Showing posts from 2013

Debate: Don't Eat Anything With A Face

Recently, a friend shared this Intelligence Squared debate on the motion: "Don't Eat Anything With A Face". Four experts debated the pros and cons of vegetarianism from a variety of perspectives.

The whole video is worth watching, for sure:

I liked the opening comments from the moderator, in which he highlighted the oft-cited (but still oft-ignored) reason that many people are comfortable with meat-eating: they just avoid thinking about it. 

He said, "The simple act of eating a hamburger is, when you really think about it, one of the great
acts of human denial, because what is a burger? It's edible protein in the shape of a disk every single time. And you can order it rare, you can order it well done, you can dress it up in ketchup, you can put a little onion hat on top of it, you can push it around on your plate, you can leave half of it behind, and never once have the thought cross your mind, as you're chomping away, I wonder what she looked like, the cow t…

Turkey at Thanksgiving

In his book Eating Animals, Jonathan Safran Foer offers this thought: "If this entire book could be decanted into a single question—not something easy, loaded, or asked in bad faith, but a question that fully captured the problem of eating and not eating animals—it might be this: Should we serve turkey at Thanksgiving?"

Should we serve turkey at Thanksgiving?

This is his whole book in a sentence. The chapter goes on to explore the dark side of turkey production in the U.S. (Read short versions of similar stories here, here, or here).

But in classic Foer fashion, he leads up to this "single question" with a personal take on the meaning of Thanksgiving and of storytelling. The way he recounts his own Thanksgiving memories, and their embeddedness in some bigger ideas about a good meal, is beautiful:
 . . . Two dozen or so mismatched chairs circumscribed four tables of slightly different heights and widths, pushed together and covered in matching cloths. No one was fool…

Items of Interest

The last couple of weeks have been filled with a number of big news items in the food world, plus lots of interesting musings. Some especially worth checking out:

Washington State Votes Down GMO Labels:

The FDA Moves to Ban Trans Fat in Processed Foods:

Fascinating video series explores the journey from field to fork: How Does it Grow?

Agricultural Innovation Prize promises $100,000 for great agricultural ideas
(a good friend of mine is running this excellent program!)

 Time Magazine's 13 Gods of Food

And a useful companion piece: Goddesses of Food

Finally, to get us in the seasonal spirit: 50 Vegetarian Thanksgiving Main Dish Recipes

What else have you all been reading lately?

Slow Food Madison Food Swap

Slow Food Madison is throwing a wonderful event next week: A Food Swap!

I unfortunately can't make it, but encourage local readers to attend. The ticket site indicates that there are only 22 tickets left. Reserve yours now!

Loyal Dining and Opining followers will remember that a few friends and I threw our own food swap a couple of years ago, which I described in this post. It was a real success and I've been wanting to see something like it at a bigger scale for several years now.

The details for the Slow Food event are as follows:
What: A Food Swap is an event where members of the community come together to trade homemade, homegrown, and foraged food with each other. Attendees directly trade their goods with one another as a way to diversify the foods in their pantries and make connections with other members of the local food community.

When: Monday, November 11th 6:00pm.  The event will probably last about 1.5-2 hours. 

Where: Goodman Center 149 Waubesa Street Madison, WI  -…

Dissertation Chapter Mini-Quiches

Big news around here. Last week, I successfully defended my dissertation, In Cans We Trust: Food, Consumers, and Scientific Expertise in Twentieth-Century America!

This was a real milestone in its own right, and deserves many words--about how exhilarating it felt to bring the writing experience to a close, to have five brilliant committee members discuss my work and guide my thoughts on revisions for the book manuscript, and to have many friends and colleagues support me. But, for now, let me share the snacks I baked for the defense: my dissertation in mini-quiche form:

You see, each of my dissertation chapters is framed around one particular canned food: Chapter 1 takes on Borden's condensed milk, Chapter 2 agricultural breeding in Wisconsin peas, Chapter 3 botulism in black olives, Chapter 4 grade labeling in canned tomatoes, and Chapter 5 postwar concerns about canned tuna. So, I combined all five of these foods into baked mini-quiches. Tangible, edible dissertation chapters!


Madison Area Food Summit

A really interesting event worth checking out!

Register and more info:

2013 Food Summit
Connecting with the Land

 October 24th 5:30 pm - 8 pm Fitchburg Public Library 5530 Lacy Road, Fitchburg, WI

Registration fee: $5 (by Oct. 15) or $10 (after Oct. 15 or at the door)

Please bring a non-perishable item for the Fitchburg Food Pantry

Food Summit Agenda 5:30-6:00     Great local food and Welcome by Mayor Shawn Pfaff6:00-7:30     Panel of local and international speakers to address food sovereignty,  facilitated by Jack Kloppenburg7:30-8:00     Thank you by Supervisor Jenni Dye, Chair of Dane County Food Council
Event Partners include:
    Dane County Food Council    Madison Food Policy Council    City of Fitchburg    Community Action Coalition of South Central Wisconsin    Outside the Bean    Dane County UW-Extension
Register and more info:

CSA at work!

I was really inspired by this post that our Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farm, Vermont Valley, just posted on its blog, and wanted to share it here:

"Our Produce in the Community"

In addition to producing delicious, abundant shares for its CSA members, Vermont Valley vegetables are finding homes at the Goodman Community Center's Seed to Table program and Thanksgiving Baskets Project; in lunches of the Mt. Horeb Area School District; at Badger Camp serving those with developmental disabilities; at the Second Harvest Foodbank of Southern Wisconsin; FairShare CSA Coalition's Bike the Barns event; the AIDS Network AIDS Ride; the First United Methodist Church Food Pantry; and the Middleton Outreach Ministry.

All of these diverse homes for fresh, local, seasonal vegetables--all within our community! Such promise!

It makes me just dream about the possibilities for connecting local farms with varied venues for getting that produce to as many different audience as pos…

Homemade Bread Love

I've written before about gifts of food and how powerful they are in conveying love.

I got to experience a dose of this the other day when I came in to my office to find this note on my desk:

And this beauty:

It was such an unexpected treat, and one that made me feel cared for in ways that went far beyond just the bread itself. It got me to thinking about how closely tied food and love are, what it means to feed another person, how we convey a deep sense of investment when we sustain others in that way--whether it's a volunteer shift at a soup kitchen or a mother breastfeeding her own child.

I, for one, would almost always prefer a gift of food to most others. It is edible, temporary, supportive.

So I took that beautiful loaf and turned it into a beautiful sandwich, savoring every bite:

Here are a few others' takes on gifts of food:

BBC: Love bites: Is food the risk-free gift?
29 Homemade Food Gifts from Martha Stewart
And a great big Pinterest board of food gifts


Vegetarian Korean Burritos

I'm pretty proud of these beautiful jars of kimchi that I made with a friend a few weeks ago:

We used the recipe of David Chang, founder of Momofoku, though we cut the garlic in half (and I went light on the dried shrimp). Here I am, with the sliced, over-nighted napa cabbage in my right hand, and the other veggies and flavorings in my left hand.

Although the kimchi is delicious in its own regard, the real reason it's blog-worthy is that it is a crucial ingredient in one of my new favorite foods: the [vegetarian] Korean burrito.

Picking up on the Korean/Mexican fusion trend that has made it so big in Los Angeles through the Kogi BBQ Taco Truck, my friend TY and I came up with this winning combination of flavors, all wrapped up in a burrito. I'm constantly craving them these days, and am pretty much always ready for more. Here's a rough attempt at a recipe, though it's very flexible. Let me know how yours turn out!

Vegetarian Korean Burritos (serves 6-8) 1 block firm…

Chipotle vs. Big Food

Chipotle has come out with a great little film that I'm totally saving for use in future classes. It's called "The Scarecrow" and is worth three minutes of your time:

Eliza Barclay over at NPR's The Salt has a great article on this video: Taking Down Big Food is the Name of Chipotle's New Game.

She offers a review of the commercial, and of the aesthetic that Chipotle is trying to convey with its alignment with small food vendors and against the sterile corporation.

It raises fascinating questions about what "Big Food" actually is, and how Chipotle does and does not fit under that label? Does being "Big" make a food company part of "Big Food"? Does "Big" here stand in for all kinds of other values that Chipotle does not espouse.

What do you think?

Vermont Valley CSA Food Preservation

The flavors of summer are my favorite. Crunchy cucumbers, ripe tomatoes, sweet corn, juicy watermelon, rich basil! All leave my salivating and wanting more.

The only problem with these flavors (like all seasonal treats?) is that they're fleeting.

So when we heard that our CSA farm, Vermont Valley, was offering U-pick tomato and basil events, we jumped at the chance to load up on extras that we could preserve to have a hint of those summer flavors later in the year.

We drove out to beautiful Blue Mounds, WI to wander through the fields and gather the bounty. I forgot my camera, though, so some images from the Vermont Valley website will have to do. You can see the tomato fields on the left and the basil fields on the right:

 These images all from
We picked alongside lots of other CSA members, overhearing snippets of conversation about the differences in basil varieties, how people would prepare the tomatoes that night for dinner, …

Fortifying Nutrients?

After some recent bloodwork, my doctor told me that I was a little low on iron (broken down into component parts, I was a little low on red blood cells, hemoglobin, and hematocrit). In order to prevent further anemia, she encouraged me to increase my iron consumption, and perhaps to take an iron supplement. Because I'm a vegetarian, it's a bit harder to get high levels of iron, so I've been researching good whole food sources (and am happy to write more about that in a separate post if folks are interested!).

Among the recommendations I found, many sources pointed to eating Cream of Wheat for breakfast, perhaps with blackstrap molasses and dried apricots (both high sources of iron in their own right) mixed in.
I grew up eating what we called, in Russian, mannaya kasha, which is traditionally a semolina flour porridge. But we ate what was available in small town Arkansas: Malt-o-Meal, or its equivalent Cream of Wheat. This was a favorite soothing dish, especially when I was…

Urb Garden at the Madison Children's Museum

My new employer, and one of the hippest places in town, the Madison Children's Museum, just opened their newest exhibit: the "Urb Garden."

This new space is a small deck that overlooks the back parking lot, but it packs a big punch. One of goals of the exhibit is to display a variety of urban gardening techniques, to show what's possible in an urban space (the middle of a parking lot!) without a lot of square footage. Many of these ideas can be replicated in any backyard or even balcony. And they're fun for kids!

Here's the whole deck, just off of North Hamilton St. on the Capitol Square in Madison (looking at the people on the left gives a sense of scale):

Besides being visually striking, the deck is chock full of cool activities and awesome details that really make it come to life.

There's the seating area with wooden stumps for chairs and window boxes (left photo), the solar oven and chalkboard and thermometer (middle photo), and the vertical gardens …

"For the Now Chicks"

"Canned Food Ads from the 1960s"
I've recently been reading about psychologist Ernest Dichter and his motivational research into consumer preferences beginning in the 1940s. His big contribution to canned food marketing was encouraging canners to advertise their products as a move toward creativity. You didn't have to be a lazy housewife if you used canned food! Especially if you used canned goods as ingredients in other quick dishes--you could show off your skills and panache in the kitchen!

This Durkee French Fried Onions ad from the 1960s captures that sentiment exactly. I especially love the caption:

"CREATIVITY KIT. Go Girl! Do your thing with crunchy onion chunks and rings. Real onion. French fried golden crisp. It's there for the now chicks with more imagination than time."

Canned food helps "now chicks" do their thing and use their imaginatio…

Iowa Farm Goodness

Over the weekend, we got to be the recipients of some world-class hospitality, delicious food, and beautiful farm scenery, while visiting friends in eastern Iowa.

Soon upon arrival, we were greeted with this brunch feast:

Many of the ingredients were from the farm on the grounds, just picked that morning: the mint in the watermelon salad, the kohlrabi (sprinkled with tagine spice in the third photo below), the strawberries, the fennel (in the last photo below), and the kale in the scrambled eggs (pictured above).

After stuffing ourselves with all of these goodies, we got to take a tour around the farm. Our friend ST works at a boarding high school that has a 35 acre farm onsite. Much of the school's food comes from this farm, and all the students work the farm and learn about food issues as part of their broader education. Awesome.

Here we are crossing the muddy path on the way up to the fields, sinking our toes deep into the squishy cool wetness:

A view of our friend's house …

May Link Favorites

Last day of May!

Despite my infrequent posting around here as of late, I try not to let a month pass without a single post. So, a short post with some links to articles and recipes and opportunities in the food world.

Share links of your own in the comments!


Some recipes we've made and enjoyed recently, or are planning to use soon:
General Tso's Sauce (plus added garlic and ginger and extra chili garlic sauce, served over baked tofu, broccoli, carrots, and rice) Baked Mac and Cheese (this much dairy and cheese makes this a company-only food for us) Creamy Wild Rice Soup (in the works for tonight, with pre-pressure-cooked wild rice)Cherry Cream Muffins (based on this recipe) Food-related articles and opportunities:
Wanna write or do food photography for a a daily international food chronicle, The Rambling Epicure? Details here. Check out what my friend Mike Roy (Three Rule Ride) is eating in Yunnan, China one part of his bike ride across Asia: Yunnan Food, Part 2. Speaking of…

Dreaming of Spring: Recipe Round-up

Even though the weather is taking its sweet time to warm up here in Wisconsin, I'm already dreaming of spring flavors and ingredients that might show up at the market before too long.

Asparagus and ramps and garlic scapes, oh my!

In honor of those bright green flavors, I've put together a recipe round-up for a few of my favorite spring ingredients, to remind us of the crispness and freshness that is to come.

Click on any of the photos or recipe titles below to go to the complete instructions!

Delights to Come: Pollan's "Cooked"

In just a week and a half, on April 23, Michael Pollan's new book, Cooked, will be released (on my birthday, no less!)

I can't wait to get my hands on it.

From what I've read, like his other books, Cooked, will be a fascinating mix of personal stories, historical tidbits, sociological analysis, and insightful commentary. The book is billed as a personal take on Pollan's experience with cooking and the way it shapes his relationship to food, community, and the environment.

When I heard Pollan speak at the American Historical Association earlier this year, he described how he often takes on the persona of the "clueless narrator" in his writing. By beginning with a series of questions he doesn't know the answer to (or can pretend that he doesn't, or once didn't), he can bring the reader along with him on his journey of discovery. Cooked uses this strategy, letting readers follow Pollan into the kitchen as he discovers what cooking is and can do.