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America's Food Renaissance: Fact or Fiction

11/05/2010 1:34 PM

Will history judge this period of time as a Food Renaissance decades from now?

How will history judge America's change in eating habits. We are trying to go from fast food to fresh, convenience to home prepared, long distance to local, from big box to farmer's markets, from GMO, genetically modified foods to organic, from standardized mass produced to heirloom varietals, from a frozen and canned wasteland to a cornucopia of choice.

PBS pioneered the cooking show over 50 years ago, and all of a sudden there are shows about cooking broadcast on every network or cooking segments within its show. There are now whole networks devoted to just food shows. I can't even count how many shows there are in the United States on cooking there are so many, and 10 years ago they were almost non-existent.

Why are we so fascinated with food all of a sudden? Will history mark this as a Food Renaissance?

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#1

Re: America's Food Renaissance: fact or fiction

11/05/2010 2:09 PM

Well this is a refreshing/interesting thread.

I don't know the answer to your question, but I'll throw in my 2 cents.

I'm not hung up on organic, but I love food. I do most of the cooking, and my personal obsession is taking meals that are traditionally loaded with fat, and cutting the fat/or most of it, out, and maintaining the flavor of the original.

Whether or not it's a renaissance, I like it! I can get non traditional ingredients from around the world and thanks to the internet, the menu never has to get boring. I can pick any country on the planet, peruse the local recipes, and badda bing, badda boom, I'm cooking.

Is this gonna open the door to recipe swapping on CR4?

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#2
In reply to #1

Re: America's Food Renaissance: fact or fiction

11/05/2010 3:58 PM

Hey, why not? Here's one:

The typical apple pie uses a teaspoon of ground cinnamon. Instead, use 3/4 tsp ground cinnamon and 3/4 tsp ground cumin.

(I used cumin by mistake once, "rescued" it by adding cinnamon, and it turned out delicious with sort of a chutney effect.)

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#3
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Re: America's Food Renaissance: fact or fiction

11/05/2010 4:42 PM

Interesting, that's one I wouldn't have thought of on my own, but I can definitely see the earthy, slightly smoky/spicy flavor of cumin mixing nicely with apple pie.

In cooking, just like science, some of the greatest discoveries are made by accident.

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#21
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Re: America's Food Renaissance: fact or fiction

11/09/2010 7:59 AM

Here is a recipe, hehe: beef, any kind, slice thin, freezing partially helps you slice thinner, then marinade in fridge for 24 hours in soy sauce, a clove or five of minced or grated garlic, brown sugar, and red pepper flakes. Squeeze extra marinade out of meat, place on screens on top of box fans in layers, and allow to dry for 8-10 hours, or until done.

Since there is no sodium nitrate, store in airy pasta jars for up to a week at room temperature, and place whatever you won't be eating within a week put in the freezer, you can even put some in the fridge. Hint, if you think you have to wait for it to thaw to eat, think again. . . move over frozen snickers bars, now there's something meatier.

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#4

Re: America's Food Renaissance: Fact or Fiction

11/05/2010 5:18 PM

I don't know if it would be considered a renaissance, but I definitely think we are coming out of some dark ages. Until recently I thought the all natural or organic thing was just a bunch of hype. However, something was wrong with my wife. She kept having weird reactions. We finally narrowed it down to certain foods (this has been a 10 year process). We finally discovered the common thread...Sodium benzoate. It is in everything! Since we have been avoiding this preservative, my wife has not had any of these strange spells, I too have felt better. Recently we have been baking our own bread from whole wheat flour. The difference in how we feel is amazing. I think those hippies are on to something. I think we are realizing that we are doing something wrong, but can we break free of the economy that keeps us bound to cheap edible food-like substances? Check the link for a cool video. http://fora.tv/2010/01/23/Michael_Pollan_on_Food_Rules_An_Eaters_Manual

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#5
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Re: America's Food Renaissance: Fact or Fiction

11/05/2010 6:01 PM

That's interesting.

There is one restaurant near us that has "fresh" in the name. Something is wrong there, at least for me. I'm guessing that they are sprinkling MSG, or something similar all over everything. My face gets flushed, rapid irregular heartbeat and the next morning my face is so puffy I can barely open my eyes. I've eaten there twice and will never return. My wife feels it also.

It is very difficult to find foods that haven't been infused with chemicals. Thanks for pointing this out, you're right, it is in everything.

We may very well have stumbled onto something that is worthy of a new CR4 Section, Food Science. I, for one what like to know what all of these preservatives are, where they come from, and why they are there.

A little food for thought.

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#15
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Re: America's Food Renaissance: Fact or Fiction

11/08/2010 8:47 AM

I am with you on the Food Science CR4 Section. If we do it, why not expand to a Chemicals of Every Day Life Section. There are other chemicals used in everyday products that we don't know or understand what they do, why they are there, or how they effect the human body. A good example is the VOC and possible carcinogen styrene being used in body wash (Aveeno Naturals for a specific example).

My wife and I have gone through a food revolution of our own. When we met, we both ate out a lot. When I shopped for groceries, I went to Aldi. All of the food there is loaded in chemicals. I was gaining weight even though I was on an adult swim team and my blood pressure was on the rise. Now, we avoid all corn syrup (known to cause type 2 diabetes), salt/sodium (replaced with sea salt) and MSG. We eat organic when ever possible which is almost everything (I love Costco). My weight and size are now being maintained even though I am not exercising as much. Also, my blood pressure is back to a fairly normal range. The current stage of our revolution is removing sugar from our diet. We started with breakfast foods. It is shocking how hard it is to find breakfast cereal that isn't loaded in sugar.

To answer the OP's question, IMHO the US society is trying to get back to being healthy. Our government (both state and federal) has pushed to educate the people because diabetes and obesity have become huge issues.

Part of our society is following what the movie stars are doing. Organics and sustainability are a fad with the rich and famous atm.

I also think part of it (my wife and I being examples of this) is the ever expanding knowledge of what the chemicals (fertilizers, persticides, herbicides, etc) do to the human body. Granted what affects one person may not affect another. Look at the backlash against thimerosal in vaccines after stars like Jenny McCarthy blamed autism on it. Granted I never understood why mercury was being injected in the body or used as filling in teeth.

I think there are many reasons why the recent food push has happened. As for the tv, industries will expand where there is a demand.

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#16
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Re: America's Food Renaissance: Fact or Fiction

11/08/2010 9:50 AM

Maybe the OP can put in a request. I am probably not the most beloved individual here right now.

I don't know if we need a specific section, but maybe an ongoing blog, that would be easy enough.

Inquiring minds want to know......what is all that stuff in what we eat?

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#6

Re: America's Food Renaissance: Fact or Fiction

11/05/2010 11:58 PM

Hi SB,

This is something of interest to me, now for the past several years, but from a slightly different perspective.

I am, as they say, a "foreigner in a foreign land" ... I have worked in China for about 11 years, and for the past 7, lived here.

Many (I think, based on comments I still get from friends and family) really don't understand what the food is like here, probably relating it to their experience in so-called 'Chinese' restaurants.

From my first time here, I discovered the foods to be basic ... meat, poultry, fish, vegetables, grains (noodles or rice). Every meal was freshly prepared (rarely left-overs, and if so, it was incorporated into a new dish), the ingredients were fresh (no preservatives, bought at the market that day).

When I came to China in January 2000, I weighed about 250 pounds, and my trousers had a 44-inch waist. In just a little over one year, my weight was 200 pounds, and I was down to a 38-inch waist. Now, I am 185 pounds, and 36-inch waist. I did NOTHING DIFFERENT ... just my normal life, but now in China.

In my 'early' days, I would spend about 3 months here, and back to the States for a month ... I PROMISED myself I would begin to eat this way when there, BUT ... yes, I could find 'organic' foods, but the cost was much higher than the 'conventional' foods. Sure, during the harvest seasons, we could buy from the equivalent of the 'farmer's market', but where I live, that is rarely a good option.

Also, there were the 'cultural' challenges ... in China (and I think many parts of the world), grains and grain-based foods are the staple, but in the States, meat is the staple. I noticed very early in my 'adventure', when returning 'home', the amount of meat on the table was enough to feed a family for several days ... no, not because of the quantity of food, but because quantity of meat.

The bottom line, for me, is that I have the evidence that eating 'healthy' does good things to our bodies and overall health.

But, I must now tell you the other part of the evidence ... the negative side.

In the past 5 years or so, there is an ever-increasing 'western influence' in China ... western restaurants (some very good ones), fast food (Papa Johns, McDonalds, Burger King, Pizza Hut [here before, but growing in numbers], Dairy Queen, and Cold Stone Creamery). In my 'early' days, one would very rarely see an overweight person, at least not any of the 'normal' people. Now, there are more and more, and their numbers and waistlines are increasing. Also, the incidence of heart disease and diabetes is increasing at an alarming rate.

I want to continue to eat 'healthy', and if this is a renaissance, then I hope history does remember it, but, by comparison, I don't really see any difference YET in the 'west' ... most of my clients come from the Americas and Europe, and they seem no different than I was 11 years ago. I hope the 'good' trend continues.

Kind regards ....

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#9
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Re: America's Food Renaissance: Fact or Fiction

11/06/2010 1:39 AM

Wow, great story. What is a typical day of your food intake in China? What is a typical breakfast, lunch, and dinner? Knowing what you know now, how difficult would it be to apply a change in eating habits if you were to move back here?

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#10
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Re: America's Food Renaissance: Fact or Fiction

11/06/2010 2:01 AM

Hi SB,

Typical in the 'early' days was conjee ('wet rice' or rice soup) sometimes with other bits of sweet potato or meat inside, often just plain -- some vegetables -- sometimes eggs, either hard boiled or fried.

Lunch and dinner were similar. Always pork or beef or chicken, always fish, always two kinds of vegetables, always soup, always rice (rice is common in the south, noodles common in the north). At dinner there was always fresh fruit in season.

As I mentioned, things have changed over the years, and now my meals are not so regulated. Sometimes I cook at home, sometimes I eat in the restaurants, but still all the ingredients are fresh, except for the rare occasions I get something 'out of a can' ... hey, I live alone most of the time, so convenience DOES play some part . Breads are bought fresh daily (they don't last long ), and I have never been in such wonderful bakeries as here (okay, maybe I don't get out much), but there are huge varieties of baked goods, and not just donuts and cakes. In the 'early' years in China, there were almost NO dairy products, but now most items are available ... I buy my milk in 'room temperature storage' containers (better known as 'nuked'), and despite the controversy, I find no problem with it. I even drink whole milk now when at home we were down to 1% (white water).

Still my weight stay at 185 + / - 3 pounds.

I am neither a dietitian nor chemist, but it seems the main differences now are (1) very few packaged foods, (2) really very few 'snacks', and (3) fresh, fresh, fresh 90 percent of the time. Very difficult to do in the States.

Kind regards .....

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#7

Re: America's Food Renaissance: Fact or Fiction

11/06/2010 1:21 AM

History will show that the population ignorantly poisoned one another from the cradle to the grave for the sake of a dollar.. and because it tasted good.

What is more dangerous? food? or the the medicine taken to combat the side effects of eating food?

food is great! we should enjoy all we consume..

..The term 'junk food junkie' is 100% accurate

side effects? you know them.. they disappear when you eat properly..

family history? that's an excuse to be unhealthy..

(I speak from nearly 4 years of changed eating habits) it's just one of the things that saved my life

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#8
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Re: America's Food Renaissance: Fact or Fiction

11/06/2010 1:33 AM

Renaissance means to be born again. It sounds like your relationship with food has been born again. . . why? What changed? Thanks in advance.

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#11

Re: America's Food Renaissance: Fact or Fiction

11/06/2010 8:49 AM

I don't want a renaissance. I want a true revolution. Anyone who grows, sells, or eats seedless watermelons, white eggs, or cardboard tomatoes goes to the guillotine. Sorta of Julia meets Marat scenario.

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#12
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Re: America's Food Renaissance: Fact or Fiction

11/06/2010 10:28 AM

Before you have a revolution, you need an awakening. Socially speaking in this country things fundamentally changed after World War 2. Women established a place in the workforce while men were fighting. After the war they had proven themselves a formidable workforce, and their place was sealed. Meanwhile after the war, we had the advent of the 30 year mortgage, and this coupled with a two family income, all of a sudden, allowed families to buy houses. Where the trend up until this point was to move into the city, all of sudden we had people moving away to homes outside of the city.

Between the woman going from no longer managing the home, cooking 3 square meals, the long commutes, and the full time job, our traditional relationship with food was lost. Mothers stopped learning from their mothers how to cook, and a lot of food heritage was lost in the process.

My wife didn't learn how to cook until a few years ago, and it was thanks to a celebrity tv star, I won't mention her name, but her initials are Rachel Ray.

People are just awakening to a lot of food facts, and only some are starting to realize that poor decisions are being made at a lot of levels.

For example, people with their busy work lives started to think cooking from scratch was cumbersome, and others found it intimidating. People thought "shake n bake" was the greatest thing since sliced bread, while others thought even that was too much work.

We need to be aware of the damage first before we can revolt. And the damage is systemic. It is not just for what we eat or how it is being grown but it's right down to the loss of sharing family values and the time spent bonding, in addition to the nourishment that can typically take place at a proper sit down meal.

Then once we are aware can we then change: our purchasing decisions, share our values, our cultural heritage of food, and our lifestyles. If you don't recognize the problem, you will never be part of the solution. Once we know then we walk into our grocery stores, we tell our grocers what it is we are looking for, or simple buy what we deem to be the best, and money talks.

Enlighten, share, and explain to me why seedless watermelon and white eggs are so bad, I haven't the slightest clue why. . . what else can we do?

Remember we first need an awakening, then comes the revolution, then history will judge America's Food Renaissance to be fact of fiction.

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#13
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Re: America's Food Renaissance: Fact or Fiction

11/06/2010 12:20 PM

I see you need to start off eating right at a very slow pace. OK, first thing to do is find a place that serves chittlins and okra. Eat that for several days running and come back. I'll guide your gastronomical adventure a little higher up the food chain.

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#14
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Re: America's Food Renaissance: Fact or Fiction

11/06/2010 12:27 PM

"I see you need to start off eating right at a very slow pace."

How was that line of thinking derived, not enough sleep, or not enough brain food?

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#17
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Re: America's Food Renaissance: Fact or Fiction

11/08/2010 10:06 AM

It's interesting that you bring up the social changes. My wife just recently went back to work after staying home with our young children. Both kids are in school now. The result? Our diet is not nearly what it was when she wasn't working. We have been eating a lot more restaurant and convenience foods. However, we have noticed this trend and have done something about it. We have resolved that when we need convenience, its a sandwich on homemade bread with tuna or chicken salad instead of the nitrate encrusted lunch meats! We have been baking our own bread lately, and I actually enjoy a sandwich now. It really doesn't take long to bake your own bread...if you make a simple bread.

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#20
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Re: America's Food Renaissance: Fact or Fiction

11/09/2010 4:16 AM

Hi DAG,

It is interesting, regardless of food or disposable items, how easily we can choose the 'convenience' over 'value'. We used to do 'many things' as a matter of routine, now fallen to the 'convenient' ... a good lesson ... thanks.

Kind regards ...

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#18

Re: America's Food Renaissance: Fact or Fiction

11/08/2010 11:32 AM

This sounds more like a reactionary movement backwards in technologies and engineering, rather than a radical movement forwards. You seem to have some misconceptions about the renaissance. I do not believe the importance of the renaissance was a movement backwards towards past practice, but rather a technological and scientific enlightenment and movement forwards. Organic hand picked, local, farm fresh are terms that all imply long past practices. Heirloom varietals are older no longer used varieties that were those deemed unsuitable by the market preferences, less than palatable, or prone to a variety of problems. It seems more like you are describing the early dark ages when the technologies and scientific/engineering knowledge of the Romans was being lost, and the new people were moving backwards towards a simpler more ancient technologies and systems. You know the age when even very simple science and engineering were perceived as Magic.

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#19
In reply to #18

Re: America's Food Renaissance: Fact or Fiction

11/08/2010 12:07 PM

Renaissance doesn't mean going forward, and I am not necessarily saying it is a Renaissance, but merely posing the question. We have a lot of discussions here about "green tech" and a lot of this green tech is based on principles of old that were lost, but are now being used again, especially when it comes to construction.

As far as food being deemed unsuitable, you could argue people wanted convenience, they wanted cheap, and big farming methods are perceived as evil, but in reality it was people's demand for these things that created these monsters, not the other way around. In respect to going back to the dark ages it happens it is becoming more economically viable with the rising cost of gas to let livestock graze rather than use gas to bring food to the animals and use machines to harvest their food. Also think about the inputs of energy and oil that go into creating fertilizer and bringing the fertilizer to farms, then using more energy to spread the fertilizer. Now take a cow, you let it graze, crap/fertililze without the use of technology, sure you can call it the dark ages, but it doesn't make it any less profound in terms of this revival I am speaking of. So if a renaissance is defined literally as being born again (Italian: Rinascimento, from ri- "again" and nascere "be born"), then of course it is a return to things and times of past, and you can't move forwards unless you understand where you have been. And if its more economical to change to healthier, more locally grown food, its going to happen whether we want it to or not.

How about a food section for GMO foods or is that already in genetic engineering?

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#22
In reply to #18

Re: America's Food Renaissance: Fact or Fiction

11/09/2010 8:11 AM

Within an hour or two, a truck will pull up in front of my house and drop off a week's worth of local-grown, farm-fresh produce, mostly fruits and vegetables with some eggs, cheese, honey, etc. A few things are organic; most are just low pesticide, low fertilizer. I am a distribution point for a number of familys in the area who then come to my front porch during the day and pick up their boxes. Past practice? I think not! It's growing. Some of the tomatoes are heirloom; they look awful, they taste great. Of course, they would never survive a mechanical picker and two weeks in a truck.

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#23
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Re: America's Food Renaissance: Fact or Fiction

11/09/2010 11:48 AM

Wow 2-weeks in a truck. where do you live. Tomatoes are picked and loaded in the field shiped directly to packing and cooling, and sent out within a day to distribution somewhere in the country where Tomatoes can't be grown all year round. Takes 3 days to move them clear across the country, and 1 day to distribute them to local stores from distribution warehouses. That is less than a week. Produce brokers sell loads while they are in the field about to be picked, not when they arrive. Only very small local buyers without large distribution capacities buy directly upon arrival as needed.

As a note it would be impossible to feed the northern portions of the US by what they could grow locally, NYC alone could not support its population with fruits and vegetables grown locally in New York State. There is a limit to how much growing capacity local environments can support annually. If you live somewhere like SFO the capacity is huge, live in Boston, LA, Phoenix, NYC, Baltimore, Buffalo, Philadephia, Washington, Chicago, Denver, Minneapolis, Salt Lake City, Detroit, Las Vegas, etc. different story.

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#24
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Re: America's Food Renaissance: Fact or Fiction

11/09/2010 12:09 PM

Florida tomatoes to Japan go two weeks. They have to breed 'em for that.

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#25
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Re: America's Food Renaissance: Fact or Fiction

11/09/2010 12:49 PM

Do you know what percentage of our nation's crops come from California? Is there a plan in place if there is a drought there? I also wonder at what dollar level of oil will food become too expensive for the lower class? I think I read in Empires of Food that food staples, such as rice, wheat, corn, and soy have gone up 80% in the last 10-20 years.

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#26
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Re: America's Food Renaissance: Fact or Fiction

11/09/2010 5:14 PM

In terms of food crops, California, Texas and Florida make up probably well in excess of 90% of nearly all vegetable and fruit crops. California is by far the largest producer of milk and Dairy products in the US. In terms of staple crops is second in rice production, about 13th in corn production (though it is about 1/40th that of Iowa), and in combination with Arizona is only about 20 million bushels of wheat (about 1/400 Kansas). Staple crops however, can be stored and have very long shelf lives. Thye are not really something to be concerned with on a daily or even weekly basis.

Southern California doesn't have sufficient water right now to support the urban and agricultural needs and imports most of its water. Central California is psuedo-balanced for water resources with localalized pollution and urban demands issues. Northern California has excess water, but NIMBY activitists using environmental laws to protect those resources from being exported. Much of Texas apparently has some problems with overdraught such that demand exceeds available resources. On the other hand some adjacent States have way more water than they could ever use.

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