Tag Archives: New York Times

“I’m not so much a cook as I am an artist”

14 Mar

One of my favorite new websites is TasteSpotting.com, an aggregator of food blogs with a beautiful layout and photos that get your salivary glands pumping. For the last couple weeks, Garibaldi has been consuming much of my kitchen time (jobs: what a bummer), but I make time at least once a day to just click through the front page, where the most recent submissions are posted in a smorgasbord of recipes.

I’ve had lots of luck with the handful of things I’ve tried from TasteSpotting, and my list of bookmarked recipes to try grows almost every day. My timid food-blogging attempts are a direct result of this website. I have to say though, sometimes it gets a bit outrageous. Truffled celery root and potatoes puree. Hazelnut, homemade raspberry jam, and white chocolate ganache tarts. Cheesy chive bread with walnuts and white pepper. Almond-pulp crackers (gluten-free). Caramelized bananas and fig oatmeal. Yes, they all sound delicious (except for maybe those crackers). Yes, I admire these bloggers’ creativity. No, I will not be trying any of them.

I’m a simple girl. I’m not above dehydrated pasta and a jar of sauce, even on a weekend night. I have served friends beans knowing the bottom of the pot was stuck half-an-inch thick with charred beans. I don’t think they think any less of me; they have come back around.

I felt quite able to relate to a New York Times’ columnist who signed up for a Brooklyn food exchange and felt her chocolate chip cookies and samoa bars were a little underdressed sitting next to bottles of vodka infused with organic pine needles and jars of candied tangelo peels.

Tonight’s going to be a pasta-and-jar-of-sauce kind of night. I’m under the weather (thanks, babies) and behind on this editing project, Colin has class until 8:30, and Noel arrives tomorrow evening. After that, I plan to be eating quite well—in restaurants all over Italy.

Cheese, my favorite food group

7 Nov

There’s an article in today’s New York Times about the pushers and consumers of cheese and what it’s doing to the American waistline. It’s a pretty long article, investigative journalism at its best, so I’ve translated it to an easy-to-follow figure.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture created Dairy Management to market milk, cheese, yogurt, etc. to the American public to help the dairy industry. Dairy Management went to a floundering Dominoes last year and suggested they boost sales by doubling the amount of cheese on their pizzas. Dominoes went with it, adding cheese to their crust and different cheeses to their topping, and because cheese is delicious, people ate it up. Sales soared by double digits.

Oh, right. And the U.S. Department of Agriculture is the same government agency charged with encouraging Americans to have healthier diets. The article compares Dairy Management’s budget with that of the Center of Nutrition Policy and Promotion, another USDA organization, which receives only $6.5 million annually.

Why does the USDA want Dairy Management to push cheese? Because America’s over-worked cows produce 60 million hormone-induced gallons of milk per day, and we’ve gotta do something with it!

The article quoted the president of the Physicians Committee on Responsible Medicine: “If you want to look at why people are fat today, it’s pretty hard to identify a contributor more significant than this meteoric rise in cheese consumption.”

How much more cheese are we eating? According to the article, 33 pounds per year—triple what we were consuming in 1970 (well, not me, personally, but you all). And while it may not seem fair to drawn comparisons to the days of WWII, the Brits only got 52 ounces of cheese for the year during wartime (and for a couple years following)—that’s only 3 lbs. for the whole year! (I couldn’t easily find figures for U.S. consumption; what do you remember, grandmothers?)

I like to think I’m better than the average American in terms of diet, but I don’t think I can say that about my cheese intake. Sure, last year in Taiwan, Colin and I shared a total of three Costco-sized blocks of cheese, but I’m more than making up for that this year. There are five different kinds of cheese in our fridge right now, and to be honest, reading this article just made me want to go check on them, see if they still taste the same…

Meanwhile, my goal of finding an enjoyable yoga podcast on iTunes has stalled at the iTunes podcast search page.

Long-legged misery

22 Sep

As a budget traveler who needs at least 30 inches of inseam, this article makes me feel conflicted and, well, cramped. At a recent airplane tech show, some company unveiled a new “stand-up” seat with about two-thirds of the space of a regular coach seat. The writer described it not like “riding a horse,” as the manufacturer suggested, but like being wedged in a stand-up roller-coaster seat.

It’s one more incentive not to get on a damn airplane. No one has actually installed these yet, but the airline I’m likely to fly on when we do any traveling here, Ryan Air, is chomping at the bit to put these in.

Honestly, I’d be happy limiting the trips that require flights anyway. I wouldn’t have expected that three-month trip to have any lingering effects on my psyche, but I get almost anxious when we go away for the day. Luckily, Bologna’s in a pretty good location to explore a lot of Italy; I could even get to Rome in just over two hours on the train.

I do want to take advantage of being in Europe, of course. I’d like to go back up and explore the Baltic states, and Colin and I are talking about going to Croatia for his spring break. We discussed a trip to Germany in the winter, and apparently a group of students are planning a school-related weekend trip to Morocco. Colin will have three-day weekends every other week during the first semester, so we’ll have a few opportunities to go a little farther than Parma and Pisa.

A link, some pizza, and a writing contest

16 Sep

I can’t promise that I won’t continue to link to articles I read in the New York Times. I’m trying to restrict myself, I am. Just ask Colin about my recent effect on his email inbox.

But I think this story is talking about a real step forward, in that it’s kind of a step backward. The FDA is maybe/hopefully/possibly going to ban the use of antibiotics in pork production. They’re only focusing on the antibiotics that farmers use to make the pigs grow faster, but there are plenty of people calling for an end to the use of the drugs for disease prevention.

In the mean time, you could always eliminate pork from your diet, skipping the pepperoni pizza in favor of the Arlecchino.

Tomato, mozzarella, spinach, and panna. Plenty for two meals, possibly three.

In other news, my friend and former Nexite Sabrina entered a writing contest and said she didn’t mind if I did the same. It’s fun to read the little blurbs, and you can vote for mine at this link, and hers at this one. It does ask would-be voters to create an account, and I totally will not be offended if anyone doesn’t want to do that.

Italy and immigrants

13 Sep

The number-one story on the New York Times web site this morning was an interesting feature discussing Chinese immigrants in Italy, and the tensions that are arising from the situation. The article focuses on the town of Prato, world-renowned for its high-quality textile industry. In the last twenty years, Chinese have been immigrating to Prato, legally and illegally, by the tens of thousands and setting up workshops of their own. The Prato chamber of commerce reports that Chinese-owned textile businesses now outnumber those owned by Italians.

The situation in Prato is breeding resentment on both sides. Prato’s first conservative mayor since WWII accused the Chinese of bringing “noise, bad habits, prostitution,” and won his seat partly by feeding fears about a “Chinese invasion.” The immigrants accuse the authorities of racism and unfairly cracking down on their businesses while turning a blind eye to the Italian-run businesses that are also not following the lax laws of the land. The Chinese defended their work, saying they had moved into a stagnant economy and created jobs by shaking things up in Prato with the innovation of pronto modo, fast fashion.

Growing up in a San Diego suburb, I’m not unfamiliar with the tensions that can arise from immigration issues.

Bologna isn’t really facing this problem: almost 90 percent of the residents of Bologna are Italian. The largest group of immigrants mostly comes from Eastern Europe; every day you can see Roma women with their babies asking for change on the streets radiating out from the central piazza.

People from Bangladesh make up less than 1.5 percent of Bologna’s population, but they have a corner on the kebab and alimentari markets. Their snack shops and tiny markets stay open all day, every day, so if you have the munchies on the way home from Piazza Verdi or need a can of tomatoes to make dinner on Sunday, they make it possible. Convenient for me, but I’ve heard the Italians find it rather annoying. And on the street of produce stands, the fruit at the Bangladeshi stalls is $0.50/kg cheaper than that at the Italian stalls; Colin says the Italian stands can afford to do that because there are enough people who are more racist than they are budget-conscious.

Colin wanted to do a research project on the watering-down of cultures as English moves into small communities and replaces the indigenous languages, and I think that same idea applies with this. The Italians (and the French and the Germans) are very opposed to the watering-down of their culture. It’s illegal in Italy to label cheese Parmigiano unless it was made in Parma. The founder of Florence allegedly ordered the murder of a man who had gotten a hold of some of the city’s silk-making secrets.

This fast fashion coming out of Prato is Chinese-made with Chinese materials, but still labeled “Made in Italy.” Knowing the level of quality of the clothes I bought in Taiwan, I don’t blame the Italians for being concerned with what this is doing to their brand.

But I think the burden falls on Italy to tighten up its laws if people want things to change. And apply those laws to everyone, not just the immigrant communities. The governments are meeting next month, and this issue will undoubtedly be on the agenda.