Strong opinions, weakly held

Tag: food (page 3 of 6)

Enjoy your fresh, farm-raised salmon

Andrew Leonard on a Salmon farming disaster in Chile:

Who could have predicted that the mass forced farming of an exotic fish to please the Wal-Mart low-price palate would result in a horrific virus-borne plague of anemia?

I don’t eat farmed salmon if I can help it.

Oyster reefs are disappearing

You can add oysters to the list of ocean dwellers that humans are wiping out by way of our stomachs and unwillingness to preserve their habitats. The good news is that not only is oyster farming sustainable, it is actually good for the environment.

This is a good time to mention the Monterrey Bay Aquarium guide to eating seafood. I use the iPhone version. Having reviewed the whole thing, here’s the basic upshot. If you stick with fish or shellfish farmed in the United States, you’re probably in the clear. Most wild seafood and nearly all seafood farmed overseas, especially in Asia, is a bad choice. Oh, and if you still eat bluefin tuna (also known as the stuff they make sushi out of), you are part of the problem.

Convincing people of their incapability

My favorite commercial on TV is for some kind of kitchen gadget. I don’t remember what it’s supposed to do, but it features a woman sticking a knife into an orange and wincing as citrus juice shoots into her eye. The point: performing some seemingly simple task is in fact difficult and dangerous, and you should purchase whatever gadget it is they’re selling to make your life easier.

Michael Ruhlman makes the argument that a huge portion of the food industry is built around convincing people that they’re too stupid to cook. Or that cooking is too hard to bother with.

If I had to pick one bone with the marketing and advertising professions, this would be it. I don’t have an issue with people touting the advantages and capabilities of their products, but I’m disgusted by the corrosive effort to convince people that they are helpless (or unsafe) without whatever product is being pitched. This is of course a problem that goes beyond the food industry — it’s everywhere. And if you asked me to identify the most powerful negative effect advertising has had on society, this is what I’d point toward.

Why passing laws is not like making sausage

The crux of the difference, I would say, is that comparing the operations of the US Congress to those of a sausage-maker is a huge insult to the sausage industry. You may or may not think that the sausage-making process looks “gross” in some sense, but the fact of the matter is that sausage is delicious.

Matthew Yglesias in Sausage is Delicious, Mediocre Legislation is Problematic. Read the whole thing.

The safest choice in ethnic cuisine

Korean is perhaps the safest bet, for two reasons. First, non-Koreans are not usually interested in the food. They might enjoy Bul-Gogi but there will be plenty of other dishes for Korean patrons and these will not be “dumbed down.” The lack of mainstream interest limits the potential for sell-out behavior on the part of the restaurant. Second, many Korean dishes, most of all the pickled vegetables, “travel” relatively well and do fine in a culture — the USA — which is not obsessed with fresh ingredients.

Tyler Cowen: Which are the “safest” cuisines? He nominates Chinese as the most dangerous (in terms of the likelihood of getting a bad meal). I heard once that there are more Chinese restaurants in America than McDonalds and Wendy’s combined. With those kinds of numbers, the odds are never going to be very good.

Why you should care about menhaden


The deal with fish oil, I found out, is that a considerable portion of it comes from a creature upon which the entire Atlantic coastal ecosystem relies, a big-headed, smelly, foot-long member of the herring family called menhaden, which a recent book identifies in its title as “The Most Important Fish in the Sea.”

Paul Greenberg: A Fish Oil Story. This is a must-read.

The implications of eating meat

Today’s New York Times op-ed page features a piece by Nicolette Hahn Niman, wife of the founder of Niman Ranch, one of the big names in sustainable livestock. Her goal is to push back against the argument that to be an environmentalist you have to stop eating meat in general, and beef in particular. Her argument is, in short, that the real problem is eating food (meat or vegetable) that’s not sustainably raised is the real problem when it comes to climate change.

For the past few months, I’ve definitely tried to cut back on the red meat. Industrial agriculture is cruel to animals and terrible for the environment, and eating beef is bad for your health, regardless. I haven’t cut it out completely because I love beef, but I have tried to be significantly more thoughtful about when I eat it. This piece argues that you don’t have to feel especially guilty for the occasional steak indulgence.

Cooks Illustrated versus the madding crowd

Cooks Illustrated editor Chris Kimball believes that recipes developed by professionals in a test kitchen will always beat recipes developed collaboratively by enthusiasts and has issued a challenge to prove it. The folks at food52 have accepted the challenge. This should be fun. I can’t wait until they make the movie version.

Christopher Kimball on the demise of Gourmet

Cooks Illustrated editor Christopher Kimball laments the demise of Gourmet in a New York Times op-ed today. Unfortunately, in the process of reminding us what was good about Gourmet, he decides to case aspersions of the darned old Internet along the way:

The shuttering of Gourmet reminds us that in a click-or-die advertising marketplace, one ruled by a million instant pundits, where an anonymous Twitter comment might be seen to pack more resonance and useful content than an article that reflects a lifetime of experience, experts are not created from the top down but from the bottom up. They can no longer be coronated; their voices have to be deemed essential to the lives of their customers. That leaves, I think, little room for the thoughtful, considered editorial with which Gourmet delighted its readers for almost seven decades.

To survive, those of us who believe that inexperience rarely leads to wisdom need to swim against the tide, better define our brands, prove our worth, ask to be paid for what we do, and refuse to climb aboard this ship of fools, the one where everyone has an equal voice. Google “broccoli casserole” and make the first recipe you find. I guarantee it will be disappointing. The world needs fewer opinions and more thoughtful expertise — the kind that comes from real experience, the hard-won blood-on-the-floor kind. I like my reporters, my pilots, my pundits, my doctors, my teachers and my cooking instructors to have graduated from the school of hard knocks.

I’m not sure why I’m linking to this, the latest in a huge long line of ignorant straw man arguments against blogs (and now, Twitter) by people whose lofty perch is threatened by the democratization of the media. In response to his argument, I’d make three points:

  1. There are a lot of people who’ve been able to build an audience by exhibiting real expertise and great writing ability on the Web who would probably have never gotten that opportunity anywhere else.
  2. There are a lot of so-called experts whose lack of insight and effort has not prevented them from being published and promoted in traditional outlets.
  3. 90% of everything is crap. Yes, it’s easy to find crap on the Internet, but it’s easy to find crap everywhere.

Gourmet will no longer be published

I was shocked to read today that Gourmet magazine is ceasing publication, and that the November issue will be the last. We started getting the magazine this year (as a gift) and I have been really impressed with it. It’s interesting from cover to cover, and the photography is beautiful. We’ve made a number of really good recipes we got from Gourmet as well. One of my favorite little things about the magazine is that the subscriber edition doesn’t include any marketing copy on the cover. It’s just the name of the magazine, and the cover photo. I don’t know why more magazines don’t take that approach.

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