Today's notes on national stories, local trends, random tastes, and other bycatch dredged up from the food media.
1. Ancient Grains. The Bay Citizen conducted an e-mail interview with Tartine's Chad Robertson, who's been taking trips to Denmark to learn how to bake with ancient varieties of rye and wheat, which he says have glutens that are "more difficult to bake with ― but more easily digested by many people." Meanwhile, his wife, Elisabeth Prueitt, has become more open about her own gluten intolerance (wheat problems are common among commercial bakers), and is experimenting with gluten-free flours to create pastries with them. Robertson's going to debut his new line of breads when he gets back.
2. More on Fair Trade and Coffee. The story I linked to yesterday about Fair Trade certification and poverty levels among Nicaraguan coffee growers turns out to be a hotly contested topic in the coffee world. Author Lawrence Solomon was accused (see the comments) of misrepresenting the findings of a German study about a small group of farmers in one country to launch a tangential rant about Fair Trade and organic certification in Africa. Oakland-based Fair Trade USA also contacted me to protest the link. So, if you're curious about learning more, Poul Mark obtained a copy of the study and pored over it, producing a more nuanced (and equally fascinating) reading of the study. And, after I told Fair Trade USA I'd by happy to link to stories countering Solomon's assertions, they sent me a link to a PR Newswire story about the growth of the certification program, as well as their 2010 Coffee Impact Report (PDF). Neither completely refutes the findings of the German study, but they do give a different picture of the benefits certification brings to coffee growers.
3. More Questionable iPhone Apps. The Washington Post has a blurb about a new iPhone app called Pic Healthy, which allows you to take photos of your food and then share them with your friends, who can then use the app to comment on how healthful the dish is. (Here's the app website.) Now, I can see how this app makes sense to a group of entrepreneurs looking at studies on friendship networks and obesity and who conclude they should really harness this social media stuff to obtain positive health outcomes. But really, are you going to be the one to tell your friends that what they're eating is shitty? Or rather, are you going to stay friends with someone who's going to comment on everything you eat? Sounds like a Mean Girls setup to me.