Mobile Farm or Vending Machine?

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By Suzanne Lenzer

It seems like a good thing: Lay’s–the potato chip people–have a mobile farm set up in Times Square to help educate people about where their food comes from. It’s cute. There’s the “mobile farm” itself, with live plants and nice baskets of vegetables next to each one to help identify what’s actually growing; there’s a section where you can have your picture taken with a farmer (or at least someone wearing a straw hat); and there are a couple of very nice people handing out plastic cups with basil seeds inside so you can grow your own fresh herbs at  
home.

Sadly I was alone at the basil handout table, and the mobile farm wasn’t exactly packed either. The crowd was swarming a guy under a sign that read “Proudly supporting America’s potato farmers” who was handing out bags of Lays chips. The best of intentions I suppose, but if they really wanted to get people into planting basil they probably should have left the free chips back at the farm.

Posted in Farming, Food Politics

This #$!% Has Got to Stop: Part Five

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By Suzanne Lenzer

In this era of public cynicism toward corporate America, it’s exciting to see a company, traditionally known for developing junk food delivery systems, trying to do some real good. Walking through the aisle of the local supermarket it’s hard not to notice these Hostess Twinkies: there’s a giant ogre on the package.
Admittedly, it’s “only” a co-marketing campaign to promote the new Shrek film, but still. These Twinkies aren’t like the traditional ones with that cloying white cream substance in the center–these appear to contain a cloying green cream substance instead. At last, a product aimed at encouraging kids to eat their greens!
 
How exciting it must have been to have to be a part of that product development meeting: “Hey, instead of just making sugar snacks that encourage childhood obesity and diabetes, let’s do some good, public service even. Let’s make the same #$!% but in green! We’ll be helping kids get over their fear of green food–parents will love it.”
Sure, some will say the executives at Hostess really just needed a way to help sell movie tickets–and Twinkies–but come on, that’s just so cynical.
Posted in Food Politics

The Thieving Cook

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By Suzanne Lenzer

I have a secret: I steal food. From myself and from anyone else who happens to be over for a meal. It’s one of the lesser known and certainly more furtive perks of being the cook in the house. I surreptitiously snack as I cook; an olive here, the crispest bit of skin off a roast chicken there.

Perhaps it’s a commitment issue: I’m more comfortable nibbling on lots of small bites rather than committing to any one single plate. (When it comes to a meal, monogamy is not my thing.) I’m sure this is why I love tapas and mezze so much; grazing is more fun than a full meal. Continue reading

Posted in Slow Food

An Eating Meditation (Literally)

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By Suzanne Lenzer

I refer to one close friend, affectionately, as a tea bag. She needs time to seep. She moves more slowly than I do, her stories take time to come out (they’re worth the wait), and it’s remarkable that she hasn’t missed more flights over the years, meticulously and methodically packing her bag as the clock ticks ever closer towards departure time.

I am not a tea bag––my inner rhythm is more coffee than chamomile. Being naturally caffeinated can be a blessing (I rarely miss a deadline), but in moving so fast I’m sure I miss important things along the way. Continue reading

Posted in Slow Food

A Return to Sweeter Times

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By Suzanne Lenzer

[Following up on her popular On Eating Alone, Suzanne suggests the opposite: inviting someone over, for an old-fashioned coffee cake. - mb]

Remember how in old television shows neighbors visited each other in the middle of the day for a cup of coffee and a slice of cake? Ethel and Lucy would hatch plans over coffee, and long before Samantha made Darrin his evening martini, Esmerelda would have been around for a cup of Sanka and a touch of bewitching mayhem.

Back then everyone seemed to have time to sit and talk over coffee and cake, with no one checking their blackberry in the midst of a chat. And in those days, an afternoon coffee wasn’t just a jolt of caffeine, but an excuse for a real break. The cake was a further reason to linger an extra half hour or so. Now it seems a nostalgic reminder of the days before Atkins, personal trainers, and Pilates. Continue reading

Posted in American, Baking

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.

Continue reading

Posted in Travel