101 COOKBOOKS | Tumeric Cashews
When it comes to broad strokes, I get it. You want to encourage, nourish, support your internal bacterial community. The good bugs. And there are some general “best practices” in life that help. But, for me, the real, well-researched, specifics beyond that start to get increasingly hazy. I immediately wanted to know from her, which recipes exactly, and why? How exactly do I befriend and support my microbiota? How much does food impact it, and what are the other major factors? Best beverages – beer? wine? smoothies? In short, I wanted to know what sort of things I was doing in my day-to-day to support (or hurt) my unique-to-me friendly bugs, so I could continue to do more to support my microbiota.
NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC | CHARLES MANN | Building Bees
Problem is, Marla Spivak says, RNAi is still a single-purpose tool. Spivak, of the University of Minnesota, is the only bee researcher ever to receive a “genius” grant from the MacArthur Foundation. “If you target one specific area,” she argues, “the organism will always make an end run around it.” Staving off the beepocalypse, in her view, ultimately requires a “healthier, stronger” honeybee, one that can fight mites and disease on its own, without human assistance.
In parallel efforts, two groups of researchers—Spivak and her collaborators, and John Harbo and his colleagues at the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s research center in Baton Rouge, Louisiana—sought to breed mite-resistant bees. Although their approaches were different, they took aim at the same target: “hygienic” bees.
NATHANAEL JOHNSON | GRIST | Why your organic, fair-trade, cruelty-free chocolate bar won’t save the world
Instead of using their resources to solve the problem (of deforestation, or poverty, or pollution), these companies are using their resources to comply with the standards. And once they check the boxes, there’s no incentive to push further. As a result, certification schemes flourish, but the actual crises continue to fester.
NATHANAEL JOHNSON | GRIST | Soda taxes bubbling up all over
Lawmakers around the country have been talking about taxing sugar-sweetened drinks after Berkeley, Calif., passed a soda tax last year. Politicians have legislation in the works in Connecticut, Illinois, Vermont, and Hawaii. It’s hard to tell if those bills are making their way through these statehouses, or just languishing there. In Illinois, at least, there’s some renewed buzz about the bill.
Illinois, which faces stark budget cuts, might use a soda tax to help pay its Medicaid bill. A recent poll suggests that 65 percent of voters in the state like that idea. Soda taxes that pay for medical care have enjoyed bipartisan support in West Virginia and Arkansas.
And now a group of Illinois doctors are adding their support to the idea.
Two years ago, a Pennsylvania woman sued her former employers at McDonald’s because they forced her and other workers to accept their wages on fee-laden prepaid debit cards. Though the fast food franchisee, who runs 16 McDonald’s, later changed this policy, the lawsuit continued to move forward, and last week a judge ruled against the franchisee’s claims that the debit card requirement was completely legal.
THE LOS ANGELES TIMES | Q&A California peach farmer David ‘Mas’ Masumoto ruminates on the drought
How has the drought changed your cultivation practices?
We’ve been experimenting with this petite peach method this year, where we’re cutting back water use 30%, 40%, 50% on some select areas of the orchard to see how it responds. Part of my thinking initially was: How much are we over-watering to chase a cosmetic quality? And it’s mainly size. Can you not grow a small, water-efficient peach that has just as intense flavor? And you can.
I realize all these years I’ve been pumping them up with fertilizer and water to try to get them artificially big. So we backed off on the water. They’re small this year, but, good god, the flavor is great. It’s fantastic. It’s probably the most intense I’ve ever had.
Will consumers buy them or will they look for the big, cosmetically perfect fruit?
We’re trying to get the markets, our buyers, to understand it, and hopefully someone to eat one and say it doesn’t matter, the size…. A lot of the buyers are saying: This is great. Good, that means their consumers are kind of getting over the size issue. We’re calling them petite peaches, because if I called them drought-tolerant peaches, or water-deprived peaches, it doesn’t sound the same…. Part of it is branding.
Ken Albala:I found there a cache of books that were collected in the 1920s by a nurse, and it was basically every dietary text written from the earliest printed books through the end of the 17th century. So I sat down and read them for about three years. Then I became a food historian. [laughs] I liked food and I had always been into eating, so I guess it made sense to pick a topic I really liked. From there I kind of wandered into more culinary history, which is different. Food history could be about anything having to do with food. Religious ideas, scientific ideas, nutritional processing, distribution, whatever. Culinary is really about what’s going on in the kitchen. What’s being cooked, the aesthetics of eating practices. So, I’m both.
Are most people both?
Albala: There are not a whole lot of people who could claim to be both, in other words, who write about food history and also love cooking and write cook books. I do both, which is unusual. I find that a lot of food historians aren’t actually into cooking, which is bizarre to me; I don’t understand that. And then there are a lot of really very good culinary historians who are not professional historians, who work in places like Plymouth Plantation, who are, how should I say it, “advanced buffs,” who are very good at what they do, but don’t have academic positions.
She argues that the rise in food movements has coincided with a decline of religion in society, with many people seeking familiar values such as purity, ethics, goodness. But these movements also tend to encourage behaviours that have steered a generation away from religion: Judgment, self-righteousness, an us-versus-them mentality. And, she adds, many seek a fulfilment that cannot be satisfied with food.
The relationship between food and virtue has deep roots. A bite from that apple in Eden, after all, was Eve’s fatal moral choice. Muslims and Jews avoid pork. Many Hindus and Rastafarians are vegetarian.