A groaning board of the year's best food and ag titles

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Like most folks, I'm a sucker for "best" lists, and this is the season for them. From Civil Eats comes a list of the year's best food and agriculture books, and I wanted to share it. It combines mainstream titles such as Barry Estabrook's Tomatoland and The Art of Fermentation by Sandor Ellix Katz with an excellent range of other titles I was glad to learn about.

Yoni Freedhoff gets out his message to Big Food, anyway

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There is plenty that Big Food could do to lessen its crushing effect on national health, and for a moment there, it seemed as though it wanted to hear some ideas. But then it realized what it had done and said "screw you" to the nice doctor it had invited. So Dr. Yoni Freedhoff made his slides into a presentation for you and me ... and possibly, some of the Big Food foot soldiers who would have seen the presentation in its intended forum, if their peeps weren't such dicks.

Lobbying front shines as example of slimy misdirection

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As one of life’s necessities, food has become intertwined with practically every human emotion: We eat to celebrate, we eat to share tradition and family ties, we eat when we’re happy, we eat when we’re sad, we eat when we’re bored.

Nothing about this is wrong. But especially in a nation where 2 out of 3 American adults are obese or overweight, it’s important to remember food’s first role, to nourish and sustain, and if we need to make compromises, they must come from the emotional meanings before we toss aside our health.

Coming soon: The Food Tank

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Some of my friends will tell you I'm insufferable in my certainties (hi, Ron; hi, honey), and they are certainly not reacting to nothing. That's only worth mentioning because I'm not sure if Food Tank, a food policy think tank on the verge of launch, is going to make any difference in the world. So far, there's a website and the following video, which strikes the right notes, if little more. I can't say I even know what "more" there should be, only that that was my reaction.

Why ask for what we don't want?

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I was talking politically with someone recently who advised me to back off on my desires and especially my expectations of what policies people will go for, and that raises a pretty fundamental question of advocacy.

Is it better to ask for what you want, or for what you think you can get?

I’m sure community and issue organizers have explored the question exhaustively. that they have concluded that no answer is always correct, and that they know when to zig and when to zag.

But I ain’t them.

Organic growers vs. Monsanto

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I'm still struggling with GMOs, though not in the way most other strugglers are. I am pretty sure that the forces allied against Monsanto are right, in every sense of that word, but so far, I haven't been able to muster a passion to go with that near-certainty. (If you read here often, you'd probably agree that I don't lack for passion on issues I'm sure about, and yet...) Anyway, here's a Food Democracy Now video shot on the day at the end of January when arguments in the Monsanto/organic growers lawsuit were heard in Manhattan.

It is not one thing or the other

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A common polemical technique seeks to undercut someone's idea by describing what it's not. Here's an example:

By asking Americans to stop eating meat on Monday this insidious effort drives the extreme vegan agenda forward with a reasonable sounding request. “Just one day a week,” is their message, “and you are doing your part to save the planet and improve your own health.” No need to work up a sweat at the gym, go for a run or walk around the block. No need to conserve water usage in your own home (the average American household uses 400+ gallons of water per day) or reduce, reuse and recycle the 670,000 tons of trash we produce every day in the United States (84% of which could be recycled, including food scraps, paper, cardboard, cans, and bottles). All you have to do is give up your hamburger or steak one day a week.

No one argues that going meatless on Mondays is going to solve the problems of the world.

No. one.

The question is whether it moves us closer to health — personal, environmental, and otherwise — or further away from it. The writer, Daren Williams of the National Cattlemen's Beef Association, does also address that question, which instantly qualifies him as a more credible source than many Big Food/Big Ag blowhards, but not before he deals this twaddle.


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