Category: blog

Au revoir from The Conscientious Omnivore

sleeping cow

Sleeping cow. Photo by Flickr user Daniela Bergmann [~nachtmahr~], used under a Creative Commons license (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

After 2½ years, 740 posts, and 44,000 page views (and counting), it’s time to put this blog to bed for a well-deserved rest.

I started “The Conscientious Omnivore” as a way to share some of what I was reading, watching, and listening to as I sought to educate myself about the modern food system. I occasionally provided original content, such as one (and only one) recipe, which became the blog’s most popular post, our re-creation of Whole Foods’ classic curry tofu salad. Mostly, though, I passed along interesting pieces of reporting that I’d discovered online. Over time, we covered a wide range of topics under the broad umbrella of “how does the modern food system work?” These included everything from the many ills of factory farmed meat, eggs and dairy; the marketing of junk food to kids; agriculture in the face of climate change and growing global population; seasonal eating, farmers’ markets, and community supported agriculture (CSA); the explosive growth in the craft beer movement; the controversies around genetically modified organisms; and the often deplorable conditions in which farm workers toil. I still care a great deal about these and the many other issues we’ve touched upon, but the time has come for me to step away from the keyboard.

Since I started this blog in September 2011, an ever-increasing number of mainstream media outlets, alternative news sources, and of course bloggers have begun producing regular (sometimes great) writing on “the food beat.” So, even without my curatorial hand to guide you, there’s no danger of running out of reporting and reflection on how our food comes to be. In my absence, let me encourage you to consider adding some or all of the following to your favorites or your news feed:

Finally, whether you are a one-time visitor, a regular reader, or anyone in between, thank you for stopping by the blog! Whatever it was that piqued your curiosity and brought you to these pages, my parting message to you is the same encouragement that I give myself: Keep questioning. Keep learning. And most importantly—with your voice, your vote, your hands, and your dollars—keep working toward a food system that is more sustainable and sustaining, humane and healthful, and diverse and delicious for all.

Life of a family, death of a lamb

Photo by Sue Schlabach of 129 Twig and Vine, used under a Creative Commons license (CC BY-NC-ND 2.5)

The WordPress folks regularly feature a variety of blogs at their very own blog. Sometimes they do so to highlight skillful merging of design and function; such was the case with 129 Twig and Vine, which Cheri Lucas Rowlands wrote about yesterday. Boy, am I glad she did, not necessarily for the blog’s design (which is lovely) but for its content. Sue Schlabach—artist, spouse, mom, and much more—uses her blog to share a wonderful mix of photos and text, some of which touch on themes highly relevant to my own blog.

As just one example, let me recommend her post, “Death of a Lamb.” Here’s how she describes the start of a day late last August:

Oh E.B. White. You came to mind immediately yesterday. A day so long and multi-faceted that my memory of it now breaks it into chapters.

More of E.B. White to come. Stay with me.

Chapter 1

12:15 a.m.  Lights out. We’ve just finished watching the sad and slightly disturbing movie, “Margaret.”

2:30 a.m.  R gets up, can’t sleep.

2:35 a.m.  I go ask him if he is sick, needs anything. No, just wide awake. I slowly fall back into restless sleep, interrupted by strange dreams.

Chapter 2

8:20.  Drag myself out of bed but leave R with hopes that he will get some more rest (he fell asleep after 4 a.m.) It’s a beautiful morning, with fog burning off early. Three lambs dash from the barn when L (the 10 year old) lets them out, but the fourth saunters slowly into the field. The others rip into the grass quickly and he just looks off into his own private space.

R hears us remark our worries about lamb #4 (Oscar). He can’t sleep anymore and comes down to see. We brew tea to help ourselves wake up. I am very tired, but R is crushed under the weight of his bad night.

Chapter 3

9:00.  After breakfast Oscar has moved from where he first stood to further down the meadow near the other three. He is lying down. We approach him and he doesn’t move or run. He is shaking.

Time to call the vet. She tells us we can bring him in if we can put him in the car (a 25 mile trip). Otherwise she has appointments until noon and can’t come to us until 1 or 2 p.m. We look at each other and decide we can’t risk that Oscar may die between now and then. We have to take him in….

The piece is a touching example of Schlabach’s work at its best. Check out the full post—and find a link to E.B. White’s gently, profoundly humane 1948 essay, “Death of a Pig”—here. Both are great reads that I can’t recommend highly enough.

The Conscientious Omnivore’s year in review, 2012 edition

Photo by The Conscientious Omnivore (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0)

Photo by The Conscientious Omnivore (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0)

Having recently posted a few annual retrospectives, I thought I’d finish out 2012 with this blog’s own end-of-year review. So grab your favorite winter beverage, kick up your feet, and enjoy some of the top posts of the past year.

Most viewed TCO posts in 2012:

  1. Curry tofu salad [my one and only recipe post, which apparently filled a void online by providing our rendition of this classic Whole Foods deli item]
  2. Pelmeni lives (in Fitchburg!) [folks sure do miss their Russian dumplings]
  3. First impressions: One Barrel Brewing Company [folks also love their craft beer]
  4. Check out Roast Public House on State Street [a great new casual, locavore eatery comes to town]
  5. Gorst Valley fosters small-scale hops farming [homegrown hops make a comeback in Wisconsin]

My personal picks for favorite TCO posts you might’ve missed, one from each month of 2012:

  1. January: The Greek yogurt craze
  2. February: Targeting our shopping behaviors
  3. March: Fake meat targets flexitarians
  4. April: Farms, lies and videotape
  5. May: Service dogs allowed!
  6. June: Lakefront Brewery’s Wisconsinite
  7. July: The “mule” of summer [or, where seedless watermelons come from]
  8. August: A Pig in a Fur Coat review roundup
  9. September: A better egg from M&M Organic
  10. October: Bacon butter (AKA lard), the comeback kid
  11. November: Cranberries and climate change
  12. December: Is our food supply fracked?

My favorite posts at others’ blogs:

  1. What We Spent and What We Ate: F-You, Pies. F-You, by The Food Fighters, November 26. This Thanksgiving post is from my very favorite blog, about a Phoenix family striving to eat heathfully and thoughtfully each week.
  2. Melissa Kelly’s Primo, by André Darlington, October 27, from the blog of Isthmus critic and foodie. This entry celebrates the best in contemporary cooking and will make you want to plan a summer trip to Maine.
  3. Going undercover in the American factory farm, by Caroline Abels, November 15, from The Eat with Care blog at Abel introduces readers to Mary Beth Sweetland, senior director of investigations for the Humane Society of the United States, and the important work of her staff of undercover investigators.
  4. Andrew Zimmern’s 90 minute wait, or Do you know who I am?, by Kyle Nabilcy, July 22, from the blog of another Isthmus food writer. Nabilcy describes what happens when a cable TV host and podcast personality encounters 2-for-1–burger–night mayhem at The Old Fashioned.

Happy New Year to you and yours. See you in 2013!