Elevating the Food Program

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This week, I have been assisting Amie with a kitchen renovation plan. This feeds into one of the 2017 goals of Chan Chich- to elevate the food and beverage program by taking inspiration from traditional Caribbean, Belizean and Mayan foodways, creating a cuisine that we’re fondly calling Mayan Soul Food. The improved agricultural practices and updated kitchen are important building blocks to achieve these goals. Emily is mainly working on the agricultural side, communicating with colleagues at Gallon Jug farm to better align their supply with the Lodge’s demand.

Between dining hours, I have been asking Chef Ram the minutest details about refrigerators and convection ovens and walking the kitchen to measure every wall and shelf. Currently, I am creating a 2D diagram of the proposed kitchen in SketchUp, a modeling software used for drafting construction and architectural drawings, that will help Chan Chich Lodge form a stronger argument for a kitchen renovation and to create a visual to reference throughout the process.  Continue reading

A Food Writer & The Shock Of The New

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Food has recently returned to the center of our attention, and in the outback of Belize we have had some lovely surprises. An unexpected essay, from one of the food world’s most prominent writers, gives another view altogether from the USA:

The New Foodieism

To care about food now is to care about the future of this country.

By Mark Bittman

Like many of us, I spent the winter muddling through a mental miasma, pondering the meaning of life and democracy. I did, of course, think about “food” — how it’s produced, marketed, discussed, consumed, and so on — during my self-imposed hiatus from near-constant writing, which began more than 18 months ago. Continue reading

Food Sleuthing

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The remnant of an old apple orchard among wheat fields in Steptoe Butte State Park in Washington. Credit Ruth Fremson/The New York Times

Yesterday magic happened. After sharing in the morning a quick mention of why my thoughts are on agriculture, I was walking with a member of Chan Chich Lodge’s groundskeeping team to review some work he had completed. On the way, we encountered a tree showering small fruits onto the ground. Fragrant. I asked him what it was and he said a word I did not recognize that sounded like “yo”.

About the size of a blueberry but not a berry, nor resembling anything I could identify. Until I opened it and its inside looked exactly like that of my favorite fruit. And then I realized my colleague had said higo, the Spanish word for fig. He then told me that in his village the old Mayans use this to make a flour, something they have done since olden times. He paused a moment, a bit of reverie I could tell, and then he continued about how the tortilla made from this is the best. It’s got me thinking. Thanks to Kirk Johnson for this second unexpected pleasure of a story:

Hunting Down the Lost Apples of the Pacific Northwest

STEPTOE, Wash. — David Benscoter honed his craft as an investigator for the F.B.I. and the United States Treasury, cornering corrupt politicians and tax evaders. The lost apple trees that he hunts down now are really not so different. People and things, he said, tend to hide in plain sight if you know how and where to look. Continue reading

Crop Type & Pesticides

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Image: Pixabay

Thanks to Emma Bryce for A more nuanced approach to reducing insecticides on our food, shared via Anthropocene:

Food, Labels & Useful Information

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Photo: Robert Nickelsberg/Getty Images

We link to the occasional food trend article when it matches something we are working on, whether it is the Chan Chich Lodge culinary program or the food production at Gallon Jug Farm. This article, Whole Foods Would Look a Lot Different If It Were Science-Based, almost lost me with the first sentence, an annoying cliche within a sappy first couple paragraphs, but there is a useful case made starting soon after. We are dealing with these very questions so I can suggest the majority of the article starting after the jump:

Whole Foods used to be my idea of grocery heaven. Once upon a time, I shopped at the California Street location in San Francisco — it was light and airy with produce for miles. I knew the cheesemonger. I had philosophical conversations with the butcher. I stared longingly at the Le Creuset bakeware. The soap aisle smelled like lavender. Heaven.

But eventually, I fell out of love. Or, to be more specific, I changed my mind about organic food after reading the research: It turns out organic isn’t more nutritious or even necessarily better for the planet. So I pretty much stopped shopping at Whole Foods altogether. Continue reading

Agripreneurship On The Rise

This exciting project came to our attention a little over a year ago, and we’re excited to see that it’s going full steam ahead!

This is an Embark Fellowship campaign. If we raise our target, Brown University will donate $25,000 to our project!

What’s up with fish?

The world’s population is growing rapidly, and the global demand for animal protein—from fish to poultry, beef, and pork— is growing with it. But there’s a problem: animal feeds are made from wild-caught fish like anchovies and sardines. These fish are caught using highly destructive fishing methods that result in unintentional by-catch and the destruction of coral reefs. One third of global fish catch doesn’t go towards direct human consumption; it goes to feeding animals. As a result, more than 85% of the world’s fisheries are exploited. We are feeding fish to other animals, and it doesn’t make sense.

Meanwhile, the world’s population is increasing rapidly and is projected to hit 9.7 billion by 2050. We desperately need a new way to feed a growing population that is not at odds with the health of our oceans.

Meet the black soldier fly.

Continue reading

Community, Collaboration & Conservation in Mozambique

Thanks to contributor Phil Karp for sharing this great example of how peer-peer knowledge exchange can help to replicate and scale up innovative solutions.

For communities, by communities

Experience from around the world shows that managing fisheries and marine resources works best when responsibility is placed in the hands of local communities. This is particularly true in low-income countries, where there is often limited capacity and infrastructure for fisheries management and conservation.

Locally Managed Marine Areas (LMMAs) are areas of ocean managed by coastal communities to help protect fisheries and safeguard marine biodiversity. Found throughout the world’s tropical and subtropical seas, and encompassing diverse approaches to management and governance, their sizes and contexts vary widely, but all share the common theme of placing local communities at the heart of management.

Continue reading

One Possible Future of Fish

Open-ocean aquaculture could reduce environmental concerns associated with aquaculture in coastal waters. Photo courtesy of NOAA Fisheries.

We’re always looking for well-balanced discussions on innovative but occasionally controversial forms of food production.  Open ocean aquaculture is an example, and we appreciate the Food & Environment Reporting Network for offering just that, suggesting that many of the environmental concerns with aquaculture are mitigated by using deep water locations.

President of the New Orleans–based Gulf Seafood Institute, Harlon Pearce knows better than anyone that wild fisheries alone can’t supply U.S. consumers’ growing demand for fish. Which is why he’s doing his best to bring everyone to the table to achieve one goal: farming the Gulf of Mexico. Continue reading

Foraging Classes

HornFarmCenterLogoStacked-72-540x540WhiteBGA mushroom dropped in on my life, in an unexpected manner, and now I find myself wandering to unexpected places, such as rural Pennsylvania. I am sharing here mainly as a record of how I have come across the resources that inform how we approach bringing foraging to Chan Chich Lodge.

So, bravo and thanks to our friends at the Horn Farm Center for Agricultural Education, which is my latest find in these wanderings. I particularly like their clearly laid out information on the educational resources they offer, most notably this section on foraging classes: Continue reading

Gaps, Meaning & More

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Kyle DeNuccio, right, on Lake Batur in Bali, a gap year stop. CreditKyle DeNuccio

I am currently interviewing candidates to join us for summer internships, and possible university gap year projects at Chan Chich Lodge. Most importantly the projects will focus on various food-related initiatives, some longstanding goals and others more in the spirit of random variation. We have had plenty of awesome interns, as well as wondrous wanderers and sometimes sabbaticalists join us here and there for more than two decades, and we feel qualified to claim that this fellow (who reminds me a bit of this fellow) speaks truth:

Independence Days: My Perfect Imperfect Gap Year

By

Midway through a lackluster freshman year at the University of San Diego, I called my parents and told them I planned to leave school after the spring semester. Continue reading

Possibly Impossible

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The Impossible Burger. Photo via Forbes.

Impossible? We have liked what we have seen, more than once. But we remain open-minded in both directions. Thanks to Dana Perls, senior food and technology campaigner, for the article Is “Food-Tech” the Future of Food? posted on Medium, that raises the right kinds of questions:

…On the surface, the Impossible Burger’s goal to reduce meat consumption sounds important. There are urgent problems with animal factory farming. But at a time when consumers are pushing for more sustainably produced real food, are these biotech products the right answer? Continue reading

Super Food, If Not Superfood

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The Good Sort. Photo: Bobby Doherty/New York Magazine

Our preferred blank canvas, at least in the morning, has been oats when we have developed new restaurants recently. And we have tended to look at superfoods when we do our scouting and conceptualization for new menu ideas, and that is about food that (we try to ensure) provides health for both humans and the planet.  We have not put congee on any menus, nor has it even been on our radar, but perhaps it should be:

Congee Is the Original Grain Bowl

By Robin Raisfeld and Rob Patronite

Congee, also known as jook, or rice gruel, has long been the breakfast of billions in China — filling, cheap, energizing, and easily digestible, fit for infants and nonagenarians alike. Some swear by it as a post-exercise pick-me-up; others as a superb hangover cure. Its soothing properties are considered so powerful that congee is even served at funerals. Continue reading

Preparing Enough Food For 2050

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Thanks to Anthropocene for this summary of news explaining why We don’t really need to double food production by 2050, provided by Emma Bryce:

It sounds daunting: by 2050 we’ll have to double our food production in order to satisfy the appetite of the planet’s rapidly expanding population. This statistic has become so deeply-ingrained, in fact, that it’s being used to shape future agricultural policy. But a group of researchers, publishing in the journal BioScience, have challenged that influential estimate, arguing that it’s due for a significant upgrade to bring it in line with recent data. Continue reading

Eat Your Vegetables, If You Can Find Them

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Vegetables were rationed at supermarkets in the U.K. due to poor weather conditions in Europe. Here, lettuce, broccoli and zucchini were rationed at a Tesco store in London. Victoria Jones/PA Images via Getty Images

Thanks to National Public Radio (USA) and the folks at the salt for this story about the implications of vegetable shortages in the UK:

It started in late January. At my local grocery store in South London, salad seemed to be just a few pence pricier than usual. But I didn’t think much of it.

Later that week, the same market had conspicuously run out of zucchini. I’m not particularly fond of it, but I lamented for the carb-conscious yuppies who depended — and subsisted — on spiralized zucchini spaghetti. How would they cope? Continue reading

You Had Us At Sweet Potato

logoWe have only recently discovered this resource but I expect you will start seeing a flow of interesting stories. sourced from Harvest Public Media, that touch on topics of interest to us here. For example, the mere mention of sweet potatoes was enough to get us interested:

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According to the USDA, sweet potato consumption in the U.S. nearly doubled in just 15 years, from about 4 pounds per person in 2000. (U.S. Department of Agriculture/Flickr)

Sweet potatoes are undergoing a modern renaissance in this country.

While they have always made special appearances on many American tables around the holidays, year-round demand for the root vegetables has grown. In 2015, farmers produced more sweet potatoes than in any year since World War II. Continue reading

Broccoli & Other Suprises

JASHScover.jpgToday I finally listened to an episode of the Surprisingly Awesome podcast, a series we have linked to more than once, that had exactly the intended effect. I now care deeply about a vegetable that I did not care deeply about before.

The image to the left is from the publications page of Cornell Professor Thomas Björkman, who is featured in the podcast. He is the perfect straight man explainer to complement the podcast’s creatively curious hosts.

As we move our farm to table program forward at Chan Chich Lodge, this is a podcast I am sharing with Chef Ram, and you might enjoy it too so click the soundcloud banner below:

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Food, Its Contents & Its Discontents

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Alex Reynolds/NPR

We appreciate that an immigrant restaurant owner has the courage to state the unpopular but important facts underpinning one of the popular memes of our time (thanks as always to the salt over at National Public Radio in the USA):

Cheap Eats, Cheap Labor: The Hidden Human Costs Of Those Lists

by Diep Tran

Everyone loves a cheap eats list. A treasure map to $1 tacos! $4 banh mi! $6 pad Thai! More often than not, the Xs that mark the cheap spots are in the city’s immigrant enclaves. Indeed, food media is never so diverse as when it runs these lists, its pages fill with names of restaurateurs and chefs of color.

These lists infuriate me.

Continue reading

Ancient Grain, Great Again

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It is not quite as ancient as geological time, but rye grain goes way back. And deserves as comeback, we think, almost regardless of all the nifty innovations that will determine the future of grain-growing. While we are busy with greatness-making, our thought is at this moment, let’s not forget the grains that got us here:

Rye, a Grain With Ancient Roots, Is Rising Again

By Julia Moskin

Any adventurous eater who has wandered into the woods of modern Nordic cuisine has probably tripped over a loaf of rye bread. There is wonderfully chewy rugbrod at Great Northern Food Hall in Grand Central Terminal, spice-scented Swedish limpa at Plaj in San Francisco, and darkly rugged toast at Bachelor Farmer in Minneapolis. Continue reading

Patagonia, Geological Time & Food History

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Two fossils of a newly discovered species of tomatillo that are 52 million years old. CreditPeter Wilf

They had us at Tomatillo. But mention fossils, geological timeframe, discovery and Patagonia all in the same headline and there we go:

Tomatillo Fossils, 52 Million Years Old, Are Discovered in Patagonia

By Nicholas St. Fleur

The nightshades have an ominous reputation, but this large plant family is more than just its most poisonous members, like belladonna. It contains more than 2,400 different species, including some of the most widely consumed fruits and vegetables in the world, such as potatoes, tomatoes and peppers. Continue reading

Boosting Crop Yields Without GMO

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Yann Coeuru/Flickr.com

Thanks to Anthropocene for this summary on agricultural technology possibly breaking through the GMO debate in the near future:

A non-GMO approach to producing bigger, better wheat

by Catherine Elton

Researchers have developed a new technology that not only increases the yield of wheat plants, but also makes them more resilient to drought. What makes this technology so interesting is that—if  successful in field trials—it might provide an alternative to genetic modification approaches to boosting wheat yields. Continue reading