Food and Drink


Former NBA star Yao Ming is being sued by Beijing resident Feng Changshun for endorsing a health food product that Feng said misleads consumers, in one of the first consumer rights cases involving a celebrity since a new protection law was enacted in March.

Feng is suing Baxsun Pharmacy, a retail chain in Beijing, for exaggerating the benefits of its fish oil capsules.

Yao, a spokesman for the product, is also being sued. Beijing’s Xicheng district court has confirmed that it will hear the case.

Feng said he is seeking 500 yuan ($80.10) in compensation from the retail chain and 0.01 yuan from Yao Ming.

“(The lawsuit) is symbolic. I want (Yao Ming) to admit to infringements of my rights,” he said.

You can read more here.

Angela Meng reports:

Researchers have found that people from rice-growing southern China are more interdependent and holistic thinkers, while those from the wheat-growing north are more independent and analytical.

The researchers call it “rice theory”, and they believe the psychological differences of southern and northern Chinese stem from their ancestors’ subsistence techniques – rice farming needs co-operation and planning; wheat farming requires less co-operation between neighbours.

…The last experiment assessed the nepotism, or group loyalty, of the participants. Students were given hypothetical scenarios and asked how they would treat friends and strangers in reaction to helpful or harmful actions. A defining characteristic of holistic culture is that people draw sharp contrasts between friend and stranger.

“The data suggests that legacies of farming are continuing to affect people,” Thomas Talhelm, of the University of Virginia and lead author of the research, said. “It has resulted in two distinct cultural psychologies that mirror the differences between East Asia and the West.”

Talhelm and his team concluded that the co-operative nature of rice-growing has cultivated a culture of interdependence, while wheat-growing has cultivated independence.

“I think the rice theory provides some insight to why the rice-growing regions of East Asia are less individualistic than the Western world or northern China, even with their wealth and modernisation,” Talhelm said.

Here is Talhelm’s home page.  Research summaries are here (interesting).  Links to his research are here, and the wheat paper is here.

For the pointer I thank the excellent Mark Thorson.

Vegetable Eggs

by on May 12, 2014 at 10:08 am in Economics, Food and Drink, Religion | Permalink

Technology Review: Hampton Creek’s CEO, Josh Tetrick, wants to do to the $60 billion egg industry what Apple did to the CD business. “If we were starting from scratch, would we get eggs from birds crammed into cages so small they can’t flap their wings, shitting all over each other, eating antibiotic-laden soy and corn to get them to lay 283 eggs per year?” asks the strapping former West Virginia University linebacker. While an egg farm uses large amounts of water and burns 39 calories of energy for every calorie of food produced, Tetrick says he can make plant-based versions on a fraction of the water and only two calories of energy per calorie of food — free of cholesterol, saturated fat, allergens, avian flu, and cruelty to animals. For half the price of an egg.

At present, Hampton Creek is focusing on finding vegetable proteins than can substitute for eggs in cakes, salad dressings, mayo and so forth rather than replacing the over-easy at the diner. As with in-vitro meat, however, vegetable eggs pursued for economic reasons will end up greatly supporting the 21st movement for vegetarianism.

Kevin Grier reports:

Paul Krugman points us to the success story of the rebound of US fish stocks. He then makes an amazing leap to climate change saying, “Fighting climate change isn’t really all that different from saving fisheries; if we ever get around to doing the obvious, it will be easier and more successful than anyone now expects.”

I actually agree with the first part, and the Vox article that Krugman links to makes the point pretty well, just not in the way Paul wants it to be made.

Now the big caveat: Yes, US fisheries seem to be recovering. But that’s not true for much of the rest of the world. And, given that the United States imports around 91 percent of its seafood, this is a pretty crucial caveat.

All told, the best-managed fisheries around the world — the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Norway, Iceland — only make up about 16 percent of the global catch, according to a recent paper in Marine Pollution Bulletin by Tony Pitcher and William Cheung of the University of British Columbia.

By contrast, more than 80 percent of the world’s fish are caught in the rest of the world, in places like Asia and Africa — where rules are often less strict. The data here is fairly patchy, but the paper notes that many of these nations are less likely to follow the UN’s Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries, and there’s evidence that “serious depletions” may be occurring…

In other words, overfishing, like climate change, is a global problem that the US can’t fix on its own. Our fish stocks are rebounding, and our carbon emissions are falling, but much of the rest of the world is moving in the wrong direction on both issues.

The full post is here.

From a set of national chains, liberals most favored (in relative terms) California Pizza Kitchen.

Conservatives favored Cracker Barrel and Papa Murphy’s and Marie Callender’s and Hooter’s.

For fast food outlets there is a big liberal margin in favor of Chipotle, Boston Chicken, Qdoba, and most of all Au Bon Pain.

There is more here.

Parisian notes

by on May 5, 2014 at 3:32 am in Food and Drink, Travel | Permalink

By this point most of the Right Bank is mind-numbingly oppressive.  I discovered the upper part of Marais, however, and fell in love with (parts of) Paris once again.  Start on or near Rue Vertbois, explore the small streets, and end up in the food stores of Rue Bretagne, stopping many times along the way.

I’ve mostly seceded from the restaurant scene here, instead preferring to buy foodstuffs in the small shops.  I just spent seven dollars for three (excellent) artichokes.

I know exactly how long an unrefrigerated crottin can stay good in a French hotel room.

Overall, what I am seeing more of is bagel shops and e-cigarette stores.  The stand-alone fromagerie is increasingly difficult to find.

There is a separate art to ordering in Indian restaurants in Paris.  Focus on the salmon and spinach, mostly unadorned.

For the first time ever I enjoyed gazing at the Mona Lisa.

Introducing Japan’s Moomin Cafe, which seats those who are dining alone with large stuffed animals to keep them company.

Moomin Cafe is a theme restaurant, based on a series of Finnish picture books about a family of hippopotamus-like creatures.


At the link you also will find interesting pictures of the food.  For the pointer I thank R.H. and also Jeffrey Lessard.

By the way, here is a parable about the “Hello Kitty” craze in Singapore.

Chengdu bleg

by on April 27, 2014 at 10:33 pm in Food and Drink, Travel | Permalink

After Shanghai, I will be in Chengdu.  What should I do? Thanks!

That is a Sardinian restaurant in San Francisco, and it was my pick from the San Francsico dining bleg from last week.  I recommend it highly, focus on the appetizers and the pastas (uni!), as the meat dishes are less interesting.

Much of the table talk was on whether the true function of universities is to expose us to a wide array of vivid role models, so we could reject most of them and accept a few, thereby giving us a motivated path forward in life.  One implication of this is that (lower-level) university athletics might be undervalued, because coaches and even fellow athletes can serve as useful role models in a way that most professors cannot.  The question also arises whether we might have more efficient ways of exposing people to vivid role models than through college or university attendance.  The “so many professors” approach of the university seems stifling and inefficient, not to mention lacking in diversity, once you view the question in these terms.

Is there such a thing as a “professional role model”?  That would mean a person who hasn’t done very much but somehow reflects a lot of positive qualities and can inspire others.  Or is that a contradiction in terms?  Must the role model have actually done something significant?  I believe that professional role models are possible and indeed they exist right now, even if they are not labeled as such.

Is the main function of role models to be accepted and emulated, or to be rejected?  Do not underrate the latter possibility.

Shanghai bleg

by on April 20, 2014 at 3:17 pm in Food and Drink, Travel | Permalink

Other than the obvious things I would see in a guidebook, what should I do and where should I eat?  I thank you all in advance for your assistance.

That is the new and excellent book by Dan Jurafsky, due out this September, and I found it interesting throughout.  Here is just one bit:

In fact, the more Yelp reviewers mention dessert, the more they like the restaurant.  Reviewers who don’t mention a dessert give the restaurants an average review score of 3.6 (out of 5).  But reviewers who mention a dessert in their review give a higher average review score, 3.9 out of 5.  And when people do talk about dessert, the more times they mention dessert in the review, the higher the rating they give to the restaurant.

This positivity of reviews, filled with metaphors of sex and dessert, turns out to be astonishingly strong.

That is another reason not to trust customer-generated restaurant reviews.

And how exactly do Americans conceive of dessert?

Americans usually describe desserts as soft or dripping wet…US commercials emphasize tender, gooey, rich, creamy food, and associate softness and dripping sweetness with sensual hedonism and pleasure.

This association between soft, sticky things and pleasure isn’t a necessary connection.  For example, Strauss found that Korean food commercials emphasize hard, textually stimulating food, using words like wulthung pwulthung hata (solid and bumpy), coalis hata (stinging, stimulating), thok ssota (stinging), and elelhata (spicy to the extent one’s nerves are numbed).

How can you resist a book with sentences such as these?

The pasta and the almond pastry traditions merged in Sicily, resulting in foods with characteristics of both.

Here is a previous MR post on Jurafsky, including a link to his blog, and concerning “Claims about potato chips.”

A restaurant with three Michelin stars is now trying to up its customer service game by Googling its customers before they arrive. According to a report from Grub Street, an Eleven Madison Park maitre d’ performs Internet recon on every guest in the interest of customizing their experiences.

The maitre d’ in question, Justin Roller, says he tries to ascertain things like whether a couple is coming to the restaurant for an anniversary, and if so, which anniversary that is. If it’s a birthday, for instance, he wants to wish them “Happy Birthday” when they arrive. He’ll scan for photos of the guests in chef’s whites or posed with wine glasses, which suggest they might be chefs or sommeliers themselves.

It goes deeper: if a particular guest appears to hail from Montana, Roller will try to pair up the table with a server who is from Montana. “Same goes for guests who own jazz clubs, who can be paired with a sommelier that happens to be into jazz,” writes Grub Street.

Obviously, the restaurant is just trying to be better in tune with the people sitting around eating its food and drinking its wine. But it seems like a reasonable assumption to believe people posting their birthday dates online aren’t doing so in the hopes that someone they’ve never met before will know, as if by telepathy, to wish them the best on their special day.

There is a bit more here, and for the pointer I thank Donnie Hall.

I am now curious what they would do for me.  Any ideas?

Addendum: Here is what happens if you buy a scale on Amazon.

Mexico City Recommendations

by on April 11, 2014 at 11:41 am in Food and Drink, Travel | Permalink

I will be in Mexico City next week (con la familia). Recommendations and suggestions welcome!

There is yet another paper on this topic, I know you are weary of it, but I remain glued to the screen, so here goes:

Stock theft is an endemic crime particularly affecting deep rural areas of Pakistan. Analysis of a series of cases was conducted to describe features of herds and farmers who have been the victims of cattle and/buffalo theft in various villages of Punjab in Pakistan during the year 2012. A structured interview was administered to a sample of fifty three affected farmers. The following were the important findings: i) incidents of theft were more amongst small scale farmers, ii) the rate of repeat victimization was high, iii) stealing was the most common modus operandi, iv) the majority of animals were adult, having high sale values, v) more cases occurred during nights with crescent moon, vi) only a proportion of victims stated to have the incident reported to the police, vii) many farmers had a history of making compensation agreements with thieves, viii) foot tracking failed in the majority of the cases, ix) all the respondents were willing to invest in radio frequency identification devices and advocated revision of existing laws. The study has implications for policy makers and proposes a relationship between crime science and veterinary medicine.

The link is here, and for the pointer I thank Ben Southwood.  This is in fact a significant and understudied topic in development economics, namely small-scale predation in rural settings.

Not surprisingly, that piece appeared in the Berliner und Münchener tierärztliche Wochenschrift.

It should be in a Tyler Cowen sort of place.  Probably not in the center of town, but still in SF proper.  Where should I go?

Thank you for your suggestions.