Tag Archives: food

Wasabi receptor is the ammonia receptor: Lysol Sushi anyone?

So, according to this guy, Prof Makoto Tominaga, the wasabi receptor is the same as the alkaline/ammonia receptor. So… does that mean lemon lysol a good substitute on sushi?

“It has the first report showing molecular entity for the alkali-sensor. You could feel pain when you eat too much WASABI with Japanese Sushi. We found that this pain sensation is the same with that caused by ammonia”, said Prof Tominaga.

For those of you who have never had whiff of ammonia or tasted wasabi, there is a remarkable, nasal clearing similarity. I had read some time ago that the active chemical was an isothiocyanate and wikipedia backs me up. I gather that info comes from Wasabia. In any case, don’t snort it. If you really want to see a bad decision in action, feel free to watch the mistakes of others.


Biofuels, economics and starvation – concerns for U.S. profit and conscience

I’m a chemist, and I love the idea of biofuels. America could do better on the energy production side of things, and biofuels seem like an opportunity. What we need is a replacement for petroleum, but what we have is an agricultural production capacity. Biofuels are also an opportunity for readjustment of markets. Right now, big farm production has pushed the third world out of the agricultural game – they don’t have the technology to produce cheap food. It’s cheaper to ship food from the US than it is to grow it almost anywhere else. Ironically, raising food prices and cutting US subsidies could end up really helping the poor, since they could then make a profit selling the food that they grow for themselves.

Think of it this way: cheap US food means that farming is financially useless in places without massive agribusiness infrastructure. Yet, growing food has been the way people have built their own economies since the advent of agriculture. It’s only recently with industrial farming that it has become necessary to trade factory labor for food.

Now, I hope that it is obvious that this is an oversimplification. The above implies  that it’s more complicated than simply making the choice to burn our corn instead or feed the poor. But there is some truth to that, too. The economic reality is that a price increase on food could end up being the best thing ever for poor communities. They can begin to farm their own food and supply their own needs. But if the price goes up faster than the demand can be met by local sources, then people will starve.

When people are going hungry, it is unacceptable to turn corn into fuel. It is unacceptable to be wasteful consumers of corn while our fellow humans contend with food riots. There are new projects on the books. Turning inedible plants and plant waste into liquid transportation fuels feels a lot more reasonable. Congress is investing in these options which I think is a wise move on the part of our legislators.


Food and drink: eat the stuff you like, eat more vegetables, don’t drink bottled water

Mark Bittman’s ideas about food mirror my own. I posted about this before. He tells us all about his opinion in his TED talk. I happen to agree with the omnivorous perspective. I like all kinds of food, and I won’t give up something I enjoy in moderation for a blanket rule about what I will or won’t eat. And I’m not going to insult people who offer me something because it doesn’t fit my food rules.

There are good health reasons to eat vegetables. Eating massive quantities of meat is pretty clearly not good for people. Moreover, it’s not good for the environment. Every pound of meat represents an investment of many pounds of grain. People who are worried about food prices need not worry too much – if we cut down meat production we can raise overall food production by a great deal. That’s not a mandate for vegetarianism, it’s just good sense. ‘Less meat’ is not ‘no meat.’

Then there is bottled water. I am really irritated by bottled water. There’s a Penn and Teller’s Bullsh!t episode that sells hose water to yuppies in expensive looking bottles. They assure each other that they can ‘taste the difference.’ And there is a case to be made that the placebo effect is perfectly valid for perception of flavor – if it tastes better, it tastes better, even when it is exactly the same. But you can fool yourself into thinking it tastes better with a bit of lemon instead of burning gasoline to haul a bottle of water across the state or across the world.

Think about it: if you buy water from the French Alps, you just paid to have water shipped from the french alps. That’s insane. If you buy other, cheaper brands, you are paying to have someone re-filter your local tap water (at least they are not shipping it across the world) and put it in a bottle for you. Here’s the best part: it’s not safer. Not too far back the CocaCola company had to pull Dasani water off the shelves in Britain because it had more bromate than was allowed in tap water.

For the money we spend shipping and re-purifying drinkable water in the United States, we could afford to provide safe water to everyone in the world. According to the EPIThe United Nations Millennium Development Goal for environmental sustainability calls for halving the proportion of people lacking sustainable access to safe drinking water by 2015. Meeting this goal would require doubling the $15 billion a year that the world currently spends on water supply and sanitation. While this amount may seem large, it pales in comparison to the estimated $100 billion spent each year on bottled water.” There are people whose ground water has arsenic in it. They are drinking arsenic from a local well while we are shipping fashion water from France to the U.S. where we already have water without arsenic in it to begin with. I’m in favor of free markets, but that’s tantamount to the decadence of eating the ortolan.


P.S. via wikipedia: For centuries, a rite of passage for French gourmets has been the eating of the Ortolan. These tiny birds—captured alive, force-fed, then drowned in Armagnac—were roasted whole and eaten that way, bones and all, while the diner draped his head with a linen napkin to preserve the precious aromas and, some believe, to hide from God.

The Wine Spectator

Gumption traps and how to get motivated, part 1

Persig talks about Gumption Traps in his book, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. There are lots of them, and some of them are actually really useful. Some of the obvious ones are fear and fatigue and basic bodily needs. Others are as simple as the initial barrier to action. Some are concerned with paradigm.
For this first segment I’m going to tell you what you already know: it’s easier to be motivated if you’re physically ready to be motivated. If you’re healthy, well rested and well fed, you will find it a lot easier to be motivated. Did you watch Fast Food Nation? His motivation wend steadily downhill the more unfit he got. That’s not a scientific study, but it stands to reason that if you are healthy, you will feel better about doing things.
Being well-fed is a huge issue, and no doubt we’ll get into that more as time goes by. Suffice it to say that a well balanced diet that doesn’t have a high glycimic index is probably a good place to start. I tend to go the opposite way form most Americans in that I eat too little, not too much. I get involved in a task, and I forget to eat then I feel cranky and nothing sounds good besides candy. I seldom buy candy, so then I just eat a little of something I have around to get me feeling better (cereal, beans and rice, etc.) and then repeat the whole thing. I imagine if I substituted junk food for healthy food, I would end up with too many calories and I would get fat like everyone else.
The better way to go (which I do when I’m organized) is to cook and take meals with you when you go to work or wherever. Cooking at home tends to reduce all kinds of junk food inroad into your life. Also it’s cheaper. Taking a thermos of coffee, an apple, a jar of beans and rice and a sandwich to work costs about $1. That’s enough to get me through the day. If I don’t bottom out, those foods taste pretty good. There was a great TED talk about this recently.

Speaking of coffee, I’m a huge caffeine addict. I’ll post specifically about coffee soon. But in the mean time I’ll share something interesting: I’m so addicted to caffeine, that I confuse feeling ‘thirsty’ for feeling like I need my caffeine fix. They both feel the same to me. “They” say you should drink 2 cups of water for each cup of coffee, but that’s been debunked elsewhere . If it were true, I would be a desiccated husk, as I drink a 10:1 coffee to water ratio on most days. But it does catch up with me eventually, and I need a good glass of water. Failing to do so makes me feel very tired.

More tomorrow on exercise!