Home cooking – the happiest meal of all

Cooking pot (what a surprise)

In response to a city council vote to ban toys from Happy Meals, an op-ed in the San Francisco Examiner in early November argued that it’s no biggie. The piece came from Karen Wells, vice president of nutrition and menu strategy for McDonald’s USA. She argues that the boxed meals–consisting mostly of processed foods with fairly high fat, sodium, and sugar content–are a treat, not a threat.

I’m glad that someone views our fast food nation this way. As I noted in another post, Americans spend just 27 minutes a day preparing food, according to Michael Pollan’s research. He writes that this amounts to half the time we spent in the 1960s. By one count, McDonald’s has sold more than 20 billion of these meals since it first introduced the concept in 1979, averaging more than 640 million per year. Continue reading

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Remembering Carlos Guardado

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There was a sweet article in the Post today, made the front page. It’s about Carlos Guardado, a food truck vendor who sold burritos at 17th and K for 20 years and then died suddenly of a heart attack. Regular customers wept into their tailored suits and perfect strangers hugged one another in the spot where Guardado’s truck used to sit, the reporter wrote. I found myself sniffling as I read my newspaper on the Metro, but then I folded it up and pretty much forgot about it. Continue reading

Here–drink this

I never drink soda, usually prefer red wine, and one beer takes me an hour. But my drinking habits have diverged from the norm lately, as my food adventures broke off from this blog and my usual topics. I still slurp the juice from farmers market peaches, yes, but I quit my gig writing about it for Examiner.com (farewell post here) and took the summer to try a few new concepts.

White wine was one. Drinking beer two bottles in one sitting (or boat ride) was another. And if you want to know more… Continue reading

Passion

Mid-way through this 21-day cleanse, I was thinking a lot about human passion. Most animals have strong desires to eat, sleep, procreate, and recreate. Humans want to do that, too. But we want to be able to do all of those things while suspended 100 stories above the ground, after driving on enormous loops of concrete or possibly careening through the air in several tons of metal. Oh, and when we arrive and get down to addressing our basic needs, we want to have strains of Chopin glittering in the background, and room service with a sprig of parsley.

We want to build onto, break apart, dig into, and make over the world. We see what is there and think we could have something a whole lot better. Then we make that something. That’s what makes us human. Continue reading

Stop and think; choose a blessing and bless; eat

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(This is cross-posted from The Jew and the Carrot)

Life in general distracts me. It’s true no matter what I’m doing or where I am. If I go into the food co-op for bread and peanut butter, I’ll carry out shampoo and trail mix; when I resolve to run twelve times around the track, I lose count after the third loop. Even when I get through a task, I often neglect to follow up or look back to consider its lessons. By the time I’m halfway through, my mind is already whirring off in another direction.

So I was a little concerned when I signed up for a 21-day “spring rejuvenation cleanse” and learned that it would involve focus. In multiple ways. But this also got to the heart of why I wanted to purify in the first place.

To get the most out of this food-based detoxifying experience, the approximately 50 participants are supposed to eat certain foods, avoid others, prepare detoxifying recipes, breathe deeply, take long walks, and journal about the whole thing each day. On top of all that, our guide encourages us to “eat mindfully.” I figured if I could do all of that, I might have a fighting chance of getting my attention deficit into the black. Continue reading

Super Bowl snacks go all the way to the farmers market

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Potato wedges. Photo: Creative Commons/fotoosvanrobin

Though neither Super Bowl contender hails from the East Coast area that you likely inhabit, dear reader, your game day spread can still come from local sources. Why not? Local food supports the economy of your home town (or adopted city), and offers healthier options. And with year-round farmers markets in full swing, it’s easy to find ingredients for locally-sourced snacks.

To add local tang to your table, compliment tortilla chips with salsas from Toigo Orchards (just be sure to warn guests that the medium-hot chipotle is addictive). Or make a veggie platter with kohlrabi, radishes, carrots, and raw turnips from area farms. For a refined Super Bowl soiree, spread Firefly Farms goat cheese on slices of Atwater’s sourdough.

As for recipes, guacamole is out. This year, everyone from Melissa Clark of the New York Times to Bobby Flay in Parade is sharing their perfect version of bleu cheese dip. Why not try it for yourself, and make yours local? Whether it’s for vegetables, chips, or wings, Keswick Creamery’s Blue Suede Moo and Firefly Farms’ Mountain Top Bleu are at your service. The recipe below pairs a bleu cheese dip with hearty wedges of potato. That fall crop still arrives fresh at farmers markets through the winter, thanks to farmers’ root cellars. (Recipe after the jump). Continue reading

What would Moses drive?

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What would Moses drive? This was the title of a session on climate change at the Hazon Food Conference, held December 24 to 27 in Pacific Grove, Calif. Indeed, this is a question for the ages. Or for right now.

…that’s the opening of a post I wrote for Jewcy.com. I was thrilled to write for them, and to share thoughts on the intersection of Judaism and climate change action. Read the whole post at Jewcy.

A fine flurry of opinion

Religion, ethics, food morals, and chickens’ flesh and souls have all collided in a flurry on The Jew and the Carrot. Hazon, the Jewish environmental organization that runs the blog, has planned a ritual slaughter of chickens as part of its annual food conference, and not everyone agrees with this idea.

Check out the discussion flying every which way at “The Debate:  Eating Meat (or not) at the Hazon Food Conference”.

Yes, we kale! Er, can.

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The Marine Corps Marathon 10K is seven days away, and I’m still fundraising.

This morning, I headed to the Takoma Park Farmers Market with the goal of drumming up some donations in addition to doing my usual shopping. I expected to make my plug, hand out my fliers, and just hope people would go to the website or send in a check to make a contribution to the Crossroads Farmers Market.

Then, as I was finishing my spiel, one woman bundled up against the cold just about cut me off. “So can I just give you a donation?” she said impatiently. I shut  my mouth and nodded. Then she handed me a $5 bill–less than the checks and PayPal funds we’d been seeing, but enough for a Fresh Check for a family’s week of groceries. Of course! I thought.

In the next few minutes, I got yet more cash. One donor was a man without a coat, wearing faded sweat pants. He was trying to catch a bus trundling closer to us every minute. Yet he took the time to fish a dollar out of his pocket and present it for the cause. If I’d stayed for another hour or two, I could have filled a hat or even quart basket.

I couldn’t stay longer because I had to scoot off to work for this announcement, but I’d learned something for the next time: Community support can come not only in chunks of money over the internet from your network of friends, but can come from total strangers in small but numerous packages.

So as James and Holly Hammond’s “Obama kale” from Waterpenny Farm reminds us, yes, the community kale! Er, can.

With that in mind, I went off and ran eight miles today–farther than I’ve ever run, and almost two miles beyond what I’ll have to do next Sunday.

Thank you to everyone who has given!

Eggrolls, tummy bulge, and the food revolution

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Eggrolls and tummy bulge. Those were the concerns of Cornell University researches in a study released last year in the journal Obesity, but the research–and the discussion about it–may have fallen short.

The study tracked the habits of people with various body mass indexes (BMIs) at a Chinese buffet, and found several differences in the actions of people with high and low BMIs. All good and helpful, I say.

Then this week, David Zinczenko, co-author of the hit Eat This, Not That! book series, turned the findings into a guide to the habits of people who qualified as obese versus their daintier lo mein-slurping counterparts. The top two Zinczenko singles out:

  • They use larger plates. When offered two plate sizes, 98.6 percent of those with the highest BMIs took the larger of the two plates to the buffet. A bigger plate tricks your eye into thinking you’re not eating as much, and stuffing more food onto your plate — and into your mouth. Use a smaller plate, get a smaller belly.
  • They eat while looking at food. 41.7 percent of those with high BMIs took seats that overlooked the buffet, instead of sitting in a booth or facing in a different direction. The site of food tends to make our minds think we have more work to do, eating-wise. Keep your food stored in the fridge or the pantry, not out on the countertops. Continue reading