Is Natural Gas ‘Clean’?

The question is whether the natural gas “revolution,” which is a real thing — production is up about a third since 2005 — is also a good thing.

One reason natural gas is called “clean” is because it emits 50 percent less carbon dioxide than coal when you burn it. Thus it’s seen by some as a “bridge” fuel until zero-carbon-producing renewables can take over. But natural gas isn’t clean in the way that solar is clean. It’s clean-er than coal. It’s better than the worst; that’s all.

And the situation is actually too dire for a bridge fuel: experts say we must stop adding carbon into the air within the next 30 years [1] or face a climate “feedback loop” in which global warming continues regardless of subsequent activities, a point at which we would be able to make things worse but not better. If switching to natural gas long delays the dominance of renewables, it’s not doing us much good.That’s why action now is important.

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Posted in Uncategorized

Going Vegan, if Only for a Day

Screen Shot 2013-09-18 at 9.32.18 AMIt’s not worth trying to persuade anyone to become vegan, for a couple of very good reasons: one, it’s a losing battle, and two, it’s far from certain that a diet with no animal products is best for everyone. It’s increasingly evident, however, that a part-time vegan diet — one that emphasizes minimally processed plant food at the expense of everything else — is the direction that will do the most to benefit human health, increase animal welfare and reduce environmental impact. The remaining challenge, an undeniably big one, is to figure out how to make such a diet, which you might also call “flexitarian,” the standard.

My own diet, which I call Vegan Before 6 (and wrote a book about), is one way of tackling part-time veganism, but it isn’t the only way. An intelligent adaptation of the Mediterranean diet, one of the popular “fast today, feast tomorrow” diets or even a so-called paleo diet — one that stresses vegetables rather than animal products (our great ancestors, after all, were gatherer-hunters who saw meat not as routine but as an occasion to feast) — can put you on the right track.

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Posted in Vegan

Rescuing Tartare From the Stuffy, Old Power-Lunchers

Screen Shot 2013-09-13 at 10.04.11 AMIn the go-go ’80s, “tartare” pretty much meant a pile of raw, well-seasoned chopped beef topped with a raw egg yolk. It was seen as food for the carnivorous power-lunch crowd — tartare even had a cameo as a status symbol in “Wall Street”— and for old-fashioned people who ate at old-fashioned restaurants.

I’m not sure what the first nonbeef tartare was, but I do remember getting a chuckle when my friend and co-author Jean-Georges Vongerichten introduced me to beet tartare sometime around 1990. In any case, tuna tartare has far surpassed beef in popularity, lamb tartare is fashionable and carrot tartare is expensive. In short, the field is wide open, and it’s time for home cooks to forge ahead.

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Posted in Recipes, Seafood

Late-Summer Links

A struggle that all of us should get behind: Fast food workers around the country are organizing (including with widespread strikes) to protest untenably low wages. (McDonald’s, more than any other restaurant operator, has worked to suppress pay rates, enforce harsh work procedures and prevent unionization.)

Speaking of  critical work in food and labor, Jessie Lopez De La Cruz, a longtime leader in the national farmworker movement, has died at 93. She was one of the first woman members and organizers of the United Farmworkers of America in Fresno, Calif.

The editors of Scientific American think mandatory G.M.O. labeling is a bad idea. Rather than providing consumers with useful information, they suggest, labels would only heighten the misconceptions that genetically modified foods endanger our health. The same would be true for anything else questionable, I suppose; sounds like a dumb position for a sometimes-smart magazine.

 Read the rest of this column, here.

Posted in Uncategorized

Zuke Alors!

Screen Shot 2013-09-07 at 1.27.08 PMNobody complains about too many cucumbers, tomatoes or eggplants. But zucchini, summer’s most underloved vegetable (technically, yes, it’s a fruit), comes in for a lot of grief. It’s so prolific! It’s so cheap! What are we going to do with all of it?

I suppose it’s not just zucchini’s omnipresence but its mild flavor — and indeed, the difficulty of bringing out some of its character — that makes us feel challenged.

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Posted in Uncategorized

A Practical Farmer Who Showed the Way

Dick Thompson was a farmer near Boone, Iowa, whom I kept meaning to visit but did not. That was a mistake; he died on Aug. 17 at 81.

He will be missed, in no small part because he embodied the clear, pragmatic kind of thinking for which Midwestern farmers were once known, before so many became beholden to Big Ag.

Thompson began farming in the 1950s and was anything but beholden. He challenged every assumption and, especially as he matured, never accepted the reigning “wisdom.”

But when he first started working his 300 acres, he was a farmer’s son with degrees from Iowa State University and an enthusiastic member of that first generation of farmers to embrace industrial techniques. He set about modernizing his parents’ farm with a vengeance: “We purchased everything the salesman had to sell,” he said, meaning every line about intensive farming and every chemical it took to support it.

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Posted in Uncategorized

Back to VB6

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Even if September no longer means heading back to school, the transition from summer to fall is a chance for a fresh start. So if you strayed from VB6, or didn’t eat a healthfully as you wanted these last few months, forget about it, turn the page, and start a new year of eating.

Here are some tips to get you (re)started:

Get back into a cooking routine. Many of us default to dining out or takeout during the hot, social summer months. Now it’s time to get back in the kitchen! If you’re having trouble getting restarted, try setting up a menu for each day of the week.

Think in batches. To keep you eating healthy throughout the week, consider making batches of recipes like oatmeal or breakfast pilaf for breakfast, and soups, stews, and stir-fries for lunch and dinner.

Keep fruit, veggies, and nuts handy. Getting from lunch to dinner without a bite is almost always impossible for me. So I keep fruit and vegetables handy in the afternoons, and usually rely on a handful or two of nuts to tide me over.

Posted in Mark Bittman Books

The Key to a Truly Great Chicken Wing

Screen Shot 2013-09-02 at 11.21.45 AMAmericans are a wing-loving people. The Buffalo variety, by most accounts “invented” at the Anchor Bar in, yes, Buffalo, is the official food of our most sacred event of the year: the Super Bowl.

And though we are also a grilling people, wings seldom make the cut for some reason, being passed over for burgers, dogs, steaks, fish and meatier cuts of chicken, even boneless chicken breasts (which make almost no sense to grill, where they routinely dry out). Perhaps we associate wings with frying, or they seem like too much work for the amount of meat that they yield. This is a mistake; the grill is the perfect place for the wing.

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Posted in American

Bring Your Lunch to Work

Screen Shot 2013-08-27 at 9.00.32 AMThere are few brown-baggers in the building in which I work. This is not because the food in the neighborhood is so great (it isn’t), or because the cafeteria is Google-like (it isn’t), but because many people are either “too busy” or too embarrassed to bring their lunch. Somehow one of our oldest and sanest traditions has become a laughingstock: it’s not hip to bring lunch.

Let’s try to fix that.

As a meal, lunch is undeniably tough; most people say that and I recognize it. But something good happens when you make the default a brown bag.

I am not talking literally about brown bags; you can bring your groovy REI lunchbox, or your authentic Mumbai tiffin carrier (actually, where I work the people who seem to bring their lunch most often are of South Asian origin) or — as I tend to do — your assortment of recycled takeout containers.

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Posted in Recipes

The New Nuclear Craze

There is a new discussion about nuclear energy, prompted by well-founded concerns about carbon emissions and fueled by a pro-nuclear documentary called “Pandora’s Promise.” Add a statement by James E. Hansen — who famously sounded the alarm on climate change — and, of course, industry propaganda, and presto: We Love Nukes.

Before we all become pro-nuclear greens, however, you’ve got to ask three questions: Is nuclear power safe and clean? Is it economical? And are there better alternatives?

No, no and yes. So let’s not swap the pending environmental disaster of climate change for another that may be equally risky.

Read the rest of this column, here.

Posted in Uncategorized