Twenty Years

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By Clotilde Hryshko

[Clotilde runs a farm near my father-in-law’s house in central Vermont. I drive over and buy whatever she has when I'm there, and it's always amazing. (I'm still using garlic and potatoes she sold me in December.) She works the farm with her husband Jim and two daughters. (And those kids work!) When she's not farming, parenting, or cooking, she teaches at Vermont Technical College. And we're lucky enough to have her as a weekly contributor here at mb.com. - mb]

In less than a month, Jim and I will have lived in the same place for 20 years. At the time, the field was plowed to the road, the backyard a semi-circle that protected some rhubarb and the leach field. That Memorial Day Weekend, Jim built a stone wall off our front porch that sits twenty feet from a state highway. I spent the weekend putting in our vegetable garden and  the start of a flower garden. When we when back to our day jobs on the Tuesday, we were naievely satisfied with our progress.

Summer commenced and we continued to work outside: That’s why we bought the place. We’d walked the land many times, examining the soil, checking the quality of the sugar maples, verifying that we could have a swimming hole – and digesting our first impressions. The land was our interest; the 15 minutes we’d spent walking through the house was enough to know that we weren’t buying it for the interior luxuries.

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Posted in Farming

On Eating Alone

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By Suzanne Lenzer (Photo by Evan Sung)

I distinctly remember a meal that I shared with Virginia Woolf at an Italian restaurant in London in 1989. I had just graduated college and gone to London in hopes of working in a kitchen (typically, I ended up working as a waitress). In retrospect it seems quite daring to have left California with no job prospects, family, or friends nearby, but I wasn’t anxious about being on my own in a foreign country. What I was anxious about was eating out––alone.

Eating alone at home is one thing: You cook, then sit at the table and eat. Maybe you read or watch TV at the same time. But at twenty-one, eating alone in a restaurant was new to me. Growing up I’d always gone out to eat with my family, and in college, with friends. The idea of going to a proper restaurant and eating a meal by myself had never really occurred to me.

But suddenly, in a brand new city with nothing but time on my hands, I wanted to be out. But  the bravery that got me on an airplane with little more than a duffle bag and a couple of books abandoned me when it came to walking into a nice restaurant, asking for a table, and proceeding to eat dinner by myself. Hunger is a powerful force though, and it won out in the end.

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Posted in Travel

Pranzo Siciliano

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By Peter Confalone

[I've been friends with Peter Confalone since, oh, 1973. Or so. Back then he managed the 4000 member Cambridge Food Co-op, then worked the meat counter at the famous Savenor’s (Julia Child shopped there). Since then he's done almost everything, including theater and film, and most recently he's been "Behind Bars in Miami" -which happens to be the working title of a book he's writing. – mb]

Things move very slowly here on Miami Beach but with the renovations finally done on my kitchen, I have been using my new flattop stove and convection oven, cooking for friends at a much higher frequency. In doing so I have nearly exhausted my culinary repertoire, which consists mostly of Italian dishes taught to me by my father and stepmother. Both were of Sicilian decent but the recipes they passed on are really Italian-American. 

Don’t get me wrong: I love that food. A soup from them I call Minestra della Matrigna – made of escarole, Savoy cabbage, pork neck bones, tomatoes and pepperoni – is fabulous. But since being exposed to true “continental” cuisine I’ve been searching for more authentic recipes.  Continue reading

Posted in Slow Food

Quadrupeds Haven’t Changed, Processing Has

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By Adam Tiberio

[Adam Tiberio is the head meatcutter at Dickson's Farmstand Meats in New York City. He and the team at Dickson's are entirely responsible for converting me from a minimal meat eater into a full-fledged carnivore. Their artisanal meats – humanely-raised, sourced from small-scale sustainable farms, and really good – did the trick. His writings on meat have been published in Edible Boston and on GQ.com. -Suzanne Lenzer]

A cow, pig, lamb, and goat may not all be cut in the same fashion, but that doesn’t mean they differ anatomically. Quadrupeds all have floating scapulas, a pelvis containing one ball-and-socket joint for each femur, and the same muscular configuration; thus, identical primal and subprimal cuts can be extracted from any quadrupedal animal. Pork tri-tip?  It’s there, right below the hog’s patella as it would be found on a steer. Lamb top round?  Yup, lambs have those, too.  

How about a person? We may be bipedal, but a doctor shopping at Dickson’s a couple weeks ago watched me bone an arm of beef and rattled off the scientific name of each separate muscle I laid before him – triceps brachii (clod heart), teres major (shoulder tender), supraspinatus (chuck tender), and infraspinatus (top blade). To be sure, we, too, have tenderloins (the psoas major, perched atop the pelvis and extending down the inside of your vertebrae) and strip steaks (the longissimus dorsi; feel the muscles that run along your lower spine.)  Meatcutters call the pelvis the “aitch bone” as a phonetic way to spell the letter H, which is what an un-split aitch bone resembles. 

I’ve been told that surgeons call it the “Honda symbol.” Continue reading

Posted in Farming

Laid-back Risotto

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I don’t know. I look at this story about how hard it is to make risotto, and I think, “Well, either Felicity Cloake – whom I don’t know – is making way too big a deal out of a simple dish, or I have no clue how to make risotto.”

Because as I detail below, risotto is a no-brainer. It’s true that the difference between bad risotto and pretty good risotto is technique, but the technique is not a big deal.

But the two biggest differences between pretty good risotto and great risotto are not technique-y at all. To make great risotto you need really good stock, and a lot of butter.

I’ve made risotto like this hundreds of times – the pix are of one I threw together last week – and I’ve rarely had it as good in restaurants.

Please. Do not let risotto scare you. Continue reading

Posted in Italian

A Tough Week for the Sea

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By Casson Trenor

[Casson Trenor is Greenpeace's point man on getting supermarkets and restaurants to behave themselves when it comes to buying fish. He's also a whale-saver, a recent recipient of TIME Magazine’s “Hero of the Environment” award, the author of Sustainable Sushi: A Guide to Saving the Oceans One Bite at a Time, and a blogger: check out www.sustainablesushi.net. Needless to say, I'm happy he's writing for us. - mb]

It’s a bad time to be an ocean-dweller.

First, we have the overfishing crisis, which continues virtually unabated.  Every day, we yank hundreds of thousands of pounds of life out of the sea, often in strikingly inefficient and destructive ways – bottom trawls rake the floor of the ocean, pulverizing corals and flattening any animals that lack the locomotive capacity to evade them, while pelagic longlines indiscriminately slaughter curious seabirds, turtles, and sharks as collateral damage in our unrelenting quest for seafood.

To make matters worse, President Obama, who was elected in part by an engaged and hopeful environmentalist demographic, has completely turned his back on the oceans and their largest denizens – whales.  His 2008 promise to strengthen the international moratorium on commercial whaling has been completely subsumed by  an insidious new agenda that seeks to dismantle the moratorium, legalize whaling in the Southern Ocean (including Japan’s ongoing hunt for endangered fin, sei, and humpback whales), and create an unspoken tolerance among the world’s governments for this intolerable activity. Continue reading

Posted in Food Politics, Seafood

Food Safety Reform Is A Mess

By Tom Laskawy

[Tom Laskawy blogs on food and the environment at Grist.org, Beyond Green, and now here at markbittman.com. IMHO, he's not only among the best researchers in the field, he's a voice of (non-dogmatic) reason and a fine writer. His work has appeared in the The New York Times Online, Slate, The New Republic and The American Prospect. - mb]

My considered analysis of food safety in the U.S.? It’s an unmitigated disaster.

Salmonella in peanut butter made by a single manufacturer causes deaths, sickness and the recall of thousands of different products from store shelves. Over ten million pounds of beef have been recalled since President Obama took office. Indeed, the ongoing food safety crisis that is industrial ground beef inspired NYT writer Michael Moss to write a piece that won a Pulitzer.

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Posted in Food Politics

The Food System Has Changed Our Vernacular

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By Cathy Erway

[I’m a fan of Cathy Erway, the Brooklyn-based food writer who writes the blog, Not Eating Out in New York and is the author of The Art of Eating In: How I Learned to Stop Spending and Love the Stove. She hosts the weekly podcast, Let's Eat In, on Heritage Radio Network, and is the proud watchkeeper of many rooftop plants and some chickens. – mb]

A friend of mine is learning to play piano. As his left hand hesitated on the keys, I shared a quick method of reading the sheet music, recalled from childhood lessons: “All cows eat grass.” From the bottom up, the notes in between the spaces on the bass clef are A-C-E-G. Knowing the phrase, you could talk your way up the staff until you had identified the correct note to hit. Only, it struck me right then how incorrect the acronym has become.

Not all cows eat grass nowadays. More commonly, they eat corn. Cows have not been evolved to digest corn, but it’s become the basic feed of industrial agriculture livestock. And, most of that corn has been genetically modified. 

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Posted in Farming

And Now, For the iPhone-Less

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Not everyone has, or even wants, an iPhone. For you, we have the original (actually, the all-new, updated, revised), hard copy, two-kilo, 1044-page bright red, much beloved How to Cook Everything. Right. The Book. Sign up for our newsletter: we’re giving away three copies to randomly selected winners, today. (We print out the new subscribers, paste the page to a wall, and throw darts. Natch.)

 

Posted in Mark Bittman Books

Today’s Minimalist: Sushi at Home Sans Fish

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My Times piece on making your own sushi – without seafood – is right here. But here’s the exclusive look at my deformed sushi, and I can tell you that two of us ate about twice the amount you see on the large platter here. It doesn’t matter what it looks like. It matters what it tastes like. And with good nori, umeboshi, tofu, and some other traditional Japanese ingredients like prosciutto, roasted red peppers, and chopped cooked chard… it was quite a feast.

Posted in Behind The Scenes