Weekend Reading

If healthy, sustainable, delicious food is going to come to dominate our culture, eating in this way needs to be accessible, easy, tasty, and fast so that all people can increase their patronage of local farms and embrace home cooking in ways that work for them. Along those lines, I’ve been very interested in the new (ish) website Taste , which specifically bills itself as a website for the home cook. There are reviews and features of cookbooks, recipes, and stories about food culture, and it feels like a sort of curated Food52 with many innovative stories and cooking ideas. I like this website a lot and I’m excited to see how it grows.

While I was paging through Taste’s features I read an interview by Andy Wang with the founders of the blog Thug Kitchen, a Million Books and F-Bombs Later. I had just checked Michelle Davis and Matt Holloway’s first book, Thug Kitchen, Eat Like You Give a Fuck. I found their approach to vegan cooking and home cooking in general really refreshing. The massive quantity of expletives aside, Davis and Holloway speak to people who are tired, intimidated by cooking, and don’t want to spend a ton of time and money doing so. Thug Kitchen’s book is encouraging and has accessible recipes to eat well and feel good. From the interview, it’s good to hear they have no intentions of slowing down.

I’ve also found myself returning lately to The Homemade Vegan Pantry by Miyoko Schinner. I may have mentioned this book before, but it is packed full of well explained recipes for cheeses, vegan milks and dairy, and meat substitutes that are tasty and nourishing. Schinner doesn’t include many unfamiliar additive ingredients, and when they are necessary for a texture or consistency, she does a good job explaining what they are and how they work. While I haven’t made the jump to vegan, books like hers make it easy to make plant based choices and offer new ways to enjoy creamy, hearty, or savory foods.

As an interesting ethical aside: Would You Eat Chicken Grown in a Lab? Andrew Amelinckx reports for Modern Farmer on efforts to grow poultry tissue without a sentient animal attached. The resulting animal protein is technically “chicken,” but no animal dies (or even lives?), pollution issues are largely avoided, and animal treatment ethics are somewhat a nonissue, although it is still very resource intensive. While the lab grown chicken doesn’t seem that it will be on the market any time soon, I’m interested to see how this science evolves.

Overall, we seem to be at a time where consumers and diners are more knowledgeable than ever about their food and have high expectations for the businesses they patronize. The Hippies Have Won, by Christine Muhlke for The New York Times, profiles open minded restaurant kitchens and consumer trends towards whole grains, global flavors, and well sourced ingredients.

Yet awareness of farming and ecological issues only goes so far. Pollution, global warming, and water shortages still loom, and we need to continue to dissect and move forward to address the health of our planet. This essay, Where the Water Goes by David Owen New Yorker, is based on a forthcoming book, and delves into impending water issues rising in the western United States. I am looking forward to reading the book and learning about the origins of our water woes, but also looking to how to respond for a productive future of food and water.

I believe society must continue working towards creative agriculture that is sustainable both for the earth and for small, independent business people producing food and drink in their communities. In Modern Farmer, Jesse Frost profiles JM Fortier and the Rise of the High Profit Micro Farm. Fortier runs a small, high intensity farm, and also writes and teaches about his practices. There is much that can be done to maximize small plots of land and produce good food even in urban areas, although urban farming is not without its social issues. Stories like these are inspiring me to really push towards the work I want to do for a quality, healthy life that I can share with other people.
Finally, I recently read an opinion in the New York Times by Jim Koch, owner of the Boston Beer Company: Is It Last Call for Craft Beer? Large beer companies are looming in the background, seeking dominance over beer sales that could push small breweries out of shelf space and out of business. Just a few weeks ago, a bill was passed in my state of Maryland that limits hours and sales options for new Maryland craft breweries, but paves the way for Guinness (owned by international giant Diageo) to open a high volume facility in the state. The big companies of brewing and agribusiness are still present.  Many gains have been made on behalf of localized agriculture, food, and brewing, and the quality life and eating foodsheds around our country is promising. We must continue to fight for good food!


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