Monday, August 25, 2008
"Jamie Oliver has launched an extraordinary attack on the British - portraying them as more interested in getting drunk than eating well.
'Unlike French people, and I regret it, we lost our traditions. In gastronomy, the world evolves and changes. And right in front of us, isolated from everything, you have France where nothing changes.'"
Here's the article.
For me, much of the same could be said about American food habits, but, oh wait, we never had an interesting food history to begin with..... Or did we? Something to think about.
Also, I would contend with his point that the tradition of French food never changes--while there are, undeniably and absolutely, many culinary techniques and traditions that remain connected to the culture and will never die, there are also many new Americanized habits that are slowly creeping their way into mainstream French culture. Of course, as always, I'm talking about McDonald's--the one in my Parisian neighborhood always had a line when I would walk by, day or night, and the kids I nannied would BEG me for it. Just like American kids! And, of course, other things too...Pringles in the grocery store, more processed and canned items, more eating on the run than the tradition of sitting and relaxing with your meal, American companies enforcing hour-long lunches, etc. etc.
Mr. Oliver, I would also like to simply say that the British culinary tradition that you are grieving is lacking flavor and style and furthermore many of your recipes were for post-pub grilled bacon and peanut butter sandwiches and the like, so claiming that people are more interested in 'getting drunk at the pub' than what they eat is not quite accurate--they are interested in both, just maybe sequentially is all, at least according to your previous cookbooks...
Thursday, August 21, 2008
So, what does America want to eat these days? What's "hot" on America's plate right now!? What's poppin' in yo mouth outta control!? Ladies and gentleman, I present the Applebee's Quesadilla Burger:
Wednesday, August 20, 2008
Better to Be Fat and Fit Than Skinny and UnfitBy TARA PARKER-POPE
NYT Well Blog
Often, a visit to the doctor’s office starts with a weigh-in. But is a person’s weight really a reliable indicator of overall health?
Increasingly, medical research is showing that it isn’t. Despite concerns about an obesity epidemic, there is growing evidence that our obsession about weight as a primary measure of health may be misguided.
Last week a report in The Archives of Internal Medicine compared weight and cardiovascular risk factors among a representative sample of more than 5,400 adults. The data suggest that half of overweight people and one-third of obese people are “metabolically healthy.” That means that despite their excess pounds, many overweight and obese adults have healthy levels of “good” cholesterol, blood pressure, blood glucose and other risks for heart disease.
At the same time, about one out of four slim people — those who fall into the “healthy” weight range — actually have at least two cardiovascular risk factors typically associated with obesity, the study showed.
To be sure, being overweight or obese is linked with numerous health problems, and even in the most recent research, obese people were more likely to have two or more cardiovascular risk factors than slim people. But researchers say it is the proportion of overweight and obese people who are metabolically healthy that is so surprising.
“We use ‘overweight’ almost indiscriminately sometimes,” said MaryFran Sowers, a co-author of the study and professor of epidemiology at the University of Michigan. “But there is lots of individual variation within that, and we need to be cognizant of that as we think about what our health messages should be.”
The data follow a report last fall from researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Cancer Institute showing that overweight people appear to have longer life expectancies than so-called normal weight adults.
But many people resist the notion that people who are overweight or obese can be healthy. Several prominent health researchers have criticized the findings from the C.D.C. researchers as misleading, noting that mortality statistics don’t reflect the poor quality of life and suffering obesity can cause. And on the Internet, various blog posters, including readers of the Times’s Well blog, have argued that the data are deceptive, masking the fact that far more overweight and obese people are at higher cardiovascular risk than thin people.
Part of the problem may be our skewed perception of what it means to be overweight. Typically, a person is judged to be of normal weight based on body mass index, or B.M.I., which measures weight relative to height. A normal B.M.I. ranges from 18.5 to 25. Once B.M.I. reaches 25, a person is viewed as overweight. Thirty or higher is considered obese.
“People get confused by the words and the mental image they get,” said Katherine Flegal, senior research scientist at the C.D.C.’s National Center for Health Statistics. “People may think, ‘How could it be that a person who is so huge wouldn’t have health problems?’ But people with B.M.I.’s of 25 are pretty unremarkable.”
Several studies from researchers at the Cooper Institute in Dallas have shown that fitness — determined by how a person performs on a treadmill — is a far better indicator of health than body mass index. In several studies, the researchers have shown that people who are fat but can still keep up on treadmill tests have much lower heart risk than people who are slim and unfit.
In December, a study in The Journal of the American Medical Association looked at death rates among 2,600 adults 60 and older over 12 years. Notably, death rates among the overweight, those with a B.M.I. of 25 to 30, were slightly lower than in normal weight adults. Death rates were highest among those with a B.M.I. of 35 or more.
But the most striking finding was that fitness level, regardless of body mass index, was the strongest predictor of mortality risk. Those with the lowest level of fitness, as measured on treadmill tests, were four times as likely to die during the 12-year study than those with the highest level of fitness. Even those who had just a minimal level of fitness had half the risk of dying compared with those who were least fit.
During the test, the treadmill moved at a brisk walking pace as the grade increased each minute. In the study, it didn’t take much to qualify as fit. For men, it meant staying on the treadmill at least 8 minutes; for women, 5.5 minutes. The people who fell below those levels, whether fat or thin, were at highest risk.
The results were adjusted to control for age, smoking and underlying heart problems and still showed that fitness, not weight, was most important in predicting mortality risk.
Stephen Blair, a co-author of the study and a professor at the Arnold School of Public Health at the University of South Carolina, said the lesson he took from the study was that instead of focusing only on weight loss, doctors should be talking to all patients about the value of physical activity, regardless of body size.
“Why is it such a stretch of the imagination,” he said, “to consider that someone overweight or obese might actually be healthy and fit?”
Friday, August 15, 2008
A NEW weapon in the battle against obesity was rolled out last month when the Los Angeles City Council decided to stop new fast food restaurants from opening in some of the city’s poorest neighborhoods.
Even in a country where a third of the schoolchildren are overweight or obese, the yearlong moratorium raises questions about when eating one style of food stops being a personal choice and becomes a public health concern.
The Sisyphean struggle against poor diets has included booting soda from schools, banning trans fat and, more recently, sending New Yorkers into dietary sticker shock with a law that requires calorie counts be posted on menus, right next to the prices.
But this appears to be the first time a government has prohibited a specific style of restaurant for health, rather than aesthetic, reasons.
Jonathan Gold, the LA Weekly food critic who won a Pulitzer Prize last year, said he understands the spirit of the freeze, which is an urban planning measure meant to keep the neighborhood, South Los Angeles, from being swallowed up by drive-though fast food restaurants. (A separate measure by the city provides economic incentives for new grocery stores and restaurants with table service.)
Fast food chains, he said, are like jellyfish in the ocean: with too many in one area, nothing else can thrive.
But he worries that the law could keep out places of more culinary interest. South Los Angeles has the best barbecue in the city, he said, and it has a growing number of cooks from Mexico and Central America making lamb barbacoa and pupusas. “Anytime you try to ban something, there’s a lot of bycatch,” he said.
The moratorium’s definition of a fast food business is any stand-alone restaurant that dispenses food, to stay or to go, and that has “a limited menu, items prepared in advance or prepared or heated quickly, no table orders, and food served in disposable wrapping or containers.” It is up to the city’s director of planning to decide which places fit that definition.
That could keep out people like Sue Moore, who sells a high-quality hot dog from cattle raised on pasture, served with fresh grilled onions on top. She was invited to park her Let’s Be Frank truck at the premiere of “Star Wars: The Clone Wars” this week at the Egyptian Theater in Hollywood.
She and her partner, Larry Bain, who runs two hot dog carts in San Francisco, say that there’s nothing wrong with fast food if it’s made with good ingredients. They worry that their dogs will be shunned along with dogs made from lesser ingredients.
“Our policy makers abhor nuance and the subtle but distinct qualities that differentiate fast food from food that can be served fast,” said Mr. Bain.
The councilwoman behind the moratorium, Jan Perry, says its intent is not to crush food choices, but to encourage variety and give residents more nutritious options. Making healthy decisions about food is difficult when people have small incomes, the grocery store is five miles away and a $1 cheeseburger is right around the corner, she and supporters of the ban say.
The moratorium doesn’t mean that people who live within the affected 32-square-mile zone will be cut off from the pleasures of an inexpensive cheeseburger and hot fries. More than 45 percent of the 900 restaurants there — the highest concentration in the city — are fast food chains.
The idea is to bring new eating options to the city’s food deserts, the term now in vogue to describe poor neighborhoods whose residents have few places to buy fresh groceries.
“People do not understand what happens in a disenfranchised community,” said Councilwoman Perry, who represents neighborhoods in the area. “The fact remains, there are not a lot of food choices in South L.A.”
Since there is not much land left to develop in the area, the moratorium will allow city planners time to determine what kinds of businesses would be best in an area where rates of obesity and diseases related to it are disproportionately high.
“Anybody who believes fast food is the source of all dietary evil is, of course, being naïve,” she said. Other facets of modern life contribute to obesity. People drive more than they walk. Children play video games more often than stickball. And daily life has become saturated with opportunities to eat.
Thursday, August 14, 2008
From the AP:
Newly released files detail early US spy network
By BRETT J. BLACKLEDGE and RANDY HERSCHAFT – 4 hours ago
WASHINGTON (AP) — Before Julia Child became known to the world as a leading chef, she admitted at least one failing when applying for a job as a spy: impulsiveness.
Details about Child's background as a government agent come into the public spotlight Thursday with the National Archives' release of more than 35,000 top-secret personnel files of World War II-era spies. The CIA held this information for decades.
The 750,000 documents identify the vast spy network managed by the Office of Strategic Services, which later became the CIA. President Franklin Roosevelt created the OSS, the country's first centralized intelligence operation.
Child's file shows that in her OSS application, she included a note expressing regret she left an earlier department store job hastily because she did not get along with her boss, said William Cunliffe, an archivist who has worked extensively with the OSS records at the National Archives.
The OSS files offer details about other agents, including Supreme Court Justice Arthur Goldberg, major league catcher Moe Berg, historian Arthur Schlesinger Jr. and film actor Sterling Hayden.
Other notables identified in the files include John Hemingway, son of author Ernest Hemingway; Quentin and Kermit Roosevelt, sons of President Theodore Roosevelt; and Miles Copeland, father of Stewart Copeland, drummer for the band The Police.
Some of those on the list have been identified previously as having worked for the OSS, but their personnel records never have been available before. Those records would show why they were hired, jobs they were assigned to and perhaps even missions they pursued while working for the agency.
The release of the OSS personnel files unmasks one of the last secrets from the short-lived wartime intelligence agency, which for the most part was later folded into the CIA after President Truman disbanded it in 1945.
"I think it's terrific," said Elizabeth McIntosh, 93, a former OSS agent now living in Woodbridge, Va. "They've finally, after all these years, they've gotten the names out. All of these people had been told never to mention they were with the OSS."
The CIA long resisted releasing the records. But a former CIA director, William Casey, himself an OSS veteran, cleared the way for transfer of millions of OSS documents to the National Archives when he took over the spy agency in 1981. The personnel files are the latest documents to be made public.
Information about OSS involvement was so guarded that relatives often could not confirm a family member's work with the group.
Walter Mess, who handled covert OSS operations in Poland and North Africa, said he kept quiet for more than 50 years, only recently telling his wife of 62 years about his OSS activity.
"I was told to keep my mouth shut," said Mess, now 93 and living in Falls Church, Va.
The files provide new information even for those most familiar with the agency. Charles Pinck, president of the OSS Society created by former OSS agents and their relatives, said the nearly 24,000 employees included in the archives far exceed previous estimates of 13,000.
The newly released documents will clarify these and other issues, Cunliffe said.
"We're saying the OSS was a lot bigger than they were saying," he said.
Unanimous Decision of New Jersey Supreme Court Results in Precedent-Setting Victory for Farm Animals
"The Court therefore strikes as invalid the definition of 'routine husbandry practices'"
Friday, August 8, 2008
Thursday, August 7, 2008
From the NYT: Recipes for Health - Beets:
Recently in the Well blog, Tara Parker-Pope wondered if she has been missing out on beets, which one researcher recently identified as nutritional powerhouses, high in folate, manganese and potassium.
If you, like Ms. Parker-Pope, have never made beets, then yes, you really are missing out. It’s easy to love fresh beets, and not just for their nutritional advantages. Beets have an earthy, hard-to-define flavor like no other vegetable’s, one reason they so often appear on high-end restaurant menus. But they're perfect at home, too, and so this week we'll be offering some simple ways to prepare them.
Beets are available year-round, but the best time to buy them is June through October, when they are at their most tender. Look for unblemished bulbs with sturdy, unwilted greens. In addition to the usual red variety, you may find beautiful golden beets, and pink-and-white striated Chioggia beets. Unless a red color is important to the dish, either type can be used interchangeably with red beets.
Often purchasers ask that the greens be chopped off. That’s a mistake -- the greens bring an additional set of nutrients to the plate, most notably beta-carotene, vitamin C, iron and calcium. Take your beets home from the farmer’s market with the greens intact.
Roasting is the easiest way to cook beets, not least because the skins will slip right off. Cooking them this way is easy.
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Cut the greens away from the beets, leaving about 1/4 inch of stems. (Later this week, we'll show you how to sauté the greens.) Scrub the beets and place in a baking dish (or lidded ovenproof casserole dish). Add 1/4 inch of water to the dish. Cover tightly. Place in the oven and roast small beets (three ounces or less) for 30 to 40 minutes, medium beets (four to six ounces) for 40 to 45 minutes, and large beets (eight ounces or more) for 50 to 60 minutes. They’re done when they’re easily penetrated with the tip of a knife. Remove from the oven and allow to cool in the covered baking dish. Cut away the ends and slip off the skins.
Roasted beets are wonderful on their own or simply dressed with a vinaigrette, and they will keep for five days in a covered bowl in the refrigerator. Best not to peel them until you plan to eat them.
Approximate Nutritional Information: 1 roasted beet: 44 calories; Total fat: 0.2g; cholesterol 0mg; sodium 77mg; Total carbohydrates 10.0g; Dietary Fiber 2.0g; Sugars 8.0g; Protein 1.7 g. (Data provided by calorie-count.com)
Tuesday, August 5, 2008
I vacillate on my feelings about Whole Foods--is it just another corporate entity out to make money or are they more invested in the well-being of society? My general question, at least. And my general answer is usually: Both. Devil in Birkenstocks Syndrome.
An article in the NYT looks at a different aspect, however: Is Whole Foods affordable and what are they doing to market their products as such? It's sort of an interesting peek at the economic side of things, most notably trends towards organics and how our recent recession (yeah, I'll call it that) has affected choices in regards to groceries:
"Making matters worse for Whole Foods, consumer interest in organic food appears to be leveling off after several years of double-digit growth, according to the Hartman Group, a market research firm specializing in health and wellness.
Laurie Demeritt, president of the Hartman Group, said core consumers for organic goods, about 15 percent of the population, are becoming even more committed. But people less attached to such items are continuing to buy organic dairy products, produce and meat, and are buying fewer organic goods among packaged items, like cereal and crackers, she said.
“They don’t see those center-store categories as being so important,” she said. “The economy has only exacerbated that situation.”"Anyway, here it is.
One wonders how much money affects nutrition in a first world country. Fruits and vegetables are not terribly expensive--they're certainly cheaper than a lot of foods that are bad for you, but what of organics? Where do people shift their emphasis when times are tough? As the article notes, many people focus on buying meat and dairy products that are organic first and things like cereal second. But, does Whole Foods in and of itself become a place essentially off-limits to shop for the average, less affluent consumer? I wonder how many people are just intimidated to walk into the store where they sell quail eggs ($40/each, I saw them with my own eyes yesterday) and crimini mushrooms and aged gouda at exorbitant prices, albeit they have grains in bulk, the 365 brand that is actually pretty cheap and tofu for a buck. What influences people's knowledge about these places? Why do people shop where they shop? In Manhattan, Whole Foods offers some of the only 'real' grocery stores by American standards. Otherwise, it's small markets, bodegas and discount emporium type places.
Does Whole Foods accept food stamps? More importantly, how comfortable would someone feel using them there?
Whole Foods, and the entire genre of organics/healthy eating/green-ness, etc. seem to need--and they are getting this--to shift their marketing and ad campaigns over from an image of elitism and superiority to that of wholesomeness and affordable nutritional choices, but at the same time being interesting and hip (see my previous article on greenwashing). Bring it down to the masses, yo, and your stock will go up. It's the new economics. Paradigm shift. Just ask Richard Branson.
Friday, August 1, 2008
I just read this article in the WSJ which pretty much makes me sink into utter despair and oblivion. It claims that Obama's image is suffering even more with voters because he's too fit, shies away too much from junk food and is a "gym rat" (as if that's even possible on the campaign trail). Sigh:
"But in a nation in which 66% of the voting-age population is overweight and 32% is obese, could Sen. Obama's skinniness be a liability? Despite his visits to waffle houses, ice-cream parlors and greasy-spoon diners around the country, his slim physique just might have some Americans wondering whether he is truly like them.
The candidate has been criticized by opponents for appearing elitist or out of touch with average Americans. A Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll conducted in July shows Sen. Obama still lags behind Republican John McCain among white men and suburban women who say they can't relate to his background or perceived values."
Are people JOKING. I will concede somewhat on the arugula issue, okay, okay, but when it comes to being fit and interested in one's health, how can that be a detriment to one's presidential candidacy? We have stooped so low in this country in terms of health that we are uninterested in voting for a president because he's "too skinny" --i.e. unable to identify with the average American! We are so overweight that we need someone overweight as our leader so we don't feel bad about ourselves? People actually use this as a criteria upon which to judge a president? It actually matters to them that he's not TOO skinny, that he's not too healthy. I thought we wanted change, people?
I guess people are even criticizing that mole on his face. Really. I enjoyed Gawker's take on this as well.
What's sort of intriguing to me, however, is that W. is, or at least was, incredibly fit. I heard he has a resting heartrate of like 9 beats per minute or something (okay, not 9, but something really low). According to the WSJ image/chart thing, however, he's a little hefty. He doesn't really look hefty though, right? I think he's quite fit. What does it mean that we perceive these things about our leaders? We've had like, what, one or two decent looking presidents? How can this hold so much weight? It seems, again, more than his actual appearance, it comes down to Obama's lack of interest in eating the shitty food produced by people across this land trying to shove it down his throat on campaign stops. He seems to not relate because he seems to not shovel fried anything into his mouth and that's when people crinkle their noses and scratch their heads. It's about the food connection between people and places and culture rather than his actual fitness, I think.
So, what is this really saying about Americans? It's as though our society is looking for comfort and validation from leaders rather than challenges and calls to heed. I need to ruminate on this a bit and will write more, but thought I'd throw it out there for now.