Tag Archive | Food History

DJ Donpasta Wants to Save Salume for Posterity. Who can blame him?

The New York Times:

On a recent brisk March afternoon, he came to this fishing town on the Amalfi Coast and stood amid rows of homemade pork sausages, some covered in hot pepper flakes, that were strung from the low ceiling of a work space. “What do you put in — do you put in the ear?” he asked Antonio Polverino, the sausage maker.
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“No, not the ear,” answered Mr. Polverino, 64, a retired construction worker with thick hands. “This is all meat, ground meat. The heart, and lungs, too. This you eat dry.”

It is traditions like these that Mr. De Michele worries are slipping away. He put his mission this way: “I wanted to explore memory — how memory-based identity persists, exists, gets lost; to take a snapshot of Italian working-class cooking today.”

Cooking shows like “Master Chef,” which has been replicated in Italy, “take away someone’s awareness, his identity,” he said. He pointed to the coastline.

“Here, a person defines himself through hot oil with garlic and anchovies, and is proud of that,” he said. “ ‘Master Chef’ tells you that that’s no good, that you need to do something cool.”

Mr. De Michele’s research is sponsored in part by the Bologna food association Artusi, named after Pellegrino Artusi, the author of an 1891 cookbook that was one of Italy’s first. He has asked Italians to send in their old family recipes to his blog, Artusi Remix. The end result of his travels will be a book commissioned by the Italian publisher Mondadori. But he is also traveling with a videographer for a possible documentary — and for his trademark performances, which often combine a D.J. set with monologues about food and footage of people talking about food traditions.

The REALFOOD.ORG Thanksgiving Reader

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THE ENVIRONMENT
This Thanksgiving, Be More Grateful than Wasteful
Dana Gunders | Switchboard | NRDC | November 13, 2013

Nationwide, consumers will purchase around 736 million pounds of turkey this Thanksgiving, of which about 581 million pounds will be actual meat. The USDA reports that 35% of perfectly good turkey meat in the U.S. does not get eaten after it is purchased by consumers (and that’s not including bones). This compares with only 15% for chicken. Why is so much more turkey wasted than chicken? “Possibly because turkey is more often eaten during holidays when consumers may tend to discard relatively more uneaten food than on other days,” the USDA writes.

And unless we take action to prove the USDA wrong, we’ll be throwing away about 204 million pounds of that meat and about 1 million tons of CO2 and 105 billion gallons of water with it. Per pound, the resources needed to produce that turkey are equivalent to driving your car 11 miles and taking a 130-minute shower (at 4 gallons/minute).* The price tag on that nationwide will be $282 million, according to prices from the Farm Bureau’s annual Thanksgiving price survey. And that’s to say nothing of the vast amounts of antibiotics used to produce turkey meat, leading to antibiotic resistance, which you can read more about here.

This T-Day, Buy Less Than You Think
Dana Gunders | The Switchboard | NRDC | November 20, 2013

Here’s a hint: Buy less than you think. If you’re hosting anything like the average Thanksgiving dinner for ten, almost a third of that dinner will go to waste this year.

In fact, across the nation, about 204 million pounds of turkey will get thrown away over this Thanksgiving. This costs us money – about $277 million as a nation – and is a waste of all the resources it took to get that turkey to our table. Resources for which, in theory, we are supposed to be celebrating on this exact holiday!

How many resources? Depending on which estimate you use, that amount of discarded turkey required over 100 billion gallons of water – enough to supply New York City for 100 days — and created somewhere between 230,000 – 1 million metric tons of CO2 equivalent emissions.

And it’s not just turkey. If we apply the U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates of how much food is never eaten to the American Farm Bureau Federation’s annual informal survey of the cost of Thanksgiving dinner, here’s a tally of what actually gets wasted over the average Thanksgiving dinner for ten:

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[Please, by all means save the turkey carcass and all your vegetable scraps to make stock!!! – Marc]

This Thanksgiving, Shop Smart: Buy a Turkey Raised Without Antibiotics
Sasha Lyutse | Civil Eats | November 22, 2013

This Thanksgiving, you can do your part to support farmers who are keeping antibiotics working for people by shopping smart. By choosing USDA Organic or turkey sold under a “No Antibiotics Administered” label, consumers can reward turkey farmers who are using best practices. Under the organic standard, meat producers are not allowed to use antibiotics, with some exceptions. The “No antibiotics administered” or similar labels, such as “No antibiotics ever” are regulated by USDA but are not verified. These claims are more reliable if they are coupled with a “USDA Process Verified” seal. Also consider other labels, such as “animal welfare approved” and “certified humane,” which mean that antibiotics were only used to treat sick animals.

But shoppers beware: “All Natural” has nothing to do with how an animal is raised.

POLICY

USDA plan to speed up poultry-processing lines could increase risk of bird abuse

Kimberly Kindy | The Washington Post

WASHINGTON — Nearly 1 million chickens and turkeys are unintentionally boiled alive each year in U.S. slaughterhouses, often because fast-moving lines fail to kill the birds before they are dropped into scalding water, Agriculture Department records show.

Now the USDA is finalizing a proposal that will allow poultry companies to accelerate their processing lines, with the aim of removing pathogens from the food supply and making plants more efficient. But that would also make the problem of inhumane treatment worse, according to government inspectors and experts in poultry slaughter.

What’s for Thanksgiving? Hopefully Not More Crippling Pain for Poultry Workers
Rena Steinzor | The Huffington Post | November 26, 2013

Thanks to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), ever the mindless booster of corporate profits, that turkey at the center of the table already disappoints both expectations, and if USDA has its way, matters are about to get much worse. Hiding behind disingenuous promises to “modernize” the food safety system, USDA has decided to pull federal food inspectors off the line at poultry processing plants across the nation. No new preventative measures to ensure that poultry is free of salmonella would happen. And already crowded, bloody, stinking lines would speed up dramatically — to as many as 175 birds per minute, or three birds/second. Workers who suffer grave ergonomic injuries from the repetitive motions of hanging, cutting, and packing the birds would endure conditions that are two or three times worse than the status quo.


Sen. Tester asks USDA to postpone plans to finalize poultry inspection program

Kimberly Kindy | The Washington Post | November 12, 2013

U.S. Sen. Jon Tester wrote to the USDA secretary last week, asking that he postpone plans to finalize a new poultry inspection program, saying to move forward now is “misguided and premature.”

Tester (D-Mont.) also asked U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to suspend agreements with foreign countries that are now allowed to use the alternative inspection program for meat they import into the United States. Millions of pounds of contaminated meat from plants using the system were either recalled or rejected by USDA inspectors over the past two years.

PRODUCTION

Is The Butterball Turkey Shortage For Real?

Tom Philpott | Mother Jones | November 20, 2013

Butterball is vague about the reasons for the shortage, citing only a “decline in weight gains on some of our farms.” In other words, the turkeys that Butterball’s contract farmers raise aren’t growing as quickly as expected.
Let’s talk turkey! Tom Philpott will be holding a live Twitter chat the Thursday before Thanksgiving—look him up at @TomPhilpott starting at 3:00 p.m. Eastern, November 21. Ask him anything—from cooking tips (two words: dry brine) to the latest dirt on industrial turkey.

This is odd. If there’s one thing the modern poultry industry has mastered, it’s fattening millions of fowl extremely quickly. And turkeys have been getting bigger and bigger for decades. “[T]urkeys have increased in average weight annually for at least the past 40 years,” the US Department of Agriculture revealed in a 2005 report. The USDA added that the average weight of a turkey at slaughter jumped from 18 pounds in 1965 to an enormous 28.2 pounds in 2005—a 57 percent increase. By 2012, the average had inched up to a hefty 29.8 pounds. This is not an industry that’s typically plagued by size issues.


Illinois farmers put the pumpkin in your Thanksgiving pie

Peter Grey | Harvest Public Media | November 26, 2013

Why is Illinois the pumpkin state? Mostly because Libby’s brand is the canned pumpkin king. The company is owned by Nestlé and says 8 of every ten cans of pumpkin sold last year was Libby’s.

So it comes down to fertile pumpkin soil – and gravity.

“Pumpkins are heavy and, of course, expensive to transport.” said Roz O’Hearn, with Nestlé’s prepared foods division. “We have tested growing pumpkin in other areas, and we just find the Morton pumpkin just to be perfect for our purposes.”

COMMUNITY
In Vermont, A Wild Game Church Supper Feeds The Multitudes
Charlotte Albright | The Salt | NPR | November 26, 2013

The colonists supplied the fowl, including, possibly, duck, geese, and turkey.
Diners head into the Bradford United Church of Christ before the start of this year’s Wild Game Supper. Food writer Calvin Trillin has dubbed the event “the superbowl of church suppers.”

A pretty tame menu, actually, compared to the venison, bear, moose, rabbit, pheasant, buffalo, and boar served up at an annual event in Bradford, Vt., that food writer Calvin Trillin has called “.”

For almost 60 years, adventuresome carnivores from all over New England have lined up outside the white-steepled United Church of Christ in the center of this close-knit hamlet along the Connecticut River. A couple of decades ago, volunteers fed 1,200 people in one day, but that proved unworkable, so now seats, reserved well in advance, are capped at 800 for $25 a plate. Proceeds benefit the church’s capital fund, and charity.

COOKING
Holiday Classic Dishes: Braised & Roast Turkey
Michael Ruhlman | Ruhlman.com

My view is why mess with what works? For important occasions, the rule is: go with what works. And of all my years roasting a turkey, I’ve found that the braise/roast method works best, as I wrote last year.

The reason is that this method solves the two great Turkey Conundrums: 1) how to have both juicy breast meat and tender dark meat, and 2) how to serve it all hot to a lot of people.

Answer: the roast/braise method.

Three years ago, I was chatting with my neighbor, the excellent chef Doug Katz (Fire Food & Drink), and he described how he cooks the turkey in stock up to the drumstick so that the legs braise while the breast and skin cook in dry heat. Last year I tried it and it works brilliantly.

[My twist on this is to separate the legs and thighs from the breast and wings. This makes it easier to fit into a container to brine, but more strategically, it allows me to give the dark meat a 45 minute head start in the mire poix and braising liquid. At the 45 minute mark I put my buttered and season breasts right on top with a loose foil cover. 30 minutes before it’s done I take the foil off to brown the skin. Best turkey off my life and one of the most complimented meals I’ve ever served.]
More Ruhlman:
Thanksgiving Dressing
Cranberry Sauce and Thanksgiving Gravy

HISTORY

When Thanksgiving Meant a Fancy Night Out on the Town

John Hanc | Food and Think | Smithsonian

A few years back, when she was the director and librarian of the Pilgrim Hall Museum, Peggy Baker came across a fascinating document at a rare book and ephemera sale in Hartford, Connecticut. It was a four-course menu for a luxurious dinner at the Hotel Vendome in Boston for November 29, 1894 – Thanksgiving.

Appetizers consisted of Blue Point oysters or oyster crabs in béarnaise sauce. The soup is consumee Marie Stuart, with carrots and turnips; or, a real delicacy, terrapin a la gastronome (that’s turtle soup to you).

The choice of entrees included mousee de foie graise with cauliflower au gratin, prime ribs with Yorkshire pudding, Peking Duck with onions and squash and…a nod to the traditionalists…roasted turkey with cranberry sauce and mashed potatoes.

Then, salad—at the end of the meal, as they do in Europe—followed by a plethora of desserts: Petit fours, plum pudding with maple brandy sauce, Neapolitan ice cream; mince, apple and pumpkin pie, and almond cake with maple frosting. To round out the meal, coffee or sweet cider with assorted cheeses and nuts.

Baker’s discovery of this belt-busting tour de force sent her on a mission to shed light back on a long forgotten chapter of the history of this holiday; a time when wealthy Americans celebrated their Thanksgivings not in the confines of the home with family, but at fancy hotels and restaurants, with extravagant, haute cuisine dinners and entertainments.

“I was thoroughly entranced, having no idea any such thing existed,” recalls Baker. She began collecting similar bills of fare from other establishments, in other cities.

“It was like an anthropological expedition to a different culture,” recalls Baker, “I wasn’t aware people dined out as a regular annual event for Thanksgiving. It was just so foreign to me.”

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DAILY ESSENTIALS | 19 SEPTEMBER 2013

HOW TO EAT ON NATIONAL TALK LIKE A PIRATE DAY
Jesse Rhodes | Food and Think | Smithsonian

From a food standpoint, a pirate’s life was problematic. Being at sea and without easy access to major seaports meant that there was rarely a steady supply of food and hunger was a regular aspect of day-to-day living. Much of their lives were spent on board a ship, and perpetually damp conditions put normal pantry staples such as flour and dried beans at high risk of mold. Climate also presented preservation problems: if sailing in warmer regions of the world, such as the Caribbean, keeping fresh fruits and meats was near impossible. Fresh water was also difficult to keep during long sea voyages because it could develop algae scum. By contrast, alcohol would never spoil, making beer and rum the preferred preferred beverages. Rum, in addition to being consumed straight up, was used along with cinnamon and other spices to sweeten stagnant water and make grog. Dried meats and hardtack, a relatively shelf-stable biscuit, were regular parts of a pirate’s diet, although the latter was frequently infested with weevils.

SLIDESHOW: THE SAD STATE OF SCHOOL LUNCH IN THE U.S.
HuffPostTeen
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The photos come to us from the youth nonprofit DoSomething.org, who have asked teens to share photos of their school lunches throughout the month of September. The full gallery is on the Do Something site, and users can vote to “toss” or “eat” each photo.

As demonstrated by the cringe-worthy images above, it’s an effective campaign idea — and the nonprofit plans to use the data gathered to create a “heat map” of school lunches in the U.S. Their goal is to raise awareness of the sad state of nutrition in public schools.

JUST WHAT THE DOCTOR ORDERED: MED STUDENTS TEAM WITH CHEFS
Kristen Goulray | The Salt | NPR

For the past few weeks, the culinary arts students at University in Providence, R.I., have been working with some less-than-seasoned sous chefs.

One of them, Clinton Piper, may look like a pro in his chef’s whites, but he’s struggling to work a whisk through some batter. “I know nothing about baking,” he says.

Luckily, he’s got other qualifications. Piper is a fourth-year medical student at , and he’s here for a short rotation through a new designed to educate med students and chefs-in-training about nutrition.
Johanna Terron, 14, has lost over 20 pounds over the past year. She receives a prescription for fruits and vegetables from her pediatrician at Lincoln Hospital.

“I think it’s forward thinking to start to see, to view food as medicine,” he says. “That’s not something that’s really on our radar in medical education. But with the burden of disease in the United States being so heavily weighted with lifestyle disease, I think it’s a very, very logical next step.”

HEY CHIPOTLE
David Hayden | Farming America

2)You portray meat being processed and coming straight out of factories. Where do you think your meat comes from? I’m a meat scientist and have been in PLENTY of “Factories” that produce YOUR products. That’s right, farmer John isn’t killing and processing your meat on the family farm, it’s all coming from a factory. So please don’t act like just because you carry an “All Natural” label your products are exempt from processing.

3)And then there’s this;
chipotle-chicken

Really Chipotle, what is this? Are you simulating farmers pumping hormones into their chicken so they grow big and fat? Let’s talk about that for a second; hormones are ILLEGAL, so since they are illegal, they are NOT used in poultry production. My family raises commercial poultry, and let me tell you, there is no “shot giving” to any of those animals. I couldn’t imagine giving 100,000 birds an individual shot. THIS DOESN’T HAPPEN.

GM FOOD FIGHT: WHY THE GATES FOUNDATION WANTS TO MAKE RICE GOLDEN
Tom Paulson | Humanosphere

“We fully expect golden rice will continue to be a lightning rod in this debate,” said Alex Reid, a spokeswoman for the Gates Foundation on its agricultural programs. The Seattle philanthropy supports research into a variety of GM crop technologies as one of many options aimed at improving agricultural productivity and utility in poor communities, Reid said, but their spending on GMOs remains less than 10 percent of the entire agricultural program budget. She noted that the Gates Foundation has spent about $2 billion on agriculture since adding that to its humanitarian portfolio in the mid-2000s. The most recent annual report, Reid said, put agriculture spending at more than $370 million in 2011 (with the golden rice project getting about $10 million).

Support for golden rice research also comes from the Rockefeller Foundation and the US Agency for International Development.

“If it turns out to be safe an effective, we would support it,” she said. “For now, we just see it as one of many options. We would describe our position on this as ‘technologically agnostic,’ meaning we are neither for or against GM crops. We just want to use what works.”

GOLDEN RICE NOT SO GOLDEN FOR TUFTS
Martin Enserink | Science

A study in which Chinese children were fed a small amount of genetically modified rice violated university and U.S. federal rules on human research, according to a statement issued yesterday by Tufts University in Boston, whose scientists led the study. Tufts has barred the principal investigator, Guangwen Tang, from doing human research for 2 years and will require her to undergo training in research on human subjects.

In August 2012, Tang and colleagues published a study in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showing that golden rice is a promising source of vitamin A in Chinese children aged 6 to 8 years old. The study ignited a media firestorm in China a few weeks later, after Greenpeace issued a statement claiming that the children were used as “guinea pigs” and labeling the study a “scandal of international proportions.” Three Chinese collaborators who initially denied involvement in the study, according to media reports, were punished for their participation in December, following an official investigation in China, and parents of the children received generous financial compensation from the Chinese government.

. . . The reviews found no evidence of health or safety problems in the children fed golden rice; they also concluded that the study’s data were scientifically accurate and valid. Indeed, Souvaine’s letter to the USDA stresses that the results “have important public health and nutrition implications, for China and other parts of the world.”

Barley and Lentils Back in the Day

A new paper [paywall] in the journal Science reports that recent archeological findings show that agriculture had started in Iran on the far edge of the Fertile Crescent 12,000 years ago. The Los Angeles Times:

For decades, archaeologists believed agriculture took root in a part of the Fertile Crescent called the Levant, which includes present-day Israel, Lebanon and Jordan, as well as parts of Syria, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and other countries. From there, it was thought to have spread eastward to present-day Iran.

“The eastern Fertile Crescent has been treated as backwater,” said Melinda Zeder, a senior scientist at the Smithsonian Institute’s Program in Human Ecology and Archaeobiology, who was not involved in the study. Now, the understanding that people in the Zagros grew and ground cereal grains as early as their counterparts in the Levant has “democratized this situation where everyone in the region was involved,” she said.

The Salt:

riehl4hrThere were stone tools, too: things that looked like sickles, and mortar and pestles, some clearly used for grinding food. And then there were the grains and seeds — hundreds of them, charred but otherwise intact and well preserved.

Now, Conard is no botanist. He’s an expert on stone tools. But even his untrained eye recognized some of the grains.

“They look like lentils you might buy at the store, or pieces of wheat or barley you might have encountered in other aspects of life.”

He suspected he was looking at an “agricultural village,” but he sent the grains to his colleague to double check.

Bingo.

“That was a fantastic feeling, when I first get these plant remains under the microscope,” says Riehl, an archaeobotanist at the University of Tubingen.

She confirmed that the grains were indeed varieties of lentils, barley and peas. She also identified a range of nuts and grasses, and a kind of wheat called Emmer, known to be a commonly grown crop in later centuries throughout the Middle East.

But most of the grains Riehl looked at were pre-agricultural. “They were cultivating what we consider wild progenitors of modern crops,” says Riehl.

Here’s a recipe that combines elements of what those folks might have been eating. I cook lentils with spinach a lot, but I’ve used arugula here because our arugula is a lot closer to it’s ancient predecessor.

INGREDIENTS

½ lb. chopped bacon (ends are perfect)
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 carrots, finely chopped
1 large yellow onion, finely chopped
1 tsp. cumin seeds,
½ tsp. dried thyme
12 cups chicken broth
1 cup pearled barley, rinsed
¾ cupred lentils, rinsed
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
½ lb. arugula, coarsely chopped

INSTRUCTIONS

1. Heat oil in a 5-quart pot over medium-high heat; add bacon, cook until 2/3rds done.

2. Add carrots,and onions, along with cumin, and thyme. Cook, stirring, until lightly browned, 10–15 minutes. Add chicken broth, and barley and season with salt and pepper to taste.

3. Bring to a boil, lower the heat to medium-low, and cook, partially covered, stirring occasionally, until barley is al dente about 35 minutes. Add lentils. Cook about 10 more minutes until lentils are done. Red lentils cook much faster than other lentils so adjust accordingly if you are using a different type of lentil. Stir in arugula at the end.