Tehran, Jul 11 (AP/UNB) — At a trendy restaurant in Iran's capital, customers sip Coca-Cola through bending straws as waiters bring caddies to their tables full of Heinz ketchup and two types of Tabasco sauce.
Welcome to dining in the Islamic Republic, brought to you by America.
Whether at upscale restaurants or corner stores, American brands like Coca-Cola and Pepsi can be seen throughout Iran despite the heightened tensions between the two countries.
U.S. sanctions have taken a heavy toll on oil and other major industries in the country of 80 million people, but Western food, movies, music and clothing are still widely available. And 40 years after the Islamic Revolution and the takeover of the U.S. Embassy, despite billboards and rallies declaring "Death to America," Iranians — particularly the young — embrace U.S. products.
"The American lifestyle is very attractive," said Ahmad Rezaee, a 21-year-old student at Tehran University who drained two bottles of Coke while out with a friend. Coca-Cola "portrays that lifestyle for us."
Tensions have soared following the Trump administration's decision last year to withdraw from Iran's 2015 nuclear agreement with world powers and restore sanctions. In recent weeks Iran has begun openly breaching limits set by the accord, saying it cannot abide by the deal unless other signatories provide economic relief.
Despite that, drinking a "Coca" or a Pepsi after eating kebab in Iran comes as second nature, though the soft drinks don't taste quite as syrupy or sweet as their American counterparts. Both brands are bottled by local firms, Khoshgovar Mashhad Co. for Coca-Cola and Sasan Co. and Neysun Shargh Co. for Pepsi, which are affiliated with the Imam Reza Foundation, an economic conglomerate tied to the country's Shiite theocracy.
Coca-Cola held a 28% market share in Iran, according to a 2016 report by research firm Euromonitor International, while Pepsi had around 20%.
Asked about Coca-Cola sales in Iran, the Atlanta-based company said it had sold concentrate to Iran for over 20 years in line with U.S. sanctions policies.
"The authorizations are very restrictive in nature," Coca-Cola said. "The company does not have any ownership interest in the Iran bottler and does not have any tangible assets in Iran."
Pepsi did not respond to requests for comment. Pittsburgh-based Kraft Heinz Co. said that "like many Western companies, a few of our products are made available via a local Iranian distributor." The McIlhenny Co. of Avery Island, Louisiana, the maker of Tabasco, said it "expressly prohibits its distributors from reselling Tabasco brand products in Iran."
"Unfortunately, as is the case with all manufacturers, McIlhenny Co. has only a limited ability to stop illegal third-party distribution networks from secretly diverting our products to Iran and often must rely on U.S. agencies and law enforcement to identify front companies and individuals engaged in sanctions evasion," CEO Harold Osborn told The Associated Press in a statement.
At V Café near Tehran University, diners drank Coca-Colas and lathered their food with American condiments as videos played on a giant screen of travel destinations from around the world. Rezaee and a friend, Sima Najafzadeh, a 21-year-old fellow student, each drank Cokes, saying they enjoyed the taste. They also would like to see more iPhones, McDonald's restaurants and other trappings of Americana.
"We love Americans," Najafzadeh said.
That goes for American films as well. Rezaee acknowledged having to find a pirated copy of "Avengers: Endgame" online as it never played in Iran. Others without a strong internet connection can find recently released films like "John Wick: Chapter 3 — Parabellum" for under 40 cents apiece on Tehran's busy Enghelab Street, where hawkers also sell portraits of a young Al Pacino. Western pop and rock music seeps out of the occasional passing car.
Iranian state television channels even air older American movies dubbed in Farsi. The 2000 Dennis Quaid film "Frequency" was on one recent night.
At the city's Grand Bazaar, the capital's beating heart, a beach towel showing Mickey Mouse with a surf board in "So Cal" — southern California — hung on one rafter. Stacks of blue jeans were also on offer, but American brands like Levi Strauss have largely disappeared in recent months as Iran's currency has plummeted.
That's been a boon for the Par Group, a local jean manufacturer that produces some 3 million square meters of jeans a month from locally sourced and foreign material. Sales associates at their shop in the bazaar acknowledged the product's roots in American cowboy culture but said jeans remain popular on the streets of Tehran.
"All over the world, people want jeans," said Amin Moradi, a salesman at the shop. "Iranians are very fashionable."
At Tehran's massive Iran Mall, a store called TOMSon sells what appears to be the eponymous slip-on Toms shoes. The firm did not respond to requests for comment.
Of all the American imports, the most unlikely might be the Tehran Research Reactor, a nuclear gift from America that arrived in 1967 as part of its "Atoms for Peace" program, and which still runs today.
Emeryville, Jul 9 (AP/UNB) — Uma Valeti slices into a pan-fried chicken cutlet in the kitchen of his startup, Memphis Meats. He sniffs the tender morsel on his fork before taking a bite. He chews slowly, absorbing the taste.
"Our chicken is chicken ... you've got to taste it to believe it," Valeti says.
This is no ordinary piece of poultry. No chicken was raised or slaughtered to harvest the meat. It was produced in a laboratory by extracting cells from a chicken and feeding them in a nutrient broth until the cell culture grew into raw meat.
Memphis Meats, based in Emeryville, California, is one of a growing number of startups worldwide that are making cell-based or cultured meat. They want to offer an alternative to traditional meat production that they say is damaging the environment and causing unnecessary harm to animals, but they are far from becoming mainstream and face pushback from livestock producers.
"You are ultimately going to continue the choice of eating meat for many generations to come without putting undue stress on the planet," said Valeti, a former cardiologist who co-founded Memphis Meats in 2015 after seeing the power of stem cells to treat disease.
The company, which also has produced cell-grown beef and duck, has attracted investments from food giants Cargill and Tyson Foods as well as billionaires Richard Branson and Bill Gates.
A report released in June by consulting firm A.T. Kearney predicts that by 2040, cultured meat will make up 35 percent of meat consumed worldwide, while plant-based alternatives will compose 25 percent.
"The large-scale livestock industry is viewed by many as an unnecessary evil," the report says. "With the advantages of novel vegan meat replacements and cultured meat over conventionally produced meat, it is only a matter of time before meat replacements capture a substantial market share."
But first cultured meat must overcome significant challenges, including bringing down the exorbitant cost of production, showing regulators it's safe and enticing consumers to take a bite.
"We're a long way off from becoming a commercial reality because there are many hurdles we have to tackle," said Ricardo San Martin, research director of the alternative meat program at the University of California, Berkeley. "We don't know if consumers are going to buy this or not."
As global demand for meat grows, supporters say cell-based protein is more sustainable than traditional meat because it doesn't require the land, water and crops needed to raise livestock — a major source of greenhouse gas emissions.
Many consumers would love to eat meat that doesn't require killing animals, said Brian Spears, who founded a San Francisco startup called New Age Meats that served its cell-based pork sausages to curious foodies at a tasting last September.
"People want meat. They don't want slaughter," Spears said. "So we make slaughter-free meat, and we know there's a massive market for people that want delicious meat that doesn't require animal slaughter."
Finless Foods, another startup in Emeryville, is making cultured fish and seafood. It's produced cell-based versions of salmon, carp and sea bass, and it's working on bluefin tuna, a popular species that is overfished and contains high levels of mercury. The company has invited guests to sample its cell-based fish cakes.
"The ocean is a very fragile ecosystem, and we are really driving it to the brink of collapse," CEO Michael Selden said. "By moving human consumption of seafood out of the ocean and onto land and creating it in this cleaner way, we can basically do something that's better for everybody."
The emerging industry moved a step closer to market in March when the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration announced plans to jointly oversee the production and labeling of cell-based meat.
Food-safety advocates will be watching to ensure the agencies provide rigorous oversight and protect people from bacterial contamination and other health threats, said Jayden Hanson, policy director at the nonprofit Center for Food Safety.
"It will be important for the public that this be well regulated," Hanson said. "Do these really solve the environmental problem? Do they really solve the animal welfare problem? That needs to be part of the review as well."
If cultured-meat companies use genetically modified cells, they would face even greater scrutiny from consumers and government regulators, Hanson said.
Cell-based meat companies also face resistance from U.S. livestock producers, who have been lobbying states to restrict the "meat" label to food products derived from slaughtered animals and have been raising questions about the safety, cost and environmental effect of cultured meat.
"There's still many, many unknowns about these cell-based products," said Eric Mittenthal, vice president for sustainability at the North American Meat Institute. "We really don't know if it's something consumers will accept from a taste perspective. We don't know if it's going to be affordable."
Uma Valeti at Memphis Meats said he wants to help educate people about the benefits of cell-based meats and eventually open up its production facility to show people how its meat is made.
The company is focused on reducing the cost of cultured meat and producing larger quantities. A plate of chicken that used to cost tens of thousands of dollars to produce can now be made for less than $100, Valeti said.
Memphis Meats hopes to sell its cell-based meat within the next two years, starting with restaurants, then moving into grocery stores, assuming it passes USDA and FDA inspections.
"We're actually preserving the choice of eating meat for people," Valeti said. "Instead of saying, 'Give up eating meat or eat a meat alternative,' we're saying continue eating the meat that you love."
New York, Jul 8 (AP/UNB) — Joey "Jaws" Chestnut ate 71 wieners and buns to secure his 12th title at Nathan's Famous annual July Fourth hot dog eating contest on Thursday, just a few hot dogs shy of breaking the record he set last year.
In front of a crowd of fans and facing 17 opponents, the California native far exceeded his nearest competitors, but didn't quite make or pass the 74-dog mark he reached in 2018.
When asked how he felt after the contest, Chestnut, 35, said, "I feel like I should eat a couple more.
"I knew it was going to be close. I was trying hard and I was overstuffing my mouth and it wasn't going down," he said. "I just needed to find a way to move a little bit faster. I think it's getting harder the older I get."
Miki Sudo won the women's competition by chomping down 31 hot dogs.
The 33-year-old fell short of her total last year of 37 frankfurters but earned her sixth consecutive title by easily beating runner-up Michelle Lesco, who wolfed down 26 hot dogs.
Like Chestnut, she expressed some disappointment in not eating more.
"It wasn't my best number, the numbers were pretty low across the board. I don't know if it was the heat, but I really can't complain. I wasn't feeling in my best shape so I'm just glad that it was enough to pull off a sixth belt," she said.
Sonya "The Black Widow" Thomas holds the all-time women's record of 45 hot dogs in 10 minutes.
Chestnut and Sudo will each take home $10,000.
Spectators with foam hot dog hats, plastic noisemakers and homemade signs descended on Coney Island's famed boardwalk for the contest.
The annual eat-off started in 1972, though the company has long promoted the event with a theatrical backstory that places its start date in 1916.
Chestnut has only lost once since 2007, when he pulled ahead of longtime foe Takeru Kobayashi for the first time. An ESPN documentary released Tuesday features the two former rivals and their extreme training regimens.
"It's not something that there's books written about," Chestnut says in the film, which shows him lifting his head up and down with a weight dangling from his mouth. "There's not trainers. Everything's trial and error."
Kobayashi no longer takes part in the event.
Spectator George Cartolano, 40, said his favorite part of the contest was "watching them try not to regurgitate."
Elle Marks, 27, said she likes Chestnut because he's relatable. "He's a normal guy who just happens to be able to eat 74 hot dogs," she said.
Chestnut's next meal will probably be a "salad" and "a lot of liquid," he said. But he'll be back next year for the franks.
"As long as I'm healthy, as long as I'm happy and competitive, you can count me in," he said.
Dhaka, July 8 (UNB) - For students, eating à la carte at restaurants mostly tends to be a luxury. It’s expensive, the quantity is either too much or too little, it takes time to prepare-all in all just not the right choice for people on the run. However, I think I’d make a little exception for Ginza. For the price I paid, I really had a good lunch there last week.
We ordered the Steamed Chicken Gyoza, Chicken Nanban, Yakitori Chicken, and Nagasaki Fried Rice from the menu and then started the wait. About 15 minutes later, we were served with the delicate looking gyozas. Drizzled with a sweet and spicy sauce, it was exactly what would accompany steamed gyozas. However, I wouldn’t mind the wrap being slightly thinner.
Next came the three other dishes. They were served fresh and warm and with how hungry I was, I couldn’t wait to dig in! The Nagasaki Fried is basically fried rice with Naga sauce, bits of chicken, and vegetable. While at first you might not feel the heat, a few more spoonful of it will give off a sharp taste.
To tone down with the spice, the Yakitori Chicken works well as it leans more towards sweetness. 4 skewers of chicken pieces were served with a in-house sauce. Just by the look of it you'd understand the grilled chicken bits are tender and juicy! I was absolutely blown away by the simple yet delicious sweet, spicy, and slightly charred flavor I was getting in every bite. As for the Chicken Nanban, it was a tad bit oily but I did enjoy the Japanese Golden Curry dressing which looks like a thousand island dressing with bits of cabbages.
When it comes to talking about their service and environment, I wouldn’t say that I was impressed. It was quite packed for lunch and there were only 2 servers who were not only slow but also kept forgetting little things like providing straws for the drinks. We didn’t even get cutlery for the dishes served.
They hadn’t opened too long ago and at day time with natural lighting you can notice that it’s not really the cleanest place either (stained chair cushions, messy counter, etc). I will definitely go back to Ginza since I tend to have heavier lunches and the quantity they serve for every dish can easily be shared between 2 people. But if you’re looking for a proper outing with your family on a special occasion, the ambience might just miss the spot.
By: Ifreet Taheea
Dhaka, July 8 (UNB) - More than half the calories the average person in the UK eats come from ultra-processed foods. New research has linked these foods to early death and poor health, reports BBC. But what is ultra-processed food?
What’s the difference between minimally processed and ultra-processed?
The term ‘processed food’ has a bad rap, but cheese and fresh bread are both considered processed, so don’t always assume the worst. The NOVA food classification divides the foods we buy into four groups, from unprocessed to ultra-processed – but it may not always be clear which is which when you’re in the shops.
Group one: Unprocessed and minimally processed
Unprocessed and minimally processed foods make up 30 per cent of the calories eaten in a typical UK diet.
Unprocessed foods include fruit, vegetables, nuts, seeds, grains, beans, pulses and natural animal products such as eggs, fish and milk.
Minimally processed foods may have been dried, crushed, roasted, frozen, boiled or pasteurised, but contain no added ingredients. They include frozen fruits and vegetables, frozen fish, pasteurised milk, 100 per cent fruit juice, no-added-sugar yoghurt, spices and dried herbs.
Group two: Processed culinary ingredients
Processed culinary ingredients, include oils, fats such as butter, vinegars, sugars and salt. These foods are not meant to be eaten alone, but usually with foods in group one. Around 4 per cent of the calories we eat in the UK comes from this category.
Group three: Processed
Processed foods are products that are usually made using a mix of group one and two ingredients. They include smoked and cured meats, cheeses, fresh bread, bacon, salted or sugared nuts, tinned fruit in syrup, beer and wine. The main purpose of the processing is to prolong the food’s life or enhance its taste and almost 9 per cent of calories eaten in the UK are from this group.
Group four: Ultra-processed
Ultra-processed foods usually contain ingredients that you wouldn’t add when cooking homemade food. You may not recognise the names of these ingredients as many will be chemicals, colourings, sweeteners and preservatives. The most commonly eaten ultra-processed foods in the UK are:
Industrialised bread (11 per cent)
Pre-packaged meals (7.7 per cent)
Breakfast cereals (4.4 per cent)
Sausages and other reconstituted meat products (3.8 per cent)
These are closely followed by the expected confectionery (3.5 per cent), biscuits (3.5 per cent), pasties, buns and cakes (3.3 per cent) and industrial chips (2.8 per cent). Soft drinks, fruit drinks and fruit juices make up 2.5 per cent of the average calorie intake. Salty snacks, including Britain’s favourite crisps, make up 2 per cent of our calories, as do sauces, dressings and the Sunday favourite gravy (2.1 per cent).
More surprising to some will be what is included in the 3 per cent of calories that the average person eats from “other ultra-processed foods”. This includes baked beans, tinned soups, meat alternatives, soy and drinks used as dairy milk substitutes.
It can be tricky to identify food that has been ultra-processed because in some cases the same type of food could be minimally processed, processed or ultra-processed, depending on how it’s been made. For example:
Bread made from wheat flour, water, salt and yeast is processed, but add emulsifiers or colourings and it becomes ultra-processed.
Plain oats, corn flakes and shredded wheat are minimally processed, but when the manufacturer adds sugar, flavourings or colourings, they become ultra-processed breakfast cereals.
Plain yoghurt is minimally processed, but add sweeteners, preservatives, stabilisers or colourings and it becomes ultra-processed.
When food has been processed, studies show that the nutrient availability in the small intestine is affected. This is because the plant properties and animal cells have been altered. Issues arise when ultra-processed foods begin replacing unprocessed and minimally processed foods, which contain vital nutrients, in your diet. A whopping 56 per cent of the calories that the average person in the UK eats come from ultra-processed foods.
5 ways to recognise ultra-processed food
-A long list of ingredients, especially if it includes things only used in factory-made food, may indicate that a food is ultra-processed. A product containing more than five ingredients is likely to be ultra-processed, according to Professor Maira Bes-Rastrollo.
-Unrecognisable ingredients could be additives. Most of them are probably safe, but negative effects have been suggested for a few.
-High fat, sugar and salt content is common in ultra-processed food – look out for the traffic light label on foods for levels of these.
-‘Fresh food’ with a long shelf life may indicate the presence of preservatives. Some foods that contain preservatives, such as bacon (which contains salt and nitrates), are not ‘ultra-processed’. However, bacon is not a healthier alternative to salami, which is classed as ‘ultra-processed’ because it has more added ingredients and has undergone a further process in the factory. Bucking the trend is long-life milk, which has been pasteurised at an ultra-high temperature (UHT) and doesn’t contain preservatives and so isn’t classified as ultra-processed, rather minimally processed. Check the label for preservatives such as sodium benzoate, nitrate and sulphite, BHA and BHT.
-Aggressive marketing and branding. Ever seen a high-profile marketing campaign for apples and pears? Thought not.