Category Archives: ANTH 204

Cheese and the French Paradox

The French should suffer from much higher rates of cardio-vascular disease and obesity than they do.  They eat much more saturated fat than is recommended by the WHO, and wash it down with luscious red wine.  This has been called the French Paradox, still not well understood but interesting and the subject of ongoing inquiry.  Here is a short article that presents the findings of a small study suggesting that a key to the French Paradox is eating cheese.  I find this particularly interesting given the recent conversations about consuming dairy, spurred by a controversial new book by Alissa Hamilton called Got Milked? The Great Dairy Deception and Why You’ll Thrive Without Milk.  (You can read about her book in a recent Globe and Mail article posted here).

Want to be a farmer in your own living room?!

We didn’t have a chance to watch this short TED talk by Brita Riley in ANTH 204 this week, so I post it here for those who are interested.  Her company, Windowfarms is innovative and she makes some thoughtful points about empowering consumers, agency, and food security.  Maybe you will be inspired to take some of the open source plans and build a unit of your own; if you do, I would love to hear about it!

March 25: Heinz Kraft Co. becomes the 5th largest food producing company in the world

Maybe you noticed this in the news today.  Maybe you didn’t.  This $40 billion acquisition will very likely affect the food system that you depend on, a food system that is seeing the consolidation of power in the hands of fewer and fewer giant corporations.  This image (originally produced by Business Insider but now duplicated in many places on the Internet) is a good visual of the top 10 US companies and the complex web that is quite invisible to consumers.  Combined, these 10 companies control 70% of the industrial food system in North America.  If you eat food, you should be interested in this.

Consumer power, and the power of Chicken McNuggets

How timely.  Just last night we were talking about the economic clout of Macdonald’s that has helped shape our modern industrial food reality.  Here is an example of how that economic power can be part of beneficial change.  Consumer and public health lobby groups have been raising the concern of rampant antibiotic use in factory farms (remember the statistic that suggests 80% of antibiotics sold in the US are used prophylactically for food animals!).  Now Macdonald’s has announced that they will move towards purchasing only antibiotic-free chicken.  In a bid to compete, other major industry players are pressured to follow suit.  Of course, the motivations are not 100% altruistic; Macdonald’s is trying to woo young, affluent diners concerned about these issues (and their stock price today saw a bump up as a result already!), but this kind of change will have major consequences in our industrial food system.  We have to keep up the fight!  This Reuter’s news article offers a nice summary.

For more information about the use and consequences of using antibiotics in the commercial chicken industry, check out this National Geographic article from the March 2015 issue.  Their infographic does a great job of summarizing key points.

Celebrate Jewish Purim March 3-4 2015

How to Make Perfect Hamantaschen - Recipes and Tips for Dough, Fillings, Folding and Shaping by Tori Avey

How appropriate for ANTH 204; tonight we will be talking about food and ritual and just about the time that many Jewish people in our community will be celebrating Purim, a time of feasting and merrymaking, and eating hamantashen.  These three-cornered pastries are filled with poppy seeds, chocolate, or fruit preserves, and are enjoyed at home and given as gifts (parts of gift baskets called mishloach manot given to friends and prospective new friends).  Pop in to Bubby Rose’s bakery to try one, or try baking them for yourself: this recipe looks straightforward and delicious.  If you make them, I want to hear about it!

In honour of Chocolate Week….

If you have some spare time and an interest in chocolate, here are a bunch of articles that you will find interesting.  Curated by the Smithsonian, they include: a medicinal history of chocolate, the economics of chocolate, chocolate in space,  an evaluation of the recent drinking chocolate craze (which ANTH 204 students know is actually more of a return to chocolate’s roots) , even the physics of what makes good chocolate.  Truly something for everyone.  Enjoy, and tell me what you are reading!  And as if we need more examples of the connection between chocolate and power, here is a great one: Hershey’s has just inked a sweet deal that prevents the importation of British made Cadbury’s chocolate bars into the US.  Curious?  Read on

Inglorious Fruits and Vegetables

Let’s bring this food movement to Victoria, and challenge ourselves to waste less food by buying less than perfect produce.  OK, I’m not suggesting that you be a martyr and buy the mushy, moldering fruit (not that you can, it is pulled from store shelves long before it gets that that point, part of the issue!).  But think critically about what we have come to expect and demand as consumers, and how this contributes to the $31 billion dollars of food wasted in Canada last year.