Posts Tagged ‘Food Sustainability’

Food For Thought at TEDx Cambridge Today

Posted 16 May 2010 — by S.E.
Category Food Alert Trends

For some reason, I found out about TEDx Cambridge’s “How Do You Eat?” event a bit late. It was too late in fact to get a ticket, but early enough to coordinate a trip to Boston for a visit anyway. With a good friend’s business partner presenting and another culinary contact presenting as well, it made sense to attend even if just to observe from the edges.

MIT Stata Center

TEDx events are locally hosted and loosely linked to the highly regarded TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) conference held annuallysince 1984  in Long Beach, CA. Today’s event was held at the stunning Stata Center on the campus of MIT in Cambridge, MA. “How Do You Eat?” was coordinated by a team of volunteers led by Jennifer Bréa, a Ph.D. student at Harvard University. Bréa knows TED well; she was a TED fellow in 2007 and 2009.

According to the TEDx Cambridge website, ““How do you eat?” is a question meant to be interpreted broadly.” In the spirit of TED, the question is meant to cultivate “ideas worth sharing.” More than two dozen speakers wrestled with the question and presented findings from disciplines as varied as neuroscience, economics, community farming, and of course, culinary and pastry arts. The program came in short twenty minute bursts or quick five-minute bites of content provided by each of the speakers. One of the main reasons I enjoy this type of program is the opportunity to hear from a wide array of presenters across disciples and then synthesize and draw conclusions from the overlap in concentric circles of thought that each speaker yields.

With such a variety of talented individuals presenting, at times it can be hard to find a connection from one speaker or thought to the next. However, there are always connections and today was no different. Here are the patterns I noticed:

 1: Food and Eating are Cool: The topics continue to gain respect in the academy, and they are topics that attract really smart and talented people!

 2: Elegant Simplicity is a continuing refrain: From fixing food systems, to creating new dishes, to fixing the earth itself, elegant simplicity is the holy grail. Less is more. Natural is better. Less harm yields more good. (Fancisco Migoya, Dan Barber, Jennifer Hashley)

3: Eating Related Behaviors aren’t caused by what you think: For some reason the misconceptions associated with food and eating are extensive. From food related decision making and taste preferences to wine purchases, the force behind the decisions we make and the behaviors we engage in are not the ones you think ( Dan Ariely, Don Katz and Coco Krumme).

4: Science and technology are intertwined with Food and Eating. Like it or not the overlap between science, technology and food are here to stay. Chefs are becoming scientists and scientists, chefs.  (David Gracer, Kenji Alt, Chandler Burr, Wylie Dufresne)

5: Community is Important: Eating is a social activity and we need to focus on authentically engaging each other when joined around a table. Food and beverage aren’t the main event, the people with you while eating are. (Vanessa German, John Gersten, David Waters, Glynn Llyod, Richard Chisolm)

First Fruits of Spring: Fiddleheads, Spargel and Morels

Posted 25 Apr 2010 — by S.E.
Category At Home

Tonight, dinner was with some old friends, one of whom is a well know chef of the highest caliber. We had planned our dinner for some weeks and, knowing his penchant for keeping all ingredients local and organic, I couldn’t wait to head over to his house. It didn’t surprise me to discover upon arrival that his mise en place was complete and that dinner would be served within the hour. This included fresh spargel (white asparagus), fiddlehead ferns, morel mushrooms and a wood-roasted half sirloin. I suspected he would focus on local ingredients in season, and had been thinking about this since arriving home for the weekend from work to find a local ingredient of my own growing in my yard.

Last Friday evening I noticed garlic chives growing along the back border of my lawn. Pulling one up and snapping it in half, I took in its fragrant, sharp aroma. The smell reminded me of how, as a child, we used to dare each other to chew their garlicky, pale white bulbs raw.  Even then, I loved food and would take the dare, breath reeking the rest of the afternoon to my brother’s sheer delight. As kids, we used to find garlic chives, morel mushrooms, and fiddlehead ferns growing wild throughout a twenty acre dairy farm pasture and the dense woods along its perimeter. They were sure signs of spring and arrived each year like clockwork.

Fiddlehead Ferns

Later on Saturday I came across these ingredients again. I made a quick trip to Whole Foods and found crates of ramps and fiddleheads stacked in the produce section (few people were buying). Large bundles of white asparagus were on display as well. I was tempted, but stayed focused on what I needed (two loaves of sourdough) and made my way to the exit.

Spargel (White Asparagus)

So, imagine how pleased I was today to find three wonderful, local, in-season ingredients waiting to be finished for our meal along with several other accompaniments. These included a batch of artichokes roasting, cipollini onions sautéing and golden beets sautéing with garlic. After an hour of visiting while the sirloin finished, the meal was nearly complete. The morels were completed with cognac and veal glace, sea salt and fresh pepper while the golden beets and garlic, on low heat, became tender, caramelized and sweet. He roasted a small batch of fingerling potatoes with rosemary as well to round out the meal. When all was set, I took an end-cut of the sirloin, topped it with two succulent morels and a liberal portion of veal glace, a scoop of golden beets, an artichoke, three potatoes, an onion, a half-dozen white asparagus and a small spoonful of fiddleheads. Within minutes we were seated and within another twenty, sated. Sunday dinner the way it should be!