May 13, 2010

Scrapin' Up the Bits - Embarassed Style

I've been meaning to do a post on this truly gut-churning -- as in, make we want to vomit for a minimum of 3 hours -- letter from several senators to USDA secretary Vilsack in which they whine about the "Know Your Farmer" program, but haven't had time to do it justice. And it's just been holding me back.

So, I'll just leave it to other, more professional types to do the job for me. First, a good post on the letter itself. One of the most gut-churning sentences argues that the program is...

"aimed at small, hobbyist and organic producers whose customers generally consist of affluent patrons at urban farmers markets.”

Oh, noes, how dares the government take some of the billions they provide in corporate charity to the big agriculture companies and give it to "small" or "organic" producers. I mean, who the hell are they? They don't have any good lobbyists, do they? So why worry about them? And the "hobbyist" term is a nice jab, eh?

And although it's true to an extent that "affluent patrons" do frequent farmers markets, why do you think that is? Because they have easy access to them, both in terms of location and financial resources. Could the playing field be leveled, that is, either by removing the corporate charity that makes conventional produce/meat so much more affordable or beefing up support for the more sustainably-raised products that come from small and organic family farms, those cost differentials might not be so significant and the demographics of just who frequents farmers markets could change dramatically.

Along those lines, a brief, although still, good retort, here -- via Mark Bittman's blog -- from Barry Estabrook. Key nugget:

On average during the past decade the Feds have doled out $17 billion (with a “B”) dollars a year to well-to-do growers of wheat, corn, soybeans, and other commodity crops. Some years these welfare payments to agribusiness have soared to $24 billion. Those are the “realities of production agriculture.” By comparison, Know Your Farmer will cost about $65 million (with an “M”).

Speaking of Barry Estabrook, this is from last year, but it won an award and is an eye-opening look into how despicable some humans can be and into the underbelly of the world of many grocery store tomatoes.

A few other items worth noting, including:

The Environmental Working Group's "Shopper's Guide to Pesticides." Hint, when purchasing nonorganic produce, stay away from celery and peaches.

Surprise, surprise: Round-Up resistant weeds are popping up like... oh, well... weeds on farms across the country. Who would have thought that?

Holy shellfish is that a HUGE paella!

Heinz is
(quietly) reducing the amount of sodium in its ketchup. Good for them.

Restaurant recommendation: Round Corner Cantina in Lawrenceville. Great drinks (I highly recommend the "Red Pepper, Red Pepper") and great food (they had me at the pork belly tacos). Advice, though: be prepared to wait, 'cause it's a small joint, and do not -- I repeat, do not! -- skip the vegetables escabeche. You won't be sorry.

Guess what?! We're still working away at the remnants of the Giant Chocolate Bunny! Speaking of, if you, like our family, enjoy getting free chocolate -- and darn good chocolate at that -- I recommend following Edward Marc on Twitter (@EMChocolatier) to get the secret word of the day.

Finally, a drink experiment recommendation: All those crazy "mixologist" guys are all into using, like, herbs and junk in their cocktails, right? So why not try it at home?

I had two little sample bottles of Rain organic cucumber vodka that I got for free last year at the local Wine & Spirits store. So I had a little fresh ginger and lemongrass left over from our amazing pork meatball banh mi sandwiches (BTW, the recipe calls for basil and no lemongrass; I subbed mint for the basil, and added about a tablespoon of finely chopped lemongrass; freakin' yum).

So, on late Sunday afternoon, I took perhaps a heaping teaspoon each of the ginger and lemongrass, some mint leaves, and muddled them in a shaker. Put in the cucumber vodka, a little regular vodka, a little club soda, ice, shook vigorously. The end result was really quite delicious and refreshing. I would go easier on the ginger next time. But there will be a next time.

UPDATE: Left something out of the drink recipe above. If your shaker doesn't have a strainer attachment of some sort, you will likely want to pour the shaker through a strainer into your drink receptacle of choice.

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