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Archive for the ‘Food musings’ Category

This past summer I visited my college friend Enicia who is a “homesteader” in Wildomar, Calif. What makes my soft-spoken, gentle friend a homesteader? Maybe it is the 14 variety of heirloom tomatoes she grows, the flock of heritage breed chickens that scratch around her porch, and the .22 handgun that she used to blow away a squirrel who was ” thinking that we have been growing everything for him!”

Foolish squirrel.

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Update: This cover story just got nominated for a James Beard Award!!

Do you know what amuse bouche means? Do you know how to emulsify? Do you cheer on chefs while watching the Food Network as you eat handfuls of popcorn seasoned with nutritional yeast? Do you chase food trucks on Twitter?

You know who you are, you foodie you.

Check out my cover story for The Christian Science Monitor on our nation of foodies (and yes, it’s OK to hate that word): “America’s new culinary renaissance

There’s also a fun photo gallery.

Happy summer!

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When Prince William and Kate Middleton exchange vows on April 29 in Westminster Abbey there will be millions of pajama-clad Americans tuning in to watch and I am not ashamed to admit that I will be one of them.

I am not a huge Royal follower. But I was a Diana follower. As a fifth grader in 1981 a Royal Wedding was the Most Important Event Ever. Diana and her 25-foot-long train was the real deal – a living, breathing combination of Cinderella (whose wedding we never got to see) and Maria from “The Sound of Music.” The purpose of Diana’s long walk down the aisle of St. Paul’s Cathedral was not, in my eyes, to become Charles’s wife. It was to become a Princess.

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It goes without saying that a dish of food may smell good but if it doesn’t look good, you don’t really want to eat it. Decadent, delicious photos of food have captured the public’s attention to the point that this kind visual stimulation has spawned two 24-hour food networks, more than 11,000 food blogs (ahem), and countless cookbooks. It’s kind of crazy if you stop and think about it.

But what if you couldn’t see? Would you care that much about food? Would you still want to eat it?

It’s something I think about almost every day because my nephew, Sawyer, doesn’t see. He is 6 years old and teaching him about the world even as he tries to figure out where he is in space takes patience, great skill, and enormous amounts of love. It’s kind of like hanging out without someone who doesn’t speak the same language. We are all trying to crack Sawyer’s special code. I am in awe of my sister-in-law  and my brother who are his parents, and even his younger sister. He is really lucky to have them as his family. And they – we – are really lucky to have him because he teaches us things.

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The two repeating drumbeats being sounded by sustainable food advocates are:

1. Industrial farming has grown too quickly to produce safe and humane food.
2. Inner-cities with their lack of access to fresh, locally grown food have become food deserts.

If this is a topic that you have been following, and have seen “Food, Inc.,” and “King Corn,” two documentaries that explore the problems of large-scale farming in the United States, you might also be interested in seeing “Fresh.” And if you feel like converting your friends to the cause, you can pay a licensing fee and host a screening.

Having seen “Food, Inc.” and “King Corn” and reviewed books by investigative journalist Michael Pollan already, I can’t say that I learned anything new (and still ate a hot dog at a barbeque the next day. I’m trying).

But, I did enjoy more in-depth interviews with Virginia farmer Joel Salatin and Milwaukee urban farmer Will Allen. The Christian Science Monitor published great profiles of these guys here and here. Interviews with hog farmer Russ Kremer and supermarket owner David Ball will really connect you to how the American food chain works. Here is a partial list of the characters in the documentary.

Two of my favorite quotes from the film:

“I’m just trying to help chickens express their chickeness.” – Joel Salatin

“Food is at the foundation, but it is really about life.” – Will Allen

Indeed.

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There are plenty of references to Rachel Carson’s “Silent Spring” on Earth Day every year, but it’s Carson’s poetic book, “The Sense of Wonder,” that sits on my list of all-time favorite reads. Originally written as an essay for Women’s Home Companion, Carson urges parents to take their children to the wild places to teach them about the wonder of  life around us. Its childlike appreciation for all things natural helps to temper the otherwise worrisome discussions about our Blue Planet.

So I thought you’d might enjoy this short movie clip that uses Carson’s words to describe lessons learned from the Monarch butterfly (sorry about the breathy voiceover and violins, but Carson’s message centered on how the presence of happiness and beauty can nudge aside the sadness associated with the end of earthy lifecycles is inspiring).

Happy Earth Day. May you bloom with gratitude, fresh produce season is just around the corner….

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I have been without cable for more than a decade so I haven’t yet fallen into the consuming habit of watching people make food on television. Across the United States, however, viewership is on the rise. When the season finale of “The Next Food Network Star” aired last August, 4.7 million viewers tuned in to watch.

The New York Times reports today that a second 24-hour food channel is set to launch in May. Really? I suppose another 24-hour food programs will justify those midnight snacks twice as much. (Wait until Michelle Obama hears about this!)

“We listened to the audience and realized they weren’t necessarily saying they just wanted more instruction or more reality or more travel shows. They just wanted more,” Michael Smith, the general manager of the Cooking Channel, told The New York Times.

More! More! More! Yes. Sounds like a true American audience.

As for me, my flat screen TV arrived on Saturday in time to watch Hannah Kearney win the first Olympic gold for the USA (her mom was my middle school gym teacher). There have been plenty of food references as part of the USA women’s ski team experience at Whistler and Cypress Mountain. Hannah is getting a Ben&Jerry’s flavor named after her. Downhill skier Lindsey Vonn has applied cheese to her injury. And snowboarder Hannah Teter has been pushing her family’s maple syrup every chance she gets.

I know what I’ll be watching once the Olympians have exited Vancouver. The Cable Guy comes this weekend. Food up!

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