Junk Food Taxes: Go Big or Go Home

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In Washington (state) there was a small tax on candy and soda, even “bottled water and some processed foods,” which was rolled back by about a 2 to 1 margin Tuesday. Opponents of the tax, who claimed it would “hurt business” in the state (which is running a huge deficit, so business must be hurting already – though Bill Gates is doing fine, thank you very much), outspent the tax’s supporters by 17 to 1, spending more than $16million to beat it down. It would have raised about $100 million a year, not bad except when you consider that the budget shortfall is $4 billion.

For these kinds of taxes to be successful, they’re going to have to be bigger, not smaller, and seen not only as a novel way to raise new revenues (obviously, they’re not an easy way to raise new revenues) but as political acts designed to bring the price of junk food to a level of what it really costs us to produce and eat it. A more politically correct and perhaps more consumer-friendly way to do this would be to tax profits and let the manufacturers raise the prices, but no doubt this would “hurt business” in the state also, and not hurting business is evidently the top priority. At least if you can outspend the less business-friendly voices by 17 to 1.

(Photo Credit: Steve Hopson via Flickr)

 

Posted in Food Politics

San Fran Happy Meals are Getting Sadder

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Some thoughts about the San Francisco proposed ban on toys in Happy Meals unless they meet certain (rather lame, if you ask me) nutritional requirements. It is movement, I suppose, in the right direction, but 35 percent of calories from fat isn’t exactly low, and if the fat comes from eggs or “low-fat” cheese, it’s exempt, so I could envision such a meal easily containing 50 percent of calories from fat. The requirement to contain a half-cup of fruit and three-quarters cup of vegetables sounds better, although I wonder how I feel about paying kids – giving toys is a form of payment, after all – to eat their fruits and veggies. And certainly when my kids were four they would have been capable of grabbing the toy, eating the 50 percent fat items, then wailing about being forced to eat their fruits and vegies.

This is not a great step forward, but nevertheless it is a step in the right direction. I would’ve voted for it, given the option. I wonder why the Mayor says he’s vetoing it? Too tame, I hope.

(Photo Credit: Neato Coolville via Flickr)

Posted in Food Politics, Uncategorized

Dinner with Bittman: Panfried Trout with Bacon and Red Onions

Recipe from How to Cook Everything.

Panfried Trout with Bacon and Red Onions

Makes: 2 servings

Time: 45 minutes

Think of this as campfire food, made at home. Other seafood you can use: salmon or any thick fillets or steaks or whole sardines.

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Posted in American, Seafood

This Week’s Minimalist: Profiteroles

Profiteroles are not nearly as hard to make as you might think, and they’re pretty fun too.

Posted in Baking

Dinner with Bittman: Okra Gumbo with Spicy Sausage

Recipe from How to Cook Everything.

Okra Gumbo with Spicy Sausage

Makes: 4 servings

Time: About an hour, largely unattended

I love slow-cooked okra, especially with sausage and tomatoes. For the best texture, you’ve got to sear the okra first. But after that, there’s little to do but let the pot bubble away. To serve this New Orleans style, pour a ladleful into a shallow soup bowl and nestle a scoop of plain white rice into the center.

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Posted in American, Seafood, Uncategorized

Garlicky Chard with Olives and Pine Nuts

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By Freya Bellin

All too often I come home with a giant bunch of beautiful leafy greens and then wonder what exactly to do with them.  This recipe is a simple, flavorful answer to that question.  All of the ingredients are easy to keep on hand, and it’s also the type of recipe that can be altered to taste or whatever you happen to have in stock, although olives are a great choice.  I used Moroccan oil-cured olives: shriveled, bitter, and very salty.  They’re delicious, but make sure to go very light on any additional salt, if you use any at all.  Particularly useful is learning the braising method used in this recipe.  Leafy greens can fill up a pot or pan really quickly, but when you add liquid, like the red wine here, the leaves wilt much more quickly and are less likely to burn than if simply sautéed. Recipe from The Food Matters Cookbook.

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Posted in Produce, Recipes, Uncategorized

Spooky Sunday Supper: Winter Squash Curry

Recipe from How to Cook Everything.

Winter Squash Curry

Makes: 4 servings

Time: About 30 minutes

Peeling and chopping the squash is probably the hardest part of this recipe. All sorts of vegetables work in addition to or instead of squash; use this recipe as a base and improvise from there.

Other vegetables you can use: any winter squash, potatoes, sweet potatoes, any root vegetable, eggplant, cauliflower, mushrooms, okra, peas, any summer squash, or green or wax beans.

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Posted in American, Produce

Roasted Sweet Potato Salad

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Roasted Sweet Potato Salad with Red Pepper Vinaigrette

Makes: 4 servings

Time: About 45 minutes

Here is another potato-vinaigrette combo: The red pepper dressing is tart, sweet, and spicy, with a touch of cumin. This is best served warm or at room temperature, though of course you can refrigerate and serve it up to a day later, as long as you take it out of the refrigerator beforehand to take the chill off. Recipe from How to Cook Everything Vegetarian.

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Posted in American, Recipes

Dinner with Bittman: Couscous with Cauliflower and Almonds

Recipe from How to Cook Everything.

Couscous with Cauliflower and Almonds

Makes: 4 servings

Time: About 20 minutes

When cauliflower is finely chopped and fried as in this recipe, its crumbly texture mimics cracked grains. I like this best with the nutty flavor of whole wheat couscous. Other grains you can use: bulgur.

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Posted in Produce, Recipes

Why It’s Better if We Can’t Afford Meat

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Beef ranchers are complaining that the domestic market is “withering,” and therefore the quality of meat will decline.

This, of course, assumes that we’re not smart enough to buy better beef. From many perspectives – that of the person who wants only organic beef; that of one who wants only local beef; that of one who wants grass-fed beef, or “natural” beef, or humanely raised beef, or all of the above – the price of “normal” (that is, industrially-raised) beef is already too low. Suppose one wanted higher quality beef, and were willing to pay for it? Suppose one were willing to eat less beef in order to keep one’s food budget more-or-less stable? Wouldn’t a decline in industrially raised beef be OK? And who cares if it becomes even “worse?” It’s already produced with almost no concern for quality.

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Posted in Farming, Food Politics