Food Heroes Shake Confidence

Sometimes we find heroes. Not often, but sometimes people push their way to the front. Expel wisdom. Shake confidence. And sometimes their name isn’t even Cecilia.


This person is Michael Pollan. He might not always be right. Or first. Or the best. But this dude’s got ideas. And I’m willing to listen.

For example, he tells the Washington Post’s Tim Carman:

We’ve gotten really good at it, but it turns out…that cheap food has enormous costs. In the same period of time that we went from spending 18 percent of our income on food to under 9 percent of our income on food, we’ve gone from spending 5 percent of our national income on health care to 17 percent of our income on health care. So we’re paying for that cheap food with our higher health care costs.

While he acknowledges low food price isn’t the full reason we’re struggling as a nation, he does consistently give valid points about our current life in food. And, he chooses to converse with Tim Carman, a wonderfully, metaphor-friendly writer, who knows a fucking thing about our collective relationship with food.

Join their conversation. Here and here.

Corn Syrup: Ruining Passover

Long before the war on corn syrup became public in the case of Michael Pollan vs. Corn Refiners Association, I despised the stuff. But only for 8 days out of the year.

For Passover, which starts sundown on Monday, observant Jews are not to eat leavened bread, legumes, corn, rice and most other grains. It’s tough. But it’s made all the more difficult when my favorite foods as a child were laced with high fructose corn syrup.

I couldn’t chew regular gum, couldn’t bathe my pancakes in syrup (we used Aunt Jemima, but I think real maple syrup would be okay?) couldn’t squirt ketchup on my fries, couldn’t drink Coke, couldn’t indulge in coffee ice cream and the list goes on. I never understood what corn syrup was or why it was in EVERYTHING. But I fucking hated it because it made Passover that much worse. I could live without bread, but without real gum?! Ugh – have you ever tried Bazooka “Jew”? It’s awful.

Anyway, it’s that time of year again when Jews commemorate the parting of the Red Sea. (And maybe this year we’ll read about it in gender neutral terms!) Here are some ideas to keep you bread and corn-syrup free for the holiday.

Before Passover
Get rid of that leftover bread

Za’atar Breaded Chicken with Avocado and Carrot Salad

Savory French Toast with Creamed Herbs and Zucchini

Peanut Butter and Apple Sandwich

Apple Walnut French Toast

During Passover
“Enjoy” Matzah

Acorn Squash and Leek Muffins with Matzah Meal

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The 1-2-3s of Veggies


“What are you watching?” my sister asked as I painted my nails sitting on the carpet of my parents’ living room floor.

“Stay,” I said, “Mom saved the Oprah with Michael Pollan. He’s the dude who wrote the book that I’m making dad read.”

And that’s all it took.

My sister watched in horror as chickens, so burdened, so physically burdened, with the weight of their unnaturally large breasts, that they could only crank out a few steps before collapsing. She stopped eating meat after that. It’s been just over a month now. And she has no idea what to eat.

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Why Organic May or May Not Be the Answer


While my dad likes to cook, he likes to make things easy on himself. For instance, he’ll take one night and make it a total marathon in the kitchen so he doesn’t have to cook every night the rest for of the week. Totally normal. I get that. I do it too. Everyone does. It makes sense.

But then there’s the pre-chopped, double vacuum sealed, organic garlic from China.

Organic is good, right? We want to ingest food that has not been grown with chemicals. It’s the right thing. It’s better for our body. It’s better for our planet. And usually we can buy this type of food from a local source. But then there’s the organic from half way around the world.

My dad is starting to climb that local food hill and is well into Omnivore’s Dilemma, but still cares more about not having to peel garlic cloves. So he buys garlic cloves that have been peeled, packed in a plastic wrap in groups of four, then packaged in a larger plastic bag. A lot of plastic. A lot of waste. But it’s still organic. Yet it’s been shipped from China. But it’s still organic.

What the fuck are we supposed to do?

The Dark-Herr, The Better


I truly adore Michael Pollan. I pretty much take his words as gospel. His new “for dummies” type book, Food Rules, breaks down his complex narratives of our broken food systems into succinct guidelines. His rules make sense. They are easy to understand and to follow. This one is particularly relevant to our I want it now culture:

#39 Eat all the junk food you want as long as you cook it yourself.

There is nothing wrong with eating sweets, fried foods, pastries, even drinking soda every now and then, but food manufacturers have made eating these formerly expensive and hard-to-make treats so cheap and easy that we’re eating them every day. The french fry did not become America’s most popular vegetable until industry took over the jobs of washing, peeling, cutting, and frying the potatoes — and cleaning up the mess. If you made all the french fries you ate, you would eat them much less often, if only because they’re so much work. The same holds true for fried chicken, chips, cakes, pies, and ice cream. Enjoy these treats as often as you’re willing to prepare them — chances are good it won’t be every day. [HuffPo]

But the idea of making a potato chip better than Herr’s is just a fucking lie. They make the best chips in the world and it wouldn’t be fair to attempt replication at home when they are already out there on shelves across Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

I recently spotted an enviable collection of Herr’s chips at a Philly-themed hoagie shop in DC, Taylor. My eyes widened at their floor to ceiling display, noticing the new (and I find misguided) direction of Herr’s: kettle chips. Kettle chips have too much of a bite for me. Too crunchy, too much time in the oil.

I asked the dude behind the cash register about the many new flavors and he pointed out a recent failure: Herr’s Dark Russet Kettle Chips. He said they tasted straight burnt. I bought them instantly.

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The Desire’s Even Stronger a Day Later

If we were really on top of this shit, we would have posted this yesterday. Or the day before. But with the Phillies (winning) in the World Series, there’s been some other pressing matters. So while I would have gladly watched my savior’s documentary last night, I was instead enjoying Chase’s home runs.

But because of the availability of re-runs, we can all learn about our earthly cravings in Michael Pollan’s PBS documentary, Botany of Desire.

I’ve read Pollan’s Omnivore’s Dilemma and In Defense of Food, but I haven’t gotten around to Botany (which is on my list after Michael Ruhlman’s The Making of a Chef. I’m in the middle of United States of Arugula but I think I’m gonna bail on finishing it.)

Anyway, PBS has a great little track-by-zipcode feature so you can find out exactly when you should Tivo it. And if you skipped the World Series and Top Chef to watch some Pollan goodness, let me know what you think.