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Posts Tagged ‘New York Times’

USS Voyager's Captain Janeway (Kate Mulgrew) and her daily replicated cup 'o' joe

There are a bunch of news stories and interesting new-science factoids I’ve learned from friends recently all related to food.  Fascinating stuff.  Again, as it’s been a while since I’ve blogged, I feel more than a bit blocked – pressure to make this an awesome, stellar, better-than-ever, award-winning kinda entry.  It will be what it is.  This is interesting stuff.  Process as you will. (LOTS of cool videos below, too).

A real end to world hunger? Maybe?  Think again…

Child eating Plumpy'nut

Last week the New York Times published an article by Andrew Rice about Plumpy’nut, a new peanut-based food product that has already saved the lives of many severely malnourished children in Africa, Haiti, Asia, and who knows where else.  It’s basically a peanut butter packed with lots of other nutrients that can very quickly bring people back from the brink of death.  This is not a small feat, and I am certain of the fact that this is a great invention.  The issues as I can see it are these: the patent, the cost, the actual (long term) effectiveness.

  1. Patent: can one company brand and profit off of this kind of product and its recipe? Pumpy’nut is a trademark owned by Nutriset, a French company.  The inventor, French pediatrician Andre Briend apparently never meant to create a brand and profit off of this product.  AND there are two other companies trying to do similar work.  In my eyes, can such an important product be “owned”?  Can you patent peanut butter?
  2. Cost: it’s not cheap.  A two-month supply of Plumpy’nut for one child costs $60.  That’s a dollar a day — pretty steep in the food world, especially for such a simply product.  AND the main customer of Plumpy’nut (90%)  is UNICEF.  Sucks.  Essentially our tax dollars going to a private company.  We need to feed the world.  But it’s jacked up miracle peanut butter, folks.  It echoes the situation with AIDS medicine going to poor countries — they need it desperately, but do companies want to let go of their product at prices much closer to cost? Nope.  But people are dying…how do put a price on life?  Tricky.  But should it be?
  3. The long term: the company has marketed Plumpy’nut as a cure for hunger.  But is it?  The problem is that the vast majority of “hunger” in the world is not acute malnutrition, the kind we see on the news and celebrity TV appeals – results of famines, war, major ecological disaster.  Most people afflicted by hunger suffer chronically.  They are not on the very edge of death’s doorstep.  They suffer daily, whether a condition of their poverty, agriculture failure, lack of certain essential nutrients in the food they do have, etc.

Here is an excellent Huffington Post article written by Jeffrey Sachs, the director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University. Read it!

Replicator: Star Trek‘s solution to world Hunger

Ever heard of 3D printing?  I have for a while, but it was difficult for me to picture.  Well, I found some videos, and I’ll post one below for your viewing pleasure.  Basically, there are printers that make objects – and they work just like real paper printers.  It’s fascinating.

Ever heard of a food replicator?  This is a technology that is used in the invented scifi world of Star Trek.  Much like a 3D printer but working on super-futuristic advanced-science principles, this machine can create objects (including food) from any type of other matter by recombining its subatomic particles.  If it has the recipe on file, that is, whether it be for a cup of Earl Gray tea, the Klingon favorite Gagh, a ray gun, a dry martini, or a clarinet.  Scientists over at MIT (in a project called Cornucopia) have been trying to create a real life food replicator.  So far, it doesn’t work on such an advanced level (this futuristic contraption is really just as complex, if not much more complex than the Star Trek transporter).  As far as I can tell, MIT’s Digital Fabricator works by arranging an array of raw ingredients that are designed to print out 3D food to the sub millimeter level.  But no steak dinners here.  They’re working on chocolates and pastries – things that can be assembled, not whipped up out of thin air by recombining protons.  Goodness, I would kill to eat a real hot steak – faux beef that is exactly like real beef – without the killing…can you imagine that???

MIT's Digital Fabricator

Still, it’s interesting (and in my opinion, important) that this kind of technology is being seriously thought about.  It’s another example of contemporary science being influenced by scifi, our imagining of our better future where hunger is unimaginable.  Take a look at a clip of one of my favorite Star Trek episodes, including a demonstration of a replicator:

Here is a video on 3D printing.  Pretty cool stuff.  I like that everything is reusable.  Much like a real replicator.

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This is yet another fantastic transfer article from my old blog.  It was really popular a few months ago, and as I read this fascinating story about a new “Urban Caveman Diet” in the New York Times yesterday, I felt it more than relevant to share this with all of you.  I admit I sound a bit like a militant anti-vegan, but I assure you I’m not.  It was just my mood at the time.  As evidence, I’m cooking a big vegan meal for a dinner party I’m hosting this Friday.

The ideal human diet is a topic that really intriques me. It should interest everyone, really. What we eat is who we are. The food and drink we imbibe becomes the fabric of our cells. And given the spiral of ill-health around the world, the raging debate (at least in some circles you’ll find me visiting) around vegan-ism being the true natural diet for humans, my oft-hesitant carnivorous tendencies following nearly a decade of vegetarianism, and of course, the fact that I adore cooking, food history, etc, etc, it was serendipitous that I came across this article today.

The Healthiest Foods On Earth!

According to this article by Jonny Bowden, published in Forbes, it’s not necessarily what you eat, but how processed what you eat actually is. There’s a lot of debate as to what the “original” Paleolithic human diet was. Quite varied, probably. Depending on where we originated (rather where our ancestors migrated to and settled into many, many, many thousands of years ago), our predecessors may have thrived upon a high fat, high protein diet (hunting seals and the like in Greenland), or low protein, high carbs (in southern Africa), milk and fatty-cream (Switzerland…and from a documentary I recently saw…Mongolian nomads today thriving mainly on horse milk and yogurt), or even blood. Crazy, right!?

Wrong. The issue I have with vegans is this specifically. Human beings were never vegetarians. Maybe we were when we were apes. But there’s a reason we’re not still apes. Our ancestors were resourceful, and depending on where they wound up, may have gotten up to 65% or more of their intake from animals. You know, it’s probably the reverse…we ended up where we did because we learned to hunt and gather in this way. We learned to survive. We are learners and adapters. We are human.

Anyway, back to the article. Which made a lot of sense to me. It’s not what you eat, entirely, but how processed it is. The more natural the food, the more whole, the better it is for you. Even meat. Even meat. Sure, the best animal for you to be munching on would be grass fed in an open prairie-type environment that was never ever injected with any hormones or antibiotics. And then there’s milk and eggs. Perfect nutrition. So really, if we stop eating food with preservatives, if we stop eating fast food, fried food, food that doesn’t in a million years resemble food, we’ll be OK. It makes sense to eat organic. To cook simple foods at home. To eat lots of fresh fruits and veg. Nuts, berries, eggs, broccoli and its family, wild fish, raw milk, beans, grass-fed beef. Sounds good right? Better than a big mac? In a heartbeat.

My Message to Vegans

Keep at it. Love what you eat. Fight the man. It’s a good fight. But lay off me. Your logic usually sucks. I agree that most animals we eat are practically (or actually) tortured. That hormones and antibiotics are terrible things to be injecting in them and for us to be absorbing in turn. These policies are huge, most people don’t know about them, and something needs to be done. But eating animals the right way, drinking milk the right way, eating eggs the right way…I can’t see why that isn’t OK. Perhaps it disgusts you to be thinking that you’re taking part in murder or that it’s revolting to be eating an animal. OK. Good for you.

But chew on this – we (yes, including you, fellow vegans) would not be here, living this life, having created this society in this world (whether you like it or not), would it not have been for our ancestors learning how to hunt and kill and eat and eventually cook other animals. We would not have progressed. We would not have our intelligence. We would not have migrated across the entirety of this globe. Because I learned one really interesting (and almost bizarre) fact today, after having done some fancy (ordinary) internet research: the overall health and life expectancy of humans dramatically declined with the advent of agriculture. That’s right. Early farmers, the ones who enabled us to stop moving and develop cities and writing and technology, were shorter, sicklier, had far more infant mortality, died earlier, and were plagued with a myriad number of diseases.

Seems like we should all be pulling together for all of us to go back to a real Paleolithic diet, a la Fred Flintstone.

As for me, I’ll be looking for organic meat and eggs and milk in Israel. Anyone any ideas? Especially in the meat department?

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Don't put pleasure off 'til tomorrow...if you can enjoy it today!

I’m still in New Years mode.  My parents are still visiting in Israel.  As such, every day includes some sort of adventure, for good or bad.  I have so much interesting food and wine news and gossip to spread, but I just don’t have the time and energy. So, I’m making this particular post short.  Juicy chunks of meaty entertainment must wait.

But…I’ve got great links! Enjoy them!

Open That Bottle Night” (OTBN) – is the last Saturday in February, this year, February 27th.  This was started by two of NY’s leading wine critics, and I think it’s a fine idea.  Looking back at the subject of my earlier post, it’s nice that there is an attempt at creating a holiday devoted to “that special wine bottle.”  No more hesitating or excuses for not opening the best!

A Cheeky College Essay” – A lovely little controversy or silly brouhaha revolving around a college essay that was so humorous and loved, that the dean of admissions at my alma mater, the University of Chicago, sent it to remaining prospective students still going through the application process – in order to ease their nerves.  Read this.  Hilarious! My alma mater is famous for its college essays.  There are incredibly creative prompts, the essays inspired reveal the personal side of the applicants, and I know that these are taken into account (sometimes heavily, depending on the student’s academic situation) when decision time comes around.  I personally spent ages writing and refining mine, going through up to 6 or 7 drafts, and at the time I was so proud of the resulting essay, believing it to be the finest writing I ever produced.  And it probably was.

Carpe Diem? Maybe Tomorrow” – Fantastic little article about research into pleasure…and why we put it off.  Basic message – we need to place deadlines on fun – or we won’t have it.  New years resolution to us all: have fun NOW.  A great read.  Let’s hope we can cash in those frequent flier miles, take that vacation, and open that wine…soon.  (with thanks to Bruce for sending it to me)

Champagne, in brief – a nice little history and how-to tasting guide for Champagnes, brought to you by France Guide, the official tourism website.  I like this site.  Don’t know why.  They have catchy little gimmicks like entertaining vlogs, fun quizzes and giveaways.  And I love France.  So it’s cool.  And hey, as far as capitalistic industries go, I’m good with tourism.  Get out there!  See another country (or state or city)!  It’s good for you, and I bet it’ll be fun, too!  In France you can drink lots good wine for cheap(er)!

Fun, beautiful, attractive, and appealing things…to me:

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