2011 Winners and Losers

Your Homestead Gardens food blogger avidly follows a weekly column within Food52 (a NY Times food blog) where the food news editors, Shelly and Fran, weigh in on the week's and world's top food news. Fran is actually our neighbor living in Washington DC while Shelly is a West Coaster.

I wanted you to see some of the superlatives and deadheads of 2011 as written and researched by "in-the-know" Shelly and Fran. It's a good way to wrap up a year and get motivated for a fulfilling 'real food' 2012.

The Food Winners and Losers of 2011

WINNERS: Those committed to eating close to home

Eating locally – once considered something of a fringe movement – has never been easier. And not just for denizens of Portland, OR, where farmers bike between plots they've planted in various urban backyards (can it get more local than subscribing to a CSA for produce produced in your neighbor's garden?). The Seattle Times notes that a young Canadian couple who tried a '100-Mile Diet' quickly found themselves shut out of 9 of 10 supermarket aisles. But that's no longer the case, as the food industry scrambles to catch up with demand for locally grown and produced foods. In fact, the USDA announced this week that locally grown food is now a $4.8B business (and that number is only for 2008; doesn't it seem like it must be even higher now?). But not everyone considers this a clear win-win situation. The Center for Consumer Freedom takes issue with Mark Bittman's recent argument in favor of local foods. In a Comparative Advantage column, editors fault 'trendy activists and first-world foodies' with trying to 'turn back the clock' on agriculture and put the world's 7 billion inhabitants at risk of being unable to feed themselves.

 LOSERS: Big Food Companies (and those of us who buy their wares)

In a rough week for food giants, arsenic turned up in popular commercial fruit-juice brands, including Tropicana, Minute Maid and Welch’s. But that wasn’t the worst of it. Cranberry behemoth Ocean Spray took a hit when consumers reported finding metal fragments (yum) in bags of Craisins. Can you spell recall? Might as well learn it in Chinese, too: Reports show southern China’s 12 million tons of rice may be contaminated with cadmium. Luckily, the news isn’t all bad. We seem to be making strides in the war against E.coli. And fish will soon be adorned with DNA barcodes so consumers get the fish they think they’re buying, not a tilapia in cod’s clothing.

WINNERS: White House staff members who reclaimed their waistlines

Thinner, fitter White House staffers credit First Lady Michele Obama for motivating them to eat well and get healthy. Three White House chefs and one curator have lost more than 110 pounds after changing their eating and exercise habits and just saying no to all the cookies, cakes and pies (oh my!) on hand for visiting dignitaries. "(Michele Obama) is a great inspiration for me to focus everyday to try harder, and I have,” says Susie Morrison, assistant pastry chef, now 30 pounds lighter. But Obama hasn't stopped at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. She takes her healthy-eating show on the road as well. In New Orleans, the First Lady of Fitness urged eager preschoolers to eat their peas and exercise more. Fellow healthy eater Jamie Oliver must be happy to have a government ally here in the U.S. after claiming his own government consistently works against his efforts. We're personally hoping his woes across the pond mean we'll be seeing a lot more of him on this side of the Atlantic.


 LOSERS: Teens, who just can’t seem to get enough produce

Teenagers seem to be waging a losing battle in the fight to eat right. They eat too much junk food, drink too much soda. Worried yours isn’t getting enough veggies? You probably should be. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, most teens are nutrient deficient and eating fewer fruits and vegetables than the daily-recommended amounts. Maybe parents should try motivating their teenagers with one of Vermont's folk artist Bo Muller-Moore's "Eat More Kale" hats or t-shirts. He may be fighting a ridiculous trademark suit brought by Chik-fil-A (because doesn’t everyone mistake kale for chicken?), but he has us rooting for the green CSA box underdog. The news about teens and produce might just add to the growing list of things parents feel guilty about. But there are reasons for hope. A CNN essay this week made (a lot of) us feel better about not cooking from scratch every night. Happily, rotisserie chickens and salad bars have come a long way. Another way parents are easing their guilt – and helping their kids – is by making fighting childhood obesity a family affair and signing up for exercise and nutrition boot camps. Unfortunately, we also learned this week that morning snacking could sink diet goals; so we’re going to have to save this cinnamon sugared bacon for after lunch.

 WINNERS: Foragers (especially those who stroll on asphalt)

While adventurous foodies and fans of sustainable eating have boldly started dishing up grasshoppers and grubs, other scrappy home cooks have hit the backroads and, well, scraped up some dinner. If flattened skunk and raccoon don't get you hungry, then what about marinated venison? In some states, taking your roadkill home to dinner is considered a privilege. One pregnant woman (and professional taxidermist) is so fond of roadkill meals ("It's more gamey than other meat and I love the taste") that she serves downed deer, pigeon, rabbit, owl and partridge at dinner parties. We're all for trying new things, but for now our foraging might be confined to roadside farm stands. Unless we can scrape up the dough to go truffle hunting in Italy (which might be cheaper than buying them here, at this point).

WINNERS: Food bloggers and Simpsons fans

The multitudes of bloggers slaving away over stoves and keyboards got their 15 minutes of fame (well, more like 22 minutes, really) last weekend, as Marge, Lisa and Bart took the plunge into food blogging. With celeb-foodie guest stars Anthony Bourdain, Mario Batali and Gordon Ramsay (not to mention many mentions of food-world stars), the episode gave foodists a chance to both celebrate and laugh at themselves. It also gave them some Simpsons-quality quotes that may last longer than Marge's blog. And the food blog rap? PHO-nny! Aspiring bloggers inspired by Marge's new hobby had to look no farther than Irvin Lin's popular Eat The Love blog. This week, he offered a 'Food Blogging 101' post to help guide those just getting started. Maybe Lin could offer those Simpsons bloggers some tips should another food episode be in the offing. We feel certain that New York Times food editor Pete Wells will be invited to the next animated party. His appointment this week as the paper's dining critic puts him squarely in the ranks of food royalty – and worthy of a comic alter ego.

 LOSERS (and GAINERS??): Hefty dads and the kids who admire them

Moms have been taking the rap for kids' poor eating habits since, well, meal times began. In fact, studies have pinned everything from children's food allergies to their obesity on mom's eating habits. But now a new study claims that children of overweight dads are four times more likely to be overweight themselves and that mom's diet and weight don't seem to be much of a factor. Phew! Moms are off the hook (for this week, anyway). Meanwhile, more men are also fessing up to suffering from eating disorders, a health issue previously associated mostly with women. Maybe if dads spend enough time in the kitchen with their kids, they can avert total disaster. It seems to have worked for Jamie Oliver's dad. And Darth Vader.

Compiled by-Seasonal Cooking with Rita Calvert~The Local Cook 

photos-Rita Calvert (except for Mom with piggy)


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