An Open Letter to Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson

Recently, I discovered in my Facebook feed an interview with Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson in which a question was asked to Dr. Tyson about his opinion of genetically modified organisms. Here is a link to the original video:

Dr. Tyson brought up some good points, but predicated his argument on something that I’ve heard a lot with regards to recombinant DNA modification of organisms: that this manipulation is just like the manipulation that we have done with selective breeding over many thousands of years.

I disagree.

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The Secret Life of Beans

One of the best ways to improve culinary skill is to study just one ingredient or cooking method, trying to really understand how it works and how it can be integrated into disparate cuisines. I love doing this, despite the fact that it tends to lead toward me making all of the possible dishes that include, for example, lemons – and then having to eat them afterwards.

Your sacrifice shall not be in vain, my friends!

Recently, while casting about for a new subject, I decided that I didn’t know as much about beans as I wanted to. The timing was perfect – beans are considered a good luck food for New Year’s celebrations in a variety of cultures, representing money and prosperity (think about what “bean counters” are counting).

What is a bean, anyway? What makes it different than, say, peas or coffee? Is a green bean a bean? Are they really the musical fruit?

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Visions of Sugarplums

The holiday season is in full swing again: the same familiar music, traditions, family gatherings, and sugary treats that signify good times and good living. While each of us may celebrate this time of year in a different fashion, there are similarities across race, region, and religion that just seem to fit in with the winter holidays.

We’ve pretty much always loved the flavor “sweet”. Culinary anthropologists have traced sugarcane to Indonesia, where it was domesticated at around 8000 BC, and its first recorded refining was in India around AD 350. The domesticated cane spread quickly throughout the far east, and like many spices from the area, trade routes brought sugar through northern Africa and the Arab Empire, where its production met the western world for the first time. Crusaders encountered “sweet salt” on their journeys, and, returning to Europe, the modern sweet tooth had found root in the entire Old World.

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