Bookmarks–February 12, 2024

Are Brie and Camembert endangered cheeses? Plus, intermittent fasting, plant protein and healthy aging and–in the kitchen–how to improve stir-fries and use up stale bread. All in this edition of Bookmarks, along with ruminations on the humble and woefully inadequate pizza box.

Beware: a cheese crisis looms

Monoculture is bad. I’ve shared articles that show why the lack of genetic diversity in our food systems is a problem–including this one, also from Vox. Here is another, focussed on the single strain of fungi now used in the production of popular cheeses like Brie and Camembert. 

Each hunk of Camembert or smear of brie is an ecosystem, an assortment of fungi and bacteria that turn milk fats and proteins into hundreds of different compounds. Those compounds produce the flavors, smells, and textures we love…In recent decades, however, the genetic diversity of some of those microbes has caved. And today, some of the most famous French cheeses rely on just a single fragile strain of fungi that is at risk of dying out.” (Vox)

Intermittent fasting: what is it, how does it work – and is it right for you?

My first introduction to intermittent fasting (IF) was through a friend who told me she was eating only once a day. I told her I could never manage that and dismissed IF as yet another extreme diet, best ignored. A diagnosis of prediabetes meant I had to rethink my eating habits, including the timing of my meals and snacks. One area of focus was post-supper snacking, which I eliminated almost immediately. I didn’t realize it at first, but I was practicing IF, albeit by extending my overnight fast, not skipping meals during the day. From the sounds of this article, the overnight fast is the safer way to do things. Overall, it offers a pretty good discussion of whether to try IF, how to do it, and the risks and potential rewards. 

Longo…only recommends 12- or 13-hour daily fasts, because we don’t have proof of long-term safety. ‘Skipping breakfast is associated with a shorter lifespan, more cardiovascular disease and lots of other problems,’ he says. ‘Just because you’re doing time-restricted eating, it doesn’t mean it’s good for you.” (The Guardian)

Want to age healthily? Focus on plant protein when you’re younger

I’m always wary of the “eat this and live longer” magic bullet kind of research that this article seems to be promoting but the study cited here is not of that variety. It took place over three decades, lending it a robustness that some studies lack, and is not focussed on one food or extreme changes. Rather, it suggests adding a small amount of plant protein to your daily diet to improve health in your senior years. (Limitations are also clearly laid out.)   

Past studies have linked higher intakes of plant protein in older age to protection against muscle loss, hip fracture and frailty…The latest research, however, is unique in that it examined the relationship between protein consumption in midlife and indicators of healthy aging three decades later…Consuming an additional 12 to 15 g of plant protein per day in midlife was associated with a 46-per-cent greater likelihood of healthy aging.” (The Globe & Mail

9 simple tips for how to make a stir-fry

In the spring of last year I bought a wok to inspire new ideas for my increasingly stale meal plans. I promised to write a series of posts about my wok journey but didn’t get very far. I still find wok cooking challenging; I’m particularly befuddled by the high heat and having to move ingredients in and out of the pan. I tend to overthink things and the wok book I bought–while excellent–is extremely comprehensive and probably not the right fit for my obsessive approach to cooking, i.e. following every detail of a recipe to the letter and not freestyling enough. So I was pleasantly surprised to stumble upon this article with 9 simple tips for stir-frying. For anyone wanting to stir-fry more, these tips are a good place to start. 

“Ah, stir-fries: the perfect weeknight fix. They’re quick to put together while also providing a balanced meal all in one bowl, essentially making them an ideal family dinner. But even though they’re quick and easy to cook, the technique deserves a bit of attention if you want to master the process. Here are nine simple ways to bump up the quality of your stir-fry tonight.” (Chatelaine)

How to turn stale bread into fresh pasta – recipe

I love an idea that reduces food waste and never would have thought that stale bread could be repurposed into pasta. It’s a very cool idea and you don’t even need a pasta machine. 

“Albert thinks leftover bread is one of the most versatile ingredients in the kitchen, and says his pasta recipe came from the need to use up stale leftovers after service: ‘We’ve been playing with leftover bread recipes since the beginning of Nolla, making everything – cheese crackers, ice-cream, crumbles, you name it. And we thought that, if bread is made from flour, we can probably make flour again.‘” (The Guardian)

You don’t know how bad the pizza box is

I’ve never given much thought to the effectiveness of the pizza box but this writer is absolutely right that it does a terrible job. But what is the alternative? Options from the past are reviewed, along with innovations that might work better but cost too much to gain widespread use. The article also references the job of “pizza consultant” which I did not know existed but would very much like to know more about. 

The basic issue is this: A fresh pizza spews steam as it cools down. A box traps that moisture, suspending the pie in its own personal sauna. After just five minutes…the pie’s edges become flaccid and chewy. Sauce seeps into the crust, making it soggy. All the while, your pizza is quickly losing heat. After 15 minutes, the cheese has congealed into dollops of rubber..” (The Atlantic)

Image of books: 95141101 © Dzhamilia Ermakova |

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *