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 other day I was in the market, grocery shopping and as I was grabbing a half gallon of milk, I glanced in the dented and discarded bins. I often peek, but have never bought anything but soup vegetables. Instead of the usual completely useless crap, there was a pile of canned goods. I took a closer look. Chili. Black beans. Refried beans. Tomato puree. Hmmm. White beans. More chili. This is starting to look like a plan.
Here’s what I scooped up.
Nalley Big Chunk Chili (no beans) .99¢ (reg. $2.00)
Nalley Big Chunk Chili (no beans) .99¢ (reg. $2.00)
Hormel Beef Chili with Beans .69¢ (reg. $1.29)
Dennison’s Chili with Beans .89¢ ($1.83)
Rosarita Refried Beans .49¢ (reg. $1.00)
S&W White Beans .49¢ (reg. .89¢)
S&W Black Beans .49¢ (reg. .89¢)
Hunts Tomato Puree .69¢ (reg. $1.33)
For a grand total of $5.72 and a savings of $5.51.
How to bring this pile of salty swill up to some semblance of acceptable nutrition, wholesomeness and deliciousness without a lot of effort or spending?
I’ve got onions and fresh garlic at home, so first stop is a 28 oz. can of store brand diced tomatoes. $1. Then a big sweet potato. .69c. Next stop Trader Joe’s for a one pound bag of frozen red, yellow and green bell pepper strips. $1.69 (What can I say. My building has a walk score of 100).
Big pot. Chop and sauté two onions. While those are going, chop and add frozen peppers. After ten minutes, add a few cloves of chopped garlic for five minutes. Dump in all the cans. Add two tablespoons of New Mexico chili powder. I get the packets in the Mexican section, much cheaper. Peel and grate in the sweet potato. Heat through and simmer for an hour.
I also had some frozen corn that I thought about tossing in but didn’t. Sometimes I do. Sometimes I don’t.
Add in $1.00 for the ingredients for home and the grand total looks like:
$10.10 (the amount Obama is proposing for the minimum wage. Coincidence? You be the judge.) That worked out to about $1.44 a quart or 28 servings at .36¢ a serving. It took about 12 minutes to get in the pot. An hour and half on the stove with occasional stirring. Less than ten minutes to clean up and break the chili into plastic containers for freezing. Just over one minute per serving.
Let me emphasize that opening the cans was the hardest part.
So what was the verdict? My room mate cooks for a living. He’s no push over. Around lunch time the next day, the call came out from the kitchen, “What’s in this chili, it’s great.”
“You don’t want to know.”
1.WHAT THE FEDERAL SHUTDOWN MEANS FOR PEOPLE WHO EAT AND GROW FOOD
Sam Brasch | Modern Farmer
The USDA Can’t…
Help pregnant women or women with new children buy healthy food. Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) doesn’t have funding to continue during the shutdown. The $6 billion dollar program buys healthy food for pregnant women or new mothers if they are poor or at risk of buying unhealthy food. The Huffington Post reports that states can step in for a few days, but if the shutdown goes on too long, mothers and kids could be turned away.
Keep in touch with consumers. In the event of a shutdown, the USDA will basically shutter its office of communications. The website will go dark, reporters won’t have anyone to contact, and all USDA publications and press releases will stop. So even if the agency can find a listeria outbreak, it’s won’t have all channels available to let you know about it.
Keep their databases open. This might not seem like a big deal, but for farmers, it’s huge. Markets rely on reports from the USDA to set the price of soy, wheat, corn, beef, etc. Without an October report traders would be adjusting prices in the dark and farmers would be selling without knowing the real value of their crops.
2.THE RISE OF FOOD ALLERGIES AND FIRST WORLD PROBLEMS
Noah Davis | Pacific Standard
Dr. Scott H. Sicherer, a professor of pediatrics and chief of the Division of Allergy and Immunology at The Mount Sinai Medical Center’s Jaffe Food Allergy Institute, told me that his team conducted a random calling in 1997. It showed one in 250 children were allergic to peanuts. When they did the same study in 2008, the number jumped to one in 70. “That sounds crazy, because it’s a tripling, but the numbers from other countries are similar,” the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (AAAAI) fellow said, pointing to similar studies with similar results from Canada, the U.K., and Australia.
4. DO HIPSTERS ON FOOD STAMPS SHOP AT WHOLE FOODS?
Dana Woldow | BeyondChron
How many of Saunders’ imagined able-bodied childless moochers can possibly be getting SNAP benefits? According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, as recently as 2011, children and elderly or disabled adults comprised 64% of SNAP recipients. Of the remaining 36%, 22% are adults in families with children; just 14% of SNAP recipients are able bodied, childless adults of working age. With about 48 million individuals getting SNAP, that would be about 6.7 million potential “deadbeats”.
But according to the USDA, “Generally, able-bodied adults aged 18 to 50 who do not have children and are not pregnant can only get SNAP benefits for 3 months in a 3-year period unless they are working or participating in a work or workfare program.”
5. THE PLIGHT OF THE POLLINATORS
Jason Mark | Civil Eats
“Earlier this year people were getting very worried, because they weren’t seeing monarchs very far north,” says Lincoln Brower, a research professor of biology at Sweet Briar College and a butterfly expert. “Our predictions have proven to be true. There have been very few sightings in August and now into September. Right now things are looking very grim. I have seen a total of five monarchs in my garden since October 2012. I would normally see a couple of hundred, at least.”
Several species of native bumblebees are also suffering.
“As dramatic as the honeybee declines have been, they pale in comparison to what we have seen with our native bumblebees,” says Eric Mader, a program director at the Xerces Society, an Oregon-based group working to raise awareness about the role of native pollinators. “Honeybees are not going extinct, and that’s the crucial difference with our native pollinators.”
HOUSE MEMBERS ADVOCATE FOR ORGANIC AGRICULTURE IN FARM BILL
National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition
A bipartisan group of Representatives delivered a “Dear Colleague” letter to House leadership on Friday September 27th, calling for House farm bill conferees to support key programs for organic agriculture in any upcoming negotiations.
Thanks to the leadership of Representatives Peter DeFazio (D-OR), Richard Hanna (R-NY), Sam Farr (D-CA), and Ron Kind (D-WI) , as well as strong grassroots pressure from NSAC members and partners in the organic sector, dozens of Representatives from both parties and all parts of the country have joined together in calling for key investments in the future of organic agriculture as an essential part of the 2013 Farm Bill.
7. RECIPE: WHOLE WHEAT PENNE OR FUSILLI WITH FRESH TOMATOES, SHELL BEANS AND FETA
Martha Rose Shulman | The New York Times
Shell beans and tomatoes are still available at the end of September in farmers’ markets, and I’ll continue to make pasta with uncooked tomatoes until there are no sweet tomatoes to be found. Shell beans are a rare treat, soft and velvety, to be savored during their short season.
FAMILY: MARCELLA HAZAN, INFLUENTIAL ITALIAN CHEF AND COOKBOOK AUTHOR, DIES AT 89 AT FLA. HOME
Associated Press | The Washington Post
She eschewed the American-style Italian food that suffocated mushy pasta in grainy meatballs and tasteless cheese. She begged home cooks to use more salt and once wrote that if readers were concerned about salt affecting one’s life expectancy, to “not read any further.” On the topic of garlic, Hazan took a sharp view.
“The unbalanced use of garlic is the single greatest cause of failure in would-be Italian cooking,” she wrote in her 2004 cookbook “Marcella Says…” ‘’It must remain a shadowy background presence. It cannot take over the show.”
. . . In 2004, Marcella Hazan wrote, “Simple doesn’t mean easy. I can describe simple cooking thus: Cooking that is stripped all the way down to those procedures and those ingredients indispensable in enunciating the sincere flavor intentions of a dish.”
Hazan said the Roman dish spaghettini aio e oio — thin spaghetti with garlic, oil, parsley, chili pepper and nothing else — embodies the simple-yet-complex nature of Italian food. Dishes should nourish and please, she added, not “dazzle guests with my originality or creativity.”
“I am never bored by a good old dish and I wouldn’t shrink from making something that I first made fifty years ago and my mother, perhaps, fifty years before then,” she wrote. “I don’t cook ‘concepts.’ I use my head, but I cook from the heart, I cook for flavor.”
RECIPE: TOMATO SAUCE WITH ONION AND BUTTER
Giuliano Hazan | Saveur
My mother’s tomato, butter, and onion sauce unfailingly elicits feelings of comfort and well-being. Its ability to wash away fatigue and anxiety is almost miraculous, and its preparation borders on alchemy. Who would think that simply putting tomatoes, a peeled halved onion, butter, and salt in a pot and cooking it with barely an occasional stir until it is reduced, would produce such concentrated goodness? In my freezer there is always a batch, ready to be defrosted and enjoyed in the time it takes to cook some pasta.
MAKES 3 CUPS
8 tbsp. unsalted butter, cubed
¼ tsp. sugar
1 (28-oz.) can whole, peeled tomatoes in juice, crushed by hand
1 medium yellow onion, peeled and quartered lengthwise
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Bring butter, sugar, tomatoes, and onion, to a boil in a 4-qt. saucepan over medium-high heat; reduce heat to medium-low, and cook, stirring occasionally, until flavors meld and sauce is slightly reduced, about 45 minutes. Discard onion, and season sauce with salt and pepper before serving.
MARCELLA HAZAN’S TOMATO SAUCE WITH ONION AND BUTTER
Jaden Hair | The Steamy Kitchen
MEETING MARCELLA AND VICTOR HAZAN
Jaden Hair | The Steamy Kitchen
It’s funny how a little thing like lunch can be a life changer.
For Marcella Hazan, it was when Craig Claiborne of the NY Times came to lunch in 1970….and shortly thereafter, celebrities, writers, chefs and other-important-people-who-can-make-your-career started coming to Marcella’s classes to learn about authentic Italian cooking. Six best-selling books, Lifetime Achievement awards and changing the way Americans cook, think, enjoy Italian food…that’s Marcella.
My life changing lunch was last week.
It was a bit unexpected – I’ve been friends with Lael and Guiliano Hazan (Marcella’s son) for the past couple of years but never imagined that I’d be meeting Marcella. And it wasn’t until Pamela Sheldon Johns swung by the area on book tour that I had that chance. A few emails, text messages and phone calls with Pamela and it was decided that lunch at the Ritz Carlton in Sarasota was the plan, and that Marcella would be joining us.
I really didn’t know what to expect, I had heard Marcella was intense and intimidating, but I would have expected nothing less from the “doyenne of Italian cooking in America“…a fervent force of nature, indeed!
Lunch was pleasant, I was on my best behavior and didn’t slurp my Pork Belly Ramen Noodles like I normally would, for fear that a long slingy noodle would slurp-lash rich broth at my dining companions. Conversation flitted between Pamela’s cooking school in Italy to olive oil to cookbooks to book tour to travel.
No, wait. Pamela and I flitted. Marcella listened, at moments her eyes would gaze away and just when I thought we had bored her to tears, she’d smile and cut our sing-song fluttery conversation with her wisdom, bluntness and staunchy opinions.
And that was our lunch.
But that wasn’t THE LUNCH that I was referring to.
MARCELLA HAZAN’S BAGNA CAUDA
SERVES 4 – 6
This lusty dish, whose Italian name means warm bath, provides the perfect counterpoint to raw vegetables. This recipe is based on one in Essentials of Classic Italian Cuisine (Knopf, 1992) by Marcella Hazan.
1⁄2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
3 tbsp. butter
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
10 salt-cured anchovy filets, rinsed, boned,
and finely chopped
Assortment of raw, cut-up cauliflower, carrots, celery, radicchio, and radishes
1. Heat oil and butter in a pot over medium-high heat until butter begins to foam. Add garlic; cook for 10 seconds.
2. Reduce heat to medium-low and add anchovies. Cook, stirring and mashing anchovies with a wooden spoon, until anchovies are broken into very small pieces and dip is cloudy, 3–4 minutes.
3. Season with salt to taste and serve immediately as a dip for an assortment of raw vegetables.
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.
There 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.
“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.
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
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.