Food Science

Ah, dear Cowpokes. If there’s one thing that remains completely reliable in the World of Woo, it’s that people will relentlessly find ways to re-invent, repackage and re-market good ol’ H20 as some kind of miracle product. For your delectation this morning, I present to you the following newspaper snippet that comes to you courtesy of the Weekend Australian and my fellow tweeps ((You see how I’m actually warming to Twitter, don’t you now?)) @johncarneyau & @DrRachie.

It is to laugh. Now, I have not dined in chef Teage Ezard’s restaurant ((I have food allergy: I’m allergic to anything that contains hogwash. It causes me to launch into long raves about how stupid people can be. Ask Violet Towne. She’ll tell you.)) but when I read something like this:

It’s one of the cleanest waters on the planet. It’s totally pure. And it gives the food a completely different flavour.

…I already know, without the need to do any further research, that the person saying it is a nitwit. Understand this, Mr Ezard: it’s not hard to make ‘totally pure’ or ‘clean’ water. Millions and millions of litres of it are created every day for one use or another. It’s done very simply: you boil it and condense it, or you filter it. THAT. IS. ALL.

But of course for block-headed pretentious chefs-de-cuisine and air-headed credulous journalist gourmands, that’s WAY too prosaic. They don’t want ‘pure’ water, they want magic water – ‘2000 year old’ magic water from the bottom of the ocean, in this case.

Whoa, hang on there Faithful Acowlytes – no need to bang the tin cups on the bars. Yes, water from the ocean IS salty, even if it is old. So how can it be ‘pure’? Well, to answer that question we must visit the source of Chef Ezard’s mystical water, ‘the island paradise of Hawaii’ and consult the makers of the product in question: MaHaLo Hawaii Deep Sea Water.

[Cue Hawaiian guitars and hula dancers]

MaHaLo Hawaii Deep Sea drinking water comes to you from the island paradise of Hawaii, 3,000 feet below the ocean’s surface, where the water is naturally clean, pure, cold and filled with healthy minerals and nutrients.

Aha! Naturally clean, pure, cold and filled with healthy minerals! Righty-ho, that’s easy – nothing left to do but bung it in some bottles and ship it to the customers!

Koyo USA Corp. pumps the water into its ultra-modern processing facility, where it removes the excess sea salt and tests it for purity and content.

Wha? They have a processing facility? And they need to remove stuff? And then do tests? So when they told us before that their water is naturally clean and pure, they meant, ‘kinda sorta’, it seems.

Deep Sea Water contains abundant amounts of essential minerals like potassium, calcium and selenium, plus minute amounts of many of the trace elements such as iron, copper, zinc, manganese and chromium, which are missing from common surface water.

Maybe that’s so, but that’s not what’s getting into the bottle, is it? ((And what’s with the ‘common’ surface water?)) What MaHaLo is asking us to believe here is that they treat water in such a way that they can remove the sea salt, make the water ‘pure’ and still maintain its supposed magical balance of minerals. I’m highly skeptical of this. What I reckon happens in the MaHaLo plant is that they desalinate the water, measure its characteristics, and then add stuff back to it. This is not rocket science, nor is it particularly special – it happens in water bottling plants all over the planet.

These trace minerals help humans absorb the vitamins in food and pass these directly into the system.

Actually (and I’m prepared to stand corrected on this matter) I was under the impression that it’s vitamins that help the body absorb metals and minerals and not the other way around. Whatever the case, it’s plain bunk that you need to get necessary trace minerals from drinking water; whatever you need you can get from a healthy diet.

In some cases, bottled water marketed as “natural spring water” with pictures of mountain streams and lakes on the bottles’ labels is nothing more than filtered tap water.

That’s right. And in some other cases, bottled water marketed as “natural deep sea water”, with pictures of palm trees and rainbows on the bottles’ label is nothing more than filtered sea water.

We at Koyo USA take these deceptive claims very seriously and strive to meet and exceed EPA and FDA standards for our water.

The implication here is that there is something rare or special about meeting or exceeding EPA and FDA water quality requirements – this is a wondrous use of weasel language. ALL bottled water and even normal tap water is required to meet those standards. MaHaLo should be doing more than striving – they should be guaranteeing!

There is no healthier way to obtain all the nutrition your body requires from water than MaHaLo Hawaii Deep Sea® Water.

Nutrition? Really? Er… actually, your body doesn’t require any nutrition at all from water. I think they’re getting confused with food. What your body requires from water is water. Counting on water to provide nutrition is almost as dumb as counting on air to provide nutrition.

But perhaps I have this whole affair arse-about. Maybe that’s what Teage Ezard is getting at with his fancy boil-in-a-bag haute cuisine: there’s no nutrition in the food itself, so he’s hoping you’ll get it out of the water! It’s at least as plausible as claiming that it makes the food taste any different. I guess Chef Ezard feels compelled to do something flamboyant with MaHaLo Deep Sea Water: for the $13,000 per pallet that they apparently charge for it, you’d certainly not be wanting to piss the stuff away. ((MaHaLo is certainly not spending any of their profits on their advertising. The commercial on their home page is one of the lamest, crummiest, least-persuasive ads I’ve ever seen. And I’ve seen some.))

[More silly water stories here, here, here (bonus material in Comments), here and here.]

I’m not one for patriotism. In this rapidly shrinking world I feel that the idea of ‘belonging’ to one country or another is as silly as forever waving a flag for the town where you were born ((Goulburn, NSW.)) But sometimes, sometimes, along comes an event that makes me truly proud to be Australian.

This morning I read in the Guardian of one such event. Ladies and gentlemen, allow me to announce to you, direct from Australia … Space Beer.

That’s right friends, the 4 Pines Brewing Company in Sydney, Australia, is proposing to go where no brewery has gone before by concocting a malty beverage fit for astronauts.

Humanity loves beer. We always have and always will. The Space tourism market is emerging and will take off in less than 2-years, with thousands of screaming, happy space fans booked on suborbital flights. Guaranteed some of them will want the option to enjoy a brew while looking at our big Blue Globe. Why deny them the chance?

Why indeed?! To this end, Jaron Mitchell and Jason Held from 4 Pines have developed their Vostok 4 Pines Stout, which, like good scientists, they have tested under the conditions in which it will be consumed.

A microgravity expert from the non-profit organization Astronauts4Hire (A4H) provided the test subject. The tester, who also works part-time as an in-flight coach for ZERO-G, had over 300 parabolas in microgravity. The tester consumed nearly 1-litre of the beer during weightless portions of the flight, while recording basic biometric data to track effects of the experiment.

This obviously gives the ‘vomit comet’ a whole new level of potential.

Making a brew suitable for consumption in zero gravity is not all beer & skittles though. There are a few obstacles to be overcome:

Beer aficionados will notice two differences when drinking in space. First, the sense of taste is reduced due to mild swelling of the tongue. Second, drinking beers can be uncomfortable—bubbles do not rise to the top, because there is no “top” in space. Gasses and liquids don’t like to separate. So if you have to burp, you will burp both beer and bubbles.

Hmmm. Beer-bubble-burps. Not something you might like to inflict on that groovy zero-g chick you have your eye on.

Undaunted, 4 Pines has pushed on to address these problems by re-engineering one of their previous award-winning beers to create the new highly-flavoured space stout.

This is not a “novelty beer” with the same bland taste as your normal stuff. This is a craft beer. It is meant first for people who love beer so it MUST TASTE SUPERB on Earth.

Of course you don’t need wait for your Virgin Galactic flight to sample Vostok 4 Pines – it’s already available Earthside. But only for Australians. Sorry foreign folks: that’s one of the perks you get for living in a country of innovation! ((I may have to acquire a few bottles and report back…))

Faithful Acowlytes! Have you always longed for an alcoholic beverage that contained its own hangover cure? Have you ever wondered why there’s a créme de menthe and a créme de cacao but not a créme de pork? Do you find yourself constantly disappointed that a Bloody Mary is a little too vegetarian for your taste? Well my lucky Cowpokes, your prayers ((This is a figure of speech. Praying doesn’t really work.)) have finally been answered. Allow me to introduce for your imbibory ((Yes, I’m aware that this is not a real word.)) pleasure Bakon Vodka. Bakon Vodka takes the clean clinical precision of superior quality potato vodka and smooshes its molecules with the smoked meaty taste of hog flesh.

In past musings we’ve featured vodka here on The Cow, and also brought to your attention the dawn of the pork-flavoured cocktail. It was of course inevitable that these two ideas would eventually coalesce into one streamlined commercial concept.

Bakon Vodka, promoting itself as Pure. Refreshing. Bacon. (‘pure’ and ‘refreshing’ being two words not typically found in the same sentence as ‘bacon’), claims to be a part of a burgeoning trend for ‘Carnivorous’ Cocktails. Sadly there are no further examples of this supposed fad on the Bakon Vodka website, which, as I’m sure you will understand, came as a great disappointment to me. ((I was anticipating all kinds of goodies: Smoked Salmon Schnapps; Andouille Anisette; Turkey Tequila…))

My despondency was short lived, however, when I found the Bakon Vodka recipe page. Oh joy! Here I discovered all manner of liquidy alcoholic bacon concoctions, including the Hawaiian Luau (Bakon Vodka, Pineapple Juice and Butterscotch Schnapps), the Scottish Bacon (Bakon Vodka and Scotch) and the Russian Rural Sunrise (Bakon Vodka, Orange Juice and Grenadine) ((I originally this read as ‘Russian Rural Surprise’ which I like rather better – I would like to suggest that the Bakon Vodka marketeers change the name.)), and Bakon Nog (Bakon Vodka and Egg Nog). That last is obviously something you’d drink at hogmanay.

And then there’s the Elvis Presley.

Yup. It’s the perfect way to toast your favourite overweight rock legend. The King is Dead! Long Live the King!

Great Moments in Food Science #211


☆July 23, 2004: University of Guelph Food Scientist Massimo Marcone tests Kopi Luwak coffee beans to determine whether passing them through the gastrointestinal tract of the Asian Palm Civet (or ‘luwak’) really makes them taste better.

‘The coffee cherry fruit is completely digested by the luwak, but the beans are excreted in their feces,’ says Marcone. The internal fermentation by digestive enzymes adds a unique flavour to the beans, which he said has been described as ‘earthy, musty, syrupy, smooth and rich with jungle and chocolate undertones.’

I… er…

In the United States of America, around 30 kilograms (66lb) of beef is eaten per capita every year. ((According to the Guardian article linked here. A search around the web mostly gives numbers higher than that.)) That’s over 9 million metric tons of cow meat. ((Or more than 10 million ‘short’, or US, tons.))

That’s a lot of cows. And a lot of cows take up a lot of space and use up a lot of feed. The Guardian reports this morning that Professor Richard Gradwohl of Washington state has come up with a solution to this problem by spearheading a drive for miniature cattle. Gradwohl’s farm boasts 18 breeds of miniature cows, including ‘microminiature’ varieties that stand just over a meter (one yard) tall. He claims that 10 miniature cows can be raised on the same amount of land as two full size cows, using just one third the feed and producing half the amount of methane. Sheer genius. Not only that, the tinier the cow, the better it tastes, according to the Guardian article.

Of course, here at the Tetherd Cow Ahead laboratories, the boffins were quick to see the potential of this scheme. “Why stop at merely ‘miniature’ cows?” asked the Head Boffin, “Surely if you make the cows even smaller you can make even greater savings and get even tastier beef!”

That’s why he earns the big bucks! To this end, I have set the laboratories to work creating the first nano cows. By my calculations, using the savings in feedstock and land that Gradwhol’s reductions in size have achieved, the shrinking of cows to nanoscale should mean that a million cows could fit on one square centimeter of farmland and would only need a blade of grass per year. On the five acre pasture that Gradwohl uses to raise ten mini cows, TCA Labs can raise trillions of cows, producing a billionth of the methane of conventional cows and yielding enough beef for one thousand billion billion McDonalds’ all-beef patties every month. ((Quoted statistics may or may not be entirely accurate – strange things happen at subatomic levels.))

I also have the labs investigating what happens when the miniaturization process ‘goes homeopathic’ (as we say in the science business). What this means is that once the cattle are shrunk past a certain size, Gilbert Einstein’s famous equation E=M¾ kicks in and the cows become ethereal. The beef yield simultaneously becomes infinite. Needless to say, the taste of flame-grilled steaks also improves immeasurably via this process.

Here in the Land of Shoo!TAG, I don’t see how I can possibly fail to get some investment interest.

One of the delights of being a Stranger in a Strange Land is discovering new and wonderful foodstuffs. In one’s own country, one is fairly familiar with the products on the supermarket shelves, but being abroad opens up whole new vistas of comestible possibilities. As I stood dazzled in the breakfast cereal aisle of the local Ralph’s, I wondered how I could ever pick just one from among the thousands of brightly coloured packages.

I thought I was reasonably circumspect in choosing Yogi Cherry and Almond Crunch.

Sounds alright, doesn’t it? All natural, no artificial thingummybobs, none of the dreaded high fructose corn syrup (that American food manufacturers seem to throw into everything with wanton abandon) and 5 grams of protein and 3 grams of fiber in every serving (although 3g of fiber – or ‘fibre’ as it is properly spelled – does seem a little on the shy side for something ostensibly made of grains).

So, anyways, I headed off home with my groceries and thought nothing further of it until breakfast the next morning, whereupon I poured myself a bowl of Yogi Cherry and Almond Crunch, splashed on some milk and bluuuuuuuurrrrghhhhhh! Gag. Gasp! How much fucking SUGAR is in this stuff!!! This is the sweetest breakfast cereal I’ve eaten since I was a kid. Sweeter even than Sugar Frosties! Let’s have a look at the ingredients:

Lotsa grains, evaporated cane juice, brown rice, almonds, but no suga….. waidjustafuckinggoddamnminute! Evaporated cane juice? EVAPORATED CANE JUICE!!!???

Yes folks, Yogi knows full well that the ‘s’ word is big minus mark when it comes to selling a ‘healthy’ product and so it doesn’t actually appear anywhere on the packaging. Instead we have evaporated cane juice. I almost find myself admiring their guile. Indeed, when I actually pay attention to the um… ‘creative’ language on the packet, it appears that various sugars make up almost a fifth of the volume of what’s inside the box of Yogi Cherry and Almond Crunch!

A little cereal with your sugar, anyone?

I’m also slightly uneasy about the cherry quotient, which is listed as cherry ‘powder’. Something about being able to turn cherries into a powder reminds me of anthrax. No, I don’t know either.


Disclaimer: Readers of this post should not infer that just because I chose to buy a cereal with the word ‘yogi’ in the name in any way implies that I am some kind of dippy trippy hippy. I was merely attempting to pick a cereal that had some modicum of healthiness. Plus, I always had a fondness for pic-a-nic baskets.


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