Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Food Trends’ Category

 

Check out the footnote, “Added fats and oils and added sugars are added to foods during processing or preparation.” Reducing processed foods in a person’s diet would drastically impact this portion.

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

I’m kinda done with bacon.

There…I said it. Quick and painless–like pulling off a band-aid. I feel a bit better now. You can understand why that was so difficult for me to get out, can’t you? I mean, I am participating in this year-long celebration of charcuterie, and to mention that I’m tired of hearing about bacon is like a cheese maker expressing their displeasure for mozzarella. Homemade bacon (and mozzarella) is a gateway into the age-old craft, so why would I say that I’m done with it?

It’s because of the bacon donuts and bacon ice cream (Sorry Mr. Lebovitz) and other bacon desserts and bacon explosions and all this bacony crap. For the past 4 or 5 years it seems that people have been talking about bacon. All the talk about bacon has turned a wonderful food into a trite, cliche, marketing gimmick. Don’t get me wrong, I do like bacon; it’s fatty and salty and, if cooked properly, crispy. But I find myself wincing every time I see people talking about it. Why?!?

Maybe it’s because I’ve had enough bland, limp bacon in my life to wonder why people go nuts over it. Maybe I’m picturing people sprinkling Bac-Os on everything (you’re choice of Bits or Chips, but don’t worry neither contain meat or animal fat!). Maybe bacon has a PR problem.

Amidst all of this confusion I started to see the word “lardon” pop up in discussions about bacon. I didn’t have the same reaction to the word lardon as I did to bacon, yet there isn’t much difference in what they are. Maybe there was hope for me after all. So I started on my February challenge with the intent to make both a sweet and a savory bacon. I followed Rhulman’s recipes and added brown sugar to the sweet cure and garlic, black pepper, juniper berries, and bay leaves to the savory one. In the fridge for a week. Flipping the belly over for a nice massage every other day. By the eighth day, the thickest part of the belly was firm to the touch, so I rinsed it off and popped it into the oven for a couple of hours.  L and I had some friends over to do a taste test between the two types of bacon. The consensus seemed to be that each type of bacon had a significantly different flavor that it was hard to compare them to each other.


During the week that the bacon was curing, I was trying to decide what recipe to use for the challenge. It didn’t take long for me to remember a recipe that Deb at Smitten Kitchen posted a while back for Asparagus Hash. I’ve made it a handful of times, and I think we made it two times within one week once because it is so tasty. The savory bacon would be perfect for this recipe. Deb’s recipe called for pancetta, but since my pancetta wasn’t ready yet the savory bacon (lardon) would work fine in it’s place.

Into the pan goes the lardons to crisp. Pull them out and place them on a paper towel to drain. Into the pan goes chopped potatoes. Next goes the onions and shallots. Last into the mix is the asparagus. When the asparagus is finished, toss the lardons back into the pan and mix it all together. In a separate skillet, fry up a couple of eggs and plop them on the top of the hash. Pour yourself a tall glass of OJ or a Bloody Mary and enjoy!

I’m glad I chose the savory bacon for this recipe; it paired so well with the asparagus and potato flavors. I think the sweet bacon would have caused a bit of pallet confusion, and that’s never a good thing. I started to make pancetta for the February challenge, but it’ll still be hanging by the 15th, so I’ll put that post up when it’s done. In the mean time, I’ll raise my fork to home-cured bacon…er, lardons….er, whatever. This taste too good to quibble over semantics.

Read Full Post »

One of the best explanations of Twitter that I’ve heard is that it’s “a group of strangers that could be your best friends.” Sure, there’s a whole bunch of nonsense going on in the twitter-sphere, but the way I have chosen to interact with it is to find people who have similar interests, passions, focus, and ramble on about the things we love. It’s been great! (This also gives my wife a break from listening to me continually babble about varieties of squash, food trends, or new revelations in compost.)

So a few weeks ago, I started to see the hashtag #charcutepalooza pop up on a bunch of my friends’ twitter feeds. This piqued my attention because I had been toying with the idea of trying my hand at some simple charcuterie, but I didn’t know anyone (face to face) who was doing it. I started to look into this #charcutepalooza buzz and found out that two blogging friends (Mrs. Wheelbarrow’s Kitchen and The Yummy Mummy) have declared 2011 “The Year of Meat,” and that they were going to use Michael Ruhlman’s book Charcuterie as a guidebook for 12 challenges throughout the year. The past 6 week have created quite the commotion on the twitter-sphere using the hashtag #charcutepalooza, and there has even been a Washington Post article about it.

I wasn’t sure if I was going to sign up and join in because I thought I had too much going on with finishing up my last semester of school while starting an urban farm that employs developmentally disabled adults. But as I thought about, I realized that no matter how busy I get I find sanctuary in the kitchen. I never tire from cooking and experimenting with food. So I realized that even though I am in a very busy phase of my life, I always find time for food!

For then next 12 months you’ll see me posting the results of the challenges and some of the recipes for the different cured meats. The first two challenges include duck prosciutto and home cured bacon or pancetta. I’m sure that at some point in the year we are going to get into pates and terrines, and I might need some extra encouragement during those challenges.

I hope you enjoy the Year of Meat as much as I will.

Read Full Post »

Yesterday I attended a lecture entitled “Tomorrow’s Table: Organic Farming, Genetics and the Future of Food”  The lecture topic and titled is also the title of the lecturers book.  I hadn’t heard of the book or the speakers before I heard about the lecture, so I didn’t have a very wide frame of reference to base any opinions about them or their material.  I have been hearing a growing discussion about the idea of combining organic farming practices with genetically engineered (GE) plants or genetically modified organisms (GMO), and I was anticipating this lecture to be in a similar vein of thought.

Here’s a brief bio of the two authors. (I lifted this directly from the lecture notes from last night.)
“Pamela Ronald is Professor of Plant Pathology at the University of California, Davis, where she studies the role that genes play in a plant’s response to its environment. Her laboratory has genetically engineered rice for resistance to diseases and flooding, both of which are serious problems of rice crops in Asia and Africa.”
“Raoul Adamchak has grown organic crops for twenty years, part of the time as a partner in Full Belly Farm, a private 150-acre organic vegetable farm. He has inspected over one hundred organic farms as an inspector for California Certified Organic Farmers (CCOF) and served as a member and President of CCOF’s Board of Directors. He now works at the U.C., Davis as the Market Garden Coordinator at the certified organic farm on campus.”

Raoul began the lecture by discussing the problems that our current (global) forms of agriculture are causing throughout the world.  He wasn’t blaming any one type of farming for this, he was just stating facts and statistics.  It wasn’t really anything we all haven’t heard before.  He then spoke about what he was doing in the world of Organic agriculture.  He finished his time by stating that Organic agriculture was not enough of a solution to the global crisis that is caused by agriculture worldwide.  Pam spoke next about what GE plants are and how they are made.  She then spoke about her work on flood resistant rice.

Ok, now that that’s all out of the way, let me say how disappointed I was in the lecture.  I was hoping that the lecture would be a serious discussion of whether or not GE plants and organic agriculture can coexist, but this was not the case.  As Raoul spent the majority of his time talking about the problems caused by the majority of the agricultural practices and very little time discussing Organic agriculture.  I found this very disconcerting.  I have never seen or heard another organic farmer less passionate about Organic production.  At best, he appeared apathetic.  And what disturbs me most about it is that he is the president of the California Certified Organic Farmers board.

I found Pam to be an engaging speaker.  She was very clear about her points and purpose, however I found that her arguments were based upon false dichotomies that she would create.  She would argue that the majority of the world couldn’t afford to purchase organic foods, yet the majority of the world eats based on subsistence farming, and for the most part cannot afford to purchase chemical pesticides regardless of whether they are organic or synthetic.

What bothered me the most about the lecture was that their argument for the use of GE crops was that their reasoning seemed to be, “we have the ability and science to do this, so we should.”  During the question and answer period, someone ask what they thought about seed ownership and how the consolidation of the seed industry impacts farmers.  Pam’s answer was that the rice that she has been developing is being done through a grant from the USDA, and that the issues of consolidation needed to be addressed by the Department of Justice.  This answer came off as so flippant, that any credibility that I was giving to them was gone.  The thesis of their lecture (and I’m guessing of their book as well) was that we need an integrated approach to agriculture, one that includes organic practices and GE crops, in order to feed the world without destroying it.  By it’s nature this thesis is broad, yet the answer they gave last night was narrow.  Any time a question was brought up regarding the ethics of GE crops, the speakers redirected the question without addressing the concern.  And when a question of  decreasing genetic biodiversity came up, the answer ignored the dependence on single varieties that GE crops promote.

While I was biking home from the lecture, I had some time to think about what was presented.  By the time I got home I realized what had left me feeling so disturbed.  The discussion of  “feeding the world” has so many moving parts that it’s nearly impossible to involve every aspect of the discussion.  The science of creating a GE seed cannot be divorced from the recognition that there are companies looking to profit from the seed, yet the speakers intentionally chose to ignore this reality.  I wonder how GE seed scientist feel about participating in a business that puts farmers into debt and when a crop failure occurs, 1500 farmers see no way out other than suicide? This is not a sustainable solution.

Read Full Post »

This is the second post, reflecting on my time at a Growing Power Workshop.  In the last post I wrote about Will Allen and the people who work there.  In this post I’ll be writing about the farm, itself.

I had seen pictures and video of Growing Power before I visited, so I thought that I had a good idea of what the farm looked like.  However, seeing it in person gave me a real appreciation for what they are doing in the city.  As you walk through the greenhouses you will quickly notice that they are using as much space in the houses as possible.  As we toured the facility Will would encourage us to “look at the use of vertical space.”  They use hanging baskets hung from hanging baskets for sprouts and micro-greens. They have built shelving to grow their trays of greens, and they use some artificial lighting where shading might be an issue.  This use of space allows them to capitalize on their greenhouses available growing space.  If you’ve spent much time in a greenhouse you’ll know that in many cases there is so much unused space.  There may be a table for growing, but then there is 10+ feet of space above the plants.  Because Growing Power is using all this space they are able to grow sprouts at $30/sq. foot!  If you had an acre of greenhouses the potential is there to make $1.5 million in an acre of greenhouses.  This does, of course, assume that there will be people in the area to purchase an $1.5 million in sprouts, but Will was quick to mention that the the demand for the sprouts and mirco-greens is so much greater than their ability to produce them at this time.  Their main consumers for all these greens are local restaurant and health-based grocery stores.

The next thing that you would notice about Growing Power’s greenhouses is that they are using aquaponics to raise Tilapia and Lake Perch.  I don’t have any experience with aquaponics, so I was pretty amazed at what they were doing.  My understanding of the aquaponics system is pretty minimal, so I hope my explanation isn’t too lacking.

Growing Power uses a few different types of aquaponics set-ups, but they all seem to operate in the same way.  The fish are raised in a tank or trough underneath a wooden shelf.  The fish are raised in tanks that hold several thousand gallons of water; each fish requires one gallon of water’s worth of space.  The fish are introduced into the system as minnows and take about 8-12 months to reach a harvestable weight (1.5-2 lbs).  The water from the fish tanks are pumped up to the top shelf and gravity draws the water back down to the fish tanks after making its way through each shelf.  The shelves are filled with watercress and other greens, which collect the fish “bio-solids” and nutrients up through their roots.  This helps filter the water before it is cycled back to the fish tanks.  At this point the water can also be used to water other plants in the nearby area.  I didn’t spend too much time looking at the aquaponics set-up; I felt like this aspect of Growing Power was not something that I will likely be incorporating any time soon.  I was really interesting, though.

While passing through the greenhouses you would notice that one house was dedicated to vermicomposting. Read anything about Growing Power or Will Allen and you will hear that the worms and the compost are central to the work that they are doing there.  The compost provides the plants with a nutrient-dense growing medium to thrive in.  So how do they make it?  The first, big step in the process is to divert waste from the waste stream.  Growing Power collects food waste, brewers mash, and coffee grounds from local businesses that would normally be heading to the landfill.  When they have collected the materials that they need, they compost them outdoors.  The “pre-composting” (before the worms get to it) allows them to have a quicker turnover time for worm castings and it allows them to compost a greater quantity than they could do inside.  This compost goes to one of two places: to become a growing medium for planting or to the worm bin to become worm casting.  Follow the compost inside to the worm bins and you soon see a beautiful, dark, rich compost.  The compost gets put in a bin with some worms and sits while the worms do their thing.  The worms make their way through the compost, aerating and digesting as they go.  What is left is highly nutrient-dense worm castings.

Going from the pre-composted compost to the worm castings is not only a great step for the health of the plants, but it is also a good business move.  Creating the worm castings adds a value-added product to their production because now they are able to sell packages of worm castings (which sell commercially for around $1.50/lb) but they can also sell the worms.  I think that in the growing world of urban farming, farmers will need to be thinking about ways that they can add value-added products to their farms.  A great example is the worm castings that Growing Power is selling.

All right, lets head outside and take a look at the hoop houses.  This was one of the things I was most interested to see, because it is the closest type of production to what I would like to be doing.  I’ve been doing a lot of reading about winter harvesting and Growing Power is using some interesting methods to keep the temps in their at a reasonable temp.  Visiting Milwaukee in January was a perfect chance to see how they were putting their methods to work.  Now, hoop houses are generally unheated structures made with a clear plastic cover.  This allows the sunlight and heat to hold in the structure as a method of starting the growing season earlier and extending it later.  There becomes a time in the season when the hoop house can no longer hold enough heat that the plants need to grow.  Heating a hoop house is an option, but by design, not the most efficient use of energy.  It can be done, and has been done, but if your goal is to have a heated structure you are better off with a green house, not a hoop house.  What Will does, though, is he uses a mix of spent brewers mash (the grains that beer makers use to to brew the beer) and other high nitrogen materials to release heat into the hoop houses.  As the materials break down they release heat.  This is a method that allows them to heat their hoop houses using materials that would be heading to the landfill otherwise.  In each inside corner of the hoop house they pile this hot compost mix and cover it with wood chips and coir (to use as a filter to capture the ammonia released).  This material does break done and will stop releasing heat, so the pile is added to every other week.  As the winter season goes on the piles continue to decompose and they end up with great compost by spring.  The other way that they help heat stay in the hoop house is by lining the outside walls with 2-3 feet of hot compost.  This acts as an insulation for the house.  How did all of this work?  Well, look at the photos below.  The temps outside were in the single digits, but inside the thermometer read 40F.  When the temps inside dip below 30F they cover the plants with plastic row covers to help hold in heat.  The hoop houses had raised beds planted with spinach and other cold-hardy greens and seem to be doing great.  I think there is great potential for winter harvesting and I was excited to see how they were putting things into practice.  And if they can harvest greens in Milwaukee in January, why cant we do this in other cities too?

I’ll end this long post with some pictures of some of the animals they had on site.  They were raising heritage turkey breeds for meat, chickens for eggs, and goats for milk.  I would like to know more about some of their challenges with raising the animals, but there was not enough time at the workshop for everything.  Oh well.  Enjoy the cute animals.  Let me know if I wasn’t clear about something or if you have any questions.  I’ll be happy to expound a bit more.

Read Full Post »

I mentioned in my last post that I wanted to write about my time at the Growing Power workshop, so I’m going to try to gather my thoughts and share them as best as I can.  Part of me feels that I should allow myself some time to digest all that I experienced before trying to share it with other people.  There was so much energy and information and excitement that it was impossible to absorb and remember everything that happened.  Rather than writing a long post about every detail of what we did I think I’ll write a few posts on some big picture experiences that I had.  Any objections?  Ok, here we go.

There were about 40 people there for the Saturday/Sunday workshop and another 30 people that were there for the first of a “once a month, for five months” Friday-Sunday workshop.  When we gathered together for the first time on Saturday morning there was a lot of nervous excitement.  A long row of tables was set up in one of the green houses.  This would be where we gathered together to eat and gather together when we were not in a workshop.  When I sat down to eat it was easy to start to talk to the people around me.  A few guys were there from Connecticut where they work at Urban Oaks.  Another lady next to me was from a place in northern Wisconsin who was working to revitalize her community through community gardens.  There was guy from the Rogers Park in Chicago.  He was on the board of a community garden/farm and he was the one who was elected to come up for the weekend.  We ate breakfast and mingled–wondering what the weekend was going to be like.

After a while Will Allen emerged from the one of the other greenhouses.  His presence is as commanding in person as it seems to be in video.  He was wearing a sleeveless hooded sweatshirt; that made me smile.  Will gave us an introduction to some of his staff and a quick briefing of what we could expect during the weekend.  Before we took a tour of the farm Will asked us go around and introduce ourselves and tell everyone else where we were from and what we do.  It was a little surprising to hear that we were going to take the time to introduce ourselves to everyone in that way, but it really set the tone for the whole weekend.  As we took turns introducing ourselves it became pretty clear that although we were all coming from areas of the country (and even a number of people from Canada) we were all looking for inspiration and support.  Even thought we were there to see and learn about the things that Growing Power was doing, I think the opportunity to get to know people from different places and working on different projects was just as beneficial.  People are so important to Growing Power.  They proved this by providing us time to sit, talk, and learn from and with each other.

“The thing we do best is to inspire people into action.” -Will Allen

Will wants people to learn.  He comes across as being a teacher at heart.  As the weekend’s activities unfolded Will would stop into each of the workshops to ask what we were learning. “Take me back to the beginning.” he would prod the group.  A person in the group would start explaining the steps until Will found time to interject, “And then what happens?”  He would ask this question until he heard the answer he was looking for, playfully prodding the group for the answer.  When he heard what he was looking for he would put his hands up in defense and exclaim with a smile, “I’m just trying to learn.”

One concept that Will continually returned to was the importance of maintaining relationships with the community around Growing Power.  He stressed the importance that once a relationship is built you must work to maintain that relationship.  If you create an agreement with a restaurant or grocery store to take their kitchen wastes for compost, then you had better be there to pick them up.  If those relationships are fractured they are hard to put back together.  There were a few chefs in the group that he asked to support this idea, and then we listened as Will began to preach a short sermon on building relationships with chefs.  “Chefs today…” he said with the rhythm and force of an African-American preacher—building momentum as he spoke. “Chefs today know what good food is…Chefs today want to have the freshest ingredients to serve their guests…Chefs today are a huge player in the Food Revolution.”  And as he preached, we responded with several “Amens.”

Will spoke often about the Food Revolution.  “This is no longer a food movement,” he would say “this is a food revolution.”  This word play on what is being done is powerful.  The thought of participating in a revolution is inspiring.  This food revolution is taking place all across the country.  The food revolution is rising up in urban centers and rural communities.  And the food revolutionaries that are taking up this cause span all ages, genders, races, and political preferences.  “This is a revolution, and it’s growing.  You cannot have a sustainable community without involving sustainable foods.”

The other thing that Will stressed as he spoke was that this revolution would only continue if we did things.  The revolution needs action.  There is a need to hash through policy issues, but simply talking about it wouldn’t show what the solutions could look like.  This workshop weekend was a great example of this.  The purpose wasn’t to show people how to create little Growing Powers all across the country.  The purpose was to inspire people to think creatively about ways that their own communities can take part in the food revolution in ways that are most beneficial to those communities.

“We could talk about this stuff all day, but now is the time for action…” –Will Allen

Read Full Post »

2. Experimentation Nation
When’s the last time you sat down to fine dining at a taco truck? If you live in L.A., chances are you’ve at least given it a try (Kimchee quesadilla, anyone?). How about selecting your own wine by the glass after sampling a few from an Enomatic system, the way you can at Nora’s Wine Bar & Osteria? Restaurant concepts are in flux as people redefine what going “out” to eat means. Gastropubs, fusion dining, shareables, and communal tables are all being tried. While this started because of the economy it will finish because consumers will indicate what works for them and what doesn’t. New concepts around “fresh” and DIY will do well. Experimentation is the trend, so we’ll see concepts come and go.

This is a trend that I think has been on the rise for a while.  Restaurants have been trying to find ways to separate themselves from the pack through promoting niche ideas.  Eating out has become more that simply eating at a restaurant- Restaurants are now expected to provide an “experience” for the diners.  This experience has come in all shapes and sizes already: molecular gastronomy has had some time to shine, although I think this is one trend that not going to peak again for some time.  As the economy has folks reigning in their luxury spending, I think that these type of dining experiences/entertainments are not going to make the cut.  Communal/Share tables is a trend that I think will continue to rise in popularity.  I think the idea will be attempted by all sorts of eateries, yet only a small few will be able to pull it off in the long run.  I think diners are wanting to talk about food and the opportunity to share a table with others and discuss while they eat together is an appealing idea.  This will only work when the food is worth talking about.  The chefs that cook for these communal meal must be willing to experiment to the point that they are drawing the conversations out of the eaters.  A “chef” who is reheating frozen stakes that came off the back of a sysco truck is going to have a hard time inspiring eaters.

Another element to this trend are “experiments” that are going to be mostly found in urban settings where access to fresh food is often more difficult.  Some people have already been experimenting with ideas like the Peaches and Greens Wagon.  I expect to see more ideas like this pop up.  The demand for fresh, healthy, and affordable food is really high, but currently the supply is limited by poor imagination.  I think we’ll see more vending machines carrying fresh fruits.  I think we’ll see more “fresh-fast” food restaurants pop up.  I think we’ll see urban farms becoming more visible, and as this happens I would love to see many of them having farm dinners.

I really hope that Food Education is what drives this trend.  I would love to see chefs working with butchers and cheese mongers to educate eaters about what it takes to put the pancetta and blue cheese on their menu.  I hope more farms find ways to host meals on their farms to show eaters that carrots do indeed, grow in the ground.  There are many chefs and farmers that are really trying to lead this trend.  May their tribe increase.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »