Eating Liberally

Eating Liberally Blog


Here’s a great chance to eat out for a good cause! Tomorrow, on the one-year anniversary of Katrina, restaurants all over the country will participate in Share Our Strength’s Restaurants for Relief 2 event:

One Night, One Meal Can Make a Difference

Dine out on Tuesday, August 29th at your favorite participating restaurant and you'll be helping relief efforts in the Gulf Coast region. Share Our Strength invites you to dine out on Tuesday, August 29th, the one-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, for Share Our Strength’s Restaurants for Relief 2, presented by American Express. This nationwide event is the organization’s second annual dine-out to benefit Gulf Coast recovery efforts and is organized in partnership with Food Network and the National Restaurant Association.

Diners across the country can enjoy food and drink at thousands of participating restaurants that are contributing a portion of their proceeds to Share Our Strength’s hurricane recovery efforts. As part of its efforts to end childhood hunger in America, Share Our Strength is helping families in the Gulf Coast region. By dining out on August 29th, the anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, your support will help rebuild school cafeterias, open summer meal programs, provide assistance for affected restaurant workers, and more.

Go to Share Our Strength’s website to find participating restaurants in your neck of the woods. If you can’t dine out tomorrow, Share Our Strength offers alternative ways to help, too.

There’s no shortage of participating restaurants in the NYC area. Should we drop by Danny Meyer’s Shake Shack in Madison Square Park, where 10% of the day’s profits will go to the relief effort, or do we make a reservation at Artisanal Fromagerie & Bistro where they’re serving a special Restaurants For Relief 2 Prix-fixe Menu which donates 20% of the proceeds? What a delicious dilemma. Maybe we should go to Artisanal for dinner, and drop by the Shake Shack on the way home for dessert.

It may seem like a drop in the bucket for that flood-ravaged region, but if you’re gonna get a bite out, anyway, why not make it count for something?

hat tip to Cookie Jill at Skippy



Laid-off Northwest Airlines employees received a bonus along with their pink slips—a handbook with tips on how to make ends meet. According to CNN’s Christine Romans, the list of suggestions included the following:

“Don’t be shy about pulling something you like out of the trash.”

Digging through garbage is a great way to get by when you’re out of a job, but why stop there? If you’re hungry and broke, consider foraging for weeds in public parks. Dandelions are plentiful and super-nutritious; another prolific weed, purslane, can be found growing through cracks in city sidewalks, and it’s chock-full of omega-3’s. Sure, a dog may have peed on it, but you can always rinse it thoroughly. Just think of it as a new kind of trickle-down economics.

Dandelions do have a bitter aftertaste, but it’s pretty mild compared to having your boss give you the boot and tell you to root through rubbish.


Even the most hardcore political junkie--i.e., Matt Stoller--has to stop and smell the peaches occasionally. I'm glad Stoller's stint in San Francisco has given him the opportunity to sample some of the fine local produce:

San Francisco has awesome peaches, juicy, firm, fresh, just great great peaches...I have been eating delicious food for a few weeks now, and tomorrow it's going to be 75 and I'll have more great coffee and yummy brunch food and also I'll probably go hiking or something. So there.

Nobody does brunch better than Northern California. We can't find one eatery in NYC that serves a brunch that even comes close to the ones we've had on the West Coast.

Hope to see more food-related posts from Stoller--maybe Markos will take him on an expedition to the Berkeley Bowl. We hear the produce is amazing.


Homegrown homeland security:

A souvenir from the era before conservation was downgraded
from a patriotic duty to a sign of "personal virtue":

hat tip to gmoke at DKos


Julia Child would have loved this—and if there’s a heaven, I have no doubt she’s up there smiling down on this phenomenal portrait of her wielding a meat mallet, carved out of a field of corn.


We made our annual August pilgrimage to the Dutchess County fairground in Rhinebeck, New York, this week to watch the pig races, eat waffle fries, admire the prize-winning pound cakes, and marvel at the arts and crafts that ran the gamut from awesome to awful.

The Dutchess County fair’s been celebrating all things agricultural, homegrown, homemade, and homespun for 161 years now. And like county fairs all over the country, it’s got its quota of carny delights, too—the funnel cakes, freak shows and ferris wheels.

Attendance at county fairs may be on the wane, but “cooking competitions still thrive on the nation's fairgrounds,” according to the NY Times. “New contestants of all ages and more men are venturing into the fray, and cash prizes are bigger than ever. But some traditional skills, like canning vegetables and preserving meat, are falling away.”

Tell that to my fellow Kossack Claire, who cranks out jars of blueberry lavender preserves and corn-zucchini salsa when she’s not busy fundraising for local dems. And Matt brings home boxloads of tomatoes from a local farmstand every fall to can countless quarts for our pantry.

A longtime judge at the Iowa state fair told the Times “Cooking and gardening are almost hobbies now, not necessary for survival as they were when the fairs began.”

Well, some of us (i.e. me and James Kunstler) suspect that we may need to revive all those survival skills when our carbon-based culture collapses, but in the meantime, while the oil continues to flow, some county fair food vendors are trying to enlighten the average American palate.

One such vendor, Herb Eckhouse, an Iowa native who spent three years in Parma, Italy, learning to cure prosciutto and pancetta, told the Times ''Before Iowa had all this artisanal goat cheese and fancy grass-fed beef and organic dairy, these fairs were already about the bounty of the land and about craftsmanship…As hard as McDonald's tries to push us out of the kitchen, and although this country produces ever greater quantities of undistinguished food, people are waking up to the fact that a lot of our food just doesn't taste good.''

The freshest, best-tasting food often comes from the farmers’ market. But here in New York, local farms are “an endangered species,” according to the brochure I picked up from the New York Farm Bureau booth at the fairgrounds. The statistics are staggering:

“In 1946, there were 167,000 family farms in New York.

In 1970, there were only 58,000.

Today? 36,000.”

The NY Farm Bureau was also handing out posters at the fair that read:

Homeland Security.

Buy local. It matters.

Small and mid-size farms across the country are being devoured by developers and agribusiness. If we don’t act to save them now, they might not be around to feed us when we need them.


Nine baby piglets, eleven days old
Classic county fair fare
The origins of ethanol
Prize-winning cake with a chocolate Twizzler fence


I knew there was something phony about Rockey Vaccarella, the straight-out-of-central-casting “regular guy” who wanted to drive his FEMA trailer from New Orleans to the White House to meet with the president and thank him for doing such great things for the Gulf Coast.

Vaccarella made the rounds on the news shows this week playing the plain-spoken little guy with a big dream: to get to meet the President in person. CNN’s Ed Henry fell for it hook, line, and sinker:

“…I mean, Hollywood couldn’t have scripted this any better. A gritty guy named Rockey, slugging it out, trying to realize his dream, and getting that dream realized against all odds…”

The White House initially insisted that Vaccarella would have to settle for meeting with Donald Powell, Bush’s point man on the relief effort for Katrina.

But whaddya know? After Vaccarella drove his “FEMA-style trailer”--yes, it turns out even the trailer was a fake, a “replica”—to Washington, President Bush suddenly found the time not only to meet with Vaccarella, but to trot him out to the press to express his heartfelt wish that “the president could have another term.”

Vaccarella marveled, “You know, it’s really amazing when a small man like me from St. Bernard Parish can meet the President of the United States. The President is a People Person. I knew that from the beginning. I was confident that I could meet President Bush.”

Did his confidence have anything to do with the fact that Vaccarella himself is a registered Republican who ran for the St. Bernard Parish council back in 1999? Did Vaccarella’s background as a fast-food industry executive grease the way? Vaccarella worked his way up from managing a Popeye’s to overseeing operations for 31 Pizza Huts.

The Bush administration’s wholesale abandonment of the hardest-hit Hurricane Katrina victims is a low point in our nation’s history. While the rest of the world watched, transfixed and appalled, as people stranded on their rooftops begged to be rescued, Bush was chillin’ in Crawford; he didn’t see the footage till Dan Bartlett compiled the highlights on a dvd and made him watch it, days later.

To be fair, it’s not the President’s fault that so many people drowned. After all, “blacks are not the greatest swimmers, or may not even know how to swim.” as Tramm Hudson, the Republican frontrunner in the Florida congressional race to replace Katherine Harris, helpfully observed.

At the supposedly impromptu press conference, Bush praised Vaccarella as “a plain-spoken guy. He's the kind of fellow I feel comfortable talking to. I told him that I understand that there's people down there that still need help. And I told him the federal government will work with the state and local authorities to get the help to them as quickly as possible.”

The bogus backslapping ended with Bush declaring, “You’re a good man, Rockey,” to which Vaccarella replied, “You are, too.”

Well, what else would you expect from a couple of oil men? One’s steeped in crude (maybe that’s why Dubya’s fond of fart jokes ?); the other traffics in trans-fats. Just a pair of good oil boys.

Message to the Gulf Coast? Help is on the way, heh, heh, heh.


Before Chicago’s ban on foie gras took effect this week, chefs all over the city found new ways to serve up the fatty liver in a final foie gras feeding frenzy. One restaurant even served a foie gras-laced hot chocolate.

Paté-scarfing patrons gorged like geese being fattened for slaughter—except they were stuffing themselves voluntarily, unlike the geese, which are famously force-fed grain till they’re so fat they can hardly waddle.

Because geese lack a gag reflex, fans and foes of foie gras argue over whether the geese suffer. The pro-foie gras camp insists that the birds don’t mind having mass quantities of grain pumped down their gullets. Animal rights activists insist the practice is cruel.

But if the city of Chicago is so concerned about poultry abuse, why aren’t they shutting down every KFC and Popeye’s in town? The horrendous conditions that poultry producers inflict on chickens in this country have been widely documented, and while only a tiny fraction of the population ever eats foie gras, 9 billion chickens will be raised, slaughtered, and eaten in the U.S. this year, according to Eric Schlosser’s Chew On This.

Animal abuse is, in fact, a cornerstone of agribusiness, as Michael Pollan noted in the NY Times last May:

Some of the best-organized and most widely dispersed political interests in America — factory farmers, feedlot owners, meat processors and the restaurant industry — will not yield without a fight their freedom to abuse animals as they see fit. Such abuse is extremely profitable, and it is the reason why meat in this country is so cheap. In fact, the abuse is protected by law: Most federal animal cruelty laws specifically exempt agriculture — where most of the animals are. Thus you may not kick your dog in public, but you’re free to mutilate pigs and chickens behind the fences of C.A.F.O.’s (concentrated animal feeding operations).

Pollan rightly derides the foie gras ban as “politics at its worst.”

If all those cruelly de-beaked chickens could speak, they’d be saying, “Hey! What are we, chopped liver?” If only they were. Maybe then, someone would pass a bill on their behalf.


Sign of the times at an upstate New York Stop & Shop

Here’s a delicious irony; conventional dairy farmers who pump their cows full of hormones in order to boost profits have instead pumped up demand for hormone-free milk, enabling small organic dairy farmers to prosper.

There’s a severe nationwide organic milk shortage because there’s no shortage of people willing to pay more for milk that’s free of Monsanto’s genetically engineered recombinant bovine growth hormone, or rBHG. Cows injected with rBHG produce about 25% more milk, but consumer demand for rBHG-free milk is so great that organic milk now sells for two-and-a-half times the price of non-organic milk.

Gary Hirschberg, CEO of Stonyfield Farms, the world’s largest organic yogurt producer, discussed the boom in organic dairy sales with NPR’s Marketplace last week:

“I would say demand is running about twice as strong as supply. We could use 100 percent more milk than we currently have.”

Organic dairy product sales have doubled in the past four years. That's left Stonyfield scrambling. The company once touted its completely organic product line. But now it's been forced to up its nonorganic products to 40 percent of output.

Hirshberg says processors like him are throwing incentives at farms converting to organic just to stay competitive. And Stonyfield recently invested overseas to get more milk.

So Hirshberg says there's plenty of opportunity for anyone pondering a move into organic dairying.

“This is a worldwide phenomenon. To farmers who are concerned — Will the organic market be there? — all you have to do is stop and look at every single commodity area, literally from milk to cat food, to even clothing. Organic, in all of those categories, is the fastest growing trend. It's out there.”

Which is why Wal-mart—yes, Wal-Mart—is now the nation’s number one seller of organic milk. Of course, Wal-Mart employed its usual cutthroat cost-cutting tactics with its first organic dairy vendor, the highly regarded dairy co-operative Organic Valley. But Organic Valley concluded that it couldn’t afford to do business with Wal-Mart and walked away.

Wal-Mart’s current supplier, Horizon, is under intense scrutiny for allegedly violating the USDA organic standards. An excellent article in last Sunday’s Chicago Tribune documented the “rancorous feud over the future of the booming organic milk business,” and provided plenty of fodder for a burgeoning Horizon boycott .

Does this prove that Industrial Organic is an oxymoron? The jury’s still out. But the verdict is in when it comes to rBGH-“enhanced” dairy products. Consumers prefer organic. To all you dairy farmers injecting your cows bi-weekly with rBGH, I say, put that in your genetically modified corncob pipe and smoke it.


Look what Gnome Chompsky brought back from the farmers’ market--a basket brimming with tatsoi, amaranth and purslane. You won’t find these exotic greens in your local supermarket, but the real mystery is: why aren’t they better known, and more widely grown?