Raw Fish Can Guarantee You Liver Cancer

Not only do I never eat raw meat or fish, I don't think other people should either, as I have argued on this blog. Now comes yet another data point for why people shouldn't eat raw meat or fish:

Koi pla is a popular dish in northeastern Thailand. It’s made from finely chopped raw fish, mixed with herbs, a dash of lime juice, and a sprinkling of live red ants. Although devoured regularly by many in the Isaan region of the country, the dish actually harbors a deadly secret: it causes liver cancer.

For a long time now, it’s been observed that people in the region have bizarrely high levels of the disease. It’s thought to account for more than half of all male cancer cases in the region, compared to a worldwide average of around just ten percent. And it’s the little freshwater fishies used in the dish that are the culprit, or more specifically, the fluke worms they’re home to. Doctors in the area are trying to educate people as to the risk koi pla poses, reports BBC News Worldwide, and it seems to be working.

Raw fish and live red ants? Jesus traditional Thai cuisine, go home. You're drunk.

Stuffing Pregnant Women with Marmot Meat


A while ago I visited Zürich and bought this book, Vom Essen und Trinken im alten Zürich ('On Eating and Drinking in Old Zürich'). I saw it at a flea market and just liked the quality -- thick, glossy paper, lots of interesting and well-integrated illustrations, solid and durable binding. A fine example of the bookmaker's art. (You know, real bookmakers).

I've been dipping into it a bit lately, and it turns out to be full of Fun Facts.© As was pretty normal for medieval Europe, people needed protein and ate anything that moved, from eels to finches to sparrows to hawks to frogs to hedgehogs. Smaller birds would just be roasted on a spit and eaten whole, their tiny bones providing the sought-after crunch factor. To conceal the fact that some of these meats are pretty revolting, they would be slathered in fat and whatever spices came to hand. Things got a lot easier after 1500, when trade brought eastern spices, sugar, coffee, tea, and other delicacies first to the rich, then to everyone except the poorest people.

We also learn that medieval and early-modern Germans avoided eating malodorous cheese, giving it the nickname Schreck-den-Gast (scare the guest). During times of scarcity, the Zürich authorities would create exhaustive, precise rationing lists, most of which survive (Remember, they're Swiss). According to one such list, pregnant women were to receive extra rations, including extra portions of marmot (groundhog) meat. 

That'll teach those strumpets!

Am deutschen Wesen, or German Smoothiemakers Show Us the Way

One day, we will look back on the spasms of social-media shaming that are currently in vogue and wonder: what were we thinking?!? I try to make it a habit to think 'what were we thinking?'while we still are thinking it. So I have always thought that the proper response to being called out by tiresome scolds is not the groveling apology your PR firm wants you to give, but either complete obliviousness or a satisfied smirk.

And a group of German smoothie-makers is showing us the way. True Fruits recently started a couple of new advertising campaigns that twisted the knickers of German SJWs. One of their bottles is emblazoned with the logo: 'Get you sausage-like fingers away from this bottle!' According to Indyvegan, a German language website trying to raise a shitstorm (g) over True Fruits, this is fat-shaming, or in German, fatshaming. (Yes, English is the international language of PC scolding. Depressing, isn't it?)

But that was just the beginning. One of their white fruit juices wasn't selling well, so they decided to put it in a black bottle labeled 'Blind Taste Test' and provide the following analogy (my translation):

Ever set up an ugly girlfriend who's awfully sweet with a date? That's what we felt like with our white smoothie, our tastiest smoothie. Because of its pale and unfruity appearance, it wasn't getting near enough chances for a spicy rendezvous with you. So we had no choice but to click off the light so that you could concentrate solely on its inner values. #swallowinthedark

 As Indyvegan then put it, 'Customers felt that this text was lookist (lookistisch, believe it or not), since it suggested you should prefer dark places to get to know people who don't conform to the commonly-held ideals of beauty.' There's more in this vein, practically writes itself.

And then True Fruits did something inspiring. On its public websites, it responded to similar complaints like this. (If you're anything like me, you may want to put on some swelling string music and have tissues ready):

"We took a look at your comments and decided they were totally crackbrained bullshit (the German word is of course Bullshit) from wanna-be moral apostles. After we finished laughing, we decided that even the slightest hint of a serious answer would be a total waste of our lives. So a short piece of advice to all the whiners: if you don't like it, go. Spare us your whimpering, 'cause we like our sense of humor."

"We're good-looking, arrogant chauvinists who don't catch your drift."

"Go cry your eyes out somewhere, you weenie*."

"We're not perfect ourselves and once in a while we encounter statements of jokes that we might feel directly or indirectly target us. And you know what we do or don't do then? We'll tell you: We don't soil ourselves and whine like a toddler who didn't get his second pudding after dinner. You can do that, if your synapses leave you no other option. But please don't blubber all over us."

When Indyvegan the website asked for an interview, the firm took one look at the questions and declined, saying there was obviously no point in further discussion. If you don't like our advertising strategy, True Fruits continued, "we recommend that you and your readers simply avoid our products and our websites in the future." The email response was signed by Fee (Fairy!) Surges, the speaker. They also broadcast a video (g, on Facebook) with a sarcastic fake apology on April 1.

I've drunk some True Fruits before, they're tasty. I hereby announce that in the future, I will be drinking as much True Fruits as my budget allows. 

Continue reading "Am deutschen Wesen, or German Smoothiemakers Show Us the Way" »

Japanese Revere, Eat Insects

You might notice I've been on a Japan kick recently, so here's a pice from Aeon in which Andrea Appleton describes Japanese insect love

Insects have been celebrated in Japanese culture for centuries. ‘The Lady Who Loved Insects’ is a classic story of a caterpillar-collecting lady of the 12th century court; the Tamamushi, or ‘Jewel Beetle’ Shrine, is a seventh century miniature temple, once shingled with 9,000 iridescent beetle forewings.

Insects continue to rear their antennae in modern Japan. Consider ‘Mothra’, the giant caterpillar-moth monster who is second only to Godzilla in film appearances; the many bug-inspired characters of ‘Pokémon’, and any number of manga (including an insect-themed detective series named after Fabre). Travel agencies advertise firefly-watching tours, there are televised beetle-wrestling competitions and beetle petting zoos. Department stores and even vending machines sell live insects.

Nor do the Japanese merely admire insects: they eat them too. In the Chūbu region, in central Japan, villagers rear wasps at home for food, and forage for giant hornets that are eaten at all life stages, while fried grasshoppers or inago are a luxury foodstuff. Entomophagy once had a place in Western culture too: the ancient Greeks ate cicadas, the Romans ate grubs. But while modern Westerners blithely eat aquatic arthropods – lobster, shrimp, crab, crayfish – we’ve lost our taste for the terrestrial kind.

Raw Meat Punches Holes in Your Brain


European friends often mock me for my aversion to raw meat. 'So American', they say, fingering their monocles and twirling their mustaches. But I defend my disgust for raw animal flesh. Mankind realized fire made meat good thousands of years ago -- forgoing cooked meat makes as much sense as trying to live without wheels. You wouldn't decapitate a pig and drink the blood spurting from its arteries, so why would you bite into its raw muscle? Besides, raw meat is full of bacilli, viruses, cysts, spirochetes, worms -- you name it.

Yet the Europeans, disdaining my advice, continue to eat it raw. Germans in the form of Mettwurst (seen above spread on a roll -- würg), the French in the form of steak tartare. Generally, they survive. The key, they will tell you, is freshness and quality.

But no matter how fresh the meat, it still contains nasty brain-changing parasites, says this fascinating article in The Atlantic about toxoplasmosis:

The parasite, which is excreted by cats in their feces, is called Toxoplasma gondii (T. gondii or Toxo for short) and is the microbe that causes toxoplasmosis—the reason pregnant women are told to avoid cats’ litter boxes. Since the 1920s, doctors have recognized that a woman who becomes infected during pregnancy can transmit the disease to the fetus, in some cases resulting in severe brain damage or death. T. gondii is also a major threat to people with weakened immunity: in the early days of the AIDS epidemic, before good antiretroviral drugs were developed, it was to blame for the dementia that afflicted many patients at the disease’s end stage. Healthy children and adults, however, usually experience nothing worse than brief flu-like symptoms before quickly fighting off the protozoan, which thereafter lies dormant inside brain cells—or at least that’s the standard medical wisdom.

But if Flegr is right, the “latent” parasite may be quietly tweaking the connections between our neurons, changing our response to frightening situations, our trust in others, how outgoing we are, and even our preference for certain scents. And that’s not all. He also believes that the organism contributes to car crashes, suicides, and mental disorders such as schizophrenia. When you add up all the different ways it can harm us, says Flegr, “Toxoplasma might even kill as many people as malaria, or at least a million people a year.”

You can avoid toxoplasmosis by not eating cat parasites. So far, sounds pretty simple. But not eating cat parasites is harder than it might seem:

After an infected cat defecates, Flegr learned, the parasite is typically picked up from the soil by scavenging or grazing animals—notably rodents, pigs, and cattle—all of which then harbor it in their brain and other body tissues. Humans, on the other hand, are exposed not only by coming into contact with litter boxes, but also, he found, by drinking water contaminated with cat feces, eating unwashed vegetables, or, especially in Europe, by consuming raw or undercooked meat. Hence the French, according to Flegr, with their love of steak prepared saignant—literally, “bleeding”—can have infection rates as high as 55 percent. (Americans will be happy to hear that the parasite resides in far fewer of them, though a still substantial portion: 10 to 20 percent.) Once inside an animal or human host, the parasite then needs to get back into the cat, the only place where it can sexually reproduce—and this is when, Flegr believed, behavioral manipulation might come into play.

The rest of the article details the mind-breaking human behavior changes caused by those hundreds (thousands? millions?) of toxoplasmosis cysts in your brain, including reduced attention, risk-taking, even changing your reaction to smells.

Germans, I've found something new for you to be terrified of. You're welcome!

America Wants to Sell You a Foodless Future

Soylent liquid meal replacement, 'a functional simulation of food', is now a thing:

‘According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, people spend about 90 minutes a day on food,’ Rhinehart explained. That figure is an average that includes grocery shopping, food preparation, consumption, and doing the dishes. By opting out of food, and replacing it with Soylent – named after the soy lentil burgers in the sci-fi novel Make Room! Make Room! (1966) by Harry Harrison, rather than its much better-known film adaptation Soylent Green (1973) which came up with the cannibalistic plotline – Rhinehart told me that he’s saved ‘easily an hour a day, plus’.

Rhinehart came up with the idea for a nutritionally complete liquid food substitute in December 2012, spurred by dissatisfaction at his expensive, time-consuming and nutritionally dubious diet of fast food, frozen quesadillas, and pasta. In February 2013, he wrote a blog post entitled ‘How I Stopped Eating Food’, in which he reported feeling like the ‘six-million-dollar man’ after just 30 days of replacing food with a ‘thick, odourless, beige liquid’ made up of ‘every substance the body needs to survive, plus a few extras shown to be beneficial’.


...Soylent claims to fulfil all your body’s nutritional needs. ‘It contains all of the elements of a healthy diet,’ confirms the website, ‘with limited contribution from less desirable components such as sugars, saturated fats, or cholesterol.’ Rhinehart’s formula blends vitamins and minerals at the levels recommended by the US Institute of Medicine, tested on himself and a handful of friends, and refined under the supervision of Xavier Pi-Sunyer, professor of medicine the Institute of Human Nutrition at Columbia University.

Now that we've overcome chewing, can America's Hygiene Magicians® free us of other bodily functions? 

Bourdain on Butter

From Anthony Bourdain's Kitchen Confidential:

Butter. I don’t care what they tell you they’re putting or not putting in your food at your favorite
restaurant, chances are, you’re eating a ton of butter. In a professional kitchen, it’s almost
always the first and last thing in the pan. We sauté in a mixture of butter and oil for that nice
brown, caramelized color, and we finish nearly every sauce with it (we call this monter au
beurre); that’s why my sauce tastes richer and creamier and mellower than yours, why it’s got
that nice, thick, opaque consistency. Believe me, there’s a big crock of softened butter on
almost every cook’s station, and it’s getting a heavy workout. Margarine? That’s not food. I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter? I can. If you’re planning on using margarine in anything, you can stop reading now, because I won’t be able to help you.

Zedler's Recipe for Spiced Beer Against Melancholy


A couple of German libraries, assisted by the German Research Council, have scanned all 63,000 pages (g) of 'Johann Heinrich Zedler's Great Complete Universal Encyclopedia of All the Sciences and Arts', published in 1732. It's even searchable. And it's fantastic.

I searched for melancolia in various spellings and came across this recipe for 'Spiced Beer Against Melancholey'. The antiquated spelling and Fraktur script make it a bit hard to read, but the recipe seems to have at least 15 or so ingredients, including young beer, 'hermo-dates(?)', carrot seeds, radishes, white wine, coriander seeds, juniper berries, St. John's Wort tips, and much more:

Krauter beer melancholey

There's got to be some philologist out there who can interpret the weights, measures, and cooking instructions. We can only hope all the spices are still available.

Let's all get together and whip up a giant cauldron of this stuff and get rid of our Melancholey once and for all! Who's with me?