Just what makes the Mediterranean diet so healthy has been a matter of debate for years. The diet is recognized for significantly reducing the risk for stroke and heart disease, certain cancers, and dementias such as Alzheimer’s disease. Although not a uniform diet, it typically features an abundance of grains, fruits, and vegetables, and also fish and moderate amounts of wine. And don’t forget olive oil, an ingredient often overlooked when the diet is translated in butter-loving American kitchens. In true Mediterranean diets, olive oil is the main fat, and there is lots of it. “Olive oil is the central pillar of the diet, a major source of calories in what is overall a low calorie diet,” says Paul Breslin, sensory scientist at the Monell Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia.

Breslin and his colleague Gary Beauchamp, are involved in work that just might end the healthy diet debate. Their work… More…

I have been known to eat foods that others snub. As a student, I lived off back-of-the-store, reduced-price vegetables and fruits. Day-or-more-old muffins and danish were a treat. My best company dish was a cheap and tasty enchilada casserole that I made with chicken necks and backs. So it was only natural I should one day undertake a real gastronomic adventure. I should try to eat a pet, a nice small one. A guinea pig would do, and the place to accomplish that was Peru where cuy, as guinea pig is known, was said to be a staple of the traditional diet.

Of course, I didn’t travel to Peru just to challenge the frontiers of dining. It had long been my dream to explore the cloud-crested ruins of Machu Picchu and to glide upon Lake Titicaca in a reed boat. I wanted to brush up on my Spanish. I wanted… More…

Michael Pollan’s bestseller, The Omnivore’s Dilemma, has gotten people all riled up about farmers again. The last time this happened was when the first Farm Aid concerts reminded America that we have strong feelings about the family farm and its economic viability. The new round of farmer feelings is more directly related to issues of trade and the impact of globalization. As Pollan writes:

“I’m thinking of the sense of security that comes from knowing your community, or country, can feed itself; the beauty of an agricultural landscape; the outlook and kinds of local knowledge the presence of farmers brings to a community; the satisfactions of buying food from a farmer you know rather than the supermarket; the locally inflected flavor of a raw-milk cheese or honey. All those things—all those pastoral values—free trade proposes to sacrifice in the name of efficiency and economic growth.”

My general feeling about farmers… More…

*Click to read photographic historian John Wood’s essay on Modica’s work.

Andrea Modica and the Apples of History

By John Wood

  Does any fruit hold a greater grip on our imaginations than the apple? To the Greeks it was the fruit of the Tree of Life that grew in the Garden of the Hesperides; in Norse mythology the fruit of Iduna’s tree that kept the gods forever young; and in the Judeo-Christian Eden, according to both John Milton and tradition, the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge — the knowledge of Evil, as well as that of Good. These are all potent endowments for the modest apple. And yet, even though it is one of the sweetest of fruits and actually a member of the rose family, it has, at least in myth, more often than not carried with it… More…