Last Friday I took the train down to New York City to attend the 2012 James Beard Federation Awards dinner as a nominee at the Books, Broadcast and Journalism awards. It is the JBF’s 25th annual awards celebration.
When I heard my name announced over the livestream broadcast from the press lunch in Las Vegas in March I almost fell off my chair in surprise. My cover story for The Christian Science Monitor weekly magazine about the foodie renaissance in America had been nominated under the category “Best Food Coverage in a General Interest Publication.”
The other two nominees, Los Angeles Magazine and New York Magazine, had submitted very different packages. Those entries were more like mini Bon Appetit magazines within their publications, instead of the broad, 3,000-word trend story I had written.
“It’s like apples and arugula,” said John Yemma, the Monitor’s editor, when I told him that my entry looked like a square peg when compared with the other two in my category. I wasn’t really sure what to expect on award night. For a lot of major journalism awards, writers often have to be nominated more than once before they earn an actual award.
I decided at the very least, this was going to be a great party in New York, an up-close look at some of the movers and shakers in the food world, and a lot of fantastic eats.
Update: This cover story just got nominated for a James Beard Award!!
Do you know what amuse bouche means? Do you know how to emulsify? Do you cheer on chefs while watching the Food Network as you eat handfuls of popcorn seasoned with nutritional yeast? Do you chase food trucks on Twitter?
Our economy editor here at the Monitor has alerted readers to the fact you can get half-price dessert at The Cheesecake Factory to honor National Cheesecake Day, an occasion that has even mobilized American Idol contestants from season 9 in Virginia Beach.
The catch (you knew this was coming, right?): You have to “Like” The Cheesecake Factory page on Facebook, which gives the company access to your profile information. (more…)
Two interesting news reports this week that show a loosening of controlled spaces to allow for new food experiences in unexpected places. Who is being affected? Corporate America and the toddler set.
First, The New York Times had an interesting feature describing the “Rise of Company Gardens.” Doing a little weeding on your coffee break is taking off, it seems, and not just for sun-splashed corporations such as Google and Yahoo. Kohl’s headquarters near Milwaukee is also growing veggies for local kids. The receptionist for Harvard Pilgrim in Quincy, Mass., waters their company garden before work and harvests at lunch time. The article references several other companies across the United States that have a new crop of raised beds.
Next, CNN took a hot debate (1,111 comments at this posting) on fine-dining restaurants catering to the 3-and-under crowd to a national level. The CNN post was simply responding to NYT article “Fine Dining Where Strollers Don’t Invite Sneers” about Manhattan restaurants that are welcoming little people.
The comments range from: Children need to be exposure to restaurants beyond Chucky Cheese, to please don’t train your child on my expensive dinner tab. For most, “haute tots” are only cute for about five minutes, it seems.
At issue: Is a test kitchen better than an army of blogging home cooks? A recipe contest will decide the winner.
My favorite points the article brings out:
1. “home cooks are the original ‘old guard’ of cooking”
2. “with blogged recipes … it’s hard to know whether they come from a talented or trained chef, or are simply the musings of someone who is a disaster in the kitchen.”
It seems chefs, professional cooks, and test kitchens are starting the feel the same competitive heat that journalists have been feeling for years. And now it has come to this: A blogger who wears an apron over her pajamas while taking pictures of her food is someone to reckon with.
May the best recipe win!
To listen to my conversation with Amanda Hesser about her book, “Eat, Memory” click here.
NPR will have a report on “All Things Considered” on April 26 about a Baltimore library partnering with a local grocery to help its resident neighbors have access to fresh food. Patrons can place and pay for orders online and then stop by the library the next day to pick up their orders. This could literally be a lifesaver for those families without easy access to supermarkets who settle for the paltry offerings at the local convenience store for sustenance. But beyond that, cooking leads to more people around the dinner table which strengthens family and community ties – a form of “communion” that we all need.
Three cheers for this innovative approach to the problem of “food deserts”! With libraries on the chopping block in my neighborhood and across the country, a new purpose to improve the lives of its patrons seems like a win-win-win for all involved.
Forget trying to wrap your head around a complicated bipartisan healthcare plan. Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, along with Michelle Obama are doing something that actually makes good common sense. They are launching a $400 million Healthy Food Financing Initiative (HFFI) that will bring decent grocery stores into the inner cities.
“Food deserts,” or a lack of grocery stores selling affordable, good food, is a huge problem. Convenience stores and fast food restaurants on every corner (read: easy access to fries, shakes, potato chips, soda, candy bars, other crap) cannot sustain healthy, happy dinner tables. There have been all kinds of creative solutions to address this problem, from teaching inner-city kids how to grow their own food, such as Boston’s The Food Project, to trucking in more fresh produce, such as Detroit’s Peaches & Greens.
But kids can’t grow tomatoes all year round in Boston and food trucks have their limits. It just makes more sense to build better, more accessible grocery stores for those of us who live downtown and create jobs in the process. Bravo for a simple plan!
I have been without cable for more than a decade so I haven’t yet fallen into the consuming habit of watching people make food on television. Across the United States, however, viewership is on the rise. When the season finale of “The Next Food Network Star” aired last August, 4.7 million viewers tuned in to watch.
The New York Times reports today that a second 24-hour food channel is set to launch in May. Really? I suppose another 24-hour food programs will justify those midnight snacks twice as much. (Wait until Michelle Obama hears about this!)
“We listened to the audience and realized they weren’t necessarily saying they just wanted more instruction or more reality or more travel shows. They just wanted more,” Michael Smith, the general manager of the Cooking Channel, told The New York Times.
More! More! More! Yes. Sounds like a true American audience.
As for me, my flat screen TV arrived on Saturday in time to watch Hannah Kearney win the first Olympic gold for the USA (her mom was my middle school gym teacher). There have been plenty of food references as part of the USA women’s ski team experience at Whistler and Cypress Mountain. Hannah is getting a Ben&Jerry’s flavor named after her. Downhill skier Lindsey Vonn has applied cheese to her injury. And snowboarder Hannah Teter has been pushing her family’s maple syrup every chance she gets.
I know what I’ll be watching once the Olympians have exited Vancouver. The Cable Guy comes this weekend. Food up!
Assault on junk foods
The Obama administration is leading a charge this week with soon-to-be introduced legislation that will ban candy and sugary substances from many schools. The aim is to reduce obesity levels among children.
On Tuesday, Michelle Obama launched the “Let’s Move” campaign to promote more exercise and healthier eating for kids. Parents can download age-appropriate recipes on Letsmove.gov and find resources for developing more healthy lifestyles for their families.
Teens, of course, are rebelling. People make people fat, not vending machines, they claim. (more…)