Good Morning

May 02024
⪮ Good Morning :: ⪮ s03e05: Endangered Food
Stylized photo of various citrus fruits.

In this newsletter, we are looking at four examples of food and accoutrements that we take for granted in modern day.

Who knows if some of these foods that we consider reliable now will still be available in the future.

Camembert Cheese

Various cheeses are at risk of extinction, not because we have lost how to make them, but instead we are losing our microbial helpers.

To ferment milk into cheese we inoculate the dairy with fungal spores.

Historically, several different strains of a fungus were used to make Camembert, each producing a slightly different aroma, color and flavor. Around 100 years ago, cheesemakers moved to using a single strain of fungus. This created consistency with Camembert, but also a monoculture.

This fungus needs to be cloned to reproduce and over time has become sterile. Now, cheesemakers are struggling to find enough spores to inoculate their Camembert and other cheeses.

Smithsonian Magazine - These French Cheeses Are at Risk of Extinction - John Carlos Baez (@johncarlosbaez) Camembert is an endangered species!

Emoji Banana wallpaper
Emoji Banana wallpaper

Gros Michel Banana

Today, the bananas that you eat from the grocery store are probably most likely Cavendish, but that wasn't always the case. Before the 01950s, the Gros Michel was the banana of choice. It was flavorful, robust for transport and grew in dense bundles.

Then came the Panama disease fungus that nearly wiped out all the plantations. Most bananas are seedless and are grown from cuttings of other plants. They are all a single plant, effectively clones. This monoculture makes them very susceptible to disease.

And that's what's happened. Gros Michel is out and Cavendish is in, but for how long?

The food we take for granted could be gone tomorrow. - Banana: The Fate of the Fruit That Changed the World Paperback, by Dan Koeppel

Gastro Obscura - A Quest for the Gros Michel, the Great Banana of Yesteryear

Wikipedia - Gros Michel Banana

A dog at work inside a wheel near the ceiling; from Remarks on a Tour to North and South Wales (01800)
A dog at work inside a wheel near the ceiling; from Remarks on a Tour to North and South Wales (01800)

Turnspit Dogs

Technology rendering things obsolete is nothing new. In the mid-01800s, the automaton roasting-jacks freed the turnspit dog from the kitchen cooking wheel.

Turnspit dogs are now-extinct breed of short-legged, long-bodied dog. These dogs were put to work in kitchens to run on a wheel connected to a spit to roast meat evenly over an open fire.

An early mention of Turnspit dogs can be found in the book Of English Dogs dating back to 01576.

Wikipedia - Turnspit Dog

BBC - A History of the World: Wooden case containing Whiskey (A preserved Turnspit Dog)

If you ❤️ it, 🍽️ it.

It is no surprise that our food diversity is shrinking. We've lost many varieties of apples, pears and other fruits over the centuries.

The simplest solution is to eat them. It sounds a bit counterintuitive, but many of these species are no longer grown because no one "wants" them. If buyers or shoppers create demand for alternatives and request farmers to produce them, then we have to do our part and buy and eat them too.

Wikipedia - Ark of Taste

Long Now - To Save it, Eat it - Eating to Extinction: The World's Rarest Foods and Why We Need to Save Them, by Dan Saladino