What, no Alice? I wasn’t sure it was possible to make a movie about food politics, particularly about local and sustainable food, without the obligatory homage to the queen, Ms. Alice Waters. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not among the nouveau-Alice-bashers—I lover her food, her cookbooks and what she stands for—but I don’t think the she carries the weight of the sustainability movement on her back like a sherpa up Mount Everest. These days there are more climbers.
Fresh, a new documentary by Sofia Joanes, aims to shine the spotlight on the farmers, journalists, markets and academics that are working day and day out to re-invent our food system as something that is healthier, more sustainable and more accessible to our entire population. If you’ve read Michael Pollan’s Omnivore’s Dilemma, or if you saw the documentary Food Fight last fall, then you’ll probably recognize Polyface Farms owner and pioneer Virginia farmer Joe Salatin and Will Allen, founder of, a education-oriented community farm and store in Milwaukie, Wisconsin, who both play a prominent roll in this well-made film. Joanes doesn’t just point out the “evils” of the industrial food system—food deserts, obesity, poor rural economies, more prevalent and antibiotic resistant strains of bacteria like salamonella and E. Coli—she mounts a counterattack to the arguments made for the status quo that say local or organic (or both) are too expensive and inefficient to feed our nation. She interviews independent market owners like David Ball, who’s Missouri market chain, Hen House, works directly with the Good Natured Family Farms coop to get food produced by small, local family farmers like meat, eggs, cheese and produce to people in the community for a fair price, creating jobs and keeping more money in the local economy.
My qualm with this film and those like it is this: who is the intended audience? I requested a press screener because I missed the movie when it came to the film festival in Orange County last month, but I’m already committed to change. Will the people who need to see this, the politicians, the traditional farmers, the poor people being exploited in our inner city food deserts see Fresh? It may have only taken 50 years to shift our food system to one reliant on the industrial food chain, to chain supermarkets touting shelves chock full of processed corn and soybeans, but it will take a revolutionary grassroots movement to turn it into something better.
Get your mom to a screening of Fresh in your area, or contact Sofia to set one up. It doesn’t look like the revolution will be televised—but at least it might be available on DVD.
Strawberry-Rhubarb Clafoutis catches some rays at breakfast
Sometimes I get a little over-zealous at the farmers’ market, especially in the late-Spring. I stock up on gorgeous gem-colored cherries, tangy-sweet blueberries, pints of radiant red strawberries, baby beets and rainbow chard, forgetting I made dinner plans or agreed to go to a wine tasting later in the week. As I’m unloading my bags and stuffing my crisper until it’s spilling out the seams like Jack Sprat, I realize I’ve bought way more than I’ll have time to eat without a little strategizing. (And sadly there are weeks I don’t realize this until I the strawberries begin looking like a fifth grade science experiment.)
I used to be one of those people who thought a wine had to be red to be good. But my first sticky-hot summer back in New York City—the kind that has you leaving trails of sweat behind like snail tracks—quickly changed my mind. My fifth floor walk-up on 97th Street had no air conditioning, just two little fans, each the size of a breadbox that blew the sweat around on your body like the drier in a car wash. So, on the hottest days, I stayed out until the sun went down, and my favorite thing to do was sit outside at ‘inoteca on the Lower East Side, sipping a glass of pale, crisp, Italian rosato. Continue reading
I always made fun of those girls who talked incessantly about their weddings, swore up and down and backwards that I wouldn’t be one of them. Even if you’re perfectly fine being the single girl, it’s hard to pretend you give a shit about centerpieces. And save the dates. And whether or not you’re going to have your guests ride around on a decommissioned Disneyland steam train. But I’ll get to that later.
I didn’t get it, ultimately, because I hadn’t planned my own wedding, I’d like to think, not because I was jealous or insensitive. I just had absolutely no idea how time-consuming the whole process could be. But it’s like a full time job, especially when you’re not exactly sure what you want. It took four months to find a venue and nearly a month to deal with the contracts. But now, nearly five months after Neal and I got engaged, we’re just one wedding insurance plan and a couple of signatures shy of having nailed down our venue and our date: April 24, 2010. Continue reading
What do poets and journalists have in common? Unless you’re the talented Amy Scattergood from the L.A. Times, I’d say: not a whole lot. Journalism school ruined my poetry. Wildly lyrical juxtapositions, I learned, had little place in clear communication. I wrote poetry to obfuscate, articles to illuminate. Even when I tried my hand at playfully mixing the two, a la the great Andrei Codrescu, the sentiment fell flat. And since life as a poet offered so few opportunities to make a living that I ended up in j-school in the first place, I knew I needed to find a new muse.
She came dressed at “motivation,” which is funny considering the number of people out there questioning mine in this new era that I’ve taken to referring to as “Post-FBCE” (Food Blog Code of Ethics). Nonetheless, I love finding out what makes people do what they do, to hold their beating hearts up to the world for all to see. Continue reading
Hello, my name is Leah Greenstein and I’m a food blogger. I don’t get paid much for what I write, though I’d love to make a living at it. I do it because I love food and I love writing—even if actually sitting down at the computer can be painful when the sun is shining or I’d rather be making ice cream. Nonetheless, I write. And I take what I put out into the world as seriously as I would as if I were writing for a magazine or a newspaper, not because it’s required of me, but because I think I should. I believe in honesty, fairness and accuracy, and I think everyone has a right to their opinion.
I think the tension between honesty, fairness and accuracy and subjectivity has been the bane of the “journalism” world for decades. All one has to do is watch Fox News and MSNBC to see that different people perceive facts differently. Personally, I like to know what filter someone’s looking through. I read Mother Jones because I know it skews liberal and I read the Economist because I know its writers synthesize everything through an economic lens. If I want human interest, I look somewhere else.
But when I started reading other food blogs, I frequently found myself lost. How did this person get the product they were writing about? Was this nasty review written because of one bad dining experience or two or three? I mean everyone has a bad night, right? I know I had them when I waited tables and when I managed restaurants. And then suddenly, how did my photo end up on that person’s blog. There’s no link, no attribution—that’s stealing!
I started reading commentary about blogs, nasty tirades about amateurs and hacks. I stumbled across stories about Yelpers blackmailing restaurants to get free food or risk getting panned. I learned more and more about people getting plagiarized, their images getting lifted, and people who personally attacked chefs in their reviews, but then didn’t have the courage to put their names on what they wrote.
And it made me sad.
So I started talking to other food bloggers who, I found, were frustrated with the same things. And I found that my writing partner, Foodwoolf, was particularly fired up about the subject. So we set out for breakfast one morning to talk about standards and ethics, about honesty, fairness and accuracy, and expressing our opinions.
What we came up with was this: The Food Blog Code of Ethics. It culls from our personal experiences as bloggers, journalism school grads, photographers, waiters, restaurant managers, diners and common sense. It is by no means perfect, but it’s a way to start a conversation. We hope you join in.