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Thoughts on Plenty

Because of the Times Select paywall, I have not supplied links to the writings discussed in this entry.

As befits the eve of our annual fête de food, yesterday's Times Op-Ed page is given over to three essays on the state of the national cornucopia. Farmer Nina Planck urges us to look beyond claims that food products are "organic" for proof that say, beef is "grass-fed." This is because food giants such as General Mills have acquired "organic" brands and now, as members of industry associations, are lobbying to relax some of the restrictions.

Unfortunately, the organic rules are all but silent on the importance of grass to animal and human health. 

Chef Dan Barber urges us to change our diets, not only for our own health but also to encourage mid-sized farms by consuming less of the mega-crops - corn, soy, and sugar.

We're going to have to support a diet that contains fewer processed, commodity-based foods. We're going to have to pay more for what we eat. We're going to have to contend with those who question whether its practical to reduce subsidies for large farmers and food producers. And we're going to have to reward farmers for growing the food we want for our children.

Finally, New Orleans professor John Biguenet writes with disgust of the national stinginess that has driven many in his city to wonder if it will ever be viable again.

So far, the president, Republican leaders in Congress and even the reconstruction czar, Donald Powell, have declined to provide any commitment beyond repairing the levees already breached. But if the United States refuses to protect New Orleans, what will the world - and what will history - make of a nation that let one of its most celebrated cities die?

There is also a silly column by Thomas L Friedman, urging the president to change course. What I can't understand is Mr Friedman's faith that this is possible. If there's one thing that I can't be thankful for, it's that the United States has been well-served by democracy in recent years. Because it hasn't been.

What all four pieces point to is the importance of responsible stewardship in human affairs. That's a topic that Eric Reece addresses with surprising force, and from a surprising direction, in an essay that I will write about later today. Meanwhile, Happy Thanksgiving to all my countrymen, at home or abroad.


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So, we're all dying to know. Where will you dine? Our selection is to be a kosher organic turkey, on Friday (to accommodate our open house today), because my cousin's partner is a converted Jew. It was very hard to find! We in Ithaca, NY find it very easy to find grass-fed animal products and organic (or "morganic") fruits and vegetables because of our booming local small farmer community. It is harder in other locales, as my sisters in CT and GA will attest. I can even get raw milk, if I drive a half hour to the farm. The demand part of the equation is important because arguments abound among government and academic agricultural institutions as to any real nutritional benefits in organic versus conventional foods. If perception prevails, it won't matter whether or not we can prove the benefits in order to support growing clean foods. I was thinking after reading you this morning that if the norm was clean food and we could pay less for food treated with chemicals and hormones, would we buy it?

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