On missing the point

To me, nothing better makes the case for the essential nothingness of pasta than the evident need to titivate the stuff by presenting it variously as worms, squashed worms, wider squashed worms, frizzy worms, small-bore tubes, large-bore tubes, pouches and bow-ties. It’s all basically flour and water, and a crafty way of delivering cheap starch with a lick of sauce and calling it a meal. The whole thing is an Italian confidence trick played upon English class-anxiety, and the reason you can’t dislike pasta is the reason you can’t really like it either: it’s the culinary equivalent of a blank page. Give me potatoes every time, and shape them into bosoms, swans or butterflies if you must.

Actually, it is like potatoes. Which we produce mashed, roast, baked, chipped, creamed, dauphinoise and so on. Each form being right for what it accompanies. So with pasta. Some shapes are for hearty soups, some for clear bouillons. Some sauces stick better to certain shapes – heavier sauces generally require flatter, tagliatelle not spaghetti. And so on and on.

Roast beef, gravy and chips? Grouse and baked? Just no. So too farfalle bolognese, or lasagne alla vongole…..

Just a little thing

Some bird’s waffling along in The Guardian about vegan cheese. At which point, why?

We don’t mess with cheese to make it taste like tofu. So why mess with tofu to make it look like cheese?

Sure, vegan, vegetarian, pescatarian, whatever. But why not enjoy each food for what it is? Why the replicas?

Well, other than an admission that tofu is disgusting that is.

This is simply glorious

The spate of resignations was the culmination of a bitter row about whether veganism – a word coined in 1944 by the society’s founder, Donald Watson – was actually cultural appropriation of foods and traditions from Africa and Asia. It even resulted in one resigning trustee accusing the society of being institutionally racist.

In the summer, the Vegan Society commissioned Ijeoma Omambala, QC, to investigate claims the then vice chair, Eshe Kiama Zuri, had posted racist comments online.

Victim poker:

Zuri’s resignation letter states they had been “naive” joining the council in 2019 as a “multiply marginalised trustee, being black, queer, disabled and working class” accusing the charity of being “institutionally racist”.

Probably the absence of lard in the diet that makes them all so mad.

Err, yes?

The premium paid by shoppers for gluten-free versions of staple foods could increase in the coming months as the soaring cost of ingredients such as rice flour casts a shadow over the “free from” aisle in supermarkets.

These specialist foods already cost a lot more than mainstream products, making any price rise a source of concern, particularly for people who follow a gluten-free diet out of medical necessity. The scale of the problem means some firms could opt to rewrite recipes with cheaper ingredients.

This is what the price system does, is the very purpose of it. Supply shocks are transmitted to consumers thereby changing demand, demand changes are transmitted to suppliers thereby changing supply.


Polly discovers self-solving problems

Less niche is the alarming 17% rise in food prices: Ian Wright, of the Food and Drink Federation, tells me Brexit costs and obstructions have sent commodity prices soaring, and those are now working their way on to the shelves. The unexpected £2bn fall in UK food and drink exports to the EU in just the first quarter of this year is, Wright tells me, “no teething problem, but very real and sustained. Smaller firms have stopped exporting”, overwhelmed by the new obstacles.

Imported food rises in price. Exports of food fall. Seems to work, doesn’t it?

Babies eat 100% ultraprocessed food!

Children’s diets made up of 65pc ultra-processed food, study finds

Worth considering. Mother eats whatever, then processes that into milk. Thus babies are eating 100% ultraprocessed food.

Horrors, eh?

Those who ate the most ultra-processed foods throughout childhood and adolescence were found to have a BMI 1.18 points higher than those who ate the least by the age of 24.

They also had 1.53 per cent more body fat and, on average, weighed over eight pounds more.

And isn’t that glorious? Given that the historical problem has been to provide children with enough nutrition that they don’t starve to death then that looks like one other problem that has been solved by modernity.

Which is, actually, what the complaint is about. There are those out there just not quite sure about the merits of modernity.

Examples of ultra-processed foods include chocolates, ice cream, biscuits, packaged bread, breakfast cereals and jars of pasta sauce.

Such horrors, that kids might eat boiled tomatoes.

Seems sensible enough

Cllr Andy Boddington has been on the Southern Shropshire planning committee for seven years.

He confesses to feeling hamstrung by the lack of policy guidance on intensive poultry units in either the county’s local plan, or the government’s national planning policy framework.

“It’s really frustrating that we don’t have the tools in our planning toolbox to get to grips with applications,” he says.

“I think there’s a culture in the planning department of saying, ‘Oh, it’s another chicken shed – let’s approve it’. We no longer have a planning machine, we have a permitting regime. It’s not about strategic planning at all.”

The strategic planning of the economy should be done by county councillors, should it?

A bird costs less than a pint: welcome to Britain’s poultry capital

There is a simple answer to that of course. Make pints cheaper.

This is damned impressive

It was unclear why the wild Asian elephants, a protected species in China, strayed from the Xishuangbanna national nature reserve in Yunnan province.

But since April, the animals have embarked on a 500km journey, closely monitored by residents and authorities, with hundreds of people mobilised to ensure public safety.

On Tuesday, Yunnan authorities said the herd was 20km from the provincial capital of Kunming, home to millions of people.

Since mid-April, the elephants have wrecked around 56 hectares of crops, causing an estimated 6.8m yuan ($1.07m) in losses, CCTV said.

What the hell does anyone grow that’s worth $20,000 a hectare?

How hipster

“When I’m at home, I’m busy. I don’t want to cook. I have a small apartment. I don’t want to get the kitchen dirty,” he said. “The way I cook at home is really inspired by these dishes that are in the book. They’re super easy to make, for the most part. You can pretty much shop at your local grocer for most of the ingredients.”

Sounds pretty good.

“The fried chicken in the book has an African-inspired marinade. It’s got some habanero. It has a nice spice to it. It’s coated in tapioca starch, and it’s fried in avocado oil.”

Local grocers in the US have sure changed since I was last there. As many as two brands of hot dog used to be the height of sophistication.

The Great Marmite Shortage

I’ve been ever so slightly pissed off about not being able to get Marmite, that essential part of good living. I had been thinking that it was just this Brexity thing – and so it’s a small pain for me as part of that giant leap for Britain.

Then someone pointed out that the pubs have been closed. Beer production is down. Ah, yes, as Marmite is simply boiled brewer’s yeast that does make sense, doesn’t it?

Still leaving that toast a little naked but at least I understand now.

Well, this is an advance

Mafia mussel: the fight to save a mollusc from the mob
As poaching of date mussels wrecks Naples’ reefs, police joined biologists to find the gangs behind it

Back when we lived out there – OK, different species of mussel – the growing technique was to spread the spawn on a piece of rope, tie it to the underside of a manhole cover and suspend into the sewage. Mussels are filter feeders and they just loved it, big fat and plump in no time.

Not hugely healthy for human beings given the local predeliction for eating them raw – as with oysters – and a bit of lemon but still……

Whose ethics?

That’s the important question here:

How big would Britain have to be for all its meat, milk and eggs to be ethically farmed?

Fascism is a set of ethics. Not an attractive set, I’ll grant you that, but it is a set. The mistake being made in the question is to accept that current Green, liberal metropolitan, set of ethics and being the only ethical system possible.

I have no idea what a doughnut wall is

“We thought carefully about it,” they all explain, “and we realised blowing thousands of dollars on a doughnut wall [the latest wedding trend, apparently] was important to us.”

Oh, OK.

Not a great deal the wiser to be honest but I do at least now know that it’s something that can be highly variable in price.

The Class Based Food Of The Guardian

This is one of those little amusements:

10 delicious polenta recipes, from scallops to cherry blossom cake

Peasant Italian food is something that page after page is devoted to. Peasant American food is not. Because, you know, Italian peasant food is Tuscan sunlight and American peasant food is goddam it they’re white racists and Americans!

Polenta being cornmeal porridge, grits being cornmeal porridge but one’s Italian peasants and the other is American such.

The G has done grits but it was 6 years back. And think on it just for a moment, The Deal between Bliar and the One Eyed Viking. We’d all think very differently of it if it had been over a plate of grits now, wouldn’t we?

Umm, well, no not really

It was once a staple of a night out in London’s theatreland but now the Angus Steakhouse may have served its last slab of beef.

It was a chain specifically designed to catch the rural rubes and tourists. No one who went up west regularly had anything to do with it.

This is interesting

British stores could be flooded with “dangerous” bacon and ham from the US, marketed under misleading labels, as the result of a transatlantic trade deal, says the author of a new book based on a decade of investigation into the food industry.

The meat has been cured with nitrites extracted from vegetables, a practice not permitted by the European Commission because of evidence that it increases the risk of bowel cancer. But it is allowed in the US, where the product is often labelled as “all natural”. The powerful US meat industry is likely to insist that the export of nitrite-cured meat is a condition of a post-Brexit UK-US trade deal, which the UK government is under intense pressure to deliver.

Sodium Nitrate (and thus nitrite) is what cures meat. It does indeed provide the pink colour but it also stops botulism. Fairly important that, stopping botulism.

It used to be that people complained about “additives”. Unnatural things that were added to our food. To, you know, stop it poisoning us. Today the complaint is about steeping food in vegetable juice to stop it poisoning us.

It’s possible to start thinking that for some people there’s just a level of complaining that must happen. Solve the problem of sabre toothed tigers and they’ll moan instead about the terrors of hair braiding. Life just must be accompanied by a certain level of whingeing…..

You know, don’t shag the au pair – these days an equal opportunities adventure – and the same grief will be ladled out over the manner of the washing of the coffee cups.

A farmer writes

The Secretary of State was very clear that in seven years, British farmers are going to be competing with farmers from across the globe without the support of any subsidy for farming itself. It is about the oldest of neoliberal dreams — killing off state involvement and throwing open our country (and countryside) to free trade and deregulation.

Yep, good, innit?

We are to be collateral damage as the politicians try to deliver Brexit at any cost, imposing free trade, deregulating the countryside and unleashing wilfully blind free-market economics on farming.

Sounds most tasty.

Because, you stupid bint, we’re humans

Cultured meat is eye-catching technology. But it is also an over-engineered solution to a problem that we can solve by changing our diets. If we simply stopped eating meat, or ate it far less often, then there would be no need for either harmful intensive animal agriculture or meat grown in a lab. The cultured meat industry rests on a view of human beings as greedy and incapable of change. But the coronavirus pandemic has shown that, globally, we are able to make enormous changes to our behaviour when faced with existential crisis.

The startups growing meat in labs might be motivated by noble intentions: to save animals and save the planet. But giant meat producers such as Cargill and Tyson are already investing heavily in cultured protein. Who knows which companies will run the industry in decades to come. If we move into a world where eating meat remains normal but killing animals is taboo, we will become ever more dependent on remote corporations with highly specialised technology to meet our basic needs.

But we don’t have to. We can just choose to eat less meat. That’s where real power lies – not in harnessing this new technology but in being prepared to change our behaviour.

The aim of our having technology – hell, the aim of our having an economy, even a civilisation – is so that we people out here get to have more of what we want. That is, that we get to maximise our utility.

If people want lab grown meat – or even meat meat – instead of vegetables then that’s what people should get. Because that’s the point of the whole game, that people get more of what they want.

Yea, even if provided by corporations.

What is it that is so difficult to understand about this?

Bit late isn’t it?

Households across the nation wielded wooden spoons as they prepared to stir up their Christmas puddings on Sunday.

Or are they making next year’s?

Then again, maybe it’s me – is it the cake you’re supposed to really mature?