The Taste of Tomorrow
  • Things We HEART
  • April23rd

     

    Barton Seaver is my favorite chef. 

    It’s not necessarily because of his food.  I’ve never been to Cafe Saint-Ex or Bar Pilar or Blue Ridge or Hook, his DC-restaurant that had 78 species of seafood on the menu in one year.  And I haven’t had a mind-blowing, life-altering experience with his cookbook, For Cod And Country. 

    No, the reason why Barton Seaver is my favorite chef is because he’s about as rare as a California condor in the foodie world — he’s sensible about sustainability.   

    I first discovered Seaver two years ago  – I was driving to a party in Kenosha, Wisconsin, when I heard him on Here on Earth, a show on Wisconsin Public Radio. Initially, I was just captivated because here was this enthusiastic, hyper-articulate guy talking about fish, especially lesser-known species of fish (a particular interest of mine).  Americans only eat about 10 species of seafood, even though the ocean offers hundreds of varieties, and Seaver argues that we need to take advantage of the huge variety of fauna out there. Amen. He struck me — with his energy and passion and gift at seafood porn —as a kind of Rick Bayless of seafood.

    But what really made me fall in love with Seaver — what created the NPR driveway moment (specifically, it was the parking lot of Pic-n-Save on 63rd Street) — was hearing his answers to questions like:  “Should I eat wild or farmed fish?”  (You can hear his answer to that on  at around 9:49 of the Here on Earth interview.)

    My point: here was a chef with some of the foodiest bona-fides possible —hailed as Chef of the Year by Esquire’s John Mariani — who talks the importance of INDUSTRIAL aquaculture.  “It’s our patriotic duty to eat farm-raised mussels, clams, and oysters,” he says.

    Why is this such a huge deal? Why was it so exciting to hear a chef talk about the importance of industrial-scale fish-farming?  We live in the age of Pollan, and for so many chefs — local, organic, wild-caught  = sustainable — has gone from a well-intended ideal into an inflexible dictate. Too many chefs have a view of the world in which the definition of sustainable is organic, local, artisanal.  End of story.

    Seaver, by contrast, talks about sustainability in a refreshingly nuanced way. 

    “You and I could rent a canoe and harpoon a blue whale,” he says. “Just because it’s local, that doesn’t mean it’s a good idea.”

    He talks about seasonality and diet— when is the right season to eat your sablefish or your halibut, why you should eat smaller portions, why you should eat species that are lower on the food chain. Yet he also talks, with equal passion, about the virtues of canned fish (yes, industrially-produced canned fish)  He even explains that a sustainable choice can involve shopping at Walmart —  yes, Walmart, that paragon of industrial scale, globavorism can be part of “restorative seafood.”

    That’s why Barton Seaver is my favorite chef. It was exhilarating to hear a guy who shared a kitchen with Jose Andres, a guy who can make you literally ache for a crab cake,  talk so pragmatically about sustainability.

    The reason I’m enthusing about Seaver right now, today, is because I just stumbled upon an old interview with him on another radio program, The Splendid Table.  Here, in a show titled, “Seasonal Seafood,” that was recently rebroadcast, is a little taste of my favorite chef talking about the virtues of canned products — and a suggestion for how to work with canned pink salmon.  

    Then look at some of the other canned products: sardines, mackerel, herring, pink salmon, clams, mussels, oysters, and my favorite, anchovies. I mean these are nearly across the board some of the very best things we should be eating. And talk about ease of Tuesday night, when you’re coming home from ballet and soccer and you’ve got a report due. Pull out two 7-ounce cans of pink salmon; drain it off; add a little bit of mayonnaise, fresh dill, bread crumbs, and lemon juice; throw it in the oven under a broiler; and in 10 minutes you’ve got a beautiful, pink, salmon cake, crisp and crunchy on one side, soft and moist all the way throughout, perfectly cooked. You’ve got your protein portion for four people for $4 or $5, you’re ready to roll with your broccoli and there you go.

    Check out the Splendid Table site for two of his recipes for Pacific cod and mackerel.

    ALSO… a promise to TofT readers. One of these days…  when I get back to DC, I will try to meet and interview Seaver… And if I do, I will post the interview , along with a collection of canned tuna/salmon/anchovy/sardine recipes, right here on the TofT site.

    Till then.. have some canned sardines or anchovies tonight and watch this Ted Talk “Sustainable Seafood — Let’s Get Smart.”

  • January7th

    During the past four years of future of food research, and especially since The Taste of Tomorrow was published last year, the most frequent question I get is The Almighty One.  The Let’s-Not-Mess-Around.  Just tell me.

    What’s for dinner in 2035?  What am I eating?

    My answer has evolved — even after the book published. But the one thing that I’ve learned in my short career as food future forecaster — the one bit of certainty — is that the only sensible way to answer the “What’s for Dinner”  question is with a question. That is:

    Can I see your tax returns?  

    Yes. In order to forecast your future meal,  it’s important to know whether you’re rich, middle-class,  poor, where you live, how many children you have, where you went to college, etc.

    Alex Renton, a British journalist, who has written extensively on food, agriculture and development issues, has smartly included that fundamental approach in a piece that ran last weekend in The Observer.  Renton divided his future food forecast for the expected 70 million Brits of 2035 into two meals — one for the haves, the other for the have-nots.

    The well-off have satiation foods and fresh foods and smart refrigerators; the lower-class Brits are eating fried locusts and lab-grown nuggets and vitamin-fortified meat.

    Check out Renton’s spot-on  “What’s for Dinner”  forecast, and also see more TofT comments in a follow-up post.

  • May3rd

     

     

    There was a nice spike of interest in the The Taste of Tomorrow from middle of April to early May of 2012…

    Here’s a very nice review in the Tof T’s hometown paper — the Chicago Tribune — by Bill Daley, one of the best food and wine writers around.  Here is Bill’s  Future Food.  (Also, fyi.  I am very excited to be participating in a panel discussion moderated by Bill at the Printer’s Row Book Fair on June 10.)

    Here’s an

    excellent piece in Maclean’s (think the Time or Newsweek of Canada) that uses the TofT as the opening to an exploration of trends and technologies that could shape the foods of the future.  Kate Lunau’s story “What You’ll Be Eating Soon” was — much to our delight —the cover!

    Earlier in April, the Wall Street Journal’s weekend edition published “Next Stop for Food Fanatics: Africa.” Recommendation:  do not read this article  until after you have read Chapters 15 – 17 of The Taste of Tomorrow.  

    And finally, the AP’s Jessica Gresko reviewed the book.  Here’s the review from ABC News. More stories will be posted soon!

  • April13th

    If you still haven’t had a chance to make it out for that lunch time excursion to B&N or Books & Books or the Seminary Coop to buy three copies of The Taste of Tomorrow,  if you still haven’t made those four to five  clicks necessary to achieve nonfiction nirvana, then we hope you’ll take a look at “Feasts Forward,”  a nice review in the Financial Times. 

    The subhead, “a lighthearted look into the future of food,” is undeniably true.  And the reviewer, Carl Wilkinson, does a nice job of describing the “salad” section of the book in one brilliantly succinct sentence.

  • March9th

    We hereby offer the First Annual John Bitter Award for the greatest, most valuable web site in the Green Food Techie Universe to… Seedstock.com

    Why Seedstock?

    If you’re hunting for examples of smart urban farming, if you have a weakness for solar and wind-powered agriculture, if you want more/better/deeper coverage of ecologically-minded aquaculture, Seedstock is peerless. Seriously.

    Two examples:

    Basil growing in Omega Garden's rotary system.

    Hydroponics Coverage – non-pareil. So, as you all know, we at the ToT are very curious about the incipient hydroponics revolution (and not for growing killer indica!). Last month, we did a routine drive-by of Seedstock (we were away for far too long — apologies).

    Seedstock, the same site that introduced us to Windowfarms (see earlier post)  had two excellent profiles – one featured the brainchild of a U of Wyoming agronomy student called the ZipGrow Tower. It’s a 5’ foot tower, that cleverly uses a PVC frame and a matrix media —made up of a recycled polyethylene terephthalate (PET) blend — to hold seeds and seedlings in a vertical system.  It’s patent-pending, and will start at $50 — looks like a perfect solution for apartment dwellers seeking to make smart use of unused vertical space.   We also spotted on this same Seedstock visit an interesting story about the Omega Garden— a Canadian company that makes the Volksgarden, a rotating hydroponic system that can pack 80 plants into 20 square feet, and can yield harvest three to five times as productive as conventional gardens — using only a fraction of the water and space.

    Bell Aquaculture, America's larger producer of yellow perch.

    Seedstock is also a steady source of inspiring tales of smart aquaculture — they’ve profiled VCs focused on fostering enviro-friendly aquaculture, and fish farmers experimenting with ways of lowering feed conversion ratio, companies focused on improving quality and traceability for consumers.

    Here are two examples — two great profiles of US-based farmers using recirculating aquaculture systems — one looks at SweetSpring Salmon, a producer of coho salmon, and the other focuses on Norman McCowan, a fish farmer who raises 2 million perch a year in the middle of the Indiana cornfields. (McCowan’s Bell Aquaculture, North America’s leading producer of yellow perch, reuses 99.8 percent of its water and converts leftover fish waste into a saleable product, organic liquid plant fertilizer.)

    Check out Seedstock if you’re interested in becoming involved in sustainable food production.  Their resource page includes a bunch of helpful links — aimed at entrepreneurs, students, job-seekers interested in aspects of  sustainable agriculture.  In brief, Seedstock bills itself as the resource on sustainable ag, we agree.

    The Must-See Documentary

    Think back to the Sound of Music.  Think Salzburg—pine forests, Edelweiss, beer halls. Then head up a few thousand feet in elevation to an area called the Krameterhof. This is where Sepp Holzer farms. It’s one of the coldest parts of Tyrol, at an elevation that nears 5,000 feet.

    Amid annual temperatures that average less than 40 degrees, on land that most deem fit only for grazing sheep and cows, Holzer is growing apricots, figs, kiwi fruit, and peaches.  And he has even tried to grow bananas.

    WTF?

    Holzer does not use bioengineering or nanotechnology, fertilizer, pesticides, no geothermally heated greenhouses.

    Sepp Holzer, permaculture wunder.

    The little Garden of Eden is all the result of “Holzer Permaculture.”  The Austrian is an organic farming legend, a pioneer of permaculture before it was even called permaculture.

    Holzer has a hyper-diverse combination of crops on his 45 –hectare Tyrolean plot — timber, fruit trees, vegetables, shrubs, and grasses.  In addition to crop diversity, Holzer also demonstrates the virtues of a well-placed stone. The man called the “rebel farmer,”  has placed giant stone slabs throughout his land, the stones serve as incubators,  absorbing sunlight and giving off warmth, helping create (along with some other techniques) one of the wonders of organic farming: a Mediterranean microclimate in the Alps relying exclusively on natural methods.

    There’s a fascinating documentary called “Farming with Nature: A Case Study of Successful Temperate Permaculture,” where you can learn about Holzer’s accomplishments in the Alps (agro-forestry, self-produced electricity, pig raising, fish-farming) and his methods (free-range pigs play an important role in the Holzer ecosystem)..

    *Many thanks to Katie, a kindly bookseller from Boise, and her fiancée, a gifted web sleuth, for alerting us to this documentary.

    And bonus…. A Must-Read Article 

    A belated post of a very important opinion piece from the New York Times in late February…

    Unfounded, irrational, evidence-less fears.  It’s an age-old problem thwarting human progress. This site has focused on irrational fears as it relates to agricultural technologies.

    In an NYT op/ed piece, David Ropeik, a risk assessment consultant, discusses  “why our fears don’t match the facts” and “the real dangers that arise when we get risk wrong.”  It applies broadly to risk assessment, and we strongly encourage you to give it a look. (In fact, it’s even more important than the Holzer documentary and Seedstock.

    Check out “The Wages of Eco-Angst” .

  • February3rd

    Quick: What food is highly nutritional, abundant, renewable and possibly the answer to global warming?

    Quick #2:   What was the foodstuff that the ToT author most regretted not featuring in the book with its own chapter? (see previous mea culpa posts, & “About Us”)

     

    Seaweed, the perfect sustainable food, has long been a staple in Asia but has yet to show up on most American plates.

    That’s why we’re excited to see a recent spate of interest from the mainstream media.

    Fast Company profiles efforts to use algae to make, among other things, baked goods such as cookies, Omega-3 oil supplements, infant formula and jet fuel. Time names algae food among its top 20 green tech ideas. Both FC and Time mention Solazyme. While it hopes to ultimately sell algae-based biofuels, the San Francisco-area startup is marketing algae as a low-fat, high-protein replacement for eggs, butter and oil. (NOTE: we’ve tried algae sugar cookies – yum)  The Atlantic points to seaweed as a pollution sponge, and cites a Dutch professor who claims a seaweed farm the size of Washington state could satisfy all the world’s protein needs.

    The jury is still out on seaweed. An Associated Press story outlines concerns about seaweed as a panacea. Is it harvested too quickly to measure or control its effect as a carbon sink? Will removing water during the fuel conversion process require lots of energy?

    It may be a while before the algae biofuel market heats up. In the meantime, T of T taste kitchen staff are going to run out to the nearest upscale market for some Maine Coast Sea Vegetables or Ocean Approved laver (Atlantic Ocean version of nori), kelp (large brown seaweed) and dulse (red leaf algae).

    Stay tuned for the results….

    Meanwhile, if you’re interested in seeing the extraordinary diversity of “seaweed,” check out this brilliant site curated by Irish seaweed expert Michael Guiry.

    – Rob Jordan