Chicken. Just Chicken.

image via

image via


Nobody buys just lettuce; it’s Romaine or arugula or Bibb. Beef is Angus, salmon is Sockeye, and a Granny Smith apple is never mistaken for a Honeycrisp. But we buy chicken, just chicken.

Bland, mealy supermarket tomatoes just don’t cut it once you’ve had the juice of a just-picked, perfectly ripe Brandywine running down your chin, and freshly-dug Russian Banana fingerlings are a potato revelation after mass-produced russets. Heirloom fruits and vegetables are old-time varieties grown from seeds that are saved from season to season and handed down through multiple generations of growers. They’ve been saved, sometimes for centuries, because they taste so good .

Modern large-scale agriculture relies on hybrids. Commercial growers have breeding programs that focus on high yields and ship-ability. They need varieties that perform well in the field, can be picked green, travel long distances, and be gas-ripened when they reach their destination. Flavor and nutrition take a backseat to shelf-life and hardiness.

Breed makes an enormous difference to the taste of chicken, just as it does for other foods.
Most of us have yet to discover this difference because we’ve gone our entire lives eating just one chicken: the Cornish X Rock hybrid. The U.S. poultry industry, which cranks out eight billion of them a year, selectively bred the Cornish X Rock to grow quickly while eating as little as possible, and to carry a high ratio of white meat to dark with its giant breasts perched on stubby legs.

Just as tender heads of Little Gems lettuce will ruin you for iceberg, once you eat a heritage chicken, there’s no going back to Perdue.
These birds are more complex, more savory, just plain more chicken-y than what you’ve been eating. Even an organic, free-ranging Cornish X can’t come close. It will always be a flabby prisoner of its genetics, maturing too quickly, and too top-heavy to move. The meat never has a chance to develop any real character.

Each heritage chicken breed has its own ‘personality.’
It’s like apples— there are sweet ones and tart ones, apples for sauce and apples for pie. It’s not the worst thing if you bake with Red Delicious, but Pippins are a better choice. Same with the chickens: a Buff Orpington is a great fryer while the oil would overwhelm the delicate flesh of a Marans, and a meaty Speckled Sussex cries out for a slow braise. There is none of the multi-tasking versatility of Cornish X Rock, but each breed has its own distinctive textural and taste notes and even a sense of terroir. 

Heritage recipes for heritage birds.
Dust off the old cookbooks- you need to go all the way back to the 1950′s to find recipes that don’t presume you’re cooking a Cornish X Rock.
Contemporary cooking of old fashioned chickens is alive and well at Good Shepherd Poultry Ranch, a pioneering breeder and online seller of heritage chickens. The farm sponsors a heritage chicken recipe competition attracting hundreds of entrants. You can find winning recipes and more at The Heritage Chef.


Posted in cooking, food knowledge, recipes | 1 Comment

College Kids Are the Foodies of The Future

image via College Planning Advisors

image via College Planning Advisors


Kids these days…are tomorrow’s food trendsetters.
There are 20 million college students in the U.S., most in their teens and early 20′s
They’re young, impressionable, and eating Thai food for the first time.

Minds are expanding, horizons are broadening, and not just in the classroom. 
Today’s college cafeterias are serving up globally-influenced dishes, there’s always cheap, ethnic food close by the campus, and student populations are increasingly diverse. Campuses incubate political awareness and activism, and the politics of our food system are among the most immediate and accessible. A college can be big and urban or tiny and rural, it makes no difference—by winter break, every freshman knows tahini is a sauce and panini is a sandwich.

Students develop new eating habits and assert their culinary preferences during the college years, and these practices and penchants will stay with them long after graduation. The food industry is paying attention. It recognizes that these food choices are developing in ways that are distinct from previous generations, and the impact will be felt for decades to come. The food industry strategists at CCD Innovations have extensively studied this cohort, and they outline seven distinct profiles in the Collegiate Gen Y Eating: Culinary Trend Mapping Report.

  • Profile 1: The meatless spectrum– 21% of students identify with the less-meat to meat-less diet, ranging from flexitarian to vegetarian to vegan.
  • Profile 2: The chickpea lovers– Students are crazy for this inexpensive and protein-packed food in any of its many guises.
  • Profile 3: Nut butters– They spent their early, allergy-prone years in nut-free classrooms and cafeterias, and are now coming to appreciate peanut butter, almond butter, and the cocoa and hazelnut combination ofNutella.
  • Profile 4: Consider the brussels sprout– They’re giving up childhood prejudices and delving deeply into the world of fruits and vegetables.
  • Profile 5: Not just chicken chow mein– Today’s students are looking beyond the Americanized Asian foods of their hometowns and exploring Korean, Thai, Malaysian, and Indian cuisines.
  • Profile 6: The new comfort foods– When final exams have students frazzled and stressed, campus dining services know it’s time to roll out the lasagne, enchiladas, and other filling, familiar Italian and Mexican classics.
  • Profile 7: Get it to go– The grab-and-go station has become a staple of campus dining. Students want something quick, portable, and easy to eat as they walk to class.
The recently-launched College & Cook Magazine relies on a national corps of student contributors to tap into the changing culinary landscape on campuses. Early issues of the online-only publication have covered topics like campus sustainability, the intricacies of kissing with food allergies (yes, you can cause a reaction in a partner if you eat one of their trigger foods), and calculating the measuring cup equivalent for baking with a shot glass.


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Cook Your Cupboard Wants to Know: What’s Languishing in Your Pantry?


Campbell's Limited Edition soups

Campbell’s Limited Edition soups


Cook Your Cupboard wants to know what’s in your pantry.
NPR has launched a food project inspired by a dilemma that every one of us has faced: What do I do with                   ?
Go ahead and fill in the blank with three of the odd, the random, and the esoteric items that lurk, semi-forgotten in the back of your cupboards.

We all have them. 
They might be edible mementoes from a long-ago road trip or bizarre condiments chosen on impulse. There’s the still-full bottle of rose water that was purchased for a specific recipe, the rice cakes from the diet you never started, the raspberry chipotle mustard you were gifted with last Christmas, and the Arborio rice and saffron bought for a dinner party you never gave.

Cook Your Cupboard is never stumped.
Poke around on high shelves and low ones, in the back of your cupboards, and the darkest reaches of your freezer. The Cook Your Cupboard blog invites you to submit three items that you’d like to salvage before they reach their expiration dates. The radio show listeners and blog readers offer suggestions, advice, and recipes, and a few lucky submissions are handled on-air by the week’s guest chef—past participants include big names like Jacques Pepin, Nigella Lawson, and Mollie Katzen.

We learn that canned vegetarian haggis is best left in the desert for coyotes, and powdered lemonade mix should only be used  to clean the insides of a dishwasher, but most pantry hodgepodge trios are put to legitimately appetizing use. Apple cider vinegar, almond milk, and dried red beans become vegetarian chili and cornbread; chick pea flour, chia seeds, and harissa are turned into Indian-inspired fritters. They’ve tackled fenugreek, bonita flakes, Georgian Tlekmani sauce, Moroccan fish balls, and canned custard. And anchovies. For some reason no one seems to know what to do with anchovies.

Submit a photo of your most regrettable purchases and let the culinary brain trust at NPR work some magic. Currently they’re looking for three items hidden in the forgotten corners of your freezer.

The pantry contents of celebrities, the secret language of grocery purchases, and more are revealed in Gigabiting’s Snooping in Other People’s Pantries.

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Psychoactive and Highly Addictive: It’s Your Morning Cup of Coffee


The American Psychiatric Association recently classified caffeine withdrawal as a mental disorder.
If you’re scratching your head over this one, you must not be a coffee drinker.

Withdrawal symptoms kick in on the very first morning without coffee.
You’re draggy, achy, and irritable. Your brain feels swampy, but soon the underwater feeling is replaced by a throbbing headache. Nausea and fatigue will have you wondering if maybe you have the flu; but no, it’s your brain and adrenal glands going haywire without their caffeine fix. If you can tough it out with herbal tea for a week or two your body will rediscover its natural, caffeine-less equilibrium. But along the way there will be some seriously rocky days.

A true coffee addict’s brain is physically and chemically different.
When a casual drinker has a cup of coffee, the caffeine crosses the blood–brain barrier and physically enters the brain. It’s not a direct stimulant but instead it blocks the receptors for adenosine, a sleep-producing substance. The brain is alert and energized because it didn’t receive its dose of adenosine, and all the free-floating sleepy adenosine will cue the brain to produce even more of its own natural stimulants like adrenaline and dopamine. The block stays in place for the four to six hours it takes for the body to metabolize the caffeine.

The physical characteristics of the caffeine addict’s brain is altered by the constant tinkering with its chemistry. Over time the brain will try to balance out the routine bouts of over-stimulation by growing more adenosine receptors, and it will shed some of its stimulant receptors. Caffeine addicts constantly need to increase their coffee consumption to feel the buzz. This also means that when their brains are deprived of caffeine, they crash harder than the rest of us.

Nobody would confuse the true caffeine addict’s withdrawal with the morning fog the rest of us experience when we go without coffee.
The headache pain and general misery are extreme enough to be medically categorized as ‘clinically significant distress,’ and brain functions are impaired to the point that work, home life, and socializing are seriously compromised.

About 30% of coffee drinkers are probably addicts, although most don’t know it until they try to go without.
The addiction rate for caffeine is a little higher than it is for heroin users but less than for nicotine. 
The good news is that compared to those other substances, withdrawal is relatively quick. If the coffee junkie can get through a week or two without caffeine, the receptors in the brain will reset to their normal levels and the spell of addiction is broken.


Posted in coffee, Health | 2 Comments

Chewing Gum: The Nasty Habit That’s Good for You




Etiquette experts will frown but the evidence is indisputable: you should chew gum.

It makes you smarter.
A study out of the Baylor College of Medicine shows a 3% increase in standardized math scores from students who chewed gum during homework and exams.

Eat more healthfully.
According to a report in the medical journal Appetite, gum chewers snack less and have fewer cravings for unhealthy foods.

Improve your digestion.
Chew just before or after you eat. It helps your body create more saliva and build up the acid in your stomach, which gives your digestive system a boost. Since stomach acid levels decline with age, beginning by about age 40, this can be especially beneficial for older adults.

Fight heartburn.
While gum increases stomach acids, it can actually lower acid levels in the mouth and esophagus. Chewing gum after a meal can help reduce acid reflux and heartburn symptoms and may aid in preventing gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).

Stay sharp.
The journal Brain and Cognition suggests that chewing gum can increase blood flow to the brain and improve cognitive performance. Brain scans show gum-related activity in eight areas of the brain, and test subjects demonstrated improved alertness and motor skill reaction times that were up to 10 per cent faster than non-chewers.

Your dentists wants you to.
Sugarless gum can prevent cavities. It can neutralize plaque, whiten teeth, and even strengthen them by remineralizing tooth enamel. The American Dental Association suggests a 20 minute chew after meals to prevent tooth decay.

Unless you suffer from a jaw ailment or certain other health conditions, chewing gum can be good for you in so many ways. For the best results, stick with ADA-approved chewing gum.

Of course there’s a time and place for everything.
The Modern Manners Guy clarifies the new gum-chewing etiquette.

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Your Fork, Your Conscience, and Your Pocketbook


image via Watershed Media

image via Watershed Media

Do you know where your food dollars are going?

From Tom Monaghan, founder of both Domino’s Pizza and the ultra-Orthodox Catholic Ave Maria List PAC, to the Koch Brothers and their Dixie Cups brand, conservatives have plenty of friends in the food world. A few, like Chick-fil-A, are controlled by far right-wingers who openly and unapologetically use their brands to promote conservative agendas. Most just quietly pour profits into campaigns and super PACs that oppose gay rights, abortion rights, gun control, universal healthcare, and other affronts to conservatism.

Business owners are free to exercise their Constitutional rights of speech and assembly, just as we are free to decide that we’d rather not help them to finance bigotry and intolerance.
Here at Gigabiting, these are the food-related businesses with politics that leave a bad taste in our mouths:

Johnsonville Sausage has a long history of support for right-wing causes and candidates, most recently to fight the recall of Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker.

Carl’s Jr.’s founder’s support of a nasty little proposition to fire gay teachers earned his hamburgers the nickname ‘bigot burgers.’

The Waffle House, a southern roadside fixture with 1,600 mostly franchised restaurants, used centralized corporate funds to become a major supporter of Karl Rove’s group American Crossroads.

White Castle likes to support the seriously conservative Congressional Leadership Fund Super PAC.

The ice cream manufacturer Blue Bell Creameries is also a fan of the Boehner-linked Congressional Leadership Fund.

Cracker Barrel has stopped firing employees who don’t exhibit ‘normal heterosexual values,’ but its political contributions list reads like a Who’s Who of the Tea Party.

Outback Steakhouse has been criticized for strong-arming employees to sign over paycheck deductions to a massive in-house PAC. Ironically, that fund directs its contributions to organizations that fight labor-friendly causes like a higher minimum wage and a national health care system.

When you mop up kitchen spills with Brawny, Sparkle, or Mardi Gras paper towels, you’re lining the pockets of Charles and David Koch, the pair who is funneling hundreds of millions of dollars to groups like the National Rifle Association, Grover Norquist’s Americans for Tax Reform, the National Right to Life Committee, Ralph Reed’s Faith and Freedom Coalition, the 60 Plus Association and the American Future Fund. Like Dixie Cups and Vanity Fair napkins, they are all produced by subsidiaries of Koch Industries. It’s not food but it’s in your kitchen.

Vote with your pocketbook, your fork, and your conscience.
Better World Shopper rates the social responsibility of over 1,000 companies in a range of industries. It’s a reliable and comprehensive database that examines corporate records on human rights, environmental issues, animal protection, issues of social justice, and community involvement.

Posted in food business, food knowledge | 3 Comments

Yogurt is the New Man Food



Are you man enough for yogurt?
Forget about those too-small single serving containers with their soupy pablum lurking beneath a flimsy cap of tinfoil. Yogurt is being repositioned as sustenance for a manly man, with portions and packaging to match.

Powerful Yogurt, which was naturally dubbed ‘brogurt’ by the media, comes in a hefty half-pound serving. The sturdy carton has the utilitarian font and black and red color scheme of a bodybuilder’s tub of creatine, and the advertising is full of jacked and shirtless guys hoisting spoons past their bulging obliques. Ladies, you need to cast your mascaraed eyes elsewhere in the dairy aisle.

For all their progress, men still yield to the tyranny of gender stereotypes.
They’ve taken over shopping duties—a 2011 Yahoo survey in 2011 found that 51% of 18 to 64 year old men now call themselves the primary shoppers for their households—but are much more susceptible than women are to gender-driven food messaging. A study from Northwestern University demonstrated that taste and appetite prevail when a quick, 10 second decision is made; men will freely choose ‘girlie’ foods like yogurt, rice pilaf, white wine, and fish. But give them time to consider the choice, and the weight of early socialization combined with years of gender messaging from the evil geniuses of Madison Avenue takes over and it’s all about meat and potatoes, beer and pretzels. By contrast, women overwhelmingly choose feminine options and stick with them.

Better sex through yogurt?
Powerful Yogurt seems aimed at men who fear feminization through dairy products. Ironically, yogurt might play a positive role in male sexual function. Researchers at MIT reported on the phenomenon of mouse swagger–the distinctly showier gait of mice who’ve been fed a yogurt diet. Their coats were denser and shinier and their testicles were larger than those of the control mice. They also inseminated their partners faster and produced larger litters. Findings were similar when human subjects were studied in followup research performed at Harvard’s School of Public Health.

It’s a complicated business, eating.
The enduring gender lines are as resolutely retrograde as Beef Wellington. Men are no longer seen as hapless dolts who walk into a supermarket with a list and walk out with little more than chips, bacon, and beer. Yes, they’re buying yogurt, but just as one stereotype falls, another rises to take its place.


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The Rabbis’ Banquet, or Why it’s ‘kosher’ not to keep kosher



image via Cafe Press

image via Cafe Press


Do you keep kosher?
It’s the mother of all wedge issues for Jews.
It’s the issue that split Judaism into the Orthodox, Conservative, and Reform denominations we know today, and it’s all because of a single dinner.

The landmark dinner took place in Cincinnati, Ohio in 1883.
It was held to celebrate the first graduating class of the Hebrew Union College, America’ first rabbinical seminary. At the time there little differentiation between Jewish denominations in America; they were all just Jews. But there was a widening schism between the pious traditionalists and the more assimilated American-born religious modernists who were struggling with the role of religion in American life.

The Jewish dietary laws were at the heart of the debate.
Some thought that the kosher rituals, preserving an unbroken chain of generations going back to Moses on Mount Sinai, were exactly the type of tradition that should be maintained. Others argued that kosher laws were just the sort of practice that should be jettisoned as an impediment to integration into American society.

It all came to a head at the ordination dinner that’s come to be known as the Treif Banquet.
Treif is the Hebrew word for ‘unclean,’ meaning any non-Kosher food that doesn’t conform to the Jewish dietary laws. The newly ordained rabbis deliberately loaded the banquet menu with treif foods to demonstrate their rejection of traditional ritual laws in favor of a dynamic moral code based in Jewish teachings but more in step with the modern realities of their adopted country.

It didn’t sit well with the Orthodox rabbis in attendance.
Some fled at the first sign of taboo shellfish. Those who stuck around past the appetizer of Little Neck clams on the half shell were treated to plenty of other traif delicacies. There were soft shell crabs, shrimp, frog legs, and a lobster bisque. The wines and meats weren’t kosher, and dairy products were mixed liberally with the meat courses prepared with butter and cream sauces, and a cheese course after.

The battle lines were drawn.
The dinner divided the Jewish community between the doctrinal dogmatism of Orthodoxy and the liberalism of the Reform wing. The two extremes left a lot of middle ground. There were plenty of assimilation-minded Jews chafing at Orthodoxy, and traditionalist Reform Jews who were offended by the radical ideology that the Hebrew Union College flaunted at the banquet. A new rabbinical college, the Jewish Theological Seminary, was established to occupy the middle ground, and it became the bastion of a new, purely American, Conservative Jewish Movement.

Today, about one in five American Jews keeps kosher.
The Orthodox Movement is the only purely observant group; members of the Conservative, Reform, Reconstructionist, and Humanist movements can go either way, and most go the way of spareribs, shrimp cocktail, cheeseburgers, and BLT’s.

We have the brave rabbis of the Treif Banquet to thank for making America safe for bacon-loving Jews.



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The Slow Web. Why Stop at Slow Food?


Greywell Road image via Sebastian Ballard

Greywell Road image via Sebastian Ballard


The Slow Food Movement taught us to reject the creep of fast food and industrial food production so that we can rediscover and reclaim the pleasures of traditional food and cooking.
The Slow Web Movement aims to do the same for the internet.

The Slow Web isn’t a longing for dial-up.
Don’t let the name fool you; nobody wants to slow down your internet connection or take away your smartphone. The movement wants to keep the speed and efficiency of technological gains but find the human rhythm within it that allows for authentic personal connections and deeper engagement with content.

Just as fast food fills us with empty calories, the Fast Web is feeding us the fat, carbs, and sugar of the internet.
It serves up clickable lists and slideshows, infographics and timelines that target our basest appetites for gossip, scandal, eye candy, and stupid pet tricks. It’s short and sweet and goes down easily but is hardly a full meal.

The Fast Web also fuels its own feeding frenzy.
Think of how a communication exchange used to work. Information was provided in something like real time by the media or shared by someone in your circle. Maybe the interaction allowed for some give-and-take—questions, clarification, and the like—but your response could usually be held until you were ready to release it. You would exit real time for an hour or a day or a week when you could reflect and reconsider before formulating a response and committing it to a letter, a conversation, a phone call, or an email.

The Fast Web shrinks the feedback loop down to a nanosecond.
Online responses follow hot on the heels of real time, and if you don’t keep up you’re out of the loop. There’s no time to ponder but who needs to when communication is reduced to smiley faces, LOLs and WTFs? Have a question? That’s what FAQs are for. Craving more interaction? Then click it, pin it, like it, tweet it, or share it.

The How Much Information? project from the Global Information Industry Center found that in 2009 we typically confronted around 100,000 words on screens and 34 gigabytes of information every day. While it’s the most recent study of its kind, it comes from a era when we still thought ‘apps’ meant cheese and crackers and the world had yet to discover Instagram, Pinterest, and the iPad; no doubt our consumption is even greater today.The abbreviated feedback loop of automated algorithms and canned responses is all we have to keep us from drowning in a sea of data.

The Slow Web Movement is concerned with the ways that this erodes our attention spans and devalues our online interactions. We consume vast quantities of information but do so in an endless stream of insubstantial snippets. It all lacks depth and heft, context and analysis. We can’t possibly devote the time to ponder and noodle; to put something down and return to it later with fresh eyes and insights. All of the clips and snippets and soundbites will always be information and never become knowledge.

The founding Manifesto of the Slow Food Movement was written as a call to “defend ourselves against the universal madness of ‘the fast life’… against those who confuse efficiency with frenzy...” It calls ‘the fast life’ a virus that “fractures our customs and assails us even in our own homes.” Substitute Facebook for a McDonald’s hamburger and it’s clear that cyberculture  is infected with the same virus. It’s also easy to see why the Slow Web Movement has latched onto food as their model: just as with food, we need to restore communication and human interaction to their former positions as cornerstones of pleasure, culture, and community.

The movement is young, but there’s a groundswell of support.
The Slow Web Movement is explained more fully in the classic TED Talk In Praise of Slowness; it was a featured topic at this year’s SXSW Interactive Festival; and even one of the Fast Web’s big winners, Arianna Huffington, has been stumping for the movement, advocating for a slower, more substantive news cycle.

Does this whet your appetite for more than the junk food diet of internet memes and viral videos?
You can get a taste of the Slow Web by downloading the Instapaper app and installing a read-it-later bookmark, and then loading it up with articles from Longreads, a collection of the best longform writing from current issues of publications like The New Yorker, GQ, The New York Times, Gawker, The Believer, Vanity Fair, and anything else that catches the editor’s eye.


Posted in cyberculture, Science/Technology, trends | Leave a comment

Can Man Live on Fruit Alone?

image via

image via


Steve Jobs was unquestionably the world’s most prominent fruitarian.
He followed an all-fruit diet for much of his life, even naming his company for the time he spent at a commune-like apple farm.
For Ashton Kutcher, who’s portraying the late Apple CEO in this summer’s Jobs bio pic, that meant adopting Steve Jobs’s fruitarian diet for one month. It was part of his Method acting preparation to get inside the mind of the man he’s portraying.
All that fruit landed Kutcher in the hospital with gastric distress and abnormal pancreatic functions, opening up the debate about the healthfulness of the diet regimen.

Fruitarianism is an extreme form of veganism.
While all vegans follow a diet without animal products, fruitarians also pass on vegetables and grains. Some fruitarians will indulge in nuts and seeds, and some use a botanical definition of fruit to include beans, peas, and legumes, but it is primarily, if not exclusively, a fruit-based diet.

This calls for a big, all-caps WHY??
Fruitarians are motivated by same ethical/environmental/health/aesthetic set of factors as other vegetarians and vegans, plus a big one that’s all their own. Many tout it as the original diet of mankind in the form of Adam and Eve, and therefore the purest and most natural. They cite Genesis 1:29:
And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat.

Too much of a good thing.
Most health and nutrition experts are highly critical of fruitarianism—as they are of any diet that excludes major food groups. Fruits are packed with certain vitamins and antioxidants, but they’re almost entirely carbohydrates. An all-fruit diet can overwhelm the body with sugars while it’s deficient in essential nutrients like protein, calcium, omega-3 fatty acids, and a laundry list of vitamins and minerals. Try it for more than a few weeks and you’re probably looking at aches, fatigue, and a susceptibility to infections and viruses. Stick with the diet long enough and it can lead to compromised organ functions, metabolic imbalances, anemia, and weakened bones and teeth—all symptoms of malnutrition and starvation.

It’s not a diet for the sociable.
Invitations to dinner become a thing of the past. Fruitarians are no fun to cook for. Dinner parties and barbecues are out of the question, and most restaurants are certain disaster. It’s also kills the sex drive, but fruitarians tend to be too busy to notice— they need to devote many hours of the day grazing on many pounds of fruit to take in enough calories.

In small doses
An all-fruit diet can have a healing, cleansing effect. It is de-toxifying, and practitioners speak of a pleasant mental and physical lightness. It can also be effective for weight loss. If someone is in good health and feels spiritually drawn to the fruitarian diet, a short stretch of a few weeks can be a positive experience.

Registration is still open for this summer’s Woodstock Fruit Festival, an annual, week-long fruitarian extravaganza that has extended a standing invitation to Ashton Kutcher.


Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

We Have It Backwards. Eat Dessert First.


cupcake breakfast via Saucy Sprinkles

cupcake breakfast via Saucy Sprinkles


We have it all backwards.
A slew of new research has come out telling us to eat more desserts. It’s good nutrition, good for your teeth, and even good for weight loss.
It’s like a childhood dream come true.

A little dessert does a lot of good at mealtime.
The problem with a very low-fat diet is that many nutrients can’t be adequately absorbed. Vitamins A, D, E, and K, and the carotenoids in green, leafy vegetables are examples of fat-soluble nutrients; they’re virtually useless if they land in the digestive tract without some fat. That’s where dessert comes in—eggs, butter, creamy fillings—we can always count on desserts to provide the fat.

Dessert can help you stick with a diet. 
A diet is a constant tug-of-war between desire and will power. Studies show that dieters who ease up a little will have greater self-control in the long run, while a single-minded focus on the effort to avoid sweets entirely can create a psychological addiction to the very foods they want to avoid.

Eat dessert first.
The best compliance came from dieters who had dessert before dinner. The gratification comes first, making it easier to stick with the healthy foods that come later. Dessert first also causes you to feel full more quickly, and the sense of satiety lasts longer. It’s no illusion: the denser, fattier dessert will settle heavily in the gut and stick around longer than the diet foods that follow.

Dessert for breakfast. 
The old adage instructs us to eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, and dine like a pauper. That’s because a big and balanced breakfast fires up the metabolism for better fat burning throughout the day. Add a dessert to the meal and it seems to give the metabolism an extra boost. It also suppresses the production of ghrelin, the hormone that increases hunger, and less ghrelin means fewer late-day cravings.

Sweets for breakfast, dessert before dinner—some rules really are made to be broken.

Summaries of both the ‘dessert first study‘ and the ‘dessert for breakfast study‘ can be found in Science Daily.


Posted in diet, health + diet | Leave a comment

When I Get Old I’m Eating Donuts Every Day

Koehler Senior Center Donut Protest/AP photo

Koehler Senior Center Donut Protest/AP photo


Sometimes a senior’s donut hole really is just a pastry.

For years, the clientele at Mahopac, NY’s William Koehler Senior Center enjoyed free day-old donuts and other baked goods donated by area bakeries. Then the city council passed a law forbidding the donations.

According to city council member Karl Rove:
We want our seniors to live as long as possible, and these sweets can only contribute to obesity. With obesity come high blood pressure, circulation problems, and diabetes. So we are doing this for their own good.” 

Even Michael F. Jacobson, the Executive Director of The Center for Science in the Public Interest chimed in on the matter: 
“Older people have high rates of heart disease and high blood pressure and…senior citizen centers, nursing homes, and assisted-living centers should not be worsening the health problems of seniors.

The affected seniors organized a protest to keep the free donuts coming.
One center resident, Mr. Fairbanks grumbled, “Where do they get this attitude? They act like they are our parents.”
The seniors argued that no public funds were being used to purchase the baked goods, and their eight decades or so of life certainly should have earned them the right to eat what they want. And now it seems they might also have science on their side.

For people over 75, a sugary, fatty diet doesn’t make a difference.
A restrictive diet probably won’t improve their health or help them to live longer. So says a decade-long study sponsored by the United States Department of Agriculture and researched by Penn State, the Geisinger Healthcare System, and the University of Alabama.

Researchers identified three classes of diets: sweets and dairy, characterized by lots of baked goods, coffee and tea, dairy-based desserts, and very little poultry; health conscious, which includes good grains, fish, nuts, and not much fried or processed food or soft drinks; and the Western pattern, defined by alcohol, fried food, sodas, eggs, breads, fats, and not much fruit or protein. With age 75 as a starting point, they found that the class of diet didn’t correlate with any particular pattern of health outcome. Except for a higher risk of hypertension for the sweets and dairy segment, there was no relationship between diet and health when it came to cardiovascular disease, diabetes, metabolic syndrome, or even death.

This is not to say that clean living doesn’t pay a dividend.
The course of your health is pretty well set by age 75. Seniors who had lived on prudent diets all their lives were likely to have entered the study in better health, and those who ate recklessly for decades entered with far more complications. Nobody began the study with a clean slate. What the results indicate is that the choices you make from that point on aren’t going to make much of a difference. You can watch your fats and salt and sugar for the rest of your days, or you can say Screw it, and eat donuts. Your future health and longevity is going to be what it’s going to be no matter what you choose to eat.

The results of the study have been published in The Journal of Nutrition Health and Aging.
You should forward it to your grandma.



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Learn to Speak Conversational Whisky


Rocks glasses via Vital Etsy shop

Rocks glasses via Vital Etsy shop


Whisky is having its moment. You don’t want to miss out.
Fortunately, a little knowledge can take you far when it comes to parsing the jargon of mashes, malts, and barrels.

Whiskey is…
an alcoholic beverage distilled from fermented grain. Beer comes from fermented grains but isn’t concentrated by distillation, and other spirits like vodka and rum are distilled but can be made from things like potatoes and sugarcane. Usually whisky is made from barley, rye, wheat, or corn, and usually it’s aged in wooden barrels. It has to be at least 40% alcohol by volume, but pretty much everything else is fair game.

Some of them are malt whiskies.
This just means the whisky is distilled from malted grains—grains that are sprouted and dried to give them a kind of sweet and yeasty quality.

Scotch is…
at its most basic, just one of a number of whisky styles. But you see all the fuss and fanaticism surrounding Scotch so you know that there’s got to be more to it. And there is. There are all sorts of technical specifications that define and distinguish Scotch whisky, and if you really need to know them you can pay a visit to the website of the Scotch Whisky Association. For now, you can get up and running with this: a single malt Scotch is bottled from one batch of whisky, is made from one grain (malted barley), and comes from one distillery. More than one batch, more than one grain, more than one distillery—you’re talking about a blended Scotch. Batches might even be identified down to the individual barrel or cask. And the real deal has to come from Scotland.

Does that mean Irish whiskey is …
Yup! Pretty much the same thing only from Ireland. And they like to put an ‘e’ in there.
True fans of Scotch whisky would take exception with the notion, and it’s true that the Irish Whiskey Society gives distillers more leeway when it comes to the variables, but we’re still talking about single malts and blends of wood-aged malted barley.

There’s Scotch whisky and Irish whiskey; bourbon is by definition an American whisky. 
Corn is required to be the predominant grain in bourbon, and it has to be aged in virgin barrels of charred oak. It’s called sour mash if fermented grains from past whisky batches were added to the fresh grains of the new batch before distilling. It’s analogous to sourdough bread where the loaves can contain cultures from an age-old fermented ‘mother dough.’ Sourdough bread, though, really does taste sour, and sour mash doesn’t tart up the taste of bourbon.

Kentucky bourbon…
doesn’t have to come from Kentucky, although Tennessee bourbon does have to come from Tennessee, but they don’t call it bourbon. It’s whiskey, and for some reason the ‘e’ makes another appearance. Got that?

Then there’s rye whiskey.
Rye whiskey used to be known as Canadian whisky, and the terms are still used interchangeably, even though there might not be any actual rye in the multi-grain mash. These days, when someone says ‘rye’ they’re most likely talking about American rye whiskey (there’s that irrepressible ‘e’ again). Except for the grains, rye is identical to bourbon, but the grains make all the difference. Corn gives bourbon a sweetness and fuller body, while rye whiskey has a lighter, fruitier, spicier profile.

Irish Whiskey, Scotch, Bourbon and Rye
These are the fundamentals of the whisky lexicon.
Sure, there’s a lot more to it. There are Lowlands and Highlands and peat smoking and vatted malts. There are whiskies from Japan and Czechoslovakia and Australia, and Danish single malts made with water from the Greenlandic ice sheet and Indian whiskies distilled from fermented molasses. 
So you won’t be whisky-fluent, but with this little lesson you will be whisky-conversant.



Posted in beer + wine + spirits, food knowledge | Leave a comment

What’s For Dinner? Ask Your Phone.

via Run Wifey Run


Our days are filled with decisions. 
From the trivial to the life-altering, it’s been estimated that most of us make about 70 conscious decisions to get through the day, and dozens more that are too mundane and rote to penetrate our consciousness. 

Some really smart people think it’s best to ration out their mental energy. 
Albert Einstein was known for wearing the same clothes everyday, surmising that his brainpower could be put to better use than matching his socks to his shoes. Steve Jobs streamlined with his signature blue jeans and black turtleneck. It’s the same thinking behind Mark Zuckerberg’s uniform of t-shirts, flip flops and hoodies, and Barack Obama says he pares his wardrobe down to only blue or grey suits to avoid making any more decisions than he already has to, even citing research that shows that too many choices can lead to decision fatigue and degrade the ability to make future decisions.

There’s a new wave of decision-making applications that let us outsource the choosing.
You’re probably not launching a tech revolution or laying the groundwork for nuclear fission, but you still might want to take a few decisions off your plate. For the insecure, indecisive, or just plain over-whelmed, there are apps that can tell you what college to attend or stocks to buy or they’ll choose the next novel you’ll read. There’s a decision-maker for drafting a fantasy football team and another that tells you what sex position to use. But for many of us, at the end of a long workday all we want is someone to tell us what to do for dinner.

Most of the apps started out as shopping aids—snap a few selfies from the dressing room and let your online friends pick your new jeans—but creative users quickly turned them into menu planners. There are randomizers like coin tosses or a roll of the digital dice; apps that rely on complex algorithms based on your preferences and history; and crowd-sourcers that collect the opinions of friends or recommendations of strangers from outside of your social circle. Upload a menu, list the contents of your refrigerator, take some photos, or toss out polling questions, and let them decide for you.

SeeSaw’s dinner decisions come from your own panel of personal advisors while Thumb draws on the wisdom of the masses but lets you choose the collective demographic that’s polled for a given decision. Ding! takes the agony and office politics out of group takeout orders, and when all else fails, shake your iPhone and the UrbanSpoon decision-maker spins a roulette wheel to pick a restaurant.

What’s for dinner? It’s a decision that can stymie the best of us.
AppCrawlr has compiled a list of the top 200 decision-making applications, sortable by topic and decision-making methodology.


Posted in cook + dine, cyberculture, phone applications | Leave a comment

How Wall Street Is Messing With the Price of Beer


It’s been a rough run for the U.S. economy in recent years.
One of the few bright spots is the price of beer. The U.S. has the most affordable beer on the planet.

Americans can point with pride to a study published in The Economist Online.
Based on median hourly wages and average beer prices, it takes just five minutes of an American worker’s time to earn a cold one. Prices are lower in plenty of countries, but their wages are even more so. The average across 150 countries is 20 minutes of work to pay for a beer, and in some parts of Asia it can be close to an hour.

But there’s a proposed monopoly that threatens the American way of life.  
Anheuser-Busch InBev wants to take over Grupo Modelo of Mexico (Corona beer), which would leave the country with just two companies (the second being MillerCoors) controlling half of the U.S. beer business. The Justice Department filed a lawsuit to prevent the merger. It has a pretty good case against the proposal, arguing that the marriage of Budweiser and Corona’s parent companies would eliminate competition between the rivals and lead to higher beer prices for Americans.

The brewing industry has already been consolidating like crazy for years. The number of major brewers in the U.S. fell from 48 in 1980 to just two after a mega-merger in 2008. Global Beer: The Road to Monopoly, a study from the American Antitrust Institute, shows how beer price increases started to accelerate immediately after 2008, with Anheuser-Busch leading the charge. Anheuser-Busch has kept prices high for decades by threatening a price war against any American brewer that breaks ranks and lowers prices, and the memory of retail bloodbaths in the 1980′s has kept them all in line. Grupo Modelo has been able to grab a lot of U.S. market share for its flagship Corona brand by keeping its prices stable. If Busch goes through with the purchase of Modelo that competition disappears, and pressure to keep prices down disappears along with it.

There’s also pricing pressure coming from everyone’s favorite Wall Street shakedown artists.
Last week the New York Times reported on an aluminum hoarding scheme perpetrated by Goldman Sachs that is bidding up the price of beverage cans. Apparently some Goldman analysts stumbled across a loophole in the arcane system of aluminum pricing. When they learned that storage times are factored into metal market prices, they realized that a killing could be made by buying up aluminum and lengthening the storage time. But since it’s not entirely legal to just sit on a stockpile of metal, Goldman Sachs designed a massive shell game.

Three years ago Goldman bought up a major storage system of 27 aluminum warehouses. Every day, a fleet of trucks shuffles 1,500-pound bars of the metal among the warehouses. They load up in one warehouse and unload in another, sometimes making multiple circuits with the same bars in a single day, and each time they get to add a little rent charge to the price of the metal. The daily dance of the aluminum has stretched out average storage times from six weeks to more than 16 month. The scheme has earned $5 billion for Goldman Sachs over its three years, and the inflated rent charge ends up added to the cost of every can of beer.

At least we can shop wisely.    
calls itself the world’s only reliable beer price search engine. Instead of erratic and unreliable crowdsourced data supplied by drinkers, SaveOnBrew gathers its pricing data directly from brewers and retailers and publishes up-to-date, reliable beer pricing data sets for every single zip code in America.



Posted in beer + wine + spirits, food business | Leave a comment

Sustainable Farming at its Finest: Pigs Fed on Marijuana Crop Left-Overs

image via BB Ranch

image via BB Ranch


The news made for catchy headlines:

A New Take on Grass-Fed Meat
Pigs Living the ‘High’ Life
‘Pot’ Belly Pigs
‘High’ on the Hog

It’s healthy, organic, and local.
That’s why the owner of Seattle area’s Bucking Boar Farm feeds cast off marijuana stems, stalks, and leaves to his pigs.
There’s nothing out of the ordinary about it. Washington State legalized recreational marijuana last year, and crop residue is regularly turned into animal feed. Carrots might be damaged at harvesting or a field of cantaloupes could ripen too quickly. Pigs, which we’ll kindly call ‘versatile omnivores,’ will take it all.

Of course a pig’s diet leaves its mark on the meat. Think of some of the world’s greatest pork products. Prosciutto di Parma is famously flavored by a diet of whey from the local parmesan cheese-making, and Spanish jamón Ibérico de bellota is all about the foraged acorn diet of the Iberian pigs. As for the cannabis diet, Bucking Boar customers rave about the rosy color, beautiful marbling, and a subtle flavor infusion that is especially pronounced in the fat.

The real question on everyone’s mind is Does it get you high?
The answer is no. It’s a tougher call to make for the pigs since they already spend their days lazing about and stuffing themselves on feed. The weed-fed pigs do seem to put on weight faster; the ranch reports a 20% gain over pig that are fed a conventional diet.

It’s cooperative, sustainable farming, and a lot healthier than eating pigs that are stuffed with GMO grains.

The pork is available at the ranch’s own butcher shop in Seattle’s Pike Place Market. You’ll know it by the little marijuana leaf flags stuck in with toothpicks.

Posted in diversions, funny, sustainability | Leave a comment

Wine + Coca Cola = Quelle Horreur!



Coca-Cola Bottle Cap Wine Bottle Stopper via WillowbendCottage Etsy Store

Coca-Cola Bottle Cap Wine Bottle Stopper via Willowbend Cottage Etsy Store


So much for that famous French snobbery.
The ungodly combination of red wine and cola is this summer’s newly popular refreshment. Hausmann Famille, a branch of the French winemaker Châteaux en Bordeaux, has introduced Rouge Sucette—which translates as Red Lollipop—a blend of 75% wine with 25% sugar, water, and cola.

Wine consumption is in a free fall.
Wine was always served with dinner. For generations of French drinkers it was a daily occurrence, the norm for a majority of French citizens. Today the number of daily wine drinkers has fallen to 17%, with 38% reporting that they never drink wine at all.

Wine and Coke is nothing new.
In Argentina it’s known as Jesus juice; South Africans call it katemba; Croatians mix bambus; and in Chile the combination is known as jote. It’s most widely drunk in Spain where it’s a sort of unofficial symbol of Basque culture. It’s believed to have originated there as a cheap method for making rough, local wines more palatable.

To the French, the mixture’s history just serves to compound the indignity.
The country is fighting an uphill battle to preserve its culinary heritage. Earlier this spring the government imposed a ketchup ban on all French school cafeterias, fearing that the nation’s distinguished cuisine is being buried—literally and metaphorically—under a flood of foreign influences. And now wine flavored with sugar and cola has captivated a younger generation’s sweet tooth while masking the true nature of their vaunted varietals.

None for me, thanks, but if you feel the need…
Don’t bother looking for Rouge Sucette on these shores. It retails in France for barely three euros a bottle; hardly worth shipping, especially when we have plenty of our own liters of Coke and Two Buck Chuck.

A better idea is to order yourself a Spodee and Sody, a red wine and Coca-Cola cocktail based on Spodee, the latest of the hip spirits from the makers of trendy Hendricks Gin and Sailor Jerry rum. On its own, Spodee is a rather tasty and strongly fortified concoction of wine, cocoa, and some kind of moonshine liquor. The mix of grape and chocolate flavors end up tasting a little like Raisinets, but with a 36 proof kick.


Posted in beer + wine + spirits, food trends, travel | Leave a comment

This is Why FroYo is Trouncing Ice Cream


image via LiveStrong

image via LiveStrong


Have you seen the new breed of frozen yogurt shop?
Of course you have; they’re like retail kudzu, sprouting everywhere with their happy-hued decor, self-serve flavor lineups, and myriad toppings. We started this summer with around 6,000 frozen yogurt shops, a big jump from the 3,624 at the end of 2010.

The frozen dessert shop segment as a whole has been holding steady at $6 billion per year, which means that virtually all of the froyo growth represents a cone for cone, cup for cup swap of ice cream for yogurt. Ice cream sales are at their lowest point in decades, and chains like Cold Stone, Baskin-Robbins, and Friendly’s have been shuttering stores by the hundreds.

The name says it all.
The 1980′s saw the first wave of frozen yogurt shops with the popular franchises I Can’t Believe It’s Yogurt! and TCBY (originally the acronym stood for This Can’t be Yogurt until a lawsuit from I Can’t Believe It’s Yogurt! forced a name change to The Country’s Best Yogurt). Like selling margarine as an I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter stand-in, frozen yogurt was seen as ice cream’s poor relation, and the more closely it mimicked the real thing, the better. After a decade of froyo madness, the market collapsed in the ’90s with the rise of coffeehouses and competition from niche frozen treat alternatives like gelato, Italian ice, and smoothies.

This time around, it’s all about the yogurt.
The new wave of frozen yogurt is defiantly, unapologetically not ice cream. It’s tart and comes in a slew of trendy and nontraditional flavors like green tea, guava, and salted caramel swirl. Plus it’s kinda, sorta, maybe healthy.

In its basic form frozen yogurt is a healthier choice than ice cream.
It contains less fat and sugar than ice cream. Frozen Greek-style yogurt has an especially dense concentration of healthy protein, and the tart flavors can slow down the release of sugar in the body, which stabilizes appetite and energy levels. Frozen yogurt also contains the strains of beneficial bacteria known as probiotics; the National Yogurt Association demands it of any product labeled as yogurt. You’d be fine if you just stopped there, but that’s not going to happen.

The ironic indulgence of the yogurt shop
Neuroscientists study something called ‘vicarious goal fulfillment.’ It happens when a person feels that a goal has been met even if they’ve only taken even a teeny, tiny step towards it: you feel healthier just joining a gym, even before you’ve ever worked out there; and smarter for subscribing to the New Yorker, even when the issues pile up unread. And in the froyo world, you can feel virtuous about your diet simply because you chose frozen yogurt over ice cream.

There you are celebrating your dietary restraint in a self-serve frozen yogurt shop. You pat yourself on the back with one hand while the other fills the oversized yogurt cup and ladles on honey toasted almonds and- what the hell, it’s only yogurt- Oreo crumbles. And here’s the ironic part—the more self-disciplined an individual is, the more powerful the what-the-hell effect. So says the University of Chicago’s Journal of Consumer Research in the study Vicarious Goal Fulfillment: When the Mere Presence of a Healthy Option Leads to an Ironically Indulgent Decision. Maybe this is news to you, but you can bet it’s not to the frozen yogurt industry. They know that the health food halo that sits atop yogurt brings customers in the door, but it’s the guiltless indulgence of the toppings bar that satisfies them.

Ice cream is struggling to regain its cool factor.
Frozen yogurt shops are successfully selling the health angle, the buzz of their hip decor, and the hands-on foodie vibe of customization. They make traditional ice cream parlors and scoop shops feel downright stodgy. Ice cream isn’t going anywhere; it will always be the luxuriant nosh of choice. But if it wants a marketing edge over frozen yogurt, it needs to enrich its offerings and update the customer experience.

Miscellany from the froyo world:

Naming Force will pay you $100 to name their client’s frozen yogurt shop. 
Don’t they all just pick a fruit, pick a color, and add  a ‘Yo!’?

The yogurt shop aesthetic has been described as ‘cool,’ ‘sugary,’ and ‘Tokyo preschool lounge.’ Mindful Design Consulting has assembled a best of gallery of shop interiors.

I wouldn’t say it was bound to happen, but it has: Cups is touted as the Hooters of froyo.


Posted in food business, health + diet, snack foods, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Farmed Shrimp: A Cocktail of Nastiness


image via Wikimedia Commons


Raised in sewage, bathed in toxins, harvested by child laborers…
and we’re just getting started.

Shrimp is the most popular seafood in the United States, and most of it is filthy, nasty stuff.
90% of the shrimp we eat has been imported, and 90% of that comes from shrimp farming ponds in developing nations with unsanitary conditions and lax regulations. When it’s inspected by U.S. regulatory agencies, shrimp is consistently found to contain more banned additives, pesticides, antibiotics, and even more cockroaches, than any other seafood, but less than 2% is inspected. Here’s what’s wrong with the shrimp that’s getting through the system.

Shrimp ponds are like over-crowded sewers
As shrimp grew in popularity, production has become more intensive to meet the demand. A few years ago, the typical one acre pond produced 445 pounds of shrimp; a concentrated operation will now produce as much as 89,000 pounds, packing 170,000 shrimp into a single acre. Most shrimp farms don’t purify, filter, or recycle the water  as it becomes a stagnant cesspool of mouldering feed and decomposing shrimp bodies. Most ponds have seven year runs before the water itself kills off all the shrimp.

Drugging the sick shrimp
With all the bacteria flourishing in the pond water, shrimp farmers battle disease outbreaks with antibiotics, pesticides, and fungicides added to feed pellets or dumped directly in the water, or both. And while a mere 2% of the imports are inspected, only 0.1% are tested for chemical residues, according to the Government Accountability Office. Among the substances that the FDA fails to catch in the untested 99.9 % are the banned carcinogen PCB; chloramphenical, a highly toxic drug of last resort to treat typhoid fever and meningitis that’s been detected in shrimp at levels 150 times the legal limit; and penicillin, the antibiotic that is also the most commonly reported allergen in the U.S.

Ghastly conditions in shrimp processing plants
A reporter’s visit last fall to an Asian seafood exporter resulted in the Bloomberg News article Asian Seafood Raised on Pig Feces Approved for U.S. Consumerswhich describes a filthy hellhole of buzzing flies, murky water, and unrefrigerated shrimp sitting on the trash-strewn floor waiting to be sorted. Human Rights Watch has documented physical abuse, debt servitude, and child labor, and Food and Water Watch reports on processed shrimp shipments that arrive in the U.S. containing filth like rodent hair and cockroaches.

More shrimp could leave us with nothing but shrimp
Shrimp farms dismantle critical elements of the marine ecosystem. Inland shrimp farming is located in ecologically important salt flats and marshes, giving farmers easy access to saltwater, the natural environment for shrimp, and intensive production almost always requires large-scale removal of mangroves. Coastal mangrove forests provide vital habitats for countless seafood species including snapper, wild tilapia, sea bass, oysters, and crabs. Food and Water Watch estimates that for each acre of mangroves destroyed, 675 pounds of commercial fish are lost. As much as 80% of mangrove forest land has already disappeared from the leading fish-farming nations of Thailand, Ecuador, Indonesia, China, Mexico, and Vietnam.

Go wild, go domestic
Rule out farmed imports and you’re left with the still imperfect options of wild-caught and domestically farmed shrimp.
Wild-caught shrimp isn’t raised in a chemical cocktail, but most is caught by trawling, a highly destructive fishing method that drags nets the size of football fields along the ocean floor. For every pound of shrimp that’s caught, many more pounds of marine life, including endangered species like giant sea turtles, are scooped up, most to be killed and discarded. The nets also inflict damage all along the ocean floor, razing coral reefs and stirring up plumes of sediment that are large enough to be seen from outer space. Domestically farmed shrimp is free of antibiotics and added toxins but there are still lingering concerns from the effects of the 2010 BP oil spill.

What’s a shrimp lover to do?
There are safe and environmentally-responsible farmed shrimp sources in the Pacific Northwest and sustainably and humanely harvested wild varieties like spot prawns and pink shrimp. Choose from the list of ‘best choices’ and ‘good alternatives’ provided by Seafood Watch from the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Their free downloadable guides will tell you what to buy and where you can find it for every region of the U.S.

Bubba tells us what we can do with all of our good, clean shrimp:



Posted in fish, food business, food safety | Leave a comment

Fixing the 4 Food Groups of the Corner Store


image via The Candy Trail

image via The Candy Trail


Candy, ice cream, chips, and soda.
That’s the stock in trade of the corner store. When kids drop in on the way home from school clutching dollar bills from their allowance, that’s what they buy. And in Philadelphia, the poorest and most obese of the big cities, they were buying way too much. A study published in the journal Pediatrics reported that more than 53% of  the city’s public school students were shopping at corner stores once every school day, and 29% were stopping by both before and after school, five days a week. On average they were spending just over a dollar at each visit, and on average they were buying sugary, fatty treats that added up to 356 calories.

There’s so much wrong with this picture—from the dearth of healthy options in urban food deserts and the poor nutritional choices the kids were making, to the out-of-whack food system that creates so many empty calories so cheaply. It threatened to undermine the schools’ efforts where they had eliminated junk food from campus vending machines and rid cafeterias of hard working deep fat fryers.

The corner store is not the enemy.
Bodegas and convenience markets are part of the urban landscape. They serve an important role in poorer communities where options are limited, and Philadelphia has fewer supermarkets per capita than almost every other large American city. The corner stores are free market enterprises with little square footage and prime display space that’s often contractually reserved for favored vendors. They don’t have room to stock what doesn’t sell, and what does sell is often cheap and unhealthy.

It’s a two-pronged approach.
Store owners need to be encouraged to stock fresh, healthful foods, and kids need to be encouraged to choose them. The Food Trust, a Philadelphia-based organization that works to improve access to affordable, healthy food, has led the charge with its local Healthy Corner Store Initiative and the creation of the national Healthy Corner Stores Network.

Creating a sustainable model on the supply side.
In 2009 The Food Trust began with fewer than a dozen participating Philadelphia store owners. They provided equipment like inexpensive refrigerated barrels that allowed the stores to expand their inventory of perishable foods, and linked the owners with local farmers and fresh food suppliers. They also offered training, merchandising, and technical support to store employers that showed how they could boost food safety and reduce spoilage, and ultimately the store owners found that they could improve overall store operations while profitably selling healthier products.

Appetites don’t naturally follow access.
To create sustainable demand for healthy foods, the diet of an entire household has to be transformed. The Food Trust reaches out to both children and their parents with education and message marketing. They engage families through community-based programs on nutrition and healthy purchasing, and are a strong presence in the public schools where 80% of the city’s students have participated in nutrition and wellness programs. Of equal importance is a youth leadership program that targets the social component of behaviors and the troubled relationship that many kids have with food.

In just four years, Philadelphia’s Healthy Corner Store Initiative has grown to involve 680 store owners. All have agreed to stock at least four healthy new products, with most offering dozens more. Pricing is kept competitive and many products bear labels and logos that highlight the store’s healthy options.

Philadelphia is bucking a childhood obesity trend.
While obesity rates remain unchanged all around the country, recent studies show an average decline in obesity rates for Philadelphia’s schoolchildren of five percent, and an even more significant seven percent drop among African American boys and Latina girls, two groups at especially high risk for diabetes. The success is shared by numerous constituents of the city’s broad-based assault on obesity, but breaking the old corner store habit, with its daily dose of junk food, is no small part of it.


Posted in community, health + diet, kids | 1 Comment
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