HOME > Chowhound > Food Media & News >

Discussion

Alice Waters fans the flames

  • roxlet Apr 19, 2009 05:18 AM
  • 234
  • Share
LOCKED DISCUSSION

In Maureen Dowd's Op-ed piece in today's NY Times, Alice Waters proves that she is pretty much tone deaf:

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/04/19/opi...

  1. her visionary status might well be better-directed at her strength: cooking and innovating with fresh, local foods and serving them. otherwise, who cares?

    ps, i want maureen's photog to do my professional photos.

    1. jfood read the piece and sees no flame-fanning. one of the least caustic op-eds by ms dowd and the whole article was tone-deaf. not sure if lucas was the filler butthe seguey from darth vader to waters was non-sensical.

      1. Here's the article cited by Dowd...Alice in Wonderland
        http://article.nationalreview.com/?q=...

        23 Replies
        1. re: gogolki

          Not that is what jfood calls a scathing article. And it was a GREAT read.

          1. re: jfood

            Finally, a balanced approach to the whole organic farming issue. I absolutely love going to local markets when I travel to California and am amazed at the bounty that this region has. That's not the type of food that most North Americans have access to because of climate and/or financial limits. At my local organic farmer's market, I find that the prices and general ambience is meant to attract the very affluent (not necessarily informed consumer); the most popular vendor is a french fry stand run by a celeb chef!!!! I get dismayed when someone like Waters, who started with a great vision, loses perspective about the life of the average citizen because their own success (professional and monetary) insulates them from reality . Alas, dining might be fashionable and trendy; farming and food security is political. This distinction is not often made by celeb chefs.

            1. re: tuttebene

              The article was misguided & misinformed... organic, locally grown, sustainable stuff is not elitist or a luxury. Much of the produce sold in the populist mercados of Mexico City is grown within a 1 to 8 hour drive, sold & consumed within 48 hours of harvest, and often grown organically (even if the farmers don't have the money to pursue Certification)... and much of it is cheap even when comparing the Cost of Living in both countries (i.e., dead ripe tomatoes for $0.15 a pound that are superior to the vast majority of tomatos offered at Whole Foods etc.,)

              Our food distribution practices are really at fault for a lot of the price ballooning. By insisting on fancy, air conditioned, manicured & very artificial super markets... by insisting that we should only shop once a week (or in the case of the Costco consumer base.. once every couple of weeks)... by insisting only on large, blemish free produce (much to the dismay of the ugly, better tasting produce that ends up at the cheap ethnic markets or in the food processing hell)... I could go on & on.... we have created this ugly monster of a useless & backward produce distribution system that has us harvesting unripened produce from 2500 miles away... trucking & warehousing it for a month (and in many cases longer)... going through many inefficient points of aggregation & disagreggation... all the while wasting electricity on refrigeration and contaminating the planet.

              As crazy as this sounds... this whole inefficient & backward process is designed to deliver the cheapest produce within our narrow, lazy, convenience oriented paradigm... except its one of those things where there are so many hidden costs that the market just can't seem to allocate or factor in adequately.

              Because the ultimate cost of our tasteless, conventionally / industrially grown produce is measure not in $ / lb, $ / each, $ / bunch etc., its measure in the aggregate cost of our deteriorated health... its measured in chemotherapy treatments, hospital bed nights, medicines, chelation treatments.. cardiovascular specialists etc.,

              Hell, I am not even going to include the cost of productivity losses due to all these illnesses... the loss oportunity for greater happiness & fulfillment... that is a little too esoteric & difficult to measure.

              No bubba... we aren't the big spending elitists... its your conventional banana, krispy kreme & double whopper habit that is costing my pocket book, our cost of doing business... and ultimately the viability of this society.

              1. re: Eat_Nopal

                I find it interesting "eat nopal" that you talk about America's "krispy kreme & double whopper habit that is costing my pocket book." Do you think the people who can't afford organic produce only eat whoppers and other unhealthy food? People can and do actually purchase non-organic produce...and healthy options. I think one of the important points of the National Review article is that there are ways to eat healthy that do not involve organic food or weeding your own garden...

                1. re: gogolki

                  Excellent point. I haven't eaten fast food in years. However, Whole Foods drains my wallet quickly. I don't own a home with property, so I can't have a garden adn grow my own food. I live in the NE, so farmer's markets are only around in the summer (and the ones that are open in the winter import their produce anyway) and I don't always have to time to get to them. There *is* a ceratin elitism to the whole organic/slow food/etc movement. It requires time and money. The most elitist thing about it is the assumption that if you're not eating organic (whose health benefits are questionable anyway) you're a fat, McDonalds-loving, slob.

                  1. re: gogolki

                    Thank you.

                  2. re: Eat_Nopal

                    How many $.15 a pound tomato growers could afford to live within a hour's drive of San Francisco (or NYC or Butte Montana)?

                    1. re: paulj

                      That is not the point... the point is as follows:

                      1) Throughout the history of mankind most societies have been eating organic, sustainable, locally grown ingredients and in fact many (admittedly Left Leaning) socio economic historians will tell you that the poor in communal farming communities of antiquity had better qualities of life than the poor in many modernizing societies.

                      2) I make the point that in fact our "modern" method of food distribution is the cause for the ridiculous prices on produce.

                      3) Third there are many hidden costs not currently priced in the conventional produce at super market (i.e., the cancer treatments related to all the pesticides in Celery etc.,)

                      So in effect... there is NO reason to see the organic, farmer's market shopping as a bunch of aloof, berkelely-communist, Aston Martin driving, elitists.... that is just another b.s., intellectually dishonest, frankly manipulative, stereotype come up by some worthless (frankly I think the country need's more homegrown terrorits, pedofiles & lawyers than) pundit.

                      And in effect, if we could get the societies priorities aligned correctly than organic produce could increase its market share SUBSTANTIALLY... that may involve a carbon tax on traditional food distribution and/or incentives & subsidies to "organic" farmers.

                      1. re: Eat_Nopal

                        LOL! Eat Nopal - you are a hoot!

                        Historically, people (poor and otherwise) have grown their own food for millenia. It takes an Alice Waters to put a palatable face on food for the American public to take notice (just as the Grand Canyon and Mt. McKinley did not exist until a palatable public face discovered them).

                        1. re: Eat_Nopal

                          "at the poor in communal farming communities of antiquity had better qualities of life than the poor in many modernizing societies." I am trying not to laugh.

                          Normal people who garden in their back yard, just call it gardening. Normal people who scout out the farmer's market, just call it hitting the farmers market.

                          Alice Waters did not birth the gentleman farmer's plot. She did, though, perform a miracle - making a poached egg seem something other worldly and - worth $20 dollars for the pleasure of eating it.

                          I have hens. They lay eggs. I eat them. All without a wand or application of pixy dust.

                        2. re: paulj

                          Re: "How many $.15 a pound tomato growers could afford to live within a hour's drive of San Francisco (or NYC or Butte Montana)?"

                          I don't live in New York or Montana, but can speak for the area around San Francisco. Just hop in the car, cross the Bay Bridge, and drive an hour west on I-80, then pull over onto the shoulder. Look out the window and what do you see? Tomato fields!

                          Be careful, though - you don't want to get hit by one of those trucks hauling tandem trailers full of tomatoes to the cannery, where a ton of them will bring about $60 (that's $0.03 per pound) in a typical year.

                          I don't know how many tomato growers there are, but I do know that the Central Valley (parts of which are within an hour's drive, and all of which is within about four hours of San Francisco's Financial District) produces more than ten million tons of tomatoes a year.

                          But even here in Sacramento, aka "The Big Tomato" aka "SacTomato," the tomatoes at the supermarket suck. Something's wrong with this picture.

                          1. re: alanbarnes

                            Very wrong, indeed. Those tomato farms waste so much water. They set out the seedlings in the dead dirt (It's not soil, just something that anchors the plants) and they have to have sprinklers going all the time so they won't burn up. They spray constantly, or use duster plants. And they harvest the plants all at once with the fruit anywhere from green to semi-ripe.

                            When I had a small tomato farm out there, we mulched with salt hay, used (free) manure and compost, watered with drip irrigation and we handpicked. I was so happy when snakes and bees showed up. I even found a toad in the compost. BUT the ground water was so polluted that I didn't really, despite all my efforts, consider the tomatoes "pure." Very sad.

                            And, yes, I've driven behind those trailers full of tomatoes. Splat!

                            1. re: Glencora

                              Hey don't complain about tomatos falling off trucks until you come over here when they are harvesting sugar beets! When one of those suckers hits your car there's a bit more than just a little splat.

                            2. re: alanbarnes

                              Um, I don't want to be picky...but drive EAST from the Bay Bridge. West will put you in the ocean.

                              But you could go someplace even closer, down to Half Moon Bay, where there are pumpkin fields and farm stands galore. Or further south to Harley Farms and other growers.

                    2. re: gogolki

                      The second article was a great read. I just can't jump on the bandwagon that believes if we all buy organic the world will be a better place.
                      I was in my local Whole foods recently and noticed about 90% of their organic produce was from Mexico.......Mexico? I wonder if they have the same idea of "organic" as we do.
                      In the same store were tomato's from Canada that are hydroponically grown being marketed as organic. $3 a pound. At my next stop I noticed they had the exact same tomato's from Canada with the exact same sticker just not being marketed as organic. $1.40 #.
                      For me at least the whole disconnect from Alice Waters is this belief that all organic produce is created equally. Nothing could be further from the truth. I for one would much rather enjoy local seasonal produce than "organic" anything grown out of season and imported.

                      1. re: Fritter

                        Why should the Mexican idea of 'organic' be any different?

                        1. re: paulj

                          "Why should the Mexican idea of 'organic' be any different"

                          Mexico is a second world country where the average citizen would look at you with a blank stare if you asked for "organic". However, my meaning was;
                          Do I really buy in to the idea that produce grown in second and third world countries then shipped thousands of miles is at the root of the organic movement or is this just commercial farming capitalizing on the latest trend?
                          Are there any laws in Mexico about fertilizers, pesticides or fumigation? From what I can find imported "organic" produce is rarely inspected.
                          I wonder what might be in those drainage ditches in Mexico where the water is pumped from to irrigate the fields.
                          The bottom line for me is that some who focus on organic seem to have tunnel vision. I do prefer organic but I will never choose "organic" from half way around the world over local seasonal produce.

                          1. re: Fritter

                            For exported produce, organic certification and inspection is the same in Mexico as in the US. Mexico is a party to the international Conventions that deal with discontinuation of use and manufacture of Persistent Organic Pollutants and of Ozone Depleting Substances. While most marketed Mexican produce is grown with pesticides, Mexico is much less an eco-delinquent than is the US.

                            1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                              One of the arguments for NAFTA from US farmers was that, pre-NAFTA, Mexican pesticide regulation was much tighter than US so it was much easier to move Mexican produce into the US, where it was compliant with regulations, than to move US produce into Mexico, where it contained far too much.

                              1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                Yup... even on conventional produce if you look at pesticide residue analysis... you will usually find Mexican grown produce has lower levels for the same items... i.e., Frozen Spinach grown in Mexico has lower pesticide levels than Frozen Spinach grown in the U.S.

                                Farming economics in Mexico still tilt manual labor & non-cash natural solutions (such as planting Corn, Beans & Chiles together... or introducing Predators of Pests etc.) over expensive, imported pesticides. For a while the problem in Mexico was the availability of cheap DDT... but I believe that has been resolved many years & International Treaties ago.

                                1. re: Eat_Nopal

                                  "Frozen Spinach grown in Mexico has lower pesticide levels than Frozen Spinach grown in the U.S."

                                  Do you have a link to support that or is that just your opinion?
                                  I'm just curious because that's not at all what I have been finding.
                                  Here's an excerpt from one article;

                                  Q: Is imported produce worse (for pesticides) than domestic?

                                  A: Yes. It's more likely to contain illegal residues. And that's a problem, since almost half of the fruits and vegetables we eat during the winter are imported. Half of those come from Mexico, which has no agency responsible for enforcing or monitoring limits on pesticide residues. And it shows.

                                  Since 1979, when the FDA began a special program to monitor Mexican produce for pesticides, it has found about twice as many violations as in domestic produce.

                                  1. re: Fritter

                                    Old article... the reference to Mexican Spinach is more recent and came from SEGARPA the Mexican equivalent of the FDA (yes they are responsible for monitoring & enforcing pesticide residues... and have been doing an internationally recognized bang up job)

                                    Are Imported Foods More Contaminated Than U.S. Crops?

                                    No. Eleven of the 12 highest TI scores are for U.S.-grown foods. There are 39 cases with 10 or more samples of a food from a specific other country to compare with U.S. samples; in 26 cases (67 percent), U.S. samples had higher TI's.

                                    Some differences exist between importing countries, as well as between the U.S. and other countries. Cases where imports are worse include Chilean grapes, Canadian and Mexican carrots, Mexican broccoli and tomatoes, Argentine and Hungarian apple juice, and Brazilian orange juice.

                                    U.S. samples are worse than imports for fresh peaches, fresh and frozen winter squash, fresh green beans, apples, and pears. U.S. apple juice has a higher TI than apple juice from Germany or Mexico, and U.S. grapes have higher TI's than those from South Africa and Mexico.

                                    The size of the differences varies from food to food. In two cases with the highest TI's of any foods, U.S. peaches have 10 times the TI of Chilean imports, and U.S. frozen winter squash has a TI 143 times as high as Mexican winter squash has. Only two imported foods, Mexican broccoli and Brazilian orange juice, have TI's more than 10-fold larger than those of U.S. samples, but in each case the higher score is still comparatively low.

                                    http://www.annieappleseedproject.org/...

                                    As others have alluded there is lots of Politics involved in Food... an Mexico has unfortunately been the subject of many character assassinations by various lobbying groups in the States... Mexican producers have won numerous Suits in the international courts... only to see U.S. Agencies (in the pockets of so many corporate interests) skirt their international obligations and come up with new bogus rules etc.,... Avocados being one of the most debated & public of these battles.

                                    I am not doubting the scientists who study the pesticide levels.. I am casting a shadow on the people who select a particular study, on particular samples ignore the 9 that indicate otherwise... and then preemptively infiltrate the media & people's opinions.

                                    1. re: Eat_Nopal

                                      Agreed. A lot of politics involved. It's not much of a stretch to say even both of the articles we quoted are politically motivated.
                                      I did find some studies from the MSU Ag department that showed individual fruits or veggies from Mexico Vs the US could be higher one way or the other. Cantaloupes from Mexico had very high levels of pesticide while cucumbers from the US were just as bad or worse.
                                      In regards to the organic program operating at the same standards in Mexico as the US every thing I can find thus far indicates that's not the case. Mexico started to implement their program in 2006 but they are still not up to speed. In fact they only have one certifying agent for the entire country.
                                      Probably the biggest concern I have about Mexico is that until very recently they used many pesticides and chemicals that are illegal in the US.
                                      That stuff stays in the soil a long time. One study I read found DDT in cucumbers after it had not been utilized in 30 years.
                                      Organic also doesn't account for the water supply.
                                      There is so many biased info out there it's difficult to sort through and there's a huge commercial Ag businesses funding some of that.

                                      http://www.ams.usda.gov/AMSv1.0/ams.f...

                      2. Dowd didn't fan any flames. Gunlock fanned some embers.

                        Waters needs to visit many remote places in developing countries where people only eat organic and local and expensive. No other choice. They would love to have a Safeway with the equivalent of $0.99 lb chicken - cheaper than even their own farmyard birds.

                        11 Replies
                        1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                          Fantastic author Barbara Kingsolver wrote a book about her family's return to Appalachia where they would eat sustainably, and eat only locally-grown food for a period of time.

                          I have always admired her writing skills and far-reaching knowledge, but here she goes joining Alice in Wonderland, and from what little I read of the book (because it began to piss me off to read more), she comes off sounding disconnected from the hoi polloi, preachy and more than a little smug. You know, she used to live in Tucson, too, but moved back to Appalachia, I expect because it would be easier (a WHOLE lot easier) to succeed in her sustainable-dining experiment than trying to live off the fat of the land in Tucson.

                          Nice gig if you can get it, but some of us have to work for a living doing other than chronicling our goings-on.

                          I'm very glad Kinsolver and Waters share the world with us, but it seems like they're unaware of the rareified air they're breathing at this point.

                          1. re: EWSflash

                            I would encourage you to go back and read the rest of Kingsolver's book. The thing I appreciated the most about it was that she acknowledged that her experience was near-ideal, and that 100% local wasn't feasible for most, instead we should focus on doing the best we can with the resources we have as individuals. And yes, she and her family did move to Appalachia in large part to make the experiment easier, and point that she is pretty upfront about IIRC.

                            1. re: mpjmph

                              I hate to say it, but after months of being on my library's wait list for the book, I couldn't finish AVM either. Despite of being a fan of some of Kingsolver's other work, and a supporter of the concept in general, I found the tone of AVM too self-congratulatory and self-righteous. Also, because I was attracted to the book, in part, because I enjoy Kingsolver's writing, I found having to wade through the writings of her teenage daughter and academician husband excrudiantly dull.

                              ~TDQ

                              1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                I didn't read it as self-righteous at all, but I guess it reads differently to everyone. I read it as an honest description of how difficult it is to live a subsistence lifestyle. In all honesty though, I skipped most of the insets written by her daughter and husband, only read the few that caught my eye....

                                1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                  "ANIMAL, VEGETABLE, MIRACLE - A Year in the Life of Food" Barbara Kingsolver's new book
                                  I posted this thread about two years ago. Like you, I really wanted to LOVE this book and did not.

                                  Keep reading the thread because I made the first posting about fifty pages into my read and had not yet gotten to the "WTF?" stage of disillusionment.

                                  1. re: Sherri

                                    Glad I'm not the only one!

                                    1. re: Sherri

                                      Are you saying the book gets better after the first fifty pages or the book never gets better after the first 50?

                                      ~TDQ

                                      1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                        TDQ, I've pasted the last part of my post below. A quick answer to your Q is, no, it didn't get better, it got preachier.

                                        "I have just finished it [edit: AVM] and must report disillusionment and frustration with this uninspired, disjointed work. It does not live up to my hopes and expectations and maybe that's my problem and not hers. AVM is filled with a lot of discussion without apparent (palpable?) desire. Nothing grabbed me by the throat and said "WOW, this lady is in love with her topic". Yes, there are occasional times when I laughed out loud, but they were fewer than I hoped. Mouth-watering descriptions of the food they grew and subsequently ate, with the exception of her 50th birthday and their Thanksgiving meal, were absent. I wanted passion and got a load of politics instead.

                                        FOOD POLITICS by Marion Nestle and THE OMNIVORE'S DILEMMA by Michael Pollan do a better job of politicking than Ms Kingsolver. This manuscript has all the earmarks of being rushed into publication (factual errors being the most noteworthy) and is disappointing."

                                        1. re: Sherri

                                          Oh my! Well, I'm glad I abandoned it early on, then!

                                          I've read Pollan, but not that book you mention by Nestle. I shall put it on my list.

                                          Thanks!

                                          ~TDQ

                                  2. re: mpjmph

                                    She did mention that the land was close to their families' origins, as I recall. She was a bit preachy, like she was in all of her books, but she still brings many profound ideas to the fore. I just skim some parts of her writing and revel in the others.

                                    1. re: Claudette

                                      True, but her other writings are obstensibly "fiction". In AVM, which is non-fiction, she makes herself the hero (or, heroine) of her own homily, which any seasoned preacher would tell you is a giant no-no.

                                      ~TDQ

                              2. While it might help some if Alice Waters openly admitted the cost and difficulty of eating organic for most people I really doubt that such an admission would necessarily make her for effective in her goals. I personally have never felt that she is talking down to 'real people', but there are obviously many people who do. For me she is an example of something to aspire to in terms of food sourcing and eating. I don't think you have to be exactly like her to get the point or to make an effort. You do what you can to eat fresher foods, local foods, things that are better for you if it makes sense to you. I don't see Waters saying you have to be perfect about it or don't bother. It strikes me that being defensive is not productive. Do people intentionally eat less healthy to spite her? I don't think so.

                                1. I don't think Alice Waters is tone deaf. I think she knows exactly who her audience is and is in tune with them. Her true audience isn't the masses.

                                  2 Replies
                                  1. re: Chimayo Joe

                                    So she's preaching to the choir.

                                    1. re: billieboy

                                      Less likely to get rotten tomatoes thrown her way...

                                  2. Since it's an opinion column, I think the strongest legitimate statement which could be made is "Maureen Dowd portrays Alice Waters as tone deaf." But after reading it a couple of times, I don't think she does that at all -- the column seems to be somewhat sympathetic to her cause.

                                    The National Review, on the other hand, doesn't let their misunderstanding of everything get in the way of jumping up and down all angry, (intentionally) confusing the two ideas of "organic" and "home garden" throughout their piece.

                                    Water's point is people should grow more of their own vegetables. This is a different claim than that people should eat more organic vegetables. Yes, she often makes both claims. But they can be considered independently. The Obamas planting a garden is supporting her first point. The NR article is bashing the second.

                                    Since it's coming out of National Review topsy-turvy world, they also get the "luxury" idea completely backwards. As Sam seems to point out a few comments up, it's industrial agriculture with it's $1 chicken that's the luxury. The argument the locavore/slow food people make is that there is a hidden cost behind that $1 chicken which is greater than the difference in price to a $3 organic one.

                                    That locavore argument is completely unsettled. And it's a very interesting one with some very good points on both sides. Rather than addressing any of the real issues, the NR article is attempting to portray growing your own stuff as wrong because only rich people can afford organic vegetables (??!?).

                                    It's a bit harder to portray growing your own garden as elitist. One of the statistics that tossed around is that during WWII 45% of the vegetables consumed in the US were grown in backyard victory gardens. Not only is that a strong piece of evidence that gardening can be the precise opposite of elitist, it's a pretty clear threat to agribusiness. Two things that might help explain NR's position in the debate.

                                    12 Replies
                                    1. re: Chuckles the Clone

                                      The NR article never came close to "portray[ing] growing your own stuff as wrong." Simply because you disagree with them doesn't mean that they "misunderstand" the issues or that their world is "topsy-turvy."

                                      The author champions that which she thinks that Waters fails to acknowledge, i.e. "America has an amazing and varied food culture..[and that the centuries old] Food traditions in this country have endured." She cites examples to show that Waters "is clearly out of touch with the broader American reality," including current economic realities which are impossible to deny.

                                      During WWII less than 30% of us lived in cities. That number is now approaching 60%. Victory Gardens were a necessity during the War. They are now far less common because fewer people have access to land.
                                      Home and small scale gardening are not now, nor have they ever been, a "pretty clear threat to agribusiness."
                                      No home garden or small local operation is going to put wheat, corn, or soybean farmers into bankruptcy.
                                      If you think that is even a faint possibility, please drive across the US on I-80 this summer and observe the Amber Waves of Grain. When you cross the Mighty Mississippi, sit on the banks and watch the barges carrying the grain for export.

                                      1. re: MakingSense

                                        It might be argued that the only farmers home gardens threaten are the local ones - the ones who harvest zucchinis at the same time that home growers are giving their glut away. It's not going to affect the winter imports from Mexico.

                                        The only way gardens will provide year around food for many of us is if we also learn how to can, freeze and dry our own produce. I don't have room for a garden, and I don't have room for a large freezer. I don't even have shelf space for dozens of Mason jars.

                                        1. re: paulj

                                          Oh, seriously. Home gardeners give away their glut to a few neighbors. A local "truck farmer" who has a roadside stand or goes to a farmers' market has a customer base of hundreds, probably thousands over the course of the season.
                                          Most homes gardens are measured in XX square feet not acres.

                                          You are correct about home gardens not providing year round produce. For most of the US, there isn't a 12-month growing season.
                                          Even here in the Mid-Atlantic, few take real advantage of the Spring and Fall crops and end up planting only Summer gardens limited to maybe a half-dozen favorites that they eat fresh.
                                          People aren't canning, freezing, or drying in significant numbers.
                                          These are among the realities that Waters prefers to ignore.

                                          1. re: MakingSense

                                            You heard it here first... in the next couple of decades a new type of Gardening business will open up... local experts will help families learn what they can grown & when... work together to set up raised, lower maintenance gardens... and even office stiffs like me might succeed at growing tasty food.

                                            Then a 2nd type of business will arise to market home glut... possibly barter driven... i.e., I currently have a mango tree in may yard that will bear fruit in about a month... this will my first harvest season in this home... but I can count a few hundred.... I take boxes to a local produce stand... they examine & provide me with stand credits that I can then use later in the year when Avocados are in season etc.,... or maybe to purchase some one's mango canning efforts so that I can make Smoothies later in the year etc.,

                                            1. re: Eat_Nopal

                                              Actually, I've already read about examples of the first type of business in the Bay Area; people helping other people set up gardens in exchange for produce or for money. I love the idea of bartering. I've toyed with the idea of taking my excess quinces into a store in exchange for credit, but so far I've been too shy.

                                            2. re: MakingSense

                                              BTW... now that Obama is warming up relations... we should be sending envoys to Havana to learn from their Urban Farming practices.

                                              1. re: Eat_Nopal

                                                LOL

                                        2. re: Chuckles the Clone

                                          No offense to people who love to garden, but I already work 50 hours a week. Now I also have to become a farmer? My CSA farmer and the folks who sell produce at the farmers market can grow more varieties, can do it organically, and actually want to be in the business of farming. They are struggling to make a living. I'd rather give them my business and let them do what they do better than I can in my spare few hours a week. Frankly, I can't even keep the rabbits out of my tulips and the squirrels from running off with the heads off of my sunflowers: I don't intend to fight them over tomatoes and peas.

                                          And, I already have to fend off the bags of zucchini foisted on me by neighbors and in-laws.

                                          If I spent all my spare time gardening, when would I have time for canning and preserving for the months, October through mid-May, when nothing green springs from the ground in Minnesota?

                                          I'd rather leave the farming to the farmers and devote the small patch of earth known as my backyard to butterfly habitat and growing rhubarb and a few herbs.

                                          ~TDQ

                                          1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                            Eat the wabbits an squoils - they're local and organic and traditional US foods!

                                            1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                              Believe me, I've thought about it! First of all, they are out of season (hunting-wise) in spring and summer, when they do the most damage to my garden. Second of all, I do enjoy watching them. ;-).

                                              ~TDQ

                                            2. re: The Dairy Queen

                                              >"If I spent all my spare time gardening, "

                                              Why do you think you would need to spend all your spare time gardening? There's one big weekend in the spring. A little work for the next three months or so, and then only a few hours each day trying to find neighbors who will take some tomatoes and zucchini.

                                              1. re: Chuckles the Clone

                                                I've had gardens my whole life and it takes plenty of time, especially if you want to garden organically and responsibly (when it comes to watering), and you want to grow a reasonable variety of vegetables (sure, growing just tomatoes and zucchini would be easy, but I already have more than enough of those).

                                                I would have some serious four-legged-pest control issues and developing a responsible watering mechanism would take some time (and expense). You're right, it might not take "all" of my spare time, but on top of a full work and volunteer schedule, commuting to work by bicycle, and then family chores and other household commitments, there is a small, not giant, amount of time leftover. During the short Minnesota growing and harvest season, the amount of spare time I am willing to spend on "do it yourself'ing" when it comes to food is spent canning and preserving, which is quite time consuming. I don't mean to disappoint you and Alice Waters, but I'd rather outsource the growing to my CSA farmer, who actually wants to be a farmer.

                                                ~TDQ

                                          2. In case folks didn't follow it, here is the link to the article that informed/inflamed/inspired the NRO article:
                                            http://telegraphjournal.canadaeast.co...

                                            19 Replies
                                            1. re: souvenir

                                              < "Food has come into our conversation in America for the first time," [Waters] says. "And it's pretty awe inspiring."

                                              Who has Waters been chatting with for her 64 years if this is the "first time" that food is popping up?????

                                              1. re: MakingSense

                                                It is interesting what we excerpt from articles and the comments we choose to make. The sentences from the article that resonated with me were:

                                                " For those just starting out, she urges simplicity and small steps. Check with local experts, such as an agricultural extension, to learn about what plant varieties do well in your region. And stick with items that have easy and multiple uses.

                                                Tomatoes, herbs and greens are ideal choices, she says. Tomatoes can be eaten fresh, in salads, on sandwiches or cooked into sauces. Herbs can be used in salads, sautes or on meats and seafood.

                                                Fruit trees also are an excellent choice. They tend to be low maintenance, can produce an abundance and are available in varieties indigenous to all parts of the country, Waters says."

                                                That is pretty much the way we started out when we began to plant our yard. With each season over the last few years, we plant more and more edible landscaping. We started out with a blank slate in our suburban back yard and have chosen things like grape vines, bay and citrus trees, rosemary and increasing amounts of other herbs and greens. I love that it's landscape that I think is beautiful as well as edible.

                                                1. re: souvenir

                                                  As you say, you picked that particular section because it resonated with you. It validates your own choices.
                                                  You live in California, have a suburban plot, and the time and interest to plan an edible landscape.
                                                  Most people in the US do not fit that profile, even though many might wish that it did.
                                                  Why continue to beat them over the head with it?
                                                  They can't get a yard, make the climate in the Mid-West or Great Plains a year-round growing season, find the time, or even develop the interest in growing their own food.
                                                  This is as true in London or Paris as it is in Topeka or Jersey City. Even many people in rural America have little time or inclination for home gardening these days.

                                                  Most people are perfectly contented to shop at Kroger's or Safeway. They buy organics when the price is competitive, shop at farmers' markets when they are convenient, actually cook nutritious meals at home, and don't live on Krispy Kremes and Super Sized Burger King Meals.
                                                  The food scene in the US is nowhere close to the bleak scenario that Waters paints.
                                                  Americans may not eat what or how Alice Waters thinks that they should eat, but why is her definition any more valid than others?

                                                  As the NRO article pointed out, America is a diverse country with centuries-old, rich food traditions. There's room for many voices to be heard.

                                                  1. re: MakingSense

                                                    I don't know... the Trader Joe's I used to shop at had Top Notch tomatoes grown in greenhouses IN HOLLAND... I imagine the Plains States or Mid West could do the same.

                                                    1. re: Eat_Nopal

                                                      The US subsidizes corn, wheat, soybeans, and grazing on public lands. The Dutch government and its private sector invested in efficient green house production to increase self-sufficiency and to make optimal use of limited space and organic manures from livestock. Their surpluses probably arrived here with a smaller C footprint than stuff that could be grown in the Midwest.

                                                      1. re: Eat_Nopal

                                                        For a number of years the good quality English cucumbers and bell peppers that we could get in the Seattle area came from BC Hothouses - most located in the Fraser River delta south of Vancouver. Some of that production has shifted to Mexico, though the cucumber I just bought at 99Ranch (California based Asian chain) is labeled. 'Canada No 1'

                                                        It could be argued that the BC hothouse production is subsidized by BC Hydro.

                                                        1. re: Eat_Nopal

                                                          @Eat Nopal (the direct reply function doesn't seem to work...

                                                          Dutch tomatoes are a running gag (no pun intended, they are THAT flavorless) in Europe. It's like eating small red sacks of water...

                                                          1. re: linguafood

                                                            As sad as that might be, outside of local Heirloom varieties, they are consistently better than the vast majority of what we have in U.S. supermarkets.

                                                            1. re: Eat_Nopal

                                                              Nah. At least not the Dutch tomatoes you get in Germany. They are notoriously flavorless. But a good tomato is hard to find in supermarkets, I agree.

                                                              I still remember a tomato (it was almost as big as my 13yr. old head) I bought at the market in Dubrovnik, which I proceeded to devour on the ferry to Koloçep -- it was incredible. I didn't even have salt, and it was simply fantastic.

                                                              1. re: linguafood

                                                                That is like saying Mexican tomatoes are bad based on what is readily available on the U.S. market... these Dutch tomatoes ain't cheap, they are on the vine & perfectly ripe... I imagine they are flown in.... Trader Joe has a notoriously good supply chain & buyers... maybe these are better than the vast majority of what you are getting in Germany.

                                                                With that said... they are of course in no way comparable to the Heirloom tomatoes you find in rural markets all over Central & Southern Mexico (imho the pinnacle of Tomatoes... not that there aren't others else where that match them but nothing out there is better)... I am just comparing them to the Supermarket Supply Chain system.

                                                                1. re: linguafood

                                                                  The Holland tomatos here are about as bad as it gets. They carry them at our local TJ's as well. I almost feel bad for any one who think those tasteless things are consistantly better than the average store produce in the US. I'd have to look real hard to find anything with less flavor. I can find better vine ripended tomatos at any market here.
                                                                  But I do agree those Dutch tomotos aren't cheap. Twice the price half the flavor.

                                                                  1. re: How2Wagyu

                                                                    If they are the same tomatoes than I can assure you it can get worse... at lot worse. Quite a few upscale restaurants & lower end pizzerias in Manhattan serve Jersey grown tomatoes that are pale & truly flavorless in their Caprese salads... the Holland tomatoes available in California TJ's are vastly superior to those NJ tomatoes so proudly served in Manhattan.

                                                                    1. re: Eat_Nopal

                                                                      >the Holland tomatoes available in California TJ's are vastly superior
                                                                      >to those NJ tomatoes so proudly served in Manhattan.
                                                                      >
                                                                      maybe they should grow tomatoes in the Holland Tunnel.

                                                          2. re: MakingSense

                                                            Indeed, there is room for many voices to be heard. It's interesting that I feel that mine has just been put down and dismissed. Really, do so few people in this country live in milder climates with suburban backyards that's it not worth having a conversation that includes them as well?

                                                            1. re: MakingSense

                                                              Among large countries (over 20MM people)... the U.S. I believe ranks among the very worst for lifestyle diseases & obesity etc., Further, as other countries adopt American food distribution & consumption practices they show equal deterioration in such measures.

                                                              For example, Ireland used to be one of the healthiest nation's on earth... now its the most obese and has the worst lifestyle disease problem of any.... other countries in Northern Europe are quickly moving in that direction as well. They all blame the infiltration of the SAD.

                                                              It is not an exaggeration to say... Americans generally eat poorly in their youth... develop some lifestyle disease for which they get lifestyle prescriptions (i.e., lipitor etc.,) that then cause other diseases... before you know it they are on a cocktail of 5 medicines... then 10 medicines.. by 70 years of age we have kept them alive with a constant infusion of medicines & surgeries.

                                                              We are clearly on the wrong course & need to correct in, pronto.

                                                              Yes I know... I am an Illegal Immigrant Elitist who hates America and wants to embolden the terrorists with stories of things not done well in this country.

                                                              1. re: Eat_Nopal

                                                                http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/715...
                                                                is a BBC report on obesity and diabetes rates around the world (Jan 2008

                                                                )

                                                                and a map of UK 'obesity hotspots'.
                                                                http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/758...
                                                                Why are the Scotish highlands, and areas around London the low spots, and Wales and north of England high? In the USA, why obesity highest in states like Mississippi and Alabama, and lowest in Colorado?

                                                                1. re: paulj

                                                                  Do you have theories? I think global economic shifts are having devastating effects on many rural communities. For example, in Northern UK... you had traditional fishing communities that are depleted of Young working age men & women... many causes:

                                                                  > Depletion of Cod Stocks has undermined the fishing industries of the Northern Atlantic

                                                                  > Modern media fuels the desire for greater Attention & Sex... creating a big draw for young men & women to head towards the City

                                                                  > Rapid economic growth in more vibrant Urban & Suburban areas provide with irresistible job opportunities for many young men.

                                                                  As the traditional industries that provided food sources disappeared, and as able bodied men & women leave to earn money abroad... often remitting money back to relatives... you have rural people who can't easily source all the fresh ingredients they need for consumption and with enough money to purchase packaged goods... or government programs that distribute shelf stable foods to impoverished rural communities... and as they start eating like us... they start looking like us. (Well at least it creates a boom for the local seamstress).

                                                          3. re: MakingSense

                                                            What have Americans been talking about since colonial days? Many parts of our economy have been centered around food production, some for local use, but much destined for distant markets.

                                                            George Washington was a large scale farmer, initially growing mainly tobacco for export to England, though he later diversified to crops and products that depended less on the volatile export market.

                                                            The first test of federal government power was the Whiskey Rebellion - Washington was one of the large scale whisky producers who qualified for a more favorable tax rate. Whiskey was a cost effective way of transporting and marketing surplus corn.

                                                            The Boston Tea Party had to do with taxes on tea, and the relative prices of official English tea and smuggled Dutch Tea. A triangular trade network involving sugar, slaves, molasses, and rum was a central part of the economy of both the West Indies, and New England.

                                                            Canals and later railroads made it possible to ship farm products from the Midwest to the cities of East Coast. The iconic cattle drives took cattle from Texas to railheads in Kansas for shipment to Chicago and points east.

                                                            Prior to the gold rush, much of California's economy centered on cattle ranches that exported hides and tallow to New England. Some of the first environmental laws in California resulted from farmers seeking to protect their land from silt produced by gold miners. Later California agriculture grew to prominence because its output could be shipped by rail across the country.

                                                            Maybe Waters just means that this is the first time many people are talking about food in the way that she approves.

                                                            1. re: paulj

                                                              "Later California agriculture grew to prominence because its output could be shipped by rail across the country."

                                                              You forgot the deep fertile soils of the Central Valley, its Mediterranean climate, the annual snow melt channeled through one of the biggest irrigation systems in the world, the then abundant groundwater, and high tech tiling once ag resulted in salinization in the west side of the valley.

                                                        2. Hmmm... I guess I read the *focus* of what Alice was saying a little differently.

                                                          Yeah, she mentioned organic, sustainable, yadda, yadda, but it seemed like her focus in this piece was cooking simple foods so they could be delicious. That's something everyone can do.

                                                          A lot of people don't eat vegetables because they don't know how to prepare them so they taste good. Or they've only had canned/frozen versions of that vegetable. Sure, an immaculately fresh vegetable from the farmer's market tastes better than one shipped from thousands of miles away at your supermarket, but you can still make supermarket veggies taste good if you know how to prepare them.

                                                          Her other point was the food doesn't have to be fancy to be delicious. How can anyone argue that point is elitist?

                                                          You can eat very inexpensively if you know how to shop for and cook a wide variety of foods, so you can take advantage of foods that are on sale, or less expensive because, yes, they're *seasonal* and thus less expensive than the same food when it's shipped in from South America. If you're reaching for the zucchini in January because that's all you know how to cook in a way you like, then you're paying more than you need to in order to eat fresh produce. Teaching people -- including Barack Obama -- how to prepare beets in a way that's both simple and delicious is a good way to teach them to eat both more healthfully and more economically.

                                                          1 Reply
                                                          1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                            I'm all in favor of simple AND delicious. :)

                                                            ~TDQ

                                                          2. There are a couple of unsupported claims here that growing vegetables is impossible
                                                            for Americans because they live in cities. It turns out that with just a little innovation,
                                                            growing a vegetable garden in the city is quite possible:
                                                            http://www.buildinggreen.com/auth/art...

                                                            I like the approach these people are taking -- "borrowing" unused suburban backyards for
                                                            their organic farm:
                                                            http://www.citygardenfarms.com/
                                                            http://www.citygardenfarms.com/conten...

                                                            In my neighborhood, these people have set up a half dozen or so farms on vacant
                                                            city lots in the "worst" part of town:
                                                            http://www.cityslickerfarms.org/

                                                            What appears to be the main complaint here, paraphrasing only slightly "americans shouldn't
                                                            grow their own vegetables because americans currently don't grow their own vegetables
                                                            and thus Alice Waters should not be saying that people should grow their own vegetables"
                                                            strikes me as missing some crucial component of logic.

                                                            3 Replies
                                                            1. re: Chuckles the Clone

                                                              Defining any part of the argument of those who disagree with you as "americans shouldn't grow their own vegetables" is setting up a straw man.
                                                              NOBODY has said that.
                                                              Treating their point of view in that way disrespects and marginalizes those Americans who do not have the means, opportunity, or interest in maintaining a vegetable garden.

                                                              The small scale gardens located in inner cities to which you refer are exemplary but they remain statistically insignificant in the urban landscape and as a proportion of the food that urban dwellers actually consume. The Bay Area also has a climate that is favorable to year-round gardening which most of the US does not.

                                                              Urban gardening faces bureaucratic hurdles, as well as time and climatic constraints. We have long had them in our community and some have led to legal and environmental nightmares. Others have been long-term successes.
                                                              Most provided food only for a very few - the plot holders themselves - for a few short months each year. One had to outlaw the growing of flowers and forced plot holders to destroy rose bushes and fruit trees that shaded other plots.

                                                              People are going to do what they will do. The government will attempt to regulate anything that they think that they can regulate.
                                                              This is not as simple as Alice Waters seems to think.
                                                              Yes, people who want to will find a way to grow vegetables, but people who don't want to simply won't.
                                                              The only "crucial component of logic" missing is that some people can't accept that not everyone sees the world in the same way.
                                                              That does not make them wrong.

                                                              1. re: MakingSense

                                                                >> Defining any part of the argument of those who disagree with you as "americans
                                                                >> shouldn't grow their own vegetables" is setting up a straw man.
                                                                >> NOBODY has said that.

                                                                That's the second time you've made that claim. Did we read different articles? The NR story concludes: "In Alice Waters’s wonderland, all is made better with the growing of vegetables. But regular Americans know better."

                                                                That is precisely what they are saying.

                                                                I've also lost track of the point here. You seem to also be saying that because nobody gardens, nobody gardens. Which is tautologically true. But that doesn't address what I thought was the issue: Nobody gardens so Alice Waters says that people should try gardening. The counter-argument to that would show that gardening does some harm. Otherwise you're simply not accepting that "not everyone sees the world in the same way" and your final paragraph applies.

                                                                Finally, you say, "This is not as simple as Alice Waters seems to think." There's your strawman. She's been doing this for a few decades now, and seen things move only glacially. Why do you think she thinks it's simple? Random quotes pulled out in a screed in some political journal? Or do you have other evidence?

                                                              2. re: Chuckles the Clone

                                                                "There are a couple of unsupported claims here that growing vegetables is impossible for Americans because they live in cities. It turns out that with just a little innovation, growing a vegetable garden in the city is quite possible:"

                                                                With a little innovation and work, anyone in America can build themselves a secure, robust, open-source home network out of that 5 year old computer sitting unused in your closet. I have many friends who think this is great fun and spend their spare time doing stuff like this while looking down on the clueless masses who just use built-in Windows networking and file sharing and leave themselves open to all sorts of bad things.

                                                                The fact is, computers are not at the center of everyone's lives. And neither is organic food. I want to tend my own garden as much as most of those trendy "tweeters" want to recompile the kernel on their file server...

                                                              3. I live in a condo; and before I got a community garden plot, I grew lettuce, radishes and herbs in window boxes. I work more than 40 hours, and volunteer roughly 20 hours per week in addition to that, but gardening is something I -- at the risk of sounding too Alice Waters-ish and enraging everyone -- choose to do.

                                                                If you want to grow food, you can. Conversely, if you don't want to, you don't have to; and I don't recall reading where Waters said anyone has to. She does have an opinion, but everyone is entitled to one; so I don't feel the hate for the woman, even if I don't agree with everything she says or live up to her standards (which I don't).

                                                                The NR writer basically rehashed the thread here about Waters on 60 Minutes; and where the NR writer rants a little that of course Americans know food comes from the ground, not just the grocery store, I would offer up half my officemates as evidence to the contrary. One woman eats McD's every day for lunch and comes in with a McD breakfast pretty frequently. And a number of her family dinners are picked up at Boston Market (unfortunately, I hear a lot of her phone calls). The first time I brought in extra produce from the garden, someone asked me why my tomatoes had so much flavor; and it was an honest question, not just flattery.

                                                                20 Replies
                                                                1. re: harrie

                                                                  Hopefully no one here on Chowhound will be enraged because you like to garden. ;-) In fact, there's a whole gardening board for 'hounds who do enjoy it http://chowhound.chow.com/boards/62

                                                                  ~TDQ

                                                                  1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                    Thanks, I hadn't seen that -- must check it out! I was afraid my use of the c-word (choose) might rattle some nerves, or fan the flames or whatever. No Nike sneakers were harmed in the making of this post.

                                                                    1. re: harrie

                                                                      The gardening board is really new--maybe a week or two old.

                                                                      I understand how you might be reluctant to use the word "choose", that it could seem like a loaded word, but unless your implication in using the word "choose" is that you're looking down on other people's choices (implying that if we're not gardening, we're spending our time say, doing donuts in the parking lot of McDonald's in our SUV's or burning tall piles of tires in our backyards or something) , I don't see the problem.

                                                                      I think gardens, and gardeners, are great. I've had them; I've been one. I just don't want to have one, or be one, at this stage of my life. For now, I'm okay with riding my bike once a week to the drop spot to pick up the beautiful organic produce my CSA farmer grew.

                                                                      I don't see how one could say (and I don't think you are, harrie) that your choice to garden is better than my choice not to, or vice versa. As long as both are done responsibly, they both seem like chow'ish, "earth friendly" (if that's important to you, and I suspect it is, if you're a gardener) choices to me, each with pros and cons.

                                                                      ~TDQ

                                                                      1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                        I agree with everything you wrote, but "doing donuts in the parking lot of McDonald's" is the funniest thing I've read in a long time.

                                                                        1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                          TDQ, I agree with you on all points, and you are correct that I am not looking down my nose at those who do not do as I do. I think CSA is a great option, and don't do one only because a good portion of even a half-share it would go to waste in my two-person household. I do shop the local farmers' market regularly, though.

                                                                          Where we might differ is that I don't think Ms. Waters believes that one's choice not to garden makes them bad or deficient. I think AW has a unique vision (some might say tunnel vision) and is certainly zealous about her beliefs; but I don't feel that her beliefs are forced upon me, which I get the idea is the opinion of some posters and writers. For the record, I live in New England, so I definitely do not live up to Waters' standards (and don't really try to, either).

                                                                          I love the donuts comment too, and will cop to having done one or two of them in my youth.

                                                                          1. re: harrie

                                                                            Well, there was that whole Alice Waters on 60 minutes awhile back where I argued vigorously that AW was looking down on a lot of people (people who eat frozen food, etc.) ...but, over the course of that thread, I softened my position a little.

                                                                            I really don't know what Alice Waters thinks (I've at least I've learned my lesson there), so, I'm not going to go there, but I do think if she's going to push a national agenda (by writing these letters to Clinton and Obama and such), she ought to get out and spend a little more time trying to understand the rest of the country. Berkeley, CA is a special, rarified place (a place for which I have great fondness, incidentally) --in terms of weather, politics, income level. And if that's where she spends the majority of her time, I wonder if she's in a position to talk about what the "average" American person thinks. I wish she'd stop saying things like (paraphrasing from memory) "People think food comes from a grocery store." (It's possible that these remarks of hers are being edited and quoted wildly out of context, so, maybe if that's what's going on, she should try to make sure to say them in front of someone who will give her a fair edit.)

                                                                            A comment like that assumes a lot of ignorance on the part of a lot of people.

                                                                            We Minnesotans know EXACTLY where our food comes from. Heck, I can see General Mills RIGHT NOW if I look away from my computer screen and, instead, over my shoulder out my window. I can also see the trains that deliver the grains from where it is grown, the grain elevators that store the grain... and so on.

                                                                            In fact, I would submit to you that the average Minnesotan is more in tune with what comes from the land and WHEN it comes from the land than is the average Northern Californian. I'm not talking about the average Chowhound, I'm talking about the average regular joe or jane you might meet on the streets.

                                                                            Any Minnesotan can pretty much tell you when--and I mean when within a couple of weeks when-- to expect tomatoes and lettuce and sqaush and strawberries, and if it ain't that time of year, then the produce in your grocery cart is from somewhere far away or was grown in a hot house...

                                                                            In fact, I'll even suggest that the "average (non-chowhound) Minnesotan" might even know a lot more than the "average (non-chowhound) Northern Californian" about where all of his or food actually comes from. Most Minnesotans I meet every day have direct connections to the food supply chain --meat, dairy, poultry, grain, produce (Green Giant is a Minnesota company)--and are remarkably well-versed about where food comes from. I don't know if I can say that about most Northern Californians I know.

                                                                            My point is to not put Northern Californians down, (some of my best friends are Northern Californians!) but if she thinks the average Northern Californian SHE meets represents the average person from [insert here, whatever non-Berkeley place in the U.S. you choose to insert], she might be surprised.

                                                                            So, if Alice really wants to raise awareness at a national level, especially in this economy where an absurd number of Americans are out of work, I would like to see her be a little more grounded with the issues facing the rest of America, because if she thinks we think food doesn't come from the land, then she doesn't understand us very well.

                                                                            ~TDQ

                                                                            1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                              TDQ- I live in Northern California; I don't live in Berkeley or the bay area. Quite a few people live in Northern California and don't live in what is generally described as the bay area. I have farm fields within a mile of my suburban house. I don't even begin to guess whether the average non-chowhound around here knows more about where his or her food comes from than the average non-chowhound Minnesotan.

                                                                              I do know a number of people who have a direct connection to the food supply chain; most people I know who aren't familiar with chowhound do. We know where food comes from because it is either clearly labelled, or we ask about its origin. I also know people who don't know and don't seem to care about it either way.

                                                                              I was curious to know if there were any interviews with AW where she was
                                                                              asked about her "position" on the use of canned tomatoes, which are a staple in my house. I vaguely remembered an earlier interview where she described that she? the restaurant? only used fresh tomatoes about 4 months of the year while they were really in season. I couldn't remember any specific comments on the use of canned, so googled to see what would turn up. Here is a 3/25/09 Time Q&A that I don't remember seeing before on chowhound. My apologies if it has already been posted.

                                                                              http://www.time.com/time/nation/artic...

                                                                              1. re: souvenir

                                                                                I hadn't seen that story yet. Thanks for posting it. She talks a little bit, and very generally, about canning and freezing Art of Simple Food, too.

                                                                                ~TDQ

                                                                              2. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                                >> "she should try to make sure to say them in front of someone
                                                                                >> who will give her a fair edit."

                                                                                I think that's been done a lot:
                                                                                http://www.chezpanissefoundation.org/...

                                                                                Not that it matters, but Berkeley is not a terribly great place to grow stuff. No rain, hard clay soil and rocky hills, miserable winters, and fog. You might be confusing it with the Salinas Valley a hundred plus miles to the south or the Central Valley a hundred miles east.

                                                                                Anyway, the reason the NR article was written was to help with putting a single face of a "leader" on the oops-we-may-be-in-trouble-with-the-food-supply movement and then, by attributing specific and ridiculous thoughts to her which she does not have, indirectly ridicule the entire movement.

                                                                                Since most of the heat here appears to be around "what Alice thinks" rather than "our food supply seems to have some very high costs that we may need to deal with" I'd say they were pretty successful.

                                                                                1. re: Chuckles the Clone

                                                                                  No, I absolutely know the difference between Salinas and Berkeley. (In fact, I would even question your characterization of Berkeley as foggy, when that's a better descriptor for towns located right on the coast and not those protected by the Bay and nestled in foothills like Berkeley)

                                                                                  But, you're right, Alice and her vendors aren't doing a lot of growing in Berkeley itself. She's getting her available-nearly-year-round produce from within , say, a 75 mile radius of Berkeley. But, even that, compared to the 75 mile radius from St. Paul, Minnesota would give someone quite a different perspective on how easy it is to get fresh produce.

                                                                                  (as an aside-- "miserable winters"? You DO understand I'm in Minnesota, right? Where typical winter temps are not only sub-freezing, but actually sub-zero?)

                                                                                  Actually, only this one posts of mine in this thread has been in the "what Alice thinks" category, and I specifically said I don't pretend to know what Alice thinks.

                                                                                  Most of my posts in this thread have been to make it clear that I don't want to grow a garden. I'm not even convinced it's best for the environment for individual consumers to grow a garden, but that latter point is a conversation for another thread.

                                                                                  ~TDQ

                                                                                  1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                                    While I think that zipping off on your bike to pick up your produce is great, I can't see that my home garden could be "worse" for the environment. (I know that's not exactly what you said.) The fertilizer is compost I make myself, I either water at night or use water I've saved from baths or dish washing, and I don't use any gas to walk outside and harvest. I grow most plants from seeds, but I do buy some in plastic pots. I guess that's less than perfect....

                                                                                    It's an interesting topic, actually.

                                                                                    1. re: Glencora

                                                                                      I am interested to read thoughts on this topic as well.

                                                                                      1. re: Glencora

                                                                                        Well, it's hard to argue that your method of gardening isn't better for the environment than my subscribing to a CSA, even if I ride my bike (unless, I suppose, the farmer delivers the veggies by bicycle and not in a van as he does). I can't devote a lot of time to this topic right now because I'm supposed to be working, but what's "good" for the environment depends upon a lot of factors, including where you live. If you lived in a drought zone, for instance, where there isn't enough "saved" rainwater or well water, maybe it's more water efficient to centralize on small farms rather than everyone trying to garden on their own.

                                                                                        Maybe, if you lived in a zone that is a monarch habitat, it's "better" for the wildlife to have a native flower garden in most peoples yards and "centralize" the gardening on small farms.

                                                                                        Sure, you are making your own fertilizer and saving rainwater, (brava! by the way) etc., but will everyone who gardens? If not, and this gardening is suddenly a widespread thing, what is the impact of that? Will everyone even grow organic produce? Will they use too much fertliizer which creates run-off and water quality issues?

                                                                                        I don't actually believe gardening is bad. I'm just trying to point out that these kinds of things can be more complicated than they appear on the surface...

                                                                                        ~TDQ

                                                                                        1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                                          I think you have a great point. My hometown is in a pretty bad drought right now and people are allowed to water once or twice a month at best. I know I always get annoyed when I pass by a bright green lawn with an amazing garden while the adjacent lawns are brown. Until a neighborhood gets a system in place to use reclaimed water for lawns/gardens, it's not really responsible to promote extensive home gardening.

                                                                                          I don't believe gardening is bad either, but I think you need to be in an environment that naturally supports it.

                                                                                          1. re: queencru

                                                                                            Thanks, in spite of my hastily written response above, you got my point! Lots of factors to consider.

                                                                                            If Waters message is a meant to be primarily a chowish one and she's speaking as a chef/cook , then I heartily agree that fresh from the garden produce tastes good and is good for you. I also absolutely support the message, if indeed is it part of her message*, that raising your own produce can be a joyous and satisfying experience, and depending on your circumstances, might even be very affordable.

                                                                                            It's just when you start to get to discussions of food policy on a national level that I start to have some hesitation about Waters making sweeping comments about what's best for everyone, when what's "best" can get very complicated.

                                                                                            *It's hard to know what her message is by only reading a NYT opinion piece, spurred by a NR piece, spurred by some other piece... It's that classic childhood operator problem. Waters said something that was whispered, in bits and pieces, around the circle... To truly understand her message, I think probably, it's better to get closer to the source than I have in this instance. ;-)

                                                                                            ~TDQ

                                                                                    2. re: Chuckles the Clone

                                                                                      >>Anyway, the reason the NR article was written was to help with putting a single face of a "leader" on the oops-we-may-be-in-trouble-with-the-food-supply movement and then, by attributing specific and ridiculous thoughts to her which she does not have, indirectly ridicule the entire movement. <<

                                                                                      I had a similar thought eariler; but, thinking I was being overly paranoid, didn't follow through with the post. The tone of the NR piece read like it was sponsored by Monsanto, ConAgra, etc. or one of their shills.

                                                                                    3. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                                      >>Will everyone even grow organic produce? <<

                                                                                      Well, they can't, at least not right off the bat. Whatever soil you are starting with is probably not organic, and (if you wish it to) must become organic over time due to additions you make to the soil and how you work it. Becoming truly organic can take years to achieve through one's growing, fertilizing, and pest control practices. One can practice organic methods, yet not produce organic produce. But the stuff still tastes darn good; and if farmed properly, will have minimal adverse impact on the environment.

                                                                                      1. re: harrie

                                                                                        By "will everyone even grow organic produce" I meant, "will everyone even refrain from using pesticides" but, you take a little farther (to the more official definition of organic) and raise some good points, of course!

                                                                                        ~TDQ

                                                                                      2. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                                        Sorry, ran amok.

                                                                                        1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                                          The Dairy Queen, This is what I tried to express but you've said it better. I don't disagree or dislike Alice Water's message. I just don't think that the majority of NORTH Americans have access to growing their own food even they want to - and yes, the poor (increasing in numbers) have less access to healthy food than most. (the reply button, what's up with that?)

                                                                              3. The New York Post has an article on what they term "Gourmonsters" and cite Maureen's artice, Alice and others...

                                                                                http://www.nypost.com/seven/04222009/...

                                                                                16 Replies
                                                                                1. re: roxlet

                                                                                  "a chiding and bourgeois brand of junk food prohibitionism"

                                                                                  LMAO Great article!

                                                                                  1. re: Fritter

                                                                                    HOW TO BE A LOCAVORE
                                                                                    By CARLA SPARTOS
                                                                                    http://www.nypost.com/seven/06112008/...

                                                                                    FORAGEABOUTIT!
                                                                                    THE NEW PRODUCE AISLE: PARKS
                                                                                    By CARLA SPARTOS
                                                                                    http://www.nypost.com/seven/06112008/...

                                                                                    NEW COFFEE CROP JOLTS CITY
                                                                                    By CARLA SPARTOS
                                                                                    http://www.nypost.com/seven/04022009/...

                                                                                    1. re: Fritter

                                                                                      Thanks for posting these, Roxlet. A GREAT read!! Very funny;.

                                                                                    2. re: roxlet

                                                                                      Is it me or is this turning into a silly waste of time? Do we think anyone is really being hurt by people who hold out an ideal like this, even if it is beyond the reach or caring of the majority? Why get so worked up about it? Alice Waters can "tell me what do do" all she wants. I'm free to pick and choose things that make sense to me from what she says and reject what doesn't. I'll let her go on and on because I feel that the underlying message in what she says, as I perceive it, is valid. I can't argue with locally grown and fresh ingredients being better to use if you can. How does that simple message get translated into what has consumed these 100+ posts?

                                                                                      If you have a problem with chefs getting into causes, tell me what you think of this:
                                                                                      http://www.europcronline.com/data/med...

                                                                                      1. re: Midlife

                                                                                        Exactly. It has nothing to do with a particular chef-face put on the issue. What happened was that the US president made a show of planting a food garden. That is an extremely political act. It signals not only future direction and attitude, but also an alignment with a particular cause. That's why the chefs who have been pushing the cause are suddenly showing up on the op-ed pages of the Times and WSJ, rather than the food section where they've been happily living.

                                                                                        And the cause in question is not "plant a garden" or "eat organic." It's, "there are hidden costs to industrial agriculture which are very large and which we need to pay attention to."

                                                                                        1. re: Chuckles the Clone

                                                                                          "the cause in question is not "plant a garden" or "eat organic." It's, "there are hidden costs to industrial agriculture which are very large and which we need to pay attention to."

                                                                                          That's the message from many but it gets consumed with other voices like AW whose message suggests if you don't do what I say do your going to burn in hell, or at least die a slow painful death. It's easy to tune out a zealot.
                                                                                          Then you get corporations pulling this it two very different directions for their own profit. Grocery store chains and other vendors want you to believe that organic produce from countries with some of the most polluted cities in the world is healthier for you. Then they freight it half way around the world. They don't do that because it's "better" or "healthier". They do it because there's more profit in it.
                                                                                          The flip side of that is that companies who have done great things like help contaminate the planet and invent terminator seeds would have you believe that growing your own, buying local or organic is cost prohibitive and no healthier.
                                                                                          The good news IMO is that no matter what side of the fence you are on it's clear from this thread that many here are indeed thinking about how they consume.

                                                                                          1. re: Chuckles the Clone

                                                                                            Perhaps you should re-evaluate the publicity surrounding the White House vegetable garden.
                                                                                            The President wasn't anywhere near the original event and certainly didn't "make a show of it." He has since referred to it several times as "Michelle's garden."
                                                                                            The First Lady has staged the first and succeeding events with school children and the White House kitchen staff - not food activists - and centered them around the theme of planting and eating vegetables. Period.
                                                                                            There has been NO political message whatsoever. Nothing at all about "industrial agriculture" or any "alignment with a particular cause" beyond Mrs. Obama's cheerful encouragement that we could all try to eat in more healthy ways. Who can argue with that?

                                                                                            Mrs. Obama de-politicized the White House Garden with grace and skill. There was no blowback. Well, except from some activists who weren't happy that she wasn't political, but nobody paid any attention to their sniping which seemed like sour grapes.
                                                                                            Mrs. Obama is likely to make far more friends this way than with confrontation.

                                                                                            1. re: MakingSense

                                                                                              Perhaps you could reevaluate the meaning of "political act" vis- à-vis "political utterance." Planting a garden on the White House lawn during the Obama administration is as much a political act as the failure to plant a garden on the White House lawn during the Bush.

                                                                                              As far as who can argue with it? Well, the National Review for one.

                                                                                              1. re: Chuckles the Clone

                                                                                                I was complimenting the First Lady for her ability to include everyone in her project without raising hackles, unlike the food activists who had indeed attempted to politicize the issue, and especially make it a slam at the previous President. They even attacked the current White House Chef without having the facts, simply because she had worked there during the previous Administration. They backed off that when they found out that the White House had long been serving local, organic foods.

                                                                                                Mrs. Obama calmed everything down in a most gracious manner. The National Review found no fault with the First Lady's lovely new garden and that's how it should be.
                                                                                                That garden is for all of us - not just to placate a few noisy food activists.
                                                                                                Everybody seems charmed by Mrs. Obama's new garden and the events that she has had surrounding it. Why spoil such a lovely effort by making it political?

                                                                                                1. re: Chuckles the Clone

                                                                                                  Chuckles the Clown, can you point out where the National Review said anything negative about the white house garden?

                                                                                                  1. re: gogolki

                                                                                                    How about the sarcastic comment about grounding a presidential legacy in compost? Or the statement immediately following, that "regular Americans know better" than to believe that "all is made better by the growing of vegetables." Apparently they know that "the purpose of food is nourishment." And if they'd wise up, they'd appreciate that factory farms have "made food cheaper and more plentiful not just for our nation’s citizens, but for the entire world."

                                                                                                    Then there's Greg Pollowitz's contribution to the discussion. ("Maybe the OMB will tally up how much extra time the White House staff will spend on this vanity project.")

                                                                                                    Yep, sounds to me like the NR is behind it 100%.

                                                                                                    1. re: gogolki

                                                                                                      [Nice try, Sam ... :) ]

                                                                                                      >" where the National Review said anything negative about the white house garden?"

                                                                                                      Oh come on. This isn't Daily Kos and there's no need to play games. The article begins by invoking the groundbreaking of the garden, proceeds immediately to set up a ridiculous caricature of the primary proponent of that garden, rants for a number of paragraphs about that invented caricature, and in the final two paragraphs imagines what it would have been like if Clinton had also been "badgered" into planting one, while championing the glories of industrial agriculture.

                                                                                                      You honestly don't understand why this particular article would be written at this particular time?

                                                                                                      Here's what's up. There are a number of groups of people who believe that our system of subsidized industrial agriculture has significant problems which need to be examined. Some years ago, one of those people devised a symbolic act for the president to demonstrate his sympathy with this belief. After 20 years, she managed to "badger" the president into performing the act.

                                                                                                      The counter-argument is not an ad hominem attack on the "leaders" of the movement. It's not a dismissing of the meaning of the act. The counter-argument is making the claim that "our system of subsidized industrial agriculture does NOT have significant problems and/or they do NOT need to be examined." Plus supporting evidence. If that's what you're claiming, then we've got a discussion. Otherwise, this is all sortof silly.

                                                                                                      1. re: Chuckles the Clone

                                                                                                        There isn't a "counter argument." Some people are just moving forward.
                                                                                                        There may be "significant problems" in the world's system of agriculture, but there are also people who see significant promise in technology if it's used properly.
                                                                                                        It's estimated that by 2050, 70% of the world's population will live in or very close to cities and the food production and delivery system will have to accommodate that..
                                                                                                        It's worth thinking about the future and those outside of our own privileged existence. http://www.motherjones.com/environmen...
                                                                                                        Some of that is moving through Congress now. Senator Kerry's Foreign Relations Committee unanimously passed out S384 to the full Senate this week,
                                                                                                        The Lugar-Casey Global Food Security Act has the backing of Bono and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. http://www.one.org/c/us/pressrelease/31/

                                                                                                        1. re: MakingSense

                                                                                                          The Mother Jones article and subsequent comments, including addition Forum discussion at:
                                                                                                          http://www.motherjones.com/environmen...
                                                                                                          were very interesting. Thanks for posting the link.

                                                                                                  2. re: MakingSense

                                                                                                    Also, AW wasn't invited to the groundbreaking. That speaks volumes.

                                                                                                2. re: Midlife

                                                                                                  Thank you.

                                                                                              2. If you want to learn more about non-local food, watch the Ice Cold Express episode of Extreme Trains (History Channel)

                                                                                                "Union Pacific's refrigeration train is simply the coolest… On its cross-country trip from Wallula, Washington, to Schenectady, New York, it employs hi-tech mobile refrigeration technology to keep its produce intact and fresh. Even the railcars themselves are loaded inside a cooled facility so as not to break the cold chain for this delicate cargo. Also in this episode: how trains and trucks battled for business in the 1950s"
                                                                                                http://www.uprr.com/newsinfo/media_ki...

                                                                                                Is it wrong for New Yorker's to buy Pacific NW Cherries?. Conversely, is it wrong for me, in Seattle, to buy Vermont cheddar and maple syrup?

                                                                                                http://www.nwcherries.com/?q=nwcherri...

                                                                                                1 Reply
                                                                                                1. re: paulj

                                                                                                  "Is it wrong for New Yorker's to buy Pacific NW Cherries?. Conversely, is it wrong for me, in Seattle, to buy Vermont cheddar and maple syrup?"

                                                                                                  Not IMO. Why miss out on some of the best stuff? I'll add produce from Ontario and pineapples from HI to that list.
                                                                                                  I was reading the annual report I received from Union Pacific this week and was surprised to see that 18% of their revenue is from produce transportation.
                                                                                                  My priorities are not only to buy local but to support North American farmers when ever that is practical.
                                                                                                  If that offends AW then all the better.

                                                                                                2. Big Food; Big Agribusiness; Sensational Media: As Chowhounds, we think about food. Unfortunately, significant portions of our brethren and sistren don't.

                                                                                                  The economic pressures seem to apply to the cheap calories rather than the flavors and nutrition that we Chowhounds prefer. I found that an article in the NY Times had the ring of truth. http://www.nytimes.com/2007/04/22/mag...

                                                                                                  The farther I travel, and the closer I get to the source of food production, the more I enjoy it. If I hear hens cackling all night in a small rural location outside of the industrial west, I know the eggs will be fresh.

                                                                                                  As a Chowhound, I don't care if the food is "organic," but I'm delighted when the farmer is concerned about the quality and integrity of his (or her) produce. If the farmer chooses not to spend money on synthetic fertilizers and pesticides, so much the better.
                                                                                                  It seems to me that the simplicity ot the rural third world food cycle produces healthier food than the agribusiness of the industrialized nations. Adam Smith would understand that the farmer might have a different perspective when he knows that his friends and family will eat and enjoy his product.

                                                                                                  27 Replies
                                                                                                  1. re: Phood

                                                                                                    Just don't drink the water from the tap (in the rural third world) and eat unpeeled fruit. You might also want to wash your lettuce with an iodine solution. And don't expect to find tender green peas and fresh ears of sweet corn.

                                                                                                    1. re: paulj

                                                                                                      Midwestern born and bred (US), I don't expect to find fresh ears of sweet corn anywhere.
                                                                                                      Heirloom corn, grilled in Bogota, Colombia was a treat.
                                                                                                      VietNamese markets had delicious fresh foods, too.

                                                                                                       
                                                                                                       
                                                                                                      1. re: Phood

                                                                                                        Actually, that's an improved (through conventional breeeding) variety of white maize. The basic parent materials are traditional varieties. Grilled maize is all over Colombia!

                                                                                                        1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                                                                                          Apparently there are two prevailing theories on food in non-first world nations... that the produce is non-existent and people are starving or they are eating the absolute unblemished purity of the best local organic ingredients. Chances are the truth is somewhere in between.

                                                                                                          1. re: Blueicus

                                                                                                            Chances is that the truth is both... depending on where & when. I am sure if we all go hang out with the various tribes of Baja we will come to the conclusion that produce is limited to small quantities of foraged greens... and the vast majority of the diet is corn, beans, nopales, chiles & packaged items... If we hang out in the lower Mixteca... we will probably come to a similar conclusion but note a more consistent availability of season produce albeit in smallish quantities. Then if you hang out in rural villages of the Guanajuato bajio, or among the Tlaxcallans or the Huastecs of Veracruz.... as a CH you are going to want to quite your day life and become part of the tribe.

                                                                                                            Of course you get people who did some Peace Corps mission 30 years ago in the most desperate of areas (which is self selecting) and then generalize about all non-first world areas from that experience.

                                                                                                            1. re: Blueicus

                                                                                                              Among countries I've worked in, the least amount of produce was found in the arid areas of Ethiopia, in East Timor, in parts of Kenya and Tanzania, and in Bhutan. Most of south and southeast Asia, Central Asia, and Latin America is produce rich.

                                                                                                          2. re: Phood

                                                                                                            The best corn I ever had was boiled in mineral water at La Oroya, Peru.

                                                                                                          3. re: paulj

                                                                                                            The rural, third world parts of Mexico are the places where I have witnessed the reliably highest consumption of tender green peas, and fresh ears of... field corn... sweet corn is 2nd rate =)

                                                                                                            My relatives in Jalisco probably eat (without exaggeration)... 5 to 10 cobs of simply mesquite grilled corn a day during the harvest season... not counting all the corn used in Tamales de Elote, Gorditas de Acero, Soups & Guisados... no better corn anywhere else.

                                                                                                            1. re: Eat_Nopal

                                                                                                              must be my faulty memory of living in Ecuador several decades ago.

                                                                                                              1. re: paulj

                                                                                                                I don't know much about Ecuador... I can confirm, even though I wasn't impressed by the culinary traditions of Andean Peru... that simply cooked ears of corn are almost as much a staple as Potatoes. I was impressed by the variety of corn available.

                                                                                                                I should also note that fresh locally grown salad greens were all over Peru... from the high end restaurants of Lima to the Indigenous markets all over the Sacred Valley... truly impeccable lettuces... the quantity & quality served in restaurants rivaled that of Vancouver B.C. and the Guanajuato.

                                                                                                                For comparison... these greens were a notch better than anything I have had in Seattle, LA & Bay Area (three places where I have dined out quite a bit). And I am talking about the stuff sold in simple $2 Palta salads (Avos, Lettuce, Onion, Vinaigrette etc.,)

                                                                                                                1. re: paulj

                                                                                                                  paulj, I lived in southern Bolivia in the 70s for a few years. There were huge gaps in what was available in the local open air market. But times have changed in Latin America with "supermarketization". People in the US would have an attack of joy (or jealousy) if they saw the fruit and vegetable sections at my supermarket here in Cali, Colombia. NO scarcity of fresh green corn or peas. And soooooo much more.

                                                                                                              2. re: paulj

                                                                                                                Also in Central Mexico which grows good quantities of peas, garbanzos & favas... when they are in harvest... almost every meal starts / includes them. The most ubiquitous way to prepare them is to wash them well but don't shake the water out of them, don't peel, put them in a clay pot, good salt, cover and cook on the lowest heat for about 10 minutes... serve just like Sushi places serve Edemame.. except these blow away the vast majority of Edemame served in California.

                                                                                                              3. re: Phood

                                                                                                                A little care is needed regarding, "...the simplicity ot the rural third world food cycle...". That simplicity is often associated with remote, by-passed area poverty. I've worked on (among other things) trying to find ways for small farmers to adopt Integrated Pest Manangement in south and SE Asia, Africa, and Latin America. There are many reasons (some wrong) farmers continue to use pesticides. On the other hand, the US consumer rejection to using synthetic fertilizers makes little sense to me.

                                                                                                                Pesticide use on produce has always been high throughout the developing world. I generally no longer eat the cauliflower and broccoli in SE Asia (go out and smell the fields in northern Thailand sometime). On the other hand, "supermarketization" in SE Asia and, even more so here in Latin America, is leading to very good produce that has minimal to no pesticide residues. Better educated and wealthier consumers don't want to be poisoned by the food they eat. Our produce is fresher, more local, cleaner, more pesticide free, has more variety here in Colombia compared to most of what you get in the US.

                                                                                                                1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                                                                                                  local climate and culture also affects the availability of produce. For example an anthropology study of a high altitude parish in Ecuador (3600 m average) describes part of the Saturday market:

                                                                                                                  'In contrast to most Ecuadorian markets, there are almost no fresh vegetables to be found - it takes a practiced eye to ferret out the few dried-out carrots, the tiny pile of wrinkled tomatoes. Locally grown onions are the only exception. Fruits are somewhat better represented: there are always some citrus fruits and bananas - but for the most part it is a starch market. The lower half of the plaza is dedicated to the sale of local products: potatoes, barley, and fava beans.. Further up, trucks from the lowlands sell plantains and yuca, as well as raw salt sold by the shovelful...'
                                                                                                                  p 118, Food, Gender, and Poverty in the Ecuadorian Anes, Weismantel 1988

                                                                                                                  1. re: paulj

                                                                                                                    There is a problem with viewing things from an Urban US point of view. I bet that foodwise... having a diet that centers around Potatoes, Barley, Fava Beans & Onions (together provide an acceptable Amino Acid balance + rich in Minerals & Fiber)... with a little sprinkling of Fruits & maybe the occassional beast would result in a better balance than the average American has).

                                                                                                                    Not that much different than say Ireland which at one point was way healthier than the U.S. (not so much any more).

                                                                                                                    1. re: Eat_Nopal

                                                                                                                      Weismantel quotes Mintz (from a book on history of sugar) that a diet centered around complex carbohydrates (e.g. rice, potatoes, wheat, corn), with a 'flavor-fringe supplement' has be characteristic of the diet of nearly all 'sedentary civilizations'.

                                                                                                                      However in the context of this thread, I doubt if Alice Waters would consider a barley soup flavored with a few onion stalks and a potato or two (for 'seven people, three dogs, and the pig' p99) to be a healthy diet, even if the onions and barley are home grown. The fact that the barley stone ground does make it better than a more 'civilized' white flour and sugar drink.

                                                                                                                      I'm reminded of the prominence of 'tsampa', roasted barley flour, in the Tibetian diet.

                                                                                                                      1. re: paulj

                                                                                                                        http://www.salon.com/mwt/feature/2007...
                                                                                                                        "This isn't a new philosophy. This isn't mine -- it's been around since the
                                                                                                                        beginning of time. Eat what's locally available. Eat with your family and
                                                                                                                        friends. Buy from a nearby market. Eat what's exactly in season. These
                                                                                                                        are all understood by people around the world."

                                                                                                                        What's wrong with a nice onion soup in that context?

                                                                                                                        If people are eating it, and they are healthy, then it is a healthy diet.

                                                                                                                        1. re: paulj

                                                                                                                          Actually the food served at Chez Pannisse jives fairly close with Mintz' description of sedentary civilization diets.

                                                                                                                          HOWEVER... in today's modern world where 80% of society is in a White Collar or Service jobs... the definition of sedentary has been taken to an extreme... as such we need to evolve this agrarian diet to meet modern urban needs.

                                                                                                                          Unfortunately part of our obesity epidemic is that so many societies have maintained the major elements of the Agrarian diet + added the bastardization of food factories... making for a disaster.

                                                                                                                          1. re: Eat_Nopal

                                                                                                                            I found some overlap between the Apr 23 menu for the Cafe menu at Chez Pannisse, and the diet in that poor Andean community - fava beans and green onions. Couldn't find any potato or barley soups. Does the cauliflower soup qualify as a complex carbohydrate (with a saffron flavor-accent)?

                                                                                                                            "House-made rigatoni with fava beans, green garlic, rosemary, and pecorino
                                                                                                                            Meyer lemon sherbet with Catalan Farm strawberries and langues de chat
                                                                                                                            Six Hog Island Sweetwater oysters on the half shell with mignonette sauce,
                                                                                                                            Cannard Farm asparagus with Gilbert's kumquat relish and toasted almonds,
                                                                                                                            Heritage pork terrine with beets and mustard vinaigrette,
                                                                                                                            Riverdog Farm Little Gems lettuce with avocado, radishes, and chives,
                                                                                                                            Local sardine toast with shaved fennel, ginger, and coriander,
                                                                                                                            Pizzetta with spring onions, capers, and green olives,
                                                                                                                            Baked Andante Dairy goat cheese with garden lettuces,
                                                                                                                            Cauliflower soup with saffron and mint, "

                                                                                                                            I suspect Cafe Tibet in Berkeley is a better choice if you want to experience a 'peasant' diet. They even sell tsampa so you can eat that way at home:
                                                                                                                            http://www.tanc.org/cafe_tibet2.html

                                                                                                                            1. re: paulj

                                                                                                                              The rigatoni, pizzetta, sardine toast dishes all are interchangeable for complex carbohydrates.

                                                                                                                            2. re: Eat_Nopal

                                                                                                                              Sidney Mintz (and other ecological anthropologists) used the term "sedentary" to refer to farmers (and town and village dwellers) who do not practice hunting-and-gathering, shifting-agriculture, transhumance, or pastoral nomadism. Sedentary populations included peasants - bound to the land and the land owners in poverty and servitude like other sharecroppers throughout time. "Sedentary" didn't refer to sitting on your ass. It just meant you weren't moving camp following the fish or your sheep or the reindeer or whatever.

                                                                                                                        2. re: paulj

                                                                                                                          Agroclimatic zone has everything to do with what is available. The produce available in most areas at 3600 meters is remarkably similar worldwide. I took a copy of the book, "Crops of the Andes" when it was first published some 20 years ago to Bhutan. The Bhutanese ag researchers were outraged because they thought many of the Andean crops were originally from the Himalayas.

                                                                                                                          1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                                                                                                            Out having Pakistani style Lamb Brain curry with my ex-Indian coworkers... I was almost lynched when I explained that Chiles, Potatoes etc., are from the New World (and thanked them for their Mangoes & Tamarind).

                                                                                                                            These guys (most from Maharashtra & Andahara literally could not fathom Indian cooking without these ingredients).

                                                                                                                            1. re: Eat_Nopal

                                                                                                                              Exactly!

                                                                                                                        3. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                                                                                                          Sam, I've often wondered about the use of pesticides and fertilizers here in Bhutan. On the one hand I figure people are so poor maybe they can't afford the chemicals, but on the other hand who knows what kind of cheap, shady products are coming in from India or through Tibet?

                                                                                                                          As for variety, I suppose you get the basics year round, with seasonal highlights starting with asparagus a few weeks ago, then strawberries and passion fruit, then wild mushrooms, then the mandarin oranges return in the winter. It is an exciting shopping day for me when I can find english peas that are young and fresh, funny what you look forward to when your options are limited. Bonus that they are 50 cents a pound!

                                                                                                                          1. re: babette feasts

                                                                                                                            Wow, Babbette, you're lucky. There seems to be more available in Bhutan now than when I was working there. Pesticide use is too high on the rice crop in the Terai with much of that coming from India. High value crops are commonly grown with pesticides. Asparagus requires little in the way of pesticides if stalks are cut when young and - as is usually the case - foilage is not allowed to develop. Strawberries can be hit by nematodes if present in the soils - which would lead to use of chemicals like Furidan but not to residues on the fruit. You might soak the pea pods in water to be safe (pesticides for such produce is water soluble). Can you also get snow peas? Rice from around Thimpu and Paro usually has little to no pesticide use - because there is generally only one crop per year so pests don't build up and because planting is fairly synchronous due to a relatively short season.

                                                                                                                            Have you figured out what you're going to next?

                                                                                                                            1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                                                                                                              No snow peas, just varying shades of yellow and green on the English. Apparently people have figured out that they can sell the passion fruit to the hotels for 50 or 60 nu a kg instead of just feeding them to the cows. The few people with fig trees have realized there is a demand as well. There are also a few specialty farmers and farmers we work directly with, one of the minor princesses grows herbs, lettuces, arugula, fennel, etc. Chanterelles are only $1 or $2 a pound in season, but the matsutakes are more, up to $10 a pound.

                                                                                                                              I'll be out of here in a few days, then spend some time in Seattle - looking forward to rhubarb and cherries (soon) and taco trucks and the water. Beyond that the future is uncertain. I wish my Spanish was good enough to work in Central or South America, I guess I'll have plenty of time to study.

                                                                                                                      2. I have almost always had a vegetable garden. Unfortunately my current home is pretty shadey so many vegetables don't do well here. But I can still grow some herbs and I definitely take advantage of my local farmer's market.

                                                                                                                        I'm a great admirer of Ms. Waters and if she inspires people to buy a packet or two of seeds and grow some tomatoes and peppers, then she's done them a favor. And her project of helping kids to experience growing their own veggies-how can that be bad?

                                                                                                                        One of the best things about the downturn in the economy is that more people are planting gardens. Sunshine and exercise are good for the soul if not the back.

                                                                                                                        1 Reply
                                                                                                                        1. re: toonie

                                                                                                                          There was an interesting podcast discussion prior to the Obamas planting a White House garden as to whether they would, in fact, decide to plant a garden as an example to the country, support organic farming, etc. It was stated that the Bush family, as part of their health concerns, actually had a large amount of organic food while in the White House, but kept quiet about it-rather than being supportive of the concept of eating organically, or setting a good example, but because they didn't want to appear "elitist".

                                                                                                                        2. I am frankly astounded at the vehement anti-Waters backlash from chowhounds, of all people! I for one appreciate and applaud Alice Waters' initiatives in propounding the benefits of fresh food, organically grown. Posters here seem to rebuke her as if they Must Do What Alice says.

                                                                                                                          Geez. Alice Waters is not the government, just a voice (I believe positive) in promoting local, organic and seasonal food production. You're free to do what you want. So you want to eat pesticides on peppers, grapes & strawberries? Fine. Don't have room or the inclination to grow a few lettuce plants and tomatoes? Don't bother. There may very well be a local CSA you could join and support small local farmers.

                                                                                                                          I would think the outrage expressed by so many on this board would be more properly directed at the U.S.'s failed agricultural policies that subsidize corn and monoculture by corporate agriculture while doing nothing for small local farmers.

                                                                                                                          So you are offended that she presumes you don't have a connection to the land? Well, maybe *you* know, but I know from personal experience that there are many who don't know for example, the abundance that can be produced from a single zucchini planting -- for pennies apiece, or that eating in season saves money. And eating locally saves the nutrients (and taste) of produce.

                                                                                                                          I think Alice Waters is a positive voice for sensible food production and eating, and I applaud her initiatives including school gardens and healthy school lunches (through her foundation).

                                                                                                                          26 Replies
                                                                                                                          1. re: NYchowcook

                                                                                                                            How do you use the abundance of a single zucchini planting? Zucchini bread is nice, but unfortunately it requires flour from monoculture grown on mega farms in Kansas and Washington, and sugar that is protected by import tariffs.

                                                                                                                            1. re: paulj

                                                                                                                              This is what drives me nuts: aren't small steps better than no steps at all? My SO and I bicker about this sometimes. I say, let's not buy this out of season tomato or let's spend a little more for organic eggs and he says, yeah? What about that sweatshop shirt you're wearing? Or something along those lines... If you can't be perfect, don't bother at all? That is completely illogical.

                                                                                                                              1. re: Glencora

                                                                                                                                Yes, this is what drives me mad as well. People who have this opinion that you must be a purist or not bother at all discourage others from making small steps to try to improve their own behaviors. Very few people in the US have the luxury to eat everything locally and organic due to climate, finances, or a variety of other reasons. On the other hand, some people are not eating any vegetables at all, so isn't it better to encourage them to eat frozen, canned and/or non-local fruits/vegetables than to eat potato chips and twinkies?

                                                                                                                                1. re: queencru

                                                                                                                                  Sometime in the early 1700s, Voltaire pointed out the problem as: "Le mieux est l'ennemi du bien." The perfect is the enemy of the good.

                                                                                                                                  When this happens in real life, and I'm not afraid of getting punched, I like to repeat someone's pessimistic remark back in my best "we're doooomed" Eeyore voice.

                                                                                                                                  What I did with too many zucchinis was cooked them up with my too many tomatoes, threw in some of the last peppers and a few onions and garlic from whoknowswhere. Invited a bunch of friends over and grilled some sausages. Not a problem at all, great fun, and the party wouldn't have happened if I hadn't planted the garden.

                                                                                                                                2. re: Glencora

                                                                                                                                  I don't have a problem with small steps. It's the symbolic ones that get blown out of proportion that I question.

                                                                                                                                  Symbols and slogans (like 'local', 'organic', 'seasonal') have a way of obscuring the trade offs that underly many of these issues.

                                                                                                                                  I don't want to discourage anyone from gardening. I'm not much of one myself - though I do have a potted bamboo, and some wild ginger. My wife is more of a gardener, though she's never grown enough to have much impact on our eating habits.

                                                                                                                                  Today's The Splendid Table has a segment on gardening.
                                                                                                                                  http://splendidtable.publicradio.org/
                                                                                                                                  "Years ago gardening expert Rosalind Creasy infuriated architects and city planners when she penned her book Edible Landscaping. They claimed she would ruin the look of America's neighborhoods. Now she has the last word as naysayers beat a path to her door. She joins us to talk planting a garden amidst what's already in your back yard."

                                                                                                                                  1. re: paulj

                                                                                                                                    That's a great book and one reason why I have three very productive artichoke plants in a border with roses, herbs, and other flowers.

                                                                                                                                  2. re: Glencora

                                                                                                                                    It is the holier than thou attitude that sets of the Alice Waters eyerollers. Most AW religious zealots are blind to that. Yes, most.

                                                                                                                                    1. re: Glencora

                                                                                                                                      But you probably do not go around town giving people the hairy eyeball for buying out of season fruit or lecturing folks for buying a dolfin fish when that fish is clearly imported.

                                                                                                                                      Most people here want to buy locally produced things and often do, but it is their dollar, their choice and their right to decide without having to endure the dictates of a little shrew.

                                                                                                                                    2. re: paulj

                                                                                                                                      If I have extra veggies, I offer them to friends or bring them to work.

                                                                                                                                      I generally do not have extra zucchini and I don't make zucchini bread. If the zucchini gets away from me and grows too large, into the compost bin with it!

                                                                                                                                      I grow Italian zucchini that bears less than others, though is very tasty, plus grows a lot of male blossoms which are so delicious stuffed and fried. That's something you can't get at the market, only in your backyard (or someone else's) -- zucchini blossoms harvested in the a.m.

                                                                                                                                      But it seems you're not interested in zucchini per se, just as a device to make the argument that if you're not an absolute purist, don't bother. I simply disagree with throwing the baby out with the bathwater -- a good idea, but hey, not 100% consistency, so canned vegetables it is!

                                                                                                                                      BTW, it was Elizabeth David, an English cook, who in 1950 wrote about the pleasures and benefits of local seasonal ingredients, simply cooked. She chastised Americans for preferring canned veggies. Alice Waters told her biographer she was greatly influence by E. David.

                                                                                                                                      1. re: NYchowcook

                                                                                                                                        I like to peel and shred my excess zucchini in the food processor, then freeze it 2 cup increments. I add it to chili and soups and so on all winter long. It seems like an incredible luxury in January.

                                                                                                                                        ~TDQ

                                                                                                                                        1. re: NYchowcook

                                                                                                                                          It would be interesting to know how Elizabeth David concluded that "Americans preferred canned veggies" or if she had any substantiating data. That could just as easily have been the standard Euro condescension toward Americans, an attitude now apparently shared by Waters, who says she was "greatly influenced" by David.

                                                                                                                                          In 1950, Americans had few choices other than local and seasonal foods - and canned vegetables, often those they canned themselves from home gardens, habits lingering from their rural roots, the Depression, and WWII Victory Gardens.
                                                                                                                                          My grandmother was thrilled to death when Mr. DelMonte freed her from the "slavery" of weeks of canning in South Louisiana's oppressive heat and humidity to prepare for winter.

                                                                                                                                          There was little shipment of food from growing areas and the largely temperate US has a relatively short growing season for much of the country.
                                                                                                                                          Frozen foods were still an expensive alternative in 1950 and the selection was very limited.
                                                                                                                                          Preferred? Nope. Americans loved their local and seasonal foods and still do. But the realities of winter forced them to "put food by."

                                                                                                                                          We're still seeing night time temps in the 30s and 40s in parts of the US. Too cold to plant.

                                                                                                                                          1. re: MakingSense

                                                                                                                                            You also have the opposite problem in places where it is too hot in the summer to grow anything, like much of Florida. I've heard that the only thing that really does well in the hot, summer months is scallions and you're not going to get far just eating that.

                                                                                                                                            1. re: MakingSense

                                                                                                                                              Over on the gardening board, we're talking about planting our spring garden now: spinach, arugula, peas, cilantro, radishes, beets, carrots. lettuces.

                                                                                                                                              1. re: NYchowcook

                                                                                                                                                Note queencru's post above. "We" don't all plant "our" gardens at the same time across the US as the soil warms up at different times and the heat sets in.
                                                                                                                                                The window for planting most Spring crops in the Upper South has already closed. We're a month ahead of NY. Two hundred miles makes a big difference. It's long gone further South and they've moved on to Summer. It reverse just as rapidly in Fall.
                                                                                                                                                http://www.tomatofest.com/tomato-grow...

                                                                                                                                            2. re: NYchowcook

                                                                                                                                              The problem is the looking down her nose at the fool who dares to buy the hated Chilean grape. You can advocate for buying local and producing veggies of your own without acting like an arse.

                                                                                                                                              1. re: NYchowcook

                                                                                                                                                I'll have to look into the Elizabeth David point. Do you remember which book she wrote this in? I've been reading her books chronologically, as well as the Artemis Cooper biography, and a fictional account of her life. My recollection is that she also panned non-U.S. cooks for using canned ingredients, though she also, perhaps later, harps on the fact that U.S. cooks insist on precise amounts and instructions in their recipes, while UK cooks are more accepting of generalizations. I've only recently understood and appreciated the value of the latter.

                                                                                                                                                1. re: MMRuth

                                                                                                                                                  In her intro to "Summer Cooking", E. David wrote about the suitability of certain foods to certain times of the year and vegetables in season at their best, most plentiful and cheapest. And also about vegetables in cans and frozen in the U.S.(and UK) -- frozen versus fresh, in season peas, for instance.

                                                                                                                                                  I read of Alice Waters being influenced by E. David in a book by Thomas McNamee entitled "Alice Waters and Chez Panisse" (which I'm in the middle of). She also writes of this herself in her intro to the American edition of the 3 combined David cookbooks.

                                                                                                                                                  In the intro to French Country Cooking, David wrote about the interest of the French in the fate of vegetables from one's own kitchen garden, and "good cooking is honest, sincere and simple . . though always a trouble and its preparation should be regarded as a labour of love . . . ."

                                                                                                                                                  1. re: NYchowcook

                                                                                                                                                    I invite you all to dine at my home next March and promise to serve you only what has been raised within 75 miles of my home, which is pretty much my regular diet, (unless I'm doing COTM and on the hunt for exotic Indonesian spices as I am now.) Also, I won't be serving you any hydroponically grown or hot-house vegetables, even if they are local, because I don't believe that's an efficient use of energy.

                                                                                                                                                    For those of you who insist on dining on foods that have never been canned or frozen or dried, your meal will consist of the beets, potatoes, rutabagas, celeriac, and carrots that I will have held in cold storage since they were harvested last September or October, before the ground froze in mid-October. I'll try to pick the eyes off the potatoes and pick the least limp carrots for you. I'll probably have some apples left, too, and will cut the soft parts out. The other fruits that grow here, melons and berries (rhubarb--is that a fruit?), well, those will all be long gone. Wild rice and walnuts, no problem. Local beer and wine, no problem (you don't object to brewing or fermenting as a way of preserving, right?)

                                                                                                                                                    As far as herbs, you'll get the ones that grow on my windowsill and don't mind that we get less than 8 hours of light in the deepest part of winter and that I don't get much southern exposure in my kitchen. That would be, well, none herbs. Every single herb I've tried to grow indoors (in my current abode) over winter has died, including two rosemary bushes just this past winter. This doesn't mean it's impossible to grow herbs indoors in Minnesota, just that I personally haven't had any luck with it in my current living situation location. We'll probably still have shallots and onions, though many of them will be soft, and I can pick through the garlic to find the ones that haven't sprouted.

                                                                                                                                                    You'll probably get fresh eggs, cheese, cream, milk and chicken, no problem. No beef, bison, or pork, because we get those from small farms run by various family members and the only way to do that efficiently is to freeze it.

                                                                                                                                                    Shaved ice for everyone! The purists will get theirs plain, but the rest of us will enjoy ours with a topping of homemade rhubarb or berry sauce, canned or frozen of course.

                                                                                                                                                    ~TDQ

                                                                                                                                                    1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                                                                                                      Thank you for bringing a smile to my face and for bringing home the facts so eloquently. The dairy is not your sole dominion.

                                                                                                                                                      1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                                                                                                        LOL!!! I love Minnesotans! I'll eat with you anytime, and you can come out West and eat with me the organic roses, geraniums, and nasturiums from my pathetically miniscule California yard.

                                                                                                                                                2. re: paulj

                                                                                                                                                  Donate it to food shelters. People who go are often desperate for fresh produce. We have people who volunteer to go do neighborhood pickups on certain days. It's a win-win.

                                                                                                                                                  1. re: chowser

                                                                                                                                                    I was certain that my local food bank would not accept fresh produce, but look, here's a link to our big local food bank and, clearly, they do accept fresh produce. http://www.2harvest.org/give_help/giv... They accept fresh vegetables, fresh fruit, and in case you're not sure whether you're growing a fruit or a vegetable, fresh produce. I don't know why this doesn't seem more obvious as a solution.

                                                                                                                                                    ~TDQ

                                                                                                                                                    1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                                                                                                      Where I volunteer, people are always looking for fresh produce. The little we normally get are from grocery stores who only donate when it's past date and usually soggy/moldy/bruised. Very little is salvageable but when it comes fresh from people's gardens, they love it. I'm don't work for a big food bank, though, just at a small community center. I'm glad to hear yours will accept it. I think the biggest barrier is creating the program for pick up and delivery.

                                                                                                                                                      1. re: chowser

                                                                                                                                                        Our foodbank had a hard time dealing with fresh goods until they created two days and times where people could deliver their donated fresh things and then for a time where folks knew it would be there. Once they figured it out, they advertised it heavily in the paper. I was also thinking this year since we have very high unemployment in my area and lots of need, that I might get together with people I know and set up a stand outside the foodbank on specific days and give folks fresh stuff. Sort of overflow. Something strange - they do not accept eggs and if I gave them away and someone got sick, I could get sued. That is a pity. I don't give stewing hens away either. Same reasons.

                                                                                                                                                        1. re: Sal Vanilla

                                                                                                                                                          It's definitely worth checking with the center on what they can accept and when. We have food pick ups every day on weekdays so fresh produce goes quickly. We don't give out home made goods for the same reason yours doesn't accept eggs.

                                                                                                                                                    2. re: chowser

                                                                                                                                                      Thank you for adding that. There are also gleaning groups. They go around at harvest time and harvest apples and other fruits from neighborhood trees where the owner would otherwise let them die on the branch. I did not know these people existed until last year and had been just doing it on my own. You can place free ads asking people for their fruit. An amazing amount of folks will call.

                                                                                                                                                      In my neighborhood we exchange veggies and one of us usually takes excess goods to the homeless shelter. Many of us also plant a row of veggies specifically dedicated to being donated. If your foodbank does not accept fresh, soup kitchens might and churches do. They give it to their parishioners and others who need it.

                                                                                                                                                3. Back to the hidden costs of industrial farming. The current leading theory is that the Swine Flu mutation likely happened on a CAFO pig farm in La Gloria, Veracruz. We have had a number of Flu pandemics in the last 100 years that can be attributed to CAFO meat production. When all is said & done the GDP cost of this Pandemic is going to be substantial and not reflected in CAFO meat prices.

                                                                                                                                                  You can either raise awareness or regulate through taxation. CAFO meats are often subsidized & ridiculously cheap and have a direct bearing on many of our social problems.

                                                                                                                                                  Who cares what morons like O'Reilly & Limbaugh think... I vote for taxation on CAFO production... luxury taxes on Beef & most Seafood... and subsidies for sustainably produced foods.

                                                                                                                                                  39 Replies
                                                                                                                                                  1. re: Eat_Nopal

                                                                                                                                                    The link to the Veracruz farm is just that people in a near by community have been complaining about flies and smells from the farm, and the community had a high incidence of this, or similar, flu. I have not read of any firm corroborating evidence.

                                                                                                                                                    "Scientists believe that somewhere in the world, months or even a year ago, a pig virus jumped to a human and mutated, and has been spreading between humans ever since. Unlike with bird flu, doctors have no evidence suggesting a direct pig-to-human infection from this strain, which is why they haven't recommended killing pigs."
                                                                                                                                                    http://www.seattlepi.com/health/1500a...

                                                                                                                                                    1. re: paulj

                                                                                                                                                      I'm pretty sure Sr. Nopal was making a point about the hidden costs of industrial agriculture rather than attempting to lay out a specific epidemiology of the current outbreak.

                                                                                                                                                      Peanuts? Tomatoes? Spinach? Dog food? We seem to be seeing a lot of these lately. Yes, individually each one is different. You can focus on the differences or on the similarities. There's something to be learned from both perspectives.

                                                                                                                                                      1. re: Chuckles the Clone

                                                                                                                                                        Industrial agriculture has existed since ancient times, whether they were called Latifundia or Industrial farms. Granted, the methods today are different from yesteryear, but people in societies have always tended to grow and accumulate enterprise (including agricultural ones) if it was feasible to do so.

                                                                                                                                                        1. re: Blueicus

                                                                                                                                                          Well yes, if you consider industrial agriculture to be synonymous with "big farms".

                                                                                                                                                          If you consider industrial agriculture to mean something on a different scale, encompassing genetic manipulation well beyond simple hybridization, climate-changing irrigation, tens of thousands of square miles of clonally-identical monoculture, worked by a vast army of machines and powered by a dwindling energy supply from the other side of the planet, then maybe no?

                                                                                                                                                          We're currently looking at what happens when banks with no effective regulation, criticism, or alternative grow "too big to fail" and then fail. It doesn't look good. The US corn crop is now too big to fail.

                                                                                                                                                          I had to look up latifundia. The wikipedia page has a fun though probably way out of context quote from Pliny:
                                                                                                                                                          "To confess the truth, the latifundia have ruined Italy, and soon will ruin the provinces as well."

                                                                                                                                                          Finally, and with all that aside, the question is not whether big farms exist or have existed in the past. The question is, are there costs to these large operations which are being paid at the wrong time, in the wrong amount, by the wrong people?

                                                                                                                                                          1. re: Chuckles the Clone

                                                                                                                                                            Apart from genetic manipulation (why is modern genetic modification more "evil" than hybridization? Both have had adverse effect on the environment we live in, positive and negative), replace machines with slaves and you've basically the same situation, albeit in a smaller scale (though it's not like the Roman Empire could've packed its bags and moved over to Asia to escape the catastrophe they brought any more than we as people of the Earth could pack our bags and move to Mars).

                                                                                                                                                            I'm not saying this is a good development, but it's a story that's been repeating for thousands of years... we can even say they are part of the cause of the fall of many nations.

                                                                                                                                                            You can also say that unchecked population growth has been the driving force behind all of this and if we practiced a more selective form of multiplying we wouldn't be digging ourselves a hole every few centuries or so.

                                                                                                                                                            Just curious... in your opinion which agricultural model would you choose as the ideal one from which to follow? One from the 2nd century China? 13th century Mesoamerica? 17th century Europe? Or one that has yet to be conceived?

                                                                                                                                                            1. re: Blueicus

                                                                                                                                                              1) You can't compare the speed of genetic from traditional hybridization, and human selection over the generations to what the monoculture monster we have created. There is a fine line between progress & uncontrolled juggernaut (I consider myself very progressive)... and our practices have way crossed the line. We have built an economy founded on fossil fuels & chemicals... and never bothered to think through & plan for the side effects. This unregulated excess, is the type of sh1t that historically has sink empires.

                                                                                                                                                              2) You are right these patterns have played out since the beginning of civilization and yes you are right they definitely play a role in the demise of societies.... that is exactly the cross roads we are facing.... keep on this path and it will likely be THE pivotal event in the demise of a way of life.

                                                                                                                                                              I say lets look at what all those empires did well.... take the best & discard the worst. Certainly Mesoamerica has a lot to learn from - both from the environmental disasters that led to the implosions of Teotihuacan & the Classic Maya period... as well as from the success of Tenochtitlan managing the environment - the Aztecs (and their neighbors) really did a great job from organic pest management, to the brilliant use of the Chinampas, regulation of silt & salinity in Texcoco Lagoon through aqueducts, highest standards of hygiene at the time.... they were ahead of their time on environment matters etc.,

                                                                                                                                                              1. re: Eat_Nopal

                                                                                                                                                                So who's going to grow my food if we get rid of corporate farming? I'm not going to take up farming, but we're going to need hundreds of millions of people around the world to leave the cities and get back on the farm. Should we just make the third worlders do it for us? And if they don't want to do it, then what?

                                                                                                                                                                1. re: huaqiao

                                                                                                                                                                  We're coming full circle in this discussion . . .

                                                                                                                                                                  How about considering supporting your local farmer and buy in season, local sustainable/organic produce? Join a CSA or go to the farmer's market.

                                                                                                                                                                  Do you really need a zucchini or cucumber in winter?

                                                                                                                                                                  Making those choices -- buying mostly local and in season, and avoiding those vegetables that are way out of season -- would cut way down on the demand and need for industrial agriculture.

                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: NYchowcook

                                                                                                                                                                    We need industrial farming because most of us do not live in areas with year round growing seasons. The ground is either covered with snow or it's too sweltering for anything to grow for 4-6 months each year. People in Southern states will probably need industrial agriculture in the summer while people up north will need it in the winter. I don't think there's anything we can do about it.

                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: NYchowcook

                                                                                                                                                                      What local, in season, vegetables are you eating now? Have the radishes come up yet? Do the root vegetables harvested last fall qualify as a in-season?

                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: paulj

                                                                                                                                                                        The first of the Twin Cities farmers markets in the Twin Cities opened for "the season" on Saturday. Here's what's available according to first hand reports:

                                                                                                                                                                        Saint Paul Farmers' Market (which requires everything to be raised within 75 miles of St. Paul): "meat, cheese, eggs and potted plants. But I got some awesome cheese, a nice chicken, and a bone for the dog."

                                                                                                                                                                        Minneapolis (which will sell whatever people will buy from wherever in the the world they can get it): "a few vendors selling stuff that had been shipped in, and several vendors with potted rhubarb. Lots of potted plants and seedlings. Some cut flowers. All the [prepared] food stands were up and running, as well the meat/egg/dairy vendors."

                                                                                                                                                                        http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/6143...

                                                                                                                                                                        The farmers markets that actually intend to sell fresh vegetables don't actually open until mothers day:
                                                                                                                                                                        http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/6143...

                                                                                                                                                                        That's the first time we might actually see produce that has sprung up from the earth (not a hot house) locally THIS YEAR, baby spinach and lettuces and such.

                                                                                                                                                                        The early early harbingers of spring, ramps from the Southern part of the state, were available last week for the first time this year: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/6100...

                                                                                                                                                                        ~TDQ

                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: paulj

                                                                                                                                                                          Arugula and greens grown in a local solar-powered greenhouse, and asparagus. I already harvested my own sorrel, and my arugula, spinach and herbs are seeded and coming up.

                                                                                                                                                                          The tone on this board is unfortunate for Chowhound. Rather than discuss and suggest, this thread seems more about proving others wrong. Perhaps it's politics that fuels anger or righteousness. But I still maintain Alice Waters has done much to increase awareness of sustainable and local food production.
                                                                                                                                                                          There are models of more enlightened food production -- think: fair exchange coffee, for instance.

                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: NYchowcook

                                                                                                                                                                            I'm guessing no 'hound one likes to be "chastised" for "preferring canned veggies".

                                                                                                                                                                            What works for Alice Waters in her Berkeley kitchen may not work for Lenny Russo in his Saint Paul kitchen. Similar commitment to local and sustainable--Russo won't even cook with olive oil because it's not local--but vastly different climates and challenges. http://www.heartlandrestaurant.com/ All I'm saying is that no one likes to have a finger wagged in their direction, even if it's an icon such as Alice Waters (or Elizabeth David) doing the wagging.

                                                                                                                                                                            Come live out of my Minnesota pantry for a winter then we'll talk about eating only fresh and only local foods. Preserving food is a way of life for many around the world. Not everyone has the luxury of fresh local greens nine months out of the year.

                                                                                                                                                                            ~TDQ

                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                                                                                                                              Nobody has wagged a finger in your direction. That's part of what makes this so remarkable.

                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: Chuckles the Clone

                                                                                                                                                                                Read upthread about Americans getting chastized for preferring canned veggies. I'm an American. I eat canned vegetables.

                                                                                                                                                                                Maybe we don't prefer them. Maybe we eat them because that's how we make them last over the winter.

                                                                                                                                                                                ~TDQ

                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                                                                                                                                  >"Maybe we don't prefer them"

                                                                                                                                                                                  Exactly. Everything you've said here seems, at least to me, to say that given a choice, you'd go for something fresher. That chastisement, from 60 years ago, might probably have been directed towards people who are not anyone here.

                                                                                                                                                                                  I imagine it was directed at the lady who lives across the street from me. She's 32 and looks older than my mom. She has two of the largest children I've ever seen. They appear to subsist on bags of chips from the corner store. Not only is this in magical Berkeley with its year round abundance of sustainability, it's six blocks from what is arguably the best grocery store on earth.

                                                                                                                                                                                  Not eating well is a huge and widespread problem. Maybe just 'cause I get to see it up close and often, that makes it easy to read past the ooky sanctimoniousness of Water's declamations and get to the heart of what she's saying.

                                                                                                                                                                        2. re: NYchowcook

                                                                                                                                                                          "How about considering supporting your local farmer and buy in season, local sustainable/organic produce? Join a CSA or go to the farmer's market."

                                                                                                                                                                          I am with you if that is available, but most of the U.S. does not have that sort of thing available (esp. inner cities) and cannot afford it.

                                                                                                                                                                          Also, and maybe my little bit of experience is not true for the boarder pop., but you can go into the inner city, put in a garden and teach people how to tend it, but they will not/cannot tend it a lot of the time. Heck, that is true in more rural/suburban areas. Last year we put in a garden for an older adult apartment building, people signed up to water it and tend it for a share (no bending work like thinning or weeding) and every time... EVERY time we went there to work on it it was dry as a bone.

                                                                                                                                                                          Somewhere along the way, you have to do some work for such pleasures.

                                                                                                                                                                          I love growing my own food, raising chickens and next year we are venturing into the world of goats! But it is not for everyone and I CERTAINLY would not try to force my way on others or look down on them if they had the audacity to buy a california grape. Buying local is easy if it is available and you have the money.

                                                                                                                                                                          "Do you really need a zucchini or cucumber in winter? " Do you buy saffron? Coconut milk? Mango? I do not know where you live, but my guess is that you do not have actual NEED for things outside your 20 mile radius. Meat? Only local?

                                                                                                                                                                          There is a place for industrial ag. a big place and discounting it is short sighted.

                                                                                                                                                                          I really appreciate your posts here so do not think I am being snotty or pissy. I am just pointing out some realities.

                                                                                                                                                                        3. re: huaqiao

                                                                                                                                                                          Can you find the post where I suggest we get RID of corporate farming? That is NOT the decision here.

                                                                                                                                                                          The real crux here is that we have artificially created a monster through a very politicized Farm Policy that is more in line with old Imperialist era Industrial-Military Complex values. We are subsidizing the worst forms of commodity products and starving those that want to do it right.

                                                                                                                                                                          Corporate Farms CAN farm organically & sustainably.... admittedly our food prices WILL go up.... and it will take decades to get this change in policy implemented smoothly but its time to act... otherwise ITS NOT GOING TO MATTER..... I just "negotiated" our company's Health Insurance for the next Plan Year... another 9.5% increase in Health Costs across the board. The Baby Boomers haven't even hit old age yet. The current generation of American adults is THE FATTEST in the history of mankind. The NEXT generation will break their record... and today's infants are on track to make our generation look like a bunch of starved peasants.

                                                                                                                                                                          I am an optimistic guy... otherwise I would say its too late and it can't be fixed... its a monumental task. And YES... it is time for our camp to get political about it... the OTHER CAMP has been political about for the last 90 years... and they have gone too far.

                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: Eat_Nopal

                                                                                                                                                                            "Can you find the post where I suggest we get RID of corporate farming? That is NOT the decision here. "

                                                                                                                                                                            Industrial farming as practiced today vastly improves productivity by utilizing way fewer humans to produce massively greater amounts of food. If we switch to your organic/sustainable farming across the board, you will need many many more people to produce the same amount of food. So where are these people going to come from?

                                                                                                                                                                            I'm not even talking about the advantages and disadvantages of mega farms producing everything we eat. I'm talking about simple numbers of workers required.

                                                                                                                                                                            You want to switch out of CAFO and other mass industrial farming techniques, it's going to require a lot more farmers.

                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: huaqiao

                                                                                                                                                                              " If we switch to your organic/sustainable farming across the board,"

                                                                                                                                                                              Nope, nobody said that either.

                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: Chuckles the Clone

                                                                                                                                                                                "Nope. Nobody said that either."

                                                                                                                                                                                Nobody said what? Industrial farms are bad, organic/sustainable is good, we would be better off if everything was organic/sustainable...these are the things I'm getting from this thread.

                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: Chuckles the Clone

                                                                                                                                                                                  If I were really angry, I'd be using all caps on every 10th word like Eat_Nopal... :)

                                                                                                                                                                                  So anyway, back to my main point on demographics. Moving from the mass industrialized agriculture that people have been complaining about to organic/sustainable/eco-friendlier methods would require more people to work in the agricultural sector. Where are these people going to come from?

                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: huaqiao

                                                                                                                                                                                    Actually not many more people. We are still talking about efficeint, for profit farms... not everybody abandoning their jobs to do substinence level farming.

                                                                                                                                                                                    You are posing an absolutely false choice.

                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: Eat_Nopal

                                                                                                                                                                                      Eat_Nopal you make some very valid points. I would like to just pass this by you and hope you will give it some thought.

                                                                                                                                                                                      People respond very favorably if you present things you feel passion for in a way that is meaningful to them and as much as possible non judgemental. That is why people get annoyed with AW. Most people will opt for fresh things to eat and gladly take/seek advice on such things. Esp. folks here.

                                                                                                                                                                                      A few other odds and ends:
                                                                                                                                                                                      Not all fat folks are potato chip eating trough dwellers. Some just eat too much and do not get enough exercise. I, for example used to sit at a desk probably 16 hours per day, exercised 30 minutes before work and grazed all day on very healthy things, but too too much for my activity. I was fat. Now I am out in my yard all day slinging dirt, snatching chickens as they try to fly the coop and getting a TON of exercise (no treadmill). Still a big pig food wise, but thin. I am just saying, the can is not the wellspring of fatdome.

                                                                                                                                                                                      Industrial farms have their place. We feed the world. Can improvements in practice be made? You bet your booty.

                                                                                                                                                                                      Finally, not all can afford fresh. Not all have fresh available - much less a supermarket. Some who do not have fresh do not care. There is no rehabbing them no matter how loud you scream or well you make a point.

                                                                                                                                                                                      I am anxious to hear your thoughts and opinions, but the moment you step into lecture mode and lose a sense of... i don't know,,, a sense of the world's realities, I just turn off.

                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: Sal Vanilla

                                                                                                                                                                                        You make some great points as well. I know exactly what you are getting at regarding Persuasion (I have done a little bit of sales in my life)... I have a theory that sometimes you just can't persuade people.. the best you can do is slap them in the face, radio pundit style... softens people's opinion in the long run & makes them more open to persuasion in the future.

                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: Eat_Nopal

                                                                                                                                                                                          Thank you so much for responding.

                                                                                                                                                                                          True. Shock them with facts that are meaningful to THEM. Like what chemicals are pumped into a chicken. The fact that a big seed companie starting with "M" does not allow farmers to replant their crops with their own seed? They also sell dead ender seeds - like one plant no germinating seeds after... no letting it go to seed. Horrors!

                                                                                                                                                                                          Did you know organic seeds are not exactly organic? They are treated with chemicals if there is no organic substitute for it as the "cure" is available. I was aghast at that. I read it yesterday when researching an answer for a thoughtful question posed on the gardening section of Chow on the merits (consumption wise of organic seeds. I planted a pile of them myself this year as a trial run (also planted regular seeds).

                                                                                                                                                                                          OK tangential me as usual.

                                                                                                                                                                                          You and I both know Chowers want to know what is up with our victuals.

                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: Sal Vanilla

                                                                                                                                                                                            That is what you are here for. Yeah M... and oh yeah that other three letter company that advertises in all the business shows... despicable. They even tried to enforce a patent in India on a seed hybrid that has existed since Mesoamerican times.

                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: Eat_Nopal

                                                                                                                                                                                              My SO calls them A BM and then sez something very nasty in place of "Supermarket to the world".

                                                                                                                                                                                              We are not anti corp... heck they made my life possible, but... jeesh!

                                                                                                                                                                              2. re: huaqiao

                                                                                                                                                                                "Industrial farming as practiced today vastly improves productivity by utilizing way fewer humans to produce massively greater amounts of food."

                                                                                                                                                                                You are absolutely looking at things incorrectly. Lets break it down by types of farm products:

                                                                                                                                                                                > Grain... maintain largescale grain production in the great plains & Sacramento delta (assuming global warming permits)... just tax pesticides an appropriate rate to recover the health costs of increased Cancer Rates & Environment erosion, tax partially hydrogenated oils, and provide loan guarantee programs for farmers to convert & obtain organic certification. Continue to use equipment to harvest etc., Continue to provide some subsidies contingent on the adoption of local green energy sources (finance windmills on site, solar power etc.)

                                                                                                                                                                                There is absolutely no need to mandate local grain production... a simple Carbon Tax on fossil fuels will help assert a little more local food consumption (i.e., if you are in Idaho... you should be eating more Potatoes than Fritos... a carbon tax would help nudge people in that direction).

                                                                                                                                                                                > Fresh produce is already human intensive and will continue to be so (there ain't no machines picking celery its all immigrants... there are already way more illegal immigrants in the country than number of farm workers needed for sustainable farming).

                                                                                                                                                                                No need to break up large scale farms or mandate local produce... the Carbon Tax will really influence people to choose local more often (transportation costs are a big percentage of fresh produce costs)

                                                                                                                                                                                > Regarding CAFO production... this is the trickier one.

                                                                                                                                                                                First we have to stop subsidizing them so that local producers can compete on even footing.

                                                                                                                                                                                Then Carbon Taxation should help, for example the Petaluma chickens would compete more effectively for Bay Area market share than chickens from the South... of course the big chicken farms in Central California would not be abated.

                                                                                                                                                                                Next.... there should be a guidelines on what makes for healthier farming practices (maximum number of chickens per square feet etc.... no blinders, no animal parts in feed etc.,)....

                                                                                                                                                                                Meat Production that complies with healthy, humane, sustainable practices gets a special label on the package,

                                                                                                                                                                                Meat Production that doesn't comply pays a Tax that is used to deal with outbreaks of food borne diseases, and animal virus epidemics. Also, goes to fund a National Livestock Genetic Variety Bank that keeps stocks of various breeds of livestock to protect against a possible extinction that would disrupt our food supply. And more importantly there should be labels on what the consumers are buying:

                                                                                                                                                                                > What is the feed being used
                                                                                                                                                                                > What is the breed of beast
                                                                                                                                                                                > What are the conditions (maybe some density calculation)

                                                                                                                                                                                Non CAFO might be a little more land/space intensive, and more expensive... but doesn't require significantly more people.

                                                                                                                                                                                In general the idea that we need a lot more people back on the farms to switch to more sustainable means of food production is absolutely unfounded... 100 years ago it took more people to grow less food because it was all subsistence farming... we can maintain efficient management practices and a division of labor without completely f-ing up the planet, our bodies & the sustainability of our society. We don't face the false trade offs you are trying to advance.

                                                                                                                                                                                Just realize that what we have done is traded a reasonable price of foodstuffs for bigger houses, overvalued property, more cars & junk... we can all realign our priorities a little more intelligently.

                                                                                                                                                                        4. re: Blueicus

                                                                                                                                                                          >"why is modern genetic modification more "evil" than hybridization? "

                                                                                                                                                                          I don't think evil is the right idea here. No one (including AW) is making moral judgements. There was a pretty significant discontinuity in biology in 1953. What was done before and what is being done after are two very different things.

                                                                                                                                                                          > "Just curious... in your opinion which agricultural model would you
                                                                                                                                                                          > choose as the ideal one from which to follow?"

                                                                                                                                                                          Great question! That's what everyone is sortof answering here indirectly. My answer: No idea. In almost all things, centralization is the right way to go. A hub-and-spoke model is vastly more efficient than a point-to-point network -- in this case, that's agribusiness vs. victory gardens. So from that point of view, the current situation is the right thing and is possibly the most efficient agricultural system in history.

                                                                                                                                                                          But hub-and-spoke arrangements have significant known drawbacks: inflexibility, bottlenecks, single point of failure. To a point, the benefits outweigh the problems. Cross a fuzzy, undefined line and it's the benefits that start to be outweighed. Clearly everyone in this discussion has a different idea of where that line is and whether it will ever be crossed. Personally, and this relates back to your first question, I tend to imagine the line was "Roundup Ready(tm)".

                                                                                                                                                                2. re: Eat_Nopal

                                                                                                                                                                  "I vote for taxation on CAFO production"

                                                                                                                                                                  EXACTOMUNDO! I also vote that American Taxpayers stop sending millions of dollars to places like Peru every year to help subsidize their farming operations while North American farmers go bankrupt.
                                                                                                                                                                  I hope every one here gets to Check out Asparagus "The Movie". I'll include a link but this is currently airing on PBS here.

                                                                                                                                                                  http://www.nocafos.org/

                                                                                                                                                                  http://asparagusthemovie.com/

                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: Fritter

                                                                                                                                                                    "EXACTOMUNDO! I also vote that American Taxpayers stop sending millions of dollars to places like Peru every year to help subsidize their farming operations while North American farmers go bankrupt."

                                                                                                                                                                    I am sorry but that is a ridiculous statement. I worked in Corporate Finance for a $1BB dollar Agri-Business company and played a key role in some of the Ag Coop entity work... I KNOW FOR A FACT that farming is incredibly profitable, subsidized... the tax shields alone are unbelievable.... I am talking about paying $5MM in taxes on $200MM of profits... you have no idea.

                                                                                                                                                                    Further... the idea that the U.S. government is giving subsidies away to foreign farmers is absolutely ludicrous... the last couple of rounds of the WTO have broken down because the Emerging markets are fed up with the double standard on Ag trade. The U.S. absolutely, unabashedly uses its full Industrial-Military clout to "cheat" most other countries when it comes to Ag trade.

                                                                                                                                                                    THE #1 leading cause of illegal immigration over the last 15 years has been subsidized, U.S. Ag being dumped in other markets primarily the Mexican market. Now... I have no doubt this was by design - on both sides... Mexico gets cheap corn, wheat, hfcs, meat etc., Mex farmers lose their way of life... cross the border to provide the U.S. with a steady supply of highly productive labor at competitive wages... and then Mexico gets the remittances.... everybody is happy... well everybody except for the Mexicans who have to emigrate & those who resent the growing presence of Mexicans in small town America.

                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: Eat_Nopal

                                                                                                                                                                      " I am talking about paying $5MM in taxes on $200MM of profits... you have no idea."

                                                                                                                                                                      Now there's a ridiculous statement. A whole 2.5% in tax. LMAO Whoooopdeefreakingdoo. Are there any US citizens here that pay less tax than that and actually earn above poverty level?
                                                                                                                                                                      AFAIK Peru does not pay taxes to the US. Americans do not care if farming is profitable for huge corporations that function in other countries.
                                                                                                                                                                      Yes you are technically correct. We don't give subsidies to foreign farmers we just give it to foreign governments to assure that they grow crops instead of cocaine. The bottom line is that US taxpayers pay and our independent farmers loose. Many here are totally fed up with the "double standard" as well.
                                                                                                                                                                      Farms in some of these countries utilize labor that runs a few dollars a day Vs several hundred a week here.
                                                                                                                                                                      I

                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: Fritter

                                                                                                                                                                        Uh, that was the point. American taxpayers subsidize American agribusiness, not Peruvian farmers. As a result of those subsidies, their beneficiaries pay less tax than any individual who doesn't live in poverty.

                                                                                                                                                                        Your claim that our farmers lose as a result of US fiscal policy is simply absurd. They benefit from that policy more than any other group of people.

                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: alanbarnes

                                                                                                                                                                          "Your claim that our farmers lose as a result of US fiscal policy is simply absurd. They benefit from that policy more than any other group of people"

                                                                                                                                                                          So when we pay foreign governments to assure they produce a product and our farmers here go bankrupt because they can not compete growing that product any longer how exactly does that "benefit" them?
                                                                                                                                                                          I doubt the average American thinks of giant Ag corporations that are setting up shop in third world countries as the typical American farmer.

                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: alanbarnes

                                                                                                                                                                            No reason to get too detailed here... but under U.S. Tax Law... companies set up numerous Agricultural Cooperatives as tax shields that results in incredibly low taxes. Here is how it generally works:

                                                                                                                                                                            I am a huge farmer of Kirgilnix which can be processed into numerous things such as Kirgilnix Oil & Kirgilnix Sugar. All I have to do is convince one other farmer to form a Cooperative with me to build a Kirgilnix Oil processing plant. Under U.S. tax law the new Oil Processing Cooperative can defer revenues for more than a year (after all expenses have hit & a Net Crop Profit can be established).

                                                                                                                                                                            In a Coop all Farmers are suppossed to share in the P&L of the Processing Plant but in reality I will pay the other Farmer a Crop Price when they deliver and call it an Advance.

                                                                                                                                                                            I recruit another Farmer or Coop and we create a 2nd Agricultural Coop to Sell & Market the Kirgilnix Oil. This Coop goes out and markets the Oil and has Kirgilnix Oil drop shipped by the original Coop. This Coop receives all Payments (also has more than 12 months of Revenue deferral), deducts its expenses & "advances" and then distributes the profits to the Oil Processing Coop.

                                                                                                                                                                            The Oil Processing Coop takes its share of the Profits deducts all expenses & advances and then distributes the profits to my main Farming entity.

                                                                                                                                                                            To summarize at this point the Tax law allows us to Defer Revenues without deferring expenses / costs... so at any given year we are recognizing Revenue from 2 or 3 Crop Years ago against Current Year Expenses... so as long as the business is expanding... we can are always showing a Tax Loss or very little profit even in a year where we collected $400MM in current Crop sales against $200MM in current year expenses (hence a $200MM profit).

                                                                                                                                                                            So what happens when the business stops expanding? Forgetting the lobby efforts that will allow us to open a new market... Kirgilnix as Green Fuel etc., What comes next is a careful scheme that shifts profits & losses back & forth amongst the various Entities (by setting Transfer Prices) taking advantage of the timing differences between Cash Collection, Revenue Recognition & Profit Distribution.

                                                                                                                                                                            Disgusting I know... people have no idea how many Tax Shelters there are out there... in my experience the really wealthy definitely do not pay their share of Taxes... and I will frankly admit I am talking out both sides of my mouth given my work experience. And yes... I do laugh manically when I see all the dumb schmucks getting worked up by these radio pundits whose job is to get pay to vote against their true economic interest.


                                                                                                                                                                            Yes... its Wikipedia... but its listing of big U.S. Ag Coops is accurate:

                                                                                                                                                                            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Agricult...

                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: Eat_Nopal

                                                                                                                                                                              We are talking about two very different things. I'm talking about the small independant farmer that gets crushed by this activity.

                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: Fritter

                                                                                                                                                                                The forces that you seem to support are the ones behind your small independent farmers getting crushed... not Alice Waters and the rest of us "lunatic Berkeley, Astin-Martin driving communist millionaire egg heads" who would like to see a system of food production that allocates hidden costs better and enables a better livelihood for small independent farmers.

                                                                                                                                                                    2. re: Eat_Nopal

                                                                                                                                                                      Many of these animal-to-human jumps occur in the bush, far from any form of industrial agriculture.

                                                                                                                                                                    3. Back on the main topic, does Alice Waters ever go out for sushi? I mean it's not really that eco-friendly is it? And I don't think I've ever heard anyone rave about a sushi place that used local sustainable fish only...

                                                                                                                                                                      4 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: huaqiao

                                                                                                                                                                        It seems to be defensiveness and not logical when someone poses an ideal and others shoot it down as not 100% obtainable . . . and therefore without merit as an ideal??

                                                                                                                                                                        I am disheartened by the many soapboxes on this thread -- screaming at each other.

                                                                                                                                                                        Are many of you new to Chowhound (such as those who know it as "chow")? Where's your politeness/manners?

                                                                                                                                                                        And DQ -- I'm about ready to sign off of COTM since I've never had an adversary there. There's never been this abrasiveness there in the years I've been participating.

                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: NYchowcook

                                                                                                                                                                          NYChowcook, my sincere and humble apologies if you find me abrasive, although I don't see how my firm commitment to my beliefs is any more abrasive than your firm commitment to yours. I've been posting on Chowhound since the early 00's, if that makes any difference. I certainly don't view you (or anyone in this thread) as an adversary, though I certainly agree that you and I don't seem to see eye to eye on this particular issue. Goodness, please proceed with COTM. I know you've been looking forward to Cradle of Flavor and wouldn't want to dampen your enjoyment of it by posting about my shopping and cooking experiences. Consider my library book returned, since you don't seem to think there's room for everyone. I'm awfully busy in May, anyway, so though certainly a disappointment, it won't be a major sacrifice for me.

                                                                                                                                                                          My concern is that this "ideal" that is being presented is --in my opinion--is not just a little less than 100% attainable, but that it's a lot less than 100% attainable for a lot of people for many reasons. I just don't see the point in pretending that certain real limitations don't exist in the world. Weather is a genuine limitation. Poverty is a genuine limitation. Water distribution is a geniune issue. I understand that you don't see it this way, but Alice Waters attitude seems very let them eat cake to me and I'm bothered by that. I'm sorry you disagree, but that's how I feel.

                                                                                                                                                                          And, while I certainly love fresh vegetables, I honestly think there is culinary value in learning how to preserve foods. Where would we be without pickling and fermenting and smoking and curing and all of the various methods we use to preserve foods? I think there's value in facing the world's challenges head on, with a realistic understanding of the key underlying issues, and finding a solution.

                                                                                                                                                                          These are real, complex problems and the solutions are going to be complex. If we, Chowhounds, people who love and care about food, can't have a passionate debate about these topics, how can we do so as a society at large?

                                                                                                                                                                          Have a great evening. And enjoy Oseland. May starts tomorrow! :).

                                                                                                                                                                          ~TDQ

                                                                                                                                                                        2. re: huaqiao

                                                                                                                                                                          ">Back on the main topic, does Alice Waters ever go out for sushi?"

                                                                                                                                                                          Sigh. http://www.montereybayaquarium.org/cr...

                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: Chuckles the Clone

                                                                                                                                                                            I seriously doubt that Alice eats sushi.

                                                                                                                                                                        3. I’d like to chime in now that this thread is addressing some interesting aspects of agriculture.

                                                                                                                                                                          1. Crop varieties: Traditional breeding is the crossing of different parent materials. Hybridization is very similar, but involves crossing genetically more distant plant parents giving you the productivity benefits of hybrid vigor. Grain output is naturally high; but that grain is naturally less viable for use as seed in the next planting season. You can’t take two mules and make baby mules. On the other hand, that seed companies include genetic switches in their seed is not a practice that helps alleviate poverty. Monoculture is the wide cultivation of some crop – usually grain staples. Monoculture is not the same as a cloned crop. Clonal reproduction for trees can be useful; although everyone is well aware that clones represent a reduction in genetic diversity. But even indigenous peoples have gone into this corner by domesticating fruit trees, for example, taking all seed from some one really productive tree. It would be nice if Hounds wouldn’t toss around supposedly menacing words such as “hybrids”.

                                                                                                                                                                          2. Industrial agriculture. Industrial agriculture represents economies of scale. If a few people are to feed and clothe the many, industrial ag is what you get. There have been major global environmental screw ups. The Soviet drive to get cotton produced from what are now the Central Asian Republics led to environmental disaster – that includes the disappearance of the Aral Sea and the severe negative follow on impacts. US industrial ag learned from the dustbowl and has done relatively well. Latifundia refers to Latin American haciendas that were land rich, cash poor, and relied on the virtual enslavement of local, then peasant populations. Not at all industrial farming. Outputs were low, built on suffering, and enriching for the hacenderos. The typical situation in Latin America 100 years ago was that 3% of the people owned 97% of everything; and 97% of the people made due with 3% of the goods.

                                                                                                                                                                          3. Fossil fuel use. Indeed a problem and one on which many are working very hard to find alternatives. But there is no free lunch. Soils and crops need nitrogen, phosphorous, potassium, and micronutrients. Using biological nitrogen fixation at this point can’t feed the world, especially the poor in already degraded areas. Unfortunately, most of the global soil and land degradation has taken place in developing countries where there is no industrial ag. Sixty percent of African ag soils now lack enough organic matter that their recuperation will be almost impossible.

                                                                                                                                                                          4. Subsidies. The greatest subsidies are by the US government to US farmers .Full stop. Foreign aid is miniscule to the rest of the world excepting Israel and Egypt. The price of one fighter jet could change the wellbeing of many in poor developing countries. The US does not pay other countries to produce anything, rather, the US elbows aside other countries need and desire to produce and export the US in ways that has made the US a poor global citizen.

                                                                                                                                                                          9 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                                                                                                                                                            "The US does not pay other countries to produce anything, rather, the US elbows aside other countries need and desire to produce and export the US in ways that has made the US a poor global citizen."

                                                                                                                                                                            I don't mean to get too political or involved in foreign policy issues here... but this is key... many pundits on the right act like all other countries are milking the U.S. and as if everyone is out to get us... I guess when your audience is desperate for scapegoats rather than looking a reality it makes sense... the reality is much, much different. We push many countries around on many things... but Agricultural Trade is one of THE most egregious.

                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: Eat_Nopal

                                                                                                                                                                              Exactly, hermano. But I do wish we could spend a little time together to discuss agriculture. We need to understand the real problems and the potentials for answers that lead to a future of sustainble ag.

                                                                                                                                                                              And a question: why do people equate Monsanto with evil? What about Cargill, Archer-Daniels-Midland, American Crystal Sugar, American Foods Group, Inc, American Institutional Product, American Meat Protein Co, Asgrow Agronomics, Bauer Meat Co, Berkeley Farms Inc., Cereal Partners Worldwide, Chiquita Brands International Inc., Compania Agricola de Guya, Compania Agricola de Rio Tinto, Dairy Farmers of America, Dunavant Enterprises, Inc, Flo-sun Corp, Iowa Quality Meats Ltd., Perdue Farms Inc., Sanderson Farms Inc, US Sugar Corp . . . ???

                                                                                                                                                                            2. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                                                                                                                                                              "The US does not pay other countries to produce anything"

                                                                                                                                                                              Under the ANDEAN trade agreement the US government pays millions annually to Peru to assure asparagus production and not drug production.

                                                                                                                                                                              http://www.foodandwaterwatch.org/worl...

                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: Fritter

                                                                                                                                                                                Fritter, the US provides funds for alternative (to coca) crop production. The amount is miniscule. I've worked on several alternative crop projects in Peru.

                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                                                                                                                                                                  I can understand how it might be viewed as minuscule in the big picture. I believe I read 60 million a year. I live in a state where asparagus farmers have been devastated by this.
                                                                                                                                                                                  Michigan was one of the top three producers in the US. I don't doubt your views or experience Sam and it's good to see some one level headed on the other side of the fence.

                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: Fritter

                                                                                                                                                                                    Okay, now I'm really confused. How do Michigan and Peru compete for the asparagus market? In Michigan, it's a crop that is harvested in April; in Peru, it's harvested in October.

                                                                                                                                                                                    I happen to have friends who farm asparagus here in California, where most of the asparagus in the US is grown. The only reason any of them has shifted production to other crops is that the other crops are more profitable. None of them are complaining about Peruvian imports depressing their income.

                                                                                                                                                                                    But maybe my perspective is skewed. Do you have any more info?

                                                                                                                                                                              2. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                                                                                                                                                                Thanks, Sam, and well said (for a pawn of industrial agriculture and globalization, anyway). There's one point I'd take issue with, though - your claim that "US industrial ag learned from the dustbowl and has done relatively well."

                                                                                                                                                                                We still have major problems with sustainability. I spent a chunk of my professional life dealing with the aftermath of the decision to irrigate areas near your old stomping grounds in Fresno and Kern Counties. Some of the most fertile soil in the world has become so saline that its viability as farmland is in serious question.

                                                                                                                                                                                Then there's the demand for irrigation water in the northern Central Valley. It's only one of several factors at play in the degradation of the local environment, but they just canceled salmon season for the second year in a row.

                                                                                                                                                                                There are lots of complicated questions and no simple answers. You have to consider the benefits of drainage versus the environmental impact of building the drain, the hidden costs of cheap water versus the high cost of conservation, and the ultimate question of how much you can farm land that won't naturally support the crops you're growing.

                                                                                                                                                                                I agree with you that industrial agriculture learned **something** from the Dust Bowl, but there's a lot left to be learned. And there's an unfortunate tendency on the part of those who are making a lot of money under the current system to insist that nothing should be changed. Hopefully it won't take another Dust Bowl to get industrial ag to start thinking more in the long term.

                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: alanbarnes

                                                                                                                                                                                  You're absolutely correct as usual. But on the one hand, salinization in the Central Valley was addressed by tiling (lasar guided laying of gravel and porous pipe drainage systems). An expensive but market driven solution.

                                                                                                                                                                                  On the other hand, Central Valley use of irrigation water has never been sustainable and poses a great challenge to all of us.

                                                                                                                                                                                  I may rarely - and don't really - give credit to US industrial farming, but in my personal experience I've had to work with the aftermath of far greater industrial ag induced global environmental disasters than those that have occured in the US.

                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: alanbarnes

                                                                                                                                                                                    "And there's an unfortunate tendency on the part of those who are making a lot of money under the current system to insist that nothing should be changed."

                                                                                                                                                                                    And then there are those making a lot of money under the current system that hedge their bets... just in case their contributions to environmental degradation lead to armageddon.

                                                                                                                                                                                    http://www.citizen.org/documents/Wate...

                                                                                                                                                                                    Let's just say.. I know for a fact that most of whats in that article regarding the Kern Water Bank is materially accurate.

                                                                                                                                                                                2. Folks, this thread is getting increasingly testy and unfriendly. We're going to close it now and ask that people move on to other discussions.