When I was an obstinate vegan looking for compelling arguments to support my cause, I could always count on the human milk cheese argument to help me out. Humans are the only animals that drink the milk from another species, and yet we don’t bother drink milk from our own species. Maybe it’s that we recognize the sanctity of the bond between mother and child, or maybe it’s just gross. But why would you be more willing to drink a from strange mistreated cow than from a human?

Well I guess, its come to this, because an innovative chef in New York City has stepped up to the plate. Daniel Angerer has begun serving his wife’s breast milk cheese to special patrons at his restaurant Klee Brasserie.

I can’t believe I’ve been oblivious to this being in the news recently. How’d I miss something like this? Apparently its already been the Today Show and prominent food critic Gael Greenehas reviewed the stuff. And who could forget the sensational NY Post article.

It’s amazing to think the controversy this causing. Something as basic and human as drinking (human) milk has become an avant-garde statement and a cultural critique. It says something about our culture that violently subjugating millions of farm animals into an unnatural existence for the milk barely bats an eye, but human milk… oh no that’s too much.

As a philosophical and artistic inquiry, I applaud the chef’s work. I’m even a bit miffed I didn’t do it first…

Now the next question for me is whether this milk would be considered vegan? No animals were harmed and, in fact, were have verbal consent. I wonder if PETA will jump this. Oh wait… I guess they’ve been promoting this for quite some time.

Click through for video!

I’m having trouble loading the Today Show video, but you can watch it on their website here. They’re quite annoying but if you can sit through it… it’s interesting.

A few weeks ago the Wall Street Journal did a nice profile of Campbell’s new redesign and the neuromarketing methodology behind it. Since the WSJ has a pay-wall, you can find a nice summary of the article here.

Is this the natural progression of advertising with the onset of ubiquitous technology?

I gotta admit, from an aesthetic standpoint it’s definitely an improvement. The less prominent name alone justifies the change. It looks nice. The old design feels a bit dry… and that’s not the thing you want with soup. But while the new design feels nicer, it doesn’t make want to eat their soup.

The photoshop steam coming off the soup… it all feels a bit like those unrealistic cover girl shots. The box sure looks nice, but the food is still junk.

When we isolate our neural responses outside of a natural context, we are reduced to an aesthetic unreality. Think ‘natural grape flavor.’ Maybe we are nothing more than a bunch of quantifiable neurons to be marketed towards and maybe this type of marketing moves units, but there seems to be a total lack of respect for the customer in all this.

As a society, we are losing the ability to maintain a healthy concept of body image. We are losing the ability to discern truly healthy beautiful food from slickly-marketing trash. It feels like a complete misappropriation of technology.

How is this helping us?

How many times have you been lured into a food purchase by some slick packaging – maybe it was that smell of Subway or McDonald’s as you walked past – only to be utterly and completely disappointed when you ate the food. This type of marketing is moving units, but it’s all based on a lie. The food itself doesn’t look better. It doesn’t taste better. And it isn’t healthier. In all likelihood, they probably cut funds from the quality assurance to spend more on marketing and advertising.

When we look at and eat fresh and natural food, it appeals just as equally to our neural sensors. A wild strawberry in a field – now that is magic!

If innovation is to take the neural marketing of the wild strawberry and attach it to box, that’s fine, but I want no part of it.

I don’t spend enough time in my local Walmart. I almost missed the deal of a lifetime: $5 for a 12lb Thanksgiving turkey!

And to think that would only buy you a pound or two at the local farmers market! Those farmers at the market must be missing something, because times are tough and these are deals we’re talking about… and come to think of it, I must be missing something as well. I just don’t understand how they’re able to profit off that.

Let’s break it down. That $5 apparently covers feed, slaughter, transportation, refrigeration, storage, etc, and additionally some room for profit for the players along the way. Even taking the profit out of that, something just doesn’t feel right. I understand that with economies of scale, Walmart is able to do some pretty amazing wheeling and dealing, but can you even buy 12lbs worth of feed for that price??

I’m consistently astounded at the price of “food” sometimes.

fat_1
Michael Pollan has connected the dots for us all once again. Health care reform is about more than the insurance companies, it’s also about what you ate for lunch.

We have the highest health care costs and the fattest people. This is not a coincidence. Americans spend twice as much on health care compared to most European countries and the majority of treatment is for preventable chronic diseases. These lifestyle diseases have everything to do with our food system and our perverse system of subsidizing unhealthy food. High-calorie low-nutrient over-processed foods are cheap in America like no where else in the world.

Pollan makes the argument that comprehensive health care reform would create incentives for the health care industry to encourage healthy lifestyles and food system reform. Our preventable chronic diseases would reek havoc on a their bottom lines and increasing access and interest in healthy foods will be in their best interest. If everyone has to be covered, prevention pays and the movement for food system reform might receive a new strong voice of support.

It sounds strange, but reform might actually encourage the health insurance companies to promote something new for them: health.

VF_IMG_02_001Columbia Professor and Vertical Farm Entrepreneur Dickson Despommier wrote a interesting op-ed for the Sunday paper of New York Times. I’m glad his ideas are getting attention, but this whole vertical farm business elicits strongly divergent feelings in me. I want to support it but I’m still not sold.

The premise is right on. We are losing topsoil, farmable land, natural resources, etc at disastrous rates. Traditional methods need be revitalized, but at his point – with humongous urban populations and a ravaged environment – we need innovation. Something needs to be done and Despommier’s Vertical Farms are the type of ideas that we need to bring healthy food systems back into our lives.

Let’s look at the positive:

There are already plenty of urban farms in New York City. From Added Value in Red Hood, to ENY Farms, to Backyard Farmers and Community Gardeners, it is more than possible to grow food in this city. Urban farming is the key to a revitalized food system. Rooftop Farms in Greenpoint is an example of innovative growing that adjusts to the requirements of the city.

It seems like a natural progression. On the road to revitalized food system, we started with community gardens and moved to neighborhood farms. We raised our vegetables up higher with raised beds and then too them out the ground entirely and put them on our roofs.

Is the next step a high-rise farm? Maybe.

720.eo.x491.homebrew
Brooklyn and beer used to be the best of friends. We had over 100 breweries and once even produced more beer than Milwaukee. But times change and that was a long time ago.

There’s been a resurgence of breweries in Brooklyn over the past few years. The Brooklyn Brewery has led the charge and much of the cultural recognition, but there are a number of other hoppy upstarts blessing our borough with some delicious brews. Once again people are starting think of Brooklyn when they think of good beer.

Couple that resurgance with our prolific DIY food culture and its a huge surprise that up until recently Brooklyn has had no homebrew supply shops. Brewing beer is simple and in line with the Brooklyn food aesthetic, but it still requires some specialty equipment and access to special ingredients. This lack of access is the easiest way to explain that while your friends have been at home making their own breads, pickles, kombucha, and other fermented goodies, there’s been a dearth of Brooklyn home brewers. It was not just Brooklyn though. There was no beer brewing supply shop in NYC that could be accessed by public transit!

Thankfully this is the year of change! This year has seen the emergence of two new homebrew supply shops in Brooklyn, the Brooklyn Brew Shop and Brooklyn Homebrew.

The Brooklyn Brew Shop has no retail location yet but you can find them at the Brooklyn Flea in Fort Greene on Saturdays and DUMBO on Sundays. They have a limited selection at their tent, but are happy to source other ingredients if you email them beforehand. There’s something nice about the shop’s transience.

Brooklyn Homebrew opened this year as well and has a retail location in Sunset Park. The project of two New York City chefs, the shop will hopefully be a home for a new community of homebrewers.

Let’s get to brewing Brooklyn!

blight
It’s summer time and that means tomatoes. But this summer there has been an HUGE outbreak of Late Blight, a fungus related to the one that caused the Irish Potato Famine with similar disasterous results. Not a small matter at all! It’s a huge blow to small organic farms, because tomatoes are such a huge and integral part of their yearly revenue and they are helpless against such outbreaks. Normally proper farm management will protect against such outbreaks, and with millenia of experience tending the soil and with farmer oversight through State Agriculture Schools, many of these types of outbreaks have been avoided,

So what happened this time?

“Professor Fry, who is genetically tracking the blight, said the outbreak spread in part from the hundreds of thousands of tomato plants bought by home gardeners at Wal-Mart, Lowe’s, Home Depot and Kmart stores starting in April.” Yes, Wal-Mart is attacking small farms! Not intentially, of course, and not directly, but their large scale agricultural incompentence is reeking havoc on our food system! Nationwide distribution of agricultural products by agriculturally illiterate companies is the worst thing for food system as whole, because it not only affects the customers of sub-par produce, but everyone, all farmers and all eaters. It is a ticking time bomb. All of the food system is deeply interconnected and so, like it or not, we are all in this together. What an individual person and company contributes to the food system has the potential to affect the entire system.

Please let this remind you that your role in the food system is important. What you eat and who buy from is important. No one is an island and your contibution can be a positive one. Celebrate your local bounty with a organic feast amongst family and friends. Eat beautifully and protect our food system!

Late Blight Fungus Threatens Tomato Crop

100_2254

Pringles-thumb
It’s a sad state of the world when it takes a court ruling to decide that Pringles, the plywood of snack foods, are potato chips or “similar product.” Britain’s Supreme Court has ruled that Pringles are legally potato chips.

Now if it weren’t for the context, I would stand firmly on the side that Pringles are not a potato chip, nor “similar product”. They are a “similar product” by sheer marketing force having nothing to do with ingredients. Made of potato flour, corn, rice, wheat, “taste enhancers,” (read: MSG) and “flavorings,” they are the sawdusts of the processed food world molded into something resembling real food.

Procter and Gamble, Pringles manufacturer, made a variation of that argument to Britain’s Supreme Court to avoid a 17.5% VAT tax of potato chips and similar products. The argued that that Pringles were ‘unlike anything found in nature’ and therefore not subject to the tax. In that sense they are correct.

Part of me would even like for the ruling to hold that Pringles are not potato chips or similar product. And then it should be enforced that they can’t advertise their products as such and might have to sell their product as the industrial amalgam that it is. The fact that they have to pay millions in back taxes is the only thing that makes the decision worthwhile to me. That a natural product – however fatty potato chips are and as industrially processed as they are capable of being – is taxed heavily, while an industrial “food” product can escape the tax is unacceptable. It encourages a food system based on flawed assumptions about the definition of food.

The precedent is dangerous. It legally recognizes food-like products as the very foods they are mimicking… at least in Britain. Unfortunately its something we did long ago in America.

Heartbreaker
Canada’s Governor General Michaelle Jean has caused quite an international stir in the past couple days by eating raw seal heart on her tour of Canada’s Nunavut Province. The whole hubbub is extremely interesting because the conversation is contained mostly amongst progressives: supporters of indigenous solidarity and supporters of animal rights.

Governor general Jean is currently on a tour of Nunavut, Canada. The province was officially created in 1999 and is over 80% Inuit. Living in such harsh arctic conditions over the past few thousand years has created a unique cultural landscape with food, like most cultures, at its center. Given a climate with little agricultural hope and cold enough to naturally preserve meat, raw meat plays a large role in the culture. So much so that the word eskimo is commonly - althogh incorrectly – held to mean ‘eaters of raw meat.’ Seal meat is both a livelihood for many communities and a way of life.

In this regard, the act of eating raw seal heart is an act of solidarity with an indigenous and oft oppressed culture. The Inuit culture of Nunavut deserves the support.

On the opposing side stands the image of the commercial seal hunt. On its face, it appears atrocious. The image is akin to killing kittens for sport – there’s really nothing worse. As a strong proponent of the ethical consideration of animals myself, I understand the gut reaction. The EU recently banned Canadian seal products in protest to commercial seal hunting and a little tasting seems to be a direct protest of that action. I believe they are justified to do so and can even go so far to say that I support the ban. In the delicate arctic ecosystem, large scale commercial seal hunting for export seems not only cruel, but extremely unsustainable. This was different though. This was about a sustainable and local food culture. I would be more bothered if the Governor ate a mango in the arctic, something that definitely doesn’t belong.

I can’t speak for the Governor General’s intentions, but I don’t see the big deal with her action. The real story for me is the world’s misguided response. The otherness of this exotic culture is being demonized and its strikes me as incredibly racist and rooted in a deep misunderstanding of one’s relationship to a food system and geography. It might be a bit much to pull the racism card, but its hard not to have that reaction. (And isn’t the EU the home of Fois Gras?). I can understand and support a ban on commercial seal hunting for export, but that is starkly different from the continued preservation of a beautiful, unique and environmentally sustainable culture.

When in Italy, you eat the pasta; when in Nunavut you eat the raw seal heart.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.