Brain Pickings

Posts Tagged ‘food’

28 JULY, 2010

The Geometry of Pasta: A Minimalist Design Cookbook

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Canestrini, canestri and what design minimalism has to do with the perfect sauce.

When you think pasta, you don’t immediately think design. But a new book out today, The Geometry of Pasta, is out to once and for all confirm every chef’s conviction: That food is art.

The unusual volume pairs London chef extraordinaire Jacob Kenedy with award-winning British graphic designer Caz Hildebrand, exploring the science, history and philosophy of Italy’s most iconic pasta dishes through more than 100 authentic recipes accompanied by stunning, artful black-and-white designs. And any book that comes with a trailer, a minimalist motion typography one at that, is a winner in our book.

In addition to the delicious aesthetic treat, The Geometry of Pasta promises to help you develop an intuitive skill for matching pasta and sauce to maximize taste and texture, a skill the authors — and pretty much all Italians — firmly believe is linked to the ability to choose the right shape of pasta for the sauce.

For a taste of the contents, sample some drool-inducing recipes and ogle some stylish pasta shapes on the book’s website. Then, grab yourself a copy of this wonderful intersection of the arts diguised as a cookbook and amp your kitchen’s hip factor definitively.

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19 MARCH, 2010

Infoviz Education: Animated Visualizations for Kids

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Helium, carbon, and what Little Red Riding Hood has to do with malnutrition in Africa.

We love infographics. We love animation. And we’re all for engaging kids in creative education. So today we’re looking at three educational infoviz animations that shed light on complex or important issues in beautifully art-directed ways that make little eyes widen and little brains broaden.

HOW TO FEED THE WORLD

Directed by Denis van Waerebeke, How To Feed The World is a brilliant animated short film made for the Bon appétit exhibition in Paris science museum. Though aimed at helping kids ages 9 to 14 understand the science behind eating and why nutrition is important, the film’s slick animation style and seamless visual narrative make it as educational for kids as it is for budding designers, looking to master the art of using design as a storytelling medium.

Bonus points for the obligatory British voiceover, always a delightful upgrade.

THE STORY OF STUFF

Though not necessarily aimed at kids alone, Annie Leonard’s brilliant The Story of Stuff — which we reviewed extensively some time ago — condenses the entire materials economy into 20 minutes of wonderfully illustrated and engagingly narrated storytelling that makes you never look at stuff the same way again.

The Story of Stuff recently got a book deal, further attesting to its all-around excellence. We highly recommend it.

THE ELEMENTS

A few months ago, we reviewed They Might Be Giants’ fantastic Here Comes Science 2-disc CD/DVD album aimed at the K-5 set, a brilliant intersection of entertainment and creative education. One of the highlights on it is this wonderful animated journey across the periodic table, a true exercise in art-meets-science.

The entire album is well worth the two Starbucks lattes that it costs, both as a tool of inspired education for kids and a timeless music treat for indie rock fans of all ages.

BONUS

Though certainly not educational, and likely not aimed at kids, this fantastic animation — which we featured exactly a year ago today — offers a brilliant infographic reinterpretation of the Brothers Grimm children’s classic The Little Red Riding Hood, inspired by Röyksopp’s Remind Me.

We’d love to see this as a series, celebrating the cross-pollination of some of our favorite facets of creative culture — animation, data visualization, and classic children’s literature — with quirk, humor and superb art direction.

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04 NOVEMBER, 2009

The Botany of Desire: Michael Pollan Explores Big Agriculture

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Cannabis, tulips and what a potato has to do with our sense of entitlement.

While the world was busy getting excited over yesterday’s much-anticipated DVD release of Food Inc., an arguably more compelling revelation of truth about food was taking place. Because Food Inc. is a fine film full of eye-opening and well-researched information, but it, like many similar documentaries, has a serious preaching-to-the-choir problem due to the self-selection bias of its audience, composed mainly of people already familiar with the issue and interested in its resolution. These are the people who would go see a limited-release indie film in theaters, or actively pursue the DVD. But what about those who lack the awareness and thus the interest in issues that clearly impact them and should thus warrant that awareness and interest?

Yesterday was also the much-less-trumpeted DVD release of the excellent PBS series The Botany of Desire, which explores how humans have used the plant world to gratify our desires. Featuring the brilliant food advocate Michael Pollan, one of our big cultural heroes about whom we’ve gushed many times before, the series isn’t sensationalistic or alienatingly focused the large-scale, institution-level pitfalls of big agriculture.

Instead, Pollan peels away at the issue through four tangible case studies of everyday plants whose evolution we’ve manipulated ruthlessly in our quest for gratuitous self-fulfillment: Marijuana, gratifying our desire to change consciousness; the potato, filling our need for control; the tulip, reflecting our yearning for beauty; and the apple, which started from Kazakhstan’s forests and ended up as the universal fruit, satisfying our craving for sweetness.

The Botany of Desire is a fascinating and rich exploration of the human relationship with the plant world, an eye-opening reflection of the ugly sense of entitlement governing many of our social, biological and moral choices. Of course, how much such awareness translates into actionable change is a separate issue altogether, one behavioral psychology has been trying to tackle for ages. But it’s a step — and we strongly encourage you to take it.

Catch the full-length programming on PBS or grab the freshly released DVD from Amazon, and think about the story of the next apple you bite into.

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22 APRIL, 2009

Earth Day The Reel Way

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Just how stupid we really are, or what James Earl Jones and a giant humpback whale have in common.

It’s Earth Day, and instead of engaging in questionable eco initiatives, like watching Philly’s fountains turn green, why not call a few friends over for some essential viewing that will disturb, move, outrage and inspire you in that bitter-sweet way that An Inconvenient Truth did in 2006.

Here’s some help, with our selection of 5 new must-see films that explore our environmental sensibility.

THE COVE

2009 Sundance Audience Award Winner The Cove is a mixture of action, adventure, mystery and, as the tagline goes, “oh, and it’s a documentary”. The movie tells the story of a group of filmmakers, activists and free-divers, led by director Louie Psihoyos, who penetrate a hidden cove in Japan uncovering a terrible secret.

No spoilers here  — you’ll only know the secret after seeing the movie, but let’s just say that given the filmmakers are wanted by the Japanese authorities,  it’s going to be be good.

THE AGE OF STUPID

Director Franny Armstrong takes the scare approach to instill in us some eco sensibility. Half-fiction, half-documentary, The Age of Stupid shows Oscar-nominated Pete Postlethwaite living alone on a devastated Earth in 2055. In this barren habitat, the only type of entertainment available to the poor guy is “old” documentary footage of us trashing the planet in the present day.

Troubled by questions like why we didn’t stop climate change when we had the chance, Pete suggests that the answer might simply be that we were really, really stupid. And he may have a point.

FUEL

Fuel is last year’s Sundance Best Documentary Award Winner, and covers a topic painfully familiar by now — America’s addiction to oil.

Director Josh Tickell drills the history behind the rising domination of the petrochemical industry — which may seem like a regurgitated discussion to some, but we believe these things simply need to be said until there is no longer a need for them to be.

Plus, there’s a cameo by one of our heroes — Sir Richard Branson — as well as other fascinating instigators like Josh Tickell himself and Robert Kennedy Jr.

EARTH

Sure, it may be unoriginally titled. But earth, out in the U.S. today, is a piece of remarkable visual storytelling about three animal families and their amazing journeys across the planet we all call home.

The film comes from directors Alastair Fothergill and Mark Linfield, the acclaimed creative team behind the Emmy-Award-winning Planet Earth. It also doesn’t hurt that it’s narrated by the one and only James Earl Jones.

It’s a story told through incredible action taking place on unimaginable scale at impossible locations. Full of mystery and intimacy and magic as we glimpse inside the worlds of our planet’s most elusive creatures, the film is an epic call for appreciation of the fragile world we inhabit, a moving plea for a new self-conception as actors in an intricate and brilliantly orchestrated system beyond our own existence.

You can catch the filmmakers hosting a special episode over at Current for a fascinating behind-the-scenes look at their phenomenal adventure and creative process.

FOOD, INC.

By now, you know we’re big proponents of sustainable agriculture and permaculture. So it comes as no surprise that we find Robert Kenner‘s FOOD, INC. to be a compelling must-see. A merciless exposé on America’s food industry, it reveals all the hidden workings and often shocking truths of the government’s regulatory agencies, USDA and FDA, lurking behind the consumer’s scope of vision.

The film features social entrepreneurs and sustainability visionaries like Michael Pollan (The Omnivore’s Dilemma), Eric Schlosser (Fast Food Nation), Stonyfield Farm’s Gary Hirshberg and Polyface FarmsJoel Salatin, who together paint a grim picture of what we eat and how it ended up on our plates, brimming with an urgency to change what we eat in order to change where we end up.

For 13 more Earth-conscious must-sees, we highly recommend the selections in Yale’s Environmental Film Festival, as well as the two incredible forthcoming films presented at this year’s TED Conference and TEDPrize winner Sylvia Earle’s compelling talk on why blue is the real green.

03 APRIL, 2009

Sustainable Agriculture: Top 5 Innovation Efforts

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What sheep have to do with high-rises and Obama first oversight.

We’re big on sustainability. The real, policy-changing, culture-redefining kind, not the I-Heart-Recycling graphic tee kind. Which is why we think agriculture, the literal lifeline to our vitality, is a tremendously potent tool for ensuring a sustainable future. Here are 5 innovative projects that propagate progress through smart, sustainable food initiatives.

HERDSHARE

The days of making small talk with the milkman may be long gone, but the relationship doesn’t have to be.

herdshare Australian startup Herdshare is building a platform that enables farmers and their shareholders to form and manage their herd share arrangements, essentially cutting out the middleman and making the relationship delightfully personal.

For the un-initiated, a heardshare is coop of people who buy a small herd and pay a farmer to take care of their animals, milk them, and deliver the goods. Herdshare is founded on principles of fair pricing, food quality, landcare, better animal husbandry and, above all, simplicity.

The site itself is still being built, but we have high hopes for the project. In the meantime, you can read their brochure to find out more.

FOODZIE

Farmers markets have long been the scene of the grassroots eco-eating movement, especially with the recent emphasis on local over organic as the more sustainable consumer choice. (Ideally, of course, we take ours local AND organic.)

foodzie Unfortunately, not every city is as lucky as Philly, with its legendary Reading Terminal Market, North America’s first and largest indoor farmers market. Enter startup Foodzie — an online farmers market where small growers and artisan producers can get their foodstuffs to the hungry and socially conscious masses.

An Etsy for food, Foodzie features anything from bakery to herbs and spices to meat and seafood. You can find such delicious divinities as the hazelnut truffle cookie, the Vindaloo curry sauce or the hickory-smoked buffalo jerky strips. You can even shop by location, if you subscribe to Google’s 100-mile-radius philosophy.

sugar Foodzie also carries occasion-specific treats, like the curret selection of editorially-curated Easter products — so grab yourself a sheepie-shaped sugar cookie and tell your favorite local farmer about the site. It’s a grassroots movement, after all, so your individual word-of-mouth may have more power than you suspect.

via The New York Times

LOCAL HARVEST

You know we’re talking grassroots when there’s a hideously designed yet brilliantly conceived site in question.

Which is exactly what LocalHarvest is — an online tool for finding local, organic food across nearby CSA (community-supported agriculture) initiatives, farmers markets and family farms.

We’ve mentioned the project before, but it’s worth a revisit since it’s constantly adding new farmers markets as well as new site features — you can do anything from finding a CSA subscription to reading the blogs of the actual farmers whose food is on your table.

Food really doesn’t get more personal than that, and we love how LocalHarvest marries the old-timey relationship between the spinach-eater and his spinach-growing neighbor with the tools of today’s web-centric culture.

POLYFACE FARMS

We’ve sung the praises of Polyface Farms before — extensively — so we won’t over-elaborate. But we will say that when agricultural activist Michael Pollan puts his seal of approval on something, there’s good reason. (Which is a shame, since Obama recently shot down The Sustainable Dozen, Pollan’s recommendation for head of the Department of Agriculture — a big mistake by Obama, in our generally Obama-loving opinion.)

Polyface founder Joel Salatin has a vision far broader than the food itself:

We are in the redemption business: healing the land, healing the food, healing the economy, and healing the culture.

What’s unique about Polyface Farms is the uniquely designed permaculture system that the six different animal species inhabit. They’re all engaged in a fascinating ecological dance, brilliantly orchestrated by the farm to maximize the symbiotic relationship the animals have with one another and with the land.

Polyface is a hopeful exemplar in sustainable agriculture, a model we hope will be replicated on a scale large enough to truly impact the entire industry’s business model and thus its cultural and ethical footprint.

VERTICAL FARMING PROJECT

We had the fortune of seeing TED 2009 live, where urban farming pioneer Dickson Despommier presented his brilliant Vertical Farm Project, an urban agriculture initiative that takes indoor farming to a new level — literally.

The project aims to increase our ecosystem’s food efficiency by using urban space — high-rises in particular — to start a new movement of city farming for today’s urbanites. Vertical Farming offers so many rationally indisputable benefits we have to wonder why it hasn’t been considered seriously until now — you get year-round crop production, maximize space (1 acre indoor is equivalent to 4-30 acres outdoors, depending on the crop), it’s weather-controlled, so no crop loss due to droughts, floods or pests (unless you count your roommate in the latter), and you can grow fully organically, without pesticides or herbicides.

These are just a few of the multitude of benefits — and now it’s over to the design side, with a number of architectural plans already proposed.

To find out more about the brilliant rationale of vertical farming, take a look at the library of concept presentations. And stay tuned for when the Despommier talk becomes available on TED — this is an idea worth spreading, if we ever saw one.