If you’re familiar with trends like clean eating or intermittent fasting, you might think diet culture is hovering at peak weird. But extreme takes on eating are nothing new.
According to historian of medicine Louise Foxcroft, fad diets have been around since the 16th century, when a tell-all weight loss book by Venetian merchant Luigi Cornaro became a surprise bestseller with tips on extreme calorie restriction.
In her book ”Calories and Corsets: A history of dieting over 2,000 years,” Foxcroft describes how new media helped diet gurus capture larger audiences in the 19th and 20th centuries.
“There’s a whole diet industry that feeds on itself and feeds on consumers,” she told HuffPost. “And there’s an enormous amount of money to be made out of it.”
But for much of the past 200 years, dieting trends induced more eye rolls than scholarship. That’s a missed opportunity, according to Cornell’s Adrienne Rose Bitar, the author of “Diet and the Disease of Civilization.” “Diets,” she writes, “stand in for the bigger debate about history, salvation, money, power … and all the other ideas that make the world worth thinking about.”
Of the historical diets featured below, many have remarkable parallels to modern eating trends. Like modern clean eaters and juice cleansers, transcendentalist Bronson Alcott aspired to self-purification when he founded his short-lived vegan commune in Massachusetts in 1843. And as an industrialized America turned more sedentary through the 19th century, fears that men were losing their masculine edge gave rise to lumbersexual-like trends including beard-growing and big game hunting. In the early 20th century, Bernarr “Body Love” Macfadden tapped into that manly market with an all-milk diet that he traced to the era when men bought wives using cows for currency.
From wingnut meal plans to sex-starved vegetarians, these diets are just as quirky as whatever your friends are eating this week. We’ve lined up some favorites and asked registered dietitian nutritionist Jill Weisenberger, the author of ”Prediabetes: A Complete Guide,” to weigh in on whether you should trade your keto cookbook for a 19th-century food philosophy.
Dieters Against Masturbation
Next time you eat a graham cracker, thank anti-masturbation crusader Sylvester Graham whose signature whole wheat flour — graham flour — is the main ingredient. The minister and physician, who died at age 57 in 1851, believed in a vegetarian diet without white sugar, refined flour or spices, foods he saw as rocket-fuel for sexual urges. (Like many contemporaries, Graham thought masturbation led to mental illness.) While graham flour has lived on, it’s clear the preacher would detest the evolution of the use of its flagship product ― with its sensuous melted chocolate and marshmallow stuffed between two graham crackers, the s’more is less a campfire dessert than an oozing sex grenade.
Nutritionist says: “There’s nothing in here that horrifies me, but it’s more restricted than it needs to be,” Weisenberger said. She’s unfamiliar with studies that support Graham’s whack-a-doodle claims about masturbation.
Chewing And Spitting
If you’re tired of talking diets over dinner, call a Fletcherite. Since the followers of chewing-advocate Horace Fletcher — a.k.a. the Great Masticator — believed in champing their food at the rate of 100 bites per minute, they weren’t big on cross-table chat. According to Fletcher’s diet theory, you can shed pounds simply by chewing every mouthful to liquid then spitting out any remaining solids. As he wrote his 1899 diet book ”Glutton or Epicure,” Fletcher knew critics of his diet plan thought spitting food at the table was disgusting. But he handily dismissed their concerns: “This is merely a bugbear prejudice,” he wrote, “It has no good reason.”
Nutritionist says: “It would take all the fun out of eating, and it’s based on nothing,” Weisenberger said.
The Milk Diet
Fitness guru Bernarr Macfadden hit the turn-of-the-century diet scene with washboard abs and deeply questionable advice. He liked fasting and raw foods, but his strangest meal plan was simple — if nearly indigestible. Following a period of fasting, Macfadden prescribed an all-milk regime that he believed would restore health, heal injuries and clean the body cells of “organic toxins.” For every 25–30 pounds of body weight, Macfadden recommended about one quart of milk, topping out at a gut-cramping 28 cups a day.
Nutritionist says: “What you would get from milk is protein, fat and carbohydrates, but you wouldn’t be getting any fiber or phytonutrients.”
The Fruitlands Diet
The proto-locavore, hardcore vegans of the Transcendentalist commune Fruitlands started each day on their Massachusetts farm with a cold shower, fruit plate and a glass of water. Along with a ban on slave-produced goods and animal products, the Fruitlands diet was meant to purge humans of animalistic qualities. That went beyond avoiding honey and eggs: Alcott also refused to fertilize with manure and avoided downward-growing crops like potatoes, beets and carrots. Those dirt-dwelling veggies weren’t compatible with the higher aspirations of the commune, which endured for just 7 months from 1843 to 1844.
Nutritionist says: “People have very weird ideas.” While Weisenberger points to studies showing benefits of avoiding animal fats, she’s concerned that the Fruitlands diet might not be nutritionally complete.
The Special K Diet
Celebrity dieters like Sojourner Truth and Henry Ford checked into what eventually became known as the Battle Creek Sanitarium in Michigan for intestinal spring cleanings over the years. The facility also eventually came under the supervision of Dr. John Harvey Kellogg.
Like Sylvester Graham, Kellogg frowned on sex, alcohol and meat, and believed he could freshen up America’s intestinal flora with grains that were processed to facilitate digestion. The corn flakes he invented were dual purpose—their fibers would sweep guts clean, while the bland flavor was designed to calm overwrought sex drives. If that didn’t do the trick, Kellogg prescribed a pint of yogurt daily ― half as a snack, half as an enema.
Nutritionist says: “I don’t see anything super weird about it, but by having processed grain instead of intact whole grains you’re reducing particle size, and that’s an important aspect of gut health.”
While these might seem edgy for the petticoat era, Bitar believes most dieting movements — from the milk diet to made-for-Instagram clean eating — aren’t as novel as they first appear. “They’ll be like, ‘Eat grapefruits and do jumping jacks,’” she told MagPost, “but actually look at them and they’re really conservative.”
Bitar’s research suggests that many of America’s historical diets are just variations on a theme. “All these diets react to ideas of newness and industrialization and the obesity epidemic and moral panic.” Often, she says, dieting gurus grope for the comfort of an imagined past.
Bitar, whose most recent work focuses on lab-grown meats, is concerned that Americans are so taken with nostalgia that they might miss key opportunities for positive change.
“The idea here is to return to a state of nature,” Bitar said. “Americans are so conservative … that it really sort of forecloses newness and innovation. There’s only so many ways you can eat meat or not eat meat, or eat carbs or not eat carbs.”
That strikes Bitar as a limitation when it comes to transforming how America eats. “Diets are really reluctant to embrace new technologies,” she said. “If it’s just going to be more of the same that’s not actually good for our food system.”
Crémant d’Alsace: The French Sparkling Wine You Should Be Drinking More Of
Champagne may still be king, but France produces plenty of great sparkling wine beyond the Champagne region too, and for a fraction of the price. There are eight appellations for crémant sparkling wine that’s produced in the same méthode champenoise with secondary fermentation in the bottle, resulting in a dryer wine with tighter structure and finer mousse compared to sweet prosecco. Crémants are required to be hand-harvested with a minimum of one year aging including nine months on lees, a labor-intensive production that ensures higher quality at a more affordable price simply because these wines don’t have the brand recognition of champagne.
You’ve most likely seen crémants from the Loire and Burgundy, but Crémant d’Alsace is an underrated gem, representing more than a quarter of the total production for the Alsace region and more than half of all French crémant. The Crémant d’Alsace appellation was only recognized in 1976, just one year after the Loire and Burgundy, so this is still a relatively new category. Bottles generally retail for $25 and under – as much as you’ll pay for a glass of champagne at a restaurant or bar.
Vineyards in Alsace ALLIMANT-LAUGNER
Julien Dopff pioneered sparkling wine-making in Alsace, after seeing and tasting champagne at the 1900 Paris Exposition and learning the secondary fermentation method in Épernay. He began by importing grape must from Champagne, but ultimately realized that creamy pinot blanc and Alsace’s other white grape varietals are excellent for making sparking wine as well. The crémant designation allows for the use of a wider variety of grapes than in champagne and in Alsace, sparkling wine is made predominantly from pinot blanc, pinot gris, riesling, auxerrois, chardonnay and pinot noir grapes.
Today, Dopff creates 10 different crémants, although only half of those are exported to the United States. The biggest producers of Crémant d’Alsace that you’ll find in the US include Lucien Albrecht and Pierre Sparr but there are many others. Some growers are reluctant to use their best grapes for crémant because they can fetch more making single varietal grand cru still wines. But here are five of the best:
Dopff Crémant Brut Nature Bio
This organic wine is made with zero dosage, for a bone dry 2.7 grams/liter of residual sugar. A foundation of pinot blanc is augmented with 35% auxerrois and 10% pinot noir for a bright yellow crémant with floral aromas. A creamy mouthfeel with notes of toasted apple make this one refreshing to sip on its own, and excellent with a variety of cheeses, seafood and pizza.
Allimant-Laugner Crémant Rosé
Strawberries andcherries pirouette across the palate in this elegant light salmon brut rosé madefrom 100% pinot noir, like all crémant rosés in Alsace. The family estate dates back to 1724 and today 29-year-old Nicolas Laugner works in the vineyard and cellar with his father. Half of their total crémant production is exported to the United States, so it’s readily available on the West Coast and Colorado.
Nicolas Laugner JEAN-PAUL KREBS
Domaine Muré is famous for their excellent pinot noir and the brut rosé is no exception. Only 5,000 bottles of this wine are produced each year and the delicate raspberry aromas bely a strong finish. This wine is made more like a still wine, without too much exuberance in the bubbles. Véronique Muré and her brother Thomas represent the 12th generation in the family business, which began in 1650. Véronique is also president of Les diVINes d’Alsace, an organization of women wine professionals in the region. You’ll find bottles in Texas and the Midwest.
Veronique and Thomas Muré DOMAINE MURÉ
Boeckel 2016 Crémant Extra Brut Chardonnay
Thomas Boeckel has the oldest chardonnay vines in Alsace, planted by his father in 1968, which he’s using to make an incredible organic crémant that could truly be mistaken for champagne with its fine mousse and racy lemon zest flavors. Boeckel only produces between 4,000-6,000 bottles each year with his small lot on the Zotzenberg Grand Cru and this wine will only get better with age.
The playful penguin on the front label hides a seriously complex wine, a crémant made with grape must for the tirage, thus using only wild, natural yeast for secondary fermentation. The current vintage is made from a blend of auxerrois, chardonnay and pinot gris grapes from the 2015 and 2016 harvest with hazelnut and brioche notes, persistent bubbles and a lingering saline finish.
Impossible Foods In Full Scale-Up Mode With Burger Manufacturing Deal And FDA Approval
In another big week for the plant-based meat industry, Impossible Foodshas entered into a co-manufacturing partnership with major food producer OSI Group to help the California-based startup increase the production capacity of its flagship product, the Impossible Burger. The company’s key ingredient, heme, which makes its burgers “bleed,” alsogot approval from the US Food & Drug Administration today, opening up retail stores as a new channel for the plant-based burger business.
The news follows a mixed quarterly earnings report this week for Impossible’s closest plant-based rival, Beyond Meat, and the announcement of a $720 million share sale that sent Beyond’s stock tumbling 15% yesterday. Increased demand for short bets on further declines in the stock price cause signal further trouble for the record-breaking stock.
Analysts put Beyond Meat’s mixed earnings, which included greater-than-expected revenues but significantly lower earnings per share, down in part to a need to ramp up production. Demand for plant-based meat is growing rapidly—up 37% from April 2017 to 2019—but both Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods have struggled to keep up with demand.
Both have entered into high-profile distribution partnerships to sell their plant-based burgers, and also sausages in Beyond Meat’s latest deal with Dunkin’ Donuts. But they have experienced outages that could continue, Beyond Meat CEO Ethan Brown admitted on the earnings call.
By partnering with OSI Group today, Impossible Foods, which now supplies 10,000 restaurants on two continents, is trying to do something about these shortages that have left some of its earliest customers without supply.
Emilie Hebert, the vegan blogger behind Emilie Eats, told CNET she was disappointed that smaller restaurants couldn’t get the supply they need.
“These restaurants took a chance on carrying a meatless burger when it was not yet the nationwide sensation we see today,” Hebert told CNET. “I love that we have a meatless option at large chains, but I wish Impossible Foods had ensured that they would be able to keep the burger in stock at their already participating restaurants before taking on these large contracts.”
OSI and Asia potential
OSI Group, an Aurora, Illinois-based company, is a private company but one of the largest food producers in the world, with $6.1 billion in revenues and a footprint across 17 countries and 65 facilities. Impossible, which told CNN this year that it was “not sparing any expense” in keeping up with demand, did extensive due diligence on how to scale production of its products before selecting OSI for the job.
The collaboration will start by adding short-term capacity to Impossible’s California facility but roll out further this year and thereafter.
“OSI has already installed equipment to make the Impossible Burger, and we’ll start seeing new capacity every week,” said senior vice president of product and operations Sheetal Shah in a statement. Shah joined Impossible Foods in May and oversees numerous functions including manufacturing, supply chain and logistics.
Vegan Meat Is Impossibly Popular
CAMBRIDGE, MA – JUNE 25: Soy-based vegan Impossible Foods beef is mixed with other ingredients before being prepared as meatballs at Clover Food Labs in Cambridge, MA on June 25, 2019. As the popularity of plant-based foods grows, keeping up withBOSTON GLOBE VIA GETTY IMAGES
According to the statement, working with Impossible will “help fulfill the OSI Group’s commitment to sustainable food production — one of the core prisms through which OSI management makes operational decisions.”
OSI could help Impossible build out its Asian business after launching the Impossible Burger in Singapore in March leading to a quadrupling of sales in restaurants in Hong Kong, Singapore and Macau; OSI certainly has the region covered with facilities in China, India, Japan, Philippines and Taiwan.
Production is plant-based’s biggest challenge
These latest moves indicate the challenges now facing the plant-based meat industry and that’s ramping up production. One founder of a production technology company thinks the whole system of plant-based meat manufacturing needs to be overhauled before it can become a true alternative to meat as many believe it could be.
“We’ve made advances in plant protein characterization and food science that have made plant-based meat more realistic than ever,” Christie Lagally, founder and CEO of Rebellyous Foods, wrote in an editorial on AFN last week. “But we haven’t solved these engineering issues that are largely responsible for high costs and low volume.”
She largely points to the antiquated nature of the extruders that process the crops into their meat-like food products.
“To this day – despite the high level of sophistication of these machines and their ability to make excellent protein products – extruders still haven’t been sufficiently re-designed for the ideal requirements of mimicking meat, like consistent moisture retention and achieving species-specific texture. Coupled with a lack of internal sensing or fiber evaluation, these limitations pose major problems for consistency and quality control without expert operators. Nonetheless, food extruders can carry a price tag of almost two million dollars for a single unit, severely restricting the production capabilities of startups in the sector.”
There are also imminent challenges in sourcing the raw materials needed for these products, especially startups relying on smaller-scale crops like pea protein as the main feedstock, according to Gerard Essink, founder of Bridge2Food, a conference organiser putting on the 13th edition of its plant-based foods summit this October.
“The demand for pea protein could outpace the supply when the current growth in demand from food service and retail will expand as rapidly as it now. Almost every week there is a new major global food service operator starting it extending their plant-based foods range”
Impossible, which has always relied on large-scale commodity crops, famously switching to from wheat to GM soy earlier this year for the Impossible Burger 2.0, is not likely to run into supply issues — although will ironically increasingly compete with the livestock sector for feedstock — but could continue to face manufacturing challenges as the company grows. However, with a recently filled coffers from a $300 million in Series E funding and approval by the FDA of its key ingredient heme as a color additive, it looks like Impossible will soon be hitting retail stores too. If this partnership with OSI clears up any remaining capacity challenges, there’s little getting in their way.
San Francisco’s Best New Restaurant Is Also Shockingly Affordable
When Laura Ozyilmaz was 19 and traveling in Turkey with her family (from Acapulco), she became so enamored of the culture and food that she announced, “I’m going to marry a Turkish man.” Just a few years later, she met Sayat Ozyilmaz, an Armenian Turk, in New York City, and he proposed within six months. Their honeymoon adventure? A two-month stage working in 24 different restaurants to explore their own culinary desires and ambitions.
The pair, along with co-founder John Litz, opened Noosh on Fillmore in San Francisco’s Pacific Heights in March of this year. Despite its completely casual ambiance and accessible menu, the food is among the most nuanced and complex to hit SF in a long time. And it’s incredibly affordable for our beloved but increasingly off-the-rails San Francisco. Laura says the concept, to serve food following in the tradition of the Ottoman Empire, is catching on — they’re already serving 1,000 guests a day, and there is usually a line out the door. I walked in to learn more about the Georgian wines they’re currently featuring through August, and I ended up with a culinary education.
Laura and Sayat Ozyilmaz, co-founders of Noosh. KIM WESTERMAN
Noosh is named after Sayat’s Armenian grandmother, whose recipes punctuate the menu. Sayat’s father ships special spice mixes from Istanbul, including one with marigold (which is the color of turmeric but has a more bittersweet taste profile) that makes its way onto the kale and mushroom flatbread, intensifying and elevating an otherwise simple dish.
Despite the volume of food produced in the kitchen, Laura is still making homemade halloumi cheese every day, this version served with honey and preserved green fig — again, a depth of approach that we usually don’t see at $8 per serving.
Homemade halloumi cheese, grilled and served with honey and preserved green fig. KIM WESTERMAN
Kebabs get equally attentive treatment. For $9, you get two generous skewers of beef that’s been cooked sous vide before being grilled, served with whole-charred cherry tomatos.
Beef kebabs with whole-charred tomatoes. KIM WESTERMAN
Dishes and cups are enamelware designed to invoke the aesthetic of the coastal Turkish town of Bodrum.
Two small plates that seem familiar open up entirely new worlds. Muhammara is made with red peppers, and here it’s garnished with roasted almonds and Urfa peppers, lending a subtle, smoky sweetness. And the yogurt, similar to labneh, is smoked with cherry and hickory wood and served with cucumbers sprinkled with Aleppo pepper. Both are served with homemade pita crafted all day to order in the restaurant’s wood-burning oven.
Muhammara with Urfa almonds. KIM WESTERMAN
Smoked yogurt with Aleppo cucumbers. KIM WESTERMAN
Beverage director Andrew Meltzer walked us through an array of wines from Georgia, a country whose winemaking traditions date back throusands of years before Europe got in the game. He first poured a bone-dry 2015 Orgo Blanc de Blanc sparkling wine that would go with anything on the diverse menu. He also taught us about the traditional roots of the amber wines that are still gaining traction among U.S. wine-drinkers, rendered orange by elongated contact with the grapes’ skins. The Orgo Rkatsiteli is a mellow wine that builds in intensity as you sit with it, traditionally fermented in a qvevri (earthenware amphora) to lend minerality and texture.
Andrew Meltzer discussing the Georgian wines he selected to pair with the menu at Noosh. KIM WESTERMAN
For dessert, try the “wild pistachio coffee,” which is actually menengiç, a relative of sumac that is ground into a paste and served like Turkish coffee (and has no caffeine).
“Wild pistachio coffee,” or menengiç, and chocolate muhallebi. KIM WESTERMAN
The lunch and dinner menu is one in the same, and the restaurant serves all day, with prices ranging from $6-$8 for appetizers, $12-$13 for sandwiches, and $7-$9 for kebabs. The Georgian wines featured through the end of August are available as a flight of five for $39, yet another bargain for a deep-dive into these impressive bottlings, several of which are available only at Noosh.
Noosh is the best new restaurant in San Francisco, with inventive and intentional food, lovingly made and served at a remarkably affordable price.
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