Salt Archives

a little wooden cabinet of shelves, the shelves are filled with labeled vials, the vials are filled with salt

Artisanal Bamboo Salt Chest, $125

As faithful readers (which I think might only be Blake Nelson) know, salt might be ground zero in the food wars. Used by real people to season and preserve their food for centuries, readily available and cheap, salt has nonetheless been made artisanal and precious and particular by foodies who can’t leave well enough alone. Salt happens to be one of the few things Meatball and I really know about food—remember the time we figured out that Scrabble Cheez Its have less salt than regular Cheez Its all on our own?

And salt isn’t just for food! You can use it to spite the devil, disinfect your wounds, clean your house, test to see if eggs are bad, and about a million other things, including protection againt demons:

When the devil is knocking at your door, do you really want to be messing around with your $125 Artisanal Bamboo Salt Chest?

That’s What She Said

Part of a righteous post by Zuzu on Feministe that pertains to a lot of the issues we talk about here:

[W]henever we start focusing on the health of the individual, we erase the systemic problems that contribute to health issues. This is a perfect example of the personal being political.

Institutions love to shift the burden onto the individual, because it means the institution doesn’t have to examine its own behavior or its own contribution to a problem. Let’s look at bullying. States and schools love to have zero-tolerance policies so they can look like they’re being tough on bullying — but then when bullying incidents happen, they just don’t define it as bullying, and suggest that the victim change his or her behavior. Problem solved!

Then we have childhood obesity prevention programs. Sure, they sound good, but ultimately, they put the burden on the kid to change while leaving intact many, many things that contribute to the problem. This may include fat-laden agricultural surplus products that find their way into the school lunches; vending machines and bake sales used for fundraising because taxpayer funds are unavailable; cutbacks in physical education and extracurricular sports; lack of safe spaces to walk or exercise; lack of sidewalks; corn subsidies that result in high-fructose corn syrup showing up in everything; high housing prices that lead to long parental commutes and thus a reliance on takeout over freshly-prepared foods; food deserts; aggressive marketing by fast-food outlets; food-assistance programs that are designed to dump agricultural surplus rather than provide good nutrition; agricultural subsidies that mean that vegetables are more expensive than cheap fatty meats; lack of access to affordable preventive health care; lack of education about nutrition; and on and on.

An awful lot for a little kid to carry on his or her shoulders, don’t you think?

And it’s not just kids that get this kind of treatment, it’s adults as well. How dare you be fat at me, Ms. Medicaid Recipient? Maybe they should cut your food stamps off if you’re going to be so fat! That the face of poverty is widely considered to be black, female and fat — today’s version of the Welfare Queen in her Cadillac — just makes the problem more intractable.

But it’s a fight worth having, and it’s a fight that feminists [and foodies—ed.] should be waging. So instead of scoffing next time you see someone criticizing the use of the BMI as an indicator of individual health, try listening, and considering. You might just see that the problem is bigger than you realize — and it might even hit home for you.


They Must Not Know About Whole Foods In Denver

If Martinez wants each member of her household to have one peach, it’ll cost her about $3.

If she chooses Kraft macaroni and cheese, she can get 18 servings — with 400 calories and 580 milligrams of sodium in each — for the same price.

From a great piece on how farm subsidies (also–can we not just call them money subsidies?) affect access to food.

Eat, Pray, Sell Gourmet

Substitute “Portland,” “Seattle,” or multiple other cities in the graf below:

Carrot buns, lemon macaroons, golden veal cutlets and tamarind ice cream spiked with balsamic vinegar are taking New York by storm, as street carts trade working-class fare for delicacies.

One thing that really irks me about the food truck thing is that it’s only become a “trend” now that food trucks are “gourmet” and run by middle class  people. I grew up in Los Angeles going to taco trucks all the damn time, and since living in New York have eaten multiple falafels, pretzels, and ice cream sandwiches from food trucks.

And it’s even more irksome when you read about people like Oleg Voss, “a 28-year-old culinary school graduate and one-time investment banker.” He had to give up his lucrative job in Vienna to open his veal cutlet cart, because of “the brutal economic recession.” That is brutal!

It seems like “I opened a niche gourmet food business” is the new “I found myself.” Who needs an ashram when you can sell artisanal delicacies to people who enjoy the added flavor of self-righteous foodiness? Oh and isn’t it funny, hahaha, when people who have been working on the street for their entire lives don’t take kindly to being pushed out of business by a trend? Take, for example, two former marketing executives who have now opened a gourmet ice cream truck:

“Three Mister Softee guys came and threatened to burn our truck,” said Di Mille, referring to the half-century old franchisor of trucks serving up soft ice cream.

Yeah I don’t know why they would have an issue with two former marketing executives with “friends in the New York police force” taking away their business. After half a century.

Eat Your Privilege

A few excerpts from a stellar piece on The Awl by Claire Zulkey, “The Rich Are Different, They Eat More Money.”

Following food trends is secretly an upscale way of justifying eating things you probably shouldn’t. No, a hamburger or glass of pop or cupcake now and then won’t kill you, but the point of a craze isn’t moderation: if you’re really going to consider yourself up on the soda trend, you’ll know the difference and have opinions on Brooklyn Soda Works versus P&H Soda versus Fort Defiance and so on right now. Get in on it while it’s hot: it’s fun, it’s old-timey! It’s not going to be fashionable for long so you need to get in there and try it and have your say. Being part of the communal tasting moment is part of the experience, but it’s a luscious bonus that the majority of the experience is eating something sugary, fatty and/or delicious. Eating indulgently somehow seems less sinful when it’s the thing to do. Eat a cupcake because you feel sad: that’s sad. Eat a cupcake because the gals on “Sex and the City” did it: well, now you’re living the life. That’s aspirational eating. It’s not so bad for you if you had to wait in line for it and pay a shit ton of money for it and do it in high heels.

There seem to be two issues at play these days when it comes to what makes foods “good” and “bad” (of course poor, innocent foods are not actually “good” and “bad” the way, say, the Holocaust was “bad” and eight hours of sleep is “good,” but you can’t deny that certain foods are more nutritionally valuable than others): calories and content. Take a Hostess Twinkie and then a “Twinkie” that is not actually a Twinkie but a dessert created by a trained pastry chef out of the finest ingredients in the kitchen of an exclusive restaurant to look like a Twinkie (this sounds like a great challenge for “Top Chef”). Many of us wouldn’t be caught dead eating a Twinkie: we’ve all been told that Twinkies never age because they’re made of wicked unnatural ingredients, Twinkies are filled with whale blubber, Twinkies will give you cancer. Yet you’d pay $12 for the honor of eating the “Twinkie,” even though they both may have the same amount of calories.

There’s a double standard when it comes to food that’s calorically bad for you. Hell, there’s a double standard even when it comes to food that’s good for you. Those of us who allegedly can afford it and “know better” aren’t supposed to eat baby carrots anymore: we’re supposed to go to the farmers’ market to purchase beautiful fresh-from-the-dirt carrots with green tops, or have them delivered to us in a weekly produce co-op box. You don’t cram them in your face to fill the void and grimly just take it because the food suits its purpose and is filled with these goddamn vitamins and nutrients—you thank Gaia for the soil and the sun that brought it to you and consider yourself one of the “good ones” next time you read a Michael Pollan article.

Try reading it without a kneejerk defense of “That’s not me!” and “I don’t do that” or even “Those assholes.” Just read it and think.

Caught Between a Stamp and a Hard Place

photo of vintage food stamps

There are now more than 40 million Americans receiving food stamp benefits, a 27-year high. And yet yesterday the Senate voted to cut the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program by $14 billion. As of last November the program fed 1 in 8 Americans and 1 in 4 children.

Voices for America’s Children, an anti-hunger advocacy group, has a nifty web interface that will let you send a letter to your Senators right from your computer (or your phone! Do it at the farmer’s market!)  They have more opportunities for action, and background on the various bills currently making their way through Congress at their site, including  Child Nutrition Reauthorization (yeah, it’s a big quote but read it):

This year, Congress will reauthorize federal school meal and child nutrition programs. The reauthorization includes several child and adult feeding programs that reach infants, toddlers, school-aged children and older youth. Referred to collectively as Child Nutrition Reauthorization, the effort will include all federal school meal and child nutrition programs.

Seventeen million children, one in four, live at risk of hunger. The programs included in the child nutrition reauthorization ensure nourishing meals for needy children, which is fundamental to fostering the next healthy, strong and smart generation. Polling data indicate that the public shares this aim, with 83 percent of adults surveyed supporting expanding the Child Nutrition Act to more children and providing healthier food.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, 10 million children participate in the school breakfast program and 30 million children receive lunch through the school lunch program. Oftentimes the only nutritious foods the poorest children can count on are these subsidized school meals.  These programs, along with the Special Supplemental Nutrition Programs for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), the Child and Adult Care Feeding Program and others, are the strongest part of our nation’s safety net and are vital resources in the fight to end child hunger.

Importance of Federal Nutrition Programs as a Food Delivery System

A robust reauthorization of federal nutrition programs would strengthen the existing food delivery system by reaching millions of children across age and setting. In the richest country on the planet, children should not be unsure of their next meal, yet more than 500,000 children sometimes face outright hunger. Child nutrition programs are facing a two-part challenge: rising rates of child hunger and obesity. Child nutrition reauthorization is critical to solving them both.

The need for food assistance is growing as more families turn to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps) as a way of keeping food on the table in the wake of a job loss or a cut in pay. From August 2008 to August 2009, SNAP participation grew by 7 million people, with children making up half of the increase in participants, due largely to the impact of the recession. Although more children are eligible for free or reduced-price school meals by being eligible for SNAP or meeting the income criteria, school meals don’t show the same sharp upward climb because they typically exchange data with their local SNAP office only once or twice a year. As a result, states are only slowly beginning to see upticks in the demand for school meals, and more children are likely to be eligible for school meals but not enrolled.

The need for food assistance is growing as more families turn to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps) as a way of keeping food on the table in the wake of a job loss or a cut in pay. From August 2008 to August 2009, SNAP participation grew by 7 million people, with children making up half of the increase in participants, due largely to the impact of the recession. Although more children are eligible for free or reduced-price school meals by being eligible for SNAP or meeting the income criteria, school meals don’t show the same sharp upward climb because they typically exchange data with their local SNAP office only once or twice a year. As a result, states are only slowly beginning to see upticks in the demand for school meals, and more children are likely to be eligible for school meals but not enrolled.

Principles to Guide the Child Nutrition Reauthorization

Voices for America’s Children (Voices) supports the principles for the reauthorization of child nutrition programs adopted by the Child Nutrition Forum, a consortium of national organizations against hunger.  In short, Voices believes:

  • Good nutrition is critical for children’s development and contributes to their ability to learn in school.
  • Child nutrition programs play a critical role in helping children – especially those in low-income families – achieve access to quality food, child care, educational opportunity and enrichment activities while improving their overall health, development and school achievement. Federal support for these programs has not always kept pace with children’s needs.
  • A well-conceived, appropriately funded reauthorization bill can reduce hunger and food insecurity in America, help reduce the number of children who are overweight or obese, improve child nutrition and health and enhance child development and school readiness.

Voices’ Goals for Child Nutrition Reauthorization

President Obama included $1 billion a year for the child nutrition reauthorization in his budget proposal for fiscal years 2010 and 2011; however, securing the funding is likely be an uphill battle in Congress given the current budget climate.  But federally funded meal programs are a lifeline for children and families. Food programs are the remaining family support for thousands of households that lack a regular source of income, face exhausted unemployment compensation in some states, and live without adequate health care.  These programs are the critical link.

In partnership with the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC), Voices’ primary advocacy goals include a reauthorization that:

  • Provides an at least $1 billion for the child nutrition reauthorization above current spending levels;
  • Increases access and participation in places where children gather, like school, child care centers and after-school locations;
  • Removes administrative and other barriers to participation for children, parents and at food locations;
  • Enhances nutrition quality by placing greater emphasis on healthy meals, which can be more expensive to provide, particularly in neighborhoods with limited or no access to sources of healthy food.

In March, the Senate Agriculture Committee completed its work on the “Healthy, Hunger-free Kids Act of 2010″ (S. 3307), which is a positive step forward in reducing childhood hunger. In addition to requiring that all food sold in schools be subject to established nutritional standards, the legislation also expands the Afterschool Meal Program to all 50 states and increases access by offering direct certification to foster children and those in the Medicaid programs (phased in).  The Senate’s legislation (S. 3307) has been estimated to cost $4.5 billion over 10 years.

More recently, the House released its version of child nutrition reauthorization. George Miller, chairman of the Education and Labor Committee, released the “Improving Nutrition for America’s Children’s Act of 2010″ (H.R. 5504). This bill takes a much larger step toward increasing access for many of the nation’s children from families with low incomes. In addition to offering direct certification for foster care and children in Medicaid (phased in), the bill also encourages expansions in the School Breakfast Program, provides protections for discrimination or segregation of children eligible for free or reduced-price lunch, and also addresses the quality of meals served in schools. Though an official cost estimate has not been released, the legislation is predicted to require approximately $8 billion over 10 years.

Our Nation’s Children Cannot Afford to Wait

Voices looks to Congress to finish its work on both the House (H.R. 5504) and Senate (S. 3307) bills. We believe federal child nutrition programs play a critical role in helping children, especially those in rural and urban settings where access to healthy foods may be limited.  One sure way to prevent children from going to bed hungry is to provide healthy, nutritious meals at the places they gather (child care centers, school, and after-school programs). We believe that a strong child nutrition reauthorization can do this.

I find myself using the “class war” tag on every entry these days.

Can You Spare a Dime, New York Times?

photo of an iced coffee

The Times has a loving post up about the Toddy Brewing System for iced coffee. It’s essentially a redux of the how to cold-brew iced coffee story they ran in 2007, with the addition of using the Toddy instead of your own filters. But what neither story noted is that making coffee this way is almost three times as expensive. Here’s the math, based on the current piece.

The Times recipe calls for 16 ounces of coffee, which yield 48 ounces of concentrate. The writer recommends using concentrate and coffee at a 1:1 ratio, so you’ve got 96 ounces of iced coffee, or 12 8-ounce cups.

If you were making regular coffee, those same 16 ounces, or 32 tablespoons, would give you 32 cups of coffee, using the general 1 tablespoon of coffee per cup. That’s nearly three times as many. Even if you are a profligate spendthrift and use 2 tablespoons per cup, you’d still get 16 cups, 25% more.

I’m not saying don’t cold brew your coffee if you want to. It’s a (mostly, kinda) free country! But it’s irresponsible not to note the big leap in cost here. It really fascinates me to see how much the Times dining—dining! not eating—section, in the same paper where I read about the economy on a daily basis, rarely notes prices or costs in any kind of real-world way. They just started giving nutrition info on recipes, I think they should start giving estimated costs.

I admit to being slightly paranoid that I did the math wrong here but I think it’s right.

Give To The Poor? As If.

a mime

A terrible person named Ann A. Crane is upset! In the L.A. Times! About charity! Ms. Crane runs a catering company and she is not happy about a proposal by David Lazarus that a clearing house be set up for the 1.5 million tons of food that California hotels, restaurants, and caterers throw away every year. Anne A. Crane thinks this is an undue burden for her:

When a client and I plan to donate food, it costs me money. Let’s imagine I have taken all the leftover food back to our kitchen. I then have to have someone transfer the food to disposable containers (I pay for the containers). I spend my time calling around to find out which local agency can take the food (this is often not an insignificant step). Then one of my staff has to drive the food over, in my van with my gas, and then drive back (the biggest challenge for many of these charitable organizations is transportation, as they often do not have trucks, volunteers or sufficient demand to be able to come and pick up the food). At every step of the way, I am paying an employee.

HOMG that sounds almost as hard as recycling! Also, weird that she is against Lazarus’s proposal, because if the clearing house he envisioned came into being, she wouldn’t have to do all of the things she listed that are so hard. Phone calls! I picture Ms. Crane, a single tear running down her cheek, as she lights a hundred dollar bill and burns it while not throwing away food.

This is a woman whose company will get you a camel or a  kangaroo if you want one at your party. Or a mime. A MIME. Which I am definitely looking into if Meatball gets married. And yet she cannot fathom joining with others in her industry to see that less food gets thrown away and more goes to those who might, you know, eat it.  You, Ms. Ann A. Crane, definitely need to shut up.