MIDDLE SCHOOL STUDENTS BATTLE TO SEE WHO WINS THE IRON CHEF CONTEST
Some time back, I posted a link to this wonderful seven-minute documentary of a classroom “Iron Chef” contest at Willard Middle School in Berkeley, but I wasn’t embedding videos then and few of you saw it. So, here’s a second chance to see evidence of the great results classes in healthy cooking and gardening are having in Berkeley, where all students get such instruction beginning in kindergarten. Kudos to Susanne Jensen, cooking teacher, along with Tanya and Vana and to seventh grade reporter Danny Hogg, who is wonderfully at ease in front of a camera, and to all the students who are becoming good cooks. Not to give away too much, but the secret ingredient is beets.
We’ve been doing meatless Mondays in Palo Alto for 23 years, but recently there’s a growing worldwide movement toward eating less meat, starting with once a week on Mondays. We know that the livestock industry contributes enormously to greenhouse gas emissions–just to pick one of many reasons to eat less, or even no meat. Opinion leaders as varied as Michael Pollan, Al Gore, Yoko Ono and chef Mario Batalli have endorsed meatless Mondays. Watch this video to see Paul McCartney’s pitch, and if you’re in the Bay Area, join us on Mondays in Palo Alto, all welcome! Click here to find out about a Meat Free Monday Meetup group.
For more than ten years, Berkeley public schools have led the way in teaching healthy eating and cooking, beginning in kindergarten. My friend, Susanne Jensen, who is also a natural foods chef, has been teaching cooking at Willard Middle School since the program began. She forwarded this YouTube link to a wonderful seven-minute documentary about one of their classroom Iron Chef contests. It’s inspiring, amusing and entertaining all at once. At a time when fewer people are cooking at home, it is good to know that at least in Berkeley, kids are cooking in school. Watch, and feel better about how the younger generation is doing!
THE NAKED CHEF BRINGS FRESH FOOD TO THE UNHEALTHIEST CITY IN AMERICA
Can Jamie Oliver, England’s naked chef, turn around the eating habits of 50,000 people in Huntington, West Virginia, the unhealthiest city in America? That’s the premise of a new reality TV show debuting on ABC Friday, March 26th at 9 p.m. I don’t watch much TV, and you probably don’t either, but having seen the previews, this is one show I’m going to follow.
More and more of us are turning to the internet for recipes. But what about cooking classes? That too. Here are links to 24 fun 3-5 minute video cooking classes. Teacher for these classes is Mark Bittman, author of “How to Cook Everything Vegetarian,” “How to Cook Everything,” and New York Times blogger and food writer. A number of these classes are vegan and feature whole grains and whole grain flours. You’ll access many of the recipes in the videos by clicking on the related article. And keep in mind that Mark is a bit of a character!
“FOOD, INC.” DOCUMENTARY IS NOW AVAILABLE ON DVD
If you’re a reader of this blog, you are no doubt aware of how off-track is the American food industry. It produces abundant, apparently cheap food, but the hidden costs are high. It treats animals like objects, degrades the environment, eats up huge government subsidies, and directly contributes to health care costs which will bankrupt the country if something doesn’t change. Needless to say, it’s a system which makes huge profits for a handful of corporations. Even if you are well-informed already, see this disturbing, informative and inspiring documentary and get fired up all over again. If you saw “Food, Inc.” in a theater, buy the recently released DVD and share it with family and friends. Having grown up on a family farm, I empathize with the often unsavory choices farmers feel forced to make, and this is a topic I promise to return to often. Find out more about “Food, Inc.” or watch the trailer here.
Is it my imagination or is Martha Stewart turning into an advocate of eating less meat and more veggies? Her recent vegetarian show is the best TV I’ve seen on the topic all year. Her guests are Robert Kenner, producer of the Academy-Award nominated documentary “Food, Inc.;” Joel Salatin, one of the organic farmers who appears in the movie; Jeremy Fox, chef at Ubuntu, the upscale vegetarian restaurant in Napa; and Jonathan Safran Foer, author the book “Eating Animals.” Martha’s always been intelligent and well organized, but in later years she seems warmer and more relaxed, and that’s a good thing! Thanks to SkyAnn McGrath for the tip on this.
BARACK OBAMA COMMENTS ON AMERICA’S DIET AND FOOD POLICIES
In this brief, little-seen video from summer 2008, then-Senator Obama answers a question from Nikki Benoit of Vegan Outreach. It’s clear that Mr. Obama, in general terms, gets what’s wrong and senses what needs to be done. We shall see if that understanding translates into change in Washington.
BRINGING FRESH, WHOLE FOODS TO BERKELEY’S SCHOOLS
How long have we known that most school lunches are high in fat and sugar and low in fresh vegetables? Just about forever. Fortunately, in recent years a few pioneers have been working to turn that around. In this 20- minute TED video, Culinary Institute of America graduate, chef and author Ann Cooper talks about a program to bring nutritious cooked-from-scratch meals into the lunchrooms of Berkeley’s Public Schools, where she was Director of Nutrition Services. Berkeley’s food education program, possibly the most comprehensive in the country, includes gardening and cooking classes beginning in pre-school.
If you’re not familiar with them, the TED talks are a great free online resource, well-worth investigating.
MICHAEL POLLAN’S “BOTANY OF DESIRE” COMES TO TELEVISION
Gardener, writer and now UC journalism professor Michael Pollan in his provocative 2001 book, “The Botany of Desire” posited that just as bumblebees and flowers have evolved together, so have humans and plants, each using the other to get something they need. And now “The Botany of Desire” has come to PBS in a two-hour television documentary gorgeously produced by Michael Schwarz.
In four half-hour segments the program profiles the same plants Pollan investigates in his book: the apple, the tulip, cannabis and the potato. With fascinating interviews and historical anecdotes we are shown how we have changed plants, but also how plants have changed human history.
We see how the apple and that odd character who came to be known as Johnny Appleseed influenced settlement in America. We see how 17th century Holland’s infatuation with tulips led to a mad economic bubble and subsequent collapse. We see how a 19th century potato blight led to the starvation of 1/8th of Ireland’s population and the emigration of millions more. And we see our America caught in a seemingly endless argument over how marijuana should be viewed. Does if relieve pain and open consciousness or will it’s use cause our country to decline?
In there is also a cautionary tale. While the ancestors of the Incas in Peru cultivate between four and five thousand varieties of potato, the Irish grew just one. And although recently a greater variety of potatoes are coming to market in the U.S., potato production here overwhelmingly favors a single variety: the Russet Burbank. Why? Because that’s the variety McDonald’s demands for it’s french fries. Need I add that this near monoculture comes with a heavy dose of herbicides and pesticides? And while this documentary’s aim isn’t a call to arms, it surely will leave viewers with a new respect for plants and their importance in our lives.
PBS first aired this documentary on many stations on October 28th, but check your local listings to see when your station will air this exceptional show.