Top | Newsletter 2013

Culinate Newsletter March 20

(mailing, James Berry)

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 h1. Dear readers,

 In late January, just before the Super Bowl, we received a press kit containing multiple packages of potato chips from a well-known, natural-foods chip maker. We aren't great candidates for this type of press kit because we almost never write about processed food of any type, but there they were. We divvied the packages among us and didn't think much more about it.

 Until several days later when I opened my bag of chips, that is. Let me just say that I'm not usually a big chip-lover, but one afternoon, feeling equal parts curious and hungry, I tore open the package, took a handful of chips, and ate 'em up. Then, I took another handful, closed the bag, stowed it in the cabinet, and gobbled those up. A few minutes later I was back at the cabinet … well, you know. Folks, those chips were amazing — salty, sweet, smoky … I must have repeated my snack five more times before I got a grip. And then I felt ill. I'm not sure if that was because of the greasy food or the realization I was being manipulated; both had a similarly stunning effect. 

 Not long after that, I read The Extraordinary Science of Addictive Junk Food, by Michael Moss, in the New York Times Magazine. Phrases like "bliss point" and food "optimization," and "the amount of crave" pepper the piece. About my recent indulgence I read: "The coating of salt, the fat content that rewards the brain with instant feelings of pleasure, the sugar that exists not as an additive but in the starch of the potato itself — all of this combines to make it the perfect addictive food." I know that junk food is bad for you, but I was surprised to read the extent of the salty and sugary efforts that go into something as seemingly simple as a potato chip. Moss's article was an education.

 For the sake of our collective health, it helps to bring awareness to the table (or the desk, in my case). I'm not suggesting that every chip is always bad — in this case they were delicious, and for a few minutes, I enjoyed eating them. But later I calculated that I'd eaten something like 600 calories … for a snack. When the food you're eating is as addictive as these chips — and as readily available — it might just be best to say no thanks. Brain? You listening?
 Kim Carlson
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story1text: "In 'Vegetable Literacy,' Deborah Madison introduces us to the herbs and vegetables in 12 plant families."
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story2text: "Her husband was shocked to hear Caroline Cummins' happy memories of birthday cupcakes at school."

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recipe1text: "Indian spices meet baked russets: This recipe illustrates the beauty of merging two distinct culinary traditions."
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recipe2text: "We like halibut in this Paula Wolfert dish, a longtime favorite that's a good option for Passover." 

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