Killer Coke: A review of The Coke Machine

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

Making the Food and Climate Connection (VIDEO)

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

Emperors Need Mentors, Too: A Review of My Empire of Dirt

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

Moby Gets to the Gristle of the Matter

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

Pressure Cooker: Interview with Mark Becker and Jennifer Grausman

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

Meat and Morality: Righteous Porkchop

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

Eating from the Larder

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