Bookmarks–February 25, 2024

In this edition of Bookmarks, the impact of the Land Back movement on the environment and Indigenous food traditions, the lowdown on the “gut health” obsession, plus advice on salting your food, storing cooked rice and creating a tasty frittata that uses up leftovers. And, might we finally be seeing the end of white kitchens? 

The Land Back movement is also about foodways

An overview of the American Land Back movement which, at first glance, seems to be primarily about Indigenous land claims and sovereignty but encompasses so much more: improved environmental stewardship which can help mitigate climate change, increased biodiversity, and restoration of Indigenous foodways.  

For White and many other food sovereignty activists, the movement to return ancestral homelands to their rightful tribal communities is inherently intertwined with the movement to revitalize Indigenous foodways. She points out that the massive land loss Native peoples experienced due to settler colonialism—more than 1.5 billion acres across the U.S., according to eHistory’s Invasion of America project—has hugely impacted their abilities to hunt, fish, forage, and farm.” (Civil Eats)

‘Gut health’ has a fatal flaw

The gut is getting a lot of attention these days. While research is showing potential links between gut health and overall mental and physical health, there is a lot that is not yet known. That has not stopped food producers and “influencers” from capitalizing on the digestive health trend with spurious claims about the outsize benefits of products artificially laced with prebiotics and probiotics. Yes, those things are good in theory, but they’re best if they come from whole foods, not highly processed products that have little to no actual value. The moral of the story: approach products and testimonials about improving gut health with caution, and focus on a balanced diet with lots of whole grains, fruits and vegetables. 

“…the fundamental problem with the gut-health obsession is that ‘there’s no clear definition of a healthy gut microbiome,’ Corbin said. The makeup and balance of people’s microbiomes vary based on numerous factors, including genes, diet, environment, and even pets. This means that a treatment that works to rebalance one gut might not work for another. It also means that a product promoting a healthy gut doesn’t mean anything concrete.” (The Atlantic

Home cooks, take note: you’re probably not using enough salt

Salt is a tricky ingredient. We’re afraid to use too much, yet cutting back–even a little bit–can have a major impact on the flavour of a dish. As an ingredient, salt is not just there to add its own flavour, but to bring other flavours to the fore. That’s why it is so essential, as this article explains, while also recommending where to use salt and which types you may want to keep in your pantry.   

“‘Salt is critical because it helps enhance certain flavours. Without it, ‘the umami, sweetness and flavour will be diminished,’ says Aiko Uchigoshi, executive pastry chef at Toronto’s Aburi Hana, one of the first restaurants in Canada to receive a Michelin star.” (Globe & Mail)

Everything you need to know about reheated rice syndrome

Many years ago, when I volunteered in the snack program at my sons’ school, I was required to take a food safety course. (For the record, I highly recommend such courses for the excellent general knowledge they provide.) It was here that I first heard that bacteria in rice can cause serious illness. No one was pushing panic buttons; it was just an example used to explain the importance of proper storage and reheating of food. I was not aware that the bacteria-in-rice issue had been pathologized and labelled a “syndrome” but here we are. It turns out the remedy is a very simple one–cook your rice thoroughly and refrigerate your leftovers. 

“Like many foods, uncooked rice contains a foodborne pathogen known as Bacillus cereus — or B. cereus — and these incredibly heat-resistant spores can survive even when rice is cooked. According to the USDA, the microorganism grows best between 39°F and 118°F but cannot germinate in the cold (or invade acidic foods). Beyond that, increased salinity helps it thrive.”  (Food & Wine

Why the humble frittata is your weeknight cooking hero

Frittatas are a quick, nutritious, versatile meal and ideal for using up leftovers. Here’s everything you need to know about making a great frittata, any time of day. 

“Frittatas make great use of leftovers, cook up in 15 minutes and are mealtime-agnostic: they don’t feel out of place at breakfast, lunch, dinner, or any snack time in between. Plus, if you have leftovers, frittatas reheat quite well, making them a double leftover combo.” (Chatelaine

‘Kitschens’: how bubble-gum pink and retro appliances lend personality to hub of home

The white kitchen trend might finally be on its way out. I’m not one to update my kitchen according to trends–mine has counters and cupboards that are at least 20 years old–but I have always found white kitchens so incredibly boring. When I do think about updating my kitchen, it is always with an eye to maintaining the natural wood of our cabinets–another trend, according to Forbes–and using colour. As someone with a sizable collection of vintage glassware and serving dishes, the “kitschen” trend, focussed on bold retro colours, is very appealing. 

“‘The kitchen trend to know about this spring is the emergence of retro and colourful decor…Think ruffled cafe curtains, bold, bright stripes – and eclectic patterned tiles.’” (The Guardian)

Image of books: 252895855 © Ekaterina Elkina

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