Cost, Health, and Flavor – they battle it out in America’s abundant, controversial, and fascinating food industry, and change your own tastes #food #cooking #sustainability #future

Heritage Red Delicious Apple varietyThis is a Red Delicious apple. You’ll notice it looks nothing like the dry, mealy mahogany fruits in your grocery store. I can tell you it tastes nothing like them either. It’s wonderfully sweet, crisp, and apple-y.

This apple came from a tree over 60 years old in the Mimbres Valley of southwest New Mexico, and you’ll have to visit a local farmer’s market to buy one.

I seem to be on a food kick lately. America’s food industry gives us more, safer, and cheaper food than ever before, but at a price. Are we poised to take a step forward to a better system?

This reminded me of a book I read recently.

Third Plate book coverDan Barber is a chef concerned with the farm-to-table journey of America’s food. He works with boutique farmers in upstate New York, including the Stone Barn Center for Food and Agriculture – a farm built in the 1930’s in a “Normandy style” by wealthy philanthropist John D. Rockefeller to “preserve a memory – the place where he sipped warm milk from the lid of the milking jug.” (No matter how nostalgic, I do not recommend drinking raw milk, more strongly the longer it’s been out of the cow.)

Barber is owner and chef at two New York restaurants, Blue Hill in Manhattan’s Greenwich Village and Blue Hill at Stone Barns in Tarrytown (45 minutes from Grand Central Station). I visited his website at Blue Hill Farm.com.

Blue Hill at Stone Barns is an elegant restaurant where jackets and ties are preferred for gentlemen, though apparently fancy restaurants gave up trying to tell women what to wear.

In keeping with the ideal of serving the day’s harvest (and perhaps because of shortages of entree-sized portions), Barber serves “multi-course tastings” for about $200 per person. You’ll be happy to know you can buy Dom Perignon by the glass ($80).

Most Americans are unlikely to dine here. But rich or extravagant people serve a social function. They are early adopters for things that can become everyday benefits – air travel, electric cars, television, ocean cruises – so perhaps they can blaze the trail to better eating. Trends from expensive restaurants can affect the local grocery store so, for example, designer pizzas are now available in your frozen food section.

New York is the right place for this venture. Judging from my travels in lower upstate New York, you can’t throw a rock without hitting a farmer’s market or stand. Farm-to-table is a popular idea.

Barber presents interesting stories about growing heritage varieties of crops and rotating crops and livestock to maximize soil fertility. This is not mass market organic farming that retains America’s industrial mindset to grow monocultures and supply slabs of meat to serve with a few vegetables. It must be wonderful for a farmer to have the financial support to try these ideas and we meet many such farmers (at least one who, by the way, eats “hulking pork chops” and butters bread so thickly Barber “thought he was joking.”)

It’s not clear the average American wants the foods Barber champions. He notes that while “feeding grain [to animals] flattens flavor” and modern crops are not bred for flavor, the system produces bountiful, low cost food. “[T]he cost of one pound of meat is cheaper now than at any time in history.”

Americans prefer “soft, almost flabby meat” and “have a singular preference for blandness.” We want mild butter that tastes the same across the country and the year, rather than tastier butter that varies by region and month. But is this truly our preference or what we’re trained to expect? Maybe popular, super-spiced snacks show American’s want flavor.

Barber always comes back to flavor. His farming methods are labor intensive, generate less profit even at higher boutique prices, and produce uneven and limited supplies, but Barber says the food tastes better.

Gardeners will find the stories fascinating. Non-gardeners may find some sections too long.

What others are saying
The Third Plate remains popular four years after it was published, with 4.7 stars on Amazon from 237 reviews.
“It has taught me so much about making sustainable food choices.”
“Pretty cool take on the food industry.”
Rebecca had a pros and cons review: “This is one of the most interesting books I have read that discusses everything wrong with our food culture today. That said, it’s also one of the most obnoxious…
“managed to turn my beliefs upside down…
“[the author] works in the food equivalent of an ivory tower. His book is dripping with elitism, and most of the time I felt like he was so out of touch with reality it was laughable.”

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Eat Like a Martian – How to Make a Mealworm Snack :) #Mars #scifi #science #space #recipe #entomophagy

Mealworm_dish_in_a_Yunan_Restaurant,_Qingdao_China

Oops – oil and bok choy here – not on the scifi Mars mission

In my science fiction book, Glory on Mars, settlers raise their own food. What would you take on a one-way journey to Mars?

You’d bring enough dried, compressed, packaged food to survive for a while, but living on Mars means growing your own.

Protein and Fat
Even on Earth, some people question the sense of raising large animals for food. There will be no cattle, pigs, or chickens on Mars – think of the mess on the spaceship to transport them! Not to mention having to grow hay or corn to feed them before they become food for people.

But insects – there’s an idea. Easy to transport – the eggs can probably be frozen. There are many places on Earth where people already enjoy insects, and maybe that’s what settlers should take to Mars.

How about mealworms? The name says it all. Just share your potato crop with them.

Here’s a recipe:

Mealworms for Snacking (Protein and Fat)
~
Collect mealworms (Darkling beetle larvae) of good size and vigor in a container with a breathable lid. Add parsley or other herb to the container – as they eat the herb, it flavors them – so I’m told.

~ After two days, remove all food so the worms can – yuck – purge anything nasty from their bodies. Remove any dead worms. Feed those to the fish you need for supper.

~ Humanely dispatch your worms by freezing them for two days.

Boil the frozen worms for 3 minutes. Drain and pat dry. Recycle the used water in your garden.

Toast worms in a pan over low heat until golden brown.

Serve warm.

Thanks to groundtoground for inspiration. The recipe sauteing mealworms with chili peppers and garlic in butter sounds great, too, but that will have to wait for future missions to Mars.

Colony on Mars - scifi - Kate Rauner

Original cover – click to see the new cover – better?

Totally Earthbound Note: High-school student discovers bacteria that enables mealworms to digest Styrofoam.

Mealworms can apparently subsist on a diet of foamed polystyrene, better known as Styrofoam. There won’t be much of that on Mars – though here’s a great way to recycle whatever there is – but could this help with recycling onEarth? csmonitor

See Kate’s Books, Amazon, or any of the major on-line retailers. If you can’t find my ebooks, try Smashwords.

More ways to Eat Like a Martian:
fish supper
cassava
practice for Mars on Earth
Banana beer from Born on Mars
Liz, in Glory on Mars, tries to make bhang, though she doesn’t have all the ingredients.

And NASA is trying potatoes.

How to Eat Like a Martian – What Pioneering Will Be Like – Fish Supper #scifi #Mars #space #recipe

Baked-Tilapia-with-Tomatoes-duo

Oops – where’d that rice come from? My colonists don’t have any. Recipes below.

The first colonists on Mars take a one-way trip – is that a mistake?

While we wait for the answer – what’s for supper?
My new science fiction book, Glory on Mars, explores what life will be like on the red planet. There’s exploration and danger. There’s also supper – recipes below.

I give my first settlers cylinders of macronutrients they can extrude through a 3-D printer into shapes for variety, but that’s not very satisfying and the supply is limited. Vitamin pills are relatively lightweight, but I don’t think our Martian cousins should depend on Earth shipping them pills forever.

If they don’t want to starve, Martians will grow their own food – and if they don’t want scurvy, pellagra, and rickets to make a comeback, that food needs to be healthful.

Ya gotta eat to live, but food must provide pleasure and comfort. Will you go vegan? Here’s another vote for potatoes.

What to grow on Mars
For protein I give my first settlers tilapia – an easily farmed, mild white fish – and mealworms. Also seeds and starter plants – potatoes, tomatoes, squash, salad greens, and herbs. Chives, thyme, lovage (which tastes like celery), and parsley seem essential to me.

What herbs would you take to Mars?

Imagine you spent a long hard day replacing gaskets and filters in the recycling system. You’ve worked in cramped quarters, your back aches, and you’re hungry. Grumpy-hungry.

Fortunately, one of your teammates has cooked supper. Here’s what you sit down to.

Supper for Four Settlers
Poached Tilapia (Protein
)
~ 4 tilapia fillets
~ Chopped parsley – lots
~ 4 tomatoes – sliced or diced as you prefer
~ Salt (You know, salt’s another thing to worry about on Mars. Especially once children are born and the population grows, you can’t rely on recycling human waste – get over the yuck reaction ’cause it’s gotta happen – to harvest enough salt.)

Arrange fillets in a baking dish. Sprinkle with parsley. Cover with tomatoes. Add enough water to cover the bottom of the dish. Cover baking dish.

Bake or microwave until fish is opaque and flaky. Check and add more water if it boils away in the cooking. Serve with salt and more parsley to taste.

Actually, since you were grumpy-hungry, maybe you should double that recipe. And – salt. You brought a supply, of course. But you’ll need more as the colony grows – hope you find a deposit.

Thanks allrecipes for the idea. Sorry – no lemon or oil on Mars yet.

Nuked Potatoes (Calories)
~ 4 large or 8 small potatoes
~ Chopped herbs

Prick potato skins all over. Microwave until done – fork tines will slide easily into the center. (You remembered to bring forks from Earth, didn’t you?)  Serve with a choice of herbs – I like chives and thyme. Some potato varieties are a bit dry, so mash in water and wish you had milk.

Salad (Vitamins)
Wash and dry a selection of greens and herbs. Serve raw. And plain. Sorry, no salad dressing yet on Mars.

Look here for a tasty snack of mealworms.

Would that leave you happy and content? What herbs do you think are vital to cooking?

All my books, including the On Mars series, are available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble,

Near future Mars colony - Kate Rauner

I updated the cover art since this image – take a look on Amazon or your favorite online store. Start reading with Glory on Mars 4.5 stars and frequently found in top 10% of its Amazon scifi category

 

iTunes, Kobo, and other major online retailers.  Read one today.

More ways to eat like a Martian:
mealworm snack
cassava
practice for Mars on Earth
Banana beer from Born on Mars
And Liz, in Glory on Mars, tries to make bhang, though she doesn’t have all the ingredients.

And NASA is also trying potatoes.

The Problem of #Food – a Poem by Kate Rauner

Chapulines

Chapulines – crickets – right across America’s southern border. These should be an easy sell for Cinco De Mayo.

Seven billion people
With nutrition lacked by half.
Some lack sufficient calories
While others sink in fat.
What can we do?
What can be done?
Do we need a Green
Revolution?
With dignity
We can thrive,
Expanding views
Of who’s in our tribe.
GMOs, not our doom,
Nor, alone, salvation
Fewer kids, better fed,
Can be our decision.
For gentle commerce
To feed us all
We must stop
The ways of war.
Taste buds from the Pleistocene,
Love our modern foods.
Love sweet and salt, and fat,
And things we needn’t chew.
The problem’s vast,
But don’t despair.
Answers are near,
Cause we’re smart,
And we care.

Thanks to nationalgeographic.com for a reminder of this issue – which may be more about distribution and choices than our global ability to grow food.

I like the phrase “gentle commerce.” See my review (as Ponderer) of the book Better Angels of Our Natures, which may provide some small comfort in this age of terrorism. My friend and I also posted on GMOs.

One concept that intrigues me is insects as food. Americans eat some weird looking things (consider crayfish) but we haven’t embraced insects. I read somewhere that food prejudices are the last prejudices we’re proud of – but that may change.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Printed Food

food toysNASA has contracted a Texas company to develop a 3-D printer that prints food.  Tanks of powdered nutrients are mixed and sprayed into almost any form you want.  Search for 3-D food images and you’ll find items that look like colorful pasta shapes, or like food pellets from the Jetsons.  Or printed food can mimic the layers of different ingredients in a sandwich  There’s very little wasted nutrient or packaging, the powdered nutrients have a thirty year shelf life, and dinner is ready in minutes.

What’s not to love?

Well: it’s not food.  Continue reading