The average American will eat 130 lbs of sugar every year during his or her lifetime. That’s a 650% increase over the 20 lbs per year that was consumed, on average, back in 1820. And while we all know that processed sugar is linked to a long list of health issues like diabetes, hypertension, headaches and depression it also contributes to a sort of dumbing down of our taste buds. The more sugar we eat, the more conditioned we become to it, and the less of it we actually taste.
Kenton Whitman has a lot to say on the subject of processed sugar and its stealthy partners, salt and fat. Whitman is the man behind ReWild University, a Wisconsin-based school for re-integrating human hunter-gatherer wisdom and “learning to live consciously in the world.” He’s one of a handful of people leading a movement to awaken some of our latent wild instincts and to develop an appreciation for our place in the natural world. One step in the process is rewilding how we appreciate flavor.
“Sugar actually decreases the pleasure we get from food,” Whitman says. “In very tiny amounts, it can enhance flavors, but it’s easily overused to the extent where it masks the true flavors of food. Instead of tasting the actual food, we just taste the sugar, and find ourselves craving more.”
In the movie Chef, Jon Favreau plays a chef on the edge who leaves his crazy white-linen job to run a food truck.
In the movie “Chef”, Jon Favreau’s character abruptly quits working for a posh L.A. restaurant that’s been squelching his creativity – as well as forcing him to work under a psycho boss, deliciously played by Dustin Hoffman. The disgruntled chef decides to follow his dream of opening a specialty food truck and the results are, of course, movie magic.
So is art imitating life? Are real-life chefs and would-be chefs quite as bold after they’ve been stifled creatively? Turns out yes, even if most interviewed won’t cop to being quite as miserable as Favreau’s Chef Carl was onscreen.
Pride of ownership
Oklahoma City-based chef Jonathon Stranger, co-owner of popular restaurant Ludivine, attended the world-class Institute of Culinary Education, yet in his early 20s his life was a mess. Working in restaurants seemed to fuel an alcohol-and-pills habit, in part because of the plentiful supply he found through working in kitchens, but mainly because of where his head was at.
Chef Jonathon Stranger went from recovery to creative riches with his world-class restaurant Ludivine, which has brought the farm-to-table concept to Oklahoma City, his hometown. Photo © Quit Nguyen
Andrea Adelstein hopes to revive the lost art of the dinner party by reminding us to keep it simple.
To all appearances, the dinner party exists mainly within the pages of magazines. Yes, there are block parties, progressive parties, underground restaurants, dinner with six strangers, etc. But what about those incredibly elegant, utterly everyday affairs we vaguely recall our parents talking about?
Andrea Adelstein remembers. The Tenafly NJ native looks back to her childhood and sees the candlelit, laughter-filled evenings when her parents invited guests over for dinner. Through her company NY Lux Events, Adelstein attempts to recreate the relaxed glamour of intimate dinner parties for small groups and large throngs. Recently she was asked to consult on an event honoring Hillary Rodham Clinton; they do weddings, bat mitzvahs, life celebrations and all other special occasions where food is a must.
We asked Adelstein a few questions about why dinner parties have fallen out of favor, and perhaps any hope for a renaissance.
Toque: Why have you felt called to bring back the dinner party?
Adelstein: Over social media, I see more and more people sharing photos of their food, swapping recipes and blogging about their dining experiences. Everyone is excited about food. Yet people do this from a distance, over the Internet. I believe it is time to reconnect in a more intimate and personal way. Time to bring people back into our homes.