The resurrection of the Carolina African Runner peanut prompted me to look into the history of the peanut in West Africa, because that's where the Carolina African Runner came from. This is a bit of what I found, based mostly on papers by George E. Brooks and Stanley B. Alpern.
The resurrection of the Carolina African Runner peanut has been greeted with joy throughout the land. 1 That it came to America with enslaved people from West Africa is undisputed; few people, however, seem interested in what peanuts were doing in West Africa in the first place, given that their ancestral home is in South America. I decided to dig a little deeper.
The recent Eat This Podcast on foie gras, talking to Michaela DeSoucey, the sociologist who wrote Contested Tastes: foie gras and the politics of food, was really fun to make. Foie gras, the way it is produced, marketed and eaten is such a complex and interesting topic and Michaela DeSoucey is such a knowledgeable person that we talked for over an hour. The hard part was cutting it down to a more manageable length, and that meant that some stuff just inevitably had to be left out.
The David and Goliath story of plucky little Hampton Creek vs Big Egg and Big Mayo continues to entertain. I've written a follow up piece over at Eat This Podcast, the gist of which is that all the fuss about eggless mayonnaise is over an ingredient that is present in such small quantities that it isn't even declared on the label.
Amy Trubek, my guest on the latest Eat This Podcast, studies cheese and maple syrup, separately. This post suggests she bring them together.
When we spoke, Professor Trubek threw away a remark that first stopped me in my tracks and then sent me scurrying to the internet. Artificial maple flavour, she said, is made from fenugreek. Huh? I know fenugreek only as a somewhat pungent spice that I sometimes put in Indian food. To me, it smells of curries, not maple syrup.
What is terroir? I know what it is supposed to be -- "the combination of factors, including soil, climate, and environment, that gives a wine its distinctive character" -- but I don't really buy that people can taste terroir. I don't dispute that discriminating palates can distinguish this wine from that, or even this side of the river from that, although the evidence on that score is not overwhelming. I do dispute that terroir is an adequate explanation for either the differences between similar products or the unique characteristics of a particular product. And "product" by now has extended way beyond wine to encompass cheese, sausages, beer and, for all I know, much else besides.