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It’s Plants’ Time in the Sun

How many times have you checked a food package to see where it was produced, wondering about all the energy it took to get from the farm to your fork? Once an issue that few people pondered, the “eat local” movement has inspired conscientious consumers all over the country to contemplate how we can each do better by the planet at meal-time. The issue’s gone so mainstream that even TIME magazine published a cover story a few years ago entitled, “Forget Organic—Eat Local.”

Well, according to a recent Harvard Business Review article, we would be wiser to reconsider the amount of meat products on our grocery list rather than merely looking for how many miles our food may have traveled.

How much more concerned should we be? A lot. Read more

A Meat Lover’s Manifesto for Meatless Monday

Food news hound Kim O’Donnel is often ahead of the culinary curve.

In a longtime online gig for The Washington Post, the seasoned journalist began blogging about all things edible and conducting kitchen chats before such venues took off in gastronomical cyber circles.

She started Canning Across America before pickling and preserving D.I.Y.ers turned up in a photo spread in the New York Times Magazine.

And she was one of the first mainstream reporters to cover the meat-free Monday phenomenon.

She began writing about the subject for the Post a couple of years ago in a recipe-focused column that proved the impetus for her new cookbook, The Meat Lover’s Meatless Cookbook: Vegetarian Recipes Carnivores Will Devour (Da Capo Press, $18.95). Read more

Community Supported Restaurant: In Conversation With Angelica Kitchen’s Leslie McEachern

As a long-time regular of Angelica Kitchen restaurant in New York City, I’ve come to consider it a “second kitchen,” a place I feel good about supporting because it shares the values I keep in my own kitchen: High quality ingredients that provide a fair income to farmers who are working to protect the environment–and which provide nutrition without sacrificing any of the flavor–all for the reasonable cost afforded by buying direct.

And I am not alone. Since it opened its door in 1976, Angelica Kitchen has cultivated a loyal following, and their sustainable business model–maintained without serving alcohol (you can BYOB)–is a case study for success outside of the mainstream restaurant industry. Angelica’s is also one of the most popular vegetarian restaurants in New York City, precisely because it attracts a clientele that includes many non-vegetarians. In honor of Vegetarian Awareness Month, I spoke with owner Leslie McEachern–who is being awarded for her long-time advocacy of small, local farms by the Northeast Organic Farming Association this month–about running a restaurant built on relationships. Read more

A Culinary Confession

I blame Bakesale Betty.  If the blue-haired Aussie-American Alison hadn’t lured me into her store with lamingtons and sticky date pudding I would never have succumbed to the charms of her legendary fried chicken sandwiches, which cause perfectly sane people to line up on Telegraph Avenue in North Oakland. For a sandwich. I kid you not.

It also doesn’t help that Bakesale Betty is on my way home from my editing gig and I’m often ravenous as I drive by, doing a quick scan to see if there’s 1. a line snaking down the street or 2. any parking.

If the parking gods and queue karma are on my side, I’m in and out with one of her sandwiches before you can say hello hypocrite.

Let me explain. I’ve been a vegetarian since I was 17, when I gave up meat in what my mum, a good cook, viewed as just another one of my rebellious teenage acts. Despite growing up in a meat-loving land, where the backyard barbie rules, I became a greens and legumes kinda gal. Read more

An Erstwhile Vegetarian Learns the Art of Butchery

I grew up in Kansas – the land of corn-feed beef, boneless, skinless chicken breast, and pork: the other white meat. I never gave much thought to meat except whether it was low in fat and calories, so when I told my family I was becoming a vegetarian, I was met with blank stares and a heated disagreement surrounding my anemia (with the lack of red meat, the family was concerned about my iron levels). My shift towards vegetarianism began slowly with Eric Schlosser’s Fast Food Nation followed by Peter Singer’s The Ethics of Eating Meat, Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma and eventually, I found myself reading Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson’s The Face On Your Plate. For three years, I was vigilant about my food, checking the labels of grocery store purchases and grilling restaurant servers about the ingredients in each dish. It took me nearly 6 months to go completely meatless and only one In-and-Out cheeseburger, three years later, to fall off the proverbial wagon. What happened? How did I devote such a significant amount of my life vegetarianism only to be tempted by a cheeseburger? Read more

Expanding the Conversation Around the Meat We Eat

The ethics of meat-eating, and vegetarianism in particular, have gained traction as memes in the press lately, showing that a shift is occurring in our cultural ideas around food. Heritage breed turkeys have been selling like mad for today’s feast, and last week, Martha Stewart was standing behind the stove on her set discussing the book Eating Animals with its author, Jonathan Safran Foer, while preparing a vegetarian casserole. The dish was part of a collection of recipes for her show on preparing a vegetarian Thanksgiving (watch it at that link), and she stated on air that her daughter’s Thanksgiving was going to be a vegetarian one. (She also interviewed Robert Kenner on the program, gushing about his film Food, Inc., and Virginia farmer Joel Salatin, who spoke about the state of farming in America with his usual wordsmithery). Foer had this to say to Martha’s audience: Read more

Giving up the Bird on Thanksgiving

When we moved into our renovated house in late October 2005 I said to my husband, “We should host Thanksgiving this year.” We finally had a real dining room after living in our shoebox on the Upper West Side.

“No one will come,” he said.

I knew he was right. No one wants a turkey-less Thanksgiving. I resigned myself to a meal at someone else’s house, cringing at the sight of a gravy-dripping bird proudly displayed in the center of a dining room table.

It was either that or dinner for three, which my husband, daughter and I did one year.

This year there’s a twist in the family drama. Various dysfunctions among siblings, parents and even a friend prevent others from hosting. My dining room will be christened for Thanksgiving. What I’m most grateful for is the chance to gather nearly a dozen people for a meat-less harvest meal. Read more

Vegetarian Takes the Plunge

I ate meat for the first time in over twenty years recently.  The moment presented itself after a culmination of many things, primarily an ever-increasing personal momentum within the world of food.  Writing a food column, owning a cookie company, and working for Slow Food Nation kept bringing me face to face with a myriad of dining experiences.  How could I refuse to just take a taste?  To enter, finally, over the threshold of a zone that can still uphold craft, integrity, responsibility, and culture. Read more