To agave or not to agave?

dreamstime_xs_30979583Passions about agave run deep these days. It’s popular with vegans (it comes from a plant, not a bee). It’s really sweet but isn’t synthetic (like aspartame or sucralose). And it’s super hip (used in cutting-edge cocktails and raw desserts). Its boosters promote it as a traditional, natural sweetener that doesn’t spike blood sugar like regular cane sugar or maple syrup, and that contains inulin, a fiber that supports healthy gut flora.

However, a number of articles have also presented agave as a much less desirable sweetener. Coming from trusted alternative-news sources (Andrew Weil, Joseph Mercola, the Weston A. Price Foundation) as well as more conventional sources (the Wall Street Journal, the Los Angeles Times), they present it as highly processed, and critique the high amount of fructose present, likening it to the much-maligned high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) – perhaps even worse. Continue reading

Do you want test-tube fries with that?

Sergey Brin, the brilliant founder of Google, put up a boatload of money for the world’s first  hamburger that did not come directly from a cow: $330,000 U.S., in fact.

How’d it happen? Well, a Dutch scientist, Mark Post, proposed the idea. The concept is reasonably simple. Take muscle stem cells from a living cow (in this case, cells from both a Blanc Blue Belge and a Blond Acquitaine, both raised on organic farms). Culture the cells in a nutrient-rich broth, where they will increase in numbers sufficient to form a kind of tissue. Attach the tissue to a basic structure (like a scaffold), and stimulate with electricity so that the tissue grows into strips of bovine muscle. Grind them up, shape a nice little burger together, and cook – voilà, a genuine test-tube burger!

No fat, of course, and as a result nearly tasteless (according to those who took the first bites), but what a heartwarming victory for global warming activists, food rights activists, and animal rights activists everywhere. The San Jose Mercury News article on this historic meal quotes Ingrid Newkirk, PETA’s president and co-founder, who was “…so excited, I could jump for joy…We have Champagne corks going off all over the place.”

The question is, why? Continue reading

Lindner Bison update – keep calling, and an online interview 7/27!

Update on the Lindner’s situation as we head into the weekend:

The flood of calls and emails last week generated a phone meeting with a representative from Environmental Health, as well as a solid lead to a certified kitchen that may be able to rent the Lindners the space they need to plug in their freezers.

(You just wouldn’t think it would be that hard, would you?) A reasonably productive conversation took place, to the effect that as long as the kitchen was willing to store the bison, and the county was willing to approve the kitchen, everything would be solved and everyone would be happy.

With the inevitable back-and-forthing that seems to accompany getting anything signed off by a regulatory agency, the kitchen gave the Lindners permission to bring two freezers in on Monday. But this only comes with a 3-month lease, so we are all hoping – and I’m sure you are, too, if you’re reading this – that the relationship will work out perfectly and that the Lindners will have a home for their bison for some time to come.

But don’t stop making calls and sending emails till everything is signed, sealed, and Continue reading

Action item: Lindner Bison at risk for lack of cold storage!

Ken and Kathy LindnerI admit it, I have a serious farmer’s market addiction. I love the markets not just because I can get the freshest, most in-season fruits, vegetables, and nuts, but like many people, I appreciate the fact that I can get products that you simply can’t get in stores – even some of the best natural foods stores. And of course, the community is unbeatable, both customers and farmers. The relationships we all build at the market are an essential part of our growing community. And one of these relationships is under immediate threat – the Lindners need your help! Continue reading

Pamm Larry, Proposition 37, and moving forward against GMOs

Pamm Larry rocks. Seriously. This woman got the ball rolling for the initiative that resulted in one of highest-profile bPamm_Larryallot measures in the country in the 2012 election cycle.

If you were unconscious during late 2012, Proposition 37 sought to mandate labels identifying those processed/packaged foods that contained genetically engineered ingredients. It didn’t pass, rather famously, but it took the population at large – and not just in California – from “What’s a GMO?” to awareness very, very quickly. (And it didn’t lose by much, when it comes down to it, considering the vast amounts of cash spent by the opposition.) Continue reading

What do ninjas have to do with the food supply?

ninjaWell might you ask.

But lately, it’s felt like there are ninjas all around what I’ll term loosely “real food,” and in particular our individual ability – even our individual rights – to acquire it. And they seem to be coming from all over. Their names don’t come out of a martial arts movie, though. Their handles are filled with letters, like FDA, USDA, CDC, CDFA, DATCP, and so many more. Continue reading

The leaky gut and the gastroenterologist

StethoscopemirrorA couple of weeks ago, I accompanied a friend of mine to an appointment with her gastroenterologist. She has serious, chronic gut issues, and was meeting with him to discuss them. (She asked me to come along because I take good notes, might think of additional questions, and could more or less act as her advocate.)

I liked her M.D. He was thoughtful, responsive, open to questions, and in general didn’t have the “I’m a doctor, therefore your questions are irrelevant, mere mortal” attitude that some physicians unfortunately have. (And he told her the surgery wouldn’t help her symptoms.) However, when I asked him about the possibility of testing her for leaky gut, he looked kindly at me and said, “Conventional medicine doesn’t believe in leaky gut.” Continue reading

This just in: Fluoride dumbs children down

dreamstimefree_15877Saw this intriguing tidbit on Kelly the Kitchen Kop‘s blog, and had to head on over to the National Institutes of Health to check it out.

Yup, it’s true. A distinguished team of researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health explored the relationship between exposure to high levels of fluoride and childhood neurological development, and found that high exposure to fluoride depressed IQ. Continue reading

Save the cheese!

cheddarI love cheese! There are so many wonderful ones to choose from, too, from Parmagiano-Reggiano to Manchego to Emmenthal to Pt. Reyes Blue to Camembert to…well, you get the idea. Raw milk cheeses are especially wonderful.

But this stuff can be really expensive too, so once I’ve invested in some yummy dairy goodness, I want to make sure to protect it. Continue reading

Best. Apple. Ever.

At the farmer’s markets, this is winter fruit season: persimmons, pomegranates, pears – and apples. I love apples. My husband loves apples. Well, not all apples; mealy, mushy apples, with washed-out flavor don’t find much favor with us (I mean you, Red Delicious, and your sibling, Golden). I like really crisp, tart-sweet apples that crunch loudly when I bite into them, and that are loaded with vibrant, juicy flavor. The farmer’s markets around town are my go-to source for apples, and there are many good ones to be had.

But I have to say that the Pink Lady apple pictured here, from Cuyama Orchards, courtesy of the Mar Vista farmer’s market this past Sunday, is one of the best apples ever! Beautifully colored – much deeper than pink, it’s a bright red with splashes of gold – and sensationally crisp, the flavor is so electrifyingly alive, so tart, so sweet, that each bite is almost overwhelming. I can’t imagine eating one quickly, it’s that intense. The only quality taking it away from utter perfection is a slight toughness to the skin – but this, for me, is akin to the flaw said to be necessary in a Persian carpet, lest perfection offend God. In other words, a bit of chewy skin offers no impediment whatsoever to one of the most delicious pieces of fruit my husband and I have ever enjoyed!

This apple, besides being a revelation for eating out of hand, would make an amazing tart, pie, or applesauce.

Cuyama Orchards can be found at the Sunday Mar Vista market, as well as the venerable Wednesday Santa Monica market and the Saturday Santa Monica market as well. (I’m sure they’re at other markets – I’ll update as I find out where!)