Manufacturing Flavor

Fascinating look into how flavor is manufactured:

Natural flavors and artificial flavors sometimes contain exactly the same chemicals, produced through different methods. Amyl acetate, for example, provides the dominant note of banana flavor. When it is distilled from bananas with a solvent, amyl acetate is a natural flavor. When it is produced by mixing vinegar with amyl alcohol and adding sulfuric acid as a catalyst, amyl acetate is an artificial flavor. Either way it smells and tastes the same. “Natural flavor” is now listed among the ingredients of everything from Health Valley Blueberry Granola Bars to Taco Bell Hot Taco Sauce.

Given a previous post describing how many people prefer the artificial flavor to the real one they’re trying to mimic, maybe companies should start advertising the chemical formulas instead?

Real v. Natural v. Artificial Flavoring

A comparison as to what constitutes “real” flavors:

It seems straightforward, initially: Natural vanilla flavour must be extracted from chopped up vanilla beans, usually by sitting them in ethyl alcohol for a week or more (which results in “pure” vanilla extract), although glycerin or propylene glycol (which is used to deice aircraft) can also serve as a base. Artificial vanilla flavour consists of nature-identical vanillin (the chemical that gives vanilla its characteristic flavour) that is made from something other than vanilla beans — typically wood pulp, as a by-product of the paper industry, although it can sometimes be derived from coal tar.

The Inconsistencies of Veganism

I have another man crush, this instance on Rhys Southan and the fine words he spews:

If vegans want to convince us that it’s ethical to eat plants and unethical to eat animals, they need a coherent reason for this. So vegans settled on sentience. And yet when people want to eat non-sentient animals and say it’s okay by vegan ethics, the vegan majority gets upset. Christopher Cox outraged a ton of vegans with his “Consider the Oyster” manifesto that held up non-sentient oysters as a veganism-compatible animal food. Well, vegans… if oysters aren’t sentient, what is the problem?


And then there are the vegans who hear about vegan-appropriate animal products and shrug them off with an indifferent “fine, but gross, I wouldn’t eat that” and never address the subject again. But that’s just damning oysters with faint acknowledgment and does nothing to reconceptualize veganism as an idea based on an actual principle rather than an arbitrary division between categories of food. If vegans really want to save sentient animals, they should be at the forefront of making insects more palatable. The Loving Hut vegan restaurant chain should have an actual seafood menu. Vegans should raise their next generation on peanut butter and jellyfish sandwiches, with human breast milk soft serve ice cream for dessert. They should be petitioning for the green “V” to appear on boxes of frozen New Zealand mussels. And they should be mass-marketing bivalve sausages. Hell, those would actually be good!

I understand the desire to reduce your impact and the harm your actions cause, but entrenching yourself on an arbitrary line like “No Animal Products Ever” is arbitrary and often counter-productive to your initial goals. There’s something to be said about stating an overall objective and leaving application to the particular situation.

The Inverse Relationship Between Credibility and Silliness

Such a relationship is quite apparent in the latest PETA ad:

I realize the incentives facing non-profits usually encourage them to prioritize marketing stunts over real results and posting this video only further helps them on that front. Regardless, I think it’s interesting to think about how many people would actually be swayed in any meaningful way to go vegan from viewing this. The essential message is to eschew (not chew, unfortunately) animal products so that you can fuck the functional neck out of your girlfriend. In a similar vein, the vegan advocacy group PCRM (Short for the hopelessly generic and misleading “Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine) “recently ran an ad campaign showcasing individual body parts on a diet of cheese. If we generously do assume that their aim is to genuinely convince others to their cause instead of simply raising a stink to fish up more fund money, I gather the overwhelming response will be to look at the stated image, realize it’s facial silliness, and therefore conclude the message has no credibility. It’s no wonder these groups get the most vitriol from actual vegans.

WARNING: If you experience an erection last for more than four hours, please just put down the kale.

Paula Deen’s Butter Habit

Let’s say your diet is a quarter sugar, a quarter flour, a quarter frying seed oils, and a quarter butter. Let’s further suppose that you miraculously end up with diabetes on such a wholesome diet. Clearly, the only logical conclusion is that the butter is to blame, right?

Archevore Diet Revisited

I actually shy away from the Paleo label when discussing my diet because I feel it’s somewhat misleading. The real short-hand is “High Animal Fat” but Paleo benefits from mainstream familiarity. Most of the guidelines I follow, I got from Kurt Harris. The man’s site, Archevore (formely PaleoNu), is a treasure trove of nutritional information and analysis. He’s surprisingly been MIA for a while but it’s nice to see that his latest post is an update to his general guidelines.

His aim is to reduce the false herrings and make it more universal. Hence, legumes, aside from soy and peanuts, are not mentioned given their relatively benign nature. I’ve agreed with this for quite some time and thought the Paleo crowd was overreacting about “phytates and anti-nutrients” in legumes. Properly prepared legumes have had a place in one civilization or another for millenias, and most of the vilification demonstrated seemed to me like weak associations. This isn’t a reason for me to include beans though, I still think they’re boring, but won’t complain if I had to eat them.

His admonition of milk is interesting though. You can tell he’s being influenced by the “Food Palatibility” theorem currently floating around the blogosphere and is thus excluding liquid calories out of caution. The idea is that liquid calories are too easy too consume and might potentially lead to issues. It’s hard to see why milk should be mentioned in this circle though: how much milk can you comfortably consume in a given period of time? Compare that caloric load to any other food on the archevore safe list, I don’t think it’s a fair association.

That said however, it’s clear that his list is geared more towards people who have suffered long under the SAD, and this is a means of addressing that. It’s also heartening to see starch vindicated as a nutritional bad guy. Considering Guyenet’s critical look at the carbohydrate hypothesis of obesity, I’m now less and less convinced that carbohydrates as an umbrella term are necessarily bad. Once you have solid foundations, it seems that the general population can safely swing between using glucose or long-chain saturated fats as a fuel. Your mileage will vary, and so will the taste preference. I generally lean towards animal fats, but generally will not complain for want of health or taste if I had to substitute some of those calories with safe starches. Fat and starch are one hell of a drug.

Fluffy Particles, Solid Fats & Cholesterol Tests

How do you lower your LDL cholesterol 60 points in 4 weeks or less?

Get it tested twice.

Let me back up. Since August 2010, I’ve been on a “paleo-inspired” diet high in animal fats and low in grains and legumes (low as in “none”, see my post I Eat Staples for a full breakdown of my diet). I was first interested in the idea of utilizing evolutionary history to construct an optimal diet after reading the NYT article “The New Age Cavemen and the City” but I wasn’t convinced to give the diet a try until after watching the low-budget documentary Fat Head*, a mix between a response to Super Size Me and a debunking of the lipid hypothesis. Rapidly increasing my intake of red meat and saturated fat prompted many warnings about the consequences, namely that I would gain a lot of weight very rapidly. When the opposite occurred, warnings remained but they instead addressed the invisible and long-term risk of heart attacks. Given the stigma and fear surrounding saturated fat in this society, I probably gave someone a heart attack every time I drank heavy cream in public.

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