Sooty shearwaters feeding in the surf (everything eats)

Sooty shearwaters feeding in the surf (everything eats)

Each summer flocks of sooty shearwaters fly low over the Monterey Bay, diving and squawking as they feed on masses of bait fish – anchovies, sardines, squid, and krill – that school just below the water’s glistening surface. You see them coming in the distance, an impressive mass a mile or more in length; thousands of birds flying low over the water forming a cacophony of feathered missiles plunging headfirst for food.

Algae burger on rye, anyone?

Algae burger on rye, anyone?

You will probably never deliberately order an algae burger on rye, a bean-and-algae burrito, or an algae caesar salad. But a day will eventually come when you will be inadvertently making algae a part of your diet: How can this be, you wonder? Start by enjoying this cool stop-motion animation, an illustration of Michael Pollan’s Food Rules created by the team of Marija Jacimovic and Benoit Detalle for an RSA competition: embedded by Embedded Videovimeo Direkt (Did you like it? Help them win by voting here.) In the video, Pollan made the point: In 2008, which was a year of supposed food crisis, we grew enough food to feed 11 billion people. Most of it was not eaten by humans as food, however; a great deal of it was fed to animals, about half, to feed our meat habit. And a great deal, especially in the United States, was fed to automobiles, because we’re driving our cars on food right now. We hear that meat takes an enormous amount of resources to produce –  water, land, crops, pesticides, fertilizer – all tied up in feeding the animals to get them all nice and fat and ready for us to eat. Wouldn’t it be great if that could all change? If we could figure out a way to feed our warm-blooded protein sources without sacrificing clean water and whole grain for humans? To really have our cake and eat it too? An article today in Grist by Claire Thomson discusses how that may come to be. Researchers are figuring out a way to substitute algae-based animal feed for corn and soy-based feed...
First fruit

First fruit

Tons of rock. Yards of soil. Comparing the relative values of heirloom seeds vs. organic starts. Six trips to the nursery to puzzle together a jigsaw of drip irrigation. Finally my garden fantasies are starting to bear fruit.

Animalfish Alphabet

Animalfish Alphabet

Sometimes I cook fish. Other times I write about them! There’s been quite a bit cooking at my place over the last few months – in this case it’s food for the mind rather than for the body. Today I’m extraordinarily happy to announce the publication of my book Animalfish Alphabet, a fishy coloring book featuring some of the world’s wonderful watery creatures. Factual, fun, and illustrated by Sara Birns, a high school senior at the time and friend of Kid One. Why Animalfish? This whole project actually started eight years ago. Kid One had turned four became obsessed with sharks in that intelligent, single-minded way preschoolers have of glomming onto a subject and not letting go until it’s been thoroughly exhausted in their minds. I didn’t know much about sharks, myself, so together over the months we learned about almost all the 440 different species of sharks in the world: hammerhead sharks, whale sharks, lanternhead sharks, cookie cutter sharks, nurse sharks, and guitar sharks. Well, the writer in me loves and collects names; over the years I’ve kept mental lists of fruits, flowers, herbs, seasons, and cities that can pass for reasonable people-names. So it didn’t take long for me to wonder – could I come up with a whole alphabet of sharks named after other things? Fortunately this is the digital age, and after I dropped him off at preschool I’d spend an hour or two on the FishBase, a database aimed at research scientists but perfect for oddly-minded writers like myself. Eventually my list of sharks became just fish in general, and then just those fish named...
Got water?

Got water?

Definitely go and watch the excellent documentary Tapped. As soon as you can, before the next episode of Jon Stewart or Married to Rock, or whatever your viewing pleasure may be. Then go out and recommend it to everyone you know. The movie addresses what the filmmakers call “the not-so-new bogeyman in town: the bottled water industry.” They explore a variety of issues that are all bonded together with those tiny molecules of hydrogen and oxygen – privatization to plastics and farming to pharmaceuticals, all topped off with a healthy dose of environmental (in)justice. I knew there were issues surrounding bottled water from an excellent water law class I took – I just didn’t know what they were. The professor slyly pointed out that “Evian” spelled backward is “naive” before stating that he was prevented by court order from sharing anything he knew about the bottled-water industry. We moved on to specifics of California water law. A few year later, now, Tapped fills in the blanks. Here are a few of the points the movie made: The business of bottled water began around 1989 when the introduction of disposable plastic bottles made it cost-effective. Now the bottled water industry collectively generates over a billion dollars in sales each year. Water bottling companies purchase or lease water rights from private parties to pump water from the ground to sell to us. The quality of bottled water is not regulated by the FDA or anyother governmental agency. Municipal water supplies are. In fact, many tap water quality reports are even available online. Communities located in close proximity to plastic bottling plants...
Fresh crab from the Gayle R

Fresh crab from the Gayle R

Freshly steamed Dungeness crab tastes like the early-morning air smells at low tide, succulent and moist and just fantastic. Let go of the fear and mystery involved in getting a big live pinching creature from the ocean to your plate and learn to duplicate this taste. All you need is bucket full of live crabs, a meat cleaver, and a bamboo steamer – this will tell you how.

Eat more kale! (a field trip)

Eat more kale! (a field trip)

Water connects a favorite summer pastime to the ingredients I buy and prepare for our meals. Here’s a drive past some of the farms, fields, and food lining the roads to Highway 101, taking us to play in fresh, clear lakes and rivers of summer.