photo by richad ling

We've all seen them but for most of us Lionfish seem reserved for aquariums; sometimes in public places, sometimes in the homes of friends bold enough to pull off salt water boxes.  Unfortunately for other fish, people have been seeing them in the Atlantic (where they are not native).  Unfortunately for us, we are not seeing them enough on our plates.

In a recent article in The Economist called, Eat for the Ecosystem, that's exactly what Sean Dimin, one of the owners of a firm called Sea to Table is proposing.  In order to help fend off the invasive species - eat them. Sea to Table "partners with local fishermen from sustainable wild fisheries, finding better markets for their catch."

The problem is not just that Lionfish are non-native, it is that they eat nearly everything

Mark Hixon, an Oregon State University professor of

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CategoriesPolitics

Somewhere between McNuggets and a McRib

On his blog, Weather Sealed, Stephen von Worley asked the question, "just how far away can you get from our world of generic convenience?"  More specifically, he sought to answer the question - How far could one possibly get from a McDonald's...

He compiled the locations of all 13,000+ McDonald's locations in the contiguous 48 - and then mapped them.  What you see below is a speck of light emanating from each:  the grid forming tight clusters around metropolitian areas and outlines pf the major freeways like a geographically correct Lite-Brite.

Stephen then proceeded to work out the math to determine where in the United States is the farthest place from any McDonald's

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Coffee fans unite!  Starbucks has blended beans from East Africa to make this 'promotional' bag for the ongoing (RED) Campaign to support The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria in Africa.

This stuff is REALLY good.  I like the idea behind the (RED) Campaign, but this IS a foodie website, and I promise I wouldn't hype the stuff if it sucked.  If you're looking for another great charity, my friend Nyla started Mama Hope, which founded a health clinic in Kenya.

Back to the coffee... The (RED) blend is quite nutty; almonds, chestnuts, cashews.  It also has a mild acidity that balances well with the earthiness.  They describe it as having floral and citrus notes, which I don't get, but it is a great blend nevertheless. 

Starbucks will donate $1 for every bag you buy.  I think everyone should buy one bag. 

Go.  Now.  Here.  Buy a bag, don't be a chump:

www.starbucksstore.com


What is the (RED) Campaign?  Well, if you've been living in a bubble, it is the partnership between American Express, Apple, Converse, Dell, Emporio Armani, Gap, Hallmark, Starbucks, and Microsoft to help aid The Global Fund.  This is where you can find your red ipods, your red credit card, red laptop, red sunglasses, red T-shirts, and your red copy of Windows Vista.

What is The Global Fund?  It is one of the largest public/private partnership organizations to disperse international health financing.

"Since its creation in 2002, the Global Fund has become the main source of finance for programs to fight AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria, with approved funding of US$ 15.6 billion for more than 572 programs in 140 countries. It provides a quarter of all international financing for AIDS globally, two-thirds for tuberculosis and three quarters for malaria.

Global Fund financing is enabling countries to strengthen health systems by, for example, making improvements to infrastructure and providing training to those who deliver services. The Global Fund remains committed to working in partnership to scale up the fight against the diseases and to realize its vision – a world free of the burden of AIDS, TB and malaria."

 

I like my beans ground on a number 2.  They always ask, "What's that for?"  I deduct that number 2 is a vestigial grind, left over from some more flamboyant era because no one uses it anymore.  Anyways, when you're using a paper cone, a number 2 grind works perfect for me. 

 

I also like my coffee best when it's served in a wacky mug...

 

 

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The Colbert Report Mon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Michael Pollan
colbertnation.com
Colbert Report Full Episodes Political Humor Keyboard Cat

 

Author Michael Pollan goes on the Colbert Report to explain how the food-industrial complex is destroying what we eat by processing and synthesizing it.  He opines on how reducing a complex food down to a single component is fundamentally detrimental to our health.

One of the tenets of his newest book, In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto, is to only buy things with "5 ingredients or less."  He is steadfast that this is the most simple method for reducing the amount of synthetic food in our diets.

Interestingly, I recently tried Häagen-Dazs' new ice cream that is actually called five.  They boast that it only contains five ingredients: milk, cream, sugar, egg yolks... and then whatever flavor it is.  They make it in make Mint, Coffee, Vanilla, Ginger, Passion Fruit, Brown Sugar, and Chocolate and it's good!

Some of the highlights of the Colbert clip include Michael admitting to eating Yodels; how he got "busted" at the supermarket buying Fruity Pebbles, and he blasts infant formula but his mom is in the audience - and she tells him that he wasn't breast fed.  Zing!

 

 

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photo by Waldo Jaquith

From an unattributed joke email my father recently sent me:

 

Q: Doctor, I've heard that cardiovascular exercise can prolong life. Is this true? 

A: Your heart is only good for so many beats, and that's it... don't waste them on exercise. Everything wears out eventually. Speeding up your heart will not make you live longer; that's like saying you can extend the life of your car by driving it faster. Want to live longer? Take a nap.



Q: Should I cut down on meat and eat more fruits and vegetables?

A: You must grasp logistical efficiencies. What does a cow eat? Hay and corn. And what are these? Vegetables. So a steak is nothing more than an efficient mechanism of delivering vegetables to your system. Need grain? Eat chicken. Beef is also a good source of field grass (green leafy vegetable). And a pork chop can give you 100% of your recommended daily allowance of vegetable products.



Q: Should I reduce my alcohol intake?

A: No, not at all. Wine is made from fruit. Brandy is distilled wine, that means they take the water out of the fruity bit so you get even more of the goodness that way. Beer is also made out of grain. Bottoms up!



Q: How can I calculate my body/fat ratio?

A: Well, if you have a body and you have fat, your ratio is one to one. If you have two bodies, your ratio is two to one, etc.



Q: What are some of the advantages of participating in a regular exercise program?

A: Can't think of a single one, sorry. My philosophy is: No Pain...Good!

 


Q: Aren't fried foods bad for you?

A: YOU'RE NOT LISTENING!!! ..... Foods are fried these days in vegetable oil. In fact, they're permeated in it. How could getting more vegetables be bad for you?



Q: Will sit-ups help prevent me from getting a little soft around the middle?

A: Definitely not! When you exercise a muscle, it gets bigger. You should only be doing sit-ups if you want a bigger stomach.



Q: Is chocolate bad for me?

A: Are you crazy? HELLO Cocoa beans ! Another vegetable!!! It's the best feel-good food around!



Q: Is swimming good for your figure?

A: If swimming is good for your figure, explain whales to me.



Q: Is getting in-shape important for my lifestyle?

A: Hey! 'Round' is a shape!



Well, I hope this has cleared up any misconceptions you may have had about food and diets.

And remember:

"Life should NOT be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in an attractive and well preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways - Chardonnay in one hand - chocolate in the other - body thoroughly used up, totally worn out and screaming 'WOO HOO, What a Ride"



AND.....

For those of you who watch what you eat, here's the final word on nutrition and health. It's a relief to know the truth after all those conflicting nutritional studies.

1. The Japanese eat very little fat
and suffer fewer heart attacks than Americans.

2. The Mexicans eat a lot of fat
and suffer fewer heart attacks than Americans.

3. The Chinese drink very little red wine
and suffer fewer heart attacks than Americans.

4. The Italians drink a lot of red wine
and suffer fewer heart attacks than Americans.

5. The Germans drink a lot of beers and eat lots of sausages and fats and suffer fewer heart attacks than Americans.

CONCLUSION

Eat and drink what you like.

Speaking English is apparently what kills you.

 

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CategoriesHumor, Politics
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16 Ingredients: water, concentrated crushed tomatoes, onions, jalapeno peppers, distilled vinegar, green bell peppers, salt, high fructose corn syrup, xanthan gum, sodium benzoate and potassium sorbate as preservatives, citric acid, chili powder, natural flavor, garlic, spice.

 

 

I'll have to say, there ARE 5 vegetables in here; however, there are also 3 chemicals that are both mysterious and difficult to pronounce. Let's review some of these chemicals (content is from wikipedia):

Xanthan gumis a polysaccharide used as a food additive and rheology modifier. It is produced by fermentationof glucose or sucrose by the Xanthomonas campestris bacterium.

Sodium benzoate - also called benzoate of soda, has thechemical formulaNaC6H5CO2.  It is the sodium salt of benzoic acid and exists in this form when dissolved inwater. It can be produced by reacting sodium hydroxide with benzoic acid.

Potassium sorbate - the potassium salt of sorbic acid.  Its primary use is as a food preservative.  Potassium sorbate is effective in a variety of applications including food, wine, and personal care.

 

In case you were wondering, no, the stuff doesn't taste very good.

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photo by youcansleepwhenyouredead

I've been reading Michael Pollan's In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto and to say the book is excelent would be to describe the Golden Gate Bridge "nice."  It is a true manifesto and a call to action.  Although much of the research he details in the book is still in progress - and often controvercial, it opens your eyes to contemporary theories in nutritionism.

Some of these theories revolve around omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids; both of which are unsaturated.  What has been known for a long time in the scientific comminity is just beginning to gain press, that "not all fats are created equal."  The American Heart Association even has a page on their website for children called Meet the Fats, going into the differences between Trans, Saturated, Poly- and Mono- unsaturated.

The media have made popular the evidence that omega-3's may have a link to possibly limit the risk of heart disease.  People have been supplementing omega-3's in their diet (usually in the form of fish oil) for many years and more recently, it seems that flax seed is getting put into practically everything.

What Pollan and much of the researchers he cites are starting to divulge is the idea that omega-3 suppliments alone may not account for improved cardiovascular health.  There is evidence to suggest that what is more important than an increase in omega-3 is a proper ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 (called n-6 and n-3 for short).  This ideal ratio of n-6 to n-3 is hypothesized to be between 1:1 and 4:1.

What makes this difficult is that the typical American diet is overwhelmed with government subsidized corn and soy.  The oils of which carry n-6 to n-3 ratios of 46:1 and 7:1 respectively.  What's even more alarming Pollan states that, "Nine percent of the calories in the American diet today come from a single omega-6 fatty acid: linoleic acid, most of it from soybean oil" (In Defense of Food page 131) 

That's a profound thought.  Consider this, if true, of all the compounds humans can consume, digest, and extract energy from... 9% of the energy in the typical American diet comes from this single molecule.  We are omnivorous and benefit from a varied diet.

 

Linoleic acid

 

According to the Omega-3 wiki, "Typical Western diets provide ratios of between 10:1 and 30:1" and they list the ratios of n-6 to n-3 of some common cooking oils:

  • Corn 46:1
  • Soybean 7:1
  • Olive between 3:1 and  13:1
  • Canola 2:1
  • Sunflower (no n−3)
  • Grapeseed (almost no n−3)
  • Cottonseed (almost no n−3)
  • Peanut (no n−3)
  • Flax 1:3

They continue:

It should be noted that olive, peanut and canola oils consist of approximately 80%  monounsaturated fatty acids, (i.e. neither n−6 nor n−3) meaning that they contain relatively small amounts of n−3 and n−6 fatty acids. Consequently, the n−6 to n−3 ratios for these oils (i.e. olive, canola and peanut oils) are not as significant as they are for corn, soybean and sunflower oils.

What compounds our consumption of omega-6's is that livestock and poultry feed in this country is largely made up of corn and soy as well.  A project completed at Cal State Chico showed that grain-fed beef had a ratio of 4:1 (n-6 to n-3) vs. grass fed beef which was about 2:1.  Ergo, there are even more n-6's making their way into our diets than one might be natural because they are coming from not only plant but animal sources.  

This shift in our entire ecosystem from one based on leaves to one that is based on seeds (corn, soy, olive, peanut, etc.) is pivotal in Pollan's manifest.  It tipped the ratios of fatty acids far towards the omega-6 side, but he also states it, "helps account for the flood of refined carbohydrates in the modern diet and the draught of so many micronutrients and the surfeit of total calories."

Joseph Hibbeln, a prominent researcher at the National Institute of Health, has done extensive research on how these compounds effect our health - and specifically our mental health.  He believes that much of our society's reliance on anti-inflammatory drugs such as aspirin, ibuprofen, and acetaminophen are to quell the effects of too much omega-6 fatty acids in our diet.

In April 2006, Hibbeln (et al) published an article called Omega-3 fatty acid deficiencies in neurodevelopment, aggression and autonomic dysregulation: Opportunities for intervention - concluding the Summary with, "Ensuring optimal intakes of omega-3 fatty acids during early development and adulthood shows considerable promise in preventing aggression and hostility."

In December 2006, Hibbeln (et al) published another article called Omega-3 fatty acids: evidence basis for treatment and future research in psychiatry.  They suggest, "EPA and DHA [two specific omega-3 fatty acids] appear to have negligible risks and some potential benefit in major depressive disorder and bipolar disorder..."

From In Defense of Food, Pollan quotes Hibbeln:

"The increases in world [omega-6] consumption over the past century may be considered a very large uncontrolled experiment that may have contributed to increased societal burdens of aggression, depression, and cardiovascular mortality."



...I feel like eating a bowl of oatmeal now.

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This famous quote by French gastronome Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin (1755-1826) may be more pertinent now than it has ever been.  Several recent studies have begun to shed light on the subject of our past and how cooking may have been the single biggest development to help Mankind diverge from apes.

Last year from Wired:

"Some have proposed that it was our high-energy, high-protein and cooked diet that enabled us to fuel our big brains during our evolution," said study co-author Mehmet Somel.

More recently, Richard Wrangham of Harvard University, outlined in a meeting for the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) how he believes that it was cooking (and not simply a shift from a plant-based diet to a meat-based diet) that allowed for Homo Erectus to literally feed a larger brain.

I find his logic is sound and it follows like this.  The human brain consumes up to 25% of our caloric intake.  Ergo, it would require the consumption of either 25% more calories OR for us to more completely digest what we've eaten.  He notes three major factors involved with the cooking of food. 

  1. Softens food - In one study, two groups of rats were given different diets: soft pellets and hard pellets.  The soft group gained 30% more weight than the hard group after 26 weeks.   
  2. Breaks down starches
  3. Breaks down and denatures proteins

Quoted from Wired:

"Wrangham cited data showing that cooking increases the body's ability to digest starches (as found, for example, in bread, potatoes and bananas). Only about 50 percent of raw starches are digested, compared to 90 percent of cooked ones. The trend, and the numbers, are similar for protein: from 50 to 65 percent digestibility raw to better than 90 percent cooked."

Referencing the same meeting with Wrangham at the AAAS, the Economist states,

"[Cooking] “denatures” protein molecules, so that their amino-acid chains unfold and digestive enzymes can attack them more easily...That makes it easier to digest, so even though the stuff is no more calorific, the body uses fewer calories dealing with it."

 

I feel compelled to mention too, that cooking food makes it taste a heck of a lot better!  Now get cooking and pass the paprika please...

 

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Malcolm Gladwell is the best-selling author of "The Tipping Point" and "Blink".  In this short lecture from a TED conference he dives into how data gathered by Howard Moskowitz and food companies during the 1980's led them to embrace the diversity of people's tastes and provide more diversity of products.  He uses spaghetti sauce, mustard, and coffee as examples.

 

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Most everyone will agree that a sure way to cut the cost of running a household (especially in a recession) is to cook more meals at home.  

Another step would be to buy in bulk and cook in bulk.  

In the NY Times' article Chefs Offer Depressing Strategies for Cutting Food Costs they quote Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto “Cook one time. Save gas, save energy.”

What else are chefs suggesting to help cut down the cost of even cooking for yourself?  Some other recent articles have delved into the subject.

 

From Food & Wine's articleCost-Cutting Secrets from Star Chefs:

1. Master basic techniques - using cheaper cuts of meat requires more attention and skill

2. Keep your scraps - "vegetable tops, stems, greens and peelings don’t make it into the garbage"

3. Use the whole animal - don't forget to use up you bones, cheeks, and livers

4. Manage a weekly budget - you can splurge on some items so long as you can average it out

5. Eat seasonally and locally - go to your farmer's markets

If you take a look at these suggestions, 1-3 require skill, 4 requires some business acumen, and 5 requires knowledge; specifically, where your farmer's markets are, and what is in season.  All great tips.

 

Quoted by the Wall Street Journal in their article Chefs Talk Quality and Cost at the James Beard Awards, chef Michael Psilakis states, "The key is to find multiple uses and to use every last thing that there is.  It's really a test of a true chef to take something that may not be the best part of an animal and make something beautiful with it."

This is an excellent point.  I could make the argument that most novice chefs know how to cook beets, but I would also agree that most do not know how to cook beet greens.  These delicious greens, unfortunately, get thrown out - often in my house too.

 

I think I'm going to cook some beets AND their greens this weekend...

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From National Geographic comes The Green Guide; and like the magazine, the website is visually fantastic.  Specifically, their Food Section has topics on how to stay green when Buying, Cooking, and considering food Safety & Storage.  Right now, the Buying section offers up a guide to some of the new-ish labels you may have noticed appearing on your beef's packaging.  

What do they all mean?  Check out their Beef Label Decoder to find out more or click on each of the labels that you see below:

 

USDA OrganicUSDA Process Verified

 

 

 

Food Alliance Certified

 

American Grassfed

 

Certified Humane

 

Animal Welfare Approved

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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A recent study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine showed that some of the commonplace recipes in the ubiquitous Joy of Cooking have seen calorie contents skyrocket from its first publication in 1936 to its 75th Anniversary Edition published in 2006.

From WebMD:

"Wansink and Payne reviewed seven editions of The Joy of Cooking, looking for recipes published in each edition (printed in 1936, 1946, 1951, 1963, 1975, 1997, and 2006).

Only 18 recipes qualified: chicken gumbo, corn chowder, plain omelet, Spanish rice, chicken a la king, goulash, biscuits, blueberry muffins, cornbread, brownies, sugar cookies, rice pudding, tapioca pudding, baked macaroni, waffles, apple pie, chocolate cake, and chili con carne."

17 of the 18 recipes analyzed showed an increase in calories per serving, and the average increase was by a whopping 63%.  The gains were found to be from a variety of reasons in addition to an increase in the size of the portions: extra meat, more butter, more sugar, or adding nuts and raisins.

Oh.  

Who wouldn't want more butter, sugar, and extra nuts and raisins?

In that case, then I agree with Beth Wareham, editor of the 2006 edition and quoted by The LA Times: "It's such a tiny number of recipes. It's really a non-event,"

The authors of the report are Collin Payne, an Assistant Professor of Marketing at New Mexico State University in Las Cruces and Brian Wansink, Director of Cornell University's Food Lab.

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Constiution banner - photo by fixermark

Today marks the 75 anniversary of the ratification of the 21st Amendment which officially ended prohibition.  I'm going to celebrate by going to a beer tasting at one of my favorite establishments in San Francisco, The Jug Shop.  

The process began with Michigan on April 10th, 1933 and was completed on December 5th later that same year when Ohio, Pennsylvania, and [I'll bet the slightly reluctant] Utah joined in. 

This was in the email I received from The Jug Shop and thought it was so interesting, I would relay it here:

"Christmas beers, also known as Winter Warmers, are a tradition dating back at least 2,000 years, with the ancients making highly intoxicating brews to celebrate winter's Saturnalia. This brewmaking evolved into a holiday celebration when medieval monks, the world's first professional brewers, pulled out their finest ingredients to produce soul-warming styles for the occasion.

Today brewers continue the custom, either with centuries-old recipes or newfangled concoctions with spices and herbs, enabling thirsty beer fans to put aside their everyday favorites each winter and deck the halls with the world's most flavorful ales and lagers, brewed especially for the holidays." from Don Russell's Christmas Beer: The Cheeriest, Tastiest, and Most Unusual Holiday Brews"

I find it especially poignant that some historians have pointed out that it took a year of sobriety to grant women suffrage.  Prohibition began with the 18th Amendment in 1919.  The 20th Amendment granted women the right to vote in 1920; and 13 years later the 21st ended the nation's teetotalling.  

So let's all thank the temperance movement for spurring Congress into action, finally allowing our mothers, grandmothers, aunts, sisters, cousins, and daughters the right to be heard.

While we're at it, here's an interesting read.  Alcoholica Esoterica: A Collection of Useful and Useless Information As It Relates to the History andConsumption of All Manner of Booze.  Although I have not read it [yet], I heard an interview with the author and it looks sounds perfect for a toilet book.  Here are some of the excerpts (from Amazon).

Did you know...

• that the word bar is short for barrier? Yes, that’s right—to keep the customers from getting at all the booze.
• that Winston Churchill’s mother supposedly invented the Manhattan?
• that the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock because the sailors on the Mayflower were running low on beer and were tired of sharing?
• that you have a higher chance of being killed by a flying Champagne cork than by a poisonous spider?
• that the Code of Hammurabi mandated that brewers of low-quality beer be drowned in it?
• that beer was so popular with medieval priests and monks that in the thirteenth century they stopped baptizing babies with holy water and started using beer? 

 

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