Sunday, October 28, 2007

Weekend Update

Yes, Virginia, we used to eat something called "vegetables."

On the all-powerful Oprah Show recently, Jessica Seinfeld, wife of comedian Jerry Seinfeld, got a huge platform on which to tout her new method of eating, wherein children never have to be bothered with vegetables again because they're pureed and concealed in favorite foods such as chicken tenders, macaroni and cheese and even brownies.

There was a certain surreal air about Oprah-the-media-queen exclaiming--on and on and on--over this boneheaded idea. But then she did it again just a few days later when Jerry himself appeared on the show to pitch his new film, Bee Movie. The camera soon panned to Jessica, seated front and center in the audience, grinning and blushing as Oprah again heaped endless kudos on the cookbook, Deceptively Delicious, and told how she has taken to serving Jessica's recipes to guests.

But hold on. Now the food media are all atwitter with speculation that Jessica may have plagiarized some of her recipes from another, very similar book called The Sneaky Chef, by someone named Missy Chase Lapine (can this be a real person?). Even the subtitles are too much alike: Simple Secrets to Get Your Kids Eating Good Food for Seinfeld, and Simple Strategies for Hiding Healthy Foods in Kids Favorite Meals, for Lapine.

More astounding than the similarities, however, is the notion that such an assault on a basic food group could be published not once, but twice. Mimi Sheraton, the former New York Times food critic writing in Slate, says, "A pox on both their houses."

"Both propose a culinary scheme that is, basically, totally stupid, to say nothing of dishonest," writes Sheraton

Opines food guru Marion Nestle: "Sneaking vegetables into desserts so kids will eat healthier foods seems like such a bad idea that I can’t believe anyone would do a book on it let alone two people with virtually identical recipes."

The idea is to turn the vegetables into purees, then work these into foods that kids really like. But if it comes to that, why bother with the vegetables at all? Just use manufactured food supplements that contain all the necessary vitamins and minerals in their purest forms.

My own experience teaching kids about food is that there is a huge range of like/dislike when it comes to vegetables. Older kids are definitely more receptive, but you can usually increase interest by getting young ones involved in the preparation process. Or, do we want to raise a generation that doesn't know what vegetables are? Maybe we just don't have time.

We can't wait to see if Oprah forces Jessica Seinfeld back on the show to come clean...


Or, maybe what we should be doing is slathering that pureed broccoli on our skin instead of sunblock. New research, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, shows that broccoli stimulates the body's natural anti-cancer fighting abilities. One drawback: smearing broccoli on your skin apparently also inhibits the sun-induced production of vitamin D.

Also, there's the small problem of walking around the beach looking like a broccoli spear. Apparently, more work needs to be done on the cosmetic angle...


And where do you find broccoli and other healthy vegetables on Google Maps?

School children are using the latest Google technology to locate where the good food is in their home neighborhoods. This after a California study showed that typically there are four times as many junk food options in the form of fast food outlets as there are sources for healthy food in areas where kids traffic.

Students in the food class at the June Jordan School for Equity in San Francisco were so taken with the idea that they created their own Google map, showing where the good and bad food sources were in proximity to their homes.

The Urban Sprouts program shows how to create your own food map and turn it into a point of departure for talking food with children.


On the subject of fast food, it has just come to our attention that Doritos is a major sponsor of comedian Stephen Colbert's campaign for president.

Kat at the Eating Liberally blog has a fascinating conversation on the subject with food authority Marion Nestle, who speculates that PepsiCo, the parent company of Doritos, may have given up on traditional ways of promoting the brand.

"PepsiCo has much to gain from this alliance. Either PepsiCo is giving up on Doritos or looking for unconventional ways to promote them, as the company has pulled back on the usual ways of advertising them," says Nestle. "PepsiCo spent $29,763,000 on media advertising for Doritos in 2005 but a mere $12,856,000 in 2006 (source: Advertising Age). That leaves about $17 million for other ways of marketing Doritos. Hence: the Colbert campaign."

So all of you who find Colbert's humor a bit cheesy may be more right than you thought...


Finally, we here at the Slow Cook News Desk are all about engaging cooks in contemplating that thin zone between terra firma and the troposphere where life as we know it exists. Today, we are offering this film snippet courtesy of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation that shows in graphic terms what is meant by the "dead zone" in the world's largest tidal estuary.

Once teaming with life, the Chesapeake is dying in front of our eyes, due largely to all the fertilizer run-off from agriculture and suburban lawns in a watershed that encompasses a huge area of the Mid-Atlantic, from the Shenandoah all the way into central New York State.

Here you will see water quality scientists doing their usual, mundane rounds, scooping mud off the bottom of the bay and finding that it stinks of rotten eggs for lack of oxygen. Life cannot be sustained.

In summer, the dead zone stretches all the way from the Bay Bridge outside Annapolis to the mouth of the bay in Virginia. A similar dead zone exists where the Mississippi River--carrying effluent from half the country's farmland--empties into the Gulf of Mexico. Fertilizers in the run-off feed blooms of algea, which suck all the oxygen out of the water, making it uninhabitable for fish and other wildlife.

As always, bon appetit...

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