Results for “food”
1835 found

Animals suffer under food nationalism

The more than 6,000 animals in Russia’s largest zoo have been caught up in the worst fight between Russia and the West since the Cold War. A wide-ranging ban on Western food announced this week by the Kremlin has forced a sudden diet change for creatures that eat newly forbidden fruit.

The sanctions against meat, fish, fruits and vegetables from the United States, the European Union and other Western countries were intended to strike a counterblow to nations that have hit Russia over its role in Ukraine’s roiling insurgency. But the measures will also have an impact on stomachs at the zoo.

The sea lions crack open Norwegian shellfish. The cranes peck at Latvian herring. The orangutans snack on Dutch bell peppers. Now the venerable Moscow Zoo needs to find politically acceptable substitutes to satisfy finicky animal palates.

“They don’t like Russian food,” zoo spokeswoman Anna Kachurovskaya said. “They’re extremely attached to what they like, so it’s a hard question for us.

The penguins still live in a Cobdenite world:

The penguins eat fish from Argentina — whose food sales to Russia have not been blocked and are politically in the clear.

But the Ramsey rules are relevant for some of the primates:

Orangutans, gorillas and monkeys are particularly finicky eaters at the zoo, but Kachurovskaya said they would eventually adapt.

“In the wild, they eat what they have, not what they want,” she said.

The story is here.

Ian Bremmer on Ukraine, and an observation on Putin’s food import ban

Putin’s Plan A: Long game, squeeze Ukraine, force deep federation, formalize Russian influence & primacy in SE

Plan B: Invade

The link to that tweet is here.  There is more from Ian here.

I find it worrying that Putin is suspending food imports from parts of the West.  (Note that the text of the ban may be deliberately ambiguous.)  Commentators are criticizing the economics of such a move, but I think of this more in terms of Bayesian inference.  Long-term elasticities are greater than short.  Under the more pessimistic reading of the action, Putin is signaling to the Russian economy that it needs to get used to some fairly serious conditions of siege, and food is of course the most important of all commodities.  Why initiate such a move now if you are expecting decades of peace and harmony?  Or is Putin instead trying to signal to the outside world that he is signaling “siege” to his own economy?  Then it may all just be part of a larger bluff.  In any case, Eastern Europeans do not take food supply for granted.

China fact of the day, or why Chinese food will decline in quality (and rise in safety)

In the United States, at least 70 percent of all the food we eat each year passes through a cold chain. By contrast, in China, less than a quarter of the country’s meat supply is slaughtered, transported, stored or sold under refrigeration. The equivalent number for fruit and vegetables is just 5 percent.

The article has other points of interest, an excellent piece by Nicola Twilley.

The new French food regulations (“fait maison”) are poorly designed

Elaine Sciolino is pretty critical.  She writes:

A new consumer protection law meant to inform diners whether their meals are freshly prepared in the kitchen or fabricated somewhere off-site is comprehensive, precise, well intentioned — and, to hear the complaints about it, half-baked.

Public decree No. 2014-797, drafted and passed by the French Parliament and approved by the prime minister, went into effect last week. It allows restaurateurs to use the logo if they have resisted the increasing temptation to buy ready-made dishes from industrial producers, pop them in the microwave and pass them off as culinary artistry.

It doesn’t seem to be working to encourage quality:

French fries, for instance, can bear the “fait maison” symbol if they are precut somewhere else, but not if they are frozen. Participating chefs are allowed to buy a ready-made pâte feuilletée, a difficult-to-make, multilayered puff pastry, but pâte brise, a rich pastry dough used to make flaky tart shells, has to be made on-site. Cured sausages and smoked hams are acceptable, while ready-made terrines and pâtés are not.

…Périco Légasse, a food critic for the weekly magazine Marianne, wrote: “ ‘Homemade’ doesn’t mean freshly made. A dish totally prepared with frozen products, even if they come from a Romanian slaughterhouse, can enjoy this happy distinction as it was cooked on-site.”

Mark Bittman piles on.  I would stress there is no substitute for consumers who demand the right kind of food and who otherwise won’t buy it.

How to find good food in Chengdu

1. Many people in Chengdu are experts on the local food scene.  Recruit one of them, but don’t be shocked if they insist on paying for your meal every time.

2. Go downtown to the Crowne Plaza hotel, walk out on the main road to your left, and within two minutes you will see on your left a “TangSong food street” — a covered food court about twenty-five small Sichuan places.  There is a sushi place too but I saw the customers dipping their sushi rolls in hot red chili oil.  It is heartwarming to walk into such a culinary universe.

2b. Within this court my favorite place is labeled “1862 History,” you might spot the small print, in any case the place looks spare and is somewhat larger than the very small venues.

3. MaPo tofu is much finer here, and the black peppers and quality vinegars are to be appreciated.

4. Sichuan chili chicken and Dan Dan noodles are two of my favorite Sichuan dishes back home.  Here they have been good, but actually slightly disappointing relative to expectations.  Don’t obsess over those during your quest.

4b. There are two philosophies of international trade.  In one philosophy, the best dishes are the best dishes and so you should order them at home and also order them abroad in their countries of origin.  In the second philosophy, it is the most exportable dishes which get exported but they are not in general the best dishes period.  When abroad you therefore should try out the dishes you cannot find at home.  For Chengdu at least, this second philosophy is the correct one as Jacob Viner had hinted way back in the mid-1930s.

5. Often the most interesting dishes are the accompanying vegetables.  For instance at a hot pot restaurant I had excellent elongated yam cubes coated in a (slightly sweet) blueberry sauce and stacked ever so perfectly.  It was the ideal offset to the hotness and tingle of the core dishes.  At another restaurant I most enjoyed some simple greens dipped in a sesame soy sauce.  Or try potato or lotus root in hot pot.

6. Unless you go to great lengths to avoid this fate, you will end up eating strange parts of the animal.  You won’t like all of them, but you won’t dislike all of them either.

6b. If you utter “Ma La” with conviction, they will think you are remarkably sophisticated or perhaps even fluent in Chinese.  The populace here seems unaware that some version of real Sichuan food is now reasonably popular in the United States.

7. Many menus have photos, but they show lots of red and are not useful for identifying exactly what you will be eating.  See #6.

8. There are two areas — Jin Li and Wenshu Fang — where old buildings and streets are recreated and you can stroll in a kind of outdoor shopping mall.  Everyone goes to these locales and they are fun.  These neighborhoods are good for finding lots of takeaway Sichuan snacks, including desserts, in a single area, and served in sanitary conditions.  That said, I don’t think these are the very best Sichuan goodies to be had in town, as they are designed explicitly for tourists, albeit food-loving Chinese tourists.

9.   “Chengdu food” and “Sichuan food” are not the same thing.  Sichuan province has more people than France, and Chengdu is simply one large city, and so your favorite Sichuan dish may not be a staple here.  The town also has a fair amount of Tibetan food, though I haven’t tried any.

10. If you leave Chengdu confused as to exactly where and what you ate, you probably had a very good food trip.

*The Language of Food: A Linguist Reads the Menu*

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.”

Should you scorn seafood in the American Midwest?

Bruce Arthur, a loyal MR reader, writes to me:

I grew up in a Polish immigrant neighborhood in Chicago, where I was raised on a diet high in seafood. My mother was raised close to the Baltic Sea and we weekly went to the local grocery store and bought a lot of salmon, halibut, sea bass, and scallops. I thought it was absolutely delicious. Sometimes we went to local ethnic grocery stores (generally Italian, the Italians had lived in the neighborhood before the Poles came and still ran a lot of businesses) and bought fish that was whole rather than filleted.

When I went off to college, I encountered people from the East Coast for the first time in my life, and I was shocked to learn that they did not believe that good seafood could possibly exist far away from an ocean coast. They would say things like “I would never eat fish in the Midwest, I wouldn’t trust it!’, which, as an 18 year old who was very much alive after eating a lot of fish in the Midwest, I found absurd.

After all, I thought, isn’t most seafood globally sourced these days? Few of our common food fishes are actually native to the Atlantic Coast, and if you’re flying fish in from the Pacific Northwest, South America, or Oceania, it seems to me that it should be least fresh on the East Coast, which is the part of America furthest away from where these fish are actually caught.

Of course, there could be other factors. Perhaps fish is freshest not closest to the ocean, but in denser areas – if everything is closer together, the places where fish is bought and eaten are presumably closer to the site of its first arrival in the area. Perhaps there’s a cultural factor: fish wasn’t always globally sourced, so perhaps coastal areas have more fish tradition that results in a higher quality of food. But surely the historic high rate of movement within (and into) America weakens that effect.

Anyway, I’m wondering if you have any insight into this. Am I right to scoff at regional seafood snobs, or do they have a point?

The more important reality is that hardly any regions in the United States have good indigenous seafood these days and thus no relative snobbery is justified.  Maine lobster or catfish in parts of the south might be exceptions, and in neither case does the Alchian and Allen theorem hold (i.e., the highest quality goods remain those closest to the source).

In general regional demand effects are strong, as I argue in An Economist Gets Lunch.  People outside of southern Ohio don’t understand good Cincinnati chili and so they don’t get it.  The ingredients can in fact be transferred to North Carolina but they aren’t, least of all with the proper applications.  A lot of good Sichuan dishes can be reproduced reasonably well in the United States, but you don’t get them until the properly demanding clientele is in place (by the way Gourmet Kingdom in Carrboro, NC is excellent).  Who amongst us is a properly demanding judge of asam laksa?  And so on.  One interesting feature of these equilibria is that regional mobility does not seem to undo them.  If you move to southern Ohio, you can rather rapidly become a standard bearer of good taste in chili, but you slack off once you are back in northern Virginia.

Do Americans prefer hand-held foods?

Abigail Carroll opines:

Are there any dishes or foods that you would classify as typically, or even exclusively, “American?”

A number of iconic foods—hot dogs and hamburgers, snack food—are hand-held. They’re novelties associated with entertainment. These are the kinds of food you eat at the ballpark, buy at a fair and eventually eat in your home. I think that there is a pattern there of iconic foods being quick and hand-held that speaks to the pace of American life, and also speaks to freedom. You’re free from the injunctions of Victorian manners and having to eat with a fork and knife and hold them properly, sit at the table and sit up straight and have your napkin properly placed. These foods shirk all that. There’s a sense of independence and a celebration of childhood in some of those foods, and we value that informality, the freedom and the fun that is associated with them.

The interview is in general interesting on the history of American food.  I have just ordered her new book Three Squares: The Invention of the American Meal.

“But we just had Indian food yesterday!”

I’ve never understood this argument, which is sometimes cited as a reason to go to a non-Indian restaurant on a given day.  How should people cope who live in India?  They have Indian food many, many days in a row, and often (not always, by any means) poorer Indians are choosing from a less varied menu of that food than Americans who visit Indian restaurants.  Would it be so terrible to eat only Indian food, whether at home or in restaurants, every day for a week?  Every day for a month?  I don”t see why.  So how about two days in a row?  Or two meals in a row?  Three?  What if you had Indo-Chinese food somewhere in the middle of the sequence?  Momos cooked by Nepalese immigrants?

Until a group meal yesterday, I had Korean food five days in a row, three meals a day, much to my joy.  I bet some Koreans, in Korea, did the same.

From the comments, on the economics of food stamps

In response to my earlier food stamps post, here is Brian Donahue:


Economic conditions have been improving, grudingly, for three years now. But between October 2010 and October 2013, the cost of the program has risen 25%. I understand the concept of ‘countercyclical stabilizers’. This is something else. The idea of a 10% cut in this context…ok.

Food stamps aren’t being singled out here. Just because entitlement reform is paralyzingly hard, it doesn’t mean we don’t keep moving on the other stuff. Summing up 2013: fiscal cliff tax increases on rich, medicare investment tax on the rich, ending payroll tax holiday, sequester (half defense.) Republicans are playing ball – at some point along the way, food stamps get a look. If a 10% cut here is a sacred cow, we’re not close to having the stomach for the real fights to come.

And here is PLW:

Explaining the Rs food stamp focus is a little more complicated. First of all, labeling the House nutrition title of the Farm Bill as “going after” the program seems unfair. The House food stamp proposals include uncoupling categorical eligibility for food stamps with receipt of a trivial non-cash TANF benefit (a technique used by many states to waive all asset requirements for food stamps and raise the net income test to twice the poverty line), getting rid of a loophole (i.e., “LIHEAP loophole”) that a small number of states in the (primarily in the Northeast) use to artificially reduce the net income of food stamp beneficiaries in order to raise their level of benefits, and taking away the Secretary of USDA’s work requirement waiver authority for non-disabled adults without dependents.

Second (and this is where it gets complicated), many of the policies that the Rs are pushing in the context of the Farm Bill are going after policies that were put in place as direct result or an unintended consequence of other R policies. For instance, the coupling of categorical eligibility to non-TANF cash benefits is the result of the 1996 welfare reforms which ended AFDC (how one used to become categorically eligible for food stamps) in replace of a much less clear TANF benefit (rather than cash linked to AFDC, one might receive a service in the form of a 1-800 hotline for pregnancy prevention linked to TANF), but continued to bestow eligibility for food stamps to the recipients of AFDC’s successor. At the same time, the 2002 Farm Bill streamlined eligibility by creating a number of state options for food stamps with the intention of pacifying the states who were getting penalized for having high food stamp error rates (those same error rates the USDA now brags about) as the result of having more food stamp participants with earned income as the result of the 1996 welfare reforms (i.e., administratively, it’s more difficult to assign benefits to people with earned income rather than unearned income… especially if those low-income people are in and out of work through the course of a month).

The food stamps program

In an ideal policy world, would food stamps exist as a program separate from cash transfers?  Probably not.  But as it stands today, they are still one of the more efficient programs of the welfare state and the means-testing seems to work relatively well.  And giving people food stamps — since almost everyone buys food — is almost as flexible as giving them cash.  It doesn’t make sense to go after food stamps, and you can read the recent GOP push here as a sign of weakness, namely that they, beyond upholding the sequester, are unwilling to tackle the more important and more wasteful targets, including Medicare and also defense spending, not to mention farm subsidies.  Here are a few basic numbers on when food stamps have grown and what has driven that growth.  It has not become a “problem program” in the way that say disability has.

The Japanese food transition

1. Peak “buckwheat noodle” came in 1914.

2. Peak horse meat came in the 1960s.

3. Peak whale meat came in 2005-2006, although some of that supply was frozen and has not yet been consumed.

4. The consumption of vegetables has been broadly constant for decades.

5. Yearly per capita pork consumption has risen from 1.1 kg in 1960 to 11.7 kg in 2008.  During the 1960s, the consumption of chicken meat nearly quintupled.

6. In 1876, per capita sake consumption was 17 liters per capita, which was very high for Japanese income at the time.  You can compare that to America’s 7 liters of ethanol per drinking age person in 1870.

7. Land area under cultivation peaked in 1921.  The United States and China, however, cultivated more land in 2000 than they did in 1900.

8. Japan’s paddy fields peaked in 1969.

9. In 2006 Japanese meat consumption edged out fish consumption for the first time.

All of those estimates are from a very interesting book by Vaclav Smil and Kazuhiko Kobayashi, Japan’s Dietary Transition and Its Impacts.

What is the least known, great food pilgrimage in the United States?

Could it be Hmong Village, 1001 Jackson Parkway, in north St. Paul?

It is a large indoor market, set in a warehouse, Hmong stores and stalls only, a kind of Eden Center (for those of you who know Falls Church, VA) for Laotians.  The produce and spice and bark sections are amazing.  Along one wall of the warehouse are about fifteen small restaurants, barely more than stalls, mostly Hmong in their cooking but two served authentic-looking Thai food.

Based on visual inspection of the options, we dined at Houaphanh Kitchen, which was superb, don’t forget the dipping sauces.  And I hope you like purple sticky rice.  The other places did not look much worse and there were many more dishes I wanted to sample.  Overall entrees ran in the $4 to $6 range.  Highly recommended.

Here is some discussion, with good photos.  Here are some useful Yelp reviews.

Indian food price inflation

Vegetable prices in India spiked 46.59% in July year over year, another ugly bullet point in the country’s persistent struggle with massive food inflation.

The longer story is here.

Last week an Indian truck was hijacked for its forty tons of onions.  Here are Brendan Greeley and Kartik Goyal on India’s onion price crisis.

By the way, the falling rupee is not helping India’s export performance.  The rupee is also creating planning horizon problems for Indian corporations.