Monday, June 28, 2010

Recipe of the Moment: Zucchini and Goat Cheese Frittata

I love goat cheese, and I love zucchini, so obviously this is one of the first recipes in The French Women Don't Get Fat Cookbook that I make. I had no idea what a frittata was, but I decided I would follow the directions as best I could. (Nope, I didn't even look it up, I just went with it!)

Friday, June 25, 2010

The Alcoholic Republic

I like to think of myself as well educated. I went to great schools, and I was always encouraged to learn more about everything rather than just take one person's opinion. My father was a huge history buff, but somehow he never mentioned (or maybe never knew?) that we used to be a country of drunks.

Sure, some images of people sitting under trees with a bottle of whiskey are familiar to me, but I would never have thought that such a Puritanical nation would be referred to as the "Alcoholic Republic" by many of our founding fathers. From 1790 to 1830, we drank whiskey at every meal. We drank it at work. We drank it at political rallies. We drank it at quilting meetings. Europeans were fascinated by our cheap booze.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Reaons We're Larger Than Life (Not Just Our Sparkling Personalities)

Biologically speaking, humans can only eat approximately 1500 pounds of food each year, which means the food industry growth rate is about 1% each year. The 1% being the annual growth rate of the American population. I know I were in charge of a giant corporation, I wouldn't be happy with those numbers, and of course the food industry and those with an interest in such things aren't happy. So how do you make people eat more food than is desired or, in some cases, physically capable?

Recipe of the Moment: Carrot and Orange Soup

I've never heard of this combination before I found it in Mireille Guiliano's The French Women Don't Get Fat Cookbook, and I was a little suspicious. Generally, I think it's pretty great. And unlike most soups, I actually prefer this one cold. It's very refreshing!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Recipe of the Moment: Garlic Pasta Sauce

I discovered one day that I could not buy pasta sauce for a reasonable price at the closest grocery store. Even though there were a lot of varieties of sauce, everything I considered to be a reasonable price had artificial ingredients. The only one (one!) I saw was $12, which is far too much for me to pay. I now that I can walk an extra 3 blocks and get something better. However, at the time, I decided to make my own. This was absolutely delicious, but it took me longer than I would have liked to make. If I make it again, I'll have to do it in a very large batch so I can store it.

The original recipe calls for even more garlic than I used. I'm sure it would be just as amazing, but I didn't have that much garlic on hand.

Friday, June 11, 2010

CAFOs: Why You Eat So Much Meat

I mentioned yesterday that 3 out of every 5 kernels ends up on a farm factory, otherwise known as a CAFO (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation). Michael Pollan, continuing in his desire to follow our food chain, purchased a calf to follow closely because "the short, unhappy life of a corn-fed feedlot steer represents the ultimate triumph of industrial thinking over the logic of evolution." His calf was named 534, just like all the other steers birthed from his mother, 9534. He came to reside at Poky Feeders, a CAFO in Kansas, where it's $1.60/day for room and board, food, and medicine.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Grain Elevators: How Corn Gets Distributed

I know the past few posts have been rather monotonous. While learning about corn (and other food) can be boring, I think it's important to know this history because how else would you know that leftovers from WWII are being used to make your food? Or that corn makes up a lot of processed foods? It's good to know that corn has taken over and that the government should take a lot of the blame. This post is also about corn, but I promise that soon I'll take a break and post about something else.

The corn that George Naylor, and most other farmers, grow is called number 2 field corn (so distinguished as the "lowest common denominator"- the moisture content is no more than 14% and fewer than 5% exhibit insect damage). While it looks like the regular corn we're used to seeing on the table, it's different. In order to eat it, the kernels must be soaked in water for several hours, and then once you bite into them, you don't taste corn, but lightly corn-flavored starch.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

How Corn Became King: Part 2

I briefly mentioned that government had a role in helping corn become the giant mega-crop that it is today. The price of corn has steadily fallen over the years (factoring in inflation), and today the price of a bushel of corn is about a dollar below what it costs to grow it. Government farm programs were once designed to limit production and support prices, but were quietly reprogrammed over the years to increase production and drive down prices. During the Nixon administration, the government began to subsidize corn at the expense of farmers.

A Brief History of Chemical Fertilizers

One of the biggest turning points in corn's history came about after World War II. A factory in Alabama had a large amount of ammonium nitrate, the main ingredient in manufacturing explosives, left over after the war. Because ammonium nitrate also happens to be an excellent source of nitrogen for plants, the Department of Agriculture thought it would be great to use as fertilizer on farmland. In addition to chemical fertilizers, pesticides were developed from an excess of poisonous gases. Hybrid corn, which was bred to stand up straighter and grow much closer together, loved the chemical fertilizers.

Friday, June 4, 2010

How Corn Became King: Part 1

After learning about how much corn is in everything, Michael Pollan visited a corn farm in Iowa. He described how once upon a time farms grew a variety of crops, including oats and hay for their farm animals. Now most farms in the Midwest grow only corn and soybeans, and each feed an average of 129 people. Even though farmers like George Naylor, who Michael Pollan shadows, are statistically some of the most productive humans ever (in regards to terms of output per worker), they can hardly afford to support their family living on the farm.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Oh My, So Much Corn!

Do you ever consider what your body is made up of? Beyond water, of course. There's the old saying, "You are what you eat." Do you consider yourself one of the wheat people? Are you more meat friendly? Beef people? Chicken people? What about corn people? Because even though identifying as corn people mainly comes from descendants of Mayans or those from Mexico, Americans actually have much more corn in their diets.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

The Omnivore's Dilemma: What Should We Eat for Dinner?

I was incredibly excited when Michael Pollan's The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals showed up at my local library. I had been on the wait list for almost a month and a half, and I was becoming impatient. I know I sound a bit dramatic, but I'm very serious when I say that this book made it incredibly easy for me to change my diet and I haven't had any problems, worries, or regrets since.