Megnut

Very big lobsterThe cold rainy spring here in the Northeast has been a bummer for me. But it's really been a bummer for lobstermen. A pattern of strong northwest winds has made it difficult for lobstermen to head out to sea for the last two months or so. And colder water temperatures mean the lobsters aren't feeding, so the traps are often empty. End result: lobster is scarce and pricey right now.

Playing catch up

I've been so busy doing stuff over at Serious Eats that I've been completely neglecting this site. I've built up a bunch of links I've been meaning to post though, so I'm going to just give them all to you in one big lump, since who knows when I'll have time to write properly about them or mete them out. Some are probably so old you've already seen them, but oh well. That's what I get for letting things sit around I suppose.

Organic crime in Bay Ridge looks at smuggling raw milk in Brooklyn, NY.

It doesn’t add up: math in the era of trans fat labeling. When zero doesn't mean zero.

Restoration on the Half Shell opines about oyster farming in the Mid-Atlantic states.

Was He the Eggman? A look at the history of eggs Benedict.

Jamba Juice may or may not have milk in their non-dairy mix. They also may or may not have a non-dairy mix at all.

The Red-Meat Miracle, and Other Tales From the Butcher Case. Harold McGee looks at why red meat is red, and how carbon monoxide can make older meat and fish look "fresh."

Cruelty-Free Carnivorism links and trend over at Buzzfeed. Assuage your conscience and fill your belly!

Bovine growth hormone: human food safety evaluation. An abstract from a Science article in 1990 stating "recombinant bovine growth hormone (rbGH) in dairy cattle presents no increased health risk to consumers."

And finally, The New Rules of Food. "Basic knowledge of where food comes from and how it is produced is lost on many Americans today. How differently would we eat if we got to know our food better?"

Gah, that's a lot of stuff I should have been posting! Hopefully I'll be more on top of things beginning next week. In the meantime, enjoy!

meatpaper.jpg

Meatpaper is a new magazine, it's "a print magazine of art and ideas about meat. We like metaphors more than marinating tips. We are your journal of meat culture." One of the editors, Sasha, attended high school with me, but until now I was not aware of her meat love! I'm looking forward to seeing the first issue, it sounds intriguing.

Is Mario Batali selling out?

mario_batali.jpgMario Batali has sold out is and is using his name to move frozen dinners for General Mills, according to an article on Grist. The author wishes Batali would bring his "talent and fame to bear on the great food issue of our time: the environmental, social, and public-health ruin served up as a matter of course by our industrial food system." Well sure, I'd like to see that from a lot of our leading food personalities, but we all don't believe in the same causes.

From what I've heard, Batali actually worked long and hard to make sure these dinners were tasty and good-quality. They won't be cheap, something around $10 or so to feed four people. So clearly they're a step up from Stouffer's. Plus, if you're going to call Batali a sell-out, wouldn't you have done so after that NASCAR cookbook?

The recent dog and cat food scare has people cooking food for their pets at home because of safety concerns. I totally understand this desire, as a cat owner, but I don't have the time. I'm relieved I've been using Wellness Cat Food for my kitty for several years now. Wellness products haven't been affected by the recall because they don't use wheat gluten. If you're concerned about your pet's food, and don't have time to cook for them, check out Wellness. The wet cat food doesn't even smell gross! And that's saying something.

It's National Peanut Butter & Jelly day, which means we're celebrating over at Serious Eats. I wrote an article, J: Jams, Jellies (and Preserves and Conserves), all about the difference between the many type of "jams" and how they're made.

Many health problems, like diabetes and cancer, are linked to what you drink. Not surprisingly, water is best drink bet. But Americans have increased their consumption of sweetened drinks like soda and juices a lot in the past thirty years. "About 21 percent of calories consumed by Americans over the age of 2 come from beverages, predominantly soft drinks and fruit drinks with added sugars." And even diet sodas don't get you off the hook, because of the lack of long-term safety data for artificial sweeteners. Wine, coffee, and milk are all recommended over sweet drinks.

Wolfgang Puck's humane decision

Americans consume vastly more chicken, turkey, pork and beef than foie gras and veal, and most of the creatures those meats come from are raised in ways that are ethically and environmentally unsound. And so the New York Times lauds chef Wolfgang Puck's decision to "use products only from animals raised under strict humane standards" in all his restaurants. This means no more battery chicken or beef, but also no more foie gras. As a reader of this site, you're probably aware of my support for ethical and humane animal husbandry but also my support for foie gras.

I've read a lot about foie gras production, articles in support of it and articles against it. The one I found most enlightening was Jeffrey Steingarten's article for Men's Vogue from the spring of 2006, Stuffed Animals: Is foie gras the height of gastronomic pleasure or murder most fowl? His reports of stress studies done on foie gras ducks and geese conclude the animals are not in pain during the feeding process. And so I've felt comfortable eating foie gras on occasion.

Which leaves me in a troubling spot with regards to this editorial and Puck's decision. I want to fully support it, yet including foie gras bothers me. You don't need to measure the levels of corticosterone (a hormone closely associated with stress, reports Steingarten) in crated pigs or chickens to know they're stressed out. You can tell that because they chew off each other's tails (pigs) and peck each other to death (chickens) when kept on factory farms. And anything that relieves these animals from such deplorable conditions absolutely gets my support. But there seems to be a growing consensus that foie gras production is inhumane, and so it's included in decisions like Puck's. But if it's not inhumane, is that really fair? Or does the fact that someone is finally taking on the truly inhumane factory farm industry outweigh the loss of some succulent fatty liver? Honestly, I don't know.

Larger portions are a reliable way to bolster the average check at restaurants. "So while it may cost a restaurant a few pennies to offer 25 percent more French fries, it can raise its prices much more than a few cents." And the Super Size was born. Some restaurants are struggling to reign in portion size, but it cuts into their profit margin (causing big trouble for publicly-traded companies) and customers complain they're not getting value. If only Americans prized quality the way they do value. I guess then we'd be France or Switzerland or something.

Not sure how I missed this profile of chef David Chang, of Momofuku Noodle Bar and Momfuku Ssäm Bar fame. I've been a Noodle Bar fan for a while now, but only recently visit Ssäm since they changed the menu. (I had the burritos a couple times last fall and enjoyed them.) And oh what an idiot I've been! Now I've been twice to Ssäm and can't wait to get back there again very soon, like tomorrow, even though I was there last night! It's far and away my favorite new place to eat: comfy and friendly, relaxed service, and phenomenal food. I had scallops with a lychee gelee that I'm still thinking about nearly a week later! Jason wrote up our first visit there. I'm ssoo crazy for Ssäm!

Best chocolate chip cookie search

CookiesRecently I've been on a kind of chocolate chip cookie mission, trying to find and make the best chocolate chip cookies possible. After dismissing the recipe on the back of the chip package, I was looking forward to making Adam Roberts' The Best Cookies Of Your Life. Last night I did, and I'm sad to report that while good, the cookies where not The Best of My Life. A little too thin for my taste. Of course, the other recipe I rejected for being too cakey, so clearly I'm difficult to satisfy.

Do you have a good recipe? I'm determined to find one I really enjoy, so if you've got something you think worthy, post it (or a link to it) in the comments. I'll bake all the ones I receive, and pass judgment when I'm finished. Let the cookie games begin!

Buzzfeed's got two new food trends today: Unfiltered Olive Oil and Eating in the Dark. I've heard of unfiltered olive oil, but eating in the dark? Restaurants in China are in on the trend that has diners eating in total darkness, unable to see their spoons or dinner companions, never mind what they're actaully ingesting. Uh, no thanks.

Demand for raw milk seems to be rising faster than cream in an unhomogenized gallon jug. Time reports on the apparently increasing efforts to shut down raw milk sellers around the US.

The world’s largest pork producer, Smithfield Foods, intends to phase out gestation crates for female pigs. "Of the 60 million pigs in the United States, over 95 percent are continuously confined in metal buildings, including the almost five million sows in crates. In such setups, feed is automatically delivered to animals who are forced to urinate and defecate where they eat and sleep." Gestation crates nearly immobilize pregnant females, and keep them from even being able to turn around.

Now is the time for Sweet Sweet Passover Coke. Unlike regular Coke, which is made with high fructose corn syrup, Passover Coke is made with real sugar. Get it while it lasts and enjoy the superior flavor.

Coming soon to the big screen near you: Julia Roberts as Ruth Reichl? It looks like Reichl's third book, Garlic and Sapphires, about her adventures as the restaurant critic for the New York Times, will be made into a movie. Reichl is an executive producer on the project and is hoping Robert's will play her. That could totally work, especially if Robert's hair is dyed black. Both have those big curly manes and giant teeth-filled smiles.

Ignorant food policy mandates will soon lead us to ban mother’s milk, writes one New York Times reader in a letter to the editor, "loaded as it is with 'bad' things: cholesterol, saturated fat, sugar and trans fat." It would be funny if it weren't almost possibly true.

Reader Feedback

Yesterday's post about Starbucks inspired a bit of reader email, some of which I will answer publicly here for everyone's benefit:

1. Don't you think that a major market force like Starbucks can come up with a better excuse than "it will take a couple of years". How many people would accept WalMart saying "It'll take a couple of years to get all our employees up to 40 hours a week". Starbucks has the power to say "non-rBGH milk NOW" and make it happen. - Teena

Teena, good point. It does seems like something that could be done rather quickly in most metropolitan areas, certainly New York. Check out the next reader email. - Meg

2. Not sure if you know about the Starbucks "Hold the Hormones" campaign. You can check it out at: www.holdthehormones.org. We know that Starbucks' stores in Northern California, New England, New Mexico, Montana, Oregon, Washington, Idaho and Alaska are all rBGH-free. For NYC, you'd have to ask at the stores whether or not they're rBGH-free. - Audrey

Audrey, great news. Sounds like they're making a lot of progress. With continued pressure from consumers, hopefully the process will be completed in less than a couple years.

3. Parmalat...is a brand of milk (check the intrigues involved with that Italian company), not a variety like 2%. - Joe

Yes, it is. I'm not sure I said anywhere that it wasn't.- Meg

Thanks for your thoughts folks, and keep those emails coming.

Food 1, Meg 0

Meg gives upSo today may be the day when I throw my hands in the air in frustration and give up when it comes to food. Yesterday I confirmed that my attempts to drink the occasional "healthy" latte precluded rBGH from my diet but yielded no nutritional value. Today I spot, from the Serious Eats blog, a link to this item about the value of eating oily fish for its Omega-3s only to discover "tuna counts only if it's fresh, so no points for that tuna mayo sandwich." What?! I've been eating so much more tuna these days because of everything I've read about tuna and Omega-3s.

Following the current nutritional dictates is confusing and no guarantee of success, regardless of whether they seem silly ("no carbs") or reasonable ("Yay Omega-3s"). So that's it. I'm done. I'm tired of over-thinking everything I eat. It's exhausting and it doesn't seem to do much good. I'm going to follow Michael Pollan's Nine Key Points and "Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants."

The succulent taste of forced rhubarb is infinitely more delicate than the kind grown in ordinary gardens. "The roots, or crowns, of outdoor rhubarb are left in the fields for two to three years and are then lifted, by hand, from November through to Christmas and replanted into low, dark forcing sheds where they are kept warm and moist as the shoots form." I wonder if it's like white asparagus compared to green, which is also grown in the dark. It sounds yummy, and there are a bunch of recipes linked at the end of the article.

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