Food in the News and on the ‘Net

Confused by the “new and improved” food guide pyramid? (I think the old one was much more understandable!) Help may be on the way, as the USDA considers updating the 5-year-old plan.

Women are turning out to be a major force in the sustainable food movement, according to Grist.com. (And cheers for Grist.com, which now has a female food editor.) There are some interesting points raised about whether standards for acknowledgment differ between men and women in the food field.

Speaking of adhering to particular standards, I’ve been waiting to see the documentary Lunch Line and was reading TBD.com’s post about a potential conflict of interest involving the movie and Applegate Farms. Having seen Food, Inc. and knowing about the negative press it received regarding the featuring of Stonyfield Farm, I was intrigued by the conclusion of the post:

Maybe this is what it takes to get certain documentaries made: partnering with a company whose interests intersect with the film’s message. Documentaries aren’t cheap, and yet their goal, oftentimes, is to foment change. And change, as everyone working to improve the National School Lunch Program knows, takes a lot of money. Switching from mystery-meat to organic hot dogs would cost millions of taxpayer dollars, but it might be worth it. Last night I ate one of those dogs, all slathered in spicy mustard, and for the first time, ever, I didn’t get a stomach ache.

Hard to say whether “good food movements” should adhere to higher ethical standards when creating documentaries if “big food” is criticized for funding programs that boil down to advertisements for Monsanto and Cargill. Is it better to make a documentary with the involvement of companies whose products are promoted or take the high road and possibly not have the funds to make the project happen?

Culinary Vacation!



Off to visit the Tabor Hill Winery & Restaurant for the weekend with two girlfriends from culinary school – full report next week!

Pig trotters simmered in black vinegar

One of the major advantages of buying meat from a local farmer is that you usually get to choose the cuts and packaging you want: so many chops, cut so thick, so many to a package. Another advantage (?!?) is that you get cuts you would perhaps never buy in the grocery store. Take pig trotters (feet), for example. I know they’re a staple of southern cooking in America, but I’ve only ever eaten them in China. In many conventional stores in America, you won’t even see such “unmentionables” – but if you ask, they might have some in the back!

After looking at a number of recipes, I decided to take a crack at the trotters in my freezer and discovered that they can be very easy to prepare and extremely tasty. In traditional Chinese food lore, pig trotters are served to women who have just given birth, and the dish also contains hard boiled eggs – the food is meant to help the woman recover from childbirth and increase her strength. I’ve left the eggs out, but you can simply shell some hard-boiled eggs and add them to the liquid when you reheat the dish. I’ve also eliminated browning the trotters before simmering – a messy step that ultimately doesn’t seem to make a huge difference in the end result.

The meat is fatty, but no more so that pork ribs would be, so the long, slow simmer is great for eliminating a lot of the fat – if you make this dish ahead and refrigerate it, you can simply lift the fat off the top on the second day. Not the world’s healthiest dish, but if your approach is to eat everything in moderation, it’s fine – serve with brown rice and a lot of healthy vegetable dishes!

ingredients:

  • 2 lbs pig trotters, cut in 1/2 lengthwise (having them further cut into crosswise chunks is also an option)
  • 1 T cooking oil
  • 2 oz fresh ginger root, cut into thick slices
  • 1 c Chinese black vinegar
  • 1/4 c rice wine vinegar
  • 1 c brown sugar
  • 1 T dark soy sauce

method:

  1. Place the meat in a pot large enough to hold them in one layer, cover with water, and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, cook 1 m, then drain off the water. At this point you may need to use a paring knife and/or tweezers to remove any remaining bristles. (This is the point at which my daughter said, “Ugh!” and left the room.
  2. Heat the oil in the same pot over medium high heat, just until it shimmers, then quickly explode the ginger until fragrant.
  3. Add the remaining ingredients, and bring to a boil, allowing the sugar to dissolve completely.
  4. Add the trotters back to the pot and add enough water to cover them.
  5. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and cook until the meat is falling off the bone, approximately 1.5 – 2 h, less if the trotters have been cross-cut as well as sliced lengthwise.
  6. Bring to room temperature in an ice bath in the sink, then refrigerate overnight – this step is optional, but it enhances the flavor and allows you to easily skim the fat off the top.

do ahead:

This dish is best made ahead – a minimum of 12 h, or up to 3 days ahead is fine. Reheat the meat gently in the liquid, then serve.

variations:

  • If you prefer a more syrupy sauce, remove the meat from the liquid after reheating, then boil the liquid over medium high heat until it becomes syrupy. Pour over the meat and serve.
  • This same preparation could be used for pork ribs, cut into sections containing 3-4 ribs.

Local food in the news and on the ‘net!

Check out the beautiful video done by Phase 4 Media about Fair Food Network’s Double Up Food Bucks – this project has been taking up the bulk of my time at FFN since I started there almost a year ago: http://www.youtube.com/fairfoodnetwork#p/a/u/0/aoHM11PGPKg.

And “follow your food from farm to fork” with Real Time Farms new website. Here’s your chance to get involved: add your own local food finds, farms, farmers’ markets, and restaurants or just learn from your neighbors.

Food in the News and on the ‘Net

Depressing news on Americans’ consumption of vegetables: Told to Eat Its Vegetables, America Orders Fries. Are we seriously so twisted that putting baby carrots in junk food machines and creating an app that requires a crunch of a carrot to make it work are the only ways we’ll eat vegetables??? Somehow it reminds me of the change from restaurants claiming to make food “just like mom (or grandma)” to processed food companies claiming to make their frozen offerings taste just like the fast food chain versions….

Here’s a quick summary of the downsides of processed foods, “in just a few quick, convenient bites.”

But good news on the school lunch front: Portland schools ditch nuggets, serve up local food tells about the success Abernethy Elementary has had since 2005 in overcoming some of the obstacles to serving healthful, fresh, and local food to students.

And here’s a great young proponent of SOLE food: 11-year-old Birke Baehr on“What’s Wrong With Our Food System? And How Can We Make A Difference?” (Reminds me of a teacher who used to joke, “Get ’em young, and bring ’em up your own way!”)