When The Food Babe Talks, No Questions

food-babe
This would almost be funny, if I didn’t consider her misinformation so dangerous. Oh, and a h/t to Maureen Ogle for this one. Dr. Kevin M. Folta, who is the chairman of the Horticultural Sciences Department at the University of Florida, writes on his blog, Illumination, about a recent visit by Vani Hari, as the Food Babe Visits My University.

As an actual living, breathing scientist, Folta understandably stood at odds with Hari “spreading her corrupt message of bogus science and abject food terrorism” at his school. Here’s how he really felt. “There’s something that dies inside when you are a faculty member that works hard to teach about food, farming and science, and your own university brings in a crackpot to unravel all of the information you have brought to students.” And she apparently was paid $15,000 by the University to add insult to injury, as well.

She found that a popular social media site was more powerful than science itself, more powerful than reason, more powerful than actually knowing what you’re talking about. Her discussion was a narcissistic, self-appointed attack on food science and human nutrition. It was one of the rare times when I laughed and puked at the same time.

So “who do you trust for real scientific information? This is why scientists go nutso.” Here’s a breakdown of the relative experience and knowledge between the Food Babe, Vani Hari, and Dr. Folta.

Hari-vs-Folta

Here’s a few more random thoughts from his post about the talk she gave, although I encourage you to read the entire post.

Hari then went on to talk about her successes in strong-arming Chick-fil-A, Budweiser and Subway into reformulating their foods and beverages. She’s proud that she was invited to the table, that a know-nothing with a following can affect change simply by propagating false information via the internet.

That’s not healthy activism or change based on science. That’s coercion, fear mongering and terrorism to achieve short-sighted non-victories in the name of profit and self-promotion, ironically the same thing she accuses the companies of.

On the plus side, reasonably educated college students weren’t going for her nonsense, he noted. “Throughout her presentation that was about Hari in the spotlight and ‘me-me-me’, students got up and left. She left gaping pregnant pauses where previous performances got applause — only to hear nothing. Not even crickets. This audience was not buying it, at least was not excited by it.”

Overall, he understandably found it disappointing, noting. “If this is a charismatic leader of a new food movement it is quite a disaster. She’s uninformed, uneducated, trite and illogical. She’s afraid of science and intellectual engagement.”

What stood out for me, though not a surprise in the least, is that although microphones had been set out at the sides of the stage for questions (something you see at virtually any academic talk like this) she left the stage immediately, apparently refusing to take any questions from the students. It was as if she finished talking, dropped the mic and walked out, “whisked by limo to her next fear rally,” as Folta opined. Unfortunately, that sounds about right given that numerous people tell me she deletes any questions or contrary evidence from comments on her website or Facebook page. She’s selling a product — herself — pure and simple, and she can’t let facts get in her way. In a sense, she doesn’t even need to engage anyone, as she has untold numbers of unpaid minions slavishly doing her bidding for her — the Food Babe Army — attacking any critics or criticisms, as I discovered for myself when I took issue with her nonsense about the ingredients in beer. I’m almost amazed she’s still peddling her brand of crazy to ready buyers, and yet not surprised at the same time. After all, there are still people who insist the world is flat and that climate change isn’t happening, so truly people will believe all sorts of kooky things if they don’t think too much about it. And in some ways, not thinking about stuff but believing it anyway with all your might may be well be the new American way. More’s the pity.

Derp of the Day
Don’t eat food with kemicles.

Keep Moving For The Next Session

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For our 93rd Session, our host is Brian Devine, who writes The Roaming Pint, along with Maria Scarpello, and the pair “have been traveling around in their 29-foot RV, named Stanley, since August 2010 seeking out all kinds of great beer destinations.” For their topic, they’ve understandably chosen Beer Travel.

Since travel is such an important part of our lives I wanted our topic to focus on beer travel. In Session #29, Beer by Bart asked writers to tell them about their favorite beer trips to which they got some great responses of personal favorites and general tips for certain cities.

So as not to tread over old ground my question is going to focus on the “why” more than the “what”. So I ask you fellow bloggers and beer lovers, why is it important for us to visit the place the where our beers are made? Why does drinking from source always seem like a better and more valuable experience? Is it simply a matter of getting the beer at it’s freshest or is it more akin to pilgrimage to pay respect and understand the circumstances of the beer better?

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Not “Stanley,” but certainly a worthy steed for beer travel.

So put on your walking shoes or those boots that are made for walking, whichever you prefer with your beer. According to Brian, participation in November’s Session simply requires that you “write a response to one or more of the questions above and then post a link to the article” in the Roaming Pints’ comments section by November 6th.

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A Love Story: Brewing Yeast & Fruit Flies

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There was an interesting story posted on Popular Science, specifically their BeerSci series. They did a great job of spinning the story as a love story, albeit an unusual one between fruit flies and brewer’s yeast, especially since the original title of the study they’re reporting on was The Fungal Aroma Gene ATF1 Promotes Dispersal of Yeast Cells through Insect Vectors. But it is, and in How Flies Are Responsible For Beer’s Tasty, Fruity Smells, they detail how,”[i]n a series of experiments, biologists from several institutes in Belgium demonstrated that brewer’s yeast makes fruity, floral smells to attract fruit flies. In the wild, yeast might live on rotting fruit and entice flies to come to them there. Yeast and flies’ relationship benefits them both, the biologists found. Previous studies have found that eating yeast helps fruit fly larva develop faster and survive better. This new study found that fruit flies help spread yeast to new environments, like a bee spreading pollen.” In effect, their study demonstrates “the co-evolution of two species.”

Here’s the summary from the original, published in Cell Reports.

Yeast cells produce various volatile metabolites that are key contributors to the pleasing fruity and flowery aroma of fermented beverages. Several of these fruity metabolites, including isoamyl acetate and ethyl acetate, are produced by a dedicated enzyme, the alcohol acetyl transferase Atf1. However, despite much research, the physiological role of acetate ester formation in yeast remains unknown. Using a combination of molecular biology, neurobiology, and behavioral tests, we demonstrate that deletion of ATF1 alters the olfactory response in the antennal lobe of fruit flies that feed on yeast cells. The flies are much less attracted to the mutant yeast cells, and this in turn results in reduced dispersal of the mutant yeast cells by the flies. Together, our results uncover the molecular details of an intriguing aroma-based communication and mutualism between microbes and their insect vectors. Similar mechanisms may exist in other microbes, including microbes on flowering plants and pathogens.

Graphical_Abstract

You can also read the entire study as a pdf, but to get a sense of what it all means, read Francie Diep’s How Flies Are Responsible For Beer’s Tasty, Fruity Smells and keep in mind her warning from the outset. “Sorry, but brewer’s yeast did not evolve for you.” Perhaps not, but at least we can still reap the benefits of the relationship between those fruit flies and the yeast used to create delicious beer.

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Brewers For Clean Water

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There was interesting article a couple of days ago on Newsweek, entitled Craft Beer Brewers Team Up to Improve Water Standard about a group of breweries partnering with the “Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), a New York–based environmental group, to support stricter regulations on water pollution.” At least forty breweries are currently signed on as “Brewers for Clean Water,” including Lagunitas and Sierra Nevada Breweries.

According to Newsweek:

The NRDC and the brewers, including the California-based Lagunitas and Sierra Nevada brewing companies, are asking citizens to write to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to finalize a proposed rule that would give federal government more latitude to enforce the Clean Water Act. The agency is currently considering public comments until November 14, before putting the finishing touches on the fine text of the rule, known as the “Waters of the United States.”

The NRDC also created a video about the issue of water.

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Why Slugs Love Beer

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I learned this trick from my great aunt, who used to put dishes of stale beer out to attract and kill various pests, including slugs. I knew it worked it, but I don’t think I ever quite knew why. According to a short article in the September issue of Mental Floss, Why Do Slugs Love Beer?, the answer is that the “sweet smell of yeast attracts slugs to beer like moths to a flame.” Quoting Ian Bedford, head of the John Innes Centre’s Entomology Facility in Great Britain, “A lot of slug species feed on decaying plant material,” adding that “beer resembles overripe fruits, which burst with naturally fermenting yeasts that slugs can’t resist.”

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Goodnight Brew

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Oh, how I wish I had this book when my kids were younger. I read the classic Goodnight Moon so many times that I had it memorized and didn’t even need the book to read it to them. But if I strayed from the text — which, I confess, I enjoyed doing just to mess with them — they’d invariably correct me, as they knew the story inside and out, as well. But now author Ann E. Briated (not her real name; it’s actually Aldo Zelnick) has written a beer-soaked parody of the children’s classic and re-tapped it as Goodnight Brew. It’s written for adults, with tongues firmly in cheeks, as part of their “pitcher book for grown-ups” series. The publisher’s website describes it with this introduction:

It’s closing time at the brewery. While the moon rises, the happy brewery crew—including three little otters (in charge of the water), a wort hog, and a hops wildebeest— sing and dance as they wind down for the day. Join them in saying goodnight to the brew kettle, barley and yeast, hops and mash, saison, porter, IPA, and much more.

Befuddled about beer ingredients? Puzzled about the brew process? Can’t remember the difference between an ale and a lager? Don’t miss the brew infographics that follow the story!

This humorous parody of a children’s literature classic is a “pitcher book” for grown-ups. It’s a besotted bedtime story for beer lovers everywhere!

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Even though my kids are too old for it now, I ordered one anyway. I am hoping someday to have grandchildren, and I should be prepared.

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It’s wonderfully illustrated by Allie Ogg. and here are a few pages from the book.

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Book Burning & Beer

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This week is Banned Book Week, a week-long “annual event celebrating the freedom to read,” a subject near and dear to my heart. It’s sponsored by the American Library Association, along with a number of related organizations, such as the ASJA (of which I’m a member). I was reading an article about this on the Daily Kos tonight, and here’s a portion of what author Doctor RJ wrote about how censorship happens:

Invariably, some parents somewhere are going to find a book on a list that offends them, and will decide they need to protect not only their child but all of the children in the community by marching down to the school and library to demand it be removed from the shelf. Since there is never anything too stupid if it allows certain government officials to get before a camera or send out a press release claiming they’re “protecting children” from the horrors of the world, you end up with school boards and administrators that give in to pressure. And since no one wants to be against protecting children, that leads to the other set of government officials: those too chicken shit to speak up and oppose something they know is wrong.

In his dissenting opinion in Ginzburg v. United States, Justice Potter Stewart wrote that censorship reflects “a society’s lack of confidence in itself,” and is the “hallmark of an authoritarian regime.” All censorship is done in the name of protecting and defending society from ideas or truth that are deemed dangerous, harmful, or inconvenient.

Here’s what struck me about this. Change the word “book” to “beer,” and “school and library” to “local politician” — along with a few other obvious changes — and it’s every bit as relevant for prohibition and the modern prohibitionists. I certainly agree with Justice Stewart that prohibition reflects “a society’s lack of confidence in itself,” and is the “hallmark of an authoritarian regime.” Look at the nations that still have outright bans on alcohol. And the notion that “all prohibition is done in the name of protecting and defending society from alcohol that is deemed dangerous, harmful, or inconvenient” also rings true. The banning of books seems every bit as sinister as the banning of alcohol, and uses the same rhetoric for its justification. Scary.

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Berkeley Bar Proposes Not Serving Alcohol

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Talk about your non-story. A new Kava bar set to open in Berkeley is planning on not serving alcohol and you’d think they had re-invented the light bulb. Between the bar’s own application claiming it “aims to be Berkeley’s first and only alcohol-alternative bar” and Alcohol Justice tweeting the news with their characteristic glee assuming it must be anti-alcohol, there’s not a lot to the actual story. Not to mention the way in which the Bay Area BizTalk author is spinning it so that she claims it to be “innovative,” saying that “while the common thread is serving booze, one business that plans to open in Berkeley could change that.” Puh-leeze!

Okay, first let’s dispense with the innovation or that it’s Berkeley, or anywhere for that matter’s, “first and only alcohol-alternative bar.” Berkeley and the rest of the world has thousands, maybe millions of them. They’re called cafes, coffeehouse, tea bars, ice cream parlors, and on and on. Starbucks alone operates nearly 24,000 alcohol-alternative bars, not including the few that have been test-marketing alcohol sales in the evenings. As for Alcohol Justice’s churlish remark that “If this takes off, expect Bud Light Kava,” they’re displaying their usual cluelessness. Kava is a plant “used to produce a drink with sedative and anesthetic properties. Kava is consumed throughout the Pacific Ocean cultures of Polynesia, including Hawaii, Vanuatu, Melanesia and some parts of Micronesia. Kava is sedating and is primarily consumed to relax without disrupting mental clarity. Its active ingredients are called kavalactones. A Cochrane Collaboration systematic review of its evidence concluded it was likely to be more effective than placebo at treating short-term social anxiety.”

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The scientific name for the specific plant used to make the kava drink is known as “Piper methysticum,” which means “intoxicating pepper.” So essentially it’s a different, milder high, but is used in much the same way and for the same purposes as many people use alcohol and mood-altering drugs. You just missed celebrating the Feast of Papa-Lea, the God of Kava Drinking, on September 8. Still, it’s not exactly a health drink. “People taking certain kava-based drugs and dietary products have suffered liver damage or liver failure as a result of hepatotoxicity. Consequently, kava is regulated in a number of countries. In the EU it is strictly prohibited only in Poland.” So the bar may be not serving alcohol, but that’s because they’re focusing on another, somewhat similar product. If it were more popular in the U.S., and regulated like alcohol, you can bet Alcohol Justice would be against it, and singing a different tune.

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I want to be clear that I’m not against Kava. I’ve never had it but would try it in a heartbeat if offered a chance to sample it. But I do want to point out the incessant hypocrisy of prohibitionist groups like Alcohol Justice who are so against alcohol in our society that they’ll celebrate the fact that a bar is taking a different theme to reach a specialized clientele and choosing against serving alcohol in favor of a different mood-altering drink. One they’re against, and the other … well, they don’t really understand or care about so long as it’s not alcohol.

Personally, I hope the MeloMelo Kava Bar does open. It sounds interesting, and worth trying, but please let’s dispense with the notion that it’s going to start a wave of non-alcoholic places that will squash alcohol’s prominence as the beverage of choice at bars across the nation. And especially that they’ll be characterized as “alcohol-alternative bars.” According to the Bay Area BizTalk article, “Tea, yerba mate and kombucha will also be on the menu at MeloMelo, but the bar will not serve food or ‘coffee bean-related’ products.” And let’s not forget that MeloMelo is saving themselves thousands by not buying an expensive liquor license. So these are marketing decisions to differentiate themselves from coffeehouses, and their not serving alcohol is not exactly something that’s likely to “catch on” given that there are already thousands of places where alcohol is not served already. Hell, every time someone actually tries to sell alcohol in a place where it’s traditionally not sold — like Starbucks or Burger King — the hue and cry from the wingnut prohibitionists is deafening.

kava

But let’s review the real issue here, and the ridiculousness of the concept of being an alcohol-alternative establishment. I think I see a way out. When you’re at a bar, or restaurant or whatever and don’t want to order something alcoholic off of the menu; don’t. Now, was that so hard? There are all sorts of people in the world, and at any given time in any number of moods. Sometimes you want or need a drink, sometimes you don’t. I’m not a big fan of seafood, in fact hate most if it and could most likely live happily my remaining days if I never saw a fish on my plate again. But I’m not boycotting restaurants with seafood choices on the menu. I just don’t order any of them. But the prohibitionists would rather limit everybody’s choice and simply not have alcohol available for legal adults to enjoy because a minority of them might not be able to handle themselves, in effect punishing those of us who can. So how about we have alcohol-alternative people and give the rest of us the ability to choose for ourselves how we we want to live our lives?

Hops, One Of Our Nature Neighbors

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Here’s an interesting look at hops from a 1914 publication. The book is Nature Neighbors, a lavishly illustrated multi-volume set of nature books published by the American Audubon Association in Chicago, which was limited to only 2,500 printed copies. It was edited by Nathaniel Moore Banta, with “articles by Gerard Alan Abbott, Dr. Albert Schneider, William Kerr Higley, Thomas Crowder Chamberlin, John Merle Coulter, David Starr Jordan, and Other Eminent Naturalists.”

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In Volume 4, covering minerals and plants, under Chapter III: Medicinal Plants, by Dr. Albert Schneider, beginning at page 133, they include a description and illustration of hops.

HOPS

“The Hop has been called the Northern vine. It is found in a wild state throughout Europe, excepting the extreme North, and extends east to the Caucasus and through Central Asia. It is a handsome plant and not infrequently used as an arbor plant. The lower or basal leaves are very large, gradually decreasing in size toward the apex.

Hops is also cultivated in Brazil and other South American countries, Australia, and India.

The principal use of hops is in the manufacture of beer, to which it imparts the peculiarly bitter taste, and its repute as a tonic. For this purpose enormous quantities are consumed in Germany and England. The exhausted hops
from the breweries form an excellent fertilizer for light soils. The leaves have been used as fodder for cows. Leaves, stems, and roots possess astringent properties and have been used in tanning. In Sweden the fiber of the stem is used in manufacturing a very durable white cloth, not unlike the cloth made from hemp and flax.

Hops is used medicinally. It at first causes a very slight excitation of brain and heart, followed by a rather pronounced disposition to sleep. Pillows stuffed with hops form a very popular domestic remedy for wakefulness.

Hop bags dipped in hot water form a very soothing external application in painful inflammatory conditions, especially of the abdominal organs. It has undoubted value as a bitter tonic in dyspepsia and in undue cerebral excitation.”

hops-1914

Description of plate : A, staminate (male) inflorescence; B, pistillate (female) inflorescence; C, fruiting branch; 1, staminate flower; 2, perigone; 3, stamen; 4, open anther; 5, pollen; 6, pistillate catkin; 7, 8, 9, pistillate flowers; 10, scales; 11, 12, 13, scales and flowers; 14, 15, fruit; 16, 17, 19, seed; 20, resin gland (lupuhn).

You can see the book in its entirety at the Internet Archive, where you can also download a pdf, ePub or Kindle formatted file there. Or read it online via Open Library, where you want to look for page 308.

Sonoma State To Offer Beer Course

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So this is great news, and feels even a little bit overdue, though to be fair I may be a little biased, as you’ll soon see. With craft beer persuading people that good beer is every bit as complex and worthy of respect as wine or whiskey, Sonoma State University, in partnership with Lagunitas Brewing, will be offering a certificate course on beer during their spring semester next year. I can say it should be amazing — with my tongue firmly in my cheek — because they’ve hired the best teachers. My little joke there, is the class will be great because Sonoma State has hired me to develop it and be the lead instructor for the course, although I’ll be bringing in a great roster of guest speakers from the beer industry and related fields to teach students everything they want to know about beer, and then some. At least that’s the plan. And right now, we could use your help in figuring out what potential students are most interested in learning about when it comes to beer and brewing.

We’re developing the curriculum now, and the program is being fueled by Lagunitas Brewing, which is where the majority of classes will be held. On Wednesday evenings, beginning next spring, students will spend three hours in the loft at Lagunitas learning about beer and how it’s made, the business of making and selling beer, along with a better appreciation for it.

Officially, the course will be taught through a partnership between the School of Science & Technology and SSU’s continuing education program, the School of Extended & International Education, along with Lagunitas Brewing, and students will receive a transcripted Certificate of Completion in one semester.

SSU-Seawolves
So what do we need your help with? Simple, we’re trying to figure out what potential students are most interested in learning about when it comes to beer. Do you want to know more about how its made, how to taste it analytically and appreciate it better? Or are you interested in possibly joining the beer industry and so are interested in learning more about the business and what opportunities there might be where you could find your dream job? To figure that out, we’ve created a short survey — just rate 22 possible topics, answer two multiple choice questions, then add any other suggestions you might have, that’s all.

So if you’re not in the industry, simply a beer lover, what subjects would most interest you if you took a class about beer? If you are in the industry, what do you think are the most important things to cover?

Please fill out the survey by Sunday, September 7 to help us identify the key topics that you are most interested in. As a token of our gratitude, Lagunitas Brewing Company has graciously offered to give a special deck of playing cards to survey participants that can be picked up at the brewery in Petaluma. You will be notified by email when your cards are ready for pick-up at Lagunitas. Or you could just take the survey for the fun of it and to help out.

CLICK HERE TO TAKE THE SURVEY

Lagunitas-Cards
These are what the cards look like that you can pick up at Lagunitas brewery as a thank you for taking the survey.