Where’s the beef?

Colorado company issues huge beef recall

June 30, 2009

The most recent beef recall, which was issued on June 24 and increased on June 28, includes 421,000 pounds of beef processed on April 21, 2009. The recalled meat, tainted with E. coli 0157:H7, comes from JBS-Swift, of Greeley, Colorado, and was shipped nationally and internationally.

(For one analysis of JBS and its meat, read Tom Philpott’s lengthy skewering of the company over at Grist.)

The blogging world has reacted to the recall with advice: “Avoid Beef Like It’s The Plague: Massive Class 1 Recall of Beef Products — 421,000 Pounds” warned Obama Foodorama. Sam Fromartz, of Chews Wise, offered other good suggestions:

Follow government advice and cook burgers until 160F (like a hockey puck?) or reduce risk by getting hamburger from a butcher who grinds meat in the shop.

That last idea, to entrust your butcher with the job of grinding your burger, is worth considering, and is repeated by cookbook author and blogger Jeanne Kelley in this video from the new site Good Eats; for her burger, Kelley buys a chuck roast and has it ground to order.

Ten unusual health foods

Featuring good fats alongside buckwheat and watercress

June 29, 2009

Everybody loves lists, right? The current issue of Bon Appétit magazine has a top-10 list of health foods most Americans don’t usually think of as health foods, including bacon, whole milk, and duck fat. Fry on.

A blog to bookmark

Eat this every day

June 26, 2009

From the department of luscious food blogs: Gourmet.com contributer Giovanna Zivny recently posted about her father’s blog, Eating Every Day. Charles Shere, husband of Lindsey, a founding partner at Chez Panisse — and author of Chez Panisse Desserts — writes a simple food log that never fails to whet our appetite.

BPA, behind closed doors

Plastics manufacturers fight back

June 25, 2009

So the plastics industry, instead of embracing alternatives to bisphenol A for its products, has apparently decided to damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead.

As the nonprofit Environmental Working Group recently reported, plastics manufacturers recently got together and decided that the key to keeping BPA on the market was to convince women (they do the shopping anyway, right?) that BPA was safe:

Their “holy grail” spokesperson would be a “pregnant young mother who would be willing to speak around the country about the benefits of BPA.”

As the EWG noted, “But who? What young mother will agree to tout a product that dozens of scientific studies have shown causes permanent damage to an embryo?”

Food, incorporated

An interview with Robert Kenner

June 24, 2009

Robert Kenner’s documentary film "Food, Inc." is the latest food-industry exposé, playing now at a theater near you. Kenner recently spoke with the Boston Globe about his work, and delivered some pretty devastating sound bites:

I feel like we’re part of an exploding movement. There are so many things coming to a head. On the one hand, there’s the financial crisis. People are realizing there was a credit Ponzi scheme, and we’re all paying the price. The government didn’t regulate it. The parallels with the food world are pretty identical. There’s a food Ponzi scheme going on. The system is totally unsustainable. It’s based on gasoline, based on pollution. Twenty to 25 percent of our carbon footprint is from growing and transporting food.

For a longer interview, read AlterNet's Q&A with Kenner. And for a recent list of other great food documentaries, check out the roundup from Fair Food Fight.

What’s on your food?

A new pesticide-information tool is now available

June 23, 2009

Do you know what pesticides are on that strawberry you’re eating?

A new Web-based tool for determining pesticide residues on various foods is available at What's On My Food? The site, sponsored by the Pesticide Action Network, breaks down the pesticides on given food items by type: “Known or Probable Carcinogens,” “Suspected Hormone Disruptors,” “Neurotoxins,” and “Developmental or Reproductive Toxicants.”

Strawberries, for example, show as many as 37 detected pesticides. The chart breaks out organic and conventional (when available), and provides information about the year when the food was tested.

It’s time-consuming to try to sleuth out what’s going on your food — and how unhealthful it is for you and the environment — but the idea of transparency and food is immensely appealing. Kudos to PAN for this tool.

(And a shout-out to the Environmental Working Group for its "Dirty Dozen" list of the most pesticide-laden produce items, and to Cindy Burke, for her book To Buy or Not to Buy Organic, which also examines which foods contain the most pesticides.)

School lunch news

Ann Cooper heads to Colorado

June 22, 2009

Ann Cooper, the self-proclaimed "renegade lunch lady," has a high profile among those working to redo the American school lunch. Now, after several years in the Berkeley, California, school district, Cooper has moved to a larger district, this time in Boulder, Colorado. Writes Katrina Heron at the Civil Eats blog:

A lot of [Cooper’s] work will involve breaking the district’s dependence on the conventional school-food procurement system, which is administered by the USDA via the National School Lunch Program.

Incidentally, the same program is up for reauthorization this fall as part of the Child Nutrition Act, and, according to a recent article in the Chicago Tribune, there’s lots for legislators to scrutinize, including the reality of nachos for lunch — every day:

They are cheap and easy to prepare, which is important in school systems with dwindling numbers of working kitchens, minimally trained labor and only about $1 to spend per meal. The dish uses at least two agricultural commodities that form the backbone of the lunch program, corn and meat. And students will happily eat nachos daily — key in a system that financially rewards companies when kids choose to eat their food.

Wondering what all the lunch-related fuss is about? The unappetizing photos on the blog American Lunch Room might be all you need to see, with one exception: The lunch photo submitted by Ann Cooper herself, which looks pretty darned good.

County plants a huge garden on vacant land

The harvest will go to feed Portland’s hungry

June 19, 2009

Earlier this week, custom-garden-builder Caroline Lewis blogged about planting a garden in the back yard of a family home in Portland, Oregon, and about how all the produce harvested in that garden would go to feed hungry people in the community.

Now there’s more good news for Portland’s hungry. The Oregonian reports that a garden is being planted on two acres of fertile but unused county land:

That produce will go to the Oregon Food Bank and will feed what food-resource manager Mike Moran calls a desperate need.
The demand for emergency food has increased 15.5 percent in Oregon — locally, that translates to about 22,000 more food boxes given out from July of last year through March. But just 16 percent of the food that the food bank distributes statewide is fresh produce.
“To be able to provide people with fresh fruits and vegetables is a great value to them,” Moran says.

The county commissioner who spearheaded the effort predicts the farm will provide about 500 needy residents with weekly allotments of peas, carrots, broccoli, and squash.

Local businesses have supplied money for many of the garden’s $22,000 start-up costs, and Hands On Portland provides much of the labor.

First eater

Michelle Obama talks up healthy eating

June 18, 2009

Earlier this week at the White House, Michelle Obama hosted a harvest picnic for fifth graders at Bancroft Elementary School — the kids who helped plant the White House Garden this spring.

She made a point not only to feed the students and thank them for their work, but also to talk with them about food deserts (places where good-for-you food items are hard to come by but where fast food may be plentiful), nutrition and food choices, and her goal to reform school lunches in this country.

In fact, Ms. Obama’s high profile, coupled with her dedication to these issues, caused at least one blogger, Eddie Gehman Kohan of Obama Foodorama, to dub her “The New Leader of America's Food Movement.”

Here’s a video of her remarks:

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To paint a full picture of the day, Obama Foodorama featured several other posts about the harvest picnic:

  • Recipes for the lunch.
  • All about the cupcakes, which featured honey instead of sugar (although, alas, no recipe for those).
  • A preview of the celebration.

Jam how-tos

Strawberries make a memorable preserve

June 17, 2009

Blogger Marisa McClellan (formerly of Slashfood, now of Food In Jars) posted an easy recipe for strawberry jam this week that sounds delicious and makes canning look easy:

Of all the jams I’ve made so far this year, this one is my very favorite. There’s something special about strawberry jam and when it’s scented with vanilla and so rich in color, it’s just that much more amazing. Get yourself some strawberries and make this jam.

If you can’t make the jam, however, leave a comment on the blog post by Friday and you might win a half pint anyway.

Meanwhile, over at the Kitchn, they’re whipping up strawberry jam with tarragon.

Need more instruction? In this video from Cooking Up a Story, Marge Braker, friend and former business partner of Culinate blogger Harriet Fasenfest shows how make small-batch strawberry jam.

A summer BLT contest

Michael Ruhlman makes the rules

June 16, 2009

Over on his blog, food writer Michael Ruhlman is sponsoring a scratch bacon-lettuce-tomato sandwich contest:

The interpretation must include one of each of the main ingredients: homegrown tomato and lettuce, a home-cured meat, some form of mayonnaise or emulsified sauce, and some form of yeast-leavened baked good.

In other words: No store-bought allowed. The contest runs until late August — plenty of time to let your tomatoes ripen, devise a plan, and get those photos and recipes in.

Vegans and vegetarians should not be dissuaded from entering, says Ruhlman. In fact, if there are enough entries, they may even get a category of their own. (But remember, Baconaise is not allowed.)

Dairy farmers are feeling the pinch

Milk drinkers might not notice the shift in pricing, but farmers are feeling it

June 15, 2009

The Green Fork blog recently posted a helpful — if distressing — explanation of why dairy farmers in this country are despairing. In short, the amount they’re paid for milk has fallen dramatically in recent months — in fact, by half since December. According to the post, some blame a surplus of goods, while others blame an increase in dairy imports and market manipulation. Whatever the cause, Farm Aid wants to help and is sponsoring a petition that will be sent to Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, urging him to increase the amount dairy farmers are paid.

At last, ‘Food Inc.’

A new film spotlights a big problem

June 12, 2009

"Food Inc.," a film that explores the underbelly of industrial food, opens today in New York, San Francisco, and Los Angeles. Featuring Michael Pollan and co-produced by Eric Schlosser, the film promises to shake up the way Americans think about food (or continue the shake-up, as the case may be). According to Paula Crossfield, over at Civil Eats, some big food corporations are increasingly nervous about the film’s message, and have begun their own counter-campaigns. Most viewers, though, are riveted. See the film, and then leave us a comment telling us what you think.

The food establishment

An Accidental Hedonist face-off

June 11, 2009

So a while back, blogger Kate Hopkins of the Accidental Hedonist posted a quick list of four reasons why industrial food is so bad. A commenter took issue with the list, saying that the problem wasn’t the food establishment but consumers themselves. So Hopkins responded with a lengthier explication, concluding that “an average consumer will have difficulty making valid choices if the information they’re provided is compromised by lies, distortions, misdirection, and embellishment.”

International lunch photos

School lunch, that is

June 10, 2009

School-lunch voyeurs will appreciate a new blog that shows what kids eat around the world. As one commenter pointed out, most of the lunches are served on reusable dishes; the exception was the American lunch, served on a Styrofoam tray.

Reasons for cooking

Bloggers on restaurants, lists, and pleasure

June 9, 2009

Some of our favorite food bloggers — Cathy Erway, Molly Wizenberg, and Michael Ruhlman — recently posted takes on the satisfactions of cooking at home.

For Erway, the pleasure (and the sense of control) she gets when cooking for herself were made manifest in a frustrating restaurant expedition with a two-hour wait.

For Wizenberg, who’s been busy helping a restaurant to open, fatigue drained her enthusiasm for cooking, so she made a list of her favorite, easy, go-to meals for home cooking, and found it wonderfully inspiring.

And for Ruhlman, the pleasure is in the physical work itself, plus the notion of honing a skill. Says Ruhlman:

Learning to cook . . . not only gives us the pleasure of working pleasing materials in our hands, the pleasure of craft, and a concrete result we can see and smell and taste and offer, the act itself truly does make us more human.

Sardines and a fish chart

Fish tales

June 8, 2009

Jane Black, of the Washington Post, reported recently on a group of men in the Bay Area who are promoting sardines. The Sardinistas want everyone to learn to appreciate these good-for-you (and still plentiful) fish. Meanwhile, Grist’s Tom Philpott has reprinted Neil Banas’ smart visual adaptation of recommendations from the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch program. According to the chart, sardines are looking pretty good.

Slate’s food issue

A collection of food-focused articles

June 5, 2009

The online magazine Slate has dedicated a batch of recent articles to food, including dissertations on barbecue, the environment, lard, and American food history, with contributions from the likes of Sara Dickerman, Regina Schrambling, and Laura Shapiro. Dig in.

Julie Powell interview

Tune in on Internet radio

June 4, 2009

In 2002, Julie Powell started a blog about cooking her way through Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking. That blog became a book, Julie & Julia, which in turn became the inspiration for the new Nora Ephron film, “Julie & Julia.” This week, on Web-based radio, Adam Roberts of the Amateur Gourmet talks with Powell about the film, her new meat book, food blogging (and writing books), and more. Allow 30 minutes to hear the entire thing.

Michelle Obama’s message

What’s the role of cooking in healthy eating?

June 3, 2009

An opinion piece argues that Michelle Obama should be cooking as well as gardening. »

Organic milk in crisis

As profits vanish, so do dairy farms

June 2, 2009

Six months after the New York Times reported on the nation’s problems with milk oversupply, the paper now reports that the organic-milk industry is suffering mightily due to the recession. As the paper noted, “No sector is in direr shape than the $1.3 billion organic milk industry. Farmers nationwide have been told to cut milk production by as much as 20 percent, and many are talking of shutting down.”

Farmers’ market popularity contest

Vote for your favorite

June 1, 2009

Dig your local farmers’ market? Vote for it in a June contest run by the nonprofit American Farmland Trust. The country’s most popular markets will be announced in August; the goal is to increase awareness of the importance of sustainable local food and encourage the preservation of farmland around urban areas.

Sift archive — June 2009

Our Table

Joy of Cooking app

A new tool for the kitchen

The latest in our collection of cooking apps.

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