Fast Food, Low Pay

Last November, following the Black Friday protests by Walmart employees, 200 workers at 30 New York fast-food restaurantswalked off their jobs.

Not much happened immediately. There was press and vocal support from organized labor and the nascent food movement. But the strike didn’t spread like wildfire.

Something else didn’t happen, however: no one lost his job. And that was a huge deal.

As far as I can determine, only one worker was permanently terminated as a result of the many actions that have followed nationwide. Usually, the striking fast-food workers are escorted back to work by co-workers, clergy, union leaders and even elected officials, who together insist that there be no retribution. That’s worked.

Read the rest of this column, here.

Posted in Uncategorized

This Armenian Life

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Greater Los Angeles is a collection of not just smaller cities but also exotic populations. Among those cities is Glendale (not so small: it would be the second-most-populous city in New England), a center of the Armenian diaspora and home to one of the world’s largest Armenian populations outside Armenia. Fleeing religious violence in the late 19th century, genocide in the early 20th or the Soviet Union after that, Armenian Californians became integral in the development of the fig, raisin and bulgur businesses.

Edward Khechemyan came to Burbank, which borders on Glendale, in 1991 — the same year Armenia left the U.S.S.R. He was 17 then, and of the move, he says simply, “We didn’t like the Communist system.” His father, who left Iran for Armenia — the home of his ancestors — in 1974, was a chef who dreamed of opening a restaurant, and in 1997, he did just that.

The name of the restaurant, which is on the terminally unhip San Fernando Road right near the Burbank border, has changed twice; it is now called Adana. The food-and-travel writer David Latt, a friend who has never steered me wrong, listed it as among his favorite restaurants when I was picking his brain last year, and we ate there together last fall. It was so good that I’ve visited Adana on each of my four subsequent trips to Los Angeles.

Read the rest of this article, here.

Posted in Spices, Travel

The Whole Story

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Whole grains, whether truly “whole” or not, have gone mainstream.

You can’t mention quinoa without hearing about the plight of the Bolivians who can no longer afford to buy their crop because we’re willing to pay so much for it. The word “rice” has become loaded: there are more colors (red? black?) and types (extra-long brown Basmati?) than those of us who grew up knowing only Carolina and Uncle Ben’s could have ever imagined. The other day I heard half a talk show devoted to what couscous really is. (Pasta, and I don’t know why it was so hard to figure out.)

It gets more complicated. Manufacturers claim processed foods are, or contain, whole grains when it isn’t true. Debates rage about the relative benefits of “whole grain” pasta versus the real thing. Then there’s the “are whole grains even good for you?” thing.

Feh. You shouldn’t care. They’re fantastic.

Read the rest of this article, here.

 

Posted in Recipes

Midsummer Links

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U.S. agriculture and food companies are struggling to attract enough workers, a problem the industry concedes is getting worse.

Twenty-two primary-school children died in India after eating free lunch prepared with oil that was believed to have been stored in an empty insecticide container.

In a setback, the House approved a bill that would prevent California from requiring that eggs imported into the state be produced under standards ensuring that hens have room to spread their wings. Related: Yet another study has reinforced the idea that keeping animals in confinement and feeding them antibiotics prophylactically breeds varieties of bacteria that cause disease in humans.

Read the rest of this column, here.

Posted in Food Politics

Watermelon All Day Long

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You don’t need an expert to tell you that watermelon is just about the most refreshing thing you could possibly eat in the middle of summer, and that the first and best way to “prepare” it is to just cut it up and devour it, letting the juice drip down your face and spitting the seeds (more on these in a minute) as far as you can.

When the weather is clammy and the watermelons are juicy and sweet (and cheap), it makes sense to have them on hand pretty much all the time. And that means there may be instances when your innate creativity (or boredom) might drive you a little further. Luckily, there are many worthy and refreshing things to do with watermelon that are somewhere between simple slicing and full-blown cooking.

Read the rest of this article, here.

Posted in Cocktails, Produce

Breeding Bacteria on Factory Farms

The story of antibiotic-resistant bacteria in farm animals is not a simple one. But here’s the pitch version: Yet another study has reinforced the idea that keeping animals in confinement and feeding them antibiotics prophylactically breeds varieties of bacteria that cause disease in humans, disease that may not readily be treated by antibiotics. Since some of these bacteria can be fatal, that’s a scary combination.

Antibiotic-resistant bacteria are bad enough, but now there are more kinds; they’re better at warding off attack by antibiotics; and they can be transferred to humans by increasingly varied methods. The situation is demonstrably dire.

Read the rest of this column, here.

Posted in Uncategorized

Are You VB6?

What is your VB6 experience? I want to know. Share your stories, tips and more, here on Facebook. I’ll be publishing some of my favorite posts to Facebook and Twitter, so join the VB6 conversation.

Mark

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Posted in Mark Bittman Books

The VB6 Cocktail Party

mojitoMy last newsletter offered tips on maintaining VB6 during backyard grilling season. With the Fourth of July coming up, VB6ers face yet another test of willpower: summer cocktail parties.

Maybe it’s the heat or the fact that when the weather gets nice, all we want is to kick back and have fun, but for many of us, alcohol consumption increases during the summer.

Of course, drinking makes us lose our inhibitions, which can result in eating foods we might otherwise avoid. That said, here are some tips for navigating a cocktail party—in the summer or anytime.

Crudités: Home base. Try dipping only every fifth piece or so.

Passed hors d’oeuvres: Let one platter of each go by before deciding what’s best.

Meatballs: Can you stop at one? If not, veer toward the cocktail shrimp instead.

Cheese tray: There’s fruit nearby, yes? Make this dessert.

Cocktails: If you want a drink, go ahead, but alternate each alcoholic glass with one of sparkling water.

Posted in Newsletter

Let’s Not Braise the Planet

According to a report released by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace last month, we are not running out of fossil fuels anytime soon. Since the dawn of the industrial revolution we’ve used around 1.2 trillion barrels of oil; the report estimates that with current technology we can produce roughly five times that much. With future technologies, it may well be that the suffering sky is the limit.

This reduces the issue of conversion to clean energy to one of ethics and intent. Our ability to turn around the rate of carbon emissions and slow the engine that can conflagrate the world is certain. But do we have the will?

Read the rest of this column, here.

Posted in Uncategorized

Too Hot to Grill? Try the Slow Cooker

Screen Shot 2013-07-01 at 3.43.23 PMWhen I told a friend that I was working on an article about slow-cooker recipes for summer, she gave me a concerned look and asked if I was in full possession of my faculties. I may not be, but I do know this: In addition to being nearly foolproof, slow cookers don’t heat up your kitchen. They don’t even require you to be in your kitchen — or your house, for that matter — while they do their thing. I’m not saying, “Stop grilling.” But I am saying that when the temperature starts to climb, you might break out the crockpot.

While slow cookers are best known for their meat-braising prowess, they also work wonders on dried beans, rendering them almost impossibly creamy inside while leaving them completely intact. Throw some liquid, seasonings and meat in the bottom, vegetables on top, and you’ll wind up with slow-cooked stews that take advantage of summer ingredients.

Read the rest of this article, here.

Posted in Recipes, Slow Food