Cartagena Brings Food

Cartagena. The ceviche topped by a twist of plantain is from there. The sunflower-at-dusk building is the restaurant La Vitrola, tucked in beside the Spanish fortifications. Both are part of the NY Times article declaring Cartagena on the map for foodies and gourmets alike.

I’ve eaten at La Vitrola; my financier friend, fascinated by the restaurant, wanted to go there every night. La Escollera, salsa and rum and dancing, is just around the corner. But it’s not the best meal I have ever had in Cartagena. There was a small French restaurant, prix fixe, which produced an extraordinary menu the night my wife and I went there. Even that was no comparison to La Casita Vieja, a small joint in the center, long-closed, where I had one of those experiences I still tell stories about.

On the Caribbean coast the typical meal is sancocho de pescado, fish soup. And La Casita Vieja produced a long-simmered soup full of local fish and plantain and potato and cilantro, an extravagance in its richness and freshness. Trying to lure the tourists in, the soup was served in a large carved calabash with a spoon to match. But it was no tourist trap. The ceiling was low, the windows thrown open, and in the Cartagena heat, the fans thrummed and the smooth Colombian beer was the only thing that hinted at cool. I ate and ate that afternoon.

So if you are ever in Cartagena, sure, La Vitrola is a great place. But el sancocho, that’s the thing memories are made of.

With that introduction, here’s an eclectic foodie round up.

Michael Pollan, Farmer in Chief
What the next president should really do about our food industry; a great essay from the noted writer

Dan Sperber, Tasty Food for Anthropological Thought
Are there four universal tastes? And does anthropology and population thinking have anything to add? A new article in the Brain and Behavioral Sciences

Kim Severson, Seduced by Snacks? No, Not You
The psychology of indulgence

Maggie Fox, Calorie Overload Sends the Brain Haywire: Study
A bit overstated, obviously, but an interesting look at inflammation and immune reactions related to obesity

Peter Libby, What’s the Healthiest Diet of All?
A doctor tries to answer the question using a recent meta-analysis and talk of a commitment to a lifetime of healthy choices

Robin Marantz Henig, Losing the Weight Stigma
The rising tide of fat acceptance

Ed Yong, Human Gut Bacteria Linked to Obesity
Shifting bacterial balances and weight gain

Richard Knox/NPR, Chocolate Milkshakes on the Brain
A repeat, I know, but in a different category from last week… Genetic variation in dopamine response and blunted dopamine reactions to a chocolate milkshake while in an fMRI scanner – do certain people want more but get less pleasure? And does that affect weight gain?

Katie Freund, “Consuming Passions” – Appetite as a Mind/Body Problem
Brain vs stomach hunger

David Rieff, A Green Revolution for Africa?
The Gates Foundation focuses on agriculture in sub-Saharan Africa

Kim Severson, Calories Do Count
The resurgence of the calorie after all the fad diets – funny thing, energy in and energy out is related to weight gain and loss

Adam Voiland, 10 Things the Food Industry Doesn’t Want You to Know
Wellness initiatives? Well, not quite – the marketing and making of food is still for a profit

Maria Cheng, Scientists Try to Stop Hunger with Retooled Foods
Fighting obesity by engineering foods to make you feel full for longer

Elisabeth Rosenthal, To Counter Problems of Food Aid, Try Spuds
Potatoes should take their place alongside rice and wheat in feeding the world, including being proclaimed as a “way out of poverty”

Marilynn Marchione, Vaccine Slashes Diarrheal Illness in Kids
Results from just in the US for a vaccine against rotavirus, but this could be a game changer for a problem that kills millions of children

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