Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Appetite for distraction

I am, admittedly, a bit zealous about food. I am also pretty excitable when it comes to books and movies, especially those about food (go figure). While I haven't yet seen "Julie & Julia" -- what looks to be quite a fun adaptation of the book (which I'd enjoyed a few years back when my best friend Felicity gave me a copy) of the travails of a young would-be foodie stumbling through "Mastering the Art of French Cooking" in her cramped NY apartment interspersed with anecdotes about the fascinating life of Julia Child -- I hope to catch it, maybe when I manage to get myself and Ollie to Chicago. The upcoming release of the film provided an excuse for my man Michael Pollan to take a hard look at the disconnect between people's fascination with cooking shows in our country and the decline of actual cooking in their kitchens. I do have a bit of an inexplicable soft spot for Iron Chef, but otherwise I agree pretty heartily with his arguments. I mean, how is it that people claim to have no time to cook but can plunk down and watch TV for some 2 1/2 hours each day? Psh. It takes me less time than that to put together a full curry dinner for 6 people from scratch (provided I've already done the shopping)!

If you're looking to learn more about food, get yourself to the nearest farmers market (if you don't know where that is, you can find it here: http://www.localharvest.org/) and get yourself into the kitchen. Bring a friend (or, as I like to call them, a sous chef). Should you want to sit and watch a worthwhile film about food afterwards, I'd recommend any of the following:

Food, Inc.
This is a documentary out in theatres now and, should you not have the attention span to read The Omnivore's Dilemma or Fast Food Nation, the movie covers many of the key points from both books. You'll not look at the supermarket the same way again. Guaranteed.

King Corn
This is another documentary, albeit a more fun one. Or rather, it brings up a lot of serious issues in an openly curious and entertaining way. It's the story of two best friends who, knowing little about corn or farming, decide to grow an acre of corn in Iowa. While waiting for their corn to grow, the guys explore everything from government subsidies to the history of corn cultivation to where their harvest is likely to end up. We had a screening of this and a local food potluck at Evolution Yoga in Burlington while I was there and folks agreed that the film, in spite of its playful tone, really makes you think. (The guys, men after my own heart, became food activists: www.kingcorn.net.)

The Future of Food
Mark and I watched this anti-GM (genetically modified) food documentary one cloudy afternoon in Burlington. While parts of it felt like viewing an educational video in high school health class, it did propose some pretty shocking ideas on the lack of testing or dispersal of information on GM foods. There are elements of some interesting conspiracy theories as well, ranging from GM crop and chemical supply companies planting (haha) evidence and suing small farmers to surprising ties between these companies (mostly Monsanto) and fairly high level positions in the Dept of Agriculture and regulatory organizations. Not fun, but worth a watch.

[Rant interlude: Very likely most of these genetically-modified foods aren't dangerous, but they should at least be labeled so people can choose whether or not they want to consume, say, GM corn. Then again, if you've seen King Corn you know how ubiquitous GM high fructose corn syrup is, and you might agree that perhaps it would be cheaper and easier to label anything that does *not* contain any GM ingredients. Oh, wait, I think that's what "organic" is supposed to denote. So then is everything not strictly certified "organic" in the supermarket pretty much steeped in GM corn products? Pretty much, unless you count the perhaps equally scary, chemical-laden low fat and fat free aisle. Get yourself to a farmers market. At least you know what's in the food there! This concludes my rant...for now.]

Finally, if you're looking for a few fun, non-documentary flicks about food, I highly recommend "Eat, Drink, Man, Woman" (the original in Chinese with subtitles is far superior to the later knock-off "Tortilla Soup"), "Like Water for Chocolate" (in Spanish with subtitles), "Mostly Martha" (in German with subtitles), Ratitoille (thanks for recommending this Pixar gem set in Paris, Julius!), and "Chocolat" (in English and starring my boy Johnny Depp). Funny how many of my favorite food films are from other countries where they haven't abandoned the kitchen for the couch....

Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry

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