A brief digest of food and nutrition-related items that caught our attention recently. Got items you think we should include? Send links and brief descriptions to email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.
First, here’s a fun video about prepping ancient recipes at Yale.
Murtagh-Wu writes a story about running a dumpling delivery service in Vancouver, and how the legitimacy of his efforts are deeply shaped by identity:
I sell dumplings which, in the Chinese culinary tradition, is no-frills fare that’s enjoyed at home (usually made by your grandma) or bought at a grocery store for a discount. I sell mine at a premium, and I add value by making them all by hand, delivering them myself to my clients, and sourcing my pork from a butcher which has been Chinese-owned and operated in Vancouver’s Chinatown for over 40 years.
Over on Medium, Sole-Smith writes about the experiences of people with highly restrictive diets. She describes how clean eating and the whole food movement have coalesced. Interestingly, the whole foods mega-personalities she mentions are all white men, and the people she interviews are all women:
At the height of her restricting, Meg ate only chicken breasts, protein powder, vegetables, and fruit. “And even fruit I began to get nervous about,” she says. “If I didn’t know how food was prepared, I couldn’t eat it. Nothing seemed good enough or clean enough.”
In breaking news, bread predates agriculture!!! I’m getting tired imagining the work it took to gather wild grains by hand.
“Nobody had found any direct evidence for production of bread, so the fact that bread predates agriculture is kind of stunning,” says Tobias Richter, a University of Copenhagen archaeologist who co-authored the paper. “Because making bread is quite labor-intensive, and you don’t necessarily get a huge return for it. So it doesn’t seem like an economical thing to do.”
Also on Atlas Obscura was this story about the evolution of a separate language– amongst multiple groups of people in Papua New Guinea– spoken only when harvesting a particular nut:
“Across Papua New Guinea, different clans with different languages all switch up their speech when they gather pandanus, lest they risk harming the harvest.”
“When you go up into the forest, or in any area that’s unknown, you don’t talk a lot,” says Franklin. “It’s a fairly limited register for the Kewa, mostly objects they wanted to refer to, or the phrases most commonly used. It’s functional language for surviving in the mountains.”
The importance of U.S. social support was palpable in this powerful story of experiencing the U.S. food system, and hunger, and the ways that the U.S. government is making life even more difficult for the poor.
“But sometimes, I feel that familiar feeling—as though I’m under attack. It’s that same threat that pervaded my childhood, from a small but powerful group of people demanding tax cuts for themselves and taking away what little everyone else has. They are The Hunters.”
Civil Eats had another compelling argument against proposed cuts to SNAP, and its importance to farmers, and urban and rural economies:
“The standard USDA model estimates that, during a weak economy, $1 in SNAP spending generates about $1.80 in economic activity. This would mean that the $64.7 billion in SNAP benefits distributed in fiscal year 2017 could have generated an estimated $114 billion in economic activity, creating and supporting more than 567,000 jobs across the country.”
The growing momentum to ban plastic straws is fascinating. These perspectives on straw use seem to be a really interesting case study in what gets to be considered sustainable within the food system, where does political momentum happen (straws versus a lot of other things making the food system unsustainable), where do people get passionate and press for change? NPR writes about the movement’s impact on people with disabilities:
“You’re putting this burden on disabled people to come up with a solution. You’re not asking companies that manufacture straws to come up with a version that works for us,” autism activist Wiley-Mydske says. “You won’t even take the bus instead of driving your car somewhere,” she says, adding, “How many of you are willing to die for the environment?”
It seems every digest there’s something to be said about the soil. This time it is a USA Today story about cover crops. One key dimension of thinking about soil is the time horizon: In large-scale agriculture, one could argue that prioritizing the soil means prioritizing long-term success (and the success of future generations of farmers). This story about Hutterites ran counter to the norms of agiculture-as-big-business and food-as-commodity:
“”When I came on board, I realized there was a strong partnership here with the Hutterites that was more based on friendship and bartering than monetary gain,” says Jin. “We’re trying to keep that relationship going.”
On a related note, values based accounting (and accounting for externalities) is an increasingly important alternative way to evaluate the efficiency of food systems:
“The relevance and impact of import substitution strategy is heavily debated in economics. Indeed, as economics favours efficiency in the allocation of resources, it is more difficult for it to include considerations about other values. As far as local food is concerned, for Philip Watson, who authored both papers, it boils down to a debate over values, namely efficiency vs self-sufficiency.”
Ideas of how to implement urban agriculture are at the forefront of many discussions of sustainable food systems, but at Urban Food Futures this story highlights the problem of trying to use the same strategies in very different places, without a focus on context:
However, they unveil a similar pattern taking place in both settings, namely, the temptation to use references and concepts coming from other countries to legitimize urban agriculture policies instead of building on the rich history of gardening in these cities.
At Civil Eats, Leilani Clark writes about the intersection between food security and faith for black churches based in Baltimore, Virginia, and North Carolina:
Maxine White, executive director of the Coalition for Healthier Eating lives by the motto, “The person who controls the food controls the mind and the wellness of the body.”
“BCFSN is returning the old feeding ways back to our community. People are eating seasonally, preserving what is reasonable to preserve, and Black producers are producing almost year-round what comes to the table—on their own terms.”
At Nautilus, Matthew Sedacca writes about how eating outside of one’s comfort zone can bring peace:
According to anthropologists and psychologists who have studied food in recent years, cuisines from international cultures can take us out of ourselves and help us better understand distinct people and cultures. The secret ingredient is empathy. And the process begins with stirring our emotions.
And lastly, on a lighter note: Feral chickens in Ybor City, Tampa, Florida.
Councilman Harry Cohen, who’s running for mayor this year, also suspects that those drop-offs might be inflating rooster numbers. “In recent years, the rooster population appears to have multiplied” said Cohen. “At this point, the concerns have to do with them making a mess and being very loud.”