Can You Really Vote with Your Fork?

Check out this great piece from my amazing friend Kate, published in The Wagner Review.

Can You Really Vote with Your Fork?

Whether we choose to realize it or not, our plates are political. While eating is an incredibly personal act that weaves private preferences, cultural mores, and spiritual practices, it also has much broader societal implications. Every bite of food reflects not only our own choices, but also choices made for us—from what a farmworker was paid to how far the items were shipped.

As a result, since the early 2000s, foodies and average consumers alike have heard the phrase “vote with your fork.” With the advent of the celebrity food advocate—most notably Michael Pollan—and with docu-dramas such as Food, Inc. seeping into the mainstream, the focus of the food system reform movement has converged on the power of individual choice. Yet, can we truly change the world via what we consume, or is it another feeble “slacktivist” technique? The answer, like our food system, is complex.

Read the rest here.

Coke… honestly

The idea of a Coca-cola anti-obesity campaign is so laughable it sounds like it should be a story in The Onion. Sadly though, it’s true.

Watch this fantastic video, a spoof of the actual Coke commercial, which speaks the truth about soft drinks and their contribution to the obesity epidemic as well as other health problems.

I think soda is by and large tastes pretty gross. The only sodas I do like are Root Beer and Ginger Ale. If I had to guess I probably have each of those one to two times a year.

If you don’t want to be obese here’s one thing you can do; don’t drink soda every day. Heck, don’t even drink soda once a week. If you like Coke, or any other soda, drink it once in awhile as a treat.

I stand with fast food workers!

Next time you hear someone decry that those on public assistance should, “Go flip burgers at McDonalds,” remind them that the average fast food worker makes $11,000 a year. I know of nowhere in the United States where you can live on $11,000 a year.

From Today’s New York Times:

In Drive to Unionize, Fast-Food Workers Walk Off the Job

Fast-food workers at several restaurants in New York walked off the job on Thursday, firing the first salvo in what workplace experts say is the biggest effort to unionize fast-food workers ever undertaken in the United States.

The campaign — backed by community and civil rights groups, religious leaders and a labor union — has engaged 40 full-time organizers in recent months to enlist workers at McDonald’s, Wendy’s,Domino’sTaco Bell and other fast-food restaurants across the city.

Leaders of the effort said that workers were walking off the job to protest what they said were low wages and retaliation against several workers who have backed the unionization campaign. (Read More)

Find out more about the campaign at FastFoodForward.org

 

This Little Dishie went to Nosh

You’ve kind of heard me say this before, but one of my goals is to redefine the term “Foodie.” If you are someone who like to prepare meals you can call yourself a cook. If you’re someone who loves to thrill your taste buds with various flavor you’re an eater. Of course cooking and eating can and should also be a big part of being a Foodie, but that can’t be all that there is. So what is the definition of a Foodie?

A Foodie is someone who is passionate and cares deeply about food. And so, I believe that a true Foodie, can’t only care about flavors and techniques. A true Foodie has to care about issues like world hunger, labor rights and environmentalism (to name a few).

A few months ago I read about this great project, United Noshes, started by husband and wife team Jesse Friedman and Laura Hadden. Jesse and Laura, true Foodies by my definion,decided last year to embark on a multi year project in which they’d cook a full meal from every country that is a voting member of the UN and… wait for it… wait for it… raise money for the UN World Food Program.

Jesse and Laura research recipes and ingredients to keep these meals as authentic as possible and they invite guests to join! They ask that guests bring a donation for the UN world program. Do these seem like people I needed to know or what?

Last week I realized that they were just about up to Denmark so I offered my help via Twitter and then followed up with an email. Though I knew that you could request an invitation, I thought it was probably too late since the meal was planned for this past Saturday. I wrote Jesse a fairly extensive email about Danish food and meals and offered to send over a bag of my favorite Danish candy, Toms Guldkaramellers. Jesse sent a note of thanks in reply and then invited me to the Danish dinner! Of course I readily excepted and was even more in awe on their awesomeness when Jesse asked for a list of my allergies so he could be conscious while shopping and cooking.

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I arrived at Jesse and Lauren’s Brooklyn apartment on Saturday and was greeted by an eclectic group of people. Jesse and Lauren, who turned out to be just as warm and lovely in person, had invited a couple of their IRL friends and then several other people were strangers like me who’d requested an invitation through the United Noshes newsletter. It was such a great group of people. I mean how often do you sit down with 8 complete strangers and have plenty of free flowing conversation, laughter and great food. Two of the guests were actually half Danish and many of the other guests had spent time there so we all had plenty of Denmark related stories to share.

Jesse makes pretty much everything from scratch and we were rewarded with truly authentic Danish delights. First, there was Jesse own version of Aquavit, for which he infused vodka with all kinds of spice. Aquavit is not my favorite thing so I took one tiny sip for the toast, “Skål” and then let someone else have the rest.

There was also pickled herring, another thing I avoided, and delcious frikardeller, pickled beets, Danish blue cheese, leverpostej (liver pate), potato salad creamed kale and fresh baked rugbrød (dark danish rye). Of course everything was washed down with a nice cold Carlsberg!

All in all it was great fun having a little bit of Denmark right here in NYC. We all left with full bellies (seriously I must get that Kale recipe from Jesse), new friends and a promise to return for another meal!

I’m sorry that my pictures are so bad, but definitely check out Laura’s beautiful photos over at United Noshes.

World Food Day

“World Food Day is a day of action against hunger. Mobilize your family, friends and community this October 16th.  When each of us does our part we can end the needless suffering of nearly a billion people worldwide.”

You know how good it feels when you host a dinner party you have this great sense of satisfaction knowing that everyone is well fed and content? Well consider this call to action a global dinner party and think how satisfied and happy you would feel if the whole world were well fed and content.

To learn more click here.

A Foodies Day Without Food

Ok so I’m STILL playing catch up, but I’m determined to be all caught up by the end of this week, especially since I plan to make both my Q and R recipes this weekend.

Two weeks ago Jews all around the world observed Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. As you probably know on Yom Kippur we refrain from eating or drinking anything (yes, even water) from sundown to sundown. It’s a time for personal reflection and repentance. As we are starting a new year we look back at wrongs we’ve done in the past year and pledge to do our best to be better in the new year.

Fasting sucks. Really really sucks. But guess what, 364 days of the year I am privileged to have access to safe and nourishing food and clean drinking water.  So on Yom Kippur I choose not only to reflect inwardly, but also globally. I say prayers of gratitude that I always have enough food to eat and water to drink and I pray for the same for every other human being I share this earth with. I do believe though, that prayer is nothing without action so on Yom Kippur I also recommit myself to the fight against food insecurity, GMO’s, climate change, and the fight for labor rights and access to clean water and so much more.

If you’d like to join the fight, I feel that I can speak for all of us who are committed to sustainable food systems and access to clean water when I say, “We’d love to have you!” A few easy things that you can do; stop drinking bottled water, try to reduce your food waste by buying only what you will consume, bring reusable bags with you when you go shopping, commit to incorporating vegetarian meals in to your diet a couple of times a week and of course use your consumer dollars and your votes to send a message to companies and law makers.

As for the observance of Yom Kippur itself, like all Jewish holy days, it starts at night so before heading off to synagogue we eat a big meal since it’s all we’ll eat for the next full day.

Challah, a traditional Jewish bread, is usually braided, but for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur it’s baked in to a spiral to symbolize the circle of life as one year flows in to another.

This one had raisins in it so it was extra delicious.

My mom made brisket with egg noodles and roasted brussel sprouts. Yum! To paraphrase Anthony Bourdain, the only people who really know how to cook brisket are Jews and Texans.

A hearty meal before the fast.

Obviously the best part of the day is when you actually get to break the fast. Since no one is cooking while they’re fasting, most people break the fast with bagels and what Jews call, “appetizing” aka all the fixin’s that go with bagels like cream cheeses, smoked fish, lox, side salads, etc or what my mom calls, “Jewish Soul Food.”

Setting out the appetizing

Sadly today what often passes as a bagel is really just a roll with a whole in the middle. Luckily there are still a few places, like my personal favorite, Absolute Bagels, that still make authentic bagels.

Egg bagels are my favorite. Do they have egg bagels outside of New York?

If I had to choose the meal I’d want on my death-bed it would be a tie between some form of gooey cheesy baked pasta or a toasted egg bagel with cream cheese (plain or scallion), whitefish salad (which is smokey, but not fishy btw) and a thick slice of tomato.

Pretty much my perfect meal

And so, refueled after my fast I’m ready to return to the fight!

How To Feed the World

I haven’t dropped off the face of the earth, it’s just been a crazy few days and I barely have time to think let alone write.

This is one of my favorite videos. It’s 9 minutes long, but well worth watching. The video takes a complex problem and breaks it down in a simple way. It doesn’t ask that you become a vegetarian (and obviously this omnivore ain’t asking that of you either), but does ask you to make some different choices in how you eat and what and how much you purchase.

Urgent: 2012 Food and Farm Bill Vote Only Hours Away

“Every 5 years, Congress passes a Food and Farm bill that dictates food and agriculture policy for decades to come. This is the single most important piece of legislation that determines what Americans, and many people around the world, eat on a daily basis. Today, voting on vital improvements to the Senate Farm Bill are only hours away! It’s your turn to decide who benefits this time around: You or corporate lobbyists?”

Please your name to the list of reformers standing up for a healthy Food and Farm Bill by clicking here!

H if for… Haiti; Facing Fears and Failing

Alo!

Haitian flag

I have heard multiple times that Haitian food is delicious so I was really excited to cook “H.” I decided to go with two dishes; Griot, a fried pork dish which is probably Haiti’s most famous and Pikliz, a quick pickled cabbage condiment that served alongside most everything in Haiti.

The ingredients for these two recipes are all quite common save two; sour orange juice and Scotch Bonnet (or Habanero) peppers. One of the great pleasures of doing this international cooking project in New York City, and one of the greatest pleasures of living in New York City is that you can get your hands on pretty much anything. I got lazy though. It’s been a really busy few weeks and I just didn’t feel like traipsing the city to get my hands on sour orange juice; instead I used Rick Bayless’s tip of 1/2 cup orange juice and 1 cup of lime juice. Then came time to decide what to do about the hot peppers.

As a spicy food lover I’m always eager to eat a fiery dish, but cooking with one of the hottest peppers on the planet struck fear in my heart. I’m a huge klutz and I could easily visualize myself sitting in the emergency room after thoughtlessly rubbing my eye with a hand that had just held the cut peppers. “No,” I thought, “I won’t let fear hold me back. I will be extra careful and take all the necessary precautions. Bring on the peppers.”

I purchased two Habaneros (there were no scotch bonnets) and a pair of rubber gloves, and blasted the theme from Rocky on my iPod… well ok maybe not that last part. All the Pikliz recipes I found called for 6-8 thinly sliced Scotch Bonnet or Habaneros. 6 to 8! As much as I love spicy food that just sounded insane so I decided to go with just one thinly sliced pepper.

Pikliz

My first mistake was buying rubber gloves instead of latex. The gloves were big for my little hands which made the process arduous. I thinly sliced about 3/4 of the pepper, but by the time I got to the upper 3rd, where the seeds are I was annoyed by the gloves and figured I wouldn’t want to use the seeds (the hottest part) anyway so I quit and threw the thin slices of Habanero in with the rest of the ingredients to “quick pickle” over night.

For the Griot I couldn’t seem to get a consensus on what to do with the peppers; some recipes called for one pepper minced, others used half and some wimpy americanized recipes called for just a couple of dashes of hot sauce. Then there were a few recipes that said to just cut the stem off the pepper and throw it in whole thereby making the dish hot, but not lethal. I went with that one. I did actually cut a few slits in the pepper and, once it was inside the bag I used to marinate, squished it a bit hoping some oils would seep out.

Griot

The vinegar in the Pikliz neutralized the heat in that pepper. As for the Griot, as soon as I transferred the mixture to a cooking pot I could tell there was no heat. Habeneros are so strong that I’d be able to smell the heat. I decided to remove the pepper, thinly slice it and throw it back in to pot. I’d thrown out the rubber gloves after cutting the first pepper so I instead covered my hands with plastic baggies. Again this made chopping cumbersome and again I only chopped as far as the seeds, fearing to do more and again there wasn’t enough heat.

So hear’s a question; can cooking be a metaphor for my life? Is the lesson hear that I should be more open to risk, more willing to take chances? Nah! I think the lesson here is; buy better latex food prep gloves!

Even with the lack of heat, these dishes were both great so I’m going to give you the Pikliz recipe and the recipes as I intend to make them next time.

 Pikliz

  • 2 cups shredded cabbage
  • 1/2 cup shredded carrot
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced onion
  • 2 Scotch Bonnet or Habanero peppers thinly sliced
  • 4 whole cloves (or a large pinch of ground cloves)
  • Salt and pepper
  • 3 cups white vinegar

Place all ingredients in an airtight container.

Refrigerate for 24 hours.

Pikliz will last in the refrigerator for up to two weeks since vinegar is a preservative.

Griot

 
  • 2lbs pork shoulder cut in to 1 inch cubes
  • 1 large bell pepper; sliced
  • 1 large onion; diced
  • 4 cloves of garlic; chopped or crushed
  • 1 scotch bonnet or Habanero pepper; finely chopped
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1.5 cups sour orange juice (or 1/2 cup freshly squeezed orange juice, 1 cup freshly squeezed lime juice)
  • 1/4 cup oil for frying

Place all ingredients except oil in a large sealable plastic bag (or bowl) and refrigerate several hours or over night.

Preheat oven to 375.

Transfer mixture to a dutch oven and cook for 1.5-2 hours until the pork is very tender.

Remove pork chunks from pot and place pot over medium heat with the lid off, allowing the mixture to reduce (there’s not much liquid so this won’t take long).

Meanwhile heat oil in medium saute pan and, working in batches, fry pork chunks until crispy and brown on all sided being very careful as the hot oil will splatter. This can also be done in a deep fryer.

Toss pork back in to pot and serve over rice with Pikliz on the side.

I need more pepper, you wuss!

THE FINAL VERDICT: A-

This recipe would’ve totally earned a solid A had I not been so conservative with the peppers. It was delicious.

The Griot is flavorful and the texture of the pork chunks almost reminds me of ribs; browned and crispy on the outside and tender and moist on the inside. The vegetables in the Pikliz remain bright and crisp and the vinegarey bite cuts through the richness of the pork when eaten together.

Obviously next time I make this I’ll add more hot peppers, but other than that I wouldn’t make any other changes. I love recipes like this where you get so much flavor for so little work.

Bon Apeti!

**Remember Haiti is a place that needs your help! Please consider opening your hearts and your wallets. Two organizations I would recommend are Partners In Health and Fonkoze so check ‘em out.

Everybody Eats

Thank you to my friends over at Sharing the Table of Plenty for turning me on to this article by Andy Bellatti talking about “Dietary Tribalism.” As I read this article I wanted to emphatically pound on my desk and scream “Hallelujah, Amen, Go on Brother.”

No matter what or how you eat, we all still eat (unless your one of those crazies on the feeding tube diet – oy!), so shouldn’t we all be united in the common goal of having the best quality food produced under the best conditions possible?

“…it’s the back-and-forth mud-slinging between members of different “dietary tribes” that troubles me most. I often imagine all the power that could be harnessed if we stopped and joined forces on some key issues, such as: getting food dyes and trans fat out of our food supply, demanding that the presence of genetically modified organisms and artificial hormones (at the very least) be labeled, ridding schools of nutritionally empty foods, and bringing more access to healthy foods in “food deserts.” Andy Bellatti