Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Eggs are God

A few years ago my friend Courtney saw Isaac Mizrahi hailing a cab across the street from her in Manhattan. She is the type of person who once followed Maya Angelou into a dressing room at Sak's and another time pestered a newly-famous Keanu Reeves into taking her out to dinner, so naturally she raced across Broadway to accost Mr. Mizrahi.

"I worship you!" she told him. He glanced at her and immediately quipped back at her, "Don't worship me, you should worship God," then climbed into his cab and sped away.

Okay, I realize this isn't the greatest celebrity story, but I'm totally embarassed around famous people, even when I do worship them, so I have to take my stories where I can get them, which is usually from Courtney.

Anyway, I remembered the "you should worship god" story because the first edition of Edible Manhattan is out, with a profile of Isaac Mizrahi's refrigerator inside.

Edible Brooklyn wrote a story about my cooking classes a couple years ago, so I'm already a loyal fan of this burgeoning empire. But even if I weren't, the Isaac Mizrahi kitchen profile would have had me within seconds. Most of these profiles are cute peeks into a famous person's fridge. The famous person offers little pithy descriptions about the contents -- why they like this chili sauce or how they cook their eggs or what they think of bottled water.

Isaac's reads more like a Rorschach test on acid. For example:

Worchestershire Sauce: "I love it. It’s like granny’s panties."

On Eggs: "Eggs are God! Wool is God and eggs are God."

He compares himself to Judy Garland: "Uppers, downers! Butter, Weight Watchers!"

I love him. And I agree, about eggs and wool. I worship them. And him, too, kind of.

Changing School Lunch

School lunch
Originally uploaded by john.murden
I first started getting involved in the school food reform back when my son was in kindergarten. I remembered ghastly school lunch from my own school days, and I started hearing that things had only gotten worse since those good old "ketchup-is-a-vegetable" days in the 80's. So I started a food committee at the school, and set about trying to change school food.

I very quickly became frustrated and discouraged and completely changed courses.

School food was like a behemoth wrapped up in laws and deals and bureaucracies. In NYC alone, 800,000 lunches are prepared every day. It is like this monstrous shark that can't switch directions very easily. It's further hindered by decades of well-meaning but often idiotic laws that dictate the amount and proportion of calories from various sources that have to go on each tray.

In addition to the bureacracy problem, there's the nutrition problem. Because: what is a healthy lunch? The NYC Coalition for Healthy Schools thinks it should be vegan. Yech. I'm not into veganism. Lots of nutritionists and parents think it should be low-fat. Like, pizzas made with low fat cheese. Disgusting! Even efforts to use local foods backfire, like when the Office of School Foods stopped using low-fat Stonyfield Yogurt in favor of a NYS yogurt that was non-fat and sweetened with high fructose corn syrup.

And then there was the fact that even when pilot programs served great food, the kids wouldn't necessarily eat it. (One research team found to get kids to accept a healthy lunch program, you had to serve great food AND have kids grow/prepare the food AND they had study it in the classrooms.)

Is it surprising that I stopped focusing on school food? My attitude was: let's focus on something that we can actually change.

Until this year. Last spring my kids' school was accepted into a pilot program created by the Office of School Foods and the NYS Agriculture Dept. It's called Garden to Cafeteria Day. About 25 schools are participating, and most of them are growing their own salad greens. We have a relationship with Added Value, an educational farm in the Red Hook section of Brooklyn, so we're harvesting greens from them. Then, and this is the exciting part, the school cafeteria is going to prepare and serve them as part of lunch.

It's a small step, but an exciting one. I'm especially gratified to see how many people are supporting this -- our principal, our school's nutritionist, the teachers, the parents.

The schools are asked to make a day of it, so we're having a Harvest Museum, with tasting tables and songs and artwork and science projects all on display in the cafeteria. It's going to be very sweet.

It's happening next Wednesday. I'll be taking pictures, so I'll keep you all posted.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Fish: Yes. Kidney Beans: No.

Five-year-old, under pressure to eat one -- one -- cooked kidney bean (a potentially new food experience, despite much interaction with other kinds of beans): "I have to eat the WHOLE thing? Can I just eat half of it? I can't. I can't eat it. It's disgustin'. It's, like, slimy and ... and ... it's yucky. I can't. I can't do it." [Covers mouth with hands, displays horrified widened eyes, shakes head frantically.]

We didn't make her do it.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Do You Know Where Your Bacon Comes From?

Bacon is easily one of the top 10 most delicious foods in the world. There's just no way around this fact, no matter how smart and cute and funny pigs are, or how much you liked the movie Babe or the book Charlotte's Web. Bacon is just so good.

I will never stop eating it. So it is especially sickening to me to hear about pigs being abused just so I can have my Sunday morning special.

At D'Acres, we loved watching the pigs. They are hilarious cute creatures, who got cuter every day that we watched them. It didn't disturb me to know that they would end up as bacon, because I knew they were living a good life. Not too many animals, outside of dogs, cats and humans, get to live a protected life, filled with delicious food, warm clean straw bed and a humanely executed death. (The pigs at D'Acres even get a special last meal, how sweet.) I feel sorrier for the pigeons I see huddled by the curb with a broken wing than I do for the pigs at a farm like D'Acres. Starving or getting trampled to death would not be a preferred exit.

But the pointless abuse described in this article is criminal. I hope they are prosecuted, and I thank PETA for bringing these acts to the public eye. Watch out for Hormel, and know where your bacon is coming from.

Food Mistakes Not to Make

People, never give your kids sugar. Don't give them ice cream, don't give them popsicles, don't give them cookies. Don't even let them know about chocolate croissants or root beer. If you do, you may very well end up with the sugar-addicted monsters that I have.

Where did I go wrong? They are like heroin addicts, angling for their next score from the moment they wake up until halfway through dinner, when they start talking about dessert. It got really bad this summer. I'm not saying it's my mom's fault. Personally, I think kids should be in college before they have root beer for breakfast. But grandmothers have their own rules, I suppose.

And I'm not saying it's my husband's fault, but he does in fact by Ciao Bello sorbet about every other day.

But the chocolate croissants, cookies, Blue Marble ice cream, Milano cookies, gummy bears, the world's longest candy counter we visit in New Hampshire, Mallomars, rice krispie treats, marshmallows and candy canes: those are all me. What can I say? I'm weak. I have an occasional, and extremely nostalgic, sweet tooth. I love special exotic sweets, and holiday sweets and eating Junior Mints when I go to the movies. And so, now, do my kids.

Maybe this article by Tara Parker Pope would have helped. Six rules to live by. (I seem to be doing okay with the part about not restricting sweets...)