Thursday, April 29, 2010

Food Articles and Resources

I just read a very interesting article on about how to be a smart farmer's market shopper:,0,2857261.story
I had never thought that much about checking for farmer's market or organic certification at farmer's markets. I had just kind of assumed that it was all local, organic and seasonal, so this was an interesting article for me. I was also intrigued by their last comments on whether organic certification is always the more sustainable option, since my history of though with organic products went something like this: I did some research about organic, tried it out, decided it was more sustainable and made me feel better, and then never looked back.

Of the points he made that questioned whether organic is always better (even though he generally buys organic), I thought that this was the most legitimate: "organic farms generally produce lower yields, requiring more resources, such as fuel and water, with resulting environmental costs." However, when I went organic and started cooking for myself, the labor, extra cost and higher nutritional density of the wholesome, organic food I was preparing for myself actually resulted in me eating less. So theoretically if all farms became organic, the decrease in yield would not necessitate a need for more resource consumption and space to compensate for this, but would simply correspond with a decrease in demand for food.

Another interesting sustainability resource which includes (among many many other things) a list of all the farmer's markets in LA with their times, dates and contact information is the ESLP wiki page:
ESLP (Education for Sustainable Living Program) is a program through the UCLA Institute of the Environment that offers a series of courses each year. I took it this year, and the format always goes as follows: fall quarter they have a 1 credit speaker series for about an hour and a half once a week where speakers from different jobs within the green jobs sector come and share what they do, how it relates to sustainability, and why they do it. The next two quarters you can choose to join an Action Research Team (ART program) that works to make one aspect of UCLA more sustainable for 2 credits each quarter. You probably saw a lot of these groups if you went to the Earth Day Fair (and maybe you saw my group, Sustainable Food Systems). The students worked to put together the ESLP wiki page during fall quarter, and hopefully it is a helpful resource.

These are some other interesting articles I found when I went back through my facebook links (gotta love technology) so they are kind of old, but still worth a look:

This article discusses what is in the future of LA's food policy, featuring one of my favorite politicians, Eric Garcetti:,0,2643461.story

This article discusses the consequences of corporate monopolies on genetically modified seeds through intellectual property patents, specifically discussing Monsanto, which we will all learn about when we watch "Food, Inc" in class ("The Future of Food" is great for a more detailed and informative account of genetically modified organisms):,0,6585894.story

Food On the Big Screen

Like many people from our class, I went to see the on-campus screening of "Food Fight." I have seen a few different documentaries about food, and am always impressed by how different they all manage to be (which also shows how food issues are so broad).

The first food documentary I saw was "Food, Inc." which was also the first time I learned anything about the food industry. I particularly like "Food Inc" because it provides a relatively comprehensive summary of the very broad issue of food production in an easily digestible (so punny!) form that appeals to a wide variety of audiences. This is why when I organize "food parties" where I make people watch this movie with me; because it gets the important points out there in a way that won't bore people who don't necessarily have an interest in the food industry coming into the film (*cough* "The Future of Food" *cough*).

Of the six times I've seen "Food, Inc," four were "food parties" where I basically force feed (punny punny) the movie to people while providing organic snacks. The last of these viewings was actually in the lounge on my floor, which I organized with my RA. The first two times I watched "Food Inc." were within a 48 hour period of each other (I watched it once with my brother based on his recommendation, and was so amazed and intrigued that I watched it again the next day).

I would say that "Food Fight" was less informative than "Food, Inc" and geared more toward people who already have a basic understanding of and interest in food issues. I thought the cultural approach that it took to documenting the changes in food production was very interesting and entertaining. I also liked the attention they gave to farmer's markets and the things that people like Alice Waters and the organizers of inner-city community gardens are doing to bring wholesome, solar powered food to places that are normally characterized by the exact opposite type of food production.

I got the chance to see Alice Waters in the flesh this past weekend when I went to the LA Times Book Fair and watched her do an hour-long presentation where she and a fellow Chez Pannise chef prepared a couple dishes using produce from the Hollywood Farmer's Market. I admire Alice for her ability as a chef, for being the most adorable and endearing hippie on the planet, and also for her efforts to help bring the local and organic foods to school children through her Edible Schoolyard program.

In "Food Fight" I really enjoyed seeing how chefs and communities are incorporating sustainable foods into their priorities, even if it's simply because of the taste. I'm a big supporter of the idea that food is an expression of culture that should be prepared and consumed in a manner that invokes pleasure: pleasure in what you're tasting, in the company of friends and family (or just yourself), and in the magnificence of the earth's biodiversity that gave you this meal. Accordingly, I loved hearing what the founders and chefs of restaurants that share these principles had to say about why they do what they do. Also, I was particularly interested in this cultural/restaurant component because of my semi-secret desire to someday open such a restaurant with my brother.

Anyway, these films and my (one-way) encounter with Alice have gotten me very excited about making my cookbook. I'm going to start outlining recipes this weekend to see if what I have in mind for the book as a whole is acceptable and feasible from an organizational standpoint.

I also found this interesting article about the future of farmer's markets:,0,2516871.story