Odd Connections

‘Climate Change and the American Diet’

A new study from Yale’s ‘Program on Climate Change Communication’ came out with some interesting statistics. I’d click the link and futz around a bit, but I think these were the juiciest parts:

More than nine in ten Americans (94%) say they are willing to eat more fruit and vegetables, and six in ten (62%) say they are “very” willing to do so. More than half of Americans (55%) say they are willing to eat more plant-based meat alternatives (products made with vegetables such as soy, potatoes, peas, etc.) and 54% say they are willing to eat less red meat (beef, lamb, pork).

More than four in ten Americans say they are willing to use dairy alternatives (soy milk, almond milk, etc.) instead of dairy-based milk or cream (46%) and/or to consume less dairy (42%).

One in four Americans (26%) say they are willing to eat lab-grown meat rather than meat taken from animals.

Those are the nuts and bolts of ‘The Now’ of plant-based eating. People are interested — when they understand the effects of diet on the climate and its overall taste improves. People are willing to eat more plant-based meats when they cost less than real meat. Subsidies are too important here. Beef and dairy are subsidized in a way that essentially is like giving steroids to Goliath.

These are all good signs and honestly better than I expected. For your ‘TL;DR’, their executive summary is available here.

(via VegNews)

‘A bacon-scented patch has been developed to help people go vegan’

A patch infused with the scent of bacon has been developed by Oxford University scientists to help people with their meat cravings when they go vegan or vegetarian.

It’s similar to the size of a nicotine patch and has a drawing of a red cross through two rashers of bacon on it.

The idea is for vegans and vegetarians to scratch it when they’re eating to release the smell of bacon.

Charles Spence, a professor of experimental psychology at the University of Oxford, believes it will help people to “imagine” they’re eating bacon even when they’re not.


‘The fastest-growing vegan demographic is African Americans. Wu-Tang Clan and other hip-hop acts paved the way.’

Laura Reiley for the Washington Post:

A 2016 Pew Research Center survey found 3 percent of American adults overall identified as vegan and only 1 percent of Hispanic Americans. That number jumps to a startling 8 percent among African American adults. In Gallup’s latest findings on consumers’ meat-eating changes, which will be published Monday, whites reported eating 10 percent less meat in the past 12 months while people of color reported eating 31 percent less.

I think this is spot on. And I think rappers being vocal about it has shifted the conversations and connections within their communities.

‘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.

‘The Ice Stupas: Artificial glaciers at the edge of the Himalayas.’

Elizabeth Kolbert for the New Yorker:

The first ice stupa was created in 2013, in Ladakh, in Kashmir. Villages in Ladakh, a high mountain-desert region bordered by the Himalayas, largely depend on glacial runoff for water. As the glaciers recede, owing to climate change, the flow of water has become more erratic. Sometimes there’s too much, producing flash flooding; often, there’s too little. The ice stupa, a kind of artificial glacier, is the brainchild of a Ladakhi engineer named Sonam Wangchuk. In a way, it, too, is designed to house relics.

The stupas are an absolutely stunning and unique solution to climate change in Kashmir. Be sure to click the link and look at the incredible photos from Vasantha Yogananthan.

‘Why is vegan shōjin ryōri cuisine so deeply compelling?’

This is a really nice breakdown of one of the most celebrated veggie-focused meals on the globe. And, yes, it’s the opposite of the extreme. It’s the anti-Doritos. I’ve only had meals like this a few times, and the flavors were soft and subtle in way that I’ve probably never had before or since.

‘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?


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.

‘Every Ridiculous Food Trend Predicted for 2020’

Eater has put up a beautiful (and long) list that culls what many major food publications predict for 2020 with food. Many are vegan or vegan-adjacent, and I’m not going to list them all but these are some of the things I’m excited about too:

  • Aronia berries
  • Ube
  • Spreads and butters like macadamia nut butter and watermelon seed butter
  • Zero-waste
  • CRISPR crops
  • “Less focus on the center of the plate more on the outskirts”
  • “Mexican cuisine will be more recognized as complex and layered – rather than always spicy and heavy”
  • Family-style tasting menus, family-style dining 
  • “Technically illegal” tonka beans (!)

Zero waste really needs to pop-off. As food delivery pushes into a larger and larger portion of how most Americans are consuming their meals, this deserves more focus and energy.