The bizarre sanitarium staple that became a spreadable obsession
The bizarre sanitarium staple that became a spreadable obsession
We’re often reminded of the benefits of eating fresh food — both for us and the environment. But did you know the ‘leave our food as natural as possible’ idea started as a Nazi slogan?
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.
From its name, to its hazy origins, to its drug interactions, there’s a lot going on beneath that thick rind.
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
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…
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.
An ultra-processed food can be reformulated in countless ways, but the one thing it can’t be transformed into is an unprocessed food. Hall remains hopeful that there may turn out to be some way to adjust the manufacture of ultra-processed foods to make them less harmful to health. A huge number of people on low incomes, he notes, are relying on these “relatively inexpensive tasty things” for daily sustenance. But he is keenly aware that the problems of nutrition cannot be cured by ever more sophisticated processing. “How do you take an Oreo and make it non-ultra-processed?” he asks. “You can’t!”
Marketing campaign for orange-fleshed sweet potato https://media.blubrry.com/eatthispodcast/p/mange-tout.s3.amazonaws.com/2020/ofsp.mp3
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podcast cover artwork There is more to good nu…
The vegan diet is widely regarded to be better for the planet than those that include animal products, but not all plant-based foodstuffs have a small environmental footprint.
What McCoy had done in Huntington was exactly the kind of thing Republicans claim to celebrate. She wasn’t a Washington bureaucrat telling people to do it her way, or no way at all; she was a well-intentioned local who had figured out what made sense for her community and acted on it.
Fruit ripening is all about plants getting animals to eat the seeds that are inside their fruits. This helps the plants get their seeds to somewhere new where they can grow into a new plant.
To me, a pedant and a purist, a pickle by rights ought to have gone through a proper fermentation. It might have been pasteurised afterwards and bottled, but at some stage it needs to have supported microbial activity. And yet, I don’t think of kombucha as pickled tea or yoghurt as pickled milk. Maybe that’s because they aren’t salted. Just being boiled in vinegar or soaked in brine doesn’t qualify either, for me.
Luckily Jan Davison, author of Pickles: A Global History, has a much more open mind, which is great, because I learned a lot from her little book. And it gave us plenty to talk about.