- Since ancient times humans have harnessed the power of microbes to preserve food and enhance its flavours. Rich and complex food cultures have developed that use this power in a process called fermentation - making pickles, breads, wines and much, much more.
Sheila Dillon joins Sandor Katz - author and 'fermentation revivalist' - to find out more about the wonders of fermentation as well as our very relationship with these microbes.
Other news - today's Observer reports on an unprecedented attack by doctors on the government over their failure to formulate a credible plan to tackle obesity in the UK,
- The Academy of Medical Royal Colleges demands "bold and tough" measures to put an end to the role of "irresponsible marketing" by major food and drinks firms in fuelling the crisis. It calls on the health secretary, Andrew Lansley, to ditch the government's "inherently flawed" approach, which trusts the industry to voluntarily cut calories, reduce portion sizes and advise the public on healthy eating.
Instead, the academy's vice-president, Professor Terence Stephenson, says the government must take on the major brands, some of which he likens to the tobacco giants of the last century that stalled radical measures designed to save lives in order to protect their profits.
In the Observer's sister-paper, The Guardian, there is a short article on the history of dieting,
- Excess fat was an early target for philosophers, physicians, politicians and poets – as John Dryden pointed out in the 17th century. "The first physicians by debauch were made," he wrote. "Excess began, and sloth sustains the trade." Many spoke from personal experience: George Cheyne, a maverick, morbidly fat physician of 32st, was ridiculed for dispensing diet advice. His equally fat friend Dr Johnson observed that, "Whatever be the quantity that a man eats, it is plain that if he is too fat, he has eaten more than he should have done."
By the 19th century everyone was getting in on the diet business, moving away from advising plain food and moderate consumption to the mercurial miracle cures of today. And the first dieting celebrities began to emerge. Byron, archetypal romantic aesthete, yet too plump for his own liking, ate potatoes soaked in vinegar and wore layered clothing to sweat off the pounds. He was accused of encouraging wannabe angst, "the dread of being fat weighing like an incubus" on the youth of the day.