Zara’s Space on the Web – Musings

October 4, 2013

We don’t actually need to grow that much more food

Filed under: Economics,Food — zarazilla @ 5:46 am
Tags: , , , ,

I wrote this for a forum post on the Coursera Sustainability course I mentioned in my last post and figured since I spent time on it I might as well post it here!

Basically I am arguing that the Jonathan Foley TED video “The other inconveient truth”  that we were asked to watch says that we need to grow 2 to 3 times more food because of a growing population (the estimate is population stabilizes around 2050 at around 9.6 billion people).  So what they are saying is that you need 200-300% more food for 37% more people (assuming world population is currently 7 billion).  What do they base this off of?  That most demand will come from people in developing nations eating more meat and possibly turning food into biofuels.

I disagree that everybody needs/will be eating the amount of meat people in the current developed nations are eating and that we will continue to turn food into biofuel (which gives you 1.2 units of energy for every 1 unit you put in… in other words a very poor energy ratio).

Say, for the purposes of this point, that we reach our limit of food production, due to water, space, whatever before we get to 200%.  This is essentially a limit on the supply of food, which will naturally cause the price of food to go up.  Well the price of meat will go up much more than the price of grains/vegetables, because the cost of feeding livestock is competing against the cost of feeding humans, so the cost of meat will rise as a multiple of the cost of grains/vegetables.  This will cause less meat to be bought.
So yes, food will be more expensive, but it will still be affordable, and it will not be scarce.  Meat will become a premium product, just as it used to be 40 years ago in the developed countries and just as it currently is in the developing countries.  Nobody needs to eat meat 2-3 times a day 7 days a week, although certainly the richest will continue to do so.  But the middle class may cut down on the amount of meat they eat; although they will still be able to afford it regularly.  In fact the US is currently reducing meat consumption per capita.
The main issue I see is the issue as it is today – distribution/equality.  As food prices rise, will we once again leave behind the poorest while the richest chow down on meat that’s been feed the grains the poorest should have?  There will certainly be enough to eat, but not if everybody insists on eating meat 21 meals a week.
As for biofuels… I’d certainly hope our energy needs won’t be so severe as to continue using scarce food for inefficient bio-fuels.  As food gets more expensive, the cost-effectiveness of using it for bio-fuel should decrease, leading to people producing energy from other sources.  So if we are so desperate as to use expensive food for bio-fuels, then we are in a lot of trouble indeed.  I doubt this will happen though, as the cost of renewable forms of energy have become a lot cheaper to produce and continue on a downward trend.
(TL;DR) So let’s be clear – we don’t NEED to produce 3x more food.  We only need that if we want EVERYBODY to be eating cheap meat and to continue using inefficent biofuel sources.

December 25, 2009

Notes on Paula Deen’s Turducken

Filed under: Food,Recipes — zarazilla @ 1:09 am

Well I was going to post something else up here but it wasn’t very Christmassy at all, so I thought I’d save it for later and get on with this instead.

A couple weeks ago I threw a Turducken party and while I was planning, after a look around at what was available, decided on using Paula Deen’s Turducken recipe.

It is a really good recipe and everybody enjoyed it, but I thought I’d make the following notes in case anybody was interested in using the recipe.  The notes are UK-centric, but should benefit other people at some points too.

First note: You need at least a day of planning before cooking this thing!  I had an entire week and still had to hotfoot it to the local store for a couple extra ingredients. Make sure you read the entire recipe, have all the ingredients (more below), baked your cornbread, have your birds sitting in brine in the refrigerator overnight, and your bread dried in the oven for the cornmeal dressing!


Kosher salt, for the purposes of this recipe, is regular uniodised table salt in the UK, which is most salt sold in the UK, unless it advertises that it is iodised.[1]  Apparently the name stems from the fact that in the US most salt is iodised, and ‘koshering salt’ is used in Jewish butchers to draw out the blood and other impurities in the meat. Because ‘koshering salt’ is rather large grained, use less than the recipe specifies.  I forgot about this bit and ended up with very salty turducken.  Try about 3/4s of a cup when it asks for a cup.  NOTE however, that for other recipes you may want to use sea salt, depending on what the salt is for. Please have a look at [1] if you want to find out more.

Self-Rising Cornmeal – I looked all over for this stuff but it wasn’t stocked anywhere I could find. So what I used instead for 1 cup of the stuff was 1 tbsp baking powder, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1 cup fine ground polenta/corn meal minus 1 tbsp[2]. You should be able to find Polenta/corn meal in most every supermarket, try looking in the ‘exotic foods’ section.

Saltine Crackers – These are pretty hard to get hold of if you don’t know what you’re looking for.   Take a good look first before you wander into the shops!  Over here they are mostly described as ‘italian’ crackers and you can apparently get them in Tesco under the label ‘Doriano’.  I got mine in Morrison’s in a white pack with an Italian flag on it. Unfortunately I can’t remember the name brand right now, but I’ll come back and repost it when I can find it.


House Seasoning – I ended up with far too much of this stuff.  I would suggest making half of the recipe and you will still have far too much.

Cornbread Dressing – Similarly with the house seasoning, you make far too much of this stuff.  If possible, try to cut the recipe in half. I know it’s difficult what with 5 eggs!

Deboning – I got my butcher to debone my birds – I have no idea how I would’ve done it otherwise!  Similarly, when it came time to stitch it back up again, I handily had an ex-butcher on my team of cooks. Metal skewers with holes in them are handy for this! Otherwise you may need to poke two skewers in and thread the twine through between the skewers.

Cooking Time – Do allow an extra hour for prep time and at least one extra hour for roasting time. I eventually turned my oven up to 170 to get my birds to cook faster as there were 15 very hungry people around!

Vegetables – Because the turducken is cooked at such a low temperature, forget about roast potatoes and parsnips while your turducken is cooking. It does need to sit for 20 minutes after it’s done though, so you could do them then.

Okay I think those are all my notes. After reading all that I hope you’re not frightened off by the planning that needs to go into this thing, it IS well worth it in the end! Good luck and happy eating!

[1] Kosher Salt – Practically Edible

[2] Southern cornbread recipe –

P.s. Whilst researching my Turducken, I came across a Stuffed Camel Recipe. I asked Snopes whether it was real and came up with possibly the most amusing and entertaining single webpage I’ve had the joy to read in my 12 years on the internet.

October 8, 2009

I am yellow and I <3 Tofu

Filed under: Food — zarazilla @ 10:48 pm
Tags: , ,

Just to start off with, I should mention that having attended an international school for the first 8 years of schooling, I am pretty much colour blind when it comes to skin colour. Most of the time I do forget I’m oriental – or at least it just doesn’t play that much of a big factor in my life. I use my skin colour for a coarse joke or two (“Is it cuz I is yellow?”) but really, I live in a very sheltered (or blind) world when it comes to race.

That said, I’ve been thinking lately about tofu. This probably won’t come as a big surprise given the title of this post, but I really love tofu. And I’ve noticed that my british friends…. well they generally don’t. Even my vegetarian friend can only stand so much tofu. Me, I’d eat it three times a day everyday if I can get it.

Maybe it’s something to do with the difference in how it’s cooked. I’ve had tofu served in many different ways, deep fried with salt and chilli as a delicious snack in Indonesia (tahu goreng), fresh or steamed with oyster sauce and fried garlic (Mom makes this, don’t know if it’s actually a named dish?), cubed and served with pork and delicious spicy sauce (mapo tofu), stuffed with meat (Yong tow fu from Malaysia, where ‘towfu’ is the cantonese way of saying ‘tofu’)…
I’ve never had tofu cooked in the ‘British’ way, but I can imagine it may very well be terrible. I’m thinking soggy overboiled tofu, the way the British do… well… most of their vegetables!

But it’s not just that. White friends have tried the dishes I’ve described and still not been overly fond of tofu. Maybe it’s because they’ve not been brought up on it. Maybe it’s because they already have an idea in the back of their head that it’s not supposed to taste very good.

Or maybe, it’s because I’m just genetically predisposed to like tofu. Wikipedia tells me that tofu was invented in ancient China. I can very well imagine that tofu was the only protein that a lot of people in ancient China could get their hands on. So I can imagine that if you lived in ancient China, couldn’t get much protein apart from tofu, and you didn’t like it so much, well…. goodbye genepool!

I don’t know. I should say that I have a very very limited knowledge of ancient China and what people had access to. I could be completely wrong. But I do know that I like tofu a lot more than my white friends and, well, an interesting answer to that admittedly very minor conundrum would be genetics.

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