Food on Film: The Top 50

Food on Film: The Top 50

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Food in Film

I’m putting together a list of great films that feature food as a theme. Pick a bottle of wine from the cellar, prepare a great meal and sit back and enjoy !

 

FOOD and FILM

9 ½ Weeks

Babette’s Feast

Big Night

Blood into Wine

Bottle Shock

Chocolate

Decoding Ferran Adria

Delicatessen

Eat, Drink, Man, Woman

Eating Raoul

Food, Inc.

Fried Green Tomatoes

From Grass to Cheese

Goodfellas

Julie & Julia

King Corn

Lady and the Tramp

La Grande Bouffe

Like water for Chocolate

Mondovino

Moonstruck

Mostly Martha

My Dinner with Andre

No Reservations

Our Daily Bread

Pee Wee’s Big Adventure

Pieces of April

Pressure Cooker

Ratatouille

Scent of Green Papaya

Sideways

Soul Food

Soylent Green

Supersize me

Tampopo

The Botany of Desire

The Chinese Feast

The Cook, The Thief, His Wife

       and her Lover

The Freshman

The Future of Food

The God of Cookery

The Godfather

The Meaning of Food

The Little Mermaid

The Silence of the Lambs

The Wedding Banquet

Today’s Special

Tortilla Soup

Under the Tuscan Sun

What’s Cooking?

When Harry Meet Sally

Who’s Killing the Great Chefs of Europe ?

Woman on Top

 

 

 

Heirloom Beans: Preserving History

If meat ever moves out of the center of the plate, heirloom beans are ready to fill the void. Economical, nutritious and often oh so pretty, heirloom beans today take center stage in vegetarian cuisine and are widely used as side dishes and garnishes on menus around the country.

Heirloom beans are nutritious, but not necessarily more nutritious than non-heirloom ones; Both are fiber- and protein-rich. The nutritional value depends on the type of bean. Even though heirloom beans cost two to three times more than everyday beans, they still are significantly less expensive than putting meat, poultry or fish on the table.

Cultivated around the globe for centuries, heirloom beans grow as nature created them, untouched by modern Imagetechnology or horticultural tampering. They come in thousands of varieties and are used dried and fresh in many of the world’s cuisines. They’re especially popular throughout the Mediterranean region, but are also used in Asian and other international cuisines and in regional American dishes.

It’s important to preserve these heirloom vegetables, once they are gone, they’re gone forever. 

Newcomers to the world of heirloom beans often look for perfectly formed straight beans. Heirloom beans are not always like that. They can be curled or misshapen and still be perfectly good. When customers learn their history and that they are special, they realize that the rest of our food and ingredients must be special, too.

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Cooking dried beans

  • For optimum results when cooking dried beans, follow these tips.  Whenever possible, soak beans covered overnight at room temperature or in the cooler.
  • „Do not soak in boiling water. A slow penetration of water protects the beans’ skin.
  • „ If you can’t soak beans overnight, add beans to boiling water, turn off heat and let stand 1 hour.
  • „ Always discard soaking liquid and cook beans in fresh water.
  • „ Avoid excess water, which can leach out color and cause colors to run together.
  • „ Cook until desired tenderness. Time will vary by type of bean.
  • „ Cook beans until slightly tender before adding salt, tomatoes, sugar or acids of any kind, which harden the seed coat and make it nonpermeable.

5 Tips For Baking With a Toddler

100_9399What’s that you say? Make an extreme mess with toddlers in the kitchen? The one who flings things everywhere and thinks it’s high class good times to blow chocolate milk out of their nose?

In a word: YES.

However much of a pain the butt it may be, creating things with your little ones is simply one of the best ways in which we can parent and spend time with our children. In my humble opinion. Toddlers love touching and discovering new textures. They really love to learn new skills – especially if it involves doing the everyday stuff that they watch you do.

They want to be all up in that business. Which, since I love to cook and bake…it’s not a far stretch to imagine that I’d suck up the mess and get into some baking with my little ones.

For however much I preach about the benefits of getting creative with young children, (whether be in baking, cooking or crafting), I cannot deny that there is a rather winning formula. A method to the madness if you will, that facilitates for less mess and stress; more fun and sensory play…

1. Say Good-bye To Perfectionism 
An egg (or two, or three), WILL get dropped on the floor. Get over that. Milk shall spill. Flour will get everywhere. Expect to mop the floor after. Nothing will be picture perfect, so forget those visions of fancy royal icing cookie creations dancing in your head.

2. Timing Is Everything
 Don’t start a recipe when your toddler is tired or hungry. This might go without saying, but it was worth reinstating. You also don’t want them bouncing off the walls either. Choose that magical time after a session at the park and a snack, for example – and wrap their cute little bodies up in an apron.

3. Prep Your Ingredients Beforehand
I never invite my little ones on the scene before prepping all that I can ahead of time. All tools of trade are out, as well as ingredients. Anything that I can do to make things flow better (like measuring), without actually doing the whole thing myself, I will.

4. Go With The Flow & Play It Safe
You don’t have to be so stringent as to have assigned tasks, but you can try and keep the potential for fight breakouts between siblings to minimum by putting one toddler on dry ingredients and another on the wet. This never lasts but it’s a good way to begin the process. Always keep the unsafe tools out of reach and practice/teach safety regarding the use of the oven and other culinary tools you might be using. Use non-breakable bowls and measuring cups. Let them taste test as they go and if you have really young toddlers in the mix, have play food and extra bowls on hand that they can just go nuts with. And by nuts, I mean nuts. You drew a bath beforehand to dump them in, right? Good.

5. Savour & Congratulate! 
Let them eat, eat and eat some more. High fives all over the place.

100_9395

Strawberry Rhubarb Terrine

Strawberry Rhubarb Terrine                    serves 8-12

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Molded strawberry rhubarb dessert terrine, with fresh strawberries, rhubarb, lemon juice, and orange zest.

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 lb rhubarb stalks, cut into 1/2-inch segments (if rhubarb stalks are large and stringy, peel first)
  • 3 cups water, divided into 2 cups and 1 cup
  • 3/4 cups sugar
  • Grated zest from one orange
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 3 quarter-ounce packets of plain, unflavored gelatin
  • 3 cups sliced fresh strawberries
  • 2 5×9 loaf pans

 METHOD

Bring 2 cups of water, the orange zest, and the sugar to a boil in a medium saucepan. Add the lemon juice and rhubarb pieces. Bring to a simmer. Let cook for about 4 minutes, until rhubarb is just tender, but not disintegrating. Remove the pan from the heat.

While the rhubarb is simmering, put 1 cup of cold water in a small bowl. Pour the gelatin from the packets over the water. Stir to make sure all of the gelatin powder is wet. Let soften for about a minute.

Put the gelatin water into the rhubarb sugar mixture. Slowly stir so as not to break up the rhubarb, but to make sure the softened gelatin is completely dissolved.

Pour mixture into two loaf pans, evenly divided, or one large casserole dish. Add the strawberries to the pans, gently distributing them among the rhubarb pieces. Cover with plastic wrap and chill for 6 hours, or overnight, until firm.

To unmold, fill a large bowl or basin with very warm water. Dip the bottom of one of the loaf pans into the water and count ten seconds. Remove from the water and run a blunt knife along the edges of the pan to break the suction. Place a serving platter upside down over the pan and gently turn the pan over. You might need to give it a little tap to release the terrine from the mold. If it’s stubborn, place it back in the warm water for a few more seconds.

 

What’s So Great About Organic Food?

What’s So Great About Organic Food?   By Jeffrey Kluger

Looking for a quick way to feel lousy about yourself? Then forget the idea of a healthy diet and just eat what your body wants you to eat. Your body wants meat; your body wants fat; your body wants salt and sugar. Your body will put up with fruits and vegetables if it must, but only after all the meat, fat, salt and sugar are gone. And as for the question of where your food comes from — whether it’s locally grown, sustainably raised, grass-fed, free range or pesticide-free? Your body doesn’t give a hoot.

But you and your body aren’t the only ones with a stake in this game. Your doctor has opinions about what you should eat. So does your family. And so too do the food purists who lately seem to be everywhere, insisting that everything that crosses your lips be raised and harvested and brought to market in just the right way. If you find this tiresome — even intrusive — you’re not alone. “It’s food, man. It’s identity,” says James McWilliams, a professor of environmental history at Texas State University. “We encourage people to eat sensibly and virtuously, and then we set this incredibly high bar for how they do it.

The ideal — as we’re reminded and reminded and reminded — is to go organic, to trade processed foods for fresh foods and the supermarket for the farmers’ market. Organic foods of all kinds currently represent only about 3% of the total American market, according to the most recent numbers from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), but it’s a sector we all should be supporting more.

That sounds like a great idea, but we’ll pay a price for it. Organic fruits and vegetables cost 13¢ to 36¢ per lb. more than ordinary produce, though prices fluctuate depending on the particular food and region of the country. Milk certified as hormone- and antibiotic-free costs $6 per gal. on average, compared with $3.50 for ordinary grocery-store milk.

What’s more, while grass-fed beef is lower in fat, and milk without chemicals is clearly a good idea, it’s less obvious that organic fruits and vegetables have a nutritional edge to speak of. A 2009 study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition led to a firestorm in the food world. It found no difference between organic and conventional produce with regard to all but three of the vitamins and other food components studied, and conventional produce actually squeaked past organic for one of those three.

“We draw these bright lines between organic and conventional food,” says McWilliams. “But science doesn’t draw those lines. They crisscross, and you have people on both sides of the argument cherry-picking their data.” For consumers trying to stay healthy and feed their families — and do both on budgets that have become tighter than ever — the ideological back-and-forth does no good at all. What’s needed are not arguments but answers.

The Wages of Eating
The biggest reason not to ignore the food purists is that in a lot of ways they’re right. Our diet is indeed killing us, and it’s killing the planet too. Earlier this month, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta released a study revealing that nearly 27% of Americans are now considered obese (that is, more than 20% above their ideal weight), and in nine states, the obesity rate tops 30%. We eat way too much meat — up to 220 lb. per year for every man, woman and child in the U.S. — and only 14% of us consume our recommended five servings of fruits and vegetables per day. Our processed food is dense with salt and swimming in high-fructose corn syrup, two flavors we can’t resist. Currently, enough food is manufactured in the U.S. for every American to consume 3,800 calories per day — we need only 2,350 in a healthy diet — and while some of that gets thrown away, most is gobbled up long before it can go stale on the shelves.

Keeping the food flowing — and the prices low enough for people to continue buying it — requires a lot of industrial-engineering tricks, and those have knock-on effects of their own. Up to 10 million tons of chemical fertilizer per year are poured onto fields to cultivate corn alone, for example, which has increased yields 23% from 1990 to 2009 but has led to toxic runoffs that are poisoning the beleaguered Gulf of Mexico. Beef raised in industrial conditions are dosed with antibiotics and growth-boosting hormones, leaving chemical residues in meat and milk. A multicenter study released just two days after the obesity report showed that American girls as young as 7 are entering puberty at double the rate they were in the late 1990s, perhaps as a result of the obesity epidemic but perhaps too as a result of the hormones in their environment — including their food. And for out-of-season foods to be available in all seasons as they now are, crops must be grown in one place and flown or trucked thousands of miles to market. That leaves an awfully big carbon footprint for the privilege of eating a plum in December.

The food wars are fought on multiple fronts, but it’s the battle over meat that generates the most ferocious disagreement. Americans have always been unapologetic carnivores, which befits a nation that grew up chasing buffalo and raising cattle across endless stretches of open plains. But lately things have gotten out of hand. The U.S. produces a breathtaking 80 billion lb. of meat per year, with poultry alone making up 35 billion lb. It’s now common knowledge that the animals are raised in mostly miserable conditions, jammed together on factory farms and filled with high-calorie, corn-based feed that fattens them up and moves them to slaughter as fast as possible. It can take up to two and a half years to raise a grass-fed cow, while a feedlot animal may face the knife after just 14 months.

The idea of animals living such short, brutish lives introduces an element of altruism into the organic-vs.-commercial debate over meat that isn’t there for other foods. Just this month, Ohio Governor Ted Strickland brokered a truce between animal-rights activists and farmers in his state to improve the living conditions of hogs, veal calves and hens; that agreement followed similar reforms enacted in California in 2008.

“When you’re raising something with a circulatory system and a nervous system, they deserve care,” says Bev Eggleston, the owner of EcoFriendly Foods, a decidedly nonindustrial farm in Moneta, Va., that produces cattle, hogs, veal, lamb and poultry. Eggleston’s animals live in fields and coops, not feedlots and cages. The farm has a petting zoo, and the doors of the slaughterhouse are open to visitors so they can see the clean and as-humane-as-possible conditions in which the animals are killed. “I want to speak for the animals,” Eggleston says. “When I pull a knife, I want them to know their gift is being received.”

There are material advantages to that kind of humane treatment. Cattle that eat more grass have higher ratios of omega-3 fatty acids to omega-6s, a balance that’s widely believed to reduce the risk of cancer, heart disease and arthritis and to improve cognitive function. Take the cows out of the pasture, put them in a feedlot and stuff them with corn-based feed, and the omega-3s plummet.

“The levels are almost undetectable after three months,” says Ken Jaffe, a former physician who now runs Slope Farms, an open-air cattle farm in the Catskill Mountains of New York. The big beef manufacturers concede that while the ratio for omega-6s to omega-3s is 1.5 to 1 for grass-fed cows, it leaps to 7 to 1 for those that are grain-fed. But industry reps challenge the significance of those numbers. “The best ratio hasn’t been determined yet in terms of nutritional balance,” says Shalene McNeill, a registered dietitian working for the National Beef Cattlemen’s Association, an industry group. “And it’s important to remember that this is just one small part of a consumer’s overall diet.”

Farm-raised animals are also higher in conjugated lineoleic acids, fatty acids that, according to studies of lab animals, may help reduce the risk of various cancers. What’s more, animals not raised on feedlots have less chance of spreading E. coli bacteria through contact with other animals’ manure, though the industry insists it is making improvements, with better spacing of animals on the lots and better cleaning methods in slaughterhouses.

Hogs and chickens present fewer problems than cattle — at least in terms of chemicals — since government regulations prohibit farmers from using growth hormones on either animal. But antibiotics are still served up liberally, and that creates other dangers. Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), for example, an often deadly pathogen associated mostly with hospital-acquired infections, has been increasingly turning up in hog farmers, who contract it from their animals. In one study last year, a University of Iowa epidemiologist found that 49% of the hogs she tested were positive for MRSA, as were 45% of the humans who handled them.

Far more troubling — if only because the problem is far more widespread — is the recent recall of more than half a billion eggs from two producers due to salmonella contamination. Salmonella is hardly unheard of even among chickens raised in comfortable, free-range conditions. But when you confine half a dozen birds at a time in cages no larger than an opened broadsheet newspaper, and stack hundreds or thousands of those so-called battery cages together, you’re going to spread the bacterium a lot faster. The egg manufacturers stress that thoroughly cooking eggs can kill salmonella — which is true as far as it goes. But treating chickens like conscious creatures instead of egg-manufacturing machinery can help avoid outbreaks in the first place.

Short of swearing off eggs and meat — a perfectly good choice, but with only 3% of Americans describing themselves as vegetarians, not likely for most people — there are no easy solutions. For one thing, if we all decided to switch to healthier, chemical-free meat, there wouldn’t be remotely enough to go around. Only 3% of cattle in the U.S. are organically raised, and just 0.02% of hogs and 1.5% of poultry. What’s more, that scarcity helps drive the already premium price higher still.

Another alternative is to eat more fish, which is healthier anyway because it’s leaner, lower in calories and higher in omega-3s. But with fish stocks collapsing worldwide because of rampant overconsumption, there’s only so far that solution could take us. A half measure — but a very powerful one — is simply to cut back on whatever meat we do eat, even if we can’t quit it altogether. This shouldn’t be too hard: Americans already consume at least 1.5 times as much meat as the USDA recommends in its famed food pyramid. And with plenty of protein to be found in eggs, soy, cheese, grains, nuts, legumes and leafy green vegetables, there is no shortage of ways to compensate.

“You need to eat animals only to close the nutrient cycle,” says Fred Kirschenmann, a distinguished fellow at the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture at Iowa State University. “If we changed a few things about how we live, we’d have fewer animals in the system.”

Cash Crops
When animal protein, whether organic or not, becomes a supporting player in the diet, then fruits, veggies and grains take the lead. That’s generally a good thing, but here too there are complications. The back-to-the-land ideal of farming without the use of synthetic pesticides and other chemicals can take you only so far in a country with 309 million mouths to feed (not to mention a world with 6.8 billion). Say what you will about the environmental depredations of agribusiness, industrial farms coax up to twice as much food out of every acre of land as organic farms do. And even that full-tilt output may not be enough to keep up with a global population that’s galloping ahead to a projected 9 billion by 2050.

“Only about 5% of the arable land on the planet remains unused,” says McWilliams. “But we’ll need to increase food production by 50% to 100%.” If we have to spray, fertilize and even genetically engineer our way there, that’s something we may simply have to accept. (See Dr. Mehmet Oz’s take on organic food.)

In the U.S., running out of crop foods is not a problem — at least not yet — but pesticide residues on fruits and vegetables cause people some perfectly reasonable worries. Properly washing or peeling produce can take care of most of the problem, but if you buy organic, you avoid the pesticide issue altogether, right? Not necessarily. It’s not just that drift from nearby nonorganic farms can contaminate other crops in the vicinity; it’s also that organic farmers use pesticides of their own. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, there are now 195 registered biopesticides — substances derived from animals, plants or minerals that are toxic to certain species — used in 780 commercial products. There is broad agreement that biopesticides are not as dangerous as commercial pesticides, but less toxic doesn’t mean nontoxic, and even such lower-impact chemistry has a nasty habit of hanging around in soil and water longer than you want it to. “Organic farming may represent only 2% of the total of all farming,” says McWilliams, “but what if it became 20%? The chemicals are used only sparingly now, but they wouldn’t be then.”

Organic fertilizers are less of a problem, since they consist mostly of manure, as well as other relatively benign materials like peat, seaweed, saltpeter and compost. Humble as such substances are, however, they can become awfully pricey, because you need very big quantities to pack the same fertilizing punch as synthetic brands do. “It can take four tons of manure per acre to raise food,” says McWilliams. “When you know that, a bag of synthetic fertilizer starts to look pretty good.”

Wallet and Palate
But for most consumers — even those who think of themselves as environmentally conscious — the critical considerations in deciding to go organic involve the far more personal matters of price, flavor and nutrition. Last year’s nutrient study had a lot of organic partisans wincing — and a lot of commercial growers feeling smug — but one paper is hardly the whole story. The real difference between organic and nonorganic produce is in the relative presence of micronutrients such as copper, iron and manganese, as well as folic acid, none of which were included in the study. With these, the results are mixed. (See whether you should buy organic or conventional food.)

In a meta-analysis conducted by the Organic Center, a nonprofit group in Boulder, Colo., organic produce was found to be 25% higher in phenolic acids and antioxidants. “It’s these components that are deficient in American diets, so that makes this finding especially significant,” says Charles Benbrook, the group’s chief scientist. But the organic label alone is not enough to ensure that all consumers get the same boost. “The real nutrient value in produce comes from the soil,” says Kirschenmann. “So that’s a mixed deal unless you know the farmer and know how he’s managing his soil.”

The farmer also plays the biggest role in determining the most subjective of all variables: taste. You can start a lot of arguments about whether organic crops actually have better, fresher, more complex flavors than industrial crops do, but without a double-blind taste test, there’s no way to know. On a few points, most people agree: a freakishly large, overly engineered tomato or strawberry designed to ripen en route to a distribution center will never come close to the taste of its vine-ripened, fresh-picked cousin. The Red Delicious apple is the poster fruit for what can go wrong when commercial growers manipulate their product too much. Bred and rebred for an ever redder skin and an ever more tapered shape, the apples became mealy, juiceless and all but unpalatable inside. (See the results of a farm vs. supermarket taste test.)

That, however, is not to say organic growers don’t also try to prettify their produce before revealing it to the world. “Green markets can be a kind of food pornography,” says Manny Howard, author of My Empire of Dirt, about his experiences with backyard farming. “You buy a big bushel of beet greens without a wormhole in it, and that’s just not what farm food looks like.”

There may be flavor to be found in lovely and unlovely food alike, and a lot of things have to go right to raise the best-tasting produce. It’s not just the quality of the soil that’s at work, says Kirschenmann. “Selecting the right variety of plant and using the right mix of compost are important too. With farm-to-table food, the farmers are in many ways the chefs, as opposed to, say, molecular gastronomy, in which so much happens in the kitchen.”

The kitchen, of course, is the center of everything for families too, and this is where the shouting of the food partisans fades to babble. Eating an apple is almost always better than not eating an apple, no matter where it came from. And getting the whole brood into the habit of sitting down to a meal of lean meats, lots of veggies and judicious amounts of carbs and starches is hard enough without bringing politics into the mix. Farmers’ markets are undeniably great — if you can afford them, if there’s one near you and if you have time between the job and the kids to make a special trip when you know you can get everything in a single stop at the supermarket. The food industry undeniably churns out all manner of dangerous and addictive junk without a shred of real nutritional value in it, but there are also food companies that manage to get healthy, high-quality food to market and keep the cost of it reasonable.

The answer, ultimately, is for the two sets of producers — and their two sets of customers — to find a better way to co-exist. It’s important to crack down on the industry’s most egregious and polluting practices — to say nothing of its punishing treatment of animals — but we need to make sure the food still gets to the stores. It’s important too to support the local-farming movement not only to make more fresh foods available to more consumers but also to boost a growing economic sector and perhaps bring down prices as efficiencies of scale come up.

“If we all had to concentrate on raising our own food, we wouldn’t have time to do anything else,” says Howard. Happily, we don’t have to do that anymore. But that doesn’t let us entirely off the hook. We still have to get smart about what the people who bring us our food are selling, to find the right mix of the commercial and the local, the organic and the industrial. There’s a lot more than just groceries on the line — there’s health and long life too.