Welcome to FERN’s Friday Feed (#FFF), where we share the stories from this week that made us stop and think.
Despite detailed knowledge of the history and physics of carbonation, the exact reasons why the bubbles in champagne or the head on a beer gives us pleasure remain somewhat elusive. Part of the answer, write Roberto Zenit and Javier Rodriguez, may be that “[t]he interaction of carbon dioxide with certain enzymes found in saliva causes a chemical reaction that produces carbonic acid. This substance is believed to stimulate some pain receptors, similar to those activated when tasting spicy food. So it seems that the so-called ‘carbonation bite’ is a kind of spicy reaction – and humans (strangely) seem to like it.”
Angelica Rubio spent her childhood embarrassed by the fact that her mother had seen the face of Christ in a tortilla, a moment that over the years brought thousands of people to their door in New Mexico to see the enshrined tortilla, and launched a pop-culture phenomenon that culminated in the 2007 movie, “Tortilla Heaven.” But today, as a state lawmaker representing the border town of Las Cruces, she sees how the Jesus tortilla saved her family. She writes: [W]henever I’m tempted to lose hope, I find it again by thinking back to how my mom regained hers through a miraculous skillet burn on a freshly handmade tortilla.”
Gregg Popovich has won five NBA titles as head coach of the San Antonio Spurs. He recently became the league’s all-time winningest coach. He is also a legendary lover of wine and great food, with an obsessive and detailed knowledge of both. And he has been sharing elaborate, intimate meals with his players and assistants for as long as he has been coaching. It is a surprising secret to his basketball success. Says a former player: “I was friends with every single teammate I ever had in my time with the Spurs … And those team meals were one of the biggest reasons why.”
Roads & Kingdoms
In Shaoxing, street vendors have always sold chou doufu, a fermented tofu that is considered a delicacy, one of the city’s defining offerings. But chou doufu (literally “stinky tofu”) has long been dogged by rumors of all manner of adulteration, including the use of human feces as a fermenting agent. The Chinese have been worrying about food safety for years, and in 2015 the government adopted a tough new food-safety law. The ensuing crackdown is driving stinky-tofu sellers out of business.
A new study, which borrows from the anti-smoking “truth” campaign, finds that if kids are taught “how the food industry methodically engineers foods that are both bad for us and incredibly addictive–and then often targets children and low-income people with their ads”—they become more critical consumers and more attuned to healthy choices at mealtime.