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Archive for the ‘Literature Worth Digesting’ Category

 

 

How My Childhood was Spent photo from Norby

How My Childhood was Spent photo from Norby

 

There are certain things individuals just can’t live without—the morning cup of Joe, an after 5 o’clock alcoholic beverage, sweet and sugary baked goods, exercise (I’ll never be one of these people) or watching the tube. These addictions are fueled by the relief felt by the individuals feels after completing the ritual.  Although I obsess about food compulsively, drink coffee and wine most days, and think I have an unhealthy obsession with food television, my real problem is food literature. My addiction books  began as soon as I could understand the words from the children’s books my wonderful mother  read to me every night of my childhood. From the preschool years on, I think I racked in every certificate, medal, or award that was reading related. I had the most accelerated reader points by well over 500 during my middle school years. That is probably because I read a book a day. Granted, my book worm nature didn’t prevent me from sociability–I played soccer and basketball, ran track, and served as a leader in Beta Club, Student Government, etc. But, reading was my passion. Once I started I couldn’t stop–I just had to know what happens. 

 

 

During college I read the typical books early adults use to find a sense of self and enlightenment– On the Road, The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, The Awakening, etc. Books like this made me think outside the books and look at life from outside the middle-class white girl box. My future could be filled with anything, and all I knew was I no longer wanted final destination to be medical school, I needed something less constrained and static. That’s when I started reading cookbooks, food magazines, and all the nutritional literature I could get my hands on. Food is the language that we all speak. It is dynamic and covered all the subjects I love- writing, history, anthropology, nutrition, biology, physiology, sociology, psychology, and the list goes on forever. With food, it seems that the possibilities are endless, there is always a book to be read. What better way to satisfy my addiction. These days, my bookshelves are filled with an assortment of books from top-sellers to history books. But, the ratio of food literature to “normal” literature is a bit out of control. Once I learned that food literature goes far beyond cookbooks, I racked up on food history books, memoirs, anthropological ethnographies, farming books, wine books, food travel…you name it, I probably have it. My most recent purchase was on Tuesday. I went to my favorite used bookstore– McKays. I was there for nearly an hour with my dad, and I never made it out of the food section. Needless to say cheap prices and food books is a deadly combination for my wallet. I’m really thankful that my dad knows how much these books mean to me and my future. He bought them all for me, and I am already halfway through one of them. Thanks pops!

My Foodie Purchases

Tender at the Bone by Ruth Reichl

Garlic and Sapphires by Ruth Reichl

The True History of Chocolate by Sophie D. Coe and Michael D. Coe

The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan

Where Our Food Comes From by Gary Paul Nabham

Food in History by Reay Tannahill (This is a really old edition, but I felt like it’s $2 tag was a steal)

The Turkey by Andrew F. Smith

Why We Eat What We Eat by Raymond Sokolov

Endless Feasts with contributions from over 60 years of Gourmet Magazine edited by Ruth Reichl

Trail of Crumbs by Kim Sunee 

 

Let me know if you’ve read any of these and what you thought about them. I love discussing literature, especially food related.

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Immokalee Workers, by fairfoodnyc

Immokalee Workers, by fairfoodnyc

 

 

One of my favorite days of the month is when my Gourmet magazine arrives. Gourmet’s simple, warm and rustic photos visually stimulate my senses, the flavor-packed recipes rev-up my salivary response, and their articles…oh how I love the Politics of the Plate column, the Good Living Travel section, and of course their ever-changing features. My goal as an aspiring food journalists is to write for Gourmet. The magazine stands for everything I believe food is–a right to all, fair to producers, workers, consumers and the environment, and of course an outlet for creativity, nutrition, and fun. The reiterates my belief that Gourmet magazine cares about people more than advertising revenue.

The article, The Price of Tomatoes by Barry Estabrook moved me. Estabrook took a simple grocery store item-the tomato-and told its story. Now, let’s consider the tomato. This versatile fruit is used in everything from pasta and pizza to salads and soups. Since it is a common staple on many grocery lists, supermarkets now keep these plump, acidic products in the produce section year round, despite that tomatoes are not in season during harsh winter months.

So where do these tasteless tomatoes come from? If they are from the United States, 90% come from Immokalee, Florida. Immokalee’s population is 70% Latino (primarily illegal immigrants). Over 1/3 live below the poverty line, and the average yearly income is a meager $8500. Not to mention, a large majority of the population is uneducated.  Sounds sad, right? Not if you are one of the men that exploit this uneducated, underpaid and vulnerable population. These tomato farmers see the hispanics as a gateway to higher profits. It amazes me how invaluable the human life is to some. I’m pretty sure much of corporate American doesn’t see humans when they look at their working crowd, they see dollar signs. If not, how could they ever live with themselves?

Here’s a look at the life of tomato picker, Cesar Navarette, 23, from Mexico. Navarette began working illegally to send money home to his family.

  • Residence: the back of a box truck where three other workers live, no running water or toilet–$20 dollars a week
  • Hygiene: cold showers with a hose behind landlord’s house–$5 each
  • Food: two meals of eggs, beans, rice, torillas–price varies
  •  Work: Attend hiring fair at 5 a.m., and board bus to be taken to tomato farm. Grab bushel bag, and fill it with 32 pounds of ripe tomatoes. Each bag pays $0.32, and on a good day you make $50. That assumes you are in peak physical condition and that environmental factors are favorable (no dew, no rain, etc)

So, there it is. That is how the tomato you’ve eaten this Winter, probably even today, traveled from the field to your plate. An enslaved worker made it all possible, just for you and the tomato you bought to put in your salad. Maybe you didn’t even eat all your tomato, and the backbreaking work was done for nothing.  Still skeptical about slavery in the tomato industry? This powerful quote from Douglas Molloy, chief assistant to U.S. attorney in Fort Myers in response a question by Estabrook should confirm any suspensions you may have.

Estabrook: “Is it reasonable to assume that an American who has eaten a fresh tomato from a grocery store or food-service company during the winter has eaten fruit picked by the hand of a slave?”

Malloy:  “It is not an assumption. It is a fact.”

As with most stories, there is hope ahead. The Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) convinced Whole Foods, Yum Brands (Taco Bell, Pizza Hut, KFC, Long John Silvers, and A&W), McDonalds, Subway, and Burger King to pay one cent more per pound of tomatoes to go towards workers.  However, the Florida Tomato Growers Exchange that represents 90% of farmers, refused to agree to the raise. Since then, “Whole Foods is the only supermarket to sign the Campaign for Fair Food–meaning, they won’t buy from growers who tolerate serious worker abuses, and when buying tomatoes, to pay a price that supports minimum wage.”

So, next time you go to the grocery store and see the ripe tomatoes, try this before you buy them…smell the, hold the fleshy fruit, and imagine the tomato’s journey from farm to table and ask yourself, ” Is eating a mushy, flavorless tomato in January really worth a human life?”

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This article from the Commercial Appeal  is too funny…

 
Beale deals with latest drinking problems — blitzed birds

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I love meat–bacon, lamb, beef, and even ostrich. I will never be one of the “atarians”…vegetarian, pescatarian, ovovegetarian, etc. But, I just can’t bring myself to eat sad, sick and infected animals.  

My brain’s been a bit fuzzy this morning after my evening of whiskey and wine, and I just can’t focus on my teacher’s descriptions of kidney failures and transplants. So, I began browsing the Gastronomic Sciences: Food for Thought Journal  and settled on reading The End of Food by Paul Roberts. Although the article was lengthy, overly factual, and somewhat depressing, it provided a historical review about our food system, and discussed modern methods won’t be adequate for much longer.

According to Roberts, our food system is defunct. The meat industry found ways to breed lifestock to grow larger and age quicker just so we could have cheaper meat. Yes, this new method prevented hunger and gave nations a surplus of food, but at what cost? Our food system is currently struggling, and our future doesn’t look much brighter.

Consider this…

On average, it takes 8 pounds of grain to produce a single pound of meat. As meat consumption rises—and by 2050, world demand for meat is expected to more than double—the amount of grain we will need will increase by more than half. That means more land (which we don’t have), more crude oil (prices are on the rise), and more water (future farmers will need 17 percent more water than the world now has available).

And, consider this…

“The so-called ‘factory farm’ method for mass-producing meat—in huge feedlots containing tens of thousands of cattle, hogs, and poultry—has helped drive down the cost of meat, but has also created many threats to public. According to a recent report by the Pew Charitable Trusts, these huge feedlots, or ‘confined animal feeding operations’ (CAFOs) produce huge volumes of sewage, air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. Worse, because animals are crowded closely together, CAFOs also promote diseases, which has led to the overuse of antibiotics. This overuse, in turn, has produced bacteria that are now resistant to those same antibiotics. At the same time, the corn-based diet that is fed to many CAFO animals results in meat of poorer quality and higher fat content. And because livestock consumes so much grain—remember, 8 pounds for every pound of meat—we’re converting more and more of our forests into grain farms in order to feed livestock, ” Roberts claims.

Where do we go from here?

The Solution is easy– transform the meat industry into a sustainable entity: grass feed cattle, breed healthy cows that don’t need antibiotics, and for heavens sakes don’t feed them soil packed with synthetic nitrate fertilizers. So why can’t the meat industry do this? Because, meat may cost at least $1 over current meat processes. Yes, just one George Washington per pound of meat would give Americans sustainable meat from happy cows. These sorts of articles depress me because I wonder if our nation will ever realize cheaper products and high profits don’t last forever. Our nation will pay a price for the shortcomings of our food industry if we don’t recognize our faults soon. I just want to eat happy cows…

 

PS. Try reading Eric Scholesser’s Fast Food Nation for even more insight to America’s meat industry

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Daivd Foster Wallace, one of the greatest writers of our time (according to my friend Justus) penned Consider the Lobster in August, 2004 for Gourmet Magazine. I first read this article one week ago, but it has been on my mind ever since. Not only is the writing witty and entertaining, but thought-provoking as well.

Whether your memories of lobster are from fine dining establishments complete with drawn butter over an open flame or Wal-Mart’s display of the terrified, sickly lobster…this article shines a new light on this glamourous American entree.  Walllace will have you laughing, shuddering, and questioning your whole outlook on food. Bravo!

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