough neighbors of a southern California Sriracha plant complained about the harmful effects of fumes from the crushed chile peppers, a California court took notice.  The plant was partially shut down, and the nation’s cultish hot-sauce supply was in jeopardy.  Though sauce maker Huy Fong says there’s enough to go around, heat aficionados won’t breathe a spicy sigh of relief until the factory is back at full strength.
  4. Insta-Edibles.  So many foodies photographed their comestibles over the once-in-a-bluemoon holiday Thanksgivvikuh that Instagram set a new company upload record.
  5. Fast-Food Wage Wars.  Fast-food jobs may be plentiful, but the pay is more suited to high-school students than to self-supporting adults, much less parents.  Last summer and again in early December, workers in cities across the US organized strikes to protest their roughly $8-per-hour salaries and demand a living wage.

There are many stories we’re leaving out like the “Tips for Jesus”, the rise and rise of Charleston chef Sean Brock, Prince Charles’ philanthropic–and organic—food business, and the 3D-printer food, but we just couldn’t do it all.

 

5 Surprising Things We Feed Cows

Alex Park

In addition to the old standbys of corn, soy, hay (and, uh drugs), “there’s a lot of stuff which the general public might not think of as feeds which are actually quite common,” according to a livestock nutrition expert at Oregon State University.  Examples:

  1. Sawdust.  Sawdust is made up largely of cellulose, a carbohydrate.  Remove the binding compound, lignin by soaking it in nitric acid, and the cows are ready to chow down.  They like it, it’s good for them, it’s economical and it’s green!
  2. Candy, wrapper and all.  Ranchers report feeding their beef steers and dairy cows a variety of bulk candy, including gummy worms, marshmallows, hard candy, sprinkles, chocolate, candy corn and hot chocolate mix.  Candy provides sugar that cows would usually get from corn, giving them more energy and making them fatter.  The wrappers just pass through like excess fiber.
  3. Chicken poop.  It’s plentiful and cheap.  The problem is not the poop itself, but the smorgasbord of other substances it frequently comes with, including feathers, heavy metals, bacteria, antibiotics, and bits of rodents.
  4. Ground limestone.  The stuff is a cheap source of calcium, and it also seems to promote growth.
  5. Crab guts.  For ranchers and feedlots near the coast, seafood byproducts can be mixed into other feeds and can be an abundant source of cheap protein.  Fishmeal cattle feed isn’t a new idea; Marco Polo observed in his diary that cows at it “without any sign of dislike.”

 

The 6 Ingredients You Should Never, Ever Substitute

Joel Ozersky

There are times when we all suffer from a lack of planning and we are scrambling in our pantry and substituting ingredients.  In some cases, you really need the real deal.  Consider the absence of the following from your cupboard as a roadblock and reconsider your plans—unless plans don’t include a trip to the market.

  1. Fresh herbs.  It’s not that dried herbs are bad.  But when you actually need fresh rosemary for a board dressing, or fresh parsley for a pan sauce, or fresh thyme with which to perfume the foaming butter in which you are bathing a steak, you cannot go to the jar instead.  If all you have is dried herbs, re-improvise.
  2. Decent olive oil.  Don’t get carried away cost-wise with this one.  Good olive oil should be greenish, at the very least; olive oil should taste like olives.  Otherwise, what’s the point?
  3. Good Italian cheeses.  If you need to use Parmigiano cheese, don’t reach for the green can of shake cheese!
  4. Fresh garlic.  Do not get the jar with tan granules suspended in amniotic fluid.  It’s not OK.
  5. Beef: Choice (or better).  Beef animals that are raised like eggplants and sent off to bovine death camps tend to produce crappy meat, the kind that’s as red as a clip-art icon.  If your choice is between, say, a gnarly, all-red strip steak and a richly marbled, healthy-looking boneless short rib, go for the latter or just make lamb chops.
  6. Beef: ground chuck or sirloin.  In the meat aisle fresh ground beef is usually marked as either 80 or 90 percent lean.  Eighty percent is chuck, and better; 90 percent is sirloin, and worse. But either is infinitely preferable to anything marked “hamburger,” fresh or frozen.

 

Ten “Blood” Products Other than Diamonds

Greg Krauss

Diamonds aren’t the only kind of natural resource often tainted by bloodshed and abuse.  In a few cases natural resources have contributed to so much trouble that, like diamonds, they have earned the adjective “blood” or “conflict.” Here are a few examples:

  • Conflict gold (1).  A civil war in eastern areas of the Democratic Republic of Congo has claimed more than 5 million lives since 1998.  Rebel groups obtain much of their financing by controlling the gold trade.
  • Conflict Tin (2), Tantalum (3), and Tungsten (4).  Is your smartphone funding a civil war?  All three are found in electronics as well as other products.
  • Blood Sapphires (5) and Jade (6).  Military leaders in Burma, or Myanmar, continue to suppress ethnic minorities and operate mines that rely on child labor and forced labor.
  • Blood Ivory (7).  Elephant poaching in Africa has risen as poachers try to meet rising demand for ivory in China.
  • Blood Cocoa (8).  Cote d’lvoire is the largest cocoa producer in the world, and cocoa production there continues to fund rebel militants.  The reliance of the Ivorian cocoa industry on child labor is another serious problem.
  • Blood Timber (9).  “Blood timber” was used to describe logging in Liberia during the early 2000s that helped finance Charles Taylor’s corrupt and brutal government.  More recently, it was used with reference to teak wood sold by the Burmese military junta.
  • Conflict Palm Oil (10).  Rising demand for palm oil, an ingredient found in snack foods, has led to the disruption of millions of acres of rainforest in Indonesia and Malaysia.  New palm oil plantations are also taking away habitat from endangered orangutans and rely on child labor and forced labor.

 

11 Things You Didn’t Know About Pomegranates

Emily Saladino

In season through January, pomegranates are one of the more delicious ways to fight off holiday excess.  Get tart, and smart, with these 11 pomegranate truths:

  1. Heart of the matter: The edible parts of the pomegranates are technically arils, not seeds. The tart, semi-translucent red aril coats the seed within, protecting it and enticing animals to eat up and share the love.
  2. Make it rain.  Removing the fruit from its shell can be a drag.  There are different techniques but our favorite is violent yet effective:  Cut a pomegranate in half horizontally.  Hold one half, cut side down, into a relatively deep bowl.  Smack the uncut side of the fruit with a spatula or other blunt object and watch the seeds fall out.
  3. The pom, the myth, the legend:  In Ovid’s Metamorphoses, Pluto uses pomegranate seeds to trick Prosepina into shacking up with him for four months every year.  Her semi-annual jaunts were a way to explain the changing of the seasons.
  4. To your health.  Rich with antioxidants, anti-inflammatory fibers and paraoxonase enzymes, pomegranates can limit UV damage, help prevent arthritis and keep bad cholesterol from accumulating in arteries.
  5. Feel the chill.  The average pomegranate can contain anywhere from 200 to 1,400 arils.  Fortunately, arils can be frozen for up to three months.
  6. Parlez-vous artillery?  The French word for pomegranate is grenade.  Etymologists speculate the connection stems from 15th Century cast-iron grenades, which were filled with tiny, round pockets of gunpowder.  To the gentlemen soldier-botanists throwing them in France, these resembled aril-filled pomegranates.
  7. Heaven is a place on earth: Judeo-Christian historians believe pomegranates to be among the fruits given to Moses to demonstrate the fertility of ancient Israel.  Some argue that, given its widespread cultivation in the region, pomegranate was probably the original forbidden fruit.  And the Quran cites pomegranates, grapes and olives as earthly evidence of Allah’s greatness.
  8. Alternative appeal.  A prominent tool in Hindu Ayurveda, alternative healers boil and grind the peels into a powder, and use it to treat tonsillitis, inflamed or bleeding gums and even just bad breath.  Roasted pomegranate skin is mixed with rose water for an all-natural astringent, and juiced arils are said to prevent memory loss, osteoarthritis and heart disease.
  9. Been around the world.  A Persian native, pomegranates grow throughout the Middle East and central Asia.  They were brought to China’s Han dynasty around 100 BC, had a starring role on the Roman plate, made their way to Spain by 800 AD and were brought to the Americas by 15th Century Spanish conquistadors.
  10. Rinse and repeat.  No toothbrush? Pomegranate juice is filled with polyphenolic flavonoids, which make it as antibacterial as prescription mouthwash.
  11. Never too late for now.  Pomegranates do not continue to develop sugars after they’re harvested, so, once picked, they remain ripe.  They are good in your refrigerator for up to 2 months.

 

Hops, Fernet and the next Sriracha? Sensient’s 12 flavors to watch in 2014

Maggie Hennessey

The growing consumer desire for sophisticated, nuanced and personalized flavor experiences—with the enticing added benefit of health and wellness claims is what will dominate flavor trends in the coming year, according to global flavor and fragrance supplier Sensient Flavors.  The 12 flavors to watch are:

  1. Balsamic fig.  A blend of sweet, full-flavored figs and aged dark balsamic vinegar is neither too sweet nor too tart.
  2. Burnt calamansi.  A hybrid of a kumquat and mandarin orange, burnt calamansi has a unique citrus profile similar to a sour orange or a slightly sweeter lime.
  3. Fernet.  An aromatic spirit or bitter containing myrrh, chamomile, cardamom, aloe and saffron that is a popular digestif in Italy.
  4. Ginger plum.  A juicy, sweet and tart plum with a touch of spice from ginger.
  5. Gochujang.  Referred to by some as “the new Sriracha sauce,” it is a savory and pungent fermented Korean condiment made from red chiles, rice, fermented soybeans and salt.
  6. Green coconut.  Green (young) coconut gained its initial recognition in the US form the rise of popularity of coconut water.
  7. Guasacaca.  A Venezuelan avocado sauce with a bright, grassy parsley note.
  8. Juniper berries.  Gin is primarily flavored with Juniper berries and invokes the nostalgic feeling of an elegant past era.
  9. Rhubarb.  With antioxidants, vitamins and minerals, Rhubarb has a straightforwardly tart flavor profile.
  10. Ras el Hanout.  A spice blend which brings the flavors and culture of Morocco to consumers’ doorsteps.  Its name in Arabic means “top of the shop,” or the best spices the merchant has to offer.
  11. Tayberry.  Cross between a blackberry and a red raspberry.  Rich in vitamins and antioxidants.
  12. Willamette hop.  Used primarily as a flavoring and stability agent, hops impart a bitter, tangy flavor in beer, and increasingly, in confections and other unexpected food products.

 

Americans’ eating habits worst since 2008; ‘systemic change’ needed, RD says

Maggie Hennessy

According to the latest Gallup/Healthways poll, Americans’ eating habits deteriorated in 2013.  Healthy eating is down for all months in 2013 when compared with 2012.  Additionally the percentage of Americans who report eating five or more servings of fruits and vegetables at least four times a week dropped in eight out of 10 months.  Moreover, healthy eating in most months last year has been at its lowest in Gallup trends since 2008.  In line with these results, Gallup and Healthways reported in November that the adult obesity rate so far in 2013 is 27.2% (up from 26.2% in 2012), and is on pace to surpass all annual average obesity rates since 2008.

 

Sweeteners with health benefits

Casey Seidenberg

For those of you with a sweet tooth, remember:  Not all sweeteners are alike.  Refined white sugar and corn syrup have no nutrients, have a high glycemic index and contribute to obesity and diabetes.  The artificial sweetener aspartame has no nutrients and has been shown to cause problems such as dizziness and headaches.  Many agave syrups contain more fructose than high-fructose corn syrup.  There are two star sweeteners that impart flavor and nutritional benefits.

Blackstrap molasses.  High in iron and calcium, this sweetener offers health benefits with a sweet, tangy flavor.  It can be substituted for molasses in most recipes, but is slightly more bitter.   Blackstrap molasses also offers magnesium, potassium, copper and manganese.  It has similar calorie count and sugar content as white sugar, but its glycemic load is lower so that diabetics can consume it more safely.

Grade B pure maple syrup.  With a higher sugar content and a lower mineral content than blackstrap molasses, maple syrup has a more universal sweet taste.  Two teaspoons of maple syrup provide 22 percent of your daily requirement of manganese.  The zinc in maple syrup supports our immunity and heart.  A majority of shoppers purchase grade A maple syrup because it most resembles the highly processed versions made with corn syrup.  Grade B is usually produced later in the season, tends to have a richer flavor, pours a bit thicker and is more nutrient dense.

 

Tooth-friendly candy promise with novel probiotic, says BASF-backed study

Oliver Nieburg

A short-term pilot study claims that a lactic acid bacterium holds potential for use in sugar-free candies to reduce the risk of dental caries.  Research conducted by German R&D firm Organo Balance with support from BASF found that Lactobacillus paracasei DSMZ16671 (LP) could be added to sugar-free candies to improve oral health.  The randomized, double blind, in vivo study split 60 participants into three groups.  Each group was instructed to consume either a placebo candy or one containing either 1 or 2 mg of PB per piece four times during one and a half consecutive days.  They found mutans streptococci was significantly lower for the PB candy groups as compared to participants’ levels before the study.  Levels in the placebo group were largely unchanged.  The effect was witnessed in spite of the fact the PB bacteria was killed by heat.  Further trials are planned with larger populations.

 

ScienceShot: How to Green Your Firing Range

Matt Davenport

Firing ranges host some of the planet’s most heavily contaminated soils.  Cleaning this soil is often too costly for the operators of military and private ranges.  Now, Korean scientists have created a natural mixture that sops up nearly all the metals:  pulverized oyster shells and fly ash, the sooty particles spewed by combustion.  Combining the two waste products creates a concoction rich in minerals that shackle metal ions within tight molecular bonds.  The researchers identified a unique blend that locked up 98% of leachable lead contamination and 96% of the copper in grossly contaminated firing-range soil.  Other soil-scouring techniques exist, but the shells-and-ashes approach is far cheaper and more sustainable.

 

Self-Cleaning Tableware Will Change Your Life…And Your Bad Habits

Huffington Post

Thanks to an invention by Swedish design studio Tomorrow Machine who has created a way to do away with one of our least favorite household chores—washing dishes.  Self-cleaning tableware uses the organic compound cellulose (which is mostly used to produce paper) eliminates the need for washing plates and dishes ever again.  The cellulose pulp is first made into a sheet, which is then heat pressed in a mold.  The material becomes as hard as a regular ceramic product.  A wax is dissolved in carbon dioxide at high pressure and temperature, and then sprayed onto the surface.  The coating is a new technology, which creates a surface that’s resistant to dirt and water.  Still in prototype, the technology isn’t ready for the industry just yet.

The Alton Browncast has been selected for iTunes Best of 2013!  Showcasing picks chosen by the iTunes Editorial team, this feature celebrates the year’s best music, TV shows, movies, books and podcasts.

Check out the feature here:  http://www.itunes.com/bestof2013




Brown’s Edible Examiner XXXIII

AB_edible-examiner_V6

Turkeys Fed Beer for Flavor, Size

Holly Ramer

Henniker, NH—When it comes to pairing beer with poultry, Joe Morette isn’t too fussy.  His turkeys will drink just about anything.  Morette has been giving his birds beer since 1993, when he and his workers popped open a few cans after work on a hot July day and a turkey knocked one over and started drinking, he said, and they’ve been sipping the suds ever since.  Morette insists the beer makes the birds fatter, more flavorful and juicier.  He also said that the gravy is much darker and the bird overall has a slightly different taste that is very appealing.  The animal rights group PETA said turkeys shouldn’t be fed beer, but a poultry expert with the University of New Hampshire Cooperative Extension said it is unlikely the birds are suffering.  Kathy Brock, national director of Humane Heartland, which oversees the treatment of farm animals said, “I consulted with an avian veterinarian who said that while giving beer to turkeys is not a standard protocol, hops could be beneficial for the intestinal tract.”  Morette’s turkeys are not the first animals to consume alcohol.  Japanese farmers have been said to feed cattle beer to stimulate their appetites.  And a winemaker and farmer in the south of France have experimented with feeding cows the remainders of pressed grapes to produce meat they’ve dubbed “Vinbovin.”

 

Trimming the Fat

Alexandra Sifferlin

“Time” Magazine, November 25, 2013

FDA to Ban Trans Fat

Mary Clare Jaloick

F.D.A. Ruling Would All but Eliminate Trans Fat

Sabrina Tavernise

Major FDA Breakthrough Regarding Trans Fat

Michael F. Jacobson

The CDC estimates that trans fats contribute to 20,000 heart attacks and 7,000 heart-disease-related deaths each year.  Those mounting stats prompted the FDA to declare that trans fats are no longer on the FDA list “generally recognized as safe”.   The agency isn’t yet setting a timeline for the phase-out, but will collect comments for two months before officials determine how long it will take.  Different foods may have different timelines, depending how easy it is to substitute.   Once trans fats are off the list, anyone who wants to use them would have to petition the agency for a regulation allowing it.  That means companies would have to prove that such oils are safe to eat, a high hurdle given that scientific literature overwhelmingly shows the contrary.  The Institute of Medicine has concluded that there is no safe level of consumption of them, a conclusion that the FDA cited in its reasoning.   Denmark was the first country to virtually eliminate trans fat from foods in 2003, said Michael F. Jacobson, executive director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, which first petitioned the FDA to require the fats be listed on nutrition labels in 1994.  Austria, Iceland and Switzerland followed.

 

Can You Taste the Difference of No Trans Fat? Probably Not

J. M. Hirsch

5 Food That Still Have Trans Fats—But Won’t for Long

Huffington Post

The trans fat purge began when federal officials first took aim at the ingredient more than a decade ago, but hit critical mass when trans fat content was added to nutrition labels on packaged foods in 2006.  As consumer awareness grew, companies worked fast to reformulate products to reduce or eliminate trans fats, which are considered unsafe at any level.  You’d think we would have noticed.  Trans fats can play a significant role in a food’s texture, structure and taste.  Like butter—but more cheaply and with better shelf life—they put the flakiness in flakey piecrusts, and Americans baked with them in the form of Crisco (also now free of trans fats) for generations.  But there are lots of alternatives, and companies simply had to test their way through them until they found the right one for their products.  Food with traces of trans fats still lingering will have to rethink.  Here are a few of those culprits:

  • Some Margarine.  Certain margarine products still contain trans fat, and, in some cases, high amounts.  Land O Lakes sticks, for example, contain 3 grams of trans fat in just one tablespoon.  Soft margarine packaged in tubs is less likely to have trans fat.
  • Instant Soup.  Certain brands of instant noodles and soup cups contain trans fats.  The sneakiest part?  The nutrition facts clearly state 0 grams trans fat.  That’s because up to 0.5 grams of the stuff can be rounded down to zero.
  • Fast Food.  Fast food joints like trans fats because they can be re-used for frying, which saves money.  Watch out for anything deep-fried, like chicken tenders and French fries.  But even burgers aren’t safe:  Burger King’s Whopper, for example, contains 1.5 grams of the stuff.
  • Microwave Popcorn.  Some brands have cut trans fats out of your movie night, but others, like Pop Secret, still contain as many as 5 grams of trans fats per serving.
  • Ready-Made Frosting.  Hopefully, you’re not eating much of this treat anyway.  Just two tablespoons of one Pillsbury frosting contains 1.5 grams and one Betty Crocker variety has 2 grams.

 

4 Foods That Could Disappear If New Food Safety Rules Pass

Mother Jones

When President Obama signed into law an overhaul of the nation’s food safety regime in early 2011, it was clear that the system needed a kick in the pants.  The law, known as the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), was a pretty modest piece of work when it came to reining in massive operations that can sicken thousands nationwide with a single day’s output.  No surprise since Big Food’s main lobbying group, the Grocery Manufacturers Association, notes on its website that, “GMA worked closely with legislators to craft the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act and will work closely with the FDA to develop rules and guidance to implement the provisions of this new law.”  To allay fears of one-size-fits-all regulations, Congress exempted most operations with sales of less than $500,000 from most of its requirements.  But the proof is in the rule making—the process by which federal agencies, In this case the FDA, translate Congressional legislation into enforceable law.  Congress intended its exemption to save small farms from overly burdensome regulation, but the question remains:  How would the FDA put it into action?  Finally, more than two years after Obama signed FSMA, the FDA’s rule-making process appears to be nearing an end.  Unfortunately, the proposed rules as currently written represent a significant and possibly devastating burden to small and midsize players.  If you’ll excuse the gimmick, here are four foods that could go missing if the FDA sticks to the current version of its food-safety rules:

  1. The local, organic carrots in your kid’s school lunch program.  Many farm-to-school programs are facilitated by what the USDA calls food hubs—operations that gather produce from small farmers and sell it, usually to buyers like schools, restaurants, and retailers.  The new rules imperil food hubs in two ways.  The new law’s less-than-$500,000 exemption applies only to farms that sell more than half of their produce directly to consumers.  But a growing number of small farms earn a significant amount of their income selling to third-party local enterprises like food hubs and food co-ops.  If revenue from those sources exceeds half of total revenue, these farms would lose their exemption and become subject to costly requirements.  Then there’s the problem that the FDA’s proposed rules have not settled upon a definition of “very small business.”  If such a definition isn’t spelled out, operations like food hubs could be regulated well beyond their risk and with compliance costs too high for the to stay in business.
  2. The kohlrabi in your farm-share box.  Because the current proposal doesn’t narrowly define “manufacturing facilities,” CSAs and other “direct farmer-to-consumer” farms that do light processing activities or include produce from another farm in their boxes will be subject to inappropriate, excessive regulations designed for industrial food facilities,” NSAC states.
  3. The pickles peddled by your favorite hipster farmer.  Small value-added operations—like pickle and salsa makers—are also endangered by these hazy definitions.  NSAC reports that the proposed rules “treat pickles like a dangerous substance.
  4. The local, organic spinach you’re hooked on.  Most organic farmers apply manure in November and plant their first cash crops in April, harvesting some of them, like salad greens, soon after.  That’s a five-to-six-month gap.  The FDA’s new rules would push the limit for all farms to nine months, making the fertility programs that drive organic farming essentially illegal, and also directly contradicting the FSMA itself, which had stipulated that the new safety rules should not conflict with the National Organic Program.  In a recent national survey by the Organic Trade Association and the Washington State Department of Agriculture, 55 percent of respondents said the manure rule would prevent them from maintaining their current crop rotations and crop diversity, and another 45 percent said it would have a “moderate” effect on crop rotation and diversity.

The nation deserves a food safety regime that focuses on real threats while not imposing the same regulatory burden on, say, a CSA or a diversified vegetable farm as it does a giant peanut-paste factory.  The FDA accepted public comments on its proposed rules until November 15.  Stay tuned.

 

Unearthed: Where supporters and opponents agree on GMOs

Tamar Haspel

When it comes to genetically modified foods, you don’t have to look hard to find issues that supporters and opponents disagree on.  But does that mean they have to disagree about everything?  Although there’s scant common ground between those for and against, there must be ground worth exploring if we’re ever to make any progress.  The author uncovered three clear areas of near-universal accord and, taken together, they offer some clue as to how to narrow the divide in the public discussion.

  1. GMOs have contributed to the rise of herbicide-resistant weeds and pesticide-resistant insects.  The two biggest uses for genetic modification have been to create crops that resist the herbicide glyphosate (used to control weeds) and crops that generate their own internal insecticide (Bt, widely used by both organic and conventional growers).  Both traits are popular with farmers, and the vast majority of corn, soy and cotton grown in the US has one or both of them.  Resistance happens with or without GMOs, and it’s all but inevitable for chemicals as popular and effective as glyphosate and Bt. Nevertheless, there’s broad agreement that the widespread adoption of the genetically modified crops in question has been part of the problem.
  2. Most of the benefits of GMOs accrue to biotech firms and farmers, leaving little to balance consumers’ assessment of risks.  While there is some upside for consumers, like the availability of papayas that are resistant to the ringspot virus, most advantages accrue to food producers.  Farmers have seen some reduced labor costs and higher profits, and some farm workers’ exposure to pesticides has been reduced.  Claire Robinson, research director of Earth Open Source follows the money upstream:  “The benefits of GMOs accrue to a small but powerful group of seed/chemical companies and those who depend on their profits.”  That issue is an important contributor to what the biotech industry calls a lack of consumer confidence.
  3. We need to evaluate GMOs on a case-by-case basis.  Genetic modification is a tool, and any tool can be deployed for good or ill.  There is potential for GMOs to be beneficial, but with caveats about safety, oversight and transparency.

All can agree is that it’s a good thing to pursue advances in agricultural technology.

 

As Coconut Demand Skyrockets, Why Has Production Struggled To Keep Up?

Huffington Post

With the rising popularity of coconut-based health and beauty products, the demand for coconuts has skyrocketed—and producers might not be able to keep up.  Apparently, aging trees in coconut-producing countries like the Philippines, Indonesia and India are simply past their prime.  Today’s coconut trees were planted more than 50 years ago, according to Hiroyuki Konoma, the regional representative for Asia and the Pacific at the FAO of the United Nations.  That puts them 20-plus years past their peak production time.  Production growth is 8 percent behind demand growth.  More than a dozen countries from Asia and the Pacific gathered in Bangkok in early November to discuss plans to rehabilitate the coconut industry.  With the right replanting initiatives the industry could recover within a few years.

 

Breadfruit: The Next Superfood To End World Hunger?

Carla Hererria

Move over kale, there’s a new superfood in town and it’s here to end world hunger.  Breadfruit is large with prickly skin and tastes like a baked potato or—you guessed it—bread when prepared.  It’s grown on tall trees in tropical areas like Hawaii, Samoa, and the Caribbean.  It’s high in energy from carbohydrates, low in fat and has more potassium than 10 bananas.  According to the National Tropical Botanical Garden (NTBG), more than 80% of the world’s hungry live in tropical or subtropical regions—the type of environment that is perfect for growing breadfruit trees.  These trees are very easy to maintain and can bear an abundance of fruit for decades.  The trees have already been introduced to Haiti with the help of the “Trees That Feed Foundation,” where the newly planted breadfruit trees are feeding at least 1,000 orphans every day.  Breadfruit, also known as ulu, has been feeding the Hawaiian and Polynesian islands for centuries.

 

Mom Learns The Hard Way that ‘Ritz Crackers Count As A Grain’

Rebecca Klein

In Manitoba, Canada, school lunches are no laughing matter.  Kristen Bartkiw received a $10 fine after reportedly failing to send her two young children to daycare with “balanced” lunches.  The mother told blog Weighty Matters that she provided her children with meat, potatoes, milk, carrots and oranges for lunch.  However the daycare center said that based on the Manitoba Government’s Early Learning and Child Care lunch regulations, the children needed a grain in order to have a balanced meal.  The regulations require that each meal consist of one milk product, one meat, one grain and two fruits or vegetables.  Bartkiw said the daycare center sent her home with a “Lunch Box Supplement Note,” which explained that employees supplemented her children’s meals with a grain in the form of Ritz Crackers.  The center fined her $5 per child.

 

Cooking with a lesser-known grain: Millet

Casey Seidenberg

Whole grains have been a hot nutritional topic in the past few years.  Much airtime has been devoted to white or refined grains vs. the more nutritionally sound whole variety.  More and more people have even learned how to pronounce quinoa (KEEN-wah).  Although quinoa has asserted its position as the golden girl of whole grains, there is another grain that deserves a chance in the spotlight: millet.  Most Americans either haven’t heard of millet or associate it with birdseed.  Millet is gluten-free, non-acid-forming and non-allergenic, so it’s a fantastic option for people following a gluten-free diet or wrestling with digestive issues.  It also contains protein, iron, B vitamins, magnesium, phosphorus, and insoluble fiber (aiding in digestion and the absorption of nutrients).  Even more important, it tastes good, with a mildly sweet flavor similar to that of corn or grits.  It is also an incredibly versatile food.

 

Shrimp Parasite Causing Mass Die-Off In Georgia, South Carolina As Black Gill Disease Spreads

Harriet McLeod

The size of wild shrimp hauls off the southern Atlantic coast have plunged in recent months as a parasite has made it harder for the creatures to breathe, according to state wildlife officials in Georgia and South Carolina.  Experts said they believe black gill disease, caused by a tiny parasite, contributed to a die-off of white shrimp between August and October, typically the prime catch season.  The disease does not kill shrimp directly but hurts their endurance and makes them more vulnerable to predators.  In September South Carolina shrimpers hauled in less than six percent of their September 2012 catch.  The August take was down nearly 75 percent from August last year.  Georgia shrimpers have caught fewer than half the number they usually catch in August, September and October.  Reportedly the shrimp is safe to eat as log as it has not spoiled.  The parasite is only on its gills, which come off when the head is removed for human consumption.  According to officials, black gill disease tends to taper off as waters get colder in November.

 

Pasteurized Lobster Could Open New Markets

CBC News, Huffington Post

P.E.I. is a step closer to marketing lobster that will last up to a month after it is cooked, and that could make it much easier to sell outside of the province.  The Royal Star fish plant in Tignish is working on a process to pasteurize lobster, an idea originally invented in Ireland.  The Island has been working on its own process for years.  The normal shelf life of a whole cooked lobster is about 72 hours.  With the pasteurization process there is a 25-day shelf life.  A taste test of pasteurized lobster in Charlottetown in July 2012 did not go well, but a more recent taste test showed that people enjoyed the taste.  An official announcement is expected soon.

 

Black Widows Found On Grapes at Supermarkets in Several States

Sara Gates

First bananas, now grapes?  Is no fruit safe?  A Pennsylvania woman got quite a shock recently when she was washing some red grapes and saw a long spider leg creep over the top of one of the pieces of fruit and immediately dropped the colander into the sink.  A spider expert later confirmed what her initial internet search revealed—it was a young black widow crawling on the grapes.  Earlier, an Aldi shopper in Wauwatosa, WI, spotted, “legs moving frantically.”  She wrapped the container in a plastic bag and handed it off to an employee warning that she spotted a red marking on the spider’s abdomen.  As a precaution, Aldi opted to remove all grapes from stores in the Milwaukee area.  There was another incident in a bag of grapes purchased at a Kroger in Brighton, MI.  Black widow spiders often build their webs in grape vineyards.  Known for their red, hour-glass shaped insignia, black widow spiders are venomous and, without treatment, their bite can be fatal, especially in small children ad the elderly.

 

Eating nuts may make you live longer, Harvard study says

Food News Journal

According to a 30-year Harvard study, regular nut eaters were less likely to die of cancer or heart disease—in fact, were less likely to die of any cause.  Researchers tracked 119,000 men and women and found that those who ate nuts roughly every day were 20% less likely to die during the study period than those who never ate nuts.  The benefits were seen from peanuts as well as from pistachios, almonds, walnuts and other tree nuts.  The researchers did not look at how the nuts were prepared—oiled or salted, raw or roasted.  As a bonus—nut eaters stayed slimmer.  Observational studies like this one can’t prove cause and effect, only suggest a connection.  Research on diets is especially tough, because it can be difficult to single out the effects of any one food.  People who eat more nuts may eat them on salads, for example, and some of the benefit may come from the leafy greens.  The Harvard study did separate analyses on smokers and non-smokers, heavy and light exercisers, and people with and without diabetes, and saw a consistent benefit from nuts.  Many previous studies also tie nut consumption to lower risks of heart disease, diabetes, colon cancer and other maladies.

 

MSG, Seasoned For A Comeback

NPR Staff

Umami, that savory fifth taste—in addition to bitter, sour, sweet and salty—has become a sought-after flavor in the culinary scene.  Not quite so loved is the umami additive monosodium glutamate—MSG.  For decades it’s been vilified, maligned and, some say, misunderstood.  In 1908, a Japanese chemist Kikunae Ikeda, who, according to legend, was sitting with a bowl of seaweed soup made by his wife.  He wondered why the soup tasted meaty when there was no meat in it.  He decided to go to his lab and try to isolate whatever gave his soup its meaty flavor.  He called the flavor umami, from umai, meaning delicious in Japanese.  Ikeda isolated the seaweed compound and evaporated it down to crystals.  He recognized the meaty taste when he put the crystalline form on his tongue.  The MSG he began producing in 1909 became popular in Asian cooking and other cuisines.  Then came 1968 and a Chinese-American doctor named Robert Ho Man Kwok, who wrote an article for The New England Journal of Medicine.  He reported symptoms he experienced after eating Chinese food—tightening of the skin, heart palpitations, feeling flushed–and attributed them in part to MSG.  MSG’s popularity plummeted, despite a lack of evidence of any substantial harmful effects.  According to Natasha Geiling, who has written a history of MSG for Smithsonian Magazine’s Food and Think blog, “the general scientific consensus seems to be that on an empty stomach, and in very large quantities, there is a small subset of the population that shows real sensitivity to MSG.”  Meanwhile umami—the meaty taste that MSG is designed to deliver—has seen a resurgence in the foodie community.  Many Chefs are using natural glutamates—which are not chemically different from the ones found in MSG—to enhance their food.  MSG may ride that wave back to respectability.

 

Introducing The World’s Greenest Wine Bottle (It’s Paper!)

Laura Neilson

Would you be more inclined to drink wine from a box if it had a bottle’s shape?  Quality aside, the most compelling reason to consider a non-glass approach to wine packaging might be the production and environmental benefits.  The bottles, composed from compressed recycled paper, are basically the same idea as wine in a box, with an interior sleeve that keeps the liquid from seeping through.  Wine purists may shrug off the idea, but it’s pretty hard to ignore the sustainable benefits of going with paper over glass.  Each bottle consumes only 15 percent of the energy required to produce your standard wine bottle.  What’s more, these empty paper bottles weigh in at only an ounce, translating to a drastically reduced carbon footprint when it comes to shipping.  The bottles, designed to hold up in watery ice buckets for up to three hours, also have better insulation properties.  Paperboy is expected to launch at Safeway grocers in early 2014.

 

Paleo: That’s not really what Cavemen ate

Dave Shaw, NZ Registered Dietician and Nutritionist

Paleo eating has become the diet de jure in many health circles.  It’s a meat heavy eating plan, essentially allowing you to chow down on as much bacon as you want.  But it’s based on a skewed understanding of what our caveman ancestors actually ate.

  • Cavemen didn’t eat meat everyday.  Cavemen would have only come across meat sporadically in the thrill of the hunt.  Cavemen were closer to being vegetarians, rather than omnivores.
  • Cavemen didn’t eat modern Paleolithic foods.  Cavemen didn’t eat bacon or sausages.  It would be more caveman-like to munch on some insects and rodents.
  • Cavemen ate everything available.  Paleo advocates seem to think our ancestors evolved to eat one type of diet and our bodies are designed to process only certain types of food.  The environment affected the availability of different foods, especially if you were living on the coast rather than inland.
  • Cavemen weren’t afraid of fruits.  Yet fruit has no place in the Paleo plan.  Fruit and berries were nature’s dessert, not poison.
  • Cavemen ate carbs.  The focus should be on the amount, timing and type, rather than a blanket ban.
  • Cavemen weren’t training for specific sports.  But some personal trainers and athletes advocate Paleo to boost performance.
  • Cavemen lived shorter lives.  So why try to eat like them?
  • Cavemen ate organic and free-range.  Modern primal eaters appear to be the opposite.  Factory farmed chickens, light deprived pigs and farmed salmon swimming in their own excrements is not organic or free-range.

 

Meat Mummies: How Ancient Egyptians Prepared Feasts for Afterlife

Christopher Joyce

A meat mummy is a section of animal prepared as if for eating, then bandaged and placed in a sarcophagus by ancient Egyptians.  Egyptian royalty, even after death, got hungry.  And royalty deserved something more than oats and tubers.  How do you prepare meat for a trip to eternity?  In ancient Egypt, human mummies were preserved with special ointments and treatments to make that journey, so maybe the same was done for the victuals.  Scientists in England and Egypt employed high-tech chemical detection equipment to see what kind of residues they could find on what remained of the meat mummies found in Egyptian tombs, but long ignored by Egyptologists.  The researchers found some meat mummies that were treated and dried with salt.  And then they discovered one meat mummy (beef ribs, sans jus) had apparently been rubbed with “balms” made of pistacia resin (think pistachio tree sap) as well as fat or oil.  In other cases, there were chemical residues of what appeared to be beeswax.  Might there be another Indiana Jones’ movie in the offing—Raiders of the Lost Meat Locker?

 

 

5 Futuristic Food Trends

Liz Neporent

If we are what we eat, it’s about to get very weird.  There is a revolution taking place that’s reshaping the idea of what makes it onto your plate and into your stomach.  Here are five food trends that will soon be bringing the future to a kitchen near you.

  1. 3D Printed Food.  In the not-too-distant future the “D” in 3D printing will stand for doughnuts, drumsticks and deviled eggs.  Several companies are already experimenting with printing foods like chocolate and pasta by mixing together a series of dry ingredients to use as a sort of edible ink.  Currently, most 3D food printers can only print out basic foods that require only one or two ingredients.  Experts are working towards printers that have the ability to print up exactly what the consumer craves.  3D printed edibles have the potential to revolutionize space travel.
  2. In-Vitro Meat.  Earlier this year, Dutch scientists grew hamburger from the muscle tissue of a cow and invited journalists for a taste test.  Reviews were mixed but it’s early days for lab-grown meat.
  3. Tomato, Potato.  What would you call a plant that grows tomatoes up top and potatoes down below?  The breeder of just such a plant, British seed catalog Thompson & Morgan, has settled on the name TomTato.  The multi-tasking plant is not genetically engineered in the modern sense of the word.  Instead it’s a hybrid made by grafting the two plants together.  The ketchup-and-fries potted plant will only be sold in the UK for now.
  4. Molecular Gastronomy.  By cooking with a pinch of physics and a dash of chemistry, chefs can transform the tastes and textures of food.
  5. Soylent.  Rob Rhinehart, CEO of Soylent, said that many people find food preparation boring and expensive.  His answer is a 33-ingredient, grayish-colored liquid supplement designed to provide all the essential nutrients.  And it can be customized for preferences, allergies and disease management.  Because it is classified as a supplement rather than food, it is not regulated by the FDA.  Production is relatively inexpensive and scalable, Rhinehart said Soylent has the potential to help solve the food crisis in the developing world.

 

Taste Simulator Lets You Try Virtual Food (Yes, Seriously)

Sara Gates

Ever see a photo of chocolate cake that looked so yummy you wanted to taste it right through your computer screen?  Believe it or not, that may soon be possible.  A team from the National University of Singapore says it has developed a “digital taste simulator,” called the Digital Taste Interface.  The device has silver electrodes that deliver current and heat to the tongue—tricking your taste buds into thinking they’ve just encountered something tasty.  According to the lead researcher, Nimesha Ranasinghe, thus far salty, sour and bitter sensations have been successfully generated.  Ranasinghe’s prototype requires users to hold the taste simulator to the tongue.  But future versions may be small enough to fit easily inside the mouth or on a stick, like a digital lollipop.