Archive for the 'NYTimes' Category

A Victory for Factory Farming Opponents in Ohio

An article in the New York Times this morning reported that a truce has been made between factory farmers and animal rights activists in Ohio.  Much of the discussion is focused on caging methods for chickens.

According to the article:

Hoping to avoid a divisive November referendum that some farmers feared they would lose, Gov. Ted Strickland of Ohio urged farm leaders to negotiate with opponents, led by the Humane Society of the United States. After secret negotiations, the sides agreed to bar new construction of egg farms that pack birds in cages, and to phase out the tight caging of pregnant sows within 15 years and of veal calves by 2017.

Argan Oil: From Morocco to Israel

Jacob Levenfeld, who has spent extensive time in the Negev, writes about Orly Sharir’s project to grow argan oil in Israel’s desert. Orly, a supplier of herbs and spices for Negev Nectars in the United States, writes more on the subject on the Negev Nectars blog.

Isn’t it frustrating when you eat something delicious but you can’t quite put your finger on that little ingredient that pulls everything together? In Moroccan cuisine, that extra spice could just be a little-known delicacy known as argan oil. Used in all sorts of food recipes, lotions, and creams, this reddish oil is derived from argan tree nuts native to Morocco. Lately, though, a small number of farms in Israel’s Negev desert have also forayed into argan production.

At Vegans’ Weddings: Beef or Tofu?

“I know it’s your day, but it’s not all about you…Why have a wedding if you’re going to be like that [serve only vegetarian options]?  Just print a bumper sticker.”

Did this article that concluded with this choice comment in today’s NY Times Sunday Styles section annoy others as much as it annoyed me?  Of course weddings should reflect one’s values, so if you’re kosher, or vegan, or vegetarian, why wouldn’t you serve kosher, vegan, or vegetarian food?  As the vegan Kathleen Mink quoted in the article said, it was  a “no brainer” to have a vegan menu at her and her husband’s wedding.  But another vegan pastry chef served meat at her wedding because she was afraid celebrity chefs like Eric Ripert and Daniel Boulud would think she and her husband “were crazy” if they didn’t serve meat. 

What’s With All the Foodies?

Ever since I read the New York Times article about the proliferation of food blogs, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about them. How did the number of foodies explode in what seems like all of a sudden?

I think back to when I was in college in the late nineties, a time when people weren’t yet using digital cameras or blogs, there was no social networking, and people were just starting to get into going online. So certainly people probably weren’t photographing every meal to post to the world; just food photographers would have done such a thing.

Mark Bittman on Soda and Obesity

Soda.  Pop.  Coke.  S.S.B. (sugar-sweetened beverage).  Whatever you wanna call it, it’s bad for you.  Or so argues Mark Bittman, the New York Times‘ “Minimalist” columnist and prominent foodie in this Sunday’s New York Times.  This phenomenal article poses the question of whether soda may be the next tobacco.  He interviews proponents calling for a special excise tax on soda to fund obesity prevention programs, as well as other measures to curb the intake of these empty calories in a can (or bottle).  The article comes after Michelle Obama’s appointment to lead a national campaign against childhood obesity, which some believe is linked to an excessive consumption of soda and candy.

Vegetarianism is Illuminated


If you didn’t catch Jonathan Safran Foer’s wonderful piece “Against Meat” in last Sunday’s NY Times Magazine Food Issue, it’s well worth reading. He writes how his Holocaust survivor grandmother’s “obsession with food”  formed his own vegetarianism, and how his Jewish values and experiences informed his and his wife’s decision to raise their children vegetarian.  But Safran Foer also points out his way to vegetarianism was not a straight path. He very nicely captures the ambivalence of those of us who lean towards vegetarianism, but still eat meat, as well as what appears to be a kind of ethical inconsistency in our enjoyment of the taste of meat.  As he bluntly puts it,

“The Ear Tests Words as The Palate Tastes Food”


When Job reflected upon the wisdom of God’s creation “Truly the ear tests words as the palate tastes food” (12:11), could he have been alluding to the remarkable evolutionary development of the bones in our middle ear?  According to Natalie Angier in her article in the Science Times section of the New York Times today,

“Imagine what a dinner conversation would be like if you had decent table manners, but the ears of a lizard.  Not only would you have to stop eating whenever you wanted to speak, but, because parts of your ears are now attached to your jaw, you’d have to stop eating whenever you wanted to hear anybody else….Sometimes its the little things in life that make all the difference – in this case, the three littlest bones in the human body.  Tucked in our auditory canal, just on the inner side of the eardrum, are the musically named malleus, incus, and stapes, each minibone, each ossicle, about the size of a small freshwater pearl  and jointly the basis of one of evolution’s greatest inventions, the mammalian middle ear.  The middle ear gives us our sound bite, our capacity to masticate without being forced to turn a momentary deaf ear to the world, as most vertebrates are.   Who can say whether we humans would have become so voraciously verbal if not for the practice our ancestors had of jawboning around the wildebeest spit.”

The Demise of Gourmet Magazine, A Cultural Icon

After 70 years of publication, Conde Nast is ceasing publication of Gourmet magazine, while maintaining its support of Bon Appetit magazine.  As with many (most?) corporate decisions, it was a precipitous one, announced to its staff on Monday just as the November issue was off the presses.

As an immigrant to this country, I learned about the cultural rituals of my new country through the Girls Scouts manual– obtained from my small, neighborhood library, another American treasure– and later on, the pages of the food magazines.  The National Geographic was too arcane for me, but Bon Appetit broadened my cultural horizons past my family’s tenement apartment in New York’s Chinatown.  It showed me what people really do eat in their own homes and how to prepare their dishes.  It gave me a cultural passport, even before I could afford to travel on my own salary.

Court rejects GMO sugar beets!

In another important case against Monsanto and the USDA, the Center for Food Safety has again prevailed, demonstrating that GMOs pose serious risk of harm to organic farmers and consumers, and that the USDA is failing to sufficiently protect us from the contamination that can result from the planting of these crops – this time in Sugar beets! As lead counsel for CFS on this case, I’m excited to share the news with you!

A Federal Court ruled yesterday that the Bush USDA’s approval of genetically engineered (GE) “RoundUp Ready” sugar beets was unlawful. The Court ordered the USDA to conduct a rigorous assessment of the environmental and economic impacts of the crop on farmers and the environment.

D.I.Y. Et Pret A Manger

This blog is not the right place for it, but still, Roger Cohen has really gotten on my nerves over the last year or so.  His ranting about how wonderful Iran is and how great it is for the Jews there made me question my devotion to the New York Times.  His  piece “Advantage France,” in Sunday’s paper, about some of the differences between the French diet and the American diet, may have me beginning to change my mind.  I’ve only spent a few days in France, and only in Paris, but I’m guessing he’s exaggerating somewhat.  Nevertheless, the idea of Americans adopting any diet (or lifestyle, really) that required not only combining the ingredients and cooking them, but processing them to begin with (filleting the fish, making the pasta, etc) does sound beautiful and absurd.  The idea of connecting to food on a “gut” level and a geographic one far predates the terroir of which Cohen writes, at least in Jewish tradition.

Is Cooking a Jewish Issue?

Julia Child

Is it bad that home cooking is on the decline? Should we accept the advice of Harry Balzer, the food-marketing analyst Michael Pollan quotes in his disturbing piece in yesterday’s NY Times Magazine: “A hundred years ago, chicken for dinner meant going out and catching, killing, plucking and gutting a chicken. Do you know anybody who still does that? It would be considered crazy! Well, that’s exactly how cooking will seem to your grandchildren: something people used to do when they had no other choice. Get over it.” Personally, like Pollan, I don’t like that we are moving from a nation that prefers to watch cooking on television as a spectator sport than to do it ourselves.  But why do I have such a visceral reaction to being reduced to a cultural dinosaur? Maybe it’s partly because living a Jewish life in the 21st century is as much a creative and meaningful “anachronism” as cooking meals at home.

Michael Pollan on How Cooking Became a Spectator Sport

Michael Pollan’s thoughtful piece in this week’s New York Times Magazine examines the increasing popularity of cooking shows in a culture where eaters spend less time than ever preparing their own meals. Pollan’s argument that “The Food Network has helped to transform cooking from something you do into something you watch” is particularly relevant in light of Nora Ephron’s new movie Julie and Julia – America’s relationship to kitchen-related activities has certainly changed since Julia Child’s “The French Chef” debuted in 1963. Read more to find out how this shift happened, and why it’s important to reverse the trend.

You’re the Jew in my Coffee…

Cross-posted at

a tiny bottle of pharisaer
Tiny Vial of Pharisäer

What do you put in your coffee?

Pharisees of course

Ever-sensitive to appearances of Jewish references in popular culture, I was a bit surprised to read Maureen Dowd’s headline in the New York Times on Sunday, July 19, 2009: “Pharisees on the Potomac”

I did not see any mention of late antiquity in her column and it was not until a number of hours later that I realized she had used the Christian allusion to Pharisees as hypocrites! Shame on her and shame on her editors (I wonder if William Safire saw the column). As the Wikipedia makes quite clear:

Torah vs. “Text” or, Don’t Study With Your Mouth Full

SMS till you drop -- mobile phone ad on van in Kampala, Uganda by on Flickr

“Rabbi Shimon taught: ‘…Three who dine at a table and exchange words of Torah are considered as having eaten at God’s table…’”  (Pirke Avot 3:4)  I suppose a discussion of religion is considered verboten almost everywhere by certain people, but not in Jewish culture.  Then again, we like to talk politics in public, too!  But in the days of the Mishna, of course the conversation was only with the other people at the table.  After all, there was no e-mail, no phones…  and no text messages!  I remember, when cell phones were first becoming popular, my friend railing against people who would answer calls during dinner.  I agreed with her, but felt there should be some wiggle-room:  what if your friend is calling to say she’ll be late?  What if he needs directions to the restaurant?  Also, why should it bother me at the next table?  I understand if it is the person you’re dining with, but the “noise” argument makes no sense, since you wouldn’t be bothered by the people at the next table having a normal conversation.  Nowadays, we’re all used to this and most of us are pretty polite about it (music on the subway is a different story entirely, but I’ll restrain myself for now.)  Text messages, though around for years, have recently become more of a problem according to the NYT Dining section.