food

Pass the Olive Oil, Please

I want to thank Caitlyn Ark for this wonderful blog post, which she wrote based on her experience doing a study-abroad class this summer.

Pass the Olive Oil, Please
The Healthy Diet of a Social Mediterranean, Caitlyn Ark

As I was leaning off the side of our very large, but only slightly crowded, ferry, I watched the gentle crashing of the startlingly wine blue waters below me. Wine deep, wine rich, I thought to myself, which something that the Ancient Greeks, who sailed these same waters, originally coined, intertwining food with the natural landscapes from which they come from.[1] The day was warm, but the kind of warm that drifted down from the bright Mediterranean sun to eventually settle on my shoulders like a soft shawl. I found myself at the bow of our boat, searching for the small nip of the wind to kick up my hair and offer a slight reprieve from the warm air. The Mediterranean is an oligotrophic sea, meaning it is very low in nutrients, so I was surprised to note that I could see schools of small fish darting around socially near the top of the water, playing a marine version of follow-the-leader. …

Diet and Global Health

What is the single most important factor in shaping global health in the developed world? Interestingly, it does not appear to be access to the most technologically sophisticated medical technology. In the chapter on health in our textbook, I start by saying: “Chile, Costa Rica, Cyprus, Guadalupe, Hong Kong, Israel, Malta, Martinique, Singapore, and the United Arab Emirates are a diverse set of nations and territories. Yet they all have one fact in common: their citizens live longer than those of the United States, as do the citizens of many developed countries (Smallman and Brown, 2015, p. 236). Lee Miller and Weilu have an article titled “These are the World’s healthiest nations” in Bloomberg (February 24, 2019) which looks at global health statistics. The methodology looked at a number of factors -not only life expectancy- to rank countries. The top five countries were Spain, Italy, Iceland, Japan and Switzerland. There are many such rankings, and each one has methodological questions or choices. But all such national rankings of health can leave you questioning what you think you know, particularly about the role of diet in health. …

The Cultured Chef: an International Cookbook for Kids

"Close Up Asian Cuisine" by rakratchada torsap at freedigitalphotos.net
“Close Up Asian Cuisine” by rakratchada torsap at freedigitalphotos.net

Nicholas Beatty and Coleen McIntyre have created a beautiful, well-researched and fun cookbook, which uses food to introduce children to other cultures. While it may see strange to review a cookbook for kids on an International and Global Studies blog for adults, most cookbooks don’t begin with the heading “How to become a global citizen,” or a list of “5 ways to become more globally aware.” Every section is organized around a world region, with recipes and information from a few countries. For example, the section on Hawaii describes how to make Musubi riceballs (which entails a discussion of Hawaii’s multicultural history), contains a kids’ activity to make a Lei, and tells about a Polynesian myth.The section on Mexico describes Day of the Dead bread, and discusses the artwork of Frida Kahlo and Jose Guadelupe Posada. Because one of the key goals of the book is to introduce children to global cultures, the work has unexpected sections such as “Musical Instruments of the World.” I liked that indigenous peoples also were included in the work, from the Yup’ik Inuit to the Maori. …

Witches’ Broom: The Mystery of Chocolate and Bioterrorism in Brazil

Geographic and Genetic Population Differentiation of the Amazonian Chocolate Tree, Juan C. Motamayor, Philippe Lachenaud, Jay Wallace da Silva e Mota, Rey Loor, David N. Kuhn, J. Steven Brown, Raymond J. Schnell; from Wikipedia commons
“Geographic and Genetic Population Differentiation of the Amazonian Chocolate Tree,” Juan C. Motamayor, Philippe Lachenaud, Jay Wallace da Silva e Mota, Rey Loor, David N. Kuhn, J. Steven Brown, Raymond J. Schnell; from Wikipedia commons

When people think of chocolate, they may know that it roots stretch back to Mexico, where Aztec emperors used to drink a frothy concoction of cacao and chile. They are less likely to know that cacao originally came from the Amazon, most likely somewhere in Ecuador, which still has the most genetically diverse cacao trees. How it traveled north, perhaps on trading ships along the Pacific Coast, or overland through Central America,  we will never know. But its origins are less of a mystery, than the disappearance of chocolate in Northeastern Brazil beginning in the late 1980s.

Chocolate was originally brought from the Amazon to Brazil’s north-east in 1746. This region was colonial Brazil’s heartland, where the legacy of slavery had created a society defined by both poverty and social inequality.  I spent two months in Recife, Brazil in 1990, where I saw the gold and jewels in the Baroque churches, and the poverty in the countryside. This poverty -and the power of traditional elites- may have motivated one of the greatest crimes in all history, if such a crime actually took place. …

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