Eating with My Mother

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By John Thorne

[John Thorne and his wife, Matt, live in Northampton MA, where they cook in an apartment kitchen. They are perhaps best known for their irregularly published food newsetter,  Simple Cooking , which has been chugging along now for thirty years(!). Their books include Outlaw CookSerious PigPot On The Fire, and most recently Mouth Wide Open.  It is perhaps worth noting that I idolize Mr. Thorne, have for as long as he and Matt have produced Simple Cooking, and am ecstatic to see his posts on markbittman.com. When you read this piece you’ll see why.– mb]

After my father died, I used to go to Maine twice a year for a week-long visit with my mother, first at the family home in Searsmont and then at a retirement community in Belfast. There, she was required to eat supper at the community dining hall a certain number of days a month. But she didn’t really enjoy that, and not because of the quality of the food (although she complained about that, too). She liked to move through the day at her own rhythm, which meant lunch was often eaten around three in the afternoon, and she wasn’t in the mood to walk down to the dining hall two hours later. She’d much rather eat supper at her own place … around eight in the evening.

This was the case even though by then various frailties had reduced her cooking to preparing some vegetables to accompany the night’s frozen dinner. Of course, I tried to get her to let me cook for her. She did allow this but showed no enthusiasm for my doing so, despite the fact that she often seemed to enjoy what I made. Finally, I got the hint. I gave up, and she and I would settle down in front of the television, each with our own frozen dinner (or, in my case, two frozen dinners — and I usually hedged my bet by having two different kinds). Continue reading

Posted in Behind The Scenes

Mark Bittman Dot Com–For Real

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More than a year ago, I gathered a small team of geniuses (self not included) with the idea of re-launching markbittman.com as something interesting and different. And it was successful in a limited and static way: we put up some recipes, pictures, and videos, we launched a discussion (or at least a description) of Food Matters, and we appealed to visitors to join us in thinking up ways to change the way America eats. And lots of people visited.

All of that is still here: You can browse recipes, pictures, and videos, which will change periodically; you can sign up for a newsletter (which we’ll try to send out with some regularity); you can learn more about Food Matters, How to Cook Everything, and some of the other things I do. Continue reading

Posted in Behind The Scenes

True Confessions

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By Pam Anderson

[Pam Anderson is a veteran food writer and cook book author, a colleague of mine from the old Cook’s magazine (the predecessor of Cook’s Illustrated) – there are times I feel like she and I learned to cook together, because our styles are so similar. She blogs weekly with daughters Maggy and Sharon at threemanycooks.com–an ongoing lively conversation about food and life. -mb]

Most of the time it’s fun to be a food writer. Sometimes it’s not. Like last Friday when David and I went to a matinee of Date Night. Despite bad reviews we refused to believe Steve Carrell and Tina Fey wouldn’t be hilarious together.

We got out of the movie about 5:30 and auto-piloted home to make dinner from a week’s worth of recipe experiments languishing in the fridge. We’re usually very good at turning these little tidbits into a feast, but sometimes I just wish we were the normal couple for whom dinner-and-a-movie means going out. Continue reading

Posted in Produce

The Politics of the Plate

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By Barry Estabrook 

[Barry Estabrook, the former food and politics writer at Gourmet, blogs at www.politicsoftheplate.com. His story about the horrors of labor and Florida-grown tomatoes was among the best of 2009, and it isn’t only me who thinks so – he won a Beard award last night. On Twitter, he regularly serves up snippets about food and politics @Barry_Estabrook. And here on markbittman.com, he will be contributing a weekly roundup on newsworthy food events. – mb]

Strike Three for Atlantic Bluefin

Endangered Atlantic bluefin tuna can’t seem to catch a break. Strike one came late last year when the International Commission on the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas voted to allow fishermen to take 13,500 metric tons of tuna this year, a number that the commission’s own scientists said left the majestic fish with only a 50-50 chance of avoiding extinction. Strike two was thrown in March by the Committee on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) when they buckled under Japanese lobbying and voted not to give the species protection.

 Last week, it was British Petroleum’s turn to deal a devastating blow to Atlantic bluefins with oil leaking from its sunken drilling platform off Louisiana. The Gulf of Mexico is one of only two spawning grounds for the fish and it happens that now is peak time for mating, said Chris Mann of the Pew Environmental Trust in an interview with the Wall Street Journal. Fortunately, the heart of the breeding grounds lies southwest of the oil slick, but Mann worried that prevailing winds might blow bluefin eggs into the contaminated area.

Genetically Modified Justice a la Clarence Thomas

Last month, the Supreme Court began hearings on a case that could be pivotal to both sides of the GMO argument. In 2007, a lower court issued an injunction against planting genetically modified alfalfa produced by Monsanto after determining that the United States Department of Agriculture had approved its use without sufficient scrutiny. Monsanto is appealing the injunction. 

 Liberal Justice Stephen Breyer recused himself because his brother was a judge in the lower court case. Fair enough. But conservative judge Clarence Thomas, who did legal work for Monsanto back in the 1970s, declined to recuse himself. Oral arguments last week indicated that Clarence’s conservative colleagues on the bench were not buying the argument that the GM alfalfa could contaminate nearby non-GMO alfalfa. A decision is expected this summer.

Coke to Shareholder Group: Things Go Better with BPA

Last month 22 percent of Coca-Cola’s shareholders supported a resolution asking the soft drink company to disclose how it is dealing with concerns about the safety of bisphenol A, a plastic coating used to line the inside of cans. The company refused to provide the asked-for information, saying that it would not be “useful to our shareholders,” according to Food Quality News. The company said it would continue to take its guidance about the chemical’s safety from regulatory agencies. 

 Maybe the Coke execs should take a look at the latest information from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which recently ordered new studies into the chemical’s safety. In a January update to on BPA, the FDA said that it shared “the perspective of the National Toxicology Program that recent studies provide reason for some concern about the potential effects of BPA on the brain, behavior, and prostate gland of fetuses, infants and children.”

It also said, “In addition, FDA is supporting reasonable steps to reduce human exposure to BPA, including actions by industry.”

Obama’s Don’t Ask Don’t Tell Policy on GMO Foods

An obscure unit of the United Nations called Codex begins meetings this week in Quebec City, and its deliberations could determine whether food processors who trade internationally will be permitted to say on labels that their products are free of GMO ingredients.

That’s right. The Obama administration is pushing a position first articulated by the Bush Whitehouse that foods sold internationally should not be labeled “No GMOs” even if the statement is true. The administration claims that telling the public the truth about GMOs is “false, misleading, or deceptive.” Their somewhat convoluted reasoning: there is no difference between GMO and non-GMO food and telling the truth might make consumers think there is. (Photograph by iStockphoto)

Posted in Food Politics, Seafood