Showing posts from 2012

How tastes change

Image from here
I was just reading an old canning industry manual for my dissertation research, and came across this sentence amid a list of other agricultural "achievements":
"Canners were among the first to use the strains of beets that are solid red in color all the way through, instead of having alternate bands of red and white" This sentence made me do a little bit of a double take--the canners were proud of this?

I don't know about you, but I remember the first time I cut into a beautiful chioggia beet--the rarer kind with red and white stripes (pictured above)--that I'd gotten from the farmers' market, or in our CSA farmshare box. I was stunned by its beauty. I wanted to capture those stripes and hang them as artwork all over my house, reveling in their messy symmetry and the watercolor effect of the deep reds and pinks and whites.

It felt like a real discovery to find that not all beets were just red throughout. Not that the solid red beet isn…

Fostering healthy eating habits

There was a short piece on the Wall Street Journal blog today called "How to Have the 'Happy Meal' Talk,"  in which the author considered how to tell his five-year-old twin sons why they would not be eating at McDonald's, that magical place where "they give you a toy with your food."

The Dad/author considered a number of strategies and evaluated their efficacy:

Saying, as his wife suggested, "it’s poison and you must never go there."Problem: (You can fill in the blank here, I imagine)
Describing the problem of feedlots and factory farmsProblem: Too scary for five-year olds? 
Michael Pollan's suggestion: teach kids about the marketing itself, explaining why the healthiest foods tend not be adorned with pictures of cartoon characters.Problem: Too complicated?
Just say “No, we’re not going to McDonald’s.”Problem: Elevates fast food to an unattainable treat that makes kids want it even more.
Tell kids how healthier foods do more to make them gr…

Thanksgiving Recipe Round-Up

I'm not yet quite sure what will be on my Thanksgiving table, but here are some ideas and recipes that really get me going, all with links to their sources, where you can find the full recipe:

Spicy Sweet Potato Wedges (Smitten Kitchen)  Brie with Cranberry Chutney (Betty Crocker)Winter Squash and Sage Blini (NYT) Sundried Tomato Stuffed Mushrooms (Smitten Kitchen)Creamed Mushrooms on Chive Butter Toast (Smitten Kitchen)Red Bean and Walnut Spread (NYT)Breads
Gluten-Free Sweet Potato and Rosemary Biscuits (Gabby's Gluten-Free)Caramelized Onion and Goat Cheese Cornbread (Smitten Kitchen)Thanksgiving Challah (The Jew and the Carrot) Sides
Golden-Crusted Brussels Sprouts (101 Cookbooks) Cranberry Sauce in Apple Cider (Real Simple)Coconut Butternut Squash Soup (NYT) Updated Green Bean Casserole (Martha Stewart)And, grudgingly, for JH, the classic version (Campbell's Kitchen)Cauliflower with Almonds, Raisins, Capers (Smitten Kitchen) Mashed Red-Curry Sweet Potatoes (Mart…

Los Angeles Food Procurement Policy

Lots of big changes are on the horizons for the food systems of Los Angeles. On Wednesday, at the celebration of the Second Annual Food Day, the city announced a Comprehensive Food Procurement Policy that offered a serious commitment to building a sustainable regional food system. 

LA is ahead of the game and, I hope, will be leading the way, with ripple effects throughout the country. Maybe Madison can use this LA plan as a template and work to bring even more systemic change to food in our own city? 

Read the full press release below, and let me know what it makes you think about possibilities for your own city!

For more on LA's Good Food Procurement, click here, or sign the Good Food Pledge, here.

City of Los Angeles 

October 24, 2012 

Peter Sanders 


Mayor and City Council Adopt Good Food Purchasing Pledge to Increase City…

Bill and Lou: Oxen for Lunch

A few days ago, NPR's food blog The Salt shared a fascinating story, "Despite Protest, College Plans To Slaughter, Serve Farm's Beloved Oxen." It told the tale of two oxen, Bill and Lou, who have worked at Green Mountain College, on the campus's Cerridwen Farm, for the last ten years. But now, because Lou has an injured leg, the two oxen are to be retired (Bill will retire too, because oxen work as a team).

 Although a nearby animal sanctuary, Vine, has offered to take the oxen and let them live for free in the sanctuary space, Green Mountain College has declined the offer and plans to slaughter the oxen and serve their meat in the form of hamburgers in the college cafeteria.

Because so many of Green Mountain's students love Bill and Lou, and consider them to be campus mascots, there has been a significant outcry from those who believe it cruel and unnecessary for the college to kill these gentle animals.

But the Cerridwen Farm workers who advocat…

Halloween Costume Help: Sriracha Label

As another Halloween rolls around, I've noticed increased activity around my Sriracha Halloween post, in which I showed off the Sriracha and Chili Garlic costumes I made for us last fall.

So, I thought it would be helpful if I shared a little more about how I drew the shirts with white puff paint, and if I shared a black-and-white version of the Sriracha label.

First up, another photo of the costumes:

And now a black and white version of the label, which you can download:
Here it is as a downloadable PDF version and the JPG version

A few methods for transferring this image to fabric:
Print it out on iron-on transfer paper, iron it on to your fabric, and then go over the image with a white paint pen or white fabric paintEnlarge the image on your computer, place fabric over your monitor or laptop screen so that the image shines through the fabric, trace the image lightly with a fabric-marking pen (making sure the ink doesn't bleed through onto your screen), and then go over the …

Jam Love

Just as the leaves began to turn yellow here in Madison, a taste of summer landed on my doorstep: Two beautiful jars of homemade jam from my college roommate, sent from Florida with love.

Cantaloupe Peach and Strawberry Peach, jewel-like and beautiful in their glass jars:

I broke into the first jar as soon as it came, licking the sweetness straight from the spoon, feeling so grateful for friends who know just the kind of treat that keeps me smiling.

Since then, I've been slathering the jam on everything.

From my morning granola:

To toast:

And everything in between--I've stirred it into my oatmeal, scooped it my into yogurt, eaten it on top of brownies for dessert, and have licked it right off my fingers.

I can't wait to open the second jar...

Thanks, SF, for this delicious gift, and for keeping me buoyed.

Global Meals: The Big Round-Up

Since February 2011, when I first posted about this topic, I've written here often about the Global Food for Thought Meal Series that I organized for three semesters for the GreenHouse Environmental Learning Community. (see all posts tagged "Global Meal"). 
This series provided an opportunity for students to taste the foods of other cultures and then engage the social and environmental issues of the places whose cuisines they sampled. Through this, students began to understand how the production, preparation, and consumption of food involves us in intimate relations with the natural world and with each other. Chefs from Madison’s ethnic restaurants and other food experts worked with Housing Food Service staff to prepare dinners characteristic of a certain place. These meals were followed by an hour of discussion with the guest, to situate the food in environmental and cultural context.
My role was to decide on the ethnic cuisines we wanted to feature, recruit knowledgeab…

Food Writer's Panel, this Thursday

I posted about this before, but just another announcement that I'll be part of a Madison food writer's panel this Thursday at the Sequoya branch of the Madison public library. It would be great to see some of you there. (though, with such a large number of folks on the panel, who knows how much I'll actually get to speak!)

When: Thursday, September 27, 2012 - 7:00pm to 8:30pm
Where: Sequoya Library, 4340 Tokay Blvd., Madison, WI, 53711, 266-6385

Images of My Own Harvest

Remember that garden plan of mine way back in June?

Well, some of it came to fruition anyway. Lots and lots of Roma tomatoes! (and a few green zebras hidden in the mix):

Otherwise, the melon seeds never even sprouted, the cucumbers yielded a few delicious but scrawny crunchers, the broccoli got immediately eaten by critters, the bok choy produced a few lovely heads,
the white clara eggplants made for some exquisitely tender eggplant parmesan and beautiful table centerpieces, the Cheyenne peppers turned out to be hotter than hot!, the basil offered several rounds of pesto making, and the tomatoes...well, the tomatoes, you can see for yourself:

So much acidic sweet fleshiness from the garden this summer. Granted, there were far fewer sungolds than I might have hoped for, but the cherry tomatoes and the romas and the green zebra pulled through like champs.

Is it already time to say goodbye to the garden? The increased blog hits for my Sriracha Halloween post suggests that it is, in…

Images of the Harvest

Thanks to all of you who have stopped by to check out Organic, Schmorganic?, my rebuttal to Roger Cohen's New York Times editorial. I have really appreciated all the comments, challenges, and positive feedback. It feels good to know that simple, thoughtful, well-researched commentary can still bring readership! (I guess it's easier when you've got colleagues and friends like mine).

While we're in the mood to think about agriculture around the world, let's check out this amazing new pictorial article from The Boston Globe featuring beautiful, thought-provoking images from the harvest. Be sure to check out the full set of images here, but let me share a few of my favorites [for aesthetic reasons], to whet your appetite:

I think it would be really instructive to share the whole series with students, reading each caption slowly, while projecting each image onto the board, in turn, and have them write observations and questions about what's being shown as you procee…

Organic, schmorganic?

The recent kerfuffle over the Stanford organics study has dominated lots of the blogs and media outlets that I follow, but I haven't yet commented on it in writing (see a partial list, with links, below). But now, this new piece, "The Organic Fable," by Roger Cohen in the New York Times has put me over the edge. How can there be so much bad writing on this topic in the country's leading newspaper? How can an esteemed journalist write such poorly-argued drivel?

The Stanford study began with the somewhat questionable goal [perhaps a topic for another post] of determining whether organic food was more nutritious than non-organic food. The key findings of the meta-analysis the Stanford doctors conducted were that "the published literature lacks strong evidence that organic foods are significantly more nutritious than conventional foods," and that, with regard to chemicals, eating organic food "may reduce exposure to pesticide residues and an…

Food in Belize: A Photo Collage


Food Writer's Panel, Th Sept 27

Join me and other Madison food writers for a wide-ranging conversation on food writing!

Terrible Tapestry

Another food writing workshop exercise, this one in response to a prompt to "write a food piece that makes a point":
One twelve-year-old, Jon, played the role of Jose. Jon traded his South Chicago accent for that of a Mexican migrant worker (or what he imagined it to be). A girl in the class, Lindsey, assumed the role of the overseer, pushing Jose to work long hours in the grueling sun, offering only measly wages in return. 
The class of kids, part of a summer pre-college pipeline program for students from under-represented groups, tried to put themselves in a whole other world. 
The skit, set in the tomato fields of a southern Florida plantation, encouraged the students to think about the deep and complicated picture of agricultural labor in this country. It made them consider how deeply intertwined immigration issues were with the tomatoes on their hamburger, made them realize that a form of slavery exists in our modern world in which migrants are forced into labor, and …

A Morning Memoir

Here's a brief vignette I wrote this morning, in twenty minutes allotted to write some short food memoir piece. This exercise was part of this wonderful food writing workshop I'm taking part in this week at the New York Public Library (about which I hope to write in more detail soon!).

For now, the story:

It was common practice I suppose, finding ways of getting kids to share and to reflect. We perched on our mats before nap time, in a circle, sitting, as we then called it, Indian style. (The other kids all had special sleeping mats intended just for nap time, in bright shades of red and blue. But mine was a dull gray, with small drawings of women in leotards and legwarmers bending their bodies into various poses. Why waste a perfectly good exercise mat?)

Mrs. Gardner, our kindergarten teacher, in a long Southern drawl, put the question before us, “What did y'all all have for supper last night?” The kids in my class went around, offering a peek into their kitchens—fried okr…

Lunch Hour NYC

For those of you in New York, or anyone who will travel to NYC before February 17, 2013, the New York Public Library has put together a real treat. The exhibition "Lunch Hour NYC" has recently opened, to much acclaim.

The New York Times writes: "Can an exhibition about the history of lunchtime in the city have that much to say? Yes: Going to this show is a bit like heading out to a street cart or a food truck and finding that there is much more to choose from than you thought possible...It is all playfully and elegantly designed. The Web resources are rich as well, including detailed links to images and invitations to help transcribe menus from the library’s collection."  Here's a video trailer for the exhibit:

And I'll be getting to see this exciting display for myself in two weeks, when I head to New York for a Food Writing Workshop at the Cullman Center Institute for Teachers, led by the one and only Laura Shapiro--curator of the Lunch Hour N…