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
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
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
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
American Wasteland: How America Throws Away Nearly Half of Its Food (and What We Can Do About It) is an odorous odyssey through our fouled-up food chain. From farm to market to plate to garbage can, journalist Jonathan Bloom exposes a culture that promotes a grotesque amount of waste. Read more
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
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
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
Chelsea Clinton is so definitely getting married in Rhinebeck this weekend. All the signs point to it — like the one two miles down the road from Astor Courts (the presumed wedding locale), which reads: “Chelsea and Marc — congratulations from Rhinecliff’s Morton Memorial Library! Stop in for your wedding gift — your own free-for-life library card!!!” Read more
If correctly identifying your problems is the first step to solving them, I’m afraid we’ll all be peeling tar balls off our heels before we get a handle on the BP blowout.
“Please stop calling it a leak!” Bill KcKibben pleaded at the Slow Money conference in Shelburne, Vermont last month. A leak, after all, suggests a kind of dribble. A spill sounds like something you might mop up with a towel.
“We’ve punched a hole in the bottom of the ocean,” McKibben added. “Is a knife wound a ‘blood leak?’”
We’re hitting some fundamental limits, he added, citing the ‘thousand year’ storms that seem to come every four or five years now, and the fact that we’re facing the hottest year on record, so far (and that was before the heat wave that hit the whole Eastern seaboard this past week).
Yes, we need to plug that hole in the ocean floor before the entire Gulf becomes one gigantic dead zone. But there’s an onshore contaminant threatening our future, too, and it’s called fast money. Read more