Ashton Kutcher landed in hospital after following Steve Jobs’s fruitarian diet

Ben Child: Actor speaks of 'terrifying' health ordeal at the Sundance premiere of the Apple founder's biopic

Christian Bale is rumoured to have lived on coffee and one apple a day to achieve his emaciated physique in The Machinist. But not everyone is suited to unorthodox diets, as Ashton Kutcher discovered after adopting the late Steve Jobs’s fruitarian regimen in preparation for a new biopic of the technology magnate.

Speaking at the premiere of Jobs at the Sundance film festival on Friday night, Kutcher revealed that he went to hospital with pancreas problems after following a strict diet of fruit, nuts and seeds. Jobs, who was often reported to be a fruitarian, died of pancreatic cancer in October last year.

“First of all, the fruitarian diet can lead to, like, severe issues,” Kutcher told USA Today. “I went to the hospital like two days before we started shooting the movie. I was like doubled over in pain. My pancreas levels were completely out of whack. It was really terrifying considering everything.”

Kutcher also revealed that he spent hundreds of hours studying tapes of Jobs in an effort to accurately replicate his hunched walk and mannerisms. The actor said that he felt close to the Apple founder as they shared a fascination for “tech space”. He also revealed an admiration for his subject’s ability to bounce back after periods of struggle.

“He’s a guy that failed and got back on the horse,” said Kutcher. “I think we can all sort of relate to that in some place in our life where we are moving forward with something and we fall down. You have to have the guts to get back up and go again. I think I share that as well.”

Jobs, which covers the period from Apple’s founding in a garage in Palo Alto, California to the launch of the iPod in 2001, has so far received a lukewarm response from critics. Variety’s Justin Chang said Joshua Michael Stern’s film “more or less embodies the sort of bland, go-with-the-flow creative thinking Jobs himself would have scorned”, while CNET’s Casey Newton was unimpressed by a movie in which “the viewer spends two hours watching cardboard cutouts lose arguments to Ashton Kutcher”. Indiewire’s Eric Kohn, however, praised “Kutcher’s committed performance, certainly his most impressive turn in years, which conveys the character’s focused, manipulative intentions in each calculated look”.

Aaron Sorkin, the Oscar-winning writer of The Social Network, is planning a separate biopic based on Walter Isaacson’s bestselling official biography of Jobs. Sorkin’s version will reportedly comprise just three extended scenes, each capturing a point just before a vital product launch in order to portray Jobs and his biggest successes.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/film/2013/jan/28/ashton-kutcher-hospital-steve-jobs-diet

Farm Girl Caf, Chelsea: We don’t stay for dessert, because we have suffered enough restaurant review | Jay Rayner

The food was so bad, says Jay Rayner, a nearby Yorkshire terrier started to look more appetising

Farm Girl Caf, 9 Park Walk, London SW10 0AJ (020 3674 7359). Meal for two, including drinks and service 110

The menu at the Farm Girl Caf features lots of initials. Theres V for Vegan. Theres GF for Gluten Free. Theres DF for Dairy Free. I think theyre missing a few. There should be TF for Taste Free and JF for Joy Free and AAHYWEH for Abandon All Hope, Ye Who Enter Here. If you examine the companys website, and I would only advise doing so if you have strong teeth that can cope with a good grinding, you will learn that the Farm Girl group offers: A holistic and healthy yet comfortingly simple approach to Australian Caf culture. Nope, me neither. Apparently, they like to use nutritionally nurturing ingredients, which sounds rather nice. I could have done with a bit of nurture, rather than the dishes that came our way.

I have nothing against eating healthily. I have only one body and I try to look after it. My mother used to say that she hoped to die aged 98, shot dead by a jealous lover. She didnt quite manage it, but its an ambition Im happy to inherit. The menu here is omnivorous with a heavy emphasis on non-meat cookery, which is a fine thing. I like vegetables, me. They can taste really nice. But this sort of cooking does have to be done with skill, grace and, ideally, an absence of malice.

The Farm Girl Caf, Chelsea, is the third in a group which until now has stuck to charcoal or matcha lattes, and light lunches involving an awful lot of almond butter, avocado and something called coconut bacon, which you just know isnt. This is the first to serve dinner, and it does indeed look like a proper restaurant in a very Chelsea sort of way. Theres a giant blue Welsh dresser behind the bar, faux wooden beams across the ceiling and banquettes in a field shade of green. Its like a cartoon version of a farmhouse as imagined by someone who hasnt been in one.

It fills quickly on a cold winters evening, with blonde-tressed Chelsea women just bubbling with intolerances. They are fizzing with them, these dairy- and gluten-fearing dietary warriors, seeking sanctuary from the terrifying world of modern food. With them are their pink-cheeked, anxious-looking boyfriends, who clearly fear they are just one more rugby club, traffic-cone-on-your-head piss-up away from being chucked. A woman arrives clutching her Yorkshire terrier. They are given a corner table. The dog is offered a bowl of water and a plate of food and disappears on to the floor for dinner. At least somebody gets to eat well.

artichoke
The artichoke is just so much mushy leaf matter, and smells of a long Sunday afternoon in someones overheated suburban front room. Photograph: Sophia Evans for the Observer

From the small plates we order the whole (completely out-of-season) globe artichoke, which apparently is gluten free. Its tough to see how it would be anything other. It has been prepared by someone who either hates globe artichokes or has never met one before: boiled until it is as soft and rank as Grandmas cabbage, only with none of the glamour. It is just so much mushy leaf matter, and smells of a long Sunday afternoon in someones overheated suburban front room. The damn thing could be disposed of without the aid of teeth or, better still, using a composter. That would remove the middle man, which in this case happens to be me.

Paolas Market Veggies arrive in a bowl, with a grainy, deathly carrot hummus thickly smeared up the side, like someone had an intimate accident and decided to close the loo door and run away. At the bottom is a cashew aioli, which is the kind of discharge you get when you torture nuts. It tastes of raw garlic and nothing else. There are sticks of celery and hunks of cauliflower to dredge through this, alongside seeded crisp bread which is neither of the last two words. It is dense and hard and tasteless, as you imagine cork floor tiling might be, if it had somehow been repurposed as food.

Finally, from the small plates, comes tostadas piled with jackfruit, the latest hip, unconvincing replacement for meat. It is a fibrous tangle that gets stuck in your teeth on top of a violent, acidic sludge of guacamole. The jackfruit is described as being barbecued. This means it has been smeared with a blunt barbecue sauce of the kind they serve at pubs with a flat roof. Each of these dishes costs about 8. After this vegan calamity, this extraordinary display of dismal cooking, I find myself eyeing the Yorkshire terrier, greedily. Just hand him over, give me access to the grill, and five minutes.

turkey
The turkey schnitzel has the texture of something Timpsons might one day think about using to re-sole my brogues. Photograph: Sophia Evans for the Observer

Perhaps the kitchen can do better with something that once had a pulse. Or perhaps not. The crispy turkey schnitzel sounds nice. Apparently, it is encased in lemon and thyme-infused breadcrumbs, but tastes of neither of those things. It barely tastes of anything at all. The meat is overcooked and has the texture of something Timpsons might one day think about using to re-sole my brogues. A heap of pickled cucumber and radish is piled on top helpfully, to ensure the breadcrumbs go soggy. A side dish of roasted cauliflower is so undercooked that the knife barely manages to go through it. The one edible dish is a glutinous, cloyingly sweet vegetable curry. It would be regarded as an utter, shameful travesty by many in south-east Asia, but its not actively unpleasant.

We do not stay for dessert, because we have suffered enough. In any case they are mostly a list of ice creams and sorbets including a spinach, kiwi and coconut oil gelato, which sounds terrifying. What weve ordered so far, plus the second-cheapest bottle of wine, has already run up a bill of just under 100. Its not just the dismal cooking that pains me here. Its the squandering of ingredients and of peoples time and the tiresome narrative of wellness with which its been flogged. I feel especially bad about our waiter. Tom is a good man. He is charming, on point and utterly wasted here; he should do something more socially useful, like fly tipping or nicking cars. I whip out my phone and discover there is a branch of Honest Burgers nearby. One of their finest, served medium rare, a big heap of rosemary and salt chips and a hefty tumbler of cheap and cheerful sauvignon blanc is exactly what we need to make all those BTGW (Bad Thoughts Go Away).

News bites

The elegant glass box that houses the caf at the Garden Museum, just south of Lambeth Bridge, gives equal billing to both meat and veg, but does so with grace and good taste. A recent menu started with winter tomatoes with tropea onions, or cockles with bacon, followed by gnocchi with wild garlic and almonds or oxtail and lentils. Stay for dessert (gardenmuseum.org.uk).

Theres nothing clever about stupid high prices for food items, but its always good to have something to gawp at. Recently, on a trip round the refurbished Harrods food hall, I spotted Wagyu Kobe fillet A5, imported from Japan, for 62.50 per 100g. Or 625 a kilo. The minimum order is 500g. You do the maths.

Restaurant no-shows have become a serious issue in the industry recently. Two weeks ago, Edinburgh chef Mark Greenaway introduced a deposit scheme after recording 450 no-shows in a month. Now the Casual Dining Group, which own brands such as Bella Italia and La Tasca, is considering introducing advance payments for large groups.

Email Jay at jay.rayner@observer.co.uk or follow him on Twitter @jayrayner1

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2018/mar/11/farm-girl-cafe-chelsea-we-dont-stay-for-dessert-because-we-have-suffered-enough-restaurant-review

Curd your enthusiasm my adventures in vegan cheese

Vegan burgers are increasingly convincing, but can vegan cheese or cheeze or chease melt our hearts?

Vegan cheese has been suffering a bad case of Fomo fear of missing out on the vegan food revolution. Some of the new, plant-based products have been groundbreaking, such as the Impossible Burger, which not only tastes like cow, but also bleeds like one. Some, such as mock duck in gravy, are startlingly bad.

But with vegan cheese, quality versions have been so late to the party, you would be forgiven for not letting them in even if they brought a nice bottle of vegan wine. At last, 2017 was a big one for vegan cheese. Most supermarkets started stocking it. A vegan friend points me towards Sainsburys coconut-based vegan cheddar and a feta substitute that is getting close, although lately he is excited about a very realistic vegan parmesan from Ocado. Theres now a vegan camembert made with cashew nut milk and even Dominos has rolled out a vegan pizza in Australia and New Zealand.

Cheese, my friend says, is the thing he initially missed the most the meat quitters after-dinner fag but these recent developments have provided hope. Small grains of hope, but ones that can be harvested and turned into more vegan cheese. Because you can make vegan cheese from almost anything. Cauliflower, chickpeas, rice, nuts, seeds, quinoa, courgette, even carrageenan, a type of seaweed extract spelled by your cat walking across your keyboard, which is excellent for firm or wheel cheeses.

Vegan
Vegan feta. Photograph: Evi Oravecz / Green Evi/Getty Images/Picture Press RM

Buoyed, I sampled a few. Tynes smoked paprika chease is a bestseller, but looks like a sponge and tastes predominantly of smoke. Vegans cheeze balls are essentially haunted by garlic. Tynes creamy classic cashew is nicer, while NVs parmesan substitute is fine.

Why its so hit and miss is anyones guess. Maybe its because cheese is pretty hard to make without dairy, or because we hold cheese in some sort of cultural reverence theres cheese and theres cheese, but now theres chease, cheeze and sheese. And thats the first sticking point the name. I am, however, fully on board with alternative names, such as Mozzarisella, mozzarella made from rice, which is way more fun than Tescos elliptical Free From version, made with coconut oil and soya. Its still not a patch on Vegustos No-Moo Piquant, though, whom I definitely saw play Glastonbury once.

This is not a screed about veganism. As a non-vegan who is too weak to divest herself from dairy, this cheese is not meant for me. Rather, I admire these small acts of bravery: some of them coming in French-looking boxes, others on a bed of straw like baby Jesus. And if some of them melt on pasta, then great. Its also true that whatever vegan cheese is made of, it couldnt possibly be weirder than the bodily fluids of animals mixed together and left to go mouldy.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2018/mar/01/curd-your-enthusiasm-my-adventures-in-vegan-cheese

How to feed your gut

Want a healthy gut? Reach for the kimchi, sauerkraut, artichokes, coffee and chocolate. But watch out one category of food will make your microbes wither

Magical microbes how to feed your gut

Magical microbes how to feed your gut

Want a healthy gut? Reach for the kimchi, sauerkraut, artichokes, coffee and chocolate. But watch out one category of food will make your microbes wither

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2018/jan/29/magical-microbes-how-to-feed-your-gut

Good enough for Beyonc: chocolate ganache, paella and stir-fry vegan recipes

Forget dodgy dal and chickpea salads and be inspired by World Vegan Day with our pick of delicious, colourful and healthy meals

Whether its down to health and environmental concerns or merely following in Beyoncs footsteps, veganism is on the rise around the world. Those who eschew all animal products (including leather, honey, eggs and dairy) are increasing in numbers in the UK, the US and in Australia.

Now, in the aftermath of World Vegan Day, we asked three well-known Australian vegan chefs for their favourite and most delicious vegan recipes.

Raw and Peaces chocolate ganache tarts

Basic shortbread crust
3 cups cashews (dry)
cup coconut oil, liquid
cup coconut flour

Chocolate ganache
2 cups cashews, soaked
3/4 cup cacao powder
cup coconut oil
cup agave
1 cup water
1 tbsp vanilla
1 tbsp psyllium

To make the shortbread, grind cashew nuts to a fine flour consistency in a high-speed blender. Pour into a mixing bowl. Add coconut oil and mix through with your hands. This will get sticky. Then add coconut flour slowly and knead into dough. Excess shortbread can be stored in a freezer bag in the freezer. You may need to add a little more coconut oil when working with it again.

Line some small tart cases with plastic wrap. Press shortbread mix into these not too thick using your finger to neaten off the edges. Set in freezer.

To prepare the chocolate ganache, place all the ingredients in a high-speed blender and blend. Then pour into tart cases and return to freezer to set. Allow to soften in the fridge before serving.

The Naked Vegans stir no-fry with coconut cauliflower rice

Stir
This veggie stir-fry with coconut cauliflower rice is easy to prepare when youre short on time. Photograph: Ben Dearnley/Murdoch Books

Serves 4

A great working-week dinner option, this dish is colourful, filling and tasty, and really easy to prepare when youre short on time. Just chop, whiz up some stuff and throw it all together.

Lime and tamari marinade
125 ml ( cup) cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil
2 tsp cold-pressed sesame oil
Juice of 1 lime
4 tbsp tamari
2 tbsp finely chopped fresh ginger

Veggie mix
125 g (2 cups) broccoli florets
1 red capsicum (pepper), seeded and finely sliced
90g (1 cup) julienned carrot
115g (1 cup) bean sprouts
30g (/ cup) shredded bok choy (pak choy)
40g ( cup) shredded savoy cabbage
red onion, finely sliced
1 garlic clove, crushed

Coconut cauliflower rice
500g (4 cups) cauliflower florets
45g ( cup) finely desiccated coconut
tsp Himalayan pink salt or Celtic sea salt

The
The Naked Vegan by Maz Valcorza (Murdoch Books, $39.99)

To serve
4 tbsp black or white sesame seeds
3 tbsp coriander (cilantro) leaves

Blend the marinade ingredients in a high-speed blender until well combined. Pour into a large mixing bowl.

Add all the veggie mix ingredients to the bowl. Toss together, then allow to marinate while you make the cauliflower rice.

Carefully pulse the cauliflower coconut rice ingredients in a food processor until the cauliflower resembles the texture of rice. Do not over-process, or the cauliflower will turn into a puree.

To serve, divide the coconut cauliflower rice among four bowls and top with the veggie mix. Sprinkle with the sesame seeds, garnish with coriander and serve.

Recipe from The Naked Vegan by Max Valcorza (Murdoch Books, $39.99)

Smith & Daughters paella

Smith
A well-travelled Spanish paella recipe takes a vegan twist. Photograph: Bonnie Savage/Hardie Grant Books

Sure, youve had paella before, but this happens to be the fifth-generation (maybe more) recipe of the grandmother of chef Shannon Martinez from Melbourne restaurant Smith & Daughters. If the Spanish immigrants knew their descendants would use this well-loved and travelled recipe to make vegan paella, they may have had second thoughts. But non-vegans can add anything to this paella prawns, sausage, squid, seasonal vegetables. Just cook separately and add to the paella at the end.

Serves 4-6

1.25 litres (5 cups) vegetable stock
1 large pinch of saffron threads
60ml ( cup) olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
green capsicum (bell pepper), diced
red capsicum (bell pepper), diced
1 tsp fine salt
2 tomatoes, tinned or fresh, diced (only use fresh if tomatoes are in season)
3 garlic cloves, crushed
2 tsp sweet paprika
1 tsp smoked paprika
400g bomba or medium-grain rice
185g podded broad (fava) beans or substitute peas
Cooked seasonal vegetables, such as asparagus and peas in spring or pumpkin (squash) and olives in winter

Garnish
Lemons, cut into wedges
Extra-virgin olive oil
Sea salt flakes
Flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped

Place the stock in a medium-sized saucepan and bring to the boil. Remove from the heat and drop in the saffron. Set aside to infuse for at least 5 minutes. You will see the stock turn bright yellow.

Heat the oil in a 30cm or slightly larger paella pan or ovenproof casserole dish over low heat. Add the onion, capsicum and salt and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 15 minutes, until the vegetables are very soft and almost jammy. Add the tomato and garlic and cook for a further 15 minutes or until the sauce becomes thick.

Add the paprikas and stir to combine, then add the rice and broad beans and coat with the sauce. Cook for 12 minutes, or until the rice begins to turn translucent.

Smith
Smith & Daughters: A Cookbook (that happens to be vegan) by Shannon Martinez & Mo Wyse (Hardie Grant Books, $48) Photograph: Hardie Grant Books

Preheat the oven to 150C.

Pour the stock over the rice and turn up the heat to high. Stir to make sure the rice is evenly spread across the pan, then simmer for exactly 5 minutes. Do not stir.

Transfer the paella to the oven and cook for 1215 minutes until the liquid has been absorbed. Remove from the oven and stir through the cooked seasonal vegetables. Cover the pan with a clean tea towel and set aside for 5 minutes.

Place lemon wedges sporadically but evenly throughout the paella, drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt flakes and chopped parsley.

Recipe from Smith & Daughters: A Cookbook (that happens to be vegan) by Shannon Martinez & Mo Wyse (Hardie Grant Books, $48)

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2017/nov/03/good-enough-for-beyonce-chocolate-ganache-paella-and-stir-fry-vegan-recipes

Goodbye and good riddance to livestock farming | George Monbiot

As the artificial meat industry grows, the last argument for farming animals has now collapsed, writes Guardian columnist George Monbiot

What will future generations, looking back on our age, see as its monstrosities? We think of slavery, the subjugation of women, judicial torture, the murder of heretics, imperial conquest and genocide, the first world war and the rise of fascism, and ask ourselves how people could have failed to see the horror of what they did. What madness of our times will revolt our descendants?

There are plenty to choose from. But one of them, I believe, will be the mass incarceration of animals, to enable us to eat their flesh or eggs or drink their milk. While we call ourselves animal lovers, and lavish kindness on our dogs and cats, we inflict brutal deprivations on billions of animals that are just as capable of suffering. The hypocrisy is so rank that future generations will marvel at how we could have failed to see it.

The shift will occur with the advent of cheap artificial meat. Technological change has often helped to catalyse ethical change. The $300m deal China signed last month to buy lab-grown meat marks the beginning of the end of livestock farming. But it wont happen quickly: the great suffering is likely to continue for many years.

The answer, we are told by celebrity chefs and food writers, is to keep livestock outdoors: eat free-range beef or lamb, not battery pork. But all this does is to swap one disaster mass cruelty for another: mass destruction. Almost all forms of animal farming cause environmental damage, but none more so than keeping them outdoors. The reason is inefficiency. Grazing is not just slightly inefficient, it is stupendously wasteful. Roughly twice as much of the worlds surface is used for grazing as for growing crops, yet animals fed entirely on pasture produce just one gram out of the 81g of protein consumed per personper day.

A paper in Science of the Total Environment reports that livestock production is the single largest driver of habitat loss. Grazing livestock are a fully automated system for ecological destruction: you need only release them on to the land and they do the rest, browsing out tree seedlings, simplifying complex ecosystems. Their keepers augment this assault by slaughtering large predators.

Flock
Sheep supply around 1% of our diet in terms of calories. Yet they occupy around 4m hectares of the uplands. Photograph: Murdo MacLeod for the Guardian

In the UK, for example, sheep supply around 1% of our diet in terms of calories. Yet they occupy around 4m hectares of the uplands. This is more or less equivalent to all the land under crops in this country, and more than twice the area of the built environment (1.7m hectares). The rich mosaic of rainforest and other habitats that once covered our hills has been erased, the wildlife reduced to a handful of hardy species. The damage caused is out of all proportion to the meat produced.

Replacing the meat in our diets with soya spectacularly reduces the land area required per kilo of protein: by 70% in the case of chicken, 89% in the case of pork and 97% in the case of beef. One study suggests that if we were all to switch to a plant-based diet, 15mhectares of land in Britain currently used for farming could be returned to nature. Alternatively, this country could feed 200 million people. An end to animal farming would be the salvation of the worlds wildlife, our natural wonders and magnificent habitats.

Understandably, those who keep animals have pushed back against such facts, using an ingenious argument. Livestock grazing, they claim, can suck carbon out of the atmosphere and store it in the soil, reducing or even reversing global warming. In a TED talk watched by 4 million people, the rancher Allan Savory claims that his holistic grazing could absorb enough carbon to return the worlds atmosphere to pre-industrial levels. His inability, when I interviewed him, to substantiate his claims has done nothing to dent their popularity.

Similar statements have been made by Graham Harvey, the agricultural story editor of the BBC Radio 4 serial The Archers he claims that the prairies in the US could absorb all the carbon thats gone into the atmosphere for the whole planet since we industrialised and amplified by the Campaign to Protect Rural England. Farmers organisations all over the world now noisily promote this view.

A report this week by the Food Climate Research Network, called Grazed and Confused, seeks to resolve the question: can keeping livestock outdoors cause a net reduction in greenhouse gases? The authors spent two years investigating the issue. They cite 300 sources. Their answer is unequivocal. No.

It is true, they find, that some grazing systems are better than others. Under some circumstances, plants growing on pastures will accumulate carbon under the ground, through the expansion of their root systems and the laying down of leaf litter. But the claims of people such as Savory and Harvey are dangerously misleading. The evidence supporting additional carbon storage through the special systems these livestock crusaders propose (variously described as holistic, regenerative, mob, or adaptive grazing) is weak and contradictory, and suggests that if theres an effect at all, it is small.

The best that can be done is to remove between 20% and 60% of the greenhouse gas emissions grazing livestock produce. Even this might be an overestimate: a paper published this week in the journal Carbon Balance and Management suggests that the amount of methane (a potent greenhouse gas) farm animals produce has been understated. In either case, carbon storage in pastures cannot compensate for the animals own climate impacts, let alone those of industrial civilisation. I would like to see the TED team post a warning on Savorys video, before even more people are misled.

As the final argument crumbles, we are left facing an uncomfortable fact: animal farming looks as incompatible with a sustained future for humans and other species as mining coal.

That vast expanse of pastureland, from which we obtain so little at such great environmental cost, would be better used for rewilding: the mass restoration of nature. Not only would this help to reverse the catastrophic decline in habitats and the diversity and abundance of wildlife, but the returning forests, wetlands and savannahs are likely to absorb far more carbon than even the most sophisticated forms of grazing.

The end of animal farming might be hard to swallow. But we are a resilient and adaptable species. We have undergone a series of astonishing changes: the adoption of sedentarism, of agriculture, of cities, of industry.

Now it is time for a new revolution, almost as profound as those other great shifts: the switch to a plant-based diet. The technology is depending on how close an approximation to meat you demand (Quorn seems almost indistinguishable from chicken or mince to me) either here or just around the corner. The ethical switch is happening already: even today, there are half a million vegans in the land of roast beef. Its time to abandon the excuses, the fake facts and false comforts. It is time to see our moral choices as our descendants will.

George Monbiot is a Guardian columnist

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/oct/04/livestock-farming-artificial-meat-industry-animals

Read this and you may never eat chicken again

Most meat animals are raised with the assistance of daily doses of antibiotics. By 2050, antibiotic resistance will cause a staggering 10 million deaths a year

Every year I spend some time in a tiny apartment in Paris, seven stories above the mayors offices for the 11th arrondissement. The Place de la Bastille the spot where the French revolution sparked political change that transformed the world is a 10-minute walk down a narrow street that threads between student nightclubs and Chinese fabric wholesalers.

Twice a week, hundreds of Parisians crowd down it, heading to the march de la Bastille, stretched out along the center island of the Boulevard Richard Lenoir.

Blocks before you reach the market, you can hear it: a low hum of argument and chatter, punctuated by dollies thumping over the curbstones and vendors shouting deals. But even before you hear it, you can smell it: the funk of bruised cabbage leaves underfoot, the sharp sweetness of fruit sliced open for samples, the iodine tang of seaweed propping up rafts of scallops in broad rose-colored shells.

Threaded through them is one aroma that I wait for. Burnished and herbal, salty and slightly burned, it has so much heft that it feels physical, like an arm slid around your shoulders to urge you to move a little faster. It leads to a tented booth in the middle of the market and a line of customers that wraps around the tent poles and trails down the market alley, tangling with the crowd in front of the flower seller.

In the middle of the booth is a closet-size metal cabinet, propped up on iron wheels and bricks. Inside the cabinet, flattened chickens are speared on rotisserie bars that have been turning since before dawn. Every few minutes, one of the workers detaches a bar, slides off its dripping bronze contents, slips the chickens into flat foil-lined bags, and hands them to the customers who have persisted to the head of the line.

I can barely wait to get my chicken home.

Chickens
Chickens roam in an outdoor enclosure of a chicken farm in Vielle-Soubiran, south-western France. Photograph: Iroz Gaizka/AFP/Getty Images


The skin of a poulet crapaudine named because its spatchcocked outline resembles a crapaud, a toad shatters like mica; the flesh underneath, basted for hours by the birds dripping on to it from above, is pillowy but springy, imbued to the bone with pepper and thyme.

The first time I ate it, I was stunned into happy silence, too intoxicated by the experience to process why it felt so new. The second time, I was delighted again and then, afterward, sulky and sad.

I had eaten chicken all my life: in my grandmothers kitchen in Brooklyn, in my parents house in Houston, in a college dining hall, friends apartments, restaurants and fast food places, trendy bars in cities and old-school joints on back roads in the south. I thought I roasted a chicken pretty well myself. But none of them were ever like this, mineral and lush and direct.

I thought of the chickens Id grown up eating. They tasted like whatever the cook added to them: canned soup in my grandmothers fricassee, her party dish; soy sauce and sesame in the stir fries my college housemate brought from her aunts restaurant; lemon juice when my mother worried about my fathers blood pressure and banned salt from the house.

This French chicken tasted like muscle and blood and exercise and the outdoors. It tasted like something that it was too easy to pretend it was not: like an animal, like a living thing. We have made it easy not to think about what chickens were before we find them on our plates or pluck them from supermarket cold cases.

I live, most of the time, less than an hours drive from Gainesville, Georgia, the self-described poultry capital of the world, where the modern chicken industry was born. Georgia raises 1.4bn broilers a year, making it the single biggest contributor to the almost 9bn birds raised each year in the United States; if it were an independent country, it would rank in chicken production somewhere near China and Brazil.

Yet you could drive around for hours without ever knowing you were in the heart of chicken country unless you happened to get behind a truck heaped with crates of birds on their way from the remote solid-walled barns they are raised in to the gated slaughter plants where they are turned into meat. That first French market chicken opened my eyes to how invisible chickens had been for me, and after that, my job began to show me what that invisibility had masked.

My house is less than two miles from the front gate of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the federal agency that sends disease detectives racing to outbreaks all over the world. For more than a decade, one of my obsessions as a journalist has been following them on their investigations and in long late-night conversations in the United States and Asia and Africa, with physicians and veterinarians and epidemiologists, I learned that the chickens that had surprised me and the epidemics that fascinated me were more closely linked than I had ever realized.

I discovered that the reason American chicken tastes so different from those I ate everywhere else was that in the United States, we breed for everything but flavor: for abundance, for consistency, for speed. Many things made that transformation possible.

But as I came to understand, the single biggest influence was that, consistently over decades, we have been feeding chickens, and almost every other meat animal, routine doses of antibiotics on almost every day of their lives.

Caged
Caged battery hens in a chicken farm in Catania, Sicily. Photograph: Fabrizio Villa/AFP/Getty Images

Antibiotics do not create blandness, but they created the conditions that allowed chicken to be bland, allowing us to turn a skittish, active backyard bird into a fast-growing, slow-moving, docile block of protein, as muscle-bound and top-heavy as a bodybuilder in a kids cartoon. At this moment, most meat animals, across most of the planet, are raised with the assistance of doses of antibiotics on most days of their lives: 63,151 tons of antibiotics per year, about 126m pounds.

Farmers began using the drugs because antibiotics allowed animals to convert feed to tasty muscle more efficiently; when that result made it irresistible to pack more livestock into barns, antibiotics protected animals against the likelihood of disease. Those discoveries, which began with chickens, created what we choose to call industrialized agriculture, a poultry historian living in Georgia proudly wrote in 1971.

Chicken prices fell so low that it became the meat that Americans eat more than any other and the meat most likely to transmit food-borne illness, and also antibiotic resistance, the greatest slow-brewing health crisis of our time.

For most people, antibiotic resistance is a hidden epidemic unless they have the misfortune to contract an infection themselves or have a family member or friend unlucky enough to become infected.

Drug-resistant infections have no celebrity spokespeople, negligible political support and few patients organizations advocating for them. If we think of resistant infections, we imagine them as something rare, occurring to people unlike us, whoever we are: people who are in nursing homes at the end of their lives, or dealing with the drain of chronic illness, or in intensive-care units after terrible trauma. But resistant infections are a vast and common problem that occur in every part of daily life: to children in daycare, athletes playing sports, teens going for piercings, people getting healthy in the gym.

And though common, resistant bacteria are a grave threat and getting worse.

They are responsible for at least 700,000 deaths around the world each year: 23,000 in the United States, 25,000 in Europe, more than 63,000 babies in India. Beyond those deaths, bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics cause millions of illnesses 2m annually just in the United States and cost billions in healthcare spending, lost wages and lost national productivity.

It is predicted that by 2050, antibiotic resistance will cost the world $100tn and will cause a staggering 10m deaths per year.

Disease organisms have been developing defenses against the antibiotics meant to kill them for as long as antibiotics have existed. Penicillin arrived in the 1940s, and resistance to it swept the world in the 1950s.

Tetracycline arrived in 1948, and resistance was nibbling at its effectiveness before the 1950s ended. Erythromycin was discovered in 1952, and erythromycin resistance arrived in 1955. Methicillin, a lab-synthesized relative of penicillin, was developed in 1960 specifically to counter penicillin resistance, yet within a year, staph bacteria developed defenses against it as well, earning the bug the name MRSA, methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus.

After MRSA, there were the ESBLs, extended-spectrum beta-lactamases, which defeated not only penicillin and its relatives but also a large family of antibiotics called cephalosporins. And after cephalosporins were undermined, new antibiotics were achieved and lost in turn.

Each time pharmaceutical chemistry produced a new class of antibiotics, with a new molecular shape and a new mode of action, bacteria adapted. In fact, as the decades passed, they seemed to adapt faster than before. Their persistence threatened to inaugurate a post-antibiotic era, in which surgery could be too dangerous to attempt and ordinary health problems scrapes, tooth extractions, broken limbs could pose a deadly risk.

For a long time, it was assumed that the extraordinary unspooling of antibiotic resistance around the world was due only to misuse of the drugs in medicine: to parents begging for the drugs even though their children had viral illnesses that antibiotics could not help; physicians prescribing antibiotics without checking to see whether the drug they chose was a good match; people stopping their prescriptions halfway through the prescribed course because they felt better, or saving some pills for friends without health insurance, or buying antibiotics over the counter, in the many countries where they are available that way and dosing themselves.

But from the earliest days of the antibiotic era, the drugs have had another, parallel use: in animals that are grown to become food.

Eighty percent of the antibiotics sold in the United States and more than half of those sold around the world are used in animals, not in humans. Animals destined to be meat routinely receive antibiotics in their feed and water, and most of those drugs are not given to treat diseases, which is how we use them in people.

Instead, antibiotics are given to make food animals put on weight more quickly than they would otherwise, or to protect food animals from illnesses that the crowded conditions of livestock production make them vulnerable to. And nearly two-thirds of the antibiotics that are used for those purposes are compounds that are also used against human illness which means that when resistance against the farm use of those drugs arises, it undermines the drugs usefulness in human medicine as well.

Caged
Caged chickens in San Diego, California. California voters passed a new animal welfare law in 2008 to require that the states egg-laying hens be given room to move. Photograph: Christian Science Monitor/Getty Images

Resistance is a defensive adaptation, an evolutionary strategy that allows bacteria to protect themselves against antibiotics power to kill them. It is created by subtle genetic changes that allow organisms to counter antibiotics attacks on them, altering their cell walls to keep drug molecules from attaching or penetrating, or forming tiny pumps that eject the drugs after they have entered the cell.

What slows the emergence of resistance is using an antibiotic conservatively: at the right dose, for the right length of time, for an organism that will be vulnerable to the drug, and not for any other reason. Most antibiotic use in agriculture violates those rules.

Resistant bacteria are the result.


Antibiotic resistance is like climate change: it is an overwhelming threat, created over decades by millions of individual decisions and reinforced by the actions of industries.

It is also like climate change in that the industrialized west and the emerging economies of the global south are at odds. One quadrant of the globe already enjoyed the cheap protein of factory farming and now regrets it; the other would like not to forgo its chance. And it is additionally like climate change because any action taken in hopes of ameliorating the problem feels inadequate, like buying a fluorescent lightbulb while watching a polar bear drown.

But that it seems difficult does not mean it is not possible. The willingness to relinquish antibiotics of farmers in the Netherlands, as well as Perdue Farms and other companies in the United States, proves that industrial-scale production can be achieved without growth promoters or preventive antibiotic use. The stability of Masadour and Lou and White Oak Pastures shows that medium-sized and small farms can secure a place in a remixed meat economy.

Whole Foods pivot to slower-growing chicken birds that share some of the genetics preserved by Frank Reese illustrates that removing antibiotics and choosing birds that do not need them returns biodiversity to poultry production. All of those achievements are signposts, pointing to where chicken, and cattle and hogs and farmed fish after them, need to go: to a mode of production where antibiotics are used as infrequently as possible to care for sick animals, but not to fatten or protect them.

That is the way antibiotics are now used in human medicine, and it is the only way that the utility of antibiotics and the risk of resistance can be adequately balanced.

Excerpted from Big Chicken by Maryn McKenna published by National Geographic on 12 September 2017. Available wherever books are sold.

Plucked! The Truth About Chicken by Maryn McKenna is published in the UK by Little, Brown and is now available in eBook @14.99, and is published in Trade Format @14.99 on 1 February 2018.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2017/oct/13/can-never-eat-chicken-again-antibiotic-resistance

Popcorn boom points to ‘third golden age’ for America’s favorite snack

Movies may bomb but with year-on-year sales up 16.9% popcorn whether eaten at home or at the theater is set to emulate its popularity in the 30s and 80s

Hollywood can bomb at the box office and television can shrivel to the size of a phone but one element of American movie-watching remains sacrosanct: popcorn.

The seed first popped by Native Americans has sailed through upheaval in the entertainment industry and ever-shifting dietary trends to enter an apparent third golden age as Americas favourite snack.

Sales of ready-to-eat popcorn and caramel corn rose 16.9% from February 2016 to February 2017, spurring innovation with popcorn chips, cakes and other spin-off products.

Last week Disneyland launched a $15 glow-in-the-dark popcorn bucket based on Oogie Boogie, the villain in The Nightmare Before Christmas, which prompted hour-long queues at popcorn carts and a secondhand market on eBay.

Popcorn sales peak in the fall, and October is officially national popcorn poppin month. The association with film, however, is year-round.

Popcorn is still the most popular item on the menu for moviegoers, along with soda, said Patrick Corcoran, a spokesman for the National Association of Theater Owners.

Some cinemas offer more elaborate fare such as gourmet brownies, vegan sandwiches and high-end coffee because people wanted to see but not necessarily consume them, said Corcoran. One owner told me they didnt really sell but that people liked the feeling they were there. The prime driver was still soda and popcorn.

When the Star Wars franchise rebooted, theater owners across the US stocked up like crazy, said Corcoran. Bags and bags of it lining their corridors and into their offices.

Hollywood has just endured its worst summer box office in a decade so theatre popcorn sales have likely dipped but consumption of the seed, a type of corn kernel which expands and pops when heated, is booming elsewhere thanks to the microwave, streaming television and trends towards wholegrain, gluten-free diets.

We still associate it with movies and good times, said Wendy Boersema Rappel, of the Popcorn Board, a Chicago-based non-profit funded by US popcorn processors. America has grown up with popcorn. Its part of our history, part of who we are as Americans when it comes to having fun.

Americans consume 14bn quarts (13.2bn litres) of popped popcorn annually, or 43 quarts per man, woman and child, according to the Popcorn Board. Almost three-quarters is eaten at home, the rest in theaters, stadiums, schools and elsewhere.

The 16.9% rise in sales of ready-to-eat popcorn translated into 160m pounds (72.5m kilos) sold, pushing annual revenue to $1.05bn, said David Walsh of Snac International, the snack industrys trade organisation.

Ready-to-eat popcorn as a category is exploding due to its appeal as a premium snack, using healthier oils, unique salts and flavours and premium corn, said Walsh. Popcorn is seen as a better-for-you base capable of carrying a host of innovative flavours.

The Aztecs used corn as food and adornment for ceremonial headdresses, necklaces and on statues of deities. The industrial revolution and the advent of big sports events and movies popularised popcorn in the US, especially during the Depression, said Patrick Evans-Hylton, a chef and author of a book about popcorn.

Popcorn was really an affordable luxury. For five cents you could get a bag big enough to share with someone and escape your troubles for a while. Thats when the snack became part of the DNA of being American.

Sales in theatres fell in the 1950s when the spread of television hit cinema attendance.

The second golden age really began in early 1980s with microwaves. A renaissance born of convenience, said Evans-Hylton.

The spread of cable and streaming services like HBO and Netflix provided additional incentive whether watching on huge TVs or handheld devices. More opportunity or excuses to eat it at home, said Boersema Rappel.

Health concerns have at times dented enthusiasm. A lung disease called bronchiolitis obliterans was nicknamed popcorn lung because of an association with diacetyl butter-like flavorings. Popcorn processors started phasing out diacetyl in 2007.

The use of palm oil in movie theatre popcorn caused a separate outcry in the 1990s. Cinemas offered healthier options but in places that backfired. Audiences hated it, all but rebelled, so [some theatres] went back to popcorn popped in oil, said Corcoran, of the theatre owners association.

Popcorn at least that non-cinema popcorn is now considered healthy because it is a non-GMO, gluten-free wholegrain naturally high in fibre and low in fat and calories 30 calories a cup if air-popped.

Were now in a third golden age because popcorn is seen as not only affordable and available but also a true, nutritious snack, said Evans-Hylton. As a food writer who ate out all the time, his weight ballooned to more than 400lb. He slimmed down to less than 200lb thanks in part to popcorn.

I knew I could eat a handful and it would be OK. Evans-Hylton combines it with olive oil, tartare sauce and parmesan, or for sweetness, chocolate shavings and cinnamon.

Americas original snack should be savoured and celebrated, he said. I dont know Id trust anyone who didnt like popcorn. Whats wrong with you, buddy?

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2017/sep/29/popcorn-boom-americas-favorite-snack

The 21st-century Hollywood: how Silicon Valley became the worlds trend capital

Forget Los Angeles. If you want to get rich and famous fast, in anything from food to fashion, San Francisco is the place to be. But will handing that kind of power to a new global elite come at a price?

The strangest thing about Bulletproof Coffee isnt stirring a pellet of grass-fed butter and a dollop of coconut oil into your morning cup and calling it breakfast, weird though that is to swallow. No, what makes Bulletproof really unusual is the trajectory the trend has followed. The craze started with the Silicon Valley entrepreneur Dave Asprey, who turned the alleged weight-shedding, brainpower-enhancing benefits of caffeine turbocharged with fat into a mini-empire. He took the idea to Santa Monica, where he opened a cafe. David Beckham started dropping in.

From there, it spread to fashion. Vogue has called it the new green juice; at the recent fashion shows, it was on the way to replacing espresso and egg-white omelette as the standard front-row breakfast. Dan Brown, whose novels surely give him zeitgeist bragging rights, has been telling interviewers how 4am writing sessions for his latest book, Origin, were fuelled by Bulletproof. Aspreys ready-made, cold-pressed Bulletproof products are about to go on sale in Whole Foods Market stores, at which point the journey from Silicon Valley quirk to bona fide hipster lifestyle trend will be complete.

Bulletproof
Bulletproof Coffee turbocharged. Photograph: Richard Lautens/Toronto Star via Getty Images

The direction of travel of trends outwards from Silicon Valley was visible when Duncan Selbie, the chief executive of Public Health England, warned of the perils of sitting at your desk all day and called for employers to introduce walking meetings to reduce stress and back pain among the workforce. The pioneer of the walking meeting was Steve Jobs and the habit is so deeply ingrained in Silicon Valley culture that the Frank Gehry-designed Facebook headquarters features four hectares of wifi-enabled wildflower meadows, with milkshake stands dotted along paths. On Prince Street in New Yorks Soho, the newest boutique to open alongside Marc Jacobs and Ralph Lauren is evidence of the first true fashion trend to originate in Silicon Valley. Allbirds, the woollen sneakers that are already de rigueur at Googleplex, are spreading to a creative class of people architects, interior designers, entertainers in music and acting, as the San Francisco-based cofounder Joey Zwillinger told the New York Observer.

Free sushi, massage chairs, toilet seats that heat up employees at top companies here live like celebrities, says Ravi Belani, director of the Alchemist, a startup accelerator and lecturer in entrepreneurship at Stanford University. Two hundred miles from the Sierra Nevada, where gold-rush fortunes were made overnight in the 19th century, and 500 miles from the Los Angeles hills where stars were born in the 20th century, Silicon Valley has become the 21st-century Hollywood. If you want to get rich and famous fast, this is where you need to be. Its not like this place is full of beautiful people, says Bebe Chueh, the cofounder of the law firm Atrium, which specialises in helping startups, but you can accelerate your career here. You dont need to wade for years through a company structure. You can make it all happen when you are 22. Anjula Acharia, who, as a celebrity manager and a partner in Trinity Ventures, bestrides the worlds of Hollywood and tech, says that, in the tech sphere, people are still wearing anoraks. They do still look sort of geeky. This is definitely not New York or London in terms of style. But they have become the global elite. People see that, and they want to be part of that world.

Twenty years ago, when we started lastminute.com, tech was totally weird and geeky, remembers the cross-bench peer and Twitter board member Martha Lane Fox. At that point, people were still wondering if the internet was really going to be a thing. As a relatively young woman wanting to be involved in it, I struck people as bizarre. And, although there are still not nearly enough women, that perception has changed. There has been a huge cultural shift.

Cool,
Cool, (in a sense) an Allbirds woollen shoe. Photograph: Allbirds/Scott Darling

Revenge of the nerds is how Troy Carter the former manager of Lady Gaga and now a Silicon Valley venture capitalist describes this change. Last year, Carter told Time magazine about leaving a barbecue in Silicon Valley with a feeling that the power was shifting. The new stardust glinting from the glass offices of Silicon Valley has not gone unnoticed by the fashion world. Virgil Abloh, the founder of Off-White, a Kanye West collaborator and probably the hottest name in the fashion industry right now, attended Septembers iPhone X launch in the company of his friend Jony Ive, the chief design officer of Apple, and Angela Ahrendts, senior vice-president of retail at Apple, who was wearing a pink lace Burberry trench (Ahrendts was CEO of Burberry until 2014).

In the same month, the San Francisco-born, New York-based fashion designer Alexander Wang who, until recently, liked to hold up Ralph Laurens empire as his aspiration began to talk about wanting to be more like Amazon. Obviously, the big opportunity is digital. I feel that today there is still not a single lifestyle brand that operates like a tech company, he said. Imagine a creative director today for a brand like Amazon. What would that look like? Karl Lagerfeld has built Chanel into a pop-cultural powerhouse on the back of his instinct for the modern and has made gorgeous, aspirational set design a fashion-week calling card a Paris street by night, the gardens of Versailles. Last October, he built a datacentre for his show, with the colours of tweed suits picked out in tangles of Ethernet cables.

Silicon Valleys ascent to glamour can be crudely measured in the intermarriage with models (Snapchats Evan Spiegel to Victorias Secrets Miranda Kerr, in May), ostentatious parties (Sean Parkers fantasy-themed redwood forest wedding, reported to have cost $10m) and glossy magazine covers (Spiegel was called the first Silicon Valley sex symbol by GQ after landing the cover of Italian Vogue Uomo two years ago). Not to mention the films (The Social Network, 2010), the booming roll-call of bold-faced name investors (Jay-Z in Uber, Ashton Kutcher in Airbnb) and, er, interplanetary ambitions (Elon Musk is only dropping by on his way to Mars). At the core of all this, says Lane Fox, is the new reality that tech is at the centre of who we are and that is true for celebrities as well. Managing social media is a huge part of being a model or a pop star now, so, in a way, they are stars of tech.

Snapchats
Snapchats Evan Spiegel with Miranda Kerr. Photograph: Stefanie Keenan/Getty Images for Baby2Baby

The financial crisis played its part in Silicon Valleys Hollywood makeover. After 2008, a lot of the Ivy League grads who would have gone to Wall Street to make money started to come to Silicon Valley instead. There was a new sexiness about being an entrepreneur, says Belani. There have been negative imports that have come with that: a kind of bro culture, or fraternity culture, that arrived with that intake, he adds. Chueh has seen a physical and cultural migration since she moved to San Francisco in 2011. Gradually, the ecosystem has moved from Cupertino, where the culture was kind of hardcore geeky, to San Francisco, where it is more about web applications and tech-enabled ideas than it is about hardware and semiconductors. Chichi members clubs have sprung up in the city: the Battery in 2015, the Modernist this year. The size of Silicon Valley egos have been mapped, through the last decade, in the pages of the architecture journals that have tracked an arms race of starchitect-designed offices. The Airbnb headquarters features a replica of the war room from Dr Strangelove. The new Apple Park spaceship has grandeur on a scale to rival the pharaohs pyramids.

Silicon Valley has shaped a new culture in which work looks like play (ping-pong tables in reception, bean bags in W1A), but in which being off duty is frowned upon, even at weekends. This is rooted in the brutal reality that, when you run a website, its always on, says Lane Fox. Its not like a shop. You dont get to close it. Combined with the sense of mission that is the Silicon Valley creation myth, this has bred a workaholic culture, which has become a badge of honour. The idea here is that work and play are one, says Chueh. Work isnt something you go to from nine to five to get a paycheck. Its an extension of your passion.

The working hours take their toll, and while early startup culture was fuelled by pizzas laid on for team all-nighters, Silicon Valley has gradually absorbed the wellness fixation of its native California. Bowls of free M&Ms have been replaced by meditation pods. At Apple Park, fruit from the 9,000 drought-resistant trees will be harvested for use in the canteen, which will serve 14,000 lunches a day. In parallel with the keto-diet and Bulletproof enthusiasts, Silicon Valley is a driving force behind a boom in veganism, powered by enthusiasm for the new frontier of healthy, sustainable faux-meat products. Its cool now to be vegan, says Belani.

In contrast to the enthusiasm for radical diets and alternative work spaces, fashion in Silicon Valley is noticeably low key. Time spent on sartorial decisions is time that could be better spent working. Form follows function. You have to look at the weather to understand the dress code here, says Chueh. It can be cold in the early morning and hot in the afternoon, so its all about layers: a T-shirt and a hoodie. On the other hand, there are no real seasons. So, unlike in, say, Boston, your wardrobe is pretty much the same all year round.

I dress totally differently when I am in Silicon Valley as opposed to Hollywood, says Acharia-Bath. For instance, no one wears heels here, so, if you do, it becomes, like, a thing.

The flat-shoe, jeans and backpack uniform, technically unisex, but with a masculine, grey-marl slant, holds up a mirror to a very male world. This is still an industry so dominated by men, especially at the top level, says Lane Fox. Which should be enough to give us pause as this culture grows in influence, setting the agenda in ever more arenas. And just as the maverick, anarchic mindset that can be exciting and progressive in startup culture becomes something more dangerous as the big beasts of tech control and shape every aspect of our lives, from the news we read on Facebook to the private thoughts that are open secrets thanks to Googles search history, Silicon Valleys radical attitude to nutrition has the potential to act as a gateway drug to more extreme versions of biohacking. Ambrosia is a San Francisco startup that offers transfusions of young peoples blood, for 6,200 a session, to a client list with a median age of 60. Better sleep and an improvement in some early indicators for cancer and Alzheimers are among the benefits Ambrosia claims from early research (although the scientific community has been cautious about the results to date).

Yes, this sounds ridiculous. But then, there was a time not so long ago when you might have been sceptical about the prediction that, by 2015, the average British child would spend less time outdoors than a high-security prisoner (less than an hour on average, whereas a lifer should get 60 minutes, under UN guidelines). Or that one in three British preschool children would own their own iPad. But what came out of Cupertino changed all that. Silicon Valley is the new Hollywood in many ways, but with one crucial difference: this time, its not just make-believe.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2017/oct/23/the-21st-century-hollywood-how-silicon-valley-became-the-worlds-trend-capital

Bacon and eggs for every meal: absurd diets of the rich and famous

Lucian Freud had breakfast at the same restaurant every morning for 15 years, Balzac drank up to 50 cups of coffee a day and Steve Jobs spent weeks at a time eating only apples and carrots

Their eating habits may not be quite as insane as former royal chef Darren McGrady branded them earlier this month, but the British royal family have their share of foibles around food. The Queen hates garlic and eats off diamond-encrusted plates, but also munches fruit out of yellow Tupperware. The Queen Mother was so reliably late to the table that they would lie to her about dinner time, telling her it was 8.15pm when everyone else was down for 8.30pm. Bejewelled crockery aside, however, the Windsors seem quite normal compared to these notably eccentric diners:

Novelist Patricia Highsmith ate the same thing for virtually every meal: bacon and fried eggs. She began each writing session with a stiff drink not to perk her up, according to her biographer, Andrew Wilson, but to reduce her energy levels, which veered towards the manic. Then she would sit on her bed surrounded by cigarettes, coffee, a doughnut and a saucer of sugar, the intention being to avoid any sense of discipline and make the act of writing as pleasurable as possible.

Almost every morning for 15 years, the painter Lucian Freud had breakfast at Clarkes restaurant in Notting Hill, London often returning a few hours later for lunch. He would arrive at 7.30am with his assistant David Dawson and consume saucer-sized pains aux raisins or Portuguese custard tarts with extra-milky coffees (referred to by staff as Mr Freud lattes). After innumerable hours sitting in her restaurant, Freud invited owner Sally Clarke to his Victorian townhouse a few doors along on Kensington Church Street to sit for a portrait. He painted her three times, the final work interrupted along with a decade and a half of loyal custom by Freuds death in 2011.

David Lynch claims his relationship with coffee began at the age of three. At one stage, the film-maker was drinking 20 cups a day; nowadays he averages 10, although the cup size has increased. A good coffee, he says, should have no bitterness, and it should be smooth and rich in flavour. I like to drink espresso with milk, like a latte or a cappuccino, but the espresso should have a golden foam. It can be so beautiful.

Coffee is a great power in my life, wrote Honor de Balzac in 1830, I have observed its effects on an epic scale. Indeed he had. When in the grip of one of his orgies of work, the French novelist and playwright would get up at 1am and write until 4pm, with a 90-minute nap in the middle. To fuel himself, he imbibed as many as 50 cups of coffee a day. He also dabbled with a horrible, rather brutal method which involved eating pure coffee grounds on an empty stomach. When he did this, he wrote, Ideas quick-march into motion like battalions of a grand army to its legendary fighting ground, and the battle rages. For Balzac, the battle raged until his death at 51: he wrote 91 long and short works of fiction in the space of just 16 years.

Marlon Brando had difficulties with his weight throughout his life, veering between crash diets and gorging sprees. Early in his career, he was known to eat peanut butter by the jarful, boxes of cinnamon buns and huge breakfasts consisting of cornflakes, sausages, eggs, bananas and cream, and pancakes drenched in maple syrup. He would devour up to six hotdogs at a time in late-night feasts at Pinks in Hollywood (they named an all-beef hotdog after him in 2012). Defying attempts by work colleagues and loved ones to regulate his diet, he would break refrigerator locks at night, flee film sets with giant tubs of ice-cream and enlist friends to throw burger bags over the gates of his Mulholland Drive estate.

Journalist and author Hunter S Thompson wasnt known for his restraint when it came to intoxicants. With food, it seems, his appetites werent much less modest, particularly when it came to breakfast, which he described in his autobiography, The Great Shark Hunt, as a personal ritual that can only be properly observed alone, and in a spirit of genuine excess. The food factor should always be massive: four bloody marys, two grapefruits, a pot of coffee, Rangoon crepes, a half-pound of either sausage, bacon or corned beef hash with diced chillies, a Spanish omelette or eggs benedict, a quart of milk, a chopped lemon for random seasoning, and something like a slice of key lime pie, two margaritas, and six lines of the best cocaine for dessert All of which, he concluded, should be dealt with outside, in the warmth of a hot sun, and preferably stone naked.

I was on one of my fruitarian diets [and] had just come back from the apple farm. This is Steve Jobs explaining the origins of the Apple company name to biographer Walter Isaacson and revealing something of his eating habits in the process. Jobs was a vegan for most of his adult life, dabbled with the even more restrictive fruitarian diet* and would spend weeks at a time eating only one or two foods, such as apples or carrots. (He believed his diet neutralised body odour and meant that he didnt need to wash regularly or wear deodorant, though his co-workers believed otherwise.) Sometimes Jobs stopped eating entirely, savouring the euphoria and ecstasy of fasting, though he was also acutely appreciative of a good avocado. He believed that great harvests came from arid sources, pleasure from restraint, noted his daughter Lisa.
* The diet varies, but usually entails eating raw fruit (at least 75% by weight) and a sprinkling of nuts and seeds.

Walden author Henry David Thoreau professed little enthusiasm for food in general. The wonder is how you and I can live this slimy, beastly life, eating and drinking, he wrote. He avoided meat and alcohol. Coffee and tea were dangerous temptations. Salt he regarded as that grossest of groceries. Cranberry-pickers were like butchers who rake the tongues of bison out of the prairie grass. Even water was an indulgence he would gladly have shunned were he able to live without it.

Legend has it that Jackie Onassis would eat one baked potato a day stuffed with beluga caviar and soured cream. She watched the scales with the rigour of a diamond merchant counting his carats, according to her social secretary Tish Baldrige. If she went a couple of pounds over her usual weight, she would fast for a day, then confine herself to a diet of fruit until she was back to normal.

This is an extract from The Gannets Gastronomic Miscellany by Killian Fox, out now (Mitchell Beazley, 11.99). Buy a copy for 10.19 at theguardianbookshop.com

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/shortcuts/2017/oct/15/bacon-eggs-every-meal-absurd-diets-rich-famous