Published on 23 Jan 2016
Indy sits in the chair of wisdom again to answer your questions. This time we tell you how the food was like in the trenches and what role Andorra and Iceland had in World War 1.
January 24, 2016
January 21, 2016
What about obesity? We put a lot of social effort into fighting obesity: labeling foods, banning soda machines from school, banning large sodas from New York, programs in schools to promote healthy eating, doctors chewing people out when they gain weight, the profusion of gyms and Weight Watchers programs, and let’s not forget a level of stigma against obese people so strong that I am constantly having to deal with their weight-related suicide attempts. As a result, everyone … keeps gaining weight at exactly the same rate they have been for the past couple decades. Wouldn’t it be nice if increasing obesity was driven at least in part by changes in the intestinal microbiota that we could reverse through careful antibiotic use? Or by trans-fats?
What about poor school performance? From the social angle, we try No Child Left Behind, Common Core Curriculum, stronger teachers’ unions, weaker teachers’ unions, more pay for teachers, less pay for teachers, more prayer in school, banning prayer in school, condemning racism, condemning racism even more, et cetera. But the poorest fifth or so of kids show spectacular cognitive gains from multivitamin supplementation, and doctors continue to tell everyone schools should start later so children can get enough sleep and continue to be totally ignored despite strong evidence in favor.
Scott Alexander, “Society Is Fixed, Biology Is Mutable”, Slate Star Codex, 2014-09-10.
January 17, 2016
Perhaps I’ve been lucky to have (mostly) avoided this restaurant serving trend:
I’ve been away seven weeks now, travelling, working, researching a book, seeing friends, but it’s time to come home; I miss plates.
I’ve been staying in London mostly, visited other cities from there, and then I was in Dublin for a while. In all these places I ate out a lot, and I can report that the restaurant industry is in the midst of a tableware crisis. There’s barely a plate to be found any more, and the first time you’re served a dry-aged rump of beef with celeriac gratin, chanterelles and red wine jus on a cutting board, it’s possible to be charmed.
After all, you are not a tablecloth, but soon the tide of things being served on other things that were just not meant to be served on starts to wear on you.
I have a high whimsy-tolerance. Doctors have often remarked upon it. Sometimes half an hour into a puppet show involving a talking reflex hammer and a musical stethoscope, a doctor will say, “This is very unusual,” and make a note on my chart, but recently my whimsy-tolerance has been tested.
I miss plates. Why, in one day on this trip, I was served breakfast on a chalk slate, lunch on a clip-board and dinner on a wooden cutting board shaped like a clover leaf. I’ve been served frites in a beer stein, and the ones I could reach were delicious, and so my verdict was a resolved “Fun!” – until my slow-baked quince, wild honey ewe’s yoghurt, bee pollen and almonds arrived in a vintage teacup balanced on a strip of artfully weathered barn board, and then the next morning at breakfast, I was served a waffle on another waffle with maple syrup in a stem vase.
What was under that waffle I do not care to know, but everything I’ve been served of late suggests that that non-plate waffle presenting item was handcrafted from a substance that Dwell magazine would call “reclaimed ash flooring from a demolished church in Ohio,” and the rest of us would call “wood.”
I miss plates.
January 15, 2016
Matt Ridley on how horrible implementations of the ideas of Thomas Malthus have made the world an even more cruel place:
For more than 200 years, a disturbingly vicious thread has run through Western history, based on biology and justifying cruelty on an almost unimaginable scale. It centres on the question of how to control human population growth and it answers that question by saying we must be cruel to be kind, that ends justify means. It is still around today; and it could not be more wrong. It is the continuing misuse of Malthus.
According to his epitaph in Bath Abbey, the Rev Thomas Robert Malthus, author of An Essay on the Principle of Population (1798), was noted for “his sweetness of temper, urbanity of manners and tenderness of heart, his benevolence and his piety”. Yet his ideas have justified some of the greatest crimes in history. By saying that, if people could not be persuaded to delay marriage, we would have to encourage famine and “reprobate specific remedies for ravaging diseases”, he inadvertently gave birth to a series of heartless policies — the poor laws, the British government’s approach to famine in Ireland and India, social Darwinism, eugenics, the Holocaust, India’s forced sterilisations and China’s one-child policy. All derived their logic more or less directly from a partial reading of Malthus.
To this day if you write or speak about falling child mortality in Africa, you can be sure of getting the following Malthusian response: but surely it’s a bad thing if you stop poor people’s babies dying? Better to be cruel to be kind. Yet actually we now know, this argument is wrong. The way to get population growth to slow, it turns out, is to keep babies alive so people plan smaller families: to bring health, prosperity and education to all.
Britain’s Poor Law of 1834, which attempted to ensure that the very poor were not helped except in workhouses, and that conditions in workhouses were not better than the worst in the outside world, was based explicitly on Malthusian ideas — that too much charity only encouraged breeding, especially illegitimacy, or “bastardy”. The Irish potato famine of the 1840s was made infinitely worse by Malthusian prejudice shared by the British politicians in positions of power. The Prime Minister, Lord John Russell, was motivated by “a Malthusian fear about the long-term effect of relief”, according to a biographer. The Assistant Secretary to the Treasury, Charles Trevelyan, had been a pupil of Malthus at the East India Company College: famine, he thought, was an “effective mechanism for reducing surplus population” and a “direct stroke of an all-wise and all-merciful Providence” sent to teach the “selfish, perverse and turbulent” Irish a lesson. Trevelyan added: “Supreme Wisdom has educed permanent good out of transient evil.”
In India in 1877, a famine killed ten million people. The viceroy, Lord Lytton, quoted almost directly from Malthus in explaining why he had halted several private attempts to bring relief to the starving: “The Indian population has a tendency to increase more rapidly than the food it raises from the soil.” His policy was to herd the hungry into camps where they were fed on — literally — starvation rations. Lytton thought he was being cruel to be kind.
January 11, 2016
Cedar Sanderson guest posts at According to Hoyt:
I’m currently studying the history of the world, prior to 1500. In the first chapter of the book we were assigned to read, the point is made that humans have been around for a very long time, it took a long time to develop agriculture, but there weren’t many of them pre-agriculture. The crux of the matter is the ability to grow more food than you could hunt, or gather, in a small group. Large groups, which would build societies and cities, simply could not exist on a subsistence diet.
One of my classmates, in a discussion forum, stated that humans were desperate for nutrients and one of the main ways to get food was to graze which made me do a head-desk, and then start thinking. We take abundant food for granted. The child (in college, but still, a child) who seems to think that humans grazed on grass in pre-history has no doubt never missed a meal in their life unless it was by choice. The world we live in offers enough variety, enough abundance, that people can be ‘vegan’ and still survive, although thriving and being healthy are different matters.
The book tells me that women didn’t have as many children before agriculture, and that’s why population was lower. I snort and mutter something impolite under my breath. In reality hunter-gatherers have more in common with herds of animals, and again, it’s about the food. They were reliant on what was growing right there, right then. They had no way of producing a surplus nor of storing same. If they overhunted an area they were forced to move or die. If the tribe’s population grew too large, they starved or succumbed to disease, just like a deer herd or the snowshoe hare population collapses every few years to build slowly back up, limited by the supply of available food.
Humans lived that way for a very long time. Women having less babies? Probably, only it wasn’t through some kind of arcane desire to keep the population down. It was through the lack of food – nursing a child in the modern era is not terribly effective birth control, but in the time of subsistence the woman’s body simply couldn’t handle the dual load of nursing and pregnancy. I became pregnant with two of my children while nursing full time, I can speak to the enormous drain it is even on a well-fed body.
Because it’s fat. I have fat, on me, and in my diet. Fat is something you just don’t see prior to agriculture, and there’s a reason so many cultures revere the plump woman (just look at all the Venus statues from around the world). A fat woman could have babies and she could survive nursing and this meant the family could go on. And while we’re on the makin’ babies topic, here’s something: my history book laments the rise of the patriarchy alongside the rise of civilization after agriculture, constraining women and making them be under the thumb of the male. Well, that’s not patriarchy, that’s food. Men could hunt, and bring in the meat that was desperately needed for survival. Women gathered, but the men were the hunters.
Why didn’t the women hunt? Well, babies. Pregnant, nursing, malnourished…. The women were managing all they could, and the men were taking care of them. Women were better able to survive (yes, I am counting death in childbirth) in that harsh world than men were. Men were a valuable commodity in a time when hunting and protection of the tribe-family against others who wanted the same food they needed to live menaced the women and children. Female infanticide was practiced long before recorded history, evidence shows. Men were more valuable to the hunter-gatherers and it wasn’t even questioned it seems. But my history book complains that it was the rise of civilization post-agriculture that was to blame for the oppression of women and the gender inequality. Prior to ‘society’ it claims men and women were equal.
January 10, 2016
As a mortgage-paying parent, I don’t tend to dine at restaurants that employ sommeliers, so I can’t speak from personal experience about this “golden age”, but in the NY Eater, Levi Dalton says it’s coming to an end:
Prosecco sales are soaring in the United States. Rosé has been on fire as well. One aspect that these categories often share is that consumers don’t feel that they need a recommendation when making a choice among them. Consumers are comfortable purchasing these wines on their own. This is especially true of first-time wine buyers. Nielsen recently noted that, in the States, one third of Prosecco’s massive growth has come from buyers that never bought sparkling wine before. Prosecco is an entry point for consumers who are new to wine. What’s worth noting about that is that Prosecco is not a sommelier-driven category. Sommeliers typically shun Prosecco, and there are New York City wine directors that have gone on record as refusing to offer a Prosecco. What’s important about this is that although we think of sommeliers as introducing people to wine, it seems that consumers are choosing to find their own way into wine and that they are gravitating towards categories where a sommelier’s advice isn’t needed. In the same way that some movies are “critic proof,” obtaining large ticket sales even if the reviews for them are lukewarm, some wines have become “sommelier proof.”
A blow to consumer confidence in sommeliers has come from sommeliers themselves. It is now common — and not only common, but expected — that sommeliers will shill for their friends and their friends’ wines when speaking to the press. The excitement that sommeliers repeatedly express for wines in the press is wholly at odds with their level of excitement for those same wines in private, but this no longer applies to just one or two people who are fluent in media training — this is pretty much the industry at this point. Over and over again sommeliers publicly go on record endorsing wines that have little going for them on their own merits in the market except for some sort of personal tie with the sommelier.
This is at odds with what brought sommeliers to such prominence in the first place — which is that sommeliers introduced consumers to new wines that offered superb value in the face of a wine writing establishment that often continued to predictably endorse their own favorites even as prices for those wines skyrocketed and left most consumers behind. Sommeliers stayed with consumers and offered them great wines in their price range when critics didn’t. In place of that, a certain cynicism has set in with sommeliers in that they don’t seem to think readers will be able to tell the difference between a good recommendation and a personally motivated one. This has already been toxic to the reputation of sommeliers in general and will only continue to be more damaging unless the sommeliers themselves change their tune.
H/T to Brendan for the link.
January 1, 2016
Consider spicy-hot food — and consider how recent it is as a mainstream phenomenon in the U.S. In 2002 many of us cheerfully chow down on Szechuan and Thai, habaneros and rellenos, nam pla and sambal ulek. Salsa outsells ketchup. But it wasn’t always that way.
In fact it wasn’t that way until quite recently, historically speaking. I’ve enjoyed capsaicin-loaded food since I was a pre-teen boy in the late 1960s; I acquired the taste from my father, who picked it up in South America. In those days our predilection was the peculiar trait of a minority of travelers and a few immigrant populations. The progression by which spicy-hot food went from there to the U.S. mainstream makes a perfect type case of cultural assimilation, and the role and meaning that the stuff has acquired on the way is interesting too.
(Oh. And for those of you who don’t understand the appeal? It’s all about endorphin rush, like a runner’s high. Pepper-heads like me have developed a conditioned reflex whereby the burning sensation stimulates the release of opiate-like chemicals from the brainstem, inducing a euphoria not unlike a heroin buzz. Yes, this theory has been clinically verified.)
Baseline: Thirty years ago. The early 1970s. I’m a teenager, just back in the U.S. from years spent overseas. Spicy-hot food is pretty rare in American cuisine. Maybe you’d have heard of five-alarm chili if you’d lived in Texas, but chances are you’d never have actually eaten the stuff. If you’re from Louisiana, you might have put Tabasco sauce on your morning eggs. Aside from that, you wouldn’t have tasted hot peppers outside of a big-city Chinatown.
This probably evolved out of the tradition, going back at least to the late 1940s, of defining barbecue and chili as what an anthropologist would call a “men’s mystery”. Despite the existence of male professional chefs and men who can cook, most kinds of domestic cooking are indisputably a female thing — women are expected to be interested in it and expected to be good at it, and a man who acquires skill is crossing into women’s country. But for a handful of dishes culturally coded as “men’s food”, the reverse is true. Barbecue and chili top that list, and have since long before spicy-hot food went mainstream.
For people who drive pickup trucks, spicy-hot food went from being a marked minority taste to being something like a central men’s mystery in the decade after 1985. I first realized this in the early 1990s when I saw a rack of 101 hot-pepper sauces on display at a gun-and-knife show, in between the premium tobacco and the jerked meat. There’s a sight you won’t see at a flower show, or anywhere else in women’s country.
The packaging and marketing of hot sauces tells the same story. From the top-shelf varieties like Melinda’s XXX (my favorite!) to novelty items like “Scorned Woman” and “Hot Buns”, much of the imagery is cheeky sexiness clearly designed to appeal to men.
Nor is it hard to understand why the association got made in the first place. It’s considered masculine to enjoy physical risk, even mostly trivial physical risks like burning yourself on a sauce hotter than you can handle. Men who like hot peppers swap capsaicin-zap stories; I myself am perhaps unreasonably proud of having outlasted a tableful of Mexican college students one night in Monterrey, watching them fall out one by one as a plate of sauteed habaneros was passed repeatedly around the table.
There’s a sneaky element of female complicity in all this. Women chuckle at our capsaicin-zap stories the same way they laugh at other forms of laddish posturing, but then (as my wife eloquently puts it) “What good is a man if you rip off his balls?” They leave us capsaicin and barbecue and other men’s mysteries because they instinctively grok that a certain amount of testosterone-driven male-primate behavior is essential for the health of Y-chromosome types — and best it should be over something harmless.
Eric S. Raymond, “The capsaicinization of American food”, Armed and Dangerous, 2002-11-02.
December 16, 2015
Henry Miller on the Faustian bargain Chipotle willingly made and is now paying for:
Chipotle, the once-popular Mexican restaurant chain, is experiencing a well-deserved downward spiral.
The company found it could pass off a fast-food menu stacked with high-calorie, sodium-rich options as higher quality and more nutritious because the meals were made with locally grown, genetic engineering-free ingredients. And to set the tone for the kind of New Age-y image the company wanted, Chipotle adopted slogans like, “We source from farms rather than factories” and, “With every burrito we roll or bowl we fill, we’re working to cultivate a better world.”
The rest of the company wasn’t as swift as the marketing department, however. Last week, about 140 people, all but a handful Boston College students, were recovering from a nasty bout of norovirus-caused gastroenteritis, a foodborne illness apparently contracted while eating Chipotle’s “responsibly raised” meats and largely organic produce.
And they’re not alone. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has been tracking another, unrelated Chipotle food poisoning outbreak in California, Illinois, Maryland, Minnesota, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania and Washington, in which victims have been as young as one year and as old as 94. Using whole genome sequencing, CDC investigators identified the DNA fingerprint of the bacterial culprit in that outbreak as E. coli strain STEC O26, which was found in all of the sickened customers tested.
Outbreaks of food poisoning have become something of a Chipotle trademark; the recent ones are the fourth and fifth this year, one of which was not disclosed to the public. A particularly worrisome aspect of the company’s serial deficiencies is that there have been at least three unrelated pathogens in the outbreaks – Salmonella and E. coli bacteria and norovirus. In other words, there has been more than a single glitch; suppliers and employees have found a variety of ways to contaminate what Chipotle cavalierly sells (at premium prices) to its customers.
December 3, 2015
In Forbes, James Conca wraps up the latest IPCC Working Group reports’ comments on the viability of biofuel production from corn:
OK, can we please stop pretending biofuel made from corn is helping the planet and the environment? The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released two of its Working Group reports at the end of last month (WGI and WGIII), and their short discussion of biofuels has ignited a fierce debate as to whether they’re of any environmental benefit at all.
The IPCC was quite diplomatic in its discussion, saying “Biofuels have direct, fuel‐cycle GHG emissions that are typically 30-90% lower than those for gasoline or diesel fuels. However, since for some biofuels indirect emissions — including from land use change — can lead to greater total emissions than when using petroleum products, policy support needs to be considered on a case by case basis” (IPCC 2014 Chapter 8).
The summary in the new report also states, “Increasing bioenergy crop cultivation poses risks to ecosystems and biodiversity” (WGIII).
The report lists many potential negative risks of development, such as direct conflicts between land for fuels and land for food, other land-use changes, water scarcity, loss of biodiversity and nitrogen pollution through the excessive use of fertilizers (Scientific American).
The International Institute for Sustainable Development was not so diplomatic, and estimates that the CO2 and climate benefits from replacing petroleum fuels with biofuels like ethanol are basically zero (IISD). They claim that it would be almost 100 times more effective, and much less costly, to significantly reduce vehicle emissions through more stringent standards, and to increase CAFE standards on all cars and light trucks to over 40 miles per gallon as was done in Japan just a few years ago.
November 24, 2015
Megan McArdle says you can safely avoid novel and baroque food variations for the most stereotypical American meal of all time:
Every year you’re supposed to come up with something amazing and new to do with the most scripted meal in the American culinary canon. Turkey crusted with Marash pepper and stuffed with truffled cornichons. Deconstructed mashed potatoes. Green bean casserole that substitutes kale for the green beans and a smug expression for the cream-of-mushroom soup. Pumpkin-chocolate trifle with a chipotle-molasses drizzle.
I’m sorry, I can’t. I just can’t.
You know what we’re having for Thanksgiving at our house this year? With minor variations, we’re having the same thing we’ve had every year since my birth in 1973. There will be a turkey, roasted whole, because my oven cannot accommodate a spatchcocked 16-pound bird splayed over a sheet pan full of stuffing. It will be brined in a cooler, stuffed full of stuffing despite all the dire culinary injunctions against it, and cooked in the same undoubtedly subpar way we have always done it. My sister will make her homemade cloverleaf rolls, and stuffing with sausage, ginger and apple. There will be cranberry sauce, little creamed onions, mashed potatoes, and butternut squash, with bok choy for those who want greens. For dessert, there will be pie: apple, pumpkin, and perhaps, if we are feeling especially daring, cranberry-raisin.
Novelty is overrated at holidays. If you want to try planked salmon and braised leeks for the first time this year, then bon appetit. But the idea that we must have novelty, that a good cook is constantly seeking out new and better things, is a curse. The best parts of our lives do not require constant innovation; they are the best because they are the familiar things we love just as they are. When I hug my Dad, I don’t think, “Yeah, this is pretty OK, but how much better would it be if he were wearing a fez and speaking Bantu?”
November 23, 2015
November 9, 2015
Ace of Spades H.Q. has the details:
Sacre Vache! Thieves Steal 4 Tonnes of Comte Cheese, In What Police Are Calling “A Crime That Happened This Century”
Four tonnes of comte. Street value: almost one half of one million dollars, maybe more if you step on it and cut it with brie.
Interpol has been called, but didn’t pick up a phone. So an email was sent. The email was marked, “When you get to it.”
Some thieves in France have made off with a rather odd prize recently — four tonnes of cheese.
Police were called to a break-in on Monday in which the owner of the Napier dairy in the town of Goux-les-Usiers discovered some crooks had stolen roughly 100 wheels of comte, a luxury cheese which can only be made in the Franche-Comte region using unpasteurised cow’s milk.
Unpasteurized — that’s the good shit. That’s what hooks you, that’s what makes you a junkie. Once you’re hooked on cheese made of unpasteurized milk, you’ll spend the rest of your life “Chasing the Cow,” walking down lonely streets and breaking into seedy fromageries looking to score your next “wheel.”
It might seem like a crime by someone with a fairly extreme dairy fetish, but police believe the cheese was stolen by a gang who will sell it on the black market.
Comte can sell for 40 [Euros] a pound, making it just as valuable to thieves as jewellery or electrical goods.
You can tell how “pure” cheese is by sticking your pinky into it and then rubbing the cream on your gums. If your gums feel like they’re on fire — that’s pure, baby.
October 21, 2015
I’ve been following the Minnesota Vikings Donut Club for a few years on Twitter, but as far as I know, this is the first coverage of the secretive organization in the mainstream media:
“We just like to see commitment from guys. We need to see proof that you want to be a part of this club and want to be part of something bigger than yourself.”
That quote isn’t just another cliché being spewed by an NFL player about next week’s game. It’s a passionate explanation from veteran linebacker Chad Greenway about a different kind of club that meets early on Saturday mornings and follows a rule book that’s nearly as detailed as the league’s: The Minnesota Vikings’ Donut Club.
By even acknowledging its existence, Greenway has already broken the first rule of Donut Club. “I’m now getting yelled at for talking about it,” he says. “It’s like Fight Club. You’re going to get me in trouble.”
Donut Club has its roots in the 2008 season, when starting quarterback Gus Frerotte brought a few dozen donuts into the training room one Saturday morning. They were devoured in a matter of minutes, and it became a regular thing. “I just kept bringing donuts in because it’s a great thing to see when a guy sees fresh, big-ass donuts and they want to eat them,” says Frerotte, who retired after that ’08 season, his 15th in the NFL. If he returned to the Vikings’ training room now, he wouldn’t recognize the cult-like institution that grew from his humble act of generosity.
“The athletic trainer never pays for the donuts,” Sugarman says. When Frerotte first brought in donuts, it was a nod of appreciation for the trainers and equipment staff, so players rotate paying for three dozen donuts on a weekly basis in the regular season. YoYo owner Chris Moquist, a lifelong Vikings fan, remembers when the Vikings first started ordering from his shop: “A guy came in to pick up an order and we went, ‘Wow, that guy’s neck is way too big to be a normal person. That’s Chad Greenway. That’s awesome!’ ”
Megan McArdle on the odd and oddly resilient habit of tipping:
Restaurateur Danny Meyer is planning to eliminate tips at his restaurant group’s 13 restaurants by the end of next year. Among other things, the New York Times suggests this will lower the disparity in pay between the back of the house, which makes an average of around $12 an hour, and the servers, who pull in considerably more than that.
Meyer is part of a small but interesting movement among restaurants and bars. A bar without tips just opened near my house in Washington; New York has a few places that no longer support tipping. Prices will naturally have to rise to reflect increased labor costs. Meyer says that servers’ incomes will not fall, but I am skeptical on this point. But it will certainly be interesting to see if Meyer manages to slay tipping — and if so, whether other restaurants will follow suit.
To get a sense of whether this is likely to work, it seems worth asking: Why do we tip? Tipping is, after all, a rather strange custom. We tell ourselves that it exists to ensure good service, but in fact, most people are very reluctant to undertip even when the service has been appalling. They follow the norms of tipping even when they are never going to see that waiter again, and therefore don’t need to worry about retaliation. Meanwhile, all sorts of things seem to affect tipping that have nothing to do with the quality of the service, like the race of the server and whether they put a smiley face on your check (though apparently this only works for female servers).
So if it’s not about rewarding good service, why do we tip? Notice that we do it in some circumstances, but not others. We tip the bellhop, but not the clerk at reception. The waitress, but not the person behind the Target checkout counter. These disparities offer our first clue to the mystery: We tip people who are providing the services that used to be performed by household servants, but not the people who do the jobs of tradesmen or retail clerks. It’s possible that this grew out of the old tradition of tipping servants when you went to stay at someone’s house.
October 15, 2015
Amy Alkon glories in her current dietary choices:
I spend my whole day eating fat — bacon fat, kale cooked in bacon fat, an omelet with cheese and pate, coffee made with half ‘n’ half; and steak, sausage, cheese, and green beans swimming in butter. Oh, also, a tablespoon of coconut oil warmed in half ‘n’ half a few times a day, whenever my brain feels like it’s on fire from intense activity.
I have never felt better.
And I’m never hungry the way I would get when I ate low-fat/high-carb — a hunger that made me feel like I could stop and devour a road sign (and anyone unlucky enough to be standing next to it at the time).
On the subject of hunger’s effect on diet maintenance, Gary Taubes has an op-ed in The New York Times that describes a study, taking place toward the end of World War Ii, that placed men on a starvation diet:
For 24 weeks, these men were semi-starved, fed not quite 1,600 calories a day of foods chosen to represent the fare of European famine areas: “whole-wheat bread, potatoes, cereals and considerable amounts of turnips and cabbage” with “token amounts” of meat and dairy.
As diets go, it was what nutritionists today would consider a low-calorie, and very low-fat diet, with only 17 percent of calories coming from fat.
There were horrible physical effects — and psychological ones. Two men had breakdowns. And then, when they were allowed to eat normally, they consumed “prodigious” amounts of food…eating themselves into “post-starvation obesity,” in the researchers’ words.
Questions like these about the relationship between calories, macronutrients and hunger have haunted nutrition and obesity research since the late 1940s. But rarely are they asked. We believe so implicitly in the rationale of eat less, move more, that we (at least those of us who are lean) will implicitly fault the obese for their failures to sustain a calorie-restricted regimen, without ever apparently asking ourselves whether we could sustain it either. I have a colleague who spent his research career studying hunger. Asking people to eat less, he says, is like asking them to breathe less. It sounds reasonable, so long as you don’t expect them to keep it up for long.