India’s first Chipotle-like assembly line burrito chain will open tomorrow, an experiment in cross-cultural fast-casual dining:
Three U.S.-based entrepreneurs on Wednesday are launching the first of a series of burrito restaurants in India. They picked India’s software hub as the location of their first-ever outlet, called “California Burrito.” The menu, which has been tailored to Indian tastes, offers dishes that are spicier than U.S. equivalents and offers a wide choice of vegetarian fillings. They will not be serving any beef or pork, which are taboo for the country’s Hindus and Muslims, respectively. … Drinks include Pink Nimbu Paani, an Indian take on the pink lemonade, which here includes chaat masala, a spice mix.
Saritha Rai has more:
“Bangalore is the perfect test market because it is the America of India. Many multinationals are here, people are well-travelled, but cannot find the food they are used to in the US,” said [Dharam] Khalsa. … The Indian palate is quite ready for Mexican food, [Bert] Mueller said: “It’s roti versus tortilla, chutney versus salsa and dal versus beans.” However, the trial runs suggest there are barriers. Many tasters during the trial un-wrapped the foil of their burritos, and proceeded to separate the rice, vegetables and tortilla. “Indians are not used to eating rice and roti together but we hope Bangalore will be the trendsetter,” said Mueller.
Late last year I grabbed drinks in Georgetown with Mueller, one of the company’s founders (and fellow W&M alum and Virginia Informer editor), just days before they left to start the project. Much was still up in the air then; some of the financing had yet to be worked out, and as the WSJ article mentions, getting licensed and acquiring a bank account in India isn’t easy. Apparently they’ve worked all that out — congrats, Bert!
In the course of progress as it’s defined by Big Government and Big Markets, certain ways of life, however honorable and productive on their terms, are gradually cast aside. For a long time, the family farm — and rural life more broadly — seemed to be on that list.
As Wendell Berry wrote in 2002, this relentless attrition has been both cultural and economic:
The industrial and corporate powers, abetted and excused by their many dependents in government and the universities, are perpetrating a sort of economic genocide — less bloody than military genocide, to be sure, but just as arrogant, foolish, and ruthless, and perhaps more effective in ridding the world of a kind of human life. The small farmers and the people of small towns are understood as occupying the bottom step of the economic stairway and deservedly falling from it because they are rural, which is to say not metropolitan or cosmopolitan, which is to say socially, intellectually, and culturally inferior to “us.”
But hold on?
Chrystia Freeland has a somewhat heartening feature in the Atlantic about a “renaissance” of rural life sparked by booming business for farmers. I say “somewhat” because these are large-scale family farmers — Freeland’s father owns 3,200 acres and rents another 2,400 in Alberta, Canada — who, I would wager, don’t meet the Berry standard of sustainability. Plus there’s the fact that behind this Farm Belt boom are many (shall we say) booming appetites abroad.
“The single most important factor in all of this is the changing diet in the emerging markets,” [agricultural consultant Chris] Erickson told me. “If people there go from earning $2 a day to $3 a day, they aren’t going to buy a Mercedes, but they are going to buy a piece of chicken or a piece of pork.” That translates into surging prices for feed grains like corn, soybeans, wheat, and canola, and surging farm incomes around the world.
While the escape from extreme poverty is certainly nothing to bemoan, one can’t help but suspect that increasing rates of obesity won’t trail too far behind.
Still, I think Freeland’s “rural renaissance,” such as it is, is heartening in this respect: It augers for at least a partial reversal of the long — and, we now know, immiserating — trend toward financialization that I’ve written about previously.
Hedge fund honcho Jim Rogers tells Freeland:
“Throughout history, we’ve had long periods when the financial sectors were in charge,” he said, “but we’ve also had long periods when the people who have produced real goods were in charge — the farmers, the miners … All of you people who got M.B.A.s made mistakes, because the City of London and Wall Street are not going to be great places to be in the next two or three decades. It’s going to be the people who produce real goods.”
In any case, do check out the whole article.
Until about three million years ago the ancestors of Homo sapiens were mostly vegetarians, and they most likely wandered in groups from site to site where fruit, tubers, and other vegetable food could be harvested. Their brains were only slightly larger than those of modern chimpanzees. By no later than half a million years ago, however, groups of the ancestral species Homo erectus were maintaining campsites with controlled fire — the equivalent of nests — from which they foraged and returned with food, including a substantial portion of meat. Their brain size had increased to midsize, between that of chimpanzees and modern Homo sapiens. The trend appears to have begun one to two million years previously, when the earlier prehuman ancestor Homo habilis turned increasingly to meat in its diet. With groups crowded together at a single site, and an advantage added by cooperative nest building and hunting, social intelligence grew, along with the centers of memory and reasoning in the prefrontal cortex.
The debate over “group selectionism” will rage on, but I think this much is beyond dispute: if our ancestors had not consumed meat — and subsequently learned to cook it — our brains would never have gotten big enough to morally reject it.
You probably heard about the study published last week in the Archives of Internal Medicine which links red meat to a substantially increased risk of death from all causes. The story has spread through flurry of news reports and proliferated through Facebook and Twitter feeds everywhere. From the New York Times:
Eating red meat is associated with a sharply increased risk of death from cancer and heart disease, according to a new study, and the more of it you eat, the greater the risk.
… after controlling for [smoking, body mass index,] and other variables, they found that each daily increase of three ounces of red meat was associated with a 12 percent greater risk of dying over all, including a 16 percent greater risk of cardiovascular death and a 10 percent greater risk of cancer death. …
“When you have these numbers in front of you, it’s pretty staggering,” said the study’s lead author, Dr. Frank B. Hu, a professor of medicine at Harvard.
Judging from these results, on top of the fact that health authorities have been telling us for decades that red meat is unhealthy, there can’t be any doubt that pulling back on all that pork and beef is a good idea, can there? Read More…
Amid this week’s debate over the meaning of a Vatican department’s call for regulation of the global economy, we should note that there are some Catholics who don’t endorse the status quo or a new global Leviathan — these neo-distributists both find fault with current market arrangements and seek local solutions. This position happens to be on display in a new edition of Commonweal, where TAC contributor John Schwenkler and his Mount St. Mary’s University colleague David Cloutier argue for an “Economy of Care,” and suggest that developing new arrangements might begin with the most basic and important commodity: food.
Since the anti-agribusiness movement hit full stride with the release of the “Food, Inc.” documentary in 2008, corporate farming has found itself back on its heels. But they’ve now launched a counter-assault, with support from their allies at the USDA and agricultural science departments.
The U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance (USFRA), newly formed in 2010, is in part funded through USDA-mandated “checkoff programs” — something akin to an industrial version of a homeowners assessment, a levy on commodities that in the past has paid for “Got Milk?” and “Beef, it’s what’s for dinner” campaigns — and is also underwritten by agribusiness giants Monsanto, DuPont, and John Deere. The group fired all cylinders on its $30-million-a-year PR machine last week, hosting a transcontinental infomercial called “The Food Dialogues.”
The “Food Dialogues” event, which took place simultaneously via video conference in DC, Indiana, and California, was billed as a “two-way dialogue about food, the future of food and how it is grown or raised.” ”The whole purpose is to create a conversation,” USFRA Chairman Bob Stallman told NPR.
In practice, the event was like a cross between televised town hall and “Meet the Press,” with ABC News anchor Claire Shipman serving as moderator. Using the former White House correspondent and wife of Obama aide Jay Carney was Madison Avenue genius; it provided what otherwise might have looked too much like a one-sided infomercial with an aura of seriousness, and gave the impression that agribusiness executives were interested in a genuine “dialogue” — not simply a stunt to rehabilitate their damaged image. Read More…
North Carolina, spurred by fears of E. coli contamination of food, has instituted a ban on restaurants serving hamburgers cooked rare or medium-rare. This is, no doubt, a great victory for public health.
But North Carolina’s lawmakers didn’t go nearly far enough. Cooking meat at high temperatures generates compounds called advanced glycation end-products, which damage cells and accelerate aging. And grilling red meat can create carcinogenic hetercyclic amines. Therefore, thousands of lives would be saved if the scourges of grill marks and tasty brown crusts were eliminated. But how can we protect ourselves from undercooking and overcooking?
There’s an easy solution to this dilemma. Regulators should require that all hamburgers be cooked through the sous-vide process, in which meat is placed in a sealed plastic bag and slow-cooked in a temperature-controlled hot water bath. This way we can ensure that beef patties are gently heated to a safe 155 degrees throughout.
Of course, we can’t ignore the fact that burgers come with bread—America’s silent killer. This needs to be stopped.
The dangers of red meat are well-known, too—but we must respect the consumer’s choices, after all. Therefore, the bunless, water-heated beef patties can be served with a prominent warning label, and you’ll be secure knowing that your family is safe.
At the end of a yearlong investigation and undercover sting, the federal government is finally taking action to bring down an interstate Amish raw milk operation run by the Rainbow Acres Farm in Pennsylvania. The moo-juice in question is unpasteurized and therefore its interstate sales run afoul of U.S. law. Law-abiding citizens can now go back to safely consuming milk harvested from controlled factory conditions from cows given optimum dosages of hormones and antibiotics.
For more background on raw milk’s devotees and detractors, see John Schwenkler’s 2008 piece on the milk wars.
New York may be taking the sheen off McDonalds’ golden arches, with a member of the city council proposing toys be banned from kids’ Happy Meals that do not meet nutritional standards.
While Happy Meal treats might seem to be the prime target, Mr. Comrie is taking aim at any fast-food meals that include toys to appeal to children.
Mr. Comrie’s bill, which he is to introduce in the City Council on Wednesday, would restrict toys to meals that contain fewer than 500 calories and 600 milligrams of sodium, and in which less than 35 percent of the calories come from fat (making exceptions for nuts, seeds, peanut butter or other nut-based butters). In addition, the meal would have to contain a half a cup of fruit or vegetables or one serving of whole-grain products.
The New York proposal is modeled on similar regulations adopted in San Francisco last year. Unlike many libertarians, I’m not in principle opposed to very local forms of moral paternalism. But in this case, the detailed nature of the nutritional regulations — no doubt “scientifically proven” — make the attempt look ridiculous.
Why don’t the city fathers make it difficult for McDonalds and other fast food restaurants to stay open in the first place, if they find the chains a menace to their citizens’ health and well being? Imagine growing up unaware that Happy Meals even existed! (Many New York City children are raised never having entered the suburban airplane hangers known as Walmart, for example — and the city apparently wants to keep it that way.)
At least the McDonalds-bashing councilman admits his own addiction to placating his children with Happy Meals:
I’m not healthy. I’m the typical parent with no time and limited options, so you’re grabbing whatever is going to make your child happy. My wife has yelled at me repeatedly for grabbing Happy Meals.
But public concern about McDonalds’ impact on childhood obesity doesn’t seem to have slowed the company down — the chain plans to hire 50,000 new workers on April 19.