Raw power: Britain’s changing appetite for veg

Who would have thought that cauliflower – which was traditionally served under what chef Jean Conil described in his 1953 book Haute Cuisine as “a merciful disguise of sauce” – might one day be so celebrated it would be served proudly whole and slow-roasted, like a prime cut of beef? For a while it felt as if the vegetables that inspired love in Britain were Mediterranean ones such as red peppers that were roasted and safely removed from anything we had grown up with. But there is a renewed appetite for locally grown root veg too. From 2016 to 2017, sales of beetroot in the UK grew by £34 million, an increase of 6% year on year. Still more startling is the rise in people who centre their entire diet on vegetables, gathering under the hashtag #plantbased. The number of self-declared British vegans has risen by more than 360% since 2006.

Great. Vegetables are increasingly the star of the show. But a diet rich in fresh produce is still out of reach for far too many:

At the vegetable summit, Kerridge said her teenage daughter often begged her for pre-packed spiralised courgettes in the supermarket because she had seen it idolised on social media. The problem is that Kerridge can’t afford to buy it.

Granted, it’s much more affordable to buy courgettes and spiralise them yourself. (If you must.) But the broader point is painfully clear—vegetables are cool again, yet large swathes of the population are missing out.

(Aside: I learned recently the that author of this piece, Bee Wilson, is the sister of classicist Emily Wilson, whose translation of the Odyssey is currently on my bedside table.)

Source: Raw power: Britain’s changing appetite for veg | Life and style | The Guardian

Teaching grownups how to eat

The key to lasting dietary change, according to Wilson, is “a hedonic shift” in attitudes toward food—a reorienting of our palates that would render broccoli at least as delicious as cookies. “When our preferences are in order,” she argues, “nutrition should take care of itself.” Better yet, the trick to learning to love cruciferous greens turns out to be relatively simple: repeated, positive exposure to broccoli and its cousins. To prove how malleable our palates can be, Wilson marshals an array of case studies and experiments that have examined the human ability to shape and reshape food preferences.

Source: Teaching Grownups How to Eat | The New Yorker

Bee Wilson’s last book was terrific. ‘First Bite’ sounds just as intriguing; not just because my son will start to eat proper food in the next few months, and I can’t wait to see how he reacts to the food we eat, but also because we have a huge societal problem on our hands and (re-)learning about food, its origins and impact should be high up any forward-thinking government’s todo list.

A limit to human longevity

Brian Resnick reports for The Verge on how the average human lifespan is increasing, but the maximum remains constant:

The researchers analyzed the Human Mortality Database, which contains hundreds of years of population and mortality data for 38 countries.

They saw that while the percentage of people living to 70 has risen greatly since the 1900s (due to increased survival in childhood and better health care), the same cannot be said of people living past 100.

There are some gains in longevity after age 100, but they are much more modest. And the gains drop to near zero approaching 110.

By the time we reach later life our DNA has accumulated damage and our organs stop working. More of us are reaching later life, but there’s an apparent ceiling. The researchers estimate that a human living to age 125 is a once-in-a-10,000-year event. I can kiss goodbye to seeing the next century, then.