The new Dirty Dozen

Blueberries: No. 5 on the EWG's Dirty Dozen to always buy organic

Is organic better than conventional?

That depends on what you mean by “better.”

Maria Rodale, author of Organic Manifesto, led the panel discussion “Why Organic Matters” at last month’s Natural Products Expo West in Anaheim, Calif. Thus far, she noted, much of the debate has been over whether organic food is more nutritious than conventionally produce food. The jury is still out on that–some studies suggest organic is more nutritious, while others find no significant difference.

“Forget nutrition,” Rodale said. “It’s time to shift the debate.”

Her argument: Organic is undoubtedly healthier for the environment. It’s better for the soil, and better for people, since agricultural chemicals may be linked to cancer, diabetes, infertility, and other diseases. Despite what the Environmental Protection Agency might claim, “there really is no safe dose,” Rodale contends.

In this respect, every shopper can be a food activist. Whenever you buy certified-organic food, you’re voting for a system free of pesticides, herbicides, and GMOs.

One way to start: avoid the Environmental Working Group’s Dirty Dozen–the 12 fruits and vegetables most likely to be laden with pesticides, and which you should always buy organic.  Their latest version includes:

  1. Celery
  2. Peaches
  3. Strawberries
  4. Apples
  5. Blueberries
  6. Nectarines
  7. Bell Peppers
  8. Spinach
  9. Kale
  10. Cherries
  11. Potatoes
  12. Imported Grapes

Thursday fun: Top(?) Chef, pot brownies, and more goodies

picture-22Top Chef?

Anyone else put off by the outcome of last night’s “Top Chef” finale? Hosea? Really? Mediocre all season long, too scared to make a dessert for the finale, and he still won? I’m with Hubert Keller–someone who will be called “Top Chef” should at least be able to turn out a damn dessert. If only my girl Carla had ignored dopey Casey (sous vide steak? souffles?) and stuck to her guns, she might have shown that nice girls can finish first. Join the discussion at Serious Eats, which is abuzz about it today.

Visit Brussels

picture-31Sprouts, that is. Heidi Swanson shares a delectable salad made with shredded raw baby Brussels sprouts, toasted hazelnuts, and lots of other goodness.–101 Cookbooks


picture-14Water ways

Food scientist Harold McGee experiments with how much water you need to cook pasta.The incomparable Lidia Bastianich and Marcella Hazan weigh in, too.–The New York Times

picture-42It’s all about location

“Location, location, location,” is the mantra of real estate agents. Turns out, location has a big impact on food, too. A growing body of evidence links locale with diet quality. Residents of poor neighborhoods have limited access to high-quality fresh foods and tend to have correspondingly poor diets while those who are better off have a range of food-shopping options with healthier fare.–

Brain food

picture-8The just-say-no-to-drugs crowd likes to claim that consuming pot kills brains cells. Not so fast. A pair of new studies finds that marijuana, along with red wine, may prevent or slow Alzheimer’s disease. “Neither of these findings surprises me,” says integrative medicine pioneer Andrew Weil, M.D., in his latest weekly bulletin. “That marijuana has medical efficacy against a variety of conditions is firmly established scientifically, and the health benefits of moderate red wine consumption are also becoming clearer with each passing year. As of November, 2008, 15 states had laws with provisions for medical marijuana on the books, and I hope more states enact enlightened policies in this regard.” Now, if the federal government could just get on board and turn the war on drugs to more productive efforts…–

It’s all about the chow.

the culinary school at Rancho La Puerta.

La Cocina que Canta: the culinary school at Rancho La Puerta.

Am at Rancho la Puerta in Tecate, Mexico. RLP is the legendary spa started in the 1940s by the couple who later went on to found the ultra-luxurious Golden Door. It’s my first visit here (the first of many to come, I hope, assuming I win the lottery–good thing I’m moving from no-lottery Alabama to back to lottery-fevered California).

I’ll go into more detail when I return, but suffice to say it’s like an upscale camp for grown-ups. Lots of activities to choose from, do nothing at all, if you please.

One of the many highlights is the food, which is healthy, but tasty and filling. When the staff rings the mealtime bell, I come runnin’, just like Pavlov’s dog. The produce comes from the Ranch’s extensive organic garden (overseen by the delightful and enthusiastic Salvador, ) and the occasional seafood dish features fresh catch from nearby Ensenada.

So, this afternoon, it’s lunch, of course, followed by making prayer arrows this afternoon. I have no clue what that entails, but it’s bound to be crafty and spritual. In any case, Hillari wants one. Why, is a mystery.