Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Earth Day Roundup Post

No time for a real post today, but I’m trying to get back on track. In the meantime, here’s a sampling of things in the news lately.

The Return of the Victory Garden?
In Sunday’s NYT Magazine, Michael Pollan makes a convincing argument that the greenest thing you can do is grow some of your own food. Other writers confirm that not only do you save fuel and reduce “food miles,” you gain flavor. As for me, until I can make my work schedule more reasonable, I’m going to have to rely on the Greenmarket.

The Recipe Flap
Most of us have heard by now that recipes offered up on the McCain campaign Web site as Cindy McCain’s family favorites were actually lifted from the Food Network. In Sunday’s NYT, former White House chef Walter Scheib points out what should have been obvious: The spouse of the next president isn’t going to be doing much cooking.

Calorie Counts in NYC
The New York State Restaurant Association is still fighting it, but new city rules go into effect this week requiring restaurants with more than 15 locations nationwide to prominently post the calorie counts for their food. The Gothamist Web site offers a sampling of calorie counts for chains that have started to comply, and I’m sure I’m not the only person alarmed to learn that a Chiplotle Mexican Grilled Chicken Burrito has 1,179 calories.

Eat Your French Fries
And then drive your car with the oil.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Time flies when you’re having fun

And, as it happens, when you’re just ridiculously busy with work and a variety of other things. I won’t bore you with the details; suffice to say that it feels as if I’ve been awfully busy getting nothing done. I am trying to get myself organized this weekend so it will be easier to keep up with this and other things that are more fun than my job.

While catching up on the recycling this evening I paused to thumb through the coupon circulars from today’s New York Times. And what to my wondering eye should appear but this processed food offering.

Do you know what it is? I’ll give you three guesses, and I’m hoping you aren’t even close. Give up? Well, it’s not a Twinkie; it’s a bagel. Come to think of it, that may have been blasphemy. It’s a Kraft “Bagel-ful,” which the ad describes as a “Toasty Warm Bagel & Creamy Philadelphia Cream Cheese, All In One!” and which can be found in the “frozen breakfast aisle.”

Go ahead, get a barf bag. I’ll wait.

No, I have no more idea than you do why anybody in their right mind would want to eat something like this. What really mystifies me, though, is why you would bother to market and advertise it in a city where you are seldom more than about a block away from really good bagels, prepared the way bagels should be, with a boiling-water bath and a hot oven, and served with lox. (Kraft Bagel-fuls do not seem to be available with lox, for which we can all be grateful; the flavors offered are Original, Cinnamon, Strawberry, Whole Grain and Chive.)

This particular product goes along with a theory I’m starting to develop. It seems to me as if the processed-food companies rose to prominence in an age when people had more faith in institutions and better living through chemistry, and when it was easier to convince consumers that nobody really had any time for skilled cooking of good food any more. Of course the past couple of decades have seen a resurgence of interest in good cooking, high-quality food and authentic cuisine. A big part of this movement has been the rejection of processed foods. So the processed foods companies have had two choices for response: improve the quality of their offerings to better meet the needs and standards of the new foodies, or aim their marketing at the lowest common denominator.

Which have they chosen? Suffice to say that today I saw a TV ad for orange juice that seemed to be based on the assumption that orange juice is a better choice for kids than fresh oranges because children are too stupid and clumsy to peel oranges. Admittedly, I don’t have kids, but I’d like to think that if I did I’d be up to the task of teaching them how to peel an orange. And how to wash their hands afterward, which is a pretty useful skill as well.