Friday, May 13, 2011

Friday Favorite: Pumpkin Apple Muffins for the Share Our Strength Bake Sale

Maybe I'm trying to boost the food cred of this blog, but I baked 48 pumpkin apple muffins today. Quadrupled my favorite recipe, mixed and beat and baked mounds of ingredients, then wrapped the muffins up and tied them pretty with orange ribbon. It took a surprisingly long time. But they do look all nice and bountiful in the box, ready to go to the Share Our Strength Blogger Bake Sale. All props to the ladies and guys who do this all the time.

The pumpkin apple muffins, modified from a Joy of Cooking recipe, are headed for the Share Our Strength Food Blogger Bake Sale tomorrow, Saturday May 14, 2011. Organized by What's Gaby Cooking? nationwide, the NYC version is hosted by Maggy of Three Many Cooks  and will be at Kiehl’s 109 3rd ave New York, NY 10003, starting at 10am. Seriously, the reason I did this was that I am proud to contribute to this great cause.

True, true my pumpkin apple muffins are not a seasonal selection, but I used organic ingredients and they are certified yummy. I hope they raise a lot of cash for Share Our Strength and their fight to be sure "No Kid Hungry."Go out and support! (Find a local sale here.)

Orange Tag and Orange Ribbon are signature Share Our Strength colors.

SOS Bake Sale

Pumpkin Apple Muffins


Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Parents as Real Food Advocates? More Thoughts on Family Dinner and the Food System

One of the hot topics among slow food/real food/sustainable food (take your pick of labels) advocates is how to expand their message broadly and fight the "elitist" label that only the super-rich could care about sustainable food practices. As I wrote in a post last week, I think taking the message to families is one way to do it. With, I am most interested in helping support families so they will start eating meals together, without too many rules or caveats. But I am often asked, "What's more important: the food or the family?" The truth is, they are wed pretty tightly. Family dinner is often the first step in a progression: from family dinner comes an interest in healthy eating and home cooking, from this comes an appreciation of better nutrition and real food, which ties into reductions in obesity. The next steps could easily be better understanding and support of a sustainable and safe food system. 

More people eating "family dinner" means:
more people that come to the table,
more people that care about food,
more people that know about food,
more people that eat better,*
more parents teaching kids about healthy choices,
more people that vote with their wallet and their forks to affect change in the food system.
So, family dinner is both a first step and a platform. The slow food movement will mean something to parents who are already invested in serving their families nutritious foods at shared meals. Reaching out to parents and families will not only expand the slow food audience, but it will combat charges of elitism. 

Researching these issues, I stumbled across a couple of great slow food projects: The Perennial Plate, by Daniel Klein and Mirra Fine, a online video documentary of weekly sustainable food adventures in Minnesota that is now launching a nationwide a road trip, and 100 Days of Real Food by Lisa Leake who challenged herself to feed her family "real food" for over 100 days.  While the documentary filmmakers are indeed inspiring, very few of us in the trenches with kids could or would launch such a drastic life change. But Leake's model is more do-able for a family, and in some ways, more instructive. How can you make changes today to  embrace a commitment to real food, and in the end, make more healthy choices for your family?  I was particularly inspired by her stint of serving real food on a budget of only $125 a week for a family of four. I am also excited by Food Day, which seems to be reaching out to a broad audience, as an Earth Day for food. I hope these efforts will bring families into the "slow food" fold, so that they can eat better for themselves and they can advocate for a better food system for all.

More resources for Slow Food and a Sustainable Food System
SlowFood USA, an organization to promote slow food
Food, an organization to promote "real food" advocacy
100 Days of Real Food on Civil Eats, May 5, 2011
Fair Food, a new book by Oran B. Hesterman on positive ways to change to food system. 

*Recent coverage of new meta-analysis on the health benefits of family dinner
CNN Health
Pediatrics Article May 2, 2011

Thursday, May 5, 2011

How to Change the Food System? One Table at a Time

Yesterday, an important discussion took place on the issues of safe food, sustainability and health of our people and our planet with a conference called "The Future of Food" held in Washington, DC (archive of video highlights here). In February, there was a TEDx Manhattan conference on the food system called "Changing the Way We Eat" (archive here) that touched on related topics and the intermingling of ecology, health, politics, and economics. There are a lot of amazing people who care about food and health that are bringing up hard questions about our current food system and how we can feed the nation and the world without sacrificing individual health, public health or the health of our planet.

At the Future of Food conference, stalwarts of the food movement Wendell Berry, Wes Jackson, and Prince Charles of Wales (who knew?) gave their perspectives on the long road we have traveled and the long road ahead. On hand were a wide range of advocates (Josh Veritel of Slow Food USA, Laurie David, who is extending her environmental activism to the dinner table and to advocacy against antibiotics in meat, Marion Nestle, leading nutritionist and founder of Food Politics) and journalists (Joe Yonan of The Washington Post, Tom Philpott, Jane Black, and Paula Crossfield and Naomi Starkman of Civil Eats) who called out, via twitter and in person, big food on their arguments about the economic necessity of big-AG techniques and policies all day.

Following along at a distance, the conference was inspiring, enlightening, and, at times, infuriating in the ways that listening to the church choir might be when you are living in the red-light district. How can good food advocates get the message out more broadly that safe, good food is not a luxury, but a necessity? Furthermore, as Eric Schlosser argued in the Washington Post this week, how can we get across that being a "foodie" is not elitist?

The soapbox I stand on is family dinner, but I do believe that the future of the food lies around the family dinner table. Michael Pollan put it simply as "More and more, I realize our food problem is a cooking problem."  Caring about what we put on the table for our families and knowing how to prepare real food are two of the first steps to changing the food system. Caring about getting to the table in the first place may indeed preempt that. We need to embrace a culture where the time spent to shop, cook, and eat together as a family is viewed as essential, not a luxury. Family dinner can consist of two roommates, a single parent and kids, a large brood of multiple generations, or any other configuration you can think of, as long as they are breaking bread together. We need to to value this simple act and get around a table together, if we are to ever change the way we eat.

Agenda and Speakers for The Future of Food Conference, May 2011

Changing the Way We Eat, TEDx Manhattan, Feb 2011, an event to celebrate the food movement and inspire families and communities to commit to real food.