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What I’m doing today…

Currently writing a paper on international, political food journalism! One of the final tasks at the end of my last semester at college… Doing research for this thing is really, really fun though, and some of these articles are so phenomenal, I had to share them. Enjoy!

Here’s an excerpt from “Spoiled”:

“As this more pragmatic system emerges, it’s a good bet that many of our romantic notions about alternative food production will be cast off. The vision of a nation of small farms, for example, will give way to farms of multiple scales—small farms, but also massive agricultural operations that can produce bulk commodities like grain at the lowest possible cost.

Jettisoned, too, will be the postcard image of the small farm with its neat rows of crops, vegetables, and livestock as constraints on space and resources necessitate new and quite unfamiliar designs. Proponents of vertical farms, for example, envision enormous glass-walled skyscrapers filled with vegetables, fruits, poultry, and aquaculture. Towering as high as 30 stories, and based on soilless farming, these space-age facilities would epitomize efficiency and sustainability: Water would be recycled, as would nutrients. The closed environment would eliminate the need for pesticides. Better still, the year-round, 24-hour growing season would boost yields anywhere from 6 to 30 times those of conventional dirt farms. Dickson Despommier, a Columbia University public health and microbiology professor who has championed vertical farming, claims that a single city block could feed 50,000 people.” – courtesy of motherjones.com

INSANE!!

Beets, Not Burgers!

India benefits from farming investments

Spoiled: Organic and Local Is So 2008

Thoughts

I was having dinner with my parents the other evening, when the conversation turned to food. (Surprise!) After graduating from university this May, I plan on working on a farm north east of Austin for a few months. The farm is owned by my friend’s father, and she recently informed me of some good news.

“Oh, the pigs were getting out all the time, so we had to butcher them all! We sold them to a few local restaurants. So you don’t have to worry about being part of that when you come to work!”

I responded to this news with a mixture of relief, sadness and also, a little intrigue. How is it that your Dad explained this pig situation to you? I asked her.

“You know, he fed them this great quality pig feed and they got to run around with all their friends and had a really huge pen to hang out in. He said they had a very nice life and then one really bad day.”

I thought this was actually a very nice explanation, from one ethically producing meat eater to his daughter. (For the record, all of their cows are grass-fed and all of their vegetables are organically grown.) So, I told my parents this story and my father thought it was also interesting and honest.

In a way, I would someday like to be present at an animal slaughter, in order to better understand how the process works, but also to be respectful of the sacrifices animals make everyday on behalf of humans, or, one could say, all of the animals humans sacrifice for their own ends. I was raised eating meat and many fresh vegetables, though my father was a strict vegetarian for the first 15 years of my life. I remember being pretty thoughtful about thanking the animals and being grateful for their sacrifice and the nourishment they provided me.

We then talked about how it is so typical of Americans to not want to take responsibility for eating meat. Ex. My stepmom once saw a commercial for a fast food fish place where head-less shrimp jumped out of the water smiling, and then ended up, happily, on a sandwich! In most countries I have traveled to (Japan, Spain, France, Mexico) shrimp is served, as they live in the wild, with their heads on. Why are Americans so reticent to serve fish and shrimp and pigs with their heads attached?

I don’t think I am that morbid, but I would like to begin taking more responsibility for eating meat, I am just not quite sure how I should go about it…

Which do you prefer?

a welcome change, n’est pas?

So for most food-interested people, it comes as no surprise that the newly anointed Obamas are a little more progressive on the culinary front than we’ve seen in the White House lately. Everyone from Alice Waters to The New York Times are putting their opinions on the table as to how the first family should eat and set a good example for the rest of us. Even Jamie Oliver, another of my most admired chefs, has lent a hand in establishing the Obamas as the most on point (in the culinary sense) high-profile American family of the moment.

From Obama’s 2010 budget for agriculture:

“To benefit rural Americans, the Budget targets aid to family farmers — rather than corporate megafarms — and supports rural initiatives with goals that include the expansion of broadband services, development of leadership in the field of renewable energy, and expansion of education and research efforts.

Provisions to support a strong Childhood Nutrition and WIC reauthorization package demonstrate the President’s intent to end childhood hunger by 2015. Nutrition and food safety priorities also are apparent in the budget resources for food inspection and assessment and in the temporary increase in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, included as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.”

As depressing as it is, there are still many adults and children that go to bed hungry in the US. This fact always astounds me, in a terrible way. If some of these goals were to be accomplished, I would be beyond happy. Jury’s out though, since we all know food safety, health and small farms can be pretty low on the totem pole when stacked against “the economy” etc.

Here’s a link to the full agriculture budget for download.

Greenling Podcast

On Thursday I popped over to Greenling Organic Delivery Service‘s warehouse on the South East side and had some super pleasant interviews with a few of their employees. I really believe in their mission, to bring affordable, organic and local food to residents in the greater Austin area and although I haven’t bought anything from them in a few months, I am really looking forward to some of their Spring offerings. Here’s some of the interview from Thursday…

slangin groceries

A Votre Santé class

A little over a month ago I posted about Alain Braux’s gluten and dairy-free dessert class, which was really fun to film and attend. Chef Braux is very committed to teaching the value of conscientious consumption, which for him, extends all the way to desserts like Chocolate Mousse, Raspberry Soufflé and Lavender Crème Brulée!
Here are a few still shots of the class and later I will post some abbreviated video footage. Of course, desserts like that take time, but everyone seemed to have lots of fun learning the processes behind treats one (usually) only eats at nice restaurants.

Also, Edible Austin recently published one of Alain’s recipes that is utterly, amazingly delicious. And, considering I am somewhat of a gluten-free nerd, the fact that this chocolate cake is flour-less is pretty impressive. Alain is also quoted in this gluten-free article from Edible Austin.

Make butter at home, with local milk

I am a huge fan of Remember When Dairy in Yantis, Texas.

When I first bought a jug of their 2% at Whole Foods, the check-out person warned me that some people had returned the milk because all the milk and milk fat was not fully incorporated (ie. there were little tiny bits of fat at the top if you didn’t shake it) which made people think it had spoiled. (The milk is only partially pasturized, which means the producer has not heated all the tastiness and enzymes out of it. For more information: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pasteurization). Actually, it is some of the best milk I’ve ever tasted. You can taste what the cows ate! (Which might sound strange to most Americans who have never tasted fresh milk, as we live in an extraordinarily anti-septic reality, thanks to the USDA).  Sometimes there is the tiniest hint of sweet corn, or a light, grassy flavor.

Basically, the milk tastes like milk, not some over-heated imitation, didn’t spend weeks on a refrigerated truck and comes from a small dairy farm in Texas. You can buy it at Whole Foods and the Sunset Valley Farmers’ Market. ** To make butter, I would recommend the whole milk, which is quite rich for drinking, but has the right amount of milk fat to make a nice little pat of butter.

Bet you didn’t know…

… that Austin Farmers’ markets redeem coupons from WIC (government program that provides assistance to women with infants and children) as well as the Texas food stamp/Lone Star program? It is great to know that women and families in need of assistance can support local farmers while feeding healthy, fresh food to their kids.