episode 41 :: the food tube

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In case you haven’t noticed, we’re in the middle of a very food rich television season. With shows like Top Chef Masters, No Reservations, The F Word, and The Next Food Network Star in full swing, and a new season of Top Chef on the horizon, it’s an entertainment-rich environment for foodies.

It’s been a year and a half since King Corn hit the big screen, so I wanted to remind those who haven’t yet seen it to do so. I pulled a few clips from the movie to tease you with the films message of how corn is changing everything (and I mean everything) about food. I highly encourage you to either rent it, or buy your copy on the films web site.

Listen to episode 41 now.

In this episode:
• The most content-rich Summer in food television history
Ludo Bites
Charles Thompson’s 100 Miles
• Is tuna becoming endangered?
• Welcome new listeners
Jennifer Litz at FoodBytes, the future of food writing – no, writing period.
FACT – Food Animal Concerns Trust
• Season 6 of Top Chef, featuring Chef Michael Voltaggio from The Bazaar
• Padma leaving Top Chef for a sitcom, and my idea for her new sitcom
• Julie & Julia opens August 7th

Listen to episode 41

Music in this episode from The Prodigy. Download “Spitfire” from the iTunes Store.

Not Soy Fast!

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Meat is murder.

That’s what they’ll tell you, anyway. And it’s true. If we’re going to eat meat, we must face the truth of the matter; animals must die if we’re going to continue to enjoy things like burgers, sausages, steaks, chops, and all of the other wonderful proteins we enjoy day in and out.

But if I may, allow me to turn the table on our vegan friends. How does this sound to you?

Soy is murder.

Yeah, that’s right.

And when I say “murder,” I’m not talking about some poor soybean plant giving up it’s pods for your “garden burger” or whatever horrible pseudo-meat product you kid yourself with when you sit down to lunch. That would be taking a page out of your worn-out playbook.

No, my friends. Murder: as in this all-soy diet you find yourself on may be killing you. Between the documentary “Food, Inc.” and an article in Bon Appetit Magazine that I’ve read recently, disturbing allegations against soybeans have been so front and center that I feel compelled to share what I’ve learned with you.

And before I start, let me clarify something: I don’t care if people want to eat tofu products in the place of meat. I really don’t. If, for whatever reason, you wish to eat soy and tofu in replace of meat — it’s not affecting me. Knock yourself out. What does affect me is when I’m forced to endure preaching of how unhealthy and unfair it is that chicken, beef, and pork find their way onto my table.

While watching Food, Inc., the evidence against Monsanto and their genetically modified soybeans stuck with me. Really, it did. Here is something natural – a soybean, a centuries-old traditional staple in the Japanese diet. Perhaps one of the most honored of all healthy foods. Then along comes a big conglomerate like Monsanto who finds a way to grow them quicker, bigger, and for far less money by genetically altering the structure of the organic bean.

You’ve heard of Round-Up, right? If you have a garden, you’ve probably used it, or at least heard of it. It’s incredible. I love it, actually. It’s a potent solution designed to kill vegetation, grasses, weeds, anything that grows in the ground. I would venture to guess that if you used in large enough doses, it might even kill a tree. For every pain in the ass weed growing in the middle of your lawn, there’s a spritz of Round-Up waiting to send it to sleep with the fishes.

Midway through Food, Inc., we learn that Monsanto, the same company that created such American classics as Agent Orange and DDT, is the company that designed Round-Up. And a number of years ago, Monsanto began work on a genetically modified soybean designed to actually fight the elements in Round-Up, so that any doses of the weed killer would not affect the plant.

Imagine that — a soybean plant that Round-Up cannot kill. Not only that, but you can eat it! I just love chemistry.

But wait, it gets better. We also learned that Monsanto is responsible for over 90% of all soybeans produced in the USA. So chances are strong that the soy burger you’re enjoying is created with Monsanto Brand Soybeans. It’s like a mouthful of Big Business in every bite! Don’t you feel healthy? Pass that soy dog, will ya?

Talk about cornering the market. Let’s hear it for big businesses like Monsanto! Like Don King said – “Only in America!”

So fast-forward to the August 2009 issue of Bon Appetit that contains a very well written article by Paul Tullis, uncovering some facts about soy that are somewhat unsettling. In the article, Paul finds that several studies over the past few years show that an all-soy diet can lead to higher risks of cancer.

The reason? Dangerous levels of isoflavones. What the Hell are those? They’re natural chemicals, similar to human estrogen. And at high levels, they’re dangerous enough that women who have been diagnosed with (or have a family history of) breast cancer are encouraged to stay away from eating soy altogether. Not only that, it can cause fertility problems in men.

Does this mean the average person should avoid eating soybeans? Absolutely not. But an all-soy diet, however healthy it might make you feel, is not the answer to eternal health. Everything in moderation. Mix in a salad.

Whether this has anything to do with Monsanto’s genetically modified soybean has not been proven. Anyone can guess, but who’s got deep enough pockets for a lawsuit like that?

On the bright side, there is hope. Fermenting soy beans alters the chemical makeup of soy, reducing the level of isoflavones – by up to 70%! So all you lovers of soy sauce and miso — eat with reckless abandon. God bless fermentation, right?

So I leave you with a recipe for one of my favorite soups — miso. It’s the most flavorful, easiest, and quickest of all soups that I love to make and enjoy. Requiring only that you have access to a Japanese grocery store to acquire ingredients such as miso paste, instant dashi mix (bonito flavored soup mix), and nori (seaweed), miso soup will warm your soul.

Best of all, this soup won’t kick your estrogen levels into high gear. Can you imagine me with higher estrogen levels? Excuse me, but I’m pretty sure I’d look hideous in a dress.

Miso Soup (serves 4)

4 cups water
¼ cup dark miso paste (you can use white miso, but I prefer the darker paste)
½ teaspoon instant dashi
Tofu, cut into very tiny cubes (optional)
2 scallions, sliced thin
1 tablespoon of thinly sliced nori (seaweed)

UPDATE: Thanks to Bubby at Brain Gravy for alerting me to this rich documentary “The World According to Monsanto.” Watch it before it magically disappears from the internet once again. It’s a startling film, and my hat goes off to the director/producer.

episode 40 :: capital gains

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A long weekend trip to Sacramento early in June opened my eyes to all things culinary in our state’s capital. Led by Rick Sellers of Pacific Brew News, and his wife Tracy, we spent one of the most action-packed beer & beverage days that I can remember having in a very long time. We were joined by Peter Hoey of Sacramento Brewing, as well as Sean Paxton (the homebrew chef) and his wife. The day starts off in high gear and never slows down.

Listen to episode 40 here.

There’s Corti Brothers, the grocery store that has now become the measuring stick for all others. The Shack – the most unassuming place you’d ever expect to be drinking some of the finest Belgian beers in the world. There’s King’s Restaurant, home to some of the greatest Dim Sum I’ve ever had (including . . . . get ready . . . . CHICKEN FEET!).

We spend a couple of hours at Sacramento Brewing, where Peter has put his genius to work crafting some incredible brew, as well as some of the most loveable cask-aged Sour Belgian ales you could ask for. Our evening ends at Auburn Alehouse, where Brian and Lisa Ford have turned a sleepy little town into a craft brew destination for anyone on their way to or from Reno or Lake Tahoe.

We gained some new friends, new memories, but most of all – an education. Sometimes, the culinary gems are where you might least expect them to be.

In this episode:
• Sacramento, and the capital’s hidden food mecca
• Things I learned from Food, Inc., and why everyone should see it
• 911 is for emergencies, not fast food mishaps
The Bruery’s new homebrew supply shop
Beer Wars now available on DVD
• An preview of an in-depth look at Myrecipes.com, coming soon
• New FDA regulations on at-risk food production facilities
• Kobe Beef – it’s not what’s for dinner, even if you think it is
• Detroit’s auto industry crisis hits the city’s food supply

Listen to episode 40 here.

Music in this episode by Marilyn Manson. Buy the song in the iTunes Store. 99 cents. Don’t be cheap – support the arts.

PS: Paula Deen is the anti-christ.