Given that New Year’s Eve this year falls at the start of a weekend, the party-o-meter is presumably going to ratchet pretty high. Deborah Madison has tips for a civilized and sober January dinner party, and Christina Eng collected classic celebratory drinks and dishes from around the world. And if you’re going the non-alcoholic route, check out our tips on appealing fizzy drinks.
You might’ve missed it in all the winter-holiday hoopla, but in early December, the FDA released a report documenting the use of antibiotics in food animals. As Maryn McKenna reported on Superbug, her Wired blog, U.S. livestock are given an estimated 29 million pounds of antibiotics each year.
Why is this a big deal? Let’s hear McKenna, a science reporter specializing in disease outbreaks, sum it up:
The reason why antibiotic use on farms is a concern, of course, is because such use stimulates the emergence of drug-resistant organisms that move off the farm in animals, in groundwater, in dust, on the wind and in the systems and on the clothes of those who work there, and makes new resistance factors available to be swapped among bacteria.
In other words, antibiotics as food ain’t good for livestock, and it ain’t good for us. Want to do something about it? Lend your support to the Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act, which aims to reduce antibiotic use in livestock.
Earlier this year, we noted that the Food Network was spinning off an edgier food channel called, simply, the Cooking Channel. Now we hear that this new channel has got itself a show dedicated to — gasp! — vegetarian cooking. Titled "The Veg Edge," the show follows the “new breed of vegetarians,” from punk-rock vegans to firefighting vegetarians and chefs doing meatless Mondays at their restaurants. In other words, how all kinds of Americans are eating vegetarian, at least more often. Whaddaya know.
The website The Faster Times recently reported about two ongoing issues: water conflicts in dry regions of the world, and health issues over the presence of nanoparticles in our food. Neither story is breaking news, but both — with their implications for the world as we head into 2011 — are frightening to contemplate.
She’s everywhere, covering the food politics of the day. »
So it’s Christmas Eve, and you’re still not sure what to eat yet? Dig through the Culinate Christmas archives, where you’ll find a range of dishes, including the spectacularly ambitious dishes Garlic and Herb Rubbed Crown Roast of Pork and Bûche de Noël (Yule Log) as well as the more humble Baked Crab Legs and Danish Christmas Rice Pudding With Berry Compote. And for that last-minute dinner party you suddenly need to throw together, check out Matthew Card’s cheat sheet for throwing a potluck.
Still haven’t made a batch of holiday cookies yet? The Los Angeles Times just published a roundup of reader faves, and Saveur’s December issue included an article on Christmas cookies from around the world, including a classic sugar cookie.
If you’re the organized type, you probably already started making your edible holiday gifts weeks or even months ago — preserves, extracts, flavored vodkas, and the like. If not, don’t give up; you can still make truffles, cookies, candy, granola, crackers, and more as last-minute giveaways. Check out the Sweet 16 for sugary ideas.
OK, so you’ve got just a few days of holiday shopping left. In the past, we’ve created gift lists featuring kitchen tools both fancy and not, as well as the ever-popular chocolate treats. But what really makes us happy is spending money on food-related causes. (And no, your stomach doesn’t count.)
If you’d still rather give an object than cold hard cash, troll through the New York Times’ roundup of do-gooder edibles, including crackers, fruitcake, sparkling wine, ham, and, of course, chocolate.
Looking for food books to give as gifts this year? Check out the many recent best-of compilations for 2010’s crop of cookbooks. National Public Radio, for example, produced a list that includes Grace Young’s Stir-Frying to the Sky’s Edge and Dorie Greenspan’s Around My French Table. Publishers Weekly plumped for Cooking with Italian Grandmothers and What I Eat, among others. The Washington Post highlighted Forgotten Skills of Cooking and Baked Explorations. And the New York Times, naturally, made sure to include books from its own contributors, including Mark Bittman’s The Food Matters Cookbook and Amanda Hesser’s The Essential New York Times Cookbook.
Over on the Atlantic’s food channel, Daniel Fromson recently compiled the magazine’s top 10 food stories of the year. About half of the stories focused on such eater trends as dining at food trucks, foraging for our own food, and curing and butchering our own meat. The rest of the top stories focused on food policy and controversy, including genetically modified food, school-lunch reform, food safety (including the food-safety bill and the egg recall), and Michelle Obama’s efforts to raise food awareness. Good grub.
Too many chemicals — but also other options for farming and beekeeping. »
Barry Estabrook’s shocking report on tomato-worker slavery in Florida appeared in Gourmet magazine nearly two years ago. But the issue hasn’t gone away. Estabrook, who continues to cover the story on his blog, Politics of The Plate, recently reported that the Coalition of Immokalee Workers successfully fought for a raise of a penny per pound of picked tomatoes. That may sound pitiful, but as Estabrook noted, “When you pick a ton of tomatoes a day, as a Florida farm worker can, one penny represents a raise from $50 and $70, the difference between poverty and a livable (though still paltry) wage.” Check out, too, the CIW’s provocative video released as part of the one-penny-more campaign.
Yes, Trader Joe's sells tasty treats for not much moola. Most of the grocery chain’s goodies, however, are not made by Trader Joe’s but contracted out to subproducers. Chow recently ran an amusing comparison of Trader Joe’s products versus their presumed originals, all of which cost more than the Trader Joe’s version. The only product that got dinged for not being a Trader Joe’s product in disguise was Ghirardelli’s white chocolate, which Chow tsk-tsked as being not as tasty as the Trader Joe’s version. And yes, avid Chow readers might also remember a similar story presuming to unmask TJ products from a few years back.
And a followup on mercury in tuna. »
We always enjoy the Atlantic’s food channel, with its mix of food coverage ranging from politics and health to cocktails and trends. Recent faves include nutritionist Marion Nestle’s parsing of ultra-processed foods, food reporter Jane Black’s succinct wrap-up of the finances of the new child-nutrition bill, and farmer Gene Logsdon’s thought-provoking piece about the future of manure.
Last month one of our favorite food-politics blogs, the Ethicurean, ran a sassy Q&A with activist attorney Michele Simon, author of the book Appetite for Profit: How the Food Industry Undermines Our Health and How to Fight Back. Or, as the blog referred to her, “Michele Simon — activist, attorney, badass.” Especially in light of the recent passage of the child-nutrition bill in Congress, here’s just one highlight:
There’s some very disturbing discourse now about how everything government does is bad. And that anything government might do to “control” your behavior is bad, so if government makes food-policy changes, those must be bad, too. But this argument assumes that government is not already involved in your food choices. It completely ignores the reality that government is already involved with everything you eat. Every single meal, every bite you take is already shaped by policy; it’s just that the policy is in corporate interests, instead of the public interest. Government shouldn’t be obstructing Americans’ ability to eat well; it should be supporting it.
For more Michele Simon, the blog Civil Eats also has a recent interview with her.
If you read Green, David Jolly’s New York Times blog about energy and the environment, you may have caught the blog’s coverage last month of Europe's bluefin-tuna conference. The International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas met in Paris to discuss lowering the already-lowered catch limit on the endangered fish. But no dice: as Jolly noted, the countries who really, really love bluefin tuna — especially Japan — fought off a new, lower limit. And the issue isn’t just a European and Asian one, as American Atlantic fisheries are affected, too.
But we’re not out of the edible woods yet. »
Last month, two cool online graphics were pointed out to us by the folks at Roots of Change: a nifty pyramid scheme (no, not that kind) showing how to eat to save the environment, and an interactive map showing the locations of the country's food deserts.
The environmental pyramid essentially flips the standard USDA dietary pyramid on its head, showing the comparative environmental costs of eating meat versus eating plants. The food-desert map — not surprisingly, the food deserts are most expansive in the sparsely settled western half of the country — lets you search by location, click on the map, or compare types of data for a single location. And, yes, you can also figure out how to help on a local level.
What with the recession and all, you may not have noticed that food prices actually stabilized in the past year or so. But your grocery bills are about to go up again, says the Minneapolis Star Tribune:
Most analysts aren’t expecting a return to the 5.5 percent food-inflation rate of 2008. But some say the increases could be a sharp departure from the 1.8 percent rate of 2009 and the even tamer increase expected for all of 2010.
What’s the cause of the expected spike? An overall rise in commodity costs:
Surging food-production ingredient costs are spurring the increases. U.S. sugar prices are at highs not seen in at least two decades. Commodity prices for coffee are at a 13-year high. And wheat prices hit a two-year high in August.
You’ve been warned.
In Newsweek’s current cover story about America’s foodie wars, author Lisa Miller notes that edible goods have overtaken the traditional luxuries of expensive clothing and jewelry as an indication of how stylish, trendy, and rich you are.
The Wall Street Journal has also reported on the convergence of high fashion and edible fashion. The Journal finds it all rather amusing, while Food & Wine magazine is serious about the new glamour of DIY butchery, listing "conscientious carnivores" who show eaters how to raise, slaughter, and butcher meat humanely.
So how do you turn a butchery trend into actual fashion? If you’re clothing company Nau, you simply shoot an actual butcher wearing your products. Portland’s own Camas Davis, for example, got a shout-out in the Food & Wine piece as well as a modeling turn for Nau's latest collection, complete with meat and cleaver in hand.
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