Today’s federal programs make you long for the Depression

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Check out Daniel Bowman Simon’s fascinating piece about the history of food stamps. The original food stamp program was designed to aid farm recovery: The unemployed would receive $1.50 in stamps for each cash dollar spent, 50 cents of which were specifically designated for purchase of the country’s agricultural surplus. Simon quotes a New York Times article from Sepetember 26, 1939, that lists the available surplus for the month of October:

“The list, effective Oct. 1, includes butter, eggs, raisins, apples, pork lard, dried prunes, onions, except green onions; dry beans, fresh pears, wheat flour and whole wheat flower [sic], and corn meal. Fresh snap beans were designated as surplus for Oct. 1 through Oct. 31.

Raisins, apples, pork lard and snap beans appeared on the list for the first time. Foods which will be removed from the list on Oct 1. include cabbages, fresh peaches, fresh tomatoes, rice, and fresh green peas.”

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Posted in Food Politics

Grilled or Broiled Scallops with Basil Stuffing

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Makes: 4 servings

Time: 30 minutes

One of my all-time favorite recipes. Even though it’s super-easy to split and fill scallops, the results are guaranteed to impress.

Other seafood you can use: shrimp (split lengthwise for stuffing); monkfish cut crosswise into thick medallions. Recipe from How to Cook Everything.

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Posted in Recipes, Seafood

Is the U.S. One Big Factory Farm?

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Food and Water Watch just released this amazing interactive factory farm map of the United States, which is fascinating and terrifying at the same time – I can’t stop clicking through it. Below “the fold” are some eye-opening numbers that come attached to the map. I’ve been doing some digging of my own, but it’s (quite literally) tons of, shall we say, waste to wade through.

Take the map for a spin, and if you find anything interesting, or surpising, or frightening, or hopeful – please post it in the comments section.

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Posted in Farming, Food Politics

Want Healthy Kids? Cut Soda, Not Food Stamps

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Last week Raj Patel wrote – intelligently, of course, as he does – that passing the Child Nutrition Reauthorization Bill must not come down to a choice between feeding children and feeding families. A current version of the bill that has been passed by the Senate plans to fund an improved (healthier) school meal program in part by cutting $2 billion in funding for SNAP –the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program otherwise known as food stamps.

Food stamps, of course, are often the last line of defense for Americans that don’t have consistent access to sufficiently nutritious food (according to the USDA there were over 50 million of them, including more than 17 million children, in 2009). Patel argues that the Government should expand both SNAP and school meal programs, and that robbing a family’s dinner to pay for a child’s lunch is deeply misguided economic and social policy:

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Posted in Food Politics

Polenta Cakes with Garlicky Mushrooms

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By Freya Bellin

Polenta can be really fun to work with because of its versatility. You could serve it as a grain with stir-fried vegetables, under an egg, or even as a savory breakfast cereal (think grits). Or, as in the recipe below, there’s also the option to cool it and pan fry or bake it to get more of a solid “cake”. For this recipe, make sure in step 1 to cook down all of the liquid. By the time the polenta comes out of the pot, it should be very thick like a dough and almost resist being spread into a pan. If it’s at all runny, it won’t cool and set properly.

Polenta and mushrooms make a great pair in this dish, both in terms of flavor and texture. Mushrooms get a little chewy when cooked, which is great against the crispy polenta cakes. This mushroom recipe in particular is a great one to have in your back pocket— it’s fast and flavorful and could be served as a vegetable side dish or even inside an omelet with goat cheese. The thyme, garlic, and wine all work beautifully together to make an earthy, very garlicky dish. While this dish involves some forethought because of the cooling process, it requires little active time and comes together easily. If you end up with scraps from cutting up the cooled polenta, you can bake those up too and eat them like fries with ketchup or BBQ sauce. Recipe from The Food Matters Cookbook.

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Posted in Italian, Recipes

Turkey Curry

Still have leftover turkey in the fridge? How about turkey curry?

Posted in American, Indian

Some Thanksgiving Advice: Chill Out

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The following story ran in The Times’s Week in Review just before last Thanksgiving; I think it’s worth running here.

But first, another word. There has been a lot of talk, and a lot of press, about Thanksgivings that are “healthy,” or “sustainable,” or “vegetarian,” or all three. Leonard Lopate asked me questions about this during our chat on the Intrepid last night (which drew 1000+ people, a nice benefit for WNYC).

I think all of this misses the point somewhat. The idea – I believe – is to focus on the big picture. Are our diets sustainable in the long run? Are we eating wisely, intelligently, consistently? Because if we are, one meal, one day cannot possibly matter. Why would you want to do a “healthy” Thanksgiving if your normal routine was not consistent with that? Why, in fact, would you want to worry about anything on Thanksgiving other than putting a lovely meal on the table? This is a once-a-year day. If your diet is moving, has moved, in the right direction, Thanksgiving will follow; if it isn’t, or hasn’t, this is not the day to single out to make changes. Make the changes gradually, and let Thanksgiving take care of itself.

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Posted in American