Our Children On The Front Line In The War Against Vegetables

If we’re such a “family values”-friendly nation, why are we so willing to let our kids be abused for the sake of making money?

According to the allegations in the Penn State scandal, a pedophile was allowed to brutally assault/molest numerous young boys because no one dared to upset the very lucrative apple cart that is college sports.

And now comes word that Republicans on the House Appropriations Committee have torpedoed the USDA’s attempts to reduce the amount of pizza, french fries, and salt that our kids consume at school. Why? Because the frozen pizza companies, the salt industry, and potato growers asked them to. Really. It’s that simple. Read more

Haute Cuisine Gone Green: James Beard Foundation Focuses on Sustainability

Two miles north of Zuccotti Park, where Occupy Wall Street‘s encamped, there’s another would-be hotspot of cultural change occupying a more genteel locale: the James Beard Foundation (JBF). Seriously? This epicurean epicenter housed in an elegant West Village brownstone with eternally well-tended window boxes, wants to stir up something more culturally significant than mouth-watering meals curated by celebrity chefs?

Well, yes. And it’s a logical move, if they don’t want to see their legacy (or their democracy) go down the toilet. After all, as Mario Batali once pointed out on CBS Sunday Morning, “When you think about it, all my greatest work is poop, tomorrow.” Read more

What’s Cooking, Uncle Sam? Government and the American Diet

Poor Uncle Sam’s got a lot on his plate these days: a curdled economy, an overcooked climate, a soured populace. It’s enough to give a national icon a capital case of indigestion. Anti-government sentiment is running so high that half the country seems ready to swap his stars and stripes for tar and feathers.

Sure, Uncle Sam’s always been kind of a drag, with his stern face and wagging finger. But to “nanny-state” haters, he’s a Beltway busybody in drag, democracy’s Mrs. Doubtfire, a Maryland Mary Poppins. If you believe that government is always the problem, never the solution, then you have no use for, say, more stringent food safety regulations, or Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move!” campaign to combat obesity.

But the new exhibit “What’s Cooking, Uncle Sam? The Government’s Effect on the American Diet” at the National Archives in Washington, D.C. offers an intriguing display of documents, posters, photos and other artifacts dating from the Revolutionary War to the late 1900s which serve to remind us that our government has long played a crucial role in determining how safe, nutritious and affordable our food supply is. Read more

Grow the Good Life: A Manifesto for Uncomplicated Gardening

If there’s one thing Michelle Obama and Glenn Beck can agree on, it’s the notion that growing some of your own food is a good idea (though I suspect the Obamas get their seeds from sources other than Beck’s shifty, grifty seed bank sponsor).

You might think that level of bipartisan support would light a fire under our collective (gr)ass. But the much-ballyhooed kitchen garden revival has yet to make a dent in the bentgrass. As NASA reported in 2005, lawns now constitute “the single largest irrigated crop in America,” taking up at least three times the acreage we devote to irrigated corn. Has any nation in the history of mankind ever squandered so many resources to cultivate so much vegetation of such dubious value?

Meanwhile, we currently grow less than 2 percent of our own food.

“This,” Michele Owens declares in her just-published Grow the Good Life: Why a Vegetable Garden Will Make You Happy, Healthy, Wealthy, and Wise, “is not yet enough of a revolution to satisfy me.” Read more

Mark Bittman: Leafy Green Revolutionary?

For a self-proclaimed minimalist with a minuscule kitchen, Mark Bittman’s had maximum impact. He’s the digital dervish of the New York Times Dining section: his recipes ricochet around the blogosphere, his cooking videos go viral, he’s constantly tweaking his How To Cook Everything app, he tweets and blogs regularly.

And, he pens op-eds exhorting us to eat less meat and embrace a plant-based diet. So, it wasn’t exactly a shock to hear that the Minimalist is moving on, departing from Dining and bringing his “lessmeatatarian,” ‘go-vegan-till-six’ advocacy to the Times op-ed page. Read more

Let’s Ask Marion: How Did Junk Food and Obesity Become a Red State/Blue State Debate?

With a click of her mouse, Kerry Trueman corners Dr. Marion Nestle, NYU professor of nutrition and author of Feed Your Pet Right, Pet Food Politics, What to Eat, Food Politics, and Safe Food

Kerry Trueman: The “agri-culture war” that’s long been simmering is coming to a boil now, as recently noted in The Washington Post, The Daily Dish, and elsewhere in the blogosphere. Read more

What A White Bread Democracy Could Learn From A Kingdom of Rye

Does the term “white bread” say “all things ‘burby and bland,” to you? Don’t be fooled by this über-processed slice of whiteness. Beneath its pale golden crust, white bread whispers some dark truths about our values: we cherish convenience and shelf life above taste and texture; cheapness is next to godliness, wellness be damned; and man can always find a way to improve on nature.

Highly refined flour has only the wheat’s starchy endosperm, minus the nutritious–but more perishable–bran and germ. No nutrients? No problem! Just add a bunch of vitamins and minerals at the end of the process. Problem solved.

It’s whole grains that go against the grain in America. Too darned assertive, and so time-consuming to chew! Our allegiance to this Pillsbury-Doughboy-pokable/Play-Doh-pliable product symbolizes, above all, a culture that resists resistance, and has better things to do than chew. Read more

Domino’s Pizza and the USDA: The Bailout You Didn’t Hear About

Chalk up another victory for Stephen Colbert’s gut. Back in January, the touter of all things truthy declared Domino’s Pizza his “Alpha Dog of The Week” for a “game-changing ad campaign” to promote its new pizza recipe. Consumers had complained that the old formula tasted like ketchup-covered cardboard, a factor that presumably contributed to the company’s sagging sales.

So, Domino’s did two things: it reformulated its pizzas to contain nearly twice as much cheese; and launched an ad campaign which took the bold step of acknowledging just how awful its old pizzas were, while gushing about the “cheese, cheese, CHEESE!!!” that distinguishes the new recipe from the old one.

With the logos of Goldman Sachs, Citibank, Fannie Mae, Bank of America, and AIG on display behind him, Colbert applauded Domino’s “for joining the great American corporate tradition of screwing your customers and then having the balls to ask them to come back for more.”

Turns out that Domino’s had something else in common with these ethically challenged entities, aside from the dubious products they dumped on unwitting dupes. Read more

A County Fair With City Flair Grows In Brooklyn

With beehives, chicken coops, and rooftop farms popping up all over Brooklyn, it’s high time us city folks revived that end of summer ritual, the county fair. After all, the county of Brooklyn–Kings County, to be precise–is a hotbed of horticultural happenings. Why should blue ribbon pies, pickles, and produce be limited to rural regions when we’re growing great stuff and baking up a storm right here in our neck of the not-so-woodsy woods? Read more