Monthly Archives: November 2014

The Nursery of Democracy: A Visit by Michael Pollan

Kalamazoo Community FoundationWhen I heard that journalist Michael Pollan was coming to speak in Kalamazoo, I immediately signed up. I’m a big fan of this writer – mostly because he’s a great researcher. He really goes in-depth into how our food system works (or doesn’t). He was brought here by the Kalamazoo Community Foundation.

His focus was on the act of cooking and what it means – the subject of his latest book, Cooked, now out in paperback. He stated that real cooking is a
Therapeutic act
Agricultural act
Political act.

There are too many food systems horror stories, and the one that he started out with this time was Russet Burbank potatoes. You’ve all eaten them – they’re what McDonald’s uses for their French fries. They’re long and grown to ‘look perfect.’

For this story, he visited a mega-farm that was fully automated. The ‘farmer’ had video cameras of the acreage of potatoes and worked the controls remotely for watering and pesticide application. They use the pesticide Monitor to prevent anything from marring the potatoes – even when the marks don’t affect potato quality or taste. When Monitor is applied, no one can enter the field for 3 – 4 days, because it’s so dangerous.

Pollan went on to describe the storage room full of harvested potatoes. They need to be held there for six weeks to off-gas the chemicals that had been applied during the growing process. I don’t know who decided that after six weeks, they’re ‘safe’ but, no thanks!

Now you see where he’s going with his thoughts on cooking. “Not cooking has to do with the kind of food system we have,” Pollan stated. When researching the book In Defense of Food he found that the healthiest diets were those cooked by humans, not corporations.

Research he mentioned indicates that people spend an average of 27 minutes cooking a meal, and 4 minutes cleaning up. Four minutes? I wish! Or, maybe not…. Opening up a spice pack or can of soup to add to pasta is not really cooking. “Americans spend more time watching people cook on TV than they actually do cooking,” said Pollan. “The family meal is an endangered institution. It’s where we civilize and socialize our children.”

Not only is processed food full of sugar, fat, and salt, but they often market individual meals which can undermine the family meal. So, when Pollan stated that the family meal is the nursery of democracy, was it farfetched? I don’t believe so.

You, readers, have much more control over the food system than you’ve been led to believe. You can change your health and the planet one meal at a time. What kind of food system do you want?

And, finally, Pollan noted, “The food movement offers farmers something that they haven’t had in a long time – new customers; new products; new markets.”

Go forth and cook!


Kalamzoo Community Foundation

Q & A Time

Q & A Time (lighting not great for photography)

If you can’t find these books local, they are in my Amazon Affiliates store.

2014 Grand Rapids Wine, Beer, and Food Festival

Thursday through Sunday, is the 7th Annual Grand Rapids Wine, Beer, and Food Festival at DeVos Place in downtown. This is my favorite festival of the year. It features wine, beer, cider, and food with lots of tastings and classes throughout the event. It’s a great place to learn about Michigan food and beverages, as well as compare them to what’s produced in other regions.

Visit the festival website for information on the pairings and seminars. Along with the hall full of wineries (over 100), distilleries, and food, there’s the Cider House. It will feature cideries from throughout Michigan, as well as many nationally-known brands, in the Welsh Lobby on the south end of the Steelcase Ballroom.

The 3rd floor Brewer’s Loft returns, showcasing beer from around Michigan, as well as national labels and imports providing tastes of their hand-crafted beverages – along with food pairings and entertainment. And NEW this year is the RendezBREW, a rebranded, expanded Coffee, Cordials, and Dessert Café open in the Grand Gallery for the duration of the Festival.

My favorite area is the Riverfront Market where I shop for gourmet food, specialty items, wine accessories, and holiday gifts including chocolates, pastas, cheeses, oils, olives, sauces, mixes, dips and more. (Cash and carry or order for easy delivery.)

Here are my Festival Tips
• Bring a tote bag in case you pick up brochures or make food purchases.
• If you are crowd-averse go on Thursday or as early after opening as possible on Friday or Saturday.
• Get to the seminars several minutes early. Many of them fill to capacity.
• If you plan to eat or drink from several booths, buy extra food/beverage tickets. Last year food was 6 -12 tickets, wine was usually 3 – 6 tickets, and beer was usually 2 – 4 tickets. The show organizers suggest starting with $20.00 worth of tickets per person. They are sold in 50-cent denominations.
• There is so much to see some pre-planning may help set priorities.
• Check out the special events in advance so you go at the days and times when you will experience the events that interest you the most. Here’s the seminar and workshop schedule.
• Bring a camera and post your photographs to the MIlocalFoodbeet Facebook page. And, follow me on Instagram to see what’s going on! Prefer Twitter? Here I am.

COST: $15 – Thursday (and advanced ticket sales for Friday & Saturday); $20 – Friday & Saturday. 3-Day Pass – At $40, this option allows admission each day of the Festival and is intended for those who want to get the most out of their tasting experience. Online sales end Thursday, Nov. 20 at 5pm (Box Office sales for the pass end at 10pm on Thursday, Nov. 20).

I’ve been attending since the beginning and have served as media since 2010. Although my entrance pass is provided, I purchase all of my sampling tickets, and my opinions are my own. Attendance is only for those 21 and older.

See you there!

Grand Rapids Wine Beer and Food Festival

Pumpkin Smoothie

You’ve probably had a fruit smoothie, maybe even a green smoothie. But, have you had a pumpkin smoothie? Today I’m sharing my pumpkin smoothie recipe with you – give it a try! It’s much easier than baking a pumpkin pie.

Ingredients – makes about 3 cups
½ cup chunks of raw pumpkin*
1 very ripe banana (frozen is ok), sliced
2 cups raw almond milk**
1 teaspoon of hemp seeds
1 Tablespoon of coconut oil
½ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
¼ teaspoon ground ginger
¼ teaspoon ground coriander
You could add a sweetener such as Michigan honey or maple syrup if you prefer.

Instructions: Blend it!

*Purchase a pie pumpkin from your local farmer rather than a Jack O’Lantern that you’d put on your front porch. Peel it and cut it into around one-half inch pieces.

** I make my own almond milk in my high-speed blender. To make about 24 ounces of almond milk (more than needed for this recipe), soak ½ cup raw almonds overnight (or for several hours); drain and rinse. Blend the almonds with 2 cup of waters and 3 – 4 Medjool dates to create the milk.

Since you only need one half cup of pumpkin per smoothie, you can freeze the extra pumpkin pieces for later use. Just put them on a cookie sheet in the freezer until solid. Then, store them in air tight containers in the freezer.


pumpkin smoothie