Month: May 2009

What do they eat in La Gloria?

Of course this Mexican village is known as a possible source for the current bout of swine flu, and also for its proximity to a large Smithfield factory farm, but I feel it ought to be known for something else as well. 

So I consulted my fifty-volume Mexican food compendium, the indispensable Cocina Indigena y Popular.  (Alas I can find only forty-nine of the fifty volumes despite a quest lasting years and I also wonder if more volumes have come out.)  Sadly I had to skip over the tract on Nahua cuisine in northern Veracruz (La Gloria is more southern in the state), and the treatment of Afromestizo cuisine, but El sabor de las plantas de Veracruz proved useful.  Here is one good recipe (translation and interpretation by this author):

Bean soup

Two servings of black beans

One white onion, chopped

2 or 3 leaves of hoja santa; the dried version of these leaves is available in Mexican groceries

"queso fresco" [fresh cheese, but this has a specific meaning and you can find it in the U.S.]

You grind up the beans and onion after cooking them together for a while in some olive oil.  You reheat them, the cheese gets sprinkled on top, and you can make the dish as moist as you wish by adding water.

Serve with tortillas, totopos if possible.  It's one good example of a real Mexican meal.

Can people distinguish pâté from dog food?

The forward march of science continues:

Considering the similarity of its ingredients, canned dog food could be a suitable and inexpensive substitute for pâté or processed blended meat products such as Spam or liverwurst. However, the social stigma associated with the human consumption of pet food makes an unbiased comparison challenging. To prevent bias, Newman's Own dog food was prepared with a food processor to have the texture and appearance of a liver mousse. In a double-blind test, subjects were presented with five unlabeled blended meat products, one of which was the prepared dog food. After ranking the samples on the basis of taste, subjects were challenged to identify which of the five was dog food. Although 72% of subjects ranked the dog food as the worst of the five samples in terms of taste (Newell and MacFarlane multiple comparison, P<0.05), subjects were not better than random at correctly identifying the dog food.

The title of the paper is, appropriately: Can
People Distinguish Pâté from Dog Food?

Restricted purchases as signaling, a proposal from Geoffrey Miller

Geoffrey Miller, in his new book Spent, suggests an intriguing but I think absurd idea:

For example, companies could sell certain products only to consumers who have a certain minimum or maximum score on one or more of the certain Central Six [personality] traits.  Hummer dealers could advertise that the "Party Animal Red Pearl" paint color is available only to customers who score in the top 5 percent for extraversion.  Customers who want to display their unusually high extraversion through that bright red color would have to electronically validate their extraversion score at the dealership before they could sign the purchase agreement.  In this way, Hummer could guarantee that Party Animal Red Pearl becomes a reliable signal of friendliness, self-confidence, and ambition.  Or Lexus could sell the "Mensa Quartz Medallic" color of the LS 460 only to customers whose validated intelligence scores are high enough for them to join Mensa International (IQ 130+ or the top one in fifty).  The more exclusive "Prometheus Glacier Pearl" color could indicate an IQ above 160 (the top one in thirty thousand) — the qualification for joining the Prometheus Society.

But why those proposals are so absurd — that is harder to answer.  What are your thoughts?  Can it be that people ought not to be seen as signaling too purposively?  Maybe, but if so, that would seem to rule out so much — too much — of the marketplace signaling which we in fact observe.