Sunday, December 27, 2009

Top Food Trends of 2009

Food carts were all the rage in 2009. Will they be next year as well?

By the end of 2008, the food industry was bracing itself for the recession to take its toll. Then swine flu hit. And then the Taco Bell chihuahua died. Even as the nation scaled back, people continued to eat out and chefs met their recession-special desires with innovation and creativity. And several meltdowns.

So, as we approach 2010, let's raise our glasses to these top food moments of 2009.

The Foie Gras Debate

As the palate of the United States becomes more sophisticated, Americans are gaining a taste for foie gras just as animals activists are decrying the fatted liver. While this debate has always been around to some extent, this year it most certainly came to a head as celebrity chefs David Chang and Anthony Bourdain spoke out against animal activists and promoted farms that used more humane practices to produce the delicacy.

Black Garlic

Described as indescribable—helpful, right?—black garlic is this year's new flavor arrival that swept both the food industry and the media by storm. Believed to be an ancient food from the Middle East and Asia, where it is popular today, its use goes along with the general trend to return to more traditional food production such as house cured meats, brewed beers, and homemade cheeses. Black garlic itself is fresh garlic that has been fermented for 30 days, which turns it black, giving it its name. How have you used black garlic? Comment below!

Gordon Ramsay Loses It

We're all familiar with the British celebrity chef loosing his cool on his television shows or just in general, but who ever thought the wealthy celebrity chef would be forced to sell off his Los Angeles location as his restaurant profits plummeted close to 90%. Great scott! That is unacceptable Mr. Ramsay!

The Taco Bell Star Chihuahua Dies

Remember the Taco Bell commercials around 1999 where a hyper chihuahua named Gidget went crazy over Taco Bell food? Well, sadly the 15-year-old chihuahua, who was in retirement after her time as the Taco Bell dog, headed up to doggy heaven on July 21 after suffering a massive stroke. May you rest in peace dear Gidget. You and the Taco Bell food you so loved.

Swine Flu

We fell in love with bacon last year and this year bacon got sick. Well, not bacon per se, but the pigs that we raise for bacon. Pigs give us bacon but they also give us H1N1, although bacon, thankfully, won't give us the dreaded swine flu.

Twitter and Chefs

Everyone and their grandmother jumped on Twitter this year and chefs were no exception. Nor were food carts. And restaurants. Chefs tweet about everything from the newest shipment of beef cheeks to the pie recipe they just discovered. Food carts tell us their whereabouts while restaurants announce promotions that you'll only find out if you follow them. We used to think that food was only for eating. Apparently it's for tweeting too!

Are you following me on Twitter? You can @jackyhayward and @JilliIceCream!

Food Carts and Home Cooking

Recession specials were the big trend this year and with them came the food trucks and a return to home-styled cooking. We weren't willing to spend half our salary on fancy restaurant food but we wanted sustenance that would warm our bellies and remind us of times when money wasn't so tight. So formal dining took it down a notch as food made its way to us on wheels, tasting just like mom would have made it.

White House Community Garden

We've been following the Obamas' eating habits since before President Obama took office and we were just as gripped by Michelle Obama planting a victory garden on the White House lawn. Yes, the farm to table movement has also made it to the White House.

Julie and Julia

Julia Child rose to fame in the 1960s. Julie Powell published her first bestseller in 2002. And in 2009 Julie and Julia hit the silver-screen, and the nation was seized by the Julie and Julia craze. Did you know that Julia Child's book Mastering the Art of French Cooking has been published 41 times?

Gourmet Shutters

After nearly 70 years of fine eating, the most recognizable name in food media shuttered. Ruth Reichl was the former editor-in-chief of the magazine and is still promoting her last project as Gourmet's editor: The Gourmet Cookbook.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Are Celebrity Chefs the New Rock Stars?

“Celebrity chefs are the new rock stars,” Ryan Scott told me as he was prepping for a meal that night in Global Gourmet Catering Company’s kitchen. That day, I talked with Ryan and three of his fellow Season 4 Top Chef contestants—Stephanie Izard, Mark Simmons, and Manuel Trevino—as they prepared a dinner for a very lucky nine guests. The dinner had been an auction prize from the February 28th American Red Cross auction, the proceeds of the which benefited the San Francisco chapter of the American Red Cross.

The new rock stars, eh?

We’ve all watched an episode Top Chef at some point; we’ve picked out our favorite contender, tasted their creations with our eyes, and watched our least favorite contestant edge out our choice contender in a Quick Fire Challenge. But the people we saw on television were characters to us. Sure, we cared about their food. But we were equally interested in their personalities, interactions, and, sometimes, their love affairs.

Could Stephanie Izard, the winner of Season 4, be the new Madonna?

"I certainly feel like I live a rock star life, that's for sure," Stephanie says. "I travel a lot now..." Stephanie is currently working on opening her new restaurant, the Drunken Goat, but is also busy traveling the country speaking to women about her career as a chef and encouraging them to pursue their own culinary dreams.

Hmmm. I’m going to go with a no on Madonna…but maybe there’s a better example; Aimee Mann perhaps?

Manuel Trevino, who is currently working on opening Travertine Restaurant in New York City this month, says, with a pause, “Well, I mean, [being a Top Chef contender] gets the word out about who we are; people want to know what you're up to so, hopefully, it helps." Manuel’s restaurant has yet to open, but it has already received buzz on Eater, the popular restaurant gossip blog, as well as New York Magazine.

In a recent New York Times article, Leah Cohen from Season 5 talked about how her restaurant attracts patrons who are interested in "critiquing [her] character as much as her cooking skills." During Season 5, Cohen shared a clandestine kiss with the eventual winner Hosea Rosenberg, which garnered a lot at attention as the season’s “showmance”. Most Top Chef contestants are young and early in their careers; the media attention they receive from being on a primetime television network is unprecedented for them and an amazing opportunity. Top Chef contestants move from being a chef in some restaurant to a name and a face that the national foodie audience recognizes. Still, it’s frustrating as new patrons come to Top Chef competitors’ restaurants not always just for their culinary creations; as Cohen attests, she became a chef patrons wanted to see, but not totally because of her cooking.

Just as we often become interested in these chefs for more than their cooking, Top Chef alumni are using their fame to promote issues beyond their cooking. Mark Simmons from Season 4 uses his “relationships with local farmers” to promote the “humane” food he serves at Market Place and Table in Brooklyn. Ryan Scott, in addition to running a personal chef and catering company and consulting for a restaurant company in Dubai, is devoting a good chunk of his time to philanthropic pursuits. He works with Meals on Wheels in San Francisco, Make-A-Wish Foundation, the American Heart Association, Share Our Strength, and, obviously, the Red Cross.

In fact, all of these chefs I talked to are taking time out of their busy schedules—Mark and Manuel flew in from New York City and Stephanie from Chicago—to give their time to aid The American Red Cross, an agency they believe in.

Also cooking for this dinner were former contestants (and San Francisco locals) Casey Thompson, Erik Hopfinger, and Jennifer Biesty, each of whom cooked one of the dinner’s seven courses. This dinner for 9 was an item at the Red Cross’s annual auction to raise money for the San Francisco chapter; the auction’s 200 items raised more than $330,000, with the Top Chef dinner alone raising $8,500.* Donna Siegel, the event coordinator for the Red Cross San Francisco, said that these chefs “[lending] their celebrity to [The Red Cross] to help bring awareness about what we do…that’s fantastic.” The Top Chef dinner was one of the most popular auction items.

And, I guess rock stars sort of do the same thing too: Madonna, especially, is known for her philanthropic bent...maybe Stephanie is, after all, the new Madonna.

*The San Francisco chapter of The American Red Cross helps individuals in need every day, be it a family who’s house just burned down or house individuals after an earthquake, theses fund will go to help San Francisco residents when they need help most.

All photos in this article by Zac Frank

Monday, June 8, 2009

COCHON 555 - “5 Pigs, 5 Chefs, 5 Winemakers”

Yeah. That's right.

And I'm going, thanks to Foodbuzz.

Cochon 555 brings together a group of top San Francisco chefs, who will each prepare a heritage breed hog from head to toe for this competition. Cochon 555 is the only national chef competition promoting heritage pigs and breed diversity. Guests and professional judges will determine a winner based on utilization, presentation and overall best flavor. The winner will be crowned the “Prince of Porc”. Yeah, that's right. In addition, five family-owned wineries will showcase their wines. I think I will be leaving fat and happy.

Couchon 555 started in Atlanta and is now national in scope. Other cities that have participated are New York City, Seattle, and Chicago. This time, the chefs from SF are:

Ravi Kapur, Boulevard
Ryan Farr, 4505 Meats
Nate Appleman, A16/ SPQR
Staffan Terje, Perbacco
Peter McNee, Poggio Trattoria

Could you have a better round up? Anyways, I'm pretty excited about it. And you should be too! As I'll be writing about it, taking pictures of it, and sharing it with you!

Stay tuned!

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Chef's Blade

So, little while ago, I told you that I had started a new job and that I would write about it in posts to come, so here is that post.

Chef's Blade is a social networking site for professional chefs and the rest of the culinary industry. What does this mean? Well, Chef's Blade has culinary news and food writing coupled with a social networking platform that lets users both comment on the content but also get to know each other. So basically, it's like facebook for chefs and other culinary industry professionals and enthusiasts with news, writing, and quizzes thrown in--our quizzes are much better than facebook's.

What does this make my job? Well, amazing. Basically, I source food and chef related content, write about food, and talk to chefs and culinary industry professionals about their jobs as my job, all the while trying to make this endeavor that I'm really excited about successful...not to shabby, and by not to shabby, I mean, the best job ever.

And so here's my plug: Please join Chef's Blade, if you haven't. I'll make you tasty food if you do :) (YUMZZ...I know even more about tasty food now with this new job...)

(Also, as a little FYI, that is indeed a photo from Katie Kwan of kitchensidecar; she's one our feature writers! Wowzers!)

Sunday, March 29, 2009

So, about two months ago, SF foodie bloggers were a-twitter with the 7X7 article "The Big SF-Eat: 100 Things to Try Before You Die", and, right about now, I finally decided to get my ass in gear and mark off (or rather bolded in this case) the things among the 100 that I had eaten coupled with my often complimentary but sometimes snarky commentary. From here on, I'm going to write intermittent blog entries cataloging the dishes I do try but hadn't tried when this article came out, two of which have already look for those.

1. Roast chicken and bread salad at Zuni

2. Coffee-rubbed pork shoulder at Range

3. Carnitas taco at La Taqueria

4. Spicy crab and grits at the Front Porch

5. Chasu ramen at Katana-Ya

6. Burger with fries at Slow Club

7. Shaking beef at the Slanted Door

8. Morning bun at Tartine Bakery

9. Tofu soup with kimchi at My Tofu House

10. Baja-style fish tacos at Nick’s Crispy Tacos

11. Pork sugo with pappardelle at Delfina

12. Salt-and-pepper squid at Yuet Lee

13. Soup dumplings at Shanghai House

14. Beef brisket at Memphis Minnie’s

15. Oysters on the half shell at Swan Oyster Depot

16. Katsu curry from Muracci’s Japanese Curry & Grill

17. Tea-leaf salad at Burma Superstar YUMZZZZ!! (always my fav, even if Willi doesn't approve)

18. Salumi misti plate at Perbacco

19. Tuna tartare at Michael Mina

20. Chicken pot pie at Liberty Café

21. Pizza margherita at Pizzeria Delfina

22. Vietnamese roasted pork sandwich at Saigon Sandwich

23. Beer sausage with sauerkraut and grilled onions at Rosamunde Sausage Grill Without the onions and the sauerkraut, me no likey those things...

24. Blue Bell Bitter from the cask at Magnolia Pub

25. Loaf of bread straight out of the oven at Tartine (bonus: sliced while still warm and slathered with Brillat- Savarin cheese from Bi-Rite, down the block) Thank you Katie of kitchensidecar fame

26. A classic gin martini at Bourbon & Branch Maybe I went here to early in the game, but, on my first visit, I found this place snooty and their drinks to sweet, so have never returned.

27. Papaya salad with salty crab at Sai Jai Thai

28. A Gibraltar at Blue Bottle Café I'm actually drinking Blue Bottle french press, as I write...

29. Spaetzle at Suppenküche

30. Laughing Buddha cocktail at Cantina

31. Pan con chocolate with sea salt and olive oil at Laïola

32. Pupusas at Balompie Café #3

33. Prime rib at House of Prime Rib

34. Yellowtail collar at Oyaji

35. Salted-caramel ice cream at Bi-Rite Creamery This was my H-Ween costume, circa 2007, for realz, son.

36. Dry-fried chicken wings at San Tung

37. Rotisserie chicken at Limón Rotisserie

38. French fries at Hayes Street Grill

39. Pierna Enchilada torta at La Torta Gorda

40. Cheeseburger at Taylor’s Automatic Refresher

41. Pho ga at Turtle Tower

42. Fried-shrimp po’boy at Brenda’s French Soul Food

43. Mint julep at Alembic (Just a hop skip and a jump from my apt, this place has some of the tastiest cocktails in the city and is one of those SF endroits you bring visitors to show off that SF is indeed worth the hype.)

44. Cannelé at Boulangerie Bay Bread

45. Galapagos cocktail at Absinthe

46. Chips and salsa at Papalote

47. Ceviche at La Mar Cebichería Peruana

48. Angels on horseback at Anchor & Hope

49. Ginger snaps at Miette

50. Giant pretzel with mustard at The Monk’s Kettle

51. Maccaronara with ricotta salata at A16

52. Fried brussels sprouts at SPQR

53. Garlic soup at Piperade

54. Spiced-chocolate doughnut at Dynamo Donut with a Four Barrel coffee

55. Milk-roasted pork at L’Osteria del Forno

56. Caponatina with burrata at Beretta

57. Goat stew at Kokkari Estiatorio

Absinthe daiquiri at Jardinière

59. Huarache with cactus salad at El Huarache Loco (Saturdays at the Alemany farmers market)

60. The Brass Monkey at Little Star Pizza (I just don't get the hype around Little Star...thick crust? Please. Go to Delfina. God.

61. Crab soufflé at Café Jacqueline I would say my most favorite is the chocolate souffle...light and fluffy, chocolaty that is something special!

62. Shrimp-and-chive dumplings at Ton Kiang

63. Meatballs with grapes at Aziza

64. Paper masala dosa at Dosa I don't get the hype nor the reason for the long wait about/at this place

65. Crispy eggplant at Jai Yun

66. Pig parts at Incanto Does Bocalone count?

67. Sand dabs at Tadich Grill

68. Irish coffee at the Buena Vista Cafe

69. Licorice parfait at South

70. Omakase menu at Sebo

71. A Fernet at R Bar

72. Arancini at Ducca

73. Popovers with strawberry butterat the Rotunda

74. Corned-beef sandwich with Gruyère at the Sentinel

75. Fried green beans at Coco500 I heart Peter Duyan

76. Chicken hash at Ella’s

77. Eggs benedict on the back patio at Zazie Um, if not, I challenge your SF foodie-hood.

78. Chilaquiles with a fried egg at Pastores

79. Onion strings at Alfred’s Steakhouse

80. Apple fritter at Bob’s Donuts

81. Chicken curry at Punjab Kabab House

82. Fried chickpeas at Piqueo’s

83. Sweet-potato fries with banana catsup at Poleng Lounge

84. A margarita at Tommy’s Mexican Restaurant

85. Pulled-pork sandwich at Roadside BBQ

86. A cheese slice at Arinell Pizza; I mean, who hasn't?

87. Fresh spring rolls at Out the Door

88. Buckwheat crepe and a French cider at Ti Couz The only crepe in SF worth it's weight in flour

89. Lamb schawerma at Truly Mediterranean

90. Slow-cooked egg at Coi

91. Albondigas soup at Mijita

92. Bacon-wrapped hot dog from a cart in the Mission (preferably when you’re drunk)

93. Seven courses of beef at Pagolac

94. Mango with chile, lemon and salt at Doña Tere’s cart (At the corner of 21 and Treat Streets, no phone)

95. 3 a.m. bowl of caldo verde soup at Grubstake

96. Baby-coconut ice cream from Mitchell’s

97. Sesame balls at Yank Sing

98. Basil gimlet at Rye

99. Clam chowder at Hog Island Oyster Co. I don't eat Clam Chowder outside of New England.

100. Cheese course at Gary Danko

Friday, March 27, 2009

VICTORY!!!! (garden)

So, as of now, this might not be news to everyone, but I wanted to take a brief moment to acknowledge Michelle Obama's breaking ground on the White House Victory Garden, or the White House vegetable garden last Friday, March 20. It was a pretty exciting moment for the Food Movement as we were not only getting a victory garden on the White House lawn, or as close as we're going to get, but it seems we finally have an administration that is in support of reforming our food system. From Tom Vilsack proposing cuts in corn susidies as well breaking ground last month on the the people's garden to the appointment of Kathleen Merrigan, a long supporter of reform of our food system, as the Deputy Secretary of Agriculture, it seems, a food revolution is indeed in the air, as the New York Times apply said last weekend.

In the New York Times article Michael Pollan is quoted as saying that the food movement might not be ready to go "prime time". While I do agree, that it seems that in only a few short months, a movement that was once seen, by both itself and the nation, as an underground constituency is taking the hot seat. I would like to remind Pollan, however, that books such as his very own Omnivore's Dilema have educated Americans about what is wrong with our food system, and with rising energy costs and health problems nationally, I believe our nation is in fact ready to reform. To me, it seems that it not just the food activists that are powering this movement, but rather the government and the people themselves.

Also, the layout of White House vegetable garden is pretty amazing; I was sort of drooling over just the picture.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Alice Waters on 60 Minutes

So, next week my dad is in town, and, as per his suggestion, we're going to Chez Panisse; I couldn't be more excited! I've been once before, about three and half years ago, but after living in California for almost three years (GASP, has it been that long), and know a lot more about Alice's Water's movement as well as having socially met some of the people that work at Chez Panisse, it's going to be a much more special occasion. Over the years, I've also learned a lot about Alice's mission that has made me question some of her dreamy ideals. Is it actually realistic to expect the United States to be fed on natural organic food? While her statement of "Good food is a right, not a privilege" is certainly inspiring, and in some ways true--why doesn't our government subsidize organic permaculture rather than genetically modified corn?--it's a bit unrealistic considering our economic times: People who are loosing their homes, jobs, and life savings aren't really going to care if they are eating cheetos or organic apples, nor, sorry to say, should they. I mean, if my day really sucks, I don't think an organic pink lady apple is going make it all better...maybe some Ben and Jerry's Chubby Hubby might, but I guess, even that is a bit towards to whole food side of things.

Anyways, this dialogue around Alice Waters is, I'm sure, pretty familiar to us all. 60 minutes, however, recently did a piece on her (I think it aired last week) that did show some changing of opinion about Alice, if not a glossing over of some details--that "San Francisco food stall" was in fact Primevera (local SF provider) at the Slow Food nation "Slow Food Served Fast" event, not a "friend of Alice's" who is always in that location...anyways, the excerpt is interesting, so what, and maybe get a little bit jealous of her fireplace right inside her kitchen--did she just poach/fry that egg in a spoon? WANT.

Watch CBS Videos Online

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

What Foraging, Permaculture, and Dumpster Diving have in common

So I realize: I've been very, very bad blogger. I'm sorry. But, I have a good reason.
My job has changed (as in my 9-5 one), as many of you know, and I'm now working on a social networking site for professional chefs and other individuals in the cooking industry, which is called Chef's Blade. I'll write more on it later, but the transition has been a twee bit of worky work, and well, it's exciting, but it's made me a bad food blogger.

But, anyways, back to the task at hand: Foraging.

Forage SF has been organizing the Wild Kitchen, which, so far, has been a mini series of foraged meals; the first one they had was Valentine's Day and the last one they had was this past Saturday. Both were amazing amazing and delicious. Foraged food, boiled down to the essentials, is food that has been gathered from naturally-occurring places instead of, say, farms.

Forage SF is a foraged food co-operative, whose goal is to collect foraged foods both from the urban environment – for example, from fruit trees in backyards and sidewalks – but also from the surrounding Bay Area and distribute it to its members. The foraged food movement has grown out of a desire to challenge our dependence on industrial agriculture and to begin using the foods naturally available to us again. For me, what is most interesting about foraged foods is the dialogue it creates with our agricultural system, not to mention the questions it raises concerning what classifies as “foraged”.

During the first dinner I attended, Forage SF gathered the food from a variety of sources. Some of the greens – such as miner’s lettuce, mustard greens, and wild nettles – were growing naturally in the Presidio while other ingredients, like the acorns used in the acorn ice cream, were foraged by local foragers, such as FeralKevin. All of these ingredients were noticeably fresher and more flavorful than anything from the Ferry Terminal farmer’s markets. Sad. But maybe I should just "shop" at the park at the end of my block?

Personally, the most exciting aspect of these ingredients is that they grow naturally and without the interference of human cultivation. In addition, foraged foods grow sustainably in that they are part of the natural ecosystem already in place; foraging and consuming wild foods is thus part of the ecosystem itself as long as the consumption is not greater than the wild food supply.Herein, however, lies the catch: It is not possible to feed the world’s population on foraged food. Enter: Agriculture.

Currently, most of our food comes from monocultures, in which farms produce one type of crop over large areas of farmland. While agriculture’s use of monoculture has enabled us to feed our ballooning population, it has also led us to eat only a few food types. In addition, monoculture has caused massive crop failures, such as the Irish Potato famine, due to a crop becoming susceptible to a specific pathogen during a growing season. Permaculture, in comparison, seeks to design man-made systems after nature ecological systems. Polyculture, for example, grows multiple crops on the same agricultural space, mimicking plant ecosystems. While foraging wild foods will never be able to feed our large population, it does remind us of the importance of respecting the rules of the natural ecosystem.

Back to the first foraged dinner: The main course of last weekend’s meal was elk, wild boar, and venison. What I find interesting about foraged meat, besides being totally tasty, is the dialogue around foraged meat. For some foragers, foraged meat must be found already dead, while for others, foraged meat is wild game that has been killed by the forager in its natural habitat, the sum total of hunted animals never offsetting the natural balance of the ecosystem. Thankfully, the meat at this dinner was not found dead, as I’m not sure my almost-always stomach of steel could handle the extra “gaminess” (read: bacteria) that could be found in the prior type of foraged meat.

I want to take a bit of a tangent at this point to talk about freeganism, a new food movement that has arisen in New York out of a desire to “forage” for free food within the urban environment. Freegans “reclaim waste” left by the “capitalist society” from dumpsters outside supermarkets and restaurants (also known as Dumpster Diving), as well as forage for wild foods like mushrooms in city parks. The movement is centered in New York City but, with the recession, it has become more and more popular in other urban areas. To me, eating food out of a Dumpster is strange. It’s not something I would ever do; I like to know where my food comes from and diving into a Dumpster for almost expired milk and eggs doesn’t exactly fulfill my desire to know if the chicken and cows producing my food are treated well. Still, freeganism has a core value I do understand: We, as a population, are wasteful and we don’t always take advantage of the foods that are readily and freely available to us.

For me, the foraged food movement, coupled with permaculture and freeganism, teaches a lot of lessons. As I said at the beginning of this article, the world’s population could not be fed entirely on foraged foods. This does not mean, however, that the population shouldn’t be fed partially on these foods. As our food system has become increasingly complex, it appears we have forgotten that we can grow edible plants in our backyards, our fire escapes, and flower boxes and that food sources such as wild mushrooms, greens, nettles, and other edible wild plants grow naturally in our parks and are there for the free taking.

Foraging, permaculture, and feeganism produce very different food but all challenge us to consume the foods that are available to us and not to waste the foods we have. In addition, wild foods as well as foods grown in polyculture are certainly tastier than our average food source.

I find it hard to fathom, however, that freegan food has anything on wild boar.

PS. Was this post worth the wait?

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Sexy Swinging Shelves Never Looked so Good...

This is a pretty hilarious video by comedians Mike Nichols and Elaine May set on the showroom floor of General Electric refrigerators; and whoever said sex, the 19050s kind, didn't sell?

Sunday, February 1, 2009

PETA Makes News Again, This Time for their "Not Fit For TV" Superbowl Ad

With the Superbowl officially upon us, I thought I would share the PETA ad that was rejected by NBC from the Superbowl because of its not-fit-for-TV sexual nature and for its slanderous objectification of females. The ad is pretty gross, but what is even grosser is that PETA is actually saying their ad was "banned" so that the ad will get more free publicity. NBC told PETA that its ad could air with a few editorial changes and if they paid for the spot; clearly, since the ad time is a few million dollars, PETA wanted the free publicity without the editorial changes.

Whoopi Goldberg also does a pretty hilarious impersonation of the ad on the View; haha. See it here:

Friday, January 30, 2009

PETA Brands Fish, Sea Kittens

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals has attempted to rebrand fish as sea kittens, because kittens are cute and one would never want to eat a kitten (unless you are George Bush). As we overfish our fish and our fish farms become less and less sanitary places, a movement to eat sustainably fished poisson has begun, PETA leading with its sea kitten campaign. But, hold up PETA, kittens don't like water.

Still, PETA's goal to educate fish consumers about the harm their consumption is doing to our underwater friends is well placed. Mark Bittman, in a recent NY Times article, spoke out against how we consume fish. Bittman, always an avid eater of fish and of all things really--considering his NY Times food column and cooking videos--has noticed, as has every person who reads the labels on their fish, that our fish is becoming increasingly raised on farms. As Americans and the world began to increasingly eat fish (global consumption has doubled since 1973, 90 percent of this growth being from developing countries), we also began to over fish the wild populations and had to find a solution to meat the fish consumption demand, which meant farming fish.

This movement to aquaculture, sometimes called the blue revolution, while it superficially stops us from fishing wild fish has us feeding fish with edible food that could be used to feed people; very often, farmed fish are fed smaller foraged, wild fish. What is particularly frustrating about this is that most fish don't convert a high percentage of the food they consume into edible flesh: it takes three kilograms of forage fish to produce one kilogram of farmed salmon, while it take 20 kilograms of forage fish to produce one kilogram of farmed tuna.

There is, however, some "good" aquaculture. China, which accounts for around 70 percent of the world's aquaulture, focuses on herbivorous fish, who consume water plants; this practice, which is often small scale, is not only sustainable but environmentally sound. Industrial aquaculture, on the other hand, is very different. Most fish farms use fish meal, which is made from wild-caught smaller fish, to feed the larger fish; one third of the wold's wild caught fish is reduced to fish meal in addition to a quarter of the wild-caught fish being thrown back, dead, as "bycatch." Considering the inefficiencies of farm raised fish in converting feed mass into human-consumable food mass, using wild-caught fish to raise farmed fish is terribly inefficient. In addition, farm raised fish pollute waters via their fecal waste and degrade the land near to wear they are farmed.

Still, the point is not to stop eating fish all together--sorry PETA, I like it too much and I get grumpy without it. We need to change the fish we eat and the ways we raise fish. Long term, through preservation practices, we can help wild fish populations grow to their original sizes. This means new laws reducing bycatch and regulations on how much fishermen can catch in a certain fishery, a limit which would be a scientifically determined percentage of the harvest. For consumers, this means consuming smaller, more bottom-of-the-food-chain fish, like sardines and anchovies, more frequently, while only consuming more top of the food chain fish, like wild-caught cod and salmon, once a month. Thinking of this another way, we'll be eating tastier wild caught fish while also preserving our ability to eat this fish.

Sorry PETA, your efforts to convince me to stop eating fish by dubbing them sea-kittens has failed, but your heart was in the right place. I'll make sure to only eat wild-caught fish and up my consumption of sardines and anchovies.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Alice Waters didn't vote for 42 years!

Following up on my post Art. Food. Give. there was an article in the Huffington Post this past week reporting that Alice Waters didn't vote for 42 years! In 1966, when Waters' journalist-activist friend Bob Scheer lost his anti-Vietnam primary challenge to the Democratic establishment's congressman, Waters vowed to not vote again, until this past year when Clinton and Obama came forward as two possible presidential candidates. Waters raised big money for Obama as well as some funds for Clinton and is now hosting a fundraising dinner tonight in honor of Obama's inauguration that will raise money for two D.C. soup kitchens. So, after 42 years of politic abstinence, Waters finally cast a ballot this past November for our President-elect Barack Obama and become a responsible citizen once again. While I do obviously agree with her presidential choice and her food ethos and applaud her for organizing this inauguration event, I think abstaining from voting is a pretty weak way to influence politics. So let's hope that this time, since Waters' choice candidate did get elected, she will continue to vote like I believe a responsible citizen should.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Avedano's Meat Market; Local People, Local Food

I first read about Avedano's Meat Market in Meatpaper, issue one, I was not only excited about the local people, local food moto, but also, the feminist in me was incredibly proud that three women were hacking apart cows and bringing us Kobe beef steaks. For about a year, I had had the intention of visiting their meet shop in Bernal Heights and I finally did visit the small shop on Cortland Ave last week. At first, I saw many of the staples of local and humanly raised meets, such as Rosie's Chicken, as well as wild Alaskan salmon (the only type of salmon you want to eat), but then, looking closer in the smaller coolers, I was happy to find chicken and pig feet as well as some animal insides not consumed by the average Safeway shopper.

Also, and probably most importantly, the staff was friendly and knowledgeable. They engaged us in conversation about their store, about the meats they had, and enjoyed making jokes about the over sized, plush t-bone steak pillows/toys they had for sale as well. It was fun and tasty; you should visit.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

CALL TO ACTION: Under Secretaries of Agriculture

Last month, Tom Vilsack was chosen by Obama to be the next Secretary of Agriculture. In my response to Vilsack's appointment, I met the decision with slightly mixed feelings. Since then, Food Democracy Now! has launched a new online petition proposing 12 possible individuals to fill the 6 Under Secretaries of Agriculture. It is often said that the Under Secretaries of Ag have a larger impact on the day to day operations of the USDA than the Secretary of Agriculture does; in this manner, these positions are very important. Food Democracy Now! presently has over 60,000 signers of its online petition and is looking to have a total 100,000 in the next ten days. As we look to the Obama administration to make changes in our country, it is important that we stress the importance of reforming our nation's food systems; I thus heartily encourage each and every one of you to sign this petition.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Happy New Year! (yeah meat)

So, on New Years Eve in New York, I saw this lovely window and thought it was pretty much the best way to bring in the New Year. So, I thought I would share. I was walking with a few friends in the pleasant New Years Eve snow on 52nd street (just west of MoMA) and stopped in my tracks as I saw this beautiful collection of meat in the window of Gallagher's Steakhouse. Gallagher's has been around since 1964 and isbest identified by this signature meat aging room stocked with the best USDA Prime dry aged beef. Yum. Meat. Fucking freezing New Years Eve in New York...must eat more meat to prepare for next year.