Jeff Cox

JEFF COX: All About Potatoes (with Organic Recipes)

 

From Jeff Cox
Organic Food Guy
Kenwood, Sonoma County

Potatoes have kept whole cultures alive. Not only the Incas, who first cultivated the tuber, but (after potatoes reached Europe in the 16th century) also many countries in the northern parts of Europe. Potatoes were a staple of the Irish, at least until a bacterial blight decimated the Emerald Isle’s crops in the mid- to late-1840s, causing starvation and necessitating emigration.

The word potato comes from the Carib Indian word batata, which actually referred to the sweet potato. The Spanish conquistadors who arrived in the New World pronounced it patata and used it also to refer to the white potato because of its similar appearance. Eventually the word became papas in Spanish. Like other New World crops, such as peppers and tobacco, potatoes soon conquered Europe and then the world. The Italians first thought of potatoes as a kind of truffle, because they both grow under the ground, and called them tartufo bianco, or white truffle. That became taratufflo, which the Germans heard as kartoffel. The Russians heard the German name and gave it a Slavic twist by calling them kartochki.

The Organic Factor
The flavor and texture—even the color—of the same variety of potato can change dramatically depending on where it’s grown and the soils and climate in that place. But no matter where they’re grown, few foods are better than potatoes pulled fresh from dark, crumbly organic soil and cooked within minutes. They have an earthy, comforting flavor, probably from delicate esters and other flavor compounds that disappear in storage. They also have a smooth, rich texture, perhaps due to the contrast with conventionally grown potatoes whose cell division has been chemically altered. If you can’t grow potatoes where you live, by all means seek out real organic spuds at the farmers’ markets or organic supermarket. You’ll also be more likely to find some of the superior if somewhat unusual varieties at farmers’ markets.

JEFF COX: All About Macadamia Nut (with Trout Macadamia Recipe)

 

From JEFF COX
Organic Food Guy
Kenwood, Sonoma County

Before 1880, only Australian Aborigines knew of a feasted on macadamia nuts. But that year, a botanist by the name of Dr. Hill “discovered” them in their native range around Brisbane, Queensland, in northeast Australia, and named them for his friend, Dr. John Macadam. Within a few years, they were brought to Hawaii where they flourished, as the climate was perfect for them. Today, about 90 percent of the world’s supply is grown in Hawaii, and the nut joins sugar and pineapples as the top three exports from the islands. Large commercial groves have also been established in Australia and New Zealand. The nut has exceptional qualities — a delicacy of flavor, sweetness, and a wonderfully crunchy (but not hard or brittle) texture — and world demand greatly exceeds supply.

The Organic Factor
On Hawaii, a macadamia nut farmer named Tuddie Purdy and his family is the foremost supplier of naturally grown macadamia nuts. Stinkbugs and tropical nut borers can be a problem for macadamias, but the Purdys remain committed to natural (chemical-free), if not organic, production.

Nutrition
Given that their oil is almost 80 percent monounsaturated fat, macadamias are very good for you as nuts go — as good as olive oil in lowering cholesterol. Be aware that conventional macadamia nuts may be dressed in coconut oil and salt. Seeking naturally grown nuts is worth the effort.

JEFF COX: Intolerance

 

From JEFF COX
Kenwood, Sonoma County

Recent events in Charlottesville, Virginia, are not an isolated example of white supremacists voicing their opinion about the glory of Robert E. Lee and the Old South. Those alt-right marches are just one small node in an interconnected web of right-wing agendas that now extend widely through our entire society, church and state, corrupting our institutions as they spread.

This wide web of agendas smells strongly of racism, fascism, and religious and political fundamentalism. In a word: intolerance for anything but the Trump-approved line.

For example, take Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos’s plan to siphon money from our public schools to pay for vouchers that will be given to parents to pay for sending their kids to private schools. Sounds pretty benign, right? Wrong. Most of those private schools are religious—and not just religious like Catholic schools, but fundamentalist Evangelical Christian schools, where the kids will be indoctrinated in alt-right ideas about the superiority of the white race and the Christian equivalent of Sharia law. Does that sound hysterical? Get a copy of “The Good News Club” by Katherine Stewart, published five years ago, that details how far underway this agenda already is, and Google “Betsy DeVos and the move toward Evangelical Christian education” to see how far the movement has come in the past five years.

JEFF COX: Advantage of age…

 

 

From JEFF COX
Organic Food Guy
Kenwood, Sonoma County

Now that I’ve reached the advantage of age, I can see that time makes a circle around infinity. From the pinnacle, I can see the path of my life circling the mountain.

There’s that time when I was two and cried because the barber was going to cut my rich golden locks. There’s me at 10, total pals with my dog Debbie, inseparable from her and our wanderings in the fields and woodlands together.

And look, there I am at 25, sitting in the slot at a daily newspaper, the sleeves of my white Gant shirt rolled up, a cigarette dangling from my lips, writing headlines for hometown newspaper stories. I can see it all, at once if I wish, and from this place of heightened vision, I can dispense my version of wisdom.

I’m not saying that I’m right. I am saying that I can see for miles and miles. Nobody has the absolute truth, because nobody is infinitely wise. But I have the wisdom derived from my long life. Over all these years, the insights and lessons that I have distilled from my experiences are a brew that is worth something. Juice pressed from unripe fruit is sour. Juice from ripe fruit is delicious.

I suspect this is why the elders are respected in many societies around the world. When problems arise, why not go to those who have the long perspective and the wisdom that comes with it? They may not have the answer, but they may have an answer. And you can put it in your bag of possible answers. And eventually let them trickle through your fingers until one feels right for you, and can inform your own personal decision.

As I age, I find myself becoming less and less visible. Sales people and checkout clerks call me “honey,” or “sweetie,” of which I am neither. I am a towering, full-blown, mental repository of an entire life’s experience. You think you know things? You should inhabit my mind for an hour and see the kind of things I know. I’m sure it would blow your mind.

It seems obvious: respect your elders. Not because you should be in servitude to them, shackled to their past, but because they just may be miles ahead of you on the path, full of insight and wisdom, aching to share it with you, if you only respected them enough to ask.
~~

JEFF COX: Admitting Our Mistakes…

 

From JEFF COX
Organic Food Guy
Kenwood, Sonoma County

It seems as though we Americans have a hard time admitting our mistakes. And yet mistakes unadmitted tend to fester and eventually poison the system, much as a festering sore does in our physical body.

Take, for instance, our role in the rise of ISIS. Right off the bat, let’s agree that ISIS fostered a culture of violence, death, and unimaginable depravity. Its deep roots lay in Wahhabism and the Salafist strain of Islam that sees the world in two parts: the near world of Muslim societies and the far world of infidel societies. And radical Islam was always about eventually converting the far world into the near world—think of the Moorish invasion of Spain and the battles fought with the Crusaders. This radical strain of Islam was always about re-establishing a Caliphate, or overall governance of all Islam under one ruler, the Caliph.

But history chugged along until George Bush upset the apple cart by invading Iraq in 2003, detaining thousands of Iraqis both Sunni and Shia, and imprisoning them in places like Abu Ghraib, where many were beaten and tortured, sometimes to death, under the CIA’s rules of “enhanced interrogation,” or what Dick Cheney at the time called “the dark side.”

JEFF COX: Sorry, But Organic Food Really IS More Nutritious…

 

From JEFF COX
(October, 2010)
Organic Food Guy
Sonoma County

The conventional food companies still claim that there’s no difference between organic and conventional food regarding nutritional content. The way they put it is: organic food is no better for you than conventional and in fact, could make you sick. They claim that there are absolutely no scientific studies that show organic food to be nutritionally superior.

All of this is, of course, lies. (Yes, lies. It’s one thing to get your facts wrong by mistake, and it’s quite another to get them wrong on purpose. The latter is called lying, and Big Ag has been doing it for decades.) The evidence for organic superiority has been shown over and over again for many years. But now new studies are making it more and more obvious that the old canards against organic food are baseless. To wit:
~

A multi-disciplinary research team from Washington State University conducted a two-year study that made side-by-side comparisons of 13 conventional and 13 organic strawberry farms in California. The study analyzed 31 chemical and biological soil properties and the taste, nutrition, and quality of berries from each farm. Researchers in the fields of agroecology, soil science, microbial ecology, genetics, pomology, food science, sensory science, and statistics comprised the study team. The findings included:

ORGANIC RECIPE: All About Chard (with Organic Tacos of Creamy Braised Chard Recipe)

 

From JEFF COX
Organic Food Guy
Kenwood, Sonoma County

Botanically chard is a subspecies of ordinary garden beets, bred for its leaves rather than its root, and packs the same kind of nutritional punch. The name “chard” comes from the French chardon, or thistle, although chard is not a thistle (the name came about cecause chard has a wide midrib similar to the cardoon, which is a thistle, and because of this physical resemblance the French word for thistle came to be applied to chard as well).

For some reason, chard also goes by the name of Swiss chard. While the vegetable is commonly grown in Switzerland, among other northern European countries, it’s the French and Italians, not the Swiss, who have done the most with chard, with the Spanish and Greeks running a close second. In southern Spain and out on the Balearic Islands, it’s cooked much as the Arabs of North Africa use it, with spices and hot chiles, or cooked with sweetmeats. In fact, chard’s history is long, going back before Rome (its subspecies name, cicla, refers to sicula, the ancient name of Sicily), before Greece, back to ancient Babylon. Various theories have been proposed for why the country of Switzerland has been associated with chard, but none of them seem worth repeating. I just call the vegetable chard and leave it at that.

The Organic Factor
Make sure your chard is organic. The high-nitrogen chemical fertilizers used in conventional agriculture can cause the plants to take up too much nitrate, which can change within the human digestive system to cancer-causing nitrites. Organic soils feed chard their nitrogen from natural sources, at just the rate the plants need it.

JEFF COX: ‘Dark Forces’ Are Coming for Our Organic Food

 

From JEFF COX
Organic Food Guy
Kenwood, Sonoma County

The Freedom Caucus is a rowdy band of GOP US House members most famous for triggering government shutdowns, pushing to repeal the Affordable Care Act, and driving former GOP Speaker John Boehner from his post on the theory he wasn’t conservative enough. And now they’re coming for your certified organic food, according to Mother Jones magazine, from which the following is excerpted.

Back in December, the Freedom Caucus released a “recommended list of regulations to remove.” Among its 228 targets—ranging from eliminating energy efficiency standards for washing machines to kiboshing rules on private drones—the group named the National Organic Program.

Operated by the US Department of Agriculture, the NOP was established by the Organic Foods Production Act of 1990 to set uniform national standards for foods and agricultural products labeled “USDA Organic,” replacing the patchwork of state-level standards that had held sway for decades previously. The NOP ensures that food labeled organic really is raised without synthetic pesticides and fertilizers—it also oversees USDA-accredited organic certifying agents and takes “appropriate enforcement actions if there are violations of the organic standards,” according to the USDA.

As of 2015, annual organic food sales stood at $39.7 billion, representing nearly 5 percent of total food sales. And sales for organics are growing at an 11 percent annual clip—nearly four times the rate of overall US food sales.