Instead of foraging in the past for inspiration, Mr. Haatuft asked himself a hypothetical question: “If western Norway were a region of France, what would the chefs here brag about?”
His theory is that the prestigious classic cuisine of France is “farm food that was beautified and refined” to suit the tastes and whims of rich people. In Norway, he said, there was never enough wealth to transform food into cuisine. (That changed after oil production began in the North Sea in the 1970s, making modern Norway one of the world’s wealthiest nations.)
Traditional Norwegian food is famously bland, with infinite recombinations of fish, potatoes, flour and milk. But those porridges and dumplings were often spiked with intense tastes like smoked lamb and reindeer, salt-fermented salmon, goat salami and pickled root vegetables. The country has top-quality dairy products, berries that grow sweet in the 18-hour days of summer and complex aged cheeses. Extraordinary fresh seafood is harvested from the cold waters of the North Atlantic and the North Sea, and preserved using time-honored traditions that are just as complex as French charcuterie.
“A French chef here would brag about the smoked mackerel,” he said. “He would clean out the dark parts to make it beautiful. He would add butter to make it rich and smooth, and make the flavor of the ingredient shine.”
That is precisely what Mr. Haatuft does at Lysverket. [continue]
Maple tree seedlings appear all at once here, it seems, through vast swaths of the forest. Usually I spot them on February 11th (a friend’s birthday, so easy to remember) but this year they’re over a month late. At any rate, they’re everywhere now. And they look so much like the sprouts I grow in my kitchen that I wonder if I can add baby maple trees to my salads.
Broad-leaved Maple was not widely used as food, but the Saanich and Cowichan placed the leaves in steaming pits to flavour meat, and according to Barnett (1955), the Vancouver Island Salish ate the fresh cambium in small quantities, although “it made one thin to eat too much”. The cambium was constipating, so was eaten with oil. It was also occasionally dried in criss-cross stips for winter. The Nlaka’pamux people at Spuzzum, near Yale in the Fraser Canyon, and possibly also the Upper Sto:lo peeled and ate young maple shoots raw, and also boiled and ate the sprouts when they were about 3 cm tall.
So! That sounds promising, yes?
I wonder if Susannah of Wanderin’ Weeta has eaten maple seedlings. She’s not too far from me, and notices lots of details in the forest. The photos she publishes are so often like the ones I have just taken!
In 2008, when the Norwegian Government and the Global Crop Diversity Trust teamed up to open the Svalbard Global Seed Vault, they thought they were planning far ahead. The vault—essentially a massive safe deposit box for the world’s seeds, kept safe and cold by Arctic ice—is meant to guard against future disasters, like nuclear war or climate change. If such a horror ever necessitates a total agricultural restart, these seeds will be, in the words of their caretakers, “the final back-up.”
But the future has a funny way of sneaking up on you. In 2015—much sooner than anticipated—the vault was turned from ark to library, issuing hundreds of thousands of seed samples to the International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA). Today, ICARDA is returning the seeds, successfully completing what amounts to the Vault’s first real-world run. [continue]
I want to tell you that I don’t really believe in the magical properties of turmeric, that I was radicalized when I was only a child. Turmeric was prescribed to me weekly at my grandmother’s house in Nairobi — dumped into a pot of sweetened, simmering milk, or smushed with ginger powder and bronze, crystallized gur, the delicious raw sugar paste she bought in bulk and kept in old ice cream tubs with flimsy, warped plastic lids.
There was turmeric for a standard runny nose, the dizzy rush of a fever, the ache of moving away from my best friend. Turmeric for a breakout, a particularly tender, slow-to-heal bruise, the anxieties that kept me awake. Among family, where there was always pressure to talk lightly, and about cheerful things, a cup of hot, sweet turmeric milk pushed across the table seemed like a quiet acknowledgment of my grievances, however tiny, rather than a promise to obliterate them. [continue]
Yum, turmeric milk. I often make some for breakfast!
Up in the arctic, life struggles to thrive. A rocky and frigid landscape supporting little more than meager shrubs, grasses, and some berries in the summer, it’s proven too hostile for more than a few animal species that have specially evolved to polar environs. Yet despite the harsh conditions, thousands of years ago human beings managed to etch out a life for themselves in the snows. These peoples’ ability to live in these regions is mostly due to a diet that to most of us seems narrow and anemic, but in truth has proven itself one of the most robust and healthy in the world.
Arctic diets vary vastly from region to region, according to the local environment’s flora and fauna. But at their most extreme, they consist of almost nothing but meat and fish, often from animals rich in fat (think polar bears, seabirds, and whales). For those of us who grew up learning the American Food Pyramid, or even the unholy devilcraft that is the new “My Plate” system, such a meat-heavy diet sounds borderline suicidal. But when eaten raw, these animals’ organs provide ample nutrients, including the vitamins we temperate-zoners draw mostly from plants. Blubber is also surprisingly rich in heart-healthy monounsaturated and polyunsaturated omega-3 fats and natural fermentation provides arctic diets with the benefits of probiotic foods. The result is a food regimen that provides everything a human needs, as well as one of the greatest natural defenses against diabetes, heart disease, certain types of cancer, and perhaps even seasonal effective disorder, illustrating that in any diet, there are no essential food groups, just essential nutrients. [continue].
How fascinating is that? I love reading about traditional diets, and have, over the years, changed my own diet quite a bit in order to cut out all processed food. These days I try to eat the sort of foods that humans ate before industrialization and nutritional stupidity. Are any of you doing that, too?
I ate reindeer meat in Norway, though I haven’t tried reindeer blood. Perhaps on another visit I will see if there are any Sami communities that welcome visitors like me.
Prehistoric people may have cooked wild grains and plants in pots as early as 10,000 years ago, according to new evidence.
Scientists say the food was “a kind of porridge”, acting as the staple diet when there was no meat from hunting.
The pottery fragments were found at two sites in the Libyan Sahara, which was then green and fertile.
The ability to prepare plants and grains in pots would have been a big advance at the time.
Dr Julie Dunne, of the University of Bristol, said: “This is the first direct evidence of plant processing globally, and, remarkably, shows that these early North African hunter-gatherers consumed many different types of plants, including grains/seeds, leafy plants and aquatic plants.” [continue]
A recipe for a very merry Christmas drink for 17th century monks, beginning with ten pints of brandy, has been rediscovered by a Durham university academic, in the archives of Ampleforth Abbey in north Yorkshire.
The recipes – there were two similar versions, one for a punch, one for a drink known as “shrub” – were written down for English Benedictine monks who were in exile in France after the dissolution of the monasteries. Both were flavoured with orange and lemon peel, with added sugar and water, and involved days of steeping and mixing the ingredients. [continue]
A cafe in Spain is charging customers by day, and using the proceeds to serve meals to homeless people free of charge at night.
The Robin Hood restaurant opened on a side street in central Madrid on Tuesday, operating a simple but unique business model.
At breakfast and lunchtime the initiative runs as an ordinary Spanish bar, selling coffee, croquetas, and cigarettes, before reopening in the evening as a restaurant, serving a sophisticated sit-down supper to people who cannot afford to pay. [continue]
One summer afternoon in the city of Sumter in South Carolina, three men – a farmer, a scholar, and a landscape architect – stood in a field boiling watermelon juice. They had pressed the juice themselves from Bradford watermelons, a favoured fruit of the antebellum South. The Bradford has white seeds, deep ruby flesh, and a rind so soft it can be scooped with a spoon. It had been thought extinct since the early 1900s, when watermelons with tough rinds suitable for shipping displaced it. But it had been quietly growing for more than 100 years in the backyards of eight generations of Bradfords, endangered but not dead, like the African southern white rhino.
Glenn Roberts (the farmer), David Shields (the scholar) and Nat Bradford (the architect, and heir to the 180-year-old Bradford watermelon breed) had been labouring under a blistering sun for most of that August day in 2013, cutting open watermelons in the dusty field, straining the seeds out, pressing and heating the liquid in a sorghum evaporator – a huge steam pan lofted over a propane-fired field oven – until it flared to a fiery red. Finally, towards evening, it was ready: a molasses that had not been made since the end of the Civil War.
Shields recalls the taste as a revelation on the tongue. ‘It had a base note of sugary molasses and a middle range of this deep watermelony thing and a sort of honeysuckle top note. And I thought to myself, of all the lost melons of yesteryear, this is the one I wished would return. And it has. It’s the taste of the past but it’s also the taste of the future.’ [continue]
Do you ever search for something and find that you get distracted by something else altogether? Here is the ‘something else altogether’ that caught my attention today. From the BBC: Inuit’s risky mussel harvest under sea ice.
The Inuit of Arctic Canada take huge risks to gather mussels in winter. During extreme low tides, they climb beneath the shifting sea ice, but have less than an hour before the water returns.
The 500 people of Kangiqsujuaq, near the Hudson Strait, go to great lengths to add variety to their diet of seal meat, seal meat and yet more seal meat.
This settlement and a neighbouring community on Wakeham Bay are thought to be the only places where people harvest mussels from under the thick blanket of ice that coats the Arctic sea throughout the winter.
The locals can only do this during extreme low tides, when sea ice drops by up to 12m (about 40 feet), opening fissures through which the exposed seabed – and its edible riches – can be glimpsed. The best time to go is when the moon is either full or brand new, as this is when the tide stays out the longest. [continue]
Oregon State University researchers have patented a new strain of a succulent red marine algae called dulse that grows extraordinarily quickly, is packed full of protein and has an unusual trait when it is cooked.
In medieval Europe, those who could afford to do so would generously season their stews with saffron, cinnamon, cloves and ginger. Sugar was ubiquitous in savory dishes. And haute European cuisine, until the mid-1600s, was defined by its use of complex, contrasting flavors.
“The real question, then, is why the wealthy, powerful West — with unprecedented access to spices from its colonies — became so fixated on this singular understanding of flavor,” Srinivas says.
The answer, it turns out, has just as much to do with economics, politics and religion as it does taste. [continue]
Scientists in Sweden are launching their own mead — an alcoholic beverage made from a fermented mix of honey and water — based on old recipes they say could help in the fight against antibiotic resistance.
Together with a brewery, the scientists, who have long studied bees and their honey, have launched their own mead drink: Honey Hunter’s Elixir.
Lund University researcher Tobias Olofsson said mead had a long track record in bringing positive effects on health.
“Mead is an alcoholic drink made with just honey and water, and it was regarded as the drink of the gods and you could become immortal or sustain a better health if you drank it,” Olofsson said. “It was drunk by the Vikings for example and other cultures such as the Mayas, the Egyptians, and it was a drink that was regarded as a very beneficial drink.”
Honey production is key to the research. In previous research published in 2014, Olofsson and Alejandra Vasquez discovered that lactic-acid bacteria found in the honey stomach of bees, mixed with honey itself, could cure chronic wounds in horses that had proved resistant to treatment.
They said their research had proved that these bacteria had the power to collaborate and kill off all the human pathogens they have been tested against, including resistant ones. They are doing so by producing hundreds of antibacterial antibiotic-like substances. [continue]
Well. Alcohol + Vikings + history + medicine. So much cool stuff in one article!
“Slim by Chocolate!” the headlines blared. A team of German researchers had found that people on a low-carb diet lost weight 10 percent faster if they ate a chocolate bar every day. It made the front page of Bild, Europe’s largest daily newspaper, just beneath their update about the Germanwings crash. From there, it ricocheted around the internet and beyond, making news in more than 20 countries and half a dozen languages. It was discussed on television news shows. It appeared in glossy print, most recently in the June issue of Shape magazine (“Why You Must Eat Chocolate Daily”, page 128). Not only does chocolate accelerate weight loss, the study found, but it leads to healthier cholesterol levels and overall increased well-being. The Bild story quotes the study’s lead author, Johannes Bohannon, Ph.D., research director of the Institute of Diet and Health: “The best part is you can buy chocolate everywhere.”
I am Johannes Bohannon, Ph.D. Well, actually my name is John, and I’m a journalist. I do have a Ph.D., but it’s in the molecular biology of bacteria, not humans. The Institute of Diet and Health? That’s nothing more than a website.
Other than those fibs, the study was 100 percent authentic. My colleagues and I recruited actual human subjects in Germany. We ran an actual clinical trial, with subjects randomly assigned to different diet regimes. And the statistically significant benefits of chocolate that we reported are based on the actual data. It was, in fact, a fairly typical study for the field of diet research. Which is to say: It was terrible science. The results are meaningless, and the health claims that the media blasted out to millions of people around the world are utterly unfounded.
Long before early humans in North America grew corn and beans, they were harvesting and cooking the bulbs of lilies, wild onions and other plants, roasting them for days over hot rocks, according to a Texas archaeologist.
The evidence for this practice has long been known of in fire-cracked rock piles found throughout the continent, but archaeologists have tended to ignore it "because a new pyramid or a Clovis arrow point is much sexier," said archaeologist Alston V. Thoms of Texas A&M University. [continue]