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Archive for June 2008

What Price a Good Bargain?

Sunday’s Star featured an article about the challenges food banks are facing. With a declining economy, need is up, prices are up and donations are down. And the nature of donations is changing.

A few years ago, full-service grocery stores and food manufacturers routinely donated food in dented cans or damaged packages to charity, but that steady stream of donations has slowed to a trickle. The grocers and manufacturers that used to take advantage of tax breaks by donating surplus food now can make a profit by selling it to a relatively new type of business known as “banana box” brokers.

They, in turn, sell the products to deep discounters.

As a result, bargain hunters now can buy some products at low prices, but the amount of free food available to the poor has declined, even as their numbers are on the rise.

So, if you stop by Big Lots on Allisonville Rd., and land a whopping bargain on De Cecco pasta, does that make you a bad person? Are you taking food from the mouth of the poor and weak?

No, it’s perfectly acceptable for businesses to stay in business. They stay in business by eliminating inefficiencies. Besides, most people shopping for bargain priced food are low-income families who don’t qualify for food pantries. Not-for-profits have to hustle, looking for food donations from new sources, but that’s what not-for-profits do.

There is a “good value,” though, that’s problematic.

Another restaurant opened downtown, and yes, it’s a steakhouse. Not just any steakhouse, it’s a Southern Brazilian churrascaria.

Fogo de Chao provides 15 different types of grilled meats, carved tableside by gaucho chefs. It’s prixe-fixe, $38.50 for dinner ($24.50 for lunch), complete with side dishes and salad bar. Dinner at high-end steakhouses, run an average of $125, so eating at Fugo de Chao, even with drinks and desert, costs half as much for “all you can eat.” Twice as much for half the price.

What’s not to like?

Well, for one that cheap meat comes at a very dear price–slavery. And the destruction of the rainforests.

In his new book Stuffed and Starved, Raj Patel details the labor and ecological consequences of cheap meat. Brazil, a country with vast land holdings, is one of the largest exporters of meat.

Brazil is, by some measures, the world’s largest soy exporter. And those soy plantations have been encroaching on the Brazilian cerrado and also on the rainforest. Soy farmers are going into the rainforest, chopping it down and growing soy. And worse yet, Brazil is home to, according to the International Labour Organization, home to 50,000 slaves, slaves who work on soy plantations, and also the majority work in biofuels plantations and sugarcane plantations. And it’s through the exploitation of these people that we’re able to have cheap meat..

The Hidden Battle to Control the World Food Supply, Amy Goodman

If you whoop it up at Fogo, stuffing yourself with meat, does that make you a bad person? Not if you don’t know your “good bargain” comes at the cost of predatory and inhumane work and living conditions. If you do know and continue to hand over your money to such businesses, it makes you selfish and greedy.

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Written by Susan Gillie

June 30, 2008 at 1:55 pm

Posted in food as power

Time for the State Fair

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After a two-year visit to Indiana, Michaelangelo’s David (accompanied by the Slow Food Indy contingent) will return to Italy.

My advice, Dave? Lay off the burgers, fries and KFC. Skip the colas and watch those Krispy Kremes.

Thanks, Tilden and Cathy, we needed a good laugh.

Written by Susan Gillie

June 26, 2008 at 1:13 am

Terrorists and Tomatoes–One More Thing to Worry About

Anxiety is not high on my list of emotions. I don’t toss and turn at night, stress is for the big stuff–war, famine, death, chronic, untreatable illness.

Now flooding and the ever-present threat of tornadoes and severe storms, gives us much to worry about. And this, from Purdue, via WTHR

Purdue agriculture experts issue a warning to avoid buying fruits and vegetables from flooded Indiana farm fields. That produce could be contaminated by microorganisms because of rivers that flooded parts of Indiana this month.

…Often sold at farmers markets during the summer, Indiana’s fruit and vegetable crops were valued at more than $112 million in 2006. It is unclear how many production acres were flooded this month

TV is a visual medium and this Sunday story was shot at City Market. I shop there every week and none of my farmers were near flooded areas.

I’m with Mr. Farris of Your Neighbors Garden:

Ross Faris sells vegetables and fruits at Indiana farmers markets and sees little room for concern.

“I don’t know of anyone with an operation close to a river or stream that could have contaminated soil,” said Faris.

What’s sad is all the flooding, devastation and destruction was preventable. Rain is An Act of God. Flood management is the domain of mankind. In Indiana, our dams weren’t properly maintained and our state government, mandated by the people to oversee the dams, looked the other way.

Now, we’re worried about the lettuce.

Written by Susan Gillie

June 19, 2008 at 2:34 pm

Posted in food is health

Move Over Hardees

Indy’s a beef-centric town. I think this hamburger would sell here, don’t you?

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2ZVGYe_kYWs

Can we trust Burger King with Wagyu and truffles?

Sure, it’s ridiculous, but is it any more elitist and out-of-touch than highly-priced Slow-Foods fundraisers?

Written by Susan Gillie

June 19, 2008 at 1:59 pm

Posted in food as absurd

Use It or Lose It

 

Aspic.

It’s old, old, old. It’s so old it’s not even old-school. Aspic, (AS-pihk) “a savory jelly, usually clear, made of clarified meat, fish or vegetable stock and gelatin,” is a whale-bone corset to our Spanxx food culture.

Aspic isn’t out just because it’s old. It lost favor with a feminist-oriented labor force who turned their noises up at genteel feminity. Aspic is white-glove and garden parties. It’s Junion League. It’s southern belle. Bygone food for bygone womanhood.

In our rush to judgment, and in our haste for new and better, we misjudged aspic. Though it’s reputation is fussy and snooty, it’s practical. It’s cool and crisp, perfect for hot, summer weather. It’s an easy way to prolong the life of delicate, delectable vegetables such as cucumbers and radishes.

Victoria Wexler has a post on her blog, Going Local, about the loss of diversity in our food. We’re losing on two fronts–types of produce and traditional preservation methods. 

Although old, aspic needs to make a comeback. It’s perfect for busy lives. This morning, I used local radishes purchased Wednesday at the farmer’s market to make aspic. It took all of twelve minutes to make a week’s worth of fresh salads.

Aspic lends itself to improvisation. Jalapeno, habanero or bird’s eye chili’s give this recipe more fire, a Matcha tea or vegetable broth gives it a new twist.

City Market Radish and Green Onion Aspic 

  • 1-2 bunches of radishes coarsely shredded (about 2 cups)
  • 3-4 green onions, finely chopped (green parts only)
  • 1 clove of garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 1/2 cups chicken broth
  • 1 packet of unflavored gelatin, mixed with 1/2 cup of cold water
  • juice of one lemon

Shred radishes, chop green onions and garlic and mix together. In a small bowl, dissolve gelatin into the cold water and let sit for five minutes.

Heat chicken broth until it simmers and remove from heat. Stir in the gelatin and completely dissolve. Stir in lemon juice and vegetable mixture.

Pour into a greased 9″ x 9″ Pyrex dish and chill for at least four hours.  Cut into squares and serve. (Or, you can pour mixture into greased custard dishes or gelatin molds if you want a more dramatic presentation. )

Written by Susan Gillie

June 16, 2008 at 3:08 pm

Obama–Food Fraud?

The drama is over and we have a Democratic nominee for President. Unfortunately, racism is still around and for some peopele, the thought of a black person in the position makes their heads spin.

Indianapolis is home to one of the oldest, largest and most vibrant Afro-American communities in our country. Indy is also located in a swath of KKK territory and small-minds gravitate to the big city. Slime, sleaze and ridiculous rumors about Obame and his wife are rife.

We prevail against puppy killers with humor. For a chuckle, check out:

http://www.advanceindianaandbarackscaresme.blogspot.com/

But wait! This just in from the Washington Post. Barack supports the Farm Bureau (remember no rBGH labeling?) and the new farm bill.

He ate at Applebees! Surely that’s the Mark of the Beast?

What’s next, P.F. Chang’s?

Written by Susan Gillie

June 15, 2008 at 2:11 pm

Italian Street Festival

While you’re downtown dining, stop by Holy Rosary Church for the Italian Street Festival, 3:00-11:00 p.m.

Written by Susan Gillie

June 15, 2008 at 1:58 pm

Posted in food as adventure