Potato, Mushroom, Cauliflower Soup

This is an easy, deli­cious soup that I like to serve for com­pa­ny.

Just peel and dice a bunch of pota­toes and sev­er­al onions. Add some cau­li­flower and a hand­ful of mush­rooms. Add almost enough water to cov­er. Bring it to a boil and let it sim­mer until all the veg­eta­bles are soft, about 45 min­utes. Puree it in a blender and serve. You can dress it up with a few mush­rooms sauteed in red wine, or you can serve it with a few drops of sher­ry.

The Minnesota Starvation Experiment

Does Deliberate Starvation Cause Eating Disorders?

Dur­ing World War II, nutri­tion researcher Ancel Keys (the inven­tor of the “K ration”) real­ized that large num­bers of civil­ians would suf­fer from star­va­tion dur­ing the war. To study the effects of star­va­tion and deter­mine the best meth­ods for reha­bil­i­ta­tion of the vic­tims of star­va­tion, he need­ed a pop­u­la­tion of starv­ing peo­ple. Since none were avail­able local­ly, he worked with the gov­ern­ment to recruit a group of con­sci­en­tious objec­tors will­ing to starve them­selves. The study, con­duct­ed at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Min­neso­ta, came to be known as the Min­neso­ta Star­va­tion Exper­i­ment. Ear­ly results from this exper­i­ment were wide­ly used by aid work­ers in the months after the guns fell silent, and an enor­mous two-vol­ume text­book titled The Biol­o­gy of Human Star­va­tion was pub­lished by the Uni­ver­si­ty of Min­neso­ta Press in 1950.

Such an exper­i­ment could nev­er be repeat­ed today, because it would be for­bid­den by the rules put in place after the hor­rors of Nazi exper­i­men­ta­tion in the con­cen­tra­tion camps were revealed. Yet many of the vol­un­teers report­ed years lat­er that par­tic­i­pa­tion in the Min­neso­ta Star­va­tion Exper­i­ment was one of the most impor­tant and most mean­ing­ful expe­ri­ences of their lives.

Among the most sur­pris­ing and dis­turb­ing find­ings of the Min­neso­ta Star­va­tion Exper­i­ment were the psy­cho­log­i­cal effects of star­va­tion. The men in the study had been sub­ject­ed to exten­sive psy­cho­log­i­cal test­ing before their peri­od of star­va­tion began. At the begin­ning of the study, they were men­tal­ly healthy, with no his­to­ry of depres­sion, eat­ing dis­or­ders, or prob­lems with body image. Yet dur­ing the exper­i­ment, many of the men exhib­it­ed prob­lems that rec­og­niz­able today as fea­tures of anorex­ia and bulim­ia. This pos­es a dis­turb­ing ques­tion: Are anorex­ia and bulim­ia and so on trig­gered by the con­ven­tion­al “por­tion con­trol” strat­e­gy for weight loss?

Pho­to by anar­chosyn

Bring back the American chestnut!

Here’s a recipe for casta­gnac­cio, or Ital­ian chest­nut cake!


I made some on Sat­ur­day, and it was deli­cious! It’s basi­cal­ly made of chest­nut flour and water. The recipe calls for a lit­tle bit of olive oil, but you might be able to omit that.

Chest­nuts are called “the grain that grows on trees” because they have the nutri­tion­al pro­file of a grain: lots of car­bo­hy­drate, very lit­tle fat. So they’re a healthy addi­tion to the diet, besides being tasty!

Up until the ear­ly 20th cen­tu­ry, one out of every four trees in the Appalachi­ans, stretch­ing from Maine to Geor­gia, was an Amer­i­can chest­nut (Cas­tanea den­ta­ta). This mag­nif­i­cent “red­wood of the east” was a key­stone species of the ecosys­tem, because it pre­dictably pro­vid­ed a boun­teous har­vest of deli­cious nuts every year. These nuts sup­port­ed human and wildlife pop­u­la­tions. The chest­nut wood is beau­ti­ful and high­ly resis­tant to rot. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, the chest­nut tree’s bark is high­ly sus­cep­ti­ble to a fun­gal dis­ease called chest­nut blight. When this dis­ease was intro­duced on import­ed Chi­nese chest­nut trees, it wiped out vir­tu­al­ly the entire pop­u­la­tion of Amer­i­can chest­nut with­in a few years.

For­tu­nate­ly, the Amer­i­can Chest­nut Foun­da­tion is work­ing to devel­op blight-resis­tant hybrid trees that are almost entire­ly Amer­i­can chest­nut. Con­tact them if you know of a sur­viv­ing tree or would like to grow your own chest­nut trees.