My dirty truth is that I have a collection of Coke bottles from around the world: one from Mexico, one with Arabic script, one covered in unrecognizable lettering and filled with Yugoslavian beach glass, and so on. I was a teenager when I amassed them and totally oblivious to the implications behind this international menagerie of emptied glass. This drink was everywhere, tailored slightly through variations in local water and variations in bottle size, but ultimately the same. I loved that I could find it anywhere.
Michael Blanding’s book, The Coke Machine: The Dirty Truth Behind the World’s Favorite Soft Drink aims to tell the real story behind that happy global picture of people who speak different languages, have different skin color, but happily drink Coke. His story begins in 1886, with Coke’s origin as a snake oil tonic, and extends all the way up to its present incarnation as a multinational beverage corporation. Read more
The Food and Climate Connection: From Heating the Planet to Healing It, an excellent new short film produced by WHY Hunger and Anna Lappé, highlights how climate change is affecting farmers around the world (rural and urban), and how our industrial food system is itself one of the greatest contributors to climate change. Farmers, especially in the developing world, are being challenged by heavy rains, extreme drought/desertification, and unpredictable weather. As Monsanto and the like co-opt the sustainability message and present technological solutions to mitigating extreme weather—”change the seeds, that’ll do it!”–the experts in this film (including Lappé, Rodale Institute’s Timothy LaSalle, Molly Anderson of Food Systems Integrity and various community farmers) urge us to examine biological solutions instead. Responsible farming practices can be part of a path forward. Read more
Manny Howard’s new book, My Empire of Dirt, is haunted by the living ghost of Wendell Berry. First there’s the epigraph by Berry in which he instructs us on how to “use land well,” and it includes knowing and loving the land, and using the right tools. (To paraphrase a master, poorly.)
Then, early on in Howard’s recounting of a season spent trying to turn his south Brooklyn backyard into a homestead, the voice of Wendell Berry comes to him, offering further wisdom. Only problem is, Howard confesses in the epilogue that “On the Farm, Wendell Berry girded me. Not that I had ever read a word he’d written until I was back at my desk, trying to make sense of the year.” Huh? Read more
What do most of us know about Moby (not the whale, but the music artist)? I, for one, know that he makes good dance music, he likes tea, and he’s an outspoken vegan. So how did he end up editing a book with a contribution by Paul Willis, Mr. sustainable hog farmer? And did they drink not-too-sweet organic peach tea to seal the deal? It seems like food politics may have made some super strange bedfellows here. Read more
Thanks to Cathy Erway, I right now have bread dough rising on my kitchen counter. Three years ago I read Mark Bittman’s New York Times article with Jim Lahey’s phenomenally easy bread recipe, but it took sitting down with Erway’s new book, The Art of Eating In, for me to get cracking. Read more
The first time I saw “Pressure Cooker” was at Slow Food Nation last Labor Day. It left me–and as far as I could tell every single other viewer in the theater–in tears. It follows three seniors at a Philadelphia public high school, charting their journey through a culinary arts curriculum under the wing of the hilariously blunt, tough-loving Mrs. Stephenson. The film has been making the film festival circuit for the past 9 months and will now be enjoying a theatrical release in several cities (scroll all the way down for schedule). Here I sat down for an interview with Co-Directors Mark Becker and Jennifer Grausman: Read more
The title of Nicolette Hahn Niman’s compelling new book, Righteous Porkchop, is honest, and indicates one of the book’s strengths—its exploration of the moral issues behind our broken food system. As a vegetarian rancher she is uniquely poised to be even more righteous than most. Not only has she abstained from eating meat herself since young adulthood, she spends her days sustainably raising cattle for others to eat. Who can top that? Read more
The fact that the cabinet door to my “pantry” is suddenly busted has made ignoring its contents difficult. For example: two cans of tuna packed in oil, and I cannot remember the last time I ate canned tuna. My concerns about seafood (un)sustainability have made me shy away from eating fish lately. When did I even buy those cans, and why? Read more
I sat down with Annie Hauck-Lawson and Jonathan Deutsch over pancakes at the NYC icon Tom’s Restaurant in Brooklyn to discuss their delicious new book, Gastropolis: Food and New York City. Read more
A year ago, investor Woody Tasch’s book Inquiries into the Nature of Slow Money might have seemed way out there. Slow money? Isn’t that like a slow race car or a slow rocket? An oxymoron, like jumbo shrimp? Suddenly, with Wall Street in shambles (the victim of too much too fast), Tasch’s vision for a more patient and holistic investment philosophy that values relationships (between people and other people, between people and the natural world) doesn’t seem so strange after all.
I sat down with Tasch and asked him to explain a bit more about his book. Read more