The Fear of Raw Ingredients (my latest post on The Jew and the Carrot)

My generation was raised to fear cookie dough. Salmonella could lurk in every rubber spatula, and terrible things would befall the child who ate a bite of a raw confection. Only baking could render the dough safe.

Thanks to the recall of millions of eggs from Iowa’s Hillandale farms and Wright County Egg this past summer, the fear of uncooked eggs has intensified. According to The Washington Post, an estimated 2.3 million of the 47 billion eggs produced each year — by my calculations, one in about 20,000 — are contaminated. I worry that pretty soon even a well-cooked kugel will go the way of the Rocky Balboa-style smoothie.

Read more:


Pork, the other deadly meat


Don’t you love provocative titles? Words like “pork” from a Jewish vegetarian and “deadly” from just about anyone tend to get attention. So this is the title I chose for my recent post on The Jew and the Carrot. The entry is ostensibly about the story in today’s Post on a study linking meat consumption to an early and agonizing death. (Okay, maybe the later adjective is my embellishment. More fun with words!)  At any rate, you should check it out!

Photo from the U.S. government via Wikipedia.

A touché moment

“Here’s a trick you might try at home sometime: pick almost any recipe in the ‘Moosewood.’ Now add bacon. You will find that the addition of this decidedly unwholesome ingredient makes the food taste much better.”

-Ariel Levy, comparing the tone of Our Bodies, Ourselves and The Joy of Sex in “Doing It,” a New Yorker review of the new edition of the later. Unlike the first edition of JoS, food-sex analogies never get old.

Will the unwashed go grass-fed?

The other day, I brought up the new food movement I see emerging with the likes of Michael Pollan and Sally Fallon Morell with my mom. I mentioned that trailing their keystrokes and bean soaks is a sense that meat is okay.

“Really?” she said. “But how can they say that, when meat eating is responsible for so many problems?”

Although still a staunch vegetarian, I felt compelled to defend them. I explained that the new thinking about food advocates small amounts of meat and dairy, and stresses local, grass-fed products. The animals should be treated well, raised on small farms close by, and fed a healthy diet. And raw dairy rocks.

My mom had trouble with this. This is a woman who inspired my love of vegetables, introduced me to CSAs, and hinted that artificial coloring can be fatal. She eats small amounts of quality, sustainable chicken and fish, and occasionally other kosher meaty things. But I guess she didn’t think the Great Unwashed should get the go ahead to eat meat at all. They couldn’t be trusted. Continue reading

Love Them Words!

Time for some vocabulary! Here are a few terms you might see at, oh, say, the Dupont Circle Farmers’ Market on a Sunday morning:

Herbs de Provence (as in Keswick Creamery feta cheese with…)–An herb mix usually containing thyme, rosemary, marjoram, basil, savory, tarragon, and lavendar.

Gai-lan/kai-lan–Chinese broccoli. It looks a lot like broccoli rabe, broccolini, or rapini. Apparently, it’s kinda bitter.

Tatsoi–Asian green usually sold by the whole head. It’s similar to bok choi in look and flavor, but has shinnier, darker green leaves.

Hope you feel smarter, and perhaps a bit hungrier!

Also, overheard at the farmers’ market:

“Did you see that PETA video this week? I’ll bet everyone is forwarding it to you. Terrible!” The speaker, at this point, reached for a toothpick and commenced spearing a bacon sample. “I’m never eating meat that’s not organic again.”

Easter Bunny Syndrome

Easter Bunny Syndrome is what one rabbit breader calls the aversion to seeing those furry, long-eared creatures on the menu. It turns out a lot of people (even those who happily eat other meat) have it. To me, this condition is as silly as it sounds. Why object to a meat just because the animal is supposedly cute? Do our feathered and four-stomached friends not deserve the same respect?

If you’re going to follow that kind of logic in life, you should only be nice to really adorable people and let your inner butcher have at the others. I say if you’re going to eat meat, be an equal opportunity omnivore.

In Defense of Flesh

“Eat good meat and source it well. Acknowledge where it comes from. And respect the fact that the animal died for your dinner.”

If I were to eat meat, these principles articulated by author Scott Gold are what I would live by. Some thought-provoking books on the omnivorous lifestyle (including Gold’s) came out this spring and the WaPo did a nice job examining them.

Check it out.

Formaggio autentico

Parmesan and oliveCheesy, but exciting: Parmesan now has authenticity.

The European Court of Justice ruled yesterday that Parmesan cheese can join the ranks of Champagne and true Balsamic vinegar as a food that’s only legit if it comes from a certain city or region. For Parmesan, the place is Parma, Italy, where folks have been making the popular hard cheese for almost a millennium.

This was spurred not so much by Parma wanting more validity and marketability for its cheese but from resenting Germany’s use of their name and rep.

But now I wonder what will become of all those menus with chicken, eggplant, and veal Parmesan? Does the stuff covered in marinara and melted mozzarella also have to include authentic Parmanese Parmesan?

Next time you’re at an Italian food joint, why not have a little fun? Flash a fake badge from the European Union Commission on Culinary Restrictions, feign the European accent of your choice, and start interrogating them. I especially recommend this if they serve veal parm.

Thanks to Hui, photographer, designer, and blogger, for the yummy photo!

The Hazon Food Conference

The Jew and the Carrot blog is all over this. While I was still marveling at folks who are equally passionate about food and Judaism and delighting in the view of dozens of Chanukah menorahs ablaze at the same time, the Hazon food bloggers were already serving up the events with tang and flare, not to mention thought and care.

Yes, I watched three goats become ex-goats through Kosher slaughter and learned about the intricacies of the Farm Bill and the ins and outs of feeding inmates and school kids in New York City. I ate greens picked just a mile away and seitan marsala and Kosher kimchi. And yes, I got to see that one of my photos — Shallots in a Hurry — was part of the fundraising photo exhibit. But I haven’t been able to sit down and write much about it.

Take a read. I’m still chewing.

The power of sun

The other night, I discovered a charred gash as long as my pinky finger and about as thick marring the hardcover spine of a book. The image startled me. How had The Omnivore’s Dilemma received a burn two inches long and half an inch deep, through layers of dustcover and binding, without my noticing? My glasses, which had been sitting next to the book, were also burned. One lens now oozes permanently, creating a warped spot in the lower right corner of my vision.

Did someone break into my apartment, burn my stuff with the lighter I had nearby to light candles, and leave? That seemed highly unlikely. But just to check, I tried holding the lighter to the book. It began burning a wider, messier gash than the one I had. The pinky-sized gash seems to have been made by a slower, more patient endeavor.

Had it happened while I was sleeping? Did a spark leap from the electrical outlet and ignite the book cover in a flame that went out a few minutes later? It was possible, but I would have surely smelled that or felt the heat.
Confused and unsettled, I gave up until the sun enlightened me the next morning. I picked up the book, put it down in the usual place on the night table, and noticed a bright, hot stream of light. The sun itself, with a slow and powerful presence, had reduced the work of human hands to ash and a carefully crafted pair of glasses to a fun house mirror.

It seemed fitting that such a thing would happen to a book that dedicates a great deal of time to talking about the sun and the “free lunch” it provides. In Michael Pollan’s estimation, humans would be far better off if more of them followed the example of farmers who raise grass-fed animals (or, as the farmer Pollan follows calls it, farming grass).

The idea is to let the grass soak up the sun and grow up to be tasty food, have the animals graze and poop on it, then eat the animals and/or their eggs and milk. The alternative is letting corn grow on sun and chemicals, processing the corn using polluting fuels and more chemicals, then feeding it to animals who may never have seen a blade of grass. Additional work comes in because the processed corn lacks antioxidants and generally animal-friendly elements found in grass. To round out this convoluted chain, the sun-shunning farmers must give their corn-fed critters tons of antibiotics.

We could avoid this long second scenario, Pollan concludes, if we just harnessed the free and abundant power of the sun and kept it simple. I know for sure that it’s abundant, but its power is far from simple.