Archive for the ‘food’ tag
Like many, I’m not a big fan of April Fool’s Day. The whole internet becomes a undifferentiated combination of bad joke, real news, and some interesting novelty. Everything most go through your bullshit filter. But The Economist came up with a really great idea, they’ve created a literal comparison of apples and oranges:
In contrast, orange production has plateaued, due in part to a decline of orange juice consumption in America—around 40% less over the past 15 years. Close to the equator, oranges are more popular than apples, whereas farther north apples are more appealing, perhaps reflecting their ease of growth.
I don’t know if it’s a job I’d want, but it sure does sound like it’s not like any other job I’ve had. Apparently there exists a number of trade secrets:
[Taster]: … We were taught a trade-secret flavor intensity scale that we used as a metric to judge all other foods against. At the low end is oil, and at the high end is a strong fruit juice.
[Interviewer]: So you were trained to distinguish the taste of food on a specific scale.
[Taster]: Yes, the main goal of the scale was to be able to objectively rate foods numerically. The oil would be a 2, the fruit juice a 10, and then a whole number of other foods in between. You would say, “This piece of cheddar cheese is an 8, higher than the orange juice, not as strong as the cranberry juice.”
An interesting little story about the inside of the design of chain restaurant menus. It’s self-evident that such things would be designed, but the process wasn’t one I’d given much thought.
Since it released the new menu, IHOP’s sales have been up 3.6 percent—a small bump, but a notable one in a market that finds most sales numbers trending downward. The increase, Franco says, has been “primarily driven by selection and upsell” within the menu itself. Customers are seeing more options. They’re ordering more side dishes and beverages. They’re taking more advantage of the food offerings, rather than going straight for the old short stack-with-a-side-of-sausage combo. Franco is convinced: “Our guests are ordering additional items,” she says, “because of the appeal of the menu.”
(via Next Draft)
Ever wondered where we get all those magical things like flour and water? Well as this video explains, much of the vital flour used in the US is harvested from disused old cookies, carefully deconstructed. Fascinating:
Nothing that will surprise anyone who’s ever stepped into the store with a critical eye, but a line like this made me feel I had to link to the piece:
If scientific accuracy in the public sphere is your jam, is there really that much of a difference between Creation Museum founder Ken Ham, who seems to have made a career marketing pseudoscience about the origins of the world, and John Mackey, a founder and CEO of Whole Foods Market, who seems to have made a career, in part, out of marketing pseudoscience about health?
A text-interview isn’t the most compelling way I can imagine to convey this story, but it has a high novelty factory: a 38-year-old man who’s lived on pizza alone for 25 years. This bit of the prelude didn’t really surprise me, but some of his answers did:
Everyone who knows Dan wonders how he’s still alive. Beyond the fact that his diet is completely horrifying, he also has diabetes and frequently gets low blood sugar. When his blood sugar dips into the danger zone, it sometimes results in his blacking out on the kitchen floor in his underwear with frozen food scattered around him. There was that one time he bought a new car and then blacked out on the drive home. He swerved off the road and totaled the vehicle, but besides from that isolated incident, his pizza diet seems to be working out for him. I recently spoke to Dan to hear more about how he came to subsist on gluten, tomato sauce, and cheese alone.
It’s kind of expected, but I still think it’s worth a second: maps of milk consumption and lactose intolerance are nearly inverts of each other. At a quick glance South America seems to be an odd exception.
An interesting side-effect of the shaming of trans-fat. It makes sense but hadn’t occurred to me.
It’s not a new story (I’m slowly making progress on a dauntingly large backlog of stuff to read), but an interesting one, especially to someone who advocates (and is currently practicing) calorie-counting for weight loss. Nothing Rob Dunn says really negates the basic merits of calorie counting, but I’ve rarely seen his points made elsewhere. Among them:
Peanuts, pistachios and almonds all seem to be less completely digested than their levels of protein, fat, carbohydrates and fiber would suggest. How much? Just this month, a new study by Janet Novotny and colleagues at the USDA found that when the “average” person eats almonds she receives just 128 calories per serving rather than the 170 calories “on the label.”
I note this more for its contrarianism than for its validity, but this was truly an unconsidered point in my mind.
But if you want to minimise animal suffering and promote more sustainable agriculture, adopting a vegetarian diet might be the worst possible thing you could do.
The primary means by which this idea is made reasonable:
Published figures suggest that, in Australia, producing wheat and other grains results in:
- at least 25 times more sentient animals being killed per kilogram of useable protein
- more environmental damage, and
- a great deal more animal cruelty than does farming red meat.
(via Marginal Revolution)
“Atul Gawande” is a consistently promising byline, and this piece about the balkanization and standardization of the health care industry is no exception. You’ll get a number of thoughts about the pluses and minuses of the biggest trend in American healthcare administration, but also a thorough look at the high-end American restaurant chain The Cheesecake Factory. About the kitchen of the restaurant:
Two things struck me. First, the instructions [delivered to a touchscreen right beside the cook] were precise about the ingredients and the objectives (the steak slices were to be a quarter of an inch thick, the presentation just so), but not about how to get there. The cook has to decide how much to salt and baste, how to sequence the onions and mushrooms and meat so they’re done at the same time, how to swivel from grill to countertop and back, sprinkling a pinch of salt here, flipping a burger there, sending word to the fry cook for the asparagus tempura, all the while keeping an eye on the steak. In producing complicated food, there might be recipes, but there was also a substantial amount of what’s called “tacit knowledge”—knowledge that has not been reduced to instructions.
Second, Mauricio never looked at the instructions anyway.
I link to this disproportionately popular article mostly because I linked to “I, Pencil” recently and it’s essentially the same thing, only food based. (And in this case, rather than having an irrelevant plea for privatized mail service tacked on at the end, we get one about home-grown turkey.) But it remakes a point I think absolutely vital:
Anyone who tells you that life was better in the past is a dummy. Anyone who dreams of self-sufficiency a fool. We live in a magical time filled with uncountable objects no person would ever dream of making on their own. Everything about our lives is a minor miracle; we’re far more deeply connected than we even realize.
That felt good. Thanks for listening, internet.
This is another one of those stories I ignored the first five times I saw it. But it actually raises some very interesting issues about the nature of McDonald’s, modern food production, and economics, and thus worthwhile regardless of the defensibility of its core conceit.
(John Gruber is the reason I actually read it)
You may or may not know anything about Cargill, but chance are good that you regularly ingest something they touch. Famously the largest private company in the world, and rather secretive too, they’re a favorite of conspiracy theorists. This story skips most of the scare mongering, but is a very worthy introduction to the company for the uninitiated. The most interesting part of the story (to me), begins here:
“As far as how our corporate strategy works,” says Conway, “we don’t say, ‘We think the world’s going to look like this, let’s define our strategy for that world.’ We say, ‘We don’t know what the world’s going to look like. We need a strategy or a set of strategies that can be successful almost irrespective of what the world looks like.’” Which helps explain how Cargill got into the cocoa business in Vietnam.
(via The Browser)
One of the most important and least understood industries in the world is the one that makes all those “natural and artificial flavors”; this decade old excerpt from Eric Schlosser’s Fast Food Nation gives a fantastic glimpse inside.
(via Justin Blanton; and yes, this URL is multiple kinds of wrong, but I like the story enough to deal with it)
There are few things that environmental activists have enjoyed attacking more in the last decade than meat, and so to see one of them reconsider that is nice.
If pigs are fed on residues and waste, and cattle on straw, stovers and grass from fallows and rangelands – food for which humans don’t compete – meat becomes a very efficient means of food production. Even though it is tilted by the profligate use of grain in rich countries, the global average conversion ratio of useful plant food to useful meat is not the 5:1 or 10:1 cited by almost everyone, but less than 2:1. If we stopped feeding edible grain to animals, we could still produce around half the current global meat supply with no loss to human nutrition: in fact it’s a significant net gain.
It should be noted, however, that this theoretical world where ideal meat-raising is practiced is quite different than the methods currently used to do so.
In an excerpt from his book, Mike Steinberger lays some of the blame for the decline of French cuisine at the door of what is usually considered its ultimate judge.
Someone finally asked the Green Lantern the question I’d been meaning to since Slate started the column:
Green Lantern, you’re always telling us how bad meat is for the environment. I’m willing to throw some more zucchini kebabs on my barbecue this summer, but are all meats equally awful? Or are there some that I can grill with a little less guilt?
The answer’s pretty much in line with what had been my assumption: the bigger the animal, the less efficient the meat.