29 July 2008

Food Econ 101

This interview of one Paul Roberts is a tad too simple, even for someone who, at some point of his or her college life, may have fallen asleep on an open copy of Mankiw's Principle of Economics, but it still is an interesting read. I think it's because he does say some things that make a lot of sense. So I think I'll add his latest book, The End of Food, to my list of "Books to Check Out of the Library When I'm Done with my MA."


"So we need to ask: How do we make trade more effective and equitable and efficient? I think that there’s a lot of ideology flying around here: Let’s do local, not global; free trade is bad. There’s a lot we have to reverse, but you have to separate the moral argument from the pragmatic argument, and that’s hard to do."


"What I think consumers are really hungry for at this point, if you’ll excuse the pun, is an understanding of the economic forces that are shaping things. If you go into a grocery store, everything that’s there represents a business calculation. I think consumers need to begin to unpack and understand those business decisions: Why is that stuff here? You realize that all these decisions have massive consequences on the flavor and quality of our food, on the health impacts, the safety of the food supply, and, I think in the long term what we’re realizing is, on the sustainability of the food system."

Sound impossible? Mate, we've got to start somewhere and each one could be a bit more responsible, no?

26 July 2008

Sandwich! Salad!

The spinach was getting ready to be totally unmanageable, so - needed to use it. And while some was fine for a salad, some of it was really only fit-to-be-cooked. So - sauteéd spinach of some sort. Which naturally fits very well into a sandwich. So, recipes two parts:

Salad: spinach with KD family salad dressing:

  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • Vinegar (balsamic, cider, white, or mix thereof)
  • Dijon Mustard
  • Garlic (several cloves, freshly smashed)
  • Lemon juice (fresh, if possible)
  • Salt to taste
  • Pepper to taste
Preferably, this is made by combining all above elements in a large salad bowl, and then tossing the salad in just prior to serving. I already had some in the fridge, so just drizzled over the salad.

Sandwich: prosciutto with mozzarella, sauteéd spinach, red onion and garlic on pane.
  • Heat extra virgin olive oil in pan.
  • Add thinly sliced garlic (not minced) for one minute; add red onion for one additional minute
  • Add spinach; sauteé and coat in oil until reduced (~2 min.)
  • Slice mozzarella thinly on one slice pane; layer prosciutto generously on other slice; toast
  • Layer spinach on top of prosciutto; place mozzarella slice on top of that, and slice.
  • Enjoy!

21 July 2008

Death by Raspberries

Please don't quote me on this, as I am not an agricultural expert, but I think that there are a couple interlinked reasons for the produce to be so tasty in Bosnia-Herzegovina. First, it is a land with a wide network of rivers, and water is plentiful probably even underground. It also rains often, even in the summer, though during that season the sun can still reach the plants. I also suspect that during the war the use of fertilizers, pesticides and other chemicals was probably limited, which means the soil is probably less artificially chemically enhanced than it would have been without that terrible war. Even though, as I type this, chemicals are probably increased in just about every corner of most Bosnian gardens. For this is where people grow fruits and vegetables: I haven't been able to travel everywhere in Bosnia, but quite a bit nevertheless, and, apart for farms around Mostar, I haven't seen any extensive piece of land covered in trees or plants obviously destined for human consumption. Part of it is that the land is so hilly, apart for a few valleys, you couldn't have a super-farm as there are in western Europe for example, in France especially (I leave the US Midwest in a league of its own). This means that most of the produce in B-H is grown on a small scale, and while any budding economist would despair at the missed opportunities of economies of scale, what might lack in increased effectiveness is compensated by tastiness. Deliciousness. Real flavour.

All this goodness is best purchased at the Sarajevo market rather than at the (Slovene) Merkator supermarket branches (which I cannot help myself but call Mercosur) and than at the small ubiquitous corner shops. The Sarajevo market is open everyday until 4 or 5 pm, except on Sundays.

Raspberry season was in full swing when I arrived, and through a combination of laziness and ingenuity, I came up with this simple recipe:

Death by Raspberries

  1. Come to Sarajevo in June.

  2. Go to the central market, preferably in the morning, otherwise the fruit sits there all day in the heat.

  3. Buy 1 kilo of raspberries (should cost between 5 and 7 Convertible Mark (KM) on weekdays, a bit more on Saturdays. Do haggle if the price is higher, it is a matter of principle, you shouldn't have to pay more just because you are a foreigner)

  4. Go home, wash your hands, wash the raspberries, let them dry for about 10 min.

  5. Sit on the balcony and eat until you feel your stomach might burst, about half a kilo.

  6. (Optional) Die happy.

14 July 2008

Boozy Nationalism

Yglesias says:
Obviously, like all red-blooded Americans I'm outraged by the idea of a Belgian company with the silly name InBev purchasing our beloved Budweiser. Still, wouldn't it be kind of great if the Belgians started turning Budweiser into something more like the, um, vastly superior product they have in Belgium? Just saying. Relatedly, wouldn't it kind of suck to be Claire McCaskill and duty-bound to endorse absurd claims about the quality of mass market American beer?

I will not go so far as to plant my tongue in cheek: this is Good. I can think of absolutely no potential downsides to this transaction, up to and including the (highly unlikely) prospect of Budweiser and all related products being discontinued immediately and replaced in distribution with Leffe (or indeed any of InBev's other lagers).

And, yes - it'd be much nicer (for many reasons) to be a Senator from, say, Oregon or Washington and be able to promote with a straight face both the dramatic superiority of your state's product (made from local hops!) and the thoroughly American (self-starting small businessmen! great products!) nature of the micro-brew movement generally.

12 July 2008

Somerville Cheladão

I found myself in Trader Joe's last night, picking up the usual variety of cheeses, veggie patties and deodorant, and noticed a bright-green Portuguese beer, Sagres Chopp selling for $5/6-pack. Why not? Wiki sez of the beer -

Chopp (4.9% ABV), a "Brazilian style" light lager, similar to Branca but with jazzier advertising. Launched in 2006, it has a lemony taste.

...and, given that Boston has a substantial Portuguese and Brazilian community, this makes sense. It being a lovely warm-not-hot Saturday afternoon, I decided I needed not just a beer but a beer drink and remembered my chelada. But no clam or tomato juice in the house, sadly. So, looking over some recipes, I improvised and thus the Somerville Cheladão:

  • In imperial pint glass, coat rim with salt
  • Add liberal dashes of hot sauce (I used Goya picante), a few dashes soy sauce, lime juice. Mix.
  • Add several ice cubes
  • Pour Sagres Chopp (or, really, any light lager, but this worked nicely) slowly
  • Gozar a sua cerveja!

01 July 2008

Blatant self-promotion

Milan was in Ljubljana a few weeks back and found this bottle of wine. Of course I knew that there were Germans all over Central and Eastern Europe, but I had assumed that most had been 'relocated' after the Second World War (payback's a bitch, das ist sicher). Anyhow, Sturm is a very common name, and I have no relation that I know of with the people who may be producing this (some Slovene may just have kept the name). The wine was a Muskat a bit syrupy, very sweet, and to be chilled for a good while before consumption. I wish I could say it was really good, but it was so-so only.

Brussels Sprouts and Macadamia Nuts

  • 1 pound Brussels sprouts, base and outer leaves trimmed, and halved
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup thinly sliced onion
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1/2 cup chopped macadamia nuts
  • 1 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup finely grated Pecorino Romano

  • Bring a medium pot of salted water to a boil and add the Brussels sprouts. Cook until crisp-tender, about 5 minutes. Drain.
  • In a large saucepan, melt 3 tablespoons of the butter over medium-high heat.
  • Add the onion and garlic, and cook for 1 minute.
  • Add the sprouts in 1 layer and cook until golden brown, about 5 minutes. Remove from the pan.
  • Add the remaining tablespoon of butter and when melted, add the macadamia nuts and cook, stirring, until golden and fragrant, about 2 minutes.
  • Add the lemon juice, salt, pepper, and sprouts, and stir well to coat and warm through.
  • Transfer to a serving bowl and sprinkle with the Pecorino Romano. Serve immediately.