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In an oddly dispirited blog post, Mark Bittman writes:

Like every day in America, the Fourth of July is a celebration of protein. But the Fourth is a special day for burgers and ribs, not beans and rice, a day with contests to see who can eat the most hot dogs, not the most veggie patties. If you’re anti-meat, the Fourth of July can feel anti-you.

He then cites some pretty amazing statistics (can 50% of Americans really be aware of the Meatless Monday meme?) and reasons for cutting back on meat. But then he capitulates to the all-beef burger and hot dog with this:

The Fourth of July may not be the day to trade in your hot dog, but the following Monday is a good one for beans and rice.

Mark, we can do better! YOU do better already! Read more after the fold.

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What's going to be on your grill this Monday?

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| 17 votes | Vote | Results

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Wed May 25, 2011 at 09:00 AM PDT

Tornado? No insurance? Eat cake!

by Cook for Good

I was flummoxed last night at my neighborhood book club. We had just started talking about the devastation from the terrible tornadoes. One woman said:

What I keep thinking about is why didn't they have renters' insurance instead of relying on the government?

She went on to say that for only $12 a month, "these people" who wanted the government to bail them out hadn't practiced good self-control and planning. What leaches! This is what bothered her about the news.

I said a quick prayer to George Lakoff and tried to answer this, but didn't go a good job. I hope to learn from your comments below and at Netroots Nation how to do a better one next time.

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Mon May 16, 2011 at 08:32 AM PDT

Better berries at NCSU

by Cook for Good

In Eat your fruit; it's good for you, Robin Smith describes the work of "world-renowned berry expert" Mary Ann Lila, who "studies the health benefits of blueberries and other berries as the head of N.C. State's Plants for Human Health Institute in Kannapolis [NC], where what was once a textile mill is now a state-of-the-art research facility."

Although some say "superfruit" claims are overhyped, Lila says modern science backs them up, especially for berries. Studies suggest berries may help prevent disease, slow aging, enhance endurance and fight infection. With funding from the National Institutes of Health, Lila is trying to identify the specific compounds behind their medicinal powers and understand how they work.
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Barry Estabrook writes that New Study Compares Prices at Farmers’ Markets and Supermarkets. The Results Might Surprise You. on his blog Politics of the Plate. He says:

We’re all familiar with the accepted gospel: Only well-heeled food snobs can afford the exorbitant prices charged for those attractively displayed baby greens and heirloom tomatoes at farmers’ markets, while those who can’t afford such greener-than-thou food-purchasing decisions must paw through limp broccoli, wilted lettuce, and tennis-ball tomatoes at supermarket produce departments.

It may come as a surprise that there has been virtually no formal studies to support this widely accepted contention, and the few studies that have been conducted call its veracity into question.

The study by the Northeast Oranic Farming Association of Vermont is a good one and should inspire more. Here in North Carolina, I've found more complex results after several years of gathering prices in all seasons, not just the summer.
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The Chicago Tribute reports that a Chicago Public School Bans Home-Packed Lunches in an attempt to improve students' diets. Kids are chanting in defense of their homemade meals:

"Who thinks the lunch is not good enough?" the seventh-grader [Fernando Dominguez] shouted to his lunch mates in Spanish and English.

Dozens of hands flew in the air and fellow students shouted along: "We should bring our own lunch! We should bring our own lunch! We should bring our own lunch!"

But the principal says she wants to "protect students from their own unhealthful food choices." A side effect will be more money for the school lunch provider, Chartwells-Thompson, and a mandated cost of $2.25 per meal for the parents.

This gives the Cook for Good Lady a headache. More below the fold.

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Should schools restrict or ban brown-bag lunches?

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I stocked up last month on canned organic beans. They were on sale at the Harris Teeter and hurricane season is coming up. I keep several weeks worth of canned beans, tomatoes, and other food on hand in case of disaster, donating any unused cans to the food bank just before the expiration date. Last week, I made Rice Cooker Stew using one of the new cans.  

I was shocked to see how few beans were in the can after I'd drained off the liquid: only 1 1/4 cups, a quarter cup less than usual.

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My hopes weren't high as I looked around the annual Congressional Farm Breakfast in Raleigh last week, held by Congressmen Brad Miller and David Price (both D-NC). The attendees were mostly older white men in suits who looked more ready to go to an office afterward than a field, not the usual colorful sustainability group. Turns out nearly a third were bound for classrooms or labs at NCSU.

I'd sent Congressman Miller's staff a heads-up a week before about an email on local sustainable-agriculture lists warning about risks associated with Roundup Ready crops, especially promiscuous alfalfa. If no one else asked about it, I would.

But except for being unprepared on the Roundup Ready crops, the presentations were far more green than I'd hoped. Read below the fold to learn how the government is supporting fresh produce, better treatment for animals, community gardens, clean water, and institutional use of local food.

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I was stunned this morning to see a headline over an AP article saying, Eat a carrot, hurt the economy? Sometimes. The story summarized a study in Lancet, saying that:

In Britain, experts estimated that fixing the country's bad eating habits might prevent nearly 70,000 people from prematurely dying of diet-related health problems like heart disease and cancer. It would also theoretically save the health system 20 billion pounds ($32 billion) every year.

In Brazil, however, the rates of illnesses linked to a poor diet are not as high as in the U.K. So Brazilians would get relatively few health benefits while their economy might lose millions.

 

Reporter Maria Cheng did some serious cherry picking from a Lancet series that focuses on the positive health benefits of taking vital steps to slow global warming, providing a false rationale for people to continue meat-heavy diets.

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After last week's problem, now resolved, with Newman's Own Organics olive oil, I couldn't believe it when I found a much more important error on the label for Eden Organic Kamut Vegetable Spirals. Turns out that the label says the nutritional information is for a 1/2 cups serving, but it's really for a 1 cup serving.  

My husband and I have been eating the serving size we use for all pasta, 3/4 cup, but were only getting 6 grams of protein instead of 12. Our daily allowance is 55 - 60 grams, so this is a 10% shortage ... enough to make a noticeable difference. That's why we've had the urge to snack on nuts after a meal made with this "high protein" pasta.

And I really couldn't believe it when Eden told me they've known about it for months, have not corrected their website, and refused to refund my money. They will be printing new boxes in a few weeks (no rush) and eventually the packaging will be accurate. Meanwhile, too bad about all those customers who are misinformed.

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Did you pay 50% more than you should have for Newman's Own Organics Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil? You might have if you bought a 16.9 ounce bottle with the wrong label on the back: one that says it contains 50 servings. That label, which includes the UPC code and thus the price identifier, belongs on the 25.3 ounce bottle. (That's 500 ml vs. 750 ml. for metric fans.)

I'm surprised and disappointed by the lack of response from Newman's Own Organics to my complaint about the label and price for the big bottle of olive oil being on the small bottle. If it is a one-time error involving "only" a few thousand bottles that they handle responsibly once notified, then why not let me know?

A wall of silence when a manufacturer is found misrepresenting a product is not acceptable. While this problem is trivial compared to the egg debacle, it could mean that thousands of customers paid $15 for a $10 bottle of olive oil. Mislabeled bottles could still on the shelves. And worse ...

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Stephen Budiansky writes a op-ed piece in today's New York Times in which he offers Math Lessons for Locavores. The self-styled Liberal Curmudgeon takes locavores to task for being "self-indulgent — and self-defeating." He says, "The statistics brandished by local-food advocates to support such doctrinaire assertions are always selective, usually misleading and often bogus." And then he proceeds to do the same thing himself. He's even harsher on his blog about the piece, saying that:

   

The problem is the way the food gurus have turned the whole "locavore" thing into one of those doctrinaire, authoritarian, and joyless religions that all too often make environmentalists their own worst enemies.

Oh, PUH-LEEZE! I'm a flexitarian who is taking stand-up comedy classes. The folks I meet at farmers' markets and sustainability events are full of humor and flexibility, not to mention great food.

But follow me below the fold to look at the sources for Budiansky's math lessons.

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If you ordinarily choose food based on ethical, moral, or political reasons, how far do you take those choices when you are eating with others, serving guests, or being a guest?

My diary yesterday attempted to explore this issue using Chelsea Clinton's wedding as a frame. She's a vegetarian, yet the wedding dinner included short ribs.

But the topic is not about Chelsea (aside to Chelsea: great dress! long and happy life! I don't care what you served ... you just made a choice I never would have thought of.) It's about how you handle three types of food situations.

It's about how you handle the delicate mix of food, ethics, and community.

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How do you handle these situation?

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| 29 votes | Vote | Results

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