Mariel Sullivan


Pioneers Of High-Quality Near Beer Are Banking On Non-Drinking Binges

Via Koen Van Weel/AFP/Getty Images


On non-alcoholic beer…

Jeff Stevens decided to give up alcohol when he was 24.

He’s 50 now — and he’s had no regrets about going sober for the sake of his health. Except for one thing: He has really missed good beer.

“If you’re drinking, you have an infinite amount of things you can drink,” Stevens says. Shelves are full of craft IPAs, stouts and bitters. “Whereas only about half the bars I’ve been to have a non-alcoholic beer. And if they do, it’s usually just one choice.”

Usually, it didn’t taste very good, which was especially disappointing for Stevens — a beer buff who did marketing for booze companies. “There’s this craft beer explosion happening all over the U.S., but no one is making non-alcoholic versions,” Stevens says.

Read on at The Salt.

True to Their Roots: The Evolving Landscape of Polish Cuisine


Presented by The New School’s Food Studies Program, this panel discussion is an invitation to get acquainted with Polish cuisine through the prism of history and society. It will take you on a journey across the centuries and flavors that have shaped the exceptional cuisine of a country co-created by many cultures. Polish cuisine is flourishing: chefs, producers, media specialists, and consumers are rediscovering traditional products and dishes, while often interpreting them through the prism of contemporary food trends. The result is an exciting and vibrant food scene which, however, is not well know outside of the borders of Poland. The event will feature traditional Polish bites. Four presenters will be moderated by New School Food Studies professor Fabio Parasecoli, who teaches food history, culture and the arts.

Professor Jarosław Dumanowski, the head of the Culinary Heritage Centre at Nicolaus Copernicus University in Toruń and a member of the research council of the European Institute of the History and Culture of Food (IEHCA) in Tours – is a specialist in early modern history and antique culinary texts who often collaborates with local producers, chefs, marketing specialists, and others. His presentation: A TASTE OF THE PAST. THE USE OF CULINARY HISTORY IN POLAND will focus on the historical roots of modern Polish cuisine and how it uses history as inspiration, documentation, and promotion. Prof. Dumanowski will also discuss the notion of “terroir” and “nature” as representing Mediterranean and Nordic approaches to cuisine, and the use of history for formal registration of traditional foods in the European Union. Monika Kucia, Curator, Food Writer & Designer based in Warsaw. Her presentation CULINARY PERFORMANCES AROUND THE TABLE will describe a variety of culinary events she’s been organizing. These events are labyrinths of tastes, smells and sensations. She invites people to go through an experience that involves eating, singing, smelling and touching. They bring people together in good spirit, hope and peace.

Dr. Annie Hauck, co-editor of Gastropolis: Food and New York City (Columbia University Press) and the author of My Little Town: A Brooklyn Girl’s Food Voice. Her doctoral dissertation emerged from an ethnographic study on the roles and meanings of food among members of Polish-American families in New York City. She educates on everyday urban green living with Brooklyn Mompost ( and at Poly Prep Country Day School.’Transplanted; Still Firmly Rooted: 20th Century Polish Food Voices and Ways in Brooklyn, N.Y.’ Her presentation, TRANSPLANTED; STILL FIRMLY ROOTED: 20TH CENTURY POLISH FOOD VOICES AND WAYS IN BROOKLYN, N.Y explores foodways that Polish immigrants brought, adapted and practiced in urban Brooklyn in the 20th century.

Elizabeth Koszarski-Skrabonja is an artist, curator and art historian. Her connection to Polish spirits reaches back to her late father, Casimir J. Koszarski. As the first Manager of the Polish Liquor Department in 1936 for the International distributor, Austin Nichols, (located on Kent Street in Brooklyn), it was his responsibility and challenge to introduce an American public emerging from the constraints of prohibition to Polish vodkas. Her presentation THE VODKA CONTRACT discovers the hidden history of Williamsburg’s waterfront through a tale of entrepreneurship, romance, and war. Ms. Koszarski-Skrabonja shares the dramatic story of how her father’s passion for vodka changed his life—and how he brought a taste of home to New York’s Polish community in the form of three remarkable spirits:Zubrówka (bison grass vodka), Wisniówka (cherry vodka), and Wyborowa (pure rye vodka).

Food Access Advocates Walk The Long Walk … To The Nearest Grocery Store

Via Brian Oh/Courtesy of DC Greens










On food deserts…

Two miles isn’t too far to march for a worthy cause, as people are prone to do in the nation’s capital. But it is a long way to walk for groceries.

That’s the impression organizers of a recent Grocery Walk in Washington, D.C.’s Anacostia neighborhood wanted to invoke when they gathered nearly 500 people to walk that far — wielding carrots and “food justice” signs — in the latest effort to address the intractable problem of food deserts. More than half of the participants were residents who live in or near the District’s Ward 8, where a Giant Foods store is the only full-service grocer serving 70,000 residents, leaving fresh, affordable foods out of reach for many.

Nearly 40 million Americans live in communities with these so-called grocery gaps, where it is easier for people to buy grape soda than a handful of grapes, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Read on at The Salt.




Moonshine Makes A Comeback in Virginia. And This Time, It’s Legal

Via Buyenlarge/Getty Images


On the return of moonshine…

In 1620, the Rev. George Thorpe sent a letter from a plantation near Jamestown, Va., to England describing a “good drinke of Indian corne” that he and his fellow colonists had made. Historians have speculated that Thorpe was talking about unaged corn whiskey, and that his distillation efforts on the banks of Virginia’s James River might have produced America’s first whiskey. Nearly 400 years later, Belle Isle Moonshine, just 30 miles away, up the river in Richmond, is again producing unaged corn whiskey — what it calls moonshine.

Across the nation, moonshine is booming. Sales have increased by 1,000 percent nationwide between 2010 and 2014, according to the market research firm Technomic. Some places, like Gatlinburg, Tenn., even use moonshine as a tourist draw. But the revival has been especially strong in Virginia, where many of the twists, turns and car chases that are a part of moonshine lore took place.

Read on at The Salt.

A Wayward Weedkiller Divides Farm Communities, Harms Wildlife

Via Dan Charles/NPR


On the damage wrought by dicamba…

There is one small field on Michael Sullivan’s farm, near the town of Burdette, Ark., that he wishes he could hide from public view.

The field is a disaster. There are soybeans in there, but you could easily overlook them. The field has been overrun by monsters: ferocious-looking plants called pigweeds, as tall as people and bursting with seeds that will come back to haunt any crops that Sullivan tries to grow here for years to come.

“I’m embarrassed to say that we farm that field,” Sullivan says. “We sprayed it numerous times, and it didn’t kill it.”

Read on at The Salt.

Their Coffee Is World-Renowned. Now More Guatemalans Are Actually Drinking It

Via Anna-Catherine Brigida


On the rise of independent coffee shops in Guatemala…

The El Injerto coffee shop, with its silver stools, brick-and-chalkboard walls and The Weeknd’s “I Feel It Coming” playing softly in the background, resembles many cafes in Brooklyn or Los Angeles. But it is in Guatemala City, where paying $5 for a cup of coffee has not always been so common.

Coffee has been one of Guatemala’s most important export crops since at least the early 1800s. Only in the past few years have Guatemalans started to consume their own world-renowned product on a larger scale.

“The growth has been exponential in the last five to eight years,” says Evelio Francisco Alvarado, general manager of Guatemala’s National Coffee Association, known by its Spanish acronym, Anacafe. “This growth has stemmed from the increase in coffee shops not only in the capital, but also in other parts of the country.”

Read on at The Salt.

Donuts And Apple Cider: An Autumn Marriage Made By Autos And Automation

Via D. Sharon Pruitt Pink Sherbet/Getty Images


On donuts and cider…

When baker Julie Richardson was growing up in Vermont, Autumn Saturdays had a particular rhythm. First, soccer practice. And then, to the apple orchard for some cider and donuts.

“I would sit there and watch that machine — watch the doughnuts plop into the hot oil, go down the conveyor belt and plop out the other end,” she says.

For many New Englanders — and for people across the country who grew up near apple orchards — it’s just not Fall without cider and donuts. It’s a combination that makes culinary sense: When cider is used to make the dough, Richardson notes, the acidity helps yield a tender crumb. And a cold, crisp glass of cider helps wash down the deliciously oily donuts, hot from the fryer — the autumnal version of milk and cookies.

Read on at The Salt.

The Notorious Seafood Mogul Known as the “Codfather” Just Got Nearly 4 Years in Prison

Via John Sladewski/AP


An update on the Codfather…

Criminals don’t come more colorful than Carlos Rafael, once the most powerful fisherman in the nation’s most valuable seafood port. Rafael, who was the subject of a FERN story published earlier this year with Mother Jones, was known widely as the Codfather. He conquered the fishing industry in New Bedford, Mass., through a combination of guile and rule-bending; he famously described himself as a pirate, and told regulators it was their job to catch him. On Monday, the law finally caught up to the Codfather: A federal judge sentenced Rafael to 46 months in prison for masterminding one of the biggest fisheries frauds in American history.

Read on at Mother Jones.

One Man’s Quest To Feed A Hungry, Isolated California County

Via Lisa Morehouse


On food deserts…

Across the United States, more than one out of every 10 people is “food insecure,” which means they don’t know where their next meal is coming from. In Trinity County, a sparsely populated area in northwestern California, that number is closer to one in five.

Jeff England, director of the Trinity County Food Bank, is trying to change that.

The sun has barely come up in the tiny town of Douglas City, Calif. England and two other men are almost done packing a couple of trucks with food.

“We’re loaded to the gills,” he says, pointing to produce like cabbage, white onions and sweet potatoes, along with packaged and canned foods.

Read on at The Salt.

Visiting Scholar Massimo Bottura Promotes Social Justice with Food


By Fabio Parasecoli, Associate Professor and the Coordinator of Food Studies

As food becomes more visible and central in contemporary culture, media, and politics, chefs are increasingly expected to participate in current debates on important issues ranging from health to justice and the environment. In particular, those who enjoy global visibility and celebrity appeal at times may assume a leading role in introducing changes in the way we produce, consume, and even think about food. While some culinary stars are not especially comfortable in such position, which comes with high expectations, others have embraced it fully. While they work in their restaurants, they also write, speak, and launch initiatives that are meant to make people think and, hopefully, modify their behaviors. That’s the case with the Italian chef Massimo Bottura.

Massimo opened Osteria Francescana in 1995 in his hometown of Modena, Italy. Over the past decade, he has become the leader of the contemporary Italian kitchen. In June 2016, Osteria Francescana was awarded the No. 1 position on The World’s 50 Best Restaurants list. Bottura is trying to introduce not only novelties in terms of materials, methods, and dishes, but also new concepts and guiding principles that are meant to foster long-lasting paradigm shifts in various aspects of the food system, moving it toward social justice, food security, and environmental sustainability.

During the 2015 Milan Expo, which focused on food and nutrition, Bottura focused on using the produce and ingredients from the mega-event that would go to waste to create a new model of providing nourishment to the needy. The result was the Refettorio Ambrosiano, an abandoned theater next to a church in a working-class neighborhood in Milan. In this space, Bottura invited some of the most famous chefs from around the world to get creative and find ways to provide tasty food by taking advantage of what would be otherwise thrown away. Immigrants from other countries, refugees, as well as Italians, some of them homeless, are invited to enjoy a welcoming atmosphere where their needs are met with dignity and respect. In the Refettorio famous chefs (mostly unknown to the guests) prepare delicious dishes, while volunteers serve food to the guests like in a restaurant, avoiding some of the dynamics of soup kitchens and the social stigma that comes with it. By launching Refettorio, Bottura underlined the problem of food waste and the contributions chefs can provide by collaborating with food security experts, designers, and architects, so that nutritious and flavorful meals are made available to the needy while creating a sense of community and participation.



The experience was so positive that Bottura launched a Refettorio in Rio de Janeiro during the 2016 Olympics, making use of the food that was bought for the athletes and never used, and later one in London. To manage and coordinate such initiatives, together with his wife Lara Gilmore, Massimo Bottura founded Food for Soul, a non-profit organization that aims to empower communities to fight food waste through social inclusion. Its goal is to encourage public, private and non-profit organizations to create and sustain community kitchens around the world. Each project aims to bring a sense of dignity back to the table by promoting the values of art and beauty, encouraging solidarity within local communities and recovering food, places and people.

When we, as a Food Studies program, started collaborating with the Institute of Culinary Education to organize the conference Zero Waste Food, which took place on April 28 and 29, 2017, we immediately decided to reach out to Massimo as a possible keynote speaker – an invitation which he accepted. At the same time, we organized the first US screening of the film Theater of Life, by Peter Svatek, which later became available on Netflix. In Theater of Life, food is not only a pleasure to covet, but also sustenance and consolation. As awesome as they may be, the featured chefs are not the only stars; the less glamorous aspects of food, its distribution, and its preparation take center stage together with the guests. Food’s power to bring people together and provide some comfort, as temporary and not devoid of contradictions as it may be, is highlighted.

Thanks to a grant from the Tishman Environment and Design Center, we were able to hire a graduate student, Cecilia Depman, to collaborate on a research project aiming at evaluating the opportunities to open a Refettorio in NYC. Led by Food for Soul leaders Massimo Bottura, Lara Gilmore, and Cristina Reni, the exploration focused on building a coalition of stakeholders interested in community empowerment through food. The participants researched the emergency food environment in the Bronx by visiting soup kitchens and understanding successful models for service.



Many organizations and passionate individuals are committed to improving the health and nutrition of Bronx residents through improved access to food.  In New York, food insecurity is a problem increasingly being solved through repurposed food waste. Organizations such as City Harvest have established networks that redirect unused food to emergency food providers such as soup kitchens and food pantries around the city.

Food for Soul is interested in finding untapped potential in community spaces and otherwise wasted food to feed communities. A restaurant style soup kitchen model has a unique capacity not only to unite individuals around a communal table, but to establish an inclusive space for community and culture to flourish. The research that took place in the Bronx last semester helped to plant the seeds for a project such as this; one which would build upon the existing landscape of healthy food initiatives, and reimagine the role of unused food and space in the health, spirit, and well-being of a community.

Special thanks to the Tishman Environment and Design Center.