NYT Article “Trying to Connect the Dinner Plate to Climate Change”

Just wanted to take a moment to point out this article in the New York Times, which discusses animal rights groups making the most of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization’s report from last November that found that raising animals for meat contributes more to global warming than does transportation.  The report, "Livestock’s Long Shadow – Environmental Issues and Options," can be found via that link, along with a story summarizing it. 

The ecology of a plant-based diet has long been my major reason for eating herbivorously.  I think the report speaks for itself so I don’t have a lot of editorializing to do here – I’ll just say this: the great thing is that all our choices – whether they are absolutes, like being a vegetarian, being part of a compact or a non-car owner – or matters of degree, like the decision to choose meatless meals more frequently, buy less stuff, or ride a bike more often – make an impact. 


I Make the Paper

Excitement! Joan Obra quotes me in the Bee.

Chimp tried out a new place last night with some of his departing students – ZPizza, up on Champlain. I was too bushed to go but he said it was pretty good. We’ve been working on a whole-wheat pizza crust recipe here too, actually – hope to reveal that soon.

Sometimes They Write Themselves

Images1From one of my food e-newsletters this week.

The headline: Wingstop Serves its billionth chicken wing

The quote from the CEO in the article: “We know that both customers and critics have responded well to our product, but a milestone of this magnitude is still a dream come true.”

My reaction: Not for the chick…

Oh, I can’t do it.

It’s just too obvious and easy. It’s like shooting fish in a barrel.

Except I’d never shoot fish in a barrel; that would be cruel. Speaking of fish in unnatural confinement, have you read about the pollution that intensive fish farming causes? And how they get sea lice? And how they have to use antibiotics, just like in other types of factory farming?

Editor’s Note: This joke is just as much at my expense for being a strident humorless self-righteous vegetarian as at the expense of the organization celebrating having dispensed with half a billion chickens (assuming both wings of all chickens were used, and with the machinery in slaughterhouses, you know…)

Oh, there I go again.

Anyhow, this article reminded me – do you remember the Cluckin’ Chicken commercial parody on SNL? The celebratory tone of the article made the bit seem appropos for this post somehow. Ah, Phil Hartman, I still miss you.

Food News of Note

H_southwestern_rice_beansThis morning, as I was sleepily reading the Food Institute Update, I came upon this blurb:

The Hain Celestial Group, Inc. completed the acquisition of the Linda McCartney brand frozen meat-free business from the H. J. Heinz Company, including the manufacturing facility based in Fakenham, England.”

I blinked. A vegetarian foods company that makes meat analog products and has a manufacturing facility in Fakenham?

Seriously? Did they plan it that way?

Read the whole press release here, if you care to. No additional Fakenham jokes, sadly.

Hotel Time Travel

Tc3500dblrm_1 I have been suddenly plunged back into the very late 1980’s or possibly the very early 1990s.

I wasn’t expecting it; I showed up at this hotel for a conference with one other member of my organization, and when I stepped into the lobby last night, the swirling, scrolling jewel-toned oriental-floral wallpaper – a very large pattern (and an entire hotel lobby – wallpapered!) took my breath away, because I swear, I had a Jessica McClintock dress that I wore for District Choir in high school that was the very same pattern except in navy blue. 

The bedspread and wallpaper in the guest room are the same design.  I keep having this strange urge to curl my bangs, and I half expect to turn on the t.v. and see the Berlin Wall coming down.

Unfortunately, the onsite restaurants seem to have ceased to change with the times at about the same point the last redecoration took place.  Due to the length of my day, I was compelled to order room service for dinner at about 8:30 tonight.  I ordered a side salad.  It was slightly tired squares of iceberg lettuce, cucumber slices, and cherry tomatoes with an overly acidic and suspiciously well-emulsified Italian dressing, exactly the salad I used to dread the arrival of when I first became a vegetarian, as it and a baked potato were often my only menu options.

So I had my anemic salad, my vegetable soup that had clearly been sitting in the kettle a long time (it takes hours to get celery that limp) that included a grand total of one kidney bean, a very well-executed if entirely unseasoned side of carrots and zucchini (the one thing I ordered that had not been on the menu), and a piece of cheesecake for which I had not requested fruit topping (it was extra and I didn’t want it) but it came with it anyway; it was a color of red that does not appear in nature, and besides, with the first bite I took from the crust I could tell that the cheesecake had been defrosted rather than made in-house, and that it had been sitting next to something stronger-smelling in the fridge at that.

This all made me sort of miserable, having had to eat a wan white bread and vegetable sandwich for lunch from another of the restaurants and having not really properly had breakfast besides an apple I’d brought as a travel snack, and usually being totally spoiled on most trips because my organization’s group, when assembled, operates in such a way that meals are very important, restaurants are carefully chosen, and I never have to worry about whether there will be something for me to eat, because there will be, and it will be really good. 

How bad was today?  I ordered the cheesecake specifically because I figured it would at least have a shred of protein, unlike everything else I ate since I got up this morning.

I need to go drive someplace in the morning and get some decent fruit, at least.  And some soymilk.

And pick up a curling iron.  Holy cow, did you hear about the Berlin Wall?

White Flour

I don’t put much time in at the regular supermarket. I end up there on occasion when I need aluminum foil or dried chilies, but most of the time I’m living in my little specialty foods retailer cocoon.

Before we moved to California in 2003, I went to Meijer every week in Michigan, along with the health food store and oftentimes the bakery and, in season, the farmers’ market.

Before we moved to Michigan in 2000, I had been working for Whole Foods for five years, and with a 20% discount, there was no reason to go anywhere else.

I’m fascinated by the regular grocery store whenever I’m there. I grew up with regular supermarkets – the red and orange A&P logo on the front of the market my family shopped at in New England is one of my earliest memories.

I remember the logo’s shape-commonality with pills my father took while he was battling Hodgkin’s disease and the coated licorice Good & Plenty candies that I ate, mimicking his daily pill-swallowing routine and offering them to him with childhood-magical-thinking-surety that they would make him not sick any more.

In Virginia, we shopped at Safeway store #0002 and then the Giant when it opened down the street, plus the dreaded weekend-afternoon eating trips to the commissary that fill the childhood memories of lots of military dependents. When you started filling the second cart, you knew the end was in sight.

But I’ve been away from the supermarket so long, and away from the standard American diet even longer, that I’m sort of amazed by what I find there and what’s happening. I’ve always been a casual grocery cart anthropologist – I roped a date using this habit when I was working at Whole Foods by saying Hey, that’s great tofu, isn’t it? – but looking at people’s carts at Whole Foods is of limited interest. There’s the person who clearly buys all her produce elsewhere and the couple who buy six bottles of wine at a time and the family who ring up a gargantuan bill with meat and prepared foods.

At the regular supermarket, though, I get to see what most people are really buying. To tell the truth, I mostly find this depressing.

Continue reading “White Flour”

Organic Dairying

Besides being the source of most of the nation’s stone fruit and pretty much all of its grapes, the San Joaquin Valley is a massive dairy-producing area – especially Tulare County, south of here. We also have the distinction of having a local organic raw milk dairy in Fresno County, if you’re really hardcore.

For that reason, and because of my general interest in organic production as a consumer, the report released this week by the Cornucopia Institute got my attention.  Their report ranks organic dairy companies on their commitment to organic family-farm scale practices. If you’re lacto and care about organics, you probably want to check in on this – Dean Foods (Horizon, Alta Dena, Organic Cow) was among the companies that declined to participate.

The highest score for a nationally distributed line was four out of five cows for Organic Valley.