Monday, March 29, 2010

What Food Revolution?

If anyone has been able to prove that there is a "food revolution" going on, I sure don't know anything about it. Without doubt there seem to be more people rebelling against the status quo of mass produced junk and convenience foods. But there is nothing  "revolutionary"  about rejecting the crappy food that permeates modern post-industrial life in favor of hand made, locally produced food. A revolutionary concept has to involve a more fundamental change in the way we think about things and advocating that sell and buy food at a farm stand rather than a supermarket does not measure up. For an  idea to be revolutionary it has to at least have the quality of "newness"  or originality. For example

The idea that it should not be assumed that real knowledge about nature is only found in texts (typically written by people who got their information from other texts) or by Divine Inspiration but can only be obtained by directly observing nature while systematically recording what one observes then looking for patterns in the data (i.e. Baconian Science),  was truly revolutionary because it represented a new way of thinking about how knowledge ought to be obtained. The notion that people were not born with the right to rule (or born with the burden of being ruled) but instead were born with the right to self-determination,  was an idea that was itself born in the period of The Enlightenment and eventually became the keystone of the revolutionary Constitution of the United States.

There is nothing new about the idea that the food we put on the table ought to be locally sourced and grown without pesticides. That's the way most people got their food for centuries. As recently as the 19th century most of the food sold in New York City came from organic farms upstate and on Long Island and New Jersey. Even the bloody fish was local. 

When Dante Alighieri had the novel idea of writing in Italian rather than Latin, he helped to set in motion a revolution in literature that not only resulted in the replacement of Latin as the language of the literati, but was a major impetus for the flowering of The Renaissance. Which leads me to a second objection to the use of the term "revolution" to describe what I see happening to the way we think about and  procure, prepare and consume their food.

In order for a movement  to be  a revolution it has to sweep away that which the revolutionaries want changed. In other words, a revolution is mostly a revolution in retrospect when some significant numbers of people realize that the old ways of doing things have been largely discredited and that the  changes pursued by the revolutionary have begun to become part of the normal way of thinking. At this moment in time, more than 92 % of all american agriculture products end up as processed food, and the overwhelming majority of that food is grown hundreds of miles from where our largely urban population lives. Walk into any American home and open the pantry if you wonder if there  is a food revolution going on and you are not likely to see any evidence of it there. Even my own pantry is loaded with stuff in boxes filled with food that is grown in many cases thousands of miles from where I live and I work on a farm!

This food revolution we keep hearing about is more properly characterized as trend towards adding a small percentage of locally sourced, organic, humanely raised, non-GMO, hand made food to a diet that is, and will continue to be, comprised largely of processed food made in factories by strangers.

I know this is going to sound terribly cynical, but when I see how much fame (and presumably lucre) has accrued to the most vociferous proponents of this idea that there is a food revolution at hand , I cannot help but think that at least part of their motivation for continuing to beat the drum in spite of any evidence that anything like the revolution they describe has occurred I cannot help but think of P.T Barnum and WC Fields and their  brilliantly cynical takes on the critical thinking skills of the public.*

Finally, I realize that I oversimplified my argument and that I have not included all of the characteristics that have been attributed to the alleged "food revolution." I also, realize that I have reduced the concept of a revolution to only two qualities (the originality of the idea and its success in affecting change) and I apologize in advanced for my shallow presentation.


*There is a sucker born every minute. -PT Barnum
Never give a sucker an even break.- WC Fields

Unearthing the Sex Secrets of the P�rigord Black Truffle

Unearthing the Sex Secrets of the P�rigord Black Truffle - NYTimes.com

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Hog Butchering Tutorial


Christoph Wiesner, the president of the Austrian Mangalitsa Pig Breeders Association, has written a tutorial on how to butcher a pig via "seam butchery." You can download the tutorial at Heath Putnam's Wooly Pigs blog. 

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Anti-Soda Video

Uhmmm, I'm not a big fan of soda but this anti-soda commercial -produced by The New York City Department of Health- is a bit much. I wonder what impact it is going to have on overweight soda drinkers.


Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Why Human Cheese Stinks




This reader response to an earlier post about a restaurant in NYC where cheese made from human milk was being featured on the menu, does such a good job of explaining why our first reaction to things and ideas that challenge what we understand to be "normal" is so often visceral, that I thought it deserved to be aired at the forefront of this blog's on again-off again discussion of "other" food. Specifically, what Roblyn Rawlins (an Associate Professor of Sociology at The College of New Rochelle) is  attempting to explain is why so many of us  find the idea of cheese made from human milk to be repugnant. Of course, her hypothesis can be applied to any situation where we feel that we are being confronted by a situation where an "inappropriate" idea or thing is being offered for consumption. So cozy up with a cup of chica and read on.

I go with Mary Douglas and the structuralist anthropologists (backed up by cognitive psych) here. The basic argument is that there’s a serious mismatch between the amount of information that can be taken in by our senses and the capacity of our brains to process all that stuff. We simply cannot pay attention to all the information our senses collect at one time.

So to make sense of our experiences, we unconsciously rely on cognitive categories to sort all the stuff into manageable clumps. These categories are usually binary. So here we have the distinction between human and animal, flesh and meat, food and not-food.

Human: animal :: not-food : food.

For the categories to hold, we humans continually if not usually consciously work to maintain the boundaries between categories. And the categories generally work neatly and easily within cultures. Inevitably, though, human experience cannot always be contained neatly within the categories. Human milk transgresses the human = not-food conceptualization.

Things like human milk that slip between the nice and comforting sense-making categories really distress people on an unconscious level. So we repress this distressing knowledge -- the fact that human milk is food -- since we are committed to maintaining the conceptualization of humans as not-food. Repression never works completely, though, and the distress tends to bubble up, very often in nervous jokes and by experiences of distaste or revulsion.

Hence all the giggling when breast feeding is going on. Hence the distaste and revulsion. We’re pretty repressive in US culture on the public consumption of human milk and the ages of the eaters. The fact that most folks,  present company excepted [i.e. Bob dG ], speak of "breast milk" rather than "human milk" underscores my point.

Monday, March 15, 2010

The New Poor - For-Profit Schools Cashing In on Recession and Federal Aid - NYTimes.com


"From July 2007 to June 2008, students who graduated from the culinary arts associate degree program landed jobs that paid an average of $21,000 a year, or about $10 an hour. Oregon’s minimum wage is $8.40 an hour."


The New Poor - For-Profit Schools Cashing In on Recession and Federal Aid - NYTimes.com

Fat is a flavor? - Boing Boing


The author of this article made a pretty serious mistake. The study did not confirm that fat is a "flavor," rather it found that fat is a "taste." Flavor is the combined effect of sensation from the taste buds in the mouth and olfactory nerves in the nose. Taste signals come from the taste buds only and are: salty, sweet, sour, bitter, umami and now allegedly "fatty."




Fat is a flavor? - Boing Boing

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Haiti Cheri


Beginning with a conversation in Cedric Tovar's living room on January 17th and culminating in an event on March 12 at La Venue on W28th street in Manhattan, a huge amount of work was accomplished by an army of people. I'm proud to even know these folks - like Cedric Tovar and Wendy Chan - let alone have the privilege of planning, working, and achieving results with them. And, of course, Bob was there, mostly behind the scenes, working harder and staying longer to get the job done - a constant source of knowledge, wit, and philosophy as well as a damned good story teller between the thousands of pieces of pastry to fill and plantains to peel. The common theme behind all of our adventures together is "Just Do It". It's great to associate with people who see obstacles as challenges and have the confidence to work though them. It's especially important that they supply such good role models for my students - 16 of whom helped out on Friday. Through the example of Bob, Cedric, Wendy and all of the others, the next generation of Chefs will,I hope, have the same ethic and understand that vision coupled with really hard work is a reward in itself. Bottom line, thanks to everyone for helping me have so much fun doing something so useful.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Bill Bans Use of Salt in Restaurants

Assemblyman Felix Ortiz has introduced a bill to The New York State Assembly that would ban the use of salt by restaurants. The bill reads in part


TITLE OF BILL: An act to amend the general business law, in relation to prohibiting the use of salt in the preparation of food by restaurants PURPOSE OR GENERAL IDEA OF BILL: To prohibit restaurants from using salt when preparing customers' meals. Customers will have the discretion to add salt to their own meal after it has been prepared. SUMMARY OF SPECIFIC PROVISIONS: The general business law is amended by adding a new section 399-bbb, which would prohibit the use of salt by owner or operators of a restaurant when preparing food for consumption by customers.

It is very difficult to imagine that something as stupid and arrogant as this would pass, but there is no shortage of fools in politics, so you never know.


You can read the whole thing, in all of its hubristic glory here
Bills

Chef at Chelsea restaurant offers customers a taste of cheese made from his wife's breast milk - NYPOST.com

Chef at Chelsea restaurant offers customers a taste of cheese made from his wife's breast milk - NYPOST.com

Rocco Dispirito and Marisa Tomei Flirt For Bertolli


I'll bet you can't wait to watch Rocco and Marisa goof around in Italy! Yawn.


Eater National: Rocco Dispirito and Marisa Tomei Flirt For Bertolli

Monday, March 8, 2010

Quick Plug For Haitian Benefit Party

Yeah, I'm a weeny, but a really f'ing busy one...just want to update the food news from the Benefit Front - today we picked up DONATIONS from the Ocean State Oyster Co-op who are kicking down 1800 of their best and briniest so we'll be setting up a Raw Bar!
Also, just got word from Johnathan White of Bobolink Dairy - he's going to be setting up a Cheese station!

Hmmmm...Hudson Valley Foie Gras, Moonstone Oysters, Bobolink Cheeses, Cooks from Daniel, Cooks from CIA, Bourdain memorabilia for auction, Wines from Everywhere, and Caribbean Music - a RAGER of a party. If you're not there, you're a bigger weeny!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Help Rebuild, Come Celebrate -Haïti Chérie

Sometimes getting Mike Pardus to post is a little like trying to convince a blue whale to wear a miniskirt -ain't happening, no matter how much she wants to wear it -even when posting is surely going to benefit a cause that he is already working like a maniac to pursue. So, I have taken the whale by the tail and cut and pasted this announcement from the Zanmi d'Ayiti web site. Both Mike and I will be working the event all day so stop by and say hello if you are in town. - Bob dG


Please join us for an evening of Haitian cuisine, music, art, and culture to benefit World Hope International.

A contribution to advance their efforts in Haiti will also be given to: Coeur d'Haiti, HELP Haitian Education & Leadership Program, Institut Monfort & Pwoje Espwa (Hope in Haiti).

Location

la.venue
608 West 28th Street
New York, NY 10001

Date

March 12, 2010
V.I.P. Reception: 6pm – 7pm
General Admission: 7pm – 1am

Tickets

V.I.P.: $125 ($115 before March 5)
General Admission: $75 ($65 before March 5)
$10 discount for Seniors (65+)

Click here to purchase tickets now

*Purchase before February 28, 2010 may be eligible for the 2009 tax return charity contribution deduction, $100 tax deduction for VIP tickets and $50 tax deduction for General Admission.

To deduct your charitable contributions, please see your tax professional for more details.

Music

There will also be live performances throughout the evening by Haitian and international artists including:

Food

Haitian and international cuisines led by French-Haitian chef Cedric Tovar ofDaniel.

Art and Culture

Audio and visual displays featuring Haitian history, art, culture, and moving testimonials from Haitians and Haitian Americans.

Silent Auction

A silent auction of Haitian and international art, luxury and designer items and more.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Italian Government Bans "Molecular Cuisine"

I'm not sure if the Italian Minister of Health is trying to make a joke or a political statement by banning liquid nitrogen, gums and colloids from restaurants but this sure as hell made me laugh.

http://www.caputmundicibus.com/2010/02/italian-government-legislates-against-molecular-cuisine/