Sunday, 11 August 2013

The Naked Food Anthropologist Rediscovers a Clockwork Orange


Occasionally when writing this blog I have worried about the number of observations I make about food. When thinking about this week's post, I couldn't help but notice the number of food story's there were last week. So when thinking about once again writing about food I found myself experiencing little spikes of anxiety, and thought I had better check out the legitimacy of such story telling. I needn't have worried. The International Commission on the Anthropology of Food and Nutrition (ICAF) have it covered.

The ICAF co-ordinates the work of anthropologists interested in applied research into food. Biological and social anthropologists are interested in the way food supplies may be affected by changes in energy systems, market structures, public policies, family composition (particularly women's roles) and technological change. My academic colleagues in Finland had long ago made me an honorary anthropologist so despite my ICAF membership needing renewing, I felt happier about sorting out this week's post.

I doubt anyone could have missed the so called £250k ‘Frankenburger’ story - an artificial beef burger, made from 1000s of cow stem cells in a laboratory. The new food product is called ‘in vitro meat’. I first heard the news on Farming Today as I travelled into work. As one might imagine the farmers interviewed were less than enamoured by the news. However, in the interests of fairness, shifting meat production from farms to laboratories would help cut down on the billions of tonnes of greenhouse gases released by livestock and of course requires 99% less land than beef farming. The World Health Organisation predicts that meat consumption will double by 2050.  I'm glad I'm a vegetarian. 

Last week included Black Wednesday, so called because it’s the first Wednesday in August that the majority of UK doctors in training change their clinical posts. International evidence shows a 6% increase in mortality over the Wednesday and the next few days. Anyway, last Wednesday there was a bit of good news from researchers at Harvard Medical School who advised that drinking 2 cups of hot chocolate a day will help improve blood flow, which has been linked to healthier brains, improved cognition and memory.

Those of you who read my comments in last week's blog about coffee will also be pleased to hear of the research undertaken by researchers at the Tel Aviv University who reported last week that eating a larger breakfast can help you lose weight. Arguing that it's not just what you eat but when you eat that makes the difference. The researchers, who gave women most of their calories either at breakfast or dinner, found that those on the breakfast plan lost an average of 19lbs and 3.3 inches from their waistlines over the trial, compared to only 7lbs and 1.5 inches for those on the dinner diet.

So there was a lot to contemplate as I finally got home on Friday. The something to look forward to over a large glass of red was the BBC Proms. On Friday evening the concert music featured was Beethoven's 5th. Not only is this a fabulous soul stirring piece of music, but along with Beethoven’s 9th symphony, it featured in the film soundtrack for ‘A Clockwork Orange’Against claims that the film incited violence and rape, it was withdrawn from public release by Stanley Kubrick, the film’s Producer and Director in 1973. For 27 years it was extremely difficult to see the film in the UK. It was only after Kubrick’s death in 1999 that the film re-appeared in cinemas and was reproduced as a DVD. I first saw the film in 1972, and then again in 2000, on DVD. Hearing the music on Friday took me back all those years to a very different place and sense of the importance of being able to defend the exercising of free will in a culturally very different society. But I never did drink 'milk plus'!