Four Generations are Sampling the Supermarket Music

plentyofcolour_magnets_1

shopping list magnets via Harrington & Squires

 

Here’s something I’ve been wondering: am I getting old or is the supermarket music getting better?
The standard easy listening mix of Kenny Rogers and vintage Doobie Brothers always felt like I was being held hostage in a dentist’s waiting room. But not lately. While no one’s going to mistake the deli counter for a DJ booth, the music has gotten decidedly  hipper. A recent shopping trip yielded a little Major Lazer, a Warpaint track, and a David Bowie remix tucked between the Whitney Houston and post-Aja Steely Dan.
Who do they think is shopping in my neighborhood supermarket?

There are four generations all pushing shopping carts through the same aisles.
The Millennials, born between 1982 and the early 2000′s, are now reaching the age of paychecks and shopping lists. 
They follow the solidly adult Gen Xers, born between 1961 and 1981, the middle-aged Baby Boomers, and the retired seniors known as the Silent Generation.

As an added twist, life stages are not as linear as they used to be.
Life stage and generation used to be pretty much the same thing. Milestones like marriage and buying a first home were fairly constant events that marketers could count on. Today you’ll find new parents in their 40′s and young adults still living at home long after the traditional age of household formation. Juice boxes and jars of prune juice, diapers and denture cream—they’re all commingling in shopping carts. There are spending differences between age groups, but they matter less than they used to.

Supermarkets brand themselves with their playlists. 
They know that store atmospherics matter, especially when it comes to differentiating themselves from the competition. Music is a fast, cheap, and flexible way for a store to shape its environment. But it’s a delicate balance: with so many generations in the shopping mix, the stores are challenged to find the right music mix. The trick is to appeal to one age group without alienating the other three.

My neighborhood supermarket has clearly put the Millennial Generation in its crosshairs.
I live in the big college town of Boston, with BU dorms just down the block from the market, so that comes as no surprise. How about you? Listen up. You’ll learn who’s shopping in your supermarket.

 

Posted in diversions, shopping | 1 Comment

‘Nose-y’ Neighbors Sue to Shut Down Sriracha Factory

sriracha

NIMBY-Stamp1

 

It’s harvest time for California’s jalapeno peppers and the air around the Huy Fong Foods factory is perfumed with the rich aroma of chilis and garlic.
The company makes a full year’s worth of Sriracha hot sauce during the three-month chili harvest. Daily deliveries of fresh peppers, 100 million pounds in all, are roasted, ground, and blended with garlic and other spices.

A lawsuit filed on behalf of the factory’s neighbors is threatening this year’s production cycle.
With pepper processing hitting its full swing, nearby residents are complaining about the pungent fumes. They’re getting headaches, their eyes are stinging, throats are sore, and children are being kept indoors. Last Monday, the city of Irwindale, California sued Huy Fong Foods charging that the wafting odors are a public nuisance in violation of the municipal code. The city has asked for a restraining order that would immediately stop all operations at the factory, and lawyers might even pursue a permanent injunction that could lead to a total shut down.

Sriracha is no ordinary hot sauce.
Sriracha love starts out innocently enough: a squirt in the stir fry, a dab added to marinades. 
You marvel at how a tiny hit of heat, sweet, and garlic perk up those dishes. You try a few drops in dips and dressings, a steady squeeze into scrambled eggs, a swipe of the basting brush on meats headed for the grill. A smidgen turns into a dollop and a smear quickly becomes a slather. Pretty soon the green-capped rooster bottle is keeping company with salt and pepper at every meal and there’s a second bottle for the office fridge. You think: is there nothing that can’t be improved by this marvelous elixir?

Sriracha lovers come from all walks of life.
It’s a sleeve-trick of Michelin chefs, a key ingredient in urban street food, and it’s mixed into the mayonnaise at the Applebee’s in Ottumwa, Iowa. The company sold 20 million bottles last year and it pulled it off with no advertising and a website that hasn’t been updated since 2004.

Sriracha could be in very short supply next year, and beyond that—who knows?
Huy Fong Foods is exploring filtration systems and other means of mitigating the aromatic emissions but there’s no quick fix. At least part of this year’s chili pepper harvest will likely be written off. 
Let the hoarding begin.

 

 

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Food for a Senior Moment

image via R2 Thoughts 4 You

image via R2 Thoughts 4 You

 

We’re having a national senior moment.
Baby boomers are a demographic time bomb. Nearly one-third of the population was born between 1946 and 1964. Even the tail end has reached the age of memory loss, slowed reflexes, and synaptic glitches.
That’s 75 million Americans that can’t remember what they went upstairs for.

Brain foods can make a real difference.
In the same way that a low cholesterol diet can keep plaque from forming in arteries, there are foods that can keep plaque from forming in your brain. You can unclog your cognitive functions just like you can unclog your arteries.

There are also foods that can sharpen your focus and concentration, enhance your memory, and speed your reaction times.
There’s no magic bullet that can prevent the inevitable decline, but there are food that can keep it at bay.
If you are one of those baby boomers, maybe you should write them down.

http://yourbarcelonaguide.files.wordpress.com/2009/10/salmon-steak12_-_resize_large.jpg

Nothing preserves cognitive ability like wild salmon.
That’s right, wild— not just any salmon will do. Farmed salmon doesn’t develop the same quality or level of essential fatty acids that make wild salmon the ultimate brain food.
matcha Just like the wild variety is souped-up salmon, matcha is high-test green tea.

Matcha is a type of Japanese green tea that is ground into a powder. Instead of drinking an extract, like what you get when tea leaves are brewed, you consume the whole thing dissolved into the beverage. The brain buzz of focus and clarity is exponentially greater, and immediately noticeable. And the Kermit-green shade? That’s how it’s supposed to look.
sprinkling_sugar_into_coffee_943126

The brain boost from caffeine or sugar is short-lived but real. They both can make you alert and focused. Too much sugar, though, can actually interfere with your memory.

acai pears

The acai berry is one of those fruits, like pomegranates and blueberries before them, that’s captured the attention of the ‘superfoods’ crowd for its potent nutrition. On paper acai’s profile actually looks more like fish than fruit: high in protein and the essential fatty acids our brains desire. Its juice is showing up blended into all kinds of things like yogurt, sorbet nut butters, tea, soda; even Absolut acai vodka.

turmeric

 

Turmeric is the hot new discovery in brain research. It’s a mildly-flavored, deep yellow spice that is always found in curry powder, and is often used as a less costly alternative to saffron. Turmeric is such a powerful brain plaque-remover that it’s being tested as a treatment for Alzheimer’s disease.

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Food Photography: Over-Exposure Turns Us Camera Shy

food art via Dan Cretu

cucumber camera via Dan Cretu

 

Food porn is a modern sacrament.
There was a time when saying grace was a standard, pre-dining ritual. Now nobody eats until the plates are photographed.
Instead of blessing food, we document, catalog, upload, tweet, and post it.

Bad form or bad photos?
There are questions of form, especially when camera flashes pepper a dining room, but it’s mostly a problem of scale.
The numbers tell the story: nearly 100 billion photographs have been uploaded across various social platforms. What began as foodie fabulousness on display has expanded to include every mundane snack, sip, nibble, and nosh.

The backlash has arrived.
Too many meals have sat cooling, too much ice cream has melted. Enough with the tripods and filters and chair-perch gyrations. I don’t care if it ruins your shot. When the food arrives, I want to pick up my fork without delay.

There are snarky websites like Pictures of Hipsters Taking Pictures of Food, and the Hungry Channel spoof that documents the fallout when restaurant-goers ask to take photos of the plates of fellow diners and then haul in massive lenses and lighting equipment. Even Apple parodied the phenomenon with its clever iPhone5 ad touting the phone’s ability to capture quality images in “whatever dimly-lit, exposed brick, no reservation, basement restaurant your friends care about more than each other.”

Not merely idle sniping, there is a scientific basis for feeling fed up with food pics. Researchers call it sensory boredom. They’ve found that looking at too many photographs of food can dull your pleasure in the foods they depict. When you’ve seen one too many photos of salty snacks, you’ll lose interest in that bowl of pretzels because your sensory experience of saltiness is already satiated.

Your photographs can add up to more than gustatory navel gazing.
The new Feedie app turns your food pics into real food for needy children. 
The pet project of Mario Batali and a slew of Hollywood celebrities, Feedie has signed up an ever-expanding universe of restaurants that will trade your photo sharing for a donation to the non-profit Lunchbox Fund, an organization dedicated to providing a daily meal to extremely poor and at-risk school children. When a diner uses the Feedie app to upload a photo to their social networks, the participating restaurant will donate the equivalent of one meal to the Fund.
It’s a good cause; your dining companions can’t complain, even if you use a flash.

Posted in cyberculture, diversions, restaurants | Leave a comment

Who Would You Rather Work For: Apple or McDonald’s?

 

logo mashup via Perfect Image Group

logo mashup via Perfect Image Group

 

Fast food giant McDonald’s is notorious for paying low wages.
The company’s employment practices have been making a lot of recent headlines. First there was this summer’s protest—the biggest one to ever hit the industry— when workers in 50 cities walked out on their jobs calling for fair pay and the right to form unions. We saw McDonald’s respond to the mounting pressure with a widely ridiculed employee budgeting tool that allows a whopping $25 a day for food, child care, transportation, and clothing, and that’s if an employee gets a second 30-hour a week job on top of full-time McDonald’s employment. Then we learned that the company also runs the McResource advice line that steers employees to public assistance programs like Medicaid and food stamps.

What about Apple?
It’s one of the best-known, most admired companies on the planet.
It’s created countless millionaires by richly rewarding corporate-level positions in engineering, design, programming, and marketing. But the majority of Apple’s nearly 50,000 U.S. employees work in Apple Stores. They might not be flipping burgers, but like McDonald’s workers, they’re members of the service economy, and most earn about $24,000 a year, an income that is within $1,000 of the federally-designated poverty level and which happens to be the same lowly amount used by the sample budget in McDonald’s financial planning tool.

McDonald’s and Apple are members of an exclusive club.
They are the nation’s largest and most profitable corporations that are also the stingiest. They’re keeping company with Walmart, although even Walmart pays its employees better ($26,000 on average), and Walmart pays out a greater share of its earnings to its workforce.

Not such golden arches…or shiny apples
In 2012, McDonald’s earned a profit of $8 billion. Divide that by the number of workers and the company made a profit of $18,200 from the labor of each employee after paying an average salary of $18,000.
In the same year, the phenomenally successful Apple Corporation posted a profit of more than $40 billion. Divide that by the number of workers and Apple raked in an astonishing $697,000 per employee.

Another thing they have in common: little hope for advancement.
According to the  National Employment Law Project, nearly one-third of all jobs in the U.S. economy are managerial, technical, or other professional occupations. By contrast, only about 1 in 50 fast food jobs is classified as ‘professional.’ There’s simply no room at the top for the army of low-skilled workers to aspire to.

Legions of young, college-educated true believers flock to Apple Stores where the job prospects aren’t much better. Yes, they’re working for an exciting, fast-growing, innovative company, but store employees soon realize that they aren’t in the tech industry. They’re retail workers, and a job in an Apple Store isn’t much different than ringing the register at the shoe store across the mall. Dozens of qualified candidates working on the sales floor are all vying for a few management opportunities, and the turnover is practically nil over at the high-paying Genius Bar. Most Apple Store jobs, just like those at McDonald’s, are low wage, menial dead-ends.

McDonald’s and Apple, fast food and technology. Both companies and both industries are America’s leading representatives to the global economy. Both are enormously successful businesses that pile up huge profits while they pay poverty level wages to the majority of their employees. 
Who would you rather work for? Is there any difference?

 

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Barrel Aging is This Year’s Pickle

ManWearingBarrel

Put the jar down. Step away from the beets. 
Pickling is so over. Sauerkraut and kimchi can stick around, corned beef and herring are forever, but trendy pickle plates on every menu and dare-you-to-try-it pickleback cocktails need to go. A mason jar and a vinegar cure are not always the answer. Today’s overzealous briners remind us of the We Can Pickle That! duo spoofed by the sketch comedians of TV’s Portlandia:  “Too many eggs? We can pickle that! Dropped your ice cream cone? We can pickle that! Broke a heel on your shoe? We can pickle that!” Before the opening credits had rolled on the segment they had pickled an old CD jewel box case, Band-Aids, a parking ticket, and a dead bird.

Barrel-aging is the latest down-home technique to get a hip, upscale boost.
Barrel-aging is usually associated with wine and whiskey, and sometimes beer and vinegar. The contents mellow and mature during the aging period and they take on some of the compounds found in the wood. In the case of whiskey, it actually goes into barrels as a colorless liquid with just a hint of flavor and fragrance from its grain and alcohol, but emerges with its aroma, color, and flavor transformed.

Mixologists have latched on to the technique to create barrel-aged cocktails.
Essentially these are pre-mixed drinks that spend some time in a small cask. Fruits and juices, sodas, bitters, and other mixers are all in there, which puts a lot of neighborhood bars on shaky legal ground with both the local liquor authority and the health department, but craft cocktail fans are swooning.

Barrel-aged condiments were the buzzed-about category at this summer’s gathering for the specialty food industry.
Salt, pepper, paprika, teriyaki sauce, salad dressings, soy sauce, fish sauce, worcestershire sauce, and especially hot sauce are all getting the barrel treatment, picking up complexity, a hint of smokiness, and even boozy notes if they spent their time in recycled wine or whiskey barrels. If you balk at the premium prices charged by the boutique condiment producers, you should know that good ol’ Tabasco is, and always has been, aged in oak for up to three years.

There are hints of a We Can Pickle That!-style frenzy that threaten to turn barrel-aging into the next culinary cliché.
The process turns sweets like cane sugar, sorghum, vanilla extract, and maple syrup into a bitter, charred, sticky mess. Barrel-aged milk and ricotta cheese are sour, smoky, funky-smelling abominations.

And most troubling, mostly because of its self-referential gratuitousness, is the appearance of whiskey barrel-aged pickles.

 

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Name That Smell

Improve-Your-Sense-of-Smell-Step-9

via WikiHow

 

It’s hard to believe that it took this long.
The scientific community has finally developed a system for describing and classifying smells.

Think about taste: there are countless variations but just five basic categories (sweet, salty, sour, bitter and umami) that can be detected by the taste receptors on the tongue. Touch is categorized as heat and cold, pressure and pain. Sight and sound are easy because we’re perceiving the light and sound waves, which are measurable physical phenomena.
For too long, scents were divvied up into good smells and stinky ones.

Smells are tricky.
There are more than 100,000 smells floating around the globe, but most of us can perceive just a few hundred. They’re processed in the limbic region, the emotional center of the brain, where the sensory data gets all tangled up in memories, especially those of childhood. That’s why a whiff of roasting turkey can flood you with warm and fuzzy memories of family Thanksgivings, or a fragrant bouquet of flowers will have you thinking of your beloved grandmother, even if you never knew that her hand cream was lily-scented. But you could also be allergic to poultry, or those same lilies could have perfumed the air of a friend’s funeral, and to you the odors are detestable. This subjectivity, in the absence of empirical measures, has forever stymied scientists.

Until now. A group of researchers has finally come up with a statistical approach that allows them to systematically measure various dimensions of a smell in a way that allows it to be characterized and grouped. The newly published study, using a methodology known as non-negative matrix factorization, claims that the vast world of smells is actually very tightly structured, and that every smell in the universe can be assigned to one of 10 basic categories: woody/resinous, fruity (non-citrus), chemical, minty, sweet, popcorn, fragrant, citrus, pungent, and decayed.

Before you start arguing the inadequacy of the 10 categories (and doesn’t naming one of them ‘fragrant’ sound like a copout?) remember that they’re classifying a single, discrete scent. A smell can be sensed by just a handful of molecules reaching your nose, and an object can have hundreds or even thousands of different volatile compounds all throwing off their own molecules. A wine enthusiast might swirl a single glass and detect notes of canned asparagus, burnt toast, mango, and pickle brine. A complex odor like wet dog or new baby might even combine elements of all 10 scent categories.

Smell and taste are the sister senses, basically playing off of the same molecules.
While we don’t know where this research will lead, it’s considered a major breakthrough, and one that’s got the food world buzzing.

Fun olfactory fact: Most of what you smell is coming through the left nostril. The reason you never noticed this is because 80% of noses are not in the middle of the face but pitched slightly to the right, so it seems like the smell is coming right up the middle.

 

Posted in food knowledge, Science/Technology | 2 Comments

No Olive Oil, No Pepper, No Sugar: Can a Restaurant Be TOO Local?

image via Square Deal

image via Square Deal

 

When Vinland opens later this fall in Portland, Maine, it will be the first restaurant in the United States to serve 100% local, organic food.
That means that if it can’t be grown, harvested, or produced in Maine it’s not going to be on the menu. That list includes plenty of kitchen staples like olive oil, black pepper, cane sugar, mustard, peanut butter, and chocolate. It also bans avocados, bananas, citrus fruits, most rice and grains, and a very long list of spices, sauces, and seasonings.

Farm-to-table is almost a cliché for contemporary restaurants. It’s become second nature for a chef to showcase seasonal ingredients and to establish working relationships with nearby farmers, ranchers, and fishermen. But nobody has ever pushed the concept to this extreme, with this much purity.

Let’s not forget, we’re talking about Maine, a state that squeezes its growing season between the last frost in June and the first in September.
In season, there’s native seafood and agricultural bounty to rival any other region, but the pickings are slim for most of the year. There will have to be a lot of preserved foods—smoked, dried, pickled, cured, and fermented—to offer some semblance of variety on the Vinland winter menus.

Vinland doesn’t have a menu yet, but it does have a manifesto.
The document references the rising cost of medical care for diabetics, celebrity chef tantrums, confinement-raised animals, the dangers of seed oils, and the misogyny, racism, and homophobia of restaurant kitchens. It slams the Industrial Revolution and the Vikings, praises raw foodism, and quotes both Wendell Berry and Che Guevara. According to its mission statement, Vinland is not just a restaurant; it’s the blueprint for a sustainable food system that will help us survive the coming collapse of a doomed and destructive food industry.

Heady stuff, indeed. It should come as no surprise that the missionary behind Vinland is a first-time restaurateur who is more ideologue than trained chef.
A few years ago, David Levi was a high school English teacher in New York City with a few stints of restaurant work under his belt. A tutoring gig with the son of the renowned chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten helped him land some very high profile internships in legendary restaurants like Spain’s El Bulli, Sweden’s Faviken, and Copenhagen’s Noma. A few more stages and apprenticeships later and he landed in Portland offering cooking classes and a series of pop-up tasting menu dinners.

Levi brought with him an admiration for the culinary and ecological ethos of the New Nordic food movement he encountered while staging in Danish and Swedish kitchens. And he recognized the parallels between the bioregions of northern New England and Scandinavia. Vinland is meant to be a kind of mulligan for the Nordic people in Maine.

Vinland is the original name for the North American settlement of Leif Eiríksson’s Viking followers (presumed to include what is now Maine). While Levi salutes their courage in pushing into the unknown, he recognizes their mistakes and wants to learn from them, the worst of which he says was their ‘antagonism toward the indigenous.’ Vinland will be a second chance: “We are seeking to begin again, not as occupiers this time, but as participants. We hope, belatedly, to learn from the rightful inheritors of this land.  We hope to honor the indigenous and the myriad non-humans who have been so grievously harmed by Western culture.  We hope to earn their welcome as we seek to build, together, a vibrant, indigenous, wild future.”

In case you were wondering, there will be salt. Maine harvests its own salt, and it’s really good. There also will be coffee, even though there are no native coffee growers. Levi just really likes his coffee.

 

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Booking Bots Create a Black Market for Restaurant Reservations

image via b3tards.com

image via b3tards.com

 

Sci-fi movies like to unleash malevolent, scheming computers that are out to destroy humanity.
On Wall Street, computers wreak havoc with high-speed algorithms and lightning-fast trades that churn through data and crash financial markets.
When computers run amok on restaurant websites, they grab up all the good tables.

Have you tried to get a Saturday night reservation lately?
The most popular restaurants often have very specific reservation cycles. On the 6th day of every month, the top-ranked global destination Noma opens its bookings for three months out and might see 20,000 requests on that one day. San Francisco’s hot new State Bird Provisions releases future tables at 4a.m. and the prime times are all gone long before sunrise. Unless you want the 5:30 or 10:30 slots that seem to be all that’s ever left on Open Table or Urban Spoon, you’re out of luck.

Robots are stealing your dinner.
‘Bots’ (derived from robots) are software programs that do your bidding in cyberspace. They’re best at repetitive and mundane tasks, like endlessly scouring websites for tables to book. They’ve been operating for years on eBay, where they’re programmed to swoop in with a just-high-enough bid during an auction’s last nanosecond, and on ticketing sites where bots keep a step ahead of site security to scoop up the best seats, often for ticket brokers and scalpers. Now they’re invading restaurant websites and online reservation systems.

Not all coders live on Red Bull and pizza. 
The Bay Area is a high-density region for both food lovers and tech lovers, and you’ll find plenty of overlap. There the reservation bots have sprung from hacker culture and they’re dominated by open-source software like Mechanize and the free service at HackerTable, which lives up to its descriptor as reservations at elusive restaurants by combing other booking engines for cancellations and snatching up rare and rarified tables at places like The French Laundry and Chez Panisse.

In New York, reservations are bought and sold like it’s the trading floor of the stock exchange.
There’s no programmer at the helm of Today’s Epicure, but a former hotel concierge who knows the value of New York’s most coveted tables. An annual membership fee of $1,000 (shorter terms are also available) gives access to impossible reservations at the highest profile restaurants of the moment. In addition to the cool thou to join, Today’s Epicure also tacks on a variable fee that hovers around $100 per booking, rising with the lateness of the date and the hotness of the venue.

Bots and scalpers have been widely criticized for the undemocratic way they pervert the sales process, whether it’s an auction website, a popular restaurant, or a concert ticket. The anti-scalping movement got a boost this summer when it was widely reported that Beyoncé fans were shut out of her concerts by ticket-buying bots. The tour’s dates in Washington, D.C. set off a particular furor when tickets went on sale one morning at 10a.m. and were all gone—snapped up by automated transactions—by 10:01a.m. A handful of state legislatures have already passed or are considering anti-scalping regulations targeting ticket brokers. If computer programmers and deep-pocketed diners keep crowding the rest of us out of restaurants, the backlash is sure to follow.

 

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How to be an Ethical Carnivore

cheeseburgerglobal warming

 

It’s not like you’re suddenly going to go cold turkey, if you’ll pardon the pun.
We humans didn’t claw our way up the food chain so we could eat quinoa. But red meat, once the cornerstone to a nutritious diet, puts us un an ethical quandary. Beef is a true superfood, dense in protein and nutrients and an important source of essential amino acids, vitamins, and minerals like iron, zinc, and selenium. But it’s taken a lot of hits from defenders of animal rights and the environment. Red meat has lost much of its relevancy to the American diet.

Meat-eating and ethical eating don’t have to be mutually exclusive. There are ways to eat meat that are sensitive to the environment, to our health, and to the animals involved.

All meat is not created equal. 
We all know that factory farming is a grotesquery. It’s basically institutionalized animal cruelty and it creates a product that is unfit and unhealthy for human consumption. It depletes resources and is destructive to the environment.

Then there’s grass-fed or pasture-raised beef.
These animals are raised in open, humane, sanitary conditions. They conserve resources by passing on a diet of grains grown with petroleum-based fertilizers and pesticides. Better for your health, grass-fed beef contains fewer antibiotics and hormones, is leaner than grain-fed and grain-finished beef, and has a more favorable ratio of omega fatty acids.

The well-managed pasture system sustains natural resources by reducing erosion and water pollution, conserving carbon, and preserving biodiversity and wildlife. Their sales methods—either operating as an independent, selling directly from their own property, or selling through small, locally focused producer groups—help support local communities, promote local foodsheds, and earn a fair price for the producers.

The industrialization of the calf.
We took an earth-friendly, solar-powered ruminant and turned it into a fossil-fuel powered machine. 
The problem with banishing all meat from the dinner table is that ranchers of conscience are caught in the sweep, demonized along with factory farmers. These ethical producers should be celebrated as the vanguard of a growing revolt against industrial agriculture, not penalized by association.

Let’s face it, we are not heading toward a meatless society.
But we can be a society of ethical carnivores. We need to eat meat in moderation and avoid animals raised in confined spaces and fed an unnatural diet. Choosing grass-fed beef can have a lasting impact on our health and the health of the planet.

 

 

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It’s Official: Food Addiction is a Disease

image via Health Freedoms

image via Health Freedoms

 

The American Medical Association has officially classified food addiction as a disease.
This summer’s designation was championed in certain clinical quarters but derided in just as many. One thing is clear on both sides of the debate: in this era of fat taxes, soda bans, and school lunch reform, obesity is high in the consciousness of both the public and the medical community.

Most researchers rely on the Yale Food Addiction Scale to separate the addicts from run-of-the-mill foodies.
One particularly revealing study from Yale University measured the brain activity of subjects- both addicts and standard eaters- as they were tempted, and then rewarded, with a chocolate milkshake. PET scans and brain MRIs showed that for all the participants, sipping a milk shake caused a surge of neural activity in the brain’s regions that govern cravings. The response was virtually indistinguishable from the neural response of alcoholics and drug addicts when they’re given their drug of choice. But in the truly food addicted, there was a drop of brain activity in the prefrontal cortex, the brain’s center for self control. It points to real, physiological reasons why some people are unable to muster the willpower to make good decisions about food and eating. The findings suggest that setting a chocolate milkshake down in front of the food addicted is just like dangling a dime bag of heroin in front of a junkie.

Nearly 1 in 20 people meet the Yale criteria for food addiction.
According to David Kessler, a biostatistician and a former commissioner of the U.S Food and Drug Administration, there are more than 70 million food-addicted adults in the U.S, and they’re sick of being a pop culture punchline. To them, willpower is not enough to just say ‘no’ to french fries; they hope the biological basis of the Yale findings will bring understanding and compassion to their plight.

Food addicts are forced to confront their demons three times a day. Every meal challenges them to resist the pathology of the brain’s reward center. They reel from the constant temptations on the calendar—Halloween candy gives way to Thanksgiving dinner followed by Christmas and New Years feasts. Just when they’ve made it through the back-to-back candy holidays of Valentines Day and Easter, the doorbell rings and it’s the Girl Scouts hawking those damn Thin Mints cookies. How long do you think sobriety would last if a glass of whiskey was placed in front of an alcoholic as often?

Then there’s the pervasiveness of foodie culture, which runs amok on dedicated cable channels, in the food porn everyone is snapping, and in countless tweets and food blogs. For too many, food appreciation has become an obsession. While some of us feel food fatigue, for the food addict it’s a constant, punishing minefield of temptation.

Foodies have created an environment in which celebrations of narcissism and gluttony are socially acceptable, blurring the line between preoccupation and pathology. Disordered, compulsive eating can be hard to spot. It rarely has the rock-bottom, aha moment of other addictions, but instead tends to be a slow, chronic creep of abuse of a substance we’ve indulged in our entire lives.

Are we all food addicts waiting to happen?
Check your own propensity with this online test of addictive behavior based on the Yale Food Addiction Scale.

 

Posted in diet, Health | 1 Comment

The Government Shutdown Diet

 

meat inspector magnet via Zazzle

meat inspector magnet via Zazzle

 

The Food and Drug Administration is closed during the government shutdown.
The furloughed employees turned in their government-issued cell phones and were told not to even check their work email until Congress passes a budget. Same for the food safety inspectors at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That leaves 85% of the nation’s food supply unmonitored and uninspected.

Here’s what’s not going on during the shutdown:

  • Lab testing of food samples—for sanitation, disease, additives, or parasites—is almost non-existent.
  • Foodborne illness outbreaks aren’t traced, tracked, or monitored. The CDC’s 80-person food pathogen staff is reduced to two, with just one lone, unfurloughed CDC employee on the salmonella, listeria, and E. coli beat for the entire country.
  • Pending actions on known outbreaks that were sickening people before the shutdown have been suspended. Yesterday’s reported outbreak of salmonella is a prime example; it had already been spotted by the USDA when the shutdown halted the investigation and reporting mechanism. It sickened 278 people in 18 states before the barebones CDC staff could pinpoint the source (Foster Farms chicken) and notify the public.
  • There are no unannounced site visits. The visits are an important tool that keeps processors ‘honest’— so far this year spot visits to slaughterhouses and other processors of meat and poultry have already caught 500 violators red-handed. With the enforcement arm of the FDA on furlough, that means that there are 500 perpetrators of meat tainted by diseased feces, illegal drug residue, and other unsanitary and unsavory conditions that are free to ply their trade.
  • Our borders are wide open to food imports. One of the FDA’s most potent weapons is the ‘red alert’ list. It allows FDA inspectors to automatically snag shipments from companies that have repeatedly violated our health and safety laws. During the shutdown, tainted, toxic, parasite-riddled, putrefying food imports are freely flowing through our ports of entry.
    If you think that sounds like an overstatement, take a look at some of the past Inspection Refusal Reports, released monthly by the Food and Drug Administration. The blue Chinese pork that had been contaminated by a phosphorescent bacteria that caused the meat to glow in the dark will have you thinking again.

What’s safe to eat on the government shutdown diet?

Eggs, meat, and poultry
I wouldn’t exactly call these safe even though USDA inspectors are still on the job. Egg farms, poultry processors, and slaughterhouses aren’t allowed to stay open without an inspector on site, and because these facilities are so important to the nation’s food supply, the inspectors are unfurloughed ‘essential’ workers. That means that the day-to-day observations are continuing, but the suspension of spot inspections, laboratory testing, and import oversight are putting us at risk.

Fruits and vegetables
This category is just a free-for-all. Fruits and vegetables, both domestic and imported, fall under the FDA’s domain. State agricultural agencies provide some oversight for produce grown within their borders, but on a national level it’s being produced and shipped without scrutiny. About 50% of our fruit and 20% of vegetables are imported, and those are flowing in unchecked for parasites, pesticides, herbicides, preservatives, fungicides, hormones, and a long list of banned substances that have shown up in previous shipments.

Canned, boxed, and packaged groceries
Inspections for these products fall under the purview of the idled workers at the Food and Drug Administration. While most food-borne illness is spread by perishable foods, pantry foods can pose threats of their own. The FDA has previously encountered risky and unsavory additives like lead-laced candy, industrial resins in rice, canned meats infected with mad cow disease, and a food processor who reused cooking oil salvaged from sewer drains. Some of the pre-shutdown findings that haven’t been supported by FDA alerts, withdrawals, and recalls include metal fragments in both Turkey Hill ice cream and Justin’s nut butters, plastic particles in Pillsbury cinnamon buns, and ingredients like nuts and shellfish– potentially deadly allergens– that are undeclared on package labeling in dozens of products like Safeway cake mixes, See’s candies, and P.F. Chang’s frozen dumplings.

Fish and shellfish
Seafood safety is a crapshoot, but that’s true even when the government is up and running. We import more than 90% of our seafood but have the resources to inspect less than 10%, with a tiny fraction of that portion going on to lab testing for abnormalities, pathogens, and illegal substances. There is little scrutiny despite the fact that most is farmed in developing nations with unsanitary conditions and lax regulations, where untreated animal manure and human waste can be used as feed, and antibiotics, pesticides, and fungicides are liberally applied to battle the rampant bacteria and disease. Salmonella and excrement are so routinely found in imported seafood that entire nations are on the FDA’s ‘red alert’ list so that every one of their shipments can be flagged at the border—at least they would be if the FDA were open for business. These days it’s all waved through and sent on to the nation’s supermarkets.

Even when the government is fully operational, our nation’s food safety monitoring is over-burdened and under-funded. Our fragmented collection of responsible agencies and their archaic food safety laws have never caught up with the complex, globalized system of food production. In a ‘normal’ year we see 3,000 deaths and millions of cases of food-borne illness caused by pathogen-tainted foods. This year, with uninspected shipments moving through the food supply for months to come, you can expect to see a lot more

 

 

Posted in food policy, food safety, Health | Leave a comment

How Many Ways Can You Say Sugar?

image via Dumbink

image via DumbInk

 

The Harvard School of Public Health identifies 23 different names for added sugar on food labels.
The consumer advocacy site Consumerist calls them ‘code words’, and names 30 of them. Robert Lustig raised the number to 56 in his current bestseller Sugar Has 56 Names, and the American Institute for Cancer Research puts the total closer to 100.

All the synonyms, euphemisms, and turns of the phrase make it difficult to figure out just how much sweetener is in there. And that’s no accident.

Food manufacturers are required to label a product’s ingredients in descending order by weight.
The most abundant ingredient is listed first, the next appears second, and so on. Manufacturers have figured out that if they spread the total amount of sugar among several different sweeteners instead of using just one type, each of the sugars is weighed separately. A whopping dose of added sugar might be the number one ingredient, but it could show up far down the list divvied up between fructose, glucose, corn syrup, and fruit juice concentrate. Strictly speaking, they’re all different additives, but sugar is sugar is sugar.

Sugar assumes many guises.
Some of the tip-offs are ingredients ending with -ose, most syrups, and anything with malt in its name. It can come from sugar cane, corn, beets, coconut, dates, and a slew of grains and fruits. Commonly used forms that can be tricky to identify include dextrose, dextrin, maltodextrin, glucose solids, maltose, galactose, diastatic malt, molasses, sorghum, cane juice, cane crystals, barley malt, brown rice syrup, turbinado, demerara, muscovado, rice bran syrup, agave, panocha, ethyl malto, sucanat, rapadura, panela, and jaggery.

Consumer groups have pressured the FDA to close the labeling loophole by creating a single line for ‘added sugars.’ Until then, the major ingredient on nutrition labels is confusion. You need to be a chemist, a detective, and a mathematician to hunt down all the sugars, add them all up, and turn them into information in a form that you can use to make educated decisions about diet and nutrition.

The USDA Supertracker analyzes the nutritional content of just about every product sold in U.S. supermarkets.
Its database is unavailable during the government shutdown but will become available again when our country comes to its senses.

 

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Thanksgiving and Hanukah: A Mash-Up of Biblical Proportions

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American Gothic Thanksgivukkah via The Modern Tribe

 

It’s never happened before, and won’t happen again for 80 millennia.
Thanksgiving Day and the first day of Hanukah fall on the same day this year. 
November 28th, 2013 is going to be epic.

You already know that the Jewish calendar is screwy.
Some years the big fall holidays pop up around Labor Day, and sometimes we’re juggling Rosh Hashona and the World Series. And this year, the daffy dating gives us a once-in-an-eternity collision.

The standard calendar has leap years. The Jewish calendar has leap months.
A standard year is based on one circuit of the Earth’s orbit around the Sun. The orbit actually takes 365 days plus about six hours; we add February 29th every four years to catch up to those extra hours.
The Hebrew calendar is based on 12 lunar months, each of 29 or 30 days, but with a nod to the 365 day solar year. Sticklers will note that a moon cycle is 28 days, but it takes an extra day or two to chase the Earth while it’s orbiting the Sun. Still, 12 lunar months only add up to 354 days, so every few years the Jewish calendar plays catch-up by inserting a 13th month (7 out of 19 years, to be exact).
Got that?

Hey sticklers, here’s another one for you.
The mathematically inclined are scratching their heads. It looks like the cycle should repeat every 133 years (7 x 19), so how can this be the first time we’re seeing this overlap?
It’s because even with all the leap year tinkering, the Hebrew calendar is still a little bit off. The Jewish year is 3½ seconds too long, so Chanukah is drifting a tiny bit ahead of Thanksgiving every year. It’s picking up a day every 217 years, and at that rate it’s about 80,000 years before the calendars are back in sync.

Once every 80,000 years sounds about right. Both holidays have traditional meals that sit like lead in the belly. You really don’t want to eat them in the same week very often. In fact back-to-back feasts are so daunting a prospect that most Jewish households plan to combine the two into a single gala event that’s been dubbed Thanksgivukkah.

Pilgrims and rabbis. Turkey and latkes. Cornucopias and gelt.
You’ll soon be staring down a double barrel of hybrid holidays. You’re going to need help.

Kitchen Daily and Chabad.org have collections of American Hanukkah Thanksgiving recipes, while noncooks can find caterers offering Thanksgiving brisket with all the trimmings.

Manischewitz launched an online contest for short videos about Thanksgivukkah, and a Jewish congregation on Long Island is holding a recipe competition.

There’s no shortage of holiday merchandise. Of course you’ll find the usual t shirts, sweatshirts, and greeting cards. You can fill your menorah with autumnally-hued candles and your dreidel with kosher candy corn. Extravagantly trim your house with single-season menornaments (menorah + ornament) and menurkeys (a turkey menorah with tailfeather candleholders), while the more practical-minded might opt for a double-duty cook’s apron. The dreidel side reverses to turkeys, giving it life beyond Thanksgivukkah.

After dinner you can gather Grandma and the kids for an old-timey game of Thanksgivukkah Bingo, courtesy of sisters Dana and Deborah Gitell. The holiday’s most enthusiastic boosters, Dana owns the trademark and URL to Thanksgivukkah.

Get ready. Thanksgivukkah is coming….

Posted in diversions, holidays, Thanksgiving | 3 Comments

The 10 Commandments of Italian Food

10commandments

 

The Italians are real sticklers when it comes to meal time.
They’re particular about what they eat, how they they eat it, and what they eat and drink with it. There are rules about the time of year and the time of day, who’s in the kitchen and who’s at the table, how a dish is prepared and how it’s served. There’s no room for compromise and heaps of scorn for rule breakers.

If you grew up in an Italian family, you absorbed these lessons at your Nonna’s knee. For the rest of us, the Parma-based gastronomy institute Academia Barilla has condensed and codified centuries of traditional kitchen wisdom into the 10 Italian Commandments. The academia was chartered to defend and safeguard the nation’s culinary traditions. The faux pas of foreigners are more than shudder-inducing affronts; they are seen as all-out attacks on the integrity of their institutions.

When in Rome (or just Little Italy)…  The 10 Commandments of Italian Food

I. Don’t drink cappuccino after dinner.
Coffee- yes. Cappuccinos and lattés- no. Milky drinks are exclusively a morning thing.

II. Pasta is not a side dish.
It can be its own course or the main event, but never alongside an entrée. The same goes for risotto unless it’s served with Ossobuco Milanese.

III. No oil in the pasta water.
It doesn’t prevent the pasta from sticking. But it will coat the pasta and prevent it from properly absorbing the sauce.

IV. No ketchup on pasta.
Do we really need to be told this? What must they think of us?!

V. No Spaghetti Bolognese.
There’s art and science behind matching a particular sauce with a specific pasta shape, and certain pairings are sacrosanct. Bolognese sauce goes with tagliatelle.

VI. Chicken and pasta should not be combined.
Not in the same dish. Broth or giblety bits can go in the pasta sauce, but no chicken meat.

VII. Caesar’s Salad? What’s that?
It’s a Mexican invention, virtually unknown in Italy.

VIII. Don’t look for red and white checkered tablecloths.
Unless you’re looking to dine in a tourist trap.

IX. Your fork shouldn’t be able to stand up in the Alfredo sauce.
You won’t find the familiar cream-thickened Alfredo sauce which rarely appears on authentic Italian menus. When it does, it’s a cream-less version of butter and cheese.

X. Food tastes best when served with family.
Italian restaurants in America refer to something called ‘family-style dining.’ In Italy, there’s no such designation; it’s just called dining.

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McDonald’s: Savior of Diverse Food Cultures?

mcdonaldsglobal

I’m the last person you’d expect to praise McDonald’s.
I hold the fast food chain responsible for childhood obesity, animal cruelty, environmental degradation, union busting, and the decline of the family dinner. 
Not a bite has crossed these lips since I read Fast Food Nation, and short of a gun to my head, it’s unlikely that one ever will again.
Still, credit where credit is due.

McDonald’s first steamrolled its way into overseas markets as an exporter of American culture. Its standard-issue menu of burgers and fries famously transcended boundaries and borders so that customers everywhere were assured of the same Quarter Pounder whether they were in a McDonald’s in Mozambique, Malaysia, or Minnesota. It was seen as the worst form of globalization, corrupting cultures, adulterating diets, and trampling on local culinary traditions. And it did those things. The hamburger has truly become a global food, and you can find them not just at McDonald’s but on menus everywhere, from Greek tavernas to Egyptian mataams.

McDonald’s is truly a victim of its own success. Now that you can find burgers at cafés, cantinas, brasseries, and biergartens, their own version doesn’t register the same excitement it once did. When McDonald’s brought its first restaurant to Kuwait in 1994, the opening day line of 15,000 customers stretched for seven miles; when the 70th Kuwaiti outlet opened this year, it elicited a yawn.

McDonald’s has shown itself to be surprisingly mutable.
They’ve abandoned their goal of standardized globalization for one of internationalization. Instead of bringing the same cookie cutter menu items to every foreign locale, the chain adapts its offerings to local tastes, preferences, and available ingredients.

While America’s McDonald’s adhere to a proscribed menu of commoditized, mass-produced burgers, foreign franchisees are only required to stick with a short list of standard items and are encouraged to tinker with the rest of the food. Hamburgers come on patties of sticky rice in the Philippines and on flatbread in Greece. In India, where much of the population doesn’t eat beef, there’s a potato-patty McAloo Tikki burger and Israel has the kosher McFalafel. You can order cheese quiche in Brazil, red bean pie in Hong Kong, and traditional Caldo Verde soup (made with cabbage, kale, onion, potato and chorizo) in Portugal.

The overseas McDonald’s are often held to a higher standard.
They conform to local laws and sentiments by sourcing GMO-free ingredients, and beef is often lean, grass-fed, and hormone-free. They source locally, buy cheeses with no artificial dyes, soft drinks with no added corn syrup, and grill meats over charcoal fires. Even the workers’ pay is often better than in the U.S.

Ironically, McDonald’s, the world’s best exporter of American culture has become a champion of global food cultures.
But make no mistake about it, this is still fast food. It’s loaded with sodium, preservatives, and cheap fats, pre-cooked and kept wiltingly warm under the glare of heat lamps, and served in an excess of packaging. 
It’s a cold comfort to think that the world’s culinary traditions are being preserved at food court kiosks. 

The 26 year old Canadian author of  McDonald’s Around the World has eaten at McDonald’s outlets in more than 50 countries (the trick, he says, is to cram as many layovers as possible into every travel itinerary). His blog chronicles the highs and lows of global eating at the Golden Arches.

 

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Portly Pet Owners Produce Pudgy Pets

http://www.sostav.ru/articles/rus/2004/columns/gallery/images/big/2000-7350.jpghttp://img1.nnm.ru/imagez/gallery/e/f/f/0/3/eff03ea70bcd86bc559344d7e7d692ac.jpg

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[Winners of the  ‘I Look Like My Dog’ contest from Cesar Select Dinners]

 

If every dog has its day, then the fat ones have next Wednesday.
October 9 is National Pet Obesity Awareness Day.

Our pets, just like their human owners, are fat. About half of all dogs in American homes are overweight or obese, which can lead to very human health issues like hypertension, diabetes, and joint problems. In the same way that one dog-year translates to seven human-years, dog-pounds have a much larger human equivalent. For some breeds, a single dog-pound can translate to as much as 25 excess human-pounds in terms of its physical toll.

Dogs share their owners’ lifestyles.
A generation ago, the notion of overweight pets would have struck us as ludicrous. But today we live increasingly in yard-less apartments and we build suburban developments with no sidewalks. Dogs are couch potato companions, joining us in front of TVs and computer screens. Walks are brief, primarily for the elimination of waste, and the dogs are left behind when we get our own exercise at the gym.

We project our foodie-isms onto our dogs.
You can buy dog food in locally-sourced, seasonal, organic, vegan, and slow food varieties, like the Well Fed Dog’s Salmon and Pumpkin Dinner, which uses only organic Scottish salmon ($9.95 for a 16 oz. serving), and Succulent Chicken poached in garlic-infused lobster consommé from Petropic’s Hawaiian-themed Tiki meals ($4.29 for a 14.1 oz. can). Even Purina has its Chef Michael’s Carvery Creations line that comes in flavors like brisket and braised short ribs (99¢ for a 3 oz. can).

The fact is that dogs have a mere fraction of our taste buds, and they will pretty much eat anything—they’re known to be especially fond of socks and cat feces. But these high-protein, high-fat diets suit more than just the dog owners’ culinary sensibilities—the easily digestible foods combined with little exercise mean that there are fewer calls of nature, and walks can be less frequent.

We have also come up with pet obesity solutions that mirror our own.
Jenny Craig diet has partnered with Nestlé for a proprietary regimen, Project:Pet Slimdown, and Pfizer Pharmaceutical markets Slentrol, an FDA-approved prescription weight-loss drug for dogs. There are Jog a Dog canine treadmills and Thank Dog Boot Camp workouts. And just like human weight-loss methods, the failure rates are high.

Fat owners make fat dogs
The twin obesity epidemics are tightly entwined. Studies show that we are as indulgent with our dogs as with ourselves.
We need fewer calories in the bowl and more miles on the feet. It’s the best advice for both dogs and owners. You and your dog will still look alike, only better.

What kind of dog would you be?
The doggie equivalent of a 217 pound 5’ 9” man is a 90 pound Labrador retriever. If a 12 pound Yorkie were human she’d be a 5’4″ women who weighs 218 pounds. The Pet Weight Translator can turn you into a dog, and vice versa.

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Your Green Friend With Benefits

Paint-roller-with-green-p-001

Kale isn’t the only one.
It’s just the one with the best PR.

Kale is a true ‘superfood.’ It’s a low calorie, nutrient dense, brain-boosting, heart healthy, do-no-wrong vegetable. You can say the same about plenty of other dark leafy greens, but kale is the one that has captured the nation’s collective appetite.

A few short years ago, Pizza Hut was the single largest consumer of kale in the U.S., and they weren’t even serving it; it was treated as an inedible garnish used to decorate their salad bars. Today you’ll find kale on the menu of any restaurant worth its hand-harvested fleur de sel. Food manufacturers are tossing it into soups, snacks, and soft drinks. Juice bars are squeezing it, mixologists are crafting kale-tinis, and it’s so ubiquitous in the trendy quarters of Brooklyn that the New York Times proposed it as the borough’s official vegetable.

There are signs of kale craziness everywhere:

It’s peaking as a baby name. This chart illustrates how many boys were named Kale in the U.S. since 1880.

eat more kale shirt

 

It turned Bo Muller-Moore into a folk hero when his small, eco-friendly, Vermont t-shirt business was sued by Chick-fil-A for violating their Eat mor chikin trademark.

50-shades-kale_vg

 

We now have 50 Shades of Kale, the cookbook.

We learned that a rubdown does wonders for kale’s texture with more than 5,000 YouTube videos demonstrating proper kale massage technique.
MassageKaleSalad

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s feeling more and more like peak kale.
The market is reaching saturation, and the notoriously fickle foodies are getting restless. Thousands cast their votes in last month’s Huffington Post superfood deathmatch pitting kale against the likes of chia seeds and kohlrabi. You can practically hear the rustle of pages turning as food marketers pore over trend reports looking for the next big thing.

America’s vegetable sweetheart is out there somewhere.
Prognosticators say that there’s plenty of room at the table for another kale-like superfood. They’re prowling the farmers markets and produce aisles for another long-neglected leafy green that can be readied for its close-up.

Zagat looks at the likely contenders in Predicting the Next Kale.
They look at nine different leafy green vegetables like collards, escarole, and dandelion greens, evaluating the potential of each to be the next kale.

Posted in food business, food trends | Leave a comment

Nearing Thanksgiving, Our Sexiest Smelling Holiday

 

image via Sensing Architecture

image via Sensing Architecture

 

Food might be the way to a man’s heart, but the smell of food aims a little lower.

Research performed at the Smell and Taste Research Foundation in Chicago discovered that certain food smells are like olfactory Viagra, significantly increasing blood flow to the penis for men and to the vagina for women.

Thanksgiving—the sexiest holiday?
Men are easy, pretty much turned on by all food smells, but pumpkin pie is special. In combination with other foods, the smell of pumpkin pie increases penile blood flow by 40%.

Top scents for men:
pumpkin pie (especially with a lavender chaser)
black licorice with doughnuts
pumpkin pie with doughnuts
Pizza, buttered popcorn, and cinnamon buns round out the list of top turn-ons. Cranberry and chocolate were the least favored, with response rates as low as 2%.
 
Wouldn’t you know it?
The female sexual response is not so simple. While pretty much any food scent is arousing to men, women are more discriminating, turned on by some and turned off by others.
Top scents for women:
Good & Plenty candy combined with cucumber
Good & Plenty candy with banana bread
Pumpkin pie, coffee, vanilla, and grilled meats also do the trick for women.
Mood killers
While men have little to no response to less-favored fragrances, women actually have negative responses, exhibiting a reduced flow of blood to the genitals. Turn-offs for women include cherries and barbecue, except for the ladies of Atlanta and Houston who are inexplicably stimulated by these scents.
Love is in the air. You just need to sniff it out.
 

 

Posted in diversions, Thanksgiving | 1 Comment

Eat Your Veggies–For Dessert!

image via A Thousand Words

image via A Thousand Words

 

Sweets lovers, you may want to avert your eyes.
Vegetables are sneaking away from your dinner plate and landing on the dessert menu. Carrot flan, eggplant tiramisu, black olive madeleines, and celery sorbet are charming and confounding us in equal shares, and forcing us to recalibrate our tastebuds.

Forward-thinking chefs have been playing with a sprinkle of salt and the bite of hot pepper for a while now. Chile-spiked chocolate barely raises an eyebrow anymore and sea salt caramel has become a culinary cliché. Bacon desserts have gone so far past outré that even Burger King lards up a vanilla soft-serve sundae.

The vegetable-based dessert trend has a certain logic.
It takes diners along the same continuum as the salty-savory sweets, but at the same time, they’re new enough to dazzle. And it taps into all things seasonal and farm-to-table.

Vegetable-based dessert are hardly a new invention.
Think about sweet potato pie, carrot cake, and corn pudding. But where the classic vegetable desserts are intensely sweet, the trend is toward fresher, vegetal flavors. The sugar is toned down to play up the ingredients’ natural sweetness, and savory tastes are front and center.

As an added bonus- you can forget the old adage about finishing your vegetables before you get dessert.

The Centers for Disease Control have a Nutrition for Everyone tool that calculates recommended daily servings of fruits and vegetables for your age, gender, and activity level.

Condé Nast Traveler rounds up 20 of the most interesting vegetable-based dessert menus around the country.

Posted in dessert, food trends, restaurants | Leave a comment
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