The week that was (23 December 2016)


- Last week this article graced the cover of Bloomberg Business Week. You must read it. It’s an in-depth look at the tangled mess that antibiotics have made in a centuries-old aquaponics system in China: “Chinese agriculture has thrived for thousands of years on this kind of recycling—the nutrients that fatten the pigs and geese also feed the fish. But the introduction of antibiotics into animal feed has transformed ecological efficiency into a threat to global public health.” Research suggests as much as 90 percent of the antibiotics administered to pigs pass though the animal un-degraded, which is subsequently passed directly onto the fish - this, in addition to the antibiotics that are actually added to the water to "prevent and treat aquatic disease outbreaks." Scary.

And don’t think this doesn’t affect you - imported seafood is everywhere and it's not just a matter of saying no to China. The article goes on to explain country-of-origin labels are not as clear cut as we would hope (at least in America) “… the distribution networks that move the seafood around the world are often as murky as the waters in which the fish are raised.” Also scary.

Read the article and then cross your fingers Mum ordered the local prawns this year ...

A few of my favourites from the year:

- The thoughts of poetic food historian Dr Pushpesh Pant (TWTW 14 January), among them: being fussy about food is "irrefutable evidence that one is serious about life"; the similarities between eating and sex, as the only activities that consume "all five senses ... marked by the same cycle of anticipation, ecstatic absorption and satiation, only this cycle is a much more frequent one"; and his plans to map Indian food - "I want to make a different kind of food map of India, one in which zones are demarcated based on what they traditionally use as a souring agent - tamarind or kokum, dried mango or vinegar, starfruit or lime - or what is the base spice for their gravies." Yes. Just yes. 

- The New Yorker’s annual food issue (TWTW 31 March), which had some excellent articles that varied from the history of Mezcal to a chat with Claus Meyer (co-founder of Noma); they also looked at the annual French agriculture exhibition and talked about “the quinoa of the future”.

The Sugar Conspiracy (TWTW 14 April): a story of scientist pitted against scientist (anti-sugar man vs anti-fat man) and how we found ourselves in the anti-fat fad of the '80s (as opposed to an anti-sugar fad). It’s a tale of dodgy board appointments, big business funding, popularity contests. I don’t agree sugar is solely to blame, but the tale of how fat was pushed out of our food while sugar stayed in (everything!) is sordid and fascinating.

- Saveur's French issue (TWTW 28 April): a wonderful tale of terroir through the eyes of some serious culinary stars: from the Aubrac (Wylie Dufresne on meeting Michel Bras) to Bordeaux (building the “Guggenheim of Wine”); from Lyon (Boulud on their acclaimed bouchons) to Normandy (the reign of apples and Calvados); back down south to the exquisite mountains of Chartreuse, home to the wild alpine roots that flavour the bitter French aperitif amer; and finally, to that beautiful part of the world where Provence meets the Med and the enchanting tale of Lulu Peyraud of Domaine Tempier, the epitome à la bonne franquette.

- Then there are the classics: Orwell’s fantasy pub, The Moon Under Water (TWTW 1 June) and anything by AA Gill. Go back to last week and click the links, except the one to Gill's last column for GT, which I mucked up. It's here