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Today Michelle Obama will begin digging up a patch of White House lawn to plant a vegetable garden, the first since Eleanor Roosevelt’s victory garden in World War II. There will be no beets (the president doesn’t like them) but arugula will make the cut.

While the organic garden will provide food for the first family’s meals and formal dinners, its most important role, Mrs. Obama said, will be to educate children about healthful, locally grown fruit and vegetables at time when obesity has become a national concern.

In an interview in her office, Mrs. Obama said, “My hope is that through children, they will begin to educate their families and that will, in turn, begin to educate our communities.”

Twenty-three fifth graders from Bancroft Elementary School in Washington will help her dig up the soil for the 1,100-square-foot plot in a spot visible to passers-by on E Street. (It’s just below the Obama girls’ swing set.) Students from the school, which has had a garden since 2001, will also help plant, harvest and cook the vegetables, berries and herbs.

Almost the entire Obama family, including the president, will pull weeds, “whether they like it or not,” Mrs. Obama said laughing. “Now Grandma, my mom, I don’t know.” Her mother, she said, would probably sit back and say: “Isn’t that lovely. You missed a spot.”

Whether there would be a White House garden has been more than a matter of landscaping. It’s taken on political and environmental symbolism as the Obamas have been lobbied for months by advocates who believe that growing more food locally could lead to healthier eating and lessen reliance on huge industrial farms that use more oil for transportation and chemicals for fertilizer.

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Funny Comic

The Sunday comic "The Argyle Sweater" had a funny panel today.

Fun Food Holidays for March

National Frozen Food Month

National Agriculture Week, March 15-21

National Chocolate Caramel Day, March 9
St. Patrick's Day, March 17
Great American Meat Out Day, March 20
National Corn Dog Day, March 21
Maple Syrup Day, March 21
National Chocolate Covered Raisins Day, March 24
National Pecan Day, March 25
Hard economic times are acting like instant fertilizer on an industry that had been growing slowly: home vegetable gardening.

Amid the Washington talk of "shovel-ready" recession projects, it appears few projects are more shovel-ready than backyard gardens. Veggie seed sales are up double-digits at the nation's biggest seed sellers this year.

What's more, the number of homes growing vegetables will jump more than 40% this year compared with just two years ago, projects the National Gardening Association, a non-profit organization for gardening education.

"As the economy goes down, food gardening goes up," says Bruce Butterfield, the group's research director. "We haven't seen this kind of spike in 30 years."

At W. Atlee Burpee, the world's largest seed company, seed sales will jump 25% this year, Chairman George Ball estimates. "It's weird to have everyone else you talk to experiencing plunging markets. We're on a roll."

Burpee is taking pains to craft its marketing to fit the times, says Ball. It recently rolled out the "Money Garden," a value bundle of tomato, bean, red pepper, carrot, lettuce and snap pea seeds sold online at www.burpee.com. With a separate retail value of $20, the pack sells for $10, and under the right conditions, Burpee claims, can produce $650 worth of veggies.

"Seeds are God's microchip," says Ball. But in the suddenly hot world of veggie seed sales, Burpee has company:

•Park Seed. Vegetable seed sales are up 20% this year vs. 2008, says Walter Yates, who oversees the company's e-commerce.

Says Yates, "Every time this country goes through a recession, there is a surge of folks who want to get back to basics."

•Renee's Garden. Business manager Sarah Renfro says veggie seed sales were up about 10% last year and look to grow up to 20%.

"After years of declining veggie seed sales, the whole cycle has completely reversed," says Renee Shepherd, president.

•Harris Seeds. Home garden vegetable seed sales are up 80% from one year ago, says Dick Chamberlin, president. "A jump like this has never happened."

•Ferry-Morse Seed. After 2008 sales grew 5%, the company stocked up on 50% more vegetable seeds to sell in 2009, says John Hamrick, vice president of sales and marketing.

The veggies are apparently squeezing flowers for space in the nation's gardens. Ferry-Morse, along with others, is seeing a decline in sales of flower seeds, and Hamrick says the company has switched its inventory mix from 50-50 to 40% flower seeds and 60% veggies.

By Bruce Horvitz, USA Today.

Seed prices have gone WAY up this year! I am so glad I saved seeds from the previous two years so I don't have to buy any.

A Safety Net for Fish

By Elisa Ludwig
For The (Philadelphia) Inquirer

In dinner, as in life, we're now faced with a series of moral dilemmas. Most people want to do the right thing: consume fresh healthy foods without contributing to the Earth's woes or depriving a community of its economic resources. As seafood has become a greater part of the American diet - so good for the brain, so many omega-3 fatty acids! - that means paying attention to the issues of overfishing, polluted waters, and mercury poisoning.

The sustainability tide, it seems, is turning. Chefs, cookbook authors, even restaurant chains like Long John Silver's are committing to improving the sustainability of the world's fish.

Greenpeace recently gave a passing grade to market chains including Target, Whole Foods, and Ahold USA for their environmentally sound seafood purchasing practices.

Amanda Brossard, a onetime biologist with the Department of Fish and Game in Alaska, and her husband, Alaska fisherman Murat Aritan, opened Otolith, a sustainable seafood store in Northern Liberties in July, translating their expertise into a business they believe in. Aritan still travels back to Alaska to fish a few months a year and eventually hopes to sell his catch at the store. At the moment, they are selling all Alaskan fish from other fishermen and small processors.

"We're seeing lots of customers coming into our store who just don't want to be part of the problem," says Brossard.

Restaurant diners have grown more vocal about their seafood choices and their impact on the environment. "Over the last couple of years, I've seen the demand grow among customers who are looking for sustainable fish," says Michael Stollenwerk, chef/owner of Little Fish in Queen Village, where all the seafood on the menu is sustainably sourced and most is certified by the Marine Stewardship Council, a leading eco-labeling program for fish and shellfish in supermarkets and restaurants.

Yet even the best intentions are sometimes not enough to produce the right decisions. When it comes to tracking down sustainable seafood, it can be exceedingly difficult to navigate the swirl of information: What species of fish? Where does it come from? Line-caught or bottom-trawled? Wild or farmed? Trap-caught or aquaculture?

"We've all had our head in the sand for some time and there's a lot of confusion in the marketplace," says James MacKnight, owner of River & Glen, a sustainable foods purveyor based in Warminster, Bucks County.

River & Glen supplies seafood to high-end restaurants including Lacroix and the Four Seasons, and operates a retail arm that sells products online.

MacKnight, who grew up fishing in Scotland and selling salmon to local pubs, says that a major component of his mission is educating customers - from chefs and servers to home cooks - about the issues.

MacKnight offers local and East Coast products, like oysters and cod, whenever possible. But he justifies the carbon miles his products travel, explaining why so much of his fish comes from Alaska: "Those fisheries are without a doubt at the forefront of sustainability, from the quality of the water to the fishing practices to the fishery management ethos. The fish are allowed to replenish and there are strict quotas for when and how much a boat can take."

He recommends that consumers start their education with the Monterey Bay Aquarium's Seafood Watch Program. With its continually updated rating system, Seafood Watch offers one of the best and most widely used educational resources, and it's available in book, pocket guide, and most recently, mobile phone application form. When faced with a decision between Atlantic cod and, say, red snapper, a diner can reference the program's rating (best choice, good alternative, avoid) and quick facts about scarcity and fishing methods at the touch of an iPhone.

What are some basic rules of thumb when it comes to sustainable seafood?Collapse )

Top 10 Foods of the 80s

Here is the list of the top 10 iconic 1980s foods that evoke the era as much as the music, the shoulder pads, and the talking Teddy Ruxpin toy.

10. Jawbreakers

Like spicy food, these dangerous, choke-inducing spheres inspired serious candy egos. Can you handle it? No, seriously, can you? And they came in a slew of sizes, depending on your tolerance. "Oh snap, he has the mega-breaker!"

9. The California Raisins

When the dried-fruit world creates their own pop sensation, big things happen. Shriveled-up grapes can become Motown rock stars! Maybe prunes were never in the right place at the right time, but raisins definitely were.

8. Cool Ranch Doritos

Before the 100-cal-packified era, the most popular snack in the Circle K was a turquoise-flecked triangular chip. With actual fat!

7. Tri-Color Pasta Salad

Pasta salads were hot in the '80s, especially in elbow, wagon wheel, and squiggly shapes, and shades of peach, pistachio, and normal-off-white-noodle. Toss them with canned olives and powdered salad dressing, and you were the most popular person at the potluck.

6. Orange Julius

Why don't Orange Julius stands exist anymore? Due to a corporate merger, they can actually be found in select Dairy Queens, seven of these are hiding in Singapore.

Aaaand the Top Five!Collapse )


Food Memories from World War II

Red stamps were for meat, if you could find it, blue were for vegatables, fruits and beans. That was kitchen common sense in 1942, when the U.S. Office of Price Administration froze certain prices and introduced the nation's homemakers to food rationing.

World War II brought shortages of gasoline, rubber, and much more. From then on the nation's coffee and sugar would go to the military first and civilians second.

War ration coupons and later tokens in 1944 became the cook's currency as women, who were in the majority of home kitchens then, learned to substitute and stretch. In lieu of a chicken in every pot, there was a Victory Garden in (nearly) every backyard. Good Housekeeping magazine's 1943 cookbook focused on making the best with less. And as cottage cheese came to replace meat in many recipes, sales rose from 110 million pounds in 1930 to 500 million in 1944.

If you or someone you know remembers rationing, the National World War II Museum in New Orleans wants to hear from you.

The museum puts much of its energy into documenting and collecting remembrances from the battlefront, says Lauren Hadley, of the museum's education department. But the museum wants to record life on the home front, too, and that's where the Community Kitchen Project comes into play.

Hadley is seeking memories, recipes, and cookbooks from 1942 to 1946, for the museum's use online and possibly in a future exhibition.

If you remember rationing, buying on the black market, and growing your own in a Victory Garden, send your stories, copies of photos, and recipes to the National World War II Museum.

Tell them what you ate on holidays and what you packed for lunch; describe recipes that were disasters or triumphs. What ingredients did you especially miss and what substitutions did you grow to abhor? Are there any recipes you still use?

Step-by-step instructions for gathering memories and recording oral histories are on the museum's Web site: www.nationalww2museum.org/kitchenmemories.

From the Philadelphia Inquirer.


I think this is such an amazing project. I wish my grandparents were still alive to participate in it.

"In the middle of April, PBV [Pepsi Bottling Ventures] also will begin distributing Pepsi Throwback and Mountain Dew Throwback, which features those brands formulated with sugar."

This is a big deal! Mainstream soft drinks in the United States are all sweetened with High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS). Typically, the only way to get soda from the "big guys" with real sugar is to import it (i.e., Mexican Coke) or wait till Passover (Kosher Coke, Kosher Pepsi).

Pepsi has been experimenting elsewhere with true sugar-sweetened drinks. A year ago there were at least two - Pepsi Raw in the UK and Mexico's Pepsi Retro. It's nice to see some of this finally coming to the States.

From bevreview.com.

I can't wait! I have been bugging the manager of the Guatemalan market down the street to carry Mexican Coke with no luck. And you would think that living in south Florida, Kosher Coke would be easy to find, but no! So yay!


The Culinary Cinema Awards

"Coinciding with this year's Academy Awards, CooksDen.com is proud to announce the winners of its All-Time Culinary Cinema Awards. These awards honor great movies that include food as a central component in their theme, plot or cinematography. Awards are given in nine major categories."

This is a great compilation of food-related movies! Examples of the categories include "Best On-screen Feast," "Best Restaurant Industry Movie," and "Most Disturbing Food Movie."

See all the nominees HERE.

Foodie Conversation Hearts

Every year, the Necco candy company updates the phrases printed on their ubiquitous Valentine's Day candy hearts, a.k.a. the Sweethearts Conversation Hearts. Serving, often controversially, as a yardstick of the contemporary lexicon, Necco adds new phrases ("EMAIL ME") and retires old-fashioned ones ("DIG ME") as the changing slang dictates. Now get this:

For 2009, the theme is "Menu of Love," all food-inspired idioms.


It really says something about the current status of food in our culture that the best way to say "I love you" is with a kitchen metaphor.


♥ 8 billion Necco Conversation Hearts are produced annually.

♥ According to the National Confectioners Association, there are several ways to "read" an unlabeled box of chocolates. Wrapped chocolates usually have liquid or soft centers. Large bumps on the surface indicate the presence of nuts; small bumps tend to signal coconut. Square and rectangular chocolates often contain caramel.


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