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Panda-full summer

29 Jun

Pandas have been popping up with great frequency this summer. First, the boast that the greatest number of pandas outside China lives in the southwest of Japan, in Wakayama prefecture. Then, Lady Gaga’s very poised appearance showcased a Japanese designer’s dress, and panda-modoki makeup.

(note to self: I wonder if she knows pandas are Chinese?)

Then in a talk in a local restaurant my friend Yoshiko runs, the Yushima shokudō, the speaker, FUNAKOSHI Atsuhiro, mentioned the panda’s diet. The context was a laid-back sort of charismatic but jokey lecture about foods to keep you healthy, especially as illustrated by people who didn’t get sick after their genbaku (atomic radiation/bomb) experience in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. He mentioned the panda’s herbivore diet, and how the chubby panda contradicted the image of the gaunt and slightly edgy stereotype of the health nut.  Funakoshi himself first settled on his own angle of cuisine–wara cooking–after talking to the ‘father of macrobiotic cooking,’ SAKURAZAWA Yukikazu, aka George Osawa. Wara uses fresh vegetables, and is a kind of slow cooking that uses a technique called kasane-ni (重ね煮), or layering of things to cook them slowly. Anyway, the panda seemed to illustrate how one could thrive and even seem a bit decadent even on an herbivore diet.

This is a meat-based dish, Pork Loin and Cabbage Layered Stew, but is one example of how kasani-ne has been adopted for everyday cooking. The result is a bit like the tenderness and mingling of flavors you get with a slow cooker. I also post it because it is pretty salty, and in Tokyo these days, salt is making a comeback with anti-radiation echoes. But that is another story…

Fukuoka meets fusion–“lasagna gardening”

13 Jun

In the US, a woman named Patricia Lanza has made popular Fukuoka Masanobu’s techniques of “do-nothing” farming–she followed, in turn, the earlier work of a woman named Ruth Stout.

Her concept selects and adapts particular features of FM’s work, and is known as “lasagna gardening.” It’s called this because it starts off with sheet mulching and wild mulching–laying sheets of cardboard over grass to tame it and get rid of weeds, and using plant matter on the spot for compost, letting it have its unruly way, rather than putting it in a tidy (“”) pile in a corner to gestate. It’s a kind of translated version of do-nothing farming that still involves some of the processes (sheet mulching, notably, and lack of interest in tilling). But it also drops some key features, such as the compelling autobio, the relation to a general critique of modernity, and questions about the role of the local vis-à-vis spiritual/mystical/Romantic/poetic histories.

Cover of Lanza's Fukuoka adaptation/localization

See what you think, by paging through it at Amazon

Is anything added? Anything lost? How does she imagine the task of adapting, localizing, translating? And what does “culture” (i.e. from cultivare, the word meaning ‘to grow’) mean to her, do you think?

Sustainable Food, Where It’s At

13 Dec

In the past week or two I’ve come across 2 TED talks related to food (I do realize this is a bit late for anyone who was looking for possible essay topics):

The first is about adding insects to our diet!

And the second is on creating Sustainable Restaurants!

Please comment if you watch either of these.  I’d like to know what you guys think!

Notetaker needed

3 Nov

good morning,

I got a request today from the Office of Disability Services and Programs (DSP). Here is their offer:

“Disability Services and Programs is in need of a note-taker for this course. Anyone who is interested should email DSP at notetake@usc.edu.  In general, note-takers receive a token of our appreciation at the end of the semester on their USCard.  The amount is approximately $100, based on (a) number of notes and classes for which they are taking notes, (b) quality of notes, (c) consistency, and (d) student need.”

If you’ve kept good notes throughout the semester, this would be a nice way to get some recompense, beyond the karmic level 🙂 It would involve e-mailing your notes to an online site, or scanning or bringing them to the office in the student union.

Interested? Please contact the DSP directly, at notetake@usc.edu.

For people interested in the LACMA exhibition–topical debate

25 Oct

BP Grand entrance @ LACMA. Photo from 127Prince.org

Some folks who do contemporary art in LA are aiming to think critically about the politics of large museums and big money in LA. Here is a very interesting piece by Robbie Herbst, “Social Art, Ambiguity, Oil, Critique, Compromise, and Los Angeles Art Museums,” which talks about some of the debates that are happening as LACMA engages local artists–most relevant to us, in the Nov 7 array of shows and performances, and one key event by Fallen Fruit. At issue is the 2007 $25 million donation by BP, and the dependence of local artists on (for the recent exhibitions under discussion, minimal ) funding for public art projects that actually critique environmental degradation and runaway corporate greed. Interesting to see people within the art community taking this on, as they think and articulate their relation to the “publics” in public art, and also make some connections to the corporatization of higher education…

Michael Pollan and Eric Schlosser event

19 Oct

This is way off, in February, but is very exciting!

Food, Inc.: Michael Pollan and Eric Schlosser in Conversation

Visions and Voices: The USC Arts & Humanities Initiative

Wednesday, February 9, 2011 : 7:00pm

University Park Campus
Bovard Auditorium

Admission is free. RSVP is required. To RSVP, click here beginning January 13 at 9 a.m.

The best-selling authors talk about the industrialization of food and its devastating impact on personal health and the environment.

Michael Pollan and Eric Schlosser, authors of The Omnivore’s Dilemma and Fast Food Nation, respectively, are two of the country’s leading voices on issues of food, the food industry and sustainability. Their groundbreaking work has started a revolution in how Americans think about what they eat. Pollan and Schlosser both appeared in the Academy Award–nominated documentary Food, Inc., which Schlosser co-produced.

Join us as they come together for an important, fascinating conversation.

A reception will follow.

For the past 20 years, Michael Pollan has been writing books and articles about the places where the human and natural worlds intersect: food, agriculture, gardens, drugs and architecture. He is the author of In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto, winner of the James Beard Award, and The Omnivore’s Dilemma, which was named one of the 10 best books of the year by both The New York Times and The Washington Post. His book The Botany of Desire: A Plant’s-Eye View of the World was also a New York Times best-seller and received the Borders Original Voices Award for the best nonfiction work of 2001. PBS created a two-hour special documentary based on The Botany of Desire. Pollan’s most recent book is entitled Food Rules: An Eater’s Manual. A contributing writer to The New York Times magazine since 1987, Pollan has received numerous awards for his writing, including the James Beard Award for best magazine series; a John Burroughs prize for his book Second Nature; the QPB New Visions Award and Reuters-IUCN Global Award for environmental journalism for his reporting on genetically modified crops; and the Humane Society’s Genesis Award for his writing on animal agriculture. In 2009 he was named one of the top 10 “New Thought Leaders” by Newsweek magazine.

As an investigative journalist, Eric Schlosser explores subjects ignored by the mainstream media and gives a voice to people at the margins. Over the years, he has followed the harvest with migrant farm workers in California; spent time with meatpacking workers in Texas and Colorado; told the stories of marijuana growers, pornographers and victims of violent crime; gone on duty with the New York Police Department’s bomb squad; and visited prisons throughout the United States. His work defies categorization, earning praise not only from liberal publications like The Nation, but also from Fortune, the Financial Times and the National Review. Schlosser’s first book, Fast Food Nation, has been translated into more than 20 languages and remained on The New York Times best-seller list for two years. His second book, Reefer Madness, also a New York Times best-seller, looked at America’s thriving underground economy. Schlosser has also worked in the film industry, serving as co-producer of the award-winning documentary Food, Inc., in which both he and Pollan appear. He was also an executive producer and co-writer of the feature film Fast Food Nation, directed by Richard Linklater. The screenplay was named one of the best of that year by New York Times critics A.O. Scott and Mahnola Dargis.

Localness: food access in South LA

17 Oct

Intersections, an on-line publication at USC’s Annenberg School, recently did a workshop and a follow-up investigative report on food access in South LA–which includes where we are at USC. They documented fewer grocery stores in South LA as compared to West LA–about half the stores per capita–along with a chronic problem of outdated products–food displayed and sold beyond its expiration date–on grocery shelves at major markets.

 

Outdated product on grocery shelf, from Intersections investigative report

 

We have been training ourselves to think “where does our food come from?” It may be just as important to look anew at “when does our food come from?”

View the full article here, and watch videos of local residents talking about the slide in quality markets like Ralphs–where the above photo was taken–as well as the slide to more industrial purveyors, like 99-cent stores.

 

John Harriel, resident/activist who brought the issue of food access to Intersections workshop

 

Click on the image to link to the webpage with videos.