During the holiday season, I found several interesting stories and videos that I’d like to share with you.
No Dry January in France
For the fourth year in a row, France’s government under Emmanuel Macron’s leadership has refused to participate in or promote Dry January, a month when citizens agree to consume no alcohol.
A British charity, Alcohol Change UK, came up with the idea in 2013 as a health promotion to get people to cut back on their alcohol consumption—at least for one month.
Abstinence, even for a month, however, is inconsistent with the interests of the massive wine industry in France, which instead promotes moderation.
Perhaps France doesn’t need to worry about decreasing alcohol consumption (at least in the case of wine). That’s because wine consumption per person declined from 47 liters to 24 liters during 2010–2023, a reduction of nearly half.
Various reasons account for the decline. A focus on health, a generational shift to alternatives (craft beers, spirits, and nonalcoholic drinks), and economic hardships that reduce discretionary spending contributed to the changing habits.
Looking ahead, if you celebrate the start of the New Year 2025 in France, you won’t feel social pressure to abstain. You will, however, feel social pressure to drink moderately, not just in January but year-round.
Why Aren’t American Indian Cuisine Restaurants Common in the United States?
American Indian cuisine is one of North America’s oldest cuisines and predates contact with Europeans. Yet, except for a handful of restaurants, the cuisine is not well represented in the United States.
And for that matter, why doesn’t American Indian cuisine get credit for the “magic eight” foods that have become staples in American diets: corn, beans, squash, chiles, tomatoes, potatoes, vanilla, and cacao?
I watched a TED Talk by Sean Sherman, an American Indian chef and a member of the Oglala Lakota tribe from the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, who described the current situation. He pointed out the lack of restaurants featuring American Indian food and explained the historical disappearance of his Native cuisine.
Sherman is the founder of the Sioux Chef (a clever play on words), a company that is committed to revitalizing Native American cuisine.
Sean was delightfully funny when he explained the European perspective of ownership, which, he said, would land people in jail were they to practice it today. He gave the example of someone who goes into an Apple store and “discovers” the latest MacBook. If the person declares, “It’s mine. I discovered it,” chances are good the person will not get to walk out of the store without paying for the MacBook.
However, this was the European philosophy when they “discovered” the new world. “It’s mine,” said England, France, Spain, Portugal, and the Netherlands. American history still contains the notion that the discovery of the New World gave colonists ownership rights.
Growing up in Iowa, I knew that Indians lived on reservations separate from other Iowans. But I knew nothing more than that. In retrospect, my ignorance is embarrassing.
If you’re interested in eating Native American cuisine, here are a few restaurants I found:
Black Sheep Cafe, Provo, Utah
Cafe Ohlone, Berkeley, California
Gatherings Cafe, Minneapolis, Minnesota
Indian Pueblo Kitchen, Albuquerque, New Mexico
Ko’sin, Phoenix, Arizona
Mitsitam Native Foods Cafe, Washington, DC
Red Mesa Cuisine, Santa Fe, New Mexico
Off the Rez, Seattle, Washington
Owamni, Minneapolis, Minnesota
Tocabe, Denver, Colorado
Ulele, Tampa, Florida
Welsh Tidy Mouse Cleans Shop Nightly
A retired postman noticed that the table in his workshop was getting cleaned nightly. He also noticed some food he’d left out for birds ended up in his shoes. Curious about what was going, he set up a camera and watched.
To the owner’s delight and surprise, he discovered a tidy mouse was cleaning his work area each night. The owner named him Welsh Tidy Mouse because of his housekeeping skills. Most of the items were easily manageable by the mouse. But sometimes, the mouse carried a heavy item, like a screwdriver, and managed to put the tool away. If you want to smile, watch the video here.
Dr. Jonny Kohl, a specialist in the neural wiring of mice, can’t explain this mouse’s behavior. The only conclusion he has come to is that the mouse must enjoy cleaning and organizing. The activity isn’t necessary for the survival of the mouse, and the mouse must clean up the same mess day after day. He must get some pleasure from simply cleaning and organizing.
If a gene in the mouse’s brain accounts for this behavior, that gene seems to be missing in teenagers’ brains, at least in the ones I’m around. Their rooms beg for cleaning and organizing. Maybe the “neat and tidy” gene shows up later in life. Or, in my case, not at all!
Cover photo by Dmitry Demidov, Pexels