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.