Stanford Study Flawed
by Jim Riddle, Organic Outreach Coordinator
University of Minnesota Southwest Research and Outreach Center
Editor’s Note: Jim Riddle will be offering a workshop on Organic Certification at the Sustainable Agriculture Conference in Greenville, SC this year. SAC attendees will have the opportunity to learn about the benefits of growing organic produce and grains, keeping bees organically, and cooking with seasonal, organic food. Register for the conference here!
A recent press release from the Stanford School of Medicine read, “Little evidence of health benefits from organic foods.”
The headline could just have easily read, “Despite billions spent on research and subsidies, conventional foods found more dangerous than organic.”
The Stanford study was striking in several regards: 1) No new research was conducted – the Stanford team simply reviewed existing studies; 2) The review included research conducted under different sets of organic standards; 3) The review included research conducted prior to 2002, when USDA National Organic Program Regulations took effect; and 4) The review concluded that organic foods consistently contain fewer pesticide residues and antibiotic-resistant bacteria, and significantly higher levels of beneficial nutrients in organic milk.
The Stanford team used a novel and simplistic “risk difference” measurement to compare pesticide residue levels in organic vs nonorganic foods, and concluded that organic foods have a risk difference of 30%, compared to nonorganic foods. This metric is seriously flawed and easily misinterpreted. Let me explain.
The Stanford team found that nonorganic foods are likely to contain pesticide residues 37% of the time and organic foods 7% of the time. Given those percentages, the risk of exposure to pesticides increases by 81%, when someone chooses to consume nonorganic vs organic foods (37-7/37=81%). The risk of exposure to pesticide residues increases by 81%, not 30%.
Further, the Stanford team did not account for synergistic effects of multiple pesticide residues commonly found in nonorganic foods, even though USDA pesticide detection data confirms that nonorganic foods consistently are contaminated with multiple pesticides, whereas organic food are often free of pesticide residues. When residues occur in organic foods, they are typically for one compound, rather than multiple compounds.
In examining human health impacts, the Stanford team made no mention of the effects of organic vs nonorganic production on the most essential nutrient – water! Research from the University of Minnesota and Washington State has shown that organic practices protect groundwater from nitrate contamination. Persistent, carcinogenic pesticides are not allowed in organic production, meaning that organic methods protect drinking water from these contaminants.
The Stanford paper contained no discussion of the health impacts of pesticides on farmers, farmworkers, and rural residents. It has been well established that exposure to agricultural pesticides is associated with an increased risk of prostate cancer. Research has shown that twice as many children of Iowa farmers developed childhood lymphoma as the control population.
Argentinean physicians have reported significant increases in birth defects, miscarriages and child cancer in towns surrounded by GMO soy fields sprayed with glyphosate. In Chaco Province, the rate of birth defects has gone from 19.1 per 10,000 in 1997 to 85.3 per 10,000 in 2008. Cases of child cancer rose from 29 to 40 per year from 1985 to 2001.
The Stanford study contained no discussion of emerging human health research findings related to genetic engineering, the use of which is prohibited in organic production. Researchers in Canada have established that Cry1Ab, a specific type of Bt toxin from genetically modified (GM) crops, has been detected in human and fetal blood samples and crosses the placental barrier.
French researchers have found side effects linked with GM corn consumption, including kidney and liver damage. Other effects were also noticed in the heart, adrenal glands, spleen and haematopoietic system. Researchers in Indiana have concluded that genetically engineered Bt toxins are found in streams and rivers at least six months after the harvest of Bt corn.
The Stanford paper had no discussion of the human health impacts of livestock growth hormones, which are commonly used in nonorganic animal production but are prohibited in organic. It did not address artificial flavors, colors and preservatives, common in nonorganic foods but prohibited in organic. Other factors not addressed, all of which have human health implications, include soil health; biologic and genetic diversity; carbon sequestration and climate change; energy use; economic vitality; and food security.
Likely the most favorable outcome of the Stanford study is that it has opened up a conversation about the verified multiple benefits of organic production and the need for expanded research on organic agriculture and human and environmental health.
 Food Additives and Contaminants, May 2002. B. P. Baker; C. M. Benbrook; E. Groth; K. Lutz Benbrook.
 Journal of Environmental Quality. July-August 2007.
 Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. March 21, 2006.
 American Journal of Epidemiology, Agricultural Health Study. May 2003.
 Environmental Health Perspectives, 112:631-635.
 Maternal and fetal exposure to pesticides associated to genetically modified foods in Eastern Townships of Quebec, Canada Reproductive Toxicology, Volume 31, Issue 4, May 2011, Pages 528-533
 de Vendômois JS, Roullier F, Cellier D, Séralini GE. A Comparison of the Effects of Three GM Corn Varieties on Mammalian Health. Int J Biol Sci 2009; 5(7):706-726.
 “Occurrence of maize detritus and a transgenic insecticidal protein (Cry1Ab) within the stream network of an agricultural landscape” http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2010/09/22/1006925107.full.pdf
SAC Bloggers Wanted!
Are you planning to join us at the Sustainable Agriculture Conference in Greenville, SC October 26-28? Want to see your blog posts featured right here on The Sweet Potato?
CFSA is looking for bloggers who are interested in contributing engaging and exciting social media coverage of our biggest annual event.
Highlights of SAC 2012 include:
· More than 50 cutting-edge, skill-building workshops on growing organically, pastured livestock, soils, permaculture, food, policy and more! Plus, full tracks devoted to beginning farmers, helping your farm business thrive, and a very cool ‘You Make It -Outdoors and Hands-on’ track!
· Outstanding pre-conference intensives from the experts in organic certification, organic production, orchard health, foodsafety, mushrooms, bees, permaculture and more!
· Not-to-be-missed pre-conference bus tours to some of the most beautiful and successful sustainable farms and gardens in the Upstate!
· The legendary Local Foods Feast on Friday, Oct. 26 at 6:30 PM! Be inspired by keynote, Debra Eschmeyer, co-founder of Food Corps. This magical meal is made with only the best in-season, sustainably grown ingredients supplied by local farms.
Bloggers must register for the conference, but we do have a limited number of work exchange discounts valued at $70 to help you attend. If you are interested in receiving a work exchange discount in exchange for blogging at SAC, please email Anna expressing your interest and ideas of what you might like to cover. Please include either a writing sample or a link to current blog posts.
We hope to see you in Greenville!
Do you eat local whenever you can? Are you restaurateur or chef who sources products from local farms? Then you should care about the Tobacco Trust Fund Commission. Here’s why: the Tobacco Trust Fund Commission has funneled over $83 million into over 600 small farms and food businesses in 98 North Carolina counties since 2001 and the General Assembly is considering eliminating it even though it doesn’t depend on taxpayer dollars. Farmers and food business owners have been speaking out loudly in support of the program, and they need all of our help to convince the General Assembly not to eliminate it.
Have you ever wondered why our urban areas—the Triangle, Triad, greater Asheville and the metro Charlotte area—have such booming local food scenes? Why does North Carolina have such an outstanding national reputation as a leader in supporting local food producers? Well, part of the reason is North Carolina’s strong heritage of small family farms, another factor is the creativity and business acumen of farmers and chefs and retailers forming new alliances to serve their customers’ desires, but the rest of the story is the funding support from the Tobacco Trust Fund Commission. The Tobacco Trust Fund Commission has strategically invested in innovative farm enterprises throughout the state. The vast majority of these investments have come in grants of $10,000 or less!
Have you heard of these businesses? Each of them can credit the Tobacco Trust Fund Commission as an essential part of their success. Where would our local food scene be without them?
• Eastern Carolina Organics
• Farmhand Foods (don’t forget their Sausage Wagon)
• The Harvest Moon Grille (both the food cart and the restaurant at the Dunhill)
• New River Organic Growers
• Piedmont Food and Agricultural Processing Center
Check out this handy spreadsheet that shows over 600 projects. You can search it to see if any of the farmers you know are on the list. If they aren’t yet, let’s make sure this program is around so they can take advantage of it in the future.
So, if you’re a locavore—an eater, a chef or a restaurant owner, or food retailer—and you want to continue to have more local food options available, you need to contact your Senator today and add your voice to the voices of the farmers who are fighting for this vital program. If we want our farmers to continue growing the food we love, we owe it to them to make sure they have the best tools available to innovate and grow their farms.
See CFSA’s action alert or the Rural Advancement Foundation’s action alert for more information about contacting your legislators.
If you have questions about this important issue and would like to discuss how to show your support, contact me at email@example.com.
by Sarah Sinning
I have never been so sore in my entire life. I kid you not—the entire lower half of my body feels like it’s been run through a meat grinder a few hundred times and then smushed back together to faintly resemble legs. I can’t sit down without pain, I certainly can’t climb steps without pain, I can’t even walk in a straight line without pain. In case I haven’t made myself clear enough—I hurt.
That must be some crazy kind of marathon training, I’m sure you’re thinking. And you’re right; it certainly is—it’s called farming.
Yeah, I said it—farming. I started a new part-time job at Perry-winkle Farm in Chapel Hill on Monday, and although I only had to work two days this week since it’s the beginning of the season, I feel like I’ve worked two weeks…without a break…in August. Now, I realize I’m not in the best shape these days, but gauging by the way I feel right now, it would seem as if I hadn’t moved a muscle in years. (If you need a good laugh, come watch me try to get into my car.)
But don’t get me wrong—I’m certainly no slouch in the athletics department either. Although I’m nowhere near as fit as I used to be a few years back, running up to 50 miles per week and strength training in preparation for trail ultra-marathons (yeah, I was one of those people), I still find the time a few afternoons per week to get out on the trail for a nice long run. As a matter of fact, I thought I was getting back in shape rather handily, so much so that I actually had my sights on a 9-mile race coming up in May. Well, I guess I was wrong—but at least I have Perry-winkle Farm to whip my tail back into fighting condition.
Seriously, my very first task on the farm was planting somewhere in the neighborhood of 650 pounds of potatoes, and although there were five of us to make it go faster, I still spent almost five hours doing every type of lunge and squat you can imagine in the field. The good news is that I will have some truly killer legs in the next few months; the bad news is…well, you already know that.
Actually, there is more good news than just great runner’s legs without ever once hitting the gym—not only am I learning an astonishing amount about organic farming, which I know will come in handy down the road, but more importantly, I’m learning a deeper respect than I have ever known for the tireless men and women who do this for a living. Sure, working outdoors at this time of year is an amazing luxury, which I’m sure most folks reading this will envy, but this work is by no means for the faint of heart.
So the next time you shop at your farmers’ market or pick up your CSA basket, be sure to thank your farmer. Or better yet, why not try it out for yourself to really understand where your food is coming from. Incidentally, CFSA has just launched this great new intern referral service, where member farmers can post their requests for student labor and students can browse to find their ideal learning site. Although I myself will be reporting back here periodically with all the cool tidbits I’m learning on the farm, nothing beats doing it yourself…that is, if you think you can handle it.
by Sarah Sinning
“I think I can, I think I can, I think I can,” said the little Thai chili plant in the window of my lofted studio apartment. “I may not get a lot of light, I may not get a lot of water, but darn it, I want to live!”
And you know what, he did—despite my best efforts to kill him. Now, before I get too far into this story, let me just state something for the record: I didn’t do this on purpose—what kind of a sadistic monster do you think I am? No, I didn’t mean to do it; but nevertheless, I did manage to neglect him to the brink of death.
All I knew when I first purchased him from the pepper pound was that he was marvelous; I was so enthralled with his pretty little red peppers, so irresistibly adorning his vibrant green leaves—Shirley Temple’s dancing ringlets never complimented her so completely—I wanted to keep him forever. “I will love him, and pet him, and squeeze him, and call him George,” I thought as I excitedly hurried home with my new favorite. This relationship, I’m afraid, was doomed from the beginning.
So instead of letting him play with all the other leaved munchkins in the yard, I put him on his own special pedestal, shaded from the elements I absolutely knew would harm him. “It’s for your own good,” I explained to him. Although his elegant branches pointed nostalgically beyond the glass, I knew better than to let him have his way. Winter was coming on fast, and the relentless frost would crush his little pepper frame. He knew nothing of the harsh realities of an unforgiving world.
As Winter thus reared his iniquitous head and the once happy plants outside were happy no more, I felt a smug satisfaction at having outsmarted Nature. “To heck with you, Nature!” I thought triumphantly. “You’ll never take what is mine; I’m his mother now.”
But with this new maternity came a great responsibility—a responsibility that I shamefully underestimated. While I went on with my own life and forgot George in his isolated perch, he silently endured as his once majestic leaves started shriveling and drooping, more and more every day. As his exquisite red jewels soon suffered the same fate, he sadly released them from his once strong grasp. Perhaps they stood a better chance on their own.
As George ultimately withered down to but a shadow of his former self, a brown, bare stick whose vibrancy had fled like the joy in his heart, the spell of my denial was finally broken. “This is a living creature,” I remorsefully reminded myself. “I can’t expect him to live on my pride alone.”
So I did what I should have done from the beginning—I started paying attention to him (real attention, mind you, not the shallow glimpses of before), and the results couldn’t have been better. I trimmed back his lifeless limbs, I kept his soil nice and moist, and I finally brought him out to play on those reemerging warm, sunny days. As you can see from his most recent photo, George isn’t the beauty he once was, and he may never be again; but gosh darn it, he’s alive, and I will do my best to keep him that way.
So what’s the moral of the story? To tell you the truth, I’m not completely sure. Perhaps I’m just scrounging for blog material at the end of the week; perhaps I just wanted to write a fun story about a plant. But no, that’s not really true because I have learned something from my little Georgey after all—Nature can be really forgiving, even when we’re stupid enough to think we can own it on our own terms. All we have to do is give it what we all need—a little TLC with a hefty helping of respect.
Now, if we could only tell that to Monsanto…
by Sarah Sinning
Something’s rotten off the docks of Beaufort, NC, and it has nothing to do with the fish. I don’t know who, I don’t know how, but I do know that there’s a conspiracy going on, and I will get to the bottom of this. You can’t keep me out of my favorite restaurant for almost a year and get away with it! Just who do you think you are? No one, and I mean no one comes between this girl and the Beaufort Grocery Company—No one!
Okay. Let me take a breath for a second. Better.
I’m sure you’re all wondering, “What the heck is she going on about now? Is it official? Has she completely lost it?” Although I can certainly admit that the jury’s still out on that last one (have you ever read my writing?), I do have a legitimate complaint here, and yes, it might as well be the end of the world.
It all began about a year ago, on a dark and stormy night in late spring. (Okay fine, I’m making that last part up, but doesn’t it seem like the most appropriate setting for a conspiracy story? I don’t actually remember what kind of a night it was, but for all intents and purposes, it was black—really, really black, like the color of my conspirator’s heart. Anyway…) I had just arrived in Morehead City, NC for a weekend visit with my sister, and I could taste what I knew would be my next meal before even pulling into the driveway. You see, this is always a given—although I am notorious for never being able to choose a restaurant, much to the chagrin of everyone who has ever tried to go out to eat with me, whenever I go to this little section of the coast, I ALWAYS eat at the Beaufort Grocery Co.
What’s so special about this place? That’s another no brainer—it’s called the Gougere. For any of you not familiar with this brilliantly light, but nonetheless decadent French-style pastry, be prepared to have your life changed forever. (Once you go gougere, you’ll never go anywhere…but there! You wish you had come up with that one, don’t ya?) Let me just describe them to you this way: cheesy clouds from heaven. Made from the classic French pâte à choux recipe, they’re basically just little puffs of éclair dough with a generous helping of parmesan instead of sugar, which are then served up with your choice of chicken, shrimp, or egg salad. And don’t get me wrong; these fillings are certainly worthy of their own feature—you won’t find the ubiquitous sea of mayonnaise with a few other ingredients thrown in like life-preservers…for themselves. Best lunch ever.
But no such lunch was actually in the cards for me last spring (or any time since then for that matter). Someone clearly had it out for me, and they were determined to get me where it hurts the most. First this person got to my brother and enticed him to pop into my sister’s unexpectedly—for the whole weekend. Have I not introduced him yet? Well, this one’s a doozy—I kid you not, he only eats chicken tenders and fries (at least as far as I can tell), and the Beaufort Grocery Co. certainly doesn’t fall anywhere near this category. Needless to say, my sister and I decided to eat elsewhere—we are his big sisters, and we do love him after all.
For the sake of streamlining this whole story, I’ll fast forward to two weeks ago, when the conspirator struck again with his most sinister efforts yet. This isn’t to say that he hasn’t been lurking all along, since every time I have even thought about going to the coast, something or other has invariably kept me from heading over to Beaufort. But this last strike was particularly vicious, especially since I was convinced that there was no way he could get to me this time. I had actually gotten my heart set on meeting my beloved gougere once again, so I was entirely unprepared for what happened.
My sister, Alex, and myself loaded ourselves into the car, drove the 3-ish miles from my sister’s house in Morehead to the Beaufort waterfront, parked the car, and walked about a block or so to the restaurant. I then reached my hand out to push open the door for everyone, my excitement absolutely brimming, and then I ran face-first into something hard and most definitely not moving. The door was locked, my head was spinning (the excitement made me push rather forcefully), and my heart was crushed—my favorite of all-time favorite restaurants was closed for renovations. NO!!!!! (I don’t think I actually screamed this, but in my throbbing head the words echoed with the force of a raging hurricane—thick wooden doors do not happy or lucid heads make.) He had done it again.
I will now take this time to address my conspirator, so please, dear Reader, excuse me for a moment. This may get ugly.
I have news for you, whoever you are—you’re not as smart as I’m sure you think. You may have foiled my last few attempts at one of the most delightful meals on the planet, but even you were ultimately no match for this girl. Yes, that’s right—I actually thwarted you this last time around. I managed to have some of the tastiest local food of my life, even without visiting one of the best restaurants in the state. So take that, Mr. Grand Conspirator. Who’s the big winner now?
And I’m back. Is everyone okay?
I certainly can’t keep you hanging after all that, but I’ll try to keep this brief. I guess I forgot to mention that I finally outsmarted him! Although I didn’t get the lunch of my dreams, I got something just as good (or at least pretty darn close—those gougeres are amazing). It turns out that you don’t need an award-winning chef after all to eat like a king while visiting NC’s Crystal Coast. A great community market, an unassuming drive-in, and a little helping of family are all it takes. So do yourself a favor; the next time you’re visiting the Beaufort/Morehead City area, do some shopping at the Coastal Community Market, make a meal with your friends or family, and then hit up El’s Drive-In for the best chocolate milkshake in the world—even if the conspirator doesn’t have it out for you…yet.
We Want You
Are you a blogger who is committed to supporting local, sustainable farms in your neck of the Carolinas?
Would you like to help folks lead healthier, happier, and more sustainable lives through their everyday food choices?
Would you like your words to make a difference?
If so, CFSA wants YOU to become a contributor to The Sweet Potato—our blog about all things delicious, nutritious, and sustainably-grown in the Carolinas!
Posts could include anything from a great recipe or restaurant review, a farm or farmers’ market profile, or even just a funny story from your own life—pretty much anything that could inspire readers to lead more sustainable lives for themselves!
Interested in finding out more? We want to hear from you! Email Sarah today.
By Sarah Sinning
(cue incredibly hyperbolic orchestral duh, duh, DUH!)
I do love the taste of a good burger. The juicy, tender, can I have another napkin for my face?—yes, the entire face, and probably shirt—meatiness. The luxurious blanket of ooey, gooey, if this is wrong I don’t want to be right cheesiness. The cool, clean snap of fresh Romaine lettuce—swimming on the back of a dolphin couldn’t be more refreshing. The sweet, lusciously delicate but not on your life sissy tomato. The ever so light but all business Kaiser roll, taking one for the team to carry its delicious passengers directly to my belly. Hmmm. This is a tasty burger.
Want a bite? (It’s real tasty!) Let me tell you how.
Step One: Buy all local ingredients. Do you really think the above description (which took me at least half an hour to get right) could come from the sad, sad (did I mention sad?) offerings of your average grocery store? Moving on.
Need a little help finding said ingredients? No worries. I’ve got you covered.
Hint One within Step One: Your local co-op is your friend.
Now, I’m a loyal shopper at Weaver Street Market (and Chatham Marketplace when I lived in Pittsboro) for several reasons. First of all, I am highly allergic to institutional florescent lighting bouncing off white-washed walls with “happy” farm animals painted on them. (I know they’re happy because I can see their teeth.) Any one of these conditions is fine on its own, but together, the combination is deadly. Second of all, the food is better, ‘nuf said. Yeah, it bothers me a little that the majority of the produce, especially at this time of year, comes from California or Mexico, but you have to pick your battles. I, for one, cannot live without bananas and avocados. (Sorry.) But what they do have all year round is a plethora of locally produced goods, which luckily for us includes some really exceptional cheeses and breads.
To create the masterpiece that was The Burger, I chose a cheese out of Ashe County from a rather appropriately named creamery—Ashe County Cheese. The cheese itself was a mild cheddar, also appropriately named for its round shape—Daisy Hoop Cheese. (The creativity is astonishing.) Coming in at $5.99 per pound (more than enough to be the crowning glory of The Burger, and probably 25 quesadillas), it was a surprisingly good deal, and admirably served its regal purpose.
For the bread, I chose a long time favorite—Pittsboro Bread Shop’s poppy seed bedazzled Kaiser rolls. (Who says bread can’t be fun and functional?) At $2.49 for six freshly baked, preservative-free beauties, they were a steal.
Hint Two within Step One: Find your nearest farmers’ market.
Can you really beat vegetables that were picked within hours of purchase, or livestock that actually did lead a happy life in the pasture down the road? This is, again, rhetorical.
But for a lot of folks, making it out to the farmers’ market each week can be a bit tricky. Late night alcohol-induced shenanigans do not happy Saturday mornings make. There is, however, a truly brilliant solution to this dilemma—weeknight evening farmers’ markets! (If you’re still hung over by Thursday night, you, my friend, may have a problem.)
For those of us who live in the Chapel Hill-Pittsboro area, Angelina’s Kitchen (home to local, homemade Greek and New Mexican deliciousness) hosts a Thursday evening mini-farmers’ market in the parking lot in front of the restaurant. I strongly suggest you check it out if you can—it may be small, but it’s got the makings for one heck of a burger.
A regular at this market as well as the Carolina Brewery’s Saturday morning market (for those of you without substance abuse issues), Lilly Den Farm is my absolute go-to place for beef (although they also have veal, pork, lamb, goat, poultry, and produce…hmmm, perhaps I should stop shopping elsewhere). I purchased a grand total of 7 pounds of beef, including a dinosaur-sized chuck roast, a couple of strips, and a few pounds of ground beef, for around $40. This may seem like a lot of money to some people, but trust me, this will last FOREVER. Well worth the money and the trip out to Pittsboro.
And I mustn’t forget the lettuce and tomato! Yes, that’s right—I bought fresh, local Romaine and summer-worthy tomatoes in February thanks to the valiant efforts of Ralph “Screech” Sweger of Screech Owl Greenhouse in Pittsboro. Coming in at $13 for a humongous head of lettuce and 2 rather well-endowed tomatoes, this purchase wasn’t too shabby at all.
Step Two: Cook The Burger.
I’m pretty sure I don’t need to explain this too much. Make your burger patties any size you like, prep your toppings any way you like, cook the meat anyway you like, do I need to continue? You can most certainly use The Burger as a blueprint, but please, by all means, make it your own way. I mean, if Burger King can do it, why can’t you?
By Sarah Sinning
When I was still just a lowly Freshman in college, caught up in the excitement of being a real, bona fide adult (well, in my own mind, anyway) and trying to figure out what practical direction I was going to take with my life, I did the only logical thing for an 18 year old with near flawless grades and a father to support her for the next four years—I decided to become an artist. While the 27 year old author of this blog has many times since questioned this so-called “logic” of her former self, what’s the saying?—oh yes, hindsight is 20/20. Right. (Oh, to have beaten this logic into her head with a “Wake Up, You Daft [insert choice expletive] Stick” the size of Kansas.)
But never mind, the past is the past. No use crying over spilt milk. (Aren’t clichés grand?) All we can do is work with what we’ve got, and what I’ve got is a chronic, borderline debilitating appreciation for creative expression of all, strike that, most kinds. (Come on, there’s some really awful stuff out there.) Now, I’m not talking debilitating as in hit-by a-bus-while-wearing-stilettos-and-a-mini-skirt-in-a-snow-storm-debilitating (take a moment to just picture that for yourself), but I do mean debilitating in the strictly emotional sense that eventually takes over all motor function.
You want examples? Fine. Try this on for size: after seeing Romeo + Juliet for the first time in the theatre, I sequestered myself in my bedroom for at least 12 hours, refusing all proper nourishment and actual human contact so I could indulge uninterruptedly in songs like U2’s “With or Without You” on repeat. Leo’s life was over, so my life was over. Period. (And if I was going down, you’re darn right I was going down to Bono’s hauntingly melodic crooning. Like some hack’s music would do!)
Fast forward 13 some odd years, and what do you know—it’s still happening! And now that I’ve overcome a practically paralyzing case of adolescent shyness, these art-induced emotional breakdowns of mine have gotten even better—they happen in public! (Oh, what I wouldn’t give to be terrified of people again.) So what slightly sticky sentimental classic did it to me this time? I’ll tell you—David O. Selznick’s Gone with the Wind, that’s what. But before you go snickering off into your own corner, writing me off as just another overwrought female, I’ve got news for you—I wasn’t the only one this time. At the Varsity Theatre’s big screen showing of this 1939 Academy Award winning film over the weekend, I wasn’t the only sap in the building, I can assure you.
Now, I’m not saying that Gone with the Wind is a perfect film or that everyone should necessarily like it because of its reputation. (I wouldn’t be surprised if most people were inclined to dislike it because it has become so ubiquitous in our culture. But this, my friend, is another discussion.) But while seated in that theatre last Sunday, enjoying my fresh popcorn (the very best in Chapel Hill) and a Highland Gaelic Ale (yes, you can even drink local, craft brews during your feature), I witnessed something truly special—the theatre roared with laughter when Mammy “hmph’d” her disapproval at an undaunted Scarlett, we all held our breaths during the devastating burning of Atlanta, and there were few dry eyes in the house when Rhett walked out that door with his immortal line. Frankly, my dear, I don’t think a filmmaker could expect much more from an audience. No, everyone wasn’t reduced to a red, quivering, snot-ridden pulp like I was (I don’t think road kill could look less appealing), but for a few hours of the afternoon, we all came together despite our differences, and allowed ourselves to feel something outside of our own existences. If this isn’t a work of art, then I don’t know what is.
So why did I feel that this would be an interesting topic for the CFSA blog? Well, for starters, there’s the obvious fact that the Varsity is a locally-owned Chapel Hill business that partners with other local businesses to put on events such as last weekend’s Gone with the Wind Red Carpet Gala. This most recent affair included a buffet at intermission catered by downtown Chapel Hill’s own Mediterranean Deli; and although I must admit to being a little disappointed that we weren’t treated to down home, Southern favorites (can you get more Southern than Gone with the Wind?), Med Deli’s own classic lineup of hummus, falafel, spanakopita, and dolmas (grape leaves wrapped around rice and ground lamb—yum) certainly hit the spot. And because Med Deli also proudly makes its pita in-house with locally-ground, organic flour from Lindley Mills, this definitely added to the homegrown feel of the afternoon.
But I wanted to write about this event for another reason. Sure, I wanted to give you the scoop and entice you to check out these places for yourself, but there’s also something more, something not quite as tangible. While I’ve always thought Gone with the Wind a wonderful film and generally don’t pass up the opportunity to watch it on Turner Classic Movies, seeing this movie as it was originally meant to be seen was as much about feeling a connection to my roots as anything else—a connection to history, a connection to people, a connection to the land, even. Yes, that’s right, for what roots can we possibly have if we have nothing to anchor them to? Scarlett’s father, Gerald O’Hara, certainly believed this to be so—“Land’s the only thing that matters; it’s the only thing that lasts,” his words echo on even after his death. So let’s take care of that anchor, shall we? A lesson to live by, indeed.
By Sarah Sinning
So here I am again, parked at a table at Open Eye Café, trying to coax those creative juices of mine into releasing something even remotely interesting for those kind, dear readers out there who pay attention to my ramblings. While I do have something in store for you later in the week (which I will only describe by saying that it deals with a subject very close to my heart and will accordingly require a little more preening than usual), that doesn’t make writing this post any easier. (It’s also starting to feel like a week of Mondays.) But, c’est la vie! The show must go on! And so on and so forth.
Well maybe I do have something to write about, come to think of it. My sister, Emily, paid me a visit over the weekend, and while our time together usually has very little to do with food, this time around was different. Nicely different in a sisterly bonding sort of way. If that statement makes very little sense to you (my grammar check certainly thinks so), let me try to explain what I mean (and why I’m telling grammar check to go to the sharks!).
Before I get into the nitty-gritty of our weekend, let me start with a little bit of background—my sister is the pickiest eater in the world. Although she’ll probably be irate when she reads this (sorry!), that doesn’t make it any less the absolute truth. Now, I’m not talking picky like my fiancé’s rather humorous version—nothing pickled or faintly resembling a pickle, period; this is a bit more extreme. Let’s just say that she hasn’t really met a vegetable that she didn’t want to kill. (And not in a “you are so delicious, let me eat you” sort of way.)
But don’t get me wrong; she’s trying to expand her diet and live a healthier life. She and her husband just bought a house, so one of them cooks dinner almost every night in their awesome, brand new kitchen—and as we all hopefully know, this really is half the battle to reclaiming a nutritious diet. (And maybe even a sex life…) But she still finds it really difficult to cook recipes that are both healthy and appealing to her own and her husband’s palate. (Did I forget to mention that he’s about as picky as she is?)
So this is where I come into the story—would there be any point to my culinary degree if I couldn’t offer my help? Although our living 3.5 hours apart doesn’t make this very easy, I’ve tried to at least make myself available to answer food related questions over the phone and suggest a recipe or two when requested. Telling, however, is hardly the same thing as showing, and I fear I haven’t been nearly as useful as I would like to be. But hark, do you espy that break in the clouds? I do, since her visit over the weekend actually put us in the same kitchen around dinner time. (Score one for the home team!) Now, I won’t lie to you and say that our cooking together was a slam dunk—she is reading this, remember! I will say, though, that no matter how intimidating this culinary thing may seem to her, I had a really nice time at least trying to demonstrate something new in the kitchen. Despite all of our differences (what would sisters be without them?), I simply enjoyed sharing something with her that we don’t often get a chance to—food made at home, with love.
So why am I sharing all this with you? Well, besides the charmingly obvious feel-good nature of the piece (I don’t think kittens and rainbows could do a better job), I have something else for you. No, I’m not going to give you the recipe I tried to teach her this weekend (that would be too obvious), but I will share something not too far off. For her last birthday, I created a recipe for a healthier version of her favorite soup—creamy tomato basil. As most folks are probably aware, this soup is usually about as good for you as swallowing a hand grenade; well, maybe not that bad, but you get the picture. While I love butter and cream like any good American should (and trust me, I eat my fair share of it), eating lower calorie foods with a higher nutritional punch goes a much longer way toward giving you your health back. But please don’t misunderstand me; I’m not at all saying that I advocate for a strictly low fat, reduced calorie, fewer carbs, less whatever diet. Frankly, the only diet I believe in is a balanced one—with lots and lots of dessert. Seriously (and I speak from experience, which I may or may not share with you at some point), nothing good comes from deprivation, so have your cake…but only after an apple or two.
So without further ado, here it is—the recipe, I mean, not the cake. And what the heck, if you would also care to have the other recipe I mentioned, which was a simplified version of arroz con pollo (i.e. braised chicken and rice), I’m more than willing to share…if you work for it. Or maybe just let me know by leaving me a comment. It gets lonely out here in cyberspace, especially when you don’t know if you’re only talking to yourself!
Creamy Tomato Basil Soup for Tunia (my sister’s nickname…it’s a long story)
Yield: About 8-1 cup servings
½ small-medium yellow onion, medium dice (1/2” cubes)
3 cloves garlic, minced or grated
3 T olive oil
¼-½ cup all-purpose flour
1 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes
2 cups chicken stock (you can also use chicken broth; but since this already has added salt, be careful when adding your own)
1 cup reduced fat milk
1-2 tsp sugar (to taste)
1-2 tsp salt (again, this should be to taste, especially if you’re using iodized table salt, in which case you will need much less!)
Place olive oil in medium sauce pan over medium-low heat. Add the onion, garlic, and just a small pinch of salt. (The salt here is simply to help the onions release their liquid so browning will not occur.) Cook until the onions become soft and translucent without browning (adjust heat up or down if necessary), about 10 minutes.
Slowly sprinkle flour into pan, stirring to form a paste with oil and onions. This will help to thicken the soup so you won’t need to add heavy cream later. You can add more or less flour depending on how thick you like your soup; just make sure you add a little more oil if the pan looks too dry. Once everything is nice and pasty, allow it to cook over your medium-low heat for 1-2 minutes, just to cook out the raw flour taste. (And make sure it doesn’t brown, so stir as necessary!)
Add crushed tomatoes, chicken stock, and milk to pan. Increase heat to medium and whisk constantly until soup comes to a simmer and has thickened noticably (because of the flour we added earlier), 2-3 minutes.
Add torn basil leaves, 1 tsp of salt, and 1 tsp of sugar to pan. Stir together and then remove from heat. Blend soup with immersion blender until smooth. Adjust salt and sugar levels to taste.