(Roughly) Daily

Posts Tagged ‘nutrition

“It requires a certain kind of mind to see beauty in a hamburger bun”*…

 

fast food

 

There may be no American institution more polarizing than fast food. Whether it’s wages, health, the environment or those Colonel Sanders ads, the problems associated with the all-American meal inspire lots of detractors. But for many millions, places like McDonald’s, Taco Bell and Steak ’n Shake generate fierce loyalty for their convenience, value, ritual, shock-and-awe menu items and community; the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported in 2018 that more than one-third of Americans eat fast food on any given day. As the summer season of road trips and Frosties enters full swing, here are five myths about fast food…

Adam Chandler, author of Drive-Thru Dreams: A Journey Through the Heart of America’s Fast-Food Kingdom, enumerates “Five Myths About Fast Food.”

* Ray Kroc, creator of the McDonald’s franchise empire

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As we chow down, we might send beefy birthday greetings to Rex David Thomas; he was born on this date in 1932.  After rising through the ranks at Kentucky Fried Chicken, then helping to found the Arthur Treacher’s fried fish chain, Thomas founded Wendy’s– the burger chain named for his daughter (whose real name was Melinda Lou, but who was called Wendy, since as young child she couldn’t pronounce her name).

 

Written by LW

July 2, 2019 at 1:01 am

“Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”*…

 

food

Food pyramids and the like – the sort that have defined how everything from hospital meals to school lunches to Meals on Wheels funding have worked for decades, all over the world – are bastardised, imperfect things, a product of industry lobbying and backroom deals as much as they are of good nutrition science. Every time we link to an article about obesity or food security, it’s a given that these broken guides and the politics and economics around them come up. But for this one, the Canadian government has tried something different, as all those responsible for the report were kept safe behind a DMZ, away from lobbyist influence. It is, its makers claim, a scientifically pure guide to what it is to eat well, and it is radically simple (and no doubt problematic in ways we haven’t really absorbed yet) – almost Michael Pollan’s “not too much, mostly plants” mantra in manual form.  Of course, initial reaction has been a lot of “that’s great, but poor people can’t afford tofu”. But we think guides like this should be idealistic, and if based in good science, they should be seen as a provocation, not pipe dream: “that’s great, but if this is eating well, how do we build the systems that allow everybody to eat this way, and to enjoy it?”…

From the ever-illuminating newsletter Buckslip, an appreciation of Canada’s new nutrition guidelines: “Canada’s Food Guide.”

Contrast with the U.S. healthy eating guidelines, and its “food pyramid.”  For an account of the lobbying that went into those U.S. recommendations, see here and here.

* Michael Pollan

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As we parse prudence, we might spare a thought for James L. Kraft; he died on this date in 1953 (though some sources give the date as September 16).   A wholesale cheese distributor and producer, he patented pasteurized process cheese in 1916.  A  low-cost cheese product that would not spoil, it wasn’t an immediate hit with the public, but the U.S. army purchased over 6 million tins of it during World War I.  During the depression, it became more broadly popular because of its low cost.

james_lewis_kraft source

 

“Despair is perfectly compatible with a good dinner, I promise you”*…

 

Retro Wife Family Woman Housewife Kitchen Cooking

And it’s even more compatible with a dinner that’s not so good…

Today’s prominent food writers… do not hesitate to instruct us on the types of food we should buy (healthy, fresh, organic), the way it should be prepared and served (at home, from scratch, family style), and how harmful it would be—for our bodies, our families, and the planet—to deviate from this model.

In Pressure Cooker: Why Home Cooking Won’t Solve Our Problems and What We Can Do About It, the anthropologists Sarah Bowen, Joslyn Brenton, and Sinikka Elliott do not deny the value of healthy, home-cooked dinners. Instead, they argue that the way our food gurus talk about dinner is fundamentally disconnected from the daily lives of millions of Americans, especially but not exclusively low-income Americans. This discrepancy matters, the authors insist. When Michael Pollan, Mark Bittman, and Jamie Oliver preach their influential, well-compensated sermons about how you—yes, you!—can (and should) improve your family members’ lives by buying healthier food and preparing it at home, they implicitly frame the quality of our dinners as something over which we all wield a considerable degree of control. If you aren’t doing dinner right, it’s because you aren’t trying hard enough for your family: not shopping smartly enough, not doing the right prep work, not using the best recipes. In addition to creating a lot of angst and guilt whenever we fall short, this censorious approach shifts our collective attention away from the bigger forces shaping our lives and meals, blocking the way to more realistic solutions located beyond the kitchen…

Insights into the cooking habits—and daily struggles—of working-class Americans: “The Limits of Home Cooking.”

* William Makepeace Thackeray

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As we ponder prandial pressure, we might spare a thought for Wilhelm Koppers; he died on this date in 1961.  A cultural anthropologist, he developed influential theories on the origins and development of societies based on his studies of hunter-gatherer tribes.  A Jesuit priest, who began his career in the intellectual embrace of the Vienna School, his later work– conducted in India and elsewhere while he was a refugee from his home due to his criticism of Nazism– was more scientifically neutral.

koppers source

 

Written by LW

January 23, 2019 at 1:01 am

“All food is comfort food… maybe I just like to chew”*…

 

To understand the evolution of macaroni and cheese is to realize that pursuit of the “cheapest protein possible” has been a longstanding quest of the American food system. At times, cheese itself has shared a similar trajectory. Cheesemaking, which began 10,000 years ago, was originally about survival for a farm family or community: taking a very perishable protein (milk) and transforming it into something less perishable (cheese) so that there would be something to eat at a later date. Many of us today think of cheese in the context of tradition, flavor, or saving family farms, but a basic goal—whether a producer is making farm-made cheddar or concocting the cheeseless dairy product Velveeta—has always been getting as much edible food from a gallon of milk as possible…

Macaroni and cheese has been served as long as there has been a United States of America, but in a 20th-century economy driven by convenience packaging and industrialization, it was elevated to an ideal American food: Pasta and processed cheese are very cheap to make and easy to ship and store, and they certainly fill up a belly…

The story of a the versatile dish, popularized by Thomas Jefferson, that satisfied the quest for “the cheapest protein possible”: “A Brief History of America’s Appetite for Macaroni and Cheese.”

* Lewis Black

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As we dig in, we might spare a thought for Jimmy Ray Dean; he died on this date in 2010.  First successful as a country singer (he’s in the Country Music Hall of Fame), he later found success as an actor (as Fess Parker’s sidekick in Daniel Boone), a television host (The Jimmy Dean Show, which introduced Jim Henson and the Muppets to the wider world), and as a businessman.  With his brother Don, he founded Jimmy Dean Sausage Company, for which he served for many years as its TV pitchman.

Jimmy on the right

source

 

Written by LW

June 13, 2018 at 1:01 am

“First we eat, then we do everything else”*…

 

Imagine the ideal food. One that contains all the nutrients necessary to meet, but not exceed, our daily nutrient demands. If such a food existed, consuming it, without eating any other, would provide the optimal nutritional balance for our body.

Such a food does not exist. But we can do the next best thing.

The key is to eat a balance of highly nutritional foods, that when consumed together, do not contain too much of any one nutrient, to avoid exceeding daily recommended amounts.

Scientists studied more than 1,000 foods, assigning each a nutritional score. The higher the score, the more likely each food would meet, but not exceed your daily nutritional needs, when eaten in combination with others…

See the top 100, ranked at “The world’s most nutritious foods.”

* M. F. K. Fisher

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As we help ourselves, we might send bounteous birthday greetings to Cyrus Hall McCormick; he was born on this date in 1809.  Widely credited as the inventor of the first mechanical reaper, he was in fact just one of several contributing to its development.  His more singular achievement as a creator was his success in the development of a modern company, with manufacturing, marketing, and a sales force to market his products.  His McCormick Harvesting Machine Company became part of the International Harvester Company in 1902.

Interestingly, the grains that McCormick’s reapers helped harvest appear nowhere on the list…

 source

 

Written by LW

February 15, 2018 at 1:01 am

“This is the way the world ends / Not with a bang but a whimper”*…

 

It’s been decades since most Americans have thought seriously about nuclear war, although we’re regularly entertained with reality TV shows about “preppers” readying themselves for it, or a zombie invasion. What if, though, it turns out that they’re the smart ones? If, in the coming months or years, the standoff with North Korea turns hot and we confront a nuclear holocaust, and millions of people flee toward long-forgotten fallout shelters, one of the first questions we’ll face is the simplest: What do you eat when the world ends? It’s actually a question that the government has spent a lot of time — and millions of dollars — struggling with. The answer, though, may not encourage you to survive…

Meet the all-purpose survival cracker– and the balance of the US government’s Cold War-era nutrition solution for life after a nuclear blast: “The Doomsday Diet.”

* T.S. Eliot, “The Hollow Men”

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As we stock up, we might send silly birthday greetings to Joseph Grimaldi; he was born on this date in 1778. The most popular English entertainer of his day, Grimaldi was an actor, comedian and dancer who effectively invented the character of The Clown as today we know it.  He became so dominant on the London comic stage that harlequinade Clowns became known as “Joey”; both that nickname and the trademark whiteface make-up that Grimaldi created were, and still are, used widely by all types of clowns.  His catchphrases “Shall I?” and “Here we are again!” still get laughs in pantomimes.

Grimaldi’s memoir, edited by his fan Charles Dickens (who had, as a child, seen Grimaldi perform), was a best-seller.  The annual memorial service held for him (in February at Holy Trinity Church in the London Borough of Hackney) is attended by hundreds of clown performers from all over the world– who attend in full make-up and costume.

Grimaldi, au naturel

Grimaldi, in character

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Written by LW

December 18, 2017 at 1:01 am

“Art is the lie that enables us to realize the truth”*…

 

Your correspondent is headed into the woods, beyond the reach of signals; so (Roughly) Daily will be more roughly than daily until regular service begins again in Monday.  In the meantime…

Arcimboldo’s portrait of Rudolf II, Holy Roman Emperor, painted as Vertumnus, the Roman God of the seasons, c. 1590-1

Nearly half a millennium after their creation, artist Giuseppe Arcimboldo’s vegetal visages live on through a handful of kitschy European food brands. From the southern tip of Sicily, his painting Summer (1563) solicits buyers of oblong and ox heart tomatoes. Further north, Vertumnus (c. 1590) has been adopted by the Bertuzzi juice company. And at an amusement park outside Paris, his work has been taken to epic proportions by a commemorative restaurant flanked by mountains of oversized phosphorescent fruit.

Together, these are but a few modern inheritances of Arcimboldo, a 16th-century Italian artist famous for his kaleidoscopic “composite heads.” For scholars of his oeuvre, the most protracted and contentious debates in the field revolve overwhelmingly around a single, seemingly simple question: Just how seriously should we regard a man whose most enduring legacy is—in the words of one author—“fruit faces”?…

The story of an artist who influenced Picasso and Dali: “The Renaissance Artist Whose Fruit-Faced Portraits Inspired the Surrealists.”  See also this earlier almanac entry on Arcimboldo.

 

* Pablo Picasso

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As we consider a salad, we might recall that it was on this date in 1981 that the USDA announced that ketchup could be counted as a vegetable in computing the nutritional value of meals served in school lunch programs.

 source

 

Written by LW

September 15, 2017 at 1:01 am

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