Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Archive for November 29th, 2020

Smoked Garlic, Dill, and Chilli Pepper Tofu

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This is really excellent as a snack. Only available locally, I fear, but perhaps something similar is near you since I see quite a few new small food enterprises emerging.

Written by Leisureguy

29 November 2020 at 4:29 pm

Some Victoria street art

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Just came across these while out shopping.

Written by Leisureguy

29 November 2020 at 4:25 pm

Posted in Art, Daily life

The New Wave of Fishless Fish Is Here

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If I like a food that is bad for my health, but I can have the same experience (taste, appearance, fragrance, and mouthfeel) from a nutritious simulacrum, the choice for me is obvious.

Others, I understand, really do not like choosing the simulacrum and will either eat the unhealthy food or abstain entirely. I’m not like that. For me, getting the good without the bad seems like a clear win and a good choice.

So I am intrigued by the fish-like foods, though you can be sure that I will cast a wary eye on the ingredients (which do look okay — see below). Beyond health benefits, there are environmental payoffs for these new foods.

Rowan Jacobsen reports in Outside:

Food scientists and marketers are creating healthy, plant-based, imitation tuna, crab, and shrimp that look and taste like the real thing. Better yet, switching to faux seafood will help curb our reliance on an international fishing industry that has become an environmental and human-rights disaster.

The year 2020 has not been good to many things, but it has been very, very good to the tuna melt. As the world got weird and we sheltered at home, many of us hankered for the familiar, the stable, the uncool. And there was the tuna melt waiting for us, as uncool as ever. 

References to the sandwich spiked on Reddit. New recipes (more or less indistin­guishable from the old recipes) flowed onto the internet. 

I, too, felt the allure. So, during the height of the pandemic, breaking away from the monotony of the keyboard, I made myself a lunch of soaring satisfaction: crispy bread and creamy tuna under a warm security blanket of cheese. What made it especially gratifying, however, was that it was the first tuna melt of my life that involved no fish at all. It was made with a new plant-based faux tuna called Good Catch, and while I can’t exactly say it changed my life, it definitely changed my lunch.

I swore off canned tuna last year, after reading The Outlaw Ocean, Ian Urbina’s wrenching account of human-rights abuses in the global fishing industry. For years, my list of morally acceptable seafoods had been narrowing as I learned about the environmental impacts of industrial fishing. Bluefin tuna, of course, went out the window long ago. Then it was Chilean sea bass, swordfish, and farmed salmon. Cod, gone. Shrimp, toast. But I clung to canned tuna, in part because of the convenience. A highly functional shot of protein, shelf-stable and cheap, it seemed morally defensible as long as it sported the logos certifying that it was dolphin-safe and sustainably fished.

But that changed when I plunged into Urbina’s book, the result of more than three years reporting on high-seas crime across 12,000 nautical miles, all five oceans, and 20 smaller seas. He shipped out on roach-infested, barely seaworthy trawlers, chased pirates and poachers, got caught in border wars, and uncovered a grainy cell-phone video of casual assassinations at sea. After all that, Urbina asked, did we really think “that it is possible to fish sustainably, legally, and using workers with contracts, making a livable wage, and still deliver a five-ounce can of skipjack tuna for $2.50 that ends up on the grocery shelf only days after the fish was pulled from the water thousands of miles away”?

Spoiler alert: it’s not. The average can of tuna drags behind it a tangled net of wrecked ecosystems, definned sharks, debt bondage, child labor, human trafficking, physical abuse, and murder. By the time I finished The Outlaw Ocean, I couldn’t open a can of tuna without imagining a trickle of human blood oozing out. And it’s not just tuna. Swordfish, snapper, mahi mahi, mackerel, sardines, squid, and anchovies are all tainted by slavery. So are farmed salmon, farmed shrimp, and cat food, which relies on meal made out of small fish caught in fisheries rife with human suffering. 

Many fishing boats are crewed by migrants from poor countries who are desperate for work. The boats can spend years at sea, periodically off-loading their catch to refrigerated mother ships and taking on fresh supplies. Oversight is almost nonexistent. Men are forced to work brutal hours in filthy conditions. Beatings are common. So are deaths.

A typical experience is that of Lang Long, a poor Cambodian man Urbina met in Thailand. Long was smuggled to the Thai coast by a trafficker who promised to get him a construction job, but the job never materialized. Instead, Long was sold to a fishing captain for $530, to cover his trafficking debt. Once on the boat, he didn’t see land again for three years.

During that time, Long was beaten regularly, forced to work up to 23 hours a day, and given insufficent food and water. After trying to escape, he was shackled by the neck and chained to the deck whenever his boat approached another ship.

But Long was relatively lucky. He survived, and was returned to land after a Catholic charity paid the boat’s captain $750 for his freedom. Other sea slaves have described sick deckhands being thrown overboard and intransigent ones being locked in the hold, whipped, or beheaded.

All this happens on the untraceable high seas. By the time a tender comes into port, it can carry a vast mix of legally and illegally caught fish. And that’s how a can of tuna gets to your grocery shelf for $2.50.

So I kissed tuna goodbye. Lunch became a little more inconvenient, but then Good Catch showed up in the grocery aisle. Instead of a can, the product came in an upmarket pouch featuring a photo of a plate heaped with extremely tuna-like shards. Fish-Free Tuna, the label advertised. Chunk Albacore Texture. The ingredients list revealed that it was made using a blend of six legumes—soybeans, peas, chickpeas, fava beans, lentils, and navy beans—with some algal oil and seaweed powder mixed in for “Real Seafood Taste.” At $5 for a 3.3-ounce portion, it was pricier than canned tuna, but not exactly a budget buster.

I’d written a lot about the battle for burger supremacy among fauxtein peddlers like Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods, and I knew the pattern those trailblazers had to follow: media campaigns to convince people their fake meats weren’t bizarre, slow rollouts of product in a handful of hipster restaurants, and then years of struggle to develop the production and distribution needed to reach the mainstream. I’d assumed alternative seafood would follow the same tortuous path. Yet here was Good Catch, already stocked by mainstream supermarkets like Whole Foods and Giant. Perhaps the trail had been blazed. And that made me wonder if the world of seafood was about to get pounded by a wave of fishless fish.

Second spoiler alert: . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

29 November 2020 at 11:05 am

The Donut King: rags to riches, then back to rags — and once again to riches

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Amazing account reported by Vibeke Venema for the BBC:

If you walk into a doughnut shop in California, the chances are it’s owned by a Cambodian family. That’s because of a refugee who built up an empire, and became known as the Donut King, only to lose it all.

Ted Ngoy was a high school student in Phnom Penh when he first set eyes on Suganthini Khoeun, the daughter of a high-ranking government official.

“She was so beautiful,” he remembers. “You can’t find any prettier woman besides her.”

All the boys at his school were in love with her, and as a poor half-Chinese boy from a village near the Thai border he had no chance. “She was powerful, like your royal princess,” says Ted. And she was heavily chaperoned.

But then Ted discovered that the tiny room where he lodged, on the fourth floor of a walk-up apartment block, overlooked Suganthini’s villa. And he saw an opportunity. Every evening, he sat by his open window and played the flute. On hearing the music float across the quiet city, Suganthini’s mother remarked that whoever was playing must be in love.

One night, he saw Suganthini on her balcony, and decided it was time to make his move. He wrote a note, telling her that he lived in the building opposite and was the flute player. He wrapped the note around a stone, and threw it down.

His gesture went unreciprocated for days. But then one of Suganthini’s servants appeared at his door with a reply.

“The note said, ‘I appreciate you blowing the flute. It’s so amazing, so touching.’ And then we started communicating, bringing back and forth the messages,” Ted says.

“What happens if I decide to jump into your room?” Ted wrote one day.

Suganthini replied, “Well be careful, if you don’t jump into my room, you’ll jump into my mum’s room.”

She thought Ted was joking, but he was serious. Despite the villa’s armed security guards and guard dogs, one rainy night Ted climbed up a coconut tree and over the barbed wire and made his way in through a bathroom window.

He took a chance and opened a bedroom door – and there was Suganthini, fast asleep.

He woke her up and she was about to scream for help, when she realised it was her classmate.

“What are you doing here?” she asked.

“Well, it is because I’ve fallen in love with you,” Ted replied.

“But what shall we do in the morning? I have to go to school.”

“Don’t worry, I will hide under your bed,” said Ted. And that’s what he did.

Suganthini smuggled him food at night, and after many days she said she loved him too. They made a blood pact, promising to be forever faithful. He says he hid in her room for 45 days until he was discovered.

Suganthini’s family insisted Ted break it off by telling her he didn’t love her. He did as he was told, but then pulled out a knife and stabbed himself, declaring he would rather die than live without her. While he was recovering in hospital, Suganthini also made an attempt on her life. Faced with such determination, her family allowed the young lovers to be together.

“It’s a crazy story, but it’s true,” says Ted, now 78. “I had true love for her.”

But he admits he was also aware that conquering Suganthini’s heart held out the promise of a better life.

—————

They married and started a family, and life was good until civil war broke out in 1970, between the government and the communist Khmer Rouge, led by Pol Pot. . .

Continue reading. There’s much more.

Written by Leisureguy

29 November 2020 at 10:51 am

The cost to me of animal-based foods

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Over the past month I’ve diverged from my whole-food plant-based diet somewhat. Perhaps that was due to the holiday season, perhaps it was just my natural inclination toward change and novelty. At any rate, I started having the occasional piece of steelhead trout, then that more frequently. Than an occasional pair of eggs (over easy, cooked in butter) atop a dish. A couple times, a little bacon. And then I got some pickled herring and an aged smoked cheddar and canned smoked sprats and enjoyed them with wine.

My recent morning blood glucose readings (in mmol/l — multiply by 18.018 to get mg/dl, commonly used in the US) tell the story. When I was eating strictly (and doing more walking), my morning readings ran around 5.8 (105) but dipped as low as 5.3 (95). My HbA1c was 5.2%, typically. (Most recent was 5.3%.)

This month with a more indulgent diet and much less walking they’ve been up around 6.x. And then the past few days turned ominous:

11/24 – 6.1 (110)
11/25 – 7.0 (126)
11/26 – 7.3 (132)

At that point I became scared and immediately resumed strict adherence to a whole-food plant-based diet (including minimizing the use of extra-virgin olive oil, cooking foods in (unsalted) vegetable stock or water). The result:

11/27 – 6.7 (121)
11/28 – 6.8 (123)
11/29 – 6.1 (110)

The readings come back in line quickly with a strictly whole-food plant-based diet. (With my doctor’s approval, I discontinued my medications in May 2019, relying solely on diet and exercise.) And when weather permits, I’ll also resume walking.

Given how common type 2 diabetes has become, I thought this evidence of the benefits of a whole-food plant-based diet (and the costs of veering from that diet) would be of interest to some readers.

It may well be that my blood glucose is more quickly affected by food because I don’t have medication to act as a buffer, but in general I would think that a whole-food plant-based diet can be helpful.

For more information, take a look at Dr. Michaeel Greger’s site NutritionFacts.org (note that the Video Library allows you to browse by topic) and/or read How Not to Die or How Not to Diet.

Written by Leisureguy

29 November 2020 at 8:30 am

3-D Printed Mathematical Constructs (as art)

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The photo shows an early iteration of the three-dimensional analogue of the two-dimensional Hilbert Curve, a space-filling curve defined by David Hilbert. This is one of a variety of 3-D printed mathematical constructs made by Henry Segerman.

I found this example and explanation of negatively curved surfaces interesting:

And this, too, is interesting:

Written by Leisureguy

29 November 2020 at 7:44 am

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