Lab-grown food is no way to nourish the planet | Food

I agree with George Monbiot that it is essential that we curb the continuous expansion of industrial agriculture into precious ecosystems if Earth’s life-support systems are to survive. What concerns me is Monbiot’s solution (Embrace what may be the most important green technology ever. It could save us all, November 24). Close to despair at the failure of the world to take effective measures to curb this destruction, Monbiot is turning to technical fixes, such as precision fermentation, which can produce food without photosynthesis, practically from thin water. This means that 1,700 times less land is required to produce protein than in the world’s most efficient agricultural system.

But this hi-tech solution presents dangers. Even though Monbiot says that he would like poor countries all over the world to install fermentation tanks under local control, this seems unlikely. The technology, developed under corporate control, has been patented. Corporations driven by profits are unlikely to democratize control, and the technology is likely to be used by them to extend their reach over the natural world.

The only real hope comes from creating a massive global movement of climate activists, youth movements, traditional peasant movements, Indigenous activists and others. They have shown that it is possible to build resilient local food systems while protecting the ecosystem.

A sudden transition to the large-scale global production of cheap food by a tech fix could threaten the livelihoods of traditional communities when their knowledge is needed more than ever. While precision fermentation may have a

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Apple and calvados cake recipe by Fergus Henderson | Christmas food and drink

A wonderful all-rounder.

to serve 12
free-range eggs 3
vegetable oil 350ml
caster sugar 450g
salt ½ tsp
cinnamon 1 tsp
ground cloves ½ tsp
bicarbonate of soda 1 tsp
plain flour 425g
walnuts 140gfinely chopped
bramley apples 4, peeled and finely chopped
calvados 3 tbsp

For the mist
Breton cider 150ml
caster sugar 10g
calvados 1 tbsp

Line a 23cm diameter cake tin with baking parchment and set aside. Break the eggs into a bowl and whisk as you slowly incorporate the vegetable oil, then add the dry ingredients and whisk them into the egg mixture. Throw in the nuts, apples and calvados and fold so that all the nubbles are evenly coated.

We must stress that, at this point, your mixture will not look right. It will look as though you have too little batter, of too loose a consistency, too light coating too much apples and nuts. Believe in us! this is correct. Spoon the batter into the cake tin and bake in a medium oven (about 160C fan/gas mark 4) for 1½ hours.

When you have removed this glorious cake from the oven, make the mist by putting all the components into a pan over a medium heat. As soon as it has reached a boil, pour the mist over the cake and serve the slices warm, with chantilly cream.

From The Book of St John by Fergus Henderson and Trevor Gulliver (Ebury, £35)

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Science Has Decoded Comfort Food

Photo: Alliance Images (Shutterstock)

Photo: Alliance Images (Shutterstock)

When you think of your favorite food, what do you picture? For me, it’s nachos. Yet even as I’m thinking about the delicious pile of toppings that can really make the platter pop, I’m also picturing cozying up with a big old plate of the things in front of my favorite movie, sharing them with friends. When I crave nachos, I’m not only craving the taste but also the warm and fuzzy emotions that have surrounded my past nacho-eating experiences. And some of the nachos have been objectively bad, with burnt cheese or too many jalapenos, but even so, the dish maintains its association with positive memories. The New York Times posits that this mental connection defines our favorite comfort foods, more so than the flavor does.

What makes a dish “comfort food”

There is some direct science behind the notion of “comfort food”: eating anything at all triggers a release of opioid-based chemicals in the brain, and carbohydrates in particular increase serotonin levels. If you identify as someone with a sweet tooth, that simply means that you have stronger brain-reward responses to sugary foods.

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But it’s our association with memories that makes certain foods more comforting than others. Comfort foods are different in different cultures, The New York Times explains, because that association is with foods we were given by people who cared for us early in life. This is why foods typically associated with healing during sickness, like soup, are often seen

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