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Omnivore Food Blog By Suzanne Podhaizer

Food News

October 13, 2008

In Case You Missed It...Hardwick in the NY Times

When a  Vermont restaurant or farm makes its way into the Dining & Wine section of the New York Times, it's cause for celebration. Last week, a bunch of businesses in the Hardwick area made the grade. In her article "Uniting Around Food to Save an Ailing Town," part-time Vermont resident Marian Burros tells the story of the Center For an Agricultural Economy, and how it is working to create a model of viable agriculture centering around high quality products and good business practices. 

Want to read more? Interestingly enough, I wrote about a similar topic in early September, after spending an exhilarating few days visiting a slew of businesses in Hardwick, Greensboro and Craftsbury, including Vermont Soy, Claire's Restaurant and Bar, Jasper Hill Farm and Pete's Greens.

Here are links to my articles: Hungry Hardwick and a review of Claire's.

June 17, 2008

Random Collection of Stuff

Sometimes, when I'm too busy to post, I keep every interesting food news item I come across in its own little Firefox tab so I don't forget about it.

There are a couple of downsides to this, the most significant of which is that I can't turn off my computer until I suck it up and write a blog post. Since I apparently haven't turned the machine off since May 30th (sorry Don), I think it's time for a food news roundup...

~ The first item that caught my eye was about a beer, made by the Japanese company Sapporo, that will use barley descended from grandpa and grandma barley seeds that spent time on the international space station. They're calling it "space beer," and are planning an initial run of 100 bottles. The biz isn't sure how they will dole out the brew, but don't plan to sell it...for now. I presume they eventually will, and for an, umm, astronomical price.
    I hate this kind of meaningless gimmick. After all, the beer is gonna taste exactly the same as any similar brew. Do you think in the Wright brothers' day, companies made special products from ingredients that had flown on planes?  "Stratosphere beer," perhaps? Or maybe folks could take sandwich ingredients to the bottom of the Mariana trench and made "submarine submarine sandwiches!"
    What I do find interesting on the space beer frontier is this article on the NASA website, which indicates that it may actually be possible to brew beer in a gravity-free environment.

~ But surely the space beer couldn't possibly cost as much as a 17-pound, black-skinned watermelon that was sold for $6,100 at an auction. Less exceptional specimens of the  "Densuke" variety, which only grow on the island of Hokkaido, often go for nearly $200.
    But these babies got nothing on a pair of cantaloupe, which sold together for $23,500.

~ A new book, Sex & Bacon: Why I Love Things That Are Bad For Me, sounds like fun. Here's a Q&A with the author, Sarah Katherine Lewis. What I appreciate most is her stance on pseudo-foods: "You know, fake foods are really like fake orgasms. They don't do anyone any good at any time. Eating fake food is basically a self-loathing and pointless activity that results in constant hunger..."

~ Although I'm not big on the Stovetop version, I am fond of various types of poultry stuffings. I make a mean one from roasted-poblano cornbread, and an even better, sage-laced version studded with bits of sausage and freshly roasted chestnuts.
    But unlike Simsbury, Connecticut's finest, I've never seen a chicken stuffed with an explosive. Last week, an innocent bystander discovered a "roaster a la pipe bomb" by the side of the road. Luckily, the fowl was detonated by the cops before anybody could be hurt.

I think that's enough for now...time to give my computer a well-deserved nap.

February 23, 2008

Food Articles From

Thought these articles from Slate might be of interest...

~ Is Frozen Orange Juice Concentrate Better for the Environment (I hope not)

~ How Hungry is Hillary Clinton, by the sassy Mimi Sheraton. I wonder if anyone has done the same kind of analysis with Obama?

November 28, 2007

The San Fran Plastic Bag Ban

"Would you like paper or nothin'" may be the new refrain at San Francisco grocery stores. Beginning last  week, traditional, petroleum-based sacks became a thing of the past at the bigger shopping centers (mom & pop stores are exempt). Markets can offer a choice between compostable plastic (although these don't actually compost too quickly in regular landfills), paper, and good old canvas. And shoppers have a couple extra-creative options, too. 'Round here I've seen people carrying their groceries in camping bags and woven baskets that can be worn like backpacks.

My first instinct was that this is a great move. Just because human ingenuity allows us to create all kinds of wacky food additives, drugs and materials doesn't mean everything we come up with should be unleashed. Harmful stuff is banned all the time, and this is an example of catching something on the flip attempt to make changes after decades of environmental abuse.

But upon mentioning the ban to a environmentally active co-worker he surprised me by getting squeamish, wondering aloud whether this is an example of draconian government that is limiting customers individual rights.

After some thought, I think I'm still OK with the ban on principle. For one thing, consumers still have "free" ways of moving their groceries from store to car. Therefore, the ban isn't really changing the shopping experience in any kind of fundamental way. For another, the compostable bags work exactly the same way the other ones do, although they're more expensive for the stores to procure. But if our local health food stores and co-ops can offer them, I think the ones in CA will probably survive the switch. Surely the cost will ultimately be passed to the shoppers, but the environmental protection is worth the extra couple of pennies, I think. In principle, it's like making cars more fuel efficient (and expensive) instead of limiting how much we're allowed to drive.

Unfortunately, paper bags aren't good for the environment, either. In fact, some say that the process of manufacturing them creates more pollution than producing plastic, and it's certainly not good for trees. The best of all possible situations would be if everyone had reusable cloth bags for grocery shopping (or picking up their CSA shares).

Part of me wishes that SF would have gone further and mandated the use of cloth bags -- that would have a real environmental impact -- but I know that there are folks who can't afford to buy them. I only shop for two people and I often need two such bags (which I bought for $10 each)  to carry my purchases. A person with a family of 5 might need five bags, and for someone with low income, coming up with an extra $50 (or $20, or $10) for something non-essential isn't feasible.

Here's another thought, though. Because stores give paper and plastic bags away for free, they'd save money if they didn't have to provide them. So in some ways, it would make sense for the stores to help people get their hands on reusable bags. Maybe there could be a way to subsidize the bags so that those who can't afford them can acquire them for free?

Ultimately, we're going to be forced to change the way we transport our food because we'll be left with no other choice. When petroleum runs low, neither paper nor plastic bags will make the list of things we can't live without.

November 15, 2007

Eco-Friendly Frito-Lay?

I have a tendency to be pretty down on multi-national corporations — note my feelings about Williston in my previous post — but sometimes the sheer size and financial flexibility a huge company wields allows for some cool innovation.

Although the only thing I've read on this topic is this New York Times article, Frito-Lay's (owned by PepsiCo) "net zero" concept for churning out potato and corn chips without impacting the environment seems pretty appealing. Simply put, their goal is to take their plant in Casa Grande, Arizona off the grid, and run the thing on "renewable fuels and recycled water."

According to The Times: "The retrofit of the Casa Grande factory, scheduled to be completed by 2010, would reduce electricity and water consumption by 90 percent and its natural gas use by 80 percent. Greenhouse gas emissions would be cut by 50 percent to 75 percent, the company said." 

Of course they do have 36 other factories...The ultimate plan is to do some of the same upgrades at the others, too. The article also says that Pepsico "has become the nation’s biggest buyer of renewable energy credits..."

I've been unmoved by the addition of "healthy" options to fast food menus and have mixed feelings about the corporate usurpation of the term "organic" — yay fewer pesticides sprayed world-wide: boo animal welfare issues, clear-cutting of the rainforest to grow organic crops and attempts to weaken organic standards  — but this seems like a whole new level of corporate eco-friendliness. Or maybe I'm just less cynical than I should be.

This doesn't mean I'll start drinking soda or bringing home value-sized bags of Doritos, but maybe I'll feel less guilty when I chow a few Cheetos at a party.

November 08, 2007

What do you do with Thousands of Bananas?

Ask the folks who live on Tershelling Island and Ameland Island. Apparently, some weird stuff washes up on their beaches. Twenty years ago, it was a large number of sweaters. Last year, the current brought tennis shoes. This year, bananas. Bunches and bunches of them. The fruit was in a cargo container that fell from a ship during a storm and burst open.There's a pretty cool pic floating around the net. You can find it at the Washington Post.
     Maybe they should attempt to make the world's largest banana split. The title, as far as I can tell, is currently held by Selingsgrove, PA. There, in 1988, they made one that contained 33,000 bananas and 2,500 gallons of ice cream. As of 2003, the record was still standing. My teeth hurt just thinking about it.
    I visited the Guinness Book of World Records site to make sure that the Pennsylvanians still hold the title before mentioning it. That particular record isn't on the site, but I did learn that today, November 8, is "Guinness World Records Day." I've never looked at this web-page before in my life. What are the chances that I would stumble across it during this very special celebration? Spooky. To give the GBOWR its due, I did a search for records related to food. Did you know that the world's biggest stir-fry wasn't made in China? It was made in Klerksdorp, South Africa out of 2319 pounds of vegetables and meat.

Speaking of China, the Beijing Olympics committee swears that the swine being raised to feed the throngs at the global event aren't getting the Kobe beef treatment, despite what the head of the "Olympics sole pork supplier" has to say. He not only claims that the beasts are being immunized daily (hello, antibiotic resistant bacteria strains) but also that they are exercising daily. That last part I wouldn't mind. I like it when my dinner's in good shape.

Wanna lose weight but don't wanna work out like an Olympic-bound piglet? Some folks believe that ear stapling is the way to go. Seriously. Proponents claim that inserting two small, stainless-steel staples, one in each ear, can  "target certain reflex points designed to affect hunger, sugar cravings and tension."
    According to one believer, "Portion size is decreased, along with cravings for the Big Macs, sweets and salty food, and snacking in between." Somehow, it's hard for me to believe it's that easy.

If you have trouble losing weight and don't want your ears (or your stomach) stapled, you'll be thrilled about new research which shows that being overweight might not be as dangerous as people thought. Interesting stuff. I'll be right back, I'm going to go eat a few donuts and a couple of burgers.

But I'm not going to have falafel, 'cause that's what terrorists eat. In this dangerous, post-September 11th world, the FBI briefly tried a new tactic, culinary profiling. Apparently, our best and brightest searched San Fran area grocery store records from 2005 and 2006 looking for peaks in the sale of Middle-Eastern foods. I guess they thought it would be a good way to uncover lurking terrorist groups. What they forget is that everybody loves falafel.
    Luckily for chickpea lovers everywhere, the project was quickly terminated due to the possibility that it was mildly illegal. Oh yeah, and patently idiotic.

I think that's enough for now.


November 02, 2007

For Now, Stick With Flatbread...

The Vermont Department of Health just issued a press release warning consumers to avoid any Totino's and Jeno's frozen pizzas with pepperoni (including "Totino’s Party Supreme, Three Meat, Pepperoni, Classic Pepperoni, Pepperoni Trio, Party Combo and Combo; and Jeno’s Crisp & Tasty Supreme, Crisp & Tasty Pepperoni, and Crisp & Tasty Combo,") as they may have an extra topping: E. coli 0157:H7.

October 25, 2007

Be really nice to your waiter...

According to a new study, he or she could really use a break. According to info gathered by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Association, 10.3% of people in jobs that involve food preparation and service have experienced serious bouts of depression, making it the second most depressing job category the group accounted for. The food service workers follow right on the tail of people who are in personal care positions (i.e. caring for children, those with disabilities or the elderly). Further down the list are folks in "farming, fishing and forestry," 5.6% of whom get the field & stream blues.

So leave that extra dollar on the table, send a compliment to the chef or take the time to tell your favorite farmer how much you love her tomatoes. Who could help!

October 16, 2007

Eat Crap (an interesting article on

Think that irradiation is the answer to gastrointestinal woes? Think again! According to Kent Sepkowitz, what Americans really need to do is "ingest more excrement."

Read all about it...

While munching on manure is anything but appetizing, I've certainly been swayed by the numerous articles that blame everything from allergies to drug-resistant strains of bacteria on our obsession with cleanliness.

For that reason, I will now eat food that I've dropped on the floor whereas I used to throw it away or scrub it thoroughly. And I'm slightly less paranoid about food that has been in "the danger zone" than I used to be.

October 10, 2007

Getting Drunk Can Save Your Life and More Weird Food News...

1) Two months ago, an Italian tourist in Australia ingested a rather large quantity of ethylene glycol, a chemical found in antifreeze. He was initially treated with pure alcohol, which inhibits the kidney-damaging effects of EG. When the hospital ran out of pure alcohol, they turned Using a nasogastric tube, they gave him the equivalent of three drinks per hour for three days! The young man is doing fine. No word on what brand of vodka they used.

2) Taco Bell's Plan to sell "Mexican" food in Mexico isn't so hot...Read all about it.

3) Ever had a really intense food craving? A 6-year-old in Colorado recently did. He tried to drive his grandmother's standard-transmission car to Applebee's. But instead of a "steak quesadilla tower" and a "triple chocolate meltdown," or whatever it is the kid was after, he got a blackout. The youngster, unable to take the car out of reverse, backed into a transformer. Whatever else you say about him, he does sound precocious. He even thought to put his booster seat in front of the steering wheel!

4) Charlie Brown and Linus got nothing on these guys.  Chip Deleeuw and  Randy Lemke grew a 1,180 pound pumpkin, this year. They even kept it warm with an electric blanket on cold nights. The bad boy survived a rotting stump, 8" fall onto a truck and 29 competitors to win an award for the biggest pumpkin in the county. How much did the world's biggest pumpkin weigh? According to one website, Joe Jutras of Rhode Island set the record with a 1689 pounder this September 29th.

5) Banquet Pot Pies should be off your menu...They've been linked to 183 cases of Salmonella, including two in Vermont. According to a Vermont Department of Health press release, "Banquet brand and generic store brand frozen not-ready-to-eat pot pie products with “P-9” printed on the side of the package may be the potential source of the reported illnesses nationwide."

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