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Local Fruits and Vegetables Taste So Much Better. Why?

Plenty of social and political arguments can be made in
favor of the farmers market vegetables—but they also just taste better.

The Gilmer Free Press

When heirloom tomatoes are available at both the grocery store and the farmers market, and the grocery store is selling them for way less money than those sold by your local organic farmer, why would you choose the pricier variety? Plenty of social and political arguments can be made in favor of the farmers market tomatoes—but at the end of the day, they just taste better.

According to a study published in the August issue of the journal Appetite, that might not be an unreasonable claim to make. A series of experiments suggest that “moral satisfaction renders food of ethical origin subjectively tastier.” In addition to more altruistic desires for society as a whole—say, to reduce harm to the environment—the huge rise of the organic market over the past decade may be partly driven by that perception of better taste. Call it the farmers market marketing effect: If a food makes you feel like you’re helping the earth and your community, you’re going to think it tastes better.

The researchers conducted three experiments to prove their case: One involved an examination of data from a 5,000-person survey of consumer purchasing habits in eight European Union countries, and two experiments were conducted on small samples that tested how an individual’s sense of altruism and environmentalism influenced what food and beverage products they enjoyed.

“Only people who endorsed altruistic values derived moral satisfaction from consuming fair trade (vs. conventional) food,” the authors wrote, “and only people who endorsed biospheric values derived moral satisfaction from consuming locally produced (vs. imported) beverage.”

That the relationship between morals and taste is cyclical has been observed in other studies. New research from the University of Iowa found that “there really are a variety of reasons why people go to the farmers market,” according to Ion Vasi, the study’s author. He describes such a retail venue as a “moral market,” where it’s not only a question of flavor but of the social currency that comes from purchasing food that supports a community, a local economy, and a farmer you see every week who keeps shoppers coming back.

That moral satisfaction will, apparently, make everything you buy taste that much more delicious.

~~  Willy Blackmore - TakePart ~~

Bon Appétit: GRILLED PEACHES WITH RASPBERRY BUTTER AND AMARETTI COOKIE CRUMBS

The Gilmer Free Press

Ingredients:

Servings: 4

4 ripe peaches, halved and pitted
Un-toasted walnut or hazelnut oil (or olive oil)
1 tablespoon light brown sugar
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 tablespoon amaretto liqueur
1 tablespoon seedless raspberry jam
Vanilla ice cream or whipped cream, to serve
8 amaretti cookies, crumbled


Directions:

Heat the grill to medium-low.

Brush the cut side of each peach half with the oil. Set aside.

In a small bowl, mix together the brown sugar, salt, butter, amaretto and jam until smooth. Spoon a bit (about ½ tablespoon) of the mixture into the center of each peach half. Place the peaches, cut side up, on the grill. Cover the grill and cook until the skins begin to pull away from the flesh, about 5 minutes. About halfway through the grilling time, brush the melted butter mixture at the center of each half all over the cut side.

Remove the peach halves from the grill, being careful not to spill the butter mixture from the centers. Set aside to cool slightly, then serve warm or at room temperature topped with a scoop of ice cream or whipped cream and a sprinkle of amaretti cookie crumbles.

Nutrition information per serving: 360 calories; 170 calories from fat (47 percent of total calories); 19 g fat (9 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 55 mg cholesterol; 120 mg sodium; 46 g carbohydrate; 3 g fiber; 37 g sugar; 4 g protein.

How Your Coffee Grounds Can Help Save the World

The Gilmer Free Press

As if coffee isn’t amazing enough already. A team of researchers—who, yes, got the idea over a cup of coffee—are reporting in the journal Nanotechnology that soaking spent coffee grounds in potassium hydroxide and then heating the grounds in a furnace creates a material that can store up to 7% of its weight in methane, a greenhouse gas that Popular Science calls both “incredibly potent” and “much stronger than carbon dioxide.“ Further, the scientists write they were able to create their carbon capture material in fewer than 24 hours—“a fraction of the time” it normally takes. Trapping and storing methane is a double win for the environment: Not only does doing so remove the harmful greenhouse gas from the atmosphere, but it can also be used as a cleaner alternative to fossil fuels that can, say, power cars.

In their paper, the scientists explain that traditional methane storage methods involve compressed gas cylinders, a storage system they describe as “dangerous and heavy.“ That’s shifted attention to “low-weight” alternatives, and the researchers think theirs stands out. “The waste material is free compared to all the metals and expensive organic chemicals needed in other processes—in my opinion this is a far easier way to go,“ coauthor Christian Kemp of Pohang University of Science and Technology in South Korea tells Nanotechnology Now. The absorbency, he adds, turns out to be key: “It seems when we add the sodium hydroxide to form the activated carbon it absorbs everything. We were able to take away one step in the normal activation process—the filtering and washing—because the coffee is such a brilliant absorbent.“

Here’s Why Your Cat May Not Care When You Leave

The Gilmer Free Press

There are a lot of cats in the United States. Perhaps close to 95 million live with us as pets, reports the Times-Picayune. But does our affection for these feline friends move in just one direction? New research in the journal PLoS One suggests that domesticated cats are more independent than dogs because they have less “secure attachment” to their owners. In this case, attachment “is not simply an affectionate bond,“ the researchers write, but relates to “the carer being perceived as a focus of safety and security in otherwise threatening environments.“ Past research has indicated that some cats whose owners leave them alone display signs of separation anxiety, as dogs do. “But the results of our study show that they are in fact much more independent than canine companions,“ says lead researcher Daniel Mills. “It seems that what we interpret as separation anxiety might actually be signs of frustration.“

Behavioral scientists at the University of Lincoln in the UK tested this by observing cats in unfamiliar environments with their owners, with strangers, and alone. They were looking for three distinct characteristics of attachment: the amount of contact a cat sought, its level of passive behavior, and its distress when the owner was absent. Cats were, it turns out, more vocal when their owners left them than when strangers did, but they demonstrated no other signs of attachment, hence the possibility that the vocalization was not one of longing; the researchers posit it could indicate frustration or just be a “learned response.“ “Our findings don’t disagree with the notion that cats develop social preferences or close relationships,“ says Mills, “but they do show that these relationships do not appear to be typically based on a need for safety and security.“

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