Category Archives: educational tidbits on food and food production

Michael Pollan and Will Allen on Good Food at PopTech

Sometimes you get really lucky when you’re randomly screwing around online. Exciting things are happening all over the world and every so often you happen to be there at the perfect moment to observe them. And by ‘there’ I mean ‘a very large ocean away’ from the PopTech conference in Camden, Maine, a yearly event that brings together ‘world changing people, projects and ideas.’ But thanks to live streamed video, timely Twitter updates, and the Miracle of the Internet, on Saturday I was able to watch, in real-time from 3,000 miles away, the inspiring talks of two of my favorite sustainable and good eating visionaries: Michael Pollan and Will Allen.

I’m psyched I managed to catch part of both their talks live because the full videos don’t appear to be online. However, you can see a brief minute-and-a-half recap of several speeches on PopTech 2009: Saturday Highlights and read well-written, comprehensive overviews on the PopTech blog as well. If you’re interested in food and don’t know about either of these guys, start reading now…

Read about ‘Michael Pollan’s Gospel of Sustainable Food’. His talk was full of great quotes – like how a vegan in a Hummer uses less energy than a meat eater in a Prius and how our generation in America will be the first to have a shorter life expectancy than our parents. Below, he grins next to a double Quarter Pounder and the equivalent 26 ounces of oil needed to produce the burger.  This is right before he dips a finger into the viscous black liquid in the glasses, sticks it in his mouth..and then tells the shocked audience that it’s actually chocolate syrup.

michael pollan at poptech

Read about ‘Will Allen and the Urban Farming Revolution’

Will Allen at PopTech

And while I’m busy linking, read about the talk given by Marije Vogelzang – a Dutch designer who does edible art projects and installations. I like that she got vegetable-hating preschoolers to eat their greens by gnawing fun shapes into their vegetables using their teeth. Play + Food = Fun and Delicious.  And it’s given me some good ideas for Rambling Restaurant…

You can read about the rest of the America Reimagined conference and watch some more videos here. And the PopTech website has tons of other amazing videos, blog posts, useful links, profiles of fascinating people and projects and companies, and an inspiring social innovation fellows program.  Click around the site and you’ll almost get overwhelmed with all the interesting material. So go check it out – you don’t even need to be in the right place at the right time. You could be in your underwear in your closet in the middle of the night and still learn about world-changing ideas at PopTech – now that’s the Miracle of the Internet.

UPDATE:  Apparently the quote on the vegan in the Hummer is not statistically accurate. Pollan acknowledges and chooses to refocus on the general message of the environmental concerns against industrialized meat. It’s basically just a pithy soundbite anyway…but too bad cause it was a good one.

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Eat&Joy Maatilatori: A Market for Local Farmers and Producers in Helsinki

New cities are full of possibilities.  My first night in Helsinki, I spent several hours traipsing around the narrow historic streets and the broad tree-lined esplanades, getting a feel for this unfamiliar and exhilarating territory.  Exploring a cityscape in search of  quirky sights and unexpected urban landmarks to write a treasure hunt game often occupies my brain for hours until I realize that it’s gotten dark and it’s way past time for dinner.  But that brings me to the best part about traveling to new places – finding the most delicious and exciting local food to eat. And I was luckily enough to stumble upon the warm and inviting shopfront of Eat&Joy Maatilatori right by the central train station.  eat&joy maatilatori

Eat&Joy Maatilatori is a fantastic place that should exist in every urban space – it’s essentially a farmer’s market in a shop that sources local foods from all over Finland to bring to city consumers.  Offerings range from the very fresh (cheese and yogurt from nearby dairy farms, just-baked rye bread, fruits and vegetables) to the canned, jarred, and otherwise long-lasting (jams, jellies, chocolates, mustards, and more) as well as lots of baskets. Apparently Finland is big on baskets.

the inside of eat&joy maatilatori

Chatting with the man at the counter, I learned that Eat&Joy opened for a trial period beginning in June and after a successful three month stint,  would be opening as a permanent location just the next day.  The shop owners are dedicated to showcasing the best of small Finnish producers – some who might not otherwise reach a large consumer base – and apparently the public has responded with enthusiasm. Who wouldn’t be enthusiastic about Finnish riispiirakka, a palm-sized rye pastry filled with just-barely- sweet rice pudding?

riispiirakka

Especially when they’re place on beautifully designed Finnish tea towels.  As a brief segue…the graphic and textile design in Finland is, unsurprisingly, spectacular. I covet every single item in the Marimekko store and hope that someday my kitchen will be decked out in extremely expensive but oh-so-gorgeous tea towels and oven mitts and cloth napkins and tablecloths and I will be an enviable domestic goddess with pastries in the oven, decked out in a spotless Marimekko apron. Well, actually that’s not true.  I want to have a real, bustling, happy, full-of-life-and-love-and-food-probably-a-little-(lot)-of-mess kitchen. I don’t really want to live in the polished and gleaming perfection of the Marimekko store….

the marimekko store in helsinki

…or maybe I do.

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an early morning food adventure at the wholesale fruit and vegetable market

unsurprisingly, it takes quite a lot of carrots to make roasted carrot dip for 100 strangers. same goes for the eggplant, red onion, and zucchini needed to make somewhere between 18 and 20 pans of roasted vegetable foccacia. rather than pay regular prices and lug massive bags home from the supermarket, our crew of rambling cooks  – synnove, michelle, and myself – decided it would be efficient, cost-effective, and most importantly, fun to make an early morning trip to the wholesale produce market at new covent garden.

bags of vegetables

despite what the name might suggest, new covent garden market is absolutely nowhere near regular covent garden. in fact, the market is located on the opposite side of the river in the vauxhall area which meant we would need to obtain some sort of vehicle for food and person transport. luckily, synnove’s boyfriend pete generously offered us the use of his car and even more impressively, his services as driver at the ungodly hour of 5am for our fruit and veg quest.

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farm tours with the hackney hostel: the biggest of pigs and the manliest of donkeys

hackney city farm is home to some of the most delicious food and some of the most entertaining residents in london.  i’d venture to say that this farm visit, consisting of a little breakfast eating and a little animal ogling with chris, drewstew, becky, and lexi, also resulted in the some of the most entertaining photos i’ve taken in london. how’s that for some superlative action? i think you might have to agree with me though, when you see photos like this one of  lexi with a SERIOUSLY BIG ASS PIG.

lexi and the pig

BWAHAHAHAHAHA. hilarious. i also really like this photo of everyone pensively regarding the duck that just waddled into their midst.  andrew in particular looks very marky mark while lexi is either running away or doing the chicken dance.

visiting hackney city farm with becky drew and lexi

another strong contender in the best picture category is this glamour shot of larry the donkey. now, it’s totally natural life on the farm and not really NSFW, but just so you’re forewarned…

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To Free-Range or Not to Free-Range? The Transatlantic Egg Comparison

things have been pretty busy lately (everyday i’m hustling) so here’s a post i wrote a while ago for the sustainable food blog  eat.drink.better. interesting, if you care about chicken welfare, where your eggs are coming from, and bad egg puns. and if you don’t, you should! cluck cluck.

How do you like your eggs? The answer to that question used to be sunny side up, scrambled, or over easy. Now, it’s cage-free and organic, thank you very much.  Since I moved to London recently, I’ve noticed a greater level of public awareness regarding egg production and chicken welfare as compared to the United States.  Most supermarkets and chain restaurants, and even some giant multinational corporations, sell or use exclusively free-range eggs and prominently advertise doing so.

It’s certainly a big change from the United States, where cage-free eggs are generally available but are not as widespread in popularity as in the United Kingdom. It appears to be a slowly growing movement back at home, and it’s great news that some states have begun to pass laws improving living conditions for chickens. Unfortunately, we’ve still got a long way to go before reaching the level of public demand and corporate response for the right kind of eggs that can be found here in the UK.

Here are a few of the differences I’ve noticed with regard to egg production and marketing in the UK and the States.

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Two Absolute Must-Read Food Related Articles

just wanted to pass along two of the best food-related articles i’ve read in a very long time. they’re both fascinating for VERY different reasons and i highly recommend reading.

first off, the fantastic blog obama foodorama covers michelle obama’s amazingly enlightened, proactive, honest, and progressive stance on food justice, food policies, school lunches, gardening, nutrition, health, and the dangers of processed and fast food. she even talks about food deserts, a really important issue not given nearly enough attention. so glad that someone prominent, visible, and well-liked is discussing these topics.  and she does it without sounding preachy or elitist, just as someone concerned about all these important issues that happen to be inextricably interrelated. obama foodorama calls her ‘the new leader of america’s food movement’ and i’m psyched about it. so obsessed with her…

secondly, you must read this article from my hometown boston globe on…[grilled cheese]. just do it. then read the comments. all 300+ of them. seriously. chris and i spent at least two hours doing so last week, and i laughed, cried, ranted, railed, and generally just shook my head in amazement at the ingenuity/hilarity/stupidity of humankind.

once you read that, you’ll know why i’m slightly disturbed to have made grilled cheese for money, and for my whole office:)

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Two Absolute Must-Read Food Related Articles

just wanted to pass along two of the best food-related articles i’ve read in a very long time. they’re both fascinating for VERY different reasons and i highly recommend reading.

first off, the fantastic blog obama foodorama covers michelle obama’s amazingly enlightened, proactive, honest, and progressive stance on food justice, food policies, school lunches, gardening, nutrition, health, and the dangers of processed and fast food. she even talks about food deserts, a really important issue not given nearly enough attention. so glad that someone prominent, visible, and well-liked is discussing these topics.  and she does it without sounding preachy or elitist, just as someone concerned about all these important issues that happen to be inextricably interrelated. obama foodorama calls her ‘the new leader of america’s food movement’ and i’m psyched about it. so obsessed with her…

secondly, you must read this article from my hometown boston globe on…[grilled cheese]. just do it. then read the comments. all 300+ of them. seriously. chris and i spent at least two hours doing so last week, and i laughed, cried, ranted, railed, and generally just shook my head in amazement at the ingenuity/hilarity/stupidity of humankind.

once you read that, you’ll know why i’m slightly disturbed to have made grilled cheese for money, and for my whole office:)

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a sunny saturday at broadway market: wild mushroom risotto and the oldest cheese in england.

broadway market from afar

another beautiful saturday in east london, and it’s off to broadway market! vietnamese iced coffee in hand, i spent a lovely few hours last weekend wandering the stalls,  listening to the outdoor musicians, enjoying the sunshine, and chatting with various vendors of all kinds. of course, i did a bit of eating along the way.

check out this wild mushroom risotto with fresh arugula, grated pecorino, and a splash of truffle oil from the sporeboys stall. mushroom risotto from sporeboys at broadway market

it’s wild and exotic! sounds like a scantily clad late-night performance rather than a lusciously creamy and rich risotto. i bought a box of their assorted mushrooms last week and enjoyed a number of meals of  sautéed mushrooms with italian olive oil, fresh sage and rosemary, and grated piave cheese (hard and nutty, a bit like parmigiano reggiano or pecorino), also from the market. so good and can be served so many ways! recipe and ideas for lots of mushroomy fun in my post on eat.drink.better. even more MUSHROOM MUSHROOM fun here (and no, that site will never get old).

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An Organic Box Scheme (A British Take on Community Supported Agriculture)

sup peeps. some of you might already know that i write sporadically for a site called Eat.Drink.Better, an awesome website on real, sustainable food that is part of Green Options Media. GO Media is a green blog network that recently became a part of Virgance, co-founded by a great friend and super-all-around amazing guy, Brent Schulkin. here’s a post i wrote for Eat.Drink.Better a few weeks ago that i’d like to share here. [shameless self promotion warning!] even better, you can click here to read it on their site to support EDB and make me rich to the tune of about .0000001 cents per click.  fund my cheese sandwich addiction! loooove mei.

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I feel like I’ve finally settled a little here in London now that I am the proud recipient of an organic fruit and vegetable box scheme from a local company called Growing Communities. These box schemes are the equivalent of what we call Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) boxes in the States. As other writers have mentioned on Eat.Drink.Better, it’s a great way to support local farmers and have good produce around to eat!

I feel blessed to live in the same area as Growing Communities, because it means I get access to their boxes of local and organic fruits and veg (the nickname everyone gives to vegetables here). You have to live or work in the neighborhood of Hackney in order to be a part of the scheme, which I’ll explain below. Their box scheme is particularly cool for a couple of reasons: Continue reading

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around the world in 80 million bites: roast hog, octopus balls and injera at the incredible sunday upmarket

truman brewery on brick lane

continuing my series of posts on london’s amazing markets, i’m now going to deluge you with photos and effusive/obsessive words on the fantastic global bazaar of eats available at the sunday upmarket at the old truman brewery on brick lane. chris and i have hit up brick lane every sunday since we moved to hackney, but didn’t make it all the way down to the upmarket the first weekend as we were distracted by various household and junk items at heavily discounted prices (read: dug out of someone’s attic or stolen off the back of a truck).

luckily, we kept walking south the next sunday and happened upon an adorable stall of japanese food. impressed by the setup and unable to turn down anything involving street food and a deep fryer, we ordered the special donburi of assorted fried items and a slab of salmon on a bed of rice with salad and teriyaki sauce. YUM.

japanese food stall

having happily filled our bellies, we then turned a corner and walked down a narrow alley lined with stores and restaurants  into ely’s yard,  a huge lot filled with picnic tables, food stalls and tons of people. we then realized that a whole new world of food was before us and i mean LITERALLY a whole world – i’ve never seen food from so many different countries and cultures in one place in my whole life.  off the top of my head, i recall peruvian, japanese, thai, sri lankan, turkish, argentinian, russian, ethiopian, moroccan, peruvian, tibetan, chinese, spanish, brazilian and caribbean. oh yeah, and mauritius island food. SERIOUSLY? the two of us wandered around for ages with our mouths open, drool spilling unattractively from the corners, wishing we were cows and had four stomachs to fill with international delicacies.

picnic tables at brick lane upmarket

since we were both stuffed with friedness, we just wandered and ogled and took mental notes of what to eat when we returned the next weekend. which is exactly what we did, eamon in tow and stomachs ready to do some global adventuring.

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