ARCHIVE

Breaking ‘The Chain': What’s at Stake in the Modern Pork Industry

At first glance, writing an exposé on the pork industry might seem outside Ted Genoways’ wheelhouse. He’s the author of two books of poetry and has  penned a biography of Walt Whitman—not necessarily what one expects from someone writing about modern meat production in the U.S.

But Genoways, who has written on factory farming for Mother Jones and is the grandson of a former packinghouse worker from Omaha, Nebraska, brings his interests together by focusing on working class Midwestern life. His newest book, The Chain: Farm, Factory, and the Fate of Our Food, is a chilling indictment of today’s pork industry told through the story of one company, Hormel Foods. Essentially, it’s The Jungle for the modern era.

We recently spoke with Genoways about his new book, Hormel, and the fact that much of our food has become less safe over time. Read more

‘We the Eaters’: Ellen Gustafson Wants to Change Dinner and the World

Ellen Gustafson’s We the Eaters: If We Change Dinner, We Can Change the World, may have a clumsy title, but the book takes a trenchant and well-researched look at America’s high tech farming and the denatured food it produces. The food activist goes further, by laying out how processors take that food and fill it with sugar, fat, salt, and additives while draining out the nutrition.

And Gustafson goes further still, describing how fast food corporations and junk food convenience stores are muscling out indigenous farming practices and wholesome food not only in our country, but around the world. Developing nations are getting a double whammy, she says, as nutrient-deficient junk food creates growth-stunting hunger in children, and she documents how this results in obesity later in life. Read more

Food Politics, Illustrated

You’re far more likely to get a stomach ache than a belly laugh from food news on any given day; there’s not a lot of humor in stories about contaminated food, diet-related disease, abused livestock, exploited workers, malnourished kids, and bone-headed agricultural policies. But this seemingly bleak beat has given cartoonists a surprising amount of fodder. And Marion Nestle, the noted NYU nutrition professor, public health advocate, and tireless food politics blogger/tweeter, has compiled the cream of this non-genetically modified crop in her just-published book from Rodale, Eat Drink Vote: An Illustrated Guide to Food Politics. Read more

A Look at Why I Farm

Part memoir, part manifesto, part nostalgia and part a warning about the future, Gary Romano’s Why I Farm spells out the pluses and minuses of working as a small farmer in the United States today.  He also explains clearly why the contemporary consumer needs small farmers to succeed and why so many naive newcomers to agriculture make mistakes and fail.  His subtitle, “Risking It All for a Life on the Land,” points to the balance, the perpetual vacillation between risk and reward that small farmers face every single day. Read more

Eating for Life: Review of “The Longevity Kitchen” by Rebecca Katz

Of all the life changes that having a baby brings on, perhaps the most pivotal is that it makes you examine what would happen to this new little being if you were suddenly gone. Our own mortality is abruptly mirrored back to us with the entrance of offspring, so some of us sign up for life insurance, talk about creating trust accounts, or set up legal documents and wills. I think that to truly take care of our children and create a stronger sense of security, separate from the paperwork and bureaucracy, parents need to take care of themselves first. And there is no better time like the fresh spring season to start. Luckily, we have Rebecca Katz’s  newest book, The Longevity Kitchen , to guide us. Read more

The Last Word: Poor Man’s Feast by Elissa Altman

W.H. Auden once said of legendary food writer MFK Fisher “I do not know of anyone in the United States who writes better prose.”

This is how I feel about Elissa Altman.

I am far from the first to say so.  Altman was once described as “The illegitimate love child of David Sedaris and MFK Fisher,” which is also quite fitting, since she approaches her craft the way she does her life, with humor and love, and not without some occasional sarcasm.

She wields a sharp wit and an even sharper eye for detail in her new memoir, Poor Man’s Feast – A Love Story of Comfort, Desire, and the Art of Simple Cooking (Chronicle, 2013). Read more

Book Review: “A Girl and Her Pig” by April Bloomfield

They’ll tell you not to judge a book by its cover, but in this case perhaps you should make an exception.  In A Girl and Her Pig: Recipes and Stories, April Bloomfield delivers exactly what the book’s cover implies – a straightforward approach to food from a working class Birmingham girl who found her niche.

As a child in England, Bloomfield wanted to be a Policewoman, but circumstances conspired as they so often do and she followed her sister into cooking school.  Unlike her sister, though, Bloomfield found her way into the profession and on to New York, where her no-nonsense take on real food has won her accolades piled upon accolades. Read more

New Book Takes a Look at Urban Farms Across the U.S.

It was an overcast but hot and humid Sunday July afternoon when 50 volunteers arrived to clear a sizable lot of land at Phoenix Press in New Haven, Connecticut, underneath their wind turbine, that is soon to become New Haven Farms’ fifth farm site.

As a founding member of New Haven Farms, it is exciting to see our urban farm sites sprout up around the edges of Fair Haven, an historic area of New Haven and one that has been home to immigrant populations for over 100 years. The mission of New Haven Farms is to promote health and community development through urban agriculture and our goal is to establish and cultivate year-round urban farms that produce nutrient-dense vegetables and fruits, in collaboration with community members who are both within 200 percent of the federal poverty level and suffering from diabetes, pre-diabetes, or have at least two risk factors for diabetes. The organization is now partnering with the Fair Haven Community Health Center (FHCHC) to rigorously build farms in the lowest income neighborhoods of New Haven, and investigate the impact of increased exposure and consumption of fresh, local nutrient-dense foods on this underserved community’s health. Its CSA program began the first week of July–called the New Haven Farms Fresh Produce Prescription Program.

Looking at the barren, rocky site at Phoenix Press gave me a rush. It may look desolate now but I can visualize a farm here, and I can imagine all the green and luscious, nutritious produce that will rise forth out of this lot within a year’s time [with the help of a lot of compost!] So when the afternoon was over and the volunteers got back on their bus, I returned home and immediately opened Sarah Rich’s beautiful book, Urban Farms and allowed myself to be inspired and imagine what this new farm site can become. This book chronicles the urban agriculture movement through gorgeous photography and thoughtful essays that would inspire any good urbanite to pick up a shovel and find a nearby community garden. Read more