Tuesday, April 29, 2014

What's in the News: April 2014

Spring is technically here, even if it doesn't feel like it, and for many, thoughts have turned to crops. On a small scale, backyard gardens are being planted, and on a large scale, the issue of how in the heck we're going to provide enough food for billions of people becomes more of a concern than even with the growing season upon us. Here are some links to noteworthy articles you may have missed. Let me know your thoughts in the comments section.

From Climate Central: New satellite images show that during certain months of the year, the U.S. corn belt is the most productive region in the world. OK, but does it really count if we aren't putting our harvests to good use?

From Vermont Right to Know GMOs: Vermont becomes the second state (I'm proud to say Connecticut was the first) to pass a bill mandating the labeling of foods containing genetically modified organisms. Now all they need to do is get it signed into law...

From Sustainablog: We may have found a compromise that GMO supporters and opponents can both live with in Open Source Seeds.

From National Geographic: While America has been busy debating the ins and outs of biotech, and trying to squeeze as many ears of corn as possible into a square acre, a team over in England has been finding more farmland by reclaiming World War II era bomb shelters.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Five Ingredient Avocado Chicken Salad

This post originally appeared at FoodRiot.com.

More and more of us are coming out as mayonnaise-phobes these days, and it feels good to know I'm not in as much of a minority as I once thought. It feels even better to know that the things for which I once thought I had to suck it up and use mayonnaise; your chicken salad, you deviled eggs, that kind of thing, have an important ally in the avocado. I've only recently embraced the avocado and its myriad delicious uses, but it seems like I find a new one each week. This time I discovered easy-as-pie-and-almost-as-tasty Avocado Chicken Salad:


1. The leftover meat from last night's roast chicken, removed from the carcass and cut into small cubes
2. 1-2 avocados, the riper the better
3. A tablespoon on lemon juice
4. 1/2 cup of dried cranberries
5. Your favorite sandwich bread


1. Slice up your avocado into a bowl. Remember how?
2. Add your lemon juice, because the oily umami-ness of the avocado will really benefit from a bite of acid. Give everything a good stir. If the avocado is a little firmer than you'd like, and not mixing well, toss everything into a food processor, stand mixer, or whatever you have, and beat for about 30 seconds to get your mixture nice and creamy, adding a little oil if necessary, and scraping down the sides of the bowl halfway through.
3. Stick your bread in the toaster so that it will be ready when the chicken salad is.
4. Stir in the dried cranberries and chicken meat by hand until well blended. Give it a taste and add some salt, pepper, and/or your favorite spice or dried herb.
5. Spread it on your toast, try to move past the fact that it's green, and enjoy!

Monday, April 7, 2014

Farmed and Dangerous Recap: Episode 4: Ends Meat

Ending the season on a cliffhanger when you don't know whether the show will get renewed? Not cool, Chipotle. It's like you're admitting that no one really cares whether your plot lines get resolved or not.

By my fourth episode of Farmed and Dangerous, I knew not to expect too much, but the writers really outdid themselves this time in the underwhelming department. The finale (season finale? series finale? even that seems unclear) failed to tie up any loose ends. For instance, that guy who kept spying on Chip and Sofia never really revealed himself, it was just implied that he worked for...whatsisname. Her boyfriend. Or fiance. Or ex-boyfriend. Or whatever he is. I remember at some point he told his enormous-cowboy-hat-wearing father that they were getting married, because it prompted his dad to observe that he was "finally buying the cow," bringing the livestock themed suggestive joke count to somewhere around 10.

I guess they kind of resolved the Petro Pellet arc, saying that it was just a red herring the whole time to distract the media from Oleyum, (Get it?) a new brand of human food made out of oil. But then that led right into more unresolved issues of its own, notably the super weird final shot of the

(season? series?)

in which a random new character is eating Oleyum brand junk food too close to a cell phone and the credits roll just before he (probably) explodes just like the cow in the first episode.

And then there's, of course, the Will They End Up Together plot. It seems as though Sofia is leaning toward accepting Chip's job offer (wait, what? That's going to get complicated, no?) as she not only decided to break up with Zach, (That's his name! Zach!) but also completely changed her style of dress. She's now less Lydia Rodarte Quayle and more Lori Grimes. (Always change your look when you change your boyfriend, ladies. Men who get free thinkers don't buy the cow...or something.)

So that's it for Farmed and Dangerous. For now at least. What do you think? Was it a complete waste of time? Did you actually like it? Did you think it was a step towards starting an important conversation? Will we see more shows like this in the future? Does Chipotle really have good intentions or is it all just more greenwashing to make a buck? And, most importantly, what show should I recap next?

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Farmed and Dangerous Recap: Episode 3: Raising the Steaks

What is with the slightly off pop culture references on this show? In episode 3, "Raising the Steaks," (Get it?) Chip tries to tell Sophia that her father has his priorities backwards by saying that he "watches The Matrix and roots for the machines." Is anyone watching The Matrix at all these days? I mean, I love the '90's, but come on.

I should cut poor Chip a break, though. He's not himself today. His mind is on a particularly sad chapter in his Backstory. "Backstory," (as the writers clearly learned just minutes before the actors showed up to rehearse this episode,) explains how characters ended up where they are, and why they behave the way they do. Sometimes, revealing a key detail in one character's Backstory can influence how another character sees him or her. For example, Sophia's hard candy shell starts to crack when she learns that Chip's father tragically died from complications after being attacked by a boar.

And that Chip is the rightful heir to the Iron Throne
photo credit
When Chip's dad was running the show, their family farm was not an organic one, you see, and the animals were pumped full of antibiotics, so that when his wound got infected there was no way to treat it, since the boar germs had become antibiotic resistant. (Wait, can that really happen?) And that's why Chip is now a rogue sustainable farmer who doesn't over-medicate his livestock. Because inheriting a business and then immediately restructuring everything about it while continuing to make a profit is apparently a lot easier than the lady with the chickens from Food, Inc. made it look.

Sophia shows her empathy for Chip's daddy issues by eating a tomato right off the vine, and conceding that it tastes better than the ones from the supermarket.

And then we go to commercial.

Much like those surreal ad spots on AMC that feature actors from Mad Men, commercials on Farmed and Dangerous make viewers think a little harder than usual about the relationship between advertising and entertainment, and where the line is between the two.

At least once during each episode I've seen, there's been a commercial for a Special K bar that's supposed to help you lose weight. Which is something you're supposed to want to do.

And that's where I stop questioning Chipotle's motives and realizing that I know full well what those motives are. They want to set themselves apart from other fast food chains by sourcing healthier and more environmentally responsible ingredients. Everyone's got their thing that sets them apart from the competition. McDonald's has a clown. Wendy's has square hamburgers. Chipotle has the sustainability angle. And if not enough people know that they have the sustainability angle, well, they'll do whatever it takes to get the word out there, even support industrial agriculture.