When it comes to food, the cost of standardization is greatness. But evidence suggests that sometimes good is, in fact, good enough.
So here’s the professional chef sitting down to dinner: lasagna from Trader Joe’s, focaccia from the Target bakery, salad from a bag and Kraft Italian dressing. Sorry, that’s “Zesty Italian”—at my age, zest is tough to remember.
In a general-circulation newspaper, this scene might be portrayed with a bit of irony or cynicism. I am reminded at the beginning of every semester that the world of foodservice is largely misunderstood: new students come in ready to save the planet by establishing an empire of 19 scratch kitchens, one in every major capital and two in orbit, where their worshipful terrified minions incarnate their seraphic visions into semi-divine matter with sauce. They will never eat a commercial hot dog, they will buy only cage-free quinoa, and they will wear clogs made from hollowed cassava roots.
They’ll find out.
If one looks to any publication covering any topic right now, it is the season for reflection and pontification—particularly from the scribes that lead it. I’d be doing that exact thing, except Mecca Bos hit the long ball already with her comprehensive summation of the Twin Cities dining scene—not just reflecting on 2012, but the regions’ ascension during the last few years into prominence on the national radar. Simply put, it’s a great read, and allows me to go off on a tangent—and, as my Holiday gift to you, keep my column short(er).
The severe drought across the Midwest touched all discussions at the Food & Agriculture 2012 National Conference last month. The bi-annual event is thrown by Faegre Baker Daniels, the Minneapolis-based law firm that, among is specialties, has about 150 lawyers representing (in various degrees) the interests of the largest food companies in the world, including Cargill, Syngenta, Dole and General Mills. All of those companies (and more) were represented at the conference as panelists and attendees, in addition to the legal teams from grocery chains and other food companies and government officials. Keynote speakers were Michael Taylor, deputy commissioner for foods at the U.S. Food & Drug Administration; Greg Page, chairman and CEO of Cargill; and David Morgan, president of Syngenta Seeds North America. I attended the inaugural conference in 2010, and found it incredibly informative and hopeful. This year one of the major themes was the implementation of the Food Safety Modernization Act. I left this show feeling just as good.
It’s the drink that was a great vehicle to give school children essential nutrients. Then it became the gateway to childhood obesity. Chocolate milk’s reputation has taken a beating in recent years; healthy-eating advocates beat the drum against it so loudly that school districts across the country began banning it from school lunch menus—notably Los Angeles Unified School District (within which are 688,000 students) after the 2011 school year, citing the amount of sugar served in flavored milk.
Locally, Minneapolis School District also banned chocolate milk last year. Rosemary Dederichs, then Minneapolis schools’ director of nutrition services, told the Star Tribune that a decision was made to remove sugar and calories from school meals, and that “consuming chocolate milk every day can train a child’s palate toward sweetened foods.”
Food brings us so many things: pleasure, energy, connection with our fellow human beings. And, often lost in the glamour of high-end meals or the comfort of a greasy burger and fries, food gives us nutrition. We know a good diet is instrumental for health, but how often do we really think about it? In Forks Over Knives, documentarian Lee Fulkerson takes an in-depth look at how what we eat can not only make us healthy, but prevent—and even reverse—disease. (more…)
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