‘Food Detective’ Class Gets Seattle Kids Eating Better

Two months ago, Seattle-area 4th grader Michael Kenny came home from school with a burning desire to make vegetarian chili. His mom Liz nearly fell out of her seat. She knew her son was not fond of peppers—and he’d never shown much interest in cooking before. “They sent all the students home with a recipe, and when he came home he wanted to make it right away,” Liz says. “And most of the ingredients were vegetables!” Read more

Cooking as the Cornerstone of a Sustainable Food System

“How cool is this!” Susan, a 68-year-old retiree from Philadelphia, was on her maiden voyage with her new toy, a salad spinner.

As she pulled the spinner’s retractable cord, the room filled with a rattling hum, similar to a washing machine at the end of its cycle. She was visibly pleased that after just a few pulls, the lettuce leaves tucked inside the colander-like basket were nice and dry. She marveled at how she could both wash–“Wow, there’s a lot of dirt in these leaves”–and dry salad greens with just one tool.

This was just one of the many ah-ha moments for Susan, who signed on to take an immersion cooking course with me earlier this summer. Over the course of a week, we met in her kitchen each day with one primary objective: Getting a handle on the bare essentials of cooking. Read more

Cooking the Common Core: Bringing Educational Standards to Life in the School Garden

When San Francisco voters passed the three phases of the Proposition A facilities upgrade bond in 2003, 2006, and 2011, they approved money to cover the design and construction of green schoolyards for at least 83 San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD) elementary, middle, and high schools. SFUSD is the first urban school district to embrace outdoor learning opportunities in this fashion. It is also one of the first large districts in the state to implement the Common Core State Standards, a new set of English language arts and mathematics standards focused on real-world college and career readiness.

Seizing on this opportunity, I met with Rosie Branson Gill last fall to discuss how our organizations (San Francisco Green Schoolyard Alliance and 18 Reasons, respectively) could work together to provide more opportunities for San Francisco students to engage both in school gardens and with the craft of cooking. On February 17 of this year, 13 elementary classroom teachers, garden coordinators, and parents gathered for the launch of Cooking the Common Core: Bringing Educational Standards to Life in the School Garden, a new training series designed to do just that. Read more

Paula Deen: From Market to Pharmacy

Paula Deen’s public admission that she has Type 2 diabetes and her follow-up announcement that she is also a paid spokesperson for the pharmaceutical company Novo Nordisk, and its diabetes drug, Victoza, has sparked an interesting debate about the deeper issues surrounding our food system—especially the impact it has on the many people diagnosed with diabetes. And according to Deen’s comments on the Today show, she implies to her millions of fans, that the primary ways to deal with this largely diet-related disease are through personal responsibility and pharmaceuticals. Read more

Channeling MFK Fisher: An Everlasting Meal

When I was an intern in Santa Fe, New Mexico a thousand years ago, my mother sent me a three-page letter (yes, a letter. It was that long ago).  Worried that her underpaid intern son might be starving in the desert, she wanted to pass along her wisdom on how to cook and eat on the cheap.  It was called “Good Old Mom’s Three Days on One Chicken and Other Depression Folklore.”  It kept me fed that long hot summer and later became a family treasure.

I was reminded of it recently when I had the opportunity to read An Everlasting Meal: Cooking with Economy and Grace, by Tamar Adler.  Read more

Take the $5 Challenge (It’s Hard! It’s Easy!)

Earlier this summer, as I was hauling a bag of farmers market produce home 15 blocks and up four flights of stairs, sweating bullets, cursing my choice to buy a melon (they’re heavy!), I stopped mid-step.

“Does it really have to be this hard?” I asked myself.

My story is particular to me, of course, but all over the country there are people trying to put food on the table and asking themselves “does it really have to be this hard?” Read more

A Food Safety Primer (Infographic)

A recent recall of 36 million pounds of salmonella-contaminated turkey by the company Cargill reminded Americans once again about the failings of our food safety system. While the debt deal struck earlier this month puts funding for the Food Safety Modernization Act, which passed in 2010 and will help the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) improve the safety of our food, at risk, there is information that can empower consumers now. Below is a comprehensive info graphic by the Heath and Fitness Blog that explains what you need to know about shopping for, handling and cooking food more safely, as well as a briefing on the sources of food-borne illness. Read more

Introducing Real Food Real Kitchens

I think we can all agree that the sedative power of television provides escape; much like any number of self-numbing tools we may choose to consume one way or another. I fully admit to administering a daily dose of TV at the end of a long day, just enough to blur the mind space and glaze the eyes until I drag myself to bed a short hour or two later. I’m not very proud of it, I know there are countless more productive things I could be doing during that time. But the whole seduction is just that…television takes away the need to be productive. It is a glossy, other world of fantasy, adventure, and illusion. Why else do we find ourselves saturated in this “reality” TV culture? The lives of others takes us outside of our own, an episode of someone’s experience gives us respite from the banality of our day to day. Sometimes, however, there are occasions when some genuine truth seeps in. And if we can discipline our channel surfing thumbs to the right place, the content that sneaks into our brains can actually present some positive, constructive, and educational information.

Real Food Real Kitchens is a new PBS cooking show that is just that: Real. Far from the patina falseness of Rachel Ray’s shiny kitchen set, this show portrays actual homes and documents a person making a family recipe. It is at once a look at community, at culture, at health, and at food. And, in a time when we are so far removed from all of these things in this country, it is a welcome change from the usual Food Network lineup. Read more