Friday High Five: Food: From old apples to grasshopper tacos

This week’s Friday High Five is food-themed, in honour of our event with ‘liberal foodie intellectual’ Michael Pollan, next Sunday 8 July.

The school lunches seen around the world

Here’s a story to fill you with hope about the next generation. Nine-year-old Scottish girl Martha Payne, concerned about the nutritional value of her school dinners, started a blog) photographing and rating her meals. The blog, Never Seconds, went viral, generating headlines around the world, support from Jamie Oliver (her hero) and galvanising her school council to spread the word that kids could have ‘as much salad, bread, fruit and vegetables’ as they wanted with their meals. And when her local council tried to shut it down, the backlash was global, with Jamie, Neil Gaiman, the Guardian and others campaigning to have the decision reversed. (Which it was.)

Martha Payne's school dinner: 'The pizza in the first pic was alright but I'd have enjoyed more than 1 croquet. I'm a growing kid and I need to concentrate all afternoon and I cant do it on 1 croquette. Do any of you think you could?'

Martha Payne's school dinner: 'The pizza in the first pic was alright but I'd have enjoyed more than 1 croquet. I'm a growing kid and I need to concentrate all afternoon and I cant do it on 1 croquette. Do any of you think you could?'

And here’s a nice story about school lunches: graphic designer Heather Sitarzewski blogs the packed lunches she makes for her son under the name Lunchbox Awesome. And they’re awesome indeed: works of art. We want her to pack our lunches.

A Muppets-themed packed lunch: All in a morning's work for *Lunchbox Awesome*.

A Muppets-themed packed lunch: All in a morning's work for Lunchbox Awesome.

Grasshopper tacos and Starbucks beetle juice

Over the past few years, the issue of overcoming our food phobias in order to eat more sustainably and feed the world’s growing population has started to seep into the public conversation. Dana Goodyear wrote about eating insects in the New Yorker last year. And this week, Slate has taken up the issue.

Two food sources that strike many as unpalatable – insects and seaweed – could play a critical role in not only feeding the 2.5 billion extra humans expected by 2050, but doing so in a green, climate-friendly way … A growing number of people are beginning to recognize that bugs, such as mealworms, grasshoppers, and crickets, may be the ultimate sustainable protein source.

Grasshopper tacos, a typical Mexican delicacy.

Grasshopper tacos, a typical Mexican delicacy.

10 Weird Foods from Around the World

Indulge yourself in the ick factor with this illustrated list of weird delicacies from around the world, from venomous snake oil and Japanese puffer fish to Sardinia’s ‘maggot cheese’ (which must be eaten while the maggots are still alive, or it’s toxic) and Iceland’s delicacy of raw puffin heart.

Snake wine: 'The snake is left to steep in the rice wine for many months to let the poison dissolve in the wine. The ethanol makes the venom inactive so it is not dangerous, and snake wine supposedly has many health benefits.'

Snake wine: 'The snake is left to steep in the rice wine for many months to let the poison dissolve in the wine. The ethanol makes the venom inactive so it is not dangerous, and snake wine supposedly has many health benefits.'

Old apples and hormonal bananas: The taste of fruit

The Age ran a terrific article earlier this month on what happens to supermarket fruit and vegetables on their way from the grower to our kitchen table. It also looks at how food is being engineered to suit our needs, including aesthetics and durability. taste is often not the top priority.

Behind the facade of the supermarket fresh food section are many tricks of the trade, and even some optical illusions: tomatoes that appear ripe, but aren’t, 11-month-old apples, bananas that are gassed with a hormone and warmed yellow. The methods possibly do compromise taste and nutrition, but the supermarkets say they are done in the consumer’s name. If food does not taste like it used to, perhaps it’s because we’ve demanded it that way.

Michael Pollan: Don’t Eat What You See on Television

Michael Pollan’s approach to food revolves around sustainability and good health. With rules like ‘don’t eat anything your grandmother wouldn’t recognise as food’, it’s at once revolutionary and traditional.

Here’s a terrific short animation that brings his philosophy to life:

Michael Pollan's Food Rules

Michael Pollan’s Food Rules from Marija Jacimovic on Vimeo.

And here’s Michael himself explaining one of his simple-but-smart rules, ‘Don’t eat what you see advertised on television’:

Michael Pollan: Don't Eat What You See on TV

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