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House Farm Bill Collapses Amid Republican Disarray

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Smiling Tractors Sometimes
Smiling Tractors Sometimes

The NYT reports:

The factional rancor threatening Republicans heading into the midterm elections this fall erupted into the open on Friday when a slugfest among moderates, hard-line conservatives and House leaders over immigration and welfare policy sank the party’s multiyear farm bill.

The twice-a-decade measure — which would have imposed strict new work requirements on food aid recipients while maintaining farm subsidies important to rural lawmakers — failed on a 213-to-198 vote. It was a rebuke of Speaker Paul D. Ryan by a key bloc of conservatives over his refusal to schedule an immediate vote on a restrictive immigration bill sponsored by the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee.

Republican moderates, for their part, were moving in the opposite direction, shrugging off the pleas of their leaders as they worked toward forcing votes on legislation to protect from deportation young immigrants brought to the country illegally as children.

The fights were striking, not only because of their intensity but also because of the participants. Capitol Hill has grown used to altercations between Republican leaders and their adamant right flank — showdowns that have shut down the government and edged the government toward defaulting on its debt. But in past fights, the party’s moderates have proved compliant.

This time, with their districts dominating the Democrats’ target list for the coming midterm races, the moderates are holding firm to their own demands.

(click here to continue reading House Farm Bill Collapses Amid Republican Disarray – The New York Times.)

More Congressional disfunction, and with no easy solution, at least until the 2018 elections. Paul Ryan has no “juice” left, as he’s a lame duck. He actually should go ahead and resign his Speakership now.

Hay Bales
Hay Bales

Tom Philpott of Mother Jones adds a little context:

 

Back in 2016, the Republican Party won the presidency and both chambers of Congress with strong support in rural areas, particularly among farmers. But since that triumph, the Grand Old Party hasn’t exactly been a champion of rural interests. As I’ve written in recent months, President Donald Trump’s crackdown on immigration is essentially an attack on the workers who keep America’s farms and many rural towns humming. And his trade belligerence with China and Mexico amount to near-surgical strikes against farmers who supported him in California, the Southeast, and the Midwest’s corn and soybean belt.

 

In the middle of this drama, Congress is tasked with renewing the farm bill—twice-a-decade legislation that shapes US agriculture and food-aid policy. Rep. Mike Conaway (R-Texas), chair of the House Agriculture Committee, hopes to bring his version to a vote on the House floor this week. Let us count the ways it would bring pain to the US heartland:

The US House of Representatives voted down the farm bill this morning by a margin of 198-213. The Washington Post called it a “major embarrassment to GOP leaders” like outgoing House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), who had hotly promoted the bill. In a Thursday Twitter thread, I laid out the political dynamics that ultimately killed the bill. It remains unclear whether the House Agriculture Committee chair, Rep. Mike Conaway (R.-Texas), will attempt to bring it back to the floor for another vote. House Democrats, who universally opposed the bill, hailed the failure as a victory for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), which the bill would have effectively cut. Here’s Nydia Velázquez (D-N.Y.)

 

 

(click here to continue reading The House Farm Bill Just Failed – Mother Jones.)

Wisconsin countryside
Wisconsin countryside

and from that referenced WaPo article, the bill is dead anyway, as the Senate is not even close to accepting the House version:

 

 

A sweeping farm bill failed in the House on Friday in a blow to GOP leaders who were unable to placate conservative lawmakers demanding commitments on immigration.

 

The House leadership put the bill on the floor gambling it would pass despite unanimous Democratic opposition. They negotiated with members of the conservative House Freedom Caucus up to the last minutes.

 

But their gamble failed. The vote was 213 to 198, with 30 Republicans joining 183 Democrats in defeating the bill.

 

The outcome exposed what is becoming an all-out war within the House GOP over immigration, a divisive fight the Republicans did not want to have heading into midterm elections in November that will decide control of Congress.

The House farm bill would have been a non-starter anyway in the Senate, which is writing its own farm bill. Any legislation that ultimately makes it to Trump’s desk will have to look more like the version in the Senate, where bipartisan support will be necessary for anything to pass and there is not sufficient support for the food-stamp changes.

 

 

(click here to continue reading In blow to GOP, House fails to pass massive farm bill in face of conservative Republican showdown – The Washington Post.)

Sad that these are the supposed leaders of our country, and they can’t get anything accomplished. I blame gerrymandered districts…

Written by Seth Anderson

May 20th, 2018 at 1:27 pm

Posted in Food and Drink,government,politics

Tagged with , ,

Steve Dolinsky Is Hosting Tours of Chicago’s Best Pizza

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Culicchia  Co
Culicchia & Co, West Loop

Anthony Todd reports:

As with many great things, Pizza City USA Tours were born out of a combination of love and frustration. “I was super annoyed reading yet another listicle online of the 7 hottest pizza places in Chicago,” explained founder (and Chicago food superstar) Steve Dolinsky. “And I had been to one of them that week and thought, this makes no sense.” Dolinsky, who you probably know as ABC7’s Hungry Hound, was startled to find that no one had done a really-for-real deep dive into Chicago pizza. So, he started eating.

185 pizza places (and some acid reflux and a lot of yoga) later, Dolinsky is, likely, the most comprehensive expert on Chicago pizza in the world. “In January and February of 17, I started on this major quest, doing 3 a day,” Dolinsky remembered.  “People talk about ‘3-a-days’ as if it were a workout, but mine were pizza!” The result: a new book coming in September called Pizza City USA: 101 Reasons Chicago is America’s Greatest Pizza Town. If you can’t wait that long (and want to eat pizza yourself), Dolinsky has also started his own tour company.

Be warned, though: this might not be what you think of as “Chicago Pizza.”

“Chicago is really a city of thin crust,” insisted Dolinsky. “My analogy: deep dish is to Chicago what Times Square is to New York.  It’s a thing for tourists, locals could really care less.” Most of the pizzas he’s covering in the book and on the tours are from a variety of non-deep dish styles, including tavern-style, Detroit-style, Neapolitan and Roman. A tour will visit places with different styles; for example, one of his bus tours will visit Labriola on Michigan Avenue for deep dish, Pizzeria Bebu for an artisan pie, Pat’s for a tavern-style pizza and Dante’s for a New York-style slice.

(click here to continue reading Steve Dolinsky Is Hosting Tours of Chicago’s Best Pizza | Chicago magazine | Dining & Drinking May 2018.)

I love this Steve Dolinsky quote.

I’ll dial his sentiment back a bit, I’ve eaten good deep dish pizzas over my lifetime. That said, the best pizza I’ve had in Chicago is always thin crust.

YRMV.

Written by Seth Anderson

May 6th, 2018 at 8:06 pm

Posted in Chicago-esque,Food and Drink

Tagged with ,

JAB – The Secretive Company That Pours America’s Coffee

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Daily Rounds
Daily Rounds

Huh, I didn’t know this:

Here’s a question with billions of dollars riding on the answer: What do these American brands have in common? Peet’s, Panera Bread, Krispy Kreme, Dr Pepper and Stumptown.

They are all owned by JAB, a secretive European holding company that 50 years ago was making industrial chemicals for swimming pools. Through multiple deals, the firm has stumped its publicly traded rivals with what seemed like a mildly eccentric and expensive shopping spree.

JAB today sells coffee in nearly every form and venue. It distributes brands it doesn’t own such as Dunkin’ Donuts and Starbucks for its Keurig coffee maker in single-serve K-cups to brew at home and at work. It sells its own brands of bottled cold coffee and bags of beans, such as Peet’s and Green Mountain. With its own bakeries and coffee shops, it competes directly with America’s biggest coffee chains.

The group’s approach to the coffee business amounts to an expensive bet that the U.S. beverage industry is on the cusp of a reorganization that has been half a century in the making, ending an era in which hot drinks only competed against hot drinks and soft drinks against other soft drinks.

(click here to continue reading The Secretive Company That Pours America’s Coffee – WSJ.)

Betting large on coffee drinks all through the day is an interesting strategy. 

Coffee from El Mirador  Cauca Columbia
Coffee from El Mirador – Cauca, Columbia

Written by Seth Anderson

March 12th, 2018 at 9:05 am

Posted in Business,Food and Drink

Tagged with

Food manufacturers are leaving the Grocery Manufacturers Association

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Produce Center
Produce Center.

Probably good news for the American food consumer1 – the GMA is crumbling.

A succession of high-profile, global companies have terminated their memberships with the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA)—the self-professed “voice of the industry”—rapidly undoing some 110 years of work the trade association had done to amass influence in US politics. In July 2017, as first reported by Politico, the Campbell Soup Company decided to leave GMA by the start of 2018, saying the trade association no longer represented its views. Three months later, the world’s largest food company, Nestlé, announced it was following suit. Then the floodgates opened, with Dean Foods, Mars, Tyson Foods, Unilever, the Hershey Company, Cargill, the Kraft Heinz Company, and DowDuPont all opting to leave, as well.

These high-profile departures will likely cost GMA millions of dollars in lost membership dues; one top lobbyist with a former member company speculates the association may lose about half of its former financial might. In 2016, GMA reported spending nearly $35 million on lobbying initiatives.

Publicly, the companies that left GMA are mostly vague about their reasons for defection. Privately, though, their executives have complained about disagreements with management, arthritic association bylaws, and a seeming unwillingness to budge on issues. As the lobbyist puts it, rather than trying to evolve with consumer demand, GMA leadership chose instead to be pugnacious about issues like GMO transparency and improved food-package ingredient labeling.

New York University nutrition and food studies professor Marion Nestle says a wounded GMA is unequivocally a good thing for everyday people eager for better access to information about the foods they’re eating.

The positions that GMA took were really, really retrogressive on a range of consumer issues,” Nestle says. “All these companies are trying to position themselves as being consumer-friendly.”

(click here to continue reading Food manufacturers are leaving the Grocery Manufacturers Association, signaling an end of the Big Food era — Quartz.)

Onions  Lower Yurtistan
Onions – Lower Yurtistan

From Ms. Nestle a few months ago:

 

What’s going on?  Easy.  GMA just isn’t keeping up with today’s marketplace.

 

Politico’s analysis (these are quotes):

 

  • Companies are increasingly under pressure to find growth in a market where more and more consumers are seeking healthier fare, whether they’re buying organic baby food, cereal without artificial colors or meats raised without antibiotics.
  • As legacy brands lag, food companies have two options: Change to compete or buy up the new brands that are already growing rapidly.
  • With each episode of discord, both internally and publicly, it becomes harder for GMA to convince its members to pay fees to belong to a trade group that’s rife with division and, at times, fights against issues they either don’t want fought or don’t want to be associated with.
  • “More than one food industry lobbyist has told me that they spend more time lobbying their industry association than they do Capitol Hill,” said Scott Faber, vice president of government affairs at the Environmental Working Group.
  • Many in Washington think GMA has been tone deaf as it has, in some cases, kept up lavish spending even as its members are cutting costs and laying off workers to meet their quarterly targets.
  • “I don’t know a single challenger brand that’s said ‘hey, I need to join GMA,’” said John Foraker, the founder and former CEO of Annie’s.

My favorite quote comes from Jeff Nedelman, who was a VP of communications at GMA during the 1980s and ’90s: “To me, it looks like GMA is the dinosaur just waiting to die.”

 

 

(click here to continue reading Food Politics by Marion Nestle » GMA(Grocery Manufacturers Association).)

Non GMO Project
Non GMO Project

Footnotes:
  1. i.e., people who eat []

Written by Seth Anderson

March 6th, 2018 at 12:52 pm

Amazon’s Changes to Whole Foods Mean Fewer Local Products

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Whole Foods Amazon and The Pope
Whole Foods, Amazon and The Pope. 

Daniela Galarza reports on one very disappointing change that Amazon has made to Whole Foods, the pending removal of local products from Whole Foods shelves:

For years, Whole Foods employed staffers called foragers who went out into their neighborhoods in search of local artisans at farmers markets or state fairs. There, they found home-made jams and mustards and dressings that they’d buy in bulk.

For mom and pop preservers and picklers, selling their wares at Whole Foods was a boon, and over the past decade, thousands of small brands — many of which still put each label on each jar or package by hand — have come to depend on Whole Foods for the bulk of their business. As part of each store’s local sourcing program, the maker was responsible for stocking their items on Whole Foods’ shelves and could pick a few weekends to set up a table and offer customers a sample. Makers said they were far more likely to sell their items when they were present in the store, answering questions about a product and forging a personal connection while making that sale.

“Whole Foods was always an advocate for the small business. They always wanted to support local artisans,” says Erika Kerekes, founder and owner of Not Ketchup condiments. Not Ketchup was sold at Whole Foods locations in Southern California, near where Kerekes lives, for several years, up until six months ago. (Now it’s sold via its website and on Amazon.)

In September 2017, one month after the acquisition and Mackey’s initial statement, Whole Foods quietly announced it would be discontinuing parts of its local sourcing program. “Instead of allowing brands to frequently pitch their products to individual stores or regions,” the Wall Street Journal reported, “Whole Foods executives in its Austin, Texas, headquarters will choose a higher percentage of the inventory.

According to the Journal, this year, Whole Foods started charging local makers to offer samples in store. They’re also requiring makers who sell over a certain threshold to pay a percentage fee to the store. “To suddenly not to be able to sell at Whole Foods, or to have to go through the same vetting process as the bigger names,” Kerekes says, “is a challenge, to say the least.” More often than not, small purveyors don’t have the marketing budget to fly out to Whole Foods’ headquarters in Austin, Texas, to present their product for a tasting.

“One of the things they want,” Kerekes says about presenting at the corporate level, “is for you to have a marketing plan for at least the next 12 months. They want to know how much money you’re putting into marketing, merchandising, trade shows, online and television advertising… they want to know how often your item is going to be on sale. But unless they have an investor behind them, small, local brands in their early stages of development just don’t always have this mapped out.”

(click here to continue reading Amazon’s Changes to Whole Foods Mean Empty Shelves, Fewer Local Products – Eater.)

From my perspective, as a long time Whole Foods customer (since 1982, actually), I’m very discouraged by this change. Whole Foods is lumbering towards simply being another corporate grocery chain without much character. Why not retain a little local flavor? Stock mustard by Local Food Folks, carry tomatoes from Mighty Vine, don’t become Kroger (Mariano’s) or Albertsons (Jewel-Osco), don’t morph into yet another giant warehouse of packaged, processed food made by behemoth corporations, the kind of generic store that is exactly the same no matter where you go. Rick Bayless saw the trend lines, and sold his Frontera Foods to ConAgra, but there should be room for small food businesses to flourish. 

And what about local spirits and beers? Texas doesn’t allow whiskey or other spirits to be sold in grocery stores, but Illinois does. Will Koval and the myriad of other regional craft distillers currently stocked in Illinois stores lose their distribution because Whole Foods corporate can’t be bothered?

The nearly always empty shelves is another problem, an inventory issue that can be fixed, at least theoretically. Removal of small food brands is a corporate decision made by Amazon, and quite disheartening.

Whole Foods Empty Shelves
Whole Foods Empty Produce Shelves

No bread for you at Whole Foods
No bread for you! at Whole Foods

Slightly more detail from the Washington Post’s Abha Bhattarai:

Whole Foods Markets is placing new limits on how products are sold in its stores and asking suppliers to help pay for the changes, riling some mom-and-pop vendors that have long depended on the grocer for visibility and shelf space.

The changes, outlined in an email recently sent to the company’s suppliers, are intended to save on costs and centralize operations.

Previously, Whole Foods allowed suppliers such as Gray to oversee their own merchandise or hire local firms to do so. But under the new rules, Whole Foods is requiring suppliers to work exclusively with Daymon, a Stamford, Conn.-based retail strategy firm, and its subsidiary, SAS Retail Services, to schedule in-store tastings, check inventory on shelves and create displays on their behalf.

Suppliers that sell more than $300,000 of goods annually to Whole Foods will be required to discount their products by 3 percent (for groceries) or 5 percent (for health and beauty products) to fund the new program. Local suppliers will also have to pay $110 for each four-hour product demonstration by Daymon, while national suppliers will have to pay $165. (Vendors can also continue to host demonstrations themselves, as long as they pay a scheduling fee of between $10 and $30.) Daymon did not respond to requests for comment.

(click here to continue reading Whole Foods places new limits on suppliers, upsetting some small vendors – The Washington Post.)

Written by Seth Anderson

February 1st, 2018 at 10:03 am

Posted in Business,Food and Drink

Tagged with ,

Sasha Petraske’s Regarding Cocktails Is Worth Owning

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I never went to Milk & Honey, but I’d heard much about it, and its creator, Sasha Petraske. I bought this book in November, and while I haven’t made every cocktail in it (that will take a few more years), the ones I have made have been delicious. I wasn’t able to attend my family’s Thanksgiving bash this year, but Sasha’s Petraske’s recipe for The Bizness and The Bee’s Knees did, and were apparently a great hit.

Cocktails & Dreams
Cocktails & Dreams

Wayne Curtis at the WSJ recommends the book too:

But perhaps it’s best to end this year on a quieter, more reflective note, and there’s actually a cocktail book for that—Sasha Petraske’s understated and impressive “Regarding Cocktails” (Phaidon, 251 pages, $29.95). It’s a book Petraske, the founder of the pioneering Manhattan cocktail bar Milk & Honey, was compiling when he died suddenly last year at the age of 42. The gaps have been filled in by his widow, Georgette Moger-Petraske, and a community of like-minded bartender friends.

The book is filled with a low-key joy and embraces a no-nonsense, non-splashy approach to drink-making, focusing chiefly on adaptations of classic cocktails with few ingredients, such as the martini, daiquiri and sour. Each featured drink is paired with an austere graphic on the opposite page, composed of a pattern of glyphs representing the ratio of various ingredients. The key printed on the accompanying bookmark contains some 120 wee symbols, from absinthe and Demerara rum to ginger beer and white peach purée. I suppose with enough memorization, one might know at a glance what the drink would taste like, much like a trained musician can hear a melody by glancing at sheet music. In any event, it’s calming to just contemplate the graphic.

The book concludes with brief, introspective essays about Petraske. He was famous—and sometimes mocked—for the rules he cast in bronze on the bathroom doors at his bar. These included “No name dropping” and, for women, “If a man you don’t know speaks to you, please lift your chin slightly and ignore him.” He also subscribed to more general rules of living, which invariably revolved around civility. On the subway: “No man should ever sit before every woman who wishes to rest has been offered a seat.” “Regarding Cocktails” is as much about human connection as it is about jiggers and bitters. And Petraske’s sort of civility seems something we all could use more of in the new year. Well, that and a stiff drink.

(click here to continue reading Bid Adieu to 2016 With a Very Strong Drink – WSJ.)

Written by Seth Anderson

December 17th, 2016 at 11:02 am

Posted in Books,Food and Drink,Suggestions

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Supermarkets’ Best Weapon Against E-tailers: Produce

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Tomatoes from the Green City Farmers Market
Tomatoes from the Green City Farmers Market

Like so many other tech-centric new businesses, online grocery is a major topic, and yet it seems few people actually use the service.

While Wal-Mart and other retailers, including Ahold USA and Meijer Inc., are pouring money into ramping up online sales, the grocers are also buckling down on the basics of the produce department. That’s because high-quality fruits, vegetables and other fresh foods are emerging as a physical store’s best defense against growing competition from Amazon.com Inc.

Many customers decide where to shop based on the quality of the produce, and—for now—most shoppers want to pick their own ripe tomatoes or perfectly green heads of lettuce, say grocers and industry researchers. Shoppers who don’t buy groceries online most often cite the desire to pick their own produce as the reason, according to an online survey from Morgan Stanley earlier this year.

Online food and beverage sales are growing fast, up 20% since 2013, but still make up a tiny 0.16% of the $670 billion food and beverage market, according to Commerce Department figures. Only 4% of consumers said they purchased some produce through online grocers in the past year, a 2015 Nielsen survey found.

Produce also is often part of “fill-in” trips, those moments a shopper dashes to the store for a last-minute ingredient and might not wait for an online order. Produce itself isn’t usually a big moneymaker, but it draws people to stores to buy higher-margin packaged food, apparel, electronics and other items—products customers increasingly are buying online. Even Amazon wants part of the valuable market. It plans to build small stores that sell perishable foods and allow shoppers to order shelf-stable items for same-day delivery, say people familiar with the matter.

Improving Wal-Mart’s fresh food is “a huge priority for us because it’s a big traffic driver,” says Steve Bratspies, chief merchandising officer for Wal-Mart U.S. in a March call with investors.

(click here to continue reading Supermarkets’ Best Weapon Against E-tailers: Produce – WSJ.)

Speaking strictly for myself, I’ve tried ordering from Instacart twice. The first time, everything came as if I had picked it myself, but the second time, the produce was sub-par. All of it. Brown spots on lettuce, bruised avocados, moldy tomatoes, mushy cucumbers, etc. So I’ve never ordered from them again, and probably never will. When it comes to grocery delivery, if it isn’t perfect, forget it. I have less than zero tolerance for mistakes. A few years prior, I had an account with a local company that delivered farmers market produce, but again, after a few bad deliveries, I cancelled my service, and have not ordered from them again. In the winter months, I sometimes use Peapod, but I tend to only buy staples like pasta, paper towels, cat litter, and bottles of wine, and don’t purchase much produce because items that are delivered are often less than ideal.

A fan of Peapod
A fan of Peapod

Time willing, I would much rather go to a farmers market or a local grocery store and carefully pick my own vegetables and fruits. 

Written by Seth Anderson

October 17th, 2016 at 3:04 pm

Diabetes and Low-Carb Diet

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Assembling Tian
Assembling Tian

Almost as if the healthcare industry (doctors, hospitals, pharmaceutical corporations, insurance corporations) have a vested interest in making profits before healing people. Not that they are trying to harm people, rather that making money is the first motive.

A low-carbohydrate diet was in fact standard treatment for diabetes throughout most of the 20th century, when the condition was recognized as one in which “the normal utilization of carbohydrate is impaired,” according to a 1923 medical text. When pharmaceutical insulin became available in 1922, the advice changed, allowing moderate amounts of carbohydrates in the diet.

Yet in the late 1970s, several organizations, including the Department of Agriculture and the diabetes association, began recommending a high-carb, low-fat diet, in line with the then growing (yet now refuted) concern that dietary fat causes coronary artery disease. That advice has continued for people with diabetes despite more than a dozen peer-reviewed clinical trials over the past 15 years showing that a diet low in carbohydrates is more effective than one low in fat for reducing both blood sugar and most cardiovascular risk factors.

The diabetes association has yet to acknowledge this sizable body of scientific evidence. Its current guidelines find “no conclusive evidence” to recommend a specific carbohydrate limit. The organization even tells people with diabetes to maintain carbohydrate consumption, so that patients on insulin don’t see their blood sugar fall too low. That condition, known as hypoglycemia, is indeed dangerous, yet it can better be avoided by restricting carbs and eliminating the need for excess insulin in the first place. Encouraging patients with diabetes to eat a high-carb diet is effectively a prescription for ensuring a lifelong dependence on medication.

At the annual diabetes association convention in New Orleans this summer, there wasn’t a single prominent reference to low-carb treatment among the hundreds of lectures and posters publicizing cutting-edge research. Instead, we saw scores of presentations on expensive medications for blood sugar, obesity and liver problems, as well as new medical procedures, including that stomach-draining system, temptingly named AspireAssist, and another involving “mucosal resurfacing” of the digestive tract by burning the inside of the duodenum with a hot balloon.

(click here to continue reading Before You Spend $26,000 on Weight-Loss Surgery, Do This – The New York Times.)

Whether or not you have health issues, I believe a diet consisting of as many vegetables and fruits as you can eat is the best for you. Avoid processed foods as much as possible, etc.

Written by Seth Anderson

September 12th, 2016 at 5:34 pm

Brexit buzz Re the fate of England’s honeybees

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Bee Cee Honey
Bee Cee Honey

As a brief follow-up to yesterday’s question about future food crops in England post-Brexit: the honeybees are also in the divorce negotiation apparently.

SURBITON, England — The honeybees buzzing inside the hives in this community garden outside of London appear blissfully oblivious of the follies of man. But the political drama that has engulfed their human keepers since Britain voted to leave the European Union could ensnare them as well.

Few have bothered to consider what the country’s historic decision to end its four-decade alliance with the continent will mean for the humble arthropod. Gaining far more attention have been the passionate debates over the merits of immigration and the limits of globalization that fueled the nation’s desire to quit the E.U.

But unraveling any marriage is a complicated affair, and the fate of Apis mellifera highlights how entangled Britain has become with the 27 countries beyond the English Channel. At stake are the future of European regulations of pesticides that could threaten the 250,000 hives on this island nation; medicines that can be used to treat honeybee ailments; and funding for inspectors responsible for ensuring the health of Britain’s bees.

The honeybee falls under the jurisdiction of the European Food Safety Authority. The E.U. produces more than 200,000 tons of honey for human consumption each year, but officials’ interest is not merely culinary. Bees are a critical pollinator of Europe’s farm crops, and their indirect impact on agriculture is estimated to be 22 billion euros, dwarfing the sales of honey. Beekeepers hope that means their interests would not be ignored in any future discussions.

Beekeepers are divided over what Britain’s departure from the E.U. will mean for their hives. Generating the most buzz is a temporary ban on pesticides, known as neonicotinoids, used by farmers. Environmentalists and bee enthusiasts had lobbied for the moratorium after noticing that bees exposed to the chemical appeared to act drunk — becoming disoriented and getting lost.

Now the question is whether Britain will keep the ban or roll it back.

“Environmental issues cross political boundaries. In order to tackle them, you have to work together,” said Norman Carreck, science director at the International Bee Research Association. “If the U.K. leaves, everything is open to negotiation.”

To those who supported remaining in the E.U., the moratorium is exactly the type of regulatory minutiae that the alliance is supposed to alleviate. A centralized bureaucracy helps Britain compete in an increasingly interconnected world. Rather than negotiate with 28 agencies over pesticide use across Europe, beekeepers need only deal with one. A unified bloc also gives Britain greater leverage in negotiations with other world leaders. Collectively, the E.U. is the largest economy in the world — bigger than the United States. Alone, the United Kingdom is a distant fifth.

(click here to continue reading The latest Brexit buzz is about the fate of England’s honeybees – The Washington Post.)

Gee, Dad, What’s That?
Gee, Dad, What’s That?

Written by Seth Anderson

August 20th, 2016 at 9:43 am

With nearly half its food imported, who will feed Britain after Brexit?

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Organic Tomatoes Produced in Kent
Organic Tomatoes Produced in Kent, UK.

Trump called himself “Mr. Brexit” yesterday. Funny, almost, in light of the reality of how removing E.U. immigrants is going to drastically change how Britain feeds itself. America too if the anti-immigrant brigade ever gets a modicum of power. Have you ever picked vegetables in the hot sun? It’s not work I’d do voluntarily, even if it paid above minimum wage. Trump’s anti-immigrant army will be spluttering in impotent rage if tomatoes were $50/lb, if lettuce was something you only could afford to eat over the holidays, if a hamburger cost $35 even to make it at home with store-bought ingredients. 

But then Trump’s cult has never had the ability to comprehend facts.

Courgetts (or Courgettes)
Courgetts (or Courgettes) (a/k/a Zucchini)

Anyway, back to Britain, where Carla Power writes, in part:

“Brexit” has sown deep uncertainty in Britain’s food system, which for the last 43 years has been entwined with the rest of Europe’s, relying heavily on the EU for everything from pork to peaches to farm subsidies to the labor that picks its tomatoes. Now, the country is going to have to rethink how it feeds itself, from farm to fork.

“Food is the biggest sector of engagement with Europe,” said Timothy Lang, a professor at City University London’s Center for Food Policy. “It’s hundreds of thousands of contracts, all woven into long supply chains.”

Currently, European laws regulate nearly everything that ends up on British plates: how clean a chicken should be before slaughter, how cold to keep frozen cod, who gets to call their biscuits “gluten free.”

Now, Britain will have to decide all that for itself. Some groups already have begun lobbying Prime Minister Theresa May’s new government for regulations to improve animal welfare and protect soils.

But what Britain can’t do is feed itself. The country imports more than $50 billion a year in food, or nearly half of what it eats. That’s more than double what it exports. Most wine and beef come from mainland Europe, as do about 40% of fruit and vegetables.

The future of food in Britain will depend largely on what sort of trade deals the government can strike with the European alliance it is preparing to abandon.

Germany and other European powers have made it clear that they will not grant Britain the benefits of EU membership if it leaves and that the country probably will face tariffs on many of its imports.

New tariffs on food would drive up prices and potentially change the nation’s diet.

EU membership has brought them a flexible, energetic and mobile labor force of Romanians, Bulgarians and other Eastern Europeans. While EU-born workers from outside Britain make up 6% of the country’s workforce, they account for more than a quarter of employees in the food manufacturing industry — and 95% of crop pickers.

“Every strawberry eaten at Wimbledon was picked by an Eastern European,” said John Hardman of Hops Labour Solutions, an agricultural recruitment firm in Kenilworth. “Every Brussels sprout eaten at Christmas dinner was picked by an Eastern European.”
If Britain stops free movement of EU workers, farmers may struggle to find replacements. Britons themselves don’t seem keen on the low wages and long hours in the orchards and fields.

(click here to continue reading With nearly half its food imported, who will feed Britain after ‘Brexit’? – LA Times.)

Written by Seth Anderson

August 19th, 2016 at 1:15 pm

which country cooks falafel best?

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Freshly cooked falafel is among my most favorite of lunch foods…

It’s most likely that falafel did start in Egypt – one theory being that Coptic Christians created it about 1,000 years ago, another being that it goes back to the time of the pharaohs. In any case, the dish migrated to the Levant, to be consumed by Lebanese, Palestinians and Israelis – and all those countries have at some point claimed falafel as their national dish.

Arguments about origins aside, most people just want to eat the best falafel that can be found. Anissa Helou, the Middle East food expert and writer, tells me what to look out for. “They have to be very crisp on the outside, with a nice crust that is not too dark,” she says. “And – this is the art of proper frying – they should be crumbly and fluffy, without being too wet on the inside.” When it comes to consistency as well as flavour, the ingredients are key: Helou suggests a good mix would be chickpeas and fava beans, along with fresh coriander, leeks, garlic and spices, and a bit of bicarbonate of soda added at the end, so that the falafel balls puff up when fried. What is essential, though, is that they are served on the spot. As Young says: “It’s better to have people wait for the falafel, than to have the falafel wait for people.” Bear that in mind whenever you’re remotely tempted by some pre-packaged, refrigerated fried bean balls masquerading as this champion Middle Eastern food.

(click here to continue reading The falafel battle: which country cooks it best? | Life and style | The Guardian.)

https://i1.wp.com/farm8.staticflickr.com/7304/26248954843_8b0dd4b514_z.jpg?resize=640%2C640&ssl=1
garbanzo bean flour

i emailed my mom, she reports

The very best I have ever had were in Toronto on Yonge St. The owners were Lebanese and they only used chick peas that they soaked and ground. Lots of spices, freshly fried for each ordered sandwich. And the sauce had cucumber, sesame paste, yogurt, lots of garlic and parsley. Also the pita were fresh every day. MMMMMMMMM.

The pavement was alive with the sound of music
The pavement was alive with the sound of music, Amsterdam train station.

I remember eating falafel in some public square in Amsterdam on my Italian sojourn in 1993-94. We were nearing the end of our trip, and our funds were getting low, for I think 5 guilders you’d get three falafel balls, pita, and all the cucumber, tomato, lettuce, tahini, humus, hot peppers, pickles, beets and yogurt sauce you could fit. Lebanese probably, but not sure, fried up as you waited. Delicious. I think we ate it 4 or 5 times for lunch.

And a recipe for making your own:

Moustafa Elrefaey’s Egyptian broad bean falafel (Serves 4)

500g dried broad beans, soaked 40g Spanish onions 12g garlic 35g parsley 35g fresh coriander 7g salt 2g ground cumin

Thoroughly wash the beans in a bowl under running water then cover and soak them (unrefrigerated) for at least 8 hours.

Wash and drain the beans well.

In a food processor, puree the vegetables and herbs for 2 mins then add the soaked beans and keep it running for 10 mins. Add the salt and cumin until the mix is slightly foamy.

Heat the oil to 180C/350F/gas mark 4 and, if you have one, use an ice-cream scoop to form a ball from the puree. Press it between your fingers into a patty and fry it for 2 mins on each side.

(click here to continue reading The falafel battle: which country cooks it best? | Life and style | The Guardian.)

Written by Seth Anderson

May 13th, 2016 at 10:19 am

Posted in Food and Drink

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The Rabbis Are Here to Inspect the (Legal) Weed

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Kosher cannabis? Why not? Every company wants a competitive advantage, a way to stand out in a crowded marketplace that is rapidly becoming more crowded. But being certified kosher is more complex to verify than I thought…

Truck full of Cannabis
Truck full of Cannabis

JOHNSTOWN, N.Y. — The rabbis had never inspected a medical marijuana plant before.

They had arrived here at Vireo Health of New York’s plant, about an hour northwest of Albany, looking for evidence that the company’s products merited kosher certification. They would eventually give their approval, but not before asking some tough questions, beginning in the room where row after row of plants hung upside down to dry.

“This is where they start getting worried,” recalled Ari Hoffnung, the company’s chief executive, because the kosher rules they were most focused on apply after a plant is dried.

Vireo, a subsidiary of Vireo Health, is one of at least two companies aiming to sell kosher medical marijuana products like tinctures or cannabis oil. The Orthodox Union, one of the United States’ most prominent Jewish groups, gave its first medical marijuana certification to Vireo in January. Another company, Cresco Labs in Illinois, is in the final stages of getting certified from a local rabbinical organization.

Smoking marijuana by itself isn’t an issue — at least not from a kosher dietary standpoint — since the rules are intended for food and drinks. Products ingested in some way, on the other hand, are another story.

Ingredients must not come into contact with forbidden foods, like pigs or insects, and the restrictions extend all the way down the supply chain.

Every ingredient in a marijuana brownie, for example, needs to be kosher. The leaves, if eaten, would need to come from a bug-free plant. Marijuana gelcaps cannot be made out of pig gelatin. There are also rules for the equipment that processes kosher food. Vireo’s products that have been certified by the Orthodox Union can have the recognizable “OU” stamp on their packaging, and must submit to periodic inspections from the group’s rabbis.

“We literally took them through every square inch of the facility,” said David Ellis, the executive vice president of operations at Cresco Labs. The Chicago Rabbinical Council visited Cresco in March and said it was in the final stages of issuing a kosher certification that will cover everything from chocolate bars to concentrates.

Representatives of the Orthodox Union and the Chicago Rabbinical Council, which inspected Cresco, said that the idea of kosher medical marijuana had stirred much internal debate, and that they would certify only medical marijuana and not products intended for the recreational market.

Deciding to go forward with the certification process “wasn’t an easy decision,” said Rabbi Moshe Elefant, the chief operating officer at the Orthodox Union’s kosher division.

But Rabbi Sholem Fishbane, the administrator of kosher laws for the Chicago Rabbinical Council, said he now expected to get more calls.

“What I thought would be, you know, maybe I’ll call it an amusing afternoon,” he said about the inspection, “really turned out to be a lot of lessons of Kosher 101.”

(click here to continue reading The Rabbis Are Here to Inspect the (Legal) Weed – The New York Times.)

The Green Doctors Are In
The Green Doctors Are In

Written by Seth Anderson

May 11th, 2016 at 10:14 am

Budweiser Naming Itself ‘America’, America Rolls Its Eyes

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Really, A-B InBev?

Ernie's Old Time Saloon

Ernie’s Old Time Saloon, Sitka, Alaska…

Budweiser…  brand has sought approval for new labels that replace the Budweiser name with “America,” according to a filing with the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau. The labels don’t stop there. They include phrases such as “E Pluribus Unum” and “from the redwood forest to the Gulf stream waters this land was made for you and me,” as well as “indivisible since 1776.”

A-B InBev on Tuesday, May 10, confirmed the limited-edition label change, saying “America” would replace “Budweiser” on the front of 12-oz. cans and bottles. The packaging will run from May 23 through election season in November, the brewer stated. The agency that handled the design change is Jones Knowles Ritchie, New York. The packaging will be accompanied by a summer-long campaign called “America is in Your Hands.” A national TV spot featuring the cans and bottles will premiere on June 1.

 

(click here to continue reading A-B InBev Looks to Replace Budweiser With ‘America’ on Packs | CMO Strategy – AdAge.)

Honestly, this makes me laugh more than anything I’ve read recently. Maybe I’m not the target demographic, no, not maybe, definitively. Even when I was a young, beer swilling college student without much money, I still didn’t drink Budweiser. Mind you, this was back in the dark ages before the craft beer explosion – which meant if a bunch of us went on a camping trip, or had a party, we’d scrounge together enough money to purchase Shiner Bock, or if we couldn’t swing that, we would buy a case of Carling Black Label, or Stroh’s, or Lone Star, something like that, or frequently, wine. I honestly cannot think of a single time when I had a choice of beverage that I chose Bud. Maybe at some low rent sporting event? 

And also, Budweiser is made in massive factories, probably by robots, and is owned by Anheuser-Busch InBev SA/NV, a conglomerate headquartered in Leuven, Belgium. You know, MURICA! Whoo hoo!

Anheuser-Busch InBev SA/NV makes beers such as:

Budweiser, Corona and Stella Artois, international brands Beck’s, Hoegaarden and Leffe and local brands such as Bud Light, Skol, Brahma, Antarctica, Quilmes, Victoria, Modelo Especial, Michelob Ultra, Harbin, Sedrin, Klinskoye, Sibirskaya Korona, Chernigivske and Jupiler.

(click here to continue reading Anheuser-Busch InBev – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.)

and have annual revenues in the neighborhood of $50,000,000,000. So obviously, somebody drinks that swill. A lot of people apparently. But I wonder what percentage of their gross revenue goes to pay American taxes? I’m guessing they are in Belgium instead of St. Louis because the tax climate is friendlier there. 

If you are a Bud drinker, you aren’t really drinking it for its flavor, I’m assuming. Especially in light of:

After the November 18, 2008 InBev takeover, several cost-cutting measures were implemented that negatively affected the flavor of the beer. Whole rice grains were been replaced by broken ones, and the high quality Hallertauer Mittelfrüh hop was phased out. A former top AB InBev executive told BusinessWeek Magazine, in an article published on November 8, 2012, that the company had saved approximately $55 million a year by substituting cheaper hops in Budweiser and other U.S. beers

(click here to continue reading Budweiser – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.)

Anyway, I’m sure summer sales will be brisk, lots of ironic purchases of six packs that will sit in refrigerators around the nation, collecting dust…

Written by Seth Anderson

May 11th, 2016 at 9:24 am

City’s First Kava Bar Hits West Town

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The grizzled editor of this blog is inexplicably fond of alliteration despite everyone’s best efforts to dissuade him. Hence, today’s broadly assigned topic Food, Film and Photography.

Patience please
Patience please…

I’ve never sampled kava, but I’ve long wanted to. Apparently, the universe listened to this request, and not my other one of discovering millions of gold coins in a rusting suitcase… 

A juice bar serving nonalcoholic drinks made with kava root — offering a natural remedy for anxiety and a buzz minus the hangover, among other claims  — has been steadily gaining converts since opening in March, according to Tropikava Kafe & Juice Bar owner Jeff Ramsey.

Drinking kava has been described by one user “as if alcohol, marijuana and coffee had one wild night and created the sedating, antidepressant drink.”

Ramsey said the feeling a person gets while drinking kava is “a euphoria that makes you mellow.”

“Here, it’s about relaxing, enjoying and socializing,” he said of the 25-seat cafe, where patrons can sit on couches or at the long bar and drink kava together. Since the cafe is BYO, some patrons also bring in wine and champagne and mix it with their kava, Ramsey said.

On Wednesday, Ramsey said he had just catered a midday kava event for workers at a Downtown architectural firm arranged by a woman who has become a regular at Tropikava, located at 1115 N. Hermitage Ave., just south of Division Street in West Town.

(click here to continue reading City’s First Kava Bar, Offering A ‘Natural’ Buzz, Hits West Town – East Village – DNAinfo Chicago.)

Maybe this weekend?

Written by Seth Anderson

May 6th, 2016 at 10:23 am

Posted in Food and Drink

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How Vermont Got Big Food Companies To Label GMOs

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Non GMO Project
Non GMO Project

If you hadn’t heard, Vermont recently passed a GMO labeling law, and Congress, since it is so dysfunctional, could not muster a response. Thus Vermont’s law will become the de facto law of the nation, at least for a while…

You’ll soon know whether many of the packaged foods you buy contain ingredients derived from genetically modified plants, such as soybeans and corn.

Over the past week or so, big companies including General Mills, Mars and Kellogg have announced plans to label such products – even though they still don’t think it’s a good idea.

The reason, in a word, is Vermont. The tiny state has boxed big food companies into a corner. Two years ago, the state passed legislation requiring mandatory labeling.

The Grocery Manufacturers Association has fought back against the law, both in court and in Congress, but so far it’s been unsuccessful.

Last week, as we reported, Congress failed to pass an industry-supported measure that would have created a voluntary national standard for labeling — and also would have preempted Vermont’s law. Which means for now, food industry giants still face a July 1 deadline to comply with the state’s labeling mandate.

And since food companies can’t create different packaging just for Vermont, it appears that the tiniest of states has created a labeling standard that will go into effect nationwide.

This statement, from General Mills’ Jeff Harmening, sums it up:

“Vermont state law requires us to start labeling certain grocery store food packages that contain GMO ingredients or face significant fines,” Harmening wrote on the General Mills blogs.

“We can’t label our products for only one state without significantly driving up costs for our consumers and we simply will not do that,” explains Harmening.

So, as a result: “Consumers all over the U.S. will soon begin seeing words legislated by the state of Vermont on the labels of many of their favorite General Mills products,” he concludes.

Chocolate giant Mars struck a similar tone in its announcement: “To comply with [the Vermont] law, Mars is introducing clear, on-pack labeling on our products that contain GM ingredients nationwide,” the company statement says.

(click here to continue reading How Little Vermont Got Big Food Companies To Label GMOs : The Salt : NPR.)

All Your Bonnie Plants Come from Non-GMO Seeds, and All Your Base are Belong to Us
All Your Bonnie Plants Come from Non-GMO Seeds, and All Your Base are Belong to Us

For the record, I’m ok with the Vermont labeling law. I don’t know if genetically modified food is good or bad, but truthfully, nobody really does. The American government’s regulatory agencies are permanently tilted towards the interests of corporations, always, and nearly without exception; the FDA cannot be trusted to protect the health of consumers. Do we really know if gene splicing pesticide resistance into apples or wheat is going to alter our bodies? The corporations pinky-swear GMOs won’t have long-term effects on cancer rates and other health-related concerns, and maybe they are right.

But maybe they are not.

Last spring, the cancer research arm of the World Health Organization declared glyphosate, the most commonly used herbicide on GMO crops, to be a probable carcinogen. And just last month, the FDA announced it would begin testing food products sold in the U.S. for glyphosate residue.

State legislators across the nation introduced 101 bills last year pertaining to GMOs. Of the 15 that passed, four had to do with labeling, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. A bill introduced by Illinois state Sen. David Koehler, D-Peoria, requiring disclosure of genetically engineered ingredients stalled in committee.

More than 90 percent of corn and soybeans grown in Illinois is genetically modified, said Adam Nielsen, director of national legislation for the Illinois Farm Bureau.

The GMO crop movement took off in 1996, when Monsanto Co. introduced Roundup Ready soybean seeds, genetically modified to resist Monsanto’s glyphosate-based herbicide. Similarly marketed cotton, canola, corn and sugar beet seeds soon followed.

For farmers, glyphosate represented a safer, cheaper, more effective way of controlling weeds, thwarting pests and growing crops, Moose said. It’s since become the standard in large-scale agriculture.

The general public and the scientific community don’t tend to agree when it comes to GMO safety, according to a 2015 Pew Research Center survey conducted before the World Health Organization finding. Most consumers surveyed, 57 percent, said they considered GMOs to be generally unsafe to eat, whereas 88 percent of scientists surveyed, all of them connected to the American Association for the Advancement of Science, said GMOs were generally safe.

Genetically modified crops don’t present a health risk, but the herbicides used on them are “a big problem,” said Dr. Philip Landrigan, dean for global health at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City and an expert on environmental health concerns and children.

As GMO crops have become more common over the years, weeds have become resistant to glyphosate, which has led to heavier use of the herbicide, he said.

Landrigan is among scientists and health experts calling on the EPA to “urgently review the safety risk of glyphosate” and says it’s time for GMO labeling. “Not because I think genetic rearrangement is bad, but because I think consumers have a right to know what they’re eating,” he said.

(click here to continue reading GMO labeling debate puts food industry on defensive – Chicago Tribune.)

The agribusinesses are not being banned from using GMO products, only being required to be transparent if they are. Does this mean General Mills has to change their packaging? Yep. So what? They can’t be complaining about the extra ink required, only that they are being forced to alter their packaging by dictate of the people. Boo hoo. Packaging changes all the time anyway, I don’t see the harm in adding a few words to a package.

Written by Seth Anderson

March 27th, 2016 at 8:29 am