I'm still playing with my food
C-K Food Policy Council Buy Local

Eating is a necessity but cooking is an art

A mighty porterhouse steak an inch and a half thick, hot and sputtering from the griddle; dusted with fragrant pepper; enriched with little melting bits of butter of the most impeachable freshness and genuineness; the precious juices of the meat trickling out and joining the gravy, archipelagoes with mushrooms; a township or two of tender, yellowish fat gracing an out-lying district of this ample county of beefsteak; the long white bone which divides the sirloin from the tenderloin still in its place.
Mark Twain

To me, life without veal stock, pork fat, sausage, organ meat, demi-glace, or even stinky cheese is a life not worth living.
Anthony Bourdain

If you can't know your farmer, you should know the person who knows them. There should never be more than two degrees of separation between your grocer and your farmer.
Shannon Hayes

we're the first civilization that has deemed it perfectly safe to feed our kids Mountain Dew, Twinkies and Cocoa Puffs, but not raw milk, compost-grown tomatoes and Aunt Mathilda's homemade pickles - those are dangerous substances
http://vimeo.com/28010835
http://vimeo.com/28014880
http://vimeo.com/28017707
http://vimeo.com/28018340
http://vimeo.com/28019184
A 5 part interview with Joel Salatin

Bad bacon is something of an oxymoron. Cook's Illustrated

If you are going to have a treat, enjoy every freakin' bite. Look at it when you eat it. Eat slowly. Don't unconsciously shovel it into your mouth. And don't consider it falling off the wagon.
Tara Grant

If you are what you eat and you don't know what you're eating, do you know who you are?
Claude Fischler, Sociologist with the French National Center for Scientific Research

People who love to eat are always the best people.
Julia Child (1912 - 2004)

While today's modern diet may provide beneficial protection from micro- and macronutrient deficiencies, our over abundance of calories and the macronutrients that compose our diet may all lead to increased inflammation, reduced control of infection, increased rates of cancer, and increased risk for allergic and auto-inflammatory disease.
Dr. Ian Myle, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases

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I'm still playing with my food

My name is Rick Bradley and here I intend to share some of the recipes that have worked for me, resources I've found, sites that have inspired or interested me, and other food related 'stuff' as I come across it.

A brief resume can be found here and you can email me at

This website is my hobby in retirement. Any mention of a product or service is done so freely without remuneration or reward.

The more I play with my food the more curious I have become about it. Not only how to prepare it to best advantage but how it is grown, how it came to be what it is today, what happens twixt field and fork, and perhaps most important, what impact will it have on me? Some of this search is a direct result of the realization that we'd been feeding our cats cereal with a side of toast when they desperately needed a mouse (but that's another soapbox).
This page consists of comments about things that piqued my interest or rants about what pushed my buttons. It usually revolves around food. The remainder of the site really is about food.

E.Coli in flour?

General Mills is collaborating with health officials to investigate an ongoing, multistate outbreak of E. coli O121 that may be potentially linked to Gold Medal flour. The official notice.

Strawberries take First Place - on the EWG’s 2016 Dirty Dozen™

Conventional strawberries this year displaced apples, which headed the list the last five years running.
Nearly all strawberry samples – 98 percent – tested by federal officials had detectable pesticide residues. The rest of the bad news.

Junk Food - bad for us and plants too

Feeding plants huge doses of fertilizer and dousing then with herbicides, fungicides, and pesticides has left us with plants lacking in many of the nutrients that Mother Nature put there - for them and for us! Read how a steady diet of fertilizers has turned crops into couch potatoes. Read the NAUTILUS article

WOOD?- - first it was cheese, now chicken

Less than a month ago wood (actually cellulose) started showing up in grated parmesan. Now it's in chicken. Not wood per se but breast-muscle tissue from some broiler flocks is hard and tough instead of tender and juicy. Looks like we found the downside to growing them big and fast. Article in Poultry Health Today

General Mills cereal sales up??

Last year General Mills reformulated seven members of its cereal line (including Cheerios and Lucky Charms) to remove all artificial colours and flavours and were rewarded with a 6% increase in sales. They've already reformulated 75% of their line and are aiming for 90% by years end. with their recent commitment to follow Vermont's GMO labelling standard nation wide one hopes that they benefit greatly from their actions.
Guess the drop in sales wasn't just because millennials had to wash a bowl.

John Oliver's Food Waste Takedown
Legislating against food waste

France was first to legislate against food waste in February. They opted for a stick. Italy seems set to join them but have opted for a carrot instead. I suppose we needn't hold our breath about it happening here.

DARK Act fails in US Senate

It seems that some US senators actually heard the calls from the public and did not support the DARK Act. Unfortunately either 44 or 49 (the early reports vary) still have their ears stuffed with Monsanto money and are flipping their constituents the bird. It's not safe to assume that the battle is won as many a dark deed has been done in amendments to other bills.

More bad news for the poor honey bee

European honeybees are being poisoned with up to 57 different pesticides, according to new research published in the Journal of Chromatography A. Golly. How do suppose that happened? ScienceDaily release.

KD is now real food? - Say it ain't so!

Last year, Kraft said that it would remove all artificial flavors, preservatives, and dyes from what it calls its “iconic Blue Box”. And it did—only it didn't tell consumers. It started selling its Blue Box mac and cheese sans the artificial ingredients in December and waited to see if consumers would notice the difference. More than 50 million boxes later, apparently no one has. takepart article.

Glyphosate - gone from the EU?

The substance which is so widely used that it is commonly found in British bread, German beer and the urine of people in 18 countries across Europe may be on the way out. It is already banned or restricted in large parts of Europe because of alleged links to health problems and now with the EU Standing Committee on Plant, Animal, Food and Feed looking ready to give it a pass for another 15 years some member states are putting on the brakes. France, The Netherlands, Sweden and Italy don't believe the research done by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA). 96 prominent scientists from 25 countries wrote a letter in strong opposition to the EFSA report and nearly 1.5 million people petitioned the EU’s health commissioner for a ban on the substance, EcoWatch article.

Salmon - wild vs factory

Researchers at Oregon State University, in collaboration with the Oregon Department of Fisheries and Wildlife, found more than 700 genetic variations between farm-raised and wild salmon. The Scientific American article.

Eat less meat! - a message falling on deaf ears.

Back in 2012 a poll of 3,000 Americans revealed that 8.6 percent ate no meat in a typical meat. The same question in 2015 revealed the the non meat eaters had dropped to 7.4 percent. A small survey to be sure but are anyone else's numbers different? The NPR article.

FDA to Begin Testing for Glyphosate Residue - 40 years too late

FDA has not routinely looked for glyphosate in its pesticide chemical residue monitoring regulatory program in the past because it was too hard and expensive. (No I didn't make that up) How many years do you suppose they'll be able to draw out the preparations.
In the meantime CFIA sits twiddling its collective thumbs waiting to be told what to think.

Organic - does it really matter?

Decide for yourself.

Sugar - the elephant in the kitchen

Robert Lustig at TEDxBermuda 2013

Chewy cheese?? grate your own parm

So your store-bought parmesan cheese is made with wood pulp. Is that so bad? theguardian article.

Salt - so many experts!

An analysis of scientific reports and comments on the health effects of a salty diet reveals a polarization between those supportive of the hypothesis that population-wide reduction of salt intake is associated with better health and those that were not. In all, 54 percent were supportive of the hypothesis; 33 percent, not supportive; and 13 percent inconclusive. ScienceDaily article.

Real grass-fed certification - in Great Britain

The Pasture for Life Certification Mark, operated by the Pasture-Fed Livestock Association (PFLA), has been approved by the Intellectual Property Office (IPO), the official UK government body responsible for patents, designs and trademarks. Why? "Customers don’t want another marketing promotion, they want the real deal and the Certification Mark delivers just that". Article in FARMINUK

Entomovectoring - working with nature?

What if, instead of crop dusters blanketing fields with chemicals, you could use bees to deliver a precise dose of a treatment directly to the plants that need it? TakePart article.

Goodbye Monsanto?

Washington State University researchers have concluded that feeding a growing global population with sustainability goals in mind is possible. Their review of hundreds of published studies provides evidence that organic farming can produce sufficient yields, be profitable for farmers, protect and improve the environment and be safer for farm workers. The Science Daily article.

Benzoxazinoids - no it's not another nasty plot by Monsanto

Certain medicinal plants and green cereals have previously been found to contain benzoxazinoids (BX for short) but it was a revelation that they are also found in ripened rye and other wholegrains. Not only that -- scientists from Aarhus University also found BX in the final baked bread and other wholegrain products. More on ScienceDaily

A present to Canada from MacDonald's

The Keep Calm, Caesar On salad (with dessing) )has 730 calories, 53 grams of fat, and 1,400 milligrams of sodium. More than a Double Big Mac! We should all be thankful that MacDonald's is so nice to us.

Biodiversity in foods what there is left

Globally, 95 percent of our calories now come from 30 species. Three-fourths of the food we eat comes from 12 plants and five animal species. The Splendid Table article.

Raw Milk - the voice of reason in Michigan??

A group of 13 individuals — made up of farmers, academicians, healthcare professionals and regulatory officials — have been quietly working together over a six-year period to find common ground with lawmakers. Their report can be found here and an article in Modern Farmer.
It's not often that I hope actions south of the border have an influence here but . . .

Farm to Table - do we have it all wrong?

Dan Barber explores the future of the Food to Table movement in a presentation at Edible Media meeting.

Organic agriculture key to feeding the world sustainability

Hundreds of published studies provides evidence that organic farming can produce sufficient yields, be profitable for farmers, protect and improve the environment and be safer for farm workers. article

What if you only drank soda.

International Year of Pulses

Facts about pulses you might not know. FAO article.

Monsanto Bt cotton high yields of virtually unsalable product

After only 6 years the nation of Burkina Faso has begun a complete phase-out of the crop, citing the inferior lint quality of GM cultivars. They're also suing Monsanto for $260 million as compensation for their losses. The Ecologist article.

Maple Syrup - SUPERFOOD pass the pancakes!!

Scientists from the University of Rhode Island have discovered Canadian maple syrup may have similar health benefits of superfoods, like berries, tea, red wine and flax seeds.
The researchers found 54 compounds in the sweet stuff, more than double the amount previously discovered. And many of these compounds have antioxidant properties, which act as anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory agents.
Curiously this is old news, 2011 in fact. One would have thought that a superfood that tastes this good would have a lot more fanfare. See The Globe and Mail article.

EU's Test for Endocrine Disrupters Threatens $4.8B in U.S. Food Exports

USDA worries that screening of 700 chemical substances for endocrine disrupting properties could lead to trade disruptions. Official US comment.
As always the US government doesn't give a rats ass about the people who will be consuming those endocrine disrupters as long as the money keeps rolling in.

How to Decipher Egg Carton Labels-

With fast food companies and retailers falling over each other trying to capitalize on the move to cage free eggs it will become even harder for the consumer to pick out the real McCoy. The Humane Society of the United States has published this handy sheet of words commonly used and misused in describing eggs.
How to read an egg label
This of course is American. Canadian retailers do not appear to give a rats ass about hens.

Yogurt Health food to Junk food

A new report, Culture Wars: How the Food Giants Turned Yogurt, a Health Food, into Junk Food, issued by The Cornucopia Institute, accuses Dannon, Yoplait, Chobani and other major marketers of misleading parents, who are looking for healthier foods for their families, into purchasing yogurts loaded with sugar and containing a myriad of questionably safe artificial sweeteners, colors and emulsifiers.
Meanwhile General Mills and Danone have their panties twisted because Chobani is taking advertising potshots at their use of artificial sweeteners and preservatives. General Mills went so far as to say:

"The statements made by Chobani in their latest attempt to sell more yogurt are inaccurate and misleading, and we don't think consumers appreciate that kind of approach."

That ought to earn them the pot and kettle award.

The Anthropocene Time to bend over and kiss it goodbye?

The evidence for a new geological epoch which marks the impact of human activity on Earth is now overwhelming. Science Daily release.

Campbell Labels Will Disclose G.M.O. Ingredients Is this the first big crack in the wall?

Campbell Soup breaks from its rival food companies to disclose the presence of genetically engineered ingredients in its products. 2016-01-08 NY Times article

The researchers successfully found evidence to support their hypothesis - AGAIN!!

That frightening statement came from a study on 'healthy' eating.
Will we never learn?
The recent history of food is littered with examples of brilliant researchers who knew all of the answers and had the data to prove it. Hindsight, of course, has proven that none of them could see the forest for the trees and their bloody minded pursuit of "THE TRUTH" has led mankind into devastating health experiments on a global scale.

A foie gras parable Dan Barber's foie gras epiphany

Foie gras is much maligned in most of the world due to the force feeding (gavage) of the birds, a technique introduced by the Egyptians 2500 years ago. However one Spanish farmer is producing exquisite foie gras without gavage in the goose paradise built over generations on the family farm. Watch the TED talk.

Kissing Hershey takes the GMO sugar out of kisses

In response to consumer pressure the Hershey company has decided to make its kisses from cane sugar rather than the mix of beet and cane it used to use. Beet producers plan to counter this threat with more words which unfortunately is all they have left since they threw out all of the good beet seeds in their haste to kill more plants with RoundUp. Read the Cornucopia article.

Chickens running free? not so much

The egg industry is feeling the same kind of pressure with major customers like McDonald's, Dunkin' Donuts, General Mills and Nestle switching to 'cage-free' eggs. While the hens may no longer be in cages their living conditions are still only barely short of appalling. Read the Cornucopia article.

U.S. Congress scraps Contry Of Origin Labels

And in Ottawa the powers that be were babbling like true Conservatives.

International Trade Minister Chrystia Freeland and Agriculture Minister Lawrence MacAulay both welcomed the passage of the legislation, calling Friday "a great day for Canada."

In a pigs eye. It is true that a few hundred, perhaps even a few thousand will profit by this. For millions of Canadian consumers who would like to have our own COOL laws it's just the first message that this new lot will sell us down the river as fast as the sleazebags we just got rid of.
Tell them what a good job they're doing (or not as you wish). Minister Freeland and Minister MacAulay

Gassy cows- hungry soil??

It seems that some soils are capable of neutralising more methane than cattle can produce from the same land. This phenomena has been know for some time but reaserchers in Australia have only recently begun to quantify the process. Of course the cattle do have to be on pasture. The Australian Dairyfarmer article.

A Cure Exists For Antibiotic-Resistant Infections. just not here!

Bacteriophages ("bacteria eaters"), commonly called phages, are viruses that infect bacteria but not humans. Found in water, soil, and even your digestive tract, phages dwell wherever bacteria are found because they rely on them to reproduce. Cocktails of phage viruses can kill a bacterial infection in the human body with remarkable accuracy, taking out only the infiltrators and leaving important populations of "good" bacteria intact—unlike the blunt tool of antibiotics, which tend to wipe out a wide swath of good bugs and bad. Prevention article, worth the read.
So why do we have superbugs?

Naturally occurring phages, which are highly diverse and can't be patented

Show me thw money honey. SSDD

Food Waste Scorecard better? in some ways - good? not really

In January, IValueFood.com launched our food waste campaign, and started quizzing visitors about their food waste habits. They found some interesting trends. Here are a few of the results; http://www.sustainableamerica.org/blog/food-waste-scorecard-the-results-are-in/

Monsanto recent shenanigans may be backfiring

In 2009 Prof Gilles-Eric Séralini and associates published in the journal Food and Chemical Toxicology (FCT) results of his long term study of the effect on rodents of GMO corn. The professor was immediately assailed by every drone that Monsanto could activate and accused of being everything but a scientist. Later the mentioned journal hired a Monsanto flunky to vet all further biotech articles and soon thereafter retracted Séralini's paper along with Brazilian study proving Monsanto's Bt corn insecticide starter genes do not disintegrate in mammalian stomachs but survive intact to harm mammals blood cells. Read more: http://naturalsociety.com/sordid-details-behind-attacks-seralinis-notorious-gmo-rat-study/
Well what goes around, comes around. The flunky has been shown the journals door along with the former Editor in Chief. Moreover the Parisian High Court has indicted the former chairman of France's Biomolecular Engineering Commission (BEC), for “forgery” in a libel trial that he lost to Prof Séralini. Read more: http://naturalsociety.com/huge-seralini-wins-defamation-forgery-court-cases-gmo-research/

Monsanto - crimes against humanity

The Organic Consumers Association (OCA), IFOAM International Organics, Navdanya, Regeneration International (RI), and Millions Against Monsanto, joined by dozens of global food, farming and environmental justice groups announced today that they will put Monsanto MON (NYSE), a US-based transnational corporation, on trial for crimes against nature and humanity, and ecocide, in The Hague, Netherlands, next year on World Food Day, October 16, 2016.

Chris gets the boot

Boston Common Press announced on 2015/11/16 that founder Christopher Kimball had been shown the door (said announcement couched in suitable wuss words here). He will still host the 2016 cooking shows but I expect that just means they don't want to spend more money when they have all those episodes in the can. I never was a big fan of the man and I'm sure that the organization will continue to produce good content for at least a little while before the bean counters deep six the whole thing. Just a little sad to see someone driven out of his own creation. Life's a bitch!

Thus spake COSTCO frankenfish be gone!

The second-largest retailer in the world is now one of more than 60 U.S. supermarket chains rejecting the laboratory fish. Despite FDA approval (2015/11) consumers and retailers are not jumping on the frankenfish bandwagon. http://www.takepart.com/article/2015/11/25/gmo-salmon-costco

Global Energy Balance Network he who pays the piper . . .

Coca-Cola was less than hands off with the anti-obesity group it funded. They even fretted about the logo being too Pepsi blue. http://www.takepart.com/article/2015/11/24/coke-anti-obesity-group-emails

Bread Is Broken

Industrial production destroyed both the taste and the nutritional value of wheat. One scientist believes he can undo the damage. http://www.nytimes.com/2015/11/01/magazine/bread-is-broken.html?_r=5

Everything in moderation another old chestnut down the tubes?

Researchers at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth) and the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University studied the data from 6,814 participants in the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis and concluded that diet diversity may be linked to lower diet quality and worse metabolic health. The article.

Ontario Milk Wars on Again - 2015/09/29

Looks like Public Health in Ontario will be dipping into our pockets for a few more millions to persecute anybody who dares to produce raw milk. On 29/09 minions of the York Public Health Unit (note that this unit is not a real health unit but a creature of the municipality) attempted so seize all of the raw milk product being distributed to members of a co-operative. Those present restricted them to taking samples as they didn't have cause to seize. There are more shenanigans afoot as someone "known to the police" has installed surveillance cameras on public roadways but the police chief says "there is no criminal intent and that should be the end of it". The local council doesn't know what's going on and and actually said that they don't want to. The local MP and MPP (good Conservative candidates standing up for the farmer folk!!) are way to busy for constituency work. Looks like another installment of Bureaucrats Gone Bad. Article in The Bovine
2015/10/03 - well that didn't take long. Today agents of the Ministries of Natural Resources, Agriculture and Food, and Finance raided Michael Schmidt's raw dairy farm. Also invited to the party were police and the dairy farmers of Ontario. An urgent appeal over social media soon brought a throng of supporters. In the face of so many witnesses and recording devices the minions of government soon decided that they really didn't have any right to the articles which they had scooped. Everything was unloaded from the trucks and they departed. Friday is the traditional day for bureaucratic skulduggery as it might escape attention after the weekend. I expect that they've learned their lesson and the next attack will come in the wee hours of the morning when supporters are harder to rally and phone cameras are not as effective. Nacht und Nebel. Article in NaturalBlaze.
2015/10/08 - "Today West Grey Police charged Michael Schmidt with theft and mischief in connection to surveillance cameras that were found along Concession 2 near Glencolton Farm, just outside of Durham.
The Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry officials admitted to Schmidt on Friday, during a standoff at Glencolton Farm, that they installed the cameras." as reported by http://923thedock.com
It's hard to recall at times like this that the MNRF is constantly whining (probably justified) about not having enough money to fulfill its own mandate but here they are pissing away precious resources spying on the general public.
Stay tuned for more tawdry tales.

U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals vacates EPA's approval of the neonicotinoid insecticide sulfoxaflor.

The Court concluded that EPA violated federal law when it approved sulfoxaflor without reliable studies regarding the impact that the insecticide would have on honeybee colonies. Ontario no longer stands alone in North America so lets hope the The Canadian Pest Management Regulatory Agency is paying attention.
Story on EarthJustice.

Ractopamine Never heard of it you say?

We all know that growth hormones aren't allowed in pigs but it seems there's been a little wink, wink nudge, nudge going on here. The not quite a hormone, ractopamine has been quietly being used here (here being North America, not the civilized world) since 1999. Some customers (like say China) can get their factory pork ractopamine free. The rest of us, not so much!
If David Maren, founder of Tendergrass Farms has his way that could soon change.

How Safe Is Your Ground Beef?

Consumer Reports posed the question. The report is bad and worse if you like your burgers less than well done. http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/food/how-safe-is-your-ground-beef

Where bread began

A group of Israeli researchers recently used 12,500-year-old conical mortars carved into bedrock to process wild barley to produce 'proto-pita'. The news release.

Ketchup when Heinz doesn't cut the mustard

Ketchup or catsup, is a table sauce. Traditionally, different recipes featured ketchup made of mushrooms, oysters, mussels, walnuts, or other foods, but in modern times the term without modification usually refers to tomato ketchup.
It seems that that sugary confection peddled by Heinz worldwide (with great success) just isn't up to snuff in Israel. The paltry 21% tomato paste in the Heinz product comes nowhere near the 41% required by Israel. Heinz will be attempting to bully Israel into backing down. Good luck with that one!

Golden Rice and other GMO

Cornucopia.org, in an article lamenting the current state of scientific journalism, notes:

An article published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition purportedly showing that genetically engineered Golden rice is an effective vitamin A (beta-carotene) supplement has been retracted amid ethics concerns.

It seems that the GMO steamroller has more than its share of shaky (at best) science and no small measure of smoke and mirrors. The full article.

American Academy of Pediatrics what the hell were they thinking?

Self described as

an organization of 64,000 pediatricians committed to the optimal physical, mental, and social health and well-being for all infants, children, adolescents, and young adults

They have a "Friends of Children Fund" and list the "Distinguished companies that have demonstrated their invaluable commitment to the AAP.". There is no doubt that these companies have distinguished themselves but not as friends of the human race much less children.
Did these doctors not listen when their mothers told them that they'd be judged by the company they keep?

Organic Farming Outperforms Conventional Agriculture 30 Year Trial

The Farming Systems Trial (FST)® at Rodale Institute is America's longest running, side-by-side comparison of organic and chemical agriculture. After a 30 year side-by-side trial, the Rodale report shows:

  • Organic yields match conventional yields.
  • Organic outperforms conventional in years of drought.
  • Organic farming systems build rather than deplete soil organic matter, making it a more sustainable system.
  • Organic farming uses 45% less energy and is more efficient.
  • Conventional systems produce 40% more greenhouse gases.
  • Organic farming systems are more profitable than conventional.

Read the Cornucopia report or the full Farming Systems Trial Report.

The billion-dollar business to sell us crappy food

The article title is probably a good indication that BigAg doesn't advertise on AlJazeera. The article is about a new report Spinning Food from Friends of the Earth. That may be a little too much tree hugging for some but I suggest that it's a lot more honest than Chevron, Coca-Cola, and McDonald's masquerading as the American Council on Health and Science to defend sugar water and pink slime while attacking organic food. The whole report can be found here.

How America's most famous farmer can appeal to left, right and center

The Washington Post article on Joel Salatin opens by relating his habit of using castoff uniform shirts for everyone on the farm (shirts with names on them are taxed less) before exploring the title premise. It's a good read and I say that as one of the many unlkely people whom he has enthralled. I believe that he has a better grasp than most of what agriculture needs to become in order for us to survive. I share his pessimisim that it won't happen in time. There's just no easy money in it. The whole story.

Natural the real meaning

The folks at OnlyOrganic explain what 'Natural ' means

Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics blesses Kraft Singles (sort of)

The academy's new “Kids Eat Right” label is going to appear on the packaging for the regular and 2 percent milk versions of Kraft Singles. But this isn't an endorsement!?!

The Kids Eat Right logo on Kraft Singles packaging identifies the brand as a proud supporter of Kids Eat Right,

I'm sure that the general public will come to that understanding when reaching for a package on the store counter. Where do these people come from?

How it's made Canola Oil

This, believe it or not, comes from the people who want you to use the stuff!!

Can the damage be undone?
Time Magazine covers

Cheap Eats a boon or the bane of our existence

Today, two in three Americans (and Canadians) are overweight or obese, with rates climbing steadily over the past several decades. Many factors have been suggested as causes: snack food, automobiles, television, fast food, computer use, vending machines, suburban housing developments, and portion size. The authors say forming a coherent picture is a challenge, but after examining available evidence, they say widespread availability of inexpensive food appears to have the strongest link to obesity. They write:

Americans are spending a smaller share of their income (or corresponding amount of effort) on food than any other society in history or anywhere else in the world, yet get more for it.

In the 1930s, Americans spent one-quarter of their disposable income on food. By the 1950s, that figure had dropped to one-fifth. The most recent data show the share of disposable income spent on food is now under one-tenth (and Canada is not far behind in fourth place).
http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/05/140522074749.htm

Raw Milk Vending Machines Take Over Europe

Public health in Ontario (really all of North America) continues to have its knickers in a knot over raw milk yet in Europe it's widely available. Seems strange that those wild and crazy europeans sucking on the evil brew aren't dropping like flies.
There is light at the end of the tunnel south of the border. Only 10 US states still have complete bans on raw milk and that number is expected to drop again. Legislation has been introduced at the federal level and has garnered unprecedented levels of support though likely not enough to overwhelm the representatives owned by the dairy lobby. Balance the hysterical prattling of public health officials with information from http://www.realmilk.com/
Here you can find arguments made by the Northern Illinois Public Health Consortium ans counter points from the Weston A Price Foundation. It's a good reminder that the devil is indeed in the details. http://www.realmilk.com/press/response-northern-illinois-public-health-consortium-inc/

5 Cooking Skills Children Need to Learn Before Leaving Home-

Sarah TheHealthyHomeEconomist rarely writes about home economics except as it may relate to whatever other topic she's on about. She can be quite strident and there appears to be room for very little grey in her world but I nonetheless read virtually all of her posts. Todays post on cooking skills is food for thought for parents everywhere.

The Christmas turkey just who's idea was that anyway?

Well it was our turn to host Christmas this year so I had yet another opportunity to tackle the fowl task. I'm pleased to report at least a partial victory. I opted for the partial deconstruction* method this year and managed to produce plates full of moist, tender, beautifully cooked meat, both light and dark and nice crisp skin. It did keep us waiting three quarters of an hour and the squash suffered a bit from the wait. The un-stuffing however was not a contender.
It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that the 'traditional' turkey (ie crispy skin, moist, tender meat, and delicious stuffing) defies the laws of physics. The breast way up at the top is done at 150°F, the legs and wings at the bottom are done at 170°F and the stuffing (usually jammed in tight enough to form a solid block) is done somewhere in between.
*deconstruction can range from spatchcock or spattlecock (removing the backbone and flattening the bird) to complete deboning. I opted for the middle ground. I used the America's Test Kitchen method (one of about 8 different ones that they've published) cutting off the legs and wings and breaking/cutting out the backbone. I did not flatten the breasts. I cooked the bird for half an hour at 425°F then reduced the temperature to 325°F. The extra time it took was doubtless due to miscalculating the time that my larger bird would need. The neck, back, and wings went into stock prepared the day before.
At the end of the day I managed two out of three elements of the ideal turkey. Now if I can nail the stuffing and the time I'll be a hero.

Remember Pink Slime and Non-intact beef products at XL and Establishment 38? Well now we've got 'meat glue'

You may recall that the primary concern in the latter case was the translocation of surface pathogens into the deep, internal tissues of the final product. Now with meat glue anyone can gather up little pieces and make a new piece. As shown in this Australian youtube video, even a chef can be deceived by the final product. There is a ban mentioned but that's only in the EU. Canada and the US have no such ban. Industry types were quick to respond to this video noting that it would be illegal under current packaging laws, unethical, and just generally mean for anyone to wrap up meat into cute little plastic covered tubes like they show in the video and peddle them without mentioning that they might not be what they seem to. They claimed (with straight faces) that such abuse would never happen here.

Cavemen Ate $12 Burgers: A Historical Perspective on Food Prices

We like to complain about the price of food and how much it's increased and how much cheaper it is south of the border. David Maren of Tendergrass Farms has an excellent guest article on Mark's Daily Apple and Washington State University has the numbers for the whole world. We're fifth at 9.1% of our income behind only UAE(doubtless skewed due to oil income), UK, Ireland, and the US.
We unfortunately seem to have forgotten that you get what you pay for.

Chipotle's Haunting New Anti–Factory-Farming Ad

This animated short doesn't need any words from me.

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Chipotle Mexican Grill has set out to sell Food With Integrity. See their first video here.

And the very worst is Long John Silver's Big Catch

According to Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) testing, the worst restaurant meal in America contains a whopping 33 grams of heart-destroying trans fats. That's 16 times as much trans fats as the American Heart Association recommends per day.
Some other unappetizing facts about this "Big Catch" combo? CSPI says it contains:

  • about 3,700 milligrams of sodium
  • 19 grams of saturated fat
  • 1,320 calories
  • 4 ounces fish, 3 ounces trans fat–laden breading

As bad as that is it seems modest compared to the chart topper Cheesecake Factory French Toast Napoleon on Men's Health Worst Foods in America: 2013 list

For the 3rd year in a row, the bastion of gluttony known as the Cheesecake Factory has received the top prize in our contest of diet debauchery . . . a breakfast with as many calories as 3 dozen eggs.

  • 2,530 calories
  • N/A g fat (65 g saturated)
  • 1,930 mg sodium
  • 253 g carbohydrates

The Cheescake Factory also features prominently in Rodale's shorter 9 Unhealthiest Meals in America list.

The origins of agriculture: did we get a buzz eating cereal?

Greg Wadley and Angus Martin wrote this fascinating paper published in Australian Biologist volume 6: pp 96-105, June 1993.

A biological assessment of what has been called the puzzle of agriculture might phrase it in simple ethological terms: why was this behaviour (agriculture) reinforced (and hence selected for) if it was not offering adaptive rewards surpassing those accruing to hunter-gathering or foraging economies?

See the original courtesy of the Wayback Machine.
From the May 1987 Discover The Worst Mistake in the History of the Human Race by Jared Diamond which has an entirely different take on the event(s).

Burger Primer

Burgers are everywhere, expanding from fast-food outlets and quick-serve casual restaurants to high-end temples of gastronomy and everything in between. And of course, recipes flood the Internet. No need to go on a burger hunt, though, because Epicurious has the ultimate guide to hamburger heaven

Schmaltz and Gribenes who knew?

Schmaltz has been on my round toit list for an indecently long time. Last week the supply of chicken fat left over from making cat food started to overflow it's allocated spot in the freezer so I went looking for instructions and found this delightful dissertation by Tori Avey, the Shiksa in the Kitchen and another at Sadie Salome on this quintessentially Jewish ingredient. The schmaltz adds a new flavour to fried potatoes but, while I'm glad to have it in the pantry, I doubt that it's going to get called out as often as the bacon fat.
The gribenes on the other hand should be classed as an addictive substance. I may have to find some Jewish acquaintances and offer to make schmaltz for them just so I'll have an excuse to make gribenes.

and on an entirely different note
Hundreds of lost Ansel Adams photo prints found at UC Berkeley

Talk about a photographic treasure trove! Over 600 signed prints by legendary American photographer Ansel Adams have been discovered in a box at the University of California's Berkeley campus.

Food Labeling ~ Will they ever get it right?

One of the little things in life that bothers me WAY more than it ought to is food that is consistently given the wrong name. The two which come immediately to mind are yam/sweet potato and fennel/anise.

Sweet Potato Yam
sweet potato The sweet potato has yellow or orange flesh, and its thin skin may either be white, yellow, orange, red or purple. Sometimes this root vegetable will be shaped like a potato, being short and blocky with rounded ends, while other times it will be longer with tapered ends. A big sweet potato weighs 1 pound. Wikipedia yamThere are approximately 200 different varieties of yams with flesh colors varying from white to ivory to yellow to purple while their thick skin comes in white, pink or brownish-black. Their shape is long and cylindrical while their exterior texture is rough and scaly. Wild yams have been recorded to weigh up to 150 pounds. Wikipedia
Factor Sweet Potato Yam
Plant Family Morning glory Yam
Chromosomes 2n=90 2n=20
Flower Monoecious Dioecious
Origin Tropical America (Peru, Ecuador) West Africa, Asia
Edible part Storage root Tuber
Appearance Smooth, with thin skin Rough, scaly
Shape Short, blocky, tapered ends Long, cylindrical, some with "toes"
Mouth feel Moist Dry
Taste Sweet Starchy
Beta carotene Usually high Usually very low
Propagation Transplants/vine cuttings Tuber pieces

There must be an excuse for this one but I can't imagine what it might be! They aren't even close.

Fennel (really Florence Fennel) Anise
fennel Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare) is a perennial herb. It is erect, glaucous green, and grows to heights of up to 2.5 m, with hollow stems. The leaves grow up to 40 cm long; they are finely dissected, with the ultimate segments filiform (threadlike), about 0.5 mm wide. The flowers are produced in terminal compound umbels 5-15 cm wide, each umbel section having 20-50 tiny yellow flowers on short pedicels. The fruit is a dry seed from 4-10 mm long, half as wide or less, and grooved.
Fennels aniseed flavour comes from anethole, an aromatic compound also found in anise and star anise, and its taste and aroma are similar to theirs, though usually not as strong.
The Florence fennel (Foeniculum vulgare Azoricum) is a cultivar group with inflated leaf bases which form a bulb-like structure. Their inflated leaf bases are eaten as a vegetable, both raw and cooked. Wikipedia
anise Anise is a herbaceous annual plant growing to 3 ft (0.91 m) tall. The leaves at the base of the plant are simple, 0.5-2 in (1.3-5.1 cm) long and shallowly lobed, while leaves higher on the stems are feathery pinnate, divided into numerous leaves. The flowers are white, approximately 3 mm diameter, produced in dense umbels. The fruit is an oblong dry schizocarp, 3 - 5 mm long. It is these seed pods that are referred to as "aniseed". Wikipedia

The fennel/anise confusion if not defensible at least has a considerable pedigree. The two plants are of the family Apiaceae, are similar in appearance (at least in the wild), and have been mixed up for hundreds, probably thousands of years in dozens of languages. To add to the confusion when Europeans were introduced to a Chinese dried tree fruit they called it Star Anise because it too contains anethole.

I hate cilantro! Over the top you say? Sprinkle a little Tide on your soup and get back to me.

Cilantro is the darling of the SouthWestern set, integral to SouthEast Asian, Mexican, Portuguese and many other cuisines and the bane of our existence to an astounding number of people (estimates range from 12% to 47%, neither of which I'd believe) including the renowned Julia Child. Put in the very simplest of terms, the inclusion of cilantro ruins any dish!
The problem it seems lies in the nose. Those of us who dislike (or hate) the Fetid Barb of Green have certain receptors enabled or overactive while others are disabled or at least of diminished capacity. The culprits in this little drama are unsaturated aldehydes which are present in cilantro and are also byproducts of soap making (see NYTimes article). It seems that those of us who dislike the weed smell these aldehydes to the exclusion of the other smells which lovers of the herb find so attractive. Of course there is a substantial middle ground of those who can tolerate it in small amounts or in certain dishes.
Bottom line? You won't find cilantro in many recipes here.

Fresh & In Season: Sweet Potatoes

A veritable powerhouse of nutritional goodness, the sweet potato is only distantly related to the potato. And don't call it a yam - it's not even the same species! The sweet potato is a flowering perennial vine in the same family as morning glories, with delicious, starchy, tuberous roots. Read the whole article at Eating Well and see the Wikipedia nutrition comparison chart.

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