Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Food Foolish Files #2: The Magnificent 7th Banana (A Parable)

In chapter 4 of Food Foolish, John and I write about the magnificent banana.  It happens to be the world’s favorite fruit.  Americans eat 27 lbs. of bananas on average each year.

Me, I eat a banana most every morning.  I talked myself into thinking that bananas stop my legs from cramping after I run or bike, but the truth is I just like them.   I figure at 300 a year, I eat about 936 ounces (@ 4 ounces each less 22% for the peel), or about 58 lbs. of banana.  That makes me very close to an expert on the topic.  A 58-Pound-Gorilla, so to speak.

Bananas come in bunches.  (You can quote me on that.)  So when I buy a bunch I might get, say, seven bananas.  (Remember, this is a parable.)  The first banana on the first morning is kind of hard and not real sweet.  The third and fourth morning’s bananas are perfect.  And the last morning?   Well, sometimes it’s not pretty.

But first, skip ahead in Food Foolish to page 125.  (What?  No copy yet?  See here!)  A study done in 1939—in the midst of the Great Depression—determined that the average UK household wasted about 3% of its weekly groceries. 

A recent study pegged the average weekly UK household food waste at about 25%.  What happened?

Friday, July 17, 2015

Modern Air Conditioning 113 Years Later: It Smells Like a Spring Day

Brooklyn, NY.  Now an artist co-op.  In 1902 it housed
the printing presses of Sackett & Wilhelms--ground zero of
modern air conditioning.
July 17 is the day we celebrate the invention of modern air conditioning, courtesy of entrepreneur Willis Haviland Carrier (1876-1950).  His first installation was at a Sackett & Wilhelms printing facility in Brooklyn, New York, in 1902.  

Our story of this seminal event and the extraordinary impact of modern air conditioning appeared in 2012’s Weathermakers to the World, part of the 110th anniversary celebration of modern air conditioning.   See Amazon for the book, or here for an interesting timeline and samples from the book.  I also wrote blog posts called Behind the Scenes, Visiting Ground Zero, and Taking Weathermakers to Basel.  And this is the video we did with CBS This Morning back in 2012.

Meanwhile, my Food Foolish co-author, John Mandyck, posted some thoughts on the 113th here.

It’s hard for most of us navigating through air-conditioned homes, cars and offices to comprehend just how miserable life was before a/c, even in temperate regions of the world.  And it’s also a measure of the pigheadedness of our ancestral grandparents that they were perfectly willing to cool a textile mill or bakery--but a front office or their home?  Never.  After all, what was life without a little suffering?

How Did We Cope?

Friday, July 10, 2015

Food Foolish Files #1: It's a Panacea

A panacea.  Not.
In Food Foolish we try to deliver two simple messages.

First, when we waste food, we harm people, damage the environment, deplete our land and water resources, reduce national security and slow the growth of livable, sustainable cities.  That's the bad news--and we spend considerable time in Food Foolish detailing where and how some of this harm is occurring.  (As Einstein said, or should have said, "If I had 60 minutes to save the world, I'd spend 55 minutes defining the problem.")  

But the second message, and the really good news is this: We don't have to waste food--at least not at the astonishing rate of one-third of everything we produce today.  Food Foolish profiles work being done by good people all around the world to improve harvests, enhance distribution, and change buying and eating habits.  

In a world where 800 million people are hungry and millions malnourished, food waste is one of the truly "big problems" facing humankind.  What makes it an especially compelling issue, however, is that reducing food waste is a panacea.

Panacea.  That's a word we don't get to use that often.  It means universal cure.  Elixir.  Wonder drug.  Magic bullet.