Category Archives: thoughts on good eating and sustainability

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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Big Buck Hunter: A Day in the Life of A Not-So-Average College Sophomore, or, Little Sister Waxes Philosophical on Meat

Most of the time, eating meat seems simple. After all, processed meat in the grocery aisle is neat, clean, and offers us little in the way of reminders that we are eating something that used to be alive, that had a head, feet, fur or feathers.

Deer in Ithaca are so populous that they’re essentially pests – destroying gardens, disrupting the ecosystem, and all too often meeting unfortunate ends in car accidents or starving in the winter. When Daniel’s dad offered Dan the chance to go deer hunting, we were all thrilled. Now, before you close the book on us savages, let me say this: we don’t believe in hunting for sport, or for trophies, but we loved the idea of getting another step closer to our food, and decreasing our dependence on factory farmed meat.

So, a few weekends ago, the Ithaca FamilyStyles gang experienced just how complicated and incredible meat really is. Sure, we’ve gutted fish and cared for livestock that would eventually become food, and I like to think that we’re thoughtful about and appreciative of the work and care and life involved in producing meat. But, butchering the deer that Daniel killed (with one shot, by the way) on his family’s land, was a whole new, up-close and personal experience for all of us. This time, we were responsible for seeing the animal through from death all the way to neat packages in the freezer.

And it was fascinating. For more pictures, and the occasional rumination, down the rabbit hole we go!

Warning: These pictures feature meat in a pretty serious way – view at your own risk! (Just so you know, I considered making a joke about “rawness,” but decided against it. You’re welcome.)

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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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Great Food Articles Written By Other People

I’m in a moment of consumption rather than production.  I have some cool Rambling Restaurant posts coming once I get ahold of some photos/get my act together, but more importantly, I’ve been busy reading a lot of amazing food articles that I want to share.

CHOW.com’s baker’s dozen of provocateurs, trendsetters, and rabblerousers in food. Butchers, brewers, Slow Food-ers, and more. These people rock.

Michelle Obama is going to cameo on Iron Chef America on Battle: White House Garden. Cristeta Comerford, the White House chef and Bobby Flay vs. Mario Batali and Emeril Lagasse. I love her.

The other White House chef, Sam Kass, is also a public policy wonk helping to publicize good food and fight childhood obesity.  I love him too. This may or may not have something to do with the fact that he is kind of ridiculously attractive.

And lastly, Jonathan Safran Foer wrote a beautiful piece in the Food Issue of the New York Times Magazine, an excerpt from his book called Eating Animals. It’s  about food, family, history, memory, inconsistent vegetarianism, and ultimately, not eating animals.  In just a few pages it made me laugh and made me cry.

Go read about all these fantastic people doing amazing things.

 

 

 

 

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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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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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mini hamburgers from free roaming, naturally raised, more-than-organic wild beef

burgers on the grill

it’s barbecue time! not only is there sun, but there is some delicious meat to be had here in london. chris and i went to a picnic organized by our new friends from yelp last weekend on the oh-so-englishly named hampstead heath. thanks to a running joke about our ‘stupid american’-ness, we decided to bring some super patriotic mini hamburger sliders to the picnic. how do you know a burger’s done? poke it on the grill and it bleeds red, white, and blue, dammit.

wild beef selection at broadway marketof course, we had to get the very best of british beef for these high-quality bites of americana. i took advantage of my broadway market trip last weekend to pick up some ‘fine mince’ ground beef from the wild beef stall. this company is based in devon in the southwest of england, and they sell meat from the most purely naturally raised cattle i’ve ever seen.

in the states, the best quality meat is from cows fed only grass rather than corn, soy, or scary things like ethanol waste because that’s how cow stomachs evolved to digest.  the lucky ones might get to graze a pasture rather than being confined to a pen or feedlot. the cows from wild beef, however, graze the grasses on the uncultivated soil of devon, without any supplementary feed to promote growth or mass amounts of antibiotics to combat high risk of infection due to unsanitary living conditions.

they call it ‘nutritionally, ecologically, and gastronomically the best‘and they might just be right. their old breed north and south devon and welsh black cattle roam the windy, fertile moors like heathcliff (sorry, just finished wuthering heights), free to feed on grass, herbs, weeds, and shrubs to their heart’s content. and then they become delicious, meaty, flavorful, safe-to-eat beef. it’s a little expensive, but i’d rather eat good, farm-fresh or wild-moor-fresh meat less often than eat cheap but scary industrially processed meat that’s probably full of anthrax. always better to eat your burgers without fear of death from bacterial infection. here’s some more information on why sustainably produced meat is better than the industrial stuff in an article i wrote for eat.drink.better (sorry for the self-plug but i already did the research and now it’s in one place. if it ain’t broke, why write it all over again?)

anyway, back to sliders. with meat this good, all you need is a little salt and pepper and it tastes fantastic. then in keeping with our american-only-in-theory hamburgers, i made my favorite gougeres for buns, but we’ll just refer to them as cheese puffs to keep up appearances. chris and i brought a mini barbecue grill to the heath, which we’re pretty sure is illegal, but sometimes you just gotta be gangsta like that. chris grilled these little morsels of meat to the perfect level of chargrilled flavor on the outside and pink juiciness on the inside. i did my best to set the cheese puffs on fire as i appear to have a singular talent for incinerating bread products. perhaps i could parlay this skill into a baking/circus career.

flaming cheese puffs and burgers on the grill

chris is teaching me the ways though – we’re throwing a barbecue party this weekend. you may or may not know that he is a former barbecue professional, after all. if you’ve seen any photos of him on this blog so far, you’d also know that he really likes to bite things. first a spatula, then a yummy slider. RAOWR. chris and the wild beef burgers

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