As America has become more and more health conscious, one main targets of dieters is sugar.  But, is the rise of sugar substitutes solely for health reasons, or is in part a matter of popular culture and psychosociology?  In Roland Barthes’ Toward a Psychosociology of Contemporary Food Consumption, Barthes argues that “the development of advertising has enabled economists to become quite conscious of the ideal nature of consumer goods,” and that in certain cultures, the types of food we eat can, in some way, shape our social being.  In the introduction, Barthes mentions the United States’ sugar consumption habits, so I thought: should we contribute the increased popularity of new sugar substitutes, such as stevia, to social trends, or only as a healthy alternative?

Contrary to popular belief, stevia is a plant, and not a brand name, and was approved as a food additive in 2008 in the United States.  Between 2008 and 2012, there was a 400% increase in stevia-based products in the global market, and its popularity has grown exponentially since.  But, is this popularity increase caused because it is a healthy alternative, or because it resembles a new innovative way of thinking, or higher social standing?

In Breaking Bad, Lydia, a rich and powerful supplier of raw materials to Walter White, is often seen requesting stevia.

As seen in advertising and popular culture, the use of products such as Truvia has been associated with purity, naturalism, and higher living.  Compare the cost of a cup of sugar at $0.27, to the corresponding amount of Truvia, which ranges from $1.19 to $2.48. In the popular show Breaking Bad, Lydia,a very affluent and popular character is seen on multiple occasions requesting stevia with her tea.  With advertisements and society associating the use of the stevia sugar-substitutes with wealth and popularity, it begs the question: is it really our health that we are worried about, or are we using it for something else?

I was wondering what exactly the dish, “snow eggs,” was because I didn’t understand what it would look like or taste like after reading the recipe in today’s reading. I looked it up and found out that snow eggs is also known as “floating island” dessert and “eggs in snow,” and that it is known and made in many different countries that speak different languages. In France it is known as Oeufs A La Neige, Germany it is known as Schnee-Eier, and in Spain it is known as isla flotante. It was originally a French dish, so it makes sense that it was in a cook book used by James Hemings because he studied the art of cooking in Paris, France.

Snow Eggs is basically a fluffy, sweet treat that is “not overly heavy after a full meal,” according to About Food (http://frenchfood.about.com/od/desserts/r/Eggs-In-Snow-Recipe.htm). Generally, you beat up egg whites and sugar until it’s a fluffy, thick mix. Then you simmer milk and sugar together, and dollop the egg whites into the simmering milk so the egg white balls become poached. You use the milk you simmered the egg white balls in as a custard base for the egg white balls to sit on top in the finished dish.

Below is a basic representation of snow eggs made by today’s standards, but it is still probably similar to Hemings’ version of snow eggs.

This recipe beats egg whites together with sugar, cream of tartar, and salt. The custard that sits below the egg white balls in the dish, is made with milk, sugar and vanilla extract. It has a caramel drizzle on top to make it sweeter and tastier. I’ve seen other recipes that use fruit and a fruit glaze to drizzle over the top, like the caramel is here.

Below is a photo of Alton Brown’s Oeufs A La Neige. It has only two reviews on foodnetwork.com, but both give it 5 stars!

Alton Brown is consistent with the archetypal snow egg recipe by “floating” the poached egg white balls on a base of custard. He also uses vanilla extract in the flavoring of the custard, but he also uses vanilla bean, and he doesn’t use cream of tartar for the egg white balls, like the previous recipe did. He mixes up the recipe a little bit by topping it off with pistachios. I like Brown’s recipe because it is very descriptive in the processes you need to take to make snow eggs because it seems like it is a really hard dessert to make correctly, so it’s good to have detailed instructions.

Hemings’ recipe looked pretty bland and strange compared to some of the different versions I found online today, mostly because what I found online had pictures and more detailed instructions. It also makes sense that Hemings’ seemed blander because, as foods, fruits, flavorings have become more widely available and people have done more experimentation on what tastes good together, food today is so very much more extravagant then the old days in the 1790’s!

One big thing I noticed in comparing Hemings’ version with today’s version, is that he didn’t have vanilla extract to flavor his snow eggs, like all the recipes call for today, but rather he used “powdered sugar and a little orange flower water or rose water.” He also says at the end of his recipe, “A little wine stirred in is a great improvement.” I have to admit I don’t know how I feel about whipped eggs poached in sweet milk, drizzled with a little wine after reading the old cook book from Hemings, but after looking up recipes from our time, it looks like it really could be a tasty, light, fluffy dessert!

 

After reading the earlier blog post “Kids mimic parents’ diets from an early age”, I was curious to research more about how the behaviors of parents can have an affect on their child’s diet. The aforementioned post talked about how kids tend to mimic their parents actions when it came to selecting food in a supermarket, and related that to Thomas Jefferson’s “Query XVIII” about how children would treat slaves with kindness if their parents had done it first.

So to look at this affect that parents have on their kids eating habits, especially in America where unhealthy habits are running rampant, I looked at an article in the Huffington Post from earlier this year. Basically the article outlined eight factors for why a child would be more likely to be overweight and have a poor diet. The reasons that were outlined in the article were all directly related to the parents actions and habits. A few examples are; Parents having a weight problem, prevalence of junk food in the house, parents being couch potatoes, lack of a regular breakfast, lack of routine meal times… Just to give you an idea. In addition a parents bad habits can even have an affect on the child before the child is born. While this isn’t a behavior the child can mimic, it helps to show the power that a parent has over how their child grows up in regards to their own habits and health.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/kristin-kirkpatrick-ms-rd-ld/diet-and-nutrition_b_4827359.html

It makes sense that parents have such a huge affect on the way their kids behave in all aspects of their lives. If that’s the case then it is the parents responsibility not only to take care of their kids by providing, but instill good habits in their kids through example. Whether its treating everyone equally, or getting off the couch to exercise, or not eating fast food and sweets for every meal.

The inventory of the kitchen at Monticello was pretty standard, pots, pans, knives etc. But the reading caused me to think about the difference in a kitchen inventory today. In my early research it seemed that not much was different, while shinier, most equipment being talked about was just a more durable or more sanitary version of something that had been around for years. However, with enough diligent googling I was able to find the kind of innovation I had been looking for. Some of the applications relayed in this article may seem unnecessary but that is the beauty of cooking, necessity is just the beginning, the bread and water, everything after that is art.

This list of “Crazy Awesome Kitchen Gadgets” is a perfect expression of the way American’s feel about cooking. We want to have fun doing it, we want it to be simple, efficient, and safe, and ultimately we want it to taste good! In addition to that, this list shows the compatibility between American’s diet opinions and America’s opinions on other products, we love new and shiny things! Since the days of Edison and Franklin America has been obsessed with innovation and our obsession with food and cooking dates back to our very beginning. The combination of these two things that we see here, is very American.  With everything from an avocado slicer to a cherry pit remover, this list also encompasses the cooking practices of different cultures. Which is an essential part given that America is a mecca for foods and peoples of all cultures. So whether you need to make your own Chinese dumplings or you want all your pot lids to look like farm animals, this list has a gadget for you. Enjoy!

 

http://www.brit.co/kitchen-gadgets-roundup/

http://host.madison.com/daily-cardinal/uw-madison-sophomore-to-launch-new-food-delivery-service-on/article_325b31ce-4d17-11e4-b17c-5bf14fecc88d.html

This article talks about a college sophomore at the University of Wisconsin-Madison named Ethan Claes, who is spearheading a new food delivery service on his campus for students. The service, Envoy, uses a smartphone app that takes orders from users with a .edu email address, sends them to a delivery person, who then orders and delivers food from one of a number of options including Chipotle, Qdoba, Wendy’s, Noodles and Company and Pita Pit. The estimated time of delivery is 30 to 45 minutes and their is a tracking system to show users exactly where their food is in the process of being delivered. Claes plans to use 18 delivery people who work 8 hours during the week with flexible schedules, which would make it easier for students to work with Envoy. This is not the first iteration of Envoy as there are a handful of partners across the country.

I think this is a revolutionary idea and would love for this to be implemented in the future at Georgia Tech. At Tech, there are many students that are limited to on-campus dining options because they do not have transportation and this would allow for more options by including restaurants that do not typically deliver.

When I tried to read Hemings inventories, I had trouble reading his handwriting so I tried to find a transcription to compare it to. In the process of searching for a transcription, I keep finding that Hemings was the half brother-in-law of Thomas Jefferson. I thought that was interesting so I did a little more research into his background. It turns out that Hemings father was John Mayer (as said in Jefferson’s “Agreement with James Hemings” description), a slave trader born in Lancaster, UK. He had six children with one of his slaves, Betty Hemings, after he was widowed for the 2nd time. Betty Hemings had 12 children in all. Illustrated in the partial family tree I haves provided below:

So the most important, or interesting parts of this partial tree, are Sally Hemings’ and Elizabeth’s connections to John Wayles and Thomas Jefferson. Sally and James were the children of slave owner, John Wayles, and mulatto slave herself Elizabeth Hemings. And then continuing the cycle Thomas Jefferson had children with Sally despite his marriage to Martha. This shows how common mixed children were in colonial slavery and also gives some insight into Jefferson was so open to freeing his slaves. I believe he realized that all men were really created equal seeing how so many of different races shared the same father. His half of his own children and the siblings of wife for instance.

 

 

Thomas Jefferson’s “Query XVIII” gives an eloquent argument on the hypocrisy stemming from the existence of slavery in the United States.  The book was published in the early to late 1780s, soon after the United States was formed.  A key reason for the United States breaking away from Great Britain was that they did not want to be controlled by an outside force that they deemed unjust or distant.  This led to the American Declaration which states that all men are created equal and that they have certain inalienable rights.  The existence of slavery in the United States stands as a direct affront to this claim.  The newly formed United States was formed to theoretically promote equality while simultaneously subjugating an entire people to forced, unpaid labor in what Thomas Jefferson calls “unremitting despotism”.

One of the most interesting things regarding this topic is that Thomas Jefferson owned hundreds of slaves during his lifetime.  Jefferson was one of the largest planters in Virginia and as such required a massive workforce to keep up his plantations.  It seems odd then that Thomas Jefferson would so thoroughly condemn slavery (and thereby himself) with statements claiming that slavery destroys morals and that God will one day wreak his vengeance upon those who disregard that all men were created equal.  Thomas Jefferson is also one of the key founders of the United States and he states “And [how] can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are of the gift of God?” just a few years after the Declaration of Independence is written!

I believe this writing combined with what is known about Thomas Jefferson’s life gives a great picture of the internal turmoil he was going through at the time.  Jefferson knew what he was doing was a direct contradiction to the mantra of the United States (which he was key in founding), but did it anyway.  The only hint at why he was able to keep living this paradoxical existence is that he states “man is an imitative mammal” and that “from his cradle to his grave [man] is learning to do what he sees others do”, meaning that since he grew up around slaves he found it difficult to live an existence without slavery.

As evidenced by the manners query, Thomas Jefferson clearly had a progressive attitude toward slavery when compared to others in the same time, but in the present day it would not be as such.  He is able to acknowledge the moral depravity of slavery when many others cannot.  His reasoning for rejecting slavery is simple, he states that God put everyone on earth and gave them their liberties and the act of slavery takes away another man’s liberties which is in direct confrontation with God’s will and will therefore incur God’s wrath.  Despite Jefferson’s stance on slavery, he did in fact have slaves of his own.  Jefferson freed many of them, but it still raises the question of why he had slaves when he was actively trying to abolish slavery.

In the query, Jefferson begins by describing how a master’s relationship with their slave will influence their child’s behavior.  He claims that children watching their parents “storm” at a slave will go on to imitate what they see and become morally depraved despots just like the parents.  This inheritance of ideals concerning slavery from one generation to the next, in addition to, the inability of all but a few “prodigies” to reject their experiences as a child (in Jefferson’s words: “The man must be a prodigy who can retain his manners and morals undepraved by such circumstances” ) serves to perpetuate the institution of slavery.

Despite this Jefferson claims that slavery will come to an end shortly, and as we know, that didn’t quite happen.  His reasoning for the necessary end of slavery was mainly political, he felt that slavery was the biggest obstacle to the newly created America, if slavery continued there would be an immense civil war the would destroy the United States (hint: he was right).  In order to avoid this Jefferson proposed a gradual emancipation plan followed by deportation of the free slaves to avoid a race war that would also destroy the united states.

 

In Query XVIII, Thomas Jefferson wrote that slavery and the treatment of slaves was furthered over the years partly from children following the actions of their parents. According to Jefferson, children watch their parents go about their ways. So if they see adults mistreat their slaves, the children, too, will mistreat slaves because that is all they have seen. Therefore, if parents treat slaves with kindness, the children will as well, thus making a more humane habit that could, possibly, lead the abolition, although slavery, to Jefferson, could only end by some miracle.

After reading this, I figured this practice by children would be relevant in any activity as children learn by what they see. The Indian Express Journalism of Courage Archive reported a study to evaluate this concept. Dr. Lisa A. Sutherland conducted a research study to find reasoning behind young children’s eating habits. Researchers put 120 children from ages 2 to 6 in a grocery store and told them to pick out any items they wanted. Parents, beforehand, documented which items they typically bought, such as the amount of vegetables, fruits, sodas, and junk food. The study showed that the children grabbed the same items their parents usually choose. So, a child does not naturally pick candy out of a lineup of foods just because it is candy. Rather, that habit is formed by the eating habits and preferences of parents: a child sees their parent eat a particular food and that child will, in turn, eat that food. Therefore, in order to ensure your child’s healthy eating habits, it is vital to eat healthy yourself.

 

http://archive.indianexpress.com/news/kids-mimic-parents-diets-from-an-early-age-study/381278/1

In Query XVIII, Thomas Jefferson points out a few very interesting points. He is attempting to describe the problem of slavery in the sense of a tradition being learned by children. Part of his explanation is that it would take a child with a determination not to follow in the footsteps of his father to break that tradition. Later he relates this to what it would take to turn America away from slavery. Jefferson seems to be stating that it would take an act of God to stop slavery. There are just too many forces against its abolishment.

It is very interesting that this was written in 1781, almost 200 years before the Civil Rights Movement. It seems Jefferson was way ahead of his time, already declaring some of the most important concepts of the Civil Rights movement, that all men are created equal under God, and that slavery is a direct violation of those rights.