‘Half of Us Face Obesity, Dire Projections Show’

Jane E. Brody for the NYTimes:

A prestigious team of medical scientists has projected that by 2030, nearly one in two adults will be obese, and nearly one in four will be severely obese. The estimates are thought to be particularly reliable, as the team corrected for current underestimates of weight given by individuals in national surveys. In as many as 29 states, the prevalence of obesity will exceed 50 percent, with no state having less than 35 percent of residents who are obese, they predicted.

Likewise, the team projected, in 25 states the prevalence of severe obesity will be higher than one adult in four, and severe obesity will become the most common weight category among women, non-Hispanic black adults and low-income adults nationally.

Add this to the pile of future problems with no easy fix. Things on America’s current To-Do list: teach cooking basics, raise wages enough so that people can afford to purchase healthy food, also raise wages enough so that people don’t have to work all the time and can make time to *make* food, stop subsidizing unhealthy food, and make school lunches healthier.

The worst part is I’m sure I’m forgetting things too. But we have to keep trying. It only improves if we continue to focus on them as a society—but sadly I think it all really begins and ends with regulation and our government.

‘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.

‘Is it time to retire the term “food desert?”’

Jessica Fu for New Food Economy:

What they found was that the biggest beneficiary of new supermarkets were supermarkets themselves, which enjoyed an increased share of consumer spending.

The overall nutritional quality of a household’s grocery purchases, however, was not heavily impacted by a new store’s presence in the area. Nor was the proportion of a household’s budget spent on groceries. This was the case across the entire study and—most importantly—among “food deserts,” which the study defined as zip codes lacking a supermarket.

“Total expenditure shares across grocery stores, supercenters, and club stores [increased] by only a fraction of a percentage point in the full sample, with no statistically detectable effect in the food desert subsample,” the study reads. “Thus, the primary effect of supermarket entry is to divert sales from other supermarkets.”


“The deeper issue is really poverty,” Mitchell says. “Local grocery stores and other kinds of retail can help alleviate that, but they’re obviously only one part of the broader problem. While thinking about grocery store development, favoring the local grocer, and being very wary of a company like […] Dollar General as a solution to that problem makes a lot of sense, [it’s] not going to solve the whole thing. We need other kinds of economic development.”

In other words, there are no easy villains in a systemic issue like food access. While there is plenty of anti-dollar-store sentiment in that ongoing conversation, some researchers argue that dollar stores are often the only food option available to many communities that would otherwise have none.

Like I’ve said before on here, this issue is actually many issues coming together. Poverty, lack of knowledge about cooking, lack of time, cost of fresh produce, and the list goes on. This won’t be solved simply.

‘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?


From Josefina Salomon at Oxy.com:

Six out of every 10 Argentines are considering giving up beef and going vegan, according to a recent study by the country’s Institute for the Promotion of Beef. Martí, now 63 and head of the Argentine Vegetarian Union, remembers that, in 2000, he knew only one other vegan. A poll his organization commissioned found that 9 percent of Argentina’s population is either vegetarian or vegan at the moment.  

Finding a vegetarian or vegan restaurant is no longer a challenge, at least in the country’s main cities. Buenos Aires alone has at least 70 exclusively vegan restaurants. The capital’s colorful walls are plastered with messages and banners demanding the protection of animals and the yearly VeganFest is becoming increasingly popular. Many local celebrities are turning their backs on animal products (soccer megastar Lionel Messi has said he switches to a vegan diet during tournament season).

Health concerns and worries about climate change — drivers of veganism globally — are playing out in Argentina too. But there’s an additional factor pushing people away from meat and animal products: the country’s economic crisis and nearly 50 percent annual inflation. The latest report from Argentina’s Chamber of Commerce for Beef and Its Derivatives found that consumption of meat products has decreased to its lowest point in the last 50 years.

It’s interesting to see how veganism enters certain countries. I feel like there are a handful of reasons that dominate most shifts: financial cost, health, or considerations for the environment (animal welfare included), and sometimes religion.

Though most of Argentina is moving to save money, something like this means more people could be trying vegan food for the first time and will hopefully become more interested. Maybe they’ll try to adapt family recipes or try new dishes — both which open a new way of approaching food to them. Hopefully it’s enough to keep them coming back periodically for plant-based foods once they can afford beef again.

‘What can Twitter tell us about our neighborhood’s health?’

H. Claire Brown for the New Food Economy:

Those connections yielded a finding the researchers called “intriguing”: Higher-income neighborhoods—defined in this study as the proportion of people making more than $75,000 a year—tended to tweet less positively about food, whether healthy or unhealthy.

Tweets from lower-income neighborhoods—those where a higher proportion of people made less than $75,000 a year—tended to show something different. “A lot of people like to talk about food and have strong opinions about food,” Vydiswaran says. This led to a new hypothesis to explore, that “food may be an isolated source of enjoyment in otherwise difficult lives.”

The researchers also made a curious discovery: Neighborhoods with more young people were less likely to tweet positively about unhealthy foods. This seemingly counterintuitive finding could auger well for future research.

‘The Origins of the Vegans: 1944–46’

John Davis for VegSource on how the term ‘vegan’ came to be:

The idea of living entirely on plants has been around for a very long time, it was just the word ‘vegan’ that was new in 1944. During the 19th century there were endless debates between those who added eggs and dairy produce to their plants, and those who did not. From 1847, the word ‘vegetarian’ was used by both, with or without various appendages.

Here’s how the word came to be:

The group would also have discussed the rather clumsy name ‘Non-Dairy Produce Group’, and begun the process of looking for something better. The initial informal name change was to replace ‘Non-Dairy Produce Group’ with just ‘Non-Dairy Vegetarians’, possibly agreed at a meeting, or maybe just unilaterally by Watson later that month. In his 2nd Vegan News (February 1945 p.2) Watson reported: Before the appearance of our first issue [November 24, 1944], Mr. and Mrs. G. A. Henderson suggested the word “Allvega”, with “Allvegan” as the magazine title. It was from this that the word Vegan was taken, and recently Mr. and Mrs. Henderson have written stating that they prefer the shorter version. There is no way of knowing how they were initially pronouncing these words. ‘Vega’ was the name of a London vegetarian restaurant at that time, which might have provided some inspiration. It is possible that the Hendersons’ suggestions were made at an Attic Club meeting, though neither they nor Watson ever mentioned that, or he might have received their ideas later by post (probably from Fay, signing as both). By “recently” in the above quote from February 1945, Watson is saying that the Hendersons gave their support during the three months after the publication of the first Vegan News.

And I love that our history of the word gets wrapped in the telling of a story at a funeral:

Another view of the origin of the word vegan emerged at Donald Watson’s funeral in 2005: Speaking at Donald’s funeral, Janet [his only child] mentioned a day that Dorothy and Donald both attended a dance. During the event the two started discussing the founding of a new society; and Dorothy came up with the word vegan as a possible name for it, on the basis that its letters are the beginning and conclusion of vegetarian.

‘Beloved Berlin Currywurst Stand Delivers a Bite of History’

Christopher F. Schuetze writes a beautiful piece for the NYTimes about Konnopke’s which is a small Currywurst stand in Berlin. This essay is filled with so many interesting bits about their life in-and-out of communist Berlin throughout time, but just check out this little zinger:

“I like to call it the golden West,” Ms. Ziervogel said sarcastically during an interview in her garden, where in the early years she grew tomatoes for ketchup that was unavailable in the communist state. […]

But the biggest challenge came in 1990 with the reunification of East and West Germany. Not just because of a new set of suppliers, taxes and rules, but because a new universe of customers expected a different set of offerings.

Konnopke’s started selling French fries. The currywurst, which used to be served with a bun and a hot mug of broth, is now cut up and served on a paper plate. (A tiny plastic fork is provided.)

As someone who has never worked in a kitchen or run a restaurant, stories like this feel like they’re written with gold. I can’t imagine how difficult it must have been to survive and thrive in Berlin through all of that time, and — of course — I love seeing they have a vegan option now.

‘Vegetarian and Vegan Los Angeles’

I found an incredibly in-depth history of vegetarian and vegan food in Los Angeles from Eric Brightwell. Check out this part about the first vegetarian restaurant in LA:

By the late 1890s, there were devoted vegetarian restaurants in New York City, Chicago, Boston, and San Francisco — but none in Los Angeles. In 1900, associates of John Harvey Kellogg‘s Battle Creek Sanitarium opened Los Angeles’s first dedicated vegetarian restaurant on 3rd Street. Perhaps restaurant naming conventions were different back then as it was imprecisely referred to in print as both “the Vegetarian restaurant” and “the Vegetarian café.”

This article is overflowing with interesting tidbits, but it’s especially nice to be able to see actual photos and even videos of some of the restaurants — especially the Kellogg’s spot that opened up beside Angel’s Flight.

I loved the bit about raw food being called “unfired food”. And I wasn’t surprised to see the massive connection between veggie-eating with religion and cult.

And it’s fascinating to see the power of a novel and its influence on American dining:

Upton Sinclair‘s novel, The Jungle, was published in 1906. Although Sinclair hoped to The Jungle promote socialism, most readers were more affected by the descriptions of run-of-the-mill health violations, unsanitary conditions, and gruesome violence of the meatpacking industry. Sinclair noted of the reaction, “I aimed at the public’s heart, and by accident, I hit it in the stomach.” In its wake, a wave of vegetarian restaurants opened and a directory of vegetarian restaurants in the US from that year listed 57.

It’s hard to imagine anything having that kind of power today.