An Open Letter to An Unnamed Chef

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We – I and eight friends – are at a beach house in southern Florida; half of the group is European, and for a variety of reasons they wanted to come here. I feel like saying “don’t blame me, I’m from Massachusetts,” even though I’m not.

Mostly we’re cooking – and I’ll write about that – but there was a funky Caribbean restaurant we wanted to check out last night, only it was closed. By the time we discovered this, it was psychologically if not literally too late to cook, so I was assigned the task of figuring out a nearby place to eat. Through the miracle of Chowhound, Yelp, and other you-be-the-judge sites, I picked what appeared to be an eclectic, trendy new place by a known local chef.

Locals will figure out where I went; I’m trying not to damage a perhaps well-deserved reputation on the basis of one visit to an obviously new and still-wrinkly restaurant. But there were some disturbing trends here, and they’re widespread, not only nationally but globally. (Fortunately they’re not nearly universal. But they’re scary.)

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Posted in Behind The Scenes

Why Whole Foods’ Shoppers Are Thin and Albertsons’ Aren’t

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By Tom Laskawy

A recent University of Washington study showed Seattle-area shoppers at Whole Foods are much less likely to be obese, on average, than shoppers at the less expensive chain Albertsons.

I shrugged when I read this. From what I can tell, the study didn’t control for income: it’s well established that Whole Foods shoppers have higher incomes, which has always been correlated with low obesity rates. Indeed, some public health experts will tell you that we don’t have an obesity epidemic so much as we have a poverty epidemic.

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Posted in Food Politics

Risotto as Sauce

By Edward Schneider

Last year some time, Jackie and I had the most wonderful risotto assembly at our friend Angela Hartnett’s London restaurant Murano: a layer of shredded braised oxtail, sauce and all, topped with a delicate leek risotto. Cottage pie meets Milan, with the creamy risotto acting simultaneously as a second sauce and as an integral element of the dish. (With a bit of imagination, you can see an antecedent in the custom of serving osso buco with saffron-scented risotto.)

I thought of this a while ago, when we were just starting to get tired of the leftovers of a braised pork butt we’d been pecking away at for several days. Also in the refrigerator I had some cooked peppers – sweet red peppers and a poblano – julienned and slowly melted in olive oil until the flavor intensified. As I reheated the pork yet again, I used a half cup of this pepper mixture to start a risotto: not the typical elegant kind, but something gutsier – a kind of in-your-face risotto that is becoming a habit in our house. This one was flavored only with that pepper “sofrito,” white wine and chicken stock, with plenty of black pepper. Continue reading

Posted in Italian

The Funny Pages

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Posted in Behind The Scenes

Where Will Big Food Put 1.5 Trillion Calories?

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By Michele Simon

[I met Michele Simon last year, at a panel discussion at NYU – she’s a powerful advocate and speaker, and as you can see here, a terrific thinker. I believe that if you read this piece and its links, plus Tom Laskawy’s, you’ll understand why so many people are critical of Let’s Move and especially the “cooperative” industry response to it.

Ms. Simon is also an author: check out her book, Appetite for Profit, and her site. – mb]

Recently, 16 major packaged food companies “pledged” to Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move campaign that they would somehow remove 1.5 trillion calories from the U.S. food supply by the end of 2015. As I wrote here, there are many reasons to be skeptical about this announcement. Since my post others have chimed in with their own doubts. For example, see business writer Melanie Warner’s excellent analysis, Food Industry’s Calorie Reduction Pledge: Smart Marketing, but Dumb Nutrition. Continue reading

Posted in Food Politics

Politics of the Plate

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By Barry Estabrook

Superherbicides vs. Superweeds

Last week I noted that agribusiness giant Monsanto was scaling back its profit projections in the face of generic competition for its weed killer Roundup. Now, it turns out that the popular herbicide is getting some stiff competition from the weeds themselves.

Monsanto has profited greatly from selling “Roundup Ready” seeds. These varieties have been genetically engineered (GE) to survive being slathered in the company’s pesticide, which kills competing weeds. For years environmentalists have warned that the near-universal use of the herbicide in corn, soybeans, and cotton would eventually give rise to races of superweeds that also could survive Roundup—call them “Roundup Resistant.” Sure enough, that now is happening all over the farm belt. Continue reading

Posted in Food Politics

Cooking with the Kids: Vegetables Pancakes

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By Daniel Meyer

For the past year or so I have been working with an organization called the Sylvia Center, a small New York-based non-profit that teaches kids, largely from underserviced communities, the pleasures of farming and cooking. Early in the spring we began the first of a year’s worth of ten-week cooking classes at the Ingersoll Community Center in Brooklyn. The kids come to the center from a small handful of neighborhood schools. Every Tuesday and Thursday after school we cook: ten kids, three “grown-ups,” one recipe (always vegetarian), and zero chance of a dull afternoon.

Last week we cooked vegetable pancakes. The kids (ages seven to twelve) all agreed that those were two words that had no business next to one another. Nevertheless they remained diligent, chopping onions, grating carrots and potatoes, and whisking eggs. The oozy combination of vegetables, flour, and egg elicited their customary groans of “eeewwwwwww” and “that’s nasty!” I don’t blame them.  Continue reading

Posted in Food Politics

Tribute to a Working Woman

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By Clotilde Hryshko

Jim’s grandmother, Earline, recently passed away. This is said not to elicit a reaction but to explain my current thoughts and possible obsessions.

Simply put, she worked. She was a college educated woman who became a mill worker. She and her husband enjoyed gardening. They subscribed to Organic Gardening, planted an apple orchard and a blueberry patch. They earned extra income tending a market garden and selling the produce to The Woodstock Inn in Woodstock, Vermont. All this before these activities were fashionable or part of a marketing campaign.  Continue reading

Posted in Produce

An Endive Experiment by Way of Spain

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By Edward Schneider

Jackie and I hadn’t had a Spanish-type rice dish (I daren’t say paella lest it be pointed out that I am misusing the word) in a while, and when I was thinking about one on the way home it occurred to me that whole heads of Belgian endive might cook nicely if nestled into the rice and other ingredients. So I bought a couple. In addition to rice, the ingredients into which I slipped them were previously cooked pork shoulder, red bell peppers, vegetable stock and the usual p**lla aromatics: strongish flavors, all, especially with the sprig of rosemary I tossed in.

From a technical standpoint, the endive worked beautifully. It was cooked but not at all mushy – still slightly crisp in fact. Nice and juicy, with good bitterness down at the stem end and that almost-sweet mildness toward the tip. Fun to eat, too.  Continue reading

Posted in Spanish