Food, And Athens, In The News

Athens Rated as One of the 12 Great Places You’ve Never Heard Of

So, we were out having breakfast Monday, and came across the cover story in the Athens News, our highly loved biweekly tabloid newspaper: “Athens gets high ranking for its quality of life — and obscurity.”

It seems that The Mother Earth News staff decided to go around the US and find twelve smaller, relatively unknown communities where there is a high quality of life, low cost of living, and is populated by a lot of folks who live the ideals of sustainability. The results were condensed into this article.

It is neat to have Athens recognized by the highest-circulating environmental magazine in the US (1.4 million readers), and the reasons they cite for liking Athens are quite reasonable and valid: they were impressed by the lack of extremes in the weather (uh, except we are in the middle of a heatwave at the moment, with heat index ratings of around 106 F) and the fact that there is a strong local foods movement and many farmers who make a completely local, year round farmer’s market possible. They also cite Ohio University as a source of cultural events and interesting bookstores, and a local community kitchen run by ACEnet, which allows food producers to start up small businesses.

And, of course, they mentioned the beauty of the rolling Appalachian hills and the fact that our town is surrounded with lovely state parks where fishing, hiking, kayaking and canoeing are the order of the day.

I was fascinated to see Ithaca, New York, was also on the list. Why? Because when Zak and I went there for his stepbrother’s graduation, I remember walking around and saying, “This place is cool. It feels like Athens….”

Baby Food Goes Upscale

Okay, now, I have to say this:

What is so damned hard about pureeing a portion of your own dinner for your baby?

Is it really -that- time consuming?

Now that is out of my system, I can tell you what I am crabbing about. I am crabbing about these boutique, upscale baby food companies that are selling pureed asparagus risotto, minted new peas and baby vegetable korma with coconut milk that I read about in the New York Times.

There are even personal chefs who specialize in freshly made baby food.

So, that is fine, really–I mean, I am all about giving babies and toddlers and little kids real food to eat–because I think that crap from the jars is about nasty and probably predisposes kids to liking bland food, which would be a horrible fate for any kid in my house, but why do you need to have a personal chef do that? I mean, get a food mill, or a Sumeet or even a really good blender, and puree some of your own dinner for goodness sake! How hard is that?

I mean, I can see buying some of the frozen stuff that they are selling at Whole Foods, but how hard is it to make your own frozen baby food at home, for less money, and you can control the ingredients yourself? Is it really that taxing? Is it?

Am I weird for thinking this is weird? Am I a freak for intending to feed Kat with pureed versions of what we eat around here and freezing some of it for later in little ice cube trays? Am I just an overachieving Mom or are these folks lazy or do I just not get it?

Maybe I don’t get it.

Tomato Tasting Vocabulary

The New York Times Dining & Wine section is just full of goodness this week. In addition to the gourmet baby food article, there was this gem about food scientist and professor emerita, Ann C. Noble, putting on a tomato tasting along the lines of a wine tasting, so she can develop a vocabulary for folks to use to describe the complex flavors of heirloom tomatoes.

Noble is best known as the developer of a device called “The Wine Aroma Wheel,” which is tool meant to help wine afficianados develop a more useful and descriptive vocabulary to describe the complex aromas and flavors of wine.

She aims to create a similar wheel to help folks describe the flavors of heirloom tomatoes.

Participants were asked to smell the tomatoes, which were pureed and set into petri-dish topped wine-glasses (with headspace to allow the aromas to concentrate under the petri dishes, which sealed them in), then taste them silently, and write down their impressions, even if they seemed silly or ridiculous.

Brandywine, one of my favorite tomatoes, and a consistently popular heirloom, was described by one taster as being like stinky feet, while another said it smelled like Fritos. A third said it was, “ripe, like chocolate.”

Other tomatoes were described as smelling like jeans that had been worn to play football in the grass, and pond water.

Now, I don’t know about y’all, but tomatoes that smell of feet, Fritos, sweaty, grass-stained jeans and pond water are somehow not very appealing to me.

I think Dr. Noble has a long row to hoe with this project. I see a lot more tomato tastings in her future, perhaps with different participants.

That is it for Food in the News this time around–until next time, good reading and good eating to y’all!

Note: Photo credit–The Athens News


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  1. You make me laugh and cry all in the same blog. Heirloom tomatoes smelling like stinking feet? I think that nose needs a serious checkup. On the other hand, I have to admit to drinking wine that smelled of a cleaned barnyard – and it was very good wine too:) About feeding babies – I don’t have kids – but most of my friends take whatever the big people are eating, put it in the food processor and voila – baby food. Sometimes simple is too hard I guess.

    Comment by Maureen — August 2, 2006 #

  2. Ahh, the post about Athens made me miss Ohio. (See any ghosts lately?) harhar. As a Nutritionist I will tell you that there is nothing better for your baby than making her food yourself. Also, they have great ice cube trays with covers that are perfect for baby food storage. My family is from WVA and I grew up in Canton, so I feel ya on Ohio. It’s great.

    Comment by Cat — August 3, 2006 #

  3. No kids yet, but I can tell you that we’ve already discussed that there will be none of those disgusting little jars in this house. About 10 years ago I had jaw surgery (orthodontic in nature) and had to live on pureed food for about 6 weeks. I tried baby food, just for convenience. I thought it was nasty! Really nasty! Too bland, too sugary (even the veggies) and just an all-around icky taste. I ended up making casseroles, or whatever, and tossing it in a blender.

    I can’t imagine, now, ever feeding a child of mine something that I wouldn’t eat, and I can guarantee you I won’t ever eat jarred baby food.

    Comment by Kymster — August 3, 2006 #

  4. LOL! Loved your rant about baby food. I feel the same way. I read about the high-priced boutique baby foods and I’m confused. I, and my three brothers and one sister, were all raised on food from the table that got pureed in Mom’s blender and then frozen or canned in jelly food jars. Hello? It’s because we were poor and my mother was frugal, practical, and talented. Good for you for intending to do the same. It makes more sense. Then your kids are already in sync with your cooking. It simply makes sense.

    Comment by Glenna — August 3, 2006 #

  5. I couldn’t agree with you more about the baby food thing. I guess the people that buy this exoensive fancy prepackaged foofoo baby food can’t cook anything good for themselves, either. >:-(

    Comment by Erin — August 3, 2006 #

  6. I read that baby food article yesterday and had exactly the same thought as you. (I thought of you while reading it, too!) But then I decided most likely the people buying those specialty foods are most likely none too comfortable in the kitchen, and just like getting their oil changed or their toilets cleaned, they leave the baby-food making to the “professionals.”

    I will confess to having fed jarred baby foods to Maggie for six months or so. I was having so much trouble balancing caring for her with getting anything else done — like meal preparation — that I wanted to be sure I always had something for her to eat even when I had nothing for myself and my husband to eat.

    Which is another reason I was thinking of you today. I wonder how the heck you find time to do all the things you do, when I can barely manage to get Maggie dressed and make and drink a cup of tea in the 90 minutes we have together in the mornings before she goes to daycare. I suspect your days have more hours in them than mine. 😉

    My mother is giving Maggie a little cooking set for her second birthday on 8/15. I’m hoping that I can get more done in the kitchen if Maggie and I can “cook” together.

    Comment by Kristi — August 3, 2006 #

  7. I heart the taste of pond water. I dunno, you just crazy as pond water flavor is totally the new tangerine flavor!

    As for the baby food, ya’ gotta give credit. It’s a damn smart marketing idea for companies and personal chefs to yuppie new mothers who don’t know how to cook or work a blender. Makes me wish I thought of it and could sucker people out of their monies.

    Comment by Garrett — August 3, 2006 #

  8. When I was a baby, my mother would make me lots of light broths or feed me blended up versions of whatever she was having. Not so difficult! And nutritionally, much better.

    Comment by Stephanie — August 3, 2006 #

  9. I think it’s funny that Athens was listed as a desirable place to live. My mother came from that area in the late 30’s and she could not wait to get out of there and into the big city. That’s where all the opportunity was – Columbus! Now we are all itching to get back to someplace with a little less action and a little more peace and quiet.

    Comment by Rosie — August 4, 2006 #

  10. Of course it is not difficult (or weird) to make your own baby food. It is also not difficult to bake your own chocolate cake from scratch. Nobody really needs premixed cake kits (you know: “just add eggs and butter and…”). But they sell really well.

    The companies producing regular baby food advertise it as especially healthy and free from any pollutants. A ‘normal’ young mother who is not interested in organic food by herself might think it is healthier for the child to get ready-made baby food. And easier, too, of course. I don’t know what is better: ‘clean’ baby food in a jar or home-made puree from vegetable bought in the next supermarket contaminated with what-ever.

    Unfortunately I cannot read the NY Times article, but from what you cited I think it is just one variation of the new food hype going around these years. Now it’s the babies’ turn.

    Another aspect I just thought of: I know some adult persons who sometimes like to eat baby food from the jar. Maybe they are also an intended target group for this market?

    Comment by Sus — August 4, 2006 #

  11. I’m going to have to get some tomatoes out of my garden and smell them. They just smelled like tomatoes to me the last time I bit into one. Hard to beat that taste.

    Comment by Linda — August 4, 2006 #

  12. Totally agree with you about the baby food.

    I have to say I’m not sure I like this tomato-tasting idea; I always thought that food should be enjoyed rather than made an artsy-fartsy fuss over. The fancy tastings and events around wine, spirits, and cheeses, always make me uncomfortable (is there something these folks know that makes them more upscale and delicate than me?). Of all these things, the only one I enthusiastically enjoy is cheese, but what I like is eating it, rather than expounding about it in sophisticated words… I’m not sure the world needs more of these subcultures. Can’t we just eat delicious ripe tomatoes and be done with it?

    Happy to hear Athens is getting the respect it deserves! You do a great job on this blog telling us of its culinary wonders.

    Comment by Hadar — August 5, 2006 #

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