So last week the New Yorker published its annual food issue, cramming the print version with such articles as an exploration of the underground world of Sandor Katz and his fermented-foods quest and a painful family memoir by Chang-Rae Lee.
Not much of this was available online, unfortunately, and neither is this week’s wacky food story, about the possible deification of global economist and food-reform activist Raj Patel. Patel, who would much rather be left alone as an ordinary guy instead of a pan-deity known as Maitreya, just can’t win:
Patel’s disclaimer only agitated his acolytes, many of whom interpreted it as further proof that Patel was Maitreya after all, the humble savior deferring recognition in a soft of crafty P.R. move. . . . Like George Costanza’s girlfriend, on “Seinfeld,” Patel’s followers refused to accept that he didn’t want to be in a relationship with them. His rejection only increased their devotion.
Of course, we love the Web and the many, many sites and blogs dedicated to food. But we’ve also noticed that traditional food publications — you know, the kind printed on paper — keep sprouting up, especially indie pubs that are more labor of love than corporate venture. Rags such as literary journal Alimentum, for example, or the crowd-sourced manifesto Remedy Quarterly, or the locavore and DIY compendium known as Diner Journal. If you feel like curling up this winter with an old-fashioned publication, check ‘em out.
If you’re feeling anxious about the cooking marathon of Thanksgiving, spend a few minutes brushing up your food-safety knowledge before hitting the kitchen. Check out the Environmental Working Group’s non-toxic kitchen tips for the holiday, for example, as well as the USDA’s comprehensive list of food-safety reminders. (Kudos to the feds, too, for offering all the info en español as well as English.) And if you’re desperate on the day itself, you can always try one of the many help-me-please! hotlines around the country offering how-to answers.
Back in 2002, when the New Yorker started devoting a special issue every year to food, the magazine published the foodfest at the end of summer, around Labor Day. A few years ago, however, the publication date got pushed back to Thanksgiving week, the one time of the year when Americans are guaranteed to be thinking about food. This year’s issue published on November 22, and it’s full of food for thought, including a profile of gastropub chef April Bloomfield and a podcast about fermented foods. Perfect for the long weekend.
Healthy food doesn’t have to be anonymous. »
Is a locavore farming trend creative or elitist? »
Sometime today, the Senate is supposed to vote on the Food Safety Modernization Bill. Grassroots community organizer Food Democracy Now would really, really like it if you could call your senator and let him or her know how important it is that this bill get passed:
While this bill has been controversial, family farmers and small-scale producers need the vital protections from the Tester-Hagan Amendment and the Manager’s Amendment to be included. Already Big Ag has weighed in to try to kill these amendments, which exempt farmers that have gross sales of less than $500,000 and sell within 400 miles of their farm. The Tester-Hagan and Manager’s Amendments are the last best hope we have of protecting family farmers from onerous regulations.
In the you-just-can’t-win-department comes this news flash: reusable grocery bags may be hazardous to your health. As one grocery shopper told the New York Times,
“There’s always something wrong with everything,” said Barry Lebost, standing outside the Trader Joe’s on West 72nd Street with four reusable bags filled with groceries.
The problem? The bags may contain lead, which can flake off onto the food inside the bags. They might also be bacterial hothouses. But, hey, you’re still saving the planet, right?
Back in September, the FDA announced that the GMO salmon developed by the AquaBounty company was safe to eat. Now, apparently, the agency is backtracking, postponing its final decision on the genetically altered fish. Meanwhile, environmental nonprofits are barraging the FDA with protests against the fish, branded as AquAdvantage. And members of the public have until November 22 to do the same.
Last week, Martha Stewart made a guest appearance on “The Colbert Report.” Yes, the real Martha Stewart, Lifestyle Maven. She gamely made — and even ate — snacks with Colbert that included slices of Wonder Bread spread with mayo and dusted with powdered Kool-Aid. “My favorite!” she repeatedly said. Although she did admit that the smell of the Kool-Aid Kombo wasn’t especially appealing.
We know — plenty of y’all aren’t going to figure out a Thanksgiving strategy until a day or so before T-Day. But for those of you who like to plan ahead, and are interested in getting off the gravy-boat train, there are plenty of ideas out there for getting creative. Sunset magazine, for example, plumped recently for a Mexican-spiced menu, preferably served on a beach (good luck with that detail outside of the Sun Belt). The Atlantic is running a three-part series on “reinventing traditional Thanksgiving foods,” with recipes and articles every week this month leading up to the Big Meal. And the blog Menuism has an interview with cookbook author Louisa Shafia, who has eco-tips for Thanksgiving, including urging cooks to use sweeteners other than white sugar.
If you’ve gotten used to eating, say, bread or muffins made with a mixture of wheats, not just plain old refined white flour, you may have noticed that refined-flour treats taste, well, bland. But the folks at Community Grains in California aim to make you leave behind those boring refined snacks for good.
As Beth Hoffman reported on Civil Eats earlier this month, the millers of Community Grains want you to realize that whole-grain flours are actually delicious. Their stone-ground products (wheat and polenta, as yet not available on the retail market) are designed to replace refined flours entirely:
“I used to call whole-wheat bread or pasta a ‘hippie experience in your mouth,’” said Oliveto’s executive chef, Paul Canales, of the gritty texture of [most] whole-grain products. “So when Joe [Vanderliet of Certified Foods] started claiming we could use 100 percent of his whole-grain flour in everything, I laughed. But it turned out, you really could.”
Food politics and saturated fat. »
California cracks down. »
For all you legal eagles out there, it turns out that — surprise! — there’s already a federal law that, as the blog Civil Eats recently noted, “levels the playing field between family farmers who raise cattle, hogs and poultry and the large meat packers who purchase their livestock and bring it to market.” But the USDA doesn’t enforce the law, known as GIPSA, and proposed rules to make it do so are causing a ruckus in D.C.
Why should you care? Because only a few companies control the vast majority of the U.S. meat market, and small family ranches are disappearing faster than swatted flies. Have your say before November 22 at the Land Stewardship Project.
National bakery chain Panera Bread is experimenting with pay-what-you-can bakeries. That’s right: You can walk in and pay full fare, partial fare, or nothing at all for, say, a soup and sandwich. So far, the setup has proved profitable. The Panera Cares eateries will let you volunteer in exchange for a meal, if you wish — or you can simply eat for free.
Estrella Creamery is closed. »
Like many food sites these days — including the online home of Saveur magazine, as well as yours truly — newcomer The Daily Meal is a mix of original and reposted content, along with an online community. Fun content so far has included a post about America's greenest restaurants, a Thanksgiving toolbox, and a roundup of the world's healthiest cuisines:
A unifying factor among the cuisines on the list is the reliance on fresh, seasonal produce and a distinct lack of processed foods. Plus, all of the featured cultures, including Israel and the Caribbean, are known for their celebration of cooking and eating — the savoring and the community of a shared meal — so perhaps America’s mistake was deciding that food ever needed to be fast in the first place.
The headline in last week’s pre-Halloween New York Times article said it all: "Is Candy Evil or Just Misunderstood?" As author Julia Moskin noted, “Candy provides only 6 percent of the added sugar in the American diet, while sweet drinks and juice supply 46 percent.” Besides its revisionist take on candy, the article also provides a zippy history of candy production. Check out, too, the blog that sparked the piece: Candy Professor.
Change in our kitchens
Reflections on cooking — and a career that’s based largely at the stove.
Flatbreads from around the continent
Beyond a supporting role
The great Sicilian-Neapolitan kitchen rivalry