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

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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

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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

¡Viva México!

Screen Shot 2013-12-02 at 5.47.01 PMThanksgiving once marked the beginning of a season of belt-tightening, as fresh food became scarce. Now it launches a fury of gluttony — and it’s not as if we’re restrained at other times. Yet with obesity-associated Type 2 diabetes at record levels, it’s widely agreed that we have to moderate this diet. Which means that, despite corporate intransigence, we have to slow the marketing of profitable, toxic and addictive products masquerading as food.

It’s logical to start with soda and other beverages sweetened with sugar or high-fructose corn syrup, which account for 7 percent of calories in the American diet, and many public health specialists have recommended a steep tax to reduce consumption. Ironically, France, which has a relatively low obesity rate, was the first to initiate a significant soda tax, and it seems to be reducing consumption — but its soda drinking was relatively low to begin with. Now, however, it appears we’re going to be able to judge such a tax, as well as the impact of a tax on junk foods, in a country known for obesity. This new tax is scheduled to be imposed in the new year, not in the supposedly progressive public health bastions of New York or San Francisco (though that city looks set to vote again on a soda tax in 2014), but in a country many Americans view as backward: Mexico.

Read the rest of this column, here.

Posted in Food Politics

Past Perfect: Memories of Home, and a Huge Thanksgiving Latke

Screen Shot 2013-11-24 at 12.54.36 PMAfter living in what must have seemed like every neighborhood in three boroughs — Coney Island, the South Bronx, East Flatbush, Spanish Harlem (as it was then called), the Lower East Side — my mother’s parents, in their oldish age, settled in Astoria, which is where I spent almost all the Thanksgivings of my childhood.

Read the rest of this article, here.

Posted in Recipes

Thanksgiving Pastrami From Danny Bowien

Hanukkah and Thanksgiving fall on the same day this year, so Danny Bowien proposed doing a Thanksgiving Pastrami. He demonstrates the simple meat dish for me.

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See more, here.

Posted in Recipes, Uncategorized