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Archive for the ‘Food musings’ Category

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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Uncomfort food

One of my swim team mates sent me this link today (I’m pretty sure he only thinks of food as fuel). Remember all those weird jello and soup dishes that were designed to sell as many boxes of gelatin-sugar and cans of Spam as possible? Food blogger Robin Wheeler mined cookbooks of yesteryear and chronicled “stomach-turning concoctions” to give foodies everywhere nightmares for weeks.

Hot dogs in jello? Yum.

Make sure you finish eating your lunch before you check out her project. I wish I had.

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Seattle

Seattle

I just survived Seattle’s hottest week on record. The temperatures soared over 90 degrees F. most days and the nights were stifling. Most homes and buses do not have air conditioning.

Nonetheless, it was a welcome break from the dreary summer Boston has served up this year. Seattle’s seemingly infinite waterfronts were all the more inviting and I found myself on several different boat rides. Plus, the heat provided an excuse every day for ice cream and iced mochas. And a paper sack of in-season Rainier cherries were a perfect treat after an hour-and-a-half soak in the chilly waters of Snoqualmie Falls.

On one particularly touristy day, after a trip up the Space Needle and a peek into the Experience Music Project lobby, I convinced my friend Kerste to undertake a little foodie adventure.

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Garden in the sky

Having just seen Food, Inc. I am tempted to give up food altogether, or maybe grow my own food. And in a way, I try. I have a tiny collection of herbs growing in my balcony pots up here on the third floor, a kind of garden in the sky.

Herbs in the sky

Herbs in the sky

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Michael Pollan, the foodie journalist and author of  “In Defense of Food,” has coined a new anthem for locavores

Strawberry Rhubarb and Mock Apple Pie

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie and Mock Apple Pie

with his pithy phrase “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”

Michael, forgive my foolish ways. I could not resist the temptation to make this recipe and try it out on unsuspecting friends.

Ritz Cracker is celebrating its 75th year and it seems their Mock Apple Pie is making a bit of a comeback this spring.

Mock Apple Pie first appeared in 1934 on the cracker’s package.

It’s hard to imagine WHY anyone would want to substitute crisp apples for buttery

crackers. Were they a stand-in for hard-to-come by apples during the Great Depression? Hard to say, especially since many people turned to selling apples on the streets during those difficult days. Some references suggest that Mock Appl

e Pie was invented by pioneers on the move who didn’t have space or access to fresh apples out on the trail.

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The American Farmland Trust (AFT) is holding an online contest for “America’s Favorite Farmers Markets” at www.farmland.org/vote. The contest is a nation-wide challenge to see which of America’s 4,685 farmers markets can rally the most support from its customers. The winning market will get tote bags to distribute to its customers.

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There is a new farmer’s market in Boston outside the Prudential mall that is just a few blocks away from my cubicle . I went there last week with a couple of colleagues.

Geraniums at the farmers' market

There is nothing quite like being able to push back from the computer to take a stroll in the brisk spring air. Smelling potted basil and haggling for a half a bunch of asparagus pulled the focus off the deadlines waiting back at my desk.

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