Notes on ... Pseudoscience

Believe it! Or not.

Edsa
“Edge of Time,” an illustration by artist Interesni Kazki.

Pseudoscience, defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as “a collection of beliefs or practices mistakenly regarded as being based on scientific method,” is an interesting tangent for exploring the intersections of food and creativity.

Some will tell you food and eating are merely a means of physical sustenance where taste is not an important survival function. Yet, our existence relies on emotional nourishment too as flavours stir the creative imagination, forming cultural traditions and practices — many of which are deemed today as “pseudoscience.” While we don’t dispute the scientific evidence, the fact these practices exist is a wonderful curiosity for Edsa.

To us, ideas of pseudoscience, food and creativity intersect on the belief that there is something is much bigger than ourselves – that some things do live on, whether in the form of a drawing, a recipe or an idea.

*Knock, knock* “Housekeeping?”

Hi there!

We have some new subscribers since our last newsletter, so welcome. This is the second issue of Delicious Creativity.

It’s exciting to hear people are interested in our mushroom-inspired sweatshirts, which we launched in October last year as our debut project. Purveyr recently published a piece on our humble beginnings. We hope you can take the time to read it, to know more about who we are and why we’re doing what we’re doing!

To those interested in purchasing a sweatshirt in Metro Manila, we have one size S in Forest left on hand so please DM us via Instagram for sizing measurements or more information.  You can also check out #feelgoodinedsa to see what the sweatshirts look like. Our existing stock is in the UK and while we plan to restock soon, we’re unable to guarantee a date due to the pandemic.

In the meantime, please DM us on Instagram if you’d like to join our waitlist and we’ll let you know as soon as we can work it out 😊 Shipping is only available in the UK, Europe and the Philippines. 

Enjoy the newsletter and ta-ta!

Sai and Kat 


+ FOOD

FOOD AS MEDICINE

Fritz Hoffmann photographed ingredients in traditional Chinese apothecaries for National Geographic. This image features an endangered softshell turtle, believed to treat night sweats and muscle spasms. 

The relationship between food and medicine has significantly evolved. Hippocrates, the Greek pioneer of Western medicine, developed the theory of four humours (blood, yellow bile, black bile, phlegm) and temperaments (hot, cold, wet, dry) — a framework reminiscent of Japanese macrobiotic or Hindu Ayurvedic nutrition, positing that balancing between foods with hot or cool “energy” is essential for good health.

Yet, whether traditional medicine should continue is being questioned in the face of recent events. Experts suggest COVID-19 most likely developed from bats, pangolins to humans, resulting from illegal wildlife trade in China. While bat faeces 夜明砂 are believed to treat vision and gastrointestinal disorders, the scales of endangered pangolins allegedly cure anxiety, malarial fever and deafness.

Here is a short documentary by National Geographic following the Karan tribesmen in Papua New Guinea and their tradition of eating the largest bats in the world. Talk about a video recipe.

We also found these reports on the illegal pangolin trade informative. Here are five facts you should consider:

  • Shy and solitary anteaters, pangolins are the most trafficked mammal in the world.

  • It is estimated 110,182 pangolins have been confiscated in 2020 so far – a 54.4% increase compared to 2019.

  • A kilogram of pangolin scales is likely sold in China at around US$760.

  • In Cameroon, poachers are rewarded US$2 for hunting pangolins.

  • The small habitat of the Philippine pangolin can only be found in Palawan. Demand for pangolin meat has been increasing in Metro Manila, where it can sell for US$3 to US$5 per kilogram.

PEACE, LOVE AND NAMASTE

We are all about feeling “good.” Yet, there is an entire industry in which its central ethos is about selling you an idea of feeling “well.”

Jessica Knoll suggests that at the core of wellness culture is not about eating “clean,” “whole” and “healthy.” “Wellness is about weight loss,” preying on rich and intelligent women who tirelessly poke at every bump and blob in their bodies. While the Bechdel Test analyses whether films (1) have two women (2) talking to each other about (3) something other than a man, Knoll proposes a new test.

“Women, can two or more of us get together without mentioning our bodies and diets? It would be a small act of resistance and a kindness to ourselves.

When men sit down to a business lunch, they don’t waste it pointing out every flaw on their bodies. They discuss ideas, strategies, their plans to take up more space than they already do. Let’s lunch like that. Who’s eating with me?”

To Shayla Love, the wellness industry is about money – the face of which is Gwyneth Paltrow's $250 million Goop empire, promoting adaptogenic mushrooms, “spirit dust,” and bulletproof coffee. Sociologist Stephanie Alice Baker says the strategic use of anecdotal language to monetise on health makes the wellness industry difficult to regulate if claims are “designed to entertain and inform, not provide medical advice” — a disclaimer from The Goop Lab, a documentary show on Netflix.

We are of the camp of knowledge, so here’s a comprehensive fact-check on the show’s most outrageous claims.

EATING “BAD” THINGS IS GOOD

Photography by Daniel Dorsa for The New York Times.

As the pandemic changes our customs in the kitchen, our views of “health” are also being challenged.

Julie Creswell observed how, in the wake of the coronavirus, processed foods are making a comeback in the United States. With little fresh produce in the grocery, foods with long shelf lives, like Chef Boyardee and Campbell Soup, are giving comfort and nostalgia to many – part of a larger “food story” linking us to early memories.  

For Emily Baron Caldoff, Kraft Easy Cheese is a luxury – one she will indulge in from time to time between kale and tofu. “We all have foods that, however nutritionally void or mealy tasting, we will not let go … they make up part of who we are.”

Another sin in “healthy” eating is eating sweets. We agree with chef Yotam Ottolenghi that consuming sugar is not about addiction, but rather

The comfort, surprise and delight that dessert, or any food, can bring, that ideal match of the right dish and the right moment. The reason a colourful vertiginously tall and booze-filled trifle brings so much joy at the end of a party is not because of the sugar in the list of ingredients. It’s because nothing says “sharing” and “celebration” and “ta-da!” quite like it.

Here are three of Ottolenghi’s best desserts — tried, tested and approved by Edsa.


+ CREATIVITY

HOW ASTROLOGY INSPIRES

We have a tendency to make sense of the world around us, as expressed in our habits and inner turmoils. Thus, in the face of uncertainty, it comes as no surprise why astrology has endured over generations. Amanda Hess illustrates how the internet complemented the meteoric rise of astrology by ticking the boxes for happy viral content, providing “an easy framework for endlessly personalized material.” 

This personal touch can articulate otherwise inexplicable experiences. Knowing ourselves can inspire creativity by debunking complexity. As Banu Guler, founder of cult AI-powered astrology app Co-star, describes: Rather than a tool to predict our fortune, astrology can answer the question of "how we can have a real conversation about ourselves and our reality.” Psychoanalyst Carl Jung, who created the concept of archetypes, regarded astrology as a “psychological description of character” with planets corresponding to “individual character components.” He explains:

The basic meaning of the horoscope is that, by mapping out the positions of the planets and their relations to one another (aspects), together with the distribution of the signs of the zodiac at the cardinal points, it gives a picture first of the psychic and then of the physical constitution of the individual. It represents, in essence, a system of original and fundamental qualities in a person’s character, and can therefore be regarded as an equivalent of the individual psyche.

In films or books, archetypes help us relate to the “hero,” the “villain” or the “rebel without a cause” as we see similar behaviours in ourselves. While not a definitive approach, if reading your birth chart means knowing your strengths and weaknesses, then we’re your number one cheerleader. Go you!

Here’s your Edsa horoscope for today.

The planetary alignment between your bed and the kitchen is erring you on the side of caution. Should you leave that snug little spot or eat all the food in the fridge right now? If there is a will, there is a way. Likewise, if inspiration is depleted today, just take a look in the mirror. “What a beautiful chocolate man!

MEDITATION AND CREATIVITY

A self-portrait of David Lynch taken at Idem Paris in December 2013.

In our previous newsletter, we explored the psychology of inspiration whereby increasing its likelihood is achieved through effort, openness and positive affect — all of which can arise from practising meditation. Research suggests a daily meditation practice aids creativity by building resilience, mitigating stress, managing emotions, and developing a more positive outlook.

Film director David Lynch has been a staunch practitioner of “transcendental meditation” for over forty years. Unlike other forms of meditation, transcendental meditation uses a specific mantra or sound that helps anchor concentration more precisely. Not all forms of meditation are equal in its ability to help reach peak creativity, Lynch argues, because simply “concentrating will not give you the full experience.”  He equates his practice to fishing where ideas are gifts and negativity is creativity’s arch-nemesis:

Negativity shuts the tube of how those ideas flow. Once you start meditating, that tube opens up and you start expanding consciousness, they flow right through and you experience consciousness on a deeper level. This is going to help you in your work, in solving problems and the heavy weight of negativity surrounding you — I call it the suffocating rubber clown suit of negativity.

Another meditation practice many attest to is described in The Artist’s Way — a book by Julia Cameron, providing techniques in self-confidence for harnessing creativity. Madeleine Dore documents her experience from start to finish in this piece on Extraordinary Routines

I’m completely changed, and simultaneously unchanged. That, to me, is the wonderful thing about it ­– change is imperfect, it’s two steps forward and one step back, and often vice versa. When it’s lasting, it’s almost undetectable as your new self and your old self merge and stroll and stumble together.

CONSPIRACIES AS CREATIVE STORYTELLING

A viral meme of Charlie Kelly from the comedy series It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, played by Charlie Day. 

With the advent of fake news and post-truth politics comes the elusive conspiracy theory. Sociologist Ted Goertzel defines this as an “explanation of an event or situation that invokes a conspiracy by sinister and powerful actors, often political in motivation”. At its core, a conspiracy theory is motivated by distrust, making improbable explanations appear plausible than concretely factual.

In a study published in the journal Current Biology, researchers from the University of Fribourg suggest that, among a group of college students, those who believed “everything happens for a reason” were more prone to believe in conspiracy theories. Viren Swami, a sociology professor at Anglia Ruskin University, argues that “conspiracy theories give people a sense of agency, helping them personify the problem.” In the case of the coronavirus outbreak, he explains:

Suddenly, I have someone to blame, whether it be a Chinese laboratory worker or the American government. The problem with this is that instead of feeling anxious, I now have permission to act; to do something. And that can lead to anything from a spike in xenophobia to people believing absurd and potentially very dangerous false medical advice.

In a way, conspiracy theories, and pseudoscience, are a form of creative storytelling. When the truth is impossible to grasp, these theories become coping mechanisms — albeit through delusion in the hopes of certainty.


+ EVERYTHING IN BETWEEN

James Hamblin for The Atlantic discusses how religion promotes “purity” through “natural” food and diets. 

Cooking in Quarantine is a newsletter by Sam Koppelman asking chefs what to cook when you can’t leave your home. We love this issue on how to hack dessert with Milk Bar’s Christina Tosi. 

How umami and MSG are one and the same, and why we can have both. 

This podcast from Beyond Today takes a closer look at why millennials are obsessed with astrology — a market priced at more than USD$2 billion. 

Design professor Mitch Goldstein is teaching a free online, interactive workshop on expanding your creative practice. Visit obstructions.work for more information. You can also visit the workshop Instagram to see what students have been up to. 

NHK released 10 Years with Hayao Miyazaki — a 4-part documentary exploring the creative process of the legendary filmmaker, now available to stream online for free.

In collaboration with WeTransfer, digital designer Zach Lieberman created ‘Color Push,’ an interactive painting game that is both hypnotic and meditative. 


PS: We hope this newsletter raised some awareness on the very cute, but endangered, pangolins! You can read more about Jackie Chan’s fight for pangolins with WildAid and The Nature Conservancy here

Delicious Creativity is a creative newsletter on food by Edsa. You can support this newsletter by subscribing to our posts, following us on Instagram or writing to us your thoughts on how we can do better.