Ann Gentry is the creator and founder of Real Food Daily (RFD), a mecca for organic, vegan cuisine in Los Angeles, where she and her staff serve up delicious, plant-based food to celeb devotees including Alicia Silverstone, Ellen DeGeneres, and Conan O’Brien. The executive chef to Vegetarian Times magazine, and star of her own cooking show, Naturally Delicious, Gentry is also the author of The Real Food Daily Cook Book. Her new cookbook, Vegan Family Meals: Real Food For Everyone, just out this week, offers more than 100 tasty recipes. I recently had the pleasure of speaking with Gentry about cooking for families, raising children vegetarian, and why she believes in feeding people whole, natural food.
One thesis in my new book, The Bond: Our Kinship with Animals, Our Call to Defend Them is that so much animal mistreatment happens because so many of us in society have become disconnected from animals. In other words, they are far removed from our daily experiences, especially those animals used in institutional settings for a wide variety of purposes.
Flavored milk has come under scrutiny as more people, including school food activist and chef Jamie Oliver and his Food Revolution, have implicated it in the childhood obesity debate. (UPDATE: In fact, thanks to Oliver’s work, flavored milk is no longer a choice as of July 1 in LA schools.) Yet many in the mainstream health and nutrition media maintain that it is a weight loss and muscle building “super food.”
If Iowa is considered the belly of the beast of industrial agriculture, then the Iowa state capitol is the part of the animal that drains the swamp. After all, Iowa is the place where Iowa legislators have made it possible to produce 11.3 hogs per person annually and created some of the most polluted rivers and streams contributing to the Dead Zone due to continued poor legislation and failed regulatory oversight.
Last year Iowa’s modern agricultural practices were made famous by legendary food safety violator Jack DeCoster, who is still in business after a 500-million egg recall due to salmonella that sickened more than 1,500 people in 23 states. This year Iowa’s state legislators are about to pass a bill that would make it illegal for anyone to take a photo of his “farms” or any other farm or field in Iowa. Even though some of the worst animal welfare abuses in U.S. history have taken place under the roofs of Jack DeCoster’s hundreds of industrial animal confinements, Iowa lawmakers are willing to offer immunity to offenders like him and penalize those who blow the whistle on those who would abuse animal livestock, i.e., our food.
What does it look like to start a values-based business with members of your community? Gather is a sustainable restaurant that serves as a successful model. Located in downtown Berkeley, California and catering to conscious foodies, the farm-to-table eatery keeps thriving with an vegetarian and omnivore-friendly menu and steady reservations. Esquire magazine named it one of the top restaurants of 2010 with Sean Baker its Chef of the Year and New York Times described it as a “Michael Pollan book come to life.”
When owners and mountaineering guide-friends Eric Fenster and Ari Derfel developed their business plan ten years ago, they had no formal culinary or business training. It was smart planning, relationship building, and a new way to raise funds that made their vision possible.
Back in March, Tom Philpott wrote about the “insane” practice of feeding factory-farmed chickens arsenic:
The idea is that it makes them grow faster — fast growth being the supreme goal of factory animal farming — and helps control a common intestinal disease called coccidiosis.The industry emphasizes that the arsenic is applied in organic form, which isn’t immediately toxic. “Organic” in the chemistry sense, that is, not the agricultural sense — i.e., molecules containing carbon atoms as well as arsenic. Trouble is, arsenic shifts from organic to inorganic rather easily. Indeed, “arsenic in poultry manure is rapidly converted into an inorganic form that is highly water soluble and capable of moving into surface and ground water,” write Keeve E. Nachman and Robert S. Lawrence of the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future.
Inorganic arsenic is the highly poisonous stuff — see the absurd and wonderful Cary Grant classic Arsenic and Old Lace, or the EPA’s less whimsical take here and here [PDF]. The fact that the organic arsenic added to feed turns inorganic when it makes its way into manure is chilling, given the mountains of concentrated waste generated by factory poultry farms.
One way farmers add arsenic to chicken feed is through drugs such as Pfizer’s Roxarsone. And the industry has (as with most of its worst practices) strenuously defended the use of such additives. While the USDA has by and large ignored the risks (mostly in the form of an unwillingness to look for arsenic in chicken), finally–astonishingly–the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has acted.
The world is still, after several long years, desperately trying to climb out of the financial abyss brought about during the latest global financial meltdown. Painful “austerity” measures, largely impacting working class people who already suffered the most during the crisis, are proffered by those responsible as the short-term economic fix to what ails nations around the world.
After roughly 150 years, and the countless day-to-day tribulations of billions of people, capitalism is being questioned like never before. Not surprisingly, the Bay Area’s counterculture spirit transforms economic models as well. New, locally minded businesses whose lifeblood includes notions antithetical to the dominant paradigm, including shared prosperity, enabling and/or giving to others, and creating community, are thriving.
Do they offer a more satisfying, rewarding, and ultimately more viable path for long-term success for society at large? On Wednesday, June 29, please join Kitchen Table Talks as we discuss the vision, mechanics, and spirit behind these “Alternative Business Models.”
According to a new study, exposure to the gender-bending chemical Bisphenol-A (BPA) is worse than previously estimated. The study, which appeared Monday in Environmental Health Perspectives, is the first to recreate the chronic daily intake of BPA in humans, which leaches into our food–our primary channel for exposure–via its packaging. Researchers showed this by feeding a steady BPA-spiked diet to mice, whereas previous studies have only used a single exposure.
Yesterday, we reported on the dark side to chocolate that many consumers are often blissfully unaware of, or deliberately chose to ignore. Cacao is grown predominantly on small family farms in a narrow tropical band around the equator. While a handful of massive global corporations control and profit handsomely from the worldwide chocolate trade, millions of cacao farmers and their families toil in poverty year after year and deforestation is widespread. Worse still, child slavery tragically persists, despite reputable international reports that surfaced over a decade ago–in particular highlighting the world’s largest exporter of cocoa, the Ivory Coast.
Mindful of the unbearable social and environmental costs endemic to the current chocolate trade, and concluding that the industry doesn’t have the resolve to create material positive change, many courageous folks are responding with a different approach. Fair Trade, Direct Trade, Profit Sharing, Co-ops, and Bean to Bar are among many alternatives being pursued.
Gratefully, there are some inspiring souls who have been moved by the troubling social and environmental injustices endemic to today’s chocolate industry. On February 22, 2011 at Viracocha in San Francisco, Kitchen Table Talks hosted an intimate discussion about the issues facing, and solutions offered, by some conscious industry role-models.