Ron Finley: A guerilla gardener in South Central LA
Ron Finley plants vegetable gardens in South Central LA — in abandoned lots, traffic medians, along the curbs. Why? For fun, for defiance, for beauty and to offer some alternative to fast food in a community where “the drive-thrus are killing more people than the drive-bys.”
Ron Finley grows a nourishing food culture in South Central L.A.’s food desert by planting the seeds and tools for healthy eating. Full bio »
Photo: In the US, some children with allergies are given small amounts of peanut powder. AP Photo/Gerry Broome
How do Israelis give babies peanut products—and escape allergies? By Shoshana Kordova
Israelis so love the peanut snacks known as Bamba that the factory making the stuff has been classified an “essential wartime industry.”
Bamba looks a lot like Cheez Doodles but tastes like peanut butter. It boasts a 25% share of Israel’s snack market, making it the most widely sold snack in the country, according to Bamba manufacturer Osem. Not only is Bamba popular, but it is such an icon of Israeli childhood that the Olympic Committee of Israel proposed using the brand’s mascot, a diaper-clad cartoon figure known as the Bamba Baby, as the country’s mascot in the London Olympics (though that idea was ultimately shot down as too commercial).
Meanwhile, in the US and Europe, schools are banning peanuts and peanut products from classrooms, lunchrooms, and bake sales. Parents go to great lengths to keep peanuts far, far away from their babies, often waiting till age 2 to introduce the product. In fact, allergy anxiety is so strong that far more people think they have food allergies than have actually been diagnosed with them.
This is at odds with the Israeli approach—and lots of places around the world that feed children peanut products, such as the peanut soup of West Africa and the porridge of rice, peanut butter and sugar common to Central Africa.
There are reasons for the extreme reactions peanuts can engender, of course, like the tripling of nut allergies among children in the United States between 1997 and 2008, at least based on self-reported assessments (more definitive conclusions are harder to come by), and the fact that a particularly severe allergy can potentially be fatal if not treated immediately. But given that the national hysteria over nut allergies, which a Harvard professor of medical sociology has said looks a lot like mass psychogenic illness, shows little indication of subsiding, is there any reason to think there might be room on the supermarket shelf, or the Western psyche, for a peanut product fed to children from as young as five or six months of age?
In a word, yes.
A study published in last month’s issue of the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology found that a majority of subjects with documented peanut allergies who were given small amounts of peanut powder every day over 44 weeks were desensitized to some degree compared with those who received a placebo, even though peanut allergies had previously been considered untreatable.
“There is no known benefit to avoiding potentially allergenic foods,” an expert panel sponsored by the NIH’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases stated in guidelines released in 2010. The guidelines also say there is no recommendation for pregnant or breastfeeding women to stay away from potential food allergens due to fears that, say, the peanut butter candies they crave might increase their babies’ likelihood of developing an allergy.
The theory behind delaying the introduction of potential allergens is that being exposed early could mean becoming allergic early. But if the opposite is actually the case, then parents and doctors seeking to be on the safe side by limiting the intake of certain foods may actually be part of the problem.
“There has never been anything [in Israel] prohibiting parents from giving peanut snacks from a particular age,” Dr. Yael Levy, the deputy director of the Kipper Institute of Immunology at Schneider Children’s Medical Center of Israel, told me. “The advantage of this snack is that you can even put it into the mouths of babies who don’t have teeth, because it really melts,” she added. “The practice is to give it the first year, from six or seven months old, and there’s no danger in that.”
A 2008 study published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology put that in more scientific terms, finding peanut allergy to be 10 times more prevalent among British children than Israeli ones. Although the study did not demonstrate causation, it also found that 69% of Israeli infants consume peanut products by the time they are nine months old, compared to just 10% of their British counterparts. (The participants in both groups were Jewish, to minimize any underlying genetic differences.)
Dr. Gideon Lack, a professor of pediatric allergy at King’s College London and one of the researchers behind the Israel-UK study, is the principal investigator of a current British clinical research study that aims to determine whether the best way to prevent peanut allergy is through avoidance or early consumption. Called LEAP, which stands for Learning Early About Peanut Allergy, the study is following 640 children at high risk of developing allergies from infancy through age 5. The randomly assigned avoiders were not allowed to eat foods containing peanuts until age 3, while those in the consumption group are being fed different kinds of peanut products—including Bamba—three times a week. The findings are expected to be ready at some point next year, after which a one-year follow-up study will be conducted.
Lack says it’s too early to tell which way the data are blowing and told me the results could end up solidly in the gray area, with no clear advantage being conferred to the population at large by either avoidance or consumption. But a relatively rapid change in public health policy could be in the offing, he predicted, if the study ends up showing huge benefits of either avoidance or consumption that affect all types of populations—those with and without a strong family history of allergy, for example—and demonstrates that either practice has a long-term effect.
Bamba’s hardly expecting results to help its entry overseas. “In Israel, Bamba is a unique local phenomenon that took years to develop; Osem doesn’t expect that to be the reaction in international markets,” says Nadav Cohen Keidar, a spokesman for the company, which is now majority-owned by Nestle. Although Bamba is already being sold in the United States and England, sales in those countries are geared toward the kosher market, many of whose customers are already familiar with the product.
One issue in the puffs’ favor is that despite the peanut allergy craze, Americans have not stopped buying nuts. On the contrary, the nuts category will be seeing the most growth within the salty snack sector by 2015, reaching volume growth of 2.49% by that year, according to an April 2011 market indicator report on the US snack industry prepared by Canada’s International Market Bureau. “Nuts are gaining in popularity with the consumer and are predicted to continue experiencing high growth rates unseen since 2004,” the market report found, attributing the success to consumer awareness of the high protein, fiber and antioxidant characteristics of nuts.
Culture, including food culture, can take a long time to change. Before writing off American grocery shelves, peanut puff producers ought to keep in mind the upstream battle of sushi. Once upon a time, The Story of Sushi author Trevor Corson told Slate in 2007, the Japanese concoction was rejected as a possible import because everyone “thought it would be too disgusting for Americans to try.”
Shoshana Kordova is the style editor at the English edition of the Israeli daily, Haaretz, where she also explores the oddities of the Hebrew language in her Word of the Day column.
Quietly, globally, billions of bees are dying, threatening our crops and food. But in 24 hours the European Union could move to ban the most poisonous pesticides, and pave the way to a global ban that would save bees from extinction.
Four EU countries have begun banning these poisons, and some bee populations are already recovering. Days ago the official European food safety watchdog stated for the first time that certain pesticides are fatally harming bees. Now legal experts and European politicians are calling for an immediate ban. But, Bayer and other giant pesticide producers are lobbying hard to keep them on the market. If we build a huge swarm of public outrage now, we can push the European Commission to put our health and our environment before the profit of a few.
Last year, our 1.2 million strong petition forced US authorities to open a formal consultation on pesticides — now if we reach 2 million, we can persuade the EU to get rid of these crazy poisons and pave the way for a ban worldwide. Sign the urgent petition and share this with everyone — Avaaz and leading MEPs will deliver our message ahead of this week’s key meeting in Brussels.
Update: 1 February 2013
After receiving the petition, the European Commission recommended suspending 3 deadly poisons! But some countries and pesticide companies could try to block it before the final vote. Let’s build the buzz to get a full ban on all bee killing pesticides!
THIS year’s competition run by UK newspaperThe Guardianto win “six mind-boggling science books” included the following question: “Food that doesn’t contain any chemicals: a) is known as organic; b) was grown without pesticides; c) will help you lose weight; d) is much healthier”.
Our mind, like Paul Manson’s, was boggled by the question. Paul suggests an additional answer: “e) doesn’t exist”.
From issue 2896 of New Scientist magazine, page 88.
Everyone has that one thing they’d like to change about themselves — quitting the booze, getting in shape, kicking that public masturbation habit — but they continually put it off, because making major lifestyle changes is hard. Damn it, science, it’s the 21st century! Where’s the pill that makes all of our human flaws disappear?
Not far away, apparently. At this very moment, they are testing …
#5. A Pill That Replaces Exercise
When it comes to the competition between food and exercise, how could exercise ever stand a chance when food is just so goddamn delicious? That’s apparently a sentiment many Americans share, because according to the CDC, over one-third of us are fatasses. See, what we need is a pill that just magically makes fat go away, and we’re not talking about the bullshit diet pills they have on supplement shelves now (hint: their “appetite suppressant” is just caffeine). Well, it looks like the future is going to be an awesome place for people who hate to sweat.
Getty Say goodbye to your extra chins and hello to … everything else you’re already doing.
Researchers at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute have discovered a hormone that mimics exercising by increasing the body’s ability to burn fat, theoretically allowing you to get in shape even as you watch Fireflymarathons while choking down Hungry-Man frozen dinners. (PROTIP: You’re supposed to cook them first.) The newly identified hormone, called irisin, causes the body to transform white “bad” fat into brown “good” fat, which generates heat. The result is the same as exercise — burning calories, improving the processing of insulin … everything that could bring us every fat guy’s greasy wet dream: an exercise pill.
So how did the scientists discover the true potential of irisin? How else? After studying and isolating the hormone, they shot up some roly-poly mice with it. Within 10 days of treatment, the mice had better blood sugar and insulin levels and had lost some weight, with the assumption being that longer exposure would “reduce the damage done by a high-fat diet, protecting mice against diet-induced obesity and diabetes.”
Getty For Squeaky, the weight may have gone, but the crippling self-esteem issues remained.
Researchers think that irisin could potentially be used to address a wide range of health problems — obesity, mental health disorders, neuromuscular diseases like muscular dystrophy — but come on, we all know what it’ll really be used for: getting all the benefits of exercise without doing one iota of the work. After all, isn’t that exactly what all of human civilization has been progressing toward for the last thousand years or so?
#4. A Real Hangover (and Possible Alcoholism) Cure
After thousands of years of headaches, heavy eyelids, and how the hell did the world get so loud?, we might finally have a solution to one of the world’s most pressing health issues. That’s right — thanks to the tireless work of scientists who couldn’t give less of a shit about that “curing cancer” nonsense, we might soon have a preventive cure for the common hangover. And it’ll come in handy-dandy pill form.
Scientists at the University of California, Los Angeles have developed a drug called dihydromyricetin, dubbed DHM, which they claim will drastically reduce hangover symptoms. The drug was developed using chemicals derived from the fruit of the oriental raisin tree, which has been used by people in China to prevent hangovers for over 500 years.
Wiki Thanks, China. See if we give you any of our sweet democracy or morbid obesity.
Once again, the scientists first tested the drugs on rats, which were injected with heavy doses of alcohol and later made to run a maze. Rats that were not given DHM behaved pretty much how you’d expect hung-over rats to behave, stumbling into walls or cowering in a corner, presumably begging the scientists to inject them with some coffee and turn down the damn lights. The rats that were given DHM, however, ran the maze as if they hadn’t been given any alcohol, behaving as inquisitively as any sober rat.
According to the researchers, the drug’s benefits don’t end with curing hangovers: DHM was also shown to be effective at preventing rats from getting drunk in the first place. In another phase of the experiment, the scientists laid some rats on their backs and injected them with a shit-ton of alcohol — the human equivalent of drinking 15 to 20 beers in two hours, or what many of our readers refer to as “a pretty good start.” The researchers then grabbed some popcorn and snickered as the rats tried to right themselves.
Getty “Ha! She’s going home with him?”
The liquored-up rodents provided the researchers with 70 minutes of weebly-wobbly hilarity, but rats that were given DHM at the same time as the booze were able to get back on their feet in just five. And long term, DHM prevented the rats from developing cravings for alcohol, effectively keeping them from becoming filthy little disease-ridden alcoholics.
Getty “One puke tray per mouse. Trust us, they’ll need every ounce of space.”
That’s all fine and good for the drunken rodent population of the world, but what about us humans? Well, you don’t have to wait long. Human trials of DHM are going on in the USA, but if you really need that hangover cure, you can just book that Korean vacation you’ve been putting off: Drugs made from the oriental raisin tree have already been approved by the Korean Food & Drug Administration and have been sold in the country since 2008.
#3. Finally, a Male Birth Control Pill
Ever wonder why there’s never been a male version of the birth control pill? Well, for starters, it’s a problem of magnitude: To stop a woman from getting pregnant, all you have to do is block a single egg each month, whereas a man produces about 1,000 sperm every single time his heart beats. Then there’s also the challenge of getting the drug across the blood-testis barrier, a nifty little roadblock that evolution built to protect a man’s tadpoles from any nastiness floating around in his bloodstream. So it’s long been considered damn nigh impossible, but researchers at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute told impossible to go fuck itself when they set out to discover a compound that just might result in the first effective and hormone-free birth control pill for men.
Getty “Pbbbft, whatever.”
Except that’s not quite how it happened. As with many scientific discoveries, this compound’s sperm-busting capability was found completely by accident. Dubbed JQ1, the compound was originally intended to be used in anti-cancer drugs, but when they started pumping copious amounts of it into mice, the researchers noticed something peculiar: a conspicuous lack of mouse babies. It turned out that JQ1 drastically lowered the amount of sperm the male mice produced, and those they did produce were gimpy — if you picture a man’s sperm as millions of tiny Michael Phelpses swimming for an Olympic gold medal (a much squishier, egg-shaped gold medal), JQ1 is the molecular compound running around kneecapping all of them with a microscopic baseball bat.
But we haven’t even gotten to possibly the most important factor for a drug to be considered viable as a birth control method: reversibility. And JQ1 has that in spades — when taken off of the drug, the mice were once again free to sire countless little mouse children to repopulate their strange, glass-encased worlds.
Getty Well, some of them.
Of course, there’s still a long way to go before the compound makes the jump from mice to men, and it remains to be seen whether guys will even go for a complete reversal of the birth control norm that has existed for half a century. If dudes can’t be bothered to roll on a condom, who’s to say they will remember to take a pill? Or tell the truth about not taking it?
#2. A Pill That Stops You from Buying Stupid Shit on Impulse
Do you stare at your credit card bill at the end of the month and wonder when you bought all of that useless shit? Are brown boxes decorated with the curved Amazon.com arrow showing up at your door on a daily basis? There’s a name for that condition: oniomania, otherwise known as compulsive shopping.
Getty “I definitely won’t regret this later.”
And as lame as it sounds, it can be just as serious as any other behavioral disorder. It can lead to ruined credit histories, failed marriages, and theft. But what is a sufferer supposed to do about it, you ask? This isn’t like some chemical addiction where it sort of makes sense that a drug could curb the impulse. Are you honestly going to take a pill that magically suppresses the urge to shop?
Well, yeah. Have you even been paying attention to this article at all?
Getty “This will give you liquid shits if you so much as even look at a Macy’s.”
Scientists at the University of Minnesota gave a drug called memantine to people ages 19 to 59 who suffer from shopaholism. Before the trial began, these people spent up to 61 percent of their annual salary on impulse buys — these were middle-class folks who devoted as much as 38 hours a week looking for bargains in stores. And while a TLC reality show star might call that “Wednesday,” your average American’s bank account calls it “Oh dear God, let the torture end.” After taking the pill for eight weeks, sufferers engaged in less impulse buying and had “fewer impulsive urges, thoughts, and behavior.” Overall, the pill reduced the symptoms of the disorder by freaking half.
The whole thing worked so well, it even made the TV news:
So, how does that possibly work? The drug affects glutamate, a chemical in the brain that is believed to contribute to obsessive-compulsive disorder. Many health professionals think that compulsive shopping is a close cousin of OCD, so treating someone’s urge to lock and unlock their door 30 times whenever they leave the house is very similar to treating their overwhelming urge to buy out the underwear bin at Walmart.
Well, shit, if they have a pill that can cure our stupid urges, what else can they cure? How about …
#1. A Drug That Cures Your Racism
From crazy dictators blaming recessions on the different-colored scapegoat of the day to your asshole uncle constantly screaming about the world being overrun with jive turkeys, racism is an unfortunate and unavoidable part of life. And what’s worse, no matter how many Will Smith movies we watch, there might be a certain part of every one of us that unconsciously fears some different color or creed — unless you take a pill for it. One that’s already available.
Getty “And you’re sure this will stop my husband from shooting the TV every time The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air comes on?”
Well, OK, so we might not yet be at the point where you can walk up to a doctor and ask him to hook you up with some pills for your grandpa’s inexplicable hatred of Scandinavians. But hey, it’s not like science isn’t trying — and succeeding. Recently, some researchers at Oxford University found that they could combat racism using an anxiety drug that’s already out: propranolol.
In an experiment, the researchers gave either propranolol or a placebo to a bunch of white people, the most stereotypically racist bunch the researchers could think of (which, in a sense, would make the scientists themselves doubly racist). The participants filled out surveys rating their attitudes toward black people using a scale from 0 to 100, 0 meaning that they wanted to personally push a button that would nuke Atlanta, 100 meaning that they’d like to make sweet love to a Nubian deity and populate the world with their ethnically ambiguous love children. They then repeated the surveys with their feelings toward homosexuals, Muslims, Christians, and drug addicts, which are apparently races now.
Photos.com “I’ll have you know that we are a proud, noble, balls-tripping people!”
But wait! you might say. People aren’t always honest in these types of surveys — even to themselves. Some people might sincerely believe that they’re colorblind and progressive, but might harbor prejudices buried so deep in their subconscious, they’d need a Ouija board to find them. That’s why the scientists then gave them a computerized test that involved sorting faces of different ethnic origins along with words with positive and negative connotations. This test assessed the participants’ “implicit racism,” the racism that you might harbor but be consciously unaware of.
And guess what? The people who were given the propranolol scored significantly lower on tests of implicit racism. That’s right — the drug actually led to people becoming less racist at a subconscious level. Why did the drug work so well? The Brits believe the reason is that propranolol affects the part of the brain involved in fear and emotional responses. Essentially, the drug calms the symptoms of anxiety, and since racism is thought to be fundamentally founded on fear, calming down one’s automatic fear response should also calm down the desire to carpet bomb every country that ends in “stan.”
Getty Sadly, for Dale, some aspects of his skinhead life would always remain.
For now, battling racism is strictly an off-label use for propranolol due to the ethical implications of improving people’s morals via lozenge. But it’s nice to know it’s there should you ever need to spike the punch at your local Klan rally.
In Hopes of Healthier Chickens, Farms Turn to Oregano. By Jessica Kourkounis
FREDERICKSBURG, Pa. — The smell of oregano wafting from Scott Sechler’s office is so strong that anyone visiting Bell & Evans these days could be forgiven for wondering whether Mr. Sechler has forsaken the production of chicken and gone into pizza.
Jessica Kourkounis for The New York Times
The experience of Scott Sechler, Bell & Evans’s owner, with using oregano oil led to a test at Country View Family Farms.
Oregano lies loose in trays and tied into bunches on tabletops and counters, and a big, blue drum that held oregano oil stands in the corner. “Have you ever tried oregano tea?” Mr. Sechler asked, mashing leaves between his broad fingers.
Off and on over the last three years or so, his chickens have been eating a specially milled diet laced with oregano oil and a touch of cinnamon. Mr. Sechler swears by the concoction as a way to fight off bacterial diseases that plague meat and poultry producers without resorting to antibiotics, which some experts say can be detrimental to the humans who eat the meat. Products at Bell & Evans, based in this town about 30 miles east of Harrisburg, have long been free of antibiotics, contributing to the company’s financial success as consumers have demanded purer foods.
But Mr. Sechler said that nothing he had used as a substitute in the past worked as well as oregano oil.
“I have worried a bit about how I’m going to sound talking about this,” he said. “But I really do think we’re on to something here.”
Skeptics of herbal medicines abound, as any quick Internet search demonstrates. “Oil of oregano is a perennial one, advertised as a cure for just about everything,” said Scott Gavura, a pharmacist in Toronto who writes for the Web site Science-Based Medicine. “But there isn’t any evidence, there are too many unanswered questions and the only proponents for it are the ones producing it.”
Nonetheless, Mr. Gavura said he would welcome a reduction in the use of antibiotics in animals.
At the same time, consumers are growing increasingly sophisticated about the content of the foods that they eat.
Data on sales of antibiotic-free meat is hard to come by, but the sales are a tiny fraction of the overall meat market. Sales in the United States of organic meat, poultry and fish, which by law must be raised without antibiotics, totaled $538 million in 2011, according to the Organic Trade Association. By comparison, sales of all beef that year were $79 billion.
Still, retailers like Costco, Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s, as well as some restaurant chains, complain that they cannot get enough antibiotic-free meat.
Noodles & Company, a fast-growing chain of more than 300 restaurants, recently added antibiotic-free pork to the choices of ingredients that customers can add to their made-to-order pastas. It ensured its supply by ordering cuts of meat that were not in relatively high demand and by committing in advance to buy a year’s worth, said Dan Fogarty, its executive vice president for marketing.
“We’re deliberately voting with our pocketbooks,” he said.
In a nationwide telephone survey of 1,000 adults in March, more than 60 percent told the Consumer Reports National Research Center that they would be willing to pay at least 5 cents a pound more for meat raised without antibiotics.
“Before, it was kind of a nice little business, and while it’s still microscopic in the grand scheme of things, we’re seeing acceptance from retailers across the country, not just in California and on the East Coast,” said Stephen McDonnell, founder and chief executive of Applegate, an organic and natural meats company.
Mr. McDonnell said a confluence of trends, from heightened interest in whole and natural foods to growing concerns about medical problems like diabetes, obesity and gluten allergies, were contributing to the demand for antibiotic-free meat.
There is growing concern among health care experts and policy makers about antibiotic resistance and the rise of “superbugs,” bacteria that are impervious to one or more antibiotics. Those bacteria can be passed on to consumers, who eat meat infected with them and then cannot be treated.
In November, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and 25 national health organizations and advocacy groups issued a statement on antibiotics that, among other things, called for “limiting the use of medically important human antibiotics in food animals” and “supporting the use of such antibiotics in animals only for those uses that are considered necessary for assuring animal health.”
In 2011, there were several prominent recalls involving bacterial strains that are resistant to antibiotics, including more than 60 million pounds of ground beef contaminated with salmonella Typhimurium and about 36 million pounds of ground turkey spoiled with salmonella Heidelberg.
Consumer Reports released a study last month that found the bacteria Yersinia enterocolitica in 69 percent of 198 pork chop and ground pork samples bought at stores around the country. Some of the bacteria were resistant to one or more antibiotics.
Analysis of Food and Drug Administration data by the Center for Science in the Public Interest found that 80 percent of all antibiotics sold in the United States are used in animals. The majority of those antibiotics are used to spur growth or prevent infections from spreading in the crowded conditions in which most animal production takes place today.
The European Union has banned the use of antibiotics to accelerate growth, and the European Parliament is pushing to end their use as tools to prevent disease as well.
The oregano oil product Mr. Sechler uses, By-O-Reg Plus, is made by a Dutch company, Ropapharm International. In the late 1990s, Bayer conducted trials on the product, known as Ropadiar in Europe, comparing its ability to control diarrhea in piglets caused by E. coli with that of four of the company’s products.
אצל פרופ’ טיילר קוואן (Tyler Cowen) “כל ארוחה נחשבת”. מאחורי המוטו הזה, שמלווה את הכלכלן יום יום, עומדת המחשבה ש”ארוחה גרועה או בינונית היא שלילה מיותרת של הנאות החיים. זה בזבוז מיותר של הזדמנות לשפר את החך שלנו, ללמוד על העולם ולחלוק עם אחרים חוויה מספקת”.
קוואן, איש אוניברסיטת ג’ורג’ מייסון בווירג’יניה, ארצות הברית, הוא אחד הכלכלנים הנודעים בעולם, שנמנה עם מאה ההוגים הגלובליים ברשימה היוקרתית של המגזין “פוריין פוליסי”. הוא קורא כפייתי, בלוגר משפיע ונוסע מתמיד ביותר, עם תחומי עניין מגוונים. והוא מאמין נלהב בכוחו של השוק החופשי, שמשתמש בנקודת המבט הזאת לבחינת כל מיני אספקטים של המציאות והחיים. למשל, אוכל. קוואן אוהב לאכול, אוהב מסעדות, וניגש אל הצלחת באותה שיטתיות שבעזרתה הוא בוחן בעיות כלכליות. במשך שנים הוא פיצח את הכללים שמניעים את עולם האוכל, ואת המסקנות פרסם בתחילת השנה ב”כלכלן יוצא לצהריים”. ברב־המכר המדובר הזה קוואן מנתץ פרות קדושות, מהתוקף של מדריך מישלן הוותיק ועד הטרנד החם של אוכל לוקלי, ובעיקר מציע סדרה של המלצות לבחירה נכונה של הארוחה הבאה, מסוג האוכל, דרך מיקום המסעדה ועד רמת המנה ורכיביה.
פרופ’ טיילר קוואןצילום: CC By Politics and Prose Booksto
“אני רוצה לאכול בזול ככל האפשר, כי אוכל הוא לא הדבר הטוב היחיד בחיים”, קוואן כותב, ומוסיף מסר של העצמה חברתית: “אכילה נבונה היא דרך להתגבר על אי־שוויון - עשירים לא בהכרח צריכים לאכול טוב יותר מאנשי מעמד הביניים”. בשיחה עם “מוסף כלכליסט” הוא מחדד את הקווים המנחים לבחירה נכונה.
כשאנחנו הולכים למסעדה חדשה, מה להזמין?
“אם זו מסעדה טובה מאוד, אפשר להזמין את המנה שנשמעת הכי פחות מעוררת תיאבון. היא לא היתה בתפריט אם לא היתה לכך סיבה טובה. אם זו מסעדת יוקרה, מלצר ששואלים אותו נכון יכול לומר לך מה המנה הטובה ביותר”.
הנה חידה כלכלית שמעסיקה אותנו בעיתון. יש סביבנו הרבה מקומות עבודה והרבה מסעדות, ובכל זאת אין מה לאכול. למה?
“החשד שלי הוא שיש סביבכם יותר מדי אנשים ויותר מדי עסקים. דמי השכירות גבוהים מדי, וזה אומר שהמסעדות צריכות למקסם את מספר הסועדים, מה שמוביל לבינוניות. אפשרות אחת בתל אביב היא לקחת מונית למסעדה קטנה מחוץ לאזור העסקים, למשל בכרם התימנים, ולקזז חלק מדמי הנסיעה במחיר המנה. באופן כללי, האוכל הטוב ביותר בדרך כלל נמצא במקומות שמרוחקים ממרכזי העסקים”.
איך לבחור מסעדה
בחרו היטב את מי שממליץ לכם על מסעדות שיהיו בני 35 עד 55 (הם נוהגים לאכול בחוץ הרבה וצוברים ניסיון), וממעמד הביניים ומעלה, אבל לא עשירים מאוד.
התרחקו ממרכזי הערים השכירות הגבוהה ברחובות הראשיים בערים בחו”ל מחייבת את המסעדות להתמקד בלהשיג כמה שיותר לקוחות, ולא באיכות האוכל. במנהטן, למשל, לא צריך לאכול בשדרות, אלא ברחובות שמובילים אליהן.
חשבו את השכירות בגדול, חפשו מסעדות באזורים שהשכירות בהם נמוכה אבל קרובים ללקוחות שמשלמים שכירות גבוהה (מה שאומר שהם אינם מסתפקים באוכל גרוע).
חפשו את התחרות ככל שיותר מסעדות באותו אזור מציעות את אותו סוג בישול אתני, ככה סביר יותר שהן מגישות אוכל טוב. התחרות עובדת.
בחנו את הסועדים נסו לראות אם הם דומים לכם ביחסם לאוכל. אם יש תחושה של מסיבה וכולם צוחקים, התרחקו; כנראה המסעדה משקיעה באווירה ולא באוכל. אם הסועדים צועקים ורבים, היכנסו; זה סימן שהם לקוחות קבועים ומרגישים בבית, כלומר המקום שומר על רמה גבוהה לאורך זמן.
היזהרו מהטרנדיות למסעדות טרנדיות כדאי ללכת רק בארבעה־שישה חודשים הראשונים לחייהן, כשהשפים מנסים להשיג ביקורות טובות ובאז חיובי - ומשקיעים באוכל. כשהמסעדות כבר הופכות ללהיט, אפשר להיפרד מהן.
למה לשים לב
חשבו על המשאבים קיבלתם שולחן, זה משאב שהושכר לכם. עכשיו נהגו בו נכון. אם אתם יושבים הרבה זמן, הזמינו עוד מנה או עוד משקה. אם אתם לא רוצים להזמין עוד משהו, סיימו ופנו.
אל תיכנעו לילדים ילדים מעדיפים אוכל צפוי, בלי הרבה טעמים, ויש מי שבגלל זה נוטים להנמיך את כל הבישול שלהם. האמריקאים, למשל, מגישים גם למבוגרים אוכל תפל ופשוט. הצרפתים לעומת זאת מצפים שהילדים יאכלו מה שמגישים להם. צריך לשפר את הטעם של הילדים, לא לרדת אליו.
איך לבחור מנה
השקיעו גם בבית אל תקנו כלי בישול נוספים שמעמיסים על המטבח, אלא בדקו מהם חמשת הכלים שבהם אתם משתמשים הכי הרבה - וקנו לכם כלים מצוינים כאלה.
המנעו מ”מנת היום” לרוב זו מנה בינונית בסיכון נמוך לארוחות צהריים. בדרך כלל זה סימן לכך שאתה במסעדה הלא נכונה. מנות מצוינות הן כאלה שמציעים כל יום.
התרחקו מהבנאלי המנות השחוקות נמצאות בתפריט בשביל מי שמחפש משהו מוכר, לא משהו טעים.
שקלו את הרכיבים במדינות עם מצרכים טובים קחו מנות שמבוססות על רכיבים טריים. במדינות בלי מוצרים טריים טובים (כמו ארצות הברית), לכו על מנות שמתבססות על הכנה מושקעת.
כלכלו את חומרי הגלם אם המטבח מחייב חומרי גלם יקרים, כמו אוכל יפני, איכות האוכל היא פונקציה של מחיר. רוצים לאכול טעים? כנראה שתצטרכו לשלם על זה.
עזבו את הלוקלי זה נשמע טוב, אבל לא בהכרח ירוק יותר. עיקר הנזק הסביבתי מגיע מהייצור של האוכל, לא מההובלה שלו.
מה לאכול בעולם
עבדו נכון עם המישלן כשאתם בצרפת, בחרו במסעדות הכי זולות במדריך מישלן, אלה עם המזלגות ולא הכוכבים. הן לרוב מגישות אוכל צרפתי מסורתי, בלי ליפול במלכודת ההייפ הרגעי.
לכו על ברביקיו קטן מסעדות הברביקיו הכי טובות בארצות הברית הן אלה שנפתחות מוקדם ושנמצאות בערים קטנות (פחות מ־50 אלף תושבים). וגם בהן מומלץ להזמין בעיקר צלעות.
חפשו מאחורה בקזינו בלאס וגאס אל תלכו למסעדות שבחזית, אלא לאלה שממוקמות מאחור. ההימורים בדרך למסעדה מסבסדים את האוכל, ולכן הוא טוב יותר.
המלצות הכלכלן “קשה לנצח אוכל הודי בהודו, ואת האוכל שמוגש בצד הדרך במקסיקו ובדוכנים בסינגפור. אלה נבחרי כל הזמנים שלי. במנהטן האוכל תפל ויקר, ואם כבר האוכל האהוב עליי הוא בקווינס, במיוחד בצ’יינה טאון ובאזורים ההודיים. בברוקלין אני אוהב פיצה. בוושינגטון די.סי רוב האוכל הטוב נמצא בפרברים, ובמיוחד בפולס צ’רץ’. הייתי ממליץ שם על אוכל וייטנאמי, בוליביאני, אתיופי, תאילנדי או אוכל מלאוס. העיר עצמה היא סיוט שמלא באנשים צעירים וטרנדיים, לוביסטים ועורכי דין. ברחו במהירות האפשרית!”.
What should a community do with its unused land? Plant food, of course. With energy and humor, Pam Warhurst tells at the TEDSalon the story of how she and a growing team of volunteers came together to turn plots of unused land into communal vegetable gardens, and to change the narrative of food in their community.
Pam Warhurst is the Chair of the Board of the Forestry Commission, which advises on and implements forestry policy in Great Britain. She also cofounded Incredible Edible Todmorden, a local food partnership that encourages community engagement through local growing. Incredible Edible started small, with the planting of a few community herb gardens in Todmorden, and today has spin-offs in the U.S. and Japan. The community has started projects like Every Egg Matters, which educates people on keeping chickens and encourages them to sell eggs to neighbors, and uses a ‘Chicken Map’ to connect consumers and farmers. Incredible Edible Todmorden empowers ordinary people to take control of their communities through active civic engagement.
“I wondered if it was possible to take a town like Todmorden and focus on local food to re-engage people with the planet we live on, create the sort of shifts in behaviour we need to live within the resources we have, stop us thinking like disempowered victims and to start taking responsibility for our own futures.”
Stephen Ritz: A teacher growing green in the South Bronx
A whirlwind of energy and ideas, Stephen Ritz is a teacher in New York’s tough South Bronx, where he and his kids grow lush gardens for food, greenery — and jobs. Just try to keep up with this New York treasure as he spins through the many, many ways there are to grow hope in a neighborhood many have written off, or in your own. (Filmed at TEDxManhattan.)
Stephen Ritz is a South Bronx teacher/administrator who believes that students shouldn’t have to leave their community to live, learn and earn in a better one. Moving generations of students into spheres of personal and academic successes they have never imagined while reclaiming and rebuilding the Bronx, Stephen’s extended student and community family have grown over 25,000 pounds of vegetables in the Bronx while generating extraordinary academic performance.
His Bronx classroom features the first indoor edible wall in NYC DOE which routinely generates enough produce to feed 450 students healthy meals and trains the youngest nationally certified workforce in America. His students, traveling from Boston to Rockefeller Center to the Hamptons, earn living wage en route to graduation.
Fungus-powered superplants may beat the heat. By Sara Reardon
THE US is in the grip of the worst drought in over 50 years. Across the nation, crops that should be at their greenest in July are instead small and withered, and are expected to produce 35 per cent less food than normal. During such droughts, plants that have been genetically modified to need less water become more attractive. But the expense and time needed to get GM plants to market has many looking for faster solutions.
One shortcut might lie in the plant microbiome - the consortium of fungi, bacteria and viruses that live in the root systems of every plant. Plants that live in extreme environments, such as the slopes of Mount Everest or the deserts of Utah, use the microbiome to survive stressful conditions. “Plants can’t do it on their own,” says Russell Rodriguez of the University of Washington in Seattle.
In exchange for nutrition, the symbiotic microorganisms help the plants take up nitrogen from the soil and protect them from heat, drought and disease-causing organisms.
In 2002, Rodriguez and colleagues were studying a grass - Dichanthelium lanuginosum - that grows at 70 °C at the geothermal hotsprings of Yellowstone. When the team sterilised the grass seeds to remove the fungi that grow inside the plant, also known as endophytes, the grass could no longer grow at high temperatures (Science, DOI: 10.1126/science.1078055).
That gave them an idea: perhaps transferring the microbiome of a drought-tolerant plant to a normal plant would help it use less water.
To test the idea, Rodriguez and his colleagues isolated spores from D. lanuginosum’s endophytes and sprayed them onto wheat seeds, which normally grow at temperatures up to 38 °C. With the spores, the wheat could grow at 70 °C and needed up to 50 per cent less water than normal (The ISME Journal, DOI: 10.1038/ismej.2007.106).
Different microbiomes can confer a range of superpowers to a number of crops. Rodriguez’s group have also isolated endophytes from a salt-loving dunegrass (Leymus mollis), and a strawberry plant (Fragaria vesca) that grows at high altitude at temperatures as low as 5 °C. Rice plants that had been sprayed with the fungi became able to tolerate salt and cold, respectively. They also grew five times larger and needed half the water of normal plants (PLoS One, DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0014823).
The results were immediate: within 24 hours of being sprayed, the seeds began sprouting a greater number of longer roots than untreated seeds, and the team found that they expressed genes involved in stress-resistance and drought-tolerance. That suggests endophytes could help crops cope with droughts like the one afflicting the US.
Rodriguez thinks the fungi are jump-starting the plants’ metabolism, although the exact mechanism is still unclear. “The plant has the ability to do all this, it just can’t get its act together without the fungi,” he says.
While attempts to genetically engineer plants to become drought-tolerant involve switching on metabolic pathways one at a time - a costly, drawn-out process - the fungi appear to activate them all in one go. “Nature’s figured it out, we haven’t,” says Jerry Barrow, now retired from New Mexico State University in Las Cruces.
Regina Redman, Rodriguez’s collaborator and partner, has developed the spores as a powder that can coat any crop seed. The pair have started a company,Symbiogenics, which is carrying out field trials on rice sprayed with the fungusTrichoderma, isolated from dunegrass. The fungus allows the rice to grow at cold temperatures in salty environments; rising sea-levels due to climate change makes salt-tolerance a sought-after trait.
Initial results show treated plants can yield 35 per cent more grain than untreated ones. A second field trial in corn is underway in Michigan, in the heart of the drought. Based on lab results, Rodriguez says they expect that the endophytes will lessen the amount of water the plant needs.
What’s more, lab tests suggest endophytes do not harm the plant in wet conditions, in contrast to drought-tolerant GM plants, which tend to grow poorly when the weather turns.
As a result, endophytes have a definite advantage over GM crops: farmers could decide whether to spray their seeds with them at the beginning of the planting season rather than gambling on a drought-tolerant variety, Rodriguez says. He is now trying to isolate endophytic fungi on different continents. If each continent has its own library, we could avoid introducing fungi from the US into a crop system in Africa, for instance.
Rather than isolating individual species of fungi, Lucero believes it might be more effective to harness the whole microbial community by mulching up drought-tolerant plants’ roots and growing crops in them. “We don’t really know how many microbes are in there; we’re looking at one little snapshot,” she says. The crosstalk between the different species of microbe might be as important as that between the microbes and the plants, she adds.
Either way, transferring plant microbiomes might be a fast way to meet the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization’s goal to double global food production by 2050. With droughts such as the one affecting the US expected to become more frequent over coming decades, plant biologists aren’t hopeful that they can meet this goal through genetic engineering.
“Biotechs can’t work fast enough to meet the pressures of 7 billion people and climate change,” says Lucero. “To meet food demands, we need to adapt quickly. Microbial communities have always adapted quickly.”
From issue 2875 of New Scientist magazine, page 8-9.
Google’s Driverless Cars Can Now Fetch Food. By Nick Bilton
In late 2010, John Markoff of The New York Times broke the story that Google had developed cars that could drive themselves. Now, two years later, the company has taken this innovation to a new level, teaching the cars to do something really useful: Navigating a fast food restaurant drive-through.
The company said in a post on Google Plus that the robotic cars have “now safely completed more than 200,000 miles of computer-led driving.” Google added that it wanted to demonstrate that a driverless car navigating new obstacles, like a drive-through, offered “a promising look at what this kind of technology may one day deliver for society if rigorous technical and safety standards can be met.”
Those safety standards and government regulations will likely prove more difficult to navigate than getting cars to actually drive themselves. As Mr. Markoff wrote last year, Google has a lot of lobbying to do before it can set a battalion of robotic cars loose on city streets.