Author Archive for: ‘dsimmons’

Trash Talk – Deck the halls – and think green!

December 12, 2012
Becky Tweedy, Assistant to the President

Gift Suggestion – gift cards, concert tickets, restaurant certificates, and movie vouchers -all great alternatives to heavily packaged and wrapped presents. And, if
purchased online, you not only save packaging waste, you also reduce time waste & stress associated with crowds & traffic!
LED lights – they are more expensive, but when you replace your existing lights with LED the (usage) savings is tremendous, and they last a long, long, long time!!
Ribbons, bows & wrap – if 40% of US households reduced holiday paper consumption by just 2 sheets this year, the savings could ‘gift wrap’ Manhattan Island….
Think about it!
Will you take a small step to help?

Source: The Green Book

Thoughts on "The rise of the new food culture"

December 12, 2012
Denise Simmons, Corporate Chef

I wish I were better able to express myself in writing.  I sit in front of the computer to pen my ‘In the Kitchen’ blog every two weeks and my mind goes blank.  I do have ideas about what I want to say, but feel like I get ‘performance anxiety’ about how to write it.  Then I come across an article, such as the one below, that says all I want to say, in a way everyone can understand & appreciate.  Maybe one day I’ll be able to do so, but in the mean time, I’m glad there are authors like Scott Mowbray, Editor, Cooking Light , to say it for me.  He says it brilliantly,  and I have highlighted a couple passages that really spoke to me.

The Rise of the New Food Culture
Posted: 12/10/2012 9:50 am

So gassy are the arguments about our food system and its effect on life and health in America -- arguments that hop from obesity to Type 2 diabetes to GMOs to food deserts to e coli to high fructose corn syrup -- that it's easy to miss a heartening truth, one we can be thankful for in this season of eating. The truth is that America is in the middle of inventing a new food culture, and no one, not the foodies nor the food activists nor the Grocery Manufacturers Association of America, can predict how powerful a force for change it may be. This food culture, spreading across the land like the bloom on a soft-ripened cheese, has the power to cure a lot of what ails us. Deep cultural change is the one force that can overcome generations of political and market inertia that have led to our overweight condition. A taste for better food could lift us from the adolescent excesses of our 20th century eating habits -- and begin to reduce the obesity that has been the result.

American food culture in the last century swallowed the factory-to-table promise whole, a promise that seemed validated by the triumphs of nutrition science: Diet was perfectible for the shiny, fast-paced life that was God's destiny for Americans. Daily we would rise to vitamin-enriched spongy white breads and toaster pastries and powdered breakfast drinks; we would lunch on mass-manufactured hamburgers; we would snack on Hostess Twinkies; dine on huge steaks. We would replace water with soda, and make our beer taste like water. We would conquer the world on this high-octane fuel, in vast portions for our growing bodies. The anonymous food scientist was the de facto head chef of the nation. None of the factory foods, taken alone, was or is bad; taken together, though, and dominating our diet: That turned out to be a different story.

The perfectible diet revealed its fatal flaws when chronic disease rates (first heart disease, much more recently Type 2 diabetes) rocketed and were linked as early as the 1950s to the supersized, supercharged, supersalted, superfatted foods we loved. But we would also awaken, slowly, to the limitations -- in variety and in taste -- of the food we ate. Newly prosperous Americans traveled and encountered deep food cultures abroad, in Europe, India, and Southeast Asia. Maybe pasta in cans wasn't the best pasta? Among the travelers were people like Alice Waters, who brought the real-food word home and insisted that a whole new story about American food was possible. The environmental movement blossomed, throwing light on problems with farming and fishing, and beginning to reconnect the idea that quality of food supply depends on quality of farming practices.

It takes time for values of, and stories about, authenticity, craftsmanship, heritage and flavor to fight their way through a system as shiny and robust as the American factory-to-table food culture. It takes decades to invent a new food culture. We are now 40 and 50 and 60 years past Alice Waters, Julia Child, Craig Claiborne and Rachel Carson. Do not let that turtle pace blind you to the acceleration of changes now underway. The variety of foods in any decent supermarket is astounding. Artisan food-making has become as cool as building apps for iPads. Young people are finding reasons to farm -- and get involved in food activism -- while farmers' markets are proliferating like zucchini. Chefs are rock stars, including countless local indie chefs who have no connection to Food Network Television.

The local/global groove that defines the emerging food culture -- combining immigrant knowledge and older, regional American traditions with the mashup tastes of the Internet-nurtured young -- is the dominant groove of the new eating. I care what happens in New York and San Francisco and Chicago and New Orleans, but I care more that those things are also happening in Atlanta, Miami, Minneapolis, Austin and both Portlands: Name your city. The new food culture is trans-demographic: Good things come from Korexican taco trucks as much as from the experimentations of Grant Achatz. Chefs like Andy Ricker of the Portland and Brooklyn Thai restaurants called Pok Pok: these folks are the coolest of all, as they dive deeper into what authenticity actually means in America. The emerging food culture is inclusive, too, revering the knowledge of the grey-hairs: Hipster chef David Chang worships self-described hillbilly Tennessee bacon god Allan Benton.

Food companies want to be, must be, tuned to this new food culture. They cannot thrive otherwise. Critics of the food system fail to recognize that Big Food cannot dictate tastes to a new generation any more than the backers of Pat Boone could determine which singer -- Boone or Presley -- would define the exploding music culture of the 50 years that followed. We have to hope that problems such as obesity will, over a generation or two, be ameliorated by a taste for better food in different proportions; let's hope so, because there is no emerging medical or legislative cure. I am not arguing that food activists should not bother with their fights for social justice in the food system: In this economy, in this country with its pockets of poverty and its food deserts, God bless them. But they should be comforted that bigger forces are with them, stronger winds are at their backs, than mere politics and lobbying. Culture itself is changing. Taste raises consciousness. Those of us who love food can only marvel and enjoy. The election may be over, but we vote with our forks thrice daily -- not only in the holiday season, but every day of the year.

A new twist for an old tradition

November 26, 2012
Denise Simmons, Corporate Chef

I’ve written before about my family’s food traditions…they’ve been around longer than I have, and offer great comfort during the holidays.

One of the best traditions this time of year is the cranberry relish. It’s very simple-grind fresh, raw cranberries with a whole orange; add sugar & walnuts. That’s it-couldn’t be simpler, or more delicious. My folks usually make a giant batch at thanksgiving, and freeze it for use throughout the year.

This year, I took a couple bags home, and decided since cranberries are so good for me, I’d try some new ways to eat them. This morning for breakfast I mixed pink grapefruit sections, orange sections, cranberry relish & strawberry yogurt together, then added a little granola on top for crunch & whole grains. It was fantastic! One of the tastiest fruit/yogurt parfaits I’ve ever had.

I wonder how the relish would work in place of jelly on a bagel? Tomorrows breakfast adventure…

Trash Talk – Campus campaign

November 20, 2012
Becky Tweedy, Assistant to the President

Campus Campaign

Pens – Use refillable pens. Refills cost as little as $1 each, almost the same as disposables. Pens are rarely recycled. Every year we discard 1.6 billion pens. Placed end to end, they would stretch more than 150,000 miles – from LA to Tokyo more than 25 times!

Textbooks – buy used and sell back, or rent and return.  About $10 billion worth of textbooks – K through college – are sold each year.  Recycling just 1 percent of these books would save enough to send more than 4000 students to a 4-year public college.

Paper – use both sides; recycle.  By far the biggest form of waste that comes from schools, it is also a great opportunity! Every ton (220,000 sheets) of paper that is recycled saves approximately 17 trees! The average school tosses 38 tons of paper per year…

Think about it!
Will you take a small step to help?
Source: The Green Book



November 5, 2012
Denise Simmons, Corporate Chef

Southwestern cuisine has gained significant popularity the past few years. We’ve had tex-mex (think Taco Bell) for many years, but I’m talking about a more authentic type of food, mixing southern US & Mexican cuisines to form a style unique to Arizona, New Mexico & southern California. I was born in Phoenix, AZ, so I was raised on tacos & chile rellenos, the way most American kids were raised on burgers & fries.

One of my favorite dishes has always been pinto beans. Dried beans, sorted carefully to pick out any bad beans or pebbles that may have gotten into them during harvesting. Slow cooked-all day-with lots of fresh garlic & onions. Occasionally some hatch chiles added for extra pizzazz. My folks have been
getting an amazing variety of pintos from my aunt & uncle in Colorado, where they’re grown (the beans, not my aunt & uncle..). The Colorado beans are smaller & a bit sweeter than the beans I remember from childhood.

I was at the Whole Foods grocery store in Charlottesville last week, and was pleasantly surprised to learn of a relatively new variety (a hybrid) of pintos called Rattlesnake Beans. I fell for the name alone, so definitely had to get some & see how they measure up! I cooked a small batch last week-just in time for taco Friday with my folks (a long standing family tradition!). They’re smaller than even the Colorado pintos, and a good bit sweeter & creamier as well. They cook up a bit darker-they almost look like a small red kidney bean. They were delicious, but I think we’ll be sticking with the Colorado pintos…it has a little bit to do with flavor, but I think more to do with tradition…

Trash Talk – Water saving tips

October 30, 2012
Becky Tweedy, Assistant to the President

Water Saving Tips

Take a shorter shower – for every 2 minutes you trim off your shower time, you can conserve more than 10 gallons of water.
Turn off the tap while you brush your teeth – you’ll save up to 5 gallons per day. Throughout the US that could add up to 1.5 billion gallons per day – more than is consumed in NYC each day!
Dishwasher math – run full loads, and don’t pre-rinse dishes. Do both and you could save up to 20 gallons of water per load, as much as 7,300 gallons over a year. That is as  much as the average person drinks in a LIFETIME!

Think about it!
Will you take a small step to help?

Source: The Green Book

Curried Pumpkin Mousse

Curried Pumpkin Mousse
Makes 3 cups

1/4c - minced shallot
2T - unsalted butter
2 1/2t -
curry powder
2t - chopped fresh thyme
2c - canned solid-pack pumpkin
8oz - local goat cheese, softened
3 -
heads belgian endive
1/2c - walnuts or pepetitas, lightly toasted & finely chopped

  1. Cook shallot in butter over low heat, stir, until soft
  2. Add curry, S&P
  3. Continue cooking & stirring for 1 minute
  4. Puree pumpkin & goat cheese
  5. Add shallot mixture & chopped thyme
  6. Chill, pipe onto ends of endive leaves, sprinkle with nuts

You may also serve as a dip with other vegetables, sliced local


Trash Talk – Still making the case for recycling

October 16, 2012
Becky Tweedy, Assistant to the President

Still making the case for recycling

1,500 - Gallons of water it takes to make just one single drive-through order: hamburger, fries, & soda; including the water needed to grow potatoes, the grain for the bun & the cattle, and everything for the soda.
5,500,000 - Number of boxes of software thrown away each month
100,000 - Number of CDs thrown away each month
$370 mil - How much could be saved in landfill dumping fees if all Americans recycled their junk mail instead of trashing it!
Think about it!  Will you take a small step to help?

Source: The Green Book 

A note from Joel

October 2, 2012
Denise Simmons, Corporate Chef

Joel Salatin, owner/founder of Polyface Farm, marked a special anniversary lately.  Read below to understand how special this anniversary is to him, and to the scores of people who keep Polyface Farm going year after year.  An amazing milestone-for Joel, for Polyface & for sustainable farming!

A note from Joel...

Sept. 24, 1982 marked my first day of full time farming. It was a Monday, just like today, and the Friday previous I had cleaned out my desk in the Staunton News Leader newsroom and waved goodbye to my fellow journalists. Everyone thought I was making a huge mistake. Farming? Anything but that.

Even farmers thought I was making a huge mistake. And then to know that I was not going to use chemicals. That I was going to pasture chickens and pigs. That I wasn't going to build silos and plow the soil. How could anything be as ridiculous?

This morning I awakened to a farm festooned with balloons. I had mentioned the day and its 30-year importance in passing a couple of times during the summer, but frankly have been too covered up with responsibilities to plan any big celebration for myself. No worries. I'm surrounded by the most loyal, grateful, creative, dependable, conscientious team of young people you can imagine.

I've been crying all morning.

I think Eric and Brie led the plans. Overnight, they and accomplices decorated the farm with balloons, strategically placed to intercept my morning routine at every step. From the clothesline beside the backdoor to the equipment shed, balloons lined the path. The Massey Ferguson tractor they knew I would use to move the Eggmobile had balloons anchored to the wheels. As I approached the Eggmobile to hook it up, balloons cascaded off the front.

As is my routine, I went out to get the morning newspaper--once a news junkie, always a news junkie--and the farm entrance literally floated with balloons and our entrance sign had an explanatory addition in huge letters: Happy Anniversary Joel Full-time Farming 30 Years.

Tears welled up uncontrollably as the reality of the love and support of these young people overwhelmed me. To be this age, farming, surrounded by this kind of enthusiasm and honor--could it get any better than this? And then I had to chuckle: take that, friends, farmers, experts. All you folks that said I was throwing my life away, being foolish. Can you see me now? Ha!

I always check the cows in the morning. Yes, balloons on the 4-wheeler (my personal Japanese cow-pony). Streaming behind me, the balloons followed me up the three-quarter mile farm lane to the farm pasture. And as if that weren't enough, all along that route, from the trees and bushes, balloons heralded the celebratory day. We're here! We've made it this far! Touchdown! Hallelujah! Say it however you want to; scream it from the rooftops. We're still here. And not only have a survived, we've thrived.

Tears streaming down my face, I topped the little knoll before coming to the cows and there, adorning every electric fence stake in the cross fence, were more balloons. The cows, mostly lying down on this 38 degree morning (we actually had the first patchy frost of the season), simply burped up another wad of grass cud to chew on. They looked at me completely ordinarily. Nothing much upsets their routine. Nothing is as placid as a placid cow.

With gratitude and a deep sense of blessing welling in my heart, tears streaming down my cold cheeks, I headed back to the house for breakfast, the newspaper, morning emails, and desk work. My spirit is overflowing today.

Teresa and I had a dream. We worked at it. We prayed over it. We babysat it. We lived and loved it. Today it shines like a burning bush, attracting people from all over the world to come and see. Thank you, Lord, for 30 wonderful years.

And lest you're wondering, we don't think we've hardly started yet. Now we're not just a couple of people standing on the shoulders of our parents, but we're a tribe, with the next generation and the next and a whole team of players plugging the gaps where we're weak and leveraging our expertise where we're strong. Look out, world. Here we come.

Thank you, family. Thank you, Polyface team, staff, interns. Thank you, patrons who have stood by us monetarily, supporting us with your smiles, your eating, and yes, your dollars. Polyface Farm is charitable, but not a charity. It is a business, but not only a business. So raise your glasses, folks. Here's to another 30 years. Thank you.

Trash Talk – Making the case for recycling

September 24, 2012
Becky Tweedy, Assistant to the President

How long does it take to decompose?



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