Sustainable Diet Resolutions

01FLEX_SPAN-articleLarge-v3

New Year’s resolutions tend to be big, impressive promises that we adhere to for short periods of time — that blissful stretch of January when we are starving ourselves, exercising daily and reading Proust. But, and you know this, rather than making extreme changes that last for days or weeks, we are better off with tiny ones lasting more or less forever.

Mostly, though, when it comes to diet, we are told the opposite. We have a billion-dollar industry based on fad diets and quick fixes: Eat nothing but foam packing peanuts and lemon tea, and you’ll lose 30 pounds in 30 days. Then what? Resolutions work only if we are resolute, and changes are meaningful only if they are permanent.

What follows are some of the easiest food-related resolutions you will ever make, from cooking big pots of grains and beans once a week, to buying frozen produce, to pickling things à la “Portlandia.” Committing to just a few of these, or even one, will get you moving in the right direction toward eating more plants and fewer animal products and processed foods. My suggestions are incremental, but the ease with which you can incorporate them into your normal shopping, cooking and eating routines is exactly what makes them sustainable and powerful.

Flexitarianism is about making a gradual shift, not a complete overhaul. It is a way of eating we are much more likely to stick to for the long term — which, after all, is the point of resolutions in the first place.

Get all the resolutions (with accompanying recipes) here.

Posted in Uncategorized

Crispy Pork Cheek, Belly, or Turkey Thigh Salad

Screen Shot 2014-01-02 at 8.15.16 AM

Since opening nearly 20 years ago, St. John, Fergus Henderson’s famous nose-to-tail restaurant in London, has developed a justifiable reputation for using underappreciated parts of many different types of animals (rolled pig’s spleen, anyone?). Henderson also helped popularize serving unusual vegetables and vegetables in unusual forms. I remember ordering “English peas” and watching a kitchen worker reach into a crate, pile a couple of handfuls of unshelled peas onto a plate and send them to the table.

I still visit St. John on most visits to London, and on a trip last year I ordered crispy pig’s cheek with dandelions, about as representative a dish as the restaurant offers. It was sensational: crunchy, fat-drenched croutons, hard crackling, moist, salty meat and superbitter greens with a powerful, caper-laden dressing. When I got home, I emailed Fergus — with whom I’ve cooked — and wrote, basically, Tell me how to do this. His reply:

Read the rest of this article here, and get the recipe here.

Posted in Uncategorized

A Guide to Years Ending in 4

War, famine, pestilence and death — the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse — have been well represented in years ending in “4,” but probably not disproportionately so. A look at memorable moments in the last seven of these just might lead to optimism for the one that’s upon us. Or not.

1944 Those of us who don’t remember this year are lucky; a soldier cited in Rick Atkinson’s brilliantly horrifying saga of the last two years of the war in Europe, “The Guns at Last Light,” quotes King Lear: “The worst is not, So long as we can say, ‘This is the worst.’ ” The end of the war was in sight; getting there was the trick, and millions were killed in the interval. Things have not been this bad since.

Read the rest of this column here.

Posted in Uncategorized

Making Noise about Antibiotics

Some of you have asked me how best to make your opinions heard about routine use of antibiotics in animals, the subject of my column this week. You could:

* Write your local (or national!) newspaper or call in to your favorite radio show.

* Write your Congressional representative and/or Senators. This site will help you find both email and snail mail addresses in a second. Most have Twitter accounts too.

* To officially contact the Food and Drug Administration on this matter, go to www.regulations.gov and insert docket FDA-2010-N-0155. Or call: 888-INFO-FDA. (Good luck with that.)

* Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius has a Twitter account: @sebelius. The number for HHS is 877-696-6775.

* Then there’s the White House: @barackobama is not likely to be seen by anyone other than your followers and some Secret Service guy, but why not? The general whitehouse.gov comment form seems to be the best bet. You can also start a petition; someone should.

Posted in Farming, Food Politics

Pressure Cooking with Lorna Sass

Screen Shot 2013-12-19 at 11.34.48 AM

Not long ago, I found a piece of what I assumed was beef in the freezer. My choices were to cook it or throw it out, and because time was short — defrosting was not an option — the pressure cooker seemed the right option.

Thus began another pressure-cooker experiment. I threw the meat in, and added onion, carrots, garlic, water, cinnamon, star anise, a chile, Sichuan peppercorns, soy sauce, honey — things I knew would yield a dark, spicy sauce.

I brought the pressure up and cooked it for 40 minutes. Upon opening the pot, I saw that I’d made short ribs — how nice! I boiled off a bit of the extra liquid, and in less than an hour had produced something that normally would have taken four hours, not to mention defrosting time.

The next obvious step was to call the cookbook author Lorna Sass, a pressure-cooker maven who has always been a step or two ahead of her time. (Her “Recipes From an Ecological Kitchen,” published 20-plus years ago, was among the first mainstream vegan cookbooks, and it has not been bettered. Sadly, it’s out of print.) I needed a lesson.

Read the rest of this column, see the videos, and get the recipes here

Posted in Uncategorized

The F.D.A.’s New Policy Falls Way Short

That “good” news you may have read last week about the Food and Drug Administration’s curbing antibiotics in animal feed may not be so good after all. In fact, it appears that the F.D.A. has once again refused to do all it could to protect public health.

For those who missed it, the agency requested (and “requested” is the right word) that the pharmaceutical industry make a labeling change that, the F.D.A. says, will reduce the routine use of antibiotics in animal production. I’d happily be proven wrong, but I don’t think it will. Rather, I think we’re looking at an industry-friendly response to the public health emergency of diseases caused by antibiotic-resistant bacteria, resistance that is bred in industrially raised animals.

You may know that around 80 percent of antibiotics in the United States are given (fed, mostly) to animals. Why? Because the terrible conditions in which most of our animals are grown foster illness; give them antibiotics and illness is less likely. There is also a belief that “subtherapeutic” doses of antibiotics help animals grow faster. So most “farmers” who raise animals by the tens or hundreds of thousands find it easier to feed them antibiotics than to raise them in ways that allow antibiotics to be reserved for actual illness. (And yes, there are alternatives, even in industrial settings. Denmark raises as many hogs as Iowa and does it with far fewer antibiotics.)

Read the rest of this column here

Posted in Uncategorized

What I’m Reading

Screen Shot 2013-12-09 at 3.45.30 PM

One-day labor walkouts were staged at fast-food restaurants in 100 cities Thursday, with workers demanding a living wage of $15 an hour. But it’s not just McDonald’s and Burger King employees who are underpaid: Higher-tier fast-food places also stiff their workers. Maxwell Strachan at the Huffington Post thinks we should be tipping them.

Melinda Moulton, the C.E.O. of a redevelopment company, was one of 200 people to take part in the 3Squares Challenge, during which she lived for a week on just $36 worth of food, or around $1.71 a meal. “I don’t know how people do it,” she said. “I am hungry a lot.” (One can do this, you know, but it takes cooking skills and time.) Meanwhile, a Guardian editorial suggests that instead of sussing out food-stamp fraud, which is minimal, Congress should focus on where the real abuse happens—Wall Street. Love that.

First Al Gore announced he is going vegan—now Jay-Z and Beyoncé are giving it a go for 22 days. (See my column last week.) But if you ask me, say what you mean and mean what you say, Beyoncé, and stop shilling for Pepsi. And also? If you are going to go vegan, maybe stop wearing fox fur.

Read the rest of this post here

Posted in Food Politics

Not Just for Breakfast Anymore

Screen Shot 2013-12-05 at 11.41.09 AMIt started simply enough: Some months ago, I needed to make myself something to eat, and I had a few ounces of leftover scallops from dinner the night before. I remembered something I learned in Madrid called a tortillita, which inspired me to produce a kind of eggy pancake — or, if you like, a floury omelet — laced with shrimp, parsley and onion. I beat together an egg and a little flour until smooth, wanting to thicken the mixture just enough so that it wouldn’t run in the pan. I chopped the scallops and added them to the batter, along with a bit of onion, some parsley, salt and chopped fresh chile, shallow-frying all this by the spoonful in abundant oil. Predictably, the little guys — eight in total — took a couple of minutes per side to become gorgeously golden. I sprinkled them with salt, squeezed a few drops of lemon over each and ate the entire batch by myself, in about the same amount of time they took to cook.

Read the rest of this article, here.

Posted in Recipes

Dietary Advice for the Gluttony Season

Now that the gluttony season is upon us, you may be re-re-re-evaluating your diet; or perhaps you’ll be stewing on it four weeks from today, making commitments to do better before summer.

We are confused. Many people have the gnawing feeling that “nothing” is fit, safe, wise or ethical to eat, and the$61 billion diet industry encourages us to dwell on this uncertainty. We buy too much of the wrong stuff because it is affordable, satisfying, plentiful and aggressively marketed. Then we seek the cure for what that toxic regimen causes. It’s a dizzying merry-go-round.

Read the rest of this column, here.

Posted in Uncategorized

Better Than a Meat Lollipop

Screen Shot 2013-12-02 at 5.49.03 PMNot long ago, in certain circles, serving anything other than the most tender and expensive rib or loin chops — in the form of a “rack” or a “meat lollipop” — to respectable company was considered déclassé. Leg and shank eventually got their dues — and now the shoulder has finally arrived.

It’s about time, because all things considered, it’s the best major cut of lamb. (The best minor cut might be the neck, or even the kidney or tongue, but we’re not addressing “specialty meats” here.)

Read the rest of this article, here.

Posted in Recipes