Mark Bittman on the Lunch Agenda Podcast: "Cooking is About Compromise"

 "If I could get everyone in the United States to make rice and beans once a week, I would have had a successful career." --Mark Bittman

LISTEN TO MARK’S INTERVIEW

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This week, I got to ask Mark Bittman, of New York Times column and twenty cookbook fame, all the questions I've ever wanted when he joined me for the finale episode in Lunch Agenda's "Teaching Food" series.

A few great Mark-isms from our conversation:

[On his philosophy to teaching cooking]
"Cooking is about compromises. You never have the perfect ingredients, you’re never as talented or experienced as you want to be. And for sure you never have as much time as you want to have. So you make what compromises you need to make. But the closer you can get to cooking real food from scratch, the better your food is going to be."

[On his tendency to write in parentheses]
“Things are not black and white. Cooking can be pretty straightforward, but I think it’s important to know that there are lots of options. People who pretend you can only do things this way, people who think this is the best, that bugs me....I want people to know that there’s a lot of ways to get dinner on the table. Some of them are faster, some of them are slower. Some are more precise, but my stuff is much less precise."

[On what he learned from a comment last year seen as "hurtful" and "enraging" to black people]
"The feedback that I got afterwards was, 'Think about where not everything that you say and not everything that I say is original to me'. And sometimes it sounds like it’s original to me, but that many people have put lots of work into the kinds of issues that I talk about and think about, and that that should be acknowledged."

[On his new newsletter and website, MarkBittman.com]
"It is really the first time in my life I’ve had full and total control over my output. There’s always people to negotiate with. Editors, copy editors, proof readers, etc. The newsletter is both scary and liberating in that we just get it ready, and send it out. I’m the last word. We’ve already had one screwup and I’m sure we’ll have many more."

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On Stage at Expo East: Interview with General Mills President Carla Vernon

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I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Carla Vernon, General Mills Natural & Organic Operating Unit President, at Natural Products Expo East in Baltimore. In our interview, Carla talked about how the microagressions she has overcome in her career have made her into a leader able to take risks and grow food brands like Annie's, Cascadian Farms, Epic and more.

She’s an expert storyteller who talks openly about what’s made it hard to be an Afro-Latina leader in the big CPG world.

“When our guest came in the room, he started directing questions at all the white men in the room"—Carla Vernon

Here’s the interview:

Teaching Food on a Budget

 JuJu’s new book, available on Amazon.

JuJu’s new book, available on Amazon.

The first Lunch Agenda interview I did, before the Full Service Radio studio was even built, was with JuJu Harris, a creative mind and wise culinary educator that has become one of my close friends in DC. I had a chance to bring JuJu into the studio for an official Lunch Agenda episode this week, and (because there’s never enough time in a 30-minute episode of my show), I want to share some of the tips JuJu has offered through her classes and books to audiences looking to serve their families homemade meals on a tight budget.

LISTEN TO JUJU'S INTERVIEW

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JuJu’s tips for eating well on a budget:


1. If you live in DC, buy meat, fish, produce, herbs and spices at the retail/wholesale stores around Union Market—you can even create a buying club with your friends so you can buy onions in big bags that wholesalers sell.

2. Try JuJu’s famous Garlicky Kale Salad recipe—just make it at least 30 minutes before you’re going to eat it so the tasty dressing can work its magic on tough kale leaves.

3. Look at the Environmental Working Group’s Dirty Dozen to determine which produce has the most and least pesticide residue; this can help decide which produce to buy organic or grow.

4. Don’t go to the grocery store hungry—pack a snack so you don’t buy things you don’t need. While there, look for fruits past their prime, which may be sold at a steep discount (bruised tomatoes are great dried in the oven, or for sauce).

5. JuJu has relied on the USDA’s What’s Cooking website for recipe inspiration. You enter the ingredients you have, and it spits out recipes.

6. Hunt—or find a friend who does! As JuJu says, “If you’re not into killing it yourself, make friends with someone who’s not American. I have friends who are Jamaican, and they love to have a goat roast—a kill and grill. You gotta be creative.”

Order a copy of her new cookbook to try her easiest, most affordable healthy meals at home.

LISTEN TO THIS LUNCH AGENDA EPISODE

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Teaching Food with Marion Nestle

Marion Nestle, the teacher of all food teachers, was my guest on #LunchAgenda this week. I could hardly wait to ask her about how she created a food curriculum for university students, and for tips about teaching elementary students in my job as Cooking & Gardening Teacher at Mundo Verde Bilingual Public Charter School. 📝🍎 Catch the episode when you have a moment:

LISTEN TO MARION'S INTERVIEW

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I've already made updates to my curriculum plan based on her advice, and hope some of her pearls of wisdom help you in thinking about your role as a teacher--whether your "students" are your children, or your coworkers at the office.

Favorite quotes from Marion:

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I had home economics in the eighth grade. The girls took it, and we started with cookies. Who doesn't want to know how to make cookies? It's not a bad way to begin, and it takes the fear away....just make sure they're small!

The real issue [for students learning about food] is being able to look at foods that are on the market, that are not very expensive, and think "This would be yummy"!

There's an extraordinary amount of organizing and recruiting allies [in good food advocacy campaigns]. It's not something you do on your own. Very often, food advocates don't have a clearly defined goal; they're critical about something without thinking through what needs to change, and who needs to change it.

Our students come in wanting to change the world. Our job is giving them tools to do that. We teach them how to have any group that is the target of an advocacy campaign involved from the very beginning, so that you're not going into a community and telling them what they need.

You want to have a food supply that everyone in the population has access to. The reason that foods are priced the way they are has to do with supply and demand, but it also has to do with politics. How do we get kids to understand the politics of pricing, and about why foods in low income areas are not as high quality as in high income areas?

Marion's Action Item to improve the food system:

  • Vote with your fork: Every time you make a choice of food, you're making a choice about the kind of food system you want.
  • Get into politics: The easiest way is to find an organization that's working on a food issue that you care about, and join it...I find that I can google 'food advocacy' and the name of any town in America, and find what you want.

LISTEN TO THIS LUNCH AGENDA EPISODE

Activism Lunch Date with Julia Turshen

Are you an activist? How does it feel to identify that way? These are questions I pondered during this week's Lunch Agenda interview with Julia Turshen. 

Julia's 2017 bestseller Feed the Resistance is a bridge, for people who have followed her accessible recipes to walk alongside her into activism. For people who come to the food movement because of their love for the pleasure side of food--cooking, tasting--and are navigating where they fit into the “issues”. 

LISTEN TO JULIA'S INTERVIEW

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 Julia Turshen. Photo by  Gentl & Hyers .

Julia Turshen. Photo by Gentl & Hyers.

When asked about the label "activist", Julia quoted her mom's favorite saying: “'I don’t care what you call me, as long as you call me'. The term activist is a term I hold in high regard, and absolutely revere and have respect for. I don’t always willingly assign that label to myself but I will absolutely accept it.”

Julia suggested these actions for all of us to take:

  • Join a CSA this spring to invest in a farmer and fill your kitchen all growing season long! Julia did her homework and found these two great farms owned by people of color: 

Three Part Harmony Farm in DC

Five Seeds Farm in Baltimore

  • Draw on the 400-and-growing women included in the Equity at the Table database when choosing photographers for your project, speakers for your conference, or chefs for your restaurant.
  • "Whether you’re a cookbook author or an editor — or just someone who buys a cookbook as a gift now and then — there’s something we can all do to shift cookbook publishing in a more equitable direction," says Julia in the article she discussed in our interview, where she talked with Samin Nosrat about code-switching. Check out her list of 19 things we can all do to address racial disparities that afflict the cookbook industry and move us toward a more equitable place.

Julia asks, "Are you taking action, and is your action consistent?" If you haven't already, pick up Julia's book, Feed the Resistance, and pre-order Now and Againher leftovers-themed one coming out this Fall!

Today's Kiko's Food News headlines:

Annie’s launches regenerative agriculture products

Cannabis sales may surpass soda by 2030

What do the major changes at Whole Foods mean for food entrepreneurs?

Trump to allow drug testing for food stamp users

Partnership for a Healthier America Summit

LISTEN TO TODAY'S LUNCH AGENDA EPISODE

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Food Policy Class, Lesson 1

 Ona (left) in a DC Council hearing alongside Ward 5 Councilmember (and Food Policy sparkplug!) Mary Cheh

Ona (left) in a DC Council hearing alongside Ward 5 Councilmember (and Food Policy sparkplug!) Mary Cheh

If you tuned into Lunch Agenda today, I hope you came away with this message: local government NEEDS to hear from you--about food policy ideas or whatever's on your mind.

Today I recorded the first Food Policy Class, aimed at leaving you with hard skills after you tune in. Our teacher was my bright and helpful friend Ona Balkus, legislative council to DC Councilmember Mary Cheh. Ona guided us on how to effectively advocate with DC government, including a primer on the budget cycle just in time for you to get involved this spring. Here's how:

Now that you're ready to testify, what other tips did Ona share on today's show?

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Ona's sound bite: Is it worth testifying?

A: "You know more than you think you do. If you're listening to this podcast, and you've already listened to previous of Kirsten's podcast, you already know more about food policy than many of the Councilmembers....These agencies have a LOT going on, they're working on a lot that's not food, and food can often get lost in that conversation."

Also, re: DC statehood: "We just crossed the 700,000 mark for residents in the district, which makes us more populous than two states: Vermont and Wyoming. Yet they have two senators and at least one member in the house, and we have no voting members in congress."

Ona's action item:

"Wherever you are, take one step further in being active with local government. In this time and age, local government is a place where we can make real change, and move forward on progressive change."

Kiko's Food News headlines:

Adaptogens and neuro-nutrition

Pepsi dips its toes into the sparkling water market

AccelerateHER Business Plan Competition for woman entrepreneuses

Other links we discussed:

DC Greens Budget Advocacy Workshop on March 19--Sign up!

 

LISTEN TO TODAY'S LUNCH AGENDA EPISODE

Food at School: Part 3

I'm trying something new today, to make it easier to make your food decisions matter. At the top of each Lunch Agenda episode blog, I'll explain how to take an action recommended by a guest on the show! 

This week we closed out the Food at School series with three powerful young "Lunch Ladies": Christie St. Pierre and Morgan Maloney from Fairfax County Public Schools in Virginia, and Kelsey Weisgerber from Mundo Verde in DC--bring on the hairnets!

When it came time for action items, Morgan invited listeners to "Just plant a seed. Now that we're coming into springtime, we all have this opportunity to take our food into our own hands, whether you're planting a single seed in a tiny pot hanging out your window, or a bucket in your front yard that you filled with soil." Wanna try?

Now that you're ready to plant, what else happened on today's show?

LISTEN TO TODAY'S LUNCH AGENDA EPISODE

 

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Christie's sound bite: 

"I knew we had made it when the kids came in and said, 'This salad bar is lit!'".

Kelsey's sound bite:

"We're transitioning to a new full-scale kitchen, with a hood system...the tilt skillet's the dream. As a 30-year old lunch lady I didn't think that would be my golden excitement piece, but here we are."

Link discussed in today's interview:

Mundo Verde's community dinners will be announced here

Info about Fairfax County Schools salad bars

Kiko's Food News headlines:

Trump’s proposed budget replaces SNAP funding with “Harvest Boxes”

An Olympic Challenge: Eat All the Korean Food That Visitors Won’t

AccelerateHER Competition for Woman Food Businesses

 

LISTEN TO TODAY'S LUNCH AGENDA EPISODE