Down-Home Molecular Gastronomy

A variety of bottled waters.
Pumping water samples through a filter for solid state extraction.
The pump "drinking" Just Water brand tetrapak water.

Down-home Molecular Gastronomy is a cooking and research project that uses American vernacular dishes produced with the techniques of haute cuisine to highlight the wealth, knowledge, and access disparity in our food system. 

Many of the regional “homestyle” dishes that seem the most comforting and familiar are also the most likely to contain endocrine disrupting compounds due to agricultural, industrial, or pharmaceutical processes. Often these foods contain cheap, popular, broadly distributed “commodity crops” such as seed oils, sugar, grains which have been grown with known endocrine disruptor pesticides and herbicides. Or they may contain factory farmed and processed meats and dairy products, from animals fed on industrially produced grains and treated with a variety of hormones. Plastic used in processing and packaging food products can also contribute testable levels of endocrine disruptors.

We selected “Cheesy Taco Bake” to recreate as Down-Home Molecular Gastronomy. This classic Midwestern casserole dish is familiar to many from school cafeteria lunches or the dinner table, and it contains many of the ingredients known to be produced with or contain endocrine disrupting compounds. 

Endocrine disrupting effects of ingredients  reference:

Dairy: Cheese and Sour Cream
On naturally occurring endocrine disruptors in milk:
“Previous studies have shown that about 60–80% of estrogens come from milk and dairy products in western diets (75). Although the oral bioactivity of free 17β-estradiol and oestrone may be a bit low, but oestrogen sulphate as a main conjugate in milk, has a relatively high oral bioactivity (9). Recent epidemiological studies indicating a very strong relation between milk and dairy products high consumption and high incidence of testicular and prostate cancers (76).”

“Since, nowadays use of more vegetal flours, which are known to contain high amounts of phytoestrogens including isoflavones in animal feeds, is usual, then it could create a great concern about the possible transfer of these compounds from the bovine feed to the milk and finally to human food chain (77). “Phytoestrogens are capable to interact with both typical oestrogen receptors (α and β) (78), thus they may act as endocrine disruptors. Plant isoflavonoids especially in soybean products and other legumes are converted by intestinal bacteria to hormone-like compounds with estrogenic activity (79). “

Corn: Tortilla Chips
via naturally occurring estrogenic compounds:
Via use of Atrazine:
“More than 80% of all atrazine applications occur during corn production”: (Environmental Working Group)
“One of the most widely used and most troublesome endocrine-disrupting pesticides in the U.S. is atrazine. Manufactured by agro-chemical giant Syngenta, atrazine is sprayed mostly on Midwest corn fields and is consistently one of the most detected crop chemicals in drinking water."
Tests by the Environmental Protection Agency have repeatedly found atrazine in Midwestern drinking water sources that exceed levels of concern for infants and children.  In 2009 The New York Times reported that an estimated 33 million Americans have been exposed to atrazine through their taps.
The hormone-disrupting qualities of atrazine have been well-documented, most notably by Tyrone Hayes, a professor of biology at the University of California at Berkeley. His extensive research has shown the chemical altered the reproductive systems in frogs.“
Study by Tyrone Hayes, et al:

USGS map of locations of atrazine use in US.

Meat: Beef
Via use of Atrazine in feed crops: Article from Global Meat News about livestock feed costs going up due to possible ban on atrazine.
Via use of growth enhancing hormone implants - trenbolone acetate or TBA.
Via Zeronol - a growth hormone given to cows in the US and Canada under the brand name Ralco.

Sugar: Crystallized cilantro leaves
Sugarcane is the 3rd most common crop for use of atrazine.