Saturday, November 28, 2009

Country vs. City

Juxtaposition. Contra. Obverse.

That was what I came up with when I started thinking about my Thanksgiving post this year. Last year was such an exhalation for me. Such a nostalgic panorama. Winterberry and Milkweed. Creekbeds and hollows. Turkey and stuffing.

This year was the city house. An urban Thanksgiving where you travel, and then eat, and then relax, and then travel again. Same crew. Delicious food. Instead of walks by the creek, I did the "sleep in the chair" with football lulling me to sleep.

Mom and I still chatted food and politics, mostly food. Ms. S still sorted through all the china and service and made sure the proper pieces were on the table for our meal.

It was clearly the Thanksgiving of the iPhone, with John, Bec and I all tweeting and Facebooking our Thanksgiving cheer all over the world.

And the meal, oh the meal. It was brilliant.

We started with the appetizer-coffee-table-of-doom. Walk with me.

Top left is the olives, pequio peppers, and gurkens. clockwise we go to the avacado-cumin dip (200 calories total in that bowl, chow down), the cottage cheese with garlic and chives, then on to the vehicle du jour in the form of WholePaycheck's sea salt pita chips. Moving along to my curried-pea dip (real Indian garam masala in there. Thanks Momma D. Shame you had to fly all the way to India to be able to afford the medical care you needed. Glad it was a roaring success and that I got the added benefit of real garam masala). Veggies for more flavor delivery vehicles. Celery and curried pea dip was popular in my world. Sausicon and Gruyere with water crackers rounds it out. We snacked right folks.

Soup course was the kickoff for the 'sitting at the table' portion of the meal. Butternut squash soup. Served with warm bacon-scallion cornbread in the cast iron (I am nothing if not predictable). There was, shockingly, NO cream in this soup. And it wasn't missed. Thick and luxurious. Sweet as it should have been. Bright parsley for accent.

This was part of a Cooking Light menu that Mom ended up making most of because there was one dish that hooked her. And it wasn't the main course that did it. It was the roast side. It will remain a secret for a few more paragraphs.

The non-turkey this year that got plucked from the pages was Brined Pork Loin w/ Brown-Sugar Bourbon Glaze. Yeah, I licked glaze off my fingers when we were going over the menu in the kitchen when I first got to the house. No, I'm not ashamed to admit it.

If you can look at that brined hunk of porky goodness gettin' the business from that brush with sticky bourbon brown-sugar reduction and tell me there isn't a place in this world for 51% corn-mash whiskey aged at least 18 months in charred oak barrels; I'll tell you a whole list of other blogs you can go read to either ignore this one or read up on why you're just missing out. Trust tastes good.

Mom went deboned instead of the bone in pictured with the recipe because...well, because the local guys who provided the store with the local pork loin had boned theirs. The store had not boned the stuff they get from wherever. Since the farm had done it for the store, and it didn't cost them any labor, the boned pork loin was cheaper per pound than the bone pay less per pound at this store for local pork that did not have bones...and MORE for pork whose origin was 'wherever' and for which you were paying for the weight of the bones...that gets a hash tag fail in my book. But we came out on the tasty side of it, so I'm not going to complain too loudly.

It was set up next to the BEST dish on the table. The BEST dish of the day. The WINNER (Unlike the Doberman in the National Dog Show hosted by the Kennel Club of Philadelphia who looks just like my nephew Gus and who was ROBBED by the Scottish Terrier) was the roast Gala apples with Cippolini onions and Applewood smoked bacon. It was so sweet and tangy. There was just the perfect chew and smoke from the bacon. It paired will with everything from the pork and glaze to the potatoes and horseradish butter.

Compound butter, the brine, a glaze, a salad dressing (that never did get on the table because we never did get around to eating the salad course). As we sat around the living room after dinner waiting for enough time to pass to at least pretend we had room for pumpkin pie, Mom got a wry smile as she talked through the meal and said there were just so many 'sauces' in the menu...

Put it all on a plate and sit around a table with family and friends. Chat about what's happened since the last time you all sat together. It will likely have been too long. There will probably be stories you lean into and for which you prop your elbows on the table. I got to tell Mom about the letter from her Aunt Ida to he mother in the spring of 1946 telling of finding a new apartment and the furnishings in it in Washington, DC after she and my great-uncle Milt moved there after the war. It was a tattered letter that was behind the roll-top on grandpa's roll top desk and I found it when I had to take the roll-top off to get the desk into my new place. Some things are just...well, they just are.

It's over now, and there's still the weekend. Bec and John headed home this morning by way of outlets in Leesburg. The leftovers will be gone by the end of the day. It's strange to me today that this holiday that means so much to me, that I take every year as a chance to stop and reflect before I give thanks, has passed me by again. There was good food and good cheer. My house was a home where family come to visit for the first time. And we all slowed down and smiled a little more easily. In the end, that's what I get out of it all.

G'day y'all, and enjoy the rest of your holiday weekend.

Chick n' Ruth's Delly

Not a typo. Really. "Delly." Annapolis institution. Tight spaces, narrow aisles, small tables. GOOD FOOD. It's the Main Street Deli that a town south of Mason-Dixon isn't supposed to have. Grits and good corned beef on the same menu. And we love it.

There's Web 2.0, and then there's Chick n' Ruth's. With their locals page full of photos of people at the shop, at a charity tournament the delly runs, or just photos of friends of the restaurant out on the town. A photo album. On a restaurant website. And it's not about the shaved-truffle-parmesan-crusted-pistachio-dusted-foam atop your bacon-wrapped-marscapone-infused-lavendar-pear-turducken-wing with mint-julep-chayote-tomatillo-reduction-shooters.

It's just a deli run by a family who loves to run a deli, know their customers, and recite the pledge of allegiance every weekday morning at 8:30 (weekends at 9:30) because that's the tradition they were passed. Even if it's not your style, appreciate for a minute in this world of Black Fridays and Big Box stores that have their own electric substation attached to the back of the store that there is a mom, and a pop, and they'll still walk by your table and see if you need a reheat.

Here's what they say about themselves:
Chick and Ruth Levitt moved from Baltimore to Annapolis with their three children in August of 1965. In taking over a sandwich shop on Main Street, Chick was to institute something that had diminished through the years. Most people had forgotten and young people have never known the "Ma & Pa" establishments.

Ruth passed away June 20, 1986 from cancer. In 1988, the Scotlaur Inn was opened above the Delly. Chick passed away January 22, 1995. Chick is now back with his wife & girlfriend, Ruth. The memories and traditions of Chick and Ruth live on with Ted & Beth. They wish to thank their friends for their patronage in the past. They hope to continue to serve their usual fare of wholesome food, friendship, and lodging in the future.
I need to expand on the menu sometime. For 10 years of eating there, I've had a surprisingly small percentage of the menu. But for me, it is at heart a breakfast place. Creamed chipped beef over toast with Delly potatoes. Corned beef hash and eggs. Basted because neither Chick nor Ruth poach an egg. I've been meaning to tell you Chick. And you Ruth...poach eggs please? I'd love you even more.

Can anyone say pastrami and cheese omelet? You. You in the back. You can say it? Okay, good.

Pancakes the size of houses (big, fluffy, round houses). Real butter. Aunt Jemima on the tables so you really do feel like you're eating at home and it's one of those rare Saturday's when you don't have a game, a practice, or a scrimmage. And Mom feels like making pancakes. And you can thumb your nose at that 'real' syrup stuff. That's for chumps. Your Auntie knows syrup. And your Auntie is Jemima!

Sandwiches and breakfasts are named after local and state politicians. The current Mayor is cream cheese and olive on toast. Ummm, can the new Mayor's swearing in ceremony in early December include a proclamation of menu change? Just sayin'...not my style.

Senators, Delegates, Mayors, Governors, Council Members, and Golda Meier all have their signature dishes at the Delly. You get elected, you get a sandwich. And there are plenty of menu items from which to choose. Kosher dogs, corned beef or pastrami, Clubs, eggs sandwiches, Salisbury steak. All there.

Servers in white shirts with black vests? Check. Fill yer coffee 'hon? Check.

Massive sandwich and milkshake challenge? Check.

Chick & Ruth's Delly on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Soon, My Lovelies

You'll have write-ups of this, this, and a taqueria I can't even find using the Google (but it was just North of this on the OBT, before you get to I-4).

You'll also have the 2009 version of this, which will be located in the city house of the Mom. It will be attended by the same crew as last year. We will cook, and eat, and reminisce. I am making curried pea dip and a corn bread. Mom is making A LOT MORE. There will be photos. And perhaps interviews. And definitely elastic waistbands.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Baltimore Greek Festival

I think pictures only will do to give you a fair sense of my time at last weekend's Greek Festival in Baltimore with Suzu and AS. Let me start by telling you that yes, one of those signs in the background does offer chicken fingers. And there were people ordering them. I say shame on you...shame, shame on you. At least their poor choices meant the folks cooking up the food would definitely have what I wanted.

And I wanted Pork Souvlaki on warm pita with amazingly thick tzadziki. Also had a lamb gyro and a sausage sandwich studded with fennel and orange zest.

The sausage was spectacular, and the pork was...well...let's just say you know how I feel about pork. But the sausage was the winner for me this round. It was thick-cased and had a great chew. The orange bits could be clearly seen and tasted in every bite. And that sauce was...well, it was finger-lickin' good people.

Next up was dessert #1, fried honey balls. Sweet little numbers with the perfect amount of sticky honey coating each treat.

That, my friends, is how baklava should happen. It was nutty and chewy and had just the right hit of honey to make sure you knew it was a dessert. And we ate it quickly.

Then a walk over to the main church building and downstairs (all 17 of them) to get our appetites going again. Pastitsio! Oh, how I lurve thee. Thick bechamel holding ground beef and lamb together with penne rigate. Baked gold brown on top. Yeah, I need to make a pan of this right quick.

Sampler apps. Lamb meatballs, Dolmades with rice and ground beef/lamb, spanikopita and cheese pies, and more of that thick, sweet tzadziki. The meatballs were so meltingly tender. The dolmades had the tang of the leaves and the slow simmered goodness of the rice filling. The spanikopita was classic but I think we all believed the cheese pies were the phyllo wrapped winner of this course.

And there was wine. And it was good. There's something just plain right about sipping Greek red table wine out of small plastic cups in the gymnasium/meeting hall of a church while toasting your sick friend who couldn't be there and then tearing through a sampler plate of mezze.

I dub thee - Galapagos Burrito. In fact it is galaktoboureko, a custard-filled phyllo dessert, and Suzu can pronounce it. I could not, and we were having fun, so Galapagos Burrito it was and Galapagos Burrito it will remain in my mind. There were dozens and dozens of trays of all types of this custard-filled phyllo treat, more baklava, sweet shredded wheat tasties, chocolate cookie pastries, and so much more. The pastry room was a popular place. One father even showed the evil genius of bringing his 3-5 year old son and daughter in BEFORE they had lunch so he could bribe there behavior with a promise to return ONLY if they ate a good meal. Kudos to you sir!

Thanks much to all the staff and volunteers at the festival. It was a great cacophony of food and history, pastry and culture, wine and traditions; and I'm glad I got to share just a taste of it with you all!

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Wine Market - Fall & New Menus

I can tell you all about the Bacon-Wrapped Medjool Dates and the Veal Cheek Agnolotti. I can do this because, well, you're not surprised I ordered them as we sat on a Saturday night just sipping wine and grazing, are you?

We were still full (sorta...just sorta) from Greek Fest (and when you see that post, dear lord Fetz doesn't even begin to describe it).

But Suzu and AS decided since we had turned in to Wine Market, and I put the turn signal on and waited at least a second and a half to see if there were objections, we should have a bottle of Black Ankle's 2006 Crumbling Rock. Maryland wine peeps. Cab Franc/Merlot/Cab/Pettit Verdot blend. And really tasty. These folks got it more than right. Check the bottle price (mid-50s) and you'll probably say there's no way you'd pay that much for a Maryland wine, right? Do it. Thank me later.It's not "Maryland wine you'd pay a bit more for than usual." It's a damn fine bottle of wine at the right price point, AND it's from Maryland. We sipped for a good long while amazed at the viscosity (it took a good minute for legs to break down from the line of wine left from glass tilt). And then it was gone, and we were sad, and Kelly brought us the wine menu back, and all was right in the universe one more time.

Next bottle was the Atteca, a 100% Garnacha from Calatayud (say it fast Kelli, say it 10 times fast!). Yeah, I don't know where that is either, but it was a large Spanish red that turns out will be sipped this evening when I make it over to Pops for Sunday Family Supper. Gumbo tonight, Mmmmm. In any event, and almost in any "case," the Atteca led to the first order of food, because why wouldn't it.

Needed something. Ordered dates. There you have it. For the low-low price of $7 you're enjoying applewood smoked bacon wrapped medjool dates with toasted walnut fonduta, arugula, walnut vinaigrette, and shaved gala apple. AS put it very well. There is not a flavor or texture on that that plate that isn't there for a reason. If you can stop yourself short enough to take just a minute (and it'll be hard) to make sure you get one bite with a little bit of everything; you'll be a happy date-eatin' fool. Sweet and salty, creamy and crisp, bright and deep. It was all there.

Pause for the tangent that ends up being the theme. It's fall, though you wouldn't know it today. The air is cooler and crisp, the nights bring muted cries of "oh I wish I'd brought my scarf/gloves/sweater/other warm thing." The new items we tried last night were fall. They were dates and veal cheek, bacon and red kuri squash, they were braised and they were warpped and grilled, and they were swimming with luscious, heavy red wine that made your heart warm right along with your belly.

That was certainly the case with the agnolotti, which was paired through whim, chance, and good fortune with 2003 Brunello di Montalcino. You will want the $9 braised veal cheek agnolotti with golden raisins, red kuri squash, blood orange suprémes, and smoked oil. If you don't, call me, I'll fly with you and take them off your hands.

Funny that AS had been complaining earlier in the day about the pasta on Al Italia. And really, it's your national airline. Your national food should probably NOT SUCK on your national airline.

Little pillows of meat said Kelli, and god bless her for it, they were. perfectly cooked, toothy pasta pockets with braised veal cheeks that had melted. The flavors were smoky and rich and warm. You would want this in front of your fireplace. You would consider breaking in to my place to sit in front of the fireplace there. If you shared your agnolotti, I may agree to not press charges.

I saw the new scallop and snapper menu items...and we almost went for overdrive on the Saturday food-excursion. But just catching a glimpse was enough this time. Scallops, speck risotto, cranberry mostarda, sauted red kuri squash. Indeed, you are powerful as the emperor has foreseen. And there was talk of pork shanks (mostly because there was talk of lamb shanks earlier, but they were sold out of that special) and the pork shanks are served with curry noodles, and pulled brussel's sprouts (which is probably damn good and will likely need to get in my belly).

Instead, AS needed dessert, in the form of cheeses. And I will tell you it was a banner night. A banner night that had this guy try (no, I really wasn't a stinky cheese guy AT ALL), and not be offended by, and then try again, and then grab a piece of the toast points and smear more, a Spanish sheep's milk blue cheese.

(My sister has currently dropped her keyboard and may have to fight with the dog to get the mouse back, that is the level of psychic shock reverberating across the interwebs at this very moment.)

But it was goooooood. It was creamy, then salty, and there was a tang at the finish but the tang was a part of the cheese and not some billy club beating you over the head for daring to believe there was anything else to taste here.

And we talked about food, and politics, and restaurants, and watched other folks come to the bar and wait for their table and move on; or we watched them sit at the bar and order and eat and wonder if we should have ordered what they ordered; and a procession of men with elbow patches on sport coats and glasses that are clunky, and retro, and hip chatted amiably with smiling young women who were glad to be done with a week and able to order just one more 3 oz. pour of that Pinot they like so much (it's probably the St. Innocent).

There wasn't a distinct end to the night, we just couldn't order anymore. We had chatted, and sipped, and dined for a day, and with one final 3 oz. our ourselves, Suzu the Chianti, AS the Zinfandel, and I the Petit Syrah, it was all over but for the picking up two bottles on the way out the door.

Wine Market on Urbanspoon

An Omnivore's Defense of Defense

I will speak in hyperbole. It will be both witty and poingnant in its ability to convey my thoughts to you. Unless you're this guy, or this guy, in which case you will believe I am some cheese-eating, French-wine loving, surrender-monkey. And I am all of those things...except a surrender-monkey. And in any case its actually BECAUSE I am a cheese-eating, French-wine drinking dork that I put these thoughts out there for the little blogospehere-y types to read and consider.

Here's the hyperbole: People are starting to get as wound up as the Romans about books expressing the opinion that factory farms have serious and increasingly negative impacts on our food system and our health and that food created without laboratories is inherently more nutritious than its lab-coat, nutrient-injected, genetically-altered cousins.

Parse with me, because I wrote that last graph fairly carefully. There are some folks engaged in industrial agriculture and involved in farming today who are reacting very negatively to Michael Pollan's writing. They are proponents of industrial agriculture methods that have increased yields and reduced the price tag of a host of agricultural products for the 'Merican consumer. And they are reacting as if Pollan a) puts himself out as the be-all, end-all expert on agriculture; b) tells his readers that his science is irrefutable; c) proposes that every industrial farmer STOP what they are doing right now; and d) has convinced every American consumer to wage war on the American farmer.

I'll take his books in reverse order for the purpose of this exercise because the end result is primary, but the attacks are aimed squarely at the earlier book. Pollan's aim and authority as he sees it are spelled out fairly clearly before he even gets out of the introduction of "In Defense of Food."
My aim in this book is to help us reclaim our health and happiness as eaters. To do this requires an exercise that might at first blush seem unnecessary, if not absurd: to offer a defense of food and the eating thereof. That food and eating stand in need of a defense might seem counter-intuitive at a time when "over-nutrition" is emerging as a more serious threat to public health than under-nutrition. But I contend that most of what we're consuming today is no longer, strictly speaking, food at all, and how we're consuming it - in the car, in front of the TV, and increasingly alone - is not really eating, at least not in the sense that civilization has long understood the term.
As for authority:
You may well, and rightly, wonder who am I to tell you how to eat? Here I am advising you to reject the advice of science and industry - and then blithely go on to offer my own advice. So on whose authority do I purport to speak? I speak mainly on the authority of tradition and common sense. Most of what we need to know about how to eat we already know, or once did until we allowed the nutrition experts and the advertisers to shake our confidence in common sense, tradition, the testimony of our senses, and the wisdom of our mothers and grandmothers.
There's the what and the why of "In Defense of Food." And Pollan admits that the ability to eat in the manner he suggests in "In Defense of Food" was not possible until very recently because of the power of the industrial food economy spelled out in "Omnivore's Dilemma."
I doubt the last third of this book could have been written forty years ago, if only because there would have been no way to eat the way i propose without going back to the land and growing all your own food. It would have been the manifesto of a crackpot. There was really only one kind of food on the national menu, and that was whatever industry and nutritionism happened to be serving. Not anymore. Eaters have real choices now, and those choices have real consequences,  for our health and the health of the land and the health of our food culture - all of which, as we will see, are inextricably linked. That anyone should need to write a book advising people to "eat food" could be taken as a measure of our alienation and confusion. Or we could choose to see it in a more positive light and count ourselves fortunate indeed that there is once again real food for us to eat."
That real food is in direct response to the past 50 years of food production methods and markets. Let's be clear, "Omnivore's Dilemma" takes a fairly unforgiving look at the factory farm, the feedlots, the history of "Grain-Fed Beef" from the policy and marketing views. "In Defense of Food" takes the same glaring look at the pseudo- and incomplete science that grew up around our margarine and our high-fiber, and our hubris that we could do it better than nature.

Most importantly for my response to the attacks on the books, on Pollan, and on anyone who would be foolish enough to agree with him, I happen to have made the economic and personal decision that Pollan is more right than they are. Please don't get all paranoid-delusional on me for promoting an idea that I believe makes both more economic sense for consumers in the long run and provides food that tastes better to me.

Now on to the stories that sparked this defense of Pollan's "Defense." The first, an article written by farmer Blake Hurst, is a substantive and thoughtful counterpoint to Pollan. He is that farmer selling that product to those consumers. And his perspective from the eye of the market is both clear and factual. He sells what consumers want to buy.
I’m so tired of people who wouldn’t visit a doctor who used a stethoscope instead of an MRI demanding that farmers like me use 1930s technology to raise food. Farming has always been messy and painful, and bloody and dirty. It still is.

But now we have to listen to self-appointed experts on airplanes frightening their seatmates about the profession I have practiced for more than 30 years. I’d had enough. I turned around and politely told the lecturer that he ought not believe everything he reads. He quieted and asked me what kind of farming I do. I told him, and when he asked if I used organic farming, I said no, and left it at that. I didn’t answer with the first thought that came to mind, which is simply this: I deal in the real world, not superstitions, and unless the consumer absolutely forces my hand, I am about as likely to adopt organic methods as the Wall Street Journal is to publish their next edition by setting the type by hand.
Blake, what I am telling you right now is not that you're doing it wrong, or that I need you to change your farming. I am telling you that this consumer has thought more about the impact his choices have on himself and the larger community and prefers to know his farmer, to know his food, and to buy more and more of it raised and harvested in a manner more consistent with a small farm model of Polyface than the CAFOs and corn-science-based farming that has come to dominate the market place.

And I have to take a bit of issue with your quick-hitting: "Pollan thinks farmers use commercial fertilizer because it is easier, and because it is cheap. Pollan is right. But those are perfectly defensible reasons." Yes, they're defensible reasons for a farmer focusing on being successful in the industrial-agricultural economy. I think part of what Pollan does with Omnivore's Dilemma is to show that there are, in fact, other agricultural economies that exist.

You have an economic bottom line and meet it as you see fit with methods and through markets that make the most sense to you. But it is disingenuous at best to complain because Pollan wrote a book that made a lot of folks realize they had an economic choice too. I am making my economic choices; and they will include food produced by your methods less and less. That's not a personal attack on you, and it's not an attack on any farmer, it's an economic choice that by your logic I should be just as free to make as you are.

While almost all of my rebuttal to Hurst is based on our interpretations and opinions of the implication of Pollan on both the farmer and the consumer, there was one factual assertion Hurst made that I think bears a quick review.
Finally, consumers benefit from cheap food. If you think they don’t, just remember the headlines after food prices began increasing in 2007 and 2008, including the study by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations announcing that 50 million additional people are now hungry because of increasing food prices. Only “industrial farming” can possibly meet the demands of an increasing population and increased demand for food as a result of growing incomes.
A few things. It would be more accurate to say that politicians and policy-makers benefit from consumers who have cheap food. It would also be more accurate to say that consumers who have not thought about the economic or health implications of their food purchases prefer food that costs less.

Finally, and most importantly, read here, here, and here. Claims that increasing yield-per-acre will solve world hunger are just too far from the truth to be useful to your argument against people acting in accordance with Pollan's prescriptions.

The second story in a budding series of "Please don't let this man talk to people who might not want to eat food that's been fed more anti-biotics than a Marne platoon deploying in sub-Saharan Africa" told the tale of David Wood, the Chairman of Harris Ranch Beef. Mr. Wood is contemplating withdrawing his pledge of $150,000 and his company's pledge of $500,000 for a new agricultural lab at his alma mater because they invited Michael Pollan to speak, by himself, at the school. Quel horreur? He gets to talk without a muzzle or a factory-farm-owning-alumnus-paid-for-and-approved-other-side-of-the-argument-presenting partner?
Pollan, who teaches at UC Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism, is an advocate for healthy, environmentally conscious methods of farming and production — including feeding cattle with grass, reducing the use of petroleum on farms and decreasing pollution.

Wood, a Cal Poly alumnus who described himself as a “significant donor,” sent a letter to Cal Poly President Warren Baker in late September expressing his displeasure with Pollan’s scheduled talk.
Your protestations, Mr. Wood, sound hollow from here. Of course you'll hit back with "That description of Pollan leaves out the economic impact of his pie-in-the-sky ideas about farming on the hard-working men and women who struggle every day to put food on your table." Yeah, I hear you, and there is an economic impact on anyone who agrees with what Pollan's writing. But you also ought to consider that Beef being 'what's for dinner' for the past 50 years has contributed, at least in part, to this:
Obesity causes more than 100,000 cases of cancer in the United States each year — and the number will likely rise as Americans get fatter, researchers said on Thursday.

Having too much body fat causes nearly half the cases of endometrial cancer — a type of cancer of the uterus — and a third of esophageal cancer cases, the American Institute for Cancer Research said.
For me, it's the economic reality that I have family history of heart disease and diabetes and that I can spend more now on food that hasn't been altered in ways that make my life more likely to include cholesterol-lowering pills and shots of insulin...or I can spend more on health insurance and medical bills for the later third of my life.

I have to say, for the most part, I will be paying more now because it just makes sense to me.

Academic integrity does not mean that there is a zero-sum game in 'opinions on stage at one time.' It means the academic institution is a place in which learning is cherished, and in which all ideas are permitted to be expressed. That does not mean that it is a place in which you should feel good about throwing your weight to insure students can't hear one perspective without immediately having the opposing viewpoint in the moment. If you respect your alma matter, you'd respect their ability to have an open discussion rather than threatening the future students who will now not have the lab they need to learn.

Credit where it is due and a quick call to have your own discussion about this somewhere. The good folks at Serious Eats pointed me to the articles I've been parsing and rebutting here, though I'll also say I recently finished both "Omnivore's Dilemma" and "In Defense of Food," so it's been on my mind.
What This All Means

Instead of debating the issues of academic freedom at Cal Poly and Washington State University and whether Pollan will ever be buddy-buddy with industrial corn and soy farmers, let's focus on the dialogue here.

It means that what started as a small movement of people, often characterized as "impractical elitists," has become important enough to garner widespread attention. Before, the state of our food system was considered the norm and those who wanted to change it were buttonholed as ideological or out-of-touch. Now that ag-corporations are sitting up, taking notice, and feeling the need to put pressure on universities, we should all take that as a sign that this movement is going somewhere.
I hope that conversation does happen. And based solely on my authority as a consumer, I hope more and more people reach the same conclusion I reached.