Get out the popcorn: Science Babe vs. The Food Babe

I've spend considerable time documenting the utter pseudoscience, misinformation, and downright idiocy about "chemicals" in food regularly inflicted on the public by the misguided "food activist" named Vani Hari, who is better known by the moniker she chose for herself "The Food Babe." Indeed, in decade-plus that I've been running this blog and the few years before that during which I honed my skeptical skills on Usenet and other discussion forums, rarely have I come across someone so full of the arrogance of ignorance, someone who is the living embodiment of the Dunning-Kruger effect. Perhaps the most spectacularly dumb thing I've seen her say is that there "is just no acceptable level of any chemical to ingest, ever."

No, actually, there's something even dumber that Hari's said, namely her repeating of a particularly silly adage that that if you can’t pronounce a chemical’s name (actually, if a third grader can't pronounce it), you shouldn't be eating it, which has led to all sorts of ridicule in which one wonders whether you can have more chemicals in your food if you have a chemistry degree because, you know, you can pronounce them.

Oh, and don't even get me started on Hari's now infamous article about the air in commercial airplanes, which was so epic in its ignorance that she actually tried to make it disappear down the memory hole. If you're going to accuse airlines of diluting the oxygen in their airplanes with 50% nitrogen and don't know that the atmosphere is close to 80% nitrogen naturally, you've really embarrassed yourself royally.

When last I left The Food Babe, she was very, very unhappy over an article by Courtney Rubin in the New York Times entitled Taking On the Food Industry, One Blog Post at a Time, so much so that, uncharacteristically, she actually struck back with a nasty and self-pitying article. I suppose the reason was obvious. She had, to my knowledge, never been the subject of such a critical article by a media outlet as large and important as the NYT. More importantly, I suspect that Hari was concerned because her first book had just been released, and articles as critical as Rubin's in the NYT could be bad for sales. After all, if there's one thing I've learned about The Food Babe, it's that she's all about monetizing her activities, the better to fund her "activism."

So why am I bringing The Food Babe up again?

The other day, I noticed an influx of traffic coming to this blog from, of all places, Gawker.com, which to me seemed to be a rather unlikely site to be directing traffic my way. It turns out that the traffic was coming from an article by Yvette d'Entremont entitled The "Food Babe" Blogger Is Full of Shit. No doubt. I couldn't have put it better myself, and indeed, the article is an irreverent and somewhat profane takedown of the phenomenon that is The Food Babe. I don't need to quote large swaths of it, because I've covered much the same ground myself over several blog posts, but I must admit that its attitude is something Orac can admire because, well, it's quite insolent. What you need to know are a couple of things:

I am an analytical chemist with a background in forensics and toxicology. Before working full-time as a science writer and public speaker, I worked as a chemistry professor, a toxicology chemist, and in research analyzing pesticides for safety. I now run my own blog, Science Babe, dedicated to debunking pseudoscience that tends to proliferate in the blogosphere. Reading Hari's site, it's rare to come across a single scientific fact. Between her egregious abuse of the word "toxin" anytime there's a chemical she can't pronounce and asserting that everyone who disagrees with her is a paid shill, it's hard to pinpoint her biggest sin.

Some other statements from The Food Babe were also noted, ones that I hadn't heard before, such as some nonsense about kale that I will get to shortly.

In the interests of full disclosure, I will admit here that I haven't always seen eye-to-eye with d'Entremont. In particular, I wasn't too pleased when she posted pictures of herself on Facebook smiling with heroes to the antivaccine movement, Robert "Dr. Bob" Sears and "Dr. Jay" Gordon, with the latter of whom she is shown planting a big kiss on the cheek. That's all I'm going to say about that right now. Past disagreements aside, in this particular case, Yvette d'Entremont/Science Babe is on very solid ground. And, of course, she's a chemist; chemists like Joe Schwarcz, for instance, are particularly irritated by The Food Babe because Vani Hari is relentless in spreading misinformation, pseudoscience, and fear mongering about chemicals to a wide audience and, of course, because her misinformation is of a particularly painfully stupid variety that causes real pain to real chemists when they read it, much as quacks' misuse of epigenetics causes me pain or their misuse of "quantum" causes physicists pain. Nor is it an ad hominem attack to say this, because her statements are what's being criticized here because they are so demonstrably wrong.

In any case, I can't help but wonder whether Hari is becoming more sensitive to criticism, if she has a particularly intense dislike of d'Entremont, or if she's decided to adopt a different philosophy over criticism, a more—shall we say?—Scientology-like philosophy of always hitting critics back hard. The other thing I can't help but notice is that Hari's M.O. has become quite predictable: Start out with an ad hominem attack, specifically variants of the pharma shill gambit such as the Monsanto shill or the chemical industry shill gambits, and then petulantly double down on her previous pseudoscience. Her response to Science Babe, Response to Gawker “The Food Babe Blogger is Full of…”—Hari is not known for her originality or creativity in titles or much of anything else other than being a publicity hound—certainly follows that broad template.

After self-righteously taking on the role of the wounded warrior against evil chemicals, whining that "the author says I’m full of $hit, but I’m full of heart, love and hope for a better future, and I know you are too," she launches straight into the ad hominems, because, you know, Science Babe worked for an evil chemical company:

She is undoubtedly pro-chemical and pro-GMO and has proven this fact over and over again but her background might be the most convincing. Her name is Yvette d’Entremont and when she started the “Science Babe” facebook page and business, she worked for Amvac Chemical, as reported in the Seattle Times, “Amvac Chemical in Los Angeles has found a profitable — and controversial — niche by buying manufacturing rights to older pesticides, many of them at risk of being banned or restricted because of safety concerns”. Yes, you read that right, a company that sells dangerous and unsafe chemicals for profit.

Even if all of this is true, so what? It doesn't mean d'Entremont is incorrect in her criticisms. Let's put it this way. Hari makes quite the living stoking fears about "chemicals" in food. I don't dismiss her because of that. I dismiss her because she can't get her facts straight, she clearly lacks even a rudimentary understanding of some very basic chemistry, and she in essence quackmails companies by unleashing her "Food Babe Army" against them if they don't remove from their product the latest chemical whose name she can't pronounce that's attracted her attention. It's not for nothing that I and other bloggers have dubbed Hari the "Jenny McCarthy of food." It's an apt comparison.

Of course, as I said before, this is The Food Babe's M.O. As Science Babe pointed out, she did it to Dr. Joe Schwarcz, as well as to my good bud Dr. Steve Novella, and even, to a lesser extent, me. She so utterly lacks self-awareness that she seems completely oblivious to this when she whines about being criticized. She gives as good as she gets and takes it one step further, insinuating that the reason she is being criticized is because all her critics are somehow in the thrall of the food and/or chemical industries. Unfortunately, to my reading, d'Entremont rather too airily dismisses Hari's claims that she's being attacked because she's a woman. As I noted before, Hari has been subject to some pretty nasty misogyny, a fact of life, unfortunately, for all too many women who express controversial opinions online, whether they are cranks like Hari or pro-science advocates like d'Entrement. Hari, however, cynically uses those vile comments to try to represent them as being typical of her critics, in essence trying to tar us with the misogyny of the few knuckle draggers who post rape threats on her Facebook page. Whether she honestly conflates them with legitimate critics in her mind or is cynically using their unforgivable nastiness as a weapon, I leave the reader to decide.

In any case, the next part of Hari's response is an anonymous attack from someone claiming to have knowledge of d'Entrement's professional career. It's as low and ugly as one might expect, so much so that I'm going to quote it in its entirety, in case Hari sends her nasty response down the memory hole too:

Dear Ms Vani, I am a research professional of some standing and for that reason I have chosen to use an assumed name. I have been following the progress of Yvette Guinevere d’Entremont (aka ScienceBabe) with some interest as she is a former colleague. I would like to impart some interesting information to you, which may use this for whatever purpose you see fit. What I am about to tell you is easily verifiable. Good science is based on producing original work and publishing in a peer reviewed context, self published armchair science as scibabe.com is peddling gives science a bad name. Taking swipes at the work and opinions of others is not science, unless you have original data that draws other work into question. What makes you and her different is that you don’t claim to be a scientist. If you have solid reasoning, you don’t need to be vitriolic in your posts as science babe is, with much of her abuse directed towards you. Some colleagues and I do not feel this is appropriate, we don’t like bullying, and so here are several easily verifiable facts about science babe that you may wish to point out to her next time you appear in her twitter/blog crosshairs: 1) Yvette Guinevere d’Entremont has no peer reviewed scientific publications. 2) Her master’s thesis from Anglia Ruskin University was not deemed of sufficient quality for publication. 3) Her claim that she was a college professor is laughable, she was an assistant instructor (one level above a TA) at Emmanuel College in Boston for less than 1 year. 4) She is currently being terminated from her position at Amvac for her activities on Scibabe. A description from a senior colleague on seeing Scibabe.com perhaps sums her up best “she’s a not a scientist, she’s a professional button pressor for a scientific company. I could have a talented undergraduate doing her job in less than 2 days”. For obvious reasons I’m not going to put a name to that quote. There’s nothing I’ve revealed here that can’t be easily verified. If I can be of any further assistance, please don’t hesitate to get in touch via the email I have listed on this page. Kind regards.”

One wonders what Hari would say if one of her critics published similar accusations from an anonymous source who claimed to have worked with her back in her corporate days. Somehow, I doubt she'd fail to point out that the source is anonymous and that there is no way to verify what the source is saying.

Of course, if d'Entremont truly was terminated for her activities as Science Babe, it's just another indication as to why people expressing a strong point of view might want to maintain a pseudonym. In fact, I started out completely pseudonymous when I started this blog for the very same reason and soon learned that cranks like The Food Babe are relentless in trying to "out" critics, mainly because they can't deal with their arguments from a scientific standpoint and have to use ad hominem attacks, just the same way that Hari has done with scientists in the past and the same way she's doing now with d'Entremont. Fortunately, I've always been in university environments where academic freedom is valued. People working for private companies can expect no such understanding. Even so, it took me years before I shed the Orac 'nym elsewhere and before I got to the point where I no longer cared that my real identity is one of the worst-kept secrets of the skeptical blogosphere and it's almost trivial to find out who I am, although I do still maintain the 'nym because I like it and partially out of sheer cussedness.

Rather like my namesake. Or should I say, 'nym sake?

Then, of course, as she always does, Hari has to take it one step further, trolling Science Babe's Facebook page relentlessly until she found some seemingly damning comments about how Gawker commissioned d'Entremont's article. Except that they're not, really. There are comments about how Gawker approached d'Entrement for a "comprehensive takedown." OK, so what? Slate.com approached me to do an article about Prince Charles' love of pseudoscience a couple of months ago, and I did it. Hari also posts a notice from Gawker about advertising and a marketing campaign for a brand. I suspect you know what's coming next. Hari insinuates:

Gawker paid Ms. d’Entremont for this piece – but who paid Gawker?

Gee, Ms. Hari. Can you make it explicit? You don't mean pesticide or food companies, do you? Of course you do. Why not just come out and say it, rather than insinuating it? Maybe it's to avoid obvious libel.

Hari concludes with a list of "refutations" to criticisms of her scientific ignorance in bullet-point form. They're nothing you haven't heard before, although two stand out for sheer silliness. First, Hari responds to the aforementioned excerpt from her book The Food Babe Way in which she asserts, "There is just no acceptable level of any chemical to ingest, ever," a comment I used as the title of a post.

It turns out that Hari thinks she was taken out of context:

My statement that “There is no acceptable level of any chemical to ingest ever” was taken from my book on page 40 from the section regarding ractopamine and growth hormones. My critics took it out of context (after The Atlantic decided to highlight the quote as a side bar). My point was in the context of hormone mimicking chemicals and growth stimulants. Extremely low levels of compounds that mimic hormones work in the body like hormones. That is why I don’t believe there is any acceptable level of these chemicals to ingest, ever. Certainly reducing all synthetic, artificial chemicals is best, but it is difficult to avoid each and every one of them in all amounts.

Except that's not what Hari said. She didn't say there is "no acceptable level of endocrine disruptors or hormone-mimicking chemicals, ever." That would still be very wrong from the standpoint of chemistry and biology, of course, but perhaps not as spectacularly wrong as her actual quote in all its ignorant glory. No, Hari said, "There is just no acceptable level of any chemical to ingest ever." I'm sorry, there's just no "context" that can make that mean anything else other than what she was so roundly and justifiably mocked for. Maybe she needs a better editor and will correct that howler in the paperback edition.

Second, in her Gawker piece, d'Entrement notes that Hari has said:

The enzymes released from kale go in to your liver and trigger cancer fighting chemicals that literally dissolve unhealthy cells throughout your body.

Which is really, really ignorant of not just chemistry, but of basic biochemistry and physiology. Enzymes in kale are proteins and therefore digested to their constituent amino acids. They do not send enzymes to the liver, triggering the liver to release cancer fighting chemicals. (One wonders if she acknowledges that these beneficial substances are actually chemicals as a direct retort to the many times critics have noted her fear of chemicals.) Nor am I aware of chemicals that "literally dissolve unhealthy cells throughout your body."

So what's Hari's response:

There is evidence that eating cruciferous and green leafy vegetables – like Kale – can reduce your cancer risk by protecting cells from DNA damage, inactivating carcinogens and inducing cell death.

Which rather misses the point. The studies cited in that link are all cell culture and animal culture, and Hari also leaves out the part about how studies in humans over whether such vegetables can prevent cancer have shown mixed results.

You know, that one example reminds me, more than anything else, of our old friend Dr. Oz and how he sells supplements. Everything is the greatest "fat-buster" ever that "melts fat," the way Hari gushingly describes kale as unleashing chemicals that "literally dissolve unhealthy cells throughout your body." That's because, Hari, like Oz, is far more about the marketing than the science. She markets her ignorance and has made quite a healthy living from it.

All of this makes me wonder why Hari is lashing out at her critics now. I can understand why she went after the NYT. At attack published in the NYT is a big deal; ignoring it is perilous. Unfortunately, her response only dug herself into a deeper hole. But Gawker? Why does she care what Gawker says about her, regardless of who wrote the article?

I think this explains it:

It’s important to note: Gawker has gotten millions of page views supporting our work here, here, here and here and all of the sudden now they are soliciting negative pieces to get even more traffic.

Maybe. But I think Hari is disturbed that a major online media outlet that runs several high traffic sites might be turning against her and likely won't be printing (or so we hope) any more highly credulous treatments of Hari's ignorance, as cited. That, I suspect, is why she responded.

ADDENDUM: Yvette just posted this after the link to this on my Facebook page:

I believe the email presented as being from a "colleague" is from someone I used to date. As for being a "colleague?" We worked together at summer camp and years later he worked in kinesiology and we never worked together as scientists.

I was not fired from Amvac, they had two bad years financially and I was given six weeks of notice that I would be losing my job because there was no room for me in the following year's budget. My boss and I discussed me coming back to consult as needed and I've stopped in to visit multiple times. It was confirmed that my blog had nothing to do with it.

This was libel.

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Hari reminds me a lot of Meryl Dorey of the Australian (anti-) Vaccination Network when the press finally saw through the charade. Every negative piece avout the AVN was reldntlessly attacked as being influenced by big pharma.

While Hari was rising to fame on the internet, she was often ignored as irrelevant. Now that she has her 15 minutes of fame, people are starting to point out the emperor's clothes and Hari doesn' like that sort of attention.

Interesting analogy. That could well be. In all honesty, I must admit that The Food Babe didn't even make it onto my radar until a little more than a year ago with the whole "yoga mat chemical" thing, even though she had been active for more than a year before that. She's finally hit the level of prominence where major media outlets are starting to notice that there's no "there" there in her arguments and becoming increasingly willing to publish articles saying so. Hari can't respond based on science; so ad hominem attacks and liberal use of the pharma/Monsanto/chemical industry shill gambit and the use of anonymous smears are all she has left.

Cancer fighting chemicals from my liver? But all chemicals are bad! I need to get this liver thing taken out right away.

"arrogance of ignorance, someone who is the living embodiment of the Dunning-Kruger effect." - I laughed out loud at that line.

By Andrew Hall (not verified) on 08 Apr 2015 #permalink

I recall there was a kerfuffle where someone posed as a former FoodBabe employee in a comment section willing to spill dirt. Vani then made some legal threats and the poster confessed to just trying to bait Hari into making comments. Could this be an unimaginative and ham-fisted copy catting?

By viriato77 (not verified) on 08 Apr 2015 #permalink

There is something mildly (!) ironic about Hari dismissing a critic due to lack of peer-reviewed publications.

However, I might be confused because the airline put nitrogen in my air during a recent flight.

By Dangerous Bacon (not verified) on 08 Apr 2015 #permalink

I must congratulate Orac for finding ways to make us laugh about Hari's antics without resorting to low blows about her using her appearance to sell products and herself:
you can leave that to us.

By Denice Walter (not verified) on 08 Apr 2015 #permalink

No, Hari said, “There is just no acceptable level of any chemical to ingest ever.” I’m sorry, there’s just no “context” that can make that mean anything else other than what she was so roundly and justifiably mocked for.

The Food Babe should put her money where her mouth is, so to speak, and practice Breatharianism. Let's see how long she lasts without water, vitamins, protein, or carbohydrates.

Yes, there are certain chemicals which are best avoided, but there are others which are necessary for life. And even with substances in the former category, the body can always deal with a certain amount of it. Some better than others--there a few substances that are lethal in microgram amounts--but the body is designed to repair itself when minor damage happens.

There is a reason why ad hominem is considered a fallacy. As the lawyers say: When the law is on your side, pound on the law; when the facts are on your side, pound on the facts; when neither is on your side, pound on the table. Ms. Hari is pounding on the table.

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 08 Apr 2015 #permalink

I know there's really no reason to parse the anonymous letter, because frankly nothing in it is germane to the discussion at hand, but I am curious as to whether master's theses are commonly published in chemistry? I know in my field that the new trend is for PhD dissertations to be written as a number of articles for journal publication that can also be combined into a single thesis for graduation, and if a master's thesis were publishable, I'm sure that would be great, but most aren't. Unless they mean the general publication of all theses by the University? Because if it wasn't acceptable for that, then it wouldn't be acceptable for earning the degree. So that whole statement confuses me and seems like it was written to be deceptive, or chemistry is cranking out an awful lot of publications. And that bit about everything they've written being easily verified, when at least two things they've written are pure hearsay..... That doesn't smack of dishonesty at all....

By Gus Snarp (not verified) on 08 Apr 2015 #permalink

I'm still amused by Hari's campaign against BHT in breakfast cereals. BHT is an antioxidant that prevents fats from going rancid, and is sold by some altmed proponents (here for example) as a dietary supplement to similar to vitamin E that is supposed to help with herpes. It reminds me of how some altmed types promote taking large amounts of phenylalanine as a treatment for chronic pain and/or depression while others rail against aspartame because it breaks down to tiny amounts of phenylalanine which is a deadly excitotoxin. Glutamate is another one; deadly as a chemical (MSG) but beneficial when you buy it in the health food store as a dietary supplement.

By Krebiozen (not verified) on 08 Apr 2015 #permalink

Even if it is accepted that Science Babe is a mediocre scientist, that still makes her far more qualified than Food Babe to discuss scientific matters. As far as I can tell, the shittiest scientist in America is more knowledgeable than the Food Babe.

As a person with deep concerns about food production and control, it seems to me that people like Food Babe draw attention away from serious, worthwhile criticisms of pharmaceutical, food-industrial, and chemical companies. There is much to criticize there in my opinion, but a person who thinks we must never eat 'chemicals' is not the person to make those criticisms.

Science Babe posing with Dr. Bob was a rookie mistake, in my opinion. She was just starting out in that role and had not even left her "real" job to become Science Babe. A lot of otherwise good skeptics made a big stink about it, perhaps out of jealousy of her new success without having paid her dues in the skeptical community.

Science Babe has great potential to be a counterweight to Food Babe and all the other pseudoscientists out there. Let's support her efforts, while not failing to point out inevitable mis-steps that will occur as a consequence of being in the spotlight.

I know in my field that the new trend is for PhD dissertations to be written as a number of articles for journal publication that can also be combined into a single thesis for graduation, and if a master’s thesis were publishable, I’m sure that would be great, but most aren’t.

I don't know about chemistry, but in the biomedical sciences, a lot of Masters theses aren't published. For a PhD, what you describe is not a new trend. It was the rule over 20 years ago, when I got my PhD. It was generally required that the PhD candidate have a couple of peer-reviewed papers published (or at least accepted for publication at the time of the thesis defense) in decent journals. Those papers, or expanded versions of them, would then be included as chapters in the PhD thesis. So the attack on d'Entremont that her Masters thesis wasn't published is probably specious and irrelevant.

"For a PhD, what you describe is not a new trend. It was the rule over 20 years ago, when I got my PhD."

--Looks at calendar--

Well, it was new to my field ten years ago when I got my master's. Given that we're about ten years behind, I guess that's about right. ;-)

By Gus Snarp (not verified) on 08 Apr 2015 #permalink

Science Babe stated on her Facebook page that the anonymous email might have come from a rejected ex, who was upset when she wouldn't follow his advice on how do her website. What kind of person does this kind of thing - a narcissist. The pompous, self-serving style of the email is something that many people who have narcissist exes are familiar.

Orac

Nor am I aware of chemicals that “literally dissolve unhealthy cells throughout your body.”

I can think of a few - Hydrochloric Acid, Sulphuric Acid, Nitric Acid, Hydrofloric Acid etc. For some reason the cancer fighting potential of these chemicals has been ignored by mainstream medicine.

By Militant Agnostic (not verified) on 08 Apr 2015 #permalink

Well, yes, but silly me, I was thinking of chemicals that could "literally dissolve unhealthy cells throughout your body" and not also dissolve the healthy cells as well. :-)

Let me put this bluntly, Vani Hari, as bluntly as possible:

Adolf Hitler (*) himself could write a blistering criticism of your pseudoscientific claptrap, and if it was logically sound and backed up by scads of peer-reviewed papers, you would have no grounds to use his historical record as a rhetorical counter to his argument.

That is how illegitimate your use of ad hominem is.

(*) Replace with abominable historical figure of your choice.

By Composer99 (not verified) on 08 Apr 2015 #permalink

I saw a link to the Gawker article and it was a pretty good takedown of Vana Hari's arguments.

FWIW, my Master's Thesis was published as a government report because I was a student at the Air Force Institute of Technology and it was SOP there. But, it was never submitted to any scientific journal.

By squirrelelite (not verified) on 08 Apr 2015 #permalink

One of the fallacies at the core of the FoodBabe's idiocy is the idea that "chemicals" are some separate class of thing. On the one hand, you have "chemicals" (bad) and on the other you have "food" and "enzymes" (good.) Chemicals aren't the basic building-blocks of life as we understand them; for her, they are unnatural things introduced by evil corporations to poison us -- and probably coming from icky sources as well. For her, water isn't a chemical.

I don't know how you can fix that level of stupidity.

@sarah - sorry, but "Food Babe's" propaganda is not an acceptable "balanced view."

@Gus Snarp: The situation Orac describes @14 with respect to biomedical theses is also the normal situation for physics theses. It was the ascendent trend 20 years ago (at least within my Ph.D. department) when I was writing my thesis, and now is standard practice. And no, a masters thesis is generally not published, although the material may appear in a published paper, on which the student may or may not be first author.

Of course, this depends on country. I have seen Ph.D. theses from Sweden, where standard practice (at least in physics) is to write an introductory chapter and then append copies of the papers the student wrote (or co-wrote, but most of them should be first-author papers), as opposed to editing those papers into chapters as is done in the US.

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 08 Apr 2015 #permalink

Obviously, everything we eat and drink is composed of chemicals. Oh, but surely the Food Babe manes artificial or synthetic chemicals as opposed to naturally occurring chemicals like water, oxygen, or arsenic, right?

Ever season a cast iron skillet? What you did was create an unnatural, non stick coating of synthetically polymerized oil on the surface of your skillet. That doesn't happen in nature-of course, neither does cast iron.

There's a tremendous amount of complex chemistry is involved in cooking and preparing food. It can be quite fascinating listening to someone who understands the chemistry involved explain what 's going on doing while preparing food.

Unless you eat your food raw and in its natural form, it's general undergoing a lot of chemical processes that don't occur naturally without human intervention before you consume it. Cooking is perhaps the oldest form of chemistry practiced by humans, besides making fire.

By Karl Withakay (not verified) on 08 Apr 2015 #permalink

"...what ‘s going on doing while preparing food."

bad edit. should read: "...what ‘s going on while preparing food.

By Karl Withakay (not verified) on 08 Apr 2015 #permalink

Addendum to my #24: In some cases the masters thesis is not published for the very good reason that there isn't one. Some departments allow students to earn a masters degree without writing a thesis. I don't know if that was true in Ms. d'Entrement's case.

And I just saw the addendum to the OP. Yep, that was a hatchet job, and she suspects an ex-boyfriend--a natural suspicion because jealous ex-boyfriends occasionally do nasty things like that.

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 08 Apr 2015 #permalink

I tirelessly reiterate the following on many of these blog posts:

Vani Hari's claim about never eating something you can't pronounce has been plagiarized from Michael Pollan's book "In Defense of Food."

AVOID FOOD PRODUCTS CONTAINING INGREDIENTS THAT ARE A) UNFAMILIAR, B) UNPRONOUNCEABLE, C) MORE THAN FIVE IN NUMBER, OR THAT INCLUDE D) HIGH-FRUCTOSE CORN SYRUP.

caps. in original.

Yet even though Pollan is the source of this egregious ignorance, he somehow escapes criticism and comes off as a more credible source.

Yet even though Pollan is the source of this egregious ignorance, he somehow escapes criticism and comes off as a more credible source.

Pollan is a middle-aged white man and has been published in various Serious Publications. Doesn't make him any less full of sh*t, though.

Sarah,
That is not a balanced argument.

"Now, I personally had not heard of Food Babe before, but after browsing through her website it seems that Food Babe suggests changing your diet to heal your body through using natural foods, which is my mission too. I feel that the information given by Science Babe is harmful to this mission."

This is basically saying that the enemy of my enemy is my friend, so their argument must be right.

@Michael #3:

Cancer fighting chemicals from my liver? But all chemicals are bad! I need to get this liver thing taken out right away.

I'd be only too happy to help. I'm sure all those bad chemicals will be neutralised by the addition of some favva beans and a nice Chianti.

By Rich Woods (not verified) on 08 Apr 2015 #permalink

"Well, yes, but silly me, I was thinking of chemicals that could “literally dissolve unhealthy cells throughout your body” and not also dissolve the healthy cells as well."

Kadcyla? If we're counting apoptosis as 'dissolved,' armed antibodies seem just the ticket.

My Master's thesis wasn't published - I never even thought it should be... I published papers before and since.

By Roadstergal (not verified) on 08 Apr 2015 #permalink

Well, there are companies that will "publish" anything, like Grin Verlag which boasts "Publish your thesis, essay or term paper and earn money. Your master's or bachelor's theses and papers are valuable for others. We sell them on thousands of shops like Amazon. You earn with each sale - all this is free!" Anyone can upload anything to their site, it seems. The monetary model for Grin seems to be that they host electronic copies of papers, and charge for downloads. I wouldn't boast about this sort of "publication" but they are a "Verlag" (publisher).

The Fool Babe (not a typo) desperately wants publicity and fame. Now she has it and is pissed right off. The saying "Be careful what you wish for, you just might get it" comes to mind.

If you want to read a more balanced argument, read here:

Balanced? Speaking of sayings: "You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means."

Reading Hari's supporter lines and shaking my head.

Taking swipes at the work and opinions of others is not science, unless you have original data that draws other work into question.

Not really, when the targeted opinion is in itself without "original data that draws other work into question".

If someone was to claim the Earth is flat, without presenting strong evidence, I can start laughing and mocking right away. I don't have to go around the Mediterranean sea documenting how sunlight at noon is going down wells.

What makes you and her different is that you don’t claim to be a scientist.

So if you are a scientist, you have to be measured, 100% accurate, in short a complete Leonard Nimoy understudy. But if you are not, you totally don't have to!

In other words, this person is saying that, if you are not a scientist, you can make public pronouncements through you @ss, and accuracy be damned.

It's weird. He/she is basically saying that non-scientists are expected to mostly make unverified and downright untrue statements. What's the point to listening to non-scientists, then?

By Helianthus (not verified) on 08 Apr 2015 #permalink

Helianthus #34 wrote:

It’s weird. He/she is basically saying that non-scientists are expected to mostly make unverified and downright untrue statements. What’s the point to listening to non-scientists, then?

Oh, that's easy. It doesn't matter if she's full of $hit because, as she points out, "... I’m full of heart, love and hope for a better future, and I know you are too.”

Science, schmience. This is about picking your tribe, choosing your truth, following your bliss.Admit modestly that you're "not a scientist" and there are plenty of people who will identify with you because hey, neither are they! But they're experts in knowing What They Want. They want to be full of love, heart, and hope for a better future. Food Babe only has to press the button to elicit the right reaction:

We were put here for a reason and therefore those who are Pure of Heart will know truth and can be trusted. Le coeur a ses raisons que la raison ne connait point. And there you go. Instant bond.

JP: "Pollan is a middle-aged white man and has been published in various Serious Publications. Doesn’t make him any less full of sh*t, though."

Indeed. It makes one wonder about the chauvinistic implications of the trouncing Hari has taken over the adulation Pollan receives.

Indeed. It makes one wonder about the chauvinistic implications of the trouncing Hari has taken over the adulation Pollan receives.

Mmm-hmm. I have no problem at all with Hari being trounced, but I do wonder a bit why Pollan seems relatively untouchable. I remember thinking Omnivore's Dilemma was an okay book when I read it years ago, but I wonder what I'd think now. He did at least point out that "organic" is a fairly meaningless label if you're looking to avoid industrially-farmed food, I think, and he was right that living on junk food is a bad idea, but that's kind of one of those "duh" things.

I've found his work since then, from what I've read of it, though, vapid, irritating, and troubling. Vapid in that he rarely says anything of any consequence at all. Irritating in the sense that he doesn't seem to recognize his own privileged place in society at all; I remember reading some shlock of his in the NYT or something where he was blathering on about his wonderful, idyllic Baby Boomer childhood when his stay-at-home-mom cooked Real Food every night, and wouldn't stoop so low as to use microwaves and other conveniences. I mean, come on. Some of our moms had to work to make ends meet. Up until I was 11*, my mom typically made dinner every night, and I suppose it was real enough food, but there was a fair amount of frozen vegetable medley and other convenience-type fare involved. She had worked at a physically demanding job all day, after all. (When my mom was working swing shift, my dad "cooked," although he was supremely incompetent at it, and he usually ended up fixing something from a box.)

Troubling because the whole "movement" around food in some ways strikes me as reactionary and anti-feminist. I think it was Pollan who was blaming the American diet on Betty f*cking Friedman or something in something that he wrote, and in general, a lot of yuppies are starting to fetishize "traditional" ways and what-not, which seems to be code for women getting back in the kitchen where they belong, basically. Le sigh.

*At which point my life took a dramatic turn for the worse.

(That was a long comment, jeez. I guess I've been mildly seething about Michael Pollan for a while now.)

^ Oh, and Betty Friedan, while I'm at it. I had another surname on my mind.

JP: I agree totally. Vani is out of her depth and deserves the "trouncing." I, too, wish someone would take Pollan to task in a similar fashion.

You say: "Vapid in that he rarely says anything of any consequence at all."

Oh, indeed. Like, how about: "Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants." I'm continually satirizing that bit of vapidity:

"Breathe air. Not too much. Mostly oxygen."

"Drink fluids. Not too much. Mostly water."

And so on. The things people can get away with...

My favorite spoof of that adage so far:

"Do drugs. Not too much. Mostly plants."

I actually rather like Michael Pollan for his attitude on farming, gardening, and the importance of a long-term view on food; but that doesn't mean I'm going to use his writing as a basis for scientific research! I look at him as a slightly kooky uncle whose farm you visit once a year: sure, he's nuts, but he makes some damn fine dinners. And frankly, the instant I read someone I agree with 100% (who's published more than a single sentence) is the day I hunt down my clone...

I think it's most likely he's been more or less critic-free is because he's still mostly worked in print rather than on-line, and thus his noticeability is far less. Fame isn't a reliable thing, and on-line fame less so: no one knows what's going to strike a nerve with the public, or when. If Pollan (who actually farms, and has for decades - I have no idea what Hari does for a living) happened to start his crusade twenty years later, he'd possibly be where this 'Food Babe' is now, or possibly not. She happened to be in the right time and right place and caught fire.

I think it’s most likely he’s been more or less critic-free is because he’s still mostly worked in print rather than on-line, and thus his noticeability is far less.

Really? I think Pollan is far more famous and much more of a cultural figure than Hari is.

In any case, Pollan doesn't "farm" - he's a professor of journalism at Yale. He may or may not have a garden, and he wrote some sort of upper-middle-class self-congratulatory essay about killing a wild boar out in California and making prosciutto out of it or some d*mn thing. Meh. I'm going to stick with vapid, irritating, and troublesome.

^ Sorry, a professor at Berkeley, not Yale. What is with me today? Probably the couple-week-long bout of worse insomnia than usual.

a lot of yuppies are starting to fetishize “traditional” ways and what-not, which seems to be code for women getting back in the kitchen where they belong

Reminds me of a recording I heard, a folklorist who was going around the Scottish highlands in the 1940s(?) collecting waulking songs: the songs women used to sing while "waulking" cloth to make it weathertight, which means wetting it and beating it with sticks for long periods of time. He was interviewing some elderly women who used to do this, and they were explaining the process and one of them said it was "terrible hard work", and at the end he said, do you ever miss doing this? and all the women spoke up in chorus, "No, no!" So folksingers still sing waulking songs (I like 'em myself) but no matter how you remind yourself that their rhythmic nature is designed to drive hard work along, and although you can admire the inventiveness of the women who wrote them, you miss the point of that if you allow yourself to feel nostalgic for strenuous, time-wasting tasks that a machine can do better!

"If Pollan (who actually farms, and has for decades)..."

If that's true, it's news to me. Last I heard he lives in the Bay Area.

My masters' thesis (in a biomedical field) was not published. In fact, it was not even submitted for publication, despite being fascinating and paradigm-altering.

I guess I will have to stop laughing at the Food Babe, turn in my badge and decoder ring and stop attending Shill meetings.

By Dangerous Bacon (not verified) on 08 Apr 2015 #permalink

@ Sastra

That's depressing thoughts.
So what's the point of me keeping working in science? I will never belong.

I'm wondering how Moses managed to keep his cool and keep going after his friends pulled the Golden Calf trick on him.

Some days, I just doesn't feel like going out and meeting other humans. Irrational jerks the lot of them.
Lotus-eaters be damned and all spirituality be damned.

By Helianthus (not verified) on 08 Apr 2015 #permalink

Michael Pollan based some of his book on Joel Salatin who is one of the biggest cattle farmers in VA. Maybe the commenter was mixing up the two.

I see some differences between Pollan and Hari but it may be I haven''t been paying attention.

I haven't noticed that he has been heckbent on sending his minions out on missions because what else are you going to do with an army of minions? I don't think he wants minions. She seems to want minions and an army of them that can be mobilized on anything she thinks is icky.

I also don't get nearly as much of the sense that he embraces promoting anorexia/orthorexia among his followers and less likely to get my hand slapped if I reached for an ebil food while standing next to him.

I also don’t get nearly as much of the sense that he embraces promoting anorexia/orthorexia among his followers and less likely to get my hand slapped if I reached for an ebil food while standing next to him.

No, just a withering glance of condescension.

Fair enough - the last thing of his I read was quite a while back - though he talked about selling his produce before, and how his father broke land without machinery and using cash crops to increase liquidity, which really is an important factor when you have a farm. So I could certainly have conflated the two (him and his father - or at least his memories of his father),

With that 'eat less' phrase, wasn't he talking about people going on fasts, or ridiculous 12-step diet plans, or other such silliness? Hell, my own diet is even more vapid, then: eat as many colours as you can (and no, M&Ms don't count).

You're certainly right about Pollan being a bigger cultural figure than Hari - but I _don't_ think he's actually better known right now. It's one of the primary differences between influence then (a generation back) and now: the people who heard of him are going to be much older and less aware of countering views, where people who are aware of Hari are unlikely to have ever heard of Pollan. Part of this will simply be experience, but another part is going to be how people communicate and share information: people aren't exactly mailing each other mimeographed pages of 'Food Babe philosophy' to spread the word...

You and I? We're old. ;)

Eat less never seemed to be the go on fasts thing when I've read him.

More like my Dad's famous diet. Put smaller portions of food on your plate and don't go back for seconds.

I keep thinking I need to publish his diet but I'm not sure a one pager would sell.

If you want to read a more balanced argument, read here

Oh, look, somebody's on a hit-and-run spam campaign.

Nah, his dad wasn't a farmer, he was a financial consultant.

You and I? We’re old.

Speak fer yerself, I'm 27. :D I haven't actually worked out how much of an outlier I am vis-a-vis my g-g-g-generation (well, and the other ones, really) yet, though, so I often hesitate to generalize my own experience/Weltanshauung to the rest of my age cohort.

"in general, a lot of yuppies are starting to fetishize “traditional” ways and what-not, which seems to be code for women getting back in the kitchen where they belong, basically"

Not to bring up too much blogging cross-talk, but my NCB/EBF/AP/homeschool friend was going off on the 'so-called feminism' of thinking you can have kids and raise them properly while still having, you know, a career 'n shit.

I'm disengaging from her, which is disappointing and hurts, but there's only so much self-inflicted misogyny I am really willing to take.

By Roadstergal (not verified) on 08 Apr 2015 #permalink

My diet seems to be something along the lines of, "It's okay that I had Cheez-Its and Diet Coke for breakfast, because I had kale and tofu for lunch." I do not think I shall ever write a book about it.

JP - Ye gods. Okay, CLEARLY I am getting his life confused with someone else's from lord knows where!

Also clearly, you have 'inner oldness'. I'm right about something, damn it! LOL!

By Erin Butler (not verified) on 08 Apr 2015 #permalink

(Oops! I seem to have used a bad word in my last post, and it's gone now. Let me try again, here.)

JP - Okay, I'm _definitely_ conflating his life with someone else's somewhere along the way here! No idea who, though: going to have to dust off the library...

Oh, and Betty Friedan, while I’m at it. I had another surname on my mind.

Ringleader of The Texas Jewboys?

Oops! I seem to have used a bad word in my last post, and it’s gone now.

Ah, that explains why my comments have been going to moderation. I need to stop with my f***ing swearing.

By Roadstergal (not verified) on 08 Apr 2015 #permalink

There is evidence that eating cruciferous and green leafy vegetables – like Kale – can reduce your cancer risk by protecting cells from DNA damage, inactivating carcinogens and inducing cell death.

IOW, "That thing I said about 'enzymes released from kale' and 'going into your liver' and 'triggering cancer fighting chemicals' and 'literally dissolving unhealthy cells throughout your body' remains completely true, as long as you take out the words 'enzymes' and 'liver' and 'trigger' and 'literally' and 'dissolving' and 'unhealthy'."

By herr doktor bimler (not verified) on 08 Apr 2015 #permalink

Ringleader of The Texas Jewboys?

No, an enchanting postdoc.

FYI my masters thesis was never published, and my PhD thesis was copies of my published and soon-to-be-published papers bound to an introduction and some appendices. That was 10 years ago.

I wouldn't expect someone working for private industry to have publications in the primary literature, either. Unless they were planning a downward slide into academia.

By LovleAnjel (not verified) on 08 Apr 2015 #permalink

This was libel.

Yah, I was wondering about this even before I saw the addendum. It seems to fit pretty easily under the reckless-disregard prong of actual malice. Possibly defamation per se in California; I'm not sure where Hari would have to be sued or whether either jurisdiction requires providing the opportunity to correct the error. Fun for the peanut gallery, pain in the ass for Science Babe.

In vaguely related news, the most recent round of docket updates was pretty dull, except that Tobinick v. Novella saw one big score for defendant(s) and one absurd blunder.

Thursday, as stated above, I think it's the subject of one of Pollan's books, Salatin, that you're conflating him with. Salatin is a loosed cannon crackpot who makes tons of money from people who drive hundreds of miles to buy his meat and eggs.

http://skeptoid.com/episodes/4162

LovieAngel: "I wouldn’t expect someone working for private industry to have publications in the primary literature, either"

I did a couple of technical reports, at least one was much like a publishable paper. They aren't in the open because they were stamped with "Secret" and "Top Secret."

Some private science companies will let you publish, but sometimes it is only after the patent runs out or some other deadline like that. You have to hope no one else published about it in the mean time.

I've written several technical reports that could have been papers, but the company didn't have the resources to flesh them out. I'm not surprised that someone who works in industry isn't publishing.

I think the difference between Michael Pollan and the Food Babe is two fold. 1) He's a journalist who has published several interesting and well received books (The Botany of Desire, for example) and 2) While he did write a book of simplistic "food rules", he's never (to the best of my knowledge) tried to get any ingredient removed from a food product.

By JustaTech (not verified) on 08 Apr 2015 #permalink

[Pollan] was blathering on about his wonderful, idyllic Baby Boomer childhood when his stay-at-home-mom cooked Real Food every night

I suspect Mr. Pollen has a selective memory here. The years of Baby Boomers' childhood were the years of exemplars of Real Food such as Wonder Bread (anything other than white bread was so frowned upon that even the set of my cousins who grew up on a farm where wheat was the primary crop ate white bread), Lipton (as Douglas Adams put it, a substance almost but not quite entirely unlike tea), and pre-sliced American cheese. I own a cookbook from that era, the authors of which seem not to have heard of olive oil. Pasta and pizza, being Italian (and not even representative of what Italians eat), were considered exotic; Chinese food, unless you happened to live in a city with a Chinatown, was only available in Chinese restaurants, and heavily Americanized at that. Vegetables were almost always canned or frozen, except for the occasional salad (which all too often consisted only of Iceberg lettuce) and maybe some tomatoes or green beans in season. In most ways, we have it much better today than in the 1950s-1970s, even if we have to rush a bit to prepare our food.

There is one thing that Pollan happens to get right, which is that it's generally best to avoid foods with high fructose corn syrup. But that's because any kind of added sugar (not just HFCS) is usually bad, and the reason HFCS is used in mass market foods is because it's cheaper than other kinds of sugar. There's nothing bad about HFCS that isn't bad about sucrose, glucose, or fructose.

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 08 Apr 2015 #permalink

MikeB

Breathe air. Not too much. Mostly oxygen Nitrogen.

FTFY (or borked the HTML in the absence of preview).

By Militant Agnostic (not verified) on 08 Apr 2015 #permalink

Ah my grandmother's palacsinta, paprikash, strudel. Who the hell can stand tofu?

Who the hell can stand tofu?

People who know how the f*ck to cook it. Are you going to grace us all with your pig-ignorant ideas about gastronomy, as well?

Hari attacking anyone's credentials is enormously ironic given that she has opined over and over again how her utter lack of credentials is not a problem.

I also wonder if Hari has truly thought through using the shill gambit, given that she gets money for promoting things on her page. Wow, what am I saying? I just used "Hari" and "thought through" in the same sentence. I must need more sleep.

By Daniel Welch (not verified) on 08 Apr 2015 #permalink

I own a cookbook from that era

I have dozens of the slim, single-themed tomes published by Good Housekeeping and Betty Crocker ("Meals in Minutes," "Easy Skillet Meals," "Cooking for Two," etcetera) in the 60's and 70's. They show up frequently in local thrift shops for a dime, and they're a hoot.

Cook tofu? Pray tell how? I eat kale by the pound, also broccoli,
almond milk, kefir etc etc but gave up on tofu after trying to like 20 different recipes. You sure have a bug up your a__. Try some probiotics . And get some sleep.

Militant Agnostic: Duly noted.
Now THAT was funny!

I eat kale by the pound

That's a little excessive.

almond milk

Why? The only thing almond milk is good for is destroying aquifers.

kefir

I am quite fond of kefir myself, though the stuff you get in America just doesn't have the same "zing" as what you find in Russia and Eastern Europe.

Cook tofu? Pray tell how?

Applying heat, sweetiepie. Actually, pressing the water out helps, and then frying it in, say, some sesame oil, with lots of garlic, soy sauce, and sriracha. You let it simmer for quite awhile so it soaks up all the stuff. Seriously, it's not hard to figure this stuff out - tofu's a traditional food in a lot of cultures, after all.

You sure have a bug up your a__.

No, ken, it's just that I find you hilariously and irresistibly stupid. I wish I knew how to quit you!

ry some probiotics .

Nah, I don't see any reason to.

And get some sleep.

Gee, if only I'd thunk of that!

Ken: Best way is to buy the tofu, wrap it in paper towels, put a book on top of it and go away for an hour or four. Then you pop them in oil. Once they're fried, add them to stirfry/noodles/ soup. If you have a store that specializes in Asian food, try the marinated tofu. I suggest you try doing this right now, as you're being more of a douchecanoe than usual.

By Politicalguineapig (not verified) on 08 Apr 2015 #permalink

"It has been a common saying of physicians in England, that a cucumber tofu should be well sliced, and dressed with pepper and vinegar, and then thrown out, as good for nothing.""

By herr doktor bimler (not verified) on 08 Apr 2015 #permalink

"It has been a common saying of physicians in England, that a cucumber tofu should be well sliced, and dressed with pepper and vinegar, and then thrown out, as good for nothing.”

Hey man, I like the stuff; I was a strict vegetarian in my learning-to-cook years. I basically have no idea what to do when confronted with, uh, raw meat - although I did cook a passable pot of bigos once.

Some private science companies will let you publish, but sometimes it is only after the patent runs out...

Usually it is after the patent is awarded. Once that is done it established prior art.

I am in total agreement about cucumbers.
They're a waste.

AND
OMFG!
It seems that JP and PGP are on the same wavelength about tofu.

By Denice Walter (not verified) on 08 Apr 2015 #permalink

You let it simmer for quite awhile so it soaks up all the stuff.

In my experience, this is pure Moosewood-era legend. It is, after all, effectively cheese. Decent substitute for paneer, and I'm perfectly happy with it fried as a vegetarian option in many Asian dishes. Some versions of mapo tofu appeal to me quite a bit (not too bastardized), as well as Korean that doesn't use really soft tofu, but otherwise, I greatly prefer tempeh.

Long simmering of tofu, intuitively, strikes me as not being the greatest idea.

JP:I basically have no idea what to do when confronted with, uh, raw meat – although I did cook a passable pot of bigos once.

Same. I can do okay with broth (or some things that contain raw meat like pasties or potstickers), but as a rule, I stick to pasta or lunch meat. Helps that the neighborhood market has really good deli options. Unfortunately, I'm not a vegan by any stretch. I just like interesting foods, and one can do a lot with tofu.

DW: Cucumbers are actually okay in salads, as long as it's summer. I can't stand 'em the rest of the year except as pickles. But we have really good pickle companies.

By Politicalguineapig (not verified) on 08 Apr 2015 #permalink

Also, Keith and Ken (who are probably the same person) seem to be playing bingo on how many things they can get wrong about me.

By Politicalguineapig (not verified) on 08 Apr 2015 #permalink

My mother, a career woman throughout her entire and illustrious working life (she is now retired and free to read as many books as she wishes), did cook wonderful meals, but I saw the deleterious effect of being forced to make dinner after working a 9 or 10-hour day, so I was really okay with fishfingers and beans. And soft-boiled eggs with toast soldiers, but that was usually breakfast. A special treat would be "fluffy egg", which I came to realize years later, was uncooked meringue; sugar and egg white, whipped together until fluffy. My cousins preferred bananas mashed with brown sugar.

The "Food Babe" does food a great disservice, trying to take all the chemicals out; my macarons would be sadly unsatisfying, when denied protein and sucrose.

By elsworthy (not verified) on 08 Apr 2015 #permalink

Long simmering of tofu, intuitively, strikes me as not being the greatest idea.

Well, not like, a long time - but long enough so that some of the liquidy stuff that's still there cooks off. (I add soy sauce and a fair bit of hot sauce, too, so there's that liquid.)

I actually mostly prefer tempeh too, but it's more expensive, and sometimes a switcheroo is nice. My favorite way to eat tofu, actually, is cooked approximately the way I described above, then mixed with short-grain white rice and greens, and with a fried egg (over easy) on top.

#93 PGP Hardly. I posted the link that the Indian Baby burns were likely the result of child abuse and not sp. combustion.
Nite all -sitting down to a very late dinner of mini 3 cheese quiches, wild salmon, quinoa and vegs.

Unfortunately, I’m not a vegan by any stretch. I just like interesting foods, and one can do a lot with tofu.

I'm not either, actually, although I keep mostly vegetarian at home, save for the odd tin of sardines or smoked oysters. (Yes, I'm weird.) Or lox or other seafood now and then, I suppose.

DW: Cucumbers are actually okay in salads, as long as it’s summer. I can’t stand ‘em the rest of the year except as pickles. But we have really good pickle companies.

Oh man, I love homemade pickles. I have a translation of my favorite Polish "quick pickle" recipe sitting around somewhere here, although it's not pickling cucumber season anyway. But yeah, raw cucumbers in a summer salad - that's half of what I ate in Russia in the summer, probably. With diced onions, tomatoes, and sometimes garlic, and various dressing options. Sometimes, of course, based on mayonnaise.

@90 - DW

I'm not sure I agree with you on the whole 'Cucumbers are a waste' I just had some very nice Japanese pickles at breakfast and they were all kinda of crunchy, tart goodness ^^

Tofu is excellent if you know what to do with it ... less so when just tossed in a dish without thinking about it (tofu + goma dressing + grated daikon is a nice flavour combination IMO).

By stewartt1982 (not verified) on 08 Apr 2015 #permalink

@ stewartt1982:

I don't like pickles either.

By Denice Walter (not verified) on 08 Apr 2015 #permalink

"Not to bring up too much blogging cross-talk, but my NCB/EBF/AP/homeschool friend was going off on the ‘so-called feminism’ of thinking you can have kids and raise them properly while still having, you know, a career ‘n shit."

Roadstergal, every time a woman tells me that she doesn't have to work, inevitably, in about a year, I hear that the marriage has gone belly-up - and I suspect the ex will be a lot less inclined to be generous to a stay-at-home ex-wife.

By Jane Ostentatious (not verified) on 08 Apr 2015 #permalink

I don’t like pickles either.

:)

This reminds me of a time - it was some years ago now, so I was even younger - when I was eating at a deli with a friend of mine who is an oddly picky eater for somebody of German descent by way of Singapore. I myself have never met a food I didn't like. (Except for kholodets and its relatives - look it up. Oh, and mealy apples.)

He finally settled on the roast beef sandwich with au jus. But he just left his pickle sitting there. I finally had to ask we, and he told me he didn't like pickles. I found the concept hard to grasp, and sort of gawked, slack-jawed, for a moment. "You don't even like pickles?"

Oh, I love cucumbers. In little tea sandwiches, with butter and everything. It's hard to find British-style cucumbers in my neck of the woods (VA, US). They're not right, somehow.

But I'm cool with being a loner in my liking. :)

By elsworthy (not verified) on 08 Apr 2015 #permalink

@Thursday:

Also clearly, you have ‘inner oldness’. I’m right about something, [d*mn] it! LOL!

It is true that I have heard this many times. ;)

@Roastergal:

Not to bring up too much blogging cross-talk, but my NCB/EBF/AP/homeschool friend was going off on the ‘so-called feminism’ of thinking you can have kids and raise them properly while still having, you know, a career ‘n [sh*t].

I’m disengaging from her, which is disappointing and hurts, but there’s only so much self-inflicted misogyny I am really willing to take.

Ow. I don't know how I would handle that - possibly the same way you are. I more or less checked out from some close friends when our worldviews started to diverge quite a bit, and particularly when they started to be vocally anti-psych-meds, and to criticize me for taking them, which I did for a few years. It did not feel good at all. (I mean, one starts to question whether a friendship is all that sincere if one party values ideology over the well-being/survival of the other, anyway.)

I am in total agreement about cucumbers.
They’re a waste.

I have a go-to cold sesame noodle recipe that simply would not be the same without cucumber among the garnishes. And really, you're going to complain about achad? Kheera raita? Tzatziki? Gazpacho? (I had one – figuratively speaking – dandy cucumber and gin, not "cucumber gin," cocktail at a wedding reception at the Lincoln Park Zoo several years ago, as well.)

If there is one "food" item that I would consider wiping off the map, it would be the shiitake mushroom.

Cucumbers are great -- as long as they're home-grown. I've become reconciled to only eating cucumbers between July and September.

What are "British-style cucumbers"? Are they a mythical creature like Hercule Poirot's vegetable marrows?

Just don't tell the Food Babe that research has discovered 37 volatile chemical compounds in cucumbers, including such undoubted toxins as dimethyl sulfoxide, 2-methyl-1-butanol acetate, (E,Z)- 2,6-nonadienal, hexadecane and benzaldehyde!!!

http://fbns.ncsu.edu/USDAARS/Acrobatpubs/P254-286/P277.pdf

Practically everything on that list can't be pronounced by the average third grader, so cucumbers are definitely off the menu (or as our British friends would say, "struck off").

By Dangerous Bacon (not verified) on 08 Apr 2015 #permalink

Shay: Seconded. Nothing like a gazpacho with summer veggies.

Narad: Ever had cucumber water?

Ken: I wasn't even talking about that, but yes, it was one thing among many. Including that you and your alter ego can't distinguish between guinea pigs (small, squeaky, members of the order rodentia) and, y' know, regular pigs. (pretty much the exact opposite.) Not to mention the slur on my typing abilities.

By Politicalguineapig (not verified) on 08 Apr 2015 #permalink

All this talk of tofu and cucumbers settles it - come Saturday, there should be a good weather window to smoke a few racks of ribs and a coupla sausages. There will be veggies, too. It just ain't right to skip the slaw, beans, and cornbread.

It'll be another 2 or 3 weeks before it will be warm enough to attempt a pork sholder or brisket.

What are “British-style cucumbers”? Are they a mythical creature like Hercule Poirot’s vegetable marrows?

It's some sort of genericized trade name for the "English (etc.) cucumber," which is "a" seedless cultivar. They mostly show up in my vicinity individually shrink-wrapped, like "microwave ready" baking potatoes.

Not having to scoop out the seeds has never struck me as something that merited a weird premium. Perhaps the "salad cucumber" crowd have some sort of quasi-purist faction that rejects half-moons.

It just ain’t right to skip the slaw

NO DILL.

He finally settled on the roast beef sandwich with au jus.

Ahem.

NO DILL.

I suggest you never take a trip to Russia or Ukraine.

Ahem.

What? Oh, redundancy, whatever. French is one of the languages I have so far refused to learn.

every time a woman tells me that she doesn’t have to work, inevitably, in about a year, I hear that the marriage has gone belly-up – and I suspect the ex will be a lot less inclined to be generous to a stay-at-home ex-wife

This isn't generally a matter of one's "inclination," although it of course varies by state.

^^ A Russian friend once told me it was "incorrect" that I know German and not French. She also once remarked that Germany is a lovely country, it's just too bad it's full of Germans.

NO DILL.

I suggest you never take a trip to Russia or Ukraine.

You are perhaps new around here.

@Narad:

Tarragon pickles? Ew. I think. I mean, I like absinthe quite a bit, but I'm not a big fan of licorice-favored things in salty foods. Caraway does not count.

NO DILL.
Then there would be no Aalborg Dild akvavit.

By herr doktor bimler (not verified) on 08 Apr 2015 #permalink

Ever season a cast iron skillet? What you did was create an unnatural, non stick coating of synthetically polymerized oil on the surface of your skillet.

Assuming that you can find one that has been sandblasted and polished; otherwise, it's pretty much just randomly deposited gook.

In other unfortunate news, poor thermal conductivity means that it doesn't "heat evenly" on the stovetop, either.

Tarragon pickles? Ew. I think. I mean, I like absinthe quite a bit, but I’m not a big fan of licorice-favored things in salty foods.

I have once threatened flatly to refuse to continue with a tuna casserole unless someone could find some tarragon.

Caraway does not count.

As a rule, but not in the intended sense.

As a rule, but not in the intended sense.

I have been in several arguments calm and polite discussions about whether caraway tastes like licorice/anise/fennel or not. I do not think it does, but having always been the odd one out, I assumed I was just weird.

That Food Babe's anonymous counterstrike was pretty nasty, although every single allegation could be correct and it would still be true that the Food Babe is a vicious crank while the Science Babe's critique is accurate.

This complete failure to respond to detailed and specific factual criticisms is reminiscent of the debate style seen all too often at the Daily Kos:

Kossack - the sky is purple.
Scientist - I'm pretty sure the sky is blue.
Kossack - WHY DO YOU HATE POOR PEOPLE??????

And thus the circle of life is complete.

By Robert L Bell (not verified) on 08 Apr 2015 #permalink

I don't find it shocking that an un-skeptical skeptic supports a narcissistic opportunist whose list of scientific accomplishments wont even fill a matchbox - aside from her "take down" of FoodBabe. I pay zero attention to Foodbabe and by no means defend her, but the sleeze factor of her detractor described by her coworkers as, basically, being replaceable by an untrained Chimp is crass and grossly offensive....and the fact that you all like it reflects terribly on you all.

By Ena Valikov (not verified) on 08 Apr 2015 #permalink

I did just throw out a cucumber, though.

They do get mushy sort of quick sometimes.

Tarragon pickles? Ew.

If you were for some insane reason to pursue those links, you'd probably encounter the proposal for an Everclear infusion of kasuri methi (still on hold) as a matter of one-upmanship principled research on the boundaries of Malört.

Tarragon pickles? Ew.

If you were for some insane reason to pursue those links, you'd probably encounter my proposal for an Everclear infusion of kasuri methi (still on hold) as a matter of one-upmanship principled research on the boundaries of Malört.

^ Hmph. Sorry about the duplicate.

All this food talk unaccountably leaves me not hungry. I think I should write a weight loss book.

By Andreas Johansson (not verified) on 08 Apr 2015 #permalink

an Everclear infusion of kasuri methi
Needs more Asafoetida.

By herr doktor bimler (not verified) on 08 Apr 2015 #permalink

Needs more Asafoetida.

Bear in mind that with some combination of MWI and Multiversimilitude, Anita Ward did actually have a disco hit with "Ring My Hing."

I just found out that I will be taking a trip to Sunny Moscow next month - I haven't been in 25 years (back when it was still the USSR)....so please, these stories are giving me goose-bumps, and not in the good way.

Ena Valikov@126:

I pay zero attention to Foodbabe and by no means defend her

Herp-derp. The searing butthurt is strong with this one. 2/10; Must lie harder.

Still on the subject of dogs plus fleas, I see FB is merrily shilling the latest tome from father of modern nutrition himself, Ol' Doc "Honest Joe" Mercola, complete with 100-copy giveaway. Alas, "all chosen winners are subject to eligibility determination before prizes will be awarded" so guess that's us filthy pharma shills SOOL on free firelighters then.

@ JP:

I agree about caraway- it has its own distinct taste.

About cucumbers:
in general , I don't like them at all but can almost nearly tolerate them if they are swathed in something else that tastes better ( as Narad said) in raita, tzatziki or that Thai salad/ condiment- if and only if- they are cut in very small pieces.
Pickles are not amongst my fondest choices either.

I seem to have a strong dislike of a few particular vegetables and condiments which I assiduously avoid. And I have a somewhat sensitive digestive system. Some soy products - if I eat enough- make me quite upset but I don't dislike them and I use condiments based on soy.

I do manage to select interesting meals from ethnic restaurants- Middle Eastern, Indian/ Pakastani, Japanese/ Thai/ Chinese. Much less European, esp Eastern European or German ((shudder)). Some French and Spanish.
But that's just me.

And I'm not much of a cook but I can make reasonably good poultry and salmon and I can assemble killer desserts that actually look attractive as well. *Assemble* is the hey word.

By Denice Walter (not verified) on 09 Apr 2015 #permalink

That's KEY word.

By Denice Walter (not verified) on 09 Apr 2015 #permalink

Flu shots have been used for WHAT?

In defense of Michael Pollan, his "Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants" quote is an argument against obsessing over whether or not to eat gluten, raw dairy, yoga mats, organic coconut oil... It is a warning against Food Babe-ism and getting caught up in fads. Nor does he market himself as the Food Stud, or post glam shots at the top of all his essays. I don't agree with everything he says, but he has a very different approach than the Babe. I don't think we need to invoke sexism to explain why the two are critiqued differently.

@Narad:

If you were for some insane reason to pursue those links, you’d probably encounter my proposal for an Everclear infusion of kasuri methi (still on hold) as a matter of one-upmanship principled research on the boundaries of Malört.

I'd drink that. I've always got plans in my head to make some Polish/Ukrainian style infused vodkas, but I haven't gotten around to it yet - for one thing, I missed cherry season this year, and wiśniówka is my favorite, except for my other favorite żubrówka, and there's no bison grass to be had around here. I might try to do a honey/pepper one sometime, though.

@Lawrence:
I wouldn't worry too much; the food scene is broader over there now. You can even get decent Italian in Moscow now, although I wouldn't recommend trying any of the Mexican restaurants. Sushi is oddly huge in Russia at the moment, and pretty good, actually.

@Denice:
Aw, come on! Central/Eastern European food is the best!

Nor does he market himself as the Food Stud, or post glam shots at the top of all his essays.

I think we've been over why this is irrelevant a few times.

I don’t agree with everything he says, but he has a very different approach than the Babe. I don’t think we need to invoke sexism to explain why the two are critiqued differently.

Michael Pollan has said plenty of appallingly stupid things about "chemicals" in food and GMOs. (I might look some of them up after Ukrainian.) If you think the difference in the reception of the two has nothing to do with sex/race/age/social status, I think you're really fooling yourself.

Food should not be adulterated for the sake of good business.

By Max Millhiser (not verified) on 09 Apr 2015 #permalink

@ JP:

Believe it or not, earlier today I took out frozen ( packaged) cheese blintzes from the freezer.

By Denice Walter (not verified) on 09 Apr 2015 #permalink

-btw- another advocate against the standard modern diet is Colin Campbell whose beliefs haven't exactly been the most SB but who is not often ridiculed.

By Denice Walter (not verified) on 09 Apr 2015 #permalink

@ Murmur, Johanna. . .

The flu shot-as-genocide tweet is dated Oct 5 2011 (I'm not citing the date to excuse for the searing stupidity of it). SciBabe has given it a boot back into circulation. Vani Hari posted a flu shot piece to her blog on Oct 4 2011, and I guess the tweet was intended to drive traffic her way.

http://foodbabe.com/2011/10/04/should-i-get-the-flu-shot/

I'm not sure what's up with the tweet about deletion - it looked like an automatic disclosure, rather than a composed tweet? In any case, that tweet has been deleted.

In defense of Michael Pollan, his “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants” quote is an argument against obsessing over whether or not to eat gluten, raw dairy, yoga mats, organic coconut oil

I like his saying too. It encapsulates a lot of sensible advice.
And by "eat food", I think what he means is to avoid super-processed food that is not longer recognizable as what it came from, because it tends to be unhealthy.
His rule doesn't work for people with celiac disease or food sensitivities / allergies, though.

#145 Oh I'm sure the craggy establishment white male of privilege would get a different response as the silly girl using her looks rather than her brains on social media with the exact same velocity, volume and stupidity of statements.

But I do think some of it has to do with the velocity and volume of using predominately social media vs traditional media even if the messages were precisely the same (and I do think the messages have some differences).

One of the problems of being successful in social media is the volume and velocity needed to keep the buzz going. While there are some glamour shots in book-selling and traditional article writing it is not nearly as pervasive as seems to be needed for success in the internet world. I also suspect the need to create enough signal to rise above the general noise of stupidity of one's chosen primary medium may also play into just how controversially stupid you need to be to get noticed. I also wonder if the cache of creating a movement where people annoy those in power is different in the two worlds.

So, does the below count as processed food? I can't figure why it wouldn't.

Lutefisk is dried whitefish (normally cod, but ling is also used) treated with lye. The first step is soaking the stockfish in cold water for five to six days (with the water changed daily). The saturated stockfish is then soaked in an unchanged solution of cold water and lye for an additional two days. The fish swells during this soaking, and its protein content decreases by more than 50 percent, producing a jelly-like consistency.

When this treatment is finished, the fish (saturated with lye) is caustic, with a pH of 11–12. To make the fish edible, a final treatment of yet another four to six days of soaking in cold water (also changed daily) is needed. Eventually, the lutefisk is ready to be cooked.

My great-great-grandparents (on one side) would definitely recognize that as food, to reference another vapid Michael Pollan quote.

JP: "My great-great-grandparents (on one side) would definitely recognize that as food, to reference another vapid Michael Pollan quote."

Yeah, the food faddists who blather on and on about fresh food that nothing has been done have yet to tell me where someone living in norther Wisconsin or Norway can get fresh veg.

Curing fish with lye was just one way Scandinavians preserved food. My Russian cookbook is fully of ways to make pickles, preserves, dried fruit, alcohol preserved fruit, etc. It amazing the vast numbers of dried products in the aisles of my local Asian/International market. And there are lots of different kinds of ham and bacon, from prosciutto to speck.

typed too fast: "northern Wisconsin or Norway can get fresh veg between November and February."

I like my cucumbers slice with a little salt and pepper. My son has enjoyed them since he was 2 or so, although as of late he's on a "no seeds" kick, so he has to scoop out the centers. Maybe he thinks cucumbers will grow in his tummy if he eats the seeds. The mind of a four year old is a mystery.

Our local teriyaki shop serves slivers of cucumbers soaked in some sort of vinegar. I do not like them at all, but my son eats them up like candy. It's a nice departure from the usual iceberg lettuce "salad" that accompanies most teriyaki orders. At least, that's what I'm used to here in the Pacific Northwest.

And to keep this mildly topical, the Food Babe's inanity makes my brain cramp.

By Jessica Sager (not verified) on 09 Apr 2015 #permalink

I'm thinking back about the whole structure of Omnivore's Dilemma, actually, and finding it a bit annoying. IIRC, he goes on about all the different chemicals that are used in the making of a chicken nugget, and how some of them have other industrial uses, etc., just like the Food Babe does. Just as dumb, too. (Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying chicken nuggets are good for you or anything; but they're not going to make you spontaneously combust or anything either.)

Another dumb thing was how much he dwells on how Americans are "corn people." Look, I think the American agricultural system is f*cked up myself, I'm annoyed with the way subsidies are set up to favor bad practices like monoculture, but it's not like it's turning us all into pod people or something, which is the vibe you get when you read Pollan.

And besides, let's say I have some nice, cold horchata with my rice and beans at lunch some day.
OMG I'M "WASHING DOWN MY [RICE] WITH [RICE]"
I'M A RICE PERSON YOU GUYZ

Then there's the whole morality tale aspect of the whole thing - the Goofus and Gallant slant, where he goes on to lovingly describe the incredible beauty of the organic chicken from the small farm and the organic vegetables and how a beautiful farm maiden squeezed each individual olive to get the oil out for cooking the vegetables in or whatever.

I mean, look, I like to cook. But it's not my religion.

@JP Is lutefisk healthy? I can't tell from the recipe.
And why do people put it through that chemical wringer? So it'll keep without having to freeze it?

Whatever. I mostly know of Michael Pollan because of Marion Nestle - she's a specialist in public health and nutrition who writes and talks about food politics.

Food should not be adulterated for the sake of good business.

I suggest you take a look at the diet of the average English or American working class family in the 19th century. No sane person would want to eat like that.

This 5 ingredients limit is something of a problem for those of us who like things like Bombay Sapphire gin, or Chartreuse, or Indian food, or soup, or much of anything beyond a bowl of gruel.

Like Narad, I like tofu as a sub for paneer. I buy extra-firm and freeze it. When it has thawed (best done rapidly for maximum effect) I squeeze out the water, which makes it somewhat like commercial textured soy protein and does allow it to soak up goodies from sauces.

I tend to avoid eating tons and tons of rice because it's becoming clear that much domestically produced rice has a fair amount of arsenic in it.

By palindrom (not verified) on 09 Apr 2015 #permalink

The arsenic problem is actually significantly worse with brown rice than white rice, I think, which is one of the reasons I switched. That, plus white rice keeps longer - I like to buy big bags - and I like it better. It's definitely a staple, but I'm not too worried about the arsenic.

My point about the rice thing, anyway, was just that the majority of human calorie intake since agriculture began has been from staple grains. I don't see why one should be so particularly freaked out about corn.

^That should be "a few staple foods," really, not "staple grains," but anyway.

@ Chris #76
Salad in gelatine? If my dad would look at those receipies, he would say something about 'Those crazy Americans'.

@JP @145: While I cannot speak for everyone, I certainly object more to Hari than Pollan for the reasons that were given and not due to Hari's looks or sex or background or age or anything else. Pollan says stupid stuff in stupid ways, Hari says stupid stuff in downright maliciously evil ways while simultaneously demonstrating several levels of self-absorption that I haven't seen from Pollan.

The arsenic problem is actually significantly worse with brown rice than white rice, I think

I am reminded that the Health Deranger's "lab results" didn't quite jibe with Lundberg's own.

Brown rice has very limited utility in my repertoire; maybe in a stew or something. If I want something more toothsome than the usual Dynasty Jasmine rice, say, for a rice salad, I find that the "forbidden" stuff works quite nicely.

Salad in gelatine? If my dad would look at those receipies, he would say something about ‘Those crazy Americans’.

The basic idea behind Jell-O salads (my great aunt did shredded carrots in lime, served on an iceburg lettuce leaf and topped with homemade mayonnaise) was emulating the French, sociological retconning notwithstanding.

Pollan says stupid stuff in stupid ways, Hari says stupid stuff in downright maliciously evil ways while simultaneously demonstrating several levels of self-absorption that I haven’t seen from Pollan.

Hari's an ideologue/idiot and so's Pollan; they both make a good living off of it, too. Pollan just couches his idiocy in nicer, pseudo-intellectual prose, which I personally find perhaps even more annoying than a straight shot of stupidity from Vani Hari. People are a lot more likely to take a stupid "deepity" seriously when it comes from somebody like Pollan.

I mean, for instance, there's this irritating Adorno quote - which isn't even an Adorno quote - that will get all the learned folks in the room nodding their heads and giving assent to: "There can no poetry after Auschwitz." I mean, fer f*ck's sake, there is.

^ Should been something more like "nodding their heads in assent."

@JP: Don't get me wrong, I find Pollan annoying as hell, and you make a good point about him being more of a "stealth idiot" (my paraphrase of your description), and potentially more harmful, but I suppose the difference is that I don't have people throwing insane Pollan quotes at me on my facebook newsfeed every hour, whereas that is precisely what I've been seeing of late from Hari and her fans. And I hold to the self-importance/absorption thing.

Beth: "And why do people put it through that chemical wringer?"

It is a way to preserve the fish from an era of no electricity. The Lye is "ash water", or what happens when you soak hard wood ashes in rain water.

And I hold to the self-importance/absorption thing.

Michael Pollan strikes me as incredibly self-important, actually.

@Beth:

@JP Is lutefisk healthy? I can’t tell from the recipe.

Since Chris already answered the second part of your question, I'll address the first part, as far as I can.

Is it healthy? I don't think it's terrible unhealthy, or my ancestral line would not have made it this far. I'm fairly sure it's not as healthy as fresh fish, but it's better than no fish, which is the point of preservation in general. In any case, it's certainly processed.

I can tell you that it stinks to high heaven.

It is a way to preserve the fish from an era of no electricity

That's what I kind of thought. I like my vacuum-packing device for that :)
I bet fish that's been preserved by vacuum-packing and freezing tastes a lot better.

Salad in gelatine? If my dad would look at those receipies, he would say something about ‘Those crazy Americans’.

In the rural South and Midwest, Jello is technically a vegetable.

I’m fairly sure it’s not as healthy as fresh fish, but it’s better than no fish ...

Maybe. We have noses that decide that things stink because it helps us avoid consuming unhealthy things.

I can tell you that it stinks to high heaven.

@JP: Fair enough and he certainly strikes me as such too, Hari just seems worse to me in that regard. Honestly, it probably is due to the difference between using his actual name and her choosing such a self-important 'nym, but it really doesn't matter, I think the rest of my last response is probably closer to accurate, that she bugs me more than him due to my being exposed to her insanity more frequently than his.

#175, if Mac n' Cheese counts as a veggie...

Maybe. We have noses that decide that things stink because it helps us avoid consuming unhealthy things.

Durian smells awful, too, and it's a fruit. A lot of perfectly healthy edibles might stink.

Lutefisk, as I understand it, can stink more or less or very little at all depending on the type of fish used. It's mainly eaten out of a sense of tradition these days, some sort of fealty to our poor, hardscrabble Norwegian forbears, and usually around Christmastime, for some G-dforsaken reason. I doubt it has any particular health benefits, but I wouldn't say it's bad for you, either.

Lefse, on the other hand, is a noble and delicious holiday food tradition.

Shay: Not just rural, says the city kid. At every single potlach I ever went to, plus every holiday dinner, there was jello salad. Ditto hotdish.

By Politicalguineapig (not verified) on 09 Apr 2015 #permalink

JP: "Lefse, on the other hand, is a noble and delicious holiday food tradition."

As are rosettes, lovely crispy deep fried goodness.

Funny thing: several years ago the local Museum of History and Industry had a special exhibition of our area's African-American heritage. In the display of kitchen ware were rosette irons. I had to to explain to the museum curator what they were for.

As are rosettes, lovely crispy deep fried goodness.

Oh, yeah, one of my great-aunts used to make those! I never knew they were specifically Scandinavian, though I suppose I should have guessed.

Krumkake is also nice.

Shay: "In the rural South and Midwest, Jello is technically a vegetable."

When I grew up Jello was always a desert, and the most salad like version was the lime Jello with canned pineapple. The first time I encountered it as a dinner salad were dinners at my Canadian born in-laws. Of course, Nanaimo and Port Alberni, BC are in south Canada.

Durian smells awful, too, and it’s a fruit. A lot of perfectly healthy edibles might stink.

All the fruits I've ever eaten have smelled fine. Not smelling bad is important in a meal.
Omnivores need to be cautious about new foods, and our nose is a kind of advance warning system.
We probably have an innate preference for fresh food - the smell and taste of it - because it's less likely than rotten food to make us sick.
Maybe the lutefisk was an acquired taste, people ate it when they became hungry enough, then came to find the smell acceptable when there were no immediate bad consequences.

"Is (lutefisk) healthy? I don’t think it’s terrible unhealthy, or my ancestral line would not have made it this far."

For some reason I'm reminded of the antivaxer argument that preventable infectious diseases aren't so bad, seeing that the human race has survived quite nicely despite them.

A quickie search doesn't turn up solid evidence of a lutefisk-cancer link (or other proven health consequences), but I'd wonder what effect long-term frequent consumption might have, especially on the esophagus and stomach (high intake of smoked and salted fish and meat is linked to increased risk of gastric cancer).

By Dangerous Bacon (not verified) on 09 Apr 2015 #permalink

"When I grew up Jello was always a desert"

Oops, it was a dessert.

For some reason I’m reminded of the antivaxer argument that preventable infectious diseases aren’t so bad, seeing that the human race has survived quite nicely despite them.

A quickie search doesn’t turn up solid evidence of a lutefisk-cancer link (or other proven health consequences), but I’d wonder what effect long-term frequent consumption might have, especially on the esophagus and stomach (high intake of smoked and salted fish and meat is linked to increased risk of gastric cancer).

I mean, I can kind of see comparing lutefisk to any number of diseases, but I doubt it's quite as deadly. To get the kind of effects you're referring to, you'd have to be eating a fair bit of lutefisk fairly often, I think, and I don't know many people - even Norwegians - who are quite that masochistic.

Bacon isn't great for you either, but eaten on occasion and in moderation, it probably won't kill you.

My general point is that "processed" foods aren't a new phenomenon, and while you wouldn't want to base your diet on them, they aren't Satan incarnate or anything either.

Altho' I never tasted - or even saw- lutefisk ( fortunately), my mother was fond of pickled/ prepared fish in jars which looked horrifying to me. There were herring and Gefilte fish. I think she picked up the habit when she worked in fashion with Jewish women from Central Europe

By Denice Walter (not verified) on 09 Apr 2015 #permalink

Dangerous Bacon @185: I remember reading an epi paper looking at the interaction of consumption of smoked fish with stomach cancer (in Iceland, I believe). The researchers wanted to test it in rats but their PI had a fit when he saw that they were planning on feeding the rats expensive smoked salmon. So they used something else (herring,maybe) and did show a potential causal relationship.

And then the people they were studying got reliable electricity and refrigeration and the problem went away. (It was a very old paper.)

By JustaTech (not verified) on 09 Apr 2015 #permalink

pickled/ prepared fish ... looked horrifying

Have you ever seen the pickled herring barrel scene in The Tin Drum?

“processed” foods aren’t a new phenomenon, and while you wouldn’t want to base your diet on them, they aren’t Satan incarnate or anything either.

The point of anti-processed food sentiment is not so much resistance to things like lutefisk - which apparently, people tend to resist without needing special encouragement or a movement or Michael Pollan.
The point is to resist food products that have cleverly been made super-palatable, even though the ingredients are cheap, by lots of processing. Products such that it's hard not to eat the whole box, once you've started.
So people developed an anti-processed food ideology in an attempt at resisting these manipulative tactics by food companies.

“When I grew up Jello was always a desert”

They make a dessert and call it 'peas'.

By herr doktor bimler (not verified) on 09 Apr 2015 #permalink

Altho’ I never tasted – or even saw- lutefisk ( fortunately), my mother was fond of pickled/ prepared fish in jars which looked horrifying to me. There were herring and Gefilte fish.

That stuff flew off the shelves here once the end-of-Pesach markdowns landed yesterday.

Actually, I brought on the whole lutefisk analogy in reference to one of Michael Pollan's "food rules," which I did not lay out explicitly, but it's this: "Don't eat anything your great-great-grandmother wouldn't recognize as food." It's a pretty silly idea, since there are a lot of healthy things, various fruits and vegetables included, that any one of my great-great-grandmothers probably would not have recognized as food, and any number of things they would have recognized as food that may or may not be particularly healthy.

Apologies, it's so far back in the comments @ #154 (?), but by "British-style cucumbers" I meant the thin-skinned, dark green cucumbers that are largely seedless and about 4-6" round. I find most US cucumber to have a thicker, lighter skin, and they're fatter. The ones they sell near me that are wrapped in individual little plastic sleeves are the closest to the ones I remember, but they go soft quickly and don't taste as good.

By elsworthy (not verified) on 09 Apr 2015 #permalink

There was a recent cultural reference to lutefisk that amused me, in Fortitude (a TV show that has barely kept my attention despite featuring both Sofie Gråbøl and Michael Gambon). A policeman eats some lutefisk, vomits and then dies in agonizing abdominal pain. To be fair he was also shot in the stomach before he died, quite some time after his meal,but I still suspect the lutefisk.

Even the Romans were fond of decomposing fish. Gotta get that umami somehow.

Also, I suspect English cucumbers are about as English as English muffins, which I don't think I have ever seen in England. I do enjoy cream of cucumber soup, FWIW, though I haven't had it in years.

By Krebiozen (not verified) on 09 Apr 2015 #permalink

Gotta get that umami somehow.

The sad thing about lutefisk is that it doesn't really have much umami, actually; it may smell horrible, but it tastes distinctly of nothing. Well, except maybe whatever you put on it, which in my family's case was melted butter - typically Norwegian.

Ix-nay on the umami talk. I heard that if you say "glutamate" and "excitotoxicity" three times while staring in a mirror, K.B*ll appears.

By herr doktor bimler (not verified) on 09 Apr 2015 #permalink

I agree -- lutefisk is not very umami-tasting, and flavor-wise is about as mild as a thing is possible to be while still having a corporeal existence. It tastes vaguely of cod, which is a pretty mild flavor to begin with, and strongly of whatever sauce you put on it. I've had it with melted butter, and with cream sauce. The cream sauce was better -- it doesn't roll off so fast, so you get more on each bite.

Come to think of it, a good comparison might be unflavored gelatin. The texture is different, however. If done right, it should flake just like properly cooked normal cod, but it's sort of . . . swollen and gelatinous and very, very tender.

By Calli Arcale (not verified) on 09 Apr 2015 #permalink

Regarding faux-outrage at "processed" foods.....

Lutefisk is a fairly extreme example of both a food your grandparents are more likely to consider edible than you are, and also a traditional processed foo. Honestly, the word "processed" gets tossed around like "chemical", devoid of meaning. I've heard people talk about unprocessed smoothies, and one rather unfortunate saleswoman tried to convince me that her company's brand of kibble was better because it was unprocessed.

Unprocessed.

Kibble.

I tried to clue her in to the absurdity of that, but it fell completely on deaf ears. ("I see the kibble harvest was good this year!")

Food processing goes waaaaaaaay back, to a time when honestly getting fresh food was a luxury reserved only for harvest time. Food processing was invented to solve that problem, as well as to make unfit food safe and enjoyable to eat. "Pink slime" certainly isn't the first example of making potentially unsafe food safe -- cassava, for instance, requires careful processing to dispose of the cyanide in it. It was domesticated in South America about 10,000 years ago, so it's been processed for 10,000 years as well. And then there's corn. Unprocessed corn is delicious, but vitamin deficient. The native Americans developed what might have been the first fortified flour by inventing a processing method (nixtamalization) to make masa, a corn flour processed with lime to unlock the niacin in the corn and render it absorbable -- if you just ate unprocessed maize, you'd eventually die of pellagra. And that's not even getting into stuff like beer and wine!

By Calli Arcale (not verified) on 09 Apr 2015 #permalink

Everyone's doing a pretty good job of debunking the Food Babe's rather useless drivel.

I guess my biggest peeve is that once again, pseudoscience supporters resort to the age-old tactic of "outing" anyone whose opinion they don't agree with. Either they want to discredit the individual or scare them into silence. In some cases, they'll just out and out lie, because when you can't defend your position, call the other person names instead.

Having made it through my in-law's annual Good Friday piscistoccu ( which all the grandchildren refer to as "stinky fish day") I must say when we live on an island,( Australia) they came from an island (Sicily) where delicious fresh fish abound it still astounds me that they revel in the treat that is salted preserved imported Scandinavian cod.
http://www.allthingssicilianandmore.com/tag/baccala/

By janerella (not verified) on 09 Apr 2015 #permalink

Janerella - maybe it's Proustian.

Re. Eric @ 8: 'The Food Babe should put her money where her mouth is, so to speak, and practice Breatharianism. Let’s see how long she lasts without water, vitamins, protein, or carbohydrates.'

Water, vitamins, protein, and carbohydrates are chemicals.

I have a modest proposal: the only way to mimimise one's exposure to chemicals of all sorts, is in vacuum.

Move over Breathairianism, it's time for Vacuumianism!

The ultimate expression of Vaccumianism is to abide in the vacuum of space. But most of us can't afford the trip, and the nice folks on the iSS wouldn't accommodate the request ('Put you through the airlock?! You're mad! Someone help me tie this one up until the next supply ship comes.').

What we _can_ do is learn to chant _Ooooommmmm!_ whist we're using the 'vacuum' in our flats. Yes, my children, harmonise with your hoover, and you shall be rewarded with infinite grace!

In case Food Babe is tempted to consider that sexist, she can apply to her local Council for a job operating one of these, which I understand have very powerful vacuums:

http://www.johnstonsweepers.com/product-range/selected-product.php?qsSe…

Let's hear it for Vacuumianism!

Marion Nestle has made some good observations about how food companies make processed foods that are super-palatable, from cheap ingredients - the kind of food where you're likely to end up eating the whole box. They make foods super-palatable by making use of likings people have that are hard to resist. It's one reason so many people are fat.
Ideology is a way to get a group of people to resist such inducements.
That's the point of the anti-processed foods ideology, avoiding processed foods with 20 ingredients with strange chemical names, etc. etc.
Ideologies are like religions - they serve to motivate people.
The anti-processed food ideology can at least be good for people. The food companies do have a role in making people fat and unhealthy.
Anti-vaccination is a much better target. No redeeming qualities in that.

Dr. Kessler, former head of FDA, has written about the hyper-palatable foods engineered by food companies and how they make it difficult to not eat too much of them.

Fixed broken link ...
Dr. Kessler, former head of FDA, has written about the hyper-palatable foods engineered by food companies and how they make it difficult to not eat too much of them.

Altho’ I never tasted – or even saw- lutefisk ( fortunately), my mother was fond of pickled/ prepared fish in jars which looked horrifying to me. There were herring and Gefilte fish.
You just reminded me - there's a jar of pickled herring in the refrigerator. I'm eating some now, and MAN is it delicious!

By Lancelot Link (not verified) on 10 Apr 2015 #permalink

With all this talk of lutefisk (or lutfisk as we call it in Sweden), I'm obligated to mention fermented herring, the food the Geneva convention inexplicably does not ban. It's generally advised to serve outdoors, such is the smell.

It's unhealthy to eat much of it because of dioxin levels, but that's AFAIK a problem of the industrial age.

By Andreas Johansson (not verified) on 10 Apr 2015 #permalink

@208

I really love the food in Japan but still can't abide the natto. Don't mind the smell or the flavour ... but that texture, oh that texture. The little packet of mustard (karashi) that Steve mentions does help. That s**t goes well on everything.

By stewartt1982 (not verified) on 10 Apr 2015 #permalink

There seem to a remarkable number of dishes involving fermenting fish. Besides lutefisk, a staple of Midwestern comedy, there's surströmming, possibly the smelliest food in the world, ancient Roman garum, and modern Asian fish sauce.

This raises the rather horrifying question: Who was the first person desperate enough to try eating it?

By Gray Falcon (not verified) on 10 Apr 2015 #permalink

I want my herring raw, with some onions. Can't wait till it's the season again. Yes, you can buy them all the year, but I prefer them in summer.

This raises the rather horrifying question: Who was the first person desperate enough to try eating it?

I've wondered this about a lot of foods, actually. Lobster, for instance. I don't know who the first person to look at a lobster and think "I bet I could eat that" was, but I would like to shake his (or her) hand. I suspect we share some psychological quirks.

My grandparents ate only traditional Eastern European foods--typically high in fat, high in salt. Pickled herring was a staple at breakfast--maybe that canceled out the other stuff?

Both grandmothers made it into their 90's, but my grandfathers did not, due to cancer. I can definitely tell you that herring does not cancel out heavy smoking.

I've always thought our diet is proof that human beings arose by descent from ancesstral, less intelligent forms rather than being created in essentially the same form and with the same intelligence we display today. I just can't imagine someone seeing a small white lump drop out of a chicken's butt for the first time and thinking "Yum! I bet that will taste good!"

I don't smoke, I just eat herring. Smoking annoys the hell out of me. I have a good sense of smell and with smoke, it's to good. I even sometime smell the smoke of my neighbour in my bedroom, just because my window is always open..

Lobster, for instance. I don’t know who the first person to look at a lobster and think “I bet I could eat that” was, but I would like to shake his (or her) hand.

Perhaps it was someone with ectrodactyly, applying the adage that "you are what you eat" but in reverse order. Shaking hands would be an interesting experience.

By herr doktor bimler (not verified) on 10 Apr 2015 #permalink

Other foods that it took a brave - or desperately hungry - person to be the first to try:
- Cheese
- yogurt
- oysters
- crawdads

By Mephistopheles… (not verified) on 10 Apr 2015 #permalink

I understand that many East Asian cultures find the idea of cheese repulsive, much as some of us might be skeeved out by century eggs.

I read somewhere about a theory that cheese came about in the Middle East, when nomads were using sheep and goat stomachs as containers for milk. One wouldn't want the stuff to go to waste in warm weather, I suppose.

I did know a person from China that really couldn't take cheese on anything unless it was cheese flavored powder on things like Doritos. I'm fairly certain the first English words she made sure she could say clearly were no cheese and it was said to ever waitress every meal.

Although I've known people of European heritage that commented endlessly on either my consumption of rotted milk or dead baby chicken goo. Fortunately I never had them at the same table while consuming a cheese omelet.

I think cheese is certainly an acquired taste, though one that's acquired quite early among those of us of the cheese-eating disposition. If you're only used to cheddar or other cow cheeses, the first taste of sheep or goat cheese can give you a glimpse, I think, of what the taste sensation really is like: kind of sour and vomit-like, to be honest, though I love the stuff in general. As I am of half-Scandinavian descent, I figure that a snack must really contain butterfat, fish, or starch - preferably some combination - to be worthwhile.

Although I’ve known people of European heritage that commented endlessly on either my consumption of rotted milk or dead baby chicken goo. Fortunately I never had them at the same table while consuming a cheese omelet.

Ah yes, the militant vegans. I always found them rather tiresome, even when I was pretty much vegan myself.

^ Being mostly vegan went completely against my own dietary proclivities, it happened.

Funny enough both were otherwise reasonably normal omnivores who ate all other animal parts just fine.

Interestingly enough, T.Colin Campbell, who tirelessly promotes the healthy, vegetable-based cuisine of the Mysterioso East, has cast aspersion upon cheese ( casein, actually ) as being an important factor in the development of cancer.
This is very similar to what some militant vegans hold.

I can't say that I've ever seen SB data about this. Perhaps we should ask cancer researchers in the Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden, France, England- they should know.

By Denice Walter (not verified) on 10 Apr 2015 #permalink

I'm sure I have mentioned here before my encounter with fermented milk in Morocco. Briefly, I ended up staying with some nomadic camel herders in the outskirts of the Sahara for a few days. I thanked them for their hospitality by taking a trip into the nearest town and buying the ingredients for an enormous camel stew with couscous, which we ate from a communal platter (I never set eyes on the women who prepared this repast, though my female companion did). I was a vegetarian at the time, so I avoided the meat, but did end up accidentally eating a chunk that I was too polite to spit out; it tasted very like lamb.

After the meal I was handed a large bowl of liquid, which I assumed I was supposed to rinse my hands in - my hosts' hands didn't need it, as they were astonishingly adept at rolling meat, vegetables and couscous into a ball and flipping it into their mouths with their thumbs, but I wasn't quite so graceful, and had gravy and couscous up to my elbows. It was quickly made clear to me that I was supposed to drink it, not wash in it, so I took a large mouthful. I am quite proud of how well I disguised my horror at discovering it was milk that had gone sour, literally like a bottle of milk that has gone off in the fridge, with chewy lumps in it. I'm not even fond of yogurt, so this was quite a shock to me but I smiled and swallowed anyway.

Later in this trip, back in civilization, we had more or less run out of money, and spent the last of it in a supermarket on bread, cheese and a carton of milk. To our surprise we discovered that this too was sour; we gave it to the guys running the hotel. I believe fermented milk products are popular in many places because they last longer than fresh milk and because most non-Europeans are lactose intolerant, and presumably in fermented milk most of the lactose has turned to lactic acid.

By Krebiozen (not verified) on 10 Apr 2015 #permalink

Being mostly vegan went completely against my own dietary proclivities, it happened.

I was vegan for a good part of one college year. However, being in a dorm and having a screwed-up sleep schedule,* I felt no ethical compunction about the plentiful meat-bearing pizza leftovers that would turn up late at night.

A vegan couple I came to know years later differed on their evaluation of this approach, as I recall. But anyway, the beginning of the end was purest sabotage.

Two of my female friends (aside from the ensuing rift) planted a can of bona fide** generic corned beef hash in the garbage. It was a false trash operation. I got over it by rationalizing that from the perspective that meat scraps probably weren't significant drivers of The Industry Of Slaughter.

I was lacto-ovo on and off for a long time afterward, although I don't think I ever eschewed White Castle and a normal Thanksgiving menu. It was actually the latter that was the reason for my only knowledge of Pollan; I had naively fallen into the habit of buying kosher birds on the basis of some "less factory farmed" concept-blob that had congealed in my head.

Then, one year, the House Organ of Mr. Bow-Tie Kimball endorsed the "Aaron's Best" brand. In my case, this led to discovering Rubashkin/Agriprocessors and kicking shechita to the curb, Temple Grandin's scuffling around notwithstanding.***

Hence, a few visits with Pollan. I was able to resolve the dilemma on my own, though. I'll pay a premium for the weak Certified Humane certification, have paid a lot for Animal Welfare Approved at Thanksgiving and have a decent feel for Heritage Foods USA (not that I can afford them), conditionally trust the guys at the local farmers' market (I'm less sanguine about cornucopia-dot-org), and don't worry much about beef.

* The dining hall was more priggish.
** Seriously – Repo Man label and everything.
*** I haven't seen anyone directly pose the question to her whether she'd personally prefer a bolt stunner.

One of the main exceptions to my mostly-veganism in college was dumpster diving, since it was never a "purity" thing in my case. One year there was a power outage or a flood or something and Top Foods basically threw out its entire freezer section - I was in bacon and frozen pizza for weeks. (Still frozen by the time I got to it.) There was also the roadkill deer I helped butcher and eat. (It was actually still alive when we found it, but not long for the world. There was a guy with a gun, we were in a car with a big trunk.)

My actual lapses always involved seafood, which led to my becoming basically a pescatarian in the time between college and grad school. I figure shellfish aren't even really sentient, and fish - well, I never really had much justification when it came to fish except that I wanted to eat it. "Fish are the vegetables of the sea."

It was in grad school, even before I went abroad, that I sort of let the whole thing slide. When you have Russian friends who feel compelled to comfort a first-year grad student, much in the way one would a wounded animal, and they don't really get the concept of vegetarianism - "the soup only has a little bit of meat in it" - and you feel like it would genuinely hurt their feelings to refuse their hospitality, it kind of becomes a case of "ah, f*ck it."

The debate over kosher/halal slaughter in Europe was in the news a lot the last time I was in Poland. I can't help but feel a little uneasy about an outright ban, considering Europe's past, and uh, present. Poland actually doesn't have much of an immigrant population - there are some Vietnamese immigrants in Warsaw, but that's almost it - but I recall a few years ago in Berlin seeing <a href="http://npd-g saying "Ausländer raus."

I love how she says that having a degree does not make you right, and she is right on that, but it also means that you studied it and maybe even researched it, which means you would have more knowledge on that subject than the average googling person

Chemical are all ways getting pulled from food. That have bean past as safe by chemist or any governing body. As for shit throwing you are as bad. As for the peddistel your on its a matter of time be for you nock your self off.

Martin is a Poe. No one spells that badly unless it's on purpose.

Martin - Out of curiosity, what part of Wakefield are you in?

By Mephistopheles… (not verified) on 11 Apr 2015 #permalink

Krebiozen - I regret to say I have no personal anecdotes that begin with "I ended up staying with some nomadic camel herders in the outskirts of the Sahara for a few days."

By Mephistopheles… (not verified) on 11 Apr 2015 #permalink

"No acceptable level of any chemical to ingest, ever."
Really? What an Idiot. I take a pill every morning made of a chemical called Ascorbic Acid, also known as vitamin C. I use another chemical called Sodium Chloride (Salt) to flavor my food. The Sodium Chloride contains another chemical called Iodine. People that cut back on using Salt ended up having Thyroid problems because they weren't getting enough of that nasty chemical called Iodine. Like I said before. What an Idiot.

By Brian R Loudermilch (not verified) on 11 Apr 2015 #permalink

A Food Babe quote: "Lemon water is very alkaline and can stimulate the liver. "

By Joseph Hertzlinger (not verified) on 11 Apr 2015 #permalink

Cool, Wakefield's got his own personal pearl fish. I feel sorry for the other sea cucumbers.

By Politicalguineapig (not verified) on 11 Apr 2015 #permalink

Lemon water is very alkaline and can stimulate the liver

The "alkalinity" of lemon juice that she's referring to is in the context of the "alkaline ash" diet. Whether a food is considered "acid" or "alkaline" in this diet depends on how much acid must be excreted in the urine to maintain blood pH. It isn't related to whether the food itself is acidic or alkaline - after all, all food becomes acidic when mixed with stomach acid.
The "alkaline ash diet" can be healthy. As for the specific health claims,

there's some early evidence that a diet low in acid-producing foods like animal protein (such as meat and cheese) and bread and high in fruits and veggies could help prevent kidney stones, keep bones and muscles strong, improve heart health and brain function, reduce low back pain, and lower risk for colon cancer and type 2 diabetes. But researchers aren't sure yet.

This so-called alkaline ash diet may be touted as healthy, but this would only be coincidental. After all, who can dispute the benefit of eating more vegetables and fruit, and less meat and processed food? Where it goes off the rails is the acid-base blether, which is nonsense. At any rate, the diet appears to be a vegan and gluten free diet diet, which is extremely limited for no known benefit for the average person and is also nutritionally deficient.
It also prohibits coffee. That means war.

Over my dead nutritionally body.

This so-called alkaline ash diet may be touted as healthy, but this would only be coincidental.

Eating more veggies and fruit and less meat has many benefits besides possible benefits of a higher pH in the metabolic products, that's true.
I think the main argument against protein as an "acid ash" food, is that higher protein intake causes more calcium to be excreted into the urine (this has to do with the "acid ash" produced by the proteins). If one isn't getting enough dietary calcium to make up for it, this calcium comes from the bones, which could cause osteoporosis.
I don't see support for your statement that the concept of eating fewer "alkaline ash" foods is nonsense.
I looked at a couple websites about the alkaline-ash diet, and it wasn't described as either vegan or gluten-free or even coffee-free. Those things are absolutes anyway, unlike the concept of eating more "alkaline ash" foods and less "acid ash" foods.
People can be quite healthy with a gluten-free vegan diet.

Citrate is metabolized to yield bicarbonate, which is a base. Sodium citrate is used in the WHO rehydration salts formula for this purpose, to counteract acidosis that can result from severe diarrhea.
Citric acid consumption isn't the same. There is the small problem that it is a triprotic acid, and those three protons have to go somewhere.
Both citrate and citric acid will increase alimentary aluminum absorption, which I would have thought would cause the likes of Hari hysterics.

I wonder how popular sodium bicarbonate would be as an "alkalizing" agent and general purpose cure-all if it were known by its other name - sodium acid carbonate.

"... can stimulate the liver"
Just in case your liver has nothing to do and is getting bored and sluggish.

I think the main argument against protein as an “acid ash” food, is that higher protein intake causes more calcium to be excreted into the urine

I take that back - that's just the argument that I've heard. I don't know what pros and cons there might be to a diet that results in a lot of acidity in the blood, that needs to be removed by the kidneys.

The key question is whether lutefisk is alkalizing.

By herr doktor bimler (not verified) on 12 Apr 2015 #permalink

I imagine that the lye would tip the scales in that direction.

By Denice Walter (not verified) on 12 Apr 2015 #permalink

Some nonsense at Salon:

As a result, there has been a dramatic increase in a whole range of illnesses that manifest in different parts of your bodies, depending on your own genetic profile. All are caused by the same underlying impact of inflammation from sugar, and the resulting nerve damage and compression.

(emphasis mine)

Some contemptuous slagging in the comments seems in order.

A sad day to discuss all this. This morning I met with my 2 nephews for breakfast. Afterwards, we drove nearby to the grave of their mother, whose birthday was today.
She died of a very aggressive renal cell carcinoma almost five years ago.
She tried chemotherapy but didn't tolerate it very well and gave it up. To be honest, it may not have made a difference anyway because they were mainly hoping to shrink the size of the cancer enough to allow an operation to remove it. And a few months later it had metastasized to the lungs and not long after that she died. The only thing that might really have made a difference would be an earlier detection.
But I do know that after giving up on the chemo, she ran the gamut of weird "cures" from Essiac tea to a vegan diet to the acid-base diet stuff. She also had a boyfriend who brought her bottles of homeopathic nodules to break open and take.
None of them were the magic cure either.
I never mention any of this to them because I don't think either of them are inclined to such BS and there's no point in adding any chemical to those wounds.
But I shall certainly do so in the future if appropriate.

By squirrelelite (not verified) on 12 Apr 2015 #permalink

Some nonsense at Salon:

I can see why a couple of cranks would try to cash in on legitimate dietary concerns by churning out a sensationalised book on the topic, mixing in large quantities of bullsh1t to distinguish it from previous more scholarly books. I am not seeing why Salon wants to pimp their book by republishing large excerpts as free advertisements, though.

By herr doktor bimler (not verified) on 12 Apr 2015 #permalink

Re: Salon (Sugar Crush)

Raquel Baldelomar is the founder of a health care marketing and advertising agency.

Richard Jacoby is a podiatrist.

Alrighty then!

Beth,

I think the main argument against protein as an “acid ash” food, is that higher protein intake causes more calcium to be excreted into the urine (this has to do with the “acid ash” produced by the proteins). If one isn’t getting enough dietary calcium to make up for it, this calcium comes from the bones, which could cause osteoporosis.

We have known that isn't true for quite some time, though that doesn't stop a million websites from making that claim. In fact a high protein diet leads to much greater calcium absorption and any excess calcium absorbed is excreted in the urine. A low protein diet may even lead to bone problems because of reduced calcium absorption, the opposite of this claim.

There is a lot written about alkaline ash diets, but after a great deal of reading I came to the conclusion that the vast majority of it is nonsense. Any excess acidity from food is rapidly excreted in the urine or through respiration as carbon dioxide, and we generally have a large reserve capacity to excrete acids. If you look at the acidity provided by a piece of meat or some cheese and compare it to the acidity generated by vigorous exercise it is clear that both are easily excreted, unless renal function is impaired.

From notes I made a few years ago on this subject (I don't have the references but the numbers are easily confirmed):

A normal person produces about 1 kilogram (15,000 mEq) of carbon dioxide, which is exhaled, and 40-80 mEq of organic acids from anaerobic metabolism, which is excretd in the urine, every day. If we exercise vigorously we will produce considerably more than this (exercise can produce as much as 40 mEq of acids every minute), but luckily our lungs have a huge ability to exhale carbon dioxide (obviously we hyperventilate when we exercise), and our kidneys are capable of excreting 700 mEq of acids every day.

In other words our bodies have the capacity to excrete far more acidity than we could ever generate or ingest unless we are constantly running a marathon or we deliberately overdose on something acid-generating like ammonium chloride.

Let's compare this to the amount of acidity generated by a very acid-forming foods, like cheese. A hard cheese will generate about 20 mEq of acids for every 100 grams (about 4 ounces) ingested. Soda drinks like colas contain about 2.5 mEq of acids in each liter. The organic acids generated by exercise are functionally identical to those generated by the consumption of acid-producing foods.

To overwhelm your body's capacity to excrete acids, you would have to drink hundreds of liters of cola every day, or eat several pounds of cheese or meat every day.

By Krebiozen (not verified) on 12 Apr 2015 #permalink

"To overwhelm your body’s capacity to excrete acids, you would have to drink hundreds of liters of cola every day, or eat several pounds of cheese or meat every day."

At which point of course the excess acid might be the least of your worries. ;-)

By Calli Arcale (not verified) on 12 Apr 2015 #permalink

eat several pounds of cheese or meat every day.

That doesn't sound so infeasible to me.

By justthestats (not verified) on 12 Apr 2015 #permalink

This article was the first time I had actually ever heard of the "Food Babe" - Much of what I see on her site actually resonates with me - Cook more of what you eat yourself from fresh and whole ingredients - limit your intake of artificial food additives, and demand to see the ingredients in the food you eat.

Actually that is pretty close to how I try to eat - SLOW (Seasonal, Local, Organic, Whole)

Does this make me anti-science? I don't really think so.

But I will tell you what I am skeptical of - Large corporations, and any science that supports the positions needed by major corporations to support their next quarter earnings per share.

Are the additives in our food safe? Frankly, I don't know, but the arguments made by the science babe and others who support her sound a heck of a lot like the arguments made by Robert Kehoe supporting the use of lead in gasoline

http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2014/04/21/patterson-and-kehoe-and-t…

"The heart of the Kehoe Paradigm was to first piously state that if it could be conclusively shown that tetraethyl lead was a public health danger, then of course the lead industry would stop, as the only rational and morally acceptable response. But then he would go on to argue that it wasn’t conclusive at all, yet — so the default response should be to allow industry to continue to profit until the consequences to public health were undeniable. And this neglect of responsibility was all neatly wrapped up in the claim that it was the “scientific” way of thinking — that somehow, science only deals with absolute truths and that you can’t draw scientific conclusions until every detail is knitted up with complete certainty."

That is exactly the argument being used today to support GMOs

Industry has always been able to find scientists to support the position that protects profits. In the 50s and 60s we saw doctors and scientists testify about how healthy it was to smoke tobacco. Today, climate deniers like Willie Soon http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php/Willie_Soon make millions from the fossil fuel industry.

Let me pose a question - let's say tomorrow that Archer Daniels Midland got a report that one of the additives used in their food was a truly harmful carcinogen. But, removing the additive immediately would take $0.02 off their EPS next quarter. What do you think they would do? My opinion - they would bury the report.

And *that's* why I have trouble accepting the safety of food additives. There is the real dilemma. I can't possible evaluate every additive in our food, and I don't trust the companies that make them to honestly report the truth

By EcoLogic Lee (not verified) on 12 Apr 2015 #permalink

I don’t know what pros and cons there might be to a diet that results in a lot of acidity in the blood

I think the fact that the concept itself is nonsensical largely obviates worrying about "pros and cons."

Lee -- the problem with the SLOW diet is that I live in central Illinois. Were I to follow it, I'd be eating the same foods that were eaten here about 150 years ago, chiefly corn and pork (and the occasional squirrel or rabbit)..

No thanks.

@ EcoLogic Lee

That is exactly the argument being used today to support GMOs

Not exactly. There have been studies on the impact on health of some GMOs, coming back negative, and not just by the big 6 BigAg. The website "Biology Fortified, Inc" could provide a few.

Anyway, bit of an impasse, here.

Scientists like me try to be charitable to published results and assume that the authors did try to do a good job. So, unless some discrepancy is shown, we provisionally accept the findings.
You have the opposite approach: you want to have evidence that the people doing studies have been honest.
That's going to be an Herculean task to convince you.

You will also have to define "safe". Are you talking in absolute value, or relative to the usual amount of safety of food grown in your backyard garden, or something in-between?
In absolute value, about nothing is safe. It's just a question of dose before it harms you.
On the other hand, even ordinary food could be treacherously dangerous. A number of veggies are fond of producing alkaloids and other harmful substances. Rhubarb is full of oxalic acid, great for making kidney stones, and soy has a fair amount of estrogen-like compounds.
I agree nonetheless that's not a reason to let corps but anything in food. Actually, I am more concerned about high salt or sugar content than the additives, but maybe I should broaden my horizons a bit.
I would just be cautious in taking any claim from someone like the Food Babe at face value, as she has proven to be prone to exaggeration. She has also proven not to let science - as in, stuff actually found in real life - going in the way of a good story.

"Let me pose a question"

"they would bury the report."

Not if it's done by universities or other public-funded labs AND these have an obligation to publish their results.

But I would completely agree scientific research and publication quality could be improved.

By Helianthus (not verified) on 13 Apr 2015 #permalink

In the 50s and 60s we saw doctors and scientists testify about how healthy it was to smoke tobacco.

No, we didn't.

EcoLogic Lee, have you bothered to read the comments starting at #152? Do tell us what is "Seasonal, Local, Organic, Whole" in Minnesota or Alberta between November and March? I hope you avoid almonds (unless you live in California), tofu, bananas, cheese, quinoa, and other things that are processed and grown in very warm climates.

"Industry has always been able to find scientists to support the position that protects profits. In the 50s and 60s we saw doctors and scientists testify about how healthy it was to smoke tobacco."

Yet another person who can't tell the difference between tobacco ads and reality.

Also,

"But I will tell you what I am skeptical of – Large corporations, and any science that supports the positions needed by major corporations to support their next quarter earnings per share... I can’t possible evaluate every additive in our food, and I don’t trust the companies that make them to honestly report the truth."

But you're willing to take the word of a ludicrously uninformed person who makes a lot of money peddling her unsubstantiated viewpoints.

Speaking of uninformed - GMO safety has been confirmed by a large volume of independent (non-industry funded) studies, so the "corporations say so" argument is fatally flawed.

http://www.forbes.com/sites/jonentine/2013/10/14/2000-reasons-why-gmos-…

By Dangerous Bacon (not verified) on 13 Apr 2015 #permalink

The whole tobacco argument gets old - very, very fast. Did it take way too long for the government to appropriately crack down on cigarette manufacturers? Yes - it did, but to say that people (including the vast majority of scientists and doctors) weren't warning people about the dangers of smoking from almost the beginning (big anti-tobacco sentiments in Victorian England, for instance) is to show much about history they don't actually know.

EcoLogic Lee:

Are the additives in our food safe? Frankly, I don’t know, but the arguments made by the science babe and others who support her sound a heck of a lot like the arguments made by Robert Kehoe supporting the use of lead in gasoline

One very big difference is which one has science to back it up. The Food Babe isn't making her claims based on science, unlike the people opposing leaded gasoline. She's basing them, quite intentionally and frankly, on ignorance. "I don't know what this is, therefore it is bad." Seriously, how can you compare that to the laborious and extensive data that was used to demonstrate the problems with leaded gasoline? I mean seriously, that was a gigantic data set, looking at everything from ice cores to seawater to cancer rates. This? Vani Hari gives nothing but her own personal incredulity. Nor does she care to. Research is apparently for other people.

Chris:

EcoLogic Lee, have you bothered to read the comments starting at #152? Do tell us what is “Seasonal, Local, Organic, Whole” in Minnesota or Alberta between November and March?

Yes, it is a problem. I'm in Minnesota, and we do actually have some decently priced seasonal, local, and whole produce. However, it's almost entirely Bushel Boy tomatoes. Don't get me wrong -- they're fantastic tomatoes. I buy them year-round because they're so good, and their vine-on tomatoes stay ripe a bit longer on my counter. They're grown in Owatonna, MN, in greenhouses where they are pollinated by captive bumblebees. (Bumblebees are more docile than honeybees and maintain much smaller hives, so they're more suitable for indoor use.) There are smaller greenhouses and hydroponics operations which sell fresh herbs and such, and I know for a while Bushel Boy had experimented with (but ultimately abandoned) hydroponic lettuce that was sold with the roots still attached -- this keeps it fresher longer. They don't seem to still be selling those, so it must not have done well enough. Occasionally you see a few other hydroponic products at market, but not many. And fresh fruit in Minnesota? Well, right now there's absolutely none in season. Farmers are getting their crops planted right now. Trees are beginning to wake up. Maple syruping time is over; soon you'll be able to harvest spruce tips, if that's something you like. You can harvest fern fiddleheads soon. But those two are not common food items. Fruits won't be available until the berries start to come out in June. Strawberries first, then raspberries and blackberries and blueberries. That will go most of the summer. Summer squash and tomatoes and cucumbers and such will come at the end of summer, as will the corn and broccoli and carrots and onions and potatoes and the wheat and the beans and so forth. The wild rice harvest comes around this time too. Grapes will come at the very end of the season -- to grow wine grapes here is a particular challenge, racing their ripening against the coming frost. And then, about the same time, the apples and pears will be ripe and ready to pick.

There is no local citrus. No local peaches. No local sweet cherries, though tart cherries can be grown here. There is a variety of apricot you can grow here, but the fruit is small and very tart and not really viable commercially; they're mostly used as ornamental trees. No local mango or pineapple or papaya or coconut or other tropical fruits. There are some nuts that grow here, but not the ones you usually find in bagged assortments. No almonds, no walnuts, no Brazil nuts, no cashews. Peanuts can work, but are not economically viable; it is not the ideal climate for them. Black walnuts grow extensively here, but are not popular for eating. Gingkos grow exceptionally well here, but I am not aware of a major local industry in them. I can say this: you want any gingko plantation to be somewhere other than your neighborhood, because the nuts smell like vomit. (That isn't just just a derogatory remark, either; that is exactly what they smell like. And cooking them releases the smell even more, but afterwards you're at least left with something delicious, as they taste like a cross between pistachio and cashew.) Oak trees grow abundantly, and Native Americans ate acorns regularly, but these do not seem to be a popular commercial crop. Maybe we could bring it back into vogue?

Bottom line: the SLOW diet in Minnnesota would have to sacrifice freshness, of necessity. Lots of potatoes and onions and other root crops, as these store very well even in their fresh state. Many cultivars of apple have a good long shelf life. Winter squash will last a while into the winter, hence their name, as long as you don't pierce the shell until you're ready. But anything else, you will need to process in order to lay up enough from the harvest to last you until the next harvest. Pickling, drying, smoking, milling, baking, freezing . . . honestly, the greatest invention in food preservation of the 20th Century was probably the home freezer. But all that is a time machine to let you avoid the "seasonal" part of "SLOW". Strictly speaking, so is a greenhouse; you are creating your own season in that case. In Minnesota in the dead of winter, a seasonal diet is going to be heavily meat oriented.

By Calli Arcale (not verified) on 13 Apr 2015 #permalink

By the way, Calli, while greenhouses are possible they are not easy. Trust me, I tried to keep lemon trees alive over winter only to have them defoliated by spider mites and fungus gnats. It was horrible the year that aphids managed to get into the greenhouse. Since the greenhouse is literally attached to the house I cannot get ladybird beetles, they cause a hazard when they get indoors and they actually bite! (yes, I have been bitten by a ladybug!) Also no bumblebees!

There is a movement in indoor warehouse farming, and if you listen to the Urban Agriculture you will learn that to keep pests down without chemical pesticides they work very much like biological clean rooms. These are a bit different than the large greenhouses that can handle having bumblebees, ladybird beetles and parasitic wasps flying around.

In short, EcoLogic Lee is exposing his/hers ignorance in horticulture, food safety, plant genetics, food history and lots of other things.

By the way, I did get basil to stay alive all winter. But this is because now nothing is brought into the greenhouse except sterile plant soil, seeds and cleaned pots. There is an occasional fungus gnat, but I take care of those by using yellow craft sticks covered with sticky stuff. Presently I have started several pepper, tomato, cucumber, pumpkin and basil plants.

The thought of captive bumblebees is enchanting, in an Arthur Rackham sort of way.

This topic drift is actually rather timely, as we have been putting in the garden this weekend. We have a two garden plots and grow a lot of our summer produce, but nothing will be ready to eat for at least five weeks.

We currently have one lone asparagus spear defying the elements -- it snowed here last April 17th, so I'm tempted to cut and eat it before the frost gods get it.

Oh, absolutely, Chris! I'm impressed you got basil to last -- I'm very good at killing houseplants, so I'm not even going to try that one. ;-) I have occasionally nursed a rosemary through the winter.

Bushel Boy's operations are run with scientific precision. They can't afford to just nuke all the bugs, since of course tomatoes require a pollinator. But they have an amazing operation. Tours are prohibited; like you say, it's run like a biological containment facility. Which, in a way, it pretty much is. They occasionally let the media in, though, and a while back there was a great TV piece on them. They have them on like a conveyor system that very slowly moves the plants through the entire life cycle. Or maybe that was only the seedlings? I'm not sure. Anyway, it was very sophisticated. Their production rate really is amazing, and probably the part that amazes me the most is how efficient it is. Their tomatoes really don't cost any more than the ones trucked in from California, and the quantity is plenty.

But it's tomatoes. I think tomatoes are easier than a lot of other plants.

By Calli Arcale (not verified) on 13 Apr 2015 #permalink

In Alberta, the SLOW diet would consist of pemmican for 4 or 5 months. Unfortunately, there's a shortage of bison.

Well the three basil plants are looking a bit scruffy. I think the soil is petering out. One reason they seem to do okay is that they are so fragrant that bugs really don't like them much. But I still need to keep the fungus gnats down, and yellow sticky sticks poked into the soil around the plant seem to work.

Fortunately I live in a mild maritime climate which, even though we sometimes get snow, is mild enough to grow rosemary, sage, thyme, bay laurel and oregano outside in winter. Just not citrus, basil, lots of common veg. We have a bit of short season for tomatoes, so I start those inside in March.

@EcoLogic Lee:

But I will tell you what I am skeptical of – Large corporations, and any science that supports the positions needed by major corporations to support their next quarter earnings per share.

Since hydroelectric power plants depend on the law of universal gravitation and Maxwell's equations, doesn't that mean you shouldn't believe in those laws of physics?

Let me pose a question – let’s say tomorrow that Archer Daniels Midland got a report that one of the additives used in their food was a truly harmful carcinogen. But, removing the additive immediately would take $0.02 off their EPS next quarter. What do you think they would do? My opinion – they would bury the report.

You really think that ADM would say "Hey, let's pull an asbestos. Look how well that turned out for those guys."?

I'm also curious why the additive didn't show up as carcinogenic in the long-term toxicology studies before the additive was approved to be used for food. Is it something specific to human physiology?

And *that’s* why I have trouble accepting the safety of food additives. There is the real dilemma. I can’t possible evaluate every additive in our food, and I don’t trust the companies that make them to honestly report the truth

It sounds to me that you're under the impression that food companies do most toxicology research. That's not even close to true. There is a whole lot of independent university-based toxicology research, and government agencies have their own as well. Toxicologists get very excited about even the smallest differences they find between the control group and the exposure group. You can find all the toxicology research publications you could ever desire at your local university library.

The truth is, it's pretty pointless to divide the world into black-and-white categories of "toxic" and "nontoxic", because while you could place helium gas in the nontoxic category, even plain unadulterated water is toxic in large enough doses. I'm not talking about drowning -- you can drink enough water to poison yourself. Table salt is deadly in much smaller amounts than water.

Obviously then, the question becomes at what level does consumption become harmful, since essentially everything becomes harmful at some amount. Food additives in first world countries are only allowed to be used in amounts that won't result in anything near the lowest level of long-term consumption known to cause harm, even if everything you ate every day had the highest level allowed.

Additives don't get approved on a whim. There has to be a lot of toxicology evidence provided to get accepted. Just because they don't staple thousands of pages per ingredient to the packaging of everything you eat doesn't mean the research hasn't been done.

By justthestats (not verified) on 13 Apr 2015 #permalink

Since hydroelectric power plants depend on the law of universal gravitation and Maxwell’s equations

justthestats #274, let us not be so esoteric. Maxwell condensed Michael Faraday's observations and working devices into the mathematical precepts after the fact. I could be entirely mistaken, but I thought Maxwell was Faraday's sometime lab assistant who went above and beyond to 'note it all down'.

It was by his research on the magnetic field around a conductor carrying a direct current that Faraday established the basis for the concept of the electromagnetic field in physics... He similarly discovered the principle of electromagnetic induction, diamagnetism, and the laws of electrolysis. His inventions of electromagnetic rotary devices formed the foundation of electric motor technology, and it was largely due to his efforts that electricity became practical for use in technology.

Faraday was an excellent experimentalist who conveyed his ideas in clear and simple language; his mathematical abilities, however, did not extend as far as trigonometry or any but the simplest algebra. James Clerk Maxwell took the work of Faraday and others, and summarized it in a set of equations that is accepted as the basis of all modern theories of electromagnetic phenomena. On Faraday's uses of the lines of force, Maxwell wrote that they show Faraday "to have been in reality a mathematician of a very high order – one from whom the mathematicians of the future may derive valuable and fertile methods."

... These experiments and inventions formed the foundation of modern electromagnetic technology...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michael_Faraday

Your complaint about sceince babe at the anti vax movie premier is indicative of your lack of undestanding about journalism. You're showing how the Dunning-Kruger effect can hit everyone and you're not doing yourself any favors by repeatedly bringing it up.

By mark stolzoff (not verified) on 14 Apr 2015 #permalink

Mr. Stolzoff, could you please clarify your statement? Explain why you are confusing blogging with journalism. Plus tell us where this movie premier complaint was the main focus of the above opinion piece. And where it was repeated.

Tim, was your post at #275 intended to communicate "Yes, because they represent the science large hydroelectric electric power corporations rely upon to support next quater's profits per share, I'm skeptical of the validity of the law of universal gravitational attraction and Maxwell's equations" or to communicate "No, just because they represent the science large hydroelectric electric power corporations rely upon to support next quater's profits per share I'd be foolish to be unreasonably skeptical of the validity of the law of universal gravitational attraction and Maxwell's equations"?

The post itself wasn't clear--it read almost as if you were running off on a tangent to avoid answering justhestat's question.

I could be entirely mistaken, but I thought Maxwell was Faraday’s sometime lab assistant

You would indeed be entirely mistaken.

By herr doktor bimler (not verified) on 14 Apr 2015 #permalink

Faraday was Humphry Davy's assistant. Maxwell only interacted with Faraday late in Faraday's life.

A good book about the characters of the Royal Institution is The Age of Wonder: The Romantic Generation and the Discovery of the Beauty and Terror of Science by Richard Holmes.

@ Chris:

Oh, Richard Holmes!
He wrote a terrific book.... actually TWO books.. about Coleridge. I only read the first as I- unfortunately- knew what would transpire in his latter days.

By Denice Walter (not verified) on 14 Apr 2015 #permalink

I- unfortunately- knew what would transpire in his latter days.

NO SPOILERS!

By herr doktor bimler (not verified) on 14 Apr 2015 #permalink

" I tried to keep lemon trees alive over winter only to have them defoliated by spider mites and fungus gnats."

(nitpick) While spider mites are a loathsome plant pest indoors, I have never known fungus gnats to be anything more than annoying little beasts that run and leap over the surface of moist soil (specifically, they do not consume living plant matter).

By Dangerous Bacon (not verified) on 14 Apr 2015 #permalink

Maxwell is largely remembered for his work on electromagnetism, but he also made important contributions to thermodynamics and statistical mechanics. I was telling my stat mech class about his one day, saying "Think of how much we owe to Maxwell!

The Maxwell ... equations!

The Maxwell ... relations!

Maxwell's ... Demon!

The Maxwell ... distribution!

Whereupon some kid piped up:

"Maxwell ... House!".

By palindrom (not verified) on 14 Apr 2015 #permalink

Maxwell also realized that the rings of Saturn had to be composed of independent particles, rather than being a rigid structure. Radial velocity spectroscopy soon showed that the rotation of the rings decreases with distance from the planet, just as he had predicted.

By palindrom (not verified) on 14 Apr 2015 #permalink

I'd like defend Pollan's "Eat Food. Not too much. Mostly plants."

These (and the longer list he published in a recent book) are meant to be heuristics, rules of thumb, to help the confused cook and eater cut through the clutter of contradictory advice and fads.

Most cultures have at least one food that's unpalatable to anybody who didn't grow up eating it. And yes, there are fine foods that my great great grandmother didn't know about. But that doesn't mean "avoid things your great great grandmother wouldn't have recognized as food" isn't useful as a quick rule of thumb.

Humans have always "processed" food, to release nutrients, to remove toxins, and to preserve nutrients. I include applying heat from fire, a process which evidently is older than Homo sapiens. But our supermarkets are mostly filled with what Pollan calls "edible foodlike substances" - products of industrial 'food science' that are designed and processed to maximize corporate efficiencies and to be superstimuli to our cravings for salt, sugar, and fat. (@Beth, on the subject of super-palatable foods, you might be interested in Michael Moss' Pulitzer winning 'Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us'.)

It should be obvious to the most casual of observers that something is very wrong with SAD (the Standard American Diet). With the exception of a few Pacific island nations, the U.S is the fattest nation on earth and has an epidemic of type 2 diabetes (some wag has dubbed the combination 'diabesity'.)

"Eat Food. Not too much. Mostly plants." should be read in the context of the essay Pollan started with those words. I think it stands up pretty well after eight years; I find it thoughtful, not vapid.

http://michaelpollan.com/articles-archive/unhappy-meals/

@JP -- Yes, that too!

Not to mention Maxwell Smart.

By palindrom (not verified) on 14 Apr 2015 #permalink

Maxwell also realized that the rings of Saturn had to be composed of independent particles

Unpossible. Gustav Meyrink showed that the rings of Saturn were crocheted by the ghosts of pastors' wives as an outlet for their frustrated energies.
http://www.payer.de/religionskritik/meyrink04.htm

By herr doktor bimler (not verified) on 14 Apr 2015 #permalink

@MikeB

You quote Pollan in "in Defense of Food":

"Especially avoid food products containing ingredients that are a) unfamiliar, b) unpronounceable c) more than five in number — or that contain high-fructose corn syrup."

I don't know about the context of this quote in the book, but it originates in his essay "Unhappy Meals" (most of Pollan's books are elaborations of essays of his, generally published in the New York Times) and is followed by this sentence in the essay:

"None of these characteristics are necessarily harmful in and of themselves, but all of them are reliable markers for foods that have been highly processed."

It would appear that you have done exactly what the Food Babe did, cherry pick a quote and take it out of context. In the case of the Food Babe, she took it as a formal rule to be followed blindly. In your case, you ignored the disclaimer and the purpose of these rules of thumb and labeled them "egregious ignorance". You and the Food Babe are two sides of the same coin.

There is a recent study (published in Nature no less) that indicates that synthetic emulsifiers may be implicated in our epidemic of obesity by messing with our intestinal flora. I marked that as interesting and from a reliable source, but preliminary.

The problem is that we're all suffering from information and cognitive overload. If I followed every link and read every interesting science article on nutrition, much less on science in general, I wouldn't have time for anything else. Pollan's rules are sensible and reduce the cognitive load of shopping. I don't treat them as gospel and I make exceptions. But I didn't change my shopping habits because of the news that synthetic emulsifiers may be harmful; my diet already contains few such emulsifiers because I've been following Pollan's simple rules.

EnonZ, you're a bit late to the discussion about Michael Pollan, but maybe you somehow missed the comments about his anti-GMO nonsense, up to an including waving around studies by Stephanie freaking Seneff.

I assure you that I've read plenty of Pollan, and while you may find him "thoughtful," I am plenty prepared to stand by my evaluation of most of his work as vapid. Maybe you haven't read a lot of writers who are actually thoughtful.

In fact, I bought his little book Eater's Manifesto, or whatever it's called, some years back as a Hanukkah present for a friend who's a fan of his. (There's no accounting for taste, I suppose.) All it was was an $11 elaboration of his little adage, containing a lot of vapidity in short paragraphs on mostly empty pages. He certainly makes a lot of money at what he does, I suppose.

DB: "I have never known fungus gnats to be anything more than annoying little beasts that run and leap over the surface of moist soil (specifically, they do not consume living plant matter)."

Unfortunately they eat root matter, especially if they are not controlled. This can and will kill potted plants, just like damping off will kill seedlings... which is what one does not want when starting seeds! Fungus gnats may be one cause of damping off... along with the ever present fungi!

Trust me in a small greenhouse that is directly connected to the house they are a menace. Just like a couple of aphids are not a problem, neither are fungus gnats. But if they reproduce without any kind of control... then they are a problem.

You can tell there is a problem when you need to replace a sticky yellow stick when it is covered in fungus gnats.

It is all about balance. Outside in the garden there are insects that help keep the plant munching population down. In an enclosed space if the plant muncher comes in and there is nothing to munch on it... then it becomes a problem.

@JP

Yes, yes. The whole GMO thing. I don't understand condemning an entire technology. OTOH, the issue of GMOs has gotten all mixed up with questions of the power of BigAg (not to mention the M word) and the loss of genetic diversity in our domesticated species because spread of industrial monocultures.

In any case, I was replying specifically to quotes from Pollan's 2007 essay, "Unhappy Meals" which were described as "vapid" and "egregious ignorance". If he's come down hard on the "frankenfood" side, then I think he's wrong. But I still think that "Unhappy Meals" is one of the most useful and thoughtful things he's written. That's why it's what gets quoted.

That and his early book, "The Botany of Desire". He vividly expresses the idea that, from wheat's point of view, we exist to cut down forests and extend their domain. We co-evolve.

Yes, yes. The whole GMO thing.

Sorry, but when a professor of journalism at Berkeley thinks it's a great idea to publicize studies by Stephanie Seneff, I weep for the future of the profession. If he had even bothered, say, looking at the study itself or the author information, he might have realized something was fishy. Journalist my a**.

OTOH, the issue of GMOs has gotten all mixed up with questions of the power of BigAg (not to mention the M word) and the loss of genetic diversity in our domesticated species because spread of industrial monocultures.

How do you figure? I don't see anything about any of the GMO crops currently on the market that leads to any of the industrial ag practices you're concerned about. For the record, I think huge swathes of monocultures, etc., are a bad idea myself, but I think this has more to do with government subsidies and structural issues - especially considering the fact that this was all going on long before GMO crops were ever approved for sale.

Even the RoundupReady crops, which seem intuitively to me like kind of a bad idea, since they encourage increased pesticide use, actually have some ecological benefits. They reduce tilling, which helps preserve topsoil and also lowers a farm's carbon footprint. And, to be honest, if farmers want to buy them, it's probably for good reason - increased yields, say, which not only helps farmers but helps the environment. If we wanted to feed the world with organic food, considering the fact that an organic farm's yield is typically 20% less than "conventional" agriculture, we'd need to devote a lot more land to farming, probably destroying most of what little habitat for, y'know, other species there is left.

By "the M word" I assume you mean Monsanto? I don't really get why people have such a bug up their a** about Monsanto. I was arguing about the company a day or two ago in connection with Hillary Clinton and her "Monsanto ties" which don't even exist, actually.

I don't see how Monsanto is any more or less evil than any other biggish corporation, really. They're not even that big; their profits are barely more than Whole Foods. It's true that they jealously guard their patents, because they know that if the concept of patenting seed budges even a little bit, the whole monetary basis for the biotech industry is gone. Maybe some people don't want a biotech industry, but then they should argue that point instead of making vague claims about eeeeeevil Monsanto. I personally think private industry has a place in technological innovation - the pharma companies, for example, are financial juggernauts and do skeevy things all the time, which needs to be kept in check, but they've also come up with a lot of beneficial and life-saving treatments.

All I can figure is that people use Monsanto as a kind of icon to invest all their fears about genetic engineering in general into. I mean, it's not even the only big biotech company, but oddly enough, I don't see people out in the street "marching against Syngenta."

That and his early book, “The Botany of Desire”. He vividly expresses the idea that, from wheat’s point of view, we exist to cut down forests and extend their domain. We co-evolve.

Meh. I haven't read that book, but he does the same thing in The Omnivore's Dilemma with corn. It's sort of a mildly entertaining anthropomorphization, I guess, but neither wheat nor corn have nervous systems or anything, so I don't think they really have a "point of view."

@JP

I should have made it clearer that mixing up GMO technology per se with other issues is something I see a lot of, not my own position. GMO seems to bring out primal fears in a lot of people about messing with the natural order of things. It's disappointing if Pollan has gotten caught up in this, but it's a common affliction. I usually just shrug and point out that we wouldn't even have papayas to eat anymore if it weren't for genetic engineering.

Well, of course wheat doesn't have a literal point of view; it's a vivid metaphor to emphasize that wheat isn't a just a passive recipient of our manipulations, but actively affects our evolution in turn. We co-evolve. It's an "as if" intentionality that's very common and useful in writing about biology (as Dennett has written about and defended repeatedly).

@EnonZ:

Maybe you missed this link about Pollan being completely mendacious about his own positions on GMOs.

Like I said, I didn't read Botany of Desire - maybe it's a halfway decent book, Pollan seemed to write better stuff earlier in his career - but in The Omnivore's Dilemma, he literally gives corn this sort of sinister personality. I get it that he doesn't like the American industrial agricultural system, but the whole presentation relies on emotional button-pushing and fear-mongering instead of on actual evidence or facts or even cogent arguments.

Incidentally, here's some of his gibberish from Food Rules:

3

Avoid food products containing ingredients that no
ordinary human would keep in the pantry.

Ethoxylated diglycerides? Cellulose? Xanthan gum? Calcium propionate? Ammonium sulfate? If you wouldn't cook with them yourself, why let others use these ingredien
ts to cook for you? The food scientists' chemistry set is designed to extend shelf life, make old food look fresher and more appetizing than it really is, and get you to eat more. Whether or not any of these additives pose a proven hazard to your health, many of them haven't been eaten by humans for very long, so they are best avoided.

First of all, I have cooked with xantham gum before - I've used it in gluten free pizza crusts that I've made for friends, because IRL I am a freaking saint. (That was sort of a joke.)

Second of all, I fail to see how the above is any less brain dead than Food Babe. He's got another "rule" in there that goes, "If a third grader can't pronounce it, don't it eat." More glib BS.

And to be honest, I really just find him to be an unutterably pretentious SOB. I found the third section of Omnivore to be just gratingly self-congratulatory and clueless in a very typical white-male-of-a-privileged-background kind of way. Especially the part where he claim that the meal he made using a boar he'd shot and so on and yadda yadda was a meal that he'd "paid the full karmic price for." I don't think Michael Pollan has paid the full karmic price for anything in his life.

Sorry for the rant, but I'm a bit grouchy today after paying a bunch of money to the Govt, and I'm also on edge waiting to hear back about some grant money I applied for, which I'm supposed to learn about today.

Gah, a proper closing tag on that link would've helped. It still works, though.

JP, good luck on the grant. we should be hearing any moment about a bunch of abstracts we submitted for a meeting with a bunch more to get submitted by Friday for the the other meeting.

Thanks. In any case, I have several fall-back options if I don't get the money, though it'll mean another summer not abroad. (Which might be good for dissertation writing, actually.) I'll either be able to teach intensive first year Russian, which is good money and fun - it's a good thing I've got a whole pile of fantastic teaching evaluations, I suppose. The language coordinator will generally jump on an opportunity to have me teach.

Or my advisor asked if I'd like to work as an RA over the summer, which would also be good money and would look good on a CV. (I'd be fact checking his book, basically - it helps that I know all the relevant languages.)

I’m a bit grouchy today after paying a bunch of money to the Govt, and I’m also on edge waiting to hear back about some grant money I applied for

Irony alert!

By justthestats (not verified) on 15 Apr 2015 #permalink

True 'nuff. Nobody I know likes paying taxes, though.

^ Bah. Only "likes" was supposed to be in italics.

David Kessler writes extensively in "The End of Overeating" about the careful design that goes into foods manufactured by food companies. The aim is to make "craveable" foods that people will get addicted to, and food companies are very sophisticated and skilled at doing that.
The manufacturing does include a lot of chemicals.
David Kessler has a thoroughly reality- and science-based understanding of the situation.
Once you find out what he has to say, the various complaints that Michael Pollan and the Food Babe have against processed food, don't look so silly.

@JP#297:

Am I reading that correctly, that Pollan is freaking out about cellulose? So much for "Eat less, mostly plants".

That's ignorance on a level with the Fool Babe's "OMG Nitrogen in airplane air!!!" fiasco.

Am I reading that correctly, that Pollan is freaking out about cellulose? So much for “Eat less, mostly plants”.

That’s ignorance on a level with the Fool Babe’s “OMG Nitrogen in airplane air!!!” fiasco.

Indeed.

@Beth:

Yeah, food companies definitely make junk food as appealing and tasty as possible, and it is a problem. They especially like to market to children, which I think is an even bigger problem. There are real things to criticize the food industry for.

But I don't see how your sentence "The manufacturing does include a lot of chemicals" is logically connected to anything. Of course, everything is made of chemicals to begin with, but you probably already know that, so I'm going to assume you mean "added synthetic chemicals." Look, fresh fruits and veggies are fantastic, but it's hard to live on them. I also buy things like corn tortillas, spaghetti sauce (because lazy), goddess dressing, etc. Most of those sorts of things are going to have some added chemicals for fairly practical reasons like shelf stability, preservation, etc. It doesn't make them all "non-food" or whatever, and it beats botulism, that's for sure.

"Faraday was Humphry Davy’s assistant"

when Davy damaged his eyesight in an accident with nitrogen trichloride, he decided to employ Faraday as an assistant.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michael_Faraday#Adult_life

^^ I suppose 'nitrogen trichloride' was codicil for gay porn??}

O.K. Chris #280. Thx for the clarification.

JGC #278,
Well, yes and no.

goddess dressing, etc.

I'm going with TMI.

JP: I'll cop to liking paying taxes, but I have access to single-payer healthcare.

I'm critical of the locovore movement generally too, because if I had to live on what is grown within the amount of distance they usually talk about, I'd starve -- we here in southwestern Ontario have this nasty habit of paving over our good farmland. My mother -- born in 1945 -- never ate fresh pineapple until she was an adult, and winter vegetables for her consisted of carrots, potatoes, cabbage, rutabagas, and a few scungy apples. I like rice and lemons and Israeli Sharon persimmons and loquats and all kinds of weird things many of my ancestors probably wouldn't eat.

The worst food tolerance problems I'm having right now is dealing with an Orthodox rabbi of Polish extraction who is so paranoid of insects in vegetables that his family peels their tomatoes and peppers (it took about everything I had not to say, "If you peel a pepper, is there anything left?!), and who won't eat strawberries, because he seems to sincerely believe that there could be insects hiding under the seeds, contrary to, you know, how they actually form and all that (I grow strawberries on what used to be my front lawn on an urban residential street, even).

My parents are avid food and flower gardeners, and I grew up around farms, and his kind of outright vegetable phobia just makes me think "There hasn't been a gardener or a farmer in your lineage for ten generations, has there?"

By Interrobang (not verified) on 17 Apr 2015 #permalink

Once you find out what he has to say, the various complaints that Michael Pollan and the Food Babe have against processed food, don’t look so silly.
Sorry, but if Pollan and FB's advice aren't science-based, I don't think they are doing anything productive ; worse, they harm genuine food safety advocates.
Maybe Kessler is one of these advocates ; I don't know him but I know the ideas he defend about food manufacturing and think it is indeed interesting to discuss them.
Just because clowns like FB are harshly criticized, it doesn't mean that we think nothing can be improved in the food industry. We don't point out the fact that FB is criticizing the food industry ; we point out she is doing it the completely wrong way, and encouraging people to think this is the way you should advocate food safety.

I don’t see how your sentence “The manufacturing does include a lot of chemicals” is logically connected to anything. Of course, everything is made of chemicals to begin with, but you probably already know that, so I’m going to assume you mean “added synthetic chemicals.” Look, fresh fruits and veggies are fantastic, but it’s hard to live on them. I also buy things like corn tortillas, spaghetti sauce (because lazy), goddess dressing, etc. Most of those sorts of things are going to have some added chemicals for fairly practical reasons like shelf stability, preservation, etc. It doesn’t make them all “non-food” or whatever

You and others are criticizing attitudes such as anti-processed food, anti-added chemicals, eating only local foods, eating only "organic" food on a logical level.
BUT, the function of those attitudes is on a practical level. In practice, they induce people to avoid these products of the food industry that are designed to be hyperpalatable and get people to eat too much. That is generally good for their health. It helps prevent weight gain. It also improves the quality of their diet, both by preventing them from eating too much of the sugar, fat and salt that are added to processed food. They also eat more fiber and other things the food companies take out of processed food.
So there's a kind of practical logic in being against processed food.
Food advertising trains people to have a positive attitude about their processed food products.
What attitudes against processed foods, added chemicals, etc. do is to replace that inculcated positive attitude with a personal negative attitude.
David Kessler talks in "The End of Overeating" about how to get out of the "conditioned hypereating" that food companies create. Among the methods he mentions are creating a negative attitude towards the addictive food; and rules that exclude eating it. It does mean that one regards that kind of food as "non-food". Being anti-processed food, or not eating foods with more than 5 ingredients on the label, etc., is a way of regarding that kind of food as "non-food".
Adopting an ideology is a way that people avoid doing something they would otherwise do.
"The End of Overeating" is well worth reading, even if one doesn't have a weight problem. It was a revelation to me, because I hadn't realized how extensively the food companies have designed processed foods for hyperpalatability. This is a result of competition. It's not just a matter of adding sugar, fat and salt; there are many other techniques that David Kessler explains.

fresh fruits and veggies are fantastic, but it’s hard to live on them

I pretty much do live on fruits and vegetables, if you include starchy roots, quinoa and amaranth as vegetables. It's quite doable, and healthy too.

I would hope (and I'm often disappointed) that we wouldn't need to induce fear and loathing and create illogical belief systems to get people to eat whole nutrient dense foods.

Is it really true that setting up a set of arbitrary rules that do not make scientific sense and inducing a raft of food-phobias is the only way to get Joe Average to eat something other than a box of processed calories from the middle of the grocery store?

I mean I know most scientists I know who do any sort of research into nutrition and phytochemcials gravitate to a whole food, lots of veggies, nutrient dense data because it logically follows from the data they generated.

I don't see why we can't work on educating people about facts and data rather than trying to figure out which fear-based psuedoreligion will coerce them into eating their veggies.

We also need to address the food deserts and other barriers to eating nutritiously. Because when push comes to shove you will eat the calories you need out of whatever is available even it isn't good for you. But still I'd rather teach someone in an area with a new grocery store how to eat based on reality than have them running in fear from the box of processed calories.

The first data in the second paragraph should be food *headdesk*.

if Pollan and FB’s advice aren’t science-based, I don’t think they are doing anything productive ; worse, they harm genuine food safety advocates.

How do you know if what they're doing is productive?
The effects of Michael Pollan and the Food Babe are a huge question about our society.
I'm not a fan of either of them myself. I pay attention to the more science-based criticism of the food industry, such as Marion Nestle and David Kessler.
But that doesn't imply that they are bad for society in general.
Marion Nestle has given talks in which she discusses Michael Pollan and his "Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants" maxim, not as an enemy of public health, but as a good idea.
David Kessler says that rules and structure about food are part of not being victimized by food advertising - but that the particular rules that work for an individual are a personal matter. He mentions attitudes against processed food, being a locavore, etc. as a way that people create these rules, in "The End of Overeating".

I pretty much do live on fruits and vegetables, if you include starchy roots, quinoa and amaranth as vegetables.

Uh, starchy roots, maybe, but not the second two, because they're not. Incidentally, you might be interested to know that the massive recent USian demand for quinoa is pretty much an ecological disaster and also screws over actual Bolivians. I'll stick to masa, thanks, even though it's "processed" enough to make it actually nutritious.

is the only way to get Joe Average to eat something other than a box of processed calories from the middle of the grocery store?

I'm pretty sure Michael Pollan avoids associating with Joe Average as much as possible. Particularly precious was the point in one of his books where he said people should just spend more money on food. How very cute coming from a multi-millionaire.

Being anti-processed food, or not eating foods with more than 5 ingredients on the label, etc., is a way of regarding that kind of food as “non-food”.

I have a jar of spaghetti sauce in my fridge which has more than 5 ingredients. Most of them are things like "dehydrated garlic" and so on. But it's a food. You can tell yourself it isn't, but you're not basing that on reality.

@Interrobang:

JP: I’ll cop to liking paying taxes, but I have access to single-payer healthcare.

I guess I could rephrase that: I don't know any grad student who actually likes paying taxes.

The worst food tolerance problems I’m having right now is dealing with an Orthodox rabbi of Polish extraction who is so paranoid of insects in vegetables that his family peels their tomatoes and peppers (it took about everything I had not to say, “If you peel a pepper, is there anything left?!), and who won’t eat strawberries, because he seems to sincerely believe that there could be insects hiding under the seeds, contrary to, you know, how they actually form and all that (I grow strawberries on what used to be my front lawn on an urban residential street, even).

Do they speak Yiddish? Do they have a son who's looking to get married? AFAF.

Nah, actually, they're too frum for the person I'm thinking of, who's looking for somebody with US citizenship who speaks Yiddish and isn't super-observant. So basically a unicorn.

I live in an extremely over-priced locale- altho' everyone is not exactly rich, quite a few are. And yes, there is a great deal of catering ( figuratively as well as literally) to that preciousness of which JP speaks.

Thus, shopping for food is a socio-economic adventure inciting both sensations of relative deprivation and feelings of empathy and despair for those who are worse off than I am.

Markets are arrayed based on affordability- ranging from the low-priced generic brand shop to the highest echelon of purity of essence and freedom from necessity and want.

So I shop at Middle Plus Market but usually don't buy most fresh vegetables and fruits there because of their prices instead frequenting the ethnic markets for that ( most likely, Russian or Chinese).

Occasionally I DO visit the hallowed halls of emporia devoted to perfection, cleanliness and near-g0dliness- the havens of organic crunchiness and diffuse orthorectic considerations, all carefully listed on products. It once took me several minutes to decide which ice tea in a bottle was actually tea- not kombucha, maca etc etc In addition, we have a Japanese supermarket ( which is entertaining) and a HUGE health food supermarket ( the latter's contents listed sound like a snarky writing project that sceptics would dream up but they are achingly- and laughably- real).

I do enjoy some rarified offerings at these places, a few examples:
really excellent green tea, tiny fig/ berry bars with whole wheat crust, expensive youghurt, California walnut oil and salads that cost more than meals at average places.

One of my gentlemen sometimes shops at a high end fishmonger where Norwegian salmon and odd Pacific catches are displayed as though they were jewels. I am thrilled to be rewarded with 10 oz or so,

By Denice Walter (not verified) on 18 Apr 2015 #permalink

it took about everything I had not to say, “If you peel a pepper, is there anything left?!

Sure, if you have a decent peeler. The Hungarian apple peppers I've gotten were very thick skinned, but not peeling bell peppers is pretty rustic. How this is a kashrus issue eludes me, though – the question is obvious infestations. If Hashem went to the trouble of hiding the insects so well, one should probably take the hint and skip them entirely.

The strawberries deal is a longer story. This routine started in England, spread to Satmar, and then showed up in Israel, with predictable undertones (Palestinian strawberries during Shmita contaminated Israeli ones, or something).

The latter isn't really applicable here and now, so it's really just a niche frummer-than-thou thing at this point.

I don’t see why we can’t work on educating people about facts and data rather than trying to figure out which fear-based psuedoreligion will coerce them into eating their veggies.

Who said we were trying to do this?
But you can't understand or even meaningfully criticize these popular food philosophies without understanding their societal context - and a big part of that is the tactics of food companies in a hyper-competitive environment to get people to eat more of their products.
People are relentlessly conditioned into eating more.
I was working out at a gym for awhile, that sold "healthy" processed food - lots of calories, lots of sugar. There were TVs on in front of the elliptical machines - so one would see chocolate syrup pouring (an ad for brownie mix, maybe) while working out. The Kinko's copy store has a rack of snacks and candy bars next to the checkout. Lots of people work in places where they bring in trays of donuts or pizza for everyone.
This is the context we live in.
Criticizing the factual errors of Food Babe, without acknowledging the truth or usefulness in what she says, won't mean much to people who find that her advice works for them. It's likely to be interpreted as a defense of the status quo in the food system, or dismissed as not really getting the point.

If you're going to try to sound smart. You should try researching spell check. Who cares if Food Babe is extreme. At least she isn't false advertising. The self proclaimed "science babe" is fugly. Lol you all have way too much time. Just go eat McDonald's to soothe the fact that you're unsuccessful, unattractive losers.

Who cares if Food Babe is extreme

I would rather take correct and fugly over wrong and extreme every day of the week.

This quote rather neatly sums up your lack of critical thinking skills.

If you’re going to try to sound smart. You should try researching spell check

Complete sentences also help.

By herr doktor bimler (not verified) on 21 Apr 2015 #permalink

Complete sentences also help.

I myself am uncertain how to parse "At least she isn’t false advertising."

Only one of the two demands professional image makers to my knowledge, but perhaps I'm missing something.

Nonsense, we are highly successful losers.

By Dangerous Bacon (not verified) on 21 Apr 2015 #permalink

Bpeth.

I guess I still hope that if people learn the rational data-filled truthful reasons to eat their veggies and avoid processed food that may insulate them against the next pretty fear-monger who gathers a following who may have much more damaging rules that some people think work for them.

But guru after guru who occasionally gets a couple of things right for all the wrong reasons is starting to wear on my optimism.

" At least she isn't false advertising"....

But isn't the subtext of her collected works basically..

'Eat like me, look like me.'

Exactly like many other alt med folk. It doesn't work like that.

By Denice Walter (not verified) on 21 Apr 2015 #permalink

Cigarettes were once ‘physician’ tested, approved

Apparently, recognizing scare quotes and actually reading the post are above Ken's pay grade.

Apparently, recognizing scare quotes and actually reading the post are above Ken’s pay grade.

Yes, it's already been established that ken has some troubles when it comes to scare quotes. Ah, f*ck it, she seems to have some troubles understanding much of anything. Like when to get lost.

ken@329:

Those were actors and models, not doctors. Both articles say so.

Do you also believe that a talking gecko with an Australian accent can save you 15% or more on your car insurance?

Summarily, Foghorn Leghorn 'Orac' is a self-styled buffoon. I had initially thought - given the content of his articles - that he was just another sarcastic, pompous blogger, but as most will realize this isn't the case; he's on faculty at a reputable university. Now whether you agree with him or not is not really the point - the simple fact is that this man, given his position, and with respect to him taking sniper-shots under a pseudonym at people of his profession, is participating in the lowest possible level of conduct. Hence it goes without saying that his motives are on par with his level of conduct. And so, if you hope to be getting the 'low-down' on things here, I'd say you most certainly are. The lowest possible.

By Eddie Unwind (not verified) on 13 May 2015 #permalink

No, I think "tone-trolling", being inconsequential and passive-aggressive, is about as low as it gets.

with respect to him taking sniper-shots under a pseudonym at people of his profession

Since when is the Fool Babe a cancer surgeon?

Troll? Ok, have it your way. Suffice it to say, then, that as purveyor of the Kingdom of Lows I immediately recognise my own kind, and to put it in Lowspeak with regard to Foghorn Leghorn Orac's stated credentials, they ultimately amount to nothing.

By Eddie Unwind (not verified) on 13 May 2015 #permalink

For the sake of perspective, the comments section is the most degrading forum currently known to humanity. Authorship is of zero importance - it matters neither who or what you or I am, nor what we do. All that counts is the manner and content of observation. And so with manners appropriate to this setting, I contend that in these blogs, Foghorn Leghorn Orac, pseudonym and all, displays all the hallmarks of a dishonourable, fairly wretched, contemptible fool. And without a doubt he will meet with the consequences of having chosen to big-note himself in such ignominious fashion.

By Eddie Unwind (not verified) on 13 May 2015 #permalink

the simple fact is that this man, given his position, and with respect to him taking sniper-shots under a pseudonym at people of his profession, is participating in the lowest possible level of conduct.

If you believe that writing stuff on a blog is the lowest possible level of conduct, you are either grossly ignorant of human history or you have appalling judgment.

Authorship is of zero importance – it matters neither who or what you or I am, nor what we do.

And yet you seem to be quite fixated on the identity of the blog's proprietor..

By justthestats (not verified) on 14 May 2015 #permalink

Oh, so, ever-so late, but reference lutfisk: you have not lived, my friends, until you've sat down to Christmas dinner and watched your grandfather (born and raised in Sweden), pouring turkey gravy over his plate full of turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing and lutfisk. Grandma kept the pot she soaked/boiled it in out in the wash-house because you really didn't want to keep it in the actual house. Honestly, much like tofu, it doesn't taste of much on its own other than very vaguely fishy.

Re: Tofu. Texturally, I don't like it (yes, I've tried dried tofu, firm tofu, soft tofu, braised, fried, whatever). Taste-wise, if I want to engage in things without any flavor, I'll go outside and stick my tongue out. Yes, tofu will pick up flavor from other ingredients, but in that case, why even bother with it? If I want protein, I'll throw in some beef/pork/chicken/fish/peanuts/anything-that-isn't-tofu. And an occasional meal with no protein isn't going to kill me.

Re: Michael Pollan. Other students in my Master Gardener class raved about him, especially his anti-GMO stance. No one could ever give me an answer when I asked to see the data--Michael Pollan had spoken and there was no need for pesky facts to cloud the issue.

By CanonicalRabbit (not verified) on 19 May 2015 #permalink

One does not lightly mention lutefisk in this forum.

No, Monsanto isn’t Solving World Hunger. Not Even Close.
Posted on May 27, 2014 by Nick in Food, Health, News, Study

Nick Bernabe | The Anti-Media
We’ve all seen that comment, “Monsanto has done more to end world hunger than any of you”, but that slogan is not based on sound science; rather it’s the result of a $50 million dollar ad campaign launched after a Time magazine cover story christened GMO food as “Grains of Hope” on Aug 7, 2000. Thumbnail credit: gmo-awareness.com
After reading deeper and doing some research, it becomes clear that GMO crops are not solving the world’s hunger problems, contrary to Monsanto’s claims on it’s website that they are working to “mitigate hunger once and for all.”
Further reading of the Op-Ed by Monsanto CEO Hugh Grant titled ‘Let’s End World Hunger’ reveals nothing but empty rhetoric and the push for CEOs and NGOs to work together with governments in the third world to gift away the problem of world hunger by making more charitable donations from rich people to governments. The Monsanto CEO doesn’t even mention his products when talking about ending world hunger, because he knows there is no real science to back up these marketing tactics.
An in-depth paper from MIT about solving world hunger in 2014 came to this conclusion about GMO crops:
“Other technologies available have fewer scientific unknowns, less possibility of forming cycles of farmer debt, and have led to equally significant reductions in hunger. Integrated pest management, organic farming, and other improved farming practices may increase yields just as effectively as would introducing transgenic organisms. As such, we will not promote their widespread use until more research has been done on long term health effects, GMO seeds are available outside of corporate agriculture control, the biological effects of gene insertion are better understood, and research confirms that the presence of GMOs will not harm the native species in an ecosystem.”
The anti-science rhetoric that is hatched up in biotech marketing departments is beginning to come under scrutiny as Monsanto’s ‘Golden Rice’, which was supposed to prevent blindness in 350,000 children and prevent the premature death of 1 million more, has all but failed to deliver on all of it’s promises. As John Robbins at the Huffington Post brilliantly puts it:
“For one thing, we’ve learned that golden rice will not grow in the kinds of soil that it must to be of value to the world’s hungry. To grow properly, it requires heavy use of fertilizers and pesticides — expensive inputs unaffordable to the very people that the variety is supposed to help. And we’ve also learned that golden rice requires large amounts of water — water that might not be available in precisely those areas where Vitamin A deficiency is a problem, and where farmers cannot afford costly irrigation projects.
And one more thing — it turns out that golden rice doesn’t work, even in theory. Malnourished people are not able to absorb Vitamin A in this form. And even if they could, they’d have to eat an awful lot of the stuff. An 11-year-old boy would have to eat 27 bowls of golden rice a day in order to satisfy his minimum requirement for the vitamin.”
Manipulative ad campaigns have made people who oppose GM crops out to be anti-science environmental zealots willing to starve the world for their selfish want for organic produce. But who is actually anti-science when it comes to the GMO debate? Science is about questioning the official narrative and challenging the status-quo to allow these perceived societal norms such as GM foods to be properly vetted. If the pro-GMO crowd calls the anti-GMO crowd anti-science for questioning the safety and use of these products and practices, then they don’t have the slightest clue of what science really is.
On the heels of a UN report stating that small-scale and organic farming was needed instead of large scale commercial farming to lower world hunger rates, a new study has shown that Europe’s non-GMO farming techniques have produced higher yields than their ‘conventional’, GM, and pesticide treated American counterparts.
- See more at: http://livefreelivenatural.com/monsanto-isnt-solving-world-hunger-even-…

By jurg bangerter (not verified) on 07 Jun 2015 #permalink

" Monsanto’s ‘Golden Rice’,"

Monsanto is only one company, and it is not the major developer of Golden Rice. The only mention of Monsanto on this wiki page is this: "Potrykus has enabled golden rice to be distributed free to subsistence farmers.[47] Free licenses for developing countries were granted quickly due to the positive publicity that golden rice received, particularly in Time magazine in July 2000. [48] Monsanto Company was one of the first companies to grant free licences.[49]"

If your spam from Nick Bernabe gets that bit wrong, why should we believe anything from him?

"We’ve all seen that comment, “Monsanto has done more to end world hunger than any of you”"

I've never seen that comment, and no one who supports useful applications of biotech believes that we have to depend on Monsanto to end world hunger. The ninnies who insist on equating all uses of genetic modification technology with support of Monsanto, are however doing their best to make sure that a significant tool which could help to end hunger is never used.

The idea for golden rice did not come from Monsanto; credit goes to the nonprofit International Rice Research Institute in the Philippines.

Golden rice "has failed to deliver on all of its promises" because of vehement and deceptive opposition from anti-GMOers, including destruction of test fields.

Similarly, it's more than a bit disingenuous for anti-GMOers to claim (falsely) that malnourished children can't absorb beta-carotene in golden rice - when the same crowd got spitting mad because a study in China demonstrated precisely that (anti-GMOers professed to be upset because the study didn't use proper informed consent for study subjects).

So who's being manipulative here?

By Dangerous Bacon (not verified) on 07 Jun 2015 #permalink