‘The New Food Economy isn’t dead, but it’s not new anymore. Long live The Counter.’

One of the best food writing sites on the web changed its name. This part of how things are changing resonated with me:

When we launched in 2015, “the new food economy” was a term used by scholars to describe one of the largest cultural sea changes of the past 50 years—a profound shift in the way Americans think about eating, and a sweeping re-evaluation of the values that drive food production. 

But in 2020 the new food economy isn’t really new anymore. Organic is a $50-billion-dollar business. Large meatpackers are buying shares of plant-based burger companies. Terms like “regenerative agriculture” appear on the side of your cereal box. In other words, it’s no longer a revelation that eating is a matter of civic participation. Americans crave connection to their food. And the broad, transformational values that once felt niche to some—the desire for a more just, transparent, and sustainable food system—are no longer fringe concerns. They’ve gone fully mainstream, and the stories we cover make front-page news. 

‘Why Cauliflower Wings Started Appearing on Every Bar Menu’

Alicia Kennedy for Tendlerly:

I’ve been trying to figure out the origin of the cauliflower wing as a bar food staple to no avail. In the early 2010s, vegan bloggers had begun to figure out that hunks of the vegetable could be breaded, fried, and dunked in hot sauce just like the tofu and tempeh wings of yore, with PETA putting out their recipe way back in 2012. The folks behind Brooklyn vegan restaurant Toad Style, who’ve recently brought their cauliflower wings back onto the menu, tell me they remember seeing them at a Super Bowl party in 2013 — it turned them from Buffalo tempeh lovers into cauliflower believers.

I’m almost positive the first I had them was at Mohawk Bend, which opened in 2011. The item was a staple on their menu from the get-go and always recommended by servers (because it’s delicious, duh). It was undoubtedly the first place I saw it in LA. Within a year or two, I saw it on the menu at Sage down the street — and now it’s everywhere.

I can’t think of a vegan dish that’s traveled further and faster. This was THE vegan evangelist before Impossible and Beyond burger came into our world. And it’s still doing work. It really is everywhere, and the universality has made for more variety and exploration — aka more joy. Tempura-style, beer-battered, new sauces, and more and more… and every single one has been a wonderful addition to a dish that is still in its infancy.

As we crest into a mildly healthier world, though still fried, this vegetable is giving everyone a crunchy, lighter option in our deep-fried existence.

‘Bloomberg Data Dash: A Live Climate Scoreboard for the World’

These are the numbers that matter. A difficult global transition is happening right now, away from fossil fuels, deforestation, greenhouse-gas pollution and melting ice. It can be measured with precision and clarity. The processes described by this data dashboard are occurring on a planetary scale, and yet our progress can be measured this minute, in parts per million, in metric tons, in fractions of a degree. This is Bloomberg Green’s guide to the worldwide goal of slowing and stopping warming temperatures. This is a record of how far we have to go, and a tool to assess how much we can change.

An interesting guide to measuring what’s happening on earth and part of their new, more environmentally-focused side Bloomberg Green.

Our Favorite Meals & Stories of 2019; Jesse’s Family-Altering Experience with The Game Changers

Episode 9 of the Vegan-Carne Alliance podcast is live.

For our ninth episode, C. W. Moss is joined by Jesse Mullenix and Alex Irit. Jesse talks about his gripping experience with the documentary Game Changers and how it effected him and his family. Next, they talk about their favorite stories (18:40) and meals (55:02) from 2019.

Find it on:

‘Netherlands backs nutritional labeling: ‘Nutri-Score is best to promote healthy choices’’

Nutri-Score is new to me, but I’ve been hoping we’d start seeing a food-rating system that could be used to determine the general nutrition of things going into our body. This is how it works…

The health secretary said this news was a ‘major step’ towards empowering citizens to make better dietary choices.

In recent months, Dutch health authorities have conducted research into three different food selection logos: Keyhole, Traffic Lights and Nutri-Score. It found consumers ‘understand Nutri-Score best’.

The score awarded a food is based on the amount of calories, sugars, saturated fat, salt, protein, fibre, fruit, vegetables, legumes and nuts in the product.

NutriScore ranks foods from -15 for the ‘healthiest’ products to +40 for those that are ‘less healthy’. On the basis of this score, the product receives a letter with a corresponding colour code: from dark green (A) to dark red (F).

It’s currently in use or recommended by France, Belgium, Germany, Netherlands, Spain, Portugal, Switzerland, Slovenia, and Austria. It’s a great start, and I hope it moves to the USA soon.

‘How One Librarian Tried to Squash Goodnight Moon’

Dan Kois for Slate:

On Monday the New York Public Library, celebrating its 125th anniversary, released a list of the 10 most-checked-out books in the library’s history. The list is headed by a children’s book—Ezra Jack Keats’ masterpiece The Snowy Day—and includes five other kids’ books. The list also includes a surprising addendum: One of the most beloved children’s books of all time didn’t make the list because for 25 years it was essentially banned from the New York Public Library. Goodnight Moon, by Margaret Wise Brown, would have made the Top 10 list and might have topped it, the library notes, but for the fact that “influential New York Public Library children’s librarian Anne Carroll Moore disliked the story so much when it was published in 1947 that the Library didn’t carry it … until 1972.” Who was Anne Carroll Moore, and what was her problem with the great Goodnight Moon?

When I read stories like this, I think of the (often silent) gatekeepers in the food world that have helped shaped our culinary universe. Where would Impossible be if David Chang wasn’t the first to put it in his It-Spot, NYC restaurant Momofuku? Where would vegetables be if Pollan or Bitten weren’t politely advocating for them to fill our plates in the NYTimes? Would France or even Europe be exploring veggies if Alain Passard hadn’t made his 3-Michelin-starred L’Arpege go all vegetables in the early 2000s?

It’s hard to say, but it’s fun to think about.

‘For tech-weary Midwest farmers, 40-year-old tractors now a hot commodity’

Adam Belz for the Star Tribune:

Kris Folland grows corn, wheat and soybeans and raises cattle on 2,000 acres near Halma in the northwest corner of Minnesota, so his operation is far from small. But when he last bought a new tractor, he opted for an old one — a 1979 John Deere 4440.

He retrofitted it with automatic steering guided by satellite, and he and his kids can use the tractor to feed cows, plant fields and run a grain auger. The best thing? The tractor cost $18,000, compared to upward of $150,000 for a new tractor. And Folland doesn’t need a computer to repair it.

If you haven’t heard about what farmers are doing to avoid the hell that is a modern John Deere tractor, this story is a good place to start. And this Vice video and story is informative too.

‘Farmers Got Billions From Taxpayers In 2019, And Hardly Anyone Objected’

Dan Charles for NPR:

In 2019, the federal government delivered an extraordinary financial aid package to America’s farmers. Farm subsidies jumped to their highest level in 14 years, most of them paid out without any action by Congress. […]

The announcement aroused little controversy. “I was surprised that it didn’t attract more attention,” says Joe Glauber, the USDA’s former chief economist, who’s now a senior research fellow at the International Food Policy Research Institute.

Glauber says it deserves more attention, for a whole collection of reasons.

For one thing, it’s an enormous amount of money, more than the final cost of bailing out the auto industry during the financial crisis of 2008. The auto industry bailout was fiercely debated in Congress. Yet the USDA created this new program out of thin air; it decided that an old law authorizing a USDA program called the Commodity Credit Corp. already gave it the authority to spend this money.

‘What Does ‘Plant-Based’ Actually Mean?’

Jaya Saxena with a nice write-up for Eater:

Though meat-free eating has been common in numerous cultures, labels and identities began to harden in the 20th century. The phrase “vegan” was coined in 1944 to stand for “non-dairy vegetarian,” and the Vegan Society soon declared that it opposed the use of any animal products in any capacity, not just in food. As Ethan Varian recently wrote for the New York Times, the word “vegan” has an inherently political connotation. To identify as vegan is to concern oneself with animal rights, with the conditions of slaughterhouse workers, and with the environment. It is not inherently “healthier” (as endless op-eds about Impossible Burger being no better for you than beef will point out), but health isn’t the point; harm reduction is.

The term “plant-based” was coined in 1980 by biochemist Thomas Colin Campbell, who employed it to present his research on a non-animal-product diet in a way that he felt wouldn’t be clouded by politics. He went on to advocate a diet of “whole foods,” though not everyone who eats a plant-based diet focuses on unprocessed and “nutritious” food. Instead of a collective ethical movement, the phrase has come to signal health and the individual, factors which, according to Naro, are why most people give up meat. Of course, that’s a veneer — a bowl of mashed potatoes or a bag of Takis technically qualifies as plant-based, though these items probably aren’t what people think of when they think “healthy.” But the term doesn’t come with the baggage of “vegan.” “Using ‘plant-based’ allows people to feel they’re not joining a specific group for eating a specific way,” says Varian.

‘A 6,000-year-old fruit fly gave the world modern cheeses and yogurts’

John Morrissey for the Conversation:

In a paper published in Current Biology, we discovered how “milk yeast” – the handy microorganism that can decompose lactose in milk to create dairy products like cheese and yoghurt – originated from a chance encounter between a fruit fly and a pail of milk around 5,500 years ago. This happy accident allowed prehistoric people to domesticate yeast in much the same way they domesticated crop plants and livestock animals, and produce the cheeses and yogurts billions of people enjoy today.

And you know I’m a sucker for a good love story. It goes on:

Kluyveromyces lactis, or milk yeast, is found in French and Italian cheeses made from unpasteurised milk, and in natural fermented dairy drinks like kefir. But the ancestor of this microbe was originally associated with the fruit fly, so how did it end up making many of the dairy products that people eat today? We believe milk yeast owes its very existence to a fly landing in fermenting milk and starting an unusual sexual liaison. The fly in question was the common fruit fly, Drosophila, and it carried with it the ancestor of K. lactis. Although the fly died, the yeast lived, but with a problem – it could not use the lactose in milk as a food source. Instead, it found an unconventional solution – sex with its cousin.

When K. lactis arrived with the fly, its cousin K. marxianus was already happily growing in the milk. K. marxianus is able to use lactose for growth because it has two extra proteins which can help break down lactose into simple sugars that it then uses for energy. The cousins reproduced and the genes needed to use lactose transferred from K. marxianus to K. lactis. The end result was that K. lactis acquired two new genes and could then grow on lactose and survive on its own. The fermented product that K. lactis made must have been particularly delicious as it was used to start a new fermentation – a routine that has continued to the present day.

I like thinking about chance and what it has afforded us in life.

Who did Pat Brown meet that made him vegan? What monk first thought it was a gift to replace meat with plants? Who let things rot and then ate them — aka fermentation? Who found out that some nuts have to be roasted twice to not be poisonous? Have we eaten everything new under the sun?