Food, Russia and Eastern Europe

Russia’s Agricultural Warfare

Saudi Arabia is pissed off at Russia. It’s not as if the Gulf state has released any angry statements to the press. Rather, Riyadh has made clear its displeasure in an indirect way. It has offered to host a “peace summit” next week that Ukraine will organize. Brazil, India, South Africa, and China are among… Continue reading Russia’s Agricultural Warfare


The Black Death Undermined Feudalism. What Does COVID-19 Mean for Capitalism?

You pay little attention to the systems of your body — circulatory, digestive, pulmonary — unless something goes wrong. These automatic systems ordinarily go about their business, like unseen clockwork, while you think about a vexing problem at work, drink your morning cup of coffee, walk up and down stairs, and head out to your… Continue reading The Black Death Undermined Feudalism. What Does COVID-19 Mean for Capitalism?

Food, US Foreign Policy

The Hunger President

One death is a tragedy; a million deaths is a statistic. The quote comes from Stalin. The policy comes from Donald Trump. Trump famously changed his policy on Syria after seeing photographs of a couple Syrian children killed by a chemical attack. It didn’t matter that the Syrian government had already killed thousands of children.… Continue reading The Hunger President


Menu for a Hot Planet

In many ways the human race hit the skids when we stopped throwing spears and gathering berries. Once we started planting seeds and harvesting the produce, we grew shorter, fatter, sicker, and considerably more overworked. An alien visiting from another planet during that critical transition period to a more settled existence might easily have thought… Continue reading Menu for a Hot Planet

Blog, Eastern Europe, Food, Uncategorized

Going Organic

Ten years ago I visited Slovenia to do a report on organic farming for the Bay Area-based organization Food First. I was drawn to the former Yugoslav republic because it had recently joined with several neighboring Italian and Austrian provinces to create the world’s first organic bioregion – the Alpe-Adria. Organic farming made a lot… Continue reading Going Organic

Blog, Eastern Europe, Europe, Food, Russia and Eastern Europe, Uncategorized

Eating History

The GDR Museum in Berlin is actually two museums in one. And these two parts, both devoted to everyday life in the German Democratic Republic, subtly contradict one another. That might not have been the intention of the museum founders. But this tension actually captures the ambiguities of East Germany and the ambivalence that many… Continue reading Eating History

Food, Korea

Choco Pies vs. Cold Noodles

In the blockbuster 2000 film JSA, two South Korean soldiers accidentally find themselves on the North Korean side of the Joint Security Area, at the border between the two countries. They meet their North Korean counterparts. But instead of fighting, the four soldiers become friends and arrange several midnight get-togethers. At the height of their… Continue reading Choco Pies vs. Cold Noodles


Postcard from Rome

Within walking distance of downtown Rome there is a sheep farm that dates back to the Middle Ages. The Casale della Vacchereccia, leased from the Vatican, is nestled in a park that has preserved the kind of farmland that once surrounded Rome on all sides. The humble Vacchereccia still produces ricotta cheese from the milk… Continue reading Postcard from Rome


Whale of a Meal

The all-you-can-eat lunch buffet at the hotel in Pusan had only a couple dozen pieces of the long strips of dark red sushi. I managed to snag one piece before it ran out. My first experience of whale meat was not chewy at all. It tasted like an especially rich piece of raw tuna. Whale… Continue reading Whale of a Meal


Global Tastes

Courtiers once collected special tastes for the infamous banquets of the Roman emperors “in every corner of the Empire from the Parthian frontier to the Straits of Gibraltar.”[1] The Chinese emperors, too, demanded a succession of unusual and exotic treats from the far-flung lands opened up by the Silk Road. Today, this tradition still lives… Continue reading Global Tastes


Eat Local, Think Global

Advocates of eating locally grown food argue that you can save the world by buying tomatoes from a local garden, cage-free eggs from a nearby farm, and locally baked bread.  The eat-local movement has been very popular in Europe for some time. Locavores – as these eaters are also called – are gaining strength in… Continue reading Eat Local, Think Global


The Challenge Facing Local Food

On Oct. 3, with the fall semester in full swing, the dining hall at Georgetown Law School was packed with students slumped over bookbags and laptops. Squeezed among their plates and papers were tabletop displays announcing that the day’s meal was part of an “Eat Local Challenge” that required the school’s chef to create a… Continue reading The Challenge Facing Local Food


The Evolution of Frankenfoods

Avoid “dead water,” the website advises, or else risk cardiovascular disease. According to Nanotechnology Limited, dead water is distilled or purified water that lacks minerals the body needs. The Chinese company claims that its product “nano water,” currently available in Hong Kong supermarkets, is not only pure but has enhanced properties that fight inflammation, cancer… Continue reading The Evolution of Frankenfoods


The Soul of the New Fast Food

I’ve just ordered the Mixed Message salad at McDonald’s. That’s the Caesar salad of mostly iceberg lettuce, a couple grape tomatoes, a sprinkle of shredded parmesan, croutons, and a generous slab of fried chicken strips. The salad part is not bad for me, particularly since I opt for the low fat vinaigrette, courtesy of Paul… Continue reading The Soul of the New Fast Food


Chemical Farm

Imagine having to go to a doctor for a prescription to buy the ingredients for dinner. It’s not such a farfetched scenario. From testosterone and tetracycline to zeranol and genetically engineered bovine growth hormone, enough chemicals circulate in our animal products to stock a medicine cabinet. Because our meat and dairy are still over the… Continue reading Chemical Farm

Food, Korea

The Legacy of Lee Kyung Hae

The South Korean farmer snaps a cucumber in two to show me the drops of moisture that bead to the surface around the break. “If you put it back together and wait a minute, then it will stick together,” Yang Yoon Seok says. Sure enough, he easily rejoins the severed halves and the cucumber is… Continue reading The Legacy of Lee Kyung Hae


Fat and Foreign Policy

Americans are fat. Visitors to the United States are often astonished by the serving sizes at restaurants and the waist sizes of clothing in department stores. One-third of the U.S. population is obese, two-thirds are overweight, and the Journal of International Obesity warns of an ?epidemic.?SPAN style=”mso-spacerun: yes “>   This isn?t just a problem… Continue reading Fat and Foreign Policy


Super-Size Me, Tokyo Style

It looked like they were giving away food. The crowd was practically euphoric at the recent opening of Costco’s third Tokyo-area store along the bay in Yokohama. The aisles were filled with shoppers who marveled at the almost cartoonish quantities of produce and formed polite lines in front of the more popular food samples. Customers… Continue reading Super-Size Me, Tokyo Style


Fat Chance

  It’s all about you.  Your mid-afternoon candy bars.  Your wallowing in all-you-can-eat Chinese buffets like a pig in mud.  Your inability to just say no to that supersized French Fries, that Massive Gulp of soda, that waste paper basket full of popcorn at the gigaplex.   The personal responsibility movement, which has brought us… Continue reading Fat Chance

Europe, Food

Grapes, Not Golf

Grapes, not Golf   Boris Fras is the Jose Bove of Slovenia. He hasn’t attacked any McDonalds with sledgehammers. Nor has he made it into the headlines for destroying genetically modified crops. But in his vineyards and among his olive trees along the Adriatic Coast, Boris Fras is waging the same battle as his farming… Continue reading Grapes, Not Golf