Cook Food

a manualfesto for easy, healthy, local eating

October 1, 2009

Lazy Sunday frittata

Ok, I realize that it is no longer Sunday, and, in fact, quite a few days have elapsed since it was Sunday.

But I nonetheless would like to share with you my lovely lazy Sunday frittata experience.

I went with my friend Erin to the farmers market, where we purchased chard, tofu, and assorted other goodies including an amazing kind of melon that I had never heard of before.

Then we went to our friend Janet‘s house and made a chard frittata from Vegan Brunch, with roasted potatoes, sweet potatoes, and broccoli from Cook Food. We ate the melon while we cooked and then our friend Red came and joined us. At which point we took all our beautiful food outside and ate in the backyard.

Best. Lazy. Sunday. Brunch. Ever.

chard frittata

filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , — lisajervis @ 12:44 pm

September 8, 2009

McDonald’s: deeply rooted in exploitative marketing traditions

By guest blogger P. Hemphill

Like most, I boast a certain critical, literate eye for advertising—or, at the very least, it’s hard to surprise me. It’s rare that I find myself shocked at the depths corporations will go to appeal to our lowest common denominators and our collective fears, and to co-opt our cultural aspirations. McDonald’s recently unveiled a promotional project, much more targeted and explicit than your run-of-the mill ad campaign. 365Black is McDonald’s push to further embed itself in the Black community (as if multiple franchises in every ’hood were not enough). With the trademarked phrase, “deeply rooted in the community,” McDonald’s has partnered with so-called Black cultural institutions, such as Essence, BET, and Vibe to create “job and scholarship opportunities” in exchange, one can assume, for deeper access to our demographic and a concerted effort to shift its image in our community. 365Black’s promotional pieces are peppered with several Black upper-level McDonald’s execs touting the corporation’s “diversity goals” and community initiatives. Targeted commercials have been designed especially for 365Black—one of which features young black professional types opting for McDonald’s McSkillet burritos over a home-cooked meal (though as of this posting, that ad isn’t up anymore).

Perhaps it should be noted here that heart disease remains the number-one killer of Black people. Or that Black communities disproportionately suffer from diabetes, kidney disease, hypertension, and the rest. Recent and emerging scholarship is beginning to connect the dots between fast food consumption in Black communities, the lack of healthy food options, and these discouraging health statistics. Community leaders and food activists emerging from social justice sectors are making strong inroads in addressing these conditions: from developing innovative mobile groceries and cultivating community gardens, to reinventing cultural foods with an eye for health and cost. A hopeful push out of this health mess is happening and no doubt has Mickey D’s feeling a slip on their hold over the Black community, a community they’ve likely taken somewhat for granted.

Racial and culturally focused advertising is not a new phenomenon. Proctor and Gamble launched their “My Black Is Beautiful” campaign in 2007 to, in their words, “celebrate the beauty of every African-American woman” and in my words, to promote cosmetics.  And though McDonald’s isn’t doing anything unheard of in a marketing sense, the health implications to the Black community are dangerous. Cultural and corporate lines are being intentionally blurred for deeper entrenchment, the least of the concerns the actual health of Black communities. Knowing that some will hype the funneling of funds into job and scholarship programs, it invites the question: Is it enough for our communities to receive a proverbial piece of the McDonald’s philanthropic pie at the expense of our collective and individual health? I think not.

P. Hemphill currently works as the Development Strategist at the Center For Media Justice and is a board member of the Freedom Archives. He writes also for The Abolitionist, a project of Critical Resistance, on issues of political imprisonment in the U.S. He is a self-described gentle gym head who thinks often about the relationship between alienation and health.

filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , — lisajervis @ 3:44 pm

August 28, 2009

I am in danger of becoming a broken record, but…

Dear Time Editor–

I commend you on Bryan Walsh’s thorough, thoughtful, important cover story on the consequences of our industrial food system. However, Walsh–along with almost everyone in the pro-food movement (as the folks working to change this system and produce food outside of it have been dubbed)–misses a crucial point in his comments about obesity. While processed industrial food does indeed have a huge negative impact on Americans’ health, obesity itself is not the problem. While the medical establishment insists that the cause-and-effect relationship between weight and heart disease and diabetes is linear and straightforward, a growing number of researchers and journalists (e.g., Linda Bacon, “Health At Every Size”; Paul Campos, “The Diet Myth”; Laura Fraser, “Losing It: False Hopes and Fat Profits in the Diet Industry”; Glenn Gaesser, “Big Fat Lies”; Michael Gard and Jan Wright, “The Obesity Epidemic”; Eric Oliver, “Fat Politics”) have shown that this conclusion is not supported by the evidence.

If we are to make real improvements in our health system, we must recognize that body size and health have very little to do with each other and treat people of all sized accordingly.

Lisa Jervis
author, Cook Food: A Manualfesto for Easy, Local, Healthy Eating
Oakland, CA

Seriously, this is a great piece, and it has the potential to move a lot of people. I think it’s a eatershed moment in the pro-food movement, because it’s shocking in the best possible way to see a mainstream magazine (and it doesn’t get more mainstream than Time) taking on a powerful industry without pulling any punches. I kept expecting Walsh to water things down or come out with an “on the other hand” series of points defending Monsanto, McDonald’s, and company. But he didn’t.

Except that he totally buys the medical industry line like everyone else.

More on this in that epically long post I am still working on (um, mostly still in my head at this point).

filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , — lisajervis @ 3:59 pm

August 16, 2009

More infuriating press on obesity

I’m working on a longer post about the way fat and health are talked about in pro-food circles, but in the meantime, I just read something that really frosted my shorts. Since it’s incredibly unlikely that the New York Times Magazine will print my letter to the editor, I figured I would share it here.

Dear Editor:

David Leonhardt is right to identify cheap soda and expensive vegetables as a public health issue that interlocks with the current health care debate. And while I am relieved to see that he doesn’t, in the final analysis, endorse the idea of overcharging fat people for health insurance (something that should be universal in the first place), I was very disturbed by two elements of his recent article. First is the idea that people are in control of their weight. The truth is that diets don’t work: the multibillion-dollar diet industry and its medicalized support system has never produced a success rate higher than 5 percent. Second is Leonhardt’s unquestioning acceptance of the conventional wisdom that a high body mass index is automatically unhealthy. A growing number of researchers and journalists (e.g., Linda Bacon, Health At Every Size“; Paul Campos, The Diet Myth; Laura Fraser, Losing It: False Hopes and Fat Profits in the Diet Industry; Glenn Gaesser, Big Fat Lies; Michael Gard and Jan Wright, The Obesity Epidemic; Eric Oliver, Fat Politics) have shown that this conclusion is not supported by evidence.

Lisa Jervis
Oakland, California

I was trying to keep it under 150 words (basically the only chance of being published), but I also felt that it was important to include the citations. Because, let’s face it, whenever you question the fat=unhealthy equation, most people think you’re just making shit up. Seriously.

filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , — lisajervis @ 4:34 am

July 25, 2009

The audacity of food

Just read this on a friend’s blog and was totally moved. She’s talking about her approach to eating and the lifelong project it has been:

The audacity of food, if you will. That there would be a future that included whole foods that are whole in every sense of the word, including sensory experience. Foods that possess a certain serenity. Food that comes with no ad campaigns, no pesticides, no factory farms, no intercontinental shipping, no substandard labor conditions. And also no asceticism.

filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , — lisajervis @ 1:26 pm

July 24, 2009

You have to see this cucumber!

I am not generally big on pictures of food, but I couldn’t resist sharing this beaut I got at the Old Oakland farmers market this afternoon. It’s going to be part of tonight’s reading/cooking demo (I’m planning a cucumber and tomato salad with lemon-mint dressing).

First I just took its picture:


Then I realized that you’d have no idea why I thought it was special from looking at that picture. So I took this one:

cuke with mug

Yes, that’s a full-size mug.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking that huge cucumbers are often bitter and I should have gotten a smaller one. But here’s the thing: This is some different variety of cucumber that I have never even seen before. It was actually the smallest one of its kind that the farmer had.

True, I have no idea how it’s gonna taste. I’ll let you know later; it could be an unpleasant surprise. But that’s what improvisational cooking demos are all about, right?

filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , — lisajervis @ 8:18 pm

July 4, 2009

Listen to me on KPFA!

Last week I was on the radio, talking to the fantabulous Aimee Allison about cooking, whole foods, and feminism. Listen to it here, an hour and 37 minutes in.

There are many things to <heart> about Aimee and her work, and here’s one of them.

filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , — lisajervis @ 5:04 pm

June 29, 2009

Salad: cooking for lazy people

This might be kinda bad for a cookbook author to admit, but I’ve been having a lot of trouble getting motivated to cook lately. I’m sure it’s temporary—it has to do with the fact that I’m living in a temporary apartment where the kitchen is, um, problematic—but it’s been weighing on me nonetheless. I’ve been feeling unhealthy and totally sick of takeout, and I’ve been wanting to cook but unable to make it happen.

But now that the summer veggies are coming in—cucumbers, corn, and tomatoes in addition to the green beans and snap peas that have been around for a while and the radishes and carrots that are pretty much always around—I can do the no-cooking cooking that only works well in hot weather: salad. I’m pretty picky when it comes to salad; I don’t really like lettuce that much, and unless the temperature is above 80, I really need to eat hot food. But a mess of chopped veggies with some beans or tofu for rib-sticking-ness is feeling really perfect right now. Even more so because I can “cook” lunch for myself in 10 minutes before I leave for work.

So every day for lunch since last Monday, I’ve been eating a simplified version of Cook Food‘s Citrus Vinaigrette for Any Salad (lemon juice, olive oil, salt—I’ve been too lazy even to crush some garlic) on top of an assortment of everything that looked good at the farmers market last Sunday and yesterday. Today’s version was broccoli sprouts, a lemon cucumber, a Japanese cucumber, a carrot, some radishes, some green beans, and some precooked lentils from Trader Joe’s (I felt kinda bad about the level of packaging, but, well, see “problematic kitchen,” above). Tomorrow’s: corn, pea sprouts, snap peas, more radishes, more cucumbers, more lentils.

Oh, wait, there was the one day I didn’t bring my lunch; instead I got to have lunch with the lovely staff of VegNews magazine—and eat home-cooked vegan French toast and talk about food politics and magazine publishing.  That was awesome.

filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , — lisajervis @ 10:56 pm

June 21, 2009

Why this blog? And why this book?

Hi. My name is Lisa and I’m obsessed with food. Not just what to eat for lunch today (though, yes, that too), but where it came from, how and by whom it was produced (and with how much processing), and how far it had to travel to get to me, and what kinds of privilege it takes to be able to even make an issue out of all these things in the first place.

I also grew up cooking (thanks, mom!), and am kinda shocked by how many people have told me that they “can’t cook.” Seems to me these folks think of cooking as this great big daunting project that they need all sorts of knowledge to undertake. But here’s the truth: making wholesome, healthy, delicious food is totally easy.

So Cook Food and this blog are about two separate but intertwined things. One: showing people just how easy it is to make good food from fresh ingredients. Two: exploring the politics of food and figuring out just how it all translates into the everyday decisions we all have to make.

‘Cause let’s face it, we’re juggling a lot of issues while figuring out what and how to feed ourselves—our ecological footprint, from the chemicals used (or not) to grow our food to the fuel that ships it to the packaging it’s wrapped in; the health and safety of the workers who produce our food; the welfare of any animals involved; our own health; and our budget of money, time, and energy. There’s hardly ever a perfect choice, but we all need to eat.

So we make these imperfect choices and do the best we can for ourselves, our communities, and the larger world, three times a day, every day.

filed under: Uncategorized — lisajervis @ 3:06 pm