List of Links

I recently watched Food, Inc., with my ten-year-old daughter, who just finished reading the young reader’s version of Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma. The documentary, based on Pollan’s book and the work of Eric Schlosser, was well made and highly accessible to her. It was funny to hear her finally comment, “What’s up with all these companies that ‘decline to be interviewed’?” A valid question….

Bad news from Reuters on a report released by nonprofits The Organic Center (TOC), the Union for Concerned Scientists (UCS) and the Center for Food Safety (CFS): “Biotech crops cause big jump in pesticide use.” 

“This report confirms what we’ve been saying for years,” said Bill Freese, science policy analyst for the Center for Food Safety. “The most common type of genetically engineered crops promotes increased use of pesticides, an epidemic of resistant weeds, and more chemical residues in our foods. This may be profitable for the biotech/pesticide companies, but it’s bad news for farmers, human health and the environment.”

Having just watched Food, Inc.,  the comments from Monsanto (yes, one of those “declined to be interviewed” companies from the movie) in the Reuters piece are particularly creepy for me:

Monsanto officials declined to comment on the report. But the Biotechnology Industry Organization, of which Monsanto is a member, said the popularity of herbicide-resistant crops showed their value outweighs any associated detriments.

“Herbicide resistance crops are incredibly popular with farmers. They help them manage their weed problems in ways traditional crops don’t,” said Mike Wach, BIO managing director of science and regulatory affairs.

“If a farmer feels a crop is causing them more trouble than it is worth they will stop using it,” Wach said. “Farmers are continuing to adopt these crops because they provide benefits, not liabilities and problems.”

This despite the fact that

…biotech corn seed prices in 2010 could be almost three times the cost of conventional seed, while new enhanced biotech soybean seed for 2010 could be 42 percent more than the original biotech version. 

I somehow doubt that farmers can’t wait to spend more money on these seeds, regardless of their purported benefits….

If you are interested in supporting the repair of our broken food systems, I urge you to check out the Food Declaration and add your voice to the clamor for change – the deadline to add your name is Monday, November 30. And in the interest of giving thanks where it is due, send Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack and Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan your thanks for the work done thus far here.

As we gather for the Thanksgiving holiday, let’s give some thought (and some aid, whether it’s a donation of food, volunteer hours, or money) to those less fortunate: here are some sobering statistics from the NY Times: “Hunger in US at a 14-Year High.”

If you’re like me and still need to pick up a few things for Thanksgiving dinner (I’m headed to Back Forty Acres to pick up my turkey this afternoon!), consider joining in the Alliance for Fair Food’s National Supermarket Week of Action and dropping a letter to your local store manager to give them the message that you support fair wages and working conditions for farmworkers who produce our food.

And finally, if you do know those who produce the food on your table, give them a huge, personal THANK YOU! Happy Thanksgiving.

Pork & Daikon Soup

This is a great winter comfort food that is quick to assemble but does need some time to cook. Of course, you could make this vegan by leaving out the pork and using a vegetable broth. I made a fun discovery about daikon by mistake (apparently I put the daikon too close to the cold air flow of the fridge): if you’re using it for soup, it can be frozen from its fresh state! (It wouldn’t work too well for other dishes after thawing – too watery.) Thaw it slightly to slip the skin off, then cut as indicated.

If you want to add the seaweed, you should look for kelp (scientifically called laminaria, known as haidai in Mandarin) that has been dried in strips. If you don’t have an Asian market nearby, you can alternatively order from the Maine Seaweed Company if you already know you like seaweed. For more information on seaweed, you can visit this page about the medicinal value of seaweed and Michael Guiry’s Seaweed Site, which has a lot of scientific info and great pictures.

ingredients:

  • 3/4 lb pork spareribs, cut across the bone into 2″ sections, then separated into individual ribs or 1 lb baby back ribs separated into individual ribs (try to buy pastured pork – you’ll do your health, your tastebuds, the pig, and the environment a favor!)
  • 1 qt water or broth (low sodium if you’re using canned)
  • 1/2 lb daikon
  • 1-2 strips of kelp, optional
  • salt to taste – seaweed is salty, so you may not need to add any

method:

  1. Place the ribs in the liquid and bring to a boil. Immediately reduce to a simmer and skim any scum from the top of the liquid – if you boil too rapidly, your soup will be cloudy. Simmer for approximately 1 h, or until almost completely tender.
  2. In the meantime, peel the daikon and cut it into 1″ thick rounds, then quarter or halve the rounds.
  3. If using kelp, wash it, soak it in cool water for 15-30 m, rinse and repeat, rinsing it again before cutting it into 2″ sections.
  4. Add the daikon to the soup, and simmer for 30 – 60 m more, adding the kelp about 15 m before pork and daikon are both completely tender. The kelp will help to thicken the soup slightly and give it a smooth, glossy look and feel.
  5. Adjust the seasoning, and serve.

List of Links

We’re moving into week #2 of the piglet flu at our house, so I feel the need to start off with some fun:

For all you punsters and word wizards out there, a fun piece by John Hershey on RakishWit: “What the garden gives us.”

And who can resist the gang at Sesame Street? First Lady Michelle Obama recently visited with her message on childhood health and the importance of eating vegetables.

On a more serious note (but in keeping with the First Lady’s message), a good post on dailySpark by guest blogger and registered dietitian Suzanne Dixon: “Can You Be Both Overweight and Malnourished?”

Food in the news

While we were all busy voting on Tuesday, chefs at Windsor Castle were making culinary history – at a feast for the Celebration of Faiths and the Environment, the presence of 9 different faiths made menu planning a bit difficult, so the castle kitchen went vegan for a day! I haven’t seen any reviews of the meal, but the planning process is described in the Telegraph.

Meanwhile, back on this side of the pond, a very helpful piece by CBS News on the importance of the place of preventive medicine and integrative care in the currently raging health care debate: Health Reform and Integrative Care. I know some folks who are pretty happy to have this in the mix – a quick shout-out to thank Maureen Halnon Wheeler at It’s All Connected for the link!

Food in the News (and not so new news)

For those pondering whether buying organic is “worth it” in this economy, here is an oldie but goodie: “Why Organic Is the Healthiest Choice for Kids.” I understand that we can only expect people to do their best within their means, but it does give me pause when I see parents driving gas-guzzlers and buying the latest video games and “must-haves” for the under-18 set moan and groan about the cost of buying organic food….

The assistant White House chef and food initiatives coordinator, Sam Kass, has been in the news a lot recently – I’m happy to see someone raising awareness of the deplorable state of school lunches and urging parents to consider what they can do to improve things.

“You look around our country and you see that we have a lot of major challenges, the origin of which is food…. It’s not a big step to think about …What am I doing? How is that affecting this problem? How am I helping?

Of course, it’s sad to see him toning down stronger statements that he made earlier, such as

“We find ourselves in a fight to salvage a food system that has been ravaged by an approach of quantity over quality,” he wrote. “The industry our society has built around food is harmful and unsustainable.”

Is that really an offensive statement? I guess it probably is if you subscribe to the “always get the most for the least amount of money, regardless of quality” mentality pushed by Costco, Sam’s Club, and the like. For a paradigm shift, it’s good to consider Michael Pollan’s advice to “pay more and eat less” – that is, pay more for quality food such as pastured meats and eat less of it, filling in the calorie gap with more vegetarian meals per week.

News to be cheerful about: “Bringing Fresh Produce to the Corner Store.”

A new documentary to watch: Food Beware.

And finally, another trip back to an oldie but goodie which sums up exactly how I feel about cooking from scratch at home and, even more, explains why I detest the Food Network-type shows: “Out of the Kitchen, Onto the Couch.”

“[A]s a chef friend put it when I asked him if he thought I could learn anything about cooking by watching the Food Network, ‘How much do you learn about playing basketball by watching the N.B.A.?'”