Thursday, January 28, 2010

Food, Politics, Economy: Today’s Food Crisis and Polanyi’s Great Transformation

Hi all. So I've been wanting to write about food and politics for a while, but it's been hard to motivate myself to get enough energy to be riled up about food and politics because I feel like most of my energy is being drained by cover letters, resumes, and interviews (Yes, interviews! I said interviews! ...Well, we'll see. When I get good news, trust me, the whole world will hear about it).

So, for those of you that don't know my eating habits, I don't eat beef anymore, and I try to eliminate high fructose corn syrup (so hard, you have no idea) from my diet. Sure, there are health reasons, but it started actually in large due to political and ecological reasons. I also try my hardest to try and buy fair trade chocolates, coffee (not that I drink coffee), etc. I haven't been able to bring myself to write a whole shpiel about all of the personal reasons why I don't or try not to consume such products. So, I've decided that a good start would be to post an essay that I wrote for one of my interdisciplinary studies classes. I apologize if it seems a little dry to some, but... well, too bad, I find the subject fascinating.

(This is where I become a little Berkeley hippie hate neoliberal globalization on you.) The assignment was to write a response to an article by Walden Bello titled "Manufacturing a Food Crisis" using various economists that were discussed in class. In a nutshell, Bello's article discusses how the food crisis that had developed by 2008 was "artificially created" (i.e. man-made) through political decisions that transformed the agricultural market. I chose to analyze Bello's article through Polanyi's The Great Transformation (Polanyi is amazing, by the way.) and his theoretical and historical account of the development of the capitalist "free market" economy. Polanyi wrote in his book, The Great Transformation, "Laissez-faire was planned; planning was not." Following this theory, economic decisions are heavily tied to politics and can have dramatic effects on society. Politics, economics, and society are all inextricably linked. The "free market" policies that the Global North (i.e. developed countries, first world countries, etc.) forces upon the Global South and other various political decisions affect the economy and society as well.

Why, do you ask, am I writing about this? I think it's important for people to be conscious of what they consume, whether it be food, electronics, what have you. And, since this is a food blog, I figure why not. That, and because I don't think many people, especially in the Global North, realize how much about the politics behind food and how much the food industry is tied up in the global economy.

Click below to read more (Please keep in mind that this was written for class back in the summer of 2008, and was, of course, therefore written all the night before/morning of. So I apologize for potential lack of coherency and poor writing... but I swear I did my research beforehand!!)  Any responses/thoughts/retorts highly encouraged!!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Meyer Lemon Ginger Muffins

...with cream cheese filling. Doesn't that sound yum?

So not only did I have a bunch of lemons that I took forever to use, I also bought a package of meyer lemons from Trader Joe's thinking that I would be completely inspired and do something awesome with them.

Yeah, that was a complete fail. The lemons have just hung around idly in their little package for the past few weeks and all I've done is stare at them and then go somewhere else. Finally, my friend was leaving for a one-day ski trip (read: leaving way too early in the morning and arriving home way too late) with a group of people, so I figured, why not used that as a motivator to use my meyer lemons for some good. I debated using them just as a stand-in with any other lemon recipes that I have... maybe even the lemon bars that I made last time. At the same time, I've never used meyer lemons before and I was terrified that I was going to make something that just wasn't quite right. For those of you that aren't familiar with meyer lemons, they are a hybrid of true lemons and mandarin oranges, making them a little sweeter with an oranger (sure, that's a real word) than normal lemons.

So, for the most part, I didn't feel too adventurous about messing with recipes calling for normal lemons (probably irrational, but whatever, deal with it). Finally, running through some recipes of meyer lemons and trying to decide what would be easiest for a group of groggy people to eat for breakfast or as a on-the-slopes snack, I decided on making meyer lemon ginger muffins (with a cream cheese filling!). I've been avoiding making muffins and cupcakes for a while because I always hate washing out muffin tins, but I should get over that silliness. (By the way, do muffins count as a quick bread? I think it does, right? Or is it in its own special category?)

I definitely need to bake more with lemons vs. meyer lemons to try and figure out the subtle differences between the two, but until then, click below for more pictures and recipe!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Lemon Bars

Oh my goodness! Blogger just deleted my entire post, and I'm annoyed. Okay, let's try this again.

Hi everyone! For those of you living in the Bay Area, I hope you're enjoying this storm that has hit the West Coast, because I am. The torrential downpour. The lightning. The thunder. I'm loving it. Currently, my patio door is opened, making it ridiculously cold in my apartment, but I can clearly hear the rain falling on the ground with the thunder rolling by and it's totally worth it. It sends shivers up my spine and I can't help but smile.

For those of you that hate this wet, dark, weary and dreary weather, I've decided to post about a little ray of sunshine: lemon bars!

Aren't they so bright and scrumptious looking? It's like a little reminder of summer. Or something like that. Anyhow, a fellow friend gave me a bag of lemons from his backyard and I promised that I would use them for evil good. However, I just kind of stared at them for a week, not sure of what I should do with them and no real inspiration hit. Finally, I settled on lemon bars. Lemon bars are one of those things I avoided for a while because I was irrationally afraid of anything curd-like or custard-like (but the creme brulees proved that I was just being ridiculous!). So, after what was over a week, I started to flip through all my bookmarks of various baking blogs and leafed through my various cookbooks to try and figure out what might seem like a good lemon bar recipe. What if it was too tart? What if it was too sweet? What if what if what if? Ridiculous, right? I also wanted to find something that had a good ratio of lemon goodness to shortbread crust (i.e. lots of lemon-y goodness). Something that would also hold together on its own without looking like it was about to melt off the cooling rack. So, in the end, I adapted from Bakerella's recipe.

Let's see what these little lemons can do!

Monday, January 11, 2010

Vanilla Bean Creme Brulee

Look, look, a post! Here is the promised creme brulee recipe. I love cracking the layer of caramel on top... :)

For Christmas, my roommate gave me a kitchen torch (I know, Edith + fire? Sounds like a disastrous combination, I know. It's okay, you're probably right. But I'm still okay for now!) and his parents gave me some beautiful creme brulee ramekins. So I'm not much up for the multi-tasking baking dishes for the most part, and the deeper ramekins that most people use are nice, but these are just beautiful.

And, honestly, my favorite part of the creme brulee is usually the burnt sugar on top, so these shallow ramekins give just the perfect portion of burnt sugar to custard. It was seriously nommy.

Creme brulee (with its respective accents that I don't know how to do in Blogger) means "burnt cream" in French. It is a dish that is comprised of a rich custard bottom layer and a top layer of caramel. There are so many various recipes out there, each with their own ratio of egg yolks to various types of cream/milk to amount of sugar. Having never really made custard (I tend to avoid it... my fear of tempering anything makes me avoid certain recipes... but I'm working on that!), I wasn't sure which recipe sounded the best. Also, many of the recipes came with fancy flavors like lavender or ginger or chocolate, and I just wanted a simple vanilla creme brulee. However, I knew that I didn't want something too sweet and tasting too much like egg yolks. So, after reading about 15 different creme brulee recipes, I decided to combine a few of them and make my own vanilla bean creme brulee recipe. (Don't ask me which recipes I combined... there was like, a combination of 3... so it's kind of my own recipe, right?)

It was delicious. I generally don't actually really like creamy things, especially custard, but I loved the flavor in this, and I think the people that ate it liked it too. :) Click below for more pictures and recipe!

Monday, January 4, 2010

Holidays and 2010

Hi all!

Long time no see, I know. I hope y'all had a happy holiday season, and started off your new year with a bang. :)

I know I'm ridiculously behind in everything, but at least it's good to know that I've been busy baking (and vaguely having a life), right? There have been Christmas goodies and parties and new recipes galore, and I have a ridiculous backlog of holiday foods to put up. I've decided that I'm just going to show some pictures of the food for the holidays for y'all, and then figure out the whole specific recipes later.

I'd make some silly new years resolutions about posting more or baking more new recipes, but that's just silly. (And the holidays were actually a good time to try out new recipes!) I think my new years resolutions will be to get a job and to apply for grad school. :P However, I am resolved to write more about food and politics at some point!

Click below to find out more about Post-Thanksgiving, Fancy Pants Party, and New Years! (Christmas dinners were good too, but not made by me) :)

(Warning: LOTS of pictures behind cut!!)