Category: Food

Adventures with Red River : Part I

Red River, so polarizing

Anyone want? I don’t think this household is ever going to consume. About 80% of original capacity

I posted this on social media last week and an interesting conversation ensued. I was hoping someone would take the cereal off my hands as it had sat in my pantry for a while. This is not what happened. Instead, there was a fun discussion on this iconic Canadian cereal which, incidentally, got bought by a US company, then retired last year (per wikipedia). The taste and texture of red river cereal are a polarizing topic, and the cereal was frequently associated with grandparents of the prairies!

The Red River in Manitoba is marked in Canadian history for the oppression and violence of the Canadian colonial government (pdf) against Louis Riel and the provisional Métis government established there.

No one took the box off my hands, but many ideas were offered. So, challenge accepted. I’ll try and finish this box off!

Basic Savoury Hot Cereal

I am watching my sugar intake, so I usually eat my oatmeal savoury. Given mornings are busy, I needed to do something easy and almost unattended. So, took my cereal bowl, added a 1/3 cup of Red River, a bit more than 2/3rd cup water and put it in the Instant Pot to cook at high pressure for 10 minutes. Key here is to use pot in pot mode where your cooking bowl sits on a trivet inside the main pot, which has a cup of water in it to provide the steam. This approach is painless, less work than microwaving oatmeal even and no extra dishes. Half an hour later (I did this while I was making coffee), the pressure released and I opened the Instant Pot up to a fluffy, well cooked, but nicely textured hot cereal. My kid even had a few spoons with honey and they’ve sworn off oatmeal recently!

I added some yogurt, chopped up strawberries and cashews, and some store-bought coriander chutney for flavour. This was tasty! I liked it quite a bit more than oatmeal. There was more texture and body, and the porridge’s taste was nutty, but neutral enough to not get in the way of all the fruit and coriander chutney flavour bombs.

So, this is a keeper and the toppings will vary, so will the flavours.

High fructose corn syrup makes you fat

This well designed and well executed study provides rather conclusive proof that High Fructose Corn Syrup, the sweetener most commonly used in North America, makes you gain weight in a way not explained by calories alone. These rats gained more weight on HFCS compared to a sucrose (regular sugar) diet even though they were fed the same calories. The effect was seen in the short term and in the long term, and abdominal fat increased the most. Gut fat, if you did not know is related to the infamous metabolic syndrome, causing diabetes, hypertension, coronary disease, etc.

High-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) accounts for as much as 40% of caloric sweeteners used in the United States. Some studies have shown that short-term access to HFCS can cause increased body weight, but the findings are mixed. The current study examined both short- and long-term effects of HFCS on body weight, body fat, and circulating triglycerides. In Experiment 1, male Sprague–Dawley rats were maintained for short term (8 weeks) on (1) 12 h/day of 8% HFCS, (2) 12 h/day 10% sucrose, (3) 24 h/day HFCS, all with ad libitum rodent chow, or (4) ad libitum chow alone. Rats with 12-h access to HFCS gained significantly more body weight than animals given equal access to 10% sucrose, even though they consumed the same number of total calories, but fewer calories from HFCS than sucrose. In Experiment 2, the long-term effects of HFCS on body weight and obesogenic parameters, as well as gender differences, were explored. Over the course of 6 or 7 months, both male and female rats with access to HFCS gained significantly more body weight than control groups. This increase in body weight with HFCS was accompanied by an increase in adipose fat, notably in the abdominal region, and elevated circulating triglyceride levels. Translated to humans, these results suggest that excessive consumption of HFCS may contribute to the incidence of obesity.

Miriam E. Bocarsly, Elyse S. Powell, Nicole M. Avena, Bartley G. Hoebel. High-fructose corn syrup causes characteristic of obesity in rats: Increased body weight, body fat and triglyceride levels. Pharmacology Biochemistry and Behavior, 2010; DOI: 10.1016/j.pbb.2010.02.012

For a more layman friendly summary of the article, read the sciencedaily release.

Do reconsider your food habits to avoid HFCS. Note that this whole corn syrup boondongle is made possible by the US government’s insistence on providing billion dollar subsidies to its farmers to grow corn while imposing tariffs on cane sugar from the tropics to make it less attractive. Free trade, my A$$.

Thanks to Tom Laskawy at grist for the blog post.

Tuesdays with Turtles – Wednesday Hook Edition

WWF – Fishing Technology That’s Letting Turtles Off the Hook –

Turns out that a small change in hook design can save a lot of turtles from getting caught in longline hooks. But the story’s not really about the shape of the hook. I’ve written about this before. The issue is rarely one of technology. The solutions have been developed and exist because a lot of work has gone into developing technological solutions. Implementation on the ground (or sea!) has lagged because it is much harder to effect change where it counts when you attempt to impose technology in a top-down fashion. Small scale fishers (new english here, to avoid the whole fishermen/fisherwoman/fisherperson nonsense, take out the gender specific suffix to every occupation describing verb! – Try it, it’s not weldman, or plumbwoman!) are in a world of hurt with declining fish stocks and widespread fisheries piracy by the so called “developed world”. Without developing and implementing the solution with the full participation of the people who have the most potential to be affected, the change will not be successful.

What did the WWF do differently this time?

Together with fishermen we are building a culture for sustainable fishing practices that will guarantee fish stocks in the long term

They emphasized the people, not the solution. And the results were great, 90% reduction in turtle catch, >95% of the turtles caught were released safely, and the fish yields were not affected. Everyone wins, right?

Good stuff. Those turtles are still endangered and we’ll run out of wild edible fish in 50 years, but hey, more like this and there’s a bit of hope.

Clothianidin and the Colony Collapse Disorder

Clothianidin is the pesticide at the center of controversy. It is used to coat corn, sugar beet and sorghum seeds and is part of a class of pesticides called neonicotinoids. The pesticide was blamed for bee deaths in France and Germany, which also is dealing with a colony collapse. Those two countries have suspended its use until further study. An EPA fact sheet from 2003 says clothianidin has the potential for toxic chronic exposure to honey bees, as well as other pollinators, through residues in nectar and pollen.

Lawsuit seeks EPA pesticide data

Interesting story. For more on the Colony Collapse Disorder...

Indian Recipes on Youtube

YouTube – Manjulaskitchen’s Channel

Good recipes in general, but note that she does not use any onion or garlic, which means she’s probably Jain.

Apart from not eating meat, fish and eggs, strict Jains do not eat onions and garlic because they increase sexual desires. Strict Jains also do not eat any root vegetables like potatoes because smaller insects are killed in their harvest and the vegetable itself will have millions of bacteria

In a sign of surprising maturity, I will desist from any editorializing and note that to incorporate onions and garlic, chop 1 large onion (white or red, I use red)  fine and add right after the green chillis. When the onions are mostly done, add 2-3 cloves worth of finely minced garlic and fry for a minute before going through with the rest of the recipe. This dish is usually eaten with raw onions on the side…

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Tom Philpott Speaks at UNC

Tom Phipott is the co-founder and co-director of Maverick Farms, an educational non-profit farm dedicated to promoting family farming as a community resource and reconnecting local food networks”. He also blogs at the grist about food issues. Check him out at UNC tomorrow.

Writing for Public(s):
For whom do we write? why?
How can we write our research in more relevant and resonant ways?

WEDS Feb 13,
4:30-6:30pm, Alumni 313

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Monsanto Ashamed of Selling Bovine Growth Hormone

Why else do they not want people to know that their product is being used? You would think that Monsanto with its millions in profits and its monopoly in bovine growth hormone, would let the free market decide whether people want their ice cream/milk rBGH free or not. Surely, wouldn’t Monsanto’s commanding market presence, and the simple fact that conventional milk supplied by hormone injected cows tends to be cheaper than rBGH free milk be a sufficient counterweight against a simple rBGH free label?

The ice cream maker has joined a national campaign to block what critics say is an effort driven by Monsanto (MON), which markets recombinant bovine somatotropin, or rBST, also known as recombinant bovine growth hormone, or rBGH.The hormone, which was approved by the Food and Drug Administration to boost production in dairy cows in the early 1990s, was not approved in Canada, Japan or the European Union, largely out of concern it may be harmful to animals.A newly formed dairy producers’ group, backed by Monsanto, is pushing for labeling changes, saying hormone-free labels imply that the milk is safer than other milk, when they say it’s not.

Ben & Jerry’s in fight over hormone labeling –

This is a classic strawman’s argument. I don’t know if there is sufficient evidence to show that hormone filled milk is harmful to humans, but there is sufficient evidence that it is harmful to cows. As always, I point to the Meatrix (Note, available on youtube as well, but embedding has been disabled…).

Here’s a letter from the Oregon Physicians for Social Responsibility summarizing the harmful effects of rBGH.

  1. Increase in IGF-1 levels – possible link to cancer in humans
  2. Mastitis in Cows – Do you want your breasts infected and painfully inflamed? That’s what RBGH does to cows
  3. Antibiotics Resistance – To combat mastitis, the cows are pumped with antibiotics, which end up in the solid waste, and water runoff.
  4. 15 other side effects in cows, bad enough that Canada and the EU do not permit this growth hormone

All right, the product is still legal here in the US and I absolutely respect Monsanto’s right to sell it, fight for it and conduct a vigorous product defense (including obligatory astroturf group rbstfacts). But stop trying to get the government to do your dirty work for you and “banning” companies from telling consumers that they did not use your product, it’s shameful and unnecessary.

Consumers have a right to pay premium for a product that they think is superior for one reason or the other. It is anti-free market and protectionist to restrict information that will help these consumers decide.

What next? We all know that cosmetics tested on animals are not more harmful to people than animal cruelty free cosmetics. Shouldn’t that label be banned as well?

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Understanding Food Labels You Might Encounter at Whole Foods.

Fine stuff from Mcsweeneys. Just read the whole thing!

Free-Range: Animals raised with a free-range lifestyle have plenty of room to stretch out and eat bugs. This is particularly important for chickens, which need at least two square feet of space at all times. Factory-farming conditions are like living in apartment buildings in big cities: a co-op is formed within the coop, and the poultry have grinding meetings on where to put the satellite dish and how much to tip the doorman at Christmas. As in a human co-op, any new members deemed unsatisfactory or weak are pecked to death. Other free-range items, such as tofu, need less room to grow.

Natural: Pretty much everything is natural, including this sentence. What makes it natural? The fact that it has the word “natural.” The only things in this store that aren’t natural are the highly coifed blonds who shop here. Natural foods include any combination of natural flavorings, natural ingredients, and a high price, since it’s human nature to pay more for anything that we imagine will keep us alive forever.

McSweeney’s Internet Tendency: Understanding Food Labels You Might Encounter at Whole Foods.

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Pesticide Exposure and India's green revolution

Pesticide exposure in Punjab and Haryana is out of control. When I was growing up, the Green Revolution was idolized and idealized to degree that in hindsight seems a little excessive. But back then, this octupling of wheat and rice yields in Punjab and Haryana catalyzed the transformation of India from a country mired in famine and food shortages to one that occasionally runs out of room to store excess food. So, this story (courtesy of 3QD) caught my attention.

Green.view | Chemical generation |

IF INDIAN newspaper reports are to be believed, the children of Punjab are in the throes of a grey revolution. Even those as young as ten are sprouting tufts of white and grey hair. Some are going blind. In Punjabi villages, children and adults rare afflicted by uncommon cancers.

The reason is massive and unregulated use of pesticides and other agricultural chemicals in India’s most intensively farmed state. According to an environmental report by Punjab’s government, the modest-sized state accounts for 17% of India’s total pesticide use. The state’s water, people, animals, milk and agricultural produce are all poisoned with the stuff.

Ignorance is part of the problem. The report includes details of a survey suggesting that nearly one-third of Punjabi farmers were unaware that pesticides come with instructions for use. Half of the farmers ignored these instructions. Three-quarters put empty pesticide containers to domestic uses.

The article concludes by saying that the government is encouraging the use of techniques including organic farming, more crop rotation, etc, and how this is ironically “reversing” the green revolution. But two separate issues are getting mixed up here. The green revolution was not won on excessive use of fertilizers, monoculture, excessive water use, and so on. Instead, the development of new hybrid, high yielding varieties of rice and wheat kick started the revolution. The wholesale adoption of water and input intensive agricultural techniques came along for for the ride with the rest of the revolution.

Hopefully, the Punjab government will not stop at writing reports, but start grassroots education projects with the farmers to encourage sensible farming techniques that take the good parts of the green revolution and leave the bad parts out.