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Lunches on the Go

Well, as most of you are aware, I have joined the 9-5 crowd.  This explains my infrequent forays into the blogosphere these days.  Not only is there just a lot less time (thanks to the commute, plus the fact that I’m working 6 days a week while also finishing a contract gig), but my wrists and back are not loving enforced, back-to-back hours at the computer.  In any case, I thought I’d take a few minutes for a short update on what I’ve been figuring out after a month of trucking lunches to work again for those of you looking for ideas!  In no particular order, here are some of my favorites.

  • Peanut butter and banana sandwiches on sprouted cinnamon raisin bread
  • Cucumber, tomato, feta, and olive chopped salad
  • Hummus with a variety of dipping vegetables
  • Plenty of fresh fruit (with or without yogurt) for snacking
  • Avocado sandwiches with lettuce and tomato on lightly toasted bread
  • Trail mix (that I mix myself) for snacking
  • Cold grilled eggplant with cream cheese, tomato, and lettuce on toasted bread or a fresh, whole-grain bagel
  • Curry (eaten at room temp, as I dislike the microwave)
  • Smoothies (loads of frozen fruit and yogurt from grass-fed cows)

I’m starting to feel the need for more creativity, however…I will let you know what I dream up as the summer progresses!  I’m sure our farm goodies will provide inspiration.  Tomatoes and sweet corn are coming ripe, as are loads of summer squash.  Expect an update this weekend sometime!  In the meantime, what dishes are you enjoying for work lunches or picnics these days?


Food News of the Weird

Just for your reading pleasure, here’s some tidbits I unearthed recently about food, industry, and the places they intersect.  In no particular order:

1) Six German states banned Red Bull Cola after the food safety agency in North Rhine-Westphalia (LIGA) found trace amounts of cocaine in the brew.  Austria-based Red Bull claims that no such traces were found in their internal tests, but that if those Rhinelanders thought they found something, well, it was certainly just due to Red Bull’s participation in the common industry practice of including decocainised coca leaf extract to give it that little sumpin’ sumpin’.  Decocainised coca leaf.  Like decaf tea leaves, but with cocaine.  Meanwhile, Coca-Cola has refused to comment on whether it still uses coca leaves in its famous beverage.  Food industry execs, predictably, are trying to quash the concern before it grows.  My favorite quote, from the Time article, is this: “If you start examining lots of other drinks and food so carefully, you’d find a lot of surprising things.”

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Michael Pollan: Food, Ads, and Revolution

Here’s an interesting video that covers quite a bit of ground: swine flu and industrial ag, GMOs and overpopulation, politics and sustainability, and consumer confusion campaigns (including Cheerios). Pollan also mentions Michella Obama’s White House garden, big ag subsidies, and the impact of the Standard American Diet on the health care crisis.

It’s about 20 minutes long, but there’s plenty of good stuff. Pollan is a man who keeps things simple: Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.


Why Communists Hate Cheerios (and Other Tales)

It turns out that communists and their grand poo-bah (read: Barack Obama) hate Cheerios.  So says Ed Anger of the Weekly World News.  Now, I’m not familiar with Anger, and I have no idea if he shoots from the hip as a columnist or if his schtick is parody.  The pseudonym and the whole Weekly Word News medium suggest parody, but the intertubes tell me he has a devout following that embrace his rants as gospel, so what do I know?  That said, you may have noticed that Cheerios cereal has been getting some press lately due to a warning letter the FDA issued to General Mills. Certainly, some people certainly are taking the defense of their breakfast very seriously.

Seeing as she’s a red-blooded, all-American, all-capitalist sort of columnist, the (fortunately) inimitable Michelle Malkin has stepped up to decry the attack on Cheerios.  In the sparse lines of a non-article, Malkin manages to equate the Cheerio dust-up with both Nazi fascism (see the title of her post, an echo of the first line of Martin Niemöller’s famous poem) and socialism (complaining of proposed public funding of health care), an interesting paradox that defies my best attempts at logic.  To wit: based on Niemoller’s poem and Malkin’s clumsy invocation of its first line, somehow the Cheerios actually became the communists in this scenario. I honestly didn’t see that one coming.  (I doubt Malkin did, either.)

So, what’s the problem here, anyway?

According to the FDA, the problem is the liberal sprinkling of overambitious qualified health claims stamped all over every box of Cheerios, particularly this one: “[It can] lower your cholesterol 4 percent in 6 weeks.”

The FDA, being the killjoy that it is, had the gall to point out that a few of these claims are not backed up by  actual science.  Simply, unless GM were to add in some info about fat levels, fruits and veggies, and some other odds and ends in making a truly heart-healthy diet, these claims are misleading.  Naturally, the FDA wants these claims taken off or General Mills to consider reclassifying Cheerios as a drug, seeing as how they are trying to use a claim that “according to federal law, should apply only to drugs designed to cure disease.”  Imagine.  Those little cardboard-flavored oaty-O’s that give thousands of American children weird-tasting burps each day…soon available by prescription only?

Because I like bottom lines, I’m going to give you one.

Ain’t nobody trying to take your Cheerios away.

All the FDA is asking is that companies try not to convince consumers that good health comes in the shape of highly-processed oaty-O’s, wrapped in plastic and sitting in a pretty box.  They don’t have to stop selling them.  They just have to stop bending the truth into funny shapes while trying to sell them.

What’s the problem again?


Millions of Peaches, Peaches for Me

In part to celebrate my birthday and in part because ’tis the season, the Unicyclist and I loaded ourselves into our happy little car this weekend and trekked out to Queen Creek to visit Schnepf Farms.

For $1.75 a pound, you can pick peaches—the earliest ones in the nation, unless I’m mistaken—and eat as many in the field as your stomach can hold, free.  If there is a benefit to triple-digit temperatures the first week of May, this is it.

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About Artichokes

Well, it’s been a busy couple weeks.

I have a new job.  I still have the old job.  (I.e., I work a lot.)  I finished the paper and presentation for the class I was taking on banned books and censorship.  And I have decided to love artichokes.

If you have ever prepared artichokes from their spiny, stiff, pigheaded original state, perhaps you can empathize when I say that they are not necessarily the easiest vegetable to love.  Fortunately, I believe in second chances.  And third ones.  And, in the case of artichokes, fourth ones.

This is something I enjoy about our (my and the Unicyclist’s) attitude toward food: we believe that pretty much anything can be delicious if prepared correctly.  He may not pine for okra, but he sure likes it when I make it sauteed with onion, tomato, cumin, and dried red pepper.  Likewise, up until a couple weeks ago, I wasn’t a rabid fan of fresh artichokes stuffed or boiled or drenched in butter (the first ways I tried cooking them).  However, I was certain they had to be good somehow.  Living so close to Cali, some of that Golden State artichoke passion has wafted over here.  Basically, it felt nearly criminal to fail to thrill to artichokes after I had seen The Giant Artichoke restaurant in Castroville, CA.  So I kept trying.

Last week, I found the sweet spot.

Hello, grilled ‘chokes.

So how can you join the artichoke fan club?  Read on for full instructions!

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How to Save the World in 10 Easy Steps

Yes, it’s Earth Day, at least for a couple more hours.

The Unicyclist and I participated in the Valley’s Bike to School/Work Day today; he biked to work, and I biked off to my errands after we both enjoyed a complimentary breakfast together that the local Whole Foods sponsored.  This biking business isn’t new for us.  The truth is that I gave up my car-owning ways in 2004 and he gave his up in 2006 shortly after we met.  Our bikes (and his unicycle) have quite a few miles on them as a result.  That’s all right by me, as my bicycle is the closest an object can ever be to embodying freedom itself.  Simple, cheap to operate, efficient, fun, and easy to maintain—it doesn’t get much better.

Also, it’s blue and goes zooooooooom!

Which, point of fact, brings me around to something else that’s blue and goes zoom.

The Unicyclist and I have recently taken the plunge and supplemented our forms of transport.  For a whole bunch of personal reasons I won’t go into, we just bought a 2007 Prius, Toyota’s well-established gas-electric hybrid.  It’s a wonderful car and very fun to drive, but there’s some angst that goes along with giving up a slower lifestyle, a lifestyle based in our home, a lifestyle where we have been forced to simplify.  You see, I like home.  I like simple.  I like slow.  So today, on Earth Day, I’m mourning a little.

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The Attack of the Root Vegetables: Garlic-Dill Roasted Carrots

Lurking in our fridge, buried deep in the crisper, huddled between bags of salad greens, you will find them.  Or at least you would have up until yesterday.

Several weeks’ worth of root vegetables had very nearly taken over our fridge.  Between the farm visit and our regular CSA pickup, our stash had grown significantly without us really noticing.  When we did finally realize we were outnumbered six to one by turnips, it was touch and go for a while there. Fortunately, we are stout and hardy folk, and we managed to quell the veggie uprising with some seriously dedicated roasting this weekend.  I scrubbed, sliced, cubed, and roasted three pans worth of turnips, sweet potatoes, beets, and carrots.  It was all delicious, but I confess that I really fell hopelessly in love with the carrots. These are the carrots I had wanted to make a couple weeks ago but had to forego due to my undersized dill plants. However, it’s been in the 80s and 90s here, and I have been a faithful hydrator. This weekend, my patience was rewarded.

Not only were these carrots gorgeous, but did you catch the part where I mentioned there was dill involved?  And lemon.  And garlic. Holy yum.

It was a beautiful thing.  It was so beautiful, in fact, that I’m sharing it with you.  Without further ado, here is a recipe for some Dang Fine Carrots.  You can eat them hot, cold, or tossed on top of a salad.  Whichever way you eat them, I hope they make your eyes roll back in your head with delight and your toes curl with bliss. Best of all, it’s one of those simple, non-recipes that don’t require you to blow any gaskets about measuring.  The basics are here—you just work with those!

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Michelle, Michelle, Quite Contrary…How Does Your Garden Grow?

I neglected to mention in my former post that CREDO Action is sending MACA a love letter to invite them to kindly lay off the Obama’s garden.  If you want to sign, just click through to the petition.

Whether you are of the opinion that chemicals should never be used in agriculture or just that we use far too many of them for the health of ag workers and consumers…or if you just want to preserve choices for all people, take a minute, click through, and add your own note to the letter at MACA.  CREDO Action currently has 97% of its goal in signatures.  Here’s an excerpt from my comment:

The Obamas have access to highly experienced gardeners that will no doubt make a smashing success of their naturally-grown garden.  To encourage them to adopt what will certainly be unnecessary chemical applications is wasteful and irresponsible in the extreme.  I had hoped that, in the current era, we as citizens would be moving away from excessive and thoughtless consumption…towards more thoughtful, longer-term, healthier solutions.

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MACA Takes on Michelle Obama

If the president sneezes, the country gets a cold…or so the saying goes.

I guess it follows that if the First Lady plants an organic garden, the country might just go all Joni Mitchell (“Big Yellow Taxi”) on us.

That’s apparently what the Mid America CropLife Association is afraid of. Jill from La Vida Locavore reports that MACA recently sent around an e-mail plea urging their supporters to flood the White House mailbox with missives encouraging the first family to grab a sprayer and hose down that dirt patch of theirs. (Just to give you a bit of context, their officers and board of directors include representatives of such familiar household names as Monsanto, Bayer, DuPont, and Syngenta.  Do click through those links, by the way.)

The bit that baffles me is this:

Did you hear the news?  The White House is planning to have an “organic” garden on the grounds to provide fresh fruits and vegetables for the Obama’s and their guests.  While a garden is a great idea, the thought of it being organic made Janet Braun, CropLife Ambassador Coordinator and I shudder.

Such horror!  She shudders!  Because, lard knows, if an organic garden takes root, it could go horribly, catastrophically wrong.

As someone who knows a whole lot of diddly-squat about gardening, I’ve had an organic garden or two go wrong in the process.  You know what happens when you don’t do it right?

Your plants get holes in them.  Sometimes, the fruits are puny or funny-looking.  Sometimes, some plants shrivel up and die.

The end.

Shall we talk about what happens when chemical dousing goes wrong?  (Follow the chemical company links above if you don’t already know.)

Of course, I’m deliberately being ridiculous.  I know full well that with the easy access to resources and master gardeners that the Obamas have, the chances that the White House garden will crash and burn are awfully slim.  MACA’s fear is not that Michelle Obama’s organic garden will fail miserably, but rather that it will succeed.

Who are you rooting for?

(Thanks to Captain Mommypants for the tip.)

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