Althouse | category: food



an endless succession of beans and nuts.

"Funnily enough, I don’t actually have dinner any more. I stop eating at four, and I learned that from having lunch with Bruce Springsteen."

Said Chris Martin, quoted in "Chris Martin’s one-meal-a-day diet inspired by Bruce Springsteen/Coldplay frontman says he now eats nothing after 4pm" (London Times).

That's more or less what we do at Meadhouse... but we're 70ish. You really do need to eat less when you are old. But Martin is only 46!

The bird news.

1. "Two suspected illegal immigrants shot and killed a bald eagle with the intention of cooking it for dinner, and the town’s sheriff whose department arrested them says federal authorities, who could keep them behind bars, won’t return his calls" (Washington Free Beacon).

2. "Swedish power giant Vattenfall did a two-year, €3 million study of seabirds at an offshore wind farm off Scotland.... Not a single collision between a bird and a rotor blade was recorded... 'these birds are really good at avoiding the turbines'" (electrek).

3. "This year marks the 80th anniversary of the federal duck stamp. Since its enactment, this landmark initiative has generated well over $900 million to conserve nearly 8 million acres of wetlands all across the United States through the Migratory Bird Conservation Fund" (Democrat and Chronicle).

4. "Exploring how birds use contractions... A team of researchers at Kyoto University has found evidence that the wild passerine species Parus minor appears to merge two consecutive calls into a single vocal message... the cognitive capability known as core-Merge...." (

There are 5 places in the world where people are exceptionally long-lived. We could try to eat like them.

I'm reading "Want to live a longer life? Try eating like a centenarian" (WaPo).

The 5 places are: 1. the Nicoyan Peninsula (in Costa Rica); 2. Loma Linda, California (with a high population of Seventh-Day Adventists (vegetarians)), 3. Okinawa (Japan), 4. Sardinia (Italy), and 5. Icaria (Greece).

I cooled on this topic when I saw that it was based on a new cookbook and that the first idea was: eat peas, lentils, or beans every day. That "every day" is such a downer! 

Next we're told to eat "a handful of nuts" every day. Again, I loathe the "every day." That's a way to make it disgusting. And I hate the push to dump nuts into your hand and eat them from there. That can't be a health tip. I eat nuts, maybe 4 times a week — which is all, it says, the Seventh-Day Adventists do — and I put them on a small plate and almost never in my hand. I know "handful" is intended as a measurement, but I find the concept unappetizing. And my little aversions are only going to get more insistent as I inch toward the century mark.

The third suggestion is something I already do that's also something that might make you squeal in horror: Don't eat dinner. You get breakfast and lunch and then cut yourself off!

The fourth suggestion is just to sit down and eat with your family. That, of course, requires you to have family and to maintain enough closeness and warm feeling to be able to exercise this option. So that's a mark of many things you might want to try to accomplish — much more difficult than forcing down an endless succession of beans and nuts.

"It was like flipping a switch. I would look at food and it wasn’t even appealing, and I am someone who loves food!"

"I almost had to remind myself to eat. It just took away all the cravings.... I remember looking in the mirror, and it was almost like I didn’t even recognize myself,” she said. “My body looked great, but my face looked exhausted and old."

It's crazy to lose weight by making food completely unappealing. Wouldn't you want to still get pleasure from the food that you do eat while eating in a way that reduces weight? And then on top of that, it makes your face look old — older, apparently, than just the usual way too much weight loss makes you look hollowed out and haggard.

And there's an additional problem: This off-label use is creating a shortage of a medicine that people with diabetes need. At least their moral failing is causing them to look bad. I know, it's also a moral failing to enjoy seeing people get their just deserts.

And, yes, it's "just deserts," not "just desserts" (though feel free to call your cake shop Just Desserts).

"Elhacen, who force-feeds young girls for a living, takes pride in her work. 'I’m very strict…I beat the girls, or torture them...'"

"'... by squeezing a stick between their toes. I isolate them and tell them that thin women are inferior,' she says.... According to Elhacen, a woman’s job is 'to make babies and be a soft, fleshy bed for her husband to lie on.' The force feeder even enjoys additional payments for stretch marks, hailed as a crowning achievement for any Mauritanian woman trying to gain weight.... Exemplifying this relationship between obesity and attractiveness, a Moor proverb asserts that 'the woman occupies in her man’s heart the space she occupies in his bed.'... Girls as young as five are sent to 'fattening farms' to gorge on calorie-dense foods such as millet and camel milk.... Disciplined by their mothers or force-feeders, girls may be force-fed up to 16,000 calories daily, which can include up to five gallons of milk.... [T]he 'zayar' technique involves positioning a girl’s toe between two sticks and pinching it when she resists leblouh. The supervisor may also 'pull her ear, pinch her inner thigh, bend her finger backward or force her to drink her own vomit...."

I'm reading "Force-Feeding and Drug Abuse: The Steep Price of Beauty in Mauritania" (Harvard International Review).

I got there via "Buccal fat removal is a new take on an old theme: a means to keep women in their place," a columm by Martha Gill (in The Guardian)(noting that "female beauty standards vary between cultures").

"Trust me, my grandparents, all four of them Italian, never ate avocados, let alone smashed them on toast for breakfast."

"You guys are falling into the romantic Italy trap—breakfast here typically consists of a few cookies dipped in caffè latte, or a brioche or cornetto at the local bar on the way to work. Here in Central Italy, people are seriously into pork and pork products. And no self-respecting Greek would eat low-fat yogurt. The overall message is good, but those details make me smile."

Writes Anthony Paonita of Perugia, commenting on the NYT article "The Mediterranean Diet Really Is That Good for You. Here’s Why. It has become the bedrock of virtuous eating. Experts answer common questions about how it leads to better health."

"If you’re allowing people to bake cookies and muffins and breads, why should they not be allowed to make cocoa bombs?"

"The first case said that the government can’t ban the sales of perfectly safe homemade baked goods. And so, since we already had that victory regarding baked goods, it definitely made things easier the second time around.... People shouldn’t need to buy or rent a commercial kitchen in order to sell fudge or candies...."

Said Justin Pearson of the Institute for Justice, which brought the 2 cases discussed in "Wisconsin residents can sell more than baked goods from home, judge rules" (Wisconsin State Journal).

Pearson asserted "the 49 other states... have better cottage food laws than Wisconsin."

I'd never noticed the expression "cottage food," though of course I know "cottage industry." "Cottage" makes the particular home sound unusually cozy and quaint. If you look back into the history of the word "cottage," you'll see that that originally it meant a small home for a poor laborer. The oldest use of "cottage industry," according to the OED, came from was in the Freeman's Journal (Dublin) in 1849: "Do you wish to make your labourers comfortable? Teach their children the use of the loom, and every kind of cottage industry."


That's "Children On A Path Outside A Thatched Cottage, West Horsley, Surrey" (late 1800s) by Helen Allingham. I found that at the Wikipedia article "Cottagecore." Did you know that some kids today romanticize the cottage and the styles and activities they imagine in and around it?

"And as the Christmas season comes and goes over the next eight or nine days, composting down into a farty mulch of colourless, stodge-based meals..."

"... eaten at weird times, afternoon sleeps in hot telly rooms, and leftovers swallowed between slices of white bread with a large glass of Christmas table 'mine sweep' (three parts prosecco to one part port, one part advocaat and two parts 'grandma spat that coffee out because she thought it was tea'), we will be seeing an awful lot... [about] Detox January, New Year/New You, and all that tired old annual post-party guff."

Writes Giles Coren in "Get fit next year with the Benny Hill Sprint/Forget the Body Coach, it’s all about the silly walk — or another of these fun-packed workouts from our slapstick greats" (London Times).

1. He's reacting to a Times article called "A ‘Ministry of Silly Walks’ workout could burn 100 calories in minutes" ("Adopting a John Cleese-style silly walk for 11 minutes a day could, a study suggests, be the key to achieving the amount of vigorous physical activity recommended for most adults by the NHS.")

2. I'm mostly blogging this because I was intrigued by the word "stodge." I know "stodgy," but what's a "stodge-based meal"? The OED says "stodge" is colloquial and means "Food of a semi-solid consistency, esp. stiff farinaceous food; spec. heavy and usually fattening food (often with little nutritional value)." I think in America, we'd say "glop."

3. The adjective "stodgy," when used to mean "Dull, heavy; wanting in gaiety or brightness," is figurative. The original meaning was to describe the kind of food that would be called "stodge." The oldest recorded example of the figurative use of "stodgy" is  from Laura Troubridge, "Life amongst Troubridges" (1874): "We had meant to play Rats and Ferrets, but we had to begin a stodgy game of Old Maid."

4. Now, the most useful thing I have to offer you is that "stodge" can be used figuratively, to refer to things that are stodgy — "stodgy notions" (as the OED puts it). Instead of saying, "Your ideas are so stodgy!" for example, you can say, "Spare me this stodge!" 

5. What are you planning to eat on Christmas and through New Year's — stodge?

"If you lived through the 1980s there’s a decent chance that, at some point, you crossed paths with raspberry vinaigrette, pesto, and arugula."

"By the end of the decade, they had become part of the atmosphere hanging over American society, like a giant cloud of Aqua Net holding up so many teased bangs. Many loved these foods; many others derided them as pretentious yuppie garbage. But the source of their popularity, at least in home kitchens, was all but undisputed: The Silver Palate Cookbook, originally published in 1982, more than 2.5 million copies sold. The cookbook was a product of its time and place: New York’s Upper West Side in the late 1970s and early ’80s. A world synonymous (at least in the mind of the average moviegoer) with Woody Allen and then Nora Ephron. You can bet that before they were forced to play Pictionary at that dinner party, Harry and Sally were fed salmon mousse and chicken Marbella or maybe osso bucco. (Ephron was a Silver Palate fan.)"

From "‘The Silver Palate Cookbook’ Changed Home Cooking (and Pesto Consumption) As We Know It/Published in 1982, it brought verve to entertaining and taught a generation of American cooks to trust in bold flavors, fresh herbs, and the joys of improvisation" (Eater).

Yeah, I had 2 "Silver Palate" cookbooks on my kitchen cookbook shelf for more than 30 years. In fact, they made such a permanent impression on my eyeballs that I just went over to look at them. But no, they're gone. Some time in the last 10 years, I realized I hadn't opened them in more than 15 years and gave them the heave-ho. Maybe it was back in that year when we were all looking at things and asking if they "sparked joy." You can ask if it's time yet to oust that sparking-joy book, but that was never anything but a Kindle text. 

Here's the Kindle text of the "Silver Palate Cookbook." It's only $3. Eat like the 80s.

Back to the Eater article:

The authors were eager to explain what, exactly, arugula and pesto were and offered many simple suggestions for how to use them. Sure, they made excellent garnishes, but why not try serving the arugula with a simple garlic-anchovy dressing or scrambling pesto into eggs?

Although some recipes, like the cassoulet, ventured into Julia Child territory (has there ever been a cassoulet that doesn’t take at least three days to prepare?), the abundant marginal notes, along with Lukins’s doodle-like line drawings and quotes from sources as varied as Shakespeare and Kay Thompson’s Eloise, gave — and still give — the book a tone that reads as friendly rather than instructional....

[T]he recipes were novel and aspirational, but not entirely out of reach for the average American cook.... They were unafraid of booze, butter, cream, and olive oil. They adored mousses and mayonnaise, both Hellmann’s and homemade. They could not resist the urge to dress every piece of meat with fruit, or at the very least, a fruity vinaigrette and some fresh herbs. Their favorite appliance was the food processor. They also clearly loved dinner parties...

Food processors! Dinner parties! We thought we'd eat like that forever.

"If you’re allowing people to bake cookies and muffins and breads, why should they not be allowed to make cocoa bombs?"

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