This Season, Focus on Creating Convivial Food Experiences
By Danielle Nierenberg and Jared Kaufman
Eating together does more than make people happier — it can help us all be healthier, especially around the holidays.
Conviviality — eating with good company — creates a joyous atmosphere around food that reminds us to honor the food and the people eating it as well as those who grew, harvested, cooked and served it.
But conviviality can be tough in today's world. With countless apps that allow for home delivery of nearly any grocery or restaurant item, it's easy to eat at home. When diners do visit restaurants, they're now more likely to do it alone: The online restaurant reservation site OpenTable said bookings by solo diners jumped by 80 percent between 2014 and 2018 in New York City. Restaurants across Canada saw a similar spike, with OpenTable reporting an 85 percent increase in reservations for one between 2015 and 2017. In fact, in 2014, nearly half of all meals eaten by adults in the U.S. were alone.
The importance of conviviality has been recognized for hundreds of years, particularly by cultures surrounding the Mediterranean Sea. "Eating together is the foundation of the cultural identity and continuity of communities throughout the Mediterranean basin," UNESCO declares. "The Mediterranean diet emphasizes values of hospitality, neighborliness, intercultural dialogue and creativity, and a way of life guided by respect for diversity. It plays a vital role in cultural spaces, festivals, and celebrations, bringing together people of all ages, conditions and social classes."
Convivial experiences are not unique to the Mediterranean, though. No matter what you're eating, paying special attention to the food on your table and the people who brought it to you, sharing stories and recipes, and getting to know other people over a shared meal can break down social divisions and strengthen our food system.
This season, Food Tank is highlighting strategies to bring the spirit of conviviality to your table:
- Cook with new ingredients. If you use a variety of foods in your kitchen, you can learn about the biodiversity of the world's agriculture while supporting the preservation of cultures' traditional food systems and crops. The Crop Trust's Food Forever initiative makes it easy and accessible to incorporate diverse ingredients into your cooking, with recipes that feature items like beans, lentils, and freekeh in delicious soups and side dishes. And through the Crop Trust's #CropsInColor campaign, you can see photos and videos from around the globe that highlight the beautiful and surprising aspects of a biodiverse food system.
- Slow down your food. Leisurely meals can allow for time to have convivial experiences around the table, which is a central principle of the international Slow Food Movement. But it can be hard to find the time or resources to spend an hour on dinner, let alone a full evening. And Oxfam America offers a dinner-table discussion guide that can help you and your family think about where your food came from, who produced it, and why it's important.
- Bring joy back to food. There are so many ways to infuse pleasure into your eating experiences, such as making sure to include items you truly love in your diet and pairing food with other enjoyable activities, like reading a book or sitting outside with a friend. Giving food-related gifts is also a powerful way to turn food and eating into a celebratory social occasion, according to a paper from the Barilla Center for Food & Nutrition.
- Make conviviality a habit. Establishing routines — choosing a night of the week where everyone in your family sits down together, eating meals at the same time each day, and even getting to know the people you regularly buy food from — can help transform eating from simply a functional act to a communal ritual.
- Take the stress out of cooking. Making meals in advance and freezing them, or turning on a slow cooker in the morning, can speed up mealtime preparation so you can focus your energy on the people you're eating with—and help cut down on food waste!
- Discuss the importance of conviviality with others. You can do this around your own dinner table, or by hearing from experts at events such as the 10th International Forum of the Barilla Center for Food & Nutrition Foundation. There, speakers including Barilla Foundation president Guido Barilla and Hilal Elver, the U.N. Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, will discuss driving sustainable development while protecting the planet.
Reposted with permission from Food Tank.
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Human actions have taken a steep toll on whales and dolphins. Some studies estimate that small whale abundance, which includes dolphins, has fallen 87% since 1980 and thousands of whales die from rope entanglement annually. But humans also cause less obvious harm. Researchers have found changes in the stress levels, reproductive health and respiratory health of these animals, but this valuable data is extremely hard to collect.
Researchers work with trained dolphins to learn more about their sensory abilities, seen here testing a dolphin's hearing. Jason Bruck / CC BY-ND
A Lot to Learn From Hormones<p>When sampling the blow, we are looking for hormones in mucus as these can be used to gauge psychological and physiological health. We are specifically interested in <a href="https://dx.doi.org/10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0114062" target="_blank">hormones like cortisol</a> and <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ygcen.2018.04.003" target="_blank">progesterone</a>, which indicate stress levels and reproductive ability respectively, but can also help determine overall health.</p><p>Additionally, blow samples can detect <a href="https://dx.doi.org/10.1128%2FmSystems.00119-17" target="_blank">respiratory pathogens</a> in the lungs or nasal passages - blowholes evolved from noses after all.</p><p>This health analysis is especially important in areas with oil spills as the chemicals can cause hormonal problems that harm <a href="https://www.carmmha.org/investigating-how-oil-spills-affect-dolphins-and-whales/" target="_blank">development, metabolism and reproduction</a> in dolphins.</p><p>Hormone samples can provide scientists with valuable data, but collecting them from intelligent and unpredictable animals is challenging.</p>
Cetacean Collaborators<p>To build a drone that can stealthily collect spray from moving dolphins, we needed more data on their eyesight and hearing, and this is data that couldn't be collected in the wild nor simulated in a lab.</p><p>We worked with dolphins at facilities like Dolphin Quest in Bermuda, which provides guests opportunities to learn about dolphins while allowing <a href="https://dolphinquest.com/about-us/our-story/" target="_blank">scientists access to animals for noninvasive research</a>. Here the dolphins can swim away if they choose not to work with us, so we had to design the study like a game; the way a kindergarten teacher entertains a class. If the dolphins aren't interested, we don't get to do the science.</p><p>Over the course of hundreds of sessions, we sought to answer two questions: What can dolphins hear and what can they see around their heads?</p><p>To test dolphin hearing, we set up microphones and cameras to record dolphin behavior as we played drone noise in the air. We analyzed the responses to each noise – such as how many dolphins looked at the speaker – and used these as a proxy for their ability to hear the sounds.</p>
<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="5f31daf07a652b8d64a093b993ee4e96"><iframe lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/UjmQeH3vXHI?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
Robodolphin doesn't look like a real dolphin, but it doesn't need to in order to train our drone pilots. C.J. Barton / Oklahoma State University / CC BY-ND<p>To build robodolphin, we worked with dolphins trained to "chuff" or sneeze on command to measure spray characteristics. We used high-speed photography to see the dolphins' breath as it moved through the air. Then we conducted high resolution CT scans of a dolphin head and 3D-printed a replica of a nasal passage.</p><p>Now, we have a complete robodolphin and are tweaking its sprays to be nearly identical to the real thing. This will allow us to determine how close we need to get to collect the samples, and therefore, how quiet our drone needs to be.</p>
The replica dolphin blowhole was designed from a scan of a real blowhole passage, and the spray it produces closely matches the real thing. Alvin Ngo, Mitch Ford and CJ Barton / Oklahoma State University / CC BY-ND
A Bit of Practice, Then Into the Wild<p>In the next few months, we will test flights over robodolphin with existing drones to determine the timing and strategy for collection. From there, we will fabricate a low-noise drone that can fly fast enough and with sufficient maneuverability to capture samples from wild dolphins. Like a video game, we will use the visual field data to develop approach trajectories to stay in the visual blindspots.</p><p>We plan to test our drones on a truck-mounted robodolphin moving down a runway, then using a boat to simulate realistic conditions. The next steps will involve ocean testing with dolphins trained for open ocean swimming. These tests will determine if our devices can catch and hold the hormones as the drone flies back to a researcher's boat.</p><p>Finally, we will deploy the system to collect data on wild dolphins. Our first goal is to test resident dolphins – animals that live on the coasts and deal directly with boat and oil industry noise – which will allow us to learn more about stress resulting from human impacts.</p><p>Those samples are a way off, but if all goes well we will have a specially built drone capable of flying long distances and capturing samples undetected in a few years. The samples collected will allow researchers to do better science with impact on the animals they study.</p>
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Environmental and Health Hazard<p>Experts say e-waste, which is now the world's fastest-growing domestic waste stream, poses serious environmental and health risks.</p><p>Simply throwing away electronic items without ensuring they get properly recycled leads to the loss of key materials such as iron, copper and gold, which can otherwise be recovered and used as primary raw materials to make new equipment, thereby reducing greenhouse gas emissions from extraction and refinement of raw materials.</p><p>Refrigerants found in electronic equipment such as fridge and air conditioners also contribute to global warming. A total of 98 Mt of CO2-equivalents, or about 0.3% of global energy-related emissions, were released into the atmosphere in 2019 from discarded refrigerators and ACs that were not recycled properly, the report said.</p><p>E-waste contains several toxic additives or hazardous substances, such as mercury and brominated flame retardants (BFR), and simply burning it or throwing it away could lead to serious health issues. Several studies have linked unregulated recycling of e-waste to adverse birth outcomes like stillbirth and premature birth, damages to the human brain or nervous system and in some cases hearing loss and heart troubles.</p><p>"Informal and improper e-waste recycling is a major emerging hazard silently affecting our health and that of future generations. One in four children are dying from avoidable environmental exposures," said Maria Neira, director of the Environment, Climate Change and Health Department at the World Health Organization. "One in four children could be saved, if we take action to protect their health and ensure a safe environment."</p>
Europe Leads the Way<p>While most of the e-waste was generated in Asia (24.9 Mt) in 2019, Europe led the charts on a per person basis with 16.2 kg per capita, the report said.</p><p>But the continent also recorded the <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/the-eu-declares-war-on-e-waste/a-51108790" target="_blank">highest documented formal e-waste collection and recycling</a> rate at 42.5%, still below its target of 65%. Europe was well ahead of the others on this front. Asia ranked second with 11.7%.</p><p>The authors said while more that 70% of the world's population was covered by some form of e-waste policy or laws, not much was being done toward implementation and enforcement of the regulations to encourage the take-up of a collection and recycling infrastructure due to lack of investment and political motivation.</p><p>"You have to think about new economic systems," said Kühr.</p><p>One approach could be that consumers no longer buy the products, but only the service they offer. The device would remain the property of the maker, who would then have an interest in offering his customers the best service and the necessary equipment. The maker would also be interested in designing his products in such a way that they are easier to repair and easier to recycle, Kühr said.</p>
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