Good food reading
DIY lobster rolls ... a slice of Americana on Gilt Taste.
I’ve cast my net wide in my food reading in the past week to discover that, in California, chefs are up in arms about a ban on foie gras; “ethnic” is no longer a word we should use to describe food; film director Nora Ephron was a passionate food lover; and that an alarming 25 per cent of Australians are obese. If that’s a bit too much information, try the recipes below, including a magnificent blueberry cake with pecan topping…
- On July 1, a new Californian law came into effect “making it illegal to raise, sell, or serve any product made through gavage, a method of force-feeding waterfowl in order to swell their livers to gras proportions”. Ahead of the ban, writer Ed Leibowitz sat down to a seven-course foie gras feast that ended with “foie gras ice cream and apples with foie gras Chantilly cream”. In a piece for The Atlantic, Leibowitz explores the new law — and the contradictions of animal rights in California. “In 2008, Californians voted — in greater numbers than for any other initiative in state history — to pass the Prevention of Farm Animal Cruelty Act, which dictates that pregnant pigs, egg-laying hens, and calves raised for veal have enough room to lie down, stand up, turn in a circle, and stretch their limbs freely. … Strangely, these animal-rights triumphs coincided with a rising cult of animal protein and artisanal butchery among the state’s gourmands. Last year, a sold-out crowd filled St. Vibiana’s, a deconsecrated cathedral in downtown Los Angeles, to witness the hacking-apart of two whole hogs (and to eat their meat),” writes Leibowitz.
- A hilarious “obituary” for the word “artisanal” on the Atlanticwire.com: “Artisanal, a word that fought early in his career to ensure recognition of craftsmen for their important contributions to society before later being drafted into the creation of a worldwide gourmet branding glut, died Wednesday at his brownstone in Brooklyn overlooking a small gourmet mayonnaise store … He is survived by his wife, Organic, and their two small boys, Natural and Green, as well as his cousin Hipster…”
- A fascinating piece on the website Chow explores why the word “ethnic” to describe food is just plain wrong. Says writer John Birsall: “The problem is that ethnic implies other: the food of some shadowy minority that's not quite — us. It demeans, diminishes. … In my parents' white-flight suburban circle, it has the ring of negative value judgment, like the wink-wink dismissal in the expression gay lifestyle.”
- A few weeks have passed since Nora Ephron’s death but I’ve only just caught up with this fabulous Frank Bruni piece about the writer, screenwriter and director (You’ve Got Mail, Sleepless in Seattle, Julia & Julia) — and restaurant lover: “… even before she tackled Julia, she was tucking food into her narratives. She was finding the comedy and drama in food, and vice versa. Her sublime comic novel Heartburn is studded with recipes for dishes that are metaphors for sorrow, for lust, for comfort, for joy,” writes Bruni. “It defined her. She showed up at a Super Bowl party earlier this year with a chicken-liver football.”
- Obesity: it’s a word that we’re going to hear so, so much more of in the years to come and, most often, it’ll be linked with either “crisis” or “epidemic”. A fascinating Guardian article starts in the back of a “bariatric ambulance” (an ambulance devoted to the task of transporting morbidly obese patients — 300kg and more — to hospital) and goes on to outline why former US President Richard Nixon can take some blame for the obesity epidemic and why we should be very, very afraid of the processed food industry and of sugar.
- On the same subject, Sydney Morning Herald economics writer Jessica Irvine looks at two reports assessing the state of the nation’s nutrition. It’s not in good shape. 91 per cent of Australians do not eat enough vegetables. Food prepared outside the home (takeaway and restaurant meals) makes up the biggest component of average household expenditure on food and beverages. An astonishing 25% of adults are obese and 36% are overweight. Irvine quotes another report: “Compounding the situation is evidence that the cost of healthy (low energy-density, high nutrient-density) foods are increasing disproportionately when compared with the cost of higher energy-density, relatively nutrient-poor foods.” Should the nation’s political leaders consider a “fat tax” to lift prices and discourage consumption of sugar- and saturated-fat heavy foods, she asks.
- Smithsonian.com’s Food & Think blog talks to prolific author Mark Kurlansky (Salt: A World History; Cod: A Biography of the Fish that Changed the World) about his new book about Clarence Birdseye, the mastermind behind the modern frozen food industry. “Birdseye first of all had to figure out how to make frozen food a good product, which he did by realizing that when he lived in Labrador the food he froze for his family was really good — not like the frozen food that was available everywhere. He realized that that was because it froze instantly because it was so cold — that was the key to making frozen food good,” says Kurlansky.
And five great recipes to try …
- Lobster rolls — a slice of Americana — on Gilt Taste.
- Saag paneer, the Indian dish of spinach and paneer cheese, on 101 Cookbooks.
- Cold somen noodles with sesame-miso dipping sauce on the Japanese Food Report.
- Pecan and carrot cake from Clotilde Dusoulier of Chocolate & Zucchini, one of the earliest and most successful food blogs.
- Food52’s Blueberry snack cake with toasted pecan topping