El Premio Arte y Pico Award

El Premio Arte y Pico

El Premio Arte y Pico

I’m happy to tell you that The Real Potato has received its first blog award!  The Arte y Pico award was started by Arte y Pico, a Spanish-language blog that honors arts blogs.  What does it mean?  According to the site,

It will never find its counterpart in English, but if it HAD to, it would be something like, Wow. The Best Art. Over the top.

I was tagged by the very talented Tisha at The Rice and Spice Cupboard, who writes beautifully about a range of foods from around the world.  You should definitely check out her blog– and as an added bonus, I get to tell you about five of my favorite blogs.

Here are the rules:

  1. Choose 5 blogs that you consider deserve this award, creativity, design, interesting material, and also contributes to the blogger community.
  2. Each award should have the name of the author and also a link to his or her blog to be visited by everyone, and a link to the blog which bestowed it upon them.
  3. The award-winner and the one who has given the prize should include a link to the Arte y Pico blog (English translation here), so everyone will know the origin of this award.

The lucky winners:

1. We Are Never Full, where Amy and Jonathan use gorgeous photography to illustrate cooking techniques and amazing food porn.  The recipes are easy to follow and use lots of fresh ingredients, and they have a great sense of humor.

2. Fresh Mouth chronicles the adventures of a family of five who decided to eat only fresh, unprocessed food for a month– and found that it changed their lives.  Ellen writes about how she, her husband and their three young children broke the McNugget habit.  When I found this blog, I couldn’t stop talking about it– their simple, no-fuss approach to fresh food helped me to change the way I think about vegetables!

3. Mac and Cheese, where my fellow Philly food blogger Taylor reviews local restaurants and cooks amazing vegan recipes.  She’s also mastered the difficult art of food photography– I’m always hungry after reading her posts!

4. The Ethicurean (motto: Chew the Right Thing) is devoted to ethical eating.  Bonnie Powell and her co-bloggers help readers untangle the difficult questions that pop up for anyone who wants to know where their food comes from, without veering into moralism or preachiness.  It’s also a great resource for information about legislation and governmental regulations related to farming and food politics, like the Farm Bill or the Pennsylvania milk labeling debate.

5. Law for Food explores the legal issues around sustainable food, in a winningly well-written and intelligent way.

The food blogosphere has exploded in the past few years, and it’s exciting and invigorating to see so many talented people who care enough about good food to spend their free time sharing ideas and recipes with the world.  (Even Mario Batali doesn’t hate us anymore.)

Thanks, Tisha!

Up, Up, and Away: Food Prices Soaring Worldwide

Image from al-Arab Online.

A few years ago, when I started eating a strict gluten-free diet, my grocery bill tripled. I was shocked at having to pay $6 for a loaf of bread, and began using a bread maker to try to cut costs. Gluten-eating friends and family were invariably horrified when I told them how much gluten-free bread cost.

Today, a $6 loaf of bread isn’t uncommon. The price of flour has risen 40.6% this quarter, according to Forbes Magazine. Friend of the blog KeenEye, who owns a gourmet pizzeria in Oregon, reports:

Our flour?

Now at $37.52 a bag.

Yep. From $9 bucks a bag 142 days ago.

I’m pretty much freaking out.

She’s not alone. Wheat and rice prices are spiraling, causing a rising sense of panic. Business magazines have begun throwing around words like “famine” and “peak wheat.” Rice has hit a 20-year high, and many rice-exporting countries are instituting bans or caps on exports in the hopes of meeting domestic demand:

Vietnam’s government announced here on Friday that it would cut rice exports by nearly a quarter this year. The government hoped that keeping more rice inside the country would hold down prices.

The same day, India effectively banned the export of all but the most expensive grades of rice. Egypt announced on Thursday that it would impose a six-month ban on rice exports, starting April 1, and on Wednesday, Cambodia banned all rice exports except by government agencies. (New York Times)

Food prices are spiking everywhere: while US consumers are feeling the squeeze with an overall 8.9% increase, in Egypt, prices are up by 50%. Food riots have broken out in Guinea, Mauritania, Mexico, Morocco, Senegal, Uzbekistan and Yemen, according to the Times; the Globe and Mail adds Egypt and Cameroon to the list.

There are a number of reasons for the spike in prices. Read the rest of this entry »

The Real Potato featured in the Waco Tribune-Herald

That’s right, my recipe for Shrimp and Tofu Stir-Fry was picked up by the Legitimate Media! Specifically, by Terri Jo Ryan of the Waco Tribune-Herald. Sweet. It’s part of an article and slideshow on culinary trends through the decades.

Here’s the article:

Dining through the decades and in the future

and here is the slide show with my recipe in it:

Food Fads and Future Trends

Registration is required, unfortunately. Click on “2000s” and you’ll see my recipe!

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Required Reading: Working Conditions in the NC Poultry Industry

Check out this amazing six-part series on workers’ rights in the North Carolina poultry industry from the Charlotte Observer.  From the editor’s introduction:

These workers — about 28,000 of them in the Carolinas — process chicken and turkey in all its forms. Whole birds, fillets, nuggets, slices, cubes, sausage and even hot dogs.

It may surprise you to learn that most of the workers speak Spanish. Many of them entered the country illegally.

Should that matter as you consider the working conditions you will read about?

I say yes, but maybe not for the most obvious reason.

It should matter because the neglect of these workers exposes an ugly dimension to a new subclass in our society. A disturbing subclass of compliant workers with few, if any, rights.

I say disturbing because North and South Carolina share some regrettable history of building economies on the backs of such workers.

Before the Civil War, slaves and poor sharecroppers powered the region’s tobacco and cotton plantations. Early in the 20th century, children as young as 8 were put to work in Carolinas textile mills to help feed their poor families.

Consider the parallel to illegal immigrants. Same as slaves and sharecroppers, same as the cotton mill workers derisively termed “lintheads,” this subclass is now a scorned bunch.

And yet they help power our economy. We live in houses they built. We drive on highways they paved. We eat the chicken and turkey they prepared.

Illegal immigrants often take the least desirable jobs, earning low wages, because those jobs lift them and their families from the poverty they left behind in their homelands.

As a group, they are compulsively compliant, ever-conscious that one complaint could lead to their firing or arrest or deportation.

“Some speak out, but most of these workers just wanted to remain in the shadows,” said Franco Ordoñez, a reporter who spent months speaking to workers in the Latino communities surrounding the poultry plants. “It’s just not worth it, considering how much they’ve already risked, to draw more attention to themselves — even if they’re hurt. They’re like the perfect victims.”

And, as you will read today, businesses take advantage of their silence and vulnerability.

Will we allow such conditions to go unchecked again?

Rachel Ray’s Journey to the Dark Side is Complete.

And as an added bonus, the text talks about how incompetent she is in the kitchen.

Food Network, it’s over between us.

Rethinking Meat? Why We Need A Movement

There’s an excellent piece in the Sunday New York Times– “Rethinking the Meat-Guzzler” by Mark Bittman.

A sea change in the consumption of a resource that Americans take for granted may be in store – something cheap, plentiful, widely enjoyed and a part of daily life. And it isn’t oil.

It’s meat.

The two commodities share a great deal: Like oil, meat is subsidized by the federal government. Like oil, meat is subject to accelerating demand as nations become wealthier, and this, in turn, sends prices higher. Finally – like oil – meat is something people are encouraged to consume less of, as the toll exacted by industrial production increases, and becomes increasingly visible.

Bittman goes on to enumerate the environmental costs of the mass production of meat. He points out that meat consumption has vastly increased, both globally and domestically; meat consumption is on the rise in industrializing nations like India and China, while here in the US

Americans eat about the same amount of meat as we have for some time, about eight ounces a day, roughly twice the global average. At about 5 percent of the world’s population, we “process” (that is, grow and kill) nearly 10 billion animals a year, more than 15 percent of the world’s total.

That’s a huge rate of consumption, far more than is needed to meet the protein needs of the population. It’s rendered particularly obscene by the fact that feeding grain to cattle and poultry to produce meat is far less efficient, both in terms of calorie intake and labor and environmental costs, than simply using that grain to feed the hundreds of millions of people who are hungry. (Check out the graphics provided with the story for a useful illustration.) In addition, Bittman looks to the water pollution and carbon emissions produced by feedlots, pointing out that while producers have long been able to foist the environmental costs of meat production onto taxpayers, resources are now stretched to the point where such pollution may become increasingly difficult to sustain.

This is, of course, all old news. Frances Moore Lappe wrote about much of it in Diet for a Small Planet back in 1971; recent bestsellers like Fast Food Nation and The Omnivore’s Dilemma have similar analyses. But only very recently have such ideas left the pages of vegetarian cookbooks and ecological journals and entered the arena of mainstream debate; it’s interesting to see potential solutions being kicked around in what is, let’s face it, the country’s paper of record.

So what solutions does Bittman propose? Read the rest of this entry »

Gluten-Free for a Day

gluten free girl

When I went gluten-free, it was a crash course in nutrition not only for me, but for everyone who cared about me. Joe read everything he could about flour mixes, and learned to bake gluten-free versions of all of my favories. Friends who’d never read a label in their lives were suddenly asking me detailed questions about the contents of modified food starch, and my grammy spent the holiday season figuring out which of her cookie recipes could be adapted to be gluten-free. I was deeply touched to see them going to such great lengths to feed me– in fact, it was that experience that made me realize how deeply rooted our food traditions are in our lives and relationships.

But cooking for (or even finding a restaurant for) a gluten-free loved one was also a learning experience for them. They were always astonished to realize how much effort is involved in maintaining a strictly gluten-free life. It reminds me of an interactive exhibit that was at the Pittsburgh Children’s Museum when I was a kid– there was a whole setup with a kitchen, a store, and other areas, and you had to negotiate everything using a wheelchair. It helped kids to realize the challenges people who use wheelchairs face, and learn to be more considerate and mindful.

Which is why I was so moved when I read a post called One Gluten-Free Day at Not Martha (which is hereby added to my blogroll). In honor of the release of the book Gluten-Free Girl, by Shauna James Ahern (of the wonderful blog by the same name), Not Martha decided to see if she could follow a strict GF diet for an entire day. The result is an eye-opener for her and for the reader– go, click, enjoy!

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