Friday Food Links: Slow Meat, Belly Up, Aged Cheese

Slow Meat: Though I'm not always in agreement with him, James McWilliams is one of my favorite food activists. He's vegan and proud. Anyone that knows me knows such a description used to fit here as well. Lately, the first term has returned, somewhat, though I've certainly left behind the pride. He's got a post up on his The Pitchfork blog you should take a look at. The big Slow Food party is coming up, and looks like attendees at the big foodie conference are going to witness the butchering of a bison (and, of course, talk about it and honor it at the same time, as is foodie custom). After witnessing and writing about animal slaughter myselfI too question the purpose of this kind of theater. One of the things I didn't get around to writing about in the slaughter story, though what I wrote was true at the time, is that the experience was a turning point in how I view sentience and food. Make sure you click on the "Letter to Journalists" at the bottom of the Pitchfork post. Good links there.

Belly Up!: I spent early Thursday evening chatting with Matt Palmerlee and Eddie Russell, two bad ass Athens chefs, the latter a star in a new Cooking Channel show called Belly Up! Meeting with them is part of a longer story about the local culinary scene I'm working on. As we talked, a story about Russell on an Atlanta Journal-Constitution blog went live and the chef read it aloud to us. I think Russell disagreed with how he was characterized, but, nevertheless, it serves as an introduction to a cool project that Eddie and my longtime friend Matt are doing. Their pilot airs Monday, but you can watch in online now.

Aged Cheese: Woah! What a quick turnaround by the FDA. I mean, even Facebook land was super-miffed that the regulatory agency was looking to ban cheese aged on wood racks. Maybe two days later, the FDA retracted. And I mean fast, at least in the social media world. As soon as folks were posting outraged rants, the first comment would be, "Hey, it's cool. They retracted." Love it. Anway, here's the latest from the New York Times' Kim Severson. 

Here's the nut of the cheese matter, according to Severson:

To those who don’t know a cloth-wrapped Cheddar from a Comté, it seems an arcane matter. But for fans of imported and domestic artisan cheese, the threat of losing wooden planks to age and store cheese was akin to taking oak barrels away from winemakers.

Cheese makers have used wood for centuries, relying on the porous nature of planks to help control moisture, a process necessary to create cheese rinds. Wood also helps encourage unique microbes that give different cheeses flavor and character.

A ruling from the F.D.A. that circulated widely this week seemed to indicatethat the agency had banned the use of wood planks. The agency was responding to problems with listeria monocytogenes, a type of bacteria that can cause fatal illnesses, that was found at a cheese-making operation in upstate New York.

But by Tuesday, after the issue blew up on social media and members of Congress got involved, the F.D.A. issued a clarification that said while it had concerns over whether wood was a safe and sanitary medium for cheese making, it was in fact not changing the rules.

Late Wednesday, the F.D.A. issued a more-detailed statement on the issue that read much like an apology and made it clear wood was still O.K.

I knew wood was important to aging many cheese, but I didn't know it's used in 75 percent of cheese made in the U.S. No wonder the FDA reversed so quickly.

Oh, and it's DOG WEEK over at Modern Farmer. So much dog I just can't even start.