Food

Long forgotten, chestnuts are coming back with a vengeance, and make a delicious holiday pudding

  Nuts about chestnuts.   I first learned about chestnuts from “The Christmas Song” (most likely, the Chipmunks’ version), not from tasting one. That happened much later. A couple of years ago, a farmer brought locally grown chestnuts to the back door of the restaurant where I worked. My coworkers and I were excited to see them and, of course, we wanted some. However, we had no idea what to do with them in their raw form — not one of us had ever cooked with them. Chestnuts seemed almost exotic to us — I assumed they must be of …

Tomato concentrate

Time to slice up the tomato industry?

What happens when a few large buyers dominate a market? Anyone who keeps up with my posts — still there, mom? — knows what’s coming next: The buyers gain the power to dictate to dictate terms and conditions to sellers. For farmers, the results of concentrated markets are devastating. As a few giant companies like Smithfield and Tyson came to dominate meat packing, they managed to drive down the farmgate price of chickens, pigs, and beef cows. As a result, hundreds of thousands of farmers were driven out of business. Survivors took on debt and scaled up, in a desperate …

A taste test of seven ‘natural’ frozen dinners

  I have fond memories of microwaveable TV dinners from when I was a child: mac ‘n’ cheese, chicken nuggets, unidentifiable green lumps, mushy brown things. The wonder surrounding them was probably due to the fact that we weren’t usually allowed to eat them. Mama Shep is a great cook, and since we grew up on a vegetable farm, there were plenty of foods available that hadn’t been processed, frozen, and packaged months earlier. So TV dinners were a special treat. Now that I’m responsible for feeding myself, I usually try to actually cook, in the tradition of Mama Shep. …

Thorns and roses

The not-so-fragrant side of fresh-cut flowers

In conventional development dogma, the fresh-cut flower industry makes plenty of sense. Nations in the global south need foreign exchange and jobs; folks in the industrialized north have plenty of disposable income for buying pretty things. Moreover, land tends to be cheap in the south and dear in the north. Pursuing the promise of what economists call "comparative advantage," why not set up a vast fresh-cut flower industry in places like Ecuador, designed to supply markets in the United States? Of course, that is precisely what has happened. According to the trade group Society of American Florists, floriculture has blossomed …

Burger and fr ... uh, what was I saying?

Study links fast-food diets to Alzheimer’s

As the economy plunges into an abyss, consumers are cutting back on spending. They’re desperately seeking bargains, including culinary ones. While most companies deal with declining demand, McDonald’s saw its U.S. sales jump 5.3 percent in the last quarter. At the supermarket, meanwhile, sales of stuff like Spam and Dinty Moore canned stew are surging. But as economic crisis makes highly processed, junky food ever-more attractive, evidence of its ill health effects mounts. The latest, from Reuters: Mice fed junk food for nine months showed signs of developing the abnormal brain tangles strongly associated with Alzheimer’s disease, a Swedish researcher …

Meat Wagon: Chicken-shit blues

NYT: Maryland poultry CAFOs snuff out Chesapeake oyster industry

In Meat Wagon, we round up the latest outrages from the meat and livestock industries. —– I write this on the second day of December — one among a string of months that end in “r.” That means, for those of us who live near the sea, it’s time to consider the oyster, that glorious bivalve mollusc. In her great essay “Consider the Oyster: Love and Death Among the Molluscs,” MFK Fisher notes the “strange cold succulence” of the raw oysters she sampled in her youth in France. But oysters provide more than just sensual pleasure; they’re also packed with …

Agrofuel proponents hone tactics

The food price blame game

Tactic No. 1: Create a straw man. Nobody in their right mind can claim that corn ethanol has no impact on corn prices, or that corn prices have no impact on food prices. You can only debate the extent of the corn’s impact. Here’s a conclusion from a study released this year [PDF] that supports all previous studies: A system of five equations representing the U.S. corn market is estimated by 3SLS. Results show that increasing ethanol production has a significant impact on the national average U.S. corn price. The positive price change is consistent with previous research. You can …

Gisele Bündchen goes green -- psyche!

Rumors swirl that Brazilian bombshell’s NFL heartthrob BF caught MRSA

I’ve been writing about the antibiotic-resistant bacteria strain called MRSA for a while. Evidence is mounting that by regularly dumping strong antibiotics into the feed rations of confined hogs, the meat industry is creating virulent bacteria strains that infect humans. My BF’s got a nasty bug! Photo: Daniel Semper. Well, I knew antibiotic abuse by industrial meat producers was a serious problem, but it always seemed a bit abstract to me. No more. Get this, from the Cleveland Plain-Dealer’s editorial page: Three of the NFL’s biggest stars have been tackled by something so small it can be seen only under …

Of rice and men

Perennial rice on the rise?

It was good to read this weekend in the Land Institute’s The Land Report that they’re now working hard to develop perennial rice varieties (in addition to their well-known perennial prairie polyculture experiment, which could transform large parts of the American plains back into a wildscape that produces lots of food). Because agriculture is technically the world’s largest ecosystem, moving it toward a perennially-cropped system will have major impacts on soil health/soil building, biodiversity, energy use, and possibly carbon sequestration. Rice is the second most important cereal crop in the world; developing a variety that does not require annual plowing, …

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