Pumpkin Spice: Fad or Fallacy?

by Sara Scinto

Would you want a watery pumpkin pie? A savory pumpkin spice latte? How about a stringy pumpkin bread? Yeah, I wouldn’t either. I adore pumpkin spice everything as much as the next person (pumpkin is actually my favorite food), but are pumpkin and spices actually in these products?

My mom and I enjoying real pumpkin whoopie pies

There has been an explosion of pumpkin spice products rolling out for fall in recent years and each season it starts sooner (apparently as soon as July in 2017). Fall flavors are creeping into summer because the consumer demand is there and food companies want in on the profits that have soared in the last 5 years. Tiffany Hsu from The New York Times article purports pumpkin spice sales “…surged 20 percent from 2012 to 2013, then 12 percent the next year, then 10 percent in 2015 and in 2016”.

Unfortunately, not all pumpkin spice products have either pumpkin or spice blends in them. Sugar is first on the ingredient list of both Pumpkin Spice Oreos® and Kraft’s Jet-Puffed® Pumpkin Spice Marshmallows; neither contain actual pumpkin NOR spices, unless they are hidden in the natural or artificial flavorings. However they do contain artificial colors to mimic that beautiful pumpkin orange. According to Wikipedia, pumpkin pie spice is usually “a blend of ground cinnamonnutmeggingercloves, and sometimes allspice”, but commercial pumpkin spice products typically include chemical compounds to simulate the taste of pumpkin pie. You are not only getting fooled by the absence of real pumpkin and spices, but you are not able to reap any of the nutritional benefits of these foods. Pumpkin is a rich source of carotenoids, vitamin C, and fiber; nutmeg contains multiple B vitamins; cinnamon is full of antioxidants; and ginger provides the essential minerals magnesium and copper. If you’d like to create your own pumpkin pie spice, here are the proportions recommended by Julie R. Thomson at the Huffington Post:

Natural pumpkin pie spice blend

  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon
  • 5 teaspoons ginger
  • 1 teaspoons nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon allspice
  • 1 teaspoon cloves

 

 

 

Seemingly healthier stores like Trader Joe’s are no exception to the pumpkin spice fallacy. Their Pumpkin Shaped Frosted Sugar Cookies and Chocolate Mousse Pumpkins don’t include an ounce of pumpkin (they are just pumpkin shaped). And although Trader Joe’s Pumpkin Joe-Joe’s and Gluten Free Pumpkin Bread & Muffin Baking Mix do contain pumpkin and “spices” on their respective ingredient lists, sugar comes first. This is something to be cognizant of if your body doesn’t handle sugar well.

Pumpkin may not be as straightforward as it seems either. As it turns out, the canned pumpkin that is so heavily used in pumpkin pies and other fall goodies often contains one or more types of winter squash! For example, the company Libby’s uses a Dickinson pumpkin, which is more closely related to a butternut squash than a pumpkin you would find in your typical patch. Dickinson pumpkins and butternut squash are both part of the Cucurbita moschata species, while a traditional jack-o’-lantern pumpkin belongs to the Cucurbita pepo species.

Before you start a false advertising class lawsuit, a couple things should be clarified. Jack-o’-lantern pumpkins actually taste pretty bad and would make a terrible pumpkin pie. They’re stringy, watery, and not that sweet. This is why canned pumpkin companies use a variety of winter squashes that are more vibrant in color, “sweeter, fleshier and creamier” than a classic carving pumpkin. It just tastes and looks better. And these companies aren’t technically breaking any rules, since the FDA has a quite lenient definition of pumpkin, which includes any “firm-shelled, golden-fleshed, sweet squash”.

The reason pumpkin spice mania has taken America by storm is that sugary pumpkin spice products taste good! Food companies know this and give consumers what they want, which may not always be the best for the health of our bodies or our food system. But do not fear: we can still enjoy all the delicious pumpkin spice goodness by being more aware of ingredients and making our own treats.

Here are some of my all-time favorite recipes that have real pumpkin and/or spice blends in them:

1-Bowl Pumpkin Bread (V, GF)

1-Bowl Pumpkin Bread

DIY Pumpkin Spice Syrup (can substitute stevia for sugar or reduce sugar)

DIY Pumpkin Spice Syrup

Overnight, Slow Cooker, Pumpkin Pie Steel-Cut Oatmeal (GF, can be made V)

Slow Cooker Pumpkin Pie Oatmeal

Pumpkin Curry (GF)

Paleo Pumpkin Curry

Pumpkin Dream Cake (for very special occasions)

Pumpkin Dream Cake

Lastly, a pro tip for making your own pumpkin pancakes: substitute pumpkin puree for some liquid (whether oil or water) and shake some pumpkin pie spice into the batter. Play around with how much you substitute until it reaches a consistency that you like-there’s no wrong way to do it! The end product will be a dense and delicious pancake that pairs wonderfully with some maple syrup and/or berry topping.

Sara Scinto is a second-year NICBC student, avid coffee drinker, runner, triathlete, and yogi. She has a love for rainbows and all things food/nutrition related. During the fall, there is a 100% chance she has made some kind of pumpkin food within the last week. You can find her on Instagram @saras_colorfull_life.

 

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My Summer as an Inferior Species

by Sam Jones

Farming is hard, especially when animals are involved. Sam Jones recounts her time working on a chicken and pig farm in Colorado where only the fearless survive.

I am a white female, five-feet-three-inches tall, weighing in at a whopping 115 pounds. I spent my summer wrangling hogs and killing chickens. The following is a harrowing account of my survival.

My first day of work at Jodar Farms in Fort Collins, Colorado involved kicking a rooster in the chest, learning how to drive a manual truck with the back window blown out, and navigating 50-mile-an-hour winds while trying to fill five-gallon buckets with pig feed. It was everything I could have hoped for as a job-seeking college graduate.

While the demands of the job remained the same throughout my five-month stint, they did become less taxing over time. Upon arriving at the farm around sunrise, I would immediately open the doors to the five chicken coops scattered across the farm. Releasing thousands of chickens into the great outdoors with a buffet of chicken feed waiting was how I pictured Black Friday. That is, thousands of hungry consumers bottlenecking at the doors to paradise, some of whom are inevitably trampled in the scuffle.

It was this first duty of the day that already indicated to me that chickens are stupid creatures. All of you animal-rights activists out there—bear with me. Every day, with the rising of the sun, chickens are prompted to wake up and find food. On a free-range chicken farm like Jodar, these chickens knew, at the very least, that food laid just on the other side of those wooden doors. What they were repeatedly unaware of was that piling on top of one another was not a good solution to their problem. Alas, human intervention was all that could spare them from suffocating one another to death. For those that didn’t make it, I merely tossed their sad souls into the dumpster—and on an empty stomach no less.

Next, I would check on the brooders. These are essentially stacked metal cages attached to a source of heat that give young chicks being raised for meat a better chance of survival during their most fragile life stage. Refilling the feed and water trays and verifying that the heat was set at the right temperature would have been my favorite job had it not been for the poop trays. That’s right: six massive cookie-sheet-like trays onto each of which the feces of roughly 86 chicks collected. As I mentioned before, I am only 5′ 3”, which was incidentally shorter than the top two trays. Slowly and methodically, I would slide one poop tray out with both hands over my head, carefully lower it to a trash bin, and fold the underlying newspaper in a way that prevented the poop from breaking through the paper and onto either the tray or my hands. Finally, and with much satisfaction, I would roll the steaming wad of poop into the bin. I repeated this glamorous task five more times, every day.

Now, about kicking a rooster in the chest. If you have ever been exposed to the wrath of the rooster, you might sympathize with my aggression. The chickens were fed twice each day, which I accomplished most efficiently by carrying one five-gallon bucket of feed in each hand and dumping them into the feed troughs. Perhaps due to my size or the scent of fear emanating from my pores, these roosters went into full-on Kill Bill mode every time they saw me. They chased me and trapped me in the back of the coop while I collected eggs. And at feeding time, while my hands were filled with buckets of feed, the two black and white speckled roosters (whom I affectionately named Umbridge and Voldemort) would stand up straight, flare their neck feathers, and charge at me from behind. Despite kicking Umbridge (out of self-defense) so hard that he developed a limp, I still sustained many above-the-knee bruises in the shape of a chicken’s foot—farming is dangerous business. To add to my bruised legs and ego, I learned that I was the first and only employee at Jodar to be attacked by these roosters. The problem became so cumbersome that my boss and coworkers rounded up all the roosters on my day off and gave them to a neighbor just so they would stop karate-chopping my kneecaps. I am eternally grateful.

 

Another of my glamorous duties included collecting the eggs of roughly 2,000 laying hens, which amounted to 1,600 eggs daily, give or take a few hundred. This was my favorite job (once the roosters were voted off the island) because I always felt like a toddler on Easter Sunday. Some eggs were blue, pink, brown, or white. Some were massive double-yolkers while others were the size of a gumball. The only downsides to egg collecting were the incessant screeching of thousands of chickens, the occasional chicken jumping on my back while I was bent over, and the necessity of yanking three or four chickens out of a lay box by the neck just to see if there were eggs to collect. Otherwise, this duty was by far the most enjoyable.

Compared to the hens and roosters, about whom I had unwavering opinions, I developed a complicated love-hate relationship with the pigs on par with the one between Americans and democracy. First, Jodar’s pigs lived outside in the mud and pasture, so the smell typically associated with pigs was not a factor in our love story. I loved these pigs because they were smart.  I lost count of the number of times the pigs got out of their pens by busting through weak wire or finding a malfunctioning section of electric fence. Rounding up pigs at 9 o’clock at night is maybe the most frustrating thing I have ever done. At the same time, the ridiculousness and humor of the situation reminded me how lucky I was to work outside with cute animals every day. On hot days, I would use the hoses to spray them down and create cold wallows—it was the closest thing to a wet t-shirt contest I’d ever seen.

The hate part of this love-hate relationship can actually be blamed on the poor infrastructure that was set up for feeding. Most farms have one large trough or automatic gravity feeder for their pigs, but not at Jodar. Not even close. I filled five-gallon buckets with feed and beer byproducts (which we called brew), lifted the buckets over to the outside of the pigs’ fence, set them down, climbed over the fence, bent down to lift the buckets into the pen, then proceeded to walk to all of the small feeders scattered around the large encampment. All the while, the pigs became unbelievably and unmanageably excited that it was breakfast or lunch time. And there I was in the mud with them—a small, helpless, feed-hauling mammal. It should impress you to know that they only knocked me to the ground once in my five months of feeding them. I’m pretty proud of that.

Lastly, the most memorable job was the weekly chicken slaughter. Every Tuesday, the person with the closing shift would accompany our boss, Aaron, in rounding up the fattest 250 broilers from the oldest of the four chicken houses, each containing 500 broilers (give or take the few temperamental birds that lost their will to live at some point in their 10-week journey to slaughter). My wrists would be so sore the next morning from repeatedly grabbing three chickens by the legs in each hand (the guys could lift five), that the only way to drink my coffee was to perform a graceful tipping bird motion of my face onto the rim of my mug, and slurp.

On Wednesdays, we hung the birds by their ankles on metal hooks that closely resembled the large paddle attachments for an electric stand-up mixing bowl. They became rather calm and limp as they lay upside down, blood rushing to their heads as they glimpsed the ominous black bins below, with the sun beaming off their white feathers.

First, one of my coworkers would painlessly zap each chicken in the neck with a stun knife that essentially put them to sleep. Then, my other coworker (both of them men—actually all of them men except for me) would follow by slitting their throats with a knife, allowing the blood to spill into the black bins underneath. Once enough blood had been spilt, the chickens were placed 10 at a time into a hot water bath and rotated on a timed cycle until they were properly sanitized.

This is where I came in. First, I removed the steaming chickens from their bath and placed them breast-side up on the plucking machine. Then, I would lock the door of the plucker and slide the birds into a cylindrical basin fitted with black rubber fingers that spun the birds at high speed before the machine automatically unlocked and flung the chickens onto a metal catch. My sexy job in this process was to pluck the few remaining feathers off the chickens’ armpits and butts. Lastly, several Hispanic women processed the chickens until they eventually resembled the whole chicken you buy in the store and roast with a salt-brine and a few sprigs of rosemary. From start to finish, including cleaning, it took 10 people about three hours to slaughter 250 chickens.

Not too shabby for a hard day’s work.

Sam Jones is a first year student in the AFE program who worked on farms for two years after graduating from the University of Puget Sound. Her interest in agriculture began in the summer of 2012 when she WWOOFed in France and Scotland. She likes to cook, be outside, drink wine, and dreams of one day living in Italy.

Soul of the Louisiana Kitchen

by Katie Moses

When the only remnants of Mardi Gras are plastic beads hanging from the oaks along St. Charles Avenue, Louisiana still draws people from around the world for the lively music and incredible food. Discover the secret to the depth of flavor in Cajun and Creole cuisine and recreate a classic Louisiana dish, red beans and rice, in your own kitchen.

Celery, Onion, Bell Peppers. Photo credit: Flickr

Imagine early afternoon in southern Louisiana. The sweltering heat is held at bay by the air conditioner running on full blast; your grandmother begins to quarter onions, seed bell peppers, and break celery stalks. This “southern symphony” begins to swell with the sudden whir of an old food processor finely mincing onion, celery, and green bell pepper, while a layer of oil in a large pot warms on the stovetop. The sizzle crescendos in the Cajun kitchen as she adds the onions, then celery and bell pepper to the hot oil, and their aromatics waft through the 1960s ranch-style house..

Growing up in my grandmother’s home in the heart of Cajun country, this is how homemade dinners began. No matter if it’s red beans, gumbo, or jambalaya, every Cajun dinner starts with a little oil in a heavy-bottomed pot and the Cajun holy trinity – onion, celery, and green bell pepper.

History of the Trinity

The influences of French and Spanish occupation of Cajun and Creole country adds to the “southern symphony” with echoes of Catholic church bells in every town. Naming the aromatic trio the Cajun holy trinity in this predominantly Catholic region reflects how food traditions are as fundamental to the identity of the residents of south Louisiana as their faith.

Aromatic vegetables sautéed in oil as the foundation of flavor in Cajun and Creole cuisine is mirrored in the many cultures that have influenced its traditions: the mirepoix in France; the sofrito in Spanish-speaking countries; and the sacred flavor trinities of West African cuisines. The mirepoix combines onions, celery, and carrots. The slightly sweet carrot adds a different flavor profile compared to the bitter notes of the green bell pepper. A typical sofrito in Spain mixes tomatoes, bell peppers, onions, and garlic, while the Cuban sofrito is the Cajun trinity with garlic added as an official fourth ingredient in the seasoning mix. West African dishes typically begin with tomatoes, onions, and chili peppers. While West African and Spanish cuisines influenced both the Cajun and Creole cuisines, the tomatoes in Creole gumbo and not Cajun gumbo illustrates the stronger influence of West African and Spanish on the Creoles in New Orleans than the Cajuns in Acadiana.

Mirepoix: Celery, Onion, and Carrots. Photo credit: Flickr

Spanish Sofrito: Tomato, Onion, Bell Pepper, and Garlic. Photo credit: Flickr

West African Trinity: Tomato, Onion, and Chili Pepper. Photo credit: Flickr

A Kitchen Staple

Louisiana grocers make the lives of Cajun cooks easier by always stocking the produce section with celery, green bell peppers, onions, and garlic, and by making the ingredients available in many formats. For those who seek even more convenience, cooks can get Guidry’s Fresh Cuts Creole Seasoning a container of finely chopped yellow onions, green bell pepper, celery, green onions, parsley, and garlic. Every freezer section has the holy trinity pre-chopped and frozen at the peak of freshness if you’re willing to have your oil pop a little extra from the moisture of the frozen vegetables.

How to Prep the Trinity

If you prefer to prep your own vegetables, the perfect ratio of aromatics is 2 parts yellow onion:1 part celery:1 part green bell pepper. Every Cajun cookbook will tell you to pair the trinity with garlic for extra depth of flavor. The goal is to mince the onion, celery, and bell pepper so finely that they almost disintegrate while cooking. If you’re far from southern grocery stores that offer the Cajun trinity pre-chopped, you can follow the steps below to hand chop or emulate my grandmother and save time using a food processor. Note: a key to preparing the trinity is to keep the onion separate from the celery and bell pepper; you don’t want to overcrowd the onions, so you always add the celery and bell pepper later.

Hand Chopped:

Supplies needed are a large stable cutting board, two prep bowls, and a sharp non-serrated knife.

  1. Peel and cut the onion into a small dice, a ¼ inch square cut, and place in a prep bowl.
    1. If using garlic, peel and crush or finely mince and mix with the diced onions.
  2. Cut off the stemmed top of the green bell pepper to remove seeds and create a flat surface. Slice pepper into planks and then cut into a small dice. Place in a separate prep bowl.
  3. Chop off white base of celery then halve stalks. Bunch together the halved stalks with your free hand and cut into a small dice. Mix celery with the bell pepper in the prep bowl.

Food Processor:

Supplies needed are a food processor with chopping blade and two prep bowls.

  1. If using garlic, peel and add 4 cloves into the processor first, pulsing until finely chopped. Peel and quarter the onion, then add to the processor and pulse until finely chopped. Remove the onion and garlic mixture and place in a separate prep bowl.
  2. Cut off the stemmed top of the green bell pepper, remove seeds and quarter. Remove white base of celery then roughly chop stalks into 3-inch pieces. Add to the food processor and pulse until finely chopped. Then, place in a prep bowl separate from onion and garlic.
Louisiana Kitchen

Among those who live far from the shade of the magnolias, my home state of Louisiana is known for three things – Mardi Gras, music, and good food. When the only remnants of Mardi Gras are plastic beads hanging from the oaks along St. Charles Avenue, Louisiana still draws people from around the world for the lively music and incredible food. While those outside the kitchen may assume the rich depth of flavor in Cajun and Creole cuisine is thanks to a heavy hand with butter and cayenne pepper, the soul of the unique flavor is the holy trinity. The recipe below blends Cajun, Spanish, and African flavors with a few culinary shortcuts to showcase the holy trinity in a delicious pot of the Louisiana Cajun classic: red beans and rice.

Figure 5: Red Beans and Rice with Louisiana Hot Sauce. Photo credit: Flickr

Good Friday Red Beans and Rice

Servings: 8

This classic south-Louisiana dish saves on time without cutting back on flavor by using canned beans and chipotle peppers in adobo instead of ham hock or tasso. This recipe is perfect for a Lenten Friday or a vegetarian potluck.

Ingredients   

4 cloves garlic, peeled

2 medium yellow onions, peeled (2 cups chopped)*

3 ribs of celery (1 cup chopped)*

1 green bell pepper (1 cup chopped)*

1 tbsp olive or vegetable oil

4 (15-oz) cans dark red kidney beans, drained and rinsed with hot water**

1½ tsp Better than Bouillon Vegetable (or No Chicken) Base***

3 bay leaves

½ tsp cayenne pepper

½ tsp freshly ground black pepper

1 chipotle pepper canned in adobo, chopped

2-4 cups of water (just enough to cover the beans)

Optional: 2 tsp dried thyme and 2 tsp ground oregano

1 lb long grain brown (or white) rice, prepared according to package directions

Instructions
  1. Prep then combine the finely minced onion and garlic in a bowl, and celery and green bell pepper in a separate bowl.
  2. Heat a large heavy-bottom pot over medium heat and add 2 tablespoons of olive or vegetable oil.
  3. Add the onion and garlic to oil and sauté until onions are translucent and garlic is golden.
  4. Add the green bell pepper and celery to the pot and sauté until soft. Be careful not to let the garlic burn.
  5. Add the remaining ingredients to the pot: the kidney beans, bouillon base, bay leaves, cayenne pepper, black pepper, adobo chipotle pepper, and enough water to cover it all by an inch.
  6. Stir until all ingredients are well combined then simmer, covered, over low to medium-low heat for at least 45 minutes. Check and stir occasionally, adding water as needed if beans begin to stick.
  7. The red beans are ready when most of them have begun to fall apart.
  8. Serve on top of an equal portion of rice.

Tip!

Balance your plate by pairing this fiber- and protein-rich dish with collard greens, stewed okra and tomatoes, or a simple cucumber and onion salad.

Substitutions:

*4 cups pre-chopped frozen trinity

**1 lb dry kidney beans, soaked overnight, drained, and brought to a boil then simmer in lightly salted water with bay leaves.

***1½ tsp favorite bouillon/stock base. Alternatively, replace water with your favorite vegetable stock or chicken broth (if not vegetarian).

Southern Serving Suggestion:

If you’re left pining to recreate the Louisiana restaurant experience, turn up a Louis Armstrong record, pour yourself an iced tea,and top those red beans with some thin-sliced, pan-fried andouille sausage. Laissez les bon temp roulez!

Katie Moses is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist who has worked as a culinary nutrition educator for over 5 years. Starting life with a unique culinary upbringing in the heart of Cajun country with Sicilian, Syrian, and French grandparents, she finds ways to adapt traditional dishes to fit current nutrition recommendations Katie is currently enrolled in the Master’s Degree Program in Nutrition Interventions, Communication, and Behavior Change at the Friedman School. Connect with her at linkedin.com/in/mkatiemoses.

Book Review – You May Also Like: Taste in an Age of Endless Choice

by Danièle Todorov

We pick from a dozen entrée options, a couple hundred Netflix movies, or thousands of grocery store products by referencing our intuitive tastes. Or so we think. Tom Vanderbilt delves into the near-irrationality of our preferences in You May Also Like: Taste in an Age of Endless Choice.

For each of the experts featured in Tom Vanderbilt’s You May Also Like: Taste in an Age of Endless Choice, the most baffling phrase in common language is “it’s an acquired taste.” Countless questions spring from that one little word “acquired.” The driving forces behind taste are chaotic and seemingly lawless, continuously evolving with age and context. When did my revulsion for olives and anchovies morph into a pseudo-sophisticated appreciation? Where did the change begin, in the reward center of the brain or in the nervous network of the gut? Was the desire to eat those abhorred foods social, visceral, or pretentious? All of us working in nutrition hold some ideas about the origin and evolution of taste and may subscribe to a single explanation. So brace yourselves. You May Also Like is packed with evidence for a dozen conflicting theories. Ironically, Vanderbilt states “what is taste, really, but a kind of cognitive mechanism for managing sensory overload?”

As a freelance journalist in design, science, and technology, Tom Vanderbilt draws expertise from a similarly diverse cast of researchers in You May Also Like, from the flavor chemists at McCormick pimping our snacks, to the mathematicians at Netflix keeping us hooked. Vanderbilt’s research is extensive and holistic. Interestingly, the same set of human behaviors are at play in almost every field. I found his discussions of Facebook likes and music preference to be equally as informative for nutrition as the chapter on food choice. While this diversity keeps the book engaging and fresh (a nod to our constant novelty seeking), space constraints often keep Vanderbilt from providing satisfying explanations. You May Also Like serves better as an introduction for readers interested in interdisciplinary behavioral research than an in-depth resource.

You May Also Like offers a condensed snapshot of our current understanding of taste and leaves readers questioning and obsessed with its core ideas. After reading this book, I am certain about only two things. First, I will never use the phrases “acquired taste” or “I’ll have what she’s having” without hearing the gears turn in my subconscious. Second, ask any of the book’s featured experts—honestly—why we like what we like, and you’ll receive an answer with a slightly embarrassed shrug.

Danièle Todorov is a first-year Nutritional Epidemiology student who should not be trusted with matters of taste, given how much she enjoyed The Museum of Bad Art in Somerville.

Overdue for Overtime

by Julie Kurtz

A new California law just enacted the most revolutionary labor standards since the creation of the 40-hour work week.  What is it?  Well, it’s the 40-hour work week. But will it improve equality? Will it impact the cost of your food? Will equitable farm labor make your vegetables healthier? And will the new law change the curriculum at Friedman?

On Monday September 12th, California Governor Jerry Brown signed monumental legislation that should be of interest to all Friedman students. California Assembly Bill 1066 will require that agricultural workers be paid overtime for working more than eight hours in a day or forty hours in a week. While this may seem like a no-brainer, the current standard requires workers to work 10 hours/day and 60 hours/week before earning their overtime pay. The changes will be incremental starting in 2019, with full realization of the law by 2022 for most farms and 2025 for farms with fewer than 25 employees.

We take for granted the forty-hour week as a cornerstone of American work ethics, representing fair working hours and honoring the dignity of work. Many industries had a forty-hour workweek in place well before the 20th century. In the heat of the workers’ rights movements, victory came with the passage of the Fair Labor Standards Act in 1938, guaranteeing a maximum work hour week—or overtime compensation when forty hours were surpassed.

However, agricultural workers were exempt.

As were domestic workers.

In the 1930s African-Americans were disproportionately employed in agricultural and domestic labor. President Roosevelt signed the Fair Labors Standards Act knowing it was a compromise with Southern Congressmen who had a vested interest in excluding black employees to preserve the plantation-style economy of sharecroppers and black domestic workers.

While there are practical reasons why agricultural workers remained excluded from the labor rights that most Americans enjoy, mostly related to seasonality, it is clear that enormous power differentials persist between farm laborers and farm owners. In California more than 90% of farm laborers are Latino, and 80% are immigrants. Given the long history of labor exploitation in US Agriculture, what does it mean that the agricultural giant California has set this precedent of equality? Will the new overtime legislation be effective? Or are there loopholes that will inevitably allow the continued overworking of farm laborers? Will other states follow in California’s footsteps? And finally, to bring things back home, why should California Assembly Bill 1066 be discussed at 150 Harrison Avenue?

One of Friedman’s great strengths is our integrated approach to food. Friedman extends into every corner of the food system, from cutting edge nutritional science, consumer behavior, and food policy economics, to the environmental impacts of agriculture. Our system-wide approach enables Friedman to engage one of the most complex challenges on the planet: how to feed ourselves. But there is a realm where our reach rarely extends: labor.

I came to Friedman in part because we ask questions like “Is this tomato that is grown in nutrient-rich biodynamic soils healthier than a conventional tomato? Is it healthier for our bodies? Is it healthier for the land and for the sustainability of agriculture?” I’m thrilled that my education is helping me answer and provide insight to those questions. I’m less certain where on this campus we can ask: “Is this tomato that was grown by an equitably-paid farmer who has access to healthcare, leisure time, and education, as healthy as a tomato grown by a farmer who works 12-hour days, sees her children only briefly at dawn and night, and lacks a nutritious diet, time for education, and access to medical attention?”

Can healthy food come from an exploited workforce?

Second-year students from Friedman’s Agricultural Science & Policy II course recognized this gap in our education and knowledge. We do not feel equipped to evaluate and understand the impact of California’s new law in the grander context of the food system. As policy students we frequently discuss the “inputs” that go into our food: technology, land, and fertilizers. Labor is another input. But labor is people. We need a different set of tools to consider the migrant harvesters, the meat processors, the truck drivers, and the line cooks—the people without whom nutrition students would have nothing to study in the first place.

Fortunately we have a supportive faculty who has recognized the hole, and are working alongside us to bridge the gap. In fact, the entire Friedman community is invited to help bridge the gap:

  • In October the Friedman Seminar Committee will meet to determine Spring 2017 Seminar speakers and they will consider agricultural labor experts. To that end, students are invited (as they always are) to send speaker suggestions to Christian.Peters@tufts.edu.
  • Due to student requests, two AFE core courses (Nutr215 and Nutr333) will dedicate classroom time to address farm labor and the new California law. Interested students are invited to attend those lecture and discussion dates, and can email Timothy.Griffin@tufts.edu for more information.
  • As Friedman administration seeks to hire new faculty, we urge consideration of candidates with expertise in farm labor, food system law and justice.
  • Second-year AFE student Caitlin Joseph is spearheading a student-directed course on Agricultural Labor Policy and Justice in Spring 2017. Students interested in joining should contact her at Caitlin.Joseph@tufts.edu.

California AB 1066 did not materialize out of nowhere. How does its signing fit into the broader picture of dismantling inequality in the food system? As Friedman students and faculty, can we satisfactorily discuss nourishment if we are not equally concerned with the welfare of those who bring food to our table? What models exist to dismantle this systemic oppression? What impacts will those models have on the environment, on the economy, on nutrition, on academia, and mostly pertinently, on the labor force? And how can we integrate those models into the Friedman curriculum?

Julie Kurtz is in her second semester of the AFE program. She landed at Friedman after acting professionally in San Francisco, practicing Emergency Medicine in Minnesota, and farming in Bolivia.

 

Eat Retreat 2016: My Weekend at Camp

by Krissy Scommegna

40 people. 9 shared meals. 20 participant-driven workshops. 4 days of culinary bliss.

This is Eat Retreat: a collaborative weekend for leaders in the food world where skills and knowledge are shared, meals are made and dishes are washed together, meaningful connections are solidified, and indulging in good food and drink is highly encouraged.

eatretreatflag

I first heard about Eat Retreat in 2013 when founder Kathryn Tomajan and director Heather Marold Thomason stopped by the Boonville Hotel where I was working as a sous chef. They were looking for a good meal, an interesting community, and insights about hosting an event in the Anderson Valley. While I was immediately interested in attending, I wasn’t sure if I was really qualified to be there. I had only been cooking for a few years and didn’t really consider myself a “food leader” of any kind. But I applied thinking I may as well see if I had something to offer.

Even if I was the token local, I couldn’t have felt more honored, and incredibly nervous, about being selected to attend as a 24 year-old. I packed up pounds and pounds of the dried chiles my family grows and drove 10 minutes down the road to the camp where I would spend the next four days.

This sounds incredibly cliché, but I’m going to say it anyway: what was waiting for me was truly life-changing. I gained confidence in myself, in the work I was doing, my skills as a chef, and made connections with people I wanted to be when I grew up. Eat Retreat helped push me to be in and stay in the food industry, where there were genuinely good people doing cool things.

When I learned that this year’s Eat Retreat would be hosted in my home state of Wisconsin, I applied without even thinking twice. There was no way I could miss out on this. I wanted to spend the weekend extolling the virtues of Wisconsin supper clubs, the iconic relish tray, and the importance of a squeaky cheese curd. And I did just that.

In mid-September, a select group of food professionals from around the U.S. and Canada converged at a summer camp in Delevan, WI. I was there to greet them with the best cheese whips and curds the state had to offer and the perfectly mixed Brandy Old Fashioned, a Wisconsin tradition.

These are my people. My Eat Retreat family. A story-driven photographer with one of the best collections of agricultural photos around. An organic olive oil and almond producer. A food journalist. A founding fisherman of a community supported fishery. A sustainable protein and cricket enthusiast. An advocate fighting rural hunger. A handful of artisan food makers. A food anthropologistFood writers and food stylists. A member of the Vermont Workinglands Enterprise Initiative. A butcher working to improve and localize supply chains. A certified olive oil taster and miller. And me—a chef, dried chile pepper producer, non-profit program director, and graduate student.

Eat Retreaters in action throughout the weekend.

Eat Retreaters in action throughout the weekend.

 

There was even a fellow Friedmanite! A 2005 graduate of the Nutrition Communications program, Cathy Carmichael is a Registered Dietician currently working as the Project Manager at Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge. Cathy had this to say about her experience: “Eat Retreat brought together an eclectic group of food professionals passionate about sharing their craft through formal and informal learning opportunities. I left the retreat with true admiration for my colleagues and their great work in an complex industry.”

At this point, you’re probably wondering what happens on Eat Retreat. Attendees plan and determine the weekend’s workshops, making the event different every year. Everyone is encouraged to dream big, meaning that anything and everything can happen.

 Saturday lunch complete with 35+ domestic cheeses, cured meats, local radishes, and bread from Milwaukee bakeries

Saturday lunch complete with 35+ domestic cheeses, cured meats, local radishes, and bread from Milwaukee bakeries

 

We talked about Midwestern food traditions and how Friday Fish Fry’s and meat raffles are the norm. We had a domestic cheese tasting, featuring over 35 different cheeses. We learned the delicate art of cocktail mixology and even made our own bitters. We discussed the Alaskan salmon industry and learned how to butcher a Coho. We experimented with sourdough and ferments. We learned different techniques for baking pies. We discussed the process of creating a food facility.

 

 

We talked about body image, food guilt, and the interplay of food and sex. We discussed local food cultures and the difference between amplification and appropriation. We had a bourbon and ham tasting and ate a Tamworth ham that our resident Vermonter cured in his basement for four years. We cooked each meal with local fare and other ingredients brought by attendees. We shared cutting boards and allowed for professional chefs and home cooks to teach each other in the kitchen. We became friends, stayed up too late, and had a stupid amount of fun.

 A unanimous highlight of the weekend was a bourbon and ham tasting curated by Sara Bradley of Freight House in Paducah, KY.

A unanimous highlight of the weekend was a bourbon and ham tasting curated by Sara Bradley of Freight House in Paducah, KY.

 

I ate too much. Laughed until I cried, and maybe almost peed a little. I shared my passions about food with people who genuinely cared and felt similarly. Got suckered into tap dancing. Cooked some pretty delicious food. Caught rainbow trout, cleaned it, and ate it for dinner. Roasted marshmallows over the campfire. Swigged Malort. And went to bed each night feeling overly nourished from the food, fun, and community that filled my soul and woke up ready to do it again the next day.

Rainbow Trout caught that morning at Rushing Waters Trout Farm in Palmyra, WI ready to be cleaned.

Rainbow Trout caught that morning at Rushing Waters Trout Farm in Palmyra, WI ready to be cleaned.

 

Next year when the call for applications rings through kitchens across the country, consider applying for Eat Retreat. We at Friedman have an interesting story to tell about food and the role of our studies in the broader world of nutrition and agriculture. As the next leaders in food policy, our voices contribute to the wider conversation about the current and future state of food in our country.  Facilitating conversation between policy advocates and those actually working in the food industry is important and necessary. We can be the ones to make it happen and Eat Retreat can be a way to make those connections possible.

Krissy Scommegna has been to Eat Retreat twice and is pretty proud of the quark ranch dip, potato gratin, and pecorino + piment d’ville popcorn she made. Her biggest accomplishment of the weekend? Learning how to properly sharpen her knives. 

Five Veggies to Try This Fall

by Katelyn Castro

With the days getting shorter and the weather getting colder, you may be missing the summer barbeques with crisp corn on the cob, grilled zucchini, and fresh tomato-mozzarella-basil salads. But, don’t fill your grocery cart with canned or frozen veggies just yet! Fall vegetables can be just as satisfying, especially when you have some delicious recipes to try.

“Eat your veggies!” We’ve probably all been told this before, whether it was from our doctor, our parents, or some health nut on a juice cleanse. Despite the known health benefits of vegetables, 87% of Americans do not meet the recommended daily serving of vegetables (2 ½ cups), according to a national report published by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

Vegetables are expensive. They don’t taste good. I don’t know how to prepare them… As a nutrition student, these are the most common answers I hear when asking patients, friends, and family their reason for not eating vegetables. As a hummus-and-veggie lover, I am determined to change vegetables’ bad reputation! Believe it or not, vegetables can be affordable and they can taste pretty darn delicious if you know when to buy them and how to prepare them.

With a variety of fresh and local produce available at farmers’ markets and grocery stores during the fall season, now is the perfect time to start eating more veggies. Seasonal vegetables are not only more tasty and nutrient-rich since they are picked at peak harvest time, but they are also usually less expensive than out-of-season produce.

Here are five seasonal vegetables to try this fall, along with some cooking preparation tips. Whether you like your veggies soft or crunchy, savory or sweet, the following recipes offer something for everyone’s palate.

1- Cauliflower

Due to its mild taste, cauliflower is extremely versatile, making it an easy vegetable to incorporate into almost any dish ranging from pizza and casseroles to rice and pasta dishes. As a cruciferous vegetable, cauliflower adds bulk and fiber to meals without significantly altering flavor. Try steaming cauliflower, then mash it with potatoes, use it to make a pizza crust, or bake it with macaroni and cheese. One cup of steamed cauliflower provides three grams of fiber and 92% of the daily value of Vitamin C in only 29 calories!

Recipes to try:

Photos from recipes above

Photos from recipes above

2- Winter Squash

Although named for its ability to stay hardy throughout the winter months, winter squash is actually harvested during the fall. Pumpkin may be the most popular type of winter squash, but acorn, butternut, and spaghetti squash are other fall varieties that can be just as flavorful. The sweet flavor and dense texture make winter squash a great addition to soups, salads, lasagnas, and even desserts. Don’t let the tough exterior or hefty size of winter squash intimidate you! Most varieties can be easily sliced and baked, requiring little effort to prepare. One cup of cooked and cubed winter squash is a great source of Vitamin A and Vitamin C. However, to really reap the benefits of winter squash, don’t forget to eat the seeds! Winter squash seeds are one of the top sources of magnesium and zinc, which are both important nutrients for metabolism and immunity. One ounce of roasted seeds provides 35% of the daily value of magnesium and 20% of the daily value of zinc.

Recipes to try:

Photos from recipes above

Photos from recipes above

3- Carrots

Yes, they may be available all year round, but carrots are at their best in the fall. As a hardy vegetable, carrots are a convenient snack to pack and eat on-the-go with hummus or a yogurt-ranch dip. Adding sliced or shredded carrots into a salad or wrap are other easy ways to add more veggies to your diet. If cooking carrots, try roasting them with some healthy oil, like olive oil, or steaming them with a few drops of water. By steaming or roasting, you’ll preserve the water-soluble vitamins and minerals in carrots, which can be lost if cooked in a lot of water. One cup of raw carrots (or ½ cup steamed or roasted) has more than 100% of the daily value for Vitamin A, an important nutrient for eye and skin health.

Recipes to try:

Photos from recipes above

Photos from recipes above

4- Cabbage

Cabbage is another vegetable that seems to be in grocery stores all year round. However, cabbage is truly at its peak in the fall, with red cabbage, green cabbage, and bok choy most commonly available. In addition to being a staple in coleslaw, cabbage is also a great veggie to add to green salads, sandwiches, and wraps for a light and crunchy flavor. For a softer texture, try roasting or sautéing cabbage as part of a savory or sweet side dish. Although the nutritional value varies depending on the type of cabbage, all varieties are a great source of fiber and many vitamins and minerals. One cup of chopped green cabbage has 85% of the daily value of Vitamin K, an important nutrient for blood clotting and bone health. In contrast, one cup of chopped red cabbage provides a great source of Vitamin A and Vitamin C. Red cabbage is also rich in antioxidants called anthocyanins, which give cabbage its deep purple color.

Recipes to try:

Photos from recipes above

Photos from recipes above

5- Rutabaga

This list would not be complete without one oddball! Rutabaga may not be the prettiest of vegetables with its bulbous shape and hairy roots, but this root vegetable deserves a chance. Rutabaga’s mild flavor, slightly sweeter than turnip, makes it a great substitution or addition to potato dishes. As a versatile vegetable, rutabaga can be mashed like potatoes, puréed into soups, or roasted with herbs alongside other root vegetables. One cup of cooked rutabaga provides three grams of fiber, 16% of the daily value of potassium, and 53% of the daily value of Vitamin C.

Recipes to try:

Photos from recipes above

Photos from recipes above

 

Looking for other veggies to try during this fall season? Check out this chart for a list of produce with their typical harvest months in specific towns and cities within Massachusetts. To find a farmers’ market near you, use this map to search for open markets based on location and preferred type of produce.

Katelyn Castro is a second-year student in the DI/MS Nutrition Program at the Friedman School. She is a food science geek who loves experimenting with different seasonal veggies in the kitchen and forcing her friends and family to try her healthy concoctions.