TND – Latest Salvo

September 11, 2012

If you’ve been paying any kind of attention to the world of food news this week you’ll probably have seen the study from Stanford which suggests organic food isn’t any more nutritious or better for you than what you can buy at your average supermarket.

Little evidence of health benefits from organic foods, Stanford study finds

Reactions to this have ranged from shock, to horror, to disavowal, to quiet schadenfreude.  I’ve been a little surprised by the degree and intensity of the reaction because I’ve never assumed that organic food was healthier or more nutritious.  I buy ruby red heirloom tomatoes at farmer’s markets because I think they taste out of this world, not because I think that they’re actually contain more nutrients than their anemic supermarket cousins.  Ditto on organic milk which I buy because, in order:

– It comes in a glass bottle which appeals to my sense of retro style;
– I can send the glass bottle back to the dairy to be sterilized and reused (recycling ftw!)
– I can afford to (hold on to this point, it will become important later); and,
– My roommate says it tastes better (I almost never drink milk except in tea so I’m not a useful barometer for this).

The two sides of the organic-nutritious argument seem to be shaping up fairly predictably, albeit heatedly (also predictable).  On the one hand you have the organic food proponents who point out that this is an argument that crops up approximately every 18 months and that health and nutrition are not exactly synonymous terms.  Or, to quote an article refuting the study, “Saying organics aren’t worth it because they don’t have more vitamins is like saying lifting weights doesn’t give you better skin.”

The other side of the argument is neatly presented by Robert Cohen in a NYT Op Ed who argues that debunking the organic myth is a good thing in the long run because to feed a planet of 9 billion people we need high yield crops and those crops of necessity need pesticides and fertilizers and mass scale farming.  He does acknowledge that the organic food movement has reinvigorated the small farm community which was in danger of dying out, and that organic farming is more ecologically sustainable.

Personally I tend more towards the latter argument than the former, but as I noted above I buy organic produce because I think it tastes better and I like gossiping with the farmers who grow my zucchini, but not because I think it provides me with more nutrients.  More to the point, this is an indulgence that I can afford.  This is not true for a lot of people, and there have been studies which suggest that when presented with a choice of a supermarket apple that is affordable and an organic apple that isn’t, people will opt not to buy the supermarket apple because they’ve seen the hype about the greater nutritional/health value of organic fruits & vegetables.  In my book, if your choice is supermarket fruit vs. no fruit, supermarket wins hands down no question, no contest, and we shouldn’t be allowing the hype of the slow food movement do anything to discourage people from buying all the fresh produce they can afford.

I also think a better argument for organic produce is that it’s more ecologically responsible, and that on a planet with a population of 9 billion and climbing and no moon colonies on the horizon anytime soon, ecological responsibility is something to which we should all aspire.  That being said, as legally defined by the government organic is a fuzzy and flexible term.  There are a lot of farms that practice rigorous organic farming that don’t carry an organic certification because it’s not cost effective for them to pay to jump through all the hoops the government requires.  And, the farms that do have an organic certification aren’t necessarily pesticide free, the government allows for a wide range dubious substances to be employed even on organic farms.

I don’t really have a conclusion here.  I don’t think the Stanford study is likely to change anyone’s mind one way or another.  The battle lines have been drawn, and I don’t know that this study has done anything to move them.  It’s had zero impact on my personal opinions, but as noted above this is mostly because I indulge myself with organic farm fresh produce because I think it tastes better, not because I think it’s better for me.

Sweet Tea Brined Pork Chops
Roasted Potatoes with Arugula Pistachio Pesto
Carottes Râpées

Sweet Tea Brined Pork Chops
I’ve used this brine on chicken, pork chops, and pork tenderloin.  It works for all of them – although I think the pork chops picked up the most distinct flavor from the brine.  I’m not sure if this is because I brined them for longer (about 36 hours, instead of 24), or because the thinner cut allowed them to brine more thoroughly, or a combination of the two.

2 tea bags (I used English Breakfast – but Earl Grey would be interesting to try sometime)
2 cups water
¼ cup packed brown sugar
1/8 cup kosher salt
½ medium sweet onion, thinly sliced
½ lemon, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, smashed & roughly chopped
Leaves from 1 (3”) sprig of rosemary (although thyme would work too)
Scant ½ Tbsp black pepper
2 lb center cut pork chops, cut ½” thick (or pork tenderloin, or chicken breasts)
(Optional – 1 Tbsp sherry/calvados/white wine/chicken stock/apple cider)

Place the tea bags in a bowl with the brown sugar and kosher salt.  Pour 2 cups of boiling water over and stir to dissolve the sugar and salt.  Cover and allow to steep for 10 minutes.  Discard tea bags.  Allow to cool completely.

In a ziplock bag combine the onion, lemon, garlic, rosemary and black pepper.  When the tea mixture is completely cool add to the bag and squish to combine.  Add the pork chops (or other meat of choice), seal the bag (removing as much air as possible), squish in your hands to make sure that the brine has worked its way around all the pork chops.  Refrigerate for 12-36 hours.

Remove from the fridge 15-20 minutes before you plan to cook the pork chops (unless it’s Arizona in August and you don’t have air conditioning – you just want to take some of the chill off the pork chops, not give yourself salmonella).  Remove the pork chops from the brine and dry thoroughly on paper towels.  Coat lightly with flour and pan fry until done (about 3-4 minutes/side).

Remove pork chops to a platter and deglaze your pan(s) with sherry/calvados/white wine/chicken stock/ apple cider (depending on what you have to hand).  Drizzle pan drippings over pork chops.  Serve.

Roasted Potatoes with Arugula Pistachio Pesto

Recipe previously given:  Delayed Gratification

Carottes Râpées

Recipe previously given:  Stuck a Feather in his Cap

Watermelon & Tomatoes



  1. The two things I almost always prefer from the farm stand or my own garden are tomatoes and apples. If I drank milk anymore (other than in coffee) I’d probably be on the organic milk truck. Of course, I *did* grow up on a dairy farm and remember my grandfather making his own butter as well. There is really no comparison to raw milk.

  2. […] Recipe previously given: Latest Salvo […]

  3. […] did a riff on the sweet tea brine I’ve used before (TND – Latest Salvo) – I substituted chai tea for regular black tea, used half honey and half brown sugar, and mashed […]

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