Has that Stanford study been bothering you? I mean the one that "established" that organic broccoli was no better for you than a Snickers bar--or so the media seems to have taken it. If it has been bothering you, filling you with a mute rage or an intense yet unspecific irritation, please read Mark Bittman's excellent article on the subject. In it, he quotes a woman named Susan Clark of the Columbia Foundation, who says, “The researchers started with a narrow set of assumptions and arrived at entirely predictable conclusions. Stanford should be ashamed of the lack of expertise about food and farming among the researchers, a low level of academic rigor in the study, its biased conclusions, and lack of transparency about the industry ties of the major researchers on the study. Normally we busy people would simply ignore another useless academic study, but this study was so aggressively spun by the PR masters that it requires a response.”
Are you not pounding the desk in triumphant agreement? My poor desk. I engaged in the same type of aerobic agreement when my daughter, listening to the post-debate analysis this week, said, "it sounds like they are talking about the Olympics--'He kind of turned out on the landing on that one move'--instead of the two potential future presidents of the country." She was right, of course--what we want to hear is 'HE WAS LYING! HE WAS LYING!' and instead we get, 'when he was lying about the economy, he really sounded presidential; on his lie about international policy, he could have lied with more vigor so the point goes to the opponent.'
Turning my soapbox lathering back to food, here is another good way to spend five minutes pounding the desk and saying "testify, my brother!": Michael Ruhlman's essay "Is Food Writing Important?" You might think it would only appeal to someone who is wrestling with self-doubt over this very activity, but in fact he tickles the same nerves that make a person wish to revoke funding for major universities that screw around with fundamental common sense and the people's investment in overturning the corporate stranglehold on our nourishment.
He makes the question anything but narrow:
"I dream of a day when we no longer need to be obsessed with food, because that would mean that we had figured it out, we had all come to a common understanding of how to grow our food, distribute it, and consume it in ways that don't make us sick and crazy, but rather healthy and happy; that, rather than being guilty, fearful, and intimidated by food, we instead rejoiced in food; that we would cook together, with our families and friends, and then sit down to share this cared-for food and tell each other the stories of our day."
Thanks to the wise words of these two esteemed gentlemen, I have nothing to add but a little simple soup. You can make it in a snappy snap, and if you do, I hope you eat it with people you like, and you all feel happy together and have a story to tell about it later.
quick fall soup
3T olive oil 1 medium onion, chopped 1 small to medium butternut squash, peeled and seeded and chopped 1T curry powder (or you could just use a few teaspoons of cumin) 1 small can whole peeled tomatoes, drained and the liquid reserved, chopped 1 can coconut milk about a teaspoon of salt
Heat the olive oil and saute the onion until it is nice and soft. Add the curry powder and stir a few times to heat it up. Add the squash and stir it around for a few minutes, letting it get a little golden on the edges. Throw in the coconut milk, the liquid from the tomatoes and about a cup of water, along with the salt. Bring to a boil and then reduce the heat; let it simmer until the squash is totally tender (the smaller you chopped it, the faster it cooks!). Now hit it with a stick blender (or puree it in batches in a regular blender--just don't burn yourself!), and then add the tomato pieces and taste for salt.