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Archive for the ‘food as power’ Category

Update: the dozen down to two

The Sustainable Dozen is down to two.  Chuck Hasselbrook and Karen Ross are serious candidates for Undersecretary of Agriculture.

Food Democracy Now! has created a list of 12 candidates for the crucial Under Secretary positions that will stand up for safe, healthy food, clear air and water, animal welfare and soil preservation.

Tap on Food for Democracy’s website and learn about Chuck Hasselbrook and Karen Ross. Although FfD’s enlisted the help of the usual celebrities–Michael Pollan, Alice Waters, Wendell Berry and Marion Nestle–there are serious and unrecognized foot soldiers in this movement.

We all love swanning around the IMA dreaming about what is possible, or schmoozing at a Farm-to-Table event, but now’s the time to roll up our sleeves and go to work.

As they say,

Be the Change!


Written by Susan Gillie

January 23, 2009 at 3:57 pm

Posted in food as power

The Sustainable Dozen

This week Barrack Obama became President. While we’re all waiting for the first family to plant a victory garden on the White House lawn, there’s other work to do.

Food for Democracy, a grassroots organization, needs your help. They’ve compiled a list of qualified, committed candidates for Undersecretary of State. Go to their website and sign the petition urging the President to nominate one of these people. Right now, they have 60,000 signatures, but they need 100,000.

Click and sign for a better future. Email your friends and encourage them to sign the petition.

The Sustainable Dozen

Gus Schumacher: Former Under Secretary of Agriculture for Farm and Foreign Agricultural Services at the U.S. Department of Agriculture; Former Massachusetts Commissioner of Agriculture. Boston, Massachusetts

Chuck Hassebrook: Executive Director, Center for Rural Affairs, Lyons, Nebraska.

Sarah Vogel: attorney; former two-term Commissioner of Agriculture for the State of North Dakota, Bismarck, North Dakota.

Fred Kirschenmann: organic farmer; Distinguished Fellow, Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture, Ames, IA; President, Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture, Pocantico Hills, New York.

Mark Ritchie: current Minnesota Secretary of State; former policy analyst in Minnesota’s Department of Agriculture under Governor Rudy Perpich; co-founder of the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Neil Hamilton: attorney; Dwight D. Opperman Chair of Law and Professor of Law and Director, Agricultural Law Center, Drake University, Des Moines, Iowa.

Doug O’Brien: current Assistant Director at Ohio Department of Agriculture; worked for the U.S. House and the Senate Ag Committee; former staff attorney and co-director for the National Agriculture Law Center in Arkansas, Reynoldsburg, Ohio.

James Riddle: organic farmer; founding chair of the International Organic Inspectors Association (IOIA); has served on the Minnesota Department of Agriculture’s Organic Advisory Task Force since 1991; appointed to the USDA’s National Organic Standards Board, serving on the Executive Committee for 5 years and was chair in 2005, Board of Directors. Winona, Minnesota.

Kathleen Merrigan: Director, Agriculture, Food and Environment M.S./Ph.D. Program, Assistant Professor and Director of the Center on Agriculture; Food and the Environment, Tufts University; former Federal Agency Administrator U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Marketing Service; creator of the Organic Foods Production Act of 1990, mandating national organic standards and a program of federal accreditation. Boston Massachusetts.

Denise O’Brien: organic farmer, founder of Women, Food, and Agriculture Network (WFAN); represented the interests of women in agriculture at the World Conference on Women in Beijing, China in 1995; organized a rural women’s workshop for the 1996 World Food Summit in Rome, Italy; received nearly a half million votes in her 2006 bid to become Iowa’s Secretary of Agriculture. Atlantic, Iowa.

Ralph Paige: Executive Director, Federation of Southern Cooperatives/Land Assistance Fund; served as presidential appointment to the 21st Century Production Agriculture Commission; participates on the Agriculture Policy Advisory Committee for Trade; the Cooperative Development Foundation; and the National Agricultural Research, Extension, Education & Economics Advisory Board. East Point, Georgia.

Karen Ross: President of the California Winegrape Growers Association and Executive Director of the Winegrape Growers of America; awarded the Wine Integrity Award by the Lodi Winegrape Commission for her contributions to the wine industry. Sacramento, California.

Note: As of today, more than 78,000 people signed the petition. Indiana needs to put it over the top!

Written by Susan Gillie

January 22, 2009 at 2:31 pm

Posted in food as power

Thank you, Alice

Tonight, Alice Waters shared her passion with me, my friend Ruth Holladay and 598 other guests.

Famed restauranteur and food activist, Alice Waters, came to Indianapolis and spoke to a sold-out crowd at the Indianapolis Museum of Art. She shared her thoughts, joys and long, illustrious experience with the audience.

Ever the “teacup personality” described by David Kamp in The United States of Argula, she started out languid. Very, very slow.

I arched my back and sunk into the seat.

“We have to listen to this for a whole hour?

Then I saw them, the boots. Alice Waters was wearing cowboy boots, or rather, cowgirl boots.

I got it. Part of her is sing-songey-little-girlish dressed in drapey clothes. But her feet, clad in “no b/s” boots, tell us she has an iron-clad will.

Two words I’ll take away from this night. Seduction and compromise. That’s what Alice Waters told her audience. When people, or the system, wander in a direction you know is wrong, seduce them with food and kindness and love. Her advice to cullinary students-don’t compromise. Thirty years ago options were limited, now there are choices.

Thank you Alice. And thanks to the IMA, donors and IVY Tech culinary students for making this such a memorable night.

Speaking of shoes, Renee Wilmeth of our favorite Indy foodblog, FeedMeDrinkMe, had on the best pair of pumps I’ve seen in a long time. They were so good, I thought they might be vintage. But no, they were brand new.

Written by Susan Gillie

December 2, 2008 at 11:09 pm


Last week as one commenter noted, I made a bold statement about Brazil, slavery and meat.

Good friend and Indy’s Nancy Drew, Ruth Holladay, called Fogo de Chao’s local restaurant and discovered their meat is raised and processed in the U.S.

I’m following up this week to confirm this information and find out about the meat served in their Brazilian restaurants.

In the meantime, many of you are interested in the issue. This is a food blog meant to be light-hearted, quirky, fun and informative. 

So, I’m adding a separate page (Brazil, Slavery, Soybeans & Meat) which will describe the situation and provide you with articles and sources of information about this serious and growing problem. 

Written by Susan Gillie

July 7, 2008 at 12:55 pm

Posted in food as power

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.

Written by Susan Gillie

June 30, 2008 at 1:55 pm

Posted in food as power

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:

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

Obama, Awright!

This weekend, Obama hit one of Indy’s culiinary jewels, Country Kitchen at the corner of College and 18rh.

Written by Susan Gillie

April 28, 2008 at 1:25 pm

Posted in food as power

Election Cycle

What you eat matters. Especially to politicians.

While Obama and Hillary duke it out, McCain’s flying below the radar. Not anymore, his campaign is embroiled in FarafalleGate.

And these suggestions, for those of you celebrating Passover.

Written by Susan Gillie

April 16, 2008 at 2:28 pm

Posted in food as power

Obama Eats

Barack Obama spoke in Plainfield a few weeks ago and picked up more rapturites. A gifted man who stands above the crowd, Obama still has to eat.

While he was in Indiana what was his choice?

Since his mother championed microcredit and sustainable economies, you’re thinking local, sustainable . Your thinking the 38th St./Lafayette Rd. cultural corridor because he represents the multi-ethnic, multi-cultural, transracial experience.

Nope and nope.

Obama and crew ordered from a chain steakhouse. News sources report that Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse provided box lunches for Obama and his staff.

I’m trying to change my ways about steakhouses. Steak is sizzle, taste and nutrition. People have a right to like what they like.

Let’s not forget one unpleasant fact about Ruth’s Chris, though. Founded by a woman committed to her restaurants and community,  the company had a strong presence in Louisiana.

When Hurricane Katrina hit, they skurried like cockroaches to Orlando, Florida. Corporate party line:

As the executives debated whether to operate out of temporary quarters in another city while keeping their headquarters just outside New Orleans or to relocate permanently elsewhere, they decided that there were simply too many unknowns about the future of the city where their nationwide chain of 88 restaurants got its start. (New York Times, September 9, 2005)

Food is symbolic. We celebrated Easter, now Passover. Every morsel has meaning.

So how did a grassroots movement hookup with sleazy corporate “business as usual.”

Ask this man, Kip Tew, Obama’s Indiana campaign director. Nobody actually believes Obama got out the phone book and said “man, I’m hungry for a burger, ya got a Ruth’s Chris around here.”

This was prearranged by ground troops in Indiana. Kip Tew is the point man.

Today, the Indianapolis Star talks about the intense presence of the Clintons and the absence of Obama in Indiana. That’s grassroots strategy. Build momentum and come in at the right time.

So Obama’s second coming is near and he and his staff need to eat. This time walk the walk, not just talk the talk. That $30 a box lunch can go to Just Cause Catering. Provide jobs for 2nd Helping grads and let profits feed the needy.

Indiana hasn’t been a presidential battleground since 1968, but we’re edging back into the limelight.

And where did Robert Kennedy eat back then? Not in Indy, where he received a cool reception. He headed to his campaign base in Ft. Wayne and dined and schmoozed at Zoli’s Family Restaurant on Broadway.

His picture hung on the wall until the restaurant closed in 2003. Zoltan Herman, a Hungarian refugee who fled communist oppression, cherished every moment.

Written by Susan Gillie

March 28, 2008 at 3:44 pm

Posted in food as power

Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.


Michael Pollan, science writer, is coming to Indy. Author of Omnivore’s Dilemna and In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto, he’s speaking Monday, February 25 on the Butler campus.

The J. James Woods lecture series addresses pressing science issues such as global warming, AIDS and poverty in Africa, science and religion.

Lectures are free and open to the public. It begins at 7:30 p.m. and takes place in the Atherton Union Reilly Room.

For more information, call (317) 940-9861.

Update: Thomas Healy, Nuvo, interviews Pollan.

Written by Susan Gillie

February 20, 2008 at 2:42 pm

Posted in food as power