Los Angeles

In the News… Thursday, July 3, 2008

tomatomania.jpg† What’s Going on with Tomatoes? The New York Times is not alone in asking what’s going on with tomatoes, and are they really the key to the salmonella outbreaks that have been reported in several states? Marion Nestle, one of our favorite sources of information on these types of matters, tries to sort out the news from the noise in a post on her “What to Eat” blog. Dr Nestle’s post links to several online resources, including an interesting post by the Perishable Pundit analyzing the FDA’s and CDC’s responses to the salmonella outbreak in an interview with Dr Michael Osterholm, the director for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota.

Our friends at The Ethicurean remind readers that knowing your grower may be one of the best ways to avoid the dangers associated with repacking produce.

honeybee.jpg† What About the Bees? Jonathan David Farley contributed an op-ed essay to the New York Times this week, reminding readers that more–and more accurate–data is necessary before we can expect to develop strategies for combatting colony collapse in the honeybee population.

And if you–or someone you know–still doesn’t think that colony collapse is a serious issue, consider the effect on… ice cream. In testimony before Congress last week, representatives of Haagen-Dazs shared their admittedly focused concern:

Officials of the Oakland company told Congress on Thursday that more than 40 percent of its product’s flavors, derived from fruits and nuts, depend on honeybees. Without bees, fruits and nuts cannot exist.

As for whether strawberry, raspberry or almond ice cream could disappear, Haagen-Dazs brand director Katty Pien said, “We hope not, but that’s why there is such a sense of urgency, so that the millions of people who love our strawberry ice cream can have it forever.”

Seriously, though, Haagen-Dazs is donating a portion of their income from the sale of certain ice cream flavors to research efforts, and spending advertising dollars to alert consumers about the effects of the declining honeybee population. More information on Haagen-Dazs’ efforts is available on their Help the Honeybees website.

Carolyn Lochhead’s article in the San Francisco Chronicle from which the quote above was copied also includes helpful suggestions from the Pollinator Partnership and the North American Pollinator Protection Campaign about how individuals can help pollinators, which include honeybees as well as bats, moths, butterflies, hummingbirds, beetles, and flies. They include:
++ Provide food: Native flowers provide nectar (carbohydrates) and pollen (protein). Butterfly larvae eat host plants. Fermented fallen fruits provide food.
++ Plant in groups: Stagger bloom seasons from early spring to late fall. Use flowers of different colors and fragrances on plants of different heights. Native perennials such as salvias, as well as herbs such as mint, oregano, lavender, garlic, parsley and chives, and annuals all support bees and butterflies.
++ Provide shelter: Incorporate canopy layers by planting trees, shrubs and different-size perennials. Leave dead wood for nesting and dead plants and leaf litter for shelter. Leave some areas of soil uncovered for ground-nesting insects. Group plantings to help pollinators move through the landscape to avoid predators.
++ Provide water: Running water, ponds and small containers provide drinking and bathing water. Water sources should have a sloping side so pollinators can approach easily without drowning.
++ Don’t poison: Avoid using pesticides and herbicides.

Don’t miss the Urban Bee Gardens website (thanks to the University of California, Berkeley) and the website for the Pollinator Partnership.

† What’s the State of American Cuisine? That’s the question addressed by the James Beard Foundation’s white paper, now available online. Does “American Cuisine” exist? Or is the focused more properly placed on regional cooking?

The same words appeared in answers explaining the lack of a cuisine that appeared in those answers justifying it: diversity, regionalism, immigration, cultural influences, size of the country—-all these concepts appeared as ways to explain, in the negative answers, why there could not be an American cuisine. For the believers, these same attributes became the unique and identifiable characteristics of our foodways. What this discrepancy suggests is that people agree on the characteristics of the food served in America, but disagree on definition of cuisine.