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Food

Post  eddie on Wed Oct 19, 2011 6:57 pm

The Table Comes First by Adam Gopnik - review

A collection of food essays that are done to a turn

Kathryn Hughes
guardian.co.uk, Friday 14 October 2011 22.55 BST


A well-furnished mind: Adam Gopnik. Photograph: Scott Wintrow/Getty Images

Adam Gopnik writes like the longstanding contributor to the New Yorker that he is. Which is to say, he has a voice that is by turns conversational and dandyish, regular Joe and Ivy League, fancy about everyday pleasures (sport, food) and defiantly unawed about those subjects that are supposed to matter more (art, philosophy). Lots of people write, have written, for the New Yorker, and clearly they don't all sound the same – Updike is not Thurber, Dorothy Parker is not Janet Malcolm – but you can't deny a family resemblance. Perhaps it's a confidence thing, a feeling that it is the voice, rather than the subject, that is the point: whether it's Gopnik on Paris, Gopnik on Abraham Lincoln or, as in this new book, Gopnik on food, it is the Gopnik bit that gives what restaurant critics like to call "the sizzle".


The Table Comes First
by Adam Gopnik

So these are personal essays in the fullest sense of the word, sieving the big subjects of the book's subtitle – family, France, food – through one man's well-furnished mind. They are personal in the more obvious sense, too, of relying on Gopnik's willingness to throw open the doors of his kitchen and allow us to sit down at the family table. Much of the material is drawn from a five-year period when he was living with his wife and two young children in Paris, and cooking for them all.

We hear about the butterscotch he made in honour of his daughter's dog (another Butterscotch), about the wrinkled button noses that greet his rubbing of roast chicken with duck fat, about the three different ways he does rice pudding. There is sentiment here, then, but it is sentiment as it would have been understood in the 18th century, as a flash of strong feeling from which complex moral and intellectual enquiry naturally flows. Gopnik's heroes are Rousseau, Voltaire and Adam Smith and, while you may not have pegged these grands philosophes as handy in the kitchen, Gopnik feels that it is to their large, clear minds we must turn if we want to understand what really goes on when we raise a fork to our lips.

The Table Comes First includes no recipes as such, but what it does have is a lot of dirty cutlery, crumpled napkins and happy, replete Gopniks. It also has letters, like those epistolary narratives so beloved of the late enlightenment. The only difference here is that the person Gopnik is writing to can't write back. She is Elizabeth Pennell, a cookery writer whose 1896 collection The Diary of a Greedy Woman Gopnik likes for its unabashed celebration of appetite. He writes Pennell imaginary emails outlining his failure to make omelettes and the secret to his excellent lime pesto, and they get on swimmingly (probably because she can't write back) until Gopnik discovers something quite horrid. "Lizzie" was an antisemite, particularly nasty about the Russian Jews who moved into the very blocks in Philadelphia where Gopnik's own immigrant grandparents put down roots.

One of Gopnik's chief through-lines in this collection of essays is an enquiry into why high-end restaurant culture has divided so sharply in recent years. On the one hand we have molecular gastronomy, associated in this country with Heston Blumenthal but actually the brainchild of the Spanish chef Ferran Adrià. This is the white lab coat approach to taste manipulation where boundaries of disgust get tested with such perverse mash-ups as parmesan ice-cream and goat-brain tartare with eel. Yet at the same time we have the fetishisation of slow food, a way of cooking that insists on using only the most local and seasonal of ingredients and simmering them in the kind of thick-bottomed pot your imaginary peasant granny might have used.

I'd automatically have put Gopnik in the second camp, a slow food type who goes all giddy at the sight of a potager. But in fact it emerges that he finds all that obsession with soil and roots and purity slightly suspect, in a Lizzie Pennell-ish kind of way. And bogus too. For the reality is that French cookery, like everyone else's, has always been a mixed bag, picking its ingredients from whoever turned up with some coloured beans in their travelling pack.

Gopnik, in fact, turns out to be more at home with the pointy heads. But perhaps what's really important is that he doesn't think that either of these ways of eating – Luddite or test tube – has right on its side, or even actually matters very much. They are both fads, conjured up as much by febrile cultural chatter as by the need to find the right, best, proper way to pack 2,000 calories of protein, starch and fat into the human body every day. And Gopnik knows where the fault lies: with people like him. "Pretending there are patterns when there are really only passing moments is about the only thing writers are good for," he says.

So words come first for Gopnik, before taste, certainly, and sometimes, one might suggest, before substance. His writing here is a high-glazed wonder, as if just the right amount of calf's foot jelly had been dropped into the final mix to make each colour sing out that little bit more strongly. But whether there is an argument to hang on to is not so clear. This is not, for all the cultural name-dropping (apparently Gopnik's mum once made a soufflé for Derrida) a work of philosophical enquiry. It is actually an extended piece of journalism in that fine New Yorker tradition, and all the more pleasurable for it.

Kathryn Hughes's biography of Isabella Beeton is published by Harper Perennial.

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Re: Food

Post  precinct14 on Wed Oct 19, 2011 9:13 pm

AJ Liebling, the great American boxing writer, and a New Yorker regular himself back in the 50's, was also a prodigious gourmand, in both size and appetite. He lived in Paris for several years, and wrote about the experience in a slim little masterpiece, entitled Between Meals. Here he describes the no holds-barred approach of another heroic trencherman, Yves Mirande, patron of one of his favourite Parisian restaurants:

'In the restaurant on the Rue Saint-Augustin, M. Mirande would dazzle his juniors, French and American, by dispatching a lunch of raw bayonne ham and fresh figs, a hot sausage in crust, spindles of filleted pike in a rich rose Sauce Nantua, a leg of lamb larded with anchovies, artichokes on a pedestal of foie gras, and four or five kinds of cheeses, with a good bottle of Bordeaux and one of champagne, after which he would call for the Armagnac and remind Madame to have ready for dinner the larks and ortolans that she had promised him, with a few langoustes and a turbot- and, of course, a fine civet made from the marcassin, or young wild boar, that the lover of the leading lady in his current production (he was also a playwright) had sent up from his estate on the Sologne. "And while I think of it," I once heard him say, "we haven't had any woodcock for days, or truffles baked in the ashes, and the cellar is becoming a disgrace- no more '34s and hardly any '37s. Last week, I had to offer my publisher a bottle that was far too good for him, simply because there was nothing between insulting and the superlative."'

When, as he got older, M.Mirande's appetite failed him for the first time in front of a horrified Liebling, he wrote, 'It was like the moment when I first saw Joe Louis draped on the ropes.' What, were he alive today, would Liebling have made of the pitiless fast food global assault on our taste buds, as inflicted by his country of birth? I suspect not even a Ronald McDonald-inspired lark and ortolan Big Mac would have prevented him from moving back to Paris.

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Re: Food

Post  Nah Ville Sky Chick on Fri Oct 21, 2011 5:00 am

^^

That post made me hungry. I loved this bit, "Last week, I had to offer my publisher a bottle that was far too good for him, simply because there was nothing between insulting and the superlative."'


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Re: Food

Post  precinct14 on Fri Oct 21, 2011 6:37 pm

This recipe, from Elizabeth David's Summer Cooking, has always stayed with me:

Shooter's Sandwich

The wise, 'at least among the children of this world', to use one of Walter Pater's careful qualifying phrases, travel with a flask of whisky-and-water and what I call a 'Shooter's Sandwich'. This last is made thus: Take a large, thick, excellent rump steak. Do not season it, for that would cause the juice to run out, and in grilling it keep it markedly underdone. Have ready a sandwich loaf one end of which has been cut off and an adequate portion of the contents of which has been removed. Put the steak, hot from the grill, and - but only then- somewhat highly seasoned,into the loaf; add a few grilled mushrooms; replace the deleted end of the loaf; wrap the loaf in a doublesheet of clean white blotting paper, tie with twine both ways, super-impose a sheet of grease-proof paper, and more twine. Place a moderate weight on top, and after a while add other weights. Let the thing endure pressure for at least six hours. Do not carve it until and as each slice is required.

With this 'sandwich' a man may travel from Land's End to Quaker Oats and snap his fingers at both.

From The Dinner Knell (19320, by T.Earle Welby

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Re: Food

Post  eddie on Sat Nov 12, 2011 3:33 am


Felicity's perfect porridge. Photograph: Felicity Cloake

The important thing is that porridge should be creamy in texture (lots of stirring required), but with enough chewy bite to keep it interesting. Toasting brings out the flavour of the oats, and a little milk gives it a silky richness that would horrify puritans north of the border – the sugar situation, however, is up to your conscience.

Per person

¼ cup pinhead oatmeal (about 25g)
¼ cup medium oatmeal (about 25g)
½ cup (about 100ml) whole milk
1 cup (about 200ml) water
Generous pinch of salt
Demerara sugar, golden syrup, chopped dates etc
A little more cold milk, to serve

1. Heat a dry frying pan over a medium high heat and toast the oats until fragrant. Put the oats in a medium saucepan along with the milk and 1 cup (about 200ml) water and bring slowly to the boil, stirring frequently with a spurtle, or the handle of a wooden spoon.

2. Turn down the heat even further, and simmer, stirring very regularly, for about 10 minutes, until you have the consistency you require. After about 5 minutes, add the salt.

3. Cover and allow to sit for 5 minutes, then serve with the toppings of your choice and a moat of cold milk.

Is porridge the ultimate winter breakfast, or a gruel best left in the past? Do you prefer yours basic, austere even, or luxurious – and can anyone suggest some good savoury recipes to rival a Chinese congee?

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Re: Food

Post  eddie on Sat Nov 12, 2011 3:40 am

Angela Hartnett's sweet potato, smoked mackerel and beetroot recipe

Horseradish is the key to this quick, cheap and tasty recipe

Angela Hartnett
guardian.co.uk, Wednesday 9 November 2011 16.05 GMT


Mackerel is sustainable and very tasty Photograph: Sarah Lee for the Guardian

Smoked mackerel is inexpensive, sustainable and very tasty. It works wonderfully with horseradish, which cuts through the oiliness of the fish, and the sweet potato and slightly pickled beetroot add interestingly balanced flavours.

Most supermarkets do an own-brand smoked mackerel, which is generally good quality – otherwise, get it from your local fishmonger.

Serves 2

2 sweet potatoes, washed and cut into large dice
40ml olive oil
2 garlic cloves, crushed
2 medium beetroots, washed and cut into quarters
2 sprigs of thyme
2 smoked mackerel fillets, flaked
20ml red wine vinegar
2 tsp horseradish cream
1 tbsp chopped, flat-leaf parsley

Preheat your oven to 180C. Take a large baking tray, add a dash of olive oil and place in the oven. When the tray is hot, place the sweet potato and crushed garlic on it, season and cook in the oven for 15 minutes, until soft.

Meanwhile, heat a dash of olive oil in a frying pan, then add the beetroot and thyme.

After four minutes, add the red wine vinegar and 100ml water, cover but keep an eye on it because you may need to add more water. Simmer until the beetroot is cooked (about 15 minutes).

When the beetroot is ready, allow to cool, then mix with the sweet potato and flaked mackerel. Season, finish with the flat leaf parsley, and serve with the horseradish.

• Angela Hartnett is chef patron at Murano restaurant and consults at Whitechapel Gallery and Dining Room, London. @AngelaHartnett

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Re: Food

Post  eddie on Wed Dec 07, 2011 11:27 am

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WPkOv0-u6A0
Monty Python's The Meaning of Life- Mr Creosote dines.

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Re: Food

Post  eddie on Sun Jan 15, 2012 4:10 am


Stephen Collins.

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Re: Food

Post  pinhedz on Sun Jan 15, 2012 8:04 am

My pot of Rice and beans is finished--I'm good for the next week. What a Face

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Re: Food

Post  eddie on Sat Feb 04, 2012 4:45 pm


Berger & Wyse.

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Re: Food

Post  eddie on Sat Feb 18, 2012 8:38 pm


Berger & Wyse

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Re: Food

Post  Constance on Sun Feb 19, 2012 2:26 pm

Tom makes a pot of soup every weekend. Tonight's was lentil with a hambone. He and Elisabeth eat most of it.

Ordinarly I would indulge but I decided to lose weight. I am eating raw carrots, celery, grapefruit (I peel it like an orange) and rice cakes. I lost 10 lbs and have a few more to go.

In the morning I'm ravenous and scarf up two carrots. Kind of pathetic. It takes a long time to chew them.

I'm also drinking a lot of seltzer and hot boullion.

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Re: Food

Post  Constance on Sun Feb 19, 2012 2:37 pm

Oh yes I also eat a little feta cheese to get some protein in the picture. And I drink vegetable juice and add pepper to it.

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Re: Food

Post  pinhedz on Sun Feb 19, 2012 3:05 pm

For Saturday rehearsal, the musicians came with Safeway donuts, Pepperidge Farm Fruit & Butter (9 varieties of handpicked cookie favorites), ginger bread, and oranges. I provided the industrial-strength black coffee.

[it was back to rice and beans for dinner, of course]

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Re: Food

Post  Yakima Canutt on Sun Feb 19, 2012 9:34 pm



Natural calf rennet is extracted from the inner mucosa of the fourth stomach chamber (the abomasum) of slaughtered young, unweaned calves.

Nutella® spread, in its earliest form, was created in the 1940s by Mr. Pietro Ferrero, a pastry maker and founder of the Ferrero company. At the time, there was very little chocolate because cocoa was in short supply due to World War II rationing.

So Mr. Ferrero used hazelnuts, which are plentiful in the Piedmont region of Italy (northwest), to extend the chocolate supply.

The original version of Nutella® spread was called "pasta gianduja," pasta which means paste, and "gianduja" which is the name of a carnival character famous to the region, a character that can be found in the first advertisements for the product.

Pasta gianduja was actually made in loaves and wrapped in tinfoil, so it could be sliced and placed on bread for mothers to make sandwiches for their children. But many children, as you could imagine, would throw away the bread and only eat the pasta gianduja...

So Mr. Ferrero altered the product into a paste that came in a jar, so it could be spread on the bread. This then became known as "supercrema gianduja," because it was a spreadable version of the gianduja. "Supercrema gianduja" was eventually renamed "Nutella®" in 1964, with the origin of the word being "nut" and the "ella" giving it a soft ending.





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Re: Food

Post  pinhedz on Mon Feb 20, 2012 12:21 am

A case can be made for total abstention from coffee.

A case can also be made for habitual coffee drinking.

But no case can be made for drinking coffee in moderation.

The WebMD who always says "Moderation is the key" should be disbarred. bounce


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Re: Food

Post  eddie on Sun Feb 26, 2012 3:34 am


Berger & Wyse.

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Re: Food

Post  eddie on Sun Mar 04, 2012 1:53 am

Is the food revolution just a great big fat lie?

From the multimillionaire chefs who claim to be just like the rest of us to the multinationals making public health policy, there's something a bit iffy about the new food culture

Eliane Glaser

guardian.co.uk, Friday 2 March 2012 23.01 GMT


'It’s hard to make good choices when the marketing of products is so opaque and befuddling.' Photograph: Aaron Tilley for the Guardian

In the second half of the 20th century, western consumers were treated to an unprecedented array of high-quality, low-cost food. Monochrome national cuisines were spiced up by immigration, globalisation and holidays abroad. Increased disposable income turned a restaurant pilgrimage into an everyday jaunt. You could have pain au chocolat for breakfast, a Mexican tortilla wrap for lunch and a Thai green curry for dinner. Farmers' markets popularised heritage tomatoes. Celebrity chefs took up residence in gastropubs.


Get Real: How to Tell it Like it is in a World of Illusions
by Eliane Glaser

Now, I think it's great that in recent years we've woken up to the wonders of fresh, local, home-cooked food. But this new food culture is not quite as it seems. The spectacle of Jamie Oliver, a cheeky lad from Essex, tearing basil leaves on to spaghetti was in some ways a step forward for equality, but in other ways it was a sneaky step back – because it made it that much harder to notice the dodgy doublespeak that has come to dominate the way we talk about food.

A lot of celebrity chefs claim to be just like you and me. "I lead a normal life," Nigella Lawson writes in the introduction to Nigella Express, "the sort we all share." So that means living in a £12m house in Chelsea and sharing an estimated fortune of more than £100m with her husband, the art collector Charles Saatchi? Or there's this, from Jamie At Home: "Like most people these days, with a busy family life and a hectic working schedule, I began to struggle with finding a balance between the two. I seem to have evened things up a bit now, and it's all thanks to my veg garden." That would be the veg garden that enjoys the attentions of a personal gardener.

Reality, normality, hard-working families: this is the mantra of the multimillionaire celebrity chef. But the recipes have trouble sticking to it because, despite the homely trappings, they are essentially restaurant food. Take Nigella Express, the book of the TV show promising "fabulous fast food and incredible short cuts". The recipes are quick to make, it's true, but look at the ingredients: mirin, poussin, pomegranate juice, quail, harissa, sake, garlic oil. It would take an afternoon to track them down. I have for many years wrestled with the matter of fresh herbs. They improve simple dishes no end: most of Jamie's 30-Minute Meals rely on them. But I always find myself rummaging impatiently through a supermarket's highly selective herb selection to find the one I need.

Every time I've tried to grow them on my balcony, they've lasted about three weeks. My shrivelled, dried-up herbs seem to me to encapsulate a broader problem, because they are the very baseline minimum of the grow-your-own business, the entry-level stage. And even that doesn't seem to work. The glossy new food revolution that's advertised on our TV screens and in our beautiful recipe books purports to be democratic, accessible, available to everyone, but it's not. I'm fine with Heston Blumenthal's baroque creations, his frog's leg blancmange and exploding cakes. He is not for a minute suggesting that we should try those at home. But if the others really wanted to come up with a quick and easy cookbook for "hard-working families", they'd write one that used only the kind of ingredients I can buy at my local Costcutter: potatoes, tomatoes, onions and carrots.

Yet there's an obsessive emphasis on teachability, on getting your hands dirty, on This Will Change Your Life. I remember recipe programmes on TV in the 80s that paused, politely, while you grabbed a pen to note down the ingredients list. Now, supposedly real-time cookalongs are a frantic marathon, and full ingredients lists are to be found only in the accompanying book, priced at £19.99. And to me it's extraordinary that celebrity cookbooks rarely announce their gastronomical allegiance. A lot of celebrity cheffery blends into a modern European, pan-Asian melange. It's beyond fusion. It's category meltdown. I find it odd that, for all today's flag-waving about the wonder of different cuisines, our modern chefs are so coy about their culinary brand. And for all the apparent kitchen-sink empowerment, I also find it somewhat patronising. These are often connoisseurs who've been trained to distinguish Spanish from Catalan tapas, or trace the genealogy of haute cuisine; but don't you worry your little heads about such finer points, they seem to say. It's the food equivalent of the modern post-ideological politician who gives speeches saying right and left are over, but back at Oxford made damned sure he mastered the taxonomy of political theory. Today's TV chefs claim to be making food accessible, but they don't give ordinary people the vocabulary, the building blocks, to get a handle on food. Just as art schools today don't teach much drawing, there's no going back to food-type basics, techniques or the elements of different cuisines: no culinary periodic table.

Now, you might be thinking, what's wrong with a little recreational food porn? I'm not averse to a bit of Nigella myself. But while these fantasies may be fun, they are not harmless. We lap them up, but they ultimately leave us still more famished. The more time we spend watching cookery programmes and reading restaurant reviews, the less we spend actually cooking. According to the Food Standards Agency, in 1980 the average meal took an hour to prepare. By 1999, it took 20 minutes. And a 2002 Mintel report found that only one in five viewers tries a recipe after watching a chef on TV and only one in seven buys new ingredients. A large proportion of apparently handmade gastropub meals are actually trucked in by catering giants such as Brakes or 3663, which provide microwaveable or boil-in-the bag versions of old-fashioned rustic classics such as venison and pork sausages "infused with sloe gin and served in a rich and sweet bramble berry and red wine sauce", or, for dessert, an "apricot, apple and stem ginger crumble... heaped with hand-placed golden oaty all-butter crumble". The "authenticity" of these dishes is a fib impossible to spot. We may be aware there's been a huge rise in sales of ready meals, but now they're being disguised as home cooking.

My problem is our refusal to admit that reality is obscured by illusory ideals. It's not only that Jamie employs around 5,000 staff and is reportedly worth £65m, it's that he foregrounds his lovely-jubbly persona and rapport with dinner ladies. TV executives try to get around these contradictions with the help of that weasel word "aspirational". But it just doesn't wash. This is not just food. This is 100% mock-authentic, mock-egalitarian class hierarchy. Supermarket labels such as "organic", "finest" and "taste the difference", or "economy", "basics" and "everyday", are euphemisms for food apartheid. I am addicted to the genius TV series Come Dine With Me, but the butt of the jokes are the wannabe foodies in Luton who serve starters of "microsalads", main courses in "towers" on large square plates and desserts that always come as a trio. Jamie's Ministry Of Food claimed to bring home cooking to the ordinary British family, but the series was riddled with undeclared class dynamics. Those mothers who passed chips through the fence at Rawmarsh school in South Yorkshire after it started serving Jamie's healthy school dinners were protesting against paternalism. As one of them explained, "This isn't about us against healthy food, like they've been saying… It's about how people change the rules." I believe Jamie's gastronomical good intentions, but his outrage at seeing mothers bottle-feeding Coke to their babies has a class dimension that is never explicitly addressed. Because he himself doesn't sound posh, there's a sense that if he's made it good, so can they. Jamie raises the stakes for middle-class fans by presenting expensive, cheffy food as barrow-boy basics ("Tear up yer tarragon, drizzle yer top-quality olive oil"). And he raises the stakes for working-class mums by implying that there's no excuse for not pulling themselves up by their culinary bootstraps.

It's not only class inequality that lurks beneath the new food culture, it's gender inequality, too. When Jamie debuted on British TV as The Naked Chef in 1999, he was credited with encouraging the most male-chauvinistic of oafs to try their hand at a fairy cake. And indeed, this has come to pass in some households. But very often it's the men who are flambéeing the bananas at the Saturday night dinner party, while the women are plotting how to stretch the Sunday roast leftovers into day three. Female TV chefs are filmed in a cosy kitchen, male chefs in some kind of rustic outhouse or on a beach with an improvised barbecue. In 2010, Waitrose spent £10m on an advertising campaign featuring two people: "Britain's best chef" and "Our best-loved cook". No prizes for guessing which was Heston Blumenthal and which was Delia Smith.

It's a new backlash sexism, I believe, that accounts for the fact that so many famous chefs' wives are prominent foodies themselves. Their role is to absorb the feminine connotations of their husbands' cookery. "The trick to Christmas," says Tesco Magazine Celebrity Mum of the Year Tana Ramsay, being interviewed for said magazine, "is making things in advance as much as you can, such as chopping the vegetables on Christmas Eve." After the Ramsays have opened their stockings, the article continues, "Gordon and son Jack, eight, whizz off to Claridge's to wish his restaurant staff a merry Christmas. At home, under Tana's watchful guidance, daughters Megan, 10, Holly, eight, and Matilda, six, help their mum keep an eye on the turkey."

The end result is that celebrity chefs and their wives – Tana'n'Gordon, Jamie'n'Jools – end up modelling in the media traditional gender stereotypes that undercut the right-on rhetoric. Take Jools Oliver's Minus Nine To One: The Diary Of An Honest Mum, which contains children's recipes: "A few months before our wedding," she confides in the book, "Jamie asked if I wanted to become his PA. I agreed, as it meant that I would get to see him every day and I thought it would be fun, plus I was never really a career girl anyway. (Who was I kidding? I wanted the babies, the baking and the roses round the door.)" For all the metrosexual class-busting bluster, it's this message we are left with.

My local Waitrose offers a choice of four different kinds of salmon fillet: standard fillets; "Wild Alaskan Sockeye" fillets, "caught in Alaska's well managed, sustainable fishery, certified to Marine Stewardship Council standard"; "Select Farm" fillets from "dedicated farms in locations carefully chosen for their highly oxygenated, fast-flowing tidal waters"; and "Duchy from Waitrose Organic" fillets, "organically farmed to Soil Association standards on Shetland and Orkney". It's a classic example of totally uninformative information. If I were a salmon, I think I'd appreciate highly oxygenated, fast-flowing tidal waters; so how come Duchy from Waitrose organic salmon don't get to swim in them? And how come wild Alaskan salmon are caught in a fishery? That shelf of salmon fillets appeared to offer a diverse range of tasty, affordable, environmentally-friendly fish. But the reality of which kind of fillet would be best for me, best for the fishermen and best for our oceans is simply impossible to make out.

The same goes for seasonal fruit and veg. Seasonality is a virtue heavily promoted by Jamie and the rest. It has the advantage of being an enjoyable virtue, too: I love summery, flavoursome tomatoes and sweet blackberries. But if I go to the supermarket or the local grocer, it's just not that easy to work out what's on nature's menu.

Then there's organic food. The tech spec of organic food – the fact that nothing synthetic is used in its production – suggests flavour, nutritional value and agricultural ethics. But it has become a devalued, mass-market symbolic indicator. Organics are promoted as both available to all and a luxury treat, but often they're more expensive and they taste the same. And they're not even necessarily good for the environment, either. Increasing demand has led to organic meat being raised on vast industrial feed lots, and the scarcity of organic ingredients means they are flown around the world. Research sponsored by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs showed that the production of a litre of organic milk requires 80% more land than conventional milk. And that organically reared cows burp and fart twice as much methane as conventionally reared cattle, which would be amusing if it weren't for the fact that methane is 20 times more powerful a greenhouse gas than CO2.

Overall, the research on environmental impact is contradictory, which only makes it harder for consumers to work out what to do. The marketing of organic food taps into our innermost drives and ambitions: to be good, to be good to ourselves, to be worth the extra cost. But the only people for whom it definitively seems to be good are managers of multinationals. Ben & Jerry's is owned by Unilever. Coca-Cola has a majority stake in Innocent smoothies. Back To Nature is owned by Kraft. Supermarkets may display their organic food in rustic-looking baskets, and Starbucks may camouflage its corporate brand under local "community personality", but farmers in the developing world suffer from diminishing profits, and our soil, sea and atmosphere are ever more degraded.

The food industry successfully hides its influence behind persuasive talk of the power of the individual. The industry and government alike argue that it is consumer choice and consumer demand that really drive change. Yet a Royal Society report published in 2010 revealed that, although consumers consulted 10 years earlier about whether they wanted GM food had responded with a resounding "no", GM has nevertheless thoroughly penetrated the food supply in the form of soya animal feed and cooking oil. The notion that consumers are in control of the food industry is a myth, as is the notion that they are at liberty to make well-informed decisions about the food they buy. One of the Cornish pasty company Ginsters' favourite slogans is "Keeping it local". But its pasties are taken on a 250-mile round trip by lorry before being delivered to the Tesco next door to its Cornwall plant (they insist it's more efficient that way). A slice of Cranks seeded farmhouse bread has twice the amount of salt as a packet of Walkers ready-salted crisps. McVitie's light digestive biscuits have less fat than McVitie's original digestives, but more sugar, so the difference between the biscuits is just four calories. But then a 2009 article in the New Scientist pointed out that even calorie labelling is unhelpful, because the body digests different foods at different rates. "Consumers aren't stupid" is the stock industry response when challenged on their campaigns of misdirection. Yet in her 2010 book Green Gone Wrong, the environmental writer Heather Rogers quotes the director of an organic conglomerate noting that "most consumers are simple minds [who] look at the label and nothing else". But with labels that are this misleading, intelligence is a red herring.

The industry insists that in selling the sugary, fatty, salty foods that are contributing so much to rates of obesity, heart disease and type 2 diabetes, it is simply giving people what they want. In reality, of course, the industry doesn't just respond to desires: it shapes them. Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein talk a lot about food choices in their book Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth And Happiness. Their proposals, which include placing fruit at eye level in school canteens, are an acknowledgment that people aren't very good at choosing healthy food. They're an acknowledgment, in other words, of the fallacy of the much-trumpeted notion of the rational consumer, although the governments that are in thrall to the politics of nudge seem untroubled by this contradiction. For all their good intentions, Thaler and Sunstein underestimate just how energetically the food industry is working to prevent healthy choices. Often what is needed is some basic information, some rudimentary transparency, rather than a nudge. A traffic light system for labelling healthy and unhealthy food would be a start – research shows it's the most helpful one for consumers – but that would mean giving consumers real power to choose.

One of Tory health secretary Andrew Lansley's first moves in office was to promise that "government and FSA promotion of traffic light labelling will stop" as part of a big shake-up of public health. Out went regulation, legislation and "top-down lectures"; in came voluntary corporate action and individual responsibility. Lansley set up a series of "responsibility deal networks" designed to get public health officials to "work with business". The idea of McDonald's, KFC and Pepsi designing public health policy outdoes Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four. And one of the networks, in charge of "public health behaviour change", was to work with the government's newly set up "nudge unit". There it is again, the real payoff of nudge policy: to nudge us into buying from big corporations.

There's a huge denial of inequality here: between consumers and corporations, and also between different kinds of consumers. In reality, there is one group of shoppers that can afford to be ethical and another that can't. The fact is, people on low incomes are more likely to buy food that is bad for them and bad for the environment. But corporations and governments take advantage of the taboos of false consciousness and inequality in order to protest that they are simply letting consumers choose what they want. We are labouring under the delusion not only of freely available, low-cost, great-quality, nutritional food, but also of a level playing field of money, power and information.

The fact that we tolerate this delusional state of affairs does not speak well of us. It makes us seem passive, blinkered and bovine. The cheapness of food has provided us with a false sense of security, allowing us to believe we're getting the best of both worlds. But food prices are rising. In some ways that will make food choices more conscious, and more consciously political. But there's also a danger that we'll focus more attention on price alone. It's not really our fault. It's hard to make good choices when the marketing of products is so opaque and befuddling. It's hard to detect the silent promotion of inequality by mainstream food culture when the headlines are all about democratisation and demographic change. But we are like orally fixated toddlers, transfixed by Nigella's cupcakey bosom, Starbucks' vanilla frappuccinos and Michelin-starred creamy, frothy sauces. We need to wise up to the rhetoric of food and start tasting reality.

This is an edited extract from Get Real: How To Tell It Like It Is In A World of Illusions, by Eliane Glaser, published by Fourth Estate at £14.99.

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Re: Food

Post  Guest on Sun Mar 04, 2012 2:46 am

pinhedz wrote:A case can be made for total abstention from coffee.

A case can also be made for habitual coffee drinking.

But no case can be made for drinking coffee in moderation.

The WebMD who always says "Moderation is the key" should be disbarred. bounce

It would be like saying "one has to be generous... but in moderation"

(from the movie "el pisito" http://acrosstheuniverse.forummotion.com/t1284-luis-garcia-berlanga)

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Re: Food

Post  eddie on Sun Mar 18, 2012 4:52 am


Berger & Wyse

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Re: Food

Post  pinhedz on Sun Mar 18, 2012 9:43 am

There's a new restaurant in town called "Pure Pasty."

They got a British flag out front, but they sell stuff with names like "Traditional Masala" and "Moroccan Lamb."

They say they are the first of their kind in Virginia.

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Re: Food

Post  eddie on Sun Apr 01, 2012 8:35 pm


Chris Riddell

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Re: Food

Post  pinhedz on Sun Apr 01, 2012 11:03 pm

Are the rumours about a tax on Pasties true?

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Re: Food

Post  eddie on Mon Apr 02, 2012 1:32 am

pinhedz wrote:Are the rumours about a tax on Pasties true?

If they're served hot, yes. Same applies to sausage rolls.

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Re: Food

Post  Yakima Canutt on Wed Apr 04, 2012 2:54 pm

elephant elephant elephant elephant elephant elephant
ADVANCED MEAT RECOVERY systems remove the attached skeletal muscle and edible tissues from carcasses without breaking or crushing bones. This machinery separates meat by scraping, shaving or pressing the muscle and edible tissue away from the bone. However, unlike traditional mechanical separation, AMR machinery cannot break, grind, crush or pulverize bones to separate muscle tissue. Bones must emerge essentially intact and in natural physical conformation.

The AMR process is used to produce meat from beef and pork carcasses. This process is not recognized for use with poultry because the small size and brittle nature of poultry bones would make it extremely difficult for machinery to separate the tissue while still leaving the bone essentially intact.

In January 1995, USDA’s definition of meat was amended to include product from advanced meat/bone separation systems. Meat derived from this method is comparable in texture and composition to meat trimmings and similar to hand-deboned products so it does not require special labeling. AMR product is labeled as “meat” on product labeling (i.e., “beef,” “pork,” “beef trimmings,” etc.). Since spinal cord tissue falls outside the definition of “meat,” product produced using AMR systems cannot contain spinal cord tissue.

FSIS issued a revision to an existing directive that instructs inspectors at establishments using AMR systems to take routine regulatory samples to verify that spinal cord is not present in AMR product. If spinal cord tissue is identified then the product is misbranded under FSIS regulations.




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Re: Food

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