…and in her backseat was a man with a Rachael Ray cookbook! Aieeeeeee!

Urban legends abound regarding food.  Who doesn’t recall the Pop Rocks scare of the 1980s wherein the famous Life cereal spokeskid, Mikey, apparently died after ingesting a potent and explosive mixture of the candy and a soft drink?  And how many men stopped imbibing Mountain Dew after it was rumored that the soda would kill their sperm and decrease the size of their testes?  And, of course, let’s not forget the scores of hopeful paramours who presented their love interests with bags of green M&Ms in the hopes of eliciting an amorous reaction from them after the candy was eaten.

But as silly and entertaining as urban legends are, there are some “true rumors” that occasionally get buried beneath the rubble of old wives’ tales and kids’ whispered stories.  But how to parse out the good apples from the rotten ones?  You turn, of course, to Snopes.com.

Today we’ll look at a few true, food-related urban legends, that may or may not have already made their way to your e-mail inboxes through the years:  Continue reading …and in her backseat was a man with a Rachael Ray cookbook! Aieeeeeee!

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Nature’s Surly Bonds

Continuing yesterday’s loose theme of Food and the 1960s, Paleo-Future treats us to a glimpse of what scientists circa 1964 envisioned for our culinary future:

The general consensus seemed to be that “food”—a word that was already beginning to sound old-fashioned—was destined to break its surly bonds to Nature, float free of agriculture and hitch its future to Technology. If not literally served in a pill, the meal of the future would be fabricated “in the laboratory out of a wide variety of materials,” as one contemporary food historian predicted, including not only algae and soybeans but also petrochemicals. Protein would be extracted directly from fuel oil and then “spun and woven into ‘animal’ muscle—long wrist-thick tubes of ‘fillet steak.’ “

Yum!  Petrochemicals and fuel oil?  We were in for such a treat!  And my stomach is already grumbling at the thought of those delicious “wrist-thick tubes.”

Note:  I was going to insert a picture here of the first photo that Google Image Search turned up for “wrist-thick tubes,” but as you might imagine, they weren’t exactly savory, food-related or safe for work.

Cuisine Cartography

I graduated from college with a degree in cartography.  Like many other post-grads, I’ve found very few real-world applications for my degree (at least, ones that pay enough to live off of…) and so I work in a completely different field now.  That said, I still have a deep appreciation for the art of cartography and the beauty of maps.  Take, for example, these fascinating maps of food (and be sure to click on each heading to visit the page where I found these lovely maps):

Totem Foods of North America

totem-foods.jpg

I’m kind of startled to see that Houston (and San Antonio, Corpus Christi, Brownsville, the entire Valley, etc.) falls into the “Gator Nation” belt.  Now, don’t get me wrong; I love alligator as much as the next person.  But I definitely wouldn’t categorize it as a Totem food here.  And I can’t imagine trying to serve someone alligator in the Valley.  Houston’s close enough to Louisiana and the swamps of East Texas for alligator to be fairly standard cuisine, but that’s not true in points west.

In reality, the whole portion of the Gator belt starting with the Texas-Louisiana border and heading west should be an amalgamation of the Corn Bread & BBQ Nation and the Chile Pepper Nation.  Mmm…  Now who wouldn’t want to live in that nation?

Continue reading Cuisine Cartography

You Are What You Eat

I’m going to go off on a rant for a second here.

 

Store’s effort to sell fresh chicken raises concerns

 

The story above interests me for several reasons.  The people concerned about the possible slaughter of poultry in their neighborhood grocery store don’t identify themselves as vegetarians, animal lovers, or even crazy PETA activists.  They aren’t concerned that the method of killing the chickens is cruel (which it isn’t).  They simply seem to have a problem knowing where their poultry comes from.  I’ve run up against this dilemma quite a lot lately.

 

People want to eat, but they also want to know as little as possible about the food they’re consuming.  We have become so far removed from our food sources that it’s worrying to me in a large-scale Malthusian way.  If we were to lose all means of current food production tomorrow, how many of us would be able to sustain ourselves?  How many of us know which wild berries or mushrooms are edible?  Or how to grow a vegetable garden?  Or how to clean a fish?  Or how to slaughter a lamb for meat?  Or milk a cow?  Or simply even COOK?

 

I was reading a book by Anthony Bourdain a few weeks ago, called A Cooks Tour: Global Adventures in Extreme Cuisines.  In one of the chapters, Bourdain recounts visiting a friend’s family farm in Portugal and participating in the slaughter of a pig for a big feast later that week. Continue reading You Are What You Eat