To Be Or Not To Be . . . Labeled GMO?? That Is The Question!! (revised)





I’m going to weigh in with both feet on this one and I promise you it won’t be pretty.

California, as many of you know, experiences an interesting form of democracy. Out here on the Left Coast along with our beaches, blonds, oranges and Left Wing ideals we have the Initiative process. This process allows any citizen, with a  few requirements, to place an item on the ballot that has the power to change the State constitution.  This allows the citizens of California the power to vote in or out following their reason and their passion.

Who thought up this idea?

I am not, let me repeat, I am not a fan of partisan politics. I long for the days of heated discussions and collegiality amongst our elected officials. A healthy difference of opinion helps flush out the meat of an argument. Collegiality and respect allow both sides to compromise.  It is often said that ‘If both sides are unhappy, you have a good compromise.’  What I am underwhelmed with is that most voters are swayed by passion, however-well-intended, rather than reason. The result of this are laws written into the State constitution that invariably end up being challenged in court.

Prop 37 is no different. In fact it has already landed in front of the bench and we haven’t even voted on it yet! Here is where a little reading goes a long way.  One of the provision of the law states that processed foods may not be labeled as ‘Natural.’  For example flour because it has been milled or olive oil because it has been pressed, may not be labeled as Natural. Okay, on its face this seems innocuous enough and the proponents of Prop 37 have taken a step already to this argument: The sued to have the Secretary of State change the wording in the Impartial Analysis found in the Voter’s guide.

The correction asked for by Proposition 37 supporters, and ordered by the court, amounts to the change of one word. Specifically, the court ordered that the word “some” replace the word “all” in this sentence: “Given the way the measure is written, there is a possibility that these restrictions would be interpreted by the courts to apply to some processed foods regardless of whether they are genetically engineered.” (In the actual voter guide, the word some will not appear in underlined bold form.) *

Okay some processed foods will be effected.  But which ones?  The law doesn’t state. Here is the kicker, every citizen in the State of California has the right to enforce this law by filing a lawsuit. This lawsuit is filed not against the producer but . . . wait for it . . . the grocer!!   Yep folks that’s right, Mom and Pop are now financially responsible to keep reams of paper documentation on hand for every food product in their store and they must produce it for inspection by consumers when asked. If they don’t happen to have the latest GMO information sheet about say . . . Brand X Olive Oil . . . you can sue them.  That’s right you as an ordinary citizen can sue your local grocer. That’s just for starters.

“So Tom,” you ask, “Don’t you want to know what is in your food?”

Of course I do and this law on its face makes me feel good. It makes me believe that I am getting useful information when in fact I am not.  If I want really useful information I need to bother my grocer into providing me with written information about the product I am considering buying. So here goes. I’m in the store and I find my favorite Natural peanut butter except it is no longer labeled Natural. Only ingredient is still just peanuts. Hmm? Curious.  I as the grocer why and he has to drop everything he is doing to dig through  . . . Binders! (sorry couldn’t help myself) . . . of paper to find out why.   Or I now buy the same loaf of bread that I always do and it is labeled ‘Contains GMO”  What’s this?? Again the grocer must dig for a piece of paper while I wait.  Multiply this by everyone in the State of California who shops.  Not fair, not a well written law.

(It has been brought to my attention that the previous paragraph may not be entirely accurate. I still maintain that this piece of legislation is poorly written and confusion about such interpretations must be settled in court, wasting time and resources. For a well written opposing viewpoint please visit:  )

“But Tom,” you say, ” I want to know if my food has any GMO’s. I have a right to know.”

Yes you do! But what does this simple little statement tell you: Contains GMOs.  Nothing! If you have not already take a few minutes to read my opinion on the term ORGANIC. You will find that it means little or nothing at all, since there is no one definition for the term.  The same with Contains GMOs.  There is no one definition.  Does my ham contain human growth hormones, is this corn RoundUp resistant?  I don’t know. Another kicker is that many items are exempt from labeling. Here is compromise working against our better interests. If we are to do this, we need the complete information on everything we consume.

“But Tom, there may be health risks.  We don’t know but I want to be on the safe side.”

Exactly! We do not know.  Precisely the reason not to act. Acting without knowing is what got this country in to two expensive drawn out wars. Act when we do know.  You will find my voice chief in this case.

“But Tom, 50 other countries already have laws in place labeling GMOs.”

Good for them.  How are their laws written.  I am not saying that it is a bad idea, just the opposite. What I am saying is that this law is not well written.

“But Tom, look at the two top donors: Monsanato and DuPont Chemical and follow the money.”

Granted I am not a big fan of large corporations.  I believe that they have agendas that most likely do not coincide with my best interests.  But guilt by association is just another fear tactic being employed to get you to vote for the passage of prop 37. What’s worse yet is that if this poorly written law passes there will be no effort to write a law that actually makes a difference.

Another question: Who is to gain if this law does pass? Most likely the Natural Food Companies that donated to this proposition.  The same way they benefit from having the term Organic on their labels. This law is just another bit of marketing hype with no real benefit to consumers.

I am all for knowing what is and what is not in my food.  I tend my garden with the minimum of chemical intrusion.  I enjoy tasting the sweet ripe flavors of each piece as it comes off the vine. I encourage you to plant your own garden whether it is just a few herbs  or you dedicate your front yard to growing food as an example to your neighbors.

But I am voting No on Prop 37.  Not because I do not believe in what it stands for but because it is a poorly written piece of legislation.

Eat Well and Smile Often,




p.s. That’s just organic horse manure you smell on my feet.,_Mandatory_Labeling_of_Genetically_Engineered_Food_(2012)

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I’ve Got Class!!

Chef ToqueWhy yes, Yes I do. I’ve got class.

Cooking class that is. I must tell you that my time at culinary school gave me some of the finest cooking memories I have.  It was an amazing art school experience.  No pressure to produce, everything was about me learning, practicing and creating great dishes.  I got to spend 7 hours a day, 5 days a week for 14 months learning about food, where it comes from, how to prepare it and (the very best part) eating it; lots of it!  I played with colors, tastes, textures and more. It was fantastic! Never before or since have I felt so creative. I loved it so much I gained over 30 pounds in my time there.  I think I felt that it was important to live up to the old adage – Never trust a skinny chef.

Upon hearing that I graduated from the California Culinary Academy, I am often asked what style of cooking I specialize in?  Which is turning out to be a better question than I originally thought. You see I don’t really have a cuisine that I favor.  Italian, I suppose, could best describe the style of cooking that I lean towards but not completely. Let me give you a brief insight in to my cooking; I’m a techniques kind of guy. I can readily attribute any minor creative streak directly to the company I kept in school. Talented, gifted people who could imagine tastes in their minds then recreate them on the plate.  Just being around them made me a better cook. Me? I focus my attention more on the proper way to saute’, or braise, or roast, or poach.  Each of these terms have specific time/temperature definitions.  Employed correctly they yield tremendous results with the food I am preparing.  Le Technique, this is where I like to seek mastery.

Chef SuzanneThis last weekend I was lucky enough to brush elbows with another one of these talented, gifted types. Suzanne Griffin of Cooking by the Bay. Suzanne teaches cooking classes from her home in San Rafael and this last Sunday I took my first Indian cooking class from her.  It was fantastic to be a student again listening to someone as enthusiastic and knowledgeable as Suzanne is. My classmates were 3 lovely, talented women and we spent a great part of the evening sharing wine and oohing and ahhing over the smells that emanated from the stove top. Each of us was given an apron, a cutting board and a knife with instructions on what and how to prepare each item for each dish. Our teacher’s easy style had us all in laughter and we felt such great pride and accomplishment in putting the meal together ourselves.  Spinach Raita, Papaya Chutney and Chicken Tika Masala.  YUM!!  Sop that up with a little Naan and man what a great meal.

For all of you foodies out there who live in the San Francisco Bay Area I strongly suggest that you go to Chef Suzanne’s website and check out her list of classes.  There is something there for everyone; from how to prepare a Tropical Feast, to whipping up Thai Food, to tips and techniques for a Fuss Free Dinner Party.  I can not recommend her strongly enough.  Release your inner chef, I say, and go get yourself some class!


Eat Well and Smile Often,



p.s. (chickentikamasala, chickentikamasala, chickentikamasala)

Weekend in Review!!

I hope you all had a lovely weekend, I did! I was up like a bunny, on a sunny Easter Sunday, woke my pal Suzanne, of Cooking By The Bay, and we hopped over to the Marin Farmer’s Market. What a treat to go early on Sunday morning. No crowds; warm, waking sunshine; and so, so, many savory sweet smells coming from all the vendor’s booths. At Suzanne’s wise suggestion, we strolled the market first, greedily tasting samples of butters and chutneys and pestos. It was fabulous. By the time we made it to the end my hunger was in full, raging force and I swear I couldn’t have taken another step if it wasn’t for . . .

The Taco Guys!! These guys, in addition to being great cooks, are a hoot first thing in the morning. Both Jason Hoffman and Justin Close jumped to attention at our approach and handily whipped together a Kahlua Pork Taco for my Easter breakfast. Trimmed with julienne of mango and daikon greens, that sweet little beasty made me a happy man. Suzanne, declining more than a taste, was emphatic is stating, “Eggs, I need eggs, not piggy for breakfast.” Ho hum . . . more for me.

Next stop, Donna’s Tamales for breakfast burritos! Suzanne immediately tucked into the rich, egg filled tortilla stuffed with salsa, peppers and more. I decided to change things up and opted for their Vegan burrito. Hers was delicious and warm, and egg-ily satisfying. Mine was good but I felt it needed more . . . zing. I chose from the salsa condiments they had available and popped them to the top. It spiced it up some. I would certainly eat their food again and look forward to the next time, as Suzanne’s breakfast was, and I quote, – Scrump-dilly-icious! – unquote.

Always a sucker for a sample, this pleasant woman at McClellands’ Dairy tempted me with a bit of butter on a bread stick. YUM!! I was fully intent on not breaking stride (more of a slow amble really but still a stride) but the creamy rich taste of this butter halted me in my tracks. Always hawkish when it comes to paying premium for a commodity I happily dug into my wallet to pay for a half pound of this bit of ‘Oh So Golden’ heaven. What has two thumbs and loves this butter? This guy!

All in all it was a great day to be out with my buddy Suze. Happily sated, we returned promptly to the sofa intent on doing nothing more all day. Nice Sunday . . . zzzzzz . . .

Eat Well and Smile Often!


May I have a side of whipped cream with my bunny please?