Berry delightful

Cobbling together a delicious and easy summer dessert

Life’s a big container of cherries.All photos by April McGreger I’m bored by chocoholics. Don’t get me wrong; I very much appreciate good chocolate. But after attending four cookouts in the past month without a fruit-based dessert in sight I have had enough. Had the scent of perfectly ripe peaches somehow escaped my hosts? Are they unaware of the painfully short cherry season–whose end is near? What about all the bramble berries that line the ditches and roadsides this time of year? What sort of person does not delight in these things? Please, hold the chocolate cupcakes. It’s summer–the season …

Swing low, revolving door

Monsanto’s man Taylor returns to FDA in food-czar role

Michael TaylorIn a Tuesday afternoon press release, the FDA announced that Michael Taylor, a former Monsanto executive, had joined the agency as “senior advisor to the commissioner.” If the title is vague, the portfolio (pasted from the press release) is substantial–a kind of food czar of the Food and Drug Administration: • Assess current food program challenges and opportunities• Identify capacity needs and regulatory priorities• Develop plans for allocating fiscal year 2010 resources• Develop the FDA’s budget request for fiscal year 2011• Plan implementation of new food safety legislation Taylor’s new position isn’t his first in government. He’s a veteran …

all you can eat

Rethinking food production for a world of 8 billion

In April 2005, the World Food Programme and the Chinese government jointly announced that food aid shipments to China would stop at the end of the year. For a country where a generation ago hundreds of millions of people were chronically hungry, this was a landmark achievement. Not only has China ended its dependence on food aid, but almost overnight it has become the world’s third largest food aid donor. The key to China’s success was the economic reforms in 1978 that dismantled its system of agricultural collectives, known as production teams, and replaced them with family farms. In each …

food for thought

Not much convenience in “convenience foods”

Among all the responses to the new data showing we’re getting sicker and fatter, I was most struck by Kerry Trueman’s comment at Civil Eats that what we are really suffering from is “kitchen illiteracy.” Now, that’s the kind of insight which seems easy to dismiss. We all know it’s not about a lack of interest or knowledge — it’s about a lack of time, right? As I once asked, how can you fix the food system when you have to fight convenience? Working parents are forced by circumstances outside their control to buy processed food because cooking real food …

Bubble-gum apples and pre-fab cheeseburgers

What’s become of school lunch

Where’s my bubble-gum-flavored apple? Photo: dancing chopsticks Remember back in April, when I bemoaned Obama’s choice of an industry-friendly school-lunch overseer? The job of administering the USDA’s school-lunch program went to Janey Thornton. She had made her name serving in several capacities for the School Nutrition Association–a conglomeration of school cafeteria managers who have never seen a Tyson chicken nugget they didn’t try to serve to a kid. Now the great new blog School Lunch Talk, co-edited by “renegade lunch lady” Ann Cooper, has delivered an inside look at just what the SNA is all about: Imagine if Las Vegas …

Choice nuggets

Obama garden drama, and other choice morsels from around the Web

The First Lady helps create the world’s most famous kitchen garden. When my info-larder gets too packed, it’s time to serve up some choice nuggets from around the Web. A high-profile urban garden, two writers, and some vile sludgeAndrew Kimbrell of the Center for Food Safety is one of our most important critics of industrial agriculture. (Here’s a brief video interview with him I did last fall.) Eddie Gehman Kohan of Obama Foodorama is quickly establishing herself as an important food-politics blogger–deceptively serious despite her blog’s sometimes-frivolous obsession with all intersections of food and the Obamas. Both are fervent supporters …

Meth of the matter

New book looks at economic devastation in an Iowa meat-packing town

An Iowa house, no longer neededPhoto: McMorrIt’s become axiomatic that to peer deep into our reliance on fossil energy is to gaze upon human wreckage: bombed-out Baghdad slums, desolated Nigerian townships, or Appalachian communities eviscerated by the removal of mountaintops. The food system has its own war zones, its own spaces of suffering and despair. Like the energy giants, food corporations generally manage these scenes off-stage, as hidden as possible from public view. Consider thousands of Florida tomato pickers living in poverty and, occasionally, slavery; or meat-packing workers, toiling in conditions so dire that Human Rights Watch was not long …

Jolly green giant

Must-read: urban farmer Will Allen in the NYT Magazine

Will makes soil–and you can, too.Source: The New York TimesAnyone who wants to understand the paradoxes and promise of urban agriculture must read the luminous profile of Growing Power’s Will Allen by Elizabeth Royte, online now and forthcoming in Sunday’s New York Times Magazine. I could gush about the elegance of Allen’s farming system or the brilliance of Royte’s prose; but it’s the afternoon before a long weekend, and I want to get outside. Read the damn thing–it might make you want to get your hands in the dirt, too! But let me get to what I think is the …

Lunch-hour follies

As GOP politicians take the school-lunch debate to new lows, perk up with berry ice cream

Stick a spork in it: Is this really the best we can do?Photo: bookgrlA few years ago I was asked to serve on the Wellness Committee that was being formed by the Iowa City School District, under a federal mandate to improve the health of school children. Having made lunch every morning for my kids because I’d seen the “food” they were served in the cafeterias, I was pleased to have the opportunity. The result of my nearly two years of banging my head against the brick wall of district bureaucracy was the living example of the old Upton Sinclair …

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