Category: Food and Drink
The NYTimes has an excellent feature on genetically modified crops, written by Danny Hakim joined by Karl Russell on data. The usual story is about a battle between fears of contamination on one side and the potential of increased yields on the other but the Times story is about how genetically modified crops have failed to increase yields or reduce pesticide use. This has been discussed in the scientific literature for a few years (e.g. here) and Tom Philpott at Mother Jones has covered the story earlier but the Times story really brings it home in a dramatic way. The graphics are especially good.
Here’s one graph showing corn crop yields in the United States, which uses GMOs, and Western Europe which does not. See the difference?
Addendum: Some good further discussion here, h/t ant1900 in the comments.
The case set off morbid curiosity and made national headlines after Ms. Wongso was arrested in late January, three weeks after she and Ms. Salihin, both graphic designers, met with another friend at Olivier, the cafe, inside Indonesia’s largest upscale shopping mall.
Intrigued residents have flocked to the restaurant to sit in the booth where Ms. Salihin was poisoned, and to order the iced Vietnamese coffee that was the last thing she drank. The restaurant regularly runs out of the brew.
Here is the full NYT story. Can you use this as a classroom example of how the demand curve shifts out? And here is another way to firm up demand (NYT): “They have connections to more money than any of the galleries anyway…” — get the picture? The article is interesting throughout.
They cost $11 a piece and come in boxes of 5:
In an attempt to create a special snack to go with their high quality beer, Sweetish brewery St. Erik’s has created the world’s most expensive potato chips.
Apparently, St. Erik’s didn’t think Lays or Pringles chips were good enough to pair with their ale, so they decided to create their own exclusive snack and price it accordingly. “St. Erik’s Brewery is one of Sweden’s leading microbreweries and we’re passionate about the craftsmanship that goes into our beer. At the same time, we felt that we were missing a snack of the same status to serve with it,” brand manager Marcus Friari said in a statement. “A first-class beer deserves a first-class snack, and this is why we made a major effort to produce the world’s most exclusive potato chips. We’re incredibly proud to be able to present such a crispy outcome.”
The luxurious black box designed by St. Erik’s contains just five individual potato chips, each made by hand by a chef, using five special Nordic ingredients – Matsutake mushroom picked from pine forests in northern Sweden, truffle seaweed from the waters around the Faroe Islands, Crown Dill hand-picked on the Bjäre Peninsula, Leksand Onion grown on the outskirt of the small Swedish town of Leksand and India Pale Ale Wort, the same kind used to make St. Erik’s Pale Ale beer.
The potatoes themselves, are also special. They apparently come “from the potato hillside in Ammarnäs, a steep, stony slope in a south-facing location where almond potatoes are cultivated in very limited numbers. The slope is difficult for modern agricultural machines to access, which means that all potatoes are planted and harvested by hand.”
The first batch sold out almost immediately, and it is unclear when more will be produced.
I’ll be interviewing Mark soon, at a private venue, no public event, but for eventual release in the Conversations with Tyler series. Here is a short bio of Mark. He is credited as being the founder of modern Southwestern cuisine, and he was the driving force behind Coyote Cafe in Santa Fe and Red Sage in Washington, D.C. He has written numerous books on food, including the very best books on chilies. He is a supertaster, and more generally one of the world’s great food minds and a truly curious and generous soul. He also has a background in anthropology, cooked for Chez Panisse in its early days, and is one of the best-traveled people I know. Do you want to know what is/was special about chiles in Syria, or how many varieties of soy sauce you can find in one part of Hokkaido? Mark is the guy to ask.
So what should I ask him?
Kevin Grier lets loose at Cherokee Gothic:
People! Check out this quote,
“Michael Gapen, chief U.S. economist at Barclays Plc in New York, said Fischer’s comments “reflect an ongoing divergence of opinion” at the central bank. Fischer “doesn’t see much room for running the economy hot” while Yellen’s views “seem to provide a wide-open door to do that. You have a chair and a vice chair who see policy differently right now,” he said.”
After the events of the great recession, it’s just amazing to me that people think the economy is a steak, the Fed is a precision sous-vide machine, and all we have to decide is medium-rare or well-done.
For the millionth or so time, the models implying the Fed can do this, completely and utterly failed during the great recession. There is also evidence that a large part of the good outcomes credited to the Fed during the great moderation were actually due to exogenous forces (i.e. good luck).
Neither the Fed nor the President “runs” the economy. There is no stable, exploitable Phillips Curve / sous vide machine that lets us cook at a certain temperature.
This Fed worship is more religious than scientific. The past 10 years should be enough to convince anyone with an open mind that the Fed’s power over the economy is quite limited and tenuous.
But I guess it’s comforting to think that the little old lady behind the curtain can fix things for us.
She can’t, Stan Fischer can’t, Bernanke couldn’t. Maybe the sous vide machine is unplugged?
Yup, whatever your prior was, after the events of the Great Recession, you should surely downgrade your belief that Fed has a lot of control over the economy and yet I see a resurgence of this view despite it being at all odds with the evidence.
In case you have been living under a quiche shop, she has written the very best Chinese cookbooks ever, and her memoir is excellent too.
No, the public chat with Steven Pinker has not been held yet, but I will be recording with Fuchsia soon due to schedule constraints, so I am asking now for question suggestions. There is no public event, as it will be centered around a restaurant meal, with myself and an illustrious panel of interlocutors, including Ezra Klein and Mark Miller, founder of Santa Fe’s Coyote Cafe.
Here is her FT piece on gastro-nihilists and gastro-sexual tension. Here are her scrapbook excerpts. Here is a recent interview.
The plummeting pound is threatening UK households’ supplies of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream and Marmite spread, as Tesco, the country’s biggest supermarket, pulled dozens of products from sale online in a row over who should bear the cost of the weakening currency.
Unilever has demanded steep price increases to offset the higher cost of imported commodities, which are priced in euros and dollars, according to executives at multiple supermarket groups.
But Tesco signalled it would fight the rises, removing Unilever products from its website and warning that some of the items could disappear from shelves if the dispute dragged on. Other supermarkets have warned that they could follow suit.
Here is the full FT story.
Our industrialized food system nourishes more people, at lower cost, than any comparable system in history. It also exerts a terrifyingly massive influence on our health and our environment. Photographer George Steinmetz spent nearly a year traveling the country to capture that system, in all its scope, grandeur and dizzying scale.
That is the introduction to an excellent NYTimes photo essay on farming. I liked this photo showing a machine for dumping cranberries from a truck: simple but awesome.
The very beginning is a little slow, but I thought Ezra was one of the very best guests. The topics include the nature and future of media, including virtual reality, the nature of leadership (including Ezra’s own), how running a project shapes your political views, a wee bit on health care, what he thinks are the Obama and Clinton models of the world, Robert Putnam’s research on the costs of diversity, the proper role of shame in society, animal welfare, and of course Ezra’s underrated and overrated, with takes on Bob Dylan, The Matrix, William F. Buckley, Joe Biden, and more. There is no video but here is the podcast and transcript. Here is one excerpt:
COWEN: …Now Putman, let me ask you about Putnam, and how Putnam relates to Donald Trump. As you know, Robert Putnam at Harvard, he has some work showing that when ethnic diversity goes up that there’s less trust, less cooperation, less social capital.
If you think of yourself in the role of an editor, so you have an American society, diversity has gone up, and a lot of people have reacted to this I would say rather badly — and I think you would agree with me they’ve reacted rather badly — but there’s still a way in which the issue could be framed that while diversity is actually a problem, we can’t handle diversity.
Putnam almost says as such, and do you think there’s currently a language in the media where you have readers who are themselves diverse, where it’s possible not to just be blaming the bigots, but to actually present the positive view, “Look, people are imperfect. A society can only handle so much diversity, and we need to learn this.” What’s your take on that?
KLEIN: I strongly agree. We do not have a language for demographic anxiety that is not a language that is about racism. And we need one. I really believe this, and I believe it’s been a problem, particularly this year. It is clear, the evidence is clear. Donald Trump is not about “economic anxiety.”
COWEN: A bit, but not mainly, I agree.
KLEIN: That said, I think that the way it’s presented is a choice between economic anxiety and racism. And one I don’t think that’s quite right, and two I don’t think that’s a productive way of having that conversation.
COWEN: Why don’t we have that language? Where did it go, or did we ever have it?
COWEN: You see this with Medicaid. A lot of people don’t sign up. They don’t have addresses. You can’t even get them, whatever.
KLEIN: They don’t like doctors. They’re afraid of doctors.
COWEN: This is me.
KLEIN: You’re afraid of doctors?
COWEN: “Afraid” isn’t the word.
KLEIN: Averse. [laughs]
COWEN: Maybe dislike. Averse. [laughs] They should be afraid of me, perhaps.
Definitely recommended. The same dialogue, with a different introduction, is included in The Ezra Klein Show podcast.
That is my latest Bloomberg column, hardly anyone has a consistent and evidence-based view on this deal. Here is one bit:
Critics who dislike Monsanto for its leading role in developing genetically modified organisms and agricultural chemicals shouldn’t also be citing monopoly concerns as a reason to oppose the merger — that combination of views doesn’t make sense. Let’s say for instance that the deal raised the price of GMOs due to monopoly power. Farmers would respond by using those seeds less, and presumably that should be welcome news to GMO opponents.
Yet on the other side:
What does Bayer hope to get for its $66 billion, $128-a-share offer? The company has argued that it will be able to eliminate some duplicated jobs and expenses, negotiate better deals with suppliers and invest more funds in research and development. Maybe, but the broader reality is less cheery. There is a well-known academic literature, dating to the early 1990s, showing that acquiring firms usually decline in value after tender offers, especially after the biggest deals. Mergers do not seem to make companies more valuable or efficient.
The whole Bayer-Monsanto case is a classic example of how a vociferous public debate can disguise or even reverse the true issues at stake. If Bayer fails to close the deal for Monsanto, Bayer shareholders may be the biggest winners. The biggest losers from a failed deal may be its opponents, who will spend the rest of their lives in a world where misguided judgments of corporate popularity have increasing sway over laws and regulations.
Do read the whole thing.
The quality, and popularity, of Sully raises anew the question of why Hollywood doesn’t make more such movies. Which is the scarce input? The script? Yet virtually every Clint Eastwood movie seems to come up with a good script. I suspect “a recognized auteur with bargaining clout” is what is scarce.
Insects are not so scarce, but the marketing is tough:
Aketta grows its crickets in the United States and fills orders on a first come, first serve basis with weekly harvests. The company sells cricket flour and whole-roasted crickets. Flour is made from 100% milled crickets and has a “deep, earthy, umami flavor with hints of raw cocoa.” Sold in small batches of 1 to 1.5 lbs. Order online.
Here are many more insect food sources, but the claim is that the most innovative insect-selling start-ups are in Europe.
This story has scary good photos:
The Bund reached the height of its prominence on February 20, 1939, when some 20,000 members held a “Pro-America Rally” in Madison Square Garden.
Inside, jackbooted Nazi supporters filled the aisles while speakers ranted against President “Frank D. Rosenfeld” and his “Jew Deal.”
Outside, some 80,000 anti-Nazi demonstrators furiously protested the event, clashing with police and attempting to gain entry to the arena and shut it down.
The Bund called George Washington “the first fascist.”
Chileans remain upset at their semi-privatized pension system (NYT), and I say that is now the country to sell short.
Your assistance is humbly requested, noting that the shortness of the trip will prevent any significant excursions outside of the city. Do note I have been there twice, though not in the last nineteen years or so.
I thank you all in advance for your suggestions.
That is from Arlington magazine. When I clicked on the site, the first five articles were about food.
Should you go? I give the place high marks for food and scenery, but the total population of about 48,700 limits other benefits. It is like visiting a smaller, more unspoilt Iceland. There is a shop in the main city selling Faroese music and many shops selling sweaters. They will not tell you where the sweaters were knitted.
The natives seem to think Denmark is an excessively competitive, violent, harsh and hurried place. The norm here is to leave your door unlocked. It is a “self-governing archipelago,” but part of the Kingdom of Denmark. In other words, they get a lot of subsidies.
But they are not part of the EU, so they still sell a lot of salmon — their number one export — to Russia.
You see plenty of pregnant women walking around, and (finally) population is growing, the country has begun to attract notice, and the real estate market is beginning to heat up. But prices remain pretty low, and it would be a great place to buy an additional home, if you do that sort of thing.
In the early 1990s, their central bank did go bankrupt and had to be bailed out by Denmark. It is a currency board arrangement, and insofar as the eurozone moves in that direction, as it seems to be doing by placing Target2 liabilities on the national central banks, a eurozone central bank could become insolvent too, despite all ECB protestations to the contrary.
Every mode of transport is subsidized in the Faroes, including helicopter rides across the islands. Often the bus is free, and there is an extensive network of ferries. I wonder how many population centers there would be otherwise. There is now the notion that all of the communities on the various islands are one single, large “networked city.”
The Faroes are a “food desert” of sorts, with few decent or affordable fruits or vegetables. And not many supermarkets of any kind. Yet the rate of obesity does not seem to be high. And they have a very high rate of literacy with little in the way of bookstores or public libraries.
The seabirds including puffins are a main attraction, but I enjoyed seeing the mammals too, with pride of place going to the pony:
The domestic animals of the Faroe Islands are a result of 1,200 years of isolated breeding. As a result, many of the islands’ domestic animals are found nowhere else in the world. Faroese domestic breed include Faroe pony, Faroe cow, Faroese sheep, Faroese Goose and Faroese duck.
The country receives a great deal of negative publicity for killing whales, but overall they seem to treat animals better than the United States does. Fish consumption is very high and there are no factory farms.
If the Faroes had open borders, but no subsidies for migrants, how many people would settle there?
In 1946 they did their own version of Faerexit, from Denmark of course:
The result of the vote was a narrow majority in favour of secession, but the coalition in parliament could not reach agreement on how this outcome should be interpreted and implemented; and because of these irresoluble differences, the coalition fell apart. A parliamentary election was held a few months later, in which the political parties that favoured staying in the Danish kingdom increased their share of the vote and formed a coalition.
Overall I expect this place to change radically in the next twenty years. It is hard to protect 48,700 people forever. In part, they are killing those whales to keep you away.
I am told KOKS is a Faroese word for “adding something excellent,” though there are varying accounts of the translation. In any case, in terms of originality, purity of concept and vision, execution, service, and also view — taken as an integrated whole — I can’t think of any restaurant experience that comes close to this one. Noma in Copenhagen is a pale memory in contrast, as are the Michelin three-stars in San Sebastian. KOKS is still unspoilt and on the way up, and the guiding star is the very young and extremely personable Poul Andrias Ziska.
It has been written up in the New York Times and Guardian for its innovative take on Faroese cuisine, though both articles are now out of date. The dining room seats only 20, and Ziska is also the pastry chef, with no loss of quality. You’ll find photos and food descriptions on their Facebook page. Here is the shaved horsemussel on dried cod skin:
Here is one recent review:
Its cuisine style is earthy and refined, ancient and modern. Instead of the new, it emphasizes the old (drying, fermenting, pickling, curing and smoking) with a larger goal of returning balance to earth itself. At KOKS, the cuisine is about seasonality, seriously engaging with agriculture and history and of making age-old food delightful to modern palates…
Poul continues to simply enjoy the uniqueness and richness of the Faroe Islands. Fan of ræst, (local preservation method) he supports and defends this technique that captures and boosts flavour.
I can agree with this assessment:
And finally (and I have to say the best dessert I’ve ever had), dulse seaweed served with chocolate crumble, fermented blueberries and dulse mousse. Sweet, a bit tangy, a bit crunchy, silky-smooth on the mouth and simple heavenly. My marathon reward ended on a very special note.
I am willing to go out on a limb here: it is probably the best restaurant in the world right now. It alone justifies a trip to the Faroe Islands.
Addendum: Ethika, also in the Faroes, has some of the best sashimi I’ve eaten, recommended as well.