Listened Mothers and Milk The ultimate short food chain; one person makes it, another person eats it. by Jeremy Cherfas from

A wet nurse (for that is what Hera was in all tellings of the story) created the Milky Way when her divine milk sprayed across the heavens. Today’s nursing mothers are not so blessed. Although women have a legal right to breastfeed in public across the United States and the UK (and many other countries), there are plenty of individuals who seem to think that they have the right to tell them to stop, and plenty of new mothers who are intimidated enough not to try. Why? How can this most essential of food chains possibly be considered shameful? And then there are the women who would dearly love to breastfeed their infants, but cannot. In this episode, experts on infant feeding discuss the history and current status of mothers’ milk and its various substitutes.

I never considered how much we take something like baby formula for granted. Having had a child failed to thrive due to a dairy allergy, formula with synthetic was essential in working through this.
Liked Tour de France: How many calories will the winner burn? (The Conversation)

Top Tour de France cyclists who complete all 21 stages burn about 120,000 calories during the race – or an average of nearly 6,000 calories per stage. On some of the more difficult mountain stages – like this year’s Stage 12 – racers will burn close to 8,000 calories. To make up for these huge energy losses, riders eat delectable treats such as jam rolls, energy bars and mouthwatering “jels” so they don’t waste energy chewing.

Tadej Pogačar won both the 2021 and 2020 Tour de France and weighs only 146 pounds (66 kilograms). Tour de France cyclists don’t have much fat to burn for energy. They have to keep putting food energy into their bodies so they can put out energy at what seems like a superhuman rate. So this year, while watching a stage of the Tour de France, note how many times the cyclists eat – now you know the reason for all that snacking.

Listened Persephone’s secret The Eleusinian Mysteries and the making of the modern economy by Jeremy Cherfas from

Elucidating the Eleusinian Mysteries is one small element in Scott Reynolds Nelson’s new book, Oceans of Grain. It looks at the many, many ways in which wheat and human history intertwine.

Jeremy Cherfas speaks with Scott Reynolds Nelson about his book Oceans of Grain. The conversations are broken up into the themes of transport, finance and empire. This series of conversations is not so much a history of wheat, but rather a history through wheat. It is fascinating to consider the impact that grain has had on so many significant historical events. I remember hearing Marilyn Lake talk about having a global perspective, this is a great example of this.

Listened Chocolate—the world’s most seductive treat and its dark shadow from ABC Radio National

Chocolate is one of our most popular indulgences but there is a darker side to the industry – one connected with colonialism, the industrial revolution and modern-day slavery.

This podcast dives into the history of chocolate and its relationship with child labour. I was intrigued by the way in which some companies will purchase fair trade for a single product creating the false impression that all their products are made with fair trade chocolate. It reminded me of Jeremy Cherfas’ discussion of ethical coffee.
Listened Sushi From necessity to ubiquity by Jeremy Cherfas from Eat This

The California Roll was only the beginning. Or at least, the beginning of global domination. Back in the mid 1980s, when I made a documentary for BBC TV about disgust and learned food habits, we chose sushi as our exemplar of the Westerner’s idea of hard-to-understand foods. Raw fish. Cold rice. Seaweed. What’s to like? If I had known then of the rich history of sushi, I’m sure we could have made even more of its strange 1980s incarnation.
Eric Rath’s history of sushi traces the word back to its origins as a method of preserving fish through many twists and turns to today, when sushi means almost anything you want it to mean.

Another dive into the history of food. As seems to often be the case, what we appreciate as sushi today is in stark difference to the practices of preserving fish in the past.

I think the takeaway here is that sushi is a global cuisine, and what people do in Peru or Brazil, all these different types of sushi are equally as valid and that’s the amazing thing. We shouldn’t turn our noses up at the sushi bagel, or the sushi pizza, or whatever is new. It’s just all part of sushi’s long story. – Eric Rath

Listened Rachel Roddy: An A–Z of Pasta Twenty-one letters, fifty shapes, unlimited possibilities by Jeremy Cherfas from

Rachel Roddy is a marvellous conduit between the many cultures and kitchens of her adopted homeland and a world that simply cannot get enough of Italy. Her latest book is all about pasta, although she wisely recognised that there was little point in trying to be encyclopaedic. Instead, she chose 50 shapes on which to hang history, culture, personal stories and, of course, recipes and suggestions.

We met just in time for me to get this episode ready for World Pasta Day, today. We talked about the book, obviously, and also about many other aspects of pasta and Italian life. She did divulge what she is thinking of making to celebrate World Pasta Day. I won’t spoil the secret; you’ll just have to listen. What will you be making?

Listening to this discussion of pasta has me thinking about how much there is I either do not know or had never really thought about. Also, with the discussions of different regions, it has me reflecting upon how the idea of ‘Italian’ or ‘pasta’ is translated around the world to fit within the culture at hand. For example, growing up, I knew a knew a Malaysian whose Bolognese always had a kick to it.
Liked A Brief History of Pickles (

Before traveling to the New World himself, Vespucci worked as a ship chandler—someone who sold supplies to seafaring merchants and explorers. These supplies included foods like meat, fish, and vegetables that had been pickled, which meant they would stay preserved beneath a ship’s deck for months. Without pickling, expeditions had to rely on dried foods and ingredients with naturally long shelf lives for sustenance. Much of the time, this limited diet wasn’t enough to provide crewmembers the nutrition they needed for the journey ahead. This made pickle sellers like Vespucci indispensable during the golden age of exploration. Vespucci even supplied Christopher Columbus’s later voyages across the Atlantic with his briny goods. So while he wasn’t the world’s most important explorer, Vespucci’s pickles may have changed history by preventing untold bouts of scurvy.

Liked Mac and cheese? Puh-lease! Adam Liaw on why we need to make Australian food great again (Good Food)

Cultural cringe has been a defining aspect of the Australian psyche for more than 100 years. Henry Lawson wrote about it back in the 19th century, and the term itself was coined by Melbourne critic AA Phillips in 1950, who bemoaned that Australian arts only saw their value if recognised in England or America, rather than being appreciated in Australia.

That same cultural cringe is a weight around the neck of modern Australian food culture.

Food doesn’t need to be complicated or sophisticated to be good, and if we look down on our own cuisine we run the risk of losing it to antiquity.

“Jeremy Cherfas” in Eat This Newsletter 151: Cringeworthy · Buttondown ()
Liked Your Weird Pandemic Meals Are Probably Fine by Amanda Mull (

In the dieting (excuse me, biohacking) trend known as intermittent fasting, people compress their calories into a limited window of hours. But that’s not what Big Meal is at all. It’s not a diet. I snack whenever I feel like it—Triscuits with slices of pepper jack, leftover hummus from the Turkish takeout place that sometimes provides Big Meal, a glob of smooth peanut butter on a spoon. The phrase started as a joke about my inability to explain to a friend why I was making risotto in the middle of the afternoon, or why I didn’t have an answer to “What’s for dinner?” at 6 p.m. beyond “Uh, well, I ate a giant burrito at 11 a.m. and grazed all afternoon, so I think I’m done for the day.” Now I simply say, “It’s time for Big Meal,” or “I already had Big Meal.”

Replied to Eat This Newsletter 141: Too good to waste (

Hello I’ve noticed in the past how, when I am thinking about some topic, I am much more likely to notice things related to that topic, and so it was with…

Jeremy, reading this newsletter about excrement and listening to your conversation with Donald Worster reminded me of this segment I saw on ABC about cochroach farms. Not only do they provide a food source, but they also help dispose of various waste products.


Bookmarked Vale Sizzler: the cheese toast king couldn’t keep up with dining trends (

Our notion of what constitutes “good value” has also evolved.

Until Sunday, a standard Sizzler all-you-can-eat salad bar will cost you $27.95. You can add $4 and get a rump steak, or $2 for a “Malibu Chicken Supreme” (think parmy-meets-Chicken-Cordon-Bleu).

But “value” now lies in the quality rather than quantity of one’s meal. As Australians’ idea of value is shifting, we are inclined to pay more for food we consider to be good quality – so $30 for an average steak and salad now seems rather steep.

Along with Smorgys and Pizza Hut, I remember going to Sizzler in the 90’s. I wonder if what has changed is not only our appreciation of quality, but also the appropriateness of gorging ourselves?
Bookmarked Grapefruit Is One of the Weirdest Fruits on the Planet by Dan Nosowitz (Atlas Obscura)

From its name, to its hazy origins, to its drug interactions, there’s a lot going on beneath that thick rind.

Dan Nosowitz takes a dive into the world of the grapefruit. The fruit has its origins in the Caribbean, however how it came to be labelled ‘grapefruit’ is not clear.

Before that it was known, probably, as the “shaddock,” which is especially confusing, because shaddock is also a word used for the pomelo. (The word may have come from the name of a trader, one Captain Philip Chaddock, who may or may not have introduced the pomelo to the islands.) As a larger, more acidic citrus fruit with an especially thick rind, the pomelo is what provides the bitterness for all bitter citrus fruits to follow, including the grapefruit. In the earliest and best history of the fruits on Barbados, written by Griffith Hughes in 1750, there are descriptions of many of the unusual hybrids that littered Barbados. Those trees include the shaddock, a tree he called the “golden orange,” and one he called the “Forbidden Fruit” tree. It was the latter that Hughes described as the most delicious, and when the grapefruit eventually became easily the most famous and popular citrus of the West Indies, it was widely believed to be the one once called the Forbidden Fruit.

One of the challenges with tracing the history of the fruit is the tendency for citruses to hybridise easily.

This is largely guesswork, almost all of it, because citrus is a delightfully chaotic category of fruit. It hybridizes so easily that there are undoubtedly thousands, maybe more, separate varieties of citrus in the wild and in cultivation. Some of these, like the grapefruit, clementine, or Meyer lemon, catch on and become popular. But trying to figure out exactly where they came from, especially if they weren’t created recently in a fruit-breeding lab, is incredibly difficult.

The weird part of the story are the compounds found within the fruit and the impact that this has on the way in which the body absorbs drugs.

Grapefruit has a high volume of compounds called furanocoumarins, which are designed to protect the fruit from fungal infections. When you ingest grapefruit, those furanocoumarins take your cytochrome P450 enzymes offline. There’s no coming back. Grapefruit is powerful, and those cytochromes are donezo. So the body, when it encounters grapefruit, basically sighs, throws up its hands, and starts producing entirely new sets of cytochrome P450s. This can take over 12 hours.

This rather suddenly takes away one of the body’s main defense mechanisms. If you have a drug with 10 percent bioavailability, for example, the drugmakers, assuming you have intact cytochrome P450s, will prescribe you 10 times the amount of the drug you actually need, because so little will actually make it to your bloodstream. But in the presence of grapefruit, without those cytochrome P450s, you’re not getting 10 percent of that drug. You’re getting 100 percent. You’re overdosing.

What is interesting is that I remember growing up my grandparents would split a grapefruit for breakfast each morning. Pretty sure they had their cocktail of medication at the same time. I am left wondering if this was at all intentional?

via Jeremy Cherfas

Replied to How COVID-19 Could Kill The All-You-Can-Eat Buffet (Tedium: The Dull Side of the Internet.)

As we try to find new ways to be communal, we ultimately are going to have to leave some things off to the side. And restaurants that offer unlimited helpings on tiny plates are likely to be one of them. Shed a tear for the chocolate fountain.

So many great memories of buffets and all-you-can-eats: Smorgys, Sizzler, Melba at Langham, Pizza Hut, Cuckoo, Hungry Jacks, Costco. However, in addition to the germs and viruses, it feels like the time of gluttony and indulgence may have passed?
Listened 🎧 Disputations about taste by Jeremy CherfasJeremy Cherfas from

Episode summary: Taste is a very curious thing. We understand that how we taste something is almost entirely subjective, that while it depends to some extent on the physical and chemical properties of the things we’re tasting, the sensation is overlaid with all sorts of cultural and personal memories. Unless you have access to all of those, there’s nothing you can say about my taste. Except, we do that all the time. We slip easily from taste being indisputable to good taste and bad taste and from there to making taste the basis of moral judgements. What’s more, this is nothing new. These thoughts, and many more, were prompted by a new book: Food Fights: How History Matters to Contemporary Food Debates. It contains two chapters that cover taste directly (and a third that considers food choice from a slightly different point of view). In an effort to straighten myself out on the subject, I talked to the two chapter authors, and they’re going to be the guests in at least the next two episodes. In the first instance, Margot Finn…

Jeremy, I was intrigued by the discussion of the taste for chilli food.
Listened Russian Food: Old and New North of the Acrtic Circle, the Roots of Russian Food by Jeremy Cherfas from

Darra Goldstein combines a scholar’s knowledge of history and literature with a cook’s interest in recipes and ingredients. She had already written extensively on food across the vast Soviet empire, but more recently turned her attention to a search for what she calls “the true heart of Russian food“. She found it on the Kola Peninsula, a wild and forbidding part of Russia right at the top of Scandinavia. Our conversation, prompted by her new book, went further afield to include glimpses of food revivals and innovation in Russia today.

Interesting as always Jeremy.
Replied to Where I grumble about food… (Bianca Hewes)

It’s not just dinner, either. It’s lunch, right? Like breakfast is fine cos you can get away with cereal and toast and a tea and the kid is happy (I’ve been skipping breakfast in a sort of weak attempt at that 16-8 thingy where you try to clean your blood, intermittent fasting?) but lunch sucks. I’ve tried making extra dinner to have as left-overs, I’ve tried the meal-planning in small boxes that some seem to have success with. To be honest preparing five meals on a Sunday just makes me worry for the Friday when I’m left with almost off food for lunch. Gross. I start off OK on a Monday and Tuesday – making a sandwich with the bread that’s still fresh and ingredients that have been bought on the Sunday (via the shopping I have to think about each week – don’t get me started on that annoyance!). By Wednesday I’m getting the youngest a lunch order and I’m taking whatever I can scrounge from the cupboard. Nutrition has disappeared, and for dinner I’m trying to convince myself that the mushrooms from Sunday don’t smell like unwashed feet and can definitely still be used for dinner (which I won’t eat because mushrooms that are over a day old gross me out).

I really enjoyed this reflection Bianca. I too dread the thought of what to cook for tea, especially as my wife has handed over that responsibility of late. Sometimes I feel guilty about our Thermomix, however one of the positive side effects has been the variety of foods we are eating that neither my wife nor I had the time for.