Should you feel like shunning the corporate candy system today (it’s Halloween, in case you hadn’t noticed), feel free to make a batch of homemade candy corn instead. The recipe takes a few hours, so you might want to save the project for the weekend. But, hey, it’s vegan and HFCS-free.
It’s been a few weeks since the New York Times published an issue of its Sunday magazine devoted to food politics, but a flip back through Mark Bittman’s piece in it, “Why Take Food Seriously?,” turned up a neatly summarizing quote:
The real issues — how do we grow and raise, distribute and sell, prepare and eat food? And how do our patterns of doing these things affect the rest of the world (and vice versa)? — are simply too big to ignore.
Which pretty sums up the thinking behind Culinate, too.
“Loophole alert!” warned Marion Nestle recently on her What to Eat blog. “Under the current rules, meat sold as organic must come from animals with access to pasture.” Which means, of course, that your steak may be certified organic, but the animal it came from may have never visited actual pasture. The USDA is now trying to close this loophole, reports Nestle. Want to share your two cents with the USDA on the matter? You’ve got until Dec. 23 to give your opinion.
Slow Food Nation has come and gone, but the Slow Food Nation blog is still chugging along, albeit with a new name and its own home on the Web: Civil Eats. The new blog will continue in the same vein, with a slew of contributors writing about good, clean, and fair food. Editor Paula Crossfield recently contributed a post entitled "8 Ways to Eat Well in Hard Times," which advised us to “perfect [our] kitchen skills,” and “eat in,” among other things.
U.S. News & World Report recently ran an article with the provocative title “10 Things the Food Industry Doesn't Want You to Know.” Mostly, the top-10 list (sourced, in part, from Marion Nestle) is pretty familiar; junk-food manufacturers are not, after all, on the side of health. Still, if you feel like getting mad, it’s a good read.
One of the best things about the Seattle Times is the feature story in the paper’s Sunday magazine, Pacific Northwest. Check out staff writer Bill Dietrich’s exploration of the recent farm revolution in the Northwest. And dig the lead: “Here’s a brief history of civilization: First 5,000 years, almost everybody is a farmer. Last 50 years, almost nobody is a farmer.” And then wonder where your food is coming from.
A victory garden at the White House is just one of Michael Pollan’s sensible ideas. »
Can we have our sushi and eat it, too? »
Read his piece in Edible Portland. »
We’ve heard a lot about West Coast wines, but what about wines from the rest of the country? Turns out, every state produces wine of some kind, and now Time magazine has published a tasting of representative wines. Writer Joel Stein tasted one bottle from each state (with a little help from friends) and wrote unflinchingly about them — the good, the bad, and the ugly. On a chardonnay from Georgia: “I did not know so many things could be bad about a single wine: it’s watery and yet it tastes like sweet gasoline at the same time.” On a chardonnay-rhubarb blend from Alaska: “I’m embarrassed to like this wine, but every single person at the tasting party enjoyed it.” To taste 10 of the wines, Stein was joined by the hilarious Gary Vaynerchuk of the Internet wine-tasting show “TV Wine Library.” Be sure to catch their video, linked on the story.
Keeping chickens illegally within city limits, the Christian Science Monitor’s Bright Green Blog reports, is on the rise. The blog tags the trend the “underground ‘urban chicken’ movement.” Now that’s some feather-ruffling. (N.B.: Culinate’s unofficial chicken blogger, Caroline Cummins, has three legal chickens.)
Apartment Therapy’s culinary blog, The Kitchn (yes, the misspelling is intentional), has been running a series called The Conscientious Cook, offering tips on better shopping, storage, and avoiding food waste. Check out “Which Foods to Buy in Bulk,” a short list of produce, dried goods, and sundries that it pays to stock up on when you can.
Michael Recchiuti takes choc to the streets. »
Mark Bittman’s blog recently featured a bar chart (we love those graphs!) comparing consumer spending in 2007 on “candy, snacks, soft drinks, and water” to “fresh produce.” Surprise: The cost of buying all the junk wasn’t much more than that of the fresh stuff.
Food blogger Elise, of Simply Recipes, posted a helpful how-to on cooking on a budget. Her tips? Chicken (bone in, skin on), Mexican food, eggs, and more. Meanwhile, one of the folks behind the NPR blog Planet Money listened with interest to a radio interview with a coupon clipper, but then lamented the lack of coupons for food she likes to eat: “I’ve yet to have anyone offer me a coupon for a head of broccoli or a whole chicken at the farmers’ market.” We know the feeling.
A shopping-cartload of links from the New York Times Magazine. »
Video versions of the Slow Food Nation “Food for Thought” panel discussions are now available online. These panels, which included such thinkers and writers as Eric Schlosser, Michael Pollan, and Wendell Berry, took place over Labor Day weekend, at the national food festival in San Francisco.
The Eat Local Challenge is going on throughout the month of October. Not sure you need this on top of the Vegetable Challenge? Jen Maiser, one of the pioneers of the modern era of local eating, has a handy list of 10 reasons to eat from your local foodshed, including the sensible “Local food just plain tastes better.” Now may be just the time to challenge yourself to local eating as a way of life.
Former Culinate columnist Helen Rennie has been a member of a farm share — CSA — for years, mainly on a quest to get the best-tasting produce available. In a blog post this week titled “My Last CSA,” Helen weighs the pros of her farm-share experience against the cons, including inconsistency in quality and quantity and lack of variety. Next year, it’s the farmers’ market all the way. What about you: CSA or farmers’ market? Or both?
When it comes to disposing of food scraps, which is better for the environment: trash cans or an in-sink garbage disposal? (We’re assuming you have no way of composting your food waste, not even a worm bin.) Slate recently tackled this topic and concluded that disposals aren't so bad so long as you don’t live in a drought-prone area and you don’t dump grease or fats down the disposal. And if your local landfill harvests methane from decomposing trash, you might want to reconsider that garbage can.
National Geographic’s The Green Guide recently took note of the fact that bisphenol A lurks in the linings of canned goods as well as in water bottles and other packaging. Their advice? “Cut back on BPA by purchasing foods packaged in Tetra Paks, made from aluminum and polyethylene, and pick up products packaged in BPA-free cans, like beans and soups by Eden Foods.”
Quotas, the Christian Science Monitor reports, could be a partial solution to overfishing. According to a study reported in Science, privatized fisheries are half as likely to collapse as unmanaged fisheries. In other words, if you have a stake in making sure that everybody has some fish to catch — instead of fishing like mad and emptying the oceans — the fish have a better chance of surviving and you get to eat some, too. Why bother? Well, as the Monitor reports, “One-quarter of the world’s fish stocks are overfished, and another half are fished to full capacity . . . if current trends continue, the world will completely run out of seafood by midcentury.”
Listeners to KOPB’s “Think Out Loud” radio show are used to hearing discussions about political topics: land use, victims’ rights, transportation, etc. But yesterday the show turned to a topic that was near and dear to us: preserving food. Local preserving teacher Harriet Fasenfest, who blogs on our Dinner Guest blog, was among the in-studio guests who tasted preserves, told how to make pickles, and discussed the origin of maraschino cherries (they were invented at Oregon State University, in case you didn’t know). Other guests included Linda Ziedrich, author of The Joy of Pickling. There’s also a blog to go with the show, which is full of good preserving tips from listeners.
Across the country, valiant folks are trying to bring real food to those without, via community gardens, food banks, even innovative organizations like Oakland’s People's Grocery. Now comes word that the MacArthur Foundation has awarded one of its coveted “genius grants” to Will Allen, who runs the Growing Power organization in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
As the New York Times reported, Allen is devoted to bringing locally grown produce, meat, fish, and even clean, food-derived energy to “what he calls the ‘food deserts’ of American cities, where the only access to food is corner grocery stores filled with beer, cigarettes, and processed foods.”
It’s no secret that the federal government is in debt for a lot of dough these days. But one of the feds’ cost-cutting measures is a little unusual: axing an $8 million pesticide-testing program. The 18-year-old testing program was used to gauge safe levels of pesticides in foods. Instead, the government is “now buying expensive, privately collected data and relying on older information.” No word on whether this will really save money — or our health.
Over the last several months, we’ve read about manufacturers making package sizes smaller in an effort to shore up profits in an era of rising costs — and indeed, we’ve taken note of shrinking ice-cream cartons. Wisegeek explains the process of "short sizing," a strategy whereby less product is sold although packaging may stay constant or shrink only minimally. According to the article, manufacturers aren’t required to draw attention to these changes; it’s up to us consumers to pay attention. Tell us: Have you noticed you’re getting less food for the same cost? Do you resent this? Or do you find that it’s a good way to eat less ice cream (or chips or whatever), as one commenter posted on the Accidental Hedonist blog?
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
Five ideas each month for eating better