Friday, Food and Frivolity: Stuff I read this week

By Poyraz 72 [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons
By Poyraz 72 [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons
I love The Guardian’s long reads. Where much of the newspaper has gone astray, publishing human interest stories in the guise of investigative journalism, these are properly lengthy articles with enough space for nuance. This week, I read (more than once) The Sugar Conspiracy by Ian Leslie, an account of how nutrition scientists began promoting the idea that fat, rather than sugar, was leading to problems like heart disease, and how this orthodoxy is rapidly reversing. As any article on sugar must do, it references Dr Robert Lustig, but also sketches a profile of John Yudkin, a British professor of nutrition who warned of the dangers of sugar from the 1960s onwards, and throughout his career (he died in 1995). Yudkin’s story is the unexpected emotional core of the piece: a man who stood by his convictions and scientific understanding, but whose reputation was horribly smeared by those pushing the line about fat’s dangers. It’s a fascinating piece which is about the politics of scientific research, the ownership of knowledge and the savagery of a community turning on ‘outsiders’ questioning its authority as much as it is simply about the dangers of excessive sugar consumption.

I enjoy the New York Times’ food and style pieces; they are reliably well-written.

By Brian Minkoff-London Pixels [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
Nigella Lawson. By Brian Minkoff-London Pixels [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
However, I was bemused by the article The Daughters of Nigella. Ostensibly about the leading lights of the British clean/healthy eating movement – the inevitable Ella Woodward, Melissa and Jasmine Hemsley, Amelia Freer and even Anna Jones – Marisa Meltzer makes an odd reference to these women as Nigella Lawson’s logical successors. I’m not convinced by this: Nigella’s approach, throughout all of her books (I own each title), is to maximise pleasure and enjoyment and minimise fuss. She readily confesses to being impatient in the kitchen and greedy. The Hemsley sisters, to take one example, require that you ‘activate’ grains overnight before cooking them. The clean eating approach to food, regardless of whether you think of it as the single most important and beneficial lifestyle choice you will make or a potentially dangerous fad which possibly borders in an eating disorder (both attitudes are out there), is very considered, rather than Nigella’s more spontaneous and, dare I say it, joyful approach to food.

I have recently discovered the Grub Street Diet series. Basically a bunch of semi-famous to famous people, both foodie and ‘standard’ celebrities, talk about what they eat in a week. Stuff like this is basically nectar and ambrosia to me. I enjoyed Kristen Bell’s submission, although the comments were very sneery about her diet, calling it boring and holier-than-thou. I suppose I find it interesting because 90% of the time by food choices are pretty similar (sue me). I liked Ike* Barinholtz’s entry very much too – and it’s thanks to Grub Street that I know the name of ‘the guy who plays Morgan on The Mindy Project‘.

*insert your own Eisenhower reference here

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