Another round-up of food-related stuff that I think you may find interesting.
Some spurtle thoughts, after last week’s episode. I asked another physicist, who specialises in fluid dynamics, what he thought might be behind the claims that the spurtle is a superior stirring implement. “I have a working, testable hypothesis,” he replied. “If I had some worthy porridge, I could test said hypothesis.” So that’s one thing I need to put on my packing list for our holiday in December. I promise to report back.
And then Tom, who moved to Edinburgh from England three years ago, told me that although he was once a “spurtle sceptic,” he has discovered a reason to prefer a spurtle.
“Used correctly it stops porridge sticking to the bottom of a hot pan much more conveniently and effectively than a wooden spoon – and well enough that I never want to be without one.”
I asked for more details.
“By exerting a small amount of downward pressure as you stir [you can] squeeze/smear away the thicker, gummy layers that tend to accumulate at the base of the pot with the tip (i.e. small surface area) of the spurtle’s curved end.”
I pointed out that a spoon would have a larger area of contact with the bottom of the pan, but Tom says he finds it easier with a spurtle than with a spoon. And it makes the washing up a lot easier too.
I’m still not entirely convinced.
As for the World Porridge Making Championships this past weekend, Nick Barnard took the speciality prize with a Maple Pecan Porridge that included Rude Health oatmeal (Nick founded Rude Health, and won the speciality award before, in 2013), pecans from Roux Farm in South Africa and Guernsey Cream from Hurdlebrook Farm in Somerset.
The Golden Spurtle itself goes to the maker of the best porridge from nothing but oats, water and salt. That went to Lisa Williams from Suffolk in England. The secret of her success: “keep stirring”. Unfortunately, the one report I read didn’t say whether she uses a spurtle at home.
(Photos by James Ross)
This is a bit of a surprise. After studying global diets and their impact on the environment, including the climate, a bunch of scientists (some of whom have appeared on the podcast. Twice) have come up with a set of 13 key messages. There’s a handy-dandy summary which includes a link to the full research report. I was particularly taken by this bit of good sense:
People fall short of, or overshoot, a basic healthy diet in different ways. Some food groups, such as wholegrain cereals, vegetables, fruit and nuts, should be eaten in greater quantities by almost everybody. For other food groups, such as animal products, many poorer people, especially women and children, would benefit from increased consumption. But for most wealthy consumers, substantial decreases in intake are needed to deliver benefits, particularly for climate.
Extra points for including Bee Wilson on the team.
Those key messages tell us what needs to be done, but not how to do it. Take the idea that wealthy consumers should eat less meat. Simply offering an extra vegetarian dish, from one in four to two in four, reduced meat consumption without affecting overall food sales.
That result emerges from a massive study of Cambridge colleges, which also showed that meat-eaters had no tendency to prefer meat in the evening when they had chosen vegetarian at lunchtime. University cafeterias (which are separate from the colleges) also offered more vegetarian options, and reported “a 33% reduction in carbon emissions per kilogram of food purchased, and a 28% reduction in land use per kilogram of food purchased, as a result of the changes.”
The one flaw I can see is “the removal of beef and lamb, the biggest contributors to meat-related greenhouse gas”. If you know of a more delicious way of turning grass into food than a lamb, do please let me know.
I often link to Marion Nestle’s website, becuase she often says things that are interesting (and that I agree with). She gets a lot of flak from industry for pointing out that industry-funded research almost always comes up with results that suit the industry doing the funding. Kudos, then, to an industry newsletter that bothered to have a conversation with Marion Nestle when she took issue with yet another industry-funded study. Here’s the resulting article.
The United States is “drowning in eggs”. Supply, meet demand.
The United Kingdom might soon be drowning in rotten fruit and veg.
While I was worrying about World Porridge Day, the Irish were celebrating National Potato Day, not least with a partially delicious 7 things you probably didn’t know about the humble spud. Mini-rant: Why are spuds always “humble”? In my biassed opinion, potatoes are one of the most delicious, nutritious and all-around good foods on the face of the Earth. Of course, they can also be the basis for utter rubbish, but that’s our fault, not the potato’s.
That’s all for now. Keep your spurtle thoughts coming.