Entries Tagged as 'food'

Summertime is Pork Chop Time

Forget dog days, here come the pig days of summer – a time when your fancies turn to thoughts of thick, succulent Iowa chops sizzling and spattering over hardwood coals, surrounded by best-on-the-planet sweet corn, roasted fingerling potatoes and a frosty mug of the finest local brew.

At least, if you’re not thinking that way you might want to reconsider.  We are approaching the heart of the season here in Iowa, a time when there are more delicious things to eat rolling off farms around eastern Iowa than any other time of the year.  Besides sweet corn and the first potatoes, you’ll find soon hearty greens, cucumbers, zucchini, some berries, and the initial hopeful appearances of the tomatoes (more on them next time).  So this is a wonderful opportunity to enjoy a meal that is all local.

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The Brilliant #AmtrakResidency

Like (seemingly) every single writer and aspiring writer in the US, I was jumping up and down and scaring my pets when I heard about the idea of Amtrak offering “residencies” to writers. As both a writer and a rider, not to mention bona fide train geek, this seemed like one of those Celestine Moments, the confluence of two great loves in my life.

A touch of background: A couple of writers were conversing about how/when/where they like to write. They were doing this via the service that is both blessing and bane to all writers: Twitter (perhaps you’ve heard of it). They agreed that they both liked to write while commuting on the train, and one mentioned that Amtrak should offer a “residency.” The folks who run the feed at @Amtrak took notice and took them up on it, offering a couple of free rides. The result was viral mayhem for anyone who fancies themselves able to string together a noun and a verb. [Read more →]

In Defense of Iowa’s Food

Yes, meatloaf, casseroles, and other comfort meals can be found in church basements across all of Iowa’s 99 counties, but this is a state that knows its food and wine.


When I read Stephen Bloom’s screed against our mutually-adopted home state I was, like many Iowans (including his boss at the University of Iowa), insulted. I could not figure out which aspect bothered me more. My world revolves around food, and Bloom seems to have gleaned his information about what we eat in Iowa from a high school production of The Music Man.

Comfort food reigns supreme. Meatloaf and pork chops are king. Casseroles (canned tuna or Tatertots) and Jell-O molds (cottage cheese with canned pears or pineapple) are what to bring to wedding receptions and funerals. Everyone loves Red Waldorf cake. Deer (killed with a rifle is good, with bow-and-arrow better) and handpicked morels are delicacies families cherish.

I do not mean to claim that these dishes cannot be found in Lutheran church basements in all 99 counties, even if he is wrong about cottage cheese being in Jell-O molds (the cottage cheese is served on the canned pears, or more often on cling peaches), and even if, as a restaurant professional for 32 years, I’ve never heard of “Red Waldorf cake” nor has my fifth-generation Iowan wife. We think he must mean red velvet cake, which is common, though not nearly as common as the magnificent pies that are baked here. All this food can indeed be “comforting,” but as in so many other parts of his diatribe, Bloom chooses a couple small examples of something he’s seen here and concludes that it must be so for everyone across state.

Read the rest in The Atlantic

Gagging on the Ag Gag Bill: Industrial lobbying and corporate overreach at its finest

Industrial agriculture, like most powerful business interests, has a very effective lobbying organization not only in DC, but also in state capitols around the country.  Over the last few years they’ve been stung by surreptitious video recordings taken on a few farms showing examples of egregious animal abuse, unsafe working conditions, and environmental degradation.  See examples here, here, and here.

Needless to say, it makes them look bad, which of course they don’t like.  Now let me state right from the start here that I and the organization I represent, Slow Food USA, are not at all anti-farmer, and firmly believe that a vast majority of America’s farmers are honest, hardworking, industrious and well-meaning keepers of their land and heritage.  That said, there are exceptions, and like in any industry, a few bad apples can make the whole bunch look bad.

But instead of working hard to stop those few bad actors, Big Ag’s response is to try to criminalize the whistleblowers.  And their first attempts, in four states (Florida, Minnesota, Iowa and most recently New York) are so far reaching as to beg obvious 1st amendment questions to say the least. [Read more →]

Chasing Chiles: Xnipec — A Touch of the Dog’s Nose

Excerpted from Chasing Chiles: Hot Spots on the Pepper Trail, By Kurt Michael Friese, Kraig Kraft, and Gary Paul Nabhan. Visit our blog here.

One of the most delightful food discoveries for us in Mérida was xnipek pronounced SHNEE-peck. The name comes from the Mayan language and means “dog’s nose.” Unappetizing as that might sound at first, rest assured there is no dog in the recipe. It’s simply a reference to this salsa’s heat level. Hot chiles can cause the nose to run, thus the metaphor.

There’s more to xnipek than just heat, though. It not only uses the Yucatecan powerhouse chile–the habanero–but also includes the native fruit known as naranja agria, or bitter orange, which is also the secret to great Yucatecan escabeche. It’s hard to find fresh in the States, so there’s a brief recipe for a reasonable facsimile following our rendition of this fiery relish.

Read the rest (and get the recipe) at the Huffington Post.

Eaters Unite! Food in support of labor, labor in support of food

Food and politics often come together in peculiar ways.  It’s not that their coming together at all is unusual – far from it.  Civilization and politics are both a direct result of agriculture.  But these days food’s impact on political discourse can lead to some odd sights, such as free pizza being delivered to protesters in Madison, paid for by sympathetic activists in Egypt.

In a story first broken by Meredith Shiner at Politico, Madison landmark Ian’s Pizza got a call from a person in Egypt ordering pizza for the protesters in the capitol building around the corner.  Ian’s put out a tweet about it, and since then according to the article the little pizza place has delivered over 300 pies and given away over 1000 slices thanks to the support of people in 48 countries (last count) and all 50 states.  So shines a good deed in a weary world.

All this was begun by a single concerned Egyptian, who had just played a part in toppling a decades-old regime via protests that centered on – among other things – food prices.  Similar complaints led to similar results in Tunisia, and are now boiling over in Bahrain, Yemen, and Libya.  Here in the US the protests are about labor rights, but they too are beginning to spread, notably to Indiana where a (now former) Assistant AG called for the use of deadly force against the protesters.  There have been similar protests – though admittedly not as big yet – here in my home state of Iowa and in other states. [Read more →]

Press Release: New Group to Focus on Iowa’s Food and Farms

December 7, 2010
Angie Tagtow, Co-Convener, 515-367-5200, angie.tagtow@mac.com
Susan Roberts, Co-Convener, (515) 965-3895, susan@susan-roberts.net
New Group to Focus on Iowa’s Food and Farms
IOWA–The Iowa Food Systems Council is an emerging non-profit organization whose mission is to develop and recommend policy, program and research initiatives for a food system which supports healthier Iowans, families, farms and communities.
Launched in November 2010, the 17-member Board of Directors represent production, processing, distribution, retail, and waste management arenas. The Board also includes Directors with expertise in public health, nutrition, food access, consumption, economics, natural resources, and education. Several state government agencies hold ex-officio positions on the Board.
Iowa Food Systems Council President Linda Gobberdiel’s goal is to engage representatives from all food system sectors and develop new relationships to enhance food systems within the state that support the essential role of food in health in our communities, the economy, and the environment. “We can and will work to take the necessary actions in food policy, research, and programming to develop and sustain an effective food system for now and future generations,” said Gobberdiel. [Read more →]

You Say Tomato, I Say Slavery

You would never participate in slavery, right?

I know, it seems like a bizarre question in this day and age–of course no sane, civilized member of a modern society would take part in the indentured servitude of others. Lincoln ended all that 150 years ago, didn’t he? And of course you and I would never have anything to do with slavery in 2010.

The dirty little secret though is that millions of Americans are contributing to it each week and they don’t even know it. When you buy tomatoes at the local Publix, Ahold, Kroger, or Walmart, you become the last link in a chain that is attached to shackles in south Florida. We all know Walmart especially is well known for their tireless efforts to force suppliers to keep costs down for everything they buy. One of the results of this kind of business practice is that the wage that pickers are paid for those tomatoes has not gone up for more than 30 years. That wage is $0.45 per bucket of picked green tomatoes, or $0.0145 per pound. And that’s for the ones who actually do get paid.
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Blue Plate Special Podcast – Rowan Jacobsen and American Terroir

In the latest edition of Edible Radio’s Blue Plate Special hosts Kurt and Christine Friese chat with author Rowan Jacobsen. Visiting areas in Mexico, the US and Canada, Jacobsen discusses the importance of location in all manner of foods from chocolate to mushrooms.

Listen to the podcast

Read more about Rowan Jacobsen and his new book American Terroir.

via Episode 55 Blue Plate Special – Rowan Jacobsen and American Terroir | Blue Plate Special with Kurt Michael Friese.

Paella: From Tradition to Simplicity

Perhaps no dish conjures up more images of Spain than paella. Steeped in history and distinctive spices, to prepare this dish is to summon the soul of Spain and the spirit of her people.

For the uninitiated, paella (pronounced “pie-AY-ya”) is kind of a rice casserole, traditionally prepared in a special kind of pan (from which it takes its name) over an open fire. And it’s prepared by men.

Food carries a very strong cultural imperative in Spain, and customs are not swept away merely for the sake of political correctness. Throughout Spain, there are exclusive all-male clubs dedicated entirely to cooking and to the pleasures of the table.

Paella has at least 400 years of history, and its origins are in the province of Valencia, on the southeast coast. There, they grow the medium-grain Valencia rice that absorbs flavors wonderfully and is the key to the dish. The first paellas were made by peasants, using their native rice and whatever was available–often snails, onions, and that curious import from the New World, the tomato. [Read more →]