Archive for the ‘Ethical Consumption’ Category

Stanford University Organic Study: Is organic REALLY no healthier?

It sure is lovely to be right, isn’t it? Three Michelin star British chef Marco Pierre-White, makes smug look humble in his recent gloating rant over the findings of Stanford University in a comprehensive study of the nutritional value of organic versus conventionally grown produce. The study, a meta-analysis of some 200 research papers,  found that there is no nutritional benefit in consuming organic produce instead of conventionally farmed produce.

Organically grown spinach. It may have the odd blemish, but it’s a damn side healthier in my view than the “conventionally” grown stuff.

Since the publication of the study however, it has been criticised in a number of areas. Susan Clark, executive director of the Columbia Foundation, a non-profit organisation dedicated to the furtherance of public welfare across a broad front, was quoted in an article on The New York Times web site: “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.”

It turns out as she notes, that more than one of the researchers had interesting links to Big Tobacco, having both worked for the powerful Tobacco Institute which sought to “prove” that tobacco consumption posed no health risks.

The aforesaid notwithstanding organic (and biodynamic for that matter) foodstuffs are more expensive. If the Stanford study was in fact accurate this would mean that everybody, not just the less well-heeled in our skewed society, could safely disregard organic produce in future.

But you would be wrong in that notion, because nutritional value aside, it is arguably healthier because of the lack of pesticides, herbicides, and organo-phosphate fertilisers in fruit and vegetables, and the growth hormones and antibiotics in animal products. And let’s not forget the inhumane treatment that is inherent in factory farmed animal products.

What I find most odd is the use of the term “conventional” to describe contemporary factory style farming, when in fact for the greater period of our agricultural history, organic was conventional. When man evolved from hunter-gatherer into a pastoralist and a cultivator of crops, pesticides, herbicides, and organo-phosphate fertilisers did not exist, nor for that matter did growth hormones and antibiotics.

As the world’s population grew, the need to produce more food increased apace, which is the justification for contemporary factory farming. But at what cost?

Free range chickens in their pasture pen on Spier Biodynamic Farm. Plenty of room in the cage, access to the open air, but with shelter from the elements. They get fed a small quantity of grain each day, and graze pasture if they get hungry. The cages are moved to a new patch of pasture each day. The birds are slaughtered on the farm, in a certified humane slaughtering facility.

If you take a look around you at so much of the farm land in the Boland, you’ll see how it is farmed. Fumigated soil, plastic sheeting covering the land, cultivation tunnels, frequent spraying of pesticides and herbicides are rampant. This is now considered “conventional” farming.

So much meat is raised in feedlots these days, in order to cope with demand. The idea behind feedlot farming is to fatten the animals as quickly as possible to prepare them for slaughter and the market. The best way to achieve this is to feed them on grain. This achieves rapid weight gain, plus it results in the much sought after marbling of the meat with fat, which makes it tastier and more tender. It also makes it more unhealthy because of the greater fat content. It is also true that feedlot farming has a much lower carbon footprint than pasture fed animals, but the probable solution to that, is to simply eat less meat. Feedlot farming is also anything but humane, subjecting animals to miserable lives that end in stressful slaughter, after an equally stressful road trip by truck to a commercial abattoir.

I don’t know of any animal feedlots in the area, but I do know of many battery chicken farms, the stench of which assails the nostrils as you drive past them, even from a distance. Animals reared in such circumstances suffer untold miseries, from birth to slaughter. Read Eric Schlosser’s Fast Food Nation, Hattie Ellis’ Planet Chicken  or Jonathan Safran Foer’s Eating Animals if you doubt this assertion. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

Marco Pierre-White’s point that “conventionally” produced food is cheaper, and therefore more accessible is well taken. Depending where you shop, organic food can be significantly more expensive. But with the continued growth of the organic sector, and the emergence of initiatives like the Green Road, a Biodynamic Agricultural Association of South Africa (BDAASA) sponsored program to reduce the cost of organic produce by bringing producers closer to consumers, the price premium is set to decline.

And the movement back to organic agriculture is not limited to South Africa. At a BAASA meeting I attended last year, I listened to a South African couple who farm in the Boland recounting their experiences during a trip to India, where there is a concerted move toward biodynamic and organic agriculture, and away from what is now considered conventional.

So, for my money, even if I get less in return for it, it’s organic, free range and humanely produced. Mr Marco Pierre-White can spend his money any which way he chooses.


Charred Swordfish Steak with Salsa Verde, Garlic Butter Parsley Potatoes and a Chopped Salad

January 24, 2012 2 comments

Here’s something of a blast from the past, that I uncovered while sorting through my recipes to go into the upcoming recipe book (Yes, at long last, The Man in the Kitchen is setting about producing a recipe book!), and this, I am sure, will be one of them. I perfected and wrote the recipe way back in July 2007.

Charred Swordfish Steak with, Salsa Verde, Garlic Butter Parsley Potatoes and a Chopped Salad

Preparation Time: 45 minutes Cooking Time: 20-30 minutes Yield: 4

Yummy charred swordfish steak with salsa verde, potatoes and chopped salad.

What does a Man in the Kitchen do when he cannot get hold of a nice piece of tuna loin, or even a tuna steak for that matter? That’s the question which troubled me as I drove down to Seafood on Sail in Gants Centre on Friday afternoon. I was planning to meet up with Claudio Paioni, the owner, with the intention of schmoozing him for either the tuna I needed, or at the very least, a viable alternative.

Claudio was not available, so I met up with Mike, the manager and we conferred on my dilemma.

“Hmmm,” mused Mike “no tuna I’m afraid. With this weather, not much is coming out of the water right now.” Read more…

De Wetshof “The Site” Chardonnay and white sand mussel chowder

Preparation Time: 60 minutes Cooking Time: 45 minutes Yield: 4

White sand mussel chowder paired with Danie De Wet's fabulous 2009 "The Site" Single Vineyard Chardonnay

A recent holiday in Knysna found me on the beach at Brenton-on-Sea in search of white sand mussels. Commonly used for bait by fishermen all the way along our coastline, I’ve often wondered what sort of chowder they would make.

I’d taken a bottle of Danie De Wets’ 2009 “The Site” Chardonnay on holiday with me (along with a whole bunch of other wines, naturally!) and I had this plan to pair a white sand mussel chowder, made with crème fraiche, with this single vineyard Chardonnay. More about the wine and how it paired with the chowder later on. Read more…

Green Thai Curry Fish

February 15, 2011 Leave a comment
Preparation Time: 15 minutes Cooking Time: 30 minutes Yield: 4

Spicy green Thai curry fish with Basmati rice

This is one of my earliest forays into stir-frying. I’d recently purchased a mild steel wok, from a Chinese food store at N1 City. After seasoning it well, I decided to test drive it. This is the result.

With the onset of winter, and the imminence of cooler weather (and a not inconsiderable prod from the Editor!), I felt that my Green Thai Curry Fish recipe would be appropriate for this week.

It introduces the concept of stir frying, which is ubiquitous with Asian style cooking, and if that scares you, don’t let it. It’s a lot easier than you might think.

With fish increasingly under threat – the WWF’s SASSI List System wouldn’t be around if there was no problem – finding decent fish is becoming difficult. Other than those listed below in the recipe, you may also want to try Gurnard or if you can get it, Mackerel, since Yellowtail is not that easy to get.

Read more…

Chicken Soup for the Soul

January 18, 2011 2 comments

Preparation Time: 30 minutes Cooking Time: 60 minutes Yield: 6

My daughter, Alex, had her wisdom teeth removed under general anaesthetic late last year. After I brought her home from the day clinic, she asked me to make her some chicken soup, noting that with her mouth being so terribly painful, it was all she felt she could eat. “Besides”, she mumbled through the pain, “chicken soup is real comfort food, and that is just what I need right now.”

I asked my wife, Eppie, for her recipe, and it arrived in two rather disjointed SMS’s. Being somewhat cryptic, I had to kinda adapt it as I went along, so what follows is originally Eppie’s Fantastical Comfort Food Chicken Soup, now my Chicken Soup for the Soul.


Read more…

A Treasure Trove of Recipes

January 18, 2011 2 comments

Since starting to write for Bolander almost four years ago – our first edition was on April 18, 2007 –  my Man in the Kitchen persona has managed to put together close to 200 recipes.

A few of them are posted here, but the majority of them are not. I frequently get requests from readers for recipes that I have published in earlier editions of Bolander, and when that happens, I invariably pull out the original recipe, PDF it, and send it via email.

Thought struck me that it makes far more sense to actually post them all on the blog, with an index page which will allow people to look for and find what they want. I’ts not that I mind speaking to people who want my recipes; on the contrary, I enjoy doing so, because it keeps me in touch with fellow foodies. It’ll just make it easier for people to find what they want without having to telephone me every time!

I will also be publishing a cookbook in the near future, and in order to do so, I will have to go through each and every recipe in order to decide what to include in the book. This process of posting all of my “back recipes” will allow me to do so.

SO …. starting today (Tuesday, January 18, 2010), I will be posting a recipe a day from my treasure trove. They’ll largely appear in chronological order from April 18, 2010, and as each is posted, I’ll insert in on the index page.

Enjoy the shower of recipes, and please do give me feedback here if you have any comments.

Of cook books and amakhowe

December 23, 2010 4 comments
Preparation Time: 20 minutes Cooking Time: 30 minutes Yield: 4

Erica Platter and Cindy Valayadan at the launch of Erica's cook book, East Coast Tables, at 96 Winery Road in Stellenbosch

Erica Platter launched her new cookbook, East Coast Tables, at 96 Winery Road in Stellenbosch a couple of weeks ago. Besides bringing with her Cindy Valayadan from Umhlali, one of the many local food personalities with whom she worked closely in the development of the book, and husband John, she also brought some genuine Natal banana leaves (a local supplier wanted R25 a pop for them!) and something that I have not had the pleasure of seeing for many a long year – amakhowe.

If you’re familiar with isiXhosa or isiZulu, you will recognise amakhowe for what they are – large (up to 25cm across), delicious porcini-like mushrooms that grow wild in Kwa-Zulu Natal and the Transkei. They are considered by many to be our local equivalent of truffles.

The cook book – an enticing collection of specialities, flavours, family recipes and kitchen secrets from the Natal Coast – includes a whole section devoted to this remarkable mushroom written by well-known Natal chef, Marco Nico, who recently moved down to settle in Stellenbosch and start an artisanal charcuterie.

Detailed descriptions of popular seasonal ingredients, where to find them, how to prepare and use them, and a plethora of recipes for each, forms a substantial part of the book. Local personalities, like Cindy Valayadan and Marco Nico, are woven into the book with their personal recipes and tips lending remarkable diversity to the book. The recipes are easy to follow, and Clinton Friedman’s food photography is breath-taking. Read more…