Originally posted on The Zeit:
1- The most expensive coffee in the world is brewed from beans partially digested and defecated by toddy cats. How do you take your “poo”? With sugar and cream please.
2- The common bread ingredient L-cysteine is derived from human hair. Don’t believe it’s only hair from your head if you know what I mean; eeuww!
3- Chicken McNuggets contain industrial chemicals. TBHQ, a petroleum derivative, is used as a stabilizer in oil field chemicals amongst other things. TBHQ has been linked to stomach tumors. Another chemical used as an ingredient is Dimethylpolysiloxane which is a type of silicone. It is used as a filler for breast implants, and is the key ingredient in Silly Putty.
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By Virginia Heffernan
A long time ago, “Bolivian marching powder” meant cocaine.
Now it could mean quinoa. Quinoa is a massive crop that for millennia has honed its extraterrestrial nutritional powers in the dizzying altitudes of the Andes. In recent years, this curious substance—like coke before it—has also become a major export for Peru and Bolivia.
But, as the Guardian recently reported, the foreign market for the good seed has driven the street price of quinoa up so high that most Bolivians and Peruvians can no longer afford their homegrown staple. For the people who used to live on it, protein-dense quinoa is now more expensive than chicken. That’s rich.
Denied their indigenous marching grain (technically a “pseudocereal”), Bolivian and Peruvian peasants are turning to junk food—the same sugary bunk that sickens and malnourishes millions of us in the U.S. And thus we net a nifty parable of globalism, progress and nutrition, with one clear upshot: Foodism, like every other ideology, is dangerous—and carries unintended consequences.
I would tell you what quinoa is, in hair-splitting pseudo-agricultural detail, but then I’d sound like just one of them. The foodies. Those people who are always saying—oh, I can’t even mock them. Suffice it to say I’d rather hear an Oxycontin addict talk about how he puts the edge back on with Adderall than I would a foodie talk about how he balances the acids in mustard greens with cake flour. At least the Oxy folks don’t turn their boring and expensive pleasure into sanctimony. In my experience, they’re even somewhat private and sheepish about it.
But let’s just say quinoa is a thing that foodies adore, that exists by the gunnysackful in the stockrooms of liberal-elite restaurants and liberal-elite kitchens in Boston, San Francisco, Manhattan, Portland, Chicago, Austin and Seattle.
Quinoa is stylish and, furthermore, believed by the Timothy Learys of the foodists to goose or balance “amino-acid levels,” without which many noble vegans and carniphobes would perish (or have to resort to yucky supplements). To be a good sport, since I live in foodie Brooklyn myself, I have tried quinoa with beets and cheese and fish, in muffins, beside eggs—wherever regular American carbs like potatoes used to be served.
The people of the Andes like to eat quinoa this way too, it turns out. Quinoa is known to Andean folks as the “lost crop of the Incas,” as well as a “miracle grain” for its near-holy amino-acid balance. But then, suddenly, rich people in other countries, including the United States, some of whom have shifted their taste from white powder to this other intoxicant measured in grams, wanted to sample the latest Bolivian miracle. So we enriched many farmers by buying up the quinoa—and further impoverished the Andeans, by dooming them to malnutrition.
What a story! Quinoa prices, according to the Bolivian department of agriculture, have almost tripled in five years, during which time Bolivia’s own quinoa consumption has dropped by a third. In areas where quinoa is grown, chronic malnutrition in children marches upward.
Of course, there’s a style issue in Bolivia, too. Kids in Park Slope, Brooklyn or Marin County, Calif., raised in the cult of Alice Waters and Whole Foods, may like quinoa, but regular kids in countries that aren’t hyper-trophically developed don’t typically ask for it. Sensibly, they ask for what’s sugary and on circus-colored billboards. Explains Víctor Hugo Vásquez, vice minister of rural development and agriculture in Bolivia, “If you give them boiled water, sugar and quinoa flour mixed into a drink, they prefer Coca-Cola.”
At the same time, ballooning quinoa prices also raise questions that could, if answered, change the story from ironic and sad to more complex still.
As Marc F. Bellemare, an assistant professor at Duke University, points out in his blog, the tragic take on the quinoa boom assumes that Bolivian households are mostly quinoa consumers penalized by a bull market and not quinoa farmers and sellers who stand to gain from it. In fact, agricultural economists haven’t sorted this out yet. Journalists who make the opposite, and equally unfounded, assumption—that Bolivians are mostly quinoa farmers (and not children starving for want of quinoa)—sound like delirious free-market boosters. In The Globe and Mail, Doug Saunders has raved that for Bolivians the quinoa craze is “the greatest thing that has happened to them. … Quinoa had all but died out as a staple in Bolivia, replaced by beans and potatoes, until farmers began planting it in the 1980s with exports to North America in mind.”
The important thing, then, is to follow the food without getting ideological, not only about wholesome classy quinoa, but also about delicious tawdry Coca-Cola, that bugbear of foodies who are perpetually disgusted to discover that the feeble-minded among us still like a little sugar with our water. Eat what you want, but stop preaching about it, and it surely can’t hurt to leave some Andean quinoa for the people of the Andes.
To help children in Bolivia, where more than half the kids 6 months to 5 years old suffer from malnutrition, and 54 in a thousand die in childhood, consider supporting MAP’s Community School for Life.
The sudden death of Robin Williams has left the world without an acting genius. Williams was able to bring characters of all kinds to life not just for a few hours on the screen; he was able to make them stay permanently in his audience’s memory.
Through these characters, Williams was able to elevate social issues in movies in a way that few actors can. To honor the man, Think Progress assembled a list of seven such issues Williams touched in his films. We give you an excerpt below:
1. Homelessness and mental health in ‘The Fisher King’. Williams earned an Oscar nomination for his performance as Parry, a homeless man suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder living on the streets. The National Alliance for Mental Illness named The Fisher King one of the top movies for mental illness, and while there’s been some debate over how accurate his portrayal of mental illness was, the movie clearly reflected Williams’ personal dedication to the issue.
2. Gay identity and gender expression in ‘The Birdcage’. In a time when it was still relatively controversial to be gay in America, Robin Williams and Nathan Lane played a loving gay couple who fought through stigma and showed their son why he shouldn’t be ashamed to be part of a gay family. It was just one of several Williams films that positively portrayed drag to mainstream audiences, but more than that it normalized gay love and adoption writ large.
3. Press freedom in ‘Good Morning Vietnam’. War and censorship are rarely laughing matters, and in other hands the the 1985 film “Good Morning, Vietnam” could have been a maudlin flop. Instead, Robin Williams took on the role of Airman Second Class Adrian Cronauer and performed with such gusto and conviction that the movie rightly is remembered as one of his best.
4. Addiction in ‘The Crazy Ones’. Williams returned to television last year on David E. Kelley’s sitcom “The Crazy Ones,” playing a character not far from himself as Simon Roberts. Roberts, a recovering addict who had struggled with mental health issues (“I prefer nutjob or psychologically interesting,” Roberts quipped), was still able to build a successful advertising agency around his extraordinary energy and creativity.
5. Domestic abuse in ‘Good Will Hunting’. In 1997’s Good Will Hunting, Robin Williams and his co-star Matt Damon worked together to give heightened national attention — and a human face — to the struggles of those who endure domestic violence and abuse. The role earned Williams an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor.
6. Deforestation in ‘FernGully’. In the 1992 Australian-American film fully titled FernGully: The Last Rainforest, Robin Williams provided the voice to a fruit bat named Batty Koda, in his first role in an animated film. The plot revolves around a protagonist who leaves his rapacious team of loggers that threaten a magical rain forest, and joins the indigenous magical natives to save it.
7. Single parenting in ‘Mrs. Doubtfire’. In character as Mrs. Doubtfire, Williams addresses the stigmas of divorce and single-parenting, responding to a note from a little girl: “You know, some parents get along much better when they don’t live together. They don’t fight all the time and they can become better people. Much better mommies and daddies for you. And sometimes they get back together. And sometimes they don’t, dear. And if they don’t… don’t blame yourself. Just because they don’t love each other doesn’t mean that they don’t love you.”
BOTTOM LINE: Williams’ characters evinced progressivism and were role models for our lives. He showed us what it meant to be compassionate, open-minded, empathetic–and, of course, how to have a good laugh.