T & D Willey Farm Tour, Part 2

I managed to resist diving headlong into the basil, thank goodness, and had my wits about me again by the time we got to the tomatoes.

(One thing I forgot to mention yesterday – my father-in-law took these shots, as my camera batteries died within the first five minutes after our arrival.)

These were slicers, big tomatoes that we’ll see later in the summer for just a little while, Tom noted, but we’ll be getting cherry tomatoes for much longer. Those were down further, he said, along the edge of the property. On the other side of the road at that moment was the strawberry patch.

“What you’re looking at there,” he noted, “is probably the only organic strawberry patch in the Valley.” They’re a hard crop to grow without pesticides, and there are quite a few organic growers along the coast, but none of the patches in the Valley are organic. Tom described a number of learning experiences at this point in the tour. Part of the problem, he said, is that they grow so many crops, and so much of the local agriculture is comprised of just a few, that he doesn’t have a potato or strawberry or onion grower whose shoulder he can look over or who he can call up to ask advice about varieties or practices.

Lots more after the jump…

Continue reading “T & D Willey Farm Tour, Part 2”

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Vegan Spring Tacos with Cucumber, Radish and Avocado

I came home from WFM the other day, having gone there for a few staples.

“I found some local food you’ll like,” I said to Chimp.

“What’s that?” he asked.

I held up a snack-food bag. “La Tapatia tortilla chips.” (Hooray, another anthropomorphized tortilla mascot!)

“Cool. Where are they made?”

On Belmont.”

So though the corn for the masa may not be local, those chips, and the tortillas I bought with them, were made within eight miles of our house.

I’ve often seen the La Tapatia trucks driving around Fresno. Fresh corn tortillas are another animal entirely from the store-bought ones that have been previously frozen. I’ve never had the great fortune to have someone hand-make me tortillas from freshly prepared masa, but if it was another magnitude better than those from La Tapatia, I might not be able to go on living.

This dish is definitely in service of my need for cooler food.

We pile a great deal of different things on top of black beans throughout the year to make seasonal tacos – corn and tomato salad in the summer, hot-sauce-laced roasted butternut squash in the fall, shredded cabbage, carrot and red onion salad in the winter. For spring, here’s a crunchy-creamy-cool mixed vegetable salad. You could add crumbled Mexican, feta or jack cheese if you felt like you just couldn’t live without the dairy.

Continue reading “Vegan Spring Tacos with Cucumber, Radish and Avocado”

The Food News Roundup

Okay, that was a chronic fatigue syndrome-motivated episode of disappearance, these past few days. That coast-to-coast travel last week really wiped me out. Of course, traveling all week sometimes also means that some of the regular work has to get done on the weekend, which it did.

Beyond that, as summer comes on, I’m in serious crunch time at work, and my CFS really has been getting me down. I’m hoping to cook something (something, anything!) this weekend.

For the time being, here’s the product roundup. I get a lot of food newsletters, and they’re perpetually peppered with PR pitches for new products. Sometimes the products featured are remarkable in some way. I’ve noted in bold, below, into which category each of these notable products fit.

Food Products That Scare Me A Little Bit

Z-Trim is a “corn fiber fat replacement.” Does the model on the front page give you the creeps? She’s a little too tan, a little severe…she looks like a model for a miracle weight loss substance rather than a food product. Oh wait, the website says that Z-Trim will help me lose weight without giving up the foods I love, so I guess it is a miracle weight loss substance, and in that case, that model is perfectly appropriate.

It’s corn bran and guar gum.

You could just eat more fiber, but that wouldn’t help you lose weight without giving up the foods you love, unless you love fiber-rich foods.

Food Products That Sound Sort of Gross

General Mills is introducing a line of cereal-flavored milks this coming year, including one flavored like Wheaties. No word in this article as to whether the drink will include that nasty sludge at the bottom of the bowl.

Food Products I Thought of Years Ago When Shopping for a Road Trip, Darn It

Hummus to Go, a shelf-stable single-serve hummus. I’m not kidding; I probably thought of this about ten years ago. Oh well, there goes my million dollars.

Food Products That I Hope Are Better Tasting than Their Level of Achievement in Website Design

Images1I was actually a little disappointed when I went to visit Bubble Wrap Chocolate. They do have an anthropomorphized food mascot, but by the name, I thought I might be getting into something that really did look like bubble wrap rather than just have lots of tiny holes.

They seem to have slapped a TM after almost every phrase on the page, and not in superscript either, which makes it More TM Fun TM to TM Read! TM.

If you do read all the way to the bottom, you’ll be treated to this mental image: “BUBBLE WRAP Candy plans to use some rap-sensibility to delve further into the teen market, with the new Rap, Hip Pop group sensation, “THE BUBBLE RAPPERS.”

You let me know how that goes over with the kids, now.

Foodservice Solutions

Spotting foodservice needs through the solutions on offer always makes me feel like I’ve learned something. Some recent favorites…

French fries are not just french fries…there are fresh-style chips (Obligatory Creepy Anthropomorphized Food with Overly Large Eyes Alert! Hooray!) and unique shapes to make mealtime entertaining, plus fries designed to be especially long-lasting or both unusually shaped and higher-yielding. You devotees of roller-grill cuisine will be pleased to know there’s a product to accompany the taquito and hot dog in their endless back-and-forth journey until you show up at 2 a.m., drunk and as such, posessed of an indiscriminate palate, perhaps.

Crab cakes, too, have an enormous set of distinctions among them – six in this section, including boardwalk style and bakeable. I had a co-worker for a while who would order a crab cake at any restaurant we visited where one was available and note with detail what made it unique. She didn’t get quite to the level of specification that these product descriptions do, but I now suspect that more of the crab cakes she was analyzing were pre-made – and perhaps the same ones from place to place – than I would have originally thought.

Sometimes these solutions hurt a little bit. I know that most things come into the back of a chain restaurant frozen or at the very least pre-bagged, but I was terribly saddened recently to catch a glimpse into the kitchen of an Indian restaurant I go to fairly regularly and discover that mango lassis come pre-bottled.

I had assumed – perhaps naively – that there was something smoothie-like going on in the kitchen, with fresh mangoes or frozen mango chunks. At this restaurant I’d had a particularly good one, perfumed with rosewater, and to realize that it was a bottled drink, and as such might have contained ingredients that could have caused me to take a pass on it if I had read the label in a supermarket made me sort of sad. One more illusion of the craftwork of a professional kitchen shattered.

Then there are the problems that the home cook just doesn’t have that are a little disturbing to think about – like the need for your cooking medium to resist darkening and gumming on the grill.

Most intriguing, perhaps, are the clear descriptions of the problem with vague descriptions of how the product solves it. In reading the trade papers the last few weeks, I keep seeing a campaign for ConAgra’s Amplify with a little kid messily slurping from an enormous spoonful of soup.  This is a product that promises “salt flavor enhancement.” I’m all in favor of salt flavor – potato chips being my drug of choice – but I’m not sure exactly what “peptide and amino acid technology” means. It sounds like MSG might be involved.

I should have gone after that food science degree too.

Candies of Childhood

I just went to look up the ingredients in Smarties, some of which have arrived in our house through neither of our volition, and the first link that pops up on Google is a BBC site that says the following: “In the USA, Smarties are completely different to the UK version,” causing me to read that aloud, then turn to Chimp and say, “In the UK, Smarties are completely different than the USA version.”

The Smarties website takes pains to point this out too, saying Do not confuse our Smarties® with Nestle chocolate Smarties! I will be sure not to.

No anthropomorphized candy on this website, unfortunately, just a batch of five kids carrying an enormous roll of Smarties including one heavyset kid with a slingshot in his back pocket. Do kids know what slingshots are still?

On some occasion when booster shots were taking place, my brother and I were allowed to choose a candy treat afterwards. I’m sure I probably didn’t deserve a treat at that point, never having been good at dealing with needles. I chose Smarties. My younger brother chose a lollipop; it was a Dum-Dum. (Hooray, there’s an anthropomorphized drum!)

I was a bad older sister; I implied that our choices of named candy correlated with our intelligence levels. My brother cried. I was scolded. I’m sorry, Bri.

Let’s Learn About Trade Associations

I came across a good one today: the Tortilla Industry Association. You should click through just to see the little mascot at the top of the page.

Apparently they’re right in step with the trends, as Americans are eating more Mexican food than ever before.

Okay, that story was just a bonus. I really just wanted an excuse to link to that cute little anthropomorphized tortilla.