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Archive for the ‘Philosophy’ Category

Time for Lunch

We’ve said it before, I’m saying it again, and we will probably say it again before the month is out: It’s time to change school lunch. Not in a nebulous wouldn’t-it-be-nice way, but in a concrete Congress is scheduled to reauthorize the Child Nutrition Act in September, and it’s time to show them that we care way.

You aren’t a kid? You don’t have kids? Think school lunch doesn’t affect you? Think again, and while you’re at it, check out my posts on the topic — Why a Twenty-Something Should Care About School Lunch for the blog Civil Eats and No More School Lunch Baloney for the Slow Food blog.

The quality of school lunch affects everyone in America, whether or not  you or your child is eating it. So please, read up, sign the Time for Lunch petition, and organize or attend an Eat-In on September 7th.

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There was a point when I spent most of my time in the kitchen in a state of inspired panic, lurching from one almost-disaster to another. I wondered sometimes about the nonchalant calm that seemed to reign in other people’s kitchens, but I was enjoying myself, for the most part, and it seemed clear that such total zen kitchen mastery was out of the question without a lifetime of practice behind me.

Recently, though, I discovered a brilliant way to short-circuit the process. Here is the secret: learn to do one thing well. Make it a dish or a Skill, as flashy or as humdrum as you like. Bake a mean soufflé! Poach an egg to perfection! The only requirement in this regimen is that, as soon as possible, you do it again. And again. And again. Knead it into your muscle memory until your mastery of the poached egg is out of all proportion to what it by rights should be.

There is something intensely gratifying about making a little study of a process like this. It is not, or at least not mostly, about the poached egg, or about basking in the afterglow of the praise it may inspire, although those can be collateral benefits. It is in the psychic payoff of being able to spend a peaceful hour in a familiar space feeling like you know exactly what you are doing.

In the last few weeks I have turned my attentions to roasting peppers.  I am still a few cycles shy of zen mastery, but I thought I’d share my observations on the process and two tasty dishes that resulted along the way. (more…)

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CSA Logo

Today’s post is brought to you by the letters CSA. Say it with me, kids. C-S-A.

CSA is the national airline of the Czech Republic. It’s also the Casting Society of America. And also the Canadian Safety Association, whose logo you see above.

But it’s also Community-Supported Agriculture.

A CSA is a sort of co-op. You pay a lump sum at the beginning of the season, and in exchange, you get a weekly supply of fruits and/or vegetables and in some cases meat and/or dairy as well.

After the jump, some reasons a CSA is a good thing, way more of a good thing than, say, the Confederate States of America.

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The real ice cream of the Future. Get the hell outta here, Dippin’ Dots.

Vanilla ice cream

Espresso

Ba-da bing

Ba-da boom

It takes only four, and arguably only two, ingredients to make one of my favorite desserts, affogato al caffe. Italian cooking has a long and illustrious tradition of evocative and hilariously literal food names such as saltimbocca (“jumps in mouth”) and tiramisu (“pick me up”). Affogato hails from the more morbid reaches of culinary nicknamery – you aren’t just pouring coffee over your ice cream, you are drowning, smothering or suffocating it. It means your ice cream sleeps with the fishes. Luca Brasi knowzwhaddamtalkinabout.

The recipe, if pouring espresso over a glass of vanilla ice cream can be called a recipe, is hot and cold, light and dark, sweet and bitter, and a surprisingly impressive and complex payoff for such easy preparation. So if it’s already so simple and elegant, why waste valuable bytes writing about it? POUR COFFEE ON YOUR ICE CREAM! There. Done. Why am I still here? I’ll tell you why: because there’s there no booze in it. Yet. (more…)

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Finish Your Ketchup

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Despite what a good anecdote it makes about the low quality of school lunch, ketchup was never actually declared a vegetable. Hash browns and french fries, however, were:

school-lunchSchool meals like this don’t exist because congress doesn’t want to provide our kids with good nutrition – and there are 65 pages of regulations to prove it – but because they only give schools a dollar a day per kid and thousands of pounds of government cheese to do it with. (For how the results of this compare with school lunch around the world, check out this blog.)

Obama is looking high and low to reduce costs in the medical system, and there’s a great one lurking in school cafeterias across the US. If we don’t stem the tide of childhood obesity, its burden on our health care system is going to be titanic. Besides which, a well-fed kid is a happy kid, better able to stay awake and focused in his afternoon classes. To accomplish this, we need to give schools more money to feed kids, remove the stigma associated with eating school lunch, and provide educational programs that teach kids about nutrition and physical activity and encourage them to try new foods.

The time for this is now and our best opportunity is the renewal of the Child Nutrition Act pending in congress. Time for Lunch is leading the charge for this important change, and I encourage you read about their work and join the fight to get real food in schools.

Read on for a letter from the campaign, and please consider supporting this important effort.

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food inc“You’ll never look at dinner the same way again,” promises the movie poster for Food, Inc. Well, I saw it on Saturday night, and let me tell you — in the immediate aftermath, I never planned on eating dinner again. That might be an exaggeration, but it’s close enough. The movie is brutal. One of my friends cried throughout the entire thing. And not in the way you cry when Mufasa is run over by a herd of stampeeding wildebeests, but deep down you know it’s just a cartoon, so the crying is kind of cathartic and lovely in its own way. No, no. This was the kind of crying (I shed a few tears here and there myself), when you’re confronted with graphic image after graphic image of feedlots, soundbites of pigs squealing on their way to slaughter, plus helpless illegal immigrants, bankrupt farmers, and a dead child (from e. coli poisoning), to boot. And none of it is Disney animation.

You know the food revolution has really taken off when a movie like Food, Inc. can get made and distributed. And that’s a good thing, and it’s a good movie — an important movie, and an informative movie. It’s easy to get confused about what’s going on with our food supply, and reading the many many books on the subject helps gather more information, but doesn’t necessarily clear things up. But a picture is worth a thousand words, and the sound of those pigs squealing may in fact be worth a thousand pictures. (more…)

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Breakfast salad of Champions

Fact: 1780294 out of 1780294 American Gladiator contestants who ate this for breakfast kicked the patooties of contestants who ate Wheaties or Kurt Vonnegut’s 1973 novel for breakfast. You just can’t argue with those numbers.

For a long time, I always skewed to the “-unch” side of “brunch,” taking the non-breakfast savory route out whenever possible. In college, that usually meant settling for last night’s tofu parmigiana over danishes or “Eli’s Breakfast Sandwiches.” And I was one of roughly two people I can remember who could fathom touching the salad bar, even if brunch ran from 11 to 1h30. But now, in this post-mandatory meal plan age, I can create a happy compromise between my palate and gastronomic acceptability norms. It’s a breakfast salad. And it’s so freaking nutrient-packed that dietitians should shed low-sodium tears of hushed awe upon beholding its calcium-rich glory. And it tastes like sweet, nutty victory.

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