Category Archives: educational tidbits on food and food production

Grow your own veggies!

Er – maybe not like this. They are pretty, though! Maybe you want to:

1. Grow your own sprouts(Sprouted chickpeas are great for hummus)

2. Grow random crap from your pantry and fridge! (Special shout-out to potato sprouter extraordinaire Judith Ternes – you inspire us)

3. Check out Carolyn Cope‘s advice for edible windowbox gardens!

4. Find out who among your friends and family are undercover garden wizards! They’re everywhere, and they’ll definitely give you advice, probably bring you their extras, and maybe even deliver you some transplants.

Don’t forget to have fun and not worry too much! This spring, I tried to let go of my desire to read and read and read about gardening, and just gardened. It’s been great. Maybe (read: probably) I’ve made some serious technical errors, but I’m too ignorant to know the difference! And as long as I’m not perpetuating pests, I figure my amateurish behavior is acceptable. And the herbs are hard to kill. And it feels good to eat food you’ve grown. And it feels almost as good if not better to not pay $3 for a pathetically small bunch of “fresh” herbs.

Max and I threw a bunch of stuff in the ground this spring. Click on for some photos of our -likely-unimpressive-to-you-but-totally-life-changing-for-me garden! I’m practicing for my hopefully long career as a slightly senile but very proud grandmother who has impressively but inconveniently learned to use snapfish.

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Dan Barber TED Talk: How I Fell In Love With A Fish

http://video.ted.com/assets/player/swf/EmbedPlayer.swf

Dan Barber on ‘a farm that doesn’t feed its fish, a farm that measures its success by the health of its predators, a farm that’s literally a water purification plant’.

‘We need a radically new conception of agriculture…one where the food actually tastes good.’

Insightful, inspiring, educational. Hilarious.

Promise me you’ll watch it when you next have a free 20 minutes.

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Link Roundup and MOAR CHOCOLATE.

I absolutely decimated an enormous chocolate bunny this weekend. I know, Easter was a while ago.  Kind of like how I started making this list of links a while ago. But it’s still good.  Just like the bunny was still good. REALLY good. Basically, this was me:

This image is courtesy of Hyperbole and a Half, a blog that had our office on its knees in paroxysms of laughter for a good portion of the workday. Thanks, H+1/2, for destroying our productivity like a 7000% deadly shark-sloth.

Anyway, those links. Here’s some cool stuff we’ve been reading when not stuffing our faces with defenseless chocolate creatures.

Eat-onomics: The Ten Most Inspiring People in Sustainable Food [Fast Company]

Q&A with Chef Dan Barber: Can Organic Farming Feed The World? [TED Blog]

People Who Photograph Food and Post the Pictures Online [New York Times] Who are these freaks?

Jamie Oliver’s TED Wish: Teach Every Child About Food [TED]

20 Fascinating Lectures for Serious Foodies [Online Universities] Lots of our faves here, from Malcolm Gladwell to Dan Barber to Jennifer 8.  Lee to a ‘renegade lunch lady.’

How To Make Perfect Pork Crackling [Guardian] Finally, a decent reason to buy a hair dryer.

Q & A: Oscar Week: Food Inc. Director Robert Kenner [TIME] Yeah….this was from a long time ago.

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Weekly Link Roundup: Eating Maps, Grass-Fed Beef, Aquaponics and More.

Here’s what I’ve been reading this week. Lots of good stuff.

Most Fast-Food Per Person and Other Food Facts [Daily Yonder] – some cool maps of eating habits across the U.S.

How Eating Grass-Fed Beef Could Help Fight Climate Change [TIME] – that’s as self-explanatory a title as you can get.

Behind the Organic Pasture Rule at the USDA [Chewswise]  – a blog by the author of Organic, Inc.

The Great Grocery Smackdown [The Atlantic] – on buying organic at…Walmart? Plus a blind cookoff between Walmart and Whole Foods. Some interesting results…

The Spotless Garden [New York Times]  – a great article about backyard and basement aquaponics systems and the ‘otherworldly yields’ from this type of growing.   ‘It is either a glimpse into the future of food growing or a very strange hobby — possibly both.’

More photos and cool stuff here. All credits to NYTimes.

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Growing Spaces in Unusual Places: London’s Urban Agriculture and a Super Mini Garden

Seems like everyone is talking about urban agriculture these days, with innovative new ideas ranging from tiny little crowd-funded SF city farms to fantasy skyscraper-high vertical farms.  From pundits to policymakers,  foodies to farmers to futurists, a lot of people are starting to think about urban food production for the sake of local economies, the environment, community resources, jobs creation, urban design, potential food security issues. and many more reasons.  I’ve been reading this really interesting report by the London Assembly called Cultivating the Capital: Food Growing and the Planning System in London (big PDF here) about working with city planners to increase the growing potential of the city.

Nerdy, I know.  In case you don’t want to read the 93 pages yourself (almost half of it is just appendices!), the report looks at the current situation of urban food producers, the barriers they face in growing and getting their products to market, and potential innovative solutions.  It also analyzes the city land that could be used for food production and encourages the use of  unconventional growing spaces, from rooftops to parks to housing developments.  And in terms of specific action, the report recommends that the Mayor of London promote and support policy and planning to increase Greater London’s food production and distribution channels.  They’ve got lots of important reasons to back up their suggestions:

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The Definitely-Not-Weekly Link Roundup: Remixed Muffins, Rules Worth Following, and SF City Gardens

Link roundups are awesome. At least the happy faced chocolate chip and vanilla citrus  panettone bread pudding from last week’s Rambling Restaurant thinks so. This alleged weekly roundup of link love  is not so weekly – right now, we’re going for bi-monthly. Might get worse. May get better (unlikely).

But anyway, some interesting stuff we’ve been reading:

Is There Enough Food Out There For Nine Billion People? [The New Republic]

San Franciscans Turn Abandoned Lot Into Full-Fledged Farm [Inhabitat]

This is awesome – London has city farms all over the place. More American cities should do this, especially with abandoned unused spaces. Great for food production, community involvement, education, improvement of city aesthetics and urban landscape, and general awesomeness. For more on city farms, see below!

Rules Worth Following, For Everyone’s Sake [The New York Times]

On Michael Pollan. Yeah, we talk about him a lot. But it’s an article worth reading, for everyone’s sake.

Whole Wheat Muffin, the Remix [The New York Times]

Bittman is another foodie fave. I am excited to make this.

And the best interactive/participatory link of the week? Put your money where your mouth is on the urban farming tip. Help fund an amazing San Francisco urban garden (in my old beloved hood of the Mission) on this seriously phenomenal crowdsourced funding site called Kickstarter.

Here’s how it works: You pledge a bit of money to support a really cool project. They only take your money if they get enough funding. In return, you get to support a great idea AND you get something in return. A piece of artwork, dinner, a shoutout in a music video, whatever small piece of the project you helped get off the ground according to the level of your donation. For example, you could get an adorable set of seed packets like these for pledging $25:

Or get a gorgeous set of screen-printed posters by one of the farmers who’s also an artist by donating $250.

You can give as little as $5 or as much as you want.  Everyone wins!  I only wish I could have given $1000 for my very own garden picnic.  Someday…when I’m a baller…

Read all about Little City Gardens: An Experiment in the Economic Viability of Urban Farming.  Support an SF farm!

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Ridiculously Good Spiced Brownies, Served with Almonds and Some Thoughts on Good Eating

I’ve got an absolutely amazing brownie recipe for you. Dense, fudgy, moist, a resounding wallop of chocolate amidst an unexpected touch of spices and a subtle nudge of saltiness upon encountering a buried almond. Now, I’m fully aware that I am often given to hyperbole, but I’m not exaggerating when I say these brownies are some of the best I’ve ever eaten. Make them yourself and I bet you’ll feel the same.

It’s not because of my skill at baking, which can more accurately be described as the ability to read and generally follow instructions. This brownie is based on a great recipe from Smitten Kitchen who adapted it from another great recipe from Baked in Brooklyn. Eat anything from these justly celebrated dessert creators and you’ll probably bust out the superlatives too. Plus, it’s got a lot of butter in it, and we all know the important kitchen equation: butter = awesome.

But the brownie got me thinking more about the food we eat and how it’s produced. If you just want to skip ahead to learn how to make these brownies yourself, scroll all the way down.  But first, some brownie pondering…

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Read This Now: Introducing the Weekly Link Roundup

After spending an unprecendented 3+ weeks in each other’s company, Irene Bean and I have come up with some exciting plans and goals to make this FamilyStyles blog a more delicious, useful, educational, entertaining and altogether excellent place to spend your time.

I’m in the process of migrating the blog over to another server, so apologies for any missing pages, weird links, and other bad things caused by my lack of coding skills and demonstrable inability to follow step-by-step instructions.

More importantly – we want to start a weekly link roundup of good articles, essays, ideas, and generally interesting and thought-provoking links from around the interwebs. Because other people are smart and do good work and write excellent pieces and we think they’re worth reading.

Thus. What I read this morning in bed and yesterday when I should have been working:

1. Food writer Corby Kummer in The Atlantic on the value of school gardens, rebutting another Atlantic writer who decries schoolyeard gardens as cruel, elitist, oppressive, and plain out wrong –  without bothering to speak to any educators, parents, children, or community members who have experienced such a program. Corby, on the other hand, actually makes the effort.

2. A GOOD article on aquaponics and making urban farming sustainable. You know how we love Will Allen of Growing Power and his vertically integrated closed loop sustainable urban farm programs. This article talks more about urban agriculture and introduced me to a fantastic San Francisco-based company called Cityscape Farms seeking to develop local food economies and transform the urban landscape by creating urban greenhouses.  I truly think that it’s these types of thoughtful, sustainable yet also business-minded approaches that are going to change America’s food system for the better.

3. Another GOOD article – yeah, I like them – on how Better Meat Requires Better Butchers. So true and so needs to be said. We pay so much attention to the bucolic ideal of small farmers with excellent animal husbandry over factory-farmed meat. But if the pasture-grazed cow is still sent to an industrial slaughterhouse because there are no small licensed facilities available, we’re very likely still losing out in terms of food safety, animal welfare transportation efficiencies, environmental pollutants, and numerous other problems associated with these industrial systems. So we need more butchers. Better for the animals, better for the eaters, better for the planet.

Plus, butchers are badass. Looks like it’s time for a new hobby. Way to begin the fight, Irene.

4. Lastly, a final GOOD article (I know it’s been 3 articles from them, it’s just…they’re really…don’t make me say it…you get the picture…) on the Slow Money Alliance, which is trying to be the Slow Food of the financial world by promoting value-added investment into local and regional farming enterprises. Can you imagine the impact it would have if more and more people directed their money towards small business rather than big business, companies that prioritize local production over international destruction, people rather than profits? (Note, this isn’t just some money-draining, feel-good hippie operation – the goal is to provide a return on your investment while supporting these ideals).  I’m interested to research this further myself.

UPDATE: Another interesting article called Who Will Grow Your Food? Part 1: The Coming Demographic Crisis in Agriculture by the author of A Nation of Farmers: Defeating the Food Crisis on American Soil.  What will happen as farmers grow old or can’t afford to keep their land if no one is being trained to replace them? How will this affect our food system and the way we eat?

So. Hope you enjoy the articles. I sometimes find it overwhelming  trying to ingest just a few valuable drops of the tidal wave of information crashing towards me every day online and it’s nice to have things carefully picked out for you every once in a while. These pieces make me start copying and pasting links into various emails with the heading ‘YOU HAVE TO READ THIS ARTICLE NOW’, so this is just my lazy way of putting them all in one place. We’re going to try to do this weekly at least, so keep your eyes open…

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A Golden Ticket Tasting At Artisan Du Chocolat

The invitation from Yelp read: ‘a tutored tasting of one of a kind cocoa creations, chocolate bars, and chocolate cocktails from the chocolateria menu at Artisan du Chocolat’ and I felt like little Charlie Bucket when he peeled back the wrapper of his hard-earned Wonka bar and first caught the glint of his Golden Ticket.  I’d never say no to a chocolate tasting in the first place, but a private behind-the-scenes showcase of the couture creations from one of London’s most illustrious chocolatiers? My eyes grew bigger than Everlasting Gobstoppers.

My excitement only continued rising upon stepping into the shop in Bayswater, a curious composition of luxury boutique crossed with gleaming white and futurisitic space pod.  Squares of etched chocolate as colorful as works of modern art, rounded truffles piled like jewels on a queen’s dressing table, boxes of caramels as classic and streamlined as the most expensive French perfume. My mouth dropped open, and stayed open for the next two hours as we lucky Yelp Elites were plied with chocolate, caramels and cocoa in an stunning array of forms and flavors.

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Two Excellent Articles On Improving American Food (and my relationship to childhood obesity)

Some seriously excellent articles I’ve just encountered:

1. Avoiding Factory Farms: An Eater’s Guide, by Nicolette Hahn Niman

2. Good Food Nation, by Peter Dizikes of the MIT News Office

Seriously, go read them. Or if you just want me to summarize, click after the jump for brief overviews, some additional thoughts, and an amusing childhood connection…

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