(Roughly) Daily

Posts Tagged ‘USDA

“Uniformity is not nature’s way; diversity is nature’s way”*…

The U.S. boasts an impressively vast array of agricultural and botanical species. In an attempt to document that fact, The United States Department of Agriculture collected over 7,500 botanical watercolour paintings of evolving fruit and nut varieties in its Pomological Watercolor Collection, assembled between 1886 and 1942…

Independent publishing house Atelier Éditions is now revisiting this documentation of American pomology with the release of its latest book: An Illustrated Catalog of American Fruits & Nuts. “I came across the collection a few years back while researching botanical artworks,” says Pascale Georgiev, editorial director of Atelier. “There was such potential for a book with this collection, and it fits with our way of building archival or collection-based volumes.” The book is a biophilic wonder, with beautiful images of fruits popping with gentle colours and careful watercolour work. Accompanying them are often texts by well-versed experts, giving a fascinating insight into the agriculture behind the produce.

“We only produce and consume a handful of varieties today, mainly hybrids that cater to our desire for a certain sweetness, juiciness, smoothness, even specific shapes and lack of seeds,” says Pascale on the importance of the book’s current publication. “In some respects, the collection is a time capsule, and a reminder about the importance of diversity and conservation,” she adds…

Joey Levenson in discussion with Pascal: “We talk to Atelier Éditions about its new Illustrated Catalog of American Fruits & Nuts,” in @itsnicethat. More at Atelier Éditions.

Vandana Shiva

###

As we fancy favorite fruits, we might carefully compose a birthday greeting to Pierre Athanase Larousse, the French grammarian and lexicographer, born in Toucy on this date in 1817.  In 1856 Larousse and his partner Augustin Boyer published the New Dictionary of the French Language, the forerunner of the Petit Larousse.   On December 27, 1863 the first volume of Larousse’s masterwork, the great encyclopedic dictionary, the Grand dictionnaire universel du XIXe siècle (Great Universal 19th-Century Dictionary), appeared.

The cover of the first Larousse French dictionary (1856)

source

Then, in 1938, the Larousse publishing house published an encyclopedia of gastronomy, Larousse Gastronomique edited by Prosper Montagne.

source

And Happy Mole Day (or to be more precise, October 23 at 6:02 pm, in honor of Avogadro’s number: 6.02 x 1023 items are in a mole — it’s the chemist’s version of a dozen)

Written by (Roughly) Daily

October 23, 2022 at 1:00 am

“Poets have been mysteriously silent on the subject of cheese”*…

Unintended consequences…

The year was 1981, and President Ronald Reagan had a cheese problem. Specifically, the federal government had 560 million pounds of cheese, most of it stored in vast subterranean storage facilities. Decades of propping up the dairy industry—by buying up surplus milk and turning it into processed commodity cheese—had backfired, hard.

The Washington Post reported that the interest and storage costs for all that dairy was costing around $1 million a day. “We’ve looked and looked at ways to deal with this, but the distribution problems are incredible,” a USDA official was quoted as saying. “Probably the cheapest and most practical thing would be to dump it in the ocean.”

Instead, they decided to jettison 30 million pounds of it into welfare programs and school lunches through the Temporary Emergency Food Assistance Program. “At a time when American families are under increasing financial pressure, their Government cannot sit by and watch millions of pounds of food turn into waste,” Reagan said in a written statement. The New York Times declared that the bill would “give poor Americans a slice of the cheese surplus.”

But the surplus was growing so fast that 30 million pounds barely made a dent. By 1984, the U.S. storage facilities contained 1.2 billion pounds, or roughly five pounds of cheese for every American. “Government cheese,” as the orange blocks of commodity cheese came to be called, wasn’t exactly popular with all of its recipients

The long, strange saga of ‘government cheese’: “Why Did the U.S. Government Amass More Than a Billion Pounds of Cheese?,” from @DianaHubbell in @atlasobscura.

See also: “How the US Ended Up With Warehouses Full of ‘Government Cheese’,” from @HISTORY (source of the image above).

* G.K. Chesterton

###

As we chew on it, we might recall that it was on this date in 1916 that Joseph L. Kraft was grated a United States patent for processed cheese… the very process used to create ‘government cheese.”

Kraft had become curious about an issue that plagued his industry: cheese went bad, very fast, especially in the summer. He hypothesized this was caused by the same bacteria that produced the cheese in the first place. He began experimenting with different heating techniques to destroy the bacteria while preserving the cheesy flavor and consistency; he perfected the process in 1914 and patented it two years later.

Though the cheese industry condemned Kraft’s creation as an abomination, by 1930, 40 percent of all cheese consumed in the United States was made by Kraft.

source

“Part of the secret of a success in life is to eat what you like and let the food fight it out inside”*…

A logistical note to those readers who subscribe by email: Google is discontinuing the Feedburner email service that (Roughly) Daily has used since its inception; so email will now be going via Mailchimp. That should be relatively seamless– no re-subscription required– but there may be a day or two of duplicate emails, as I’m not sure how quickly changes take effect at Feedburner. If so, my apologies. For those who don’t get (Roughly) Daily in their inboxes but would like to, the sign-up box is to the right… it’s quick, painless, and can, if you change your mind, be terminated with a click. And now, to today’s business…

After seeing the Open Data Institute’s project on the changing British Diet, I couldn’t help but wonder how the American diet has changed over the years.

The United States Department of Agriculture keeps track of these sort of things through the Food Availability Data System. The program estimates both how much food is produced and how much food people eat, dating back to 1970 through 2013. The data covers the major food categories, such as meat, fruits, and vegetables, across many food items on a per capita and daily basis.

In [a wonderful interactive chart], we look at the major food items in each category. Each column is a category, and each chart is a time series for a major food item, represented as serving units per category. Items move up and down based on their ranking in each group during a given year….

The always-illuminating Nathan Yau (@flowingdata) lets us see what we ate on an average day, for the past several decades: “The Changing American Diet.” Watch chicken zoom from behind… see carrots have a moment… puzzle over the state of dark leafy greens…

[Image above: source]

* Mark Twain

###

As we ponder the perseverance of meat and potatoes, we might send tasty birthday greetings to Nathan Handwerker; he was born on this date in 1892.  In 1916, with $300 borrowed from friends, he and his wife Ida started a hot dog stand on Coney Island– and launched what evolved into Nathan’s Famous restaurants and the related Nathan’s retail product line.

An emigrant from Eastern Europe, Handwerker found a job slicing bread rolls for Feltman’s German Gardens, a Coney Island restaurant that sold franks (hot dogs) for 10 cents each.  Encouraged by a singing waiter there and his piano player– Eddie Cantor and Jimmy Durante– Handwerker struck out on his own, selling his hot dogs (spiced with Ida’s secret recipe) for a nickel.  At the outset of his new venture, he reputedly hired young men to wear white coats with stethoscopes around their necks to stand near his carts and eat his hot dogs, giving the impression of purity and cleanliness.

Handwerker named his previously unnamed hot dog stand Nathan’s Hot Dogs in 1921 after Sophie Tucker, then a singer at the nearby Carey Walsh’s Cafe, made a hit of the song “Nathan, Nathan, Why You Waitin?”

 source

Written by (Roughly) Daily

June 14, 2021 at 1:01 am

“Agriculture changes the landscape more than anything else we do”*…

 

agriculture

From the USDA, a (zoomable) map of which crops are grown where in the U.S.: “Cropscape.”

* Michael Pollan

###

As we contemplate cultivation, we might note that today is National Animal Crackers Day.  Small crackers/cookies baked in the shape of animals, they were imported from England to the U.S. in the second half of the 19th century. then produced domestically by a number of bakers starting in the 1870s.

But by the turn of the century, several of those bakeries had merged to become the National Biscuit Company, which began to produce a branded version, “Barnum’s Animals,” featuring animals from the Barnum and Bailey Circus.  While earlier animal cracker were sold to merchants in bulk (to be sold to customers from barrels), Nabisco’s were packaged in a colorful, circus-themed box with a string that allowed it to be hung from a Christmas tree.  Initially retailing for 5 cents a package, they were– and remain– a huge hit.

300px-Barnum's_animals_examples

Some of “Barnum’s Animals”

 

Written by (Roughly) Daily

April 18, 2020 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

###

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 (Roughly) Daily

September 15, 2017 at 1:01 am

%d bloggers like this: