The illusion of choice

The Guardian has investigated the extent of monopolization of food production and it’s quite a thing. Though most of us are aware that many of the products on the shelves are from the same company, even competing brands, the investigation found that “for 85% of the groceries analyzed, four firms or fewer controlled more than 40% of market share.” For many supermarket goods, just a few international corporations “dominate every link of the food supply chain: from seeds and fertilizers to slaughterhouses and supermarkets to cereals and beers.”

On the lighter side of food, there is, apparently, a trend for “no-recipe-recipe” books in the modern culinary world, and Marian Bull writing at Eater decided to dive into the history of recipe writing. While this may be a subject more for the foodie Mad Monday readers, Bull actually covers some interesting ground.

Writing in paragraph form started in the 1500’s, as did the printing of recipe books, yet the way of writing recipes that we see as standard today is fairly new. Before that, many steps in cooking a dish were assumed. Citing the example of a Vietnamese cookbook from the 1940’s, Bull highlights how the author’s omissions reflect the “implied cultural proximity between author and reader… Her readers know which bones to simmer for pho broth, and for how long.” Many people today probably forget there was a time when Americans didn’t know what pizza was

While there is controversy and politics even in the world of recipe writing, nevertheless, the article is an interesting insight into the the global nature of modern cuisine, the passing on of cultural knowledge, and how you need to learn the rules “before you can begin riffing.”

Rare steak with a side of soft power

Mad Monday readers will no doubt be aware of the trend for everything “plant-based.” Influential recipe and food site, Epicurious announced last week that it will no longer publish beef recipes. The New York Times reported that a soon-to-be-released document from the UN is expected to recommend targeting methane emissions as “particularly valuable in the short-term fight against climate change.”

One reporter outlines how climate alarmists regularly overstate the contribution of ruminate animals to methane in the atmosphere, pointing out that calculations are often based on the entire supply chain. A Cornell professor reached similar conclusions writing that the amount of cattle in the US has been decreasing over the last couple of decades.

The Federalist podcast weighed in with a light-hearted look at this “unserious” move against beef. They point out that growing crops is not without environmental impact, and worry about the level of control government has over our food through regulation. Epicurious tried to soften the blow by saying they are “not anti-beef but rather pro-planet.” But, just to be safe, why not hug a cow?

In the mean time, the Biden administration wants to pay farmers to leave land fallow in an attempt to sequester carbon. The move could see millions of acres of farmland removed from production.