Menu trends to watch in 2017

While the National Restaurant Association’s highlights what’s trending on restaurant menus, additional analysis of survey results and respondents’ answers to open-ended questions reveal a few more food ideas to keep an eye on in the next year:

  • Local farm-to-table as the new normal?

Local sourcing and farm-to-table concepts have been long-standing elements in culinary circles and restaurant hot spots, but the mainstream dining public has only caught on in recent years. While farm-to-table concepts and locally sourced food still rank as top trends, they are moving toward perennial favorite territory, indicating that they may be on their way to becoming the new normal.

  • Next generation of global flavors

Chef and restaurateurs continue to delve deeper into global flavors, both in terms of authentic ethnic cuisine, as well as fusions and flavor integration. Southeast Asian cuisines are still a big part of this trend – especially lesser known ones, such as Laotian and Filipino – but African and Middle-Eastern spices are coming on especially strong.

  • Street-food getting fancy

While it may sound like a contradiction, street food is increasingly turning up on tableservice menus. Staples of market vendors, food trucks and quickservice establishments around the world are getting a style-upgrade to fit chef-driven menus. From tacos and pupusas to bao and kebobs are now served on white tablecloths.

  • Food transparency

Fresh, natural and simple are the culinary words of the day. As consumers are taking a greater interest in ingredient lists of packaged food – the shorter the better, the more pronounceable the better – chefs and restaurateurs also look for minimally processed ingredients for their menus.

  • Fun with grains

Quinoa is ubiquitous these days, but it’s starting to cool off as a hot trend. Its cousins in the ancient grain family are picking up that heat, though. Amaranth, spelt, farro and sorghum may be coming soon to a grain bowl near you.

  • Vegetarian and vegan cuisines cool down

After a few years on the rise among hot menu trends fueled by an increased focus on health and nutrition, vegan and vegetarian cuisines are becoming less trendy. They are not going anywhere, though, as they are gaining momentum as permanent features on restaurant menus. Simultaneously, veggie-centric cuisine continues to heat up, indicating that plant-focused diets are increasingly embraced by both chefs and consumers.

  • Underused meats are on the outs

Meat cuts like chicken feet, pig ears, tongue and oxtail had their moment in the sun as far as being trendy, but the skies are now partly cloudy. And speaking of underused proteins, insects continue to hold the number-one spot on the yesterday’s news list in the What’s Hot in 2017 report.

Hervé This and the Future of Food

With his latest culinary innovation, France’s favorite gastronomic mad scientist hopes to do nothing less than eradicate world hunger.

( HERV THIS CARRIES what he believes is the solution to one of the worlds greatest problems in a jumble of vials stuffed into a battered leather valise. From his lab in Paris, where he is considered a national treasure (he co-created molecular gastronomy in 1988 and now heads the prestigious food division of the French Academy of Agriculture), This has taken his bag of magic tricks to top cooking schools in Copenhagen and Lisbon, to formal dinners in Hong Kong and Quebec and to research facilities that he is establishing in Seoul and Buenos Aires.

Thiss big idea is nothing less than the eradication of world hunger, which he plans to accomplish not with any new economic overhaul, but through a culinary innovation that he calls , or NbN. Molecular cuisine — the deconstruction of food into a series of highly alchemized individual textures, flavors and compounds, often in the form of foams, gels and other matter not immediately recognizable as food — is associated with intellectual-culinary concept art of the sort practiced by Heston Blumenthal of the Fat Duck and René Redzepi of Noma. But This’s ambitions for his new cuisine are far from fanciful — indeed, the 60-year-old chemist, an impish and rumpled Dumbledore without the facial hair, often sounds more like a political radical than a food scientist. ‘‘I work for the public,’’ he says. ‘‘I hate rich people. NbN is a new art for chefs, and art is important. But are we going to feed humankind — or just make something for foodies?’’

ACCORDING TO THIS, one of the reasons there isn’t enough food to go around is because when we transport it, what we’re really transporting is water, which makes food spoil. A carrot is mostly water. Same for a tomato, an apple, an eggplant and many other fruits and vegetables. Unless they’re refrigerated, which is expensive and has a nasty impact on the environment, their moist nutrients provide an optimal environment for microorganisms.

This proposes that we stop shipping ‘‘wet’’ foods across countries or continents and instead break them down into their parts: separating their nutrients and flavors into a wide variety of powders and liquids that are theoretically shelf-stable in perpetuity, and can be used as ingredients. Many of the basic components of food have unwieldy names but familiar tastes or smells. Allyl isothiocyanate, a compound obtained from mustard seeds, suggests wasabi; 1-octen-3-ol evokes wild mushrooms. Depending on its concentration, benzyl mercaptan may call to mind garlic, horseradish, mint or coffee; decanal hints at something between an orange and an apricot. ‘‘Nobody knows why the same compound in different strengths may taste like curry or maple syrup,’’ This says. ‘‘The physiology of taste is an exciting field — my colleagues are discovering new things every month.’’

Other compounds provide color, texture, freshness or mouth feel: In gel form, agar-agar is firm and brittle and kappa-carrageenan is elastic. Each of This’s NbN dishes is built compound by compound, using food’s internal building blocks while retaining all its nutrients. Carefully mix and match a few compounds or use them to enhance inexpensive ‘‘real’’ foods, and voilŕ — you have a way to feed large numbers of people satisfying and nutritionally complete meals for very little money. ‘‘I hope this will be food in 20 years,’’ says This, whose parents, an obstetrician and a psychoanalyst, gave him his first chemistry set when he was 6.

Right now, most of the ingredients for the still esoteric NbN pantry can be found online from scientific suppliers — they’re made by dozens of companies around the world — but This envisions grocery stores of the future selling peachy hexyl acetate and cucumberish trans,cis-2,6-nonadien-1-ol; no crazier than the bottle of vanilla extract or oil of oregano found in most homes. ‘‘I have 100 spices in my kitchen,’’ he says. ‘‘Why not the same amount of compounds?’’ (NbN cooking was born when This realized that he could make cheap whiskey taste expensive merely by adding a few drops of vanillin, the main compound that gives a vanilla bean its distinctive flavor.)

‘‘Technically, there’s no difficulty using NbN compounds,’’ This says. ‘‘It’s very simple and very cheap.’’ If the concept seems strange, he suggests that we may already recognize some versions of NbN, like a particular mixture of sucrose, phosphoric acid and caramel color — a.k.a. Coca Cola.

And while note-by-note cooking requires no fancy paraphernalia — none of the centrifuges and rotary evaporators necessary for high-cuisine molecular gastronomy — This knows that he has to win over the public in a similar way, largely by letting showmen take the lead. ‘‘Changing habits is difficult,’’ he concedes. ‘‘There is something called food neophobia — we don’t eat what we don’t recognize. That’s why I’m using chefs as allies. People want whatever is done by celebrities. If Lady Gaga wears a pink shirt, everybody wants it.’’

Executed by friends of This like the master chefs at Le Cordon Bleu, the results sometimes seem like parcels delivered from Mars. A dish made with coagulated fish proteins resembles a rolled blue yoga mat; chicken is approximated by a bowl of red pearls. Pierre Gagnaire, whose namesake Paris restaurant has three Michelin stars, featured a note-by-note creation on his menu: a dessert consisting of apple jellies, lemon granita and caramel wafers, but made with neither apples, lemons or caramel — the flavors came from citric acids and a sugar substitute called 4-O-a-glucopyranosyl-D-sorbitol. ‘‘I give Gagnaire my research,’’ This says, ‘‘and he adds the poetry.’’


AS WITH CONVENTIONAL food, there’s a fabulous, whimsical (some would say precious) high-end restaurant version of NbN, and there is home cooking for mere mortals. Behind a turquoise blue door, in This’s lab at AgroParisTech, where you’ll find a clutter of beakers, a bazaar of powders and inspirational messages tacked to the walls, he often makes an impromptu NbN lunch. Typically it’s a handful of vegetable proteins mixed with whatever flavoring or textural compounds strike his fancy, cooked in a frying-pan on a hot plate. Today’s version looks like a bright pink pancake and tastes like steak; if he added methional, it could taste like potatoes inside the steak. Another combination of compounds might taste like pizza or popcorn. This is not a purist and encourages baby-stepping NbN elements into conventional cooking. A compound called cis-3-hexen-1-ol tastes like olive oil on steroids when you add it to salads or pastas.

Unsurprisingly, This’s plan to save the world has generated skepticism. ‘‘Food is not just a collection of chemicals — it has a role in human society that goes way beyond molecules,’’ says Marion Nestle, professor of nutrition and food studies at New York University. ‘‘Eating has social, economic and anthropological roles, and the lack of food is a complicated problem, requiring more than a technical solution. This’s idea is fun, it’s interesting, but I’m dubious.’’

This himself seems undaunted. Chefs who will lead the NbN charge are already being trained at cooking schools in Europe. ‘‘We will focus on note-by-note cuisine as a futuristic concept that is sustainable for future food demands,’’ says Jacob Kolstrup Zederkof, the head of education at the Copenhagen Hospitality College, which has just launched an NbN program. Once chefs start demanding the necessary ingredients, This hopes that the compounds will be easily and inexpensively mass-produced — though not by him. ‘‘I’m promoting something that I don’t sell, which is a pity,’’ he says, half in jest. ‘‘My wife is mad at me — I could be rich.

Mark Bittman Explains Why Cooking at Home Is the “Most Radical Thing” We Can Do

If the teachings of The Minimalist himself could be summed up in three words, they would be “do it yourself.”

It’s an old and ongoing question: If we can’t expect much initiative from either government or industry nowadays, how can we effect change? In terms of food systems, Mark Bittman has three words for you: “Do it yourself.”

This general call for individual action could be interpreted (as it often is) as encouraging us to “vote with our dollar,” reach out to our political representatives, or engage in public protest. All well and good to be sure, but according to Bittman’s talk at Edible Institute (above) earlier this year, or this piece in the current “How to Eat Now” issue of Time, he’s actually getting at something closer to home. The Minimalist himself insists that the most radical thing that you can do for your health, if not the world at large, is cook.

The idea of a home-cooked meal is just that for most Americans: it’s more often fantasy than reality. Bestselling author Mark Bittman has known this for decades while focusing his life’s work on “helping people figure out how to [cook].” And he’s done his darndest as a writer for the New York Times, frequent guest on TV and author of over a dozen books including this month’s most recent, How to Cook Everything Fast (basically his best-selling classic How to Cook Everything set on fast forward).

Many recognize Mark Bittman as being an important voice in defense of real food including the James Beard Foundation, which has awarded him a 2014 JBF Leadership Award “for using his international platform as a respected journalist and author to educate consumers about healthier food choices and to advocate for a better food system.”

We reached out to Bittman to learn more about his “cook it yourself” philosophy, three action items that should be at the top of the food movement’s agenda and his own cooking inspiration:

Edible Manhattan: At Edible Institute, you described cooking as the “most radical thing” that we can do for our diets. Can you explain what you meant?
Mark Bittman: It’s tear-jerkingly hilarious that we’ve reached a point where cooking could be considered “radical.” It used to be the exact opposite; mundane, conventional, banal. Everyone did it because few people had the choice not to. Now that it’s not only conceivable but common to avoid cooking, it feels all-too normal to leave our food choices — and by extension our health — in the hands of restaurants, fast food places, big food companies, fad diet evangelists, etc. Cooking real food is the most radical thing that we can do for our diets because it does more to improve and sustain health than any trendy diet ever could and because it allows people to find answers about their diets in their own kitchens. It also takes power away from the giant food corporations and restaurant chains that have so much of it, and puts us back in control over what goes into our bodies. When you think of it that way, it sounds like an honest to goodness coup.

EM: One of the critiques of the so-called food movement is that it has yet to achieve any significant change in policy. If you were to propose three specific items for the top of a political food system agenda, what would they be and why?
MB: 1. Get antibiotics out of the food supply. Not only does the routine use of antibiotics in industrial animal agriculture pose a serious and direct human health risk — far greater than GMOs, which get way more attention — but if you take them out of the food supply then the system of raising 10 billion animals a year in deplorable conditions becomes far more difficult.

2. Ban the marketing of junk food to kids. There have been some attempts to move on this issue, but as is often the case when it comes to common sense food policies, we’re lagging way behind (especially compared to some European countries). It’s not overstating the case to say that kids are being brainwashed with products that are going to make them sick. We’ve got to give them a fighting chance.

3. Probably the biggest issue in food isn’t directly related to food at all. It’s campaign finance reform, without which too few of the seismic changes we’d actually like to enact have much of a shot.

EM: Can you identify any examples of positive social change in the food system that you’ve noticed, whether on a local, national or international scale? What seems to be advancing?
MB: It’s the realization among people who really care about food that you can’t have a sustainable food system without fair labor practices for workers all along the food chain (farmers, processors, packers, supermarket and fast food workers, etc). Even five years ago, the sustainability conversation focused almost exclusively on animal welfare and agriculture; those things are obviously crucial, but you don’t need to know anything about food to realize how backwards it is to be more concerned with the provenance of a tomato than the treatment of the worker that picked it. Not only is labor now firmly a part of the equation, but there is important work being done by food workers, NGOs, unions, and others surrounding the minimum wage, paid sick leave, and other key labor policies both nationally and locally.

EM: The recipients of the James Beard Leadership Awards are an impressive cohort. If you could choose an additional individual to receive this award, who would it be and why?
MB: My vote would go to Saru Jayaraman (currently the head of the UC Berkeley Food Labor Research Center), for being at the forefront of the labor struggle described above, and for understanding better than anyone how critical it is to think of food policy and labor policy as two sides of the same coin.

EM: Through your writing about food systems and cooking, you’ve been an inspiration to many. Who would you identify as having influenced your ideas about food, cooking and eating?
MB: It’s a very long list. Eric Schlosser and Michael Pollan, who demonstrated that Americans would read serious writing about food. Ricardo Salvador, a previous recipient of this award, who may know more about how our food system works than anyone. All the great cooks who preceded me, especially the ones I loved or love – let me single out Marcella Hazan, Julie Sahni, Alice Waters, and Jean-Georges Vongerichten. There are many more, including my mother.

Top Food Trends for 2015

1 – Broth – or the idea of sipping broth for health benefits is something to expect. Apparently we’ll all be standing around drinking fresh bone broth thanks to brands like Pacific Foods and their products like chicken and lemon grass broth in a carton.

2 – Gruit Ales – ales brewed by replacing hops with herbs and aromatic mixes. We’ve already seen this happening and recently highlighted a device that lets people inject aromatic flavours into their beer.

3 – Japanese Matcha Tea – Forget regular green tea, 2015 will be all about Matcha, a finely powdered Japanese tea that is said to have greater health benefits than regular teas.

4 – Coconut Sugar – another health driven trend as consumers look to substitute regular sugar with healthier alternatives.

5 – Fermented Foods – we’ve also noted this trend and brought you a pretty useful guide on how to start fermenting your own food at home.

6 – Marijuana Edibles – as more and more States start to legalise Marijuana, more and more shops offering edibles are opening. It’s perhaps the most interesting new food market to appear in recent years, with chefs working on new found ways of cooking with cannabis.

7 – Pistachios – apparently the new nut of the year will be the Pistachio so get ready for Pistachio butters, spreads, drips, oils and of course milks – as we type, a farmer somewhere is already searching for the teat of a pistachio to bring us gallons of it’s wonderful nutty juices. 

8 – Filipino Cuisine – if last year was the rise of Latin America, apparently, 2015 will see us all gain a new found appreciation for Filipino food.

9 – Smoky Flavors – love this one, best one on the list – get ready for new found smokiness as chefs start to develop stronger techniques for adding wonderfully smoky flavours to foods.

10 – Grains – it seems we all want to jump straight onboard the grain train and you can expect more of the same in 2015. You may have only just learned how to say quinoa but that’s a 2014 grain, instead, look out for Kaniwa and Teff.

11 – Kalettes – this is an entirely new hybrid vegetable – a cross between brussels sprouts and kale.

12 – Same Day Food Delivery – a number of services, Amazon the most notable, are now stepping into the same-day food delivery sector. These services will expand, increase and speed up in 2015 as more and more of us choose to order fresh food daily online. 


Awareness about the presence of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in the food supply is at an all-time high throughout America, thanks in large part to the Proposition 37 ballot initiative in California. But many people are now asking the question, “If GMOs aren’t labeled, how can I know whether or not the foods I buy contain them?” To help you make the best effort at avoiding GMOs while shopping at the grocery store, here are six recommendations on what to look for and what to avoid.


1. Corn, Soy, Cottonseed, Canola 

Avoid purchasing foods that contain non-organic soy, corn, cottonseed or canola ingredients. Practically every processed food found in the “middle aisle” section of the grocery store contains some form of soy, corn, cottonseed, or canola, all crops of which are typically GMO if not certified organic. Everything from cookies and crackers to cereals and snack food items contain them, which means you will want to avoid them like the plague.

Common ingredients to specifically watch out for include some of the more obvious ones like high-fructose corn syrup, soybean oil, and canola oil. But several others you will want to be aware of include soy lecithin, an emulsifier added to all sorts of foods, including “health” foods, as well as soy protein, textured vegetable protein, mixed tocopherols (vitamin E), and food starch. Unless certified organic, all of these ingredients are likely GMO.


2. PLU Codes On Fruit & Veg 

If PLU code on fruits, vegetables starts with an “8,” avoid such produce. When shopping for fruits and vegetables, your first choice will want to be those labeled with a five-digit PLU that beginswith a “9,” which indicates that it is certified organic. Produce items containing a four-digit PLU are considered “conventional,” which means they are not technically GMO, but may still contain pesticides and other toxic residues. The Environmental Working Group (EWG) has created a helpful shopping guide for picking out safe produce.


Produce items you will want to specifically and always avoid are those bearing a five-digit PLU beginning with the number “8,” as these are GMOs. The vast majority of non-organic papaya, as well as several varieties of non-organic zucchini and squash are also of GM origin, so you will want to specifically purchase organic varieties of these foods as well. Genetic manipulators are also now working on a GM apple that does not turn brown, so watch out for any apple that stays unnaturally white when sliced or bruised.


3. Sinister Sugars

Unless added sugar is specifically identified as “cane,” it likely comes from GM sugar beets. At least 90 percent of the sugar beet crop grown in the U.S. is of GM origin, which means if any food product contains “sugar” or some other sugar derivative like glucose or sucrose, it is more than likely a GMO. Always look for “cane sugar,” or preferably “evaporated cane juice,” in order to avoid GM sugar. Raw agave nectar, pure stevia extract, and xylitol are also safe, non-GMO sugar and sugar substitutes.


4. Artificial Sweeteners 

If it contains artificial sweetener, it likely contains GMOs. The popular artificial sugar substitute aspartame, which goes by the trade names Equal, NutraSweet and AminoSweet, is produced using GM bacterial strains of E. coli, which means it, too, is a GMO. Anything containing aspartame is a no-no when it comes to food.


5. Ambiguous Additives

Watch out for ambiguous additives like xanthan gum, citric acid, maltodextrin, and other common GMO offenders. Many common food texturizing agents, flavor enhancers, thickeners, sweeteners, and fortifiers are also derived from GMOs. Some of the more common offenders include ingredients like xanthan gum, citric acid, maltodextrin, lactic acid, dextrose, caramel color, baking powder, malt syrup, modified food starch, mono and diglycerides, sorbitol, stearic acid, and triglycerides. The Institute for Responsible Technology (IRT) has created a helpful list of “invisible GM ingredients” that you can reference while shopping.


“We are poisoning ourselves with highly processed, nutrient deficient foods.” – Dr Ian Brighthope (Food Matters Film)

6. Dairy Products

Avoid any dairy products that are non-organic, or that do not contain a “No rBGH” label. Unless a dairy product is specifically labeled as being certified organic, or as not containing the artificial growth hormone rBGH, which is sometimes labeled as rBST, it likely contains GMOs. Short for recombinant bovine growth hormone, rBGH is created using GMO E. coli just like aspartame, and is used in conventional cattle unless otherwise labeled.


This means that all non-organic yogurt, cheese, butter, milk, and ice cream that does not specifically bear a “No rBGH” label of some sort is likely made with GMOs. Non-organic dairy cows are also likely fed GM feed, which means your best bet is to stick only with certified organic or non-GMO dairy products at all times.


The Non-GMO Project has also developed a certification program by which food manufacturers can uniformly label food products not made with GMOs. Many food products now bear the Non-GMO Project “Verified” label, which will help give you peace of mind that the food you are buying is clean, safe, and free of GMOs.


You might also want to download the FREE 2012 Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides, so that you can take it with you when you go shopping. It highlights the dirty dozen fruit and vegetables that are laden with pesticides and should be avoided unless they are organic, and the clean 15 that are OK to not buy organic if you don’t have access to them, as their pesticide levels are a lot lower.

9 Things Everyone Should Know About Farmed Fish

If you eat seafood, unless you catch it yourself or ask the right questions, the odds are pretty good it comes from a fish farm. The aquaculture industry is like a whale on steroids, growing faster than any other animal agriculture segment and now accounting for half the fish eaten in the U.S.

As commercial fishing operations continue to strip the world’s oceans of life, with one-third of fishing stocks collapsed and the rest headed there by mid-century, fish farming is seen as a way to meet the world’s growing demand. But is it really the silver bullet to solve the Earth’s food needs? Can marine farms reliably satisfy the seafood cravings of three billion people around the globe?

This article looks at aquaculture and its long-term effects on fish, people, and other animals. With this industry regularly touted as a paragon of food production, whether you eat seafood or not, you should know these nine key facts about farmed fish.

1. Farmed fish have dubious nutritional value.

Here’s a frustrating paradox for those who eat fish for their health: the nutritional benefits of fish are greatly decreased when it’s farmed. Take omega-3 fatty acids. Wild fish get their omega-3’s from aquatic plants. Farmed fish, however, are often fed corn, soy, or other feedstuffs that contain little or no omega-3’s. This unnatural, high-corn diet also means some farmed fish accumulate unhealthy levels of the wrong fatty acids. Further, farmed fish are routinely dosed with antibiotics, which can cause antibiotic-resistant disease in humans.

2. The farmed fishing industry robs Peter to pay Paul.

While some farmed fish can live on diets of corn or soy, others need to eat fish – and lots of it. Tuna and salmon, for example, need to eat up to five pounds of fish for each pound of body weight. The result is that prey (fish like anchovies and herring) are being fished to the brink of extinction to feed the world’s fish farms. “We have caught all the big fish and now we are going after their food,” says the non-profit Oceana, which blames aquaculture’s voracious hunger for declines of whales, dolphins, seals, sea lions, tuna, bass, salmon, albatross, penguins, and other species.

3. Fish experience pain and stress.

Contrary to the wishful thinking of many a catch-and-release angler, the latest research shows conclusively that fish experience pain and stress. In one study, fish injected with bee venom engaged in rocking behavior linked to pain and, compared to control groups, reduced their swimming activity, waited three times longer to eat, and had higher breathing rates. Farmed fish are subject to the routine stresses of hyperconfinement throughout their lives, and are typically killed in slow, painful ways like evisceration, starvation, or asphyxiation.

4. Farmed fish are loaded with disease, and this spreads to wild fish populations.

Farmed fish are packed as tightly as coins in a purse, with twenty-seven adult trout, for example, typically scrunched into a bathtub-sized space. These unnatural conditions give rise to diseases and parasites, which often migrate off the farm and infect wild fish populations. On Canada’s Pacific coast, for example, sea lice infestations are responsible for mass kill-offs of pink salmon that have destroyed 80% of the fish in some local populations. But the damage doesn’t end there, because eagles, bears, orcas, and other predators depend on salmon for their existence. Drops in wild salmon numbers cause these species to decline as well.

5. Fish farms are rife with toxins, which also damage local ecosystems.

You can’t have diseases and parasites infecting your economic units, so operators fight back by dumping concentrated antibiotics and other chemicals into the water. Such toxins damage local ecosystems in ways we’re just beginning to understand. One study found that a drug used to combat sea lice kills a variety of nontarget marine invertebrates, travels up to half a mile, and persists in the water for hours.

6. Farmed fish are living in their own feces.

That’s right, fish poop too. Farmed fish waste falls as sediment to the seabed in sufficient quantities to overwhelm and kill marine life in the immediate vicinity and for some distance beyond. It also promotes algal growth, which reduces water’s oxygen content and makes it hard to support life. When the Israeli government learned that algal growth driven by two fish farms in the Red Sea was hurting nearby coral reefs, it shut them down.

7. Farmed fish are always trying to escape their unpleasant conditions, and who can blame them?

In the North Atlantic region alone, up to two million runaway salmon escape into the wild each year. The result is that at least 20% of supposedly wild salmon caught in the North Atlantic are of farmed origin. Escaped fish breed with wild fish and compromise the gene pool, harming the wild population. Embryonic hybrid salmon, for example, are far less viable than their wild counterparts, and adult hybrid salmon routinely die earlier than their purebred relatives. This pressure on wild populations further hurts predators who rely on fish like bears and orcas.

8. See: the Jevons Paradox.

This counterintuitive economic theory says that as production methods grow more efficient, demand for resources actually increases – rather than decreasing, as you might expect. Accordingly, as aquaculture makes fish production increasingly efficient, and fish become more widely available and less expensive, demand increases across the board. This drives more fishing, which hurts wild populations. Thus, as the construction of new salmon hatcheries from 1987 to 1999 drove lower prices and wider availability of salmon, world demand for salmon increased more than fourfold during the period. The net result: fish farming cranks up the pressure on already-depleted populations of wild fish around the world.

9. When the heavy environmental damage they cause is taken into account, fish farming operations often are found to generate more costs than revenues.

One study found that aquaculture in Sweden’s coastal waters “is not only ecologically but also economically unsustainable.” Another report concluded that fish farming in a Chinese lake is an “economically irrational choice from the perspective of the whole society, with an unequal tradeoff between environmental costs and economic benefits.” Simply put, aquaculture drives heavy ecological harms and these cost society money. In the U.S., fish farming drives hidden costs of roughly $700 million each year – or half the annual production value of fish farming operations.

Now What?

With its long trail of diseases, chemicals, wastes, and suffering, and the heavy pressure it puts on wild populations through parasites, escapes, and higher demand, the sustainability of fish farms emerges as a fish story. And by the way, farmed or wild, fish are only “healthy” when compared to high-fat foods like red meat. But wild fish is no great nutritional treat either: pound for pound, salmon has just as much cholesterol as ground beef, and virtually all wild fish contains highly-toxic mercury.

Here’s one solution to the farmed fish dilemma: vote with your pocketbook and eat less seafood or give it up completely. Get your omega-3’s from flax, hemp, soy, or walnuts – all without cholesterol or mercury. And just maybe, as George W. Bush hoped in a moment of unintended comedy, “the human being and fish can coexist peacefully.”

10 Eating Rules French Children Know (But Most Americans Don’t)

How the French eat, age, dress, raise their children and live in general is a real talking point these days. So, as an American mother of three half-French kids, I figured I’d add my two cents to the conversation.

I lived in France before becoming a parent, but eventually it was my kids who taught me everything I need to know about eating like a French person: Eating, and staying slim and healthy, isn’t just about what you eat, but also how, when and why. Yes, French people enjoy junk food occasionally, and sometimes they eat between meals, but people don’t just let loose every day. There’s a code of conduct for food, for big people and little ones alike. Here, in 10 quick life lessons, is what my kids taught me about food.

1. Eat, but not all day long.

Three meals a day, plus the children’s traditional after-school “gouter,” or snack, which might be a pain au chocolat, fruit or applesauce.

When mealtimes roll around, you eat with real pleasure because you’re hungry.

2. Eat real foods and generous portions.

Consuming three meals a day without grazing in between means you can eat well when you sit down at the table — and that includes a starter, main course, cheese and dessert. Portions are generous without going overboard. An example of yesterday’s lunch menu:

Starter course: Lentil salad

Main course: Roasted chicken, green beans

Cheese course: Vanilla yogurt

Dessert: Apple and orange slices … and that was in the public school cafeteria.

3. Choose water.

Generally speaking, the French do not drink their calories. At mealtimes, water (whether still or sparkling) is the drink of choice. Adults might opt for a glass or two of wine, but the glasses aren’t the size of fishbowls.

4. Sit down.

It’s rare to see people eating while walking or shopping. There are no cup holders on caddies, or even in most cars. You eat at the table, not in front of the TV or computer screen, then you leave the table and do something else.

5. Eat lighter at night.

Lunchtime is the main event. Dinner is usually light: soups, salads, an omelet, a simple pasta dish. Dessert might be a yogurt or fruit. And you sleep so much better.

6. When the kitchen closes, it’s CLOSED.

No grazing after dinner.

7. Know your limit, then stop.

Set eating times help you tune in to when you are really hungry or full.

8. Taste your food, guess the ingredients.

The French don’t just like to eat fabulous food and drink wonderful wine, they love to talk about it. Discussing how something tastes, its ingredients and how it was made heightens awareness; children love to join the conversation. They learn about real food and where it comes from.

9. Get cooking!

Along with an interest in ingredients comes an interest in the actual process of cooking food. With a little coaching, my 2-year-old peeled the apples she picked with her class and happily joined in making a tart. Children love helping put fresh vegetables or pasta into the pot, or making a chocolate cake from scratch. Being part of the process heightens appreciation, and builds good habits for life.

10. Eating well is not a sin; it’s a pleasure.

Eating great food — no matter how simple or how elaborate — is one of life’s great pleasures, not an endless guilt trip. Especially when it’s in moderation. Once, when we were visiting family in the US, a waitress asked my French husband if he was “done working on that,” referring to his plate of food. His reply: “Eating is a pleasure, mademoiselle, not work!”


From biodynamics to natural wine, there’s a lot to choose from in the world of “green” wines

“I entertain a lot during the holidays, and because I eat organic as much as possible, I’d like to follow through with organic wines. But what are the differences among organic, biodynamic, sustainable, and so-called ‘natural’ wines?”

—Janet Finnegan

Buying organic is a simpler choice at the farmers market or grocery store than it is at a wineshop. Before I try to make sense of all the different “green” types of wine available, let’s step back and look at the bigger picture for a moment. Viniculture, which embraces both viticulture (vine cultivation) and winemaking, has always been sustainable in a far larger sense of the word: It’s thought to have its roots in the Near East some 9,000 years ago, and the earliest evidence for wine, found in northern Iran, dates from 5400 to 5000 B.C. The history of civilization and the history of wine are inseparable.

You may also be interested to know that a recent analysis of 2,500-year-old amphoras, from the ancient French port of Lattara, by a team led by molecular archaeologist Patrick McGovern and published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences suggests that French winemaking began as far back as 500 B.C. Lattara was where the Etruscans traded with the Celtic Gauls, and that first French wine was basically an Italian white, albeit flavored with rosemary and possibly thyme or basil.

These days, the industrial end of the wine import-export biz uses 20-foot ocean shipping containers holding 25,000 liters of bulk wine in a “flexitank” bag. You may find that to be a turnoff, but The Wine Economist points out more than one green reason for the rise of (really big) boxed wine.

And before I forget, there’s a nice international roundup of sustainable, organic, and biodynamic wines—as well as a useful explanation (and photo IDs) of sustainability and organic certification labels—at

Organic wines

Just like other certified-organic products, organic wines are overseen by the USDA’s National Organic Program. They must be made with grapes cultivated without synthetic pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, or fertilizers; agricultural products such as commercially available yeasts must be organic; and the label must state the certifying agent. They also have to meet the standards of the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau—in particular, for sulfite labeling requirements.

Sulfites (sulfur dioxide in various forms) are naturally found in grape skins and are a byproduct of fermentation, but winemakers the world over have long added tiny amounts of them to wine, primarily to give it stability (so it doesn’t turn into vinegar) and prevent oxidation and unwanted bacterial and yeast growth. Conventional wines in the U.S. may contain up to 350 parts per million (ppm).

While certified-organic wines contain naturally occurring sulfites, the level must be less than 10 ppm, and no extra sulfites may be added. If an organic wine is labeled “Sulfite Free,” that means it has no detectable sulfites—that is, present-day analysis isn’t sensitive enough to pick up sulfites at such low levels.

Another category of organic wines states “Made With Organic Grapes” or “Made With Organically Grown Grapes” on the label. They can’t be certified organic because they may contain up to 100 ppm of added sulfites, and any agricultural ingredients such as yeast aren’t required to be organic but must still be produced without genetic engineering or other excluded methods.

The National Organic Standards Board’s vote in December 2011 to continue to prohibit the adding of sulfite to certified-organic wine was controversial in wine circles. Most winemakers feel the preservative is critical in a product that must be shipped and then may sit unopened for years. The European Union, for its part, restricts sulfites in its organic wine to 100 ppm for red wine and 150 for white and rosé. The wine preservatives in the ancient world, by the way, were tree resins, according to Patrick McGovern, who writes about the history of winemaking in Ancient Wine: The Search for the Origins of Viniculture. They included terebinth, pine, cedar, frankincense, and myrrh, which gives me a whole new slant on the Three Wise Men. Modern wines like Greek retsina are made in this ancient tradition.

You should also know that sulfites aren’t the sole prerogative of vintners; a two-ounce serving of dried apricots can have 10 times the amount of sulfites in a glass of conventional wine. Although they’re safe for most of us, they can be hazardous to asthmatics and others with an allergy or sensitivity to them. I can’t go into a longer discussion of sulfites in this column (so much else to cover!), but here’s one of many online sources that can help sort out sulfite facts from fiction. And Wall Street Journal wine columnists Dorothy J. Gaiter and John Brecher (and a few medical experts) have thoroughly addressed the purported connection between sulfites and headaches.

Biodynamic wines

Like organic practices, the intense, holistic (and trademarked) approach to agriculture called Biodynamics is free of synthetic pesticides, fertilizers, etc. One thing that differentiates a Demeter-certified Biodynamic farm, however, is that the farm is considered as an organism in which plants, animals, and human beings are integrated. I’m not sure what carefully managed farm isn’t, but anyhoo, “the significant difference,” the Demeter website explains, “is that the Biodynamic method attempts to work with the dynamic energies in nature and not solely with its material needs.”

The spiritual-ethical-ecological principles of Biodynamics were developed by Austrian philosopher Rudolf Steiner after a series of lectures he delivered to a group of German farmers in 1924. The eye-rolling among skeptics starts once the discussion turns to what it takes to bring cultivated land more closely in harmony with nature. Herb-based compost preparations made in accordance with celestial rhythms are key; the Biodynamic Farming and Gardening Association explains that even the method of stirring a field spray is specific, “repeatedly creating a vortex in one direction, followed by a vortex in the other direction.”

“But focusing on the mystical aspects of biodynamics risks missing the point, as well as one of the main reasons winemakers are so attracted to it,” James Rodewald, drinks editor at Gourmet, wrote in January 2005. “It is the ultimate hands-on approach…. Serious attention must be paid to the vines. Winemakers are by nature extremely detail oriented, so it’s not surprising that this kind of agricultural micro-management might appeal to them.”

As far as sulfites go, biodynamic wines can contain up to 100 ppm (150 ppm for sweet wines).

Sustainable wines

Sustainable growers generally minimize energy and water use and inputs of synthetic chemicals. They may even farm organically or biodynamically but choose not to get certified; they want the freedom, for instance, to tinker with the amount of sulfites they use or wipe out a devastating pest with a synthetic if all else fails.

Sustainable farmers stress flexibility; the practices that work in one area or even microclimate may not work in another. There are no federal standards for sustainability, but regional wine-industry associations, such as the California Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance and LIVE (Low Input Viticulture and Enology), based in the Pacific Northwest, have developed programs for third-party certification of vineyards and wineries.

Natural wines

This newest counterculture niche is based on a deceptively simple non-interventionist theory of winemaking. One hallmark is the use of the indigenous yeasts that are present on grape skins and in the air for fermentation (instead of always consistent commercial yeasts), which can lead to unexpected flavors ranging from funky to sublime.

The only additive may be—you got it—sulfites, in very small amounts, if used at all. In fact, natural winemakers don’t even like to refine or filter their product, and they’re far stricter in the cellar than organic or biodynamic producers; there is no correction of sugars or acidity, for instance. You’ll find a more detailed explanation of what constitutes a natural wine at Jamie Goode’s wine blog; the British wine columnist (and biologist) is also the author, with Sam Harrop, of the excellent Authentic Wine: Toward Natural and Sustainable Winemaking. American wine writer Alice Feiring, author of Naked Wine: Letting Grapes Do What Comes Naturally, is a big proponent on this side of the pond.

Improve that red wine with just a push of a button…!

Something about fine wine invites mystique, ritual — and more than a little pretension.

If you have ever ordered an old and expensive bottle of red from a master sommelier, you may have seen the ostentatious production that goes into decanting the stuff. The wine steward rolls out a gueridon (a little table) on which the bottle is cradled gently in a cloth-lined basket. A lit candle flickers nearby. The sommelier tips the neck of the bottle over the candle while pouring the wine with the delicacy of a surgeon into a broad-bottomed decanter so as not to disturb the sediment that has fallen out of the wine during years of aging and character development.

Thus aerated, the wine is then allowed to “breathe” for a while before it is served. Oenophiles — even those back in Roman times — have observed that wine of many vintages and varieties improves perceptibly when aerated for as little as a few minutes or for as long as a day. Oenologists have debated the chemistry that might account for this shift in flavor. Do the tannins change in ways that soften their distinctive flavors? Or does aeration simply allow stinky sulfides enough time to evaporate away?

Whatever the science behind it, the traditional ritual makes for a fine show. But when you’re at home pouring wine for yourself or guests, you can save time and generate entertainment of a different kind by taking a shortcut: dump the bottle in a blender, and frappe it into a froth. (Sediment is less common in wines today than it used to be, but if you are concerned about that, pour the wine very slowly into the blender, and stop before you get to the last couple ounces.)

Less than a minute of hyperdecanting, as we at The Cooking Lab have taken to calling this modern method, exposes the wine to as much air as it would see in an hour or more of traditional decanting, and does so far more uniformly. Wine aficionados may recoil in fear that such a violent treatment will “break” the wine, but the proof is in the tasting.

In carefully controlled, double-blind taste tests conducted at our lab, we presented 14 experienced wine tasters — seven sommeliers, three vintners, two oenologists and two wine writers — with unlabeled samples of hyperdecanted wine. The tasters also received samples taken from the same bottles but decanted the old-fashioned way. The order of presentation was varied from one trial to the next.

When we asked them which samples they preferred, only two of the 14 judges were able to distinguish a difference repeatedly, and both of those tasters consistently preferred the wine that had gone through the blender.

So the next time you uncork a well-muscled syrah — or even a rambunctious riesling — for your connoisseur friends, bring a blender to the table, and have a camera ready. The foam will subside within seconds. But you’ll cherish that memory of the look on their faces for the rest of your days.