By Suzanne Lenzer
It seems like a good thing: Lay’s–the potato chip people–have a mobile farm set up in Times Square to help educate people about where their food comes from. It’s cute. There’s the “mobile farm” itself, with live plants and nice baskets of vegetables next to each one to help identify what’s actually growing; there’s a section where you can have your picture taken with a farmer (or at least someone wearing a straw hat); and there are a couple of very nice people handing out plastic cups with basil seeds inside so you can grow your own fresh herbs at
Sadly I was alone at the basil handout table, and the mobile farm wasn’t exactly packed either. The crowd was swarming a guy under a sign that read “Proudly supporting America’s potato farmers” who was handing out bags of Lays chips. The best of intentions I suppose, but if they really wanted to get people into planting basil they probably should have left the free chips back at the farm.
by Natascha Hildebrandt
[Natascha and I sometimes run together, and she and a few other running buddies decided to have a vegan July (no, I did not join them). They all have had interesting experiences, but Natascha was focused, oddly enough, on her daily coffee. When I heard she was trying every non-dairy milk she could find, I asked her to write up her experiences. Voila – mb]
Inspired by some vegan ultra athletes, I decided to go on a vegan adventure for the month of July. Looking at what I ate it seemed like the hardest things to give up would be butter, the milk in my cappuccino, and butter. I have since found that it’s easy to live without butter. (Where you would use a tablespoon, you now substitute half an avocado. Clearly I won’t be shedding any pounds during this experiment.) The two percent milk cappuccino is a bit more of a challenge.
My initial reaction to all of the milk substitutes was pretty much “ick.” But it’s amazing: you can get used to anything. The second is better than the first; by the third, well, you can live with it. Generally, you will probably be happier if your palate is a little on the sweet side. (Mine is not—I’m happier in the land of the tart and bitter.) Though I chose unsweetened and unflavored “milks” to compare, they are all definitely sweeter than their dairy sister. They are all perfectly good in pancakes or cooking, and, amazingly, they all make acceptable foam for cappuccino.
by Edward Schneider
Am I wrong to think that only a handful of farmers who come to Manhattan Greenmarkets grow artichokes? I’ve seen them only at Maxwell’s stand, but surely there must be other growers too, no?
Whatever the case, that’s where Jackie bought some lovely little ones last week, along with a bag of nice dense new-season potatoes, a bunch of thyme and some juicy onions. Her shopping bag contained our entire dinner, apart from the salt, pepper, olive oil and smoked prosciutto (speck). With the oven pre-heating to 375 degrees, we first cut off the tops of the artichokes, stripped them down to the pale, tender inner leaves and pared the stems (dipping them and holding them in lemon-juiced water as we worked). Then we par-steamed the potatoes – just for four or five minutes to give them a head start – sliced some speck and cut an onion into wedges. All of this, we tossed with olive oil, thyme and salt and pepper in a baking dish and roasted until the artichoke hearts and potatoes were tender and lightly browned.
Apart from the adventure of trimming the artichokes (see this: though ours were far smaller, the idea is the same), this was hardly cooking at all, and it made a hell of a dinner. Although the focus was on the vegetables, I have to say that the crisp roasted speck was irresistible; we’ll use twice as much next time. Maybe three times as much.
by Barry Estabrook
Pop a Cork, Save a Forest
We had a dinner party last night for a group of friends who enjoy their wine. I’m glad to report that we more than did our bit to save the forests of Portugal, Spain, Italy, and northern Africa. The vintages we selected all came in bottles sealed with cork, which is made from the bark of a species of oak.
But with the increasing popularity of screw caps and plastic “corks,” the real cork industry is threatened, and along with it, more than four million acres of forest. In addition to providing some 100,000 jobs, cork forests combat global warming and provide habitat for wildlife. Portugal’s Montada Forest is home to hundreds of species of birds and also habitat for the Iberian lynx, one of the world’s most endangered animals. Apcor, the Portuguese Cork Association says that cork is compostable and produces 24 times less carbon than the aluminum in screw caps—if you need another reason to pop a cork and raise a glass.