Food

Sweetness and light

The lowdown on agave nectar and other ‘natural’ sweeteners

Agave: not just for tequila anymoreDear Checkout Line,What’s the skinny on sweeteners? I use agave nectar, but I’m wondering if the same thing that makes tequila can be good for me and my six-year old!  Is sucanat just another word for “sugar”? And what about Stevia? Liquid or powder, fair trade, organic — it’s all making me woozy. Or maybe that’s just my blood sugar. Thanks for checking it out,Sweetie Dear Sweetie,Your point on agave nectar is well-taken: Can the same plant that produces a drink that yields only hazy memories of crazy dancing, Miranda rights, and a Vegas wedding …

Crap and trade

Big Ag: give us carbon credit, but don't cap our emissions

As Congress gears up to consider climate legislation, agribusiness is getting sweaty palms -- and for good reason.

Sour corn

Is ethanol’s Congressional free ride coming to an end?

The Congressional Budget Office just released a paper looking critically at the relationship between ethanol, food prices and carbon emissions. But it gets better. The CBO blogged about it!Bedtime for corn ethanol?Photo: Big Grey Mare Most ethanol in the United States is produced from domestically grown corn, and the rapid rise in the fuel’s production and usage means that roughly one-quarter of all corn grown in the U.S. (nearly 3 billion bushels) is now used to produce ethanol. The demand for corn for ethanol production has exerted upward pressure on corn prices and on food prices in general. CBO estimates …

Food writers and the state of the oceans

Yesterday, I criticized New York Times food columnist Mark Bittman, a writer I admire, for calling for red snapper in a recipe, without noting that red snapper is severely overfished. Today, Bittman responded. Below find Mark’s response, with mine underneath. In short, this was a screw-up, and for that I apologize, and thankful for the wake-up call. I’m (obviously, in general, I hope) committed to sustainability, but these things will happen despite my intentions and efforts – it’s a complicated situation, and I’m human. For those who are interested in more of my thinking on this subject: I do believe …

Big Tobacco, reheated

Researchers: Food industry looks to tobacco for inspiration

Apparently, Big Oil isn’t the only industry that has cast an admiring gaze at Big Tobacco’s track record of avoiding regulation and accountability for decades. Over on Yale Environment 360, there’s an interesting interview with Kelly D. Brownell, director of the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at Yale University, on parralels between the food and tobacco iindustries’ tactics for protecting lucrative markets against mounting evidence that that products destroy lives. In a nutshell: [T]he common strategies include dismissing as “junk science” peer-reviewed studies showing a link between their products and disease; paying scientists to produce pro-industry studies; sowing …

Ramp it up

Stalking the wild leeks of spring

On-ramp to flavorPhoto: dano272Early-spring walks in the woods are rewarding on their own. But while you  enjoy those first few sunny days after a nourishing spring rain, why not look for things that can feed your belly as well as your soul?  The woodlands here in the upper Midwest are teeming with gourmet goodies in the spring, and this abundance is there for the taking–if you just know where to look. Gathering wild foods is probably the most sustainable, and certainly the most ancient way to provide delicious and nourishing local food for your family.  It dates back to before …

Don’t throw out the biochar baby with the bathwater

When penning his stinging rebuke of biochar and all who support it, George Monbiot not only threw out the baby with the bath water but blew up the bathroom just to ensure no one ever considered bathing again. Admittedly he got in a few good blows but the rest just blows hot air. Biochar is simply the charcoal that remains after burning any kind of biomass in a closed oven with limited or no oxygen (pyrolysis). The gases and oils that are emitted are either captured for energy production later or co-fired in the process, maximizing the output of heat. …

It's the calories, stupid

NYC’s attack on salt misses the forest for the trees

Diet dilemmas Photo: George D Thompson In his most recent column the NYT’s John Tierney — a conservative political columnist turned “skeptical” science columnist — objects to NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s attempt to reduce New Yorkers’ salt intake. He compares the proposed new policy to a mandatory experiment in which residents are unwitting (and possibly unwilling) participants. …Why bother with consent forms when you can automatically enroll everyone in the experiment? And why bother with a control group when you already know the experiment’s outcome? The city’s health commissioner, Thomas R. Frieden, has enumerated the results. If the food industry …

Fishing for trouble

Bittman takes a bite out of the ocean

Endangered species for sale Photo: MaRonin47 I’m a big fan of Mark Bittman. I’ve been reading him since his Cook’s Illustrated days in the early ’90s; I consider his weekly “Minimalist” column in The New York Times invaluable; and several of his cookbooks sit, stained and dogeared, on my shelf. Bittman made a career by slicing through pretensions about cooking as an art best left to professionals or the leisure class. Long before it became fashionable, Bittman demonstrated that cooking from scratch can be a quotidian activity. All it takes, he has preached again and again, is a few decent …

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