Showing posts with label food. Show all posts
Showing posts with label food. Show all posts

May 23, 2013

“We’re on the last kick,” he said. “The bulk water is gone.”

All my adult life, I have been hearing predictions that the Ogallala Aquifer (also called the High Plains Aquifer by people unsure how to pronounce "Ogallala"), a huge sponge of water under the High Plains, was dropping . . . dropping . . . dropping.

Fly east out of Colorado Springs and look at all the irrigated circles from center-pivot irrigation. They are growing corn, mostly.

Corn to feed to cattle in High Plains stockyards. Corn for ethanol (it's patriotic!) to make us energy independent so we won't be sending money to the Middle East.

All those wells pumping groundwater have led to this result.
Vast stretches of Texas farmland lying over the aquifer no longer support irrigation. In west-central Kansas, up to a fifth of the irrigated farmland along a 100-mile swath of the aquifer has already gone dry. In many other places, there no longer is enough water to supply farmers’ peak needs during Kansas’ scorching summers. . . . .

A shift to growing corn, a much thirstier crop than most, has only worsened matters. Driven by demand, speculation and a government mandate to produce biofuels, the price of corn has tripled since 2002, and Kansas farmers have responded by increasing the acreage of irrigated cornfields by nearly a fifth.  
From a US Geological Survey report, quoted at Coyote Gulch, the water blog:
The study shows that, since 2000, depletion of the High Plains aquifer appears to be continuing at a high rate. The depletion during the last 8 years of record (2001–2008, inclusive) is about 32 percent of the cumulative depletion in this aquifer during the entire 20th century. The annual rate of depletion during this recent period averaged about 10.2 cubic kilometers, roughly 2 percent of the volume of water in Lake Erie.
Maybe we will see more grass-fed beef (or buffalo?)  and more winter wheat in on the High Plains in the future. That's the optimistic outlook. But that slogan from the 1970s and 1980s, "A bushel of wheat for a barrel of oil!" is still just chest-thumping nonsense.

May 22, 2013

Mediterranean Diet: The Dark Side

You have the olive oil, of course, and the seafood and the vegetables.

And the golden orioles, the nightingales, and the corncrakes. The larks and the finches, yum yum.

Call it a quirk of geography. Birds that migrate from Europe to Africa must cross the Mediterranean Sea, north to south or south to north. They are tired after that flight, easy to trap and kill, be it in Egypt, the Greek islands, Crete, Sicily, or the south of France.

In Egypt, for example, 
A few scattered nets along the coast have metastasized into a nearly impenetrable wall of traps, stretching almost without break from the Gaza strip in the east to the Libyan border in the west. Conservative estimates set the annual death toll of migratory birds in this area at 10 million, but others say it is probably an order of magnitude more.

In some areas, especially near Libya, the birds are caught for subsistence, by people who currently have no other way to feed themselves, but the vast majority, perhaps 80 percent of the birds trapped, are sold in markets as a pricey delicacy or hocked to high-end restaurants in Cairo for up to five euros for each slight songbird. 
This Mediterranean taste for songbird pasta sauce came to America and contributed to the shaping of American hunting regulations. Just as Americans were trying to move away from the "shoot everything" approach to conservation-guided hunting, along came the Italians (mainly) who got jobs, bought shotguns, took a train ride out into the country, and started shooting chickadees.

Louis Warren, writing in The Hunter's Game: Poachers and Conservationists in Twentieth-Century America, devotes a chapter to this cultural conflict:
Because Italian immigrants hunted birds, they were considered a principal threat to bird life and therefore an incipient cause of this potential apocalypse. In the minds of many, immigrants represented as much a threat to American nature, especially American birds, as they did to the social order of American cities. William T. Hornaday, the president of the New York Zoological Society and one of the most famous conservationists of the era, captured conservationists' fears of Italians in his widely read tract, Our Vanishing Wildlife: "Let every state and province in America look out sharply for the bird-killing foreigner; for sooner or later, he will surely attack your wild life. The Italians are spreading, spreading, spreading. If you are without them to-day, to-morrow they will be around you." 
In 1903, the influential conservation magazine Forest and Stream published an article, "The Italian and the Birds," noting,
Once I examined the contents of a bag that one of a party of three Italian hunters [in Massachusetts] carried and found nearly fifty birds, including two or three quails, which at that season were unlawfully taken, and among the song birds that constituted the greater portion of what the bag contained were several chickadees, a bird that with its feathers off is not much larger than an English walnut. I have learned that the Italians are in the habit of killing and eating chickadees and all other song birds, and for this purpose will snatch the young from their nests before they can fly.
Today, hunting regulations in America are better respected, and what transgressions take place usually take different forms. The French may even stop eating songbirds too.

Unfortunately, contemporary Egypt is a pretty dysfunctional nation that cannot even feed itself. (To think that Egypt fed parts of the Roman Empire at one time!) So bird conservation is pretty far down the to-do list, after massacring Coptic Christians and what-not.

May 05, 2013

Westword Interviews Michael Pollan

Michael Pollan
The Denver arts-and-entertainment weekly Westword recently interviewed food writer Michael Pollan, known for pithy sayings such as "Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants."

The interview is in two parts: one and two.

Here is a snippet:
Denver has a growing season of about a minute and a half, which makes it very difficult to stay local. What do you say to cities like us that don't have the same access to locality as cites like San Francisco, for example? And how important/necessary is it to stay local?

You do what you can. It's important to be reasonable and not fanatical. But it's worth remembering that most places ate local a hundred years ago, and there are great techniques for preserving food. Fermentation of vegetables has gotten a great many people through the long winters, with plenty of vitamins and nutrients from plants. Then there's meat, and cheese. History is our guide here, though many of us may want a more diversified diet than our forebears had during the winter months.

April 21, 2013

Blog Stew: Cook it for a Merit Badge

"Pimp My Walk" — an article on the glory days of walking canes, with comparison to today's hiking apparatus: "I’ve noticed an inverse correlation between the use of paired aluminum walking sticks and eye contact — they’re often like car drivers who don’t like to make eye contact with pedestrians.

• Being a locavore is fine, the writer says, but, contra Michael Pollan, is it a good idea for government to require locavorism?

Were Boy Scouts of 1911 tougher than today's or merely living in a "just do it" society?
One way to illuminate these changes is by comparing the original BSA handbook, published in 1911, with the modern version – the 12th edition was introduced in 2009. In an incisive book review for the Claremont Institute, Kathleen Arnn conducts this type of side-by-side analysis. She points out that while the modern version contains many of the same skills as the original, “its discussions of these things have been pared down and lack the verve, punch, and adventurous spirit—the manliness—of the original handbook.”
• • •
Modern badge requirements also diverge from the old in their more abstract, mental nature. While the 1911 badge requirements are all direct actions, often of the physical, hands-on variety, the modern badge requirements emphasize more thinking than doing. The hands-on tasks are now tucked into long lists of requirements that ask the scout to thoroughly Review/Describe/Explain/Illustrate/Demonstrate the underlying principles and context of the badge’s subject matter before trying their hand at it.

March 16, 2013

We've Got to Get Out of the House

Fisher on the Mineral Belt—10,606 feet.
First, load up everyone and drive to Leadville to find ski-able snow. (Not shown, M. and Shelby). Ski until tired on the perfectly groomed and completely free Mineral Belt Trail. Yes, it was snowing sporadically.
 
The "State Highway Department" is now a bar, actually, like Phil's Radiator Service down in Pueblo.
Drive back down into the "banana belt" of Buena Vista, where the long-declining downtown is starting to recover as an entertainment district. 

Supper.
Have some "New Mexican pizza"—a basic pepperoni pizza plus roasted green chiles — at the Eddyline brew pub in the "New Urbanist" South Main area. Also drink some amber lager.
  

Stop for a cocktail at the new Deerhammer micro-distillery in downtown BV. Consider attending the Ark Valley Libation Society event in Salida, where all the micro-brewers and distillers will be represented, but decide that we're tired and the dogs need to be fed.

March 11, 2013

Paleo Backlash, Special 'Pebbles'

An evolutionary biologist takes on the whole Paleo diet craze.
Recently, researchers discovered evidence that people in Europe were grinding and cooking grain (a paleo-diet bugaboo) as far back as 30,000 years ago, even if they weren’t actually cultivating it. “A strong body of evidence,” Zuk writes, “points to many changes in our genome since humans spread across the planet and developed agriculture, making it difficult at best to point to a single way of eating to which we were, and remain, best suited.”
This makes me feel better about eating several slices of M's home-baked bread today.

And for what happens twelve hours later . . .  I can see one of those bushcraft/survival school guys taking this and running with it — straight into the bush.

January 27, 2013

How Dogs Eat Starches



Anthropologist John Hawks notes a paper explaining how dogs—unlike wolves—evolved while living with humans to digest starches. In other words, they eat what we eat.
As in humans, the paper shows that dogs were selected strongly for a new agricultural diet. Just as in humans who descend from early agriculturalists, dogs have extensive duplication of the amylase gene. Humans express amylase in saliva, but as explained in the paper dogs only produce amylase in the pancreas, where it digests starches intestinally. Where this paper gets really exciting is when the authors began to investigate the entire metabolic pathway underlying starch digestion. The amylase gene AMY2B underwent duplications similar to those in humans, and not found in wolves.
Patrick "Terrierman" Burns weighs in:
Sure, you have observed that even the bunko dog food companies that sell food that costs a lot more (using nonsense words like "human-grade," "holistic," "natural" and "homeopathic" ) pack their tins and bags with potatoes and peas, quinoa and rice, pumpkin and whatever else that is not the natural diet of a wolf (i.e. dead mice, dead rats, and road-kill deer).
Dogs, unlike bloggers, do not digest snark, as far as I can tell.

October 17, 2012

On the Road: Newcastle, Wyoming

Donna's Main Street Diner — the classic knotty pine-and-deer heads Western cafe.

What did I eat? Some kind of scrambled up eggs-potatoes-meat combination.

Coal trains rumbled past the motel all night, but whereas highway traffic bothers me, trains do not so much. When I was a college student, a friend and I rented a house in Portland, Oregon, of which we said, "The Southern Pacific runs through the kitchen."

The trains kept me awake for one night, but never again thereafter.

Nourished at Donna's, I set out for a day poking around in the Black Hills.

October 08, 2012

Blog Stew with Salt, All the Salt You Want

• Talk about a long dry spell. "The last sex between Neanderthals and modern humans likely occurred as recently as 47,000 years ago."

• You are not a hypertensive rat. And salt is not necessarily bad for you.
“You can say without any shadow of a doubt,” as I was told then by Drummond Rennie, an editor for The Journal of the American Medical Association, that the authorities pushing the eat-less-salt message had “made a commitment to salt education that goes way beyond the scientific facts.”
• Dry spell of the literary variety? Just write to your pal Robert Heinlein, and he will give you lots of ideas and advice. Oh, wait a minute . . .

August 08, 2012

Food, Social Class, and Class-Resentment.

I rather be writing about mushrooms (and would that make me a "liberal" or a "conservative"?), but I will step aside and urge you to watch Rod Dreher wade into the swamp of issues of food and class.

Americans cannot talk about class honestly. A lot of our talk about "race" is actually about class, which is why it is so illogical and even dishonest.

When you mix in food prejudices, you might find yourself meeting yourself coming around the corner.

I have had older students run the "I can't afford to buy organic foods" routine on me, but without examining their monthly spending patterns, I could not say if that was true or not.

Lots of good lines in Dreher's article. Here are some:
The food snob is a comedy staple (ever seen the BBC’s hilarious “Posh Nosh” send-up of culinary elitists?) and, for many conservatives, an object of political derision. It’s easy to make fun of liberals who glide up to San Francisco farmer’s markets in their (metaphorical) limousines, agonizing over the purity of the squash’s provenance with the anxious attention of a medieval Scholastic to the immaculate qualities of his syllogisms. You get the idea that you could chase some of these people all the way to Canada with a bag of Cool Ranch Doritos tied to the end of a pole.

But far fewer people pay attention to reverse food snobbery—to folks who are proud of eating junk, and lots of it, in part out of the conviction that doing so offends Whole Foods shoppers, who, on this view, “think they’re better than us.” When Michelle Obama announced her program to encourage American children—one in three of whom is overweight or obese—to eat healthier meals, Rush Limbaugh and Sarah Palin attacked the First Lady as a busybody and a fatso.
But do read it all. You will find yourself agreeing with at least one of the commenters, too.

August 06, 2012

Notes on Some Southern Colorado Farmers Markets

CCFA farmers market at Holy Cross Abbey, Cañon City
Our usual CSA farmer offered only spring shares this year, for various reasons, so last month M. and I were faced with making the rounds of farmers' markets to supplement our garden.

First we tried the Pueblo Riverwalk Famers Market, which starts a 4 p.m. on Thursdays for the after-work crowd. Once you sort out the artsies and craftsies, there were four food producers selling — all local, but non organic. The booths were jammed onto one sidewalk between Union Avenue and Victoria Street — one of the few spots with shade! We bought some Rocky Ford cantaloupe, which was riper than what the supermarket had.

On Thursday mornings you can try the Florence farmers market in shady Pioneer Park. It features one local organic producer (Lippis farm) plus some sellers of honey (sometimes), spices, goat cheese, and potted plants.

The Central Colorado Foodshed Alliance sponsors markets in Cañon City, Salida, and Buena Vista.

We visited the Cañon market a week ago — it is held on Saturdays — and came away with a few items, including some raspberry-chipotle jelly from Shirley Ann's Field Fresh Produce of Manzanola (down the Arkansas Valley east of Pueblo). Any economic activity in Manzanola needs to be encourage, and the jelly had a nice zing.  You can buy Shirley Ann's products online.

Check the CCFA site for more information about times, places, producers, etc.

Another market that we have not visited since last summer is held in Westcliffe on Thursdays from 2–5:30 p.m. Not too many vegetables are grown locally (compared to the early 20th century, when the Wet Mountain Valley produced lettuce, potatoes, sugar beets, and I don't know what all else—before refrigerated railroad cars brought everything from California). It should offer herbal remedies, local beef, and Amish (i.e., very sweet) baked goods along with veggies that are least Colorado-grown within the "foodshed."

February 21, 2012

Two Nights in Snow

You come out of the mountains after just a three-day trip, go into a cafe, and everyone is so clean. But it is a mountain cafe, and they do not care that you are not so pristine and that you have been sleeping in your clothes.

RIGHT: An attempt at an artistic shot of my shadow while skiing to camp, pulling a pulk.

More than a dozen employees, freelance designers, and "friends of the family" of a small, Colorado-based outdoor-products company gathered for an annual winter rendezvous in Summit County.

Items under discussion included short-staple synthetic insulation, tent and pack design, the intricacies of bar-tacking, other companies that had gone before (reaching back to Holubar and Gerry), the effects of Jameson's whiskey on conversation, hunting, the reality or not of Bigfoot, cross-country skiing, the relationship of the sexes, sources of digital-camouflage fabric, weather, differing designs of axes and hatchets, and why it was better to be in a tipi with 0° F. (-18 C) temperatures outside instead of the most luxurious ski condo in Breckenridge.

This bottle of beer (left) attempted to escape the camp but died of the cold on its path to freedom. Foolish bottle.
Short-term nomadic camp in the White River National Forest

Also, we ate. The menu included venison, green chile, potica, tamales, homemade Spam-and-egg sushi, hot dogs, breakfast tacos, elk sausage, cheese, homemade burritos, biscuits and gravy, and machaca. A good Southern Colorado-northern New Mexico blend with Hawaiian accents.

I became enamored of a Swedish splitting axe that I do not really need, but it was so elegant.

Afterwards, I always wonder how even though it takes much planning and the assembly of food, gear, etc., produced in many different places, even a short trip into the woods like this feels more real and vital than daily life.

February 07, 2012

A "Brazen and Prevaricating Rapscallion"

M. shops at Vitamin Cottage natural foods store frequently, so she knows the Bragg label well. It presents itself as old-fashioned and almost religious, she said.

But the founder was something else entirely. (That's "daughter" Patricia on the company's website.)

Kind of like Doctor Bronner of the mystic soaps.

January 01, 2012

Top Food News for 2011

Food writer Mark Bittman offers a list of links at the New York Times, including why not to trust "organic" food from China, on-camera cannibalism in the Netherlands, dumpster-diving, and the return of olive trees to Georgia.

December 11, 2011

'On Killing Wild Game for Food'

It's an article by Hank Shaw Hunter Angler Gardener Cook.
Not too long ago, I was at a book signing event for Hunt Gather Cook when a young woman approached me. She was very excited about foraging, and she had loved that section of my book. Then her face darkened. She told me she’d also read my section on hunting. “How can you enjoy killing so much? I just don’t understand it. You seem like such a nice person, too.” It took a few minutes for me to explain myself to her, and I am grateful that she listened. She left, I think, with a different opinion.
Read the rest

December 10, 2011

A New Pueblo Deli—and It Has Potica

A few years ago, in a post on Pueblo, Colo., Christmas foods, I mentioned potica.

Someone wrote to me asking where to buy it, and I had say that I did not know. It just turned up in the break room at work the weeks before Christmas. (Yeah, typical guy answer, I know.)

Now I know. You can go to the newly opened Musso's Italian Market and Deli on Union Avenue just south of the Riverwalk. They have three sizes. M. and I picked up one of the medium-sized loaves to take to some friends' home tonight. (Musso's Facebook page.)

December 01, 2011

Obama Administration Lifts Horse-Slaughter Ban

President Obama recently signed a law ending the ban on horse-slaughter plants.
A June report by the Government Accountability Office, Congress‘ chief investigative branch, said the ban depressed prices for horses in the U.S. and led to a surge in reports of neglect or abuse as owners of older horses had no way of disposing of them, short of selling them to “foreign slaughtering facilities where U.S. humane slaughtering protections do not apply.”
The usual suspects are upset.
A bill to ban horse slaughter and export of horses for slaughter has been introduced in the House and Senate, and the Humane Society of the United States said it would redouble its efforts to try to enact that legislation.
Simply, there are more horses in the United States than people want. I have heard of livestock auctions imposing additional fees on people wanting to sell horses, because your average saddle horse does not sell for very much — if it sells at all.

Horse-rescue operations can take only a few of the unwanted animals.

Meanwhile, despite its much-touted adoption programs, the BLM is feeding and storing hundreds of wild horses in corrals away from the public gaze, as I blogged in 2008. Your tax dollars at work.

Still the HSUS plays the cultural-taboo card, together with a little fashionable France-bashing:
Michael Markarian, who oversees the Humane Society Legislative Fund, which lobbies for animal protections, said any state that allows a horse-slaughter plant to open will face pressure.

“People will not be happy about their community potentially bringing in one of these plants,” he said. “Americans don’t eat horses, and don’t want them butchered and shrink-wrapped and sent to France or Japan as a delicacy.”
Because all the feasible alternatives, like letting them starve, are so much better.

Related — if you want to move to the theoretical — an article on meat taboos with an interesting response from Boria Sax.

November 09, 2011

Most Honey Ain't Honey, Honey

Most honey sold in the supermarket barely deserves to be called "honey."
In the U.S., the Food and Drug Administration says that any product that's been ultra-filtered and no longer contains pollen isn't honey. However, the FDA isn't checking honey sold here to see if it contains pollen.
 

Ultra filtering is a high-tech procedure where honey is heated, sometimes watered down and then forced at high pressure through extremely small filters to remove pollen, which is the only foolproof sign identifying the source of the honey. It is a spin-off of a technique refined by the Chinese, who have illegally dumped tons of their honey — some containing illegal antibiotics — on the U.S. market for years. 

Food Safety News decided to test honey sold in various outlets after its earlier investigation found U.S. groceries flooded with Indian honey banned in Europe as unsafe because of contamination with antibiotics, heavy metal and a total lack of pollen which prevented tracking its origin. 
The old advice that you should eat local honey to reduce the severity of hay fever is bad science anyway, because the problem pollen is blown by winds, not carried by bees, so it will not be in the honey. But if there is any good to eating honey beyond the taste, local honey (definitely not Chinese or Indian honey) would be the best.