The Big Stink for Farmers

The Radio Lab recently featured a podcast called "Poop Train." Guaranteed to grab your attention, the title referred to a system used by cities to eliminate human waste water. Surprisingly, we learn from the podcast that it wasn't until the 1980s that New York City stopped dumping treated human waste into the ocean. Gradually, the treatment facilities improved and the resulting sludge was transported to farmers around the U.S. to dress their fields. Because the costs were so high to transport the Read more [...]

Make Way for Food Markets?

At a recent gathering in downtown Austin, the breakfast fare said it all. Organic yogurt, locally produced honey, fresh breakfast tacos broke from the usual offerings of croissants and Danish pastries. This crowd was invested in their food, mostly emotionally, some economically, as farmers, chefs, city planners, food activists, non-profits, and individuals gathered to learn about the possibility of a public food market in Austin. Austin has farmers markets but no public market, yet. And even the Read more [...]

Marching On Empty Stomachs

While the world watches Syria cross red lines, Syrians contend with breadlines. Hardly a grenade passes through rebel or military hands without making an impact upon the country’s food supply. Collateral damage inflicted on crops and animals rarely reaches consumers of news about the Syrian crisis. Throughout history, governments have recognized the link between war, food, and national security. The Romans noticed the connection when they sought food sources throughout their empire; the French Read more [...]

The Art of Food

The Blanton Museum in Austin, Texas, is now showing Sam Taylor-Wood’s 2001“Still Life,” a three-minute video of fruit on a plate, rotting. The time-lapse images are transfixing, engaging your senses as you watch fruit decompose, moment by moment. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BJQYSPFo7hk) Food and art have enjoyed each other’s company for centuries. Rudolf Arcimboldo’s 16th century painting, “A Feast for the Eyes,” is an classic art/food mashup. (http://media.smithsonianmag.com/images/Arcimboldo-Rudolf-II-631.jpg.) Food Read more [...]

Eating Some Words

In today’s noisy, scrappy conversation about food, a pitch-perfect note once in a while bubbles to the top. Bee Wilson, a food historian and author, recently brought us one of those sparkling notes in her review of William Sitwell’s new book, A History of Food in 100 Recipes. Wilson writes reviews in The New Yorker and sometimes her own books, such as Consider The Fork, published by Basic Books in 2012. While offering her thoughts on Sitwell’s attempt to extract historical narratives from Read more [...]

Up and Down an Alp

Yes, just spent a week logging miles upward and downward. After a week in Paris, I joined my family for a week-long adventure in Bohemia, in Grainau, where the alps gather around the border between Germany and Austria. Three of us competed in the Zugspitz Ultratrail Race set in the shadow of the tallest alp in Germany. I ran 25 miles and my two children each ran 42. But the kicker was the 9,000 feet up and 9,000 down for the kids and 6,000 feet up/down for my distance. In the rain, and fog, and over Read more [...]

June 17, Paris

The Sandwich: Jambon/Fromage Tracking down a sandwich is my mission, this one in Paris, and made by the Martin family in the 10th arrondissement.  By tracking down the ingredients for one sandwich, made by one shop, makes the task of understanding how Paris gets fed manageable, although still confusing and complicated. Ingredients for one food item at one location often change from one day to another; bakers buy their yeast from the best supplier at the most reasonable cost, for example.  The Read more [...]

June 15, Paris

Say Cheese Sounds simple, yet Parisians just can’t tell us what kind of cheese they use to make their traditional “jambon/fromage,” or baguette with ham and cheese sandwich. I’ve been asking Parisians now for almost a week and each person declares with absolute conviction that the cheese is Emmanthal. No, actually, it’s Gruyere. Oh, wait. It’s Comte cheese. The ham is another story, but one that exacts almost a sense of apathy, which for a Parisian seems out of character.  The Read more [...]

June 14, Paris, Day Two

Tumbled out of the hotel at 4:30am for a tour of Rungis Market, one of the largest wholesale food markets in the world located southwest of Paris. As the sun rose, we entered the Fish Hall, lights glaring, floor shimmering wet, and white Styrofoam boxes for the length of the icy-cool space. A display market, meaning that buyers and sellers see the fish, touch the merchandise, and settle on prices rather than purchase catches through an online auction system such as buyers in Boston. During the 1960s, Read more [...]

June 13, Paris

Am setting off to track the ingredients of food items made in cities around the world. The purpose is to better understand how cities are fed, mapping out the movements of ingredients from the origin of raw materials to the plate of the consumer. So, starting in Paris, with a simple ham and cheese baguette. Slept all the way through the 10+hour flight to Munich and then on to Paris, arriving during a one-day taxi strike on a rainy day. Am staying in a small hotel, Hotel Verneuil, located on a Read more [...]