Does Playing Music for Cheese During the Aging Process Change Its Flavor? Researchers Find That Hip Hop Makes It Smellier, and Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven” Makes It Milder

Humans began making cheese seven millennia ago: plenty of time to develop an enormous variety of textures, flavors, and smells, and certainly more than enough to get creative about the methods of generating even greater variety. But it seems to have taken all that time for us to come around to the potential of music as a flavoring agent. "Exposing cheese to round-the-clock music could give it more flavor and hip hop might be better than Mozart," report Reuters' Denis Balibouse and Cecile Mantovani, citing the findings of Cheese in Sound, a recent study by Swiss cheesemaker Bert Wampfler and researchers at Bern University of the Arts.

"Nine wheels of Emmental cheese weighing 10 kilos (22 pounds) each were placed in wooden crates last September to test the impact of music on flavor and aroma," write Balibouse and Mantovani. The hip hop cheese heard A Tribe Called Quest's "Jazz (We've Got)," the classical cheese Mozart's "Magic Flute," the rock cheese Led Zeppelin's "Stairway to Heaven," and so on.

Three other wheels heard simple low, medium, and high sonic frequencies, and one control cheese heard nothing at all. But perhaps "heard" is the wrong word: each maturing cheese received its music not through speakers but "mini transmitters to conduct the energy of the music into the cheese."

That may make more plausible the results that came out when a culinary jury performed a blind taste test of all the cheeses and found that they really did come out with different flavors. According to the project's press release, a "sensory consensus analysis carried out by food technologists from the ZHAW Zurich University of Applied Sciences" concluded that "the cheeses exposed to music had a generally mild flavor compared to the control test sample" and that "the cheese exposed to hip hop music displayed a discernibly stronger smell and stronger, fruitier taste than the other samples."

Or, as Smithsonian.com's Jason Daley summarizes the findings, A Tribe Called Quest "gave the cheese an especially funky flavor, while cheese that rocked out to Led Zeppelin or relaxed with Mozart had milder tests." Cheese-lovers intrigued by the possibilities implied here would be forgiven for thinking it all still sounds a bit too much like those CD sets that claimed a baby's intelligence could be increased by playing them Mozart in the womb. But if Cheese in Sound's results hold up to further scrutiny, maybe those parents — at least those parents hoping for a funkier child — should have been playing them hip hop all along.

via Smithsonian Mag

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

Jim Morrison Declares That “Fat is Beautiful” …. And Means It

There’s a bit of cognitive dissonance in a young rock god giving voice to the fat pride movement some four decades after his death.

Years before social media amplified celebrity weight gain coverage to the realm of national news, The Doors’ lead singer, Lizard King Jim Morrison, was the subject of intense bodily scrutiny.

The musician’s drug of choice—alcohol—swiftly added some extra cushioning to the sexy, shirtless young lion image photographer Joel Brodsky managed to capture in 1967.

That lean, leather-panted version is the one the Morrison director Patrick Smith went with for the Blank on Blank animation above, using audio from a 1969 interview with the Village Voice’s Howard Smith (no relation).

Occasionally animator Smith balloons the 2-D Morrison’s belly for humorous effect, but let’s be frank. By today’s standards, the 5’11 Morrison, who by his own estimate tipped the scales at 185lb, was hardly "fat."

Pleasingly plump perhaps...

Filling out...

Eating (and drinking) like someone whose bank account didn't require belt tightening.

His compassion toward generously proportioned bodies likely sprang from early experience.

As photographer Linda McCartney recalled in Linda McCartney’s The Sixties—Portrait Of An Era:

He … told me that he’d grown up as a fat kid that no one wanted to know and that this had caused him a lot of emotional pain.

Then he explained what had brought it all to the surface. Apparently he had been walking around Greenwich Village that morning and a girl who he knew as a child had spotted him and started going crazy over him. That bothered him because he sensed the hypocrisy of it all. When he was a fat military brat these people had rejected and ignored him but now, because of his new public image, they were fawning over him.

That “new public image” is the one most of us think of first when thinking of Jim Morrison, but as a flesh and blood exemplar, it was unsustainable. Photographer Brodsky reflects:

The shot on the inner sleeve of the Greatest Hits album was pretty near the end, I think. By that time, he was so drunk he was stumbling into the lights and we had to stop the session. Morrison never really looked that way again, and those pictures have become a big part of The Doors’ legend. I think I got him at his peak.

Morrison didn’t dwell on childhood miseries in his Village Voice interview, nor did he show any self-loathing or regret for physiques past.

Rather, he gave voice to the positive effects of his increased size. He felt like a tank, a beast—a body of consequence.

(To consider the implications of bodily size for a female in Morrison’s world, have a look at cartoonist Pénélope Bagieu’s California Dreamin’: Cass Elliot before the Mamas and The Papas.)

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine.  Join her in New York City March 11 for the next installment of her book-based variety show, Necromancers of the Public Domain. Follow her @AyunHalliday.

George Orwell’s Essay “British Cookery” is Officially Published 70 Years After It Was Rejected by the British Council (1946)

Image by BBC, via Wikimedia Commons

Voltaire once joked that Britain had “a hundred religions and only one sauce.” In my experience, that sauce is a curry, which was already a British staple in Voltaire’s time. No doubt he had something much blander in mind. Of course, it’s all hyperbolic fun until someone takes offense, as did George Orwell in 1946, when he wrote, against Voltairean stereotypes, about the misunderstood pleasures of British food. His essay, “British Cookery," was commissioned by the British Council, but they subsequently deemed that it would be “’unwise to publish,’” reports the Daily Mail, “so soon after the hungry winter of 1946 and wartime rationing.”

Not that it matters much now, but the Council has formally apologized to the deceased Orwell, over 70 years later. Senior policy analyst Alasdair Donaldson explains they are “delighted to make amends” by publishing the essay in full, alongside “the unfortunate rejection letter.” You can read it here at the British Council site. Orwell grants that the British diet is “simple, rather heavy, perhaps slightly barbarous… with its main emphasis on sugar and animal fats…. Cheap restaurants in Britain are almost invariably bad, while in expensive restaurants the cookery is almost always French, or imitation French.”

Elsewhere, he concedes, “the British are not great eaters of salads.” Indeed, he says, “the two great shortcomings of British cookery are a failure to treat vegetables with due seriousness, and an excessive use of sugar.” He does go on at length, in fact, about what sounds like a national epidemic of sugar addiction. Such lapses of taste are also what we would now label a nutritional emergency. He may seem to grant too much to critics of British cooking. But this is mainly by contrast with spicier, more vegetable-friendly cuisines of the continent and colonies. The kind of cooking he describes makes creatively varied uses of sturdy but limited local resources (except for the sugar).

Orwell’s brutal honesty about British food's deficiencies makes him sound like a trustworthy guide to its true delights. One of the truths he tells is that “British cookery displays more variety and more originality than foreign visitors are usually ready to allow.” The average visitor encounters British food principally in restaurants, pubs, and hotels, which, “whether cheap or expensive” are not representative of “the diet of the great mass of the people.” This may be said of many regional cuisines. But Orwell is devoted to a native British cooking which had, at the time, almost disappeared after six years of war rationing.

This cooking is rich in roast and cold meats, cheeses, breads, Yorkshire and suet puddings, potatoes and turnips. The British diet is, or was, Orwell writes, eaten by the lower and upper classes alike, under different names and prices. Seasonings are few. “Garlic, for instance, is unknown in British cookery proper.” What stands out is mint, vinegar, butter, dried fruits, jam, and marmalade.

Orwell himself included a marmalade recipe. (A handwritten note reads “Bad recipe! Too much sugar and water.”), which you can see below. Decide for yourself how much sugar to add.

ORANGE MARMALADE 

Ingredients:

2 seville oranges

2 sweet oranges (no)

2 lemons (no)

8lbs of preserving sugar

8 pints of water

Method. Wash and dry the fruit. Halve them and squeeze out the juice. Remove some of the pith, then shred the fruit finely. Tie the pips in a muslin bag. Put the strained juice, rind and pips into the water and soak for 48 hours. Place in a large pan and simmer for 1/2 hours until the rind is tender. Leave to stand overnight, then add the sugar and let it dissolve before bringing to the boil. Boil rapidly until a little of the mixture will set into a jelly when placed on a cold plate. Pour into jars which have been heated beforehand, and cover with paper covers.

An increasing number of people are cutting back or quitting nearly every main ingredient in what Orwell describes as authentic British cooking: from meat to dairy to gluten to sugar to suet…. But if we are going to give it a fair shake, he argues, we must try the real thing. Or his version of it anyway. He includes several more recipes: Welsh rarebit, Yorkshire pudding, treacle tart, plum cake, and Christmas pudding.

Orwell’s "British Cookery" wars with itself and comes to terms. He fills each paragraph with frank acknowledgements of British cuisine’s shortcomings, yet he relishes its simple, solid virtues. He writes that “British cookery” is “best studied in private houses, and more particularly in the homes of the middle-class and working-class masses who have not become Europeanized in their tastes.” It's a kind of cultural nationalism, but perhaps one suggesting those who want others to understand and appreciate a specific kind British culture should invite outsiders in to share a meal.

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

Nutritional Psychiatry: Why Diet May Play an Essential Role in Treating Mental Health Conditions, Including Depression, Anxiety & Beyond

For years neuroscientists have been trying to correct the old assumption that our minds are reducible to our brains. Research into what is known as the gut microbiome, for example, has shown that mood and mental health are intimately linked to the functioning of an ecosystem of microorganisms within the digestive system. As researchers write in the Journal of Neuroscience, “experimental changes to the gut microbiome can affect emotional behavior and related brain systems [and] may play a pathophysiological role in human brain diseases, including autism spectrum disorder, anxiety, depression, and chronic pain.”

Even Parkinson’s Disease has been linked to gut bacteria in studies performed by microbiologist Sarkis Mazmanian, who points out that “70 percent of all neurons in the peripheral nervous system—that is, not the brain or spinal cord—are in the intestines, and the gut’s nervous system is directly connected to the central nervous system through the vagus nerve.” Our guts also supply the brain with fuel, and it requires a “constant supply,” notes Dr. Eva Selhub at the Harvard Health Blog. “That ‘fuel’ comes from the foods you eat—and what’s in that fuel makes all the difference. Put simply, what you eat directly affects the structure and function of your brain and, ultimately, your mood.”

Such findings have given rise to the emerging field of Nutritional Psychiatry, which you can hear described in the TEDx talk above by clinical psychologist Julia Rucklidge. Initially taught that “nutrition and diet were of trivial significance for mental health,” Rucklidge, like most of her colleagues, believed that “only drugs and psychotherapy could treat these serious conditions.” But after encountering evidence to the contrary, she decided to do her own studies. Beginning at around 5:30, she presents compelling evidence for a dramatic reduction in rates of ADHD, PTSD, depression, and psychosis after dietary treatments.

That's not to say that drugs and psychotherapy do not play important roles in treatment, nor that they should be supplanted by a nutrition-only approach. But it does mean that nutritional treatments are shown by many fields of study to be effective and perhaps essential, for reasons consistent with widespread knowledge about the body and brain. “It is now known,” for example, as Joyce Cavaye reports at the Independent, “that many mental health conditions are caused by inflammation in the brain which ultimately causes our brain cells to die.” Inflammation is, in part, caused by “a lack of nutrients such as magnesium, omega-3 fatty acids, probiotics, vitamins and minerals… all essential for the optimum functioning of our bodies.”

Diets consisting primarily of highly processed foods and sugars are also a cause of inflammation. “Multiple studies have found a correlation between a diet high in refined sugars and impaired brain function,” Dr. Selhub writes. These diets promote a “worsening of symptoms of mood disorders, such as depression.” Processed foods with high carbohydrate content and few nutrients have created an epidemic of malnutrition among a significant portion of the population who otherwise seem to have plenty to eat. The situation seems to have majorly contributed to the corresponding epidemics of depression and other mental health conditions.

Nutritional psychiatry is not a fad or a program claiming to recreate the diet of early humans. While “a potential evolutionary mismatch between our ancestral past (Paleolithic, Neolithic) and the contemporary nutritional environment” merits exploration, as researchers write in an article published at the Journal of Physiological Anthropology, many more contemporary factors—such as economic development and the rise of scientific medicine—play a role in how we understand diet and mental health.

Rather than look to prehistory, scientists have studied the diets of “traditional” societies (those not reliant on mass-produced processed foods) in the Mediterranean and Japan. They have found a 25-35% lower rate of depression, for example, in those who eat diets “high in vegetables, fruits, unprocessed grains, and fish and seafood,” writes Selhub, with “only modest amounts of lean meats and dairy.” There is no perfect dietary formula, however. Everyone’s gut processes things differently. Dr. Selhub recommends cutting out processed foods and sugar and experimenting with adding and subtracting foods to see how you feel. (Nutritional experiments like these are probably best carried out after consulting with your doctor.)

Just as we will need to change the way we eat if we want to preserve our outer environment, the health of that rich, and no less necessary, inner world known as the microbiome will require what for many is a dramatic change in eating habits. Sadly, it is not a change everyone can afford to make. But for millions suffering from mental illnesses, nutritional psychiatry may represent a life-altering course of treatment.

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

An Animated History of Cheese: 10,000 Years in Under Six Minutes

We can now eat cheese nearly anywhere in the world, and most world cuisines seem to have found — to varying degrees of success — ways of working the stuff into their native dishes. But if cheese has gone and continues to go global, from where did its journey begin? The TED-Ed video above can tell you that and more, having been written by University of Vermont professor of nutrition and food sciences Paul Kindstedt, author of Cheese and Culture: A History of Cheese and its Place in Western Civilization. Titled "A Brie(f) History of Cheese," it begins in 8000 BCE in the Fertile Crescent and arrives at our avidly cheese-eating present in under six minutes.

Humanity's discovery of cheese happened not long after its implementation of agriculture. Left under the sun, the milk of domesticated animals would separate into a liquid, which we now call whey, and solids, called curds. These curds, says Kindstedt, "became the building blocks of cheese, which would eventually be aged, pressed, ripened, and whizzed into a diverse cornucopia of dairy delights."

Cheese gained popularity quickly enough to become a standard commodity, even a staple, throughout the eastern Mediterranean by the end of the Bronze Age. In the fullness of time, regional variations developed, from the hard, sun-dried Mongolian byaslag to Egyptian goat's-milk cottage cheese to south Asian paneer.

Some populations, of course, have an easier time eating cheese than others, and some individuals simply don't like it. But examined closely, few foods reveal as much about humanity's long efforts to nourish itself with as much efficiency and variety as possible as cheese does. "Today, the world produces roughly 22 billion kilograms of cheese a year," says Kindstedt, "shipped and produced around the globe. But 10,000 years after its invention, local farms are still following in the footsteps of their Neolithic ancestors, hand-crafting one of humanity's oldest and favorite foods." And the more you appreciate that fact — learnable in greater depth in the accompanying TED-Ed lesson, the harder time you'll have, say, turning down the cheese course when next you dine at a French restaurant. Cheese may be rich, but it's rich not least in history.

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

How the Astonishing Sushi Scene in Wes Anderson’s Isle of Dogs Was Animated: A Time-Lapse of the Month-Long Shoot

Since the moviegoing public first started hearing it twenty years ago, Wes Anderson's name has been a byword for cinematic meticulousness. The association has only grown stronger with each film he's made, as the live-action ones have featured increasingly complex ships, trains, and grand hotels — to say nothing of the costumes worn and accoutrements possessed by the characters who inhabit them — and the stop-motion animated ones have demanded a superhuman attention to detail by their very nature. It made perfect sense when it was revealed that Isle of Dogs, Anderson's second animated picture, would take place in Japan: not only because of Japanese film, which opens up a vast field of new cinematic references to make, but also because of traditional Japanese culture, whose meticulousness matches, indeed exceeds, Anderson's own.

Most of us first experience that traditional Japanese meticulousness through food. And so most of us will recognize the form of the bento, or meal in a box, prepared step-by-step before our eyes in Isle of Dogs, though we may never before have witnessed the actual process of carving up the wriggling, scurrying sea creatures that fill it.

One viewing of this 45-second shot is enough to suggest how much work must have gone into it, but this time-lapse of its 32-day-long shoot (within a longer seven-month process to make the entire sequence) reveals the extent of the labor involved. In it you can see animators Andy Biddle (who'd previously worked on Anderson's The Grand Budapest Hotel, and before that his animated The Fantastic Mr. Fox) and Tony Farquhar-Smith painstakingly positioning and repositioning each and every one of the bento's ingredients — all of which had to be specially made to look right even when chopped up and sliced open — as well as the disembodied hands of the sushi master preparing them.

Shooting stop-motion animation takes a huge amount of time, and so does making sushi, as anyone who has tried to do either at home knows. Performing the former to Andersonian standards and the latter to Japanese standards hardly makes the tasks any easier. But just as a well crafted bento provides an enjoyable and unified aesthetic experience, one that wouldn't dare to remind the consumer of how much time and effort went into it, a movie like Isle of Dogs provides thrills and laughs to its viewers who only later consider what it must have taken to bring such an elaborate vision to life on screen. If you want to hear more about the demands it made on its animators, have a look at the Variety video above, in which Andy Gent, head of Isle of Dogs' puppet department, explains the process and its consequences. "It took three animators, because it broke quite a few people to get it through the shot," he says. "Seven months later, we end up with one minute of animation." But that minute would do even the most exacting sushi master proud.

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

Watch Andy Warhol Eat an Entire Burger King Whopper–While Wishing the Burger Came from McDonald’s (1981)

In the early 1980s, Danish experimental filmmaker Jørgen Leth came to America intent on capturing it live as it was actually lived across that vast, still-new, and often strange country. The result, 66 Scenes from America, offers images of roadside motels and diners, desert landscapes, the Manhattan skyline, miles of lonely highway, and stars and stripes aplenty. Halfway through it all comes the longest, and perhaps most American, scene of all: Andy Warhol eating a fast-food hamburger. A few moments after he accomplishes that task, he delivers the film's most memorable line by far: "My name is Andy Warhol, and I just finished eating a hamburger."

"Leth did not know Warhol, but he was a bit obsessed with him so he definitely wanted to have him in his movie," writes DailyArt's Zuzanna Stanska. And so when Leth came to New York, he simply showed up at Warhol's Factory and pitched him the idea of consuming a "symbolic" burger on film. "Warhol immediately liked the idea and agreed to the scene – he liked it because it was such a real scene, something he would like to do."

When Warhol showed up at the photo studio Leth had set up to shoot the scene, complete with a variety of fast-food hamburgers from which he could choose, he had only one question: "Where is the McDonald's?" Leth hadn't thought to pick one up from the Golden Arches as well, not knowing that Warhol considered McDonald's packaging "the most beautiful."

Warhol had a deep interest in American brands. "What’s great about this country is that America started the tradition where the richest consumers buy essentially the same things as the poorest," he wrote in The Philosophy of Andy Warhol. "You can be watching TV and see Coca-Cola, and you know that the President drinks Coke, Liz Taylor drinks Coke, and just think, you can drink Coke, too. A Coke is a Coke and no amount of money can get you a better Coke than the one the bum on the corner is drinking. All the Cokes are the same and all the Cokes are good." Surely the same could be said of any particular fast-food burger, even if Warhol couldn't have his preferred brand on that particular day in New York in 1981. In the event, he chose a Whopper from Burger King, still a well-known brand if hardly as iconic as McDonald's — or, for that matter, as iconic as Warhol himself.

Above, you can see Leth talking years later about his experience filming Warhol.

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

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