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Veggies and Introversion: Chewing on a Connection?

Veggies and Introversion: Chewing on a Connection?

In our sauce and condiment line, we make room for diets of all stripes. From vegans to vegetarians, to hardcore meat eaters, all are welcome at the DFC table! (YMMV with using our products for keto purposes; and, while roasted meat is the definition of paleo, our barbeque sauces regrettably aren’t.)
 
So I looked with interest at new research about the personalities of our plant-based friends, and how a decisive aspect of their natures might relate to their diets — specifically, a higher tendency towards introversion. The large-scale study has come out of the Max Planck Institute for Human and Cognitive Brain Sciences, in cooperation with the University Hospital of Leipzig, and investigated how vegetarianism affects both the body and the mind.

Interestingly, the leading tidbit coming out of the study seems to me the most obvious: That folks who eschew animal products in their diets tend to have a lower BMI, and therefore weight. (This could be for many reasons — for example, plant-based foods are higher in fibre than those made from animals, and fill you up quicker.) But it’s where diet meets personality that my interest was piqued. Here, the study was also broad, attempting to detect correlations between vegetarianism, and “Big Five” personality factors like extraversion and neuroticism (as well as a connection with depression that previous studies showed evidence for).
 
“It was shown that people eating a predominantly plant-based diet are more introverted than those mainly consuming animal products. ‘It is difficult to say what the reason for this is,’ says [study author] Veronica Witte. ‘It could be because more introverted people tend to have more restrictive eating habits or because they are more socially segregated because of their eating habits.’ […]

[The researchers] determined personal diets by means of questionnaires in which participants were asked to fill in how often they had eaten individual animal products in the last 12 months — ranging from “several times a day” to “never”. Personality traits such as extroversion and neuroticism were assessed by means of a so-called personality inventory (NEOFFI), while depression was assessed by using the CESD test, a questionnaire that records various symptoms of depression.”
 
All of this just begs for a multitude of follow-up studies, that the authors and the Max Planck Institute both acknowledge. But even these preliminary results are tantalizing: Does it mean that, like the lower-BMI connection, someone who wants to harness the powers of introversion should start piling on the veggies? Or should organizations looking for thoughtful leaders or good listeners hit the local vegan lunch joint to find their next CEO? I am very interested to see where this thread leads — and I can rest secure in the knowledge that no matter who is involved in the research, we can feed them all! 

Ancient Wine Windows Serve Glasses of Cheer During Coronavirus

wine window

by Maureen Gualtieri
 
When I visited Italy, what stuck with me most about its people was that they were very used to — and very good at — celebrating life in the face of hardship. My trip there took place well before COVID-19, but, for example, the geological threat to the vibrant Naples region, and impact of climate change on historic Venice have been happening for a long time, and the culture has pragmatically worked with it.
 
But the new pressures of the pandemic are reinvigorating a different old Italian good-times-preservation technique — wine windows! These tiny arched openings in restaurant walls are unique to Tuscany and are most numerous in the city of Florence. Originally built starting in the Middle Ages as a way for wine merchants to serve the lower classes, they were repurposed during the bubonic plague of 1630-33 for all customers — under conditions that sound startlingly similar to today’s.
 
“[W]ine producers who were selling their own wine through the small wine windows in their Florentine palaces, understood the problem of contagion. They passed the flask of wine through the window to the client but did not receive payment directly into their hands. Instead, they passed a metal pallet to the client, who placed the coins on it, and then the seller disinfected them with vinegar before collecting them.

Wine purveyors also attempted to avoid touching the wine flasks which were brought back to them by the client, in two different ways. Either the client purchased wine which was already bottled, or the client was allowed to fill his or her flask directly by using a metal tube which was passed through the wine window, and was connected to the demijohn on the inside of the palace. So, the wine merchant either filled new flasks for direct purchase or placed the demijohn in a slightly raised position so that the wine would flow down the small metal pipe into the client’s bottle.”
 
Many of Florence’s modern buchette del vino owners have diversified their businesses beyond wine, and today are serving gelato, coffee, cocktails, and takeout through the wee windows. With delicacies like that, served in a contagion-conscious way, getting through the depths of our own pandemic might be slightly easier. Thank you for your foresight, medieval Italian merchants!

Old Apple Tree Offers Glimpse of Genetic Past and Future

an old apple tree - before and now

With high summer behind us and fall on the horizon, I’m looking forward to the season of one of my favourite fruits: apples! And when I bite into my first hand-picked Ambrosia this year, I will say a mental “cheers” to a recently fallen relative — the Old Apple Tree of Vancouver, Washington.
 
CNN reports that the venerable community landmark died this summer, at a staggering age of 194. Planted by Hudson’s Bay traders in 1826, the Old Apple Tree not only formed the centre of a park and annual festival devoted to it but was regarded by the region’s apple specialists as the “matriarch” of the Pacific Northwest’s apple industry — in spirit, if not in genetic fact.
 
“A DNA analysis performed by experts at Washington State University’s Apple Genome Project revealed that the Old Apple Tree is genetically unique.

‘The Old Apple Tree is not identical to any other named variety in a worldwide collaborative data set of several thousand apple variety DNA profiles,’ Cameron Peace, a professor of tree fruit genetics at WSU told CNN.

‘The Old Apple Tree is therefore unique, one-of-a-kind. It will carry genetic factors not present in other heirloom or modern cultivars,’ Peace added.
 
Scientists were able to establish that the Old Apple Tree is almost certainly a grandchild of the French Reinette, a 500-year-old variety dubbed ‘the grandmother of all apple cultivars,’ Peace explained. The French Reinette is a close direct ancestor of most modern varieties and also a parent or grandparent to many heirloom varieties.”
 
Descendants of the tree dot the area — cuttings had been given to attendees of the Old Apple Tree festival to plant in their own gardens since 1984. Plus, as the original tree died, new saplings began growing out of the old root system. One of the saplings will stay on the site, becoming essentially the reincarnation of its mother!
 
Preserving apple diversity is a serious task, and it warms my heart that one of the founding trees of the North American gene pool has given her adoring apple fans one last gift — the continuation of her legacy! I’ll eat to that.

Saving Botswana’s Cattle — One Pair of Butt Eyes at a Time

cattle with eyes painted on their rear

As any dog owner knows, putting eyes on your pup’s rear and pretending their tail is a nose is a source of much hilarity. But in Botswana, cattle farmers are harnessing this gag for good, in order to protect their cattle — both family food source and livelihood — from predation by local lions.
 
A four-year-long international study of cow/lion coexistence in the southern African nation has shown that stenciling large feline eyes on the back ends of cattle spooks lions into thinking their stealthy cover is blown — thereby sparing the life of the cow! From Gastro Obscura:
 
“‘We chose herds that had previously reported higher depredation rates, so we knew lions were a problem for them already,’ says [field researcher Cameron] Radford. Of the group, roughly a third were given a pair of furrowed, acrylic-painted eye-spots (‘We were going for the intimidation factor,’ says Radford), another third were left unmarked, and the remaining third received simple cross-marks. While 15 unmarked cows and four cross-marked cows were killed by predators, not one of the cows with eye-spots over the four-year study became big-cat food.”
 
Initially skeptical, the cattle farmers who had “donated” their herds to the study were soon converted, and eagerly adopted the low-cost method of keeping their cows safe. (In addition to themselves, and the lions: Retaliatory killings of the vulnerable big cats after cattle attacks were common.) This also safeguards their economic niche — cattle farming is the most profitable agricultural activity in Botswana, and over 95% of their beef is exported to other markets.
 
So it seems cattle/lion/farmer interactions are much like those between any other creatures — one part managing expectations, one part sleight of hand! I love the simple elegance of the study’s solution. And, as a BBQ fan, I’m glad the beef is saved!

Eruvin Measures

eruvinmeasures

Talmudic Measure
Modern equivalent
Equivalent to
Also equivalent
Familiar equivalent
Thumb-breadth 2cm Cherry
Handbreadth 8cm 4 thumb-breadths Credit Card
Handspan 24cm 3 handbreadths 12 thumb-breadths 11 Piano Keys
Cubit (Large) 48cm 2 handspans 6 handbreadths Ruler, Carry-on luggage
Short Cubit 40 cm 5 handbreadths 16 inches Pizza

Talmud incidences of measure (a visual concordance)

Talmud measure
Pictorial reference
Approximate equivalent
Eruvin Daf reference
1 handbreadth Credit card 8cm/3.1” 4, 5
3 handbreadths 11 Piano Keys 24cm/9″ 4, 5, 9
4 handbreadths Face shield 32cm/12.6” 3, 4, 5, 6, 9
4 x 4 handbreadths Chess board 32 x 32cm/12.6” 9
9 handbreadths Traffic cone 72cm/28” 4
10 handbreadths Long shoehorn 80cm/31.5” 3, 4, 5, 8
Log Drinking Glass 310 millilitres/10.5 fl oz 4
1 cubit Carry-on luggage 48cm/18″ 4, 9
4 cubits Bed or Grizzly Bear 192cm/6.25’ (feet) 3, 5, 8, 9
5 cubits Patio Dining Table 240cm/7.9′ (feet) 2
10 cubits Conference Table 480cm/15.7’ (feet) 2, 5, 6, 8, 9
12 cubits Large LED-Wall Screen 576cm/19’ (feet) 3
15 cubits Shuttle Bus 720cm/23.6′ (feet) 2
20 cubits Caravan Awning 960cm/31.5’ (feet) 2, 3, 5
40 cubits Articulated Bus 1920cm/60′ (feet) 2, 3
2000 cubits
Free suspension part of Sutong Bridge
960m/0.6 mile 36
se’a Stock Pot 7.3L/1.9 gallons
40 se’as Hot water heater (tank) 288L/76 gallons 4
Kav Quart of fruit 1.2 litre/1.1 dry quart 29
Maneh Pound of Butter 500 g/1lb/500ml/2cups 29
Cor/Kor 55 gallon drum 220L/55 gal/30 se’as 36

One Fish, Two Fish, Bred Fish, New Fish

new fish the sturddlefish

Scientists have been formulating “Frankenfoods” for decades now. There is validity to a certain amount of genetic modification; after all, we wouldn’t have today’s plump corn or watermelons or eggplants without selective breeding by ambitious (and hungry!) farmers over centuries. Nowadays, the GMOs we hear most about involving splicing genes from one incongruous species to another, which freaks some consumers out. But the unifying force in most of these attempts is the deliberate intention — which makes the news that scientists have accidentally created a new type of fish hybrid in an effort to save one of the parent species all the more surprising!
 
The task they set out to do was bolster the numbers of Russian Sturgeon, a fish prized for its caviar, but critically endangered due to overfishing, destruction of habitat, and pollution. A team of Hungarian scientists attempted asexual reproduction of the fish, using the sperm of another species, the American Paddlefish, to prompt the development of Russian Sturgeon eggs — a process known as gynogenesis.
 
Unfortunately, the Paddlefish and Sturgeon were genetically closer than the scientists thought, and instead of gynogenesis, good old-fashioned sexual reproduction took place, producing a hybrid now known temporarily (and cutely) as “sturddlefish.” And this may not be a bad thing:
 
“Each of the resulting fish look a little different, most of them bearing a stronger resemblance to the sturgeon (which was, of course, the whole idea). But if the offspring adopt the paddlefish’s dietary habits instead of the sturgeon’s, then the hybrid fish could greatly benefit the environment: Sturgeon have a diet of larger crustaceans while paddlefish feed on smaller organisms like plankton, making the latter’s diet more sustainable in the long run. (Microscopic organisms don’t have to be shipped in to feed the fish, meaning fewer carbon emissions.) Cheap diet + expensive roe = money in the bank.”
 
I’ve been doing a lot of reading lately about invasive species in my neck of the woods — so it’s refreshing that this particular goof in animal management might turn out well for a change.  And if it leads to stability for a food fish that we humans are responsible for destabilizing, all the better!

Chocolate Chip Redesign Overclocks the Humble Cookie

Here at the DFC test kitchens, David is the baker, while I fall decidedly into Camp Cooking. When it comes to baking, I usually only have patience for the sampling and critique of the results! David’s chocolate chip cookies are particularly legendary: as he did with our barbecue sauce, he spent years refining his recipe, experimenting with the chip to dough ratios and finely calibrating the sugars to yield the perfect chew.
 
But what he hasn’t done is engineer the ingredients themselves. Leave something that “disruptive” to chocolate-chip-cookieness to Tesla senior industrial designer Remy Labesque. He moonlights as a chocolate expert and has collaborated with California chocolatier Dandelion Chocolate to create the ideal baking chip.
 
While his chip still involves quality chocolate, Labesque’s innovation lies in its shape. The traditional teardrop shape is an artifact of the industrial process — it’s the easiest way for a machine (or a human artisan like Dandelion’s head pastry chef Lisa Vega) to fire out hundreds of chips in one go. But Labesque thought the dense, uniform shape lacked texture and was unsuited to the flat planes of a cookie. So, he set out to reconcile his dreams of the ideal melty cookie morsel to the industrial reality — or really, vice versa. The result: a modernist-looking, flat, faceted square chip, with two balanced pairs of thin and thick edges.
 
At Dandelion, the design brief was to make ‘the best chip for the experience of tasting chocolate,’ says chef Vega. Experts claim the way to do that is to let it melt on your tongue.

Each time a prototype came off the line, Vega would start baking. ‘They stay whole, but once they’re baked, the center of the chip gets soft,’ she observes, a benefit for experiencing the chocolate’s texture. Labesque designed the thin, melt-in-your-mouth edges to be sturdy enough to hold their shape in baking and not to break when the chip is unmolded. […]

Dandelion currently sells its ‘facets’ in three distinct, 70% single-origin, types: from Ecuador, Costa Rica, and Madagascar. Additional single-origin styles are planned for the future. The lengthy research and development and ingredient sourcing comes at a cost: a 17.6 oz. bag of the chips goes for $30.”
 
Coming from an IT background, I’m already a big proponent of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” I never thought that the chocolate chip was broke. Labesque and Vega have helped me rethink this — and I can never fault someone for following their passion, as niche and privileged ($30 USD a bag?) as it is. But none of us regular folks should let that stop our cookie perfection dreams: The original Depression-era chocolate chip cookie recipe used chopped up chocolate bars — it’s built to use what you have. A regular-shaped chip will never spoil a chocolate chip cookie, as long as you infuse the recipe with your own magic as well!

Sports Science Maps Limits of Human Hotdog Dominance

hotdog-b48b740d9d292d8f3243529d834cd89af866ab47-s800-c85

At the venerable Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest, this past July 4th, competitive eater Joey “Jaws” Chestnut set a new record in his chosen sport — 75 hotdogs consumed in ten minutes.
 
A team of sports medicine specialists have taken a closer look at Chestnut’s results with a key question in mind. That a very regular-looking human (his jaw doesn’t even unhinge!) can put away over six dozen tubes of processed meat at a rate of one dog every eight seconds is subjectively stunning; but how close is this feat to the objective upper limit of the sport? In short, is Joey Chestnut, in the words of study author James Smoglia, the “Usain Bolt” of hotdog-eating?
 
Turns out, he is. Smoglia’s team analyzed data from 39 years of the historic sausage gauntlet, using predictive mathematical modelling they usually applied to improvements in more traditional sports.
 
“Improvement curves in elite sports ranging from sprinting to pole vaulting tend to follow a so-called sigmoidal curve, featuring an initial slow and steady rise, followed by an era of rapid improvement and finally a levelling off. ‘Hotdog eating has definitely reached that second plateau,’ said Smoliga.”
 
After an early period where contestants relied on natural talent and how their stomachs were feeling the day of competition,

“[elite] eaters started to follow elaborate training regimes, with some ingesting vast volumes of liquid or gels to expand the stomach without having to process the calories. Chestnut, this year’s winner, claims to train for three months leading up to the competition, including weekly practice runs, a carefully controlled diet and yoga and breathing exercises to help with mental focus.”
 
This victory seems proof that really any action can be turned into a sport if training goes into it. But, like any other sport, there is a physiological limit to hotdog eating: by fitting the hotdog data to the rest of the sigmoidal curve, Smoglia and team predict that 84 hotdogs in ten minutes are the most any typical competitor can hope to eat, even with high-level training. Which makes “Jaws” Chestnut elite indeed!
 
While the condiment connoisseur in me winces at one of the best-loved barbecue options being relegated to so much world-record-fodder, I salute Mr Chestnut and his feat. I hope he gets the opportunity to sit down this summer next to a sizzling barbecue and enjoy a hotdog the way the grill gods intended — slowly savoured with a favourite topping or two. As I hope we all can!

Tools of the Trade

Click on picture for a larger view tools

 

As a mother of three boys, I was always put into a faraway room during my sons’ brit milah. So I’m not familiar with the actual procedure, just the after-effects. I had another family doctor attending my third pregnancy (long story not relevant here) who unlike my previous doctor was not Jewish. After successfully delivering my third son, this doctor when finding out we were passing on circumcision at the hospital, shyly asked if he could attend our son’s brit. Of course, I said yes (this was already my third and it was “old hat”).

I understand that during the brit ceremony my doctor unlike the other men, did not look away – he stayed back to be polite but was very attentive during the procedure. Afterwards, my doctor was so excited he related how “our way” of circumcision is almost foolproof as it is so uncomplicated compared to the modern surgical way of doing it with the Gomco clamp. He said that there were often many complications and whoopsies with the clamp method. I, of course, replied that we’ve had time to work out the kinks. This brit took place in the late 1980s and I am sure techniques in both the Jewish world & the medical world have changed and evolved, as things like this do.   

Hummingbirds May Count To Find Their Food

hummingbirds count

At DFC, we are well aware of how motivating food can be. After all, the prospect of bringing more delicious barbecue into the world was the main reason behind our own pivot to the condiment and sauce business!
 
There are many other species (including monkeys, octopuses, and dogs) that are just as keen as humans are to do extraordinary things for FREE SNAX.  But researchers have recently added an unusual animal — the hummingbird — to that list. And it turns out the teeny avian acrobat might actually source its meals with a truly amazing skill: counting.
 
Biologists at the University of St. Andrews set up a series of experiments with male rufous hummingbirds, who are known for their territoriality, and thus, long memories. They also have exhibited precise, repeated routes among nectar-heavy flowers in the wild, which indicated to researchers they had some way of knowing where the jackpot was.
 
“To find out, the researchers set up feeders with a nectarlike syrup in a valley in North America’s Rocky Mountains, just in time for the hummingbirds to start arriving in May. […]

To see whether the animals had a sense of numerical order, the researchers lined up 10 identical artificial flowers. They put syrup in the first flower and watched to see where the hummingbirds went to feed. Unsurprisingly, the birds went almost uniformly to the first flower, sometimes giving the others a quick check to see whether they also held a tasty treat.
 
Then, the team began rearranging the flowers after each visit, mixing them up — and even moving the entire line — so that the position of the flowers couldn’t give the birds information about which flower had the syrup. Even then, the birds chose the first flower in the line, suggesting they had a concept of “first.” And when the team repeated the entire experiment but baited, say, the third flower, the birds usually zoomed straight toward the third flower. This suggests they knew the third flower in line — regardless of where the line actually was — had the treat.”

This kind of spatial smarts results in an efficiency that must save so much time and effort in the wild. (Adjusting for body size, if a human were to eat as much as a hummingbird needs to in a day, we’d clock in at up to 155,000 calories! That is a lot of flitting around and sipping nectar!)

More research needs to be done, to determine if the hummingbirds are using any other hidden strategies besides counting. But the current results are promising — and testify to the power of food to spark the development of some amazing skills!