Take Time to Smell the Rosé

When thinking wine, the big question always seems to be “Red or White?”  Before you just blurt out a response in reflex, assess the situation.  What time of year is it?  Are you eating or just drinking?  If eating, what food are you in the mood for?

The answer to each of these questions gets you a little closer to the perfect wine for your situation, but there is a way to supersede the inquiry all together:  simply ask for a rosé.

The stigma about rosé as a spring and summer wine is purely dogmatic winery. Description: http://stg.marcuspopfood.com/wp-includes/js/tinymce/plugins/wordpress/img/trans.gif‘Connoisseurs’ that suggest this seasonal restriction have probably never tasted a good rosé during the winter for fear of breaking the ‘rules’ of wine that have no more to do with wine than manners have to the taste of the food.

The rosé is by far the most versatile wine on the market.  They are fantastic when summer is in full swing and just as refreshing during first and last snowfall.  The perfect medium between red and white, the rosé can be richly aromatic and powerfully textured like Château Jean Faux’s Bordeaux rosé or be clean, crisp, and refreshing as with Tavel’s Château de Trinquevedel .  They can be paired with anything from shellfish to pork to medium rare rib eye.  They augment the crisp freshness of a Waldorf salad and seem akin to oranges, apples, plums, pears and all the berries.

So if your response to the question, “red or white?” is going to be a reflex, do yourself a favor and ask for a rosé.  There is a great chance that you’ll like it with the food, without the food, in the summer, in the winter… simply whenever.

Quit Buggin' Out: Eating Insects and its Cultural Phobia

By: Dylan Rodgers

Why are some of the world's oldest organisms considered so alien?  Strangely enough once that crab (an arthropod) walks out of the water and transforms into let's say, a beetle (still an arthropod), our appetite jumps ship.  We could also ask ourselves as Americans, Why hasn't the insect-eating world gotten sick or turned into some horrifying "Anthropod" population?

The fact is, all people in the world consume insects whether they know about it or not.  It's estimated that every American eats nearly 3 pounds of insects a year from processed foods alone.

Now don't panic-if the insects haven't killed you yet, then they most likely won't.   But this may:  Pasta, peanut butter, ketchup, Red dye 4 (cochineal), fruit preserves, powdered cheeses, and flour are all riddled with the little, crunchy buggers.  Shockingly results from certain store-bought foods have continuously resulted in at least 4 insect parts per gram to .5 grams of the majority of the food products just mentioned.

Slow down now and remember to breathe.  I know you feel like you're part of some Truman Show/Fear Factor Reality Expose, but that's just it-Reality.

Most of the insectile contamination is what the FDA would call "natural contamination," something that could economically break the food industry if entirely prohibited but poses no known health threats.  In fact the only possible solution to insects in our food is to pump it so full of pesticides that we'd commit mass cult suicide.  Plus they evolve way too quickly.

So what if we collectively decided to get over our irrational fears and embraced the idea of insects as food?  To start, we'd be able to feed more people than we could dream of right now.  The Smithsonian Institution's Entomology Section estimates the total population of insects is somewhere around 10 quintillion (10 with 18 zeros behind it!).  To 'laymanize' that astounding figure, it's about 300 pounds of insects for every pound of humanity.

On feeding the hungry:  Insects 1-Entomophobia 0

Or how about the fact that gram for gram some insects contain more protein than chicken with only a fraction of the fat?  As an added bonus their nutrition packed carapaces are way more flavorfully diverse than the meat that tastes like everything plain.  Tastes like chicken again?!

For nutrition and creativity:  Insects 2-Entomophobia 0

And finally, the last tidbit of overwhelmingly persuasive info-the resources needed for grasshoppers to produce the same amount of nutritional protein as one beef cow is nothing short of minimal and results in 1/10 the greenhouse gasses. Time Magazine reported in 2008 that insects have a higher ECI (or how much mass an organism gains from x grams of food) than warm blooded creatures.  Cattle had an ECI score of 10 while German cockroaches reached 44.

Gag!  Cockroaches have always been my least favorite.  Nevertheless I can't deny the significance of these figures, nor can I ignore their implications.  A relatively slight palate change (like Meatless Mondays) would have long-term, astronomical effects on our economic resources, our environmental footprint, and our space efficiency (something pretty important moving towards 8 billion people).

The decision to incorporate insects into our diets shouldn't be taken lightly, nor looked down upon culturally.  Shoot!  I've eaten and enjoyed many.  But deciding to keep some gas guzzler simply because the futuristic electro-mobile looks and feels weird seems a bit pretentious, don't you think?  In the same respect, it is in our benefit as the human animal to eat some bugs here and there.

Just imagine the possibilities-humans embracing insects; insects embracing humans with that loving, Sci-Fi Horror sort of intimacy we could only get from an open-circulatory mini-monster wearing a skeletal space suit.

Bon appetit!

Dylan Rodgers is a writer with dreams of existential understanding and lyrical nonsense.  Share with him in the well of human experience @dylangers.wordpress.com.

Photo: Adam Schneider

For more thought provoking articles from Dylan, follow me on Twitter (@MarcusCooks)

The Bare Bones of It: Vitamins, Immunity, and the American Health Care System

By: Dylan Rodgers

"If it ain't broke, don't fix it," was advice I heard often while growing up.  In 2009, it was estimated that an average of $8,000 was spent on every American in health costs, and considering the population at the time, almost 2.5 trillion dollars were spent fixing our broken health.  This got me thinking-I wonder how much our medical bill would have been in an America where preventative care was our top priority.  I'm not really talking about wearing helmets to walk around the city, though that may not be a bad idea.  I'm talking about your IBDS (Internal Biological Defense Systems).

On February 22 of this year, Science Daily reported on the importance of micronutrients (i.e. small doses of vitamins and minerals) in prenatal nutrition.  Put simply, micronutrient levels determine how a well a person develops.  The study found that vitamin supplements during pregnancy had astonishing effects on the newcomer's immune system.

"Wait a second!" you're probably thinking to yourself, "Didn't you, Mr. Rodgers, write on the proven incompetence of religious vitamin consumption?"

The truth is-I now realize that the study in Minnesota was flawed.  Thirty-nine thousand women took vitamins by the handfuls without proper nutritional knowledge (as most people do).  Assuming you'll absorb 100% of your daily dose of vitamins A, D, E, and K by taking a synthetic, pressed pill is just bad chemistry.  The results showed how damaging vitamins can be if taken incorrectly; maybe more so, the results showed how people can just as easily kill themselves with nutrition as they can with cigarettes.

As you know from your history books, the only way to rid ourselves of bad science is to kick it in the teeth with good science.

Let's start with the basics-vitamin A, D, E, and K are fat soluble (F-vitamins).  Taken with H2O, low fat, or fat free foods results in the majority of those nutrients remaining as incompatible with your digestion as a steak is to a vegan; just isn't going to work out.  So even though you may take a multivitamin every day, you might end up with an F-vitamin deficiency.

Well... what's the big deal?

Vitamin A is necessary for cell growth and reproduction.  Vitamin D helps our bodies absorb calcium and magnesium, two key elements for healthy bones.  In essence, vitamin A stimulates the growth of skeletal bricks and marrow while D brings the mortar that holds it all together.  A weak skeleton sends you rushing head on into biological warfare without protection.

Believe it or not our skeletons are an incredible system of biological integrity; they hold us upright and their marrow creates our immune hard-drive, so to speak.  The immune system develops and learns on its own, almost as if it were a separate entity.  Keep it healthy and it will keep you healthy.

Here's how it works:  bone marrow grows two basic types of white blood cells:  B-cells and T-cells.  B-cells are the ones that target intruders with antibodies, acting like our bodies security cameras.  T-cells are just one type of soldier that develops mainly in the thymus, an organ specialized at building immunity.  T-cells and phagocytes ingest and break down viruses and bacteria in order to further educate the entire immune system on potential threats.

The good news is that our bone marrow stores all the information gathered from viruses and bacteria within itself like an immunity memory, giving it the ability to create the most up-to-date form of antivirus.  The bad news is that the thymus stops working completely in adulthood thereby degrading our immune system's ability to learn.

So what does this all mean?

The short answer is a vitamin A and D deficiency leads to a bad immune system and more medical bills.  This goes to show that proper nutrition can play a huge role in biological and economic well-being.  If we spent a little more time and money on eating right, we could spend a lot less in the cold, impersonal, pathogenic breeding grounds we call hospitals.  The case of the thymus, though, demands a much broader view of preventative healthcare.

Its short life span suggests that if our children built excellent immunity at a young age, they would have the same immunity as adults.  Consider it a form of investing in their futures.  The best thing you can do for your kids' health is to teach them about nutrition, let them play in the dirt, touch a bird, eat an insect, and avoid constant use of anti-bacterial cleaners.  The sooner we embrace this gross, biological world of ours, the sooner we can stop worrying about sickness and start worrying about more important things:  enjoying our lives.

Dylan Rodgers is a writer with dreams of existential understanding and lyrical nonsense.  Share with him in the well of human experience @dylangers.wordpress.com.

Photo: Wellcome Images

For more thought provoking articles from Dylan, follow me on Twitter (@MarcusCooks)

Life Feeds on Life: The Consideration of the Jain Diet

By: Dylan Rodgers

Cries of impending doom rose from the soil...  These are the cries of the carrots.

                                                                            -Maynard James Keenan

Vegetarianism and veganism are drastically different with plenty of sub-sects of varying intensity. Many vegetarians outwardly concerned with the harm caused in animal slaughter argue that fish may or may not be excluded from their concern (probably the lack of eyelids) and the fact that plants don't have a face.  With so many schools of thought, where exactly would you draw the line-that is if you find yourself considering such a life changing pursuit?

Consider this: scientifically plants, animals, fungi, bacteria, and viruses are all legitimate forms of life.  One key element to the definition of life is its response to external stimuli; it reacts when poked.  So this suggests that plants and all other life feel in one way or another.  The question arises:  if compassion is the driving force behind your choice, then how deep does this rabbit hole of passivism go?

Jainism, or the Jain Religion, is an order of nonviolent individuals bent on causing the least amount of harm possible, and their motto is not taken lightly.  Jains believe in the equality of souls and that all forms of life contain them.  Therefore digging a hole would be considered harmful to grass, worms, and insects; the same goes for antibacterial soap (Kills 99.9 percent of germs. HA! In your dreams!).

Jains acknowledge that yogurt is full of bacteria, excluding it from their diets.  Kombucha, the fermented tea with active yeast and bacteria, is definitely out.  Onions, potatoes, beets, carrots, and other root vegetables cannot be harvested without killing the plants.  Even severing a bell pepper from its stem is considered harmful, but this much cannot be avoided for survival's sake.  Life feeds on life-no matter what way you spin it.

Jainism may sound extreme to most people, even those who ascribe to the doctrines of Veganism, though a passivist's stance can't be defined clearly without an open consideration of the Jain principles.  Preaching of dietary compassion for all living things and eating peanut butter (you don't want to know the life forms processed into that stuff!) is having a foot in both worlds, a double-standard, without a certain degree of circumspection.

Don't get me wrong; I personally consider myself more of a tiger than a deer; I eat meat and love it.  It is immensely important, though, to explore one's feelings on the subject of killing and consuming other life.  Jainism is rooted in over 5000 years of practice and study-an ethos worthy of attention.  As a society that defaces lunch meats and ostracizes fish and insects from our loving compassion, we are skillful mentalists able to avoid acknowledging the connection between sausage and its origin.  Taking a closer look could only clear up our own ambiguities; a noble cause to say the least, because knowing who you are is the first step towards knowing where you're going.

Dylan Rodgers is a writer with dreams of existential understanding and lyrical nonsense.  Share with him in the well of human experience @dylangers.wordpress.com.

Photo: Mellagi

For more thought provoking articles from Dylan, follow me on Twitter (@MarcusCooks)

The Science of Meat Tenderness and Color: The Untold Ben Franklin Story

By: Dylan Rodgers

My fiance and I just opened one room in our apartment to a European couple to give them shelter as they looked for residence here in NYC.  As I gave them the neighborhood tour, ultimately stopping at the food market, they asked me a question I guess I have always just taken for granted:  "Why is your beef in America so red?  Ours has more of a blue-grey hue."

The question at first caught me off guard and I thought, "Well surely American beef companies dye their meat to make it more appealing."  I decided to do a bit of research into the subject and surprisingly landed on a shocking experiment conducted by Benjamin Franklin.

We have all heard the story about Ben Franklin flying a kite with a key attached to it, thereby unraveling the mystery of lightening in 1752.  Well I'm here to tell you about another story; one that happened three years before and altered the world of food forever.

In 1749 Benjamin Franklin electrocuted a turkey.

That's right.  He shocked a turkey to death and discovered the wonderful succulent flavors of electrically stimulated meats.  Believe it or not, electric stimulation to livestock (now conducted immediately after death) is a widely used technique to preserve meaty deliciousness.

Here's how it works:  Immediately after an animal is slaughtered, their carcasses are subjected to roughly a minute of high-voltage shock treatment.  The electricity pulses through the body causing the muscles to tense up (as if they were working out) and go through the process of glycolysis.  In short, glycolysis converts glucose into ATP (muscle energy) and lactic acid.  With plenty of ATP the meat dodges rigor mortis and stays tender.

But as you are undoubtedly asking yourself, "What the heck does all this have to do with the color of beef?"  Just stay with me because it is all a part of the process.

Just as the electric stimulation helps lock in meaty tenderness by creating ATP, the lactic acid lowers the meat's pH level.  More acidic beef results in a cherry-red coloring that we Americans have grown so accustomed to.  Darker meat is the result of higher pH (meaning it is more of a base than an acid).  As a result, our meats are red, tender, and slow to age.  What more could you possibly ask for?

So if you're one of those paranoid folks that thinks red meat is dyed to look better to consumers, check your sources.  I personally couldn't find any reliable information on that subject even though I tried really hard to do so.  And though most meat isn't dyed (some of it very well may be) then you can still lose your hair over the roughly 17.5 million pounds of dyes annually applied to the rest of our foods (Yeah, Trix, I am looking at you).  Instead of worrying about your meats just grab a steak, sit back, and know that your meat is 100% certified electrocuted goodness. Thanks Ben!

Dylan Rodgers is a writer with dreams of existential understanding and lyrical nonsense.  Share with him in the well of human experience @dylangers.wordpress.com.

Photo: IwateBuddy

For more articles from Dylan, follow me on Twitter (@MarcusCooks)