Off the Shelf: Wines of the Southern Hemisphere

In this new series we explore the books, new and old, that sit on our conference bookshelf. 

Wine has been around for thousands of years but now more than ever, wine is popular through out the entire world. Known wine regions such as the United States and Europe are where people generally go to when searching for a great bottle of wine, but now, other countries are producing wines that are gaining major recognition from wine enthusiasts, sommeliers, and chefs,  even down to the amateur wine drinker. Wines of the Southern Hemisphere: The Complete Guide  by known world wine guys Mike Desimone and Jeff Jenssen have put together a 592-page guide to everything you need to know about wines below the equator.

Argentina, Chile, Australia, South Africa, Brazil, Chile, Uruguay, and New Zealand are the countries highlighted in this guide accompanied by 3 sections: Major Grape Varieties; Wine Region; and Recipe. Both Mike Desimone and Jeff Jenssen want you to understand how large the growing new world of southern hemisphere wines really are, by showcasing rich traditions and the great vineyards these countries posses. And, numbers don't lie, with wine sales shooting from 3% in 1990 to 27% in 2009, wines from these regions are really taking the industry by storm. This guide will definitely influence you to expand your palate and start drinking wines from all over the world. To start, stop into Red Rooster for a glass of Sauvignon Blanc from South Africa or a glass of Malbec from Argentina, and allow yourself to sip and transport to the southern region.

Purchase Wines of the Southern Hemisphere: The Complete Guide HERE 

Enjoy more wine 5 ways.

Lemonade Takes a Stand to Save a Library

The Neighborhood School, located at 121 East Third Street in the Lower East Side is an educational experience committed to increasing the diversity, tolerance and familiarity between underrepresented children of all ages. This progressive school stands by the belief that the more face-to-face lessons children have with their surroundings, the more understanding and compassion they have for the vibrant cultural richness that encapsulates New York.

Unfortunately, this severely under-funded school is facing a major setback--the loss of its library. A New York Times op-ed piece earlier this week  brought this issue to the forefront. While The Neighborhood School has been consistently gutted and has made no new furniture or curriculum purchases in the past two years, the threat of losing access to vital educational resources and communal knowledge warrants the need for a major fundraiser. In collaboration with The Bean, families of TNS students are hosting a "Save the Library" lemonade stand and fundraiser today, June 7th. Crafts, raffle tickets, prizes and of course, lemonade will just be some of the goodies ready to go for a worthy cause. Eager to help, Marcus also provided TNS with a very special Ginger-Mint Limeade recipe that the kids will be preparing for the lemonade stand. Stop by and try some!

This much deserving school is in desperate need for the funds to sustain a school staple that many people take for granted. A virtual right for any child is access to books and the priceless gift of knowledge. If you're in the area today, we hope you can stop by and help this worthy cause.

To find out how you can help, visit The Neighborhood School's web site here.

Street Food In Pictures

If it's not obvious yet, I'm obsessed with street food. To me, street food is where the essence of a culture can be found. While the high-end restaurants in every country can show off their finest, it's the home-cooked meals and vendor finds that can be a real window into a people and their daily lives.

I've been very fortunate to be able to travel to many places across the globe and I try to experience a particular city or country like a local does. All of the street food I've encountered inspired me a few years back write a cookbook in Swedish called Street Food, where I feature easy recipes inspired by street eats from all over the world. All of the photographs in the book were taken by my friend Paul Brissman and while you may not understand the text (unless you speak Swedish, of course), just the images alone are stunning and can motivate anyone to hit the road to try a new cuisine.

It's always thrilling to see new books that highlight just this type of food. Just the other day, the New York Times featured a new book by Jean-Francois Mallet entitled Take Away that features street eats from over 25 countries and took him 10 years to collect. As a chef and photographer, Jean-Francois captures these stunning images through a different view. With more than 375 photos of people, places and food, this book will no doubt make you salivate.

Check out our list below of other great street food books. But don't forget, the best part about reading about street food is actually going out and trying it!

Take Away by Jean-Francois Mallet: A stunning collection of 375 photos of Mallet's culinary travels throughout the world.

Lonely Planet: The World's Best Street Food by Lonely Planet: This cookbook offers 100 authentic street food recipes from all over the world. Best of all, it features a glossary of exotic ingredients and easy-to-find alternatives.

The World of Street Food by Troth Wells: Not only does Ms. Wells feature street food all the way from South America to the farthest Eastern corner of Asia, she also includes unique stories of how many of them came to be.

No Reservations: Around the World on an Empty Stomach by Anthony Bourdain: How can you not be a fan of Anthony and his efforts to bring light to different culinary cultures throughout the world? This book is more of a photo journal of his travels with a tidbit of commentary about a few countries, but the best part is a section dedicated to food porn with the majority consisting of street food.

Street Food by Marcus Samuelsson: My Swedish cookbook of recipes inspired by street food from all over the world.

What's your favorite street food?

For more on street food, follow me on Twitter (@MarcusCooks)

"Weighing In": An Interview with Author Julie Guthman, Part II

By: Michael Engle

With the obesity epidemic in news over the recent years, society is often quick to point to personal responsibility as a main cause to America's weight problems. But in Julie Guthman's book Weighing In: Obesity, Food Justice, and the Limits of Capitalism, she proposes other causes like exposure to chemicals and under-regulation of these by the government.

We continue her interview here with her thoughts on the ways to address this epidemic. For part I of her interview, click here.

According to your book, obesity has been a long-term problem in American society, having taken root a generation ago. Back in the 60's, chemicals were generally deemed "good for you," and obesity is only now being considered to be an epidemic, even though it could have a long and undocumented, or previously ignored, history. Is it even possible for society to make short-term changes to right ourselves or should we focus on ensuring the health and well-being of the next generation?

Anything we've been trying to understand since the 80's, about obesity, probably has roots in the 60's or 50's--when the environmental chemicals were proliferating. What I really want to make clear is that I don't think obesity, per se, is the problem. I think the chemicals in the environment, that are changing us in ways we don't understand, are the problem.

I think we need to regulate these chemicals because they are having many effects on us, both subtle and not-so-subtle, while obesity may just be one that is a sensation. We need to get our focus off obesity and more focus on these things in the environment that are bad for us, in ways that don't necessarily manifest themselves in fat. Is there a short-term solution to it? Not really. We need to take it seriously: the toxins in our environment, we need to regulate them!

So it sounds like this is a lot easier said than done.

Well, that's the point of the book. The easy solutions are not the ones that we need for this. That's why, at the end, I say that we need to put capitalism on the table. We need to take inequality seriously!

You mention governmental involvement in food policy, and you imply that capitalism is full of double standards. In your opinion, who or what, within the federal government is doing the right thing?

Every couple of years, we talk about changing the subsidy program. That would be on the right track. Subsidies don't cause us to produce more corn and soy for manufacturing foods, but they don't discourage it either. Any kind of farm bill that discourages the subsidies of monocrops would be good. I don't think the government does nearly enough to regulate agrochemicals, like I said, but there's now talk of disallowing BPA, which is a likely obesogen and a real problem. There's not any one body that's doing anything great, but there are signs that there are possibilities every once in a while. These are the bills that happen through social movements, that really put pressure on government. One of the things I'm trying to do in the book is to encourage social movements to look more at the policy in the environment, and less on projects that just serve people better food.

You mention, in your introduction, that you are a foodie yourself. What do you personally look for when shopping? What are some of your favorite foods to cook and/or eat?

I do buy a lot of fruits and vegetables at the farmers' market. I do not buy conventional meat of any sort, conventional eggs, or conventional milk. I think that the stuff we use for livestock is probably the worst for us, and we don't know enough about it. So I tend to buy organic because they are grown with fewer pesticides, and I am very concerned with labor issues. Now, I don't think the organic movement addresses labor issues, but at the very least, there is a little bit less exposure to toxins, which really concerns me.

To quote the old Chinese proverb: "The journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step." What should be the first step to a healthier America, and to a healthier individual?

I think the first step should be to get political. I think questions like that tend to lead to thoughts that eating right should be the first step, but I think that this is the political problem right now. I think there is too much focus on what can be done individually, as well as the small programs in certain communities that bring good food to other people. That's good, but I think the first step has to be strategizing around this particular battle that could be won: to change farm subsidies or to eliminate a really bad agrochemical. Our first steps have to be big political steps in my view.

Photo: Julie Guthman

For more on health and food politics, follow me on Twitter (@MarcusCooks)

"Weighing In": An Interview with Author Julie Guthman, Part I

By: Michael Engle

Last month, I attended the American Association of Geographers (AAG) national convention; the 2012 iteration happened to take place in New York City.  Of the countless seminars, discussions, and conferences I saw, one particular Saturday affair proved to be the most memorable.  I attended an "author-meets-critics" event, featuring Julie Guthman and her recent book, Weighing In: Obesity, Food Justice, and the Limits of Capitalism.

Weighing In is Dr. Guthman's second book. She received her Ph.D. in geography in 2000, from the University of California at Berkeley, and is now an associate professor at UC Santa Cruz.   I got the chance to interview Dr. Guthman to discuss her book, her thoughts on the American food industry, and how and why calories and diets are not the be-all-end-all to healthier lifestyles.

What inspired you to write Weighing In?

I was very frustrated about hearing so much of the rhetoric of obesity, and the obesity epidemic, enter the conversations about alternative food.  I felt like there was a solution that had found its problem.  The alternative food movement, that I have been studying for years, does a lot of good things, but I felt like it was just jumping onto the obesity epidemic, and that really disturbed me.

So is this effort a follow-up to your previous book [Agrarian Dreams: the Paradox of Organic Farming in California] at all?

The books are related.  I started looking at the alternative food movement through my dissertation research on organics.  That book was one of the first to take a hard look at organics and its processes.  It was a sympathetic critique, but it's a critique that triggered a lot of responses from the organic movement.  This new book is more engaging with some of the post-organic manifestations...trying to get it right.  So it's a follow-up to that, but the first book focuses quite a bit more on food production and organic farming.  This one is more consumption-oriented.

Throughout the book, you quote your own students through their class journal entries.  Can you talk about the influence that your students and their journals had on your book?  Also, has your class ("Politics of Obesity" at UC Santa Cruz) changed in subsequent semesters as a result of this input?

In terms of that course, I've redone it twice, since the time I did it with those journals, and it's been much more successful!  I first taught that class after I decided that I was interested in obesity because of what it provoked.  I was trying to teach a class that would help me get me more immersed in the literature.

The student reaction to the class was so strange to me!  Because here are these students at UC Santa Cruz, they're pretty left-wing and pretty anti-corporate, but the vitriol about fat people really shocked me.  They shocked me in a way because they would actually go back on their anti-corporate rhetoric.  Some of the entries would say, "It is people's fault if they eat at McDonald's!  They should take responsibility for themselves!"  Their whole kind of way they thought about themselves crumbled in the class, and many of the entries would say things like, "I really thought I was liberal, but maybe I'm not," or "I'm really confused by this."  They couldn't reconcile their own politics around it.  So I really started thinking about what it is about people who consider themselves left or liberal (and who have strong critiques of corporations) and how they find obese people so easy to pick on, when they have strong cross-critiques as well.  It really made me realize what deep resentment these people of privilege would have about obesity, despite whatever they think politically.  That really shocked me and that was a big influence on the book.

Did it influence me to teach the class differently?  YEAH, the first time I taught the class, it was terrible!  I mean, some people really loved the class in the end, but other comments in the class were was ugly.  So the next two times I taught it, I just kept on changing the syllabus and changing the way we worked through it to kind of moderate that.  Now, the last time I taught that class, the students told me I should teach that class all the time because they loved it, but I taught it really, really differently.

The first time I taught it, I talked about the different ways people see the causes of obesity: from personal responsibility, to corporations, to a medical problem, etc.  So they had the opportunity to see what they wanted.  The difference in what I did, particularly the last time, is that I had them make it much more about media analysis.  I had them analyze the role of the media and how we think about obesity and what they thought about that.  So they were able to get to a critique in a very different way. It was more like a cultural study: what are the means by which we think we have an obesity epidemic and what does that mean for us?

In your book, you use the term "obesogen," and portray it is an under-discussed factor in the study of obesity.  Could you define and elaborate on that?

"Obesogen," at this point, refers to environmental chemicals or other possible food ingredients that appear to make people get fatter, so it's not necessarily about calories.  These are things that interact differently, biologically.  One that I mainly talk about, in the book, are environmental toxins.  There are studies that show a range of environmental chemicals...the way it works is there are exposures at gestation, and these chemicals can create fat cells from stem cells, or replicate them.  The idea here is that before this child has exercised or eaten a thing, they are more pre-disposed to fatness because of a chemical exposure in utero.  I want to stress that these chemicals are not a matter of choice.  They are ubiquitous and unregulated.

You attack BMI for being a ridiculous benchmark for health.  After all, according to BMI scales, Shaquille O'Neal was morbidly obese while leading the L.A. Lakers to championships!  Why are Americans so obsessed with statistical benchmarks?  More importantly, if a better BMI should not be a goal for a healthier lifestyle, what should be?

BMI is used because it is useful for epidemiological purposes.  You can get a broad portion of the population to report their height and weight, and come up with a calculation for the BMI.  I hope I'm not encouraging people to be obsessed with their BMI and weight class!  One point the book is trying to make is that weight is not a good proxy for health, and that there are other pathological aspects of our food supply that we need to take seriously, whether is makes people thin or fat.  BMI is as good as anything for epidemiological purposes, but I am criticizing our obsession.

After all, BMI is just another statistic that can be used or misused in any way, shape, or form.


Stay tuned tomorrow for Part II of our interview with 'Weighing In' Author Julie Guthman.

What do you think? Do you think obesity should face personal or corporate responsibility?

For more on health, follow me on Twitter (@MarcusCooks)