Tuesday, November 30

Great Depression Cooking

ever since we brought up the topic about low income families not being able to get or provide a healthy meal because all the cheap food was high sugar high fat content and what not, it made me remember this youtube channel i found a couple years back: Great Depression Cooking.

Her name's Clara, and she is 95 years old, she has also written a book: Clara's Kitchen. Her great grandchildren thought it would be a good idea to keep a video diary/documentary about what she went through during The Great Depression as well as what she ate.
With the little money they had, they were still able to make due with what they were able to buy which seemed (to me at least) pretty nutritious, albeit processed and starchy, but it seems better to eat that stuff than a brick of government cheese and koolaid to wash it down.

anyway, here's one of the videos that's currently showing:

it's interesting to see that some of her videos talks about foraging for food... it's a pity that it's semi-unheard of nowadays to forage unless you're stranded in the forest and your name is either Bear Grills or Les Stroud.

also, it's fun and scary to watch this granny wield a knife around in her tissue-paper-crinkly skin....


Monday, November 29

The GMO Debate ~

k, so that was a good debate in class! But clearly we didn't have the proper amount of time to discuss it all as we should together, which is a shame the GM food issue is so critical.

So: I want us to continue the conversation over the next two weeks on our blog! How would you address the resolution yourself personally?

I am asking everyone to post their personal reflection on the issue here. In the comment line of this post.

You can come down one side or another, but you can also be undecided or less black and white. Either way, please say what you are thinking and WHY. What arguments and rationales in the debate do you find most or less compelling? If you are Pro or Anti, what concerns on the other side might be legitimate (but in the end may be of low priority to you or perhaps fixable?)

Or, perhaps the resolution itself is poorly formulated and leads us to oversimplifying conclusions? What is a better way to think about the issue? What questions still remain that need to be answered?

Write to out here thoughtfully and drawing from all the various forms of arguments and evidence we've come across (I'd say a minimum of 150 words). Please sign your name too so we know who's thoughts we are reading!

As a consumer, voter, and cultural producer it is important to have a point of view on GM as it is likely to only between a larger issues in the years to come in our daily lives and globally....

The risks of GM foods outweigh the purported benefits and should not be allowed to be sold and planted.

Meanwhile, feel free to continue posting to blog items of relevant and interest!


Sunday, November 28

Edible Alchemy!

I recently learned about Edible Alchemy, a Chicago-based food exchange program founded by SAIC alumni in early 2009. Here's their mission statement:

"Edible Alchemy is a catalyst for the creation, expansion, and connectivity of a vibrant food community. We organize open discussion and potlucks, distribute local organic produce shares, offer volunteer opportunities, and provide for community-related events. We believe that nutritious food is essential to the healthy individual and to healthy shared environments."

You can pay $20 to receive a box of a combination of local fruit and produce. The contents of the boxes depends on what items are in season. Although a delivery service isn't available, the boxes contain enough items "...to fill your kitchen with fruits and veggies for about 2 weeks for 2 vegetable lovers cooking 3-5 meals a week."

In addition to participating in the fruit and produce share, dry bulk, homemade baked good, dairy products and eggs are available for purchase.

-Anna Gorman

Thursday, November 25

Sweet Potato, The SuperFood!

Here's a great article published in the New York Times on Thanksgiving this year, about modified sweet potatoes and their possible use in preventing malnutrition in Africa. Runs right up next to the movie we saw last week. Very uplifting!

"Bless The Orange Sweet Potato"


Seaweed, The SuperFood!!

This article discusses the amazing capabilities of seaweed, and the possibility of harvesting the greenery to help feed our fishies and clean our oceans and waterways. It can be used as a major component in nutrient rich feed for cattle and livestock (lessening our reliance on soy). It's great food for human consumption (so rich in protein), and it needs no fertilizer to grow, helping cut out nitrates. And we have tons of space, no need to compete over land... we can use our oceans!

From Ode Magazine:


Saturday, November 20

Modern Toilet

I know this doesn't directly connect to health or the environment, but I just had to mention this place because I find it interesting how some food is presented and how customers gravitate towards it. The reason I mention this is because I would definitely want to go here one day. There is a restaurant in Taipei, Taiwan called "Modern Toilet," and just like it sounds, it's a bathroom themed restaurant. I have a fondness for themed places, but this one is particularly hilarious.

Posted below is the link to the restaurant's site and a link to a video clip about it that was on the travel channel.




Food for a dollar

A book by photographer Jonathan Blaustein that investigates food products valued at one dollar. Living in Mexico he only choose food he could attain there so "viewers can see how interconnected global commerce can be".

Friday, November 19

The Supersizers

The other night my friend mentioned this BBC television series to me. It's called The Supersizers. It's a show about the history of food, main focus being in Britain.

"The series originated in a one off edition in April 2007 as part of a season of programmes on the Edwardian period, "Edwardian Supersize Me", a reference to the film Supersize Me by Morgan Spurlock. This programme set the format for the subsequent television series in that Coren and Perkins adopted the persona of a couple living in the Edwardian period and for a week ate the food which people from that period would have eaten. In addition they would take part in the interests and activities of them too, even going so far as adopting the dress and mannerisms of the time. Before and after the experience they are subject to medical tests to see how the diet affected them."

More info, the wiki page:

You can view it here for free. If it doesn't work, all episodes are apparently on youtube.

I have yet to sit down and watch the series, but I plan to view a bit during Thanksgiving break. :)


Tuesday, November 16

1/4 of all Americans in a government food program

The number of federal food programs (upwards of fifteen) vary quite a but and include school lunch programs  (breakfast and lunch for 30 million children) and Women, Infants and Children - WIC -  which serves more than 9 million mothers feeding infants and children.

These data are interesting consider given the question of government food policy, nutritional guidelines, food stamp regulations, and commodity food the the governmet some times provides those in need. 

To read more:


Monday, November 15

Nutraloaf: Cruel and Unusual Punishment

We can all imagine that the food served in prison couldn't be very tasty, but guess what... it can get worse! Inmates in Cook County Jail who step out of line find themselves faced with a food nightmare: NUTRALOAF. That's right, its a loaf "Packed with protein, fat, carbohydrates, and 1,110 calories. Nutraloaf contains everything from carrots and cabbage to kidney beans and potatoes, plus shadowy ingredients such as “dairy blend” and “mechanically separated poultry.”

It's not necessarily a cruel punishment, but most inmates who exhibited behavioral issues and were force fed the bland concoction got their act together fairly quickly.

Check out the yummy article you ne'er do wells...



Morphine in cheese...

Apparently, since the 1980s there has been trace amounts of morphine in the cheeses that we've been eating. On top of being regulated by Dairy Management to be placed in as much of our food as possible, it's got legitimate addicting properties. When cheese is processed, the levels of the morphine are greater than would be in just plain milk.

“Since cheese is processed to express out all the liquid, it’s an incredibly concentrated source of casomorphins—you might call it dairy crack.”

Read more at Care2 by clicking the dairy crack


stare at some meat and relax (?)

or at least be less aggressive!

This is the claim on some psychologists interested in the idea that traits that might have been adaptive for our ancestors earlier in our evolution can still be detected in us today.

In this case the original hypothesis actually was quite the opposite: that people would behave more aggressively upon seeing images of meat, the reasoning being that such aggression in the presence of an important food source should have been adaptive in our ancestors, and hence favored by natural selection as a trait in us.

The methodology of the study is interesting, but also maybe iffy?  The fact people actually become less aggressive is also explained by the researchers as adaptive after all - I'll let you read the short blurb on this and be the judge!


Hold the salt, please!

Some new research suggesting salt intake in your youth has significant affects in health later and that the amount we are taking in via processed foods may indeed present a significant problem:



Sunday, November 14

Do You Eat Crap?

This silly little piece of satire comes from The Pump Energy Food, a New York City restaurant that claims to serve and prepare foods from the finest ingredients -- without dipping them into a yellow bowl filled with salt and butter.

Again, this touches on the topic of food advertising and how advertisers can manipulate you into thinking that the too-good-to-be-true Chef Salad drenched in low fat Ranch dressing you're eating happens to be rather healthy.

As more and more Americans gear more towards healthier options in their diets, restaurants and other food companies still manage to find a way to convince consumers to buy their products, even if, in actuality, they aren't the healthiest option.

-Kimberly P.

Saturday, November 13

Which Side to Cut the Cheese?

Last Wednesday I was listening to WBEZ on my way home and they covered a story on exactly what we had been discussing in class. This newscast covers the United States' increasingly complicated relationship with cheese, and how two governmental agencies are pushing two very different viewpoints to the American consumer.

Robert Siegel explains that cheese is good for you! (One side says) It can even help you lose weight!

While Melissa Block explains the other side claims that Americans eat far too much cheese, it's very bad for us!

Listen to the newscast, its great, even if it is just to hear the soothing creamy texture of Robert Siegel's airwave-y goodness.

(it's 4 1/2 minutes long)

Tessa P.

Friday, November 12

Eat Your Dog

This is a pretty old article, but one I found to be interesting anyways. The article points out the carbon footprint of owning a pet such as a cat or dog, and suggests that a more sustainable pet would be one that eats less meat and one that you, yourself can eat as well; like a chicken or something.
Here is the article if you want to check it out.


-Ashlee Mays

Wednesday, November 10

The Twinkie Diet?

Kansas State University professor of human nutrition, Mark Haub, created a unique diet to which he adhered for two months. Haub lost 27 pounds, lowered his BMI, LDL and triglycerides and raised his HDL. This diet consisted of almost purely junk food, more specifically, snack cakes and chips (aside from a few stalks of celery or a can of green beans, a multivitamin and a protein shake every day). The catch? Haub was mostly concerned with caloric intake. Normally, a man of his build should eat about 2,600 calories, but during the two month span, Haub was only eating 1,800 calories a day. With conclusive evidence that such a radical diet yields impressive results, Haub is wondering whether we should re-think how we think about dieting and caloric intake,
"I wish I could say the outcomes are unhealthy. I wish I could say it's healthy. I'm not confident enough in doing that. That frustrates a lot of people. One side says it's irresponsible. It is unhealthy, but the data doesn't say that."

Here's the story:

-Anna Gorman

Tuesday, November 9

Extreme Baby Carrots!

And on we continue with the topic of food advertising... I actually love this ad.  I also happen to love baby carrots, but that is besides the point.  As a clever and ironic take on commercials, highschoolers and the kulturkool alike should likely take a liking to the ad.

Her is another commercial from the series, and the campaign's official website.

Click here to listen to the NPR story!

ps: how are baby carrots made? I was wondering too! Here go you.

ps 2: Baby carrots myths de-bunked.

World's Strangest National Dishes

I found this article awhile ago while I was checking tasteologie out at work.

Some of the foods listed are pretty out there, but some are just like meh.

I feel like nowadays it's harder to find foods that will gross anyone out because now we're all desensitized by television, especially since the dawn of Andrew Zimmerman's Bizzare Foods (but I'm not a fan of the way he describes the tastes or textures).

anyway here's the article:

...mmm...fish sperm sack....


Vitamin D and....childhood obesity?

As we try to make our way through the complex connections between geogrpahy, genes, dieat, and health an interesting report yesterday actually connects Vitamin D not only to calcium absorption, but perhaps to childhood obseity as well:

"The federal standards for vitamin D intake have come under fire by public health professionals as being much too low, and disagreement continues over the proper amount of vitamin D necessary for optimal health.

"We found that the kids with the lowest vitamin D levels at the beginning tended to gain weight faster than the kids with higher levels," said Eduardo Villamor, associate professor at the U-M School of Public Health, who added that children with the lowest vitamin D levels had more drastic increases in central body fat measures.

Accumulation of abdominal fat, or central fat, may lead to a so-called apple body shape, which is commonly linked to increased risks of type 2 diabetes, heart disease and other chronic conditions later in life, says epidemiologist Villamor, senior author of the study."

Does this mean that the heavy coats and apparently perennial winter the characters from the show South Park exist in could be setting them up for obesity?  The one in the front actually does look apple-shaped...

Like we talked about in class, the complex physiology is just beginning to be understood!


Fast Food Advertising vs. Industry Vows

I recently discovered a story on NPR about a new Yale University study on fast food advertising geared towards children and families. According to the study, ever since fast food restaurants started offering healthier options on their menus, they have decided to increase the amount of advertising aimed at their most impressionable customers.

This interested me as an Ecology of Food student, mainly because it reminded me of the power advertising can have over what we choose to eat. It not only tries to convince us to buy something, but does so by appealing to their wants and desires. Thus, advertising reflects these desires by letting us know or convincing us that they can be fulfilled by buying a certain product. So I think what this story tells us is that fast food joints are still well aware of the ability of their advertising and are still able to rely on it to lure customers into buying food they know is bad, but tastes so good.

Click here for full story on NPR.org

-Kimberly P.

Monday, November 8

This is Why You're Fat

This is Why You're Fat is a forum where users send pictures of excessively outrageous, extravagant foods to a webmaster who selects the cream of the crop to be featured on the daily-updated site.

There are a few things I find especially interesting about a forum like this:

1. The aesthetic appeal
There's a reason why viewers keep hitting, "Older Posts." The ugly-pretty subjects of the featured photographs are fascinating and intriguing. These portraits of such ridiculous, almost otherworldly items are sometimes disgusting and repulsive, yet we can't look away. Perhaps we're addicted to being shocked.

2. The competitive element
Everyone is always trying to post the "biggest" or the "worst" or the "most creative" food. Users leave comments expressing disdain for lack of originality and praise for innovation.

3. The decidedly American concept
From buffets, to reality TV to Super Gulps, Americans like excess. Even though obesity and hunger are both serious epidemics in our country, we continue to embrace the "more is better" lifestyle. This website is a perfect illustration of what it means to be an American in 2010.

4. The lighthearted attitude
The slogan on the homepage is, "where dreams become heart attacks." There's an interesting operation of both guilt and pride at work here.

5. The fantastical nature
The money, time and planning that goes into making the food featured on TIWYF is extraordinary. It makes me wonder how long users have been waiting to actualize these things. Surely the Deep Fried Reese's Cups Wrapped in Bacon appeared to Justin Valcarcel in a dream, the Huge Homemade Twix was the stuff of Rafael Paulin's imagination, and Jade Desumala was forced to eat The Lasandwich as the result of losing a bet.

-Anna Gorman

Twinkie diet helps nutrition professor lose 27 pounds

(CNN) -- Twinkies. Nutty bars. Powdered donuts.

For 10 weeks, Mark Haub, a professor of human nutrition at Kansas State University, ate one of these sugary cakelets every three hours, instead of meals. To add variety in his steady stream of Hostess and Little Debbie snacks, Haub munched on Doritos chips, sugary cereals and Oreos, too.

His premise: That in weight loss, pure calorie counting is what matters most -- not the nutritional value of the food.

The premise held up: On his "convenience store diet," he shed 27 pounds in two months.

For details:



Saturday, November 6

High-Fructose Corn Syrup…Good or Bad?

There have been commercials on TV recently about how high-fructose corn syrup and plain table sugar is treated in the same way within our bodies and that it's not a bad ingredient like people say it is. I went to see what they had to say about it in more depth on www.cornsugar.com.

We just read about how fructose doesn't react with the coenzyme, Malonyl-CoA, when we eat it unlike glucose. The way our brain tells us that we are full is through hormones like leptin but when we take in fructose, leptin is not released. Because of the name of high-fructose corn syrup, I thought that it was mostly fructose which can cause people to eat more than they need to even after having sugary foods. I think the main reason why I thought that it was bad for people is the mercury content, since some high-fructose corn syrup is manufactured using the Castner-Kellner process. (found on wiki-pedia) I found that there was researched done on the mercury content of high-fructose corn syrup and it seems that it's hard to determine how much concentration there is in some foods because of the different amounts of the corn syrup involved. (http://www.ehjournal.net/content/8/1/2)

The corn sugar site says that high-fructose corn syrup is made up of glucose and fructose in similar ratios compared to honey and table sugar. According to the site, it is because people take in so much sugars in general that there is obesity, and not just because of high-fructose corn syrup. I understand the point they are trying to make. Yet I think the one reason I don't trust this site is because of the repetition of the fact that high-fructose corn syrup is sugar and sugar is sugar. Also they don't place any actual data about the structure of high-fructose corn syrup compared to table sugar and honey. It's mostly just quotes and tips from selected Doctors. It's obvious that the people who made the site and who run the commercials want the stigma against it to dissipate. The other reasons they bring up why it's not a bad product is because it makes products affordable and their shelf life longer.

Personally, I think the corn sugar site is sketchy in the amount of information their giving to the audience. I would have wanted a more detailed explanation of their claims but I can see how some people may be convinced with their repetition tactic. I don't think I'll believe their claims for now.


Friday, November 5

Not just knowing where your meat comes from, but making a celebration of it.

Our cultured way of living has found it easier and more profitable for us to have a distanced relationship with most of what we do, eating included. Since we pay next to nothing for our meats, we take the food for granted, and can get massive amounts of it, in detriment to the ecological health of the planet.
This article is in regards to what andrew brought up in class, about butchering your own meat. It details classes that some people run, in which they teach technique of butchering in conjunction with a night of fine dining. They describe it as an odd stark contrast, but maybe a necessary one that puts together the origins of our food, and drawing the line up to when it reaches our dinner plate.

Butchery Classes and Parties


Tuesday, November 2

Eating peanuts during pregnancy may increase risk of child peanut allergy

Two articles (one from a Canadian paper and one from online) claiming that studies show that a mother's consumption of peanuts during pregnancy was linked to stronger positive peanut allergy test results in their offspring. Interesting since I would automatically think the offspring would build a tolerance to it.




Monday, November 1

14 Horrifying Soft Drinks Around the World


Basically what the title says, although I personally don't find the majority of them horrifying, more so interesting or amusing. My brothers actually got the Jones Holiday Pack that is featured on the list and one of the flavors was Green Bean Casserole, which according to them, really did taste like it. >_>

I do kinda wonder what Hentai Tentacle Rape Soda would taste like...?