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But it could be organic

It's a good question, really: When is a fish really organic? The New York Times mulled this question in the business section yesterday. If the organic label hinges upon a vegetative diet and not using antibiotics or growth hormones, then farmed fish can be organic. But what's natural about confining thousands of fish in nets? And what's unnatural about carnivorous fish like salmon that feed upon other fish born in the wild? Ponders the Times: [A] proposed guideline at the Agriculture Department for calling certain farmed fish "organic" is controversial on all sides. Environmentalists argue that many farm-raised fish live …

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Winter veggies served with a labor shortage and a side of rocket fuel

Last summer, plenty of drama emanated from California's Salinas Valley, epicenter of industrial vegetable production (organic and otherwise) and self-proclaimed "nation's salad bowl." The season began amid grumbles among growers about a labor shortage. To paraphrase their complaint: Not enough Mexican workers are sneaking across the border, and ones who are are drawn into higher-paying construction jobs. The season ended in an ignominious nationwide E. coli outbreak that killed three people and sickened hundreds of others. About this time each year, industrial vegetable production shifts to Arizona's Yuma County, source of 90 percent of winter vegetables in the U.S. and …

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The pop star shares his holiday plans

Ever wonder what celebrities do for the holidays? Are they sipping Cristal and nibbling foie gras, or throwing back eggnog and turkey giblets like the rest of us? During a phone chat with pop star Moby this week, I got the chance to ask that very question. A strict vegan, Moby hasn't touched anything close to eggnog for 20 years, so what is he chowing on this weekend? You might be surprised by what's on -- or off -- his menu. The following is a snippet from a longer discussion about Moby's new release Go, a two-disc "best of" album, …

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America’s national feast has seen better days, but remains well worth preserving

In every era the attempt must be made anew to wrest tradition away from a conformism that is about to overpower it. -- Walter Benjamin, "Theses on the Philosophy of History" Eat, drink, and be mindful. Photo: iStockphoto Does Thanksgiving suck? There's certainly a potent case to be made. In a land where communal eating is honored mostly in the breach, pulling off a tolerable national feast poses challenges. In more and more households, people tend to eat separately. Even when they do get together, they often convene over different foods (soy patties for some, microwaved pizza for others), and …

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How to pick wines that don’t taste computer-programmed

How to choose wine for the Thanksgiving table? There will either be pressure, financial and otherwise, to grab big bottles of cheap plonk off the supermarket shelf, or conversely, pressure to consult Wine Spectator or some other "expert" source and find bottles receiving high scores. Resist both impulses. Here's why -- and how. For people who insist they can't tell the difference between good wine and bad, or who drink for more medicinal than gustatory reasons, I suppose a couple of bottles of crap wine make sense to have around (although either could surprise themselves). But there's no reason to …

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Wal-Mart may sell organic, but it also thrives on ruined downtowns and long freight hauls.

I've always been a bit appalled by the polite applause with which some enviros greet Wal-Mart's "green" initiatives. Seems to me that the only way the company could really "go green" would be to stop selling cheap plastic crap shipped in from halfway around the world in vast suburban megastores. In other words, completely change it's business model -- not, say, adopt "green" building techniques for its appalling superstores, or haul mass-produced "organic" food from California, Mexico, and China to stores nationwide, thus burning lots of fossil fuel and potentially squeezing profits for farmers and sparking consolidation and industrialization in …

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The U.S. organic cotton industry has a tough row to hoe

The view from the Panoche Cotton Gin outside Firebaugh, Calif., reveals a great deal about the state of the cotton industry in the U.S. A generation ago, fields of cotton surrounded the gin as far as the eye could see. Today, the gin -- a warehouse-sized plant that can clean and bundle dozens of tons of cotton a day -- is flanked on all sides by almond orchards, groves upon groves of the tall trees. An endangered species? Photo: iStockphoto "Cotton used to be king -- it was our No. 1 crop," Joseph Maron, the operations supervisor for the gin, …

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Umbra on eating locally in winter

Dear Umbra, I live in New Hampshire, and I am getting ready for the long, cold winter. I try to eat locally, but with no year-round growing season here and such a dense population, most of the food comes from elsewhere. I was wondering what I could do to reduce my impact during the winter and how I can eat as locally as possible. Do you have any ideas? Diana Durham, N.H. Dearest Diana, Mmm, just in time for Thanksgiving. The Mason-fixin' line. Photo: iStockphoto Hearken back to days of yore, ere yon freezer trucks and container freight hauled yon …

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No need to serve gussied-up Coors with so many real craft beers available

First bit of Thanksgiving advice: Prepare to be bombarded by bits of Thanksgiving advice. Second bit: When you're choosing beer for the holiday table, don't get hoodwinked into buying tarted-up swill from a corporate brewer. Here is a wonderful guide to pairing beer with holiday food. One caveat: I urge you to localize your choice. To that end, here is a state-by-state listing of legit microbrews throughout the U.S. In my home state of North Carolina, I give many thanks to Duck Rabbit, Highland, and Weeping Radish. Support your local brewer -- by tipping a glass.

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Two non-turkey recipes for the Thanksgiving feast

Thanksgiving is a funny holiday. It's a weird mix of frenzy and sloth, gratitude and greed. What should be a fun and peaceful time spent with relatives and friends is often preceded by the chaos of having too much to do and too little time in which to do it. If you are the person responsible for cooking the Thanksgiving meal, you know that Extreme Grocery Shopping is the hallmark of the holiday. Simply getting your groceries home can be the stuff of nightmares if you live in a crowded city or suburb. Cooking the meal is a cakewalk by …

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