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September 30th, 2014

Weirding Ways

BY Christian Ford

Life is weird.  I don’t mean strange things happen, I mean that the world’s  various animal and vegetal existences intertwine in ways that are pretty damn odd and, on occasion, exquisite.   The story of “mad honey” is one of those instances.  On the Black Sea shores of Turkey, our friends the bees sometimes visit a certain two or three varieties out of over 700 types of rhododendron and in so doing, produce a hallucinogenic honey.  That of course, is where human beings take an interest, or rather, a variety of different kinds of interest.

Business is weird, too.  As you may have heard, Annie’s Homegrown, the Berkeley-bred food company with the bunny mascot which made their name by reworking convenience foods into versions that contain actual food, has just sold themselves to General Mills, purveyor of unreconstructed convenience foods.  The fact that Bernie the Bunny now belongs to a corporation heavily involved in the anti-GMO-labeling fight has not gone down well with much of the Annie’s pro-GMO-labeling market-base, in spite of CEO John Foraker’s assurances that nothing will change.  In Consumerist‘s apt turn of phrase, “these companies are getting hitched, thanks to their shared love of the growing organic food market and money.”

But it’s not a simple love, because traditional packaged foods companies are in a slow sort of free fall and looking for a way to stop gravity.  Two fairly wonky pieces help make sense of it.  Bakeryandsnacks.com points out that organics targeted at children are a particularly recession-proof niche, while Foodnavigator-usa.com chats up a financier who specializes in the “natural and healthy living sector.”  When he discusses the golden-goose-killing risks that come with big-corporate-food buying up hippie-corporate-food, truth is somehow spoken:  “Most consumers are unaware as to who the owners of the natural/organic brands are.”  In other words, why worry, when the customers you covet are suckers?

Science is weird of course, especially when it validates medieval beverage choices for children.  Flavonoids, those mysterious compounds found in things like red wine, chocolate and blueberries, which promise to do remarkable things like kill germs, defeat cancer, reduce inflammation and aid cardiovascular disease, now also hint that they may improve cognitive function.  The flavonoid in question goes by the unwieldy name of xanthohumol and it’s found in hops and consequently, beer.  A recent study shows that it improves cognitive function — but only in the young!  Now, it’s true that in the study they were feeding mice the flavonoid equivalent of thousands of liters of beer… but that only brings us back to our medieval diet.

Brunch is a weird meal, one that keeps socially metastasizing far beyond what it ever should have.  The Guardian gives us the view of this most American of traditions from across the pond in an amusingly surreal Q&A.

And finally, love is weird, though by weird, I don’t mean strange or bizarre, but weird in its original sense, of something unearthly, or perhaps even supernatural, with a sense that the fates are at work, weaving our destiny.  Rochelle Bilow, farmer, cook and staff writer for Bon Apetit, has written something that I honestly never thought I would encounter, a piece of actually good farm-erotica.  It’s an extract from her book The Call of the Farm, and it’s charming, wry and — in all the right ways — just a little weird.

 

Pix:
Beer Babies by Jason Garber
Brunch Monster by John Gillespie
Heart of the Hills by Ross Merritt
Turkish Buzz by VoyageAnatolia.blogspot