Food Inc.: Corporations Cooking for Us

Who decides what we eat - CookinGenie

04 Nov 2020

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Food Inc.: Corporations Cooking for Us

A few years ago, an infographic went viral that showed how most of the world’s food brands are owned by just a handful of corporations. 

food brands owned by corporations

Image Source: visualcapitalist

Around the same time that this infographic started circulating, a study found that nearly 60% of the calories in the modern American diet come from processed foods.  

 How did we get here with our food 

 In the early years of our countryhome cooked meals & fresh cooked meals were the ways to eatWe plucked our own chickens, grew our own vegetables, made our own bread. We ate whole foods made from scratch. There were innovations—a company called Van Camp sold canned beans to the Union Army during the Civil War, Clarence Birdseye introduced frozen foods in the 1920s—but for the most part, we knew where your food came from or at least knew the local farmer or butcher who provided our ingredients. 

 It was post World War II that our food supply really started to change. Food manufacturers who had secured government contracts during the war saw their profits plummet. To make up for lost wartime revenue, they started introducing new food innovations designed to appeal to housewives’ demand for convenience, like Minute Maid concentrated orange juice, Duncan Hines cake mixes, and Minute Rice.1 

(Also ReadMade to Cook: The Cooking Hypothesis)

The way Americans shopped for food was changing, tooTurn-of-the-century housewives bought their food from the freestanding grocer, butcher, and dry goods stores. They’d hand their shopping list to the store clerk, and the clerk would pick all the items for them. The first self-service grocery store, Piggly Wiggly, opened in Memphis in 1916, and this new store model—where consumers roamed through the store picking out their own items from the shelf—quickly caught on. According to the National Women’s History Museumbetween 1948 and 1958, the number of supermarkets in the United States doubled to over 2,500 and for the first time, it was cheaper to buy processed food than fresh.   

 Suddenly there were lots of money to be made in packaged convenience foods and the mergers and acquisitions began. Large companies started gobbling up smaller brands, and the steady consolidation of the industry continues to grow. In the last 20 years, there have been 9,007 mergers and acquisitions in the food, beverage, and grocery space, according to The Food Institute.  

 Industry watchdog Food & Water Watch says that all this consolidation means that these companies have an outsized influence on the food choices, diets, and working conditions of people around the world — not to mention the impact they have on the environment. Reduced competition gives these corporations control of the market price that farmers get for their crops and livestock. It’s led to the decrease of family farms and the growth of factory farms, ecologically damaging farming practices, and more and more unhealthy processed foods on grocery store shelves.  

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Amidst all this, what can we do to eat healthy? We love eating out and that will always remain an enjoyable experience. But the sure shot way to eat healthily is to have more home cooked meals. Meal prepping can also be an effective strategy. But if modern life gets in the way of fresh cooked meals or meal prepping, consider businesses like CookinGenie. CookinGenie can send a Genie (culinary experts ranging from classically trained chefs to specialized home cooks) to your house to make home-cooked meals for you and your family. Click here to view our menus and book your Genie today & enjoy fresh cooking from wholesome ingredients.  


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Bibimbap-CookinGenie

07 Apr 2021

CookinGenie lets you travel with food all around the world. Next stop: Korea. 

Sometimes, the humblest foods are the best foods. That’s certainly the case with bibimbapKorea’s answer to fried rice, and—if you ask us—one of the top must-try foods around the world. 

The word “bibimbap” means “mixed rice with meat and vegetables,” and variations of the dish abound. It’s a dish that is endlessly customizable based on whatever the cook has on hand: some versions are made with raw beef and eggs, while others incorporate cooked seafood or pork and fried egg. What all these versions have in common is a base of rice topped with ingredients that are individually prepared and carefully seasoned, then stirred together just before serving. The result is a colorful dish with flavors and textures that are hearty, bold and harmonize beautifully with one another.   

In its article about bibimbap, the Korean Culture Blog cites different origin stories for this famed food, which is centuries old. “One story is that ancestral rituals were performed in the countryside away from home and after the rituals, instead of bringing all the foods back home which was cumbersome, the people mixed together all the foods in one big bowl and ate them all. Another story is that bibimbap came from the ancient custom of mixing leftover cooked rice with all the remaining side dishes and eating it as a midnight snack on the eve of Lunar New Year.  Another story is that while working out in the fields, the farmers mixed together all the nutritious ingredients in one big bowl to have a quick and healthy meal.”1  

Over time, regional variations developed with the most famous version coming from Jeonju, a small city in South Korea. Jeonju bibimbap is made with bean sprouts, gingko nut, pine nut, chestnut, spinach, lettuce, bracken, mushroom, turnip, carrot, seaweed, and beef. It beautifully represents the philosophy of Hansik (traditional Korean food), by combining the five colors that represent the elements that make up the universe—green/water, red/fire, yellow/wood, white/metal and black/earth—and the five flavors: sweet, hot, sour, salty and bitter.2 

There are also variations based on the type of dish bibimbap is made and served in. Traditional yangpun bibimbap is served in a yangpun, a large brass bowl, although these days many Korean cooks reach for a stainless steel bowl to make yangpun bibimbap instead3. One of the most beloved varieties is dolsot bibimbap, which is made in a dolsot—a heavy stone or earthenware bowl that’s heated to a high temperature before ingredients are added. The rice goes in first so it cooks in the hot bowl and forms a crispy, crackling bottom crust that adds a satisfying crunch when everything is stirred together.  

Bibimbap took flight outside Korea—literally—and gained notice as one of the best foods in the world in the late twentieth century when South Korean Airlines began serving it for inflight meals. Its popularity quickly spread: Wikipedia calls the dish a global symbol that symbolizes the harmony and balance in Korean culture4 and CNN Travel listed it at number 40 on its 2011 list of the World’s 50 Most Delicious Foods.5  

CookinGenie’s Jared Kent makes his bibimbap by topping seasoned white rice with spicy ground pork and garlicky carrots, soy-glazed spinach, quick-pickled cucumbers, green onions and kimchiand crowning it all with a crispy fried egg. (He makes a just-veggies version for you vegetarians out there too). Just before serving, he drizzles the bowl with a sweet-and-spicy gochujang-soy sauce that ties it all together.  

And just a quick note: we added bibimbap to our menu at the request of one of our customers. Are you craving a dish and don’t see it on our menu? Just ask! Our team of Genies are inventive cooks with a deep repertoire of recipes—so chances are one of our chefs can help you satisfy your cravings for famous food from around the world. Send us an email with your special request to support@cookingenie.com 

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Why do we Love Spicy Food -CookinGenie blog

09 Sep 2021

We all know at least one person who loves their food insanely hot. They insist that their hot wings “aren’t spicy enough unless I’m dripping with sweat.”  On it’s face, that doesn’t make sense. Spicy foods cause physical pain, not just in the mouth, but sometime through the entire body. Why would we deliberately eat, and enjoy, something that causes pain? Well, it turns out, there are actually some pretty compelling reasons why so many people around the world love the way it hurts.

Spicy Foods Can Cause a “High”

Spice is not a “flavor” but rather a sensation. The sensation of spice comes from the chemical compound capsaicin, which is the substance that makes hot peppers hot. Capsaicin causes pain and triggers the body to think it’s in danger. In response, the body releases endorphins, which are pleasure causing hormones, this is the body’s way of trying to eliminate the “threat” it feels when you eat spicy food. This chemical release causes some people to associate eating hot foods with happiness, creating a “high”, similar to that of the good feeling you get after exercising.

When the body feels it’s in danger, it will also release the survival hormone adrenaline, which can give someone eating a fiery hot bowl of noodles a sense of heart-pounding excitement, just like if they were riding a roller coaster or bungee jumping. In short, for many, eating hot foods is a kind of thrill seeking.

Hot Peppers are Full of Antimicrobial Properties

It stands to reason that since the chemicals in hot peppers cause us pain, they can also be harmful to bacteria, viruses, and other microbes. Before refrigeration, hot peppers were often used to help preserve food and ward off bacteria in hotter parts of the world. This was integral to food safety; hot peppers were literally life savers.

That’s why hotter countries like India and Mexico have developed very spicy traditional cuisines while more temperate climates like England and Scandinavia produce much more mild food. So, because of these antimicrobial properties found in hot peppers, many cultures created spicy traditional dishes and over generations, billions of people have come to love them.

Hot Food’s Health Benefits

One reason we may love spicy food is because it’s so good for us. Extensive amounts of scientific research point to all kinds of health benefits from eating spicy foods. Capsaicin, the chemical compound found in chili peppers, is loaded with antioxidants and anti-inflammatories. Capsaicin has also been linked to improved digestion, an increased metabolism, better heart health, reduction in cancer risk, and a strengthened immune system. Turns out, hot peppers are one of nature’s true superfoods.

CookinGenie Brings the Heat

At CookinGenie, we offer a range of fiery, delicious dishes that appeal to even the most avid of heat seekers. Try genie Jared’s Red Thai Curry, which uses bird’s eye chili peppers along with a blend of aromatic Thai ingredients to make a vibrant, spicy curry sauce filled with stir-fried vegetables. Perhaps order genie Dylan’s Jerk Chicken, which takes juicy chicken legs and slathers them in a tangy, sweet & spicy Jamaican sauce made from habaneros, ginger, cinnamon, and more.

Whatever, your spice preference may be, CookinGenie can accommodate you. You can always request that a dish be more (or less) spicy, and our genies can even make separate plates so that some portions are really spicy for the heat lover in your family, and the rest are milder. To bring the delicious, healthy heat to your kitchen, book a genie today.

Written by:  Jared Kent

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Made to Cook: The Cooking Hypothesis

22 Oct 2020

What makes us human? Some would argue that it’s the act of cooking — whether it’s boiling, broiling, roasting, baking, or barbecuing — that separates us from every other species on Earth. 

 In 1999, Harvard professor of biological anthropology Richard Wrangham published an article in the Current Anthropology journal called “The Raw and the Stolen: Cooking and the Ecology of Human Origins. Known as “the cooking hypothesis,” Wrangham’s groundbreaking new theory of human evolution proposed that taming fire to cook food changed the course of human evolution. 

 In his article and his 2009 book Catching Fire: How Cooking Made Us Human, Wrangham argued that cooking allowed our human ancestors to process food more efficiently — and this change had a profound impact on evolution. While all other animals eat raw foods, Wrangham theorized that our ancestors began cooking their food some 1.8 million years ago, a change that gave early man the ability to process food more efficiently. It takes a long time, and a very large jaw and teeth, to grind down raw meat and plant matter. Before our ancestors learned how to cook, Wrangham estimated that half of their waking hours were spent simply chewing enough food to subsist, leaving little time for anything else. Cooking alters the chemical structure of food, breaking down the connective tissues in meat, and softening the cells of plants to release their starches and fats. This makes cooked food easier to chew and digest. This also helpthe body to use less energy to convert food into calories. Once the cooking was introduced, he estimated that our ancestors had an extra four hours in their day — time that could be spent huntingforaging, and slowly beginning to organizinto societiesWrangham explained, “The extra energy gave the first cooks biological advantages. They survived and reproduced better than before. Their genes spread. Their bodies responded by biologically adapting to cooked food, shaped by natural selection to take maximum advantage of the new diet. There were changes in anatomy, physiology, ecology, life history, psychology, and society.”  

This higher calorie, higher-quality diet lead to the evolution of bigger brains and bodies, and smaller jaws and teeth—a transformation that gradually resulted in modern man. From the control of fire and the growth in brain size, it’s not such a large leap to the development of dedicated hearths, the introduction of pottery and other tools for cooking, and the domestication of plants and animals.  

(Also ReadWhat eating healthy looks like)

 Wrangham’s theory is, of course, just that: a theory. Archaeological history to support control of fire 1.8 million years ago has not yet been found, but the recent discovery of ash in a South African cave suggests that our ancestors were controlling fire at least 1 million years ago — far earlier than previous evidence suggested. It may be just a matter of time before definitive evidence that proves Wrangham’s theory is found.  

 And If Wrangham’s theory is correct, we truly are what we eat.  

 If cooking is so fundamental to our evolution as people, it is a wonder that we don’t have time to make home-cooked meals with wholesome ingredients. Modern life has created many barriers to our ability to prepare home-cooked meals. What do we do if we don’t have time for home cookingBusinesses like CookinGenie can help you bring cooking where it belongs—in your own kitchen—even when you don’t have time to cook yourself. Check out our menus, and book your Genie today for building healthy eating habits in the family.  

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