FERN’s Friday Feed: Don’t like wine? It could be your tongue’s fault.

Welcome to FERN’s Friday Feed (#FFF), where we share the stories from this week that made us stop and think.

Probing the limits of taste

The New Yorker

Anne Fadiman never cared for wine. Her father, Clifton Fadiman, the essayist and critic, was a noted oenophile who once wrote an 8-pound tome on the stuff, but Anne found wine bitter and puckery and not much else — a fact that she didn’t admit until she was in her forties, partly out of shame. Her recent quest to understand why led to her discover that the palate isn’t always as educable as we are led to believe. Some of us, especially if we have more than the average number of taste buds (as is the case with so-called supertasters) or genetic variations that make us more sensitive to chemicals like the methoxypyrazine in green peppers and Sauvignon Blanc, will never learn to like certain foods. It’s not that Fadiman was a defective taster; her sense of taste was actually more refined than her father’s.

The Central Valley’s most notorious lawyer

Fair Warning

Anthony Raimondo made his career defending farmers and labor contractors against allegations of underpayment, discrimination and in some cases traffic fatalities when workers were transported under questionable conditions. His primary tactic: calling immigration services. To many farmers in California’s Central Valley, especially in the dairy industry, Raimondo is a hero. But for undocumented farmworkers and their advocates, the attorney is “a slime bucket,” in the words of Pete Maturino, an organizer with United Food and Commercial Workers. A federal appeals court judge once called Raimondo a “serial killer” because he essentially makes plaintiffs disappear. For his part, Raimondo says that groups like California Rural Legal Assistance shouldn’t be allowed to defend undocumented workers, who, he says, take public services away from low-income Americans.

The tsunami that keeps on giving — invasive species

Pacific Standard Magazine

Scientists say that “almost 300 species, including fish, snails, sponges, and many microorganisms,” are washing ashore in North America, having been ripped from the Japanese coast by the 2011 tsunami. The species have traveled roughly 5,000 miles and lived for years in the open ocean, something scientists previously thought impossible. Most of the animals made it thanks to large “islands” of plastic, according to a new study in the journal Science. The creatures were able to recreate enough of a coastal environment on these floating trash piles to not only survive, but reproduce. Researchers fear that the onslaught of foreign species could harm fisheries and even human health.

North Koreans helped make your Alaskan crab cake

New Food Economy

Earlier this week, The Associated Press revealed that North Koreans are working in Chinese factories, including a seafood processing plant where Alaskan crab is picked, packed and shipped to an international distributor in Rhode Island. Apart from the fact that the North Korean government is likely subsidizing its nuclear weapons program with the estimated $500 million it earns from sending its citizens to work abroad, one might ask why Alaskan crab is processed in China and then sent back to the U.S., only to be shipped around the world again? For starters, Alaskan processing plants are facing a labor shortage, since most Americans aren’t interested in getting $10 an hour to painstakingly pick crab meat. But it’s also just way cheaper to pay for Chinese (or North Korean) labor. As Charles Bundrant, founder of Trident Seafoods, said, “Something that would cost us $1 per pound labor here, they get it done for 20 cents in China.”

The solution to Florida’s worst environmental crisis is clear, but no one is doing anything about it

Field & Stream

In South Florida, a combination of Big Sugar, development and a government plan to tame the state’s wilderness has for decades poisoned what was once one of the most diverse fisheries in the U.S. Every year, the Army Corps of Engineers channels water full of nitrates and pesticides away from swampy land owned by U.S. Sugar and Florida Crystals, and into Lake Okeechobee, where the nutrient overload causes a massive toxic algae bloom in the middle of the lake each summer. During rainy years, the lake overflows, discharging polluted water south, into the Everglades and Florida Bay. But “the state’s political leaders have largely chosen to do nothing to fix the problem, even as the algae blooms reach crisis levels, as billions of dollars’ worth of real estate is fouled, as an aquifer that serves more than 8 million people declines, as Everglades National Park becomes ever drier, and as the salinity levels in Florida Bay skyrocket,” writes Hal Herring. No one is calling for an end to agriculture in the region, but simply for a thru-way to be built so that at least some of the water going south could be cleaned and filtered on its way.

Join us 11/9 for FERN Talks & Eats SF

We hope to see you at our upcoming FERN Talks & Eats event in San Francisco on the evening of 11/9, at the Ferry Building. In partnership with CUESA — the organization that operates the world-renowned Ferry Plaza Farmers Market — we’ll present “The Empty Plate: Fighting Hunger in the Age of Trump,” a spirited panel discussion about the state of hunger and food security under the current administration and what individuals, activists, and communities are doing to address it. Come to the panel and afterward enjoy a reception with bites from the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market. There is also a VIP dinner the night before! Buy tickets now!

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