A bit of this, a bit of that, from grain exports to bakers, from chicken to chillies, but not for school lunches.
Last issue, you may remember, I linked to an excellent bit of investigative reporting that revealed just how much of Ukraine’s grain Russia had stolen. Slightly happier news this time, as The Guardian reports that Ukraine exported a daily record last week. At least 12 ships carried 354,500 tonnes of grain from Ukranian ports last Monday, among them ships chartered by the World Food Program to carry wheat to relieve the famine in Ethiopia.
I had high hopes for an article on the dirty secret behind London’s fried chicken. I was disappointed. Isn’t it obvious that if you’re paying £4.50 for two pieces of fried chicken, some chips and a can of Pepsi, someone, somewhere, is cutting corners? To discover that most chicken shops won’t talk about their suppliers, and that the few that will all use the same supplier because they are “the cheapest around. A whole chicken cut into nine parts costs £3.49” is hardly a huge surprise. I confess, I’ve never been a huge fan of fried chicken from the sorts of places mentioned in the article. Too risk-averse. But then, I’ve also never been a fan of being out on the razzle at two in the morning looking for something cheap and cheerful to scarf. As one of the commenters said, “just go home and have a piece of toast instead”. Or, if you can wait just a little longer, spaghetti aglio, olio e pepperoncino.
There’s no accounting for ignorance. Glyn Hughes’ Foods of England Project is news to me, but possibly not to many of you. Currently I have no intention of cooking Busbayne, as suggested by the Magic Menu feature, but it is nice to know that the receipt is there should I ever feel the urge.
Alas, Foods of England includes nothing about Mr Seymour Tremenheere. I asked because Patricia Bixler Reber at Researching Food History recently offered some choice extracts from an 1863 article on a report he conducted into bakers and baking in London, commissioned by the Secretary of State for the Home Department. The original article is worth reading, not least for the scorn it heaps on Mr Tremenheere’s “scant” recommendations and the likelihood that they would amount to anything.
When higher atmospheric carbon dioxide levels and the climate change that precipitated started to seriously worry people, a few optimistic souls tried to look on the bright side, researching the positive impact of additional CO2 on plant productivity. I know the world has not moved much beyond such Pollyanna dreams, but in the week of COP27, I have to link to this beauty: scientists in Boston used the CO2 breathed out by students (and, presumably, lecturers) to quadruple the growth of spinach in a rooftop farm. Anthropocene magazine outlines the results of a research paper in which classroom air flowed over corn and spinach plants on the building roof. Corn didn’t do as well — a mere 2–3 fold increase — compared to spinach’s 4-fold increase. On the basis of which the authors conclude:
Enhancing growth in rooftop farms using indoor air would help increase yield and help crops survive harsh conditions, which would make their installation in cities more feasible.
Fair point. But how about we reduce global emissions, and fast?
The Plant Humanities Lab at Dumbarton Oaks apparently features the chilli pepper as its plant of the month this month, but as I cannot find a link there, I’m sending you to the version syndicated to JSTOR Daily. It’s a bit of a once-over-lightly, with little new for any reasonably well-informed chilli-head. While I’m carping, although the article says the seeds of wild chillies are spread by birds, it doesn’t mention any potential evolutionary advantage offered by capsaicin, the source of the heat. Clearly birds aren’t put off by it and humans can come to like it, but what is it actually for?
Ten days ago I had the opportunity to taste test Carolina Reaper, supposedly the hottest chili known, in Budapest. That’s it being sliced in the photo. It was … hot.
Last week’s episode focussed on nutrition for children, with school lunches being a crucial element in helping children to eat well. So of course I noticed a ballot initiative in Colorado, which aims to give every child in the state free school meals. If the proposition passes, Colorado will join California and Maine in offering free school meals. In the early years of the Covid pandemic, federal aid allowed most children to enjoy free school meals, but that support ended this past summer. The result was a 40% drop in the number of children who ate for free. The proposition aims to restore funding for school meals and will be paid for by a tax increase on wealthier taxpayers. No news on whether the free meals that Colorado plans to provide will also offer better nutrition.