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A Definition of ‘Local Food.’ You’re happy to pay more for it, but do you know what it is?

suitcaseofvegetables

 

What qualifies as local food? It’s kind of a trick question.
A small, densely populated country like England uses it to designate foods produced within a 31 mile (50 km) radius, although so does large and sparsely populated Canada. France is guided by the combination of geography, geology, and climate that create the identifying characteristics of terroir. The standard is especially difficult to codify in the U.S. where a single ranch in Texas is bigger than the entire state of Rhode Island, while a 30 mile radius in Delaware brings produce from four states beyond its borders.

‘Local’ is like the Supreme Court’s test for pornography: I know it when I see it.
The USDA defines local and regional foods as those produced and distributed within a 400-mile radius, but it’s just a statutory definition that creates eligibility for federal programs that support local food systems. Retailers all have their own definitions: Walmart’s ‘local’ produce is grown in a store’s home state; Safeway (whose brands include Dominick’s, Genuardi’s, Von’s, and Randall’s) classifies local as food produced within an eight hour drive of an individual market; Krogers (subsidiaries are Ralph’s, Fred Meyer, and Fry’s) vaguely interprets local as foods produced in a given state or region of the US; Supervalu (Albertsons, Jewel-Osco, and Lucky) applies a ‘local’ label to food grown in regions that are as broad as four or five states; Whole Foods defines it as produce grown within a day’s drive of its stores. The strictest definition comes from shoppers; according to the 2015 Local Food Consumer Shopping Survey, 96% of consumers define a local food radius as 100 miles from production to point of sale.

Whatever the meaning, we’re willing to pay a premium for the ‘local’ label.
Even as consumers tighten the definition, they’re loosening the pursestrings and expanding the scope. Demand has moved beyond produce to meat and seafood, bread, cheese, and other dairy. The greatest spike in interest is in dry goods like beans and grains, a category that the industry used to believe was least likely to warrant a local premium. Three-quarters of all consumers are willing to pay a higher price (usually stated as 10-25%) for local foods, and nearly half of all shoppers will make a special trip just to find them.

‘Local’ has become shorthand for fresh, high quality, and environmentally friendly.
Consumers also tend to assign feel-good attributes to the local label like better food safety, organic practices, humane treatment of animals, and production by a small, family farm. By contrast, they draw inferences regarding industrial food production, assigning attributes like less healthy, lesser quality, unfair labor practices, poor environmental stewardship, and a slew of unsafe additives. In both cases, some assumptions are valid, some are not, for example fruits and vegetables that are grown outdoors in warmer but distant climates will nearly always be greener than local crops that have to be grown in greenhouses. This doesn’t mean that we should be eating air-freighted raspberries in the dead of winter, but there’s room for some relief from a winter diet of local turnips and cabbage.

Local foods are best when they are part of a broader movement toward sustainability.
The corporate food model separates producers and consumers through a chain of processors, brokers, distributors, shippers, and retailers, while a local model connects producers and consumers in proximate or direct relationships. It creates food systems that are woven into the economic, environmental, and social health of a particular place. Sustainability is baked into the local model because everyone is a stakeholder in the future.

 

 

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Who’s Eating Supermarket Sushi? Apparently Everyone.

fujifood

 

Supermarket sushi is a $750 million industry.
It’s a third of all sushi sales in dollars, but since it’s the cheap stuff, it’s more like half of all the sushi we eat. There’s another $75 million in sales at drug stores, dollar stores, convenience markets, and gas stations (that’s right, gas station sushi is a thing), and it all adds up to a pre-made, pre-packaged sushi majority.

At the more rarified end of sushi, there’s attention to every detail of taste, temperature, texture, and timing. A good chef even plates the sushi precisely to accommodate right- or left-handed chopstick users. At a more relaxed and informal operation, the chef may not bow to every tradition of authentic sushi, but there should still be artful construction and a passion for freshness.

A supermarket, even the most well-intentioned, just can’t compete. There are too few qualified sushi chefs, too many health code restrictions, and endless compromises to the demands of scale and convenience. Even when it’s pretty good, supermarket sushi always falls way short of the mark. Here’s why:

It sits in a refrigerated case.
Nothing ruins more sushi than cold rice. Proper sushi rice should be just shy of body temperature when it meets up with a cool piece of fish. At a legally mandated 41°, each distinct, gently-warmed grain cools and congeals into a single. solid mass.

It’s not the same fish.
A supermarket might carry quality fish, but it won’t have the kind of relationship with its wholesalers that a decent sushi bar has with its suppliers who specialize in sushi grade. Supermarkets also have pressure to maintain inventory so that it’s always yellowtail season in the sushi case, regardless of the seasonal variations in origins and condition.

Condiments matter too.
Any place that’s serious about its sushi is serious about the condiments. Ideally, the wasabi is grated from a fresh root, the ginger is pickled in-house, and the soy sauce is specifically paired, if not custom blended, to complement the fish. Along with generic foil packets of soy sauce, most supermarkets use sweetened and artificially-colored ginger that mimics the petal pink of a true slow-cure, and the wasabi is a mass-produced paste that’s typically concocted from a powdered blend of horseradish, mustard, tapioca starch, and something to color it wasabi green.

Still, you could do a lot worse than supermarket sushi.
It’s a relatively healthy choice, especially if you steer clear of tempura and mayo squiggles. It’s also a relatively safe choice, responsible for less food-borne illness than most other prepared foods. And it can be pretty good, even if it’s not the real deal.

 

 

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They Say the Highest Altitude Produces the Best Donuts

 

images11098308_1439192833041449_689166584_n11373723_1173484029396323_97563752_n


There’s a legendary donut shop that sits at three miles above sea level.
You could argue that the donuts taste better because of the spectacular views or the effort it takes to get to the top of a Colorado mountain, but those who’ve tried them swear that they really are outstanding. And the science of high altitude baking makes a case that the donuts served at the summit of Pike’s Peak could very well be the world’s best.

We low-landers never think about air pressure, but if you’ve ever baked a cake or brownies from a boxed mix you’ve seen the high altitude directions. As soon as you get to about 3,500 feet, baked goods require a lot of tinkering with baking times and temperatures, leavening and liquids. There’s less oxygen and the air pressure is lower, and ingredients don’t behave as they do at sea level. Liquids evaporate quickly and gases expand more. Boiling speeds up, baking slows down, and yeast and baking powder rise like crazy.

Pike’s Peak can claim the highest elevation deep fryer in the country.
The conditions at the 14,115 ft. summit of Pike’s Peak are so extreme that liquids boil at a balmy 91°; it literally takes hours to cook an egg. The donut ingredients have been adapted and adjusted so much that the recipe is truly unlike any other, and the low-temperature boiling oil makes for an unheard of long and slow deep frying.

The Pike’s Peak Summit House has been serving high altitude donuts to tourists since 1916. Not only have they perfected the technique, but they maintain that the recipe can’t be replicated at any other altitude. And as light and crisp as the donuts are on the mountain, visitors confirm that the reversed air conditions transform the pastry to disastrous effect when they’re transported to lower elevations. The donuts are not only unique, they are site specific.

 

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The Power of the Cartoon

pow_apron_dark

 

A few simple pencil strokes from a talented cartoonist can say more in a glance than most journalists accomplish in dozens of column inches.
The terrorists responsible for yesterday’s horrific attack know this. That’s why, when the gunmen stormed the offices of the French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo, they named four prominent cartoonists as they recited their hit list.

Political cartoons can bite without venom.
The best practitioners are literate and to-the-point, but balance the invective with sardonic humor. Tragedy can be limned with irony, brutality with farce, and personalities lampooned with hyperbole and caricature. We laugh and then we think as the commentary hits its mark.

It’s about freedom of expression and freedom of the press. 
The massacre at Charlie Hedbo is an assault on the core elements of a free society. That’s why nous sommes tous Charlie.

Visit the Cartoonists Rights Network International where they’re leading the fight to protect the rights of political cartoonists and the people they give voice to around the globe.

Climate change deniers, politicians, flash mobs, pesticide manufacturers, and many more players and policymakers appear in the satirical graphic novel #foodcrisis. It’s set in the near future of 2025 when North America is hit by a massive collapse of its food system. You can purchase the print edition or read the first three chapters for free online.

 

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Maya Angelou: A Multi-Hyphenated Life

Author-poet-teacher-filmmaker-actor-activist-cookbook author

Yes, cookbook author.
It’s really not so surprising. Food is art, communication, nourishment, connection. It touches the soul, is a catalyst of social transformation, and encompasses the whole of human history.

Angelou called cooking a natural extension to her autobiography.
Of her early lessons, learned on a wood-burning stove in her grandmother’s kitchen, she said:

It just tells you that somebody’s there before you. The tradition of cooking and serving the breakfast, the main dinner, and even something light in the evening, like yogurt and cornbread, like my grandmother used to do, it tells me that I’ve come from somebody. It didn’t just start with me.

Maya Angelou became a talented home cook who reveled in hearty, substantial dishes like crown roasts, meat pies, and stews. She called fried chicken her favorite comfort food, especially when it was cooked in her mother’s ancient cast iron skillet and served with greens and cornbread. She also had a weakness for Hebrew National hot dogs washed down with an ice-cold Corona. Angelou’s kitchen philosophy is summed up in her 1983 poem The Health-Food Diner:

...No sprouted wheat and soya shoots
And Brussels in a cake,
Carrot straw and spinach raw,
(Today, I need a steak)...

Dr. Maya Angelou: a joyful soul; a heroic spirit; a warrior for equality, tolerance and peace; an unapologetic lover of food.

mya_ckbook_cover         cookm

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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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Playing for the Vegan Team in the NFL

image via Zazzle

 

It’s not easy being green in the NFL.
Houston Texans running back Arian Foster is the latest pro-football player to find out. He joins a small but growing list of NFL vegetarians and vegans that includes Tennessee Titans guard Deuce Lutui, Kansas City Chiefs tight-end Tony Gonzalez, Dallas Cowboys fullback Tony Fiammetta, and Detroit Lions running back Montell Owens.

Players eat about 6,000 protein-dense calories a day to meet the physical demands of the game. Traditionally they load up on steak and eggs, burgers and shakes, and a heavy dose of fast food on road trips. It can be done with a diet of greens, beans, grains, and nuts, but it takes real commitment. They need to consume around twice the normal amount of protein to rebuild muscles undone by football. But once an athlete cracks the code of seitan and soy-based protein powders, there are real advantages to a plant-based diet. According to the Centers for Disease Control, NFL linemen have a 52 percent greater risk of dying from heart disease than the general population. The high fiber plus a load of antioxidant vitamins and minerals from a diet rich in fruits and vegetables can boost blood and oxygen flow for improved heart health. This also makes plant-based foods superior to meat when it comes to repairing torn muscles and tendons, speeding up the recovery from training stress and injuries. And the complex carbohydrates in whole grains, legumes, fruits, and vegetables can help with intensity and endurance on the playing field because they convert into fuel quicker and with fewer demands on the body than meat.

The bigger challenge is the pushback—hostility even—from teammates, fans, coaches, and the media when players bump up against the gridiron gospel of brute power, vitality, and virility.

Real men are supposed to eat meat.
It’s a cultural cliché that just won’t die: those who eschew animal-sourced foods are, if not exactly girlie, compromised as manly men. A meatless regimen is seen as mild and anemic, and worst of all, it speaks of compassion. Vegans are tagged as sensitive souls—cuddling bunnies, awash in emotionalism; not exactly the qualities of a fearsome tackler.

No poster child for a compassionate diet.
Still, vegetarians in the NFL go a long way toward dispelling stereotypes. A bulked-up physique speaks of the robust healthfulness of the vegan diet. Even a brutish reputation is a myth-busting rebuke to the old stigma of the vegetarian as gentle tree-hugger.

Football fans can go cruelty-free too: see PETA’s list of the Top 5 Vegetarian-Friendly NFL Stadiums.

Check out The Protein Myth explained by the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine to learn more about athletic performance and plant-based diets.

 

 

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Can Man Live on Fruit Alone?

image via MemeGenerator.net

image via MemeGenerator.net

 

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.

 

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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.

 

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What We Can Learn from the European Horse Meat Scandal

 

USDA_Inspection_Marks

It’s not just horse meat. It’s not just Europe.

Earlier this year, dinner tables across Europe were graced with an uninvited guest.
When it left Romania it was a horse. A Swedish food producer moved it to a facility in France where it came out labeled as cow. In Luxembourg it became ground beef. The horse-cow meat turned up as frozen hamburger patties in England and Ireland; it went into ravioli and tortellini in Italy and Spain; it appeared in Belgian chili con carne, French moussaka, and Swedish shepherd’s pie. Slovakia, Hungary, Portugal, and the Netherlands had horse-cow meat show up in school cafeterias, fast food outlets, and hospital meals. At the same time, South Africa was undergoing its own meat disaster with donkey, goat, and water buffalo showing up in sausages, burger patties, and deli meats; and 20,000 tons of mislabeled meats were removed from China’s markets where rat, fox, and mink meat was spiced up and sold as lamb.

Of course it could happen here.
Some familiar U.S. brands were ensnared in the European scandal like Burger King, Taco Bell, and Birds Eye. There was even a near miss with Ikea’s worldwide shipments of Swedish meatballs. But the real reason we’re ripe for our own food fiasco is that we have our own kinks in the food supply chain.

Meat processing has changed dramatically in recent decades. A hamburger eaten in the 1970’s would have been processed by a small, perhaps local, meat packer and likely contained beef from a single cow. Today’s meat packer has thousands of animals sourced from a vast, international network of suppliers moving through in a single day. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, a single hamburger can contain the meat of as many as 400 different cows. Yet oversight is provided by an arcane, archaic, and under-funded food safety system that lacks both traceability and transparency.

You could argue it already is happening.
There have been large-scale, deadly failures in our safety inspections of eggs and beefWe regularly import fraudulently-labeled specialty foods like Kobe beefParmesan cheese, and olive oiland major retailers like Wal-Mart have been found to sell dozens of conventional items labeled as organic. Most egregious and widespread is the mislabeling of fish. The nonprofit conservation group Oceana reports that fraud is so rampant throughout the supply chain that one-third of all fish is misrepresented, and for popular fish varieties like red snapper, salmon, and cod it occurs as often as 75% of the time. Mislabeled fish exploits all of us as consumers, but potential allergens, toxins, and contaminants  also pose a serious health threat.

Every year contaminated food sickens 48 million Americans. Although none of the mislabeled horse meat reached our shores, it’s clear that the U.S. food supply has plenty of its own vulnerabilities.

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Fruitarians: Can Man Live on Fruit Alone?

[Ashton Kutcher via Meme Generator]

[Ashton Kutcher via Meme Generator]

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 spring’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 now open for this summer’s Woodstock Fruit Festival, an annual, week-long fruitarian extravaganza. The festival’s press release extends an open invitation to Ashton Kutcher.

 

 

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Mike Tyson is the Ideal Vegan Role Model

mike-tyson

 

Mike Tyson was once the planet’s most notorious flesh eater. 
He snacked on Evander Holyfield’s ear. He threatened to make a meal of Lennox Lewis’ children.
But these days there’s nothing meatier than a seitan cutlet sizzling on his George Foreman Grill.

Mike Tyson: vegan role model?
He’s a man known for brutality in and out of the ring. He’s been dogged by a string of charges for assault and spousal abuse, and served time in prison for rape, drug possession, and DUI.
He’s hardly the poster boy for a compassionate diet.

Mike Tyson didn’t come to veganism in the usual way.
The vegan diet requires personal deprivation and self-sacrifice. The commitment tends to be inspired by compassion for animals and a moral imperative to combat environmental degradation and world hunger. Mike Tyson describes his own conversion this way:
“I really got tired of every time my prostitute girlfriend came back from a trip I had to sleep with her, so I said you know, I’m going to live a different life.”

Iron Mike, not iron deficient.
The reality is Mike Tyson can be a heck of a role model for the the vegan lifestyle. His brutish reputation stands in rebuke to the old vegan stereotype of bunny-cuddling, tree-hugging sensitive souls. His virile, bulked-up physique speaks of the robust healthfulness of the vegan diet.

Vegans come from all walks of life.
Check out the politicians, movie stars, scientists, pop stars, and athletes on the VeganWolf’s list of herbivores.

 

 

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Tofu is a Waterlogged Sponge of Nothingness

image via Savage Chickens

 

The pro-soy camp just doesn’t get it.
Share your true feelings with your tofu-loving friends, and they tend to get a little weepy for poor you who has never had it properly prepared. They speak glowingly of tofu’s chameleon-like ability to shape shift and meld with the flavors of whatever it’s cooked with, as if there is that one magical combination that will open your eyes and taste buds to tofu’s glories. They’re missing the point.

Love it or hate it, tofu is all about texture.
Tofu is basically a waterlogged sponge of nothingness that has always had an uphill battle to win favor with flavor-driven American palates. We appreciate texture, but in a secondary role, balancing and completing a dish. When we are wowed by a texture, it tends to be crispy-crunchy or fat-based and creamy— the textures associated with European-style luxury foods.

Texture plays a different role in Asian delicacies, where its importance can even outweigh flavor. There are some Euro-Asian cross-overs, like the prized luxury of fatty fish that drives the appreciation of sushi, but the texture of many Asian delicacies can be a turn-off to Western palates.

In Chinese cooking, the sea cucumber, jellyfish and pig’s ears are appreciated for their gelatinous and crunchy texture, even though they have almost no flavor themselves. Dried sharks’ fin and bird’s nest soup, which is made from the saliva-based nest of the cave swift, are both appreciated for their soft, goopy, jelly-like texture. Japanese cuisine has natto, in which soybeans are left to ferment until they develop spider-web like strands of a mucousy substance that hangs from each bean. Okra is cooked to its most gelatinous, and tororo, a type of Japanese yam, is made into a slimy paste.

It would be easy to dismiss tofu entirely. If it’s an acquired taste based on its consistency, and you don’t care for the consistency, then why bother?

There are good reasons to learn to love tofu: it’s loaded with protein, iron, calcium, and B-vitamins; it’s low in fat, cholesterol-free, and low sodium. It’s cheap, long-lasting, and can make your Meatless Mondays a heartier affair.

I hate to say it, but I suppose this brings us back to poor you who has never had it properly prepared.
Fortunately, there are plenty of places to turn for help.

The Cook’s Thesaurus has a good illustrated overview of commercially available soy products.

May’s Machete has a pragmatic post titled How To Make Tofu (So It Doesn’t Suck).

Changing the Texture of Tofu will teach you just that, from Vegan Cooking with Love. 

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Vegan Men Come Out of the Closet

[image via The Vegan Soapbox]

 

The tell-tale signs
Does the man in your life know the proper pronunciation of quinoa?
Has he ever come home with a guilty look and the smell of wheat grass on his breath?
Does he think it’s cute when you refer to lentils as legumes (Silly girl, they’re pulses!) and get hot and bothered when you wear your organic cotton t shirt?
I hate to be the one to break it to you, but your man is a vegan.

The cultural cliché that just won’t die
Real men are supposed to eat meat. Those who eschew animal-sourced foods are, if not exactly girlie, compromised as manly men. Even vegetarians rate their own kind as less masculine.

Meat is the food of men. In ancient societies, a successful hunt was an emblem of manhood, bringing status and signaling readiness to marry. Meat-eating suggests power, vitality, and virility. Nearly every language with gendered pronouns assigns maleness to meaty words.

By contrast a meatless regimen seems mild and anemic. And worst of all, it speaks of compassion. Vegans are tagged as sensitive souls—hugging trees, cuddling bunnies, awash in emotionalism. In other words, feminine.

Finally, vegan men are coming out of the closet.
Bloomberg Businessweek profiled heavyweight, alpha-male vegans like Bill Clinton, Russell Simmons, and Steve Wynn in The Rise of the Power Vegans, and a group called Vegans in Vegas held a first-of-its kind event mixing bachelor party hijinks with vegan-themed presentations in fields like nutrition, fitness, and environmentalism. The online, pro-vegan lifestyle magazine The Discerning Brute calls its content fashion, food, and etiquette for the ethically handsome man, and The Ethical Man recently became the first 100% vegan apparel shop for men. 

Beefcake; hold the beef
40 Sexy Vegan Men shares photos and video of celebrity vegans from the fields of film, music, professional sports, and television. 10 Brawny and Buff Vegan Men gives us exactly that from the chest-thumping world of boxers, wrestlers, and martial artists. And then there was the wildly-popular Vegan Ryan Gosling internet meme (sample entry: Hey Girl, sorry my shirt is off but we’re out of cheesecloth and I needed to drain some tofu).

Do your part to help change perceptions
Encourage your man to come out of the shadows and practice his veganism in the light of day.
Take him on a date to the bulk foods aisle. Start dropping phrases like bioavailability and meat analog into conversations. Learn to love a splash of almond milk in your coffee.
Real men do eat plants; they just need our love and support to do it in public.

 

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Get These 6 Condiments Into Your Pantry

In the beginning there was ketchup...
Ketchup has reigned supreme for nearly 200 years. At its peak, it was found in 97% of U.S. households.
But global influences have perked up our palates. There’s a big world of flavor out there.

Fusion-hybrids are popping up, like Polish Kimchee and Indian Lime Pickle Mayonnaise, but first you should acquaint yourself with the traditional ethnic ingredients that create the intriguing, distinctive flavors of a cuisine. These are the additions that can give a dish its je ne sais quoi; the singular mix of flavors that immediately tells you it’s not from around here.

Clear out some space in the pantry and push aside the ketchup bottle in your refrigerator. It’s time to make room in your kitchen and your cooking repertoire for these six condiments.

 

Sriracha, oh how I love thee. You don’t really belong here because you are a true hybrid; an American-made culinary mutt. Squeezed on vegetables, drizzled over noodles, mixed into dressings, dips, and sauces; a moderately spicy chili base with a healthy garlic kick, Sriracha is a condiment chameleon. It transcends cuisines and national boundaries meshing equally well with dishes from Asia, Latin America, and the American South. It rivals ketchup as a tabletop catch-all.

 

Fish sauce requires a leap of faith. Comprised largely from fermented anchovies, on its own it is potent and smelly. Use it judiciously as a dipping sauce or an ingredient in curries, casseroles, and stir fries. The flavor is pure magic.

 

Chimichurri sauce can be green or red(with added tomatoes or peppers). It’s primarily a blend of parsley, garlic, olive oil, vinegar, and pepper flakes, with different spices added to suit the dish. It’s used as a marinade and as a sauce, mostly with grilled meats. It’s popular throughout South and Central America; especially in Argentina where they know a thing or two about grilling meats.

Doesn’t this look familiar? Canned tahini has been found on supermarket shelves in the kosher aisle forever. A creamy paste made from sesame seeds, tahini is most closely associated with the Middle East, where it is a familiar ingredient in hummus, falafel, and eggplant dishes. Tahini has the consistency of peanut butter but with a milder taste, and adds nutty richness as a sandwich spread, salad dressing, and dessert ingredient.

 

Harissa is a chili sauce that appears on every North African table; sometimes in every course at every meal in all kinds of dishes. To my taste, a little goes a long way: a dab added to stews, sandwich spreads, soups, and sauces adds a distinctively tart, fiery finish. It is available in cans and jars, but for me, the little tube, as shown, is plenty.

 

Cook Moroccan food without preserved lemon and it just doesn’t taste Moroccan. These are lemons that have been essentially pickled in their own juices along with salt and some spices like cloves, coriander, pepper, and cinnamon. Maybe it doesn’t sound like much, but whatever the preserved lemons are added to take on complexity and a kind of exoticness.

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Rome: Where It’s a Crime to Eat in Public

 

In the film Roman Holiday, when Gregory Peck’s character treated Audrey Hepburn’s Princess Ann to a gelato from a street cart at the Spanish Steps, it was no ordinary ice cream cone. It was an act of rebellion for the proper, demure Princess Ann, tasting of freedom and sensual pleasures. In today’s Rome, it would also be a misdemeanor.

When in Rome…
Last week’s mayoral decree banned snacking in the city’s historic center—the areas around centuries-old monuments and archeological sites like the Colosseum and the Pantheon, and pedestrian gathering spots like Piazza Venezia, Piazza Navona, and yes, the Spanish Steps. An ill-placed slice of pizza can result in a fine of up to 500 euros (around $650).

On the surface, the new law is about historic preservation, targeting the garbage that litters popular sights and the exhaust that spews from double-  and triple-stacked cars left idling while the drivers pop out to a food stall. Beneath the surface it’s a rap on the knuckles of immigrants and tourists; the real agenda is to curb the indecorous behavior of these vulgar visitors who don’t have the requisite Roman élan. Romans, and really most Europeans, don’t eat and drink on the street. Pizza is eaten as a whole pie with a fork and knife, and you’d be hard-pressed to find a Roman coffee bar that even stocks to-go cups.

Death by condescension
In Paris, a city whose citizens’ reverence for mealtime is matched by their supercilious bearing, there’s no law against public eating, but it’s still criminal in a Parisian’s eyes. They self-police the streets with withering looks and a snide ‘bon appetit‘ for the offenders. Bite off the end of a baguette on the way home from the boulangerie and the neighbors will ask ‘Was that you I heard of eating in the middle of the street? Mais non!

It’s like a great big moveable feast
Here in the U.S. we eat standing up at food trucks, sitting in the barber’s chair, and walking down the street; we nosh our way through supermarket aisles and eat breakfast standing on line at the ATM. And we’re talking about FOOD; not candy bars and bagels, but the kind that isn’t pulled out of a briefcase or a handbag and requires two hands to work the utensils.

We do draw the line at the messy and the malodorous in confined spaces. The one place public eating is frowned upon is on public transit. Some cities, like Chicago, Washington D.C., and San Francisco have official no-food-on-train policies with varying degrees of enforcement—you’ll see brazenly consumed take-out Thai food on SF’s BART trains, while the DC Metro police had to ease up after the arrest of a 12-year old girl with an after-school snack of french fries was mocked in national media.

New York City struggles with the lenient food policy of its subway system, where nuisance aside, there’s an impressive rat problem. Every few years some New York state senator or other will introduce a bill that would outlaw eating on subways, and every few years it’s slapped down. New Yorkers, who’ve always taken pride in their own, urban variety of grit, have a grudging respect for the heartiness of their fellow subway riders who are able to negotiate the jolts and jostles of the moving train and are unfazed by the contact their hands have made with stair railings and turnstiles, and now food.

Most of us, as long as we’re not lapsing into a coma of food deprivation, would just as soon wait until we’re back home and sitting at our own kitchen table. Or at least wait until we’re back above ground. But to be compelled to do as a matter of law would be an unacceptable assault on everyday freedoms.

 

 

 

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Can a Restaurant Refuse to Serve You Because of Your Politics or Lifestyle? In a word: yes.

No shirt, no shoes, no service; we’re all familiar with that.
You’re not barefoot or half-naked, so you should be good to go.

Race, religion or national origin. We know that the Civil Rights Act protects us from those forms of discrimination. Other laws prohibit discrimination on the basis of age, gender, or disability.
But what about breastfeeding mothers? Or a cheating spouse dining with his mistress? Or O. J. Simpson?
They’ve all recently been refused service in restaurants.

Restaurants are privately-owned businesses but they provide what the law calls a ‘public accommodation.’ That’s why they have to comply with the federal laws banning recognized forms of discrimination. Some states have also passed their own laws to provide broader protections, like California’s Unruh Civil Rights Act that makes it illegal to discriminate because of sexual preference or unconventional dress (except Disneyland where only the park employees are allowed to wear costumes). The nursing mother, the adulterer, O.J.—none of them belong to legally protected classes.

Some other cases that have made recent headlines:

  • a restaurant near the Seattle-Tacoma airport announced it was banning TSA agents until airline passengers are treated with respect and dignity during airport searches
  • a restaurant in Winston-Salem refused to serve a notoriously bad tipper
  • Stacey Campfield, an anti-gay Tennessee state senator was refused service by a Knoxville restaurant after the senator made a string of homophobic public statements
  • a restaurant reviewer who’d published a churlish review and a girl in a pro-Israel t-shirt were both refused service by a pair of L.A. area restaurants

Were their civil rights violated? What about the rights of the restaurant owners?

TSA agents, bad tippers, restaurant reviewers—none of them belong to legally protected classes. Even the senator, the cheating husband, and the girl in the Zionist t-shirt could be legally ejected since the issue is ideology, not religion (make it a Ku Klux Klan shirt instead, and her case is pretty clear). Outside of the protected classes, restaurant owners can exercise their own rights. A murderer, a cheapskate, and an airport groper—they can all be banned because of their personal values. But the treatment can’t arbitrarily single out an individual—the restaurant owner who eighty-sixed O.J. could help his legal position by refusing to serve Robert Blake and Claus von Bülow.

It’s interesting to note that while it’s illegal to refuse service to certain classes of people, its perfectly legal to provide discounts on the basis of those same characteristics. Ladies nights, senior specials, and discounts for local residents or union members are all permitted.

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Arousal by Food Smells

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 combined with lavender
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.

 

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Let’s Put the ‘Men’ Back in Menu

image via Blushing Rose Too

 

Meatball subs. T-bone steaks. Chili.
Eggs should be runny; meats served rare. If there must be salad, blue cheese should be crumbled on top.
We all know what manly food looks like.

And for the ladies, it’s all about tuna melts, angel hair pasta, and cottage cheese.
Pinot grigio is sipped and chocolate is consumed in dainty portions with mascaraed eyes falling closed in feminine pleasure.

A recent study from Northwestern University shows that real men truly don’t eat quiche. At least not if they stop to think about it.

It seems that men, more than women, are sensitive to gender-driven food messaging, both from early socialization and of the sort promoted by the evil geniuses of Madison Avenue. When a quick, 10 second decision is made, taste and appetite prevail; men will freely choose yogurt, rice pilaf, white wine, and poached fish. Given time to consider the choice, they’ll almost always shun the girlie food for beer and pretzels, hamburgers and meatloaf. Women don’t waver, overwhelmingly choosing feminine options and sticking with them.

Of course the cultural meanings of food did not materialize out of the ether. Physiology and heredity first defined gendered eating—men as hunters, women as gatherers; the greater protein needs of men; the frequency of supertasters among women—but now, it’s almost all cultural. We all had the same caveman roots, but you don’t find women shunning red meat outside of the U.S.

It makes a certain sense that the male research subjects were more inclined to yield to the tyranny of gender stereotypes. Men are more likely to be penalized for gender transgressions. It’s learned early on when little girls play freely with dolls and toy trucks, but a Barbie-loving boy arouses parental concerns.
We see the same double standard in food choices.

Women can munch away on buffalo wings, but a pastel-frosted cupcake or anything labeled as ‘diet’ is seen as an affront to manly eating. Bro-worthy treats are labeled as mancakes or whipped up as confections like the Driller (maple cake with bacon) and the Jackhammer (chocolate and hazelnut) at places like New York City’s Butch Bakery, and Diet Coke has been made over as the man-friendly Coke Zero (known familiarly as ‘bloke coke’).

The Northwestern University study suggests that for men, hard-wiring has little to do with food preferences. The initial, impulsive choice made in the first 10 seconds is seen as a true reflection of a man’s intrinsic tastes. At that moment, there’s nothing masculine or feminine about it; it’s simply food. The gendered syntax of girlie foods and manly foods is just part of the cultural tale we tell when we sit down to dinner.

The Northwestern University study: Real Men Don’t Eat Quiche: Regulation of Gender-Expressive Choices by Men appeared in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science. You can download the complete study here.

What is America’s manliest restaurant?
Men’s Health magazine surveyed its readers to identify their favorites (think meat, meat, and more meat). See the nine regional finalists at the Guy Gourmet blog.

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Here’s Why You Shouldn’t Drink Soda

We all know about tooth decay from the sugar and the elevated risk of diabetes, asthma, and heart disease associated with obesity. But there are plenty of other reasons not to drink soda.

Weird fat accumulations
According to a recently published Danish study, a liter of soda a day can dramatically increase the amount of fat surrounding the liver and skeletal muscles. Soda doesn’t simply make you fat—it makes you weirdly fat.

 

Fat in the usual place- even from diet soda
Of course all the sugar in soda will cause weight gain, but did you know that even diet soda settles in your midsection? Researchers from the University of Texas reported something they call the diet soda paradox. They monitored subjects for 10 years and found that those who drank diet soda had a 70% percent increase in waist circumference compared with those who didn’t drink any soda. Those who drank more than two diet sodas per day saw their waists expand by 500%.

Wouldn’t you rather have a crusty baguette and a nicely ripened Camembert?
One soda a day—less than the average daily consumption in this country—adds up to around 90,000 calories a year. That’s a lot of empty calories. Think of all the wonderful splurges you have to forgo to make room for that in your diet.

 

Old before your time
The resin lining of soda cans contains a hormones that ages your body prematurely and brings on early puberty in children. The phosphates shrink muscle and leach calcium from your bones giving you old-lady osteoporosis, and a new study links the sugars to high blood pressure. And rats given the compounds found in cola drinks died five weeks early; you don’t even want to think about what that means in human years.

Poison for all ages
High-fructose corn syrup derived from genetically-modified corn; brominated vegetable oil with an alternative use as a flame retardant— these soda additives are banned in more than 100 countries, but Americans happily drink them up. The substances have been linked to memory loss, nerve disorders, autism, infertility, and a jumble of cancers.

Glass, aluminum, plastic; take your pick
Glass is heaviest to ship; we export our planet-warming carbon dioxide addiction along with Coca Cola. Aluminum is an environmental disaster before the soda cans are even pressed. And then there’s the ubiquitous plastic bottles. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is a floating mass of plastic debris that covers an area larger than most European nations. More than 200 species of fish and marine wildlife ingest the toxic trash, including some that end up at supermarket fish counters.

You really don’t want your neighbor drinking diet soda
Artificial sweeteners and other soda additives pass through both our bodies and waste water treatment plants without breaking down. A recent test of major municipal water supplies serving 28 million people found sucralose in 8 out of 12 of them. Yes, that’s someone else’s post-digestion Splenda in your drinking water.

 

 

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