The Taste of Tomorrow
  • Michael Pollan and Alice Waters and the Organic Consumers Association are wrong.  Monsanto and DuPont and Kraft are right.  Vote for Goliath over David.  Vote against the right to know what’s in your food.

    Last fall was an awkward time for me. I had the experience of siding with the multi-gazillion dollar, Monsanto-Big Food agribusiness side over a grass roots movement of organic farmers and good food advocates.

    This is messed up.

    Why? I agree with pretty much everything that the food movement represents. I care about the environment, worker safety, animal welfare. I want more nutritious food, more sustainable ways of growing food, AND more information and transparency about how my food is produced.  I am overwhelmingly thrilled about what the food movement has accomplished — better food, more nutritious food, more sustainable food.  Michael Pollan, Mark Bittman and Alice Waters are heroes to me.

    Yet I profoundly disagree with them on this one issue.

    I thought that last fall was a one-time thing, a quirky manifestation of ballot-initiative happy California. I thought that after Nov. 6, 2012, the day Prop. 37, the GMO-labeling initiative lost,   I would be back on Team Pollan rather than Team Monsanto.  I was hoping the food movement would shift its focus to any number of others issues— like animal welfare,  encouraging children to eat healthier, reducing the consumption of monster-sized sugary beverages.

    But now Washington state has a GMO-labeling vote in the works, and Vermont has an initiative, and so does Minnesota. I recently learned that there are labeling initiatives underway or bills being considered in more than a dozen states, and there’s also talk about introducing a bill in Congress.  And then just last week, the push-me-over-the-edge news:  Whole Foods Market — my beloved Whole Foods Market — declared that they’ll require mandatory GMO-labeling by 2018.

    I want to be back on the food movement side of this issue. I want to be able to vote with Pollan and the Dinner Party. But in order to get my support, the food movement needs to update its overly simplistic, anti-science, anti-environment, anti-humanitarian, anti-common sense GE strategy.  I’m not saying the food movement should stop fighting to give consumers more information about genetic engineering.  No. It just needs to change the way — and the what— it’s fighting for.

    That’s what these upcoming posts are about.  Here are the first four parts of an eccentrically-long series on things that the food movement could do to win back the support of folks like me — and these guys — that is, GE-friendly foodies.

    1. Excommunicate Jeffrey Smith — i.e.: the Anti-Science, Conspiracy Theorists

    2. Fight for the Right to Know Useful Information

    3. Go Positive SOMETIMES! Aggressively Support Publicly-Funded, Socially & Environmentally-Minded Biotech Research

    4. Change the Legal Strategy

  • Wilbert Jones

    Sub-Saharan African food needs a Rick Bayless-figure.  Bayless, the celebrity chef, founder of Frontera Grill, PBS star, host of the series Mexico: One Plate at a Time, helped introduce millions of gringos to the vast range of possibilities of traditional Mexican foods – and how they could be interpreted.

    Who will be the maverick culinary mind who helps introduce North Americans to the vast possibilities of sub-Saharan African cuisines and ingredients??

    One of the most promising candidates for Rick Bayless of African food is based here in Chicago, and he’s giving a public talk on March 23 at Kendall College titled “The Flavor of Africa.”

    Wilbert Jones, chef, food scientist, author of two books, and president of a food product development company, is currently working on cable television series titled a “A Taste of Africa.” You can watch a clip here. Jones has had a long fascination with African cuisine — he’s written about African foods for the trade Prepared Foods — here’s an interesting piece on street foods of Africa. He also gave a fascinating-sounding lecture series at Kendall College last year that looked at several African cuisines.

    His March 23rd talk “The Flavor of Africa” hosted by the Culinary Historians of Chicago will cover a lot of ground —he’ll talk about the daily diets of the ancient Egyptians and will introduce folks to the national dishes of several countries, Jones will also showcase some of the current food and beverage trends emerging out of Africa  and talk about how they might manifest themselves in American cuisines.

    We are very excited about the event. There will be tastings, including samples of sauces from Bim’s Kitchen. Here are the details from the Culinary Historians Site:

    “The Flavor of Africa” – Wilbert Jones – 
    Saturday, March 23, 2013 — 10 a.m. to Noon
    Kendall College, School of Culinary Arts, 900 N. North Branch Street, Chicago
    Cost of the lecture program is $5, $3 for students.
    To reserve, please e-mail your reservation to: Culinary.Historians@gmail.com.

    We’re also very excited to have a chance to sit down with Wilbert for a talk about his thoughts on African cuisines.  We’ll obviously post an update as soon as that’s schedule.

  • It's coming.

    Lemon piri piri chicken wings, baby back ribs barbecued in a smoky  baobab sauce,  a salad drizzled with a baobab pepper vinaigrette, French fries dipped in African ketchup.

    If you’ve been in the orbit of The Taste of Tomorrow — hung around my kitchen, listened to TofT podcasts, gone sledding with me— you’ve heard this before.  In fact, you’ve been subjected to so much enthusing about these sauces, and the maker of these condiments, that you may have thought,  “Easy on the hype.”  Or “Dude, do you work for Bim’s Kitchen?” (No)

    Well…. I have recently learned that I am not alone in my  over-the-top enthusiasm the work of James “BIm” Adedeji.

    Apparently, some other American fellow has fallen under the spell of Bim’s, as well.

    Which brings me to some very, very good news.

    The other Bim’s Kitchen enthusiast is a food importer.

     

    Remember how I was whining about how you can’t get Bim’s anywhere in North America?

    Well, those days will soon be over.

    By end of April, eight of Bim’s sauces will be stocked at 50 Homegoods and TJ Maxx stores. (Yes, that TJ Maxx; I didn’t even know TJ Maxx had food).  Here’s a passage from the press release.

    2,400 units of small artisan producer Bim’s Kitchen award-winning handmade African-inspired food products have been snapped up by American company, TJX, for sale in the gourmet food sections of selected T.J. Maxx and Homegoods department stores across the USA.

    Why are we so off-the-charts pleased about this news that Bim’s will be available at TJ Maxx/Homegoods?

    First, the T of T Headquarters is about a 3-minute drive from a TJ Maxx.  (James said can’t confirm that the sauces will be at TJ Maxx Evanston, as the importer doesn’t know exactly which stores they are destined for.)

    Second, as much as I love Bim’s, having it airmailed here was not sustainable. At last, we look forward to being able to use our stash of sauces without extreme rationing.  The 2013 Memorial Day Wing Fest & Max Schonwald Birthday will be an African-Flavored wing fest. (contact me if  you want to attend)

    Third, and most important….

    Having Bim’s sauces stocked at TJ Maxx — or at some TJ Maxx or Homegoods in Chicagoland —gives me the ability to swiftly and forcefully respond to The Doubters.  See this earlier post. These skeptics  — even the author of The Taste of Tomorrow’s very own father — doubt that sub-Saharan African foods can be wonderful, and question the African Food Inevitability  Thesis.

    Now, we can drive over to TJ Maxx, stock up some Bim’s, and quickly counter with an African-inspired feast.

    Again, James said that he doesn’t yet know what TJ Maxx and Homegoods stores will carry Bim’s products. That apparently will be decided by the TJX grocery team when the goods arrive in the States.

    We will post a list of the stores that have the goods, as soon as that information becomes available.

    For those of you who are eager to get an early taste of Bim’s, there might be a preview opportunity coming up….

  • If you’re visiting The Taste of Tomorrow site for the first time, it’s probably because you just read “A Taste of Tomorrow, Today,” Bill Daley’s story in the Chicago Tribune.

    After reading Bill’s excellent piece, you might want to know a little more about who the hell is this Josh Schonwald guy in Evanston, why does he love goat pepper soup, why does he want to try every African restaurant in Chicago.

    Or maybe you don’t care about any of that..  Maybe you’re just looking for more information on sub-Saharan African restaurants and tips on how you can make Kenyan appetizers,  South African barbecues, or a four-course Nigerian feast.

    Well, you’ve come to the right place.

    Let’s start this week with Post #1 — an FAQ for TofT first-timers.

    1. Why are you eating this Giant African Snail and how did you become interested in exploring Chicago’s African food?

    Bill succinctly addresses my curiosity in the Tribunebut the full-blown story of how I became interested in sub-Saharan African food — which started more than 20 years ago at a Chinese restaurant in Zion, Il —is chronicled in detail in  The Taste of Tomorrow: Dispatches from the Future of Food.  Please read the whole book — don’t miss The Culinary Potential of Frankenfood — and buy two copies for friends.

    But if you’re really only interested in African food, check out the chapter.  “The Last Culinary Frontier.”

     2. What are your Four Favorite Sub-Saharan African Food Items at Chicago Restaurants? 

    Bill did a great job reviewing six of Chicago’s African restaurants — check out his take on Yassa African restaurant, Qaato, Palace Gate, Nigerian Kitchen, Iyanze, and Bolat African cuisine.  My personal faves?

    Grilled lamb chops & jollof rice —Yassa.   Yassa couldn’t be more inconveniently located for someone in Evanston— it’s  on 79th Street on the south side— but it’s well-worth the 2-hour (seemingly) trip.     The Senegalese know how to prepare lamb (Joe Perillo is right). The jollof rice has no rival in Chicago.  The Afro-pop,  the friendly staff, & the drinks make the food taste even better. Make sure you ask Madieye Gueye, the friendly and highly entertaining owner, to tell you the Joe Perillo/lamb story.

    Goat pepper soup — Bolat. There no better place in Chicago for a general introduction to sub-Saharan African foods, and there’s no place, I’ve found, that has better goat pepper soup. If you like hot and sour soup, and intensely peppered foods, it’s a must-try.  Also, I love Bolat’s suya and shrimp piri piri.

    Best Egusi — Qaato.  Egusi is the stew/soup that is to Nigerians what bouillabaisse is to the French, or Tom Yum is to the Thai.  Egusi done right is an insanely spicy broth of ground melon or mango seeds, shrimp (sometimes), spinach, peppers, and a protein (fish, oxtail, goat).  It just so happens that there is a terrific purveyor of egusi on north Clark Street in Rogers Park about 15 minutes from my house. It’s an unassuming place. It’s poorly lit (you’ll think it’s closed) but Qaato is a great place to try egusi and explore other Nigerian favorites. Here’s an earlier post about Qaato’s sublime egusi — Qaato is, by the way, the only place in Chicago that offers escargot made with giant African land snails.

    Best Drinks — Yassa.. Tamarind, bissap, hibiscus, baobab.    I love Yassa’s drink offerings.  In fact, we’re going to devote an upcoming TofT podcast to the baobab — it’s taste, uses, and why it’s almost inevitably on its way to “next superfruit” status.  Note: make sure you call ahead to make sure the juices are available at Yassa.

    3.  What’s Your Favorite African Cookbook?

    The Tribune story focuses on dining out — Chicago’s African restaurants.  But my “gateway experience” was inspired by a cookbook, Marcus Samuellson’s The Soul of a New CuisineOther helpful books include Jessica B. Harris’s The Africa Cookbook: Tastes of a Continent  Laurens van Der Post’s African-Cooking (part of the Time-Life “Food of the World” Series), and an excellent overview of cookbooks posted  here on the Congo Cookbook web site. Many of the ingredients are available at a good grocery story, but if you’re looking for an elusive Nigerian pepper or want to make your own fufu or garri, you can check out the Old World Market at 5129 N Broadway in Uptown.

    4.   Why are you so certain that sub-Saharan African foods will become a much bigger part of US food offerings in the next 20 years?

    There’s a long, detailed answer, complete with an algorithm, some theorizing about economic development and globalization and the food movement in the book (around p230), but the short, and far more enjoyable answer is three words long.

    Try Bim’s Kitchen

    You can’t get Bim’s at a store in Chicago. You’ll have to pay a premium shipping fee to get it. But if you really want to find out right now why African food is coming, how it might taste,  what Wolfgang Puck might do when he enhances his menu with African ingredients, well then your best best is to go to www.bimskitchen.com.

    Here’s a piece I wrote about Bim’s a few months ago titled “Senaglese Take-Out & Baobab-Infused Vinaigrette—Sooner.” 

    Apply some of Bim’s marinades —try a salad with a baobab pepper vinaigrette,  maybe some grilled chicken in a lemon piri piri sauce, or some baby back ribs in a smoky baobab-barbecue sauce.  Definitely try the African chili coconut relish, do something — maybe eggs — with the curry egusi, and, by all means, try some French fries with Bim’s distinctively African ketchup. You’ll get a taste of the future. 

    ALSO,  if you want to hear more about James Adedeji, aka Bim, the Nigerian Londoner, and pioneer of “modern African”  check out the Taste of Tomorrow podcast from earlier this year. Warning: Chris Bentley (the co-host, and now a blogger on environmental issues for WBEZ) and I are doing our FIRST podcast. We’re just figuring things out here, testing out the mic, Nonetheless,  bear with us, and you’ll learn some interesting things about Nigerian foods, London’s African food scene, and Bim’s thoughts on what could be the African equivalent of pad Thai — ie: the “gateway” food. Here it is.

    And one final request….  Even if you have no intention of have a curry egusi marinade air-mailed to you from Bim’s Kitchen in London, go visit the site,  email Bim, and tell him that you would like to try Modern African cuisine in Chicago.   I’m hoping that he’ll start selling it in the US, or will find a US distributor… and the price will fall. It’s a long shot, but the point:  his sauces are great, easy-to-use, and they demonstrate the potential of African flavors.

    5. Where Can I get More Info on African Foods?

    If you’re interested in more on African foods in Chicago, and beyond, please come back!  In coming months,  our irregularly updated web site vows to become more regular.  We’ll post updates on our latest African food experiences, we’ll tell you about new articles about African food — such as Plate magazine’s feature “Undiscovered Africa,” which has a terrific feature on African desserts. We’ll point you to blogs, such as DC-blogger Chef Afrik’s chronicle of her quest to cook her way through Africa one country at a time.

    If you subscribe to the TofT newsletter or like our Facebook pages, we’ll let you know about any new updates. The next planned update: The Baobab Show. Chris and I will devote an entire hour to the baobab.   Everything you need to know about baobab, and why it will be a bigger hit than acai, pomegranate, goji berries combined.

    Thanks again for stopping by. And please stay in touch — we’d love to hear about other African foods/restaurants you’ve tried, both locally and abroad.

  • 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.

  • Saskatoon, Sask, the Paris of the Prairies.

    Saskatchewan, a province of the North American nation of Canada, is not home to Sasquatch. But it is home to a surprisingly ridiculous amount of our food. Your beer, your bread,  your cooking oil, your lentils, your frozen peas, your pasta– there’s a good chance that you can trace all of it back to some lonely farm on the Canadian prairie…

    Saskatchewan is the world largest  producer of canola, the world’s largest grower of lentils — more, yes, than even lentil-mad India.  More than 10 percent of the world’s wheat comes from Saskatchewan.  Nearly 50 percent of the arable land in Canada — the world’s second largest country — is in Saskatchewan.

    What’s most surprising is that notoriously frigid Saskatchewan –  a place where winter temperatures can sink to 40 or 50 below –  could also be home to the Next Superfruit… Yes, that’s right — the Next Blueberry or Goji berry… could be coming from not the Hawaiian tropics.. but  from a place that’s 700 miles north of Chicago  (which is not exactly balmy).

    Where's Saskatoon? Three hours north of North Dakota.

    A few weeks ago, The TofT’s Canada-o-philiac Josh Schonwald visited Saskatoon to give a speech on October 16 — that is of course World Food Day (more on The World Food Day Meal forthcoming).

    ToT radio host Chris Bentley sat down with Josh to get the report on his 36 hours in Saskatoon — and his visit to the U of Saskatchewan (the UC-Davis of Canada).

    IN this 35 minute interview, Josh talks about a candidate for Next Superfuit, and his talk with Bob Bors, who could be the world’s northernmost — or at least coldest — FRUIT breeder. We’ll also hear about  nanotech research that could eventually lead — in 20 years — to a guilt-free chocolate cake..   AND… Josh will talk about Saskatoon’s surprising booming economy (less than 4 percent) and why American who love REI and Obamacare should love Saskatchewan.

    Listen now….