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Deep Fried Turkey In This Health Conscious Age

If you need evidence for why attempts to increase produce consumption based on health are so difficult, all you have to do is look at — in this supposedly health-conscious age — the increasingly common trend of deep frying the Thanksgiving Turkey.

If you need evidence as to the power of the media, just look at how deep frying a turkey, long a tradition in the bayou and parts of the American South, turned into a growing trend when Martha Stewart picked up this regional specialty and put it in her magazine in 1996.

If you are planning to try your hand at this delicacy, remember two rules: First, you only cook this outdoors; indoors is very dangerous. Second, remember it is an oil fire and you never put water in an oil fire. This means that the Turkey must be thoroughly defrosted.

What is the worst that can happen? Well fortunately the Big Bear City Fire Department has prepared a video showing us both what to do and what not to do. We have to thank these firemen for setting these turkeys on fire solely for our education:

Thanksgiving Chemicals

The American Council on Science and Health (ACSH) and its irrepressible President Elizabeth M. Whelan, Sc.D., M.P.H. are an important counter weight to scare-mongering pseudo-scientific organizations.

ACSH has often spoken out on pesticide issues with pieces such as…

An Unhappy Anniversary: The Alar ‘Scare’ Ten Years Later …

‘A’ is for ‘Asinine’: Alar and 60 Minutes

The Great Apple Scare: Alar 20 Years Later

ACSH has won widespread praise. The very distinguished Michael T Osterholm, Ph.D., M.P.H., Director Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy, University of Minnesota, for example, who showed great bravery in speaking out in the Perishable Pundit in the midst of the Salmonella Saintpaul crisis in a piece we called, Dr. Michael Osterholm, Esteemed Authority On Public Health, Speaks Frankly About The FDA, The CDC And The Incompetent Management of the Salmonella Saintpaul Tomato Outbreak Investigation, has said this of ACSH: “It’s hard to get people away from the extreme positions. That’s why I support ACSH so much… I believe it’s one of the most centrist and most intellectually honest groups we’ve got today!”

Just recently ACSH helped us get our widely praised piece critiquing the Center for Science in the Public Interest “riskiest foods” list before many prominent scientists by publishing a link in its “Morning Edition”:

Jim Prevor of PerishablePundit.comthoroughly debunked CSPI’s report and said of it in a letter to ACSH, “It was really a terrible disservice to consumers, who might forgo healthy foods because of being scared to death by this publicity, and to farmers, whose livelihoods will be impacted by such publicity. The list is a horrible misuse of surveillance data. It is basically a fundraising tool and a scare tactic to encourage a panicky adoption of food safety legislation rather than allowing for thoughtful consideration of the nature of risk.”

A really clever device that ACSH developed years ago was to publish a “Holiday Dinner Menu” that highlighted many of the naturally occurring chemicals in foods. What could more clearly show the hysteria of some over trace amounts of chemical residue when all food, quite naturally, is composed of all kinds of chemicals — some of them naturally occurring carcinogens — at least at high does in rodents!

You can look at the menu right here.

As it happens, some donors to ACSH have agreed to match donations made this week on a three-to-one basis. As a result ACSH has offered some incentives:

Thanksgiving marks the start of the holiday season this week, andACSH’s Holiday Dinner Menu takes a look at the festive cuisine that makes this time of year so special.

“The Holiday Dinner Menu is an ACSH classic,” says ACSH’s Dr. Elizabeth Whelan. “It shatters the myth that the mere presence of ‘chemicals’ in food is somehow dangerous.”

“It outlines in detail a few of the myriad chemicals we eat every day, including supposed ‘toxins’ and ‘carcinogens’ — all courtesy of Mother Nature — as exemplified by each course in a typical Thanksgiving dinner,” adds ACSH’s Dr. Gilbert Ross. “We eat these substances every day, and yet we suffer no adverse effects. If we treated natural chemicals as we do synthetic ones, banning those that at high dose cause cancer in rodents, there would be little left to eat.”

The Holiday Dinner Menu is a must-have for everyone’s library. In the spirit of ACSH’s 3-for-1 matching fundraiser, we have a special 3-for-1 offer for you: any donor who gives at least $50 this week will receive not only a free copy of our Holiday Dinner Menu (while supplies last), but also two other surprise reports from ACSH’s archives. It’s a great way to triple your impact as the season of giving begins.

You can donate by clicking here or calling toll free: 1-866-905-2694. Thanks and enjoy your holiday chemicals!

We’ve made our donation so that we can get the Holiday Dinner Menu, the free reports and so that our “giving power” can get multiplied through the 3-for-1 matching fundraiser.

If you are in a position to do so, this is a great way to give thanks that there are rational scientists out there willing to fight the good fight against junk science.

You can donate here and, if you can, do so now so that ACSH will get the benefit of the 3-for-1 match.

Arugula Shines At White House Dinner

The White House hasn’t announced what will be on the President’s Thanksgiving table but the menu for President Obama’s first State Dinner included a first course with “White House Arugula” — meaning it had been grown in the White House garden.

The First Lady, Michelle Obama, worked with the chefs to develop “a menu that reflects the best of American cuisine, continues this White House’s commitment to serving fresh, sustainable and regional food, and honors the culinary excellence and flavors that are present in Indian cuisine.”

It also turned out that “The desserts were garnished with mint and lemon verbena grown in the White House garden.” Gift bags included “a jar of honey from White House beehives.” Additionally, “Locally grown magnolias lined the dinner tent.”

The inclusion of arugula grown at the White House brought a chuckle. After all, then candidate Obama got in a bit of trouble while campaigning at a “Rural Issues Forum” he held in Illinois. The New York Times put it this way:

One line that landed a little flat, though, was when Mr. Obama sympathetically noted that farmers have not seen an increase in prices for their crops, despite a rise in prices at the supermarket.

“Anybody gone into Whole Foods lately and see what they charge for arugula?” the senator said. “I mean, they’re charging a lot of money for this stuff.”

The state of Iowa, for all of its vast food production, does not have a Whole Foods, a leading natural and organic foods market. The closest? Omaha, Minneapolis or Kansas City.

Mr. Obama, perhaps sensing a lack of reaction from the crowd, moved along to the next topic. After all, he never claimed to be a farming expert.

The exchange suggested some distance between candidate Obama and the American heartland, much as Michael Dukakis got in trouble during his ill-fated campaign for the President when he suggested growing endive as an alternative to grain crops.

Although many in the industry worked hard to get the President to establish a White House garden and saw it as a big win for the industry, we never got aboard that train.

We see American agriculture as, primarily, a high volume producer. When the First lady talks about eating “regional food” as if there is some special virtue in that, we see that as a defacto message to other countries not to buy our agricultural exports.

Even domestically, it is not obvious to us why the president of all the people and all the states should not be neutral as to whether the apples are from Virginia, New York, Michigan, Washington state or other places.

It is not that we opposed the garden, although we didn’t like all that talk about the garden being “organic” when it couldn’t possibly meet that standard for at least three years.

What we actually hoped for was that the Obama’s were doing it to teach their children, Malia and Sasha, what is really involved in growing, which is mostly a lot of hard work while the produce gets eaten by bugs and creatures of every type.

We thought we might hear some praise for the farmers and the hard work they put in and great difficulties they endure to produce food for us all.

Other than the occasional photo-op, though, it doesn’t seem like the Obama’s are actually maintaining the garden. We assume it is mostly maintained by the White House gardeners, which makes us think they could have bought the arugula cheaper at Safeway — or even Whole Foods.

Thanksgiving’s Journey Of Freedom

You Say Potato, I Say Yam is the title of a piece in The New York Times op-ed section written by Jessica B. Harris, an English professor and African-American woman:

On Oct. 3, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln declared the final Thursday of November to be a national holiday of Thanksgiving. That came just over a year after Lincoln made another more historic proclamation, one that directly concerned my family and their future: the Emancipation Proclamation, which had freed the enslaved in any territory “in rebellion.” …

Sweet potatoes are New World tubers that were adopted by enslaved Africans on the American continent. They could be grown in the temperate climates; they could be stored in mounds and used as needed to supplement meager rations. When cooked in the ashes of a dying fire, they were a sweet treat at the end of a bone-tiring day of toil. Most important, sweet potatoes were taken to the hearts and stomachs of Africans and their descendants in the United States because they recalled the true yam of Africa.

The yam, a large hairy tuber that bears no botanical relationship to the sweet potato, grows mainly in tropical and subtropical climates and is of primary importance to many West African societies. From Ghana to Nigeria, yam festivals celebrate the desire for a bounteous harvest and the continuity of life. In languages of the West African coast, including Wolof in Senegal and Umbundu in Angola, the tuber is so popular that some variant of the word “yam” simply means “to eat.”

Slavers transporting captives from those areas on the Middle Passage provisioned themselves with yams sufficient for the voyages. But once ashore in more temperate America, the slaves found that the African tuber was unavailable, and thus substituted it with the sweet potato — leading to centuries of botanical and gastronomic confusion. (More recently, though, true yams imported from the tropics have become available in ethnic markets in this country.)

Today Thanksgiving thrives as a beloved national feast celebrated by Americans of all ethnic origins and religions. It has expanded with the country beyond the traditional foods like turkey and corn and pumpkins that remind us of the Pilgrims’ feast and the generosity of the American Indians. On many African-American tables, next to the dressed bird, there will be a sweet potato dish, be it a casserole, a pone, a pie or the classic candied sweet potatoes topped with marshmallows.

We may call the starring ingredient sweet potatoes or, erroneously, yams, but no matter their appellation they are a culinary reminder of our national history and deserving of a place at the Thanksgiving feast.

Nearly 150 years after Lincoln’s Thanksgiving Proclamation, the United States has a first family that is a direct reflection of the Emancipation Proclamation that preceded the national holiday. It seems fitting, at our various communal tables, to muse on Lincoln’s two proclamations, to consider just how far we have come and to remember all that for which we should be thankful. I hope that at the White House they are serving sweet potato pie for Thanksgiving.

This has been a tough year economically and the country is riven with dissension on health care, cap-and-trade, the war in Afghanistan and much else.

Unemployment continues to rise, which means suffering continues to increase and, perhaps a quarter of the population owes more on their homes than the homes are worth.

Yet we think Professor Harris is right… it behooves us all to use this Thanksgiving to reflect on the journey America has traveled, a journey of ever-increasing freedom for ever-increasing numbers of people.

As bleak as things may seem sometimes, as difficult as one’s troubles appear, it is worth remembering that virtually everyone who reads these words is a lottery winner. For in the long history of man on earth, the vast, vast majority of people have been born in times and places where they never could dream of living the life that even poor Americans get to live.

On this quintessentially American holiday, it is worth remembering that there are few burdens in the world that could outweigh the enormous blessing of being born an American.

As we sit down at our Thanksgiving table, this Pundit will give thanks for his family, thanks that we have the opportunity to do useful and interesting work, thanks for good friends, thanks for science that saved the lives of both a child and a father, thanks that never one day in life have we ever known hunger, nor feared not having shelter or clothing, we will give thanks that we can worship as we choose and have the leisure to learn.

And, of course, we will give more than a little thanks that somehow, someway, people in every state and over 100 countries around the world choose to spend some time with this most Perishable Pundit.

Thanks and a Happy Thanksgiving to all.

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