Food tip of the day

Don Lee Farms veggie patties are the shizzle

I’m probably going to get in trouble for this, since it’s not organic and it comes from some anonymous frozen-food manufacturer, but the discovery of a veggie pattie that doesn’t suck is good news that must be shared with the world. As you’re probably aware, most "veggie burgers" taste like cardboard. Most real veg-heads I know stay away from them because a) who wants a hamburger when you’re a veg-head? and b) the cardboard thing. But get thee to Costco and pick up a package of Don Lee Farms veggie patties. They’re fresh, not frozen, and they taste like … …

California officials yank controversial urban spraying plan

California officials have announced that they will not spray the urban Bay Area with a pheromone this summer, delighting activists who had campaigned strenuously against the plan. The pheromone with the ominous name CheckMate LBAM-F keeps the crop-gobbling light brown apple moth from reproducing, but also has been linked to complaints of respiratory trouble in humans. Spraying had already been banned in one county pending environmental review. As part of the new moth-attacking strategy, officials will attempt to deter moth reproduction by introducing millions of sterile moths; the change of plans had nothing to do with loud public outcry, officials …

Get thee to the farmers market

Now’s the time for scapes and green garlic

Food headlines hardly bring comfort these days: tales of lost harvests, hunger riots, agrichemical runoff, tainted pork and tomatoes.  A society’s foodways surely reveal something about its quality of life. From studying the industrial-food system, as I do, it’s easy to conclude that we live in a brutal culture: content to destroy the ecosystem, exploit labor, and torture animals to produce unhealthy but profitable food. When such dark musings grip me, I try to remember to take pleasure and comfort in small things. Industrial agriculture has in many ways consolidated its grip over our land. Profits for agribiz giants like …

One expensive cocktail

The toll of the shrimping industry on Southeast Asia

Southeast Asia would have fared better during the tsunami and the recent cyclone if the majority of the region's coastal mangrove forests were intact. Everyone accepts that. But many of the mangroves have been cut for firewood, largely to make way for shrimp farming. The cost of the mangrove-loss to coastal fisheries is great, since much of the food chain spends its early years amongst the trees' roots. But the human cost, besides those lost in the flood waters, is also great: Labor abuses in the farmed shrimp industry are rampant. Read "The True Cost of Shrimp" (PDF) for details on the child labor, human trafficking, beatings, torture, and murder associated with these farms. There are also toxins that farm workers get to enjoy spraying into the shrimp pens to keep the critters from succumbing to infections. So, what to do?

Notable quotable

Vegan food ain’t Badu

“Vegan food is soul food in its truest form. Soul food means to feed the soul. And, to me, your soul is your intent. If your intent is pure, you are pure.” – Erykah Badu, in the recentest issue of VegNews

Flood money

Midwest woes a boon to fertilizer companies

The recent Midwestern floods have caused all manner of misery: Burst levies, lost homes, ruined crops, higher food prices, a gusher of agrichemicals and god know what else flowing into streams. One way to soothe the sting is to own shares in giant fertilizer companies like Potash Corp. of Saskatewan and Mosaic. These companies have seen their share prices jump over the past week. Investors may be bidding them up because the floods represent a sales opportunity. To maximize yield on what’s left of the 2008 corn crop, farmers will be scrambling to reapply fertilizer to make up for what’s …

Food Network star Alton Brown adds a pinch of sustainability to the pot

Alton Brown: Boy meets salmon. Photo: Studio Chambers The Portola Café and Restaurant, the fine-dining venue within the Monterey Bay Aquarium, is an airy, light-filled space surrounded by windows on three sides. The soothing, understated interior showcases a breathtaking view of Monterey Bay, where one can watch otters wrap themselves in kelp while cormorants swim and dive nearby. It is here that I have the chance to talk with Alton Brown, creator and star of Good Eats on the Food Network. Alton combines his background in film and video with his culinary training — he attended the New England Culinary …

Missouri mystery

Why are sperm counts so low in the show-me state?

Surrounded by agriculture powerhouses Kansas, Iowa, Nebraska, and Illinois, Missouri sits at the southern edge of the heartland. Are the region’s titanic annual lashings of agrichemicals — synthetic and mined fertilizers, as well as poisons designed to kill bugs, weeds, and mold — leaching into drinking water and doing creepy things to the state’s citizens? And what about manure from the stunning concentration of concentrated-animal feedlot operations (CAFOs) that have sprung up in Iowa, et al, over the past 15 years? Elizabeth Royte, author of the important new book Bottlemania, showed in devastating detail in her Grist article last year …

Humans have a hand in Midwest flooding

Photo: Mark Hirsch How much responsibility do humans have for the floods disastrously deluging the Midwest? Of course the rain poured for days, but it fell on plowed-up prairies, drained fields, altered streams, no-longer-wetlands, and developed flood plains — all unable to absorb precipitation to the best of their natural ability. Between 2007 and 2008, more than 160,000 acres of Iowa land (mostly covered with deep-rooted, water-absorbing grasses) was taken out of a federal conservation-reserve program to be farmed (mostly for corn). Near St. Louis, Mo., nearly 30,000 homes have been built on land that was submerged by flooding in …