A cooking show I shall never see

“Cooking With Paris”

Paris Hilton, the ur-celebutante, returns to television. The six-episode series “Cooking with Paris” joins recent shows like “Amy Schumer Learns to Cook” and “Selena + Chef,” in which famous people who don’t really know how their way around a kitchen navigate one anyway. And yet, Hilton takes culinary dilettantism to a new and bedazzled place. In the first episode, which co-stars Hilton’s childhood friend Kim Kardashian, Hilton asks, “What’s a tong?” In the second, her utter inability to pronounce cotija, a taco night staple, becomes a running gag. Cereal, she says, is her favorite food group.

Hilton, one of the pre-eminent interpreters of the sexy baby voice, pioneered reality TV with “The Simple Life.” The kind of person who makes a word like “reality” wobble Jell-O-like, she dusts most dishes with edible glitter, feeds caviar to her dogs, leans over the deep-fryer in feathered cuffs. (“This is not the best outfit to cook in,” she says, as the fringe from her jacket skims flan.) The show exists mostly to trademark a new catchphrase — “sliving,” a portmanteau of “slaying” and “living” and the heir to “that’s hot” — and bring back gloves as an essential fashion accessory. It’s doubtful that either will catch on.

Throughout, the boundary between what’s authentic and what’s performative is as porous as a paper towel. Anyone expecting a more dimensionalized woman, like the one Hilton revealed in the last year’s documentary “This Is Paris” should probably just click on an early season of “The Great British Baking Show” instead. But Hilton remains a genius in giving the camera what it wants. Which apparently includes Frosted Flakes French toast.

By Alexis Soloski, sitting in for Margaret Lyons this week

This is from my daily “Watching” newsletter from the NY Times. Saves me trying to sort which films/new shows are available if I haven’t already decided to watch 2 more episodes of DCI Banks. [which is what I’ll be doing, tonight…starting Season 5]. So, no links…even though the newsletter has a bunch.

Bravo, Ben & Jerry!

Could it be that the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement – which targets the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza – has finally found Israel’s soft spot?

The boycott, divestment and sanctions movement, known as the BDS movement, began in 2005. That’s when 170 Palestinian civil society organizations called for an economic, cultural and academic boycott of Israel for its violation of international law and Palestinian rights, as well as its occupation of the West Bank and Gaza.

The movement, which soon included a loose network of activists based all around the world, also urged companies, universities and others to divest from Israel and countries to sanction it…

But despite the lack of substantive economic or diplomatic impact, I believe it would be a mistake to label the BDS movement as a failure. Rather, Ben & Jerry’s decision hints at a watershed moment in the BDS campaign.

The company, founded by Jewish friends Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield in 1978, has long embraced a liberal social mission – which it frequently expresses through its ice cream flavors…In its statement announcing the shift, Ben & Jerry’s said selling ice cream in the West Bank and Gaza “is inconsistent with our values.”

While I don’t doubt the company’s values were behind the decision, I also believe something else was at work: Israel is losing the battle for public opinion.

Putting your vanilla where your heart is ain’t an easy step for anyone part of America’s corporate ethos. Kudos to Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield for having the courage of their convictions. Anti-colonial struggles often rely on backdoor donors willing to chip in to support Freedom Movements…”But, please don’t use my name!”

Ben and Jerry have backbone. Think I’ll get a pint of Chocolate Fudge Brownie in this weekend’s grocery shopping.

“Red or Green” in outer space?

Pretty much anyone in New Mexico will answer the three-word question “Red or Green”. Generally, a quick response. It is a heartfelt topic here. It queries your preference for the ingredient so often providing added flavor in our meals.

In a few months, fully grown red and green chile peppers should be tempting the taste buds of astronauts on the International Space Station. NASA’s Plant Habitat-04 (PH-04) experiment, containing Hatch chile pepper seeds, arrived at the space station aboard SpaceX’s 22nd commercial resupply services mission in June, and NASA astronaut Shane Kimbrough initiated the experiment…

A team with Kennedy Space Center’s Exploration Research and Technology programs planted the seeds in a device called a science carrier that slots into the Advanced Plant Habitat (APH), one of the three plant growth chambers on the orbiting laboratory in which astronauts raise crops. If successful, PH-04 will add another crop NASA can use to supplement astronauts’ diets on future missions.

My usual answer, BTW, is “red”.

Borg DNA from California mud


Taking DNA samples from temporary springtime pond

In the TV series Star Trek, the Borg are cybernetic aliens that assimilate humans and other creatures as a means of achieving perfection. So when Jill Banfield, a geomicrobiologist at the University of California, Berkeley, sifted through DNA in the mud of her backyard and discovered a strange linear chromosome that included genes from a variety of microbes, her Trekkie son proposed naming it after the sci-fi aliens. The new type of genetic material was a mystery. Maybe it was part of a viral genome. Maybe it was a strange bacterium. Or maybe it was just an independent piece of DNA existing outside of cells…

But Banfield wasn’t looking for DNA that could move between organisms. Instead, she and graduate student Basem Al-Shayeb were searching for viruses that infect archaea, a type of microbe often found in places devoid of oxygen. They would dig 1 meter or more below the surface and collect mud samples that might harbor archaea and their viruses. Next, they would sequence every stretch of DNA in the samples and use sophisticated computer programs to scan for sequences that signified a virus, rather than any other organism…

Banfield says she and her colleagues don’t really know how Borgs arose, but they suspect that at one time, the DNA sequences were the genomes of a close relative of Methanoperedens that got scooped up and began living inside the archaeon. Eventually only the DNA, now much modified, remains inside the microbe, but apart from its own chromosome…

Interesting read. Hope it encourages other scientists (and science-minded curious folk) to duplicate the experiments.

Indigenous forest gardens still productive after 100 years


Chelsey Armstrong

…In the last few decades, archeologists have learned that perennial forest management—the creation and care of long-lived food-bearing shrubs and plants next to forests—was common among the Indigenous societies of North America’s northwestern coast. The forest gardens played a central role in the diet and stability of these cultures in the past, and now a new publication shows that they offer an example of a far more sustainable and biodiverse alternative to conventional agriculture.

This research, which was done in collaboration with the Tsm’syen and Coast Salish First Nations, shows that the gardens have become lasting hotspots of biodiversity, even 150 years after colonists forcibly removed the inhabitants from their villages. This work, combining archeology, botany, and ecology, is the first to systematically study the long-term ecological effects of Indigenous peoples’ land use in the region. The gardens offer ideas for farming practices that might restore, rather than deplete, local resources to create healthier, more resilient ecosystems…

By comparing the gardens to the neighboring forests, the researchers’ results clearly showed that the gardens had a much higher species and functional diversity. In addition, the gardens frequently showed a carefully overlapped structure, with a canopy of fruit and nut trees, a mid-layer of berries, and roots and herbs in the undergrowth. Thanks to the increased availability of fruit, nuts, and other edible plants, these places also supported local wildlife, such as moose, bears, and deer.

“There’s a kind of false dichotomy debate going on right now that biodiversity is at odds with food production, and what we see here is very clearly that it’s not,” said Armstrong. “Forest gardens are one of the examples of how you can get multiple species occupying multiple niche spaces—there are all sorts of ecological lessons there.”

We could compare cultural diversity if the Anglos moving into the region hadn’t decided it was in their best interest to remove the people who had been living there for centuries. Often by force.

That history is also part of this article.

Best places to live as an ex-pat


Taipei, Taiwan

Taiwan, Mexico and Costa Rica have been ranked as the top spots to live and work abroad in 2021, based on their cost of living, ease of settling in and overall quality of life.

The U.S. was ranked only 34th out of 59 places, largely because of how expats viewed quality of life in America, according to a new survey published Tuesday.

Taiwan topped the charts for the third year in a row in the survey of 12,420 expats conducted by InterNations, a Munich-based expat network with about 4 million members. Expats appreciated Taiwan’s medical care, on top of quality of life. A full 96% of respondents were happy with the quality of care, compared with 71% globally. Expats also reported they were more satisfied with their job security in Taiwan and state of the local economy than their peers in other locales.

Read on, my friends. Read on!

Global soils are the stuff of life. We’re destroying everything they offer.

Global soils are the source of all life on land but their future looks “bleak” without action to halt degradation, according to the authors of a UN report.

A quarter of all the animal species on Earth live beneath our feet and provide the nutrients for all food. Soils also store as much carbon as all plants above ground and are therefore critical in tackling the climate emergency. But there also are major gaps in knowledge, according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization’s (FAO) report, which is the first on the global state of biodiversity in soils.

The report was compiled by 300 scientists, who describe the worsening state of soils as at least as important as the climate crisis and destruction of the natural world above ground. Crucially, it takes thousands of years for soils to form, meaning urgent protection and restoration of the soils that remain is needed.

The scientists describe soils as like the skin of the living world, vital but thin and fragile, and easily damaged by intensive farming, forest destruction, pollution and global heating…

Soils simultaneously produce food, store carbon and purify water, he said, so they are “at least as important” as the climate and above-ground biodiversity crises. “If you’re losing the top soil through bad treatment and then erosion, then it takes thousands of years until the soil is produced again.”

We know next to nothing about the life in our soils. Yes, we have categorized a great deal – with little or no information on how they act upon their environment. Which, in turn, is the growth medium for virtually all our food.

At least, it didn’t explode!

Today is bread day. I bake my loaf of bread for the following week every Friday. It is an old-fashioned European process consuming several hours actually starting the evening before.

So, Thursday evening, I mix what is called a poolish – vernacular for it’s supposed origin in Poland centuries ago. A very wet mixture, half flour, half water, barely an eighth of a teaspoon of yeast … the whole critter allowed to mumble to itself for 8-12 hours … covered in plastic wrap so no spiders or other critters fall in overnight. By Friday morning, the poolish is ready to be mixed with the remaining flour, water, salt and yeast to make the completed dough.

In our home, that’s called Jabba. :-]

I left it sitting out on the counter, last night. Didn’t get round to starting the end process till morning sunlight had already begun streaming in the East windows into our kitchen. The result is above.

Future Steak?

The shoppers of the world don’t know it yet, and farmers are only just beginning to worry about it, but supermarket meat aisles are probably on the cusp of change. Another range of products will soon appear alongside the traditional steaks and lamb chops. They’ll be identical to what we know as meat, but with a major difference: they will have been made in an industrial-scale laboratory…

…A growing group of food scientists and food companies believes we are about to enter an era when no animal needs to be killed and no land grazed to create meat. The economics are getting better and better. It’s good news for lab meat pioneers, vegetarians and animal ethicists. For the Australian and New Zealand meat industries, its effect may depend on how they react.

America’s largest meat company, Tyson Foods, gave the economics of lab meat a vote of confidence in January 2018 when it bought into lab meat startup Memphis Meats. It joined global food production giant Cargill, a company with annual revenue of more than US$100 billion a year.

With these two industry giants now backing the lab meat push, development is likely to ramp up and costs are expected to come down. Lab meat could be on the menu even earlier than forecast. Most estimates now see it coming to market within 10 years.

When it arrives, lab meat will take its place alongside increasingly sophisticated plant-based “meat” products from companies such as Beyond Meat and the Bill Gates-backed Impossible Foods.

These last two are already widely available and easy to prepare into a delicious snack or main course. Sufficient fat and protein guarantee mouth feel, flavor and texture. So – for the time being – the vegan alternatives to traditional slaughterhouses is ahead. I buy and consume them on a weekly basis. Still…looking forward to see what the labgrown animal product will have to offer.