Monday, December 30, 2013

2013 Year in Review

Congratulations. If you're reading this, you've made it through the worst of the holiday season, and have moved on to that no-man's land between Christmas and New Year's where you can relax a little bit, take down decorations, put up new calendars, and indulge in one good, shameless listen to "Long December" by The Counting Crows before you face the daunting challenge of making 2014 the Best Year Ever.

While you do that, shall we take a look at what happened in the sustainable agriculture world in 2013?


I'm don't think the idea of genetic engineering is all bad, but the idea that corporations have put millions of dollars into suppressing information about them makes me wary.


You can read my thoughts on that story here. Suffice to say I won't be lining up any time soon.

  • China started rejecting imports of U.S. corn. Also A strain of GM wheat that was tested, but never approved, randomly showed up on a farm in Oregon.
On an otherwise slow news day you can always find a new disappointment to blame on Monsanto.
  • Books!
Mark Bittman's VB6: Eat Vegan Before 6:00 to Lose Weight and Restore Your Health...For Good, (which I reviewed on the blog earlier this year) Michael Pollan's Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation (which I did not review (yet?) because the draft just never seems finished, and Michael Moss's Salt, Sugar, Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us (which I admit I have not (yet?) read, but am assured is very informative and interesting, contributed to raising awareness of both the importance of eating whole foods, and the importance of choosing a maddeningly lengthy title for your work of nonfiction.

What did I miss? What are you excited about for the new year? On a large or a small scale? Do you think 2014 is the year GMOs in stores actually start getting labelled? What do you think the government biggest priority should be when it comes to agriculture?

Monday, November 25, 2013

Corn-Free Diné Nation

The Diné, or Navajo, nation, which is home to 250,000 people and stretches over ten million acres between Arizona and Utah, declared a ban on GMOs and chemical pesticides at this year's Corn Is Life Gathering.

Now, first of all, yes, there is apparently something called the Corn Is Life Gathering. As we know, corn originated in the Americas and has long had spiritual significance for indigenous peoples. Diné Hataali Avery Denny's opening to the Gathering included remarks like, "Before there were human beings...there was corn. The spirit of the corn...the corn song, they were always here." and "Take care of your family corn. The corn is praying for you to come home and be healed."

Don't tell that guy about my blog.

The conference, which ran for three days, set out to discuss the effects that pesticides, genetic modification, and other symptoms of industrialization have had on traditional growing practices, particularly of corn. By the end of the conference, it was decided that the best way to care for and respect the plant was to ban all pesticides and GMOs from the Nation, not an easy thing to do, since it lies so close to the heart of American industrial agriculture, and can be contaminated by winds, birds, and everything else that pollinates across legislated borders.

The Diné Nation gave many reasons for the ban, ranging from food sovereignty as a form of independence to the necessity to preserve natural seed diversity as insurance against crop failure. The full document is available here.

I wonder what, if any, impact this news will have on GMO legislation in the rest of the United States. Is it one more step on the inevitable path toward labeling, more comprehensive testing, and maybe even banning? Or will it be largely ignored as more and more of our food becomes over-industrialized and of questionable origin? And if that's the case, will neighbors of the Diné nation sneak over there for non-GMO groceries like some people go to Reservations for duty-free cigarettes and legalized gambling?

Friday, October 25, 2013

Cashew, Cranberry and Chocolate Chip Bars




These bars make an inexpensive, portable and corn-free healthy snack now that we're back into cold-enough-to-turn-on-the-oven weather.

Ingredients:

1/2 cup mini chocolate chips
2/3 cup dried cranberries, chopped
1 cup cashews, chopped
1/2 cup uncooked millet

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/3 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup coconut oil



Directions

1. Preheat oven to 350.
2. Mix dry ingredients together in a large bowl until well blended.
3. In a smaller bowl, whisk together vanilla, maple syrup, and oil. Pour over dry mixture, distributing evenly, and then stir until dry ingredients are coated with oil mix.
4. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper and carefully spread out your mixture into a large bar.
5. Back for 10 minutes, and let it cook for another 10.
6. Pop the cookie sheet in the freezer for 30 minutes and then chop into your desired sizes. Wrap bars individually and keep them refrigerated.


Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Blog Action Day 2013: Human Rights

Today is the sixth annual Blog Action Day, on which bloggers all over the world write about the same theme in order to raise awareness about it. This year the theme is "human rights."

Trying to be a responsible consumer is kind of like singing one of those maddeningly awful kids' songs where you have to keep remembering what got added on in the last verse. You know, the branch on the tree and the tree in the hole and the hole in the ground and the green grass grows all around all around...

I'm really sorry about that. I'll wait while you turn some music on in an attempt to drown out the tune that will be stuck in your head for the next four days.

Anyway, when it comes to eating at a restaurant, for example, there's also a lot to remember if you're trying to be a responsible consumer. You may think you'r totally in the clear once you've found a place you can afford that uses locally sourced ingredients that were grown without pesticides or genetic modification or over-fishing or factory farming, and maybe also runs on solar power and composts its leftovers. You may think that's all there is to it.

But it's not. Those of us who talk sustainable food tend to talk about big picture, long-term consequences, like climate change, and antibiotic-resistant diseases, and how NO ONE KNOWS WHAT'S KILLING ALL THE BEES!!

But there's another thing to make you feel bad about your everyday choices, and it's much more straightforward and close to home: working conditions in the food industry.

Now, the nastier side of where our food comes from has always been tied to unethical treatment of workers in the industry. That hasn't been news since Upton Sinclair's time. But it is an issue that often gets forgotten about or put on the back burner (no pun intended) of the food discussion. Sure, we want to make sure our coffee and our chocolate are Fair Trade Certified, but what about the idea of a fair wage right here in the United States?

It's also not news that that the value of the minimum of wage compared to the rising tide of inflation has been steadily going down for decades, and some of the hardest hit are food workers. At the average American restaurant these problems can range from the eyebrow-raising (servers making $2.10 per hour can easily go home from a slow shift with minimum wage or less) to the downright alarming (undocumented dishwashers be subjected all kind of illegal conditions and pay because they don't exist in the system.)

Wish you could easily find out which restaurants do the best job of paying their workers a fair wage? Don't worry; there's a app for that.

Restaurant Opportunity Centers United, a ten year old organization based out of Manhattan, has made it its mission to "improve wages and working conditions for the nation's restaurant work force." To do this, it has put out a diner's guide, updated every year, with a list of restaurants and how they stack up against labor standards.

The diners' guide now has its own app currently available for select cities that will find restaurants in your area based on search criteria such as paid sick days and opportunity for advancement.

You can also read ROC United's new book, Behind the Kitchen Door, by Saru Jayaraman, an expose on just what's going on in the restaurant world. Sounds like a really uplifting read.

What other human rights issues need to be addressed within our food system?

Monday, October 7, 2013

Love Pick-Your-Own Fruit? Try Gleaning!

This post originally appeared at Food Riot.



I've recently discovered that if you tell people you're volunteering, especially if you have to wake up early to do it, you get some serious respect. Everybody assumes you're making a huge sacrifice for the greater good, and that you put strangers' needs ahead of your own convenience.

So don't tell anybody that my most recent "volunteer" activity was actually really fun, OK?

I went with the Boston Area Gleaners to Smolak Farms in North Andover to clean up the last of their peach crop.



Gleaning, if you didn't know, is a practice with thousands of years of history that involved going through a field after it's been harvested and picking up what's left over. Laws in the Old Testament of the Bible state that farmers pretty much have to let the poor glean their fields, and in some cases even leave portions of their crop unharvested for this purpose, in what seems to be an early version of paying taxes toward social benefits.

The Boston Area Gleaners is an organization that schedules trips to participating small farms and donates the produce- all kinds, varying with the season- to local food banks and soup kitchens. This time we were picking peaches, nature's fuzziest fruit.

Due to some mild mis-communication, we ended up in an orchard that wasn't quite done being harvested, and therefore the farmer wanted us to pick mostly "drops," or peaches that had fallen to the ground naturally. The Gleaners don't usually collect drops, since they've gotten flack from food banks in the past for bruised fruit, and drops tend to be close to spoiling or have imperfections, so we sort of compromised by picking from branches that were still on the tree, but broken and not going to be harvestable for long.



Even with the stipulations, it only took five of us about two hours to get nearly four hundred pounds of fruit from dozens of trees, with plenty left over for the volunteers to take home. My bagful consists of sweet, juicy yellow peaches, crisp white peaches, and even some tiny ones that are slightly more tart. Smoothies, cobbler, some sort of cake? I'm not sure yet what they'll turn into, but I'm pretty excited about it.

It was also just nice to get out of the city for a few hours and meet some new people who are into local food. I hadn't set foot on a farm in years, and I'd forgotten how much I like working outside. The quiet, the scenery, the time to clear your head and think about other things while your hands take over the task in front of them, and just soaking up the sun while you can before winter comes. The best part, though, is having something tangible to show when you're finished. Something that serves the most basic purpose.

Do other cities have organizations like this? Do you think there's a way to make this model work on a large scale?

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

10 Sustainable Snack Ideas for Fall

It's officially fall, you guys.

And I hate it. I hate it because I didn't spend anywhere near as much time outside as I wanted to this summer. I hate it because of how the radiator dries out my apartment without seeming to actually warm it. I hate it because, with that first yellow leaf comes last year's back-stock of plastic jack-o-lanterns in the center aisle of CVS, and after that, well, it's a slippery slope to that every-expanding, all-encompassing "Holiday Season" that everyone seems to like, or at least understand, better than I do.

What with all those first world problems in the way it's easy to forget that fall is actually my very favorite season. It's just the prettiest. And there's something about that half playful, half sinister crispness to the air that reminds you that anything is possible. Fall reminds you to be grateful for the things you have because there are no guarantees that they'll stay. In the summer a too-hot day is an excuse to stay inside watching Netflix, a rainy day is viewed as some kind of theft, and a perfect temperature day is simply taken for granted. But once the pumpkin beers and pumpkin lattes roll out, at least here in New England, every day you don't have to wear your thickest down parka is a cause for a celebration.

In the spirit of that celebration, I give 10 marvelous autumn-themed recipes/bits of food paraphernalia to serve at your Halloween party, or just for fun. And remember: one perk to the cold weather is being able to use your oven without wearing a suit of ice armor.



It just doesn't get cuter than these guys. Use your favorite gingerbread recipe, or make them as sugar cookies.














I concocted this recipe for the blog last fall and just remembered I had it. I kind of want to pair it with a new find:

Don't opt for the anise, though. Anise, is gross.


Add some chocolate chips to these to really take them to the next level. Also, they're vegan!

6. Toasted Pumpkin Seeds

This one doesn't even need a link. You can buy them pretty much anywhere this time of year, or you can make yourself a healthy snack with the guts you scoop out of your jack-o-lantern. Throw a pile of seeds onto a cookie sheet, add a little salt, and stick in the oven for a few minutes. Eat them as is, put them in salad, get creative.




Keep a dozen of these in the freezer and thaw them out before bed for a quickly grab-able breakfast.


Swap the 2 teaspoons baking powder for 1/2 baking soda and 1 1/2 cream of tartar for a corn-free variant.


Tastes Like Thanksgiving Casserole Recipe 

This seems like it would be especially useful for using up Thanksgiving leftovers, but really you could tailor it to sue any poultry and root vegetable you had lying around, right?

2. Pumpkin Waffles

Waffles beg to be slathered in maple syrup, my favorite cold-weather sweetener. Put these two leaf-changing flavors together and curl up under a blanket on a chilly morning.


1. Apple Snickerdoodle Muffins


It's hard to beat the simple, classic flavor of a snickerdoodle. Put that in muffin form and add apple? I can't wait to try that.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

5 Unexpected Flavor Pairings

This post originally appeared at FoodRiot.com

There are certain foods that just go together: turkey and cranberries, tomatoes, and basil, peas and carrots...These are combinations you see on a menu and know right away that you'll like. But there are plenty of underappreciated flavor combinations out there just waiting to be discovered by those of us with a curious palette or a pantry full of back stock we're looking to get rid of. Here are some of my favorites:

Maple and Mustard

Trust me here. I was skeptical at first, too, but this is a great mix if you like the combination of sweet and savory. It's also something that certainly isn't overused, so every bite feels refreshing and multi-layered, especially if you're using spicy mustard.

Recipe: Mustard Maple Tofu

Coconut and Cinnamon

This one has a little bit of yin and yang going for it. Coconut says "beach." Cinnamon says "ski lodge." Put these two flavors together to create a playful dichotomy that blends surprisingly well.

Recipe: Summer French Toast

Vanilla and Kale

I'm usually not one to mix items from the baking aisle with those from the produce section. They even live in different rooms of my house (if you count the pantry as a room.) Baking and cooking are two very different things for me. Baking is what you do when you need to relax with a Law & Order rerun. Cooking is what you do when you come home from work and it's dinner time. Vanilla and kale are not meant to exist in the same universe. I guess for me the combination of these things is about eating outside my comfort zone.

Recipe: Vanilla Kale Smoothie

Avocado and Pomegranate

I know everybody loves avocados, but I'm still getting to know them. Very slowly. They don't really taste like anything, and, frankly, I'm squeamish about that soapy texture. I'm not sure I'll ever be able to just eat an avocado plain, but I really do love what it can do to enhance a dish that already has a bold flavor of its own. Enter the pomegranate seed: a perfect, tiny, sweet-tart burst of flavor in your mouth that lacks that robust feeling of actually making you full. The pomegranate's acid and the avocado's meatiness are a marriage made in heaven.

Recipe: Superfood Salad with Lemon Vinaigrette

Rum and Coffee

This one might not be too unexpected, as you'll find it in the relatively popular tiramisu, but I thought it was worth a mention because amid all the layering going on in that dessert, it's easy to forget that the real kicks of flavor you get are from these two bold, acquired tastes that many people find too abrasive to drink straight up.

Recipe: Tiramisu

What unsung food pairings have you discovered? What other recipes would work well with the ones mentioned here?

Monday, September 2, 2013

Cinnamon Rolls


After looming menacingly in the too-near future for the last couple of months, Labor Day is finally here. There are some truly awful things about Labor Day, but the days getting cold enough that it's not physical torture to have the oven on is not one of them. Fall flavors combined with a subtle nip in the air are enough to bring what I like to refer to as "baking season" into full swing. My latest project was cinnamon rolls. I love baking your average chocolate chip cookie, but there's something way more fun about a baking project that you have to shape.

Ingredients:

Dough:

2 free-range eggs
3/4 cup warm water
1 package active dry yeast
3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup pecan flour
2 tablespoons white sugar
1/2 cup grass-fed butter

Filling:

1/4 cup grass-fed butter
1/3 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
1/4 cup raisins
1 teaspoon white sugar

Icing:

1/2 cup maple sugar (any sugar will do, but I find that maple crystallizes nicely)
1 tablespoon potato or tapioca starch
2-3 teaspoons grass-fed milk

Directions:

1. Beat eggs in a medium bowl. Add warm water and yeast and stir until everything is dissolved. Refrigerate for ten minutes.

2. In a larger bowl, mix flours, white sugar, and butter, blending until you get coarse crumbs. Make a well in the center and pour in yeast mixture. Knead the resulting dough on a floured surface for about two minutes. Roll dough into a ball, adding a little oil if it doesn't hold together, and place in a lightly greased bowl. Chill for at least two hours.

3. When you're ready to bake your cinnamon rolls, preheat your over to 350 and take the dough out of the fridge. Roll the dough out on a floured surface into a rectangle about 1/4 inch thick.

4. In a medium bowl, mix the filling ingredients. Brush the dough with butter and sprinkle the sugar mixture over it. Then roll up your dough tightly, and cut the roll into 1-inch slices with a serrated knife.

5. Place rolls about two inches apart on a greased cookie sheet and bake for 22 minutes.

6. While your cinnamon rolls are baking, mix the sugar and starch together and slowly add milk a teaspoon at a time until it is the consistency of icing. Wait until your rolls have cooled to drizzle icing over the tops.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Lab-Grown Beef: It's Here

This post originally appeared at FoodRiot.com, and is a follow-up to a post on this site from last year, when we didn't really think murder-less meat would be a reality so soon.
As you may have heard by now, they’ve finally done it. They have grown a full-sized hamburger in a laboratory. And eaten it.
How did they do this, you ask? Well, it seems that a Dutch vascular physiologist (What’s a vascular physiologist? That doesn’t sound like someone that would work with food.) named Mark Post has been working for over ten years on perfecting the technology. According to an article in Scientific AmericanPost acquired stem cells from a fresh cut of beef (somehow) and then “the cells were ‘fed’ calf serum and commercially available growth medium to initiate multiplication and prompt them to develop into muscles over time.”
Oh yes. Right. Commercially available growth medium. That was buy one get one free at CVS last week, so I stocked up.
Post was apparently stumped for some time by how to get his creation’s texture to mimic that of meat, until “the scientists exercised the remaining muscle strands in a bioreactor by affixing them to a soluble sugar scaffold and slowly built tension…essentially helping the muscle to ‘bulk up.’”
I don’t really know what a bioreactor or a soluble sugar scaffold looks like, so I’m just going to picture a cartoon hamburger running on a treadmill while scientists in lab coats take notes and “Eye of the Tiger” plays.
According to the lucky mortals deemed worthy of a taste, food critics Hanni Ruetzler and Josh Schonwald, the lab burger isn’t too bad. And it shouldn’t be, seeing as how it cost $332,000, most of which was financed by Google co-founder Sergey Birn, earning the technology the nickname “Google Burger.”
Personally, I hope “Google Burger” sticks, and becomes the official name this stuff goes by when and if we get to the point at which the common man can just up and buy it at the grocery store. We’re already victims of subliminal advertising when we watch sports at Wrigley Field or Gillette Stadium. Why not enjoy a nice Google Burger with the game?
The marriage of scientific curiosity to corporate money is not a new one, in reality or fiction, and maybe meat grown in a lab is just the realization of those meals in a pill we all thought we’d be dining on by now.
If this technology takes hold, and continues to sponsored by the man behind Google, we could find ourselves with some truly fantastic branding opportunities. “Google Burger” could be its own wacky, computer themed restaurant chain. By painting the buildings in Google’s signature red, blue, yellow and green, it could be the most garish joint on the block, making McDonald’s and Burger King restaurants look demure by comparison. Let’s see. What else would Google Burger serve? A Silicon Salad maybe? Chicken nuggets that come in personal (8-bit) or family sized (32-bit?) And, needless to say, no Apples.
What are your thoughts on this? Suspicion? Disgust? Indifference? Is anybody particularly pro lab grown meat? And what else would you want to see available at the fictional Google Burger?

Monday, August 19, 2013

Top 5 Things I Heard About Before the Beef Recall

I was catching up on some articles that I had bookmarked a couple of weeks ago, and stumbled across a piece in the Huffington Post which said that 50,000 pounds of beef that had been recalled "due a possible e. coli contamination."

Good thing I read that article in a timely manner. Oops.

Did you hear about this? Was it big news and I've just been hiding under a rock? If you're reading this, you probably didn't eat the contaminated beef, (Congratulations!) but what if you had?

I like to think I know what's going on in food news. I pride myself on being the first to hear about boring facts like how drought conditions are affecting corn crops in South Dakota. How did this one get by me?

I don't want to sound too much like a conspiracy theorist, but in a world where we're constantly inundated with news whether we like it or not, it seems suspect that things like this that could actually be helpful to know get lost in the shuffle.

For comparison's sake, here are some "news" items from this summer that you probably heard about immediately, and from multiple sources, whether you liked it or not:

5. Miley Cyrus got a new haircut. It's short.

4. Bryan Cranston read a poem in a Trailer for Breaking Bad. It was really cool. The first time. I don't think we need to discuss what it might or might not have meant. Seems pretty obvious.

3. Something Called a Red Wedding took place on Game of Thrones. Be quiet, already! I'm only on Season 1! No spoilers!

2. Justin Bieber said something stupid about Anne Frank. And probably lots of other stupid things.

1, Kate Middleton had a baby. I guess this one is kind of relevant news. If you plan on living in England fifty years from now when he's finally king. And really, even then, he's not gonna be doing much.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

The Paleo Diet: Does It Work?

This guest post comes to you courtesy of my friend Tristan Dimmick: trainer, health & fitness enthusiast, and all around stand up guy.

When I first discovered the Paleolithic Diet back in 2009, I had just started training at a CrossFit gym, at a time when both were relatively unknown concepts to the masses. At the time, there were very few major publications on the subject, beyond Loren Cordain's The Paleo Diet, which came out in 2002, in addition to a few podcasts, including Robb Walf's now very popular weekly "Paleo Solution." Now, there are dozens and dozens of guides, memoirs, recipe books, websites, podcasts, apparel, tweets, and any other medium you can imagine, all devoted to the Paleo Diet, or the Primal Diet, or variations on the theme. It has quickly become one of the biggest "fad diets" in America, but only because of the repeated bastardizations of the core concepts everyone can benefit from. I'll start by explaining how the idea for the diet originated, how it has evolved over the years, and what parts of it I think everyone can use to find better health and wellness.

Apparently the basic premise of the Paleo Diet has existed as far back as 1975, when gastroenterologist Walter L. Voegtlin published his book The Stone Age Diet: Based on In-depth Studies of the Human Ecology and the Diet of Man. The principles of the diet have remained essentially the same over the decades between this book and Cordain's. According to the theory behind the diet, the vast majority of the human genetic adaptation and evolution occurred during the paleolithic era, when our species lived a largely nomadic, hunter-gatherer lifestyle. This involved a diet heavy in wild plants, lean wild animals, fruit, nuts, and seeds, with very little starch or carbohydrates, and no processed sugars. Furthermore, the theory states that we have only been in the neolithic era, during which we have been domesticating grains and other crops to grow our own food, for the past 10,000 years. This, the theory claims, has not given us enough time to adequately adapt to the relatively new foods introduced into our diet, so we are still genetically suited to a diet closely resembling that of our ancestors. To do this, then, we are supposed to cut out all grains, legumes (including peanuts and peanut butter), dairy products, processed foods, and sugar. Whatever is left on the menu, we can eat to our heart's content.

I think this line of thinking is a mistake. The first problem with it is that there never was one specific type of diet our ancestors ate. The foods they ate all depended on the local climate, terrain, time of year, and availability. Research into paleolithic diets has shown a wide variety of food types and amounts all across the world, with no single, unified diet in existence. Depending on where you lived, you ate different things as a hunter-gatherer! Never in the history of humanity have we had one single diet that remained the same throughout the year and across the globe. It just doesn't exist! So the concept of eating according to paleolithic principle is flawed, in that there were no set principles; it all depended on a variety of factors unique to each location. Beyond that, some paleolithic cultures did consume wild grains and legumes! They became more of a central part of the human diet once we started farming, but neither were absent from our history before that point.

Now, don't get me wrong here. I eat according to basic paleo principles, but I don't kid myself into thinking it's following some magical diet our species used to have. I think the overall concept is flawed, but I think it has some very useful ideas that everyone can appreciate and use:

It encourages you to learn to cook real food. Look at the list of what the paleo diet basically boils down to: vegetables, meats, fish, fruit, nuts, and seeds. Nothing artificial, nothing processed. Nothing in there offers the luxury of throwing some lunch meat on a couple pieces of bread and calling it a meal. A paleo meal inevitably requires cooking some sort of meat, eggs, or fish, along with a load of vegetables, in some sort of healthy fat like coconut oil, olive oil, or grass-fed butter. Maybe you have some fruit on the side, maybe you have a handful of almonds, or maybe you throw in some sunflower seeds. So you are basically forced to: cook, learn to pack your own meals, and start buying and appreciating fresh food more. Pre-packaged meals are no longer an option. You discover a whole new world of cooking, appreciating the food YOU created, and making a connection between what you put in your body and how it makes you feel.

It helps connect you to local food and farmers. A big part of the Paleo diet is switching from conventional, corn and grain-fed animals to pasture raised, grass-fed ones, finding eggs from farms that raise their chickens outdoors on a normal diet, and getting fish sourced from the wild instead of farmed. There is also a heavy emphasis on fresh, seasonal produce, which necessitates sourcing from local farms. You start to become more aware of what's in season, and where your food comes from. Depending on where you are, you can buy vegetable CSA boxes, meat CSA's, entire pigs, cows, and chickens, and fresh, local eggs. All of these things are healthier for the environment, the food production system, and your own body, and make Paleo's emphasis on sourcing local, natural food really good for everyone involved.

Above all else, it makes you think about what you're eating. Eating paleo is very restrictive. The idea is to cut out anything that can be a potential irritant to your system, that you are not adapted to handling. This, for many, does not have to mean avoiding all grains, dairy, and legumes forever; it just means avoiding them for a time in order to determine what might be messing with your system. I personally have discovered that I can't handle wheat; it makes me feel bloated, gassy, and totally bound up inside, so I avoid it, and feel much better. Other people can handle it fine, and to them, I say go for it! Eat wheat! But the important part is that you think about what you're eating, and how it's affecting you. When you eat very restrictively like this, you get a change to see what changes occur. Do you feel better? Great! Add in some dairy. Do you still feel better? No? Maybe you have a dairy issue! The only way to really tell these things is to just experiment a little, and pay attention to the results. And for that, I think the Paleo diet is extremely useful.

So maybe it's not the perfect diet, and maybe it isn't for everyone. But I think it has some positive parts amid the dogma and its rabid defenders; if you take the good from it, you're on the right track to eating healthy and feeling better.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Ethanol

As Corn-Free July comes to a close, I want to touch briefly on a subject I've run screaming from since I started this project, but deserves some discussion. As we know, everybody eats corn: people, cows, dogs, cats, fish, pigs, chickens, you name it. It's appalling how many different ways corn gets sneaked into our food, both directly and indirectly. But someone else eats corn, too: cars.

Your average Mobile station in the U.S is serving up a gasoline cocktail that's actually 10% ethyl alcohol derived from the same exact Midwestern corn farms that source our Pop Tarts and cheese burgers.

I haven't talked much about the ethanol issue in the past because it comes with a whole different set of baggage than the food issue does. There's really no "pro" argument to speak of in defense of the way our processed food is sourced. It's unhealthy and it can't be sustained.

Our cars' food though...that's a little bit of a different issue. Plant-based fuels burn more cleanly than petroleum based fuels, and they cut down on the need for drilling oil, two huge environmental concerns. Not to mention that whole Middle East thing.

But then there's the issue of how much fossil fuel is needed to grow the corn in the first place. Some numbers suggest it's actually more than we save. And runoff from pesticides end up polluting the water supply. So are we really coming up in the black on the environmental issue or not?

There's also the concern that we're literally burning food. "I know there are people starving, but I really needed to put that corn in my gas tank so I could drive to Starbucks" isn't a particularly compelling argument.

I'm not sure where I stand on this issue. I don't have enough of the facts. What I do know is that in July I drove my car 661 miles.

661 miles at my Forester's average of 25 miles per gallon means I used 26.4 total gallons of gas. If 10% of that was ethanol, then that means a little over 2.6 gallons of ethanol. It takes about an acre of corn to produce 50 gallons of ethanol, which means that not including fuel for buses and other modes of transportation that I used, and various other non-food items like charcoal and plastic bags, I'm responsible for 2,178 square feet of corn this month.

That's a corn field twice the size of my apartment. Just this month. Just in fuel.

I have no agenda with this post. I have no idea how many acres of corn the average American uses in a month. It just seems like an awfully big number.

What does that number mean, you guys? Should I ignore it? Should I do more research? Do I need to take the project to the next level for 2014 and stop driving as well? Where do you stand on the crop as motor fuel issue?

As always, thank you for reading. To check my statistics on the back end and see that even one more person has found this site is a feeling that I hope never loses its thrill.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Life Alive: Fast is the New Slow?



For my first and only dinner out this July, I went to Life Alive, an organic cafe in Cambridge. I was with two friends who had come up from Rhode Island just to have dinner with me, and this fact combined with the memory of so many really exceptional homemade meals that I've had this month, and the strong recommendations from three separate people, set the bar high.

Luckily, the food was great. I mean, it was great. And there wasn’t anything mysterious about it. It was all fairly straight-forward, and almost all the entrées were built around the basic principle of vegetables and sauce on a bed of grain. Nothing revolutionary here, but it tasted so good. The best way I can think to describe it is that is tasted like food. They say you can tell the difference between organic and conventionally raised crops just by the taste, and in this case, I think that theory is absolutely correct. The bold yet simple flavor of every single thing on my plate stood out in every bite in a way that reminded me how simple and yet difficult it is to just make good food using good ingredients. My entrée was “The Lover,” a bowl full of shiitake mushrooms, carrots, beets, broccoli, and dark greens served over brown rice.  The textures balanced extremely well; the mushrooms and beets were soft, the dark greens (kale, I think) were crunchy, and the rice and carrots were somewhere in the middle. The dish was served in a ginger-lemon-garlic kind of sauce, so there was also a great combination of sweet, tart, and savory in every bite.



Maria got “The Rebel,” featuring carrots, beets, broccoli, dark greens, and sprouted legumes over quinoa & brown rice in sesame ginger sauce.



Mark chose “The Goddess,” (yes, the dishes all have names like that) with carrots, beets, broccoli greens, and legumes over brown rice. The added avocado made the dish a little more savory and filling.



What wasn't so great, though, was the service and overall ambience at Life Alive. It's less "restaurant" and more "coffee and sandwich shop." This isn't really what any of us were expecting or wanted.

Since becoming a....God I hate the word "foodie," don't you? I've gotten very persnickety about where I eat. I’ve adopted the experience of eating almost as a crusade. Food tastes better to me when I’ve had fun cooking it.

In much the same way that some concerts or other events will plant trees to offset the amount of carbon they used, I want to spend hours at a time savoring everything about the experience of food to offset all the occasions when I’ve barely noticed the flavor of Chinese takeout while my mind was on something else. And the next best thing to having fun cooking a meal is relaxing at a table with a drink while you peruse the menu.

But Life Alive is one of those places where you stand in line to order and then go find yourself a table. Now, I was with friends. We were talking about the menu and debating what we should get, it would have been a pleasant enough experience had it not been for the Saturday night bustle of people constantly coming and going in an aisle that was too small. It made for a constant feeling of having to be aware of your surroundings in case you’d have to move out of the way quickly. Not to mention that, although the menu encouraged customers to "Talk to us about your cravings and questions and if you're curious as to why you feel so great eating our food!" the place was just way too busy for this to be possible. It was all I could do to make sure the cashier had heard my order correctly before she made it clear she was done with me by answering the phone.

Once we found a table, things got much more relaxed. The hard part was done; we just had to wait for the server to come find us. At least we didn't have to wait to hear our numbers called like you do in some places. The eating experience was actually quite nice. And now I know that there is a place where you can grab a quick lunch to go that's healthy, organic, local, ecologically responsible, all the things I find important in a meal. In fact, the menu boasts that,

"We know you no longer want to compromise between whole food goodness
and fast food convenience, so we have devoted ourselves to making nourishing
& delicious "slow" food convenient and full of pleasure."

This had me scratching my head just a little bit. Do I really no longer want to compromise? Is quick, convenient, quality food really a good thing or is it an oxymoron that misses its own point, like microwave dinners from Whole Foods? Am I just being disagreeable, or is there a deeper, more tangible level on which your stress level correlates to the amount of physical nourishment you get? What does Woody Allen think?


What about you? Are there places like this in your area? Do you see this becoming a trend? Take the poll!


Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Summer French Toast


French toast can be a great weekend breakfast. It takes relatively little skill and effort compared to, say, an omelette, but is still more substantial than something you'd wolf down on the way to work. During this alarmingly warm summer, though, anything that involves the stove has a tendency to seem unappetizing. A garnish of fresh fruit and a subtle infusion of coconut oil will cool you right down and remind you of the fun parts of the season.

Ingredients:

- 2 pieces sourdough bread, preferably from a bag that has been open a few days and is just on the verge of starting to go stale (Make sure you read the ingredients!)
- 1 free-range egg
- 1 tablespoon water
- pinch cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon coconut oil
- handful raspberries
- maple syrup to taste

Directions:

1. Coat a frying pan with cooking oil and place over medium heat.
2. Whisk egg, water, cinnamon, and coconut oil in a wide, shallow bowl until well blended
3. Coat each piece of bread thoroughly with egg mixture and place in the frying pan.
4. Fry bread slices for about 3 minutes on each side, until egg is thoroughly cooked.
5. Serve hot with berries and maple syrup.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Guest Post: Corn Free July Simplified

The following guest post is courtesy of my mother: teacher, author, and gardener Judith Manzoni Ward. Find her on Facebook or read her previous guest posts about losing weight on the corn-free diet and joining a CSA.

     I used to think that reading food labels in the grocery store was strictly for pretentious weirdoes. Then, along came Corn Free July, which, by necessity, plunked me right into the midst of the most avid label readers.  Surprisingly enough, it’s not a bad place to be.  A lot can be learned from the brief text printed on the side of a can or package.  I never knew that graham crackers can contain, along with “whole grains,” a couple of corn derivatives mixed in with all the other additives.  Even canned tomatoes, (except for Pomi in a box,) are enhanced with citric acid, which is commonly produced in industry with (you guessed it!) corn sugars. These sneaky semi-chemicals in my favorite foods made Corn Free July too much of a challenge last year, and I gave up after two weeks.
     This year, I’ve stopped the lazy nonsense and started paying attention to a term that I used to consider too trendy for my blood: Whole Foods.  It turns out that the whole foods catch phrase is catchy because it simply means what it says: food that is whole, sort of like an element as opposed to a compound.  I figured that if I stuck to elements for a month, maybe Corn Free July wouldn’t be so intimidating.
     It helps that July is a fine month for growing edibles.  Squash and green beans are at their peak in the backyard garden I share with numerous wild animals, and cabbage, beets, early kale, boc choi, spinach, onions, berries, and even kohlrabi are showing up in more than adequate quantities in my CSA bin every week.  These are all “whole” and corn free, at least until on-the-cob ripens.  Each of these can be cooked on its own with Irish butter from grass-fed cows, or can be combined into homemade corn free compounds and served with grass-fed beef, or free range chicken, or wild caught seafood.  Lots of times, meat can be skipped altogether, letting the rich flavors of vegetables stand up for themselves. Just the other evening, I was bowled over by the taste and texture of a simple boiled potato, mashed with only black pepper, and served without butter.  This revelation came to pass as I searched for a substitute for the richness of a dessert; it worked well (for now.)  Also, when I get sick of the beauty of boiled potatoes, there is always the newest addition to the Corn Free Cookbook: chocolate cupcakes!!  This is getting easier and easier.
     Breakfast foods can be a little problem if you’re used to eggs and bacon and toast.  I’d skip the bacon, but organic free-range chicken eggs can be found if you look around, and Ezekial bread makes a delicious and nourishing piece of toast.  For snacks, I like organic whole grain rice cakes or any kind of fruit and nuts that can be mixed with a little honey or maple syrup if you just have to have a sweet. 
     That’s about it; three weeks and counting into July.  I’ve experienced little or no suffering so far, and it seems possible, maybe even probable, that the rest of the year might turn my diet into “corn-limited,” if not altogether corn free.  After all, life without an occasional graham cracker or store-bought ice cream cone wouldn’t be so very cheery; or would it?

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Chocolate Cupcakes


I recently found a really fantastic recipe for chocolate cupcakes in an unexpected place: a spice catalog.

Penzey's Spices in Arlington, Massachusetts, in addition to selling what I've heard multiple people say are the best quality spice around, give out catalogs with recipes that feature their products. I still wouldn't have expected to find a recipe for chocolate cake, but apparently Penzey's deals in things like vanilla extract and cocoa powder as well. The following recipe is my own de-cornified version.

These cupcakes have a dense, moist consistency. The light, airy, and not-too-sweet frosting is a great balance against the richness.





Ingredients for the Cake:

- 2 cups flour of your choice (I used 1 1/2 cups all-purpose and 1/2 potato flour, which adds moisture and Vitamin B, and cuts down on the gluten.)
- 1 3/4 teaspoons baking soda
- dash salt
- 3/4 cup olive oil
- 1 3/4 cups white sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
- 3/4 cup cocoa powder (but check the ingredients list for icky stuff. Penzey's and Ghirardelli are two corn-free options)
- 3/4 cup water
- 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- 3 "free range, " "pasture raised," or "humanely raised" eggs.
- 1/2 cup water

Ingredients for the Frosting:

- 1 cup grass-fed whipping cream (I like Organic Valley brand, available at Whole Foods)
- 1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon starch such as potato or tapioca.
(The recipe calls for powdered sugar, which usually contains corn starch. You can make your own with regular sugar and a substitute starch, but if don't feel like buying a whole bag of starch just to use 1/2 teaspoon, it's totally fine to just omit that ingredient.)



Directions:

1. Preheat over to 375. Grease two cupcake trays or line with papers.
2. In a large bowl, sift together flour(s), baking soda, and cream of tartar.
3. Combine dry ingredients with salt, oil, sugar, baking powder, cocoa powder, and the first 3/4 cup of water.
4. Add vanilla, eggs, and the other 1/2 cup of water. Beat until creamy and smooth.
5. Fill each well about 2/3 of the way, and then bake for 15-20 minutes, until the cupcakes feel springy, and a toothpick comes out clean.
6. Combine frosting ingredients in a bowl. If you've never made your own whipped cream before, this is the fun part. It's easiest if you have an electric mixer, but if you don't, a whisk will also do the trick. Just beat on high or stir as rapidly as you can until your frosting magically takes on a fluffy, spreadable consistency. It happens more quickly than you might think, so make sure you quit while you're ahead, unless you want to end up with butter.
7. Wait until the cupcakes cool to frost and enjoy.

Yield: 2 dozen

Thursday, July 11, 2013

New Hampshire: Live (Corn) Free or Die

Pine Beach Resort (not its real name) in New Hampshire hasn't changed much in the three generations that my father's family has been vacationing there. This past weekend, on my first trip to the place, I saw many things that didn't belong to 2013: children wandering around unsupervised, dress codes at dinner, entire buildings without a television or WiFi access. The whole establishment runs on nostalgia, and for the most part, the past that it resurrects is a good one.

And then there's the food.

When I asked our waiter (a local high school student who had clearly been in the workforce exactly three weeks) what the vegetables were fried in, he told me it was margarine. Because apparently, and I honestly did not think this was true, they still make margarine!


You can even put it on toast! America!

Even the sub-par food, though, was all part of the fun. Like a relative who tells the same tacky jokes year in and year out, the Resort, in the end, proves enjoyable in spite of itself.


"Hearts of Iceburg"

By Corn Free July rules, I had to order this gem without dressing, which was only disappointing until I saw the dollop of what looked suspiciously like mayonnaise that arrived slathered on my uncle's, um, "salad."


Scrod and boiled potato

Presentation is everything at Pine Beach. The deliberate choice of serving the potato without a garnish is just so minimalist, allowing nothing to cloud its bold, starchy flavor. Remember: they made us dress up for this.

The menu called this "peaches." Plural.
This dessert wins the presentation contest hands down. I honestly expected them to at least slice it, and before you say "but I bet that course at least had some flavor," rest assured that it was not ripe.

Fruits and vegetables a la carte continued to be the main staple of my Pine Beach diet, supplemented heavily by the trail mix I had brought from home. Bland flavors and boring presentation for the most part, with the one exception of a half-way decent vegetable soup on one of the lunch menus:

OK so maybe the oil film doesn't make it all that photogenic.

I was overjoyed to find this. Until:

You just can't win.

So that's my vacation story. How have your healthful eating goals stood up to summer festivities? Any particularly egregious foodie nightmares? Let me know in the comments section!

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

How to Shop a Farmers' Market

This post was originally published at FoodRiot.com.



Shopping a farmers’ market is an art form not to be taken lightly. It’s a different world from that of most other shopping experiences, and requires a whole different approach if you’re going to get the most out of it. Things aren’t arranged by what they are, but by who makes them. And there’s no one running around that you can ask for a particular item who will say “Oh yeah that’s in aisle 5.” The layout of a farmers’ market demands a little more right-brained thinking than your average trip to Stop & Shop. But for all that it’s also less stressful and time consuming if you know how to do it right. Here are a few pointers:

1. Make a List
Actually, make two lists. I’m an if-it’s-not-written-down-I’ll-forget-it kind of gal, but if you prefer to do this in your head, go for it. The first list is Stuff I’m Running Out Of. You know, like toothpaste, and milk. Some of this will be more likely to be found at the market than others, obviously, but it’s good to keep the whole list in mind, because you never know.
The second list is what your week looks like. Are you gonna be pretty busy, or have more free time? Are you having people over for dinner? Going to a party? Will you need to pack lunches for work? Take a brief look at your calendar and make a rough assessment of what days you’ll have time to cook and what days you’d rather heat up leftovers. Is there a gift occasion coming up for someone in your life? Birthday? Housewarming? That kind of thing?

2: Make a Pass
There are very often two or more vendors selling similar products, so you want to assess the situation before you make any commitments. If you’re looking for, say, lettuce, you’re likely to find about twelve different varieties, so do a little comparison of prices and levels of freshness before you make your decision. And remember: the person who grew it is right there, so ask them the questions that are important to you: What’s the different between red lettuce and green? Does your farm use pesticides? How long is this vegetable in season? Will I be able to get it next week?



3: Match Up Your Information With Your Lists
Is there a particularly tempting cut of meat anywhere? Great. Build a meal around that and think about vegetables you saw on your first pass that would go well with it. Some vendors will bring recipe cards with them. If one looks interesting, see how many of those ingredients you can get while you’re here.
How many items from your Stuff I’m Running Out Of list can you check off? You might be surprised. You’re almost certain to find some great sandwich bread if you can learn to live with slicing it yourself. Depending on the size and scope of the market, you may even be able to pick up pantry staples like pasta, jam, and honey.
What kinds of non-grocery vendors are there? A lot of times you’ll see hand-crafted jewelry, soaps, or chocolates. These make great gifts.



And finally- the fun part- what impulse purchases do you just have to make? That scone that you’re going to enjoy on the walk home? The strawberries that look so good you’re gonna have to bake a cheesecake just so you can put them on top? Go for it! Just remember to keep track of how much you’re spending. Five or ten bucks at each table doesn’t seem like much until you realize all the money in your wallet is gone.


Once you’re done at the farmers market, you can fill in the holes on the rest of your list at the supermarket or drug store, and that should be easy with the week’s menu roughly planned out. Just remember not to ask the clerk at CVS whether the tomatoes in the Campell’s soup are freshly picked.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Blog and Tweet Boston Event at Cocoanuts

Corn Free July is in full swing and some of the toughest things to get my hands on are desserts. In theory that's a good thing, what with dessert being bad for you and all, but come on.

Luckily for me, I was recently invited by the lovely ladies at Blog and Tweet Boston to attend a complimentary event at Cocoanuts, an adorable, tiny snack and dessert shop in Boston's famously delicious North End. The event was hosted by co-owner Tara Shea, who had laid out some beautiful plates for us to sample. The displays made for great photo opportunities, and also great suggestions for how to present a spread when hosting at our own homes.

The mango in between bites of dark chocolate really balanced things nicely.
Featured on the plate are Yes Chocolates, handcrafted in Walpole, Massachusetts. Personally, I love a chocolate bar with some nuts and dried fruit involved for texture. These were made from high quality chocolate, but not overly sweet. I'm a big fan. The dried fruits you see on the plate next to the chocolate bar are Danielle Mango Chips, a crispy/puffy snack that tastes kind of like what a Cheeze Doodle might taste like if it didn't taste like the inside of a vending machine.

We were also treated to several selections of cookies form Lark Fine Foods in Essex, MA. These are not corn-free, but only because of the eggs and dairy involved. Happily, Cocoanuts sells Lark cookie mixes, which you can adjust with grass-fed dairy products and free range eggs to be corn free, or veganize by getting creative with oils and nut milks!

Baking it yourself is more fun, anyway.
We also got to taste bars from Antidote Chocolate, an aptly named labor of love infused with healing herbs and sweetened with organic, raw cane sugar.

After sampling everything, I browsed the shop for a bit and was pleased to find, among other things, Taza Cacoa Nibs on the shelf. The Taza Factory is about half a mile from where I live, and it was nice to see my side of the Charles River being represented in the fancy pants North End.

Don't be afraid to tour the factory. The folks are quirky, but more Gene Wilder than Johnny Depp.
A treat from Cocoanuts is a great option as a stop during a day trip to Boston, a dessert location after dinner in the neighborhood, or just a place to stock up on great gifts or snacks for entertaining.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Strawberry Banana Smoothie

Well, here we are again. The third Corn Free July is officially under way. I got off to a good start this morning with a cup of black tea and a smoothie. I've been really enjoying smoothies lately. If you're like me and aren't hungry when you first wake up, only to arrive at work starving and with no time, smoothies are a good way to get some nourishment in beverage form. Here's the recipe for the one I had this morning:



Ingredients:

1 banana, cut into 1" thick slices
2 tablespoons wheat germ
1 cup coconut milk
1 cup frozen strawberries, chopped

Directions:

Pulse all the ingredients in a blender or food processor for about 30 seconds, then scrape the sides to make sure everything is getting blended, and blend for another 30 seconds or so. Pour and serve immediately. That's it!

Happy Corn Free July everyone!

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Book Review: VB6 by Mark Bittman

Congratulations to Ketki on winning four boxes of cereal from Attune Foods in last week's giveaway! And so many thanks to everyone who participated, as well as Attune for providing its awesome products. I had been thinking about maybe someday trying to figure out how to do a giveaway for a long time, and the positive response to this one was a huge milestone for this little blog.

As a token of my appreciation, allow me to save you $26 plus tax:

You may know Mark Bittman as the author of cookbooks like How to Cook Everything, the exploration of the American food system Food Matters, or various food-related opinion pieces for the New York Times. He recently came out with another book, this one with the Shakespeareanly long title VB6: Eat Vegan Before 6:00 to Lose Weight and Restore Your Health...For Good.

There is some really solid advice in here that will come in handy when facing the challenges posed by Corn Free July, as well as reasons for choosing diets like these that focus on home cooking of whole foods. But overall I think the book suffers from a lack of focus and some slightly arrogant assumptions about the reader, which are always a huge pet peeve of mine.

The basic premise of VB6 is that you eat healthfully and conscientiously for most of the day; not just by abstaining from animal products, but also from overly processed grains, junk food, anything like that, and then in the evening, the portion of the day that tends to be the most social, you reward yourself a little. After keeping with the diet, your cravings will change, and you'll find yourself not wanting to gorge on steak and dessert after 6, choosing foods like these that Bittman calls "treats" in natural moderation.

I think this is a good idea. I love his theory that diets don't work because they focus too much on deprivation. His flexible approach to his regimen also allows for adjusting of the timing. For example, if you get invited to an afternoon cookout and just can't pass up a hot dog, you can eat vegan for dinner instead and not feel like you've failed or cheated.

The other hugely helpful and informative part of the book, for me at least, was his idea of "building blocks," or foods you prepare ahead of time so that eating a healthy diet will be just as convenient as going to the drive-through. The later sections of the book have excellent suggestions about pre-chopping vegetables and keeping them in water or air-tight containers so that they'll last longer and involve less preparation time. The same goes for beans and whole grains: Bittman suggests making a large batch to freeze for the week and season differently with each meal so they don't get boring. With just a week left until Corn Free July, this is a great tip, and I've already started getting myself in the habit of chopping vegetables right when I get back from shopping before putting them away.

There's also some interesting science involved, if you're into that kind of thing. I was especially fascinated by the discussion of how not all calories function the same way in our bodies, and how the body reacts differently to different kinds of sugars. (The glucose vs. fructose issue, and a breakdown of why HFCS is particularly nasty.) Bittman also points out that sugars are absorbed differently by themselves or when in the company of fiber. He does a good job of explaining why, for example, fruit juice isn't as good for you as a whole fruit.

The approach of the book had some serious flaws though. Bittman's slightly arrogant, presumptuous tone adds pizzazz to recipes and shorter articles, but after 200 pages, it gets old. The "diet book trying not to be a diet book" style in which VB6 was written also doesn't quite work. Toward the beginning, Bittman makes some very good points up front about how the Standard American Diet (aka SAD. Get it?) is unsustainable for the environment, and how the extra money you spend on high quality food will save you money on health care costs in the long run. He even gets some information in there about how the Standard American Diet is inextricably linked with unnecessary animal cruelty, a topic which is usually at the center of any discussion about veganism.

But all this is packed into one or two paragraphs. Maybe I'm reading into this too much, but it felt a little bit like he was saying, "OK now that we got the boring stuff out of the way, let's all admit that you're really only interested in a healthy diet because you want to look pretty." Some of his tips include things like snacking beforehand and then just getting a salad if you're going out to lunch with coworkers. This seems like the kind of lonely, unsustainable approach taken by mainstream diets. We shouldn't punish ourselves for wanting to be healthy or ecologically responsible, or feel good about how we look. Eating is a communal activity. We should encourage our friends and colleagues to enjoy healthy food with us, instead of acting like an outsider.

The other thing that I just couldn't get past was that the title of the book- and the diet- falls into the popular trend of hiding behind the use of an acronym because the words it stands for don't quite apply. KFC is, SAD-ly, the first example of this that comes to mind. What with all the rule-bending to fit your lifestyle, Bittman says he may as well have called it VA6, or VB8, or whatever works best. Also, he condones the use of things like Worcestershire sauce and honey before six, which aren't technically vegan, saying that they're lesser evils than, say, white flour, which is unhealthy, but has nothing to do with animal products.

So...maybe he just should have called the diet, "Unprocessed and featuring minimal amounts of animal products except when you don't feel like it."

Which, let's face it, has already been phrased more elegantly in the mantra, "Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants."