White House food talk

Gardens and grub in the nation’s capital

January 30, 2009

A new chef joins the present chef. Will a farmer be next? »

Mighty mushrooms

How fungi could save the world

January 29, 2009

In a recent Mother Earth News Q&A, mushroom expert Paul Stamets discussed the many beneficial aspects of mushrooms beyond their utility in pasta dishes and veggie burgers. As the article pointed out,

Stamets has done extensive research on the practical ways people can use mushrooms to heal ourselves and protect the planet. That includes studying mushrooms’ nutritional properties (many types are a great source of Vitamin D, among other vital nutrients), and their potential for developing new medicines (some species show promising antibacterial and antiviral properties) and cleaning up the environment (fungi can be used to help clean up oil spills and other types of soil and water contamination).

In other words, are mushrooms nature’s most perfect food?

Local food goes national

Foodzie redefines “local food marketplace”

January 28, 2009

Recently a group in San Francisco introduced a new food site, Foodzie, with the goal of connecting artisanal-food producers with customers all over the country. “Foodzie is a gourmet version of Etsy, the online marketplace for handmade goods that has been hugely successful,” writes Claire Cain Miller on the New York Times Bits blog. The post, entitled “An Online Farmers Market,” has gotten some negative attention, however. “The local food movement has been all about buying seasonal food from nearby farmers,” writes a blogger at The Jew and the Carrot. “Is there a contradiction here?”

Mercury in corn syrup

Yet another reason to avoid HFCS

January 27, 2009

A new study finds mercury in the ubiquitous sweetener. »

The CSA rebate

Get paid to join a Wisconsin CSA

January 26, 2009

Should you happen to be a Wisconsin resident interested in signing up for a CSA share this year, you could actually get paid to join one. The Madison Area Community Supported Agriculture Coalition partners with four different regional health-insurance providers to offer CSA members rebates on their membership fees. Now that’s preventive care.

Never say never

David Lebovitz on corn syrup

January 23, 2009

We’ve written about high-fructose corn syrup from a health standpoint; many detractors suspect that it contributes unduly to the obesity epidemic. Sure, Americans may eat too much HFCS, says dessert pro David Lebovitz, especially those who eat a lot of prepackaged foods. But does that mean cooking with corn syrup is never a good idea? Hardly, says Lebovitz. His recent blog post "Why and When to Use (or Not Use) Corn Syrup" offers good information for those times when a little corn syrup is actually a good thing: for shine, body, or as an “interfering” agent, to prevent the crystallization of sugar. (And, Lebovitz notes, the corn syrup you’re buying at the store is just corn syrup, not HFCS.)

One-pot meals

A Web roundup of recipes

January 22, 2009

The blog Cheap Healthy Good recently posted a lengthy list of one-dish meals to help readers save money and time on cooking at home. The recipes — ranging from pastas and grains to beans, meats, and vegetables — were sourced from a variety of well-known food sites and magazine sites, including Epicurious, Eating Well, Cooking Light, Martha Stewart, The Kitchn, Recipezaar, and Serious Eats.

Stop eating salmon?

Until the salmon populations recover, that is

January 21, 2009

We’ve noted calls to cut back on salmon consumption before. Now comes a Canadian call to stop eating salmon altogether, in part because saving wild stocks might not be possible. As the article in The Tyee points out, however, even a 15-year moratorium on cod fishing hasn’t saved the Atlantic cod, and the same might be true of Pacific salmon.

Icky peanut butter

The latest food-poisoning scare

January 21, 2009

You’ve probably already heard about the national recalls of foods (processed, generally) made with peanut butter contaminated with salmonella. Marion Nestle, as usual, has a nifty roundup on the topic, and notes that the salmonella appeared to have gotten into the peanuts after the peanuts were roasted — in other words, in the factory, not on the farm. So drop that Clif Bar already.

Raw milk or pasteurized?

Grist checks out raw milk

January 20, 2009

We’ve written about raw milk before, but Grist’s eco-advice columnist, Umbra Fisk, recently added her five cents’ worth to the milk-industry discussion. Fisk comes down firmly on the side of pasteurized milk, but be sure to read the comments for suggestions from the raw-milk side of the fence.

Inaugural dinners

Celebrity chefs cook tonight for charity

January 19, 2009

A roster of notable chefs are in Washington, feeding people and putting sustainable food on the agenda. »

Calorie counts and public health

A health experiment in chain restaurants

January 19, 2009

What long-term effect will posting calories in restaurants have on public health? »

Vertical farms

Can we feed the world with food grown in skyscrapers?

January 16, 2009

As if farmers didn’t have enough to worry about, what with the planet’s seesawing crop demands and prices, some futuristic thinkers are already trying to come up with ways to feed the globe when demand really outstrips supply. A possible solution? As noted in the Christian Science Monitor, vertical farms might be a way to grow food on a tiny footprint of land. Sure, there’ll be difficulties with light, water, and energy, but hey, it also might work. Check back in, say, 2050 to see how things are going.

Honey laundering

How dangerous is that jar of honey?

January 15, 2009

Worries over yet another industrialized food product. »

The evolving CSA

A Danish company blends the CSA with the box delivery

January 14, 2009

As reported on Gourmet.com recently, a Danish company, Aarstiderne, has come up with a business model that combines the CSA with the organic-food delivery service. Instead of getting just what the farm has to give you each week, customers can order types of boxes (from “boring” to totally local), not to mention adding bread, fish, and meat — all delivered to your door. It’s not quite as customizable as ordering your groceries online for delivery to your door, but it’s getting there.

Cookbook history

A timeline from the Economist

January 13, 2009

A quick look backwards at publishing. »

Learning how to cook

One woman’s blog-worthy efforts

January 12, 2009

So Mark Bittman is known for encouraging folks to learn to cook with real ingredients; witness, say, his recent column on chucking processed foods in the kitchen and his new book, Food Matters. But the person kitchen novices can really identify with is Bittman’s Web producer, Emily Weinstein, who has been faithfully chronicling her (often embarrassing) attempts to learn to cook on Bittman’s blog, Bitten. Her ambition often outstrips her abilities, kitchen equipment, and time-management skills, but she’s buoyant and, inevitably, proud of her efforts to cook such items as roast chicken, pumpkin pie, braised lamb, and butternut squash soup. You go, girl.

Food-safety predictions

Bill Marler’s top-10 list

January 9, 2009

Bill Marler, an attorney who specializes in food-safety cases, posted his top 10 predicted food-safety challenges for 2009 on his blog last month. On the list: more recalls, disease outbreaks, and contamination scandals. The Ethicurean picked apart Marler’s list, taking issue with his inclusion of “local food” as a potential food-safety problem. Yes, food contamination can and will occur, even at cherished mom-and-pop farms, wrote the Ethicurean. But hey, isn’t it easier to trace problems back to the source if they’re local instead of global?

A Wendell Berry op-ed

Another call for ag reform

January 8, 2009

In the New York Times this week, Wendell Berry and Wes Jackson propose yet another intelligent approach to agriculture reform, and it all starts with policy that recognizes the importance of soil loss: “For 50 or 60 years, we have let ourselves believe that as long as we have money we will have food. That is a mistake.”

Going all the way

Comparing sex books to cookbooks

January 8, 2009

Can you follow a food metaphor a little too far? »

Surplus milk

Too much milk on the market

January 7, 2009

As the New York Times reported last week, the nation’s dairy industry is suffering from the recession in the form of oversupply. And it’s not just Americans who aren’t buying enough milk anymore; it’s the entire planet, which had become a major customer of the U.S. dairy industry before the economic downturn hit the globe. Stepping in to buy the oversupply of powdered milk (and maybe cheese soon, too): the U.S. government, which is buying and stockpiling the excess.

No word in the Times on whether the organic-dairy industry is also suffering from an oversupply — although one trade publication reports that organic dairy products are still selling well in stores.

Organics, busted

Yet another “organic” company caught cheating

January 7, 2009

As organic farming and ranching have grown in recent years, so have incidents of “organic” producers cheating on the USDA’s organic rules. The latest? As reported in Plenty magazine, a supposedly organic fertilizer company has been busted for selling contaminated fertilizer. Especially in the wake of the melamine scandals, Marion Nestle is none too pleased, as she told the Huffington Post: “As I see it, trust in organic certification depends entirely on the integrity of the inspection system.” In other words, “organic” is just a word if there isn’t a viable system guaranteeing its credibility.

Parsnip paean

Loving the lowly root

January 6, 2009

Or reconsider it, if you didn’t like the parsnip before. »

Decaf or not?

A caffeine-o-meter

January 6, 2009

For all you coffee-loving geeks out there, you can now buy caffeine test strips to see if your cup of decaf joe really is low-octane. Of course, the gizmos don’t address the fact that decaf coffee still has low levels of caffeine. Maybe marketers should start calling it “lowcaf coffee” instead.

Gluten free? Not really

Whole Foods pulls products from its shelves

January 5, 2009

The latest truth-in-labeling scandal: “Gluten-free” products that aren’t really free of gluten. In November, the Chicago Tribune tested three popular kids’ products made by Wellshire Kids, and found them to have much higher levels of gluten than the semi-official industry standard max of 20 parts per million. Now Whole Foods is pulling the products — chicken nuggets and corn dogs — from its shelves. Still, plenty of folks complained before Whole Foods made its move, and at least one kid had an allergic reaction to the snacks.

Things your farmer wants you to know

Pay attention to what you’re eating

January 2, 2009

Ethan Book, an Iowa farmer who has, until today, blogged for Epicurious, has written a short series of posts on what farmers want the rest of us to know. Part one is about food awareness — knowing your food, understanding seasonality, and grasping the links between the farmers and the eaters. (In other words: We’re all connected, folks.) Part two touches on more food awareness, plus the fact that most farmers care deeply about their livestock and the importance of agricultural knowledge for all of us. Finally, part three gets into how we all might learn to garden, learn to appreciate the art of farming, and — perhaps most important of all — experience the joy in food and eating.

Sift archive — January 2009

Culinate 8

Kale in the raw

Eight versions of kale salad

Eight ways to spin everyone’s favorite salad.

Graze: Bites from the Site
First Person

The secret sharer

A father’s legacy

The Culinate Interview

Mollie Katzen

The vegetarian-cooking pioneer


Down South

Barbecue, tamales, cocktails, and more

Local Flavors

A winter romesco sauce

Good on everything

Editor’s Choice