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food, nutrition, and health news



Upcoming Event: The Weight of the Nation

This coming Monday evening, HBO will be screening the new documentary The Weight of the Nation in Boston. Following the screening, Boston-area experts, including Tufts researcher Dr. Christina Economos, will speak on a panel about some of the issues raised in the documentary. If you’re unable to attend the screening, check the HBO website for showtimes.

Here’s the description from HBO:

Bringing together the nation’s leading research institutions, THE WEIGHT OF THE NATION is a presentation of HBO and the Institute of Medicine (IOM), in association with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and in partnership with the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation and Kaiser Permanente.

The centerpiece of THE WEIGHT OF THE NATION campaign is the four-part documentary series, each featuring case studies, interviews with our nation’s leading experts, and individuals and their families struggling with obesity. The first film, CONSEQUENCES, examines the scope of the obesity epidemic and explores the serious health consequences of being overweight or obese. The second, CHOICES, offers viewers the skinny on fat, revealing what science has shown about how to lose weight, maintain weight loss and prevent weight gain. The third, CHILDREN IN CRISIS, documents the damage obesity is doing to our nation’s children. Through individual stories, this film describes how the strong forces at work in our society are causing children to consume too many calories and expend too little energy; tackling subjects from school lunches to the decline of physical education, the demise of school recess and the marketing of unhealthy food to children. The fourth film, CHALLENGES, examines the major driving forces causing the obesity epidemic, including agriculture, economics, evolutionary biology, food marketing, racial and socioeconomic disparities, physical inactivity, American food culture, and the strong influence of the food and beverage industry.

Harry Potter and the Wonderful World of Wizarding Food

In honor of the release of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 this Friday, the final installment of the epic book series turned movies, let’s talk about food in the Wizarding world. With the amount that J.K. Rowling talks about food, I’m pretty sure she’s a foodie at heart – what with feasts in Hogwarts’ Great Hall, the sweets trolley on the Hogwarts Express, Hogsmeade shop Honeydukes, Dumbledore using his favorite candies as his office password (lemon drops!), Hagrid’s teeth-breaking rock cakes, and endless mentions of butterbeer, chocolate frogs, pumpkin pasties, and Harry’s favorite treacle tart…you get the picture. J.K. Rowling and her characters are surely ones who delight in the scrumptious foods that their magical world has to offer.

Muggles yearning to taste some of these fictional treats have tried to recreate them, conjuring tastes out of Rowling’s descriptions. Alas, we’ll never know if they’re as good as the “real” thing – but here are a few recipes that will help you escape into the Wizarding world.

Adorable Golden Snitch Butterbeer Cake Pops on AmyBites

Magically-inspired Cocktails on My Mid-Morning Martini

Madam Rosmerta’s Recipes on MuggleNet

Acid Pops, Chocolate Frogs, and Licorice Wands on The Pastry Affair

For devotees, there is also an Unofficial Harry Potter Cookbook, which I’ve added to my Amazon store here.

And for those of you who really can’t get enough Harry Potter:

  • read about the creation of a butterbeer beverage for The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios here
  • watch the best Harry Potter parody videos (including my all-time favorite Potter Puppet Pals “The Mysterious Ticking Noise”) here
  • see the most ridiculous Potter-themed products Muggle money can buy here

I need to try out some of these recipes so I can drown my sorrows in butterbeer after this last movie!

*official movie poster image from the Huffington Post

*thank to you the Huffington Post for supporting my love of all things Harry Potter-related with the above articles

Events: Screenings of “Fresh,” the movie

My friend sent me an email this morning, starting off with “Hi friend who likes food and Michael Pollan” – yup, that’s me – to tell me about a film/documentary coming out, called “Fresh.” The film is about “new thinking about what we’re eating” and explores the current movement of farmers, activists, etc. who are changing the U.S. food system for the better, moving us from an industrial agricultural system to a more sustainable, healthier model.

Here’s the synopsis:

FRESH celebrates the farmers, thinkers and business people across America who are re-inventing our food system. Each has witnessed the rapid transformation of our agriculture into an industrial model, and confronted the consequences: food contamination, environmental pollution, depletion of natural resources, and morbid obesity. Forging healthier, sustainable alternatives, they offer a practical vision for a future of our food and our planet.

Among several main characters, FRESH features urban farmer and activist, Will Allen, the recipient of MacArthur’s 2008 Genius Award; sustainable farmer and entrepreneur, Joel Salatin, made famous by Michael Pollan’s book, The Omnivore’s Dilemma; and supermarket owner, David Ball, challenging our Wal-Mart dominated economy.

“Fresh” will be screened all over the U.S. with panelists –  including a Boston screening on May 28th @ 7pm at Harvard, with panelists like the film’s director, Joel Salatin of Polyface Farm, and food activists from the Boston/Cambridge community.

Watch a preview and buy tickets to a screening on the website and if you’re not in Boston, find out if there’s a screening near you. I’ll be going – and maybe even live-blogging! Anyone want to join me?

Rats in the kitchen? You bet!

Nearly a month ago, I saw Ratatouille, Disney’s latest Pixar creation about a rat named Remy who dreams of becoming a chef, inspired by a French chef’s motto that “Anyone Can Cook.” Fate brings him to Paris to help save the late chef’s failing restaurant, on the shoulders of its clumsy garbage boy turned star cook.

The movie can only be described as absolutely delightful. While the idea of rats in the kitchen will gross out the adults in the audience (don’t worry – the rats take a bath in the industrial dishwasher before cooking), kids (and kids at heart) will love the story. The animation is, of course, wonderful – the food looks so real and delicious that you may start drooling. The movie pokes fun at food critics – Anton Ego, a villian of sorts, proclaims “I don’t LIKE food, I LOVE it. If I don’t love it, I don’t swallow” – and even at the French (“I hate to be rude, but, we’re French!). It also makes a point of contemporary issues in the restaurant industry: Colette, the feisty female chef, calls “high cuisine [an] antiquated hierarchy built upon rules by stupid, old men. Roof designed to make it impossible for women to enter this world, but still I’m here;” and the famous late chef’s name is shamelessly applied to a line of frozen foods by the greedy restaurant owner (Emeril, anyone?).

Perhaps the coolest thing about the movie is that the animators went to such great lengths to make the food look good enough to eat, from having Thomas Keller (of French Laundry and Per Se) consult on French cuisine to applying the latest animation technology to the food preparation. Check out the Cooking up CG Food video and the rest of the Ratatouille videos on YouTube.

Some favorite Remy quotes:

“There are possibilities unexplored here – we’ve gotta cook this!”
“If we are what we eat, then I only want to eat the good stuff.”

Overall, the movie is heartwarming and encouraging, not only for those that want to cook, but for all of us with big dreams. As Ego says, “Not everyone can become a great artist, but a great artist can come from anywhere.”

Can’t get enough? Read the NYT review – “A Rat With a Whisk and a Dream”
OR you could make Remy’s signature dish – Confit Byaldi.

Michael Moore does it again

Michael Moore’s life goal must be to create as much controversy as he can…he’s done it again this time at the Cannes Film Festival with his newest project, “Sicko,” a documentary attacking the U.S. healthcare system in favor of socialized medical systems like those in Canada, the UK, and France. Moore, like many Americans, believes that the U.S. healthcare system is in dire need of reform. He even goes so far as to travel to a Cuban hospital to show off it’s excellent healthcare system (an action that caused him to get in trouble with President Bush). Yes, the U.S. desperately needs a more equitable healthcare system, but will Moore’s documentary really make a difference? We already know what needs to be done, it’s just not happening with the current administration.

The movie won’t be released to national theaters until June 29th, but you can track the ruckus it’s created at and other news sources.

Check out a short clip from the movie on YouTube.

For the many Americans who read Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlosser a few years ago, it changed the way they think about fast food in the United States. If you haven’t read it, you should. If you don’t have the time, have no fear- the movie is here! Well, on November 17th it will be. Starring Ethan Hawke, Patricia Arquette, and Greg Kinnear, it was shown at the 2006 Cannes Film Festival.

Check out the official movie website– it’s pretty sweet. Besides the requisite trailers, cast list, etc, it has links to the McDonald’s Corporate Responsibility Blog,, and to relevant news, blogs, and videos.

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