Foodie High Ground

Food writers Jane Black and Brent Cunningham went to Huntington Alabama, the town where Jamie Oliver went to film his food-reality show and tried to change the lunch program and get people to eat better food. This feature, Servings of Small Change, discusses some of the things they faced while embedded in town and working on their book.


You’re sitting with people, and they’re really poor, and their lives, because they are poor, are very chaotic. Somebody’s brother is in jail, somebody is on drugs, somebody is working the night shift at the gas station, the kid has ADHD. And you’re sitting there going, “Have you thought about whole grains?” It sounds, to them, like somebody saying, “Oh, my private jet broke down.”

There’s always been an element of food snobbery mixed in with what should be about health. This discussion of food has been drifting from nutrition and towards supporting local farmers and artisinal crafts that charge a premium. Foodies have been unable to talk about this stuff without appearing self-righteous.

Put That In Your Juicer and Drink It

The New York Times examines the rise of the gluten-free food industry:

“I think we as a country and as a globe will continue to be concerned about what’s going into our food supply.”

I’m calling BS.

People want medals and recognition for buying organic junk food and crap like throwback Mountain Dew with real sugar (that is also bad for you). It’s perfect – people can give themselves credit for eating healthy foods without actually doing it.

If you have to search high and low for a gluten-free substitute for junk food maybe the real question you should ask is “should I really be eating girl scout cookies anyway?”

The Meaning of the Word ‘Organic’

Dr. Mike Eades:

My gripe with the term “organic” is that in the minds of many, probably most, it equates with good. Sugar is bad, but organic pure cane sugar is okay because it is, well, organic. It doesn’t matter that plain old sugar is also pure cane sugar – it’s not organic.

So people will pay more to kill themselves with organic pure cane sugar than they will to do the deed with ordinary pure cane sugar. If something is bad for you, it’s bad for you whether it’s organic or not. And therein lies the problem.

“Groceries Become a Guy Thing”

On how food marketers are now targeting dudes. In short, how do we get guys to buy things that have been marketed for the past 100 years to appeal to housewives?

In a June survey of 900 meat-eating men ages 18 to 64, 47% were deemed “manfluencers” by Midan Marketing LLC, a Chicago market research group focused on the meat industry. Manfluencers are responsible for at least half of the grocery shopping and meal preparation for their households.

“Manfluencer”? cringe.

“Humans Trump Robots at the Grocery Store”

Nice to know we can beat the machines at something, however other things appear to be a draw.

What’s so cognitively demanding about supermarket checkout? I spoke to several former checkout people, and they all pointed to the same skill: Identifying fruits and vegetables. Some supermarket produce is tagged with small stickers carrying product-lookup codes, but a lot of stuff isn’t. It’s the human checker’s job to tell the difference between green leaf lettuce and green bell peppers, and then to remember the proper code.

There’s something sobering about telling somebody “that’s romaine lettuce.”

Even Cinnabon calls it “goo”

A profile of Kat Cole, the 35-year old leader of Cinnabon.

A batch of Classic Rolls starts as a rectangular slab of dough that’s fed into a machine roller and stretched to a yard wide. The dough sheet is slathered with a half-pound of margarine, the beginning of a sweet schmear that is known at Cinnabon as “the goo.” The choice of margarine has nothing to do with calories. The oil-based fat holds up better than butter under the oven’s heat, so the goo doesn’t ooze out into the bottom of the pan.

There’s criticism of how Cinnabon is immoral, that it’s contributing to the obesity epidemic by normalizing excess. But come on – you know Cinnabons aren’t good for you. If you eat them that’s on you.

Also, the underlying implication here, I think, is how corporations often use human nature against itself for higher gain. Why else mention over and over again and put it in the title in a story about Cinnabon, that she’s worked for Hooters? They’re trying to sexualize Cole, get you to imagine her in a Hooters outfit, and imply that Hooters is evil by relying on its reputation as…how shall I put it – not family friendly. And Cinnabon is evil because it’s making people fat. And she’s in the center of it, as some kind of mastermind of human brain short circuitry.

“If you said to me, go and design a Diabetes store, I would just take you to the supermarket.”

On grocery stores.

I struggle here because it’s unclear to me what the responsibility of a grocery store should be. If people didn’t want this junk they wouldn’t sell it. It’s relatively easy to avoid the middle aisles of your grocery store.

But then:

Imagine if 65% of the population had a gambling problem and we let banks put pokies inside ATMs.

Gives me a tinge of doubt.

Let them eat industrial waste

Modern Farmer | Whey Too Much: Greek Yogurt’s Dark Side:

…as the nation’s hunger grows for strained yogurt, which produces more byproduct than traditional varieties, the issue of its acid runoff becomes more pressing. Greek yogurt companies, food scientists, and state government officials are scrambling not just to figure out uses for whey, but how to make a profit off of it.

Speaking of fluoride, one of the conspiracy theories on adding it to the water supply is that it’s an industrial waste product that’s hard to dispose of – if only there were a way to get rid of it on a grand scale…like by having people ingest it.

I’ve heard the same thing about soy.

I don’t know if either of those are true, but this article about what to do with the waste produced by the booming greek yogurt industry brings both of these things to mind.

The Grocery Store and Wine Debate

The wine in grocery stores debate centers around choosing between protecting consumers and protecting industry.

This is why opponents of wine in grocery stores (most often liquor stores and wholesalers) prefer to argue the issue over the issue of the harm it would cause liquor store owners if consumers no longer were forced to enter a second store to get a bottle of wine with dinner. In a recent article about the effort to change the law in Tennessee, Josh Hammond, owner of Busters’ Liquors & Wines in Memphis and president of the Tennessee Wine & Spirits Retailers Association, made the case like this:

“Wine and spirits retailers will have to lay employees off and many will have to close. Where will the jobs come from? Certainly not the grocers. They’re not adding square footage or shelf space. They won’t need to hire one extra person.”

Here is what’s unquestionable: If a state changes its law to allow the sale of wine in grocery stores, consumers not only support the law, but they also benefit from the law. On the other hand, it is unquestionable that some people currently buying wine in liquor stores will, under a new law, choose to take their wine business to grocery stores.

What’s a law-maker to do?

Chicken and Waffles

This weekend I was watching stuff on Hulu when this ad came on.

One of the finalists in the Do Us a Flavor® contest? Chicken & Waffles.

“GROSS!” I thought.

I posted this to FB. One of my Facebook friends who recently moved to the southern US commented on it something like “they go nuts for this stuff in the south.”


So I did some research. According to the thing that Wikipedia cites:

As unusual as it might seem, the marriage of chicken and waffles actually has deep roots. Thomas Jefferson brought a waffle iron back from France in the 1790s and the combination began appearing in cookbooks shortly thereafter. The pairing was enthusiastically embraced by African Americans in the South. For a people whose cuisine was based almost entirely on the scraps left behind by landowners and plantation families, poultry were already a rare delicacy; in a flapjack culture, waffles were similarly exotic. Chicken and waffles for decades has been a special-occasion meal in African American families, often supplying a hearty Sunday morning meal.

Over a hundred years later and now it’s a potato chip flavor.

Chicken and waffles1

chicken & waffles2

  1. Photo by smooshmasterflex and used under a creative commons license

  2. Photo by zharth and used under a creative commons license

Interview With an Ex-Vegan: Melissa McEwen

Is veganism a city slicker phenomenon, a consequence of being estranged from nature?

I think the sort of philosophy behind it can be prevented by exposing children to nature, agriculture and other cultures. If you listen to the animal rights writers, you quickly realize that their goal is a homogenized globalized culture based on a Western ethical paradigm and a human separation from nature. Animal rights philosophy could be considered a “disease of civilization.”


I fell into raw veganism because my digestive system was trashed and I thought maybe it would be the cure. So many people on raw vegan boards have stories about how it’s such a wonderful diet and because of it they are no longer sick. I believed them. I definitely felt much better… at first. This is the common lament of raw veganism. It eliminates most problematic foods, but where is the nutrition?

I’m for the ethical treatment of animals…who isn’t? But the thing is that your body doesn’t really care about ethics. It wants nutrition and a lot of it comes from consuming animals.

For more about vegans/vegetarians-turned-meat eaters check out The Vegetarian Myth by Lierre Keithe.