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It’s Protein!

5 Jan

We’ve all had that moment as a kid: the accidental bug ingestion. The ant in a peanut butter sandwich left momentarily unattended at recess, a fruit fly drowned in a soda or some questionable dirt colored smush on a rescued Popsicle. (Five second rule is really not always a good metric to go by…)

Then there’s another moment we all had as kids: the moment we had to tell Mom something bad–while she was at work. You know…you forgot the project she reminded you not to forget, you missed the bus after she woke you up early, you got sent to the office…and even though you didn’t do anything wrong, you swear, the phone-call-to-mom-at-work was scarier than death.

 Photo: Rein Rache via Flickr

And it still is as an adult.

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Fish Face

19 Sep

There’s good news and bad news for seafood this week. Let’s start with the good.

Your favorite place for overpriced organics, Whole Foods, has teamed up with Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch program in an effort to green their fish-literally. Whole Foods will now label each seafood item according to Seafood Watch’s color coding. Best choices are green, alternatives are yellow and, well, bad choices are red. Whole Foods plans to eliminate all red-list seafood by Earth Day 2013. I don’t see why it needs to take that long, considering…would you really buy seafood that essentially comes with a label advising you not to? Imagine the dirty looks you would get from other shoppers. But, it’s pointing the boat in the right direction.

Now, get ready to put on the trout pout.

Eat ge salmon and your face might get stuck like this

Eat ge salmon and your face might get stuck like this

Let’s talk about a big step in the wrong direction, unlabeled genetically engineered salmon. That’s right, I said “unlabeled.” This science-experiment fish has completely inadequate safety assessments. The government would essentially rely on the producers of the fish to assess how safe it is to consume. We saw how well that system worked with the BP disaster. This week, the FDA will make a final decision on the frankenfish issue. Frighteningly, ge salmon could be the first genetically engineered animal to enter the food supply — and could therefore set a very scary precedent. And even icky-er; the FDA is regulating ge salmon as a drug, not a food. Well, that’s more than enough to give me the heebie jeebies and certainly more than enough for me to not want to eat it. If you aren’t a big proponent of Monsanto’s ge dance number on our food supply, I highly suggest you strongly oppose this one and I urge you to go straight to the top — call the prez.

That’s right, call the presidential comment line at (202) 456-1111 between 9am- 5pm Eastern and tell whoever answers the phone that you want the president to oppose ge salmon. It’s that simple.

If you’re the shy type about making phone calls, don’t be. Calling the people who represent you politically is fast and easy; there’s no need to be intimidated. But if you need some more incentive:

Check out Food and Water Watch‘s video about the frankenfish:

I Love a Buffet

1 Jul

Last month, at a very fancy and expensive charity gala, I felt moved to belt out every word to “Cheeseburger in Paradise” by Jimmy Buffet. What, there was a great cover band! And before you make any accusations, no, I was absolutely sober. Once I hit “…heaven on earth with an onion slice,” a look of realization come over the faces of my petrified friends.

“Ooohhhh, she’s from Florida! Oh yeeeeeah.”

"Waitress, we need two more boat drinks..."

Well, I feel the need to defend Mr. Buffet here. “Songs You Know by Heart” is a solid album. For those of you who aren’t convinced, there is an actual segue here. As we’ve been discussing sustainable seafood and what the Deepwater Horizon disaster has done to fishermen in the Gulf region, Jimmy Buffet is coming up in conversation.

After embodying a  lifestyle now in peril due to the massive spill, Buffet has some solutions. Two of Buffet’s friends sketched out plans for a boat that is able to navigate shallow marshland, thus better enabling rescuers to reach oiled wildlife. Buffet underwrote the cost of the boat and donated the first one to his alma mater, University of Southern Mississippi. Three other boats are to be built. The boats can navigate waters as shallow as 10 inches and are equipped with misters to help cool distressed on-board wildlife in the summer heat (and I hope each one is equipped with a bumper sticker shaming BP). Buffet is also hosting a free concert today in Gulf Shores, Alabama in an effort to support businesses impacted by the spill by bringing in tourist dollars. Tickets through Ticketmaster went within minutes. Unfortunately, also within minutes, you could find tickets to the free show for upwards of $100 on eBay…

Hey Jimmy, can I catch a lift to Margaritaville?

By the way, my cheeseburger in paradise still resides at the original Father’s Office, though it doesn’t matter how much you “like yours with lettuce and tomato” because there are absolutely no substitutions at Father’s Office (or reservations). But they do boast a nice selection for your “cold draft beer.”

(Runner up of course, is my mom’s turkey burger cooked on my dad’s grill in Florida.)

Sounds Fishy to Me

3 Jun

At a holiday cookout this past weekend, my friend asked me if I’d like some ceviche. I looked at the pile of fresh shrimp and responded “I’m actually trying to cut down on my seafood consumption.”

Lame, I know, but the seafood that I’m most fond of aren’t exactly the most sustainable options. Shrimp can be problematic. US farmed shrimp is preferable to foreign, but one still has to be careful. According to Seafood Watch, the US actually only produces less than 1% of the shrimp eaten by Americans (maybe less soon considering the Gulf oil disaster?). Shrimp farms can possess the same problems as fish farms. Wild fish is needed to feed the shrimp. The vast majority of shrimp farms release polluted effluent into the environment. But wild caught shrimp comes with its own problem, bycatch. Bycatch refers to the animals caught in fishing equipment along with the intended catch. Bycatch is thrown back overboard, dead or dying. With shrimp, bycatch includes seahorses and sea turtles. Ouch. I’ll pass on the ceviche.

But more than shrimp, I like albacore tuna.

Mom's tuna casserole, can I really live without it?

I have yet to see canned tuna that is MSC certified. I have no idea if my tuna is longline-caught. Longline-caught tuna is more mature and contains more mercury than tuna caught by trolling or tuna that is pole caught. Bycatch is also a problem with tuna, and can include sea turtles, seabirds and sharks. That seems like a lot of carnage for my tuna salad, I have to admit.

Worse (much worse) than albacore though, is bluefin. Management of bluefin fishing has proved completely ineffective worldwide. Bycatch is again a problem and is unregulated. The bluefin tuna industry is actually contributing to the decline of endangered animals caught along with the tuna — which is itself an endangered species. The word “overfished” doesn’t begin to describe bluefin; Seafood Watch reports that the Atlantic population of bluefin has declined by nearly 90% since the 1970s. At present, Mitsubishi is being accused of hoarding thousands of tons of bluefin and freezing it. When the stock crashes, as it is expected to, imagine the profits to Mitsubishi. Until very recently, you could buy bluefin tuna-flavored Whiskas cat food. Yes, really. Where is the disconnect? Endangered animals in your pet food? I’d like to echo a question posed by Greenpeace: You wouldn’t eat a tiger, so why would you eat an endangered bluefin tuna?

So I’ve been considering a new challenge. First there was vegan month, then cake week(s) (boy, those were tough) and now, perhaps, there should be a month without seafood.

While my month of veganism gave me a huge appreciation of how difficult it can be to not eat animal products when you like the way they taste (yes, I have heard tell of some people who don’t like the way meat tastes), it didn’t ultimately change my diet. I try to limit my animal foods to ones that were produced humanely and sustainably, but I did that prior to giving veganism a try. And sometimes I really want that burger, regardless of whether or not it was made with free-range beef. A diet free of animal products just couldn’t stick with me. But a diet without seafood? Maybe.

The restrictions of a vegan diet are pretty clear. Sustainable food terminology can be confusing, but even a working flexitarian like myself can navigate the labels at Whole Foods or talk with the farmers at the market. I know to look for pastured, organic, local meat. Sustainable seafood is hardly cut and dry. You may know not to eat bluefin, but do you also know not to eat toro, giant tuna, kuromaguro and horse mackerel? Because they all mean one thing — bluefin tuna.

Roll Out

7 May

I have a confession to make. I’m not a sushi fan.

Yea, I said it. I realize this is one likely reason I am single in Los Angeles (really, you don’t wanna see me with chopsticks).

This is how I roll...

I unfortunately can’t blame my Central Floridian suburban upbringing for this deficiency (though I can for most other things). My high school friends frequently dragged me out to sushi places-even ones we had to drive an hour to get to, only to sigh as they watched me order the veggie roll. Something about raw fish just doesn’t appeal to me. So I tend to limit my sushi roll consumption to the need-a-fast-dinner-from-Von’s moments of my life.

Now, however lacking in sushi knowledge that I am, I’m well aware that sushi from a grocery store obviously isn’t any good. But I know a lot of you eat it for lunch, whether you are willing to admit it or not. I’m interested to know how many of you have read the ingredients. High fructose corn syrup is listed not once but three times on my Von’s California roll. Call me crazy, but I don’t think high fructose corn syrup belongs in there once, let alone several times.

Let me paint a picture for you. Have any of you read “Garlic and Sapphires” by Ruth Reichl? Imagine me as the reluctant friend getting dragged out to the real sushi joint. I haven’t got a clue. So I go with the only acceptable way to turn down a sushi date in L.A.

“Oh no, most sushi is really not sustainable.”

Then I sound educated, edgy and committed to a cause, instead of inept at navigating the menu.

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Lucky Dog

19 Apr

Hold tight there, fanatical pastry people, I’m taking a brief break from the cake talk to write about something I love even more: my dogs.

Hello there. I only snore when I dream about steak.

My dog Bosco is the last “child” left at home with my parents. As such, you can imagine how spoiled rotten he is. He is showered with gifts that he doesn’t play with, offered more walks than he knows what to do with and has taken to sleeping in my old bed. Shortly after I moved out of the house, my mom even began covertly cooking him breakfast on occasion. While I thought that this was the first sign of descent into madness ( I love my dog and all, but I’m not making him bacon and eggs), I’ve come to realize that a lot of people cook for their dogs.

I shouldn’t have been so surprised. Los Angeles is the only place I’ve been where dog-friendly offices are commonplace, where public “dog bowls” are more readily available than public water fountains and where, sometimes, we even specifically choose to sit outside at a restaurant because that means that our dogs can come to dinner and sit with us.

I have only used homemade dog food once (and I wasn’t the one who cooked it). I was fostering a dog named Wes that was found on the street. Wes, skin and bones on four legs, needed some fattening up. The non-profit group that I was working with provided me with what looked like white rice fortified with beef, veggies and shmaltz. Big surprise, the pooch loved it. The closest I came to cooking for Wes was stuffing some doggie antacids in a big wad of peanut butter.

Wes at the office. He only wakes up for his lunch break...

Obviously, if you are making your own pet food, you can determine the quality of the ingredients and where they come from. For me, the line is drawn at giving the dog leftovers from a, well, a doggy bag. But I would still like to know that I’m doing right by the environment when it comes to feeding the dog. How difficult could it be to find organic dog food in the land of posh pooches?

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Emergency Exit

22 Mar

Good news.

After being publicly embarrassed and shamed, Santa Monica sushi joint The Hump is voluntarily closing its doors. If you’ve been following the story you know about the sting operation, but if you are new to the misdoings of The Hump, read up here and here.

Tomorrow was the day slated for Santa Monica’s city attorney to report back to the City Council regarding The Hump.

You can read The Hump’s own mea culpa here.