FERN’s Friday Feed: Pop culture’s ‘hippie food’ problem

Welcome to FERN’s Friday Feed (#FFF), where we share the stories from this week that made us stop and think.

From Bad Vegan to Broad City, how pop culture ‘others’ health food


“In both pop culture, and American culture in general, health food has long been positioned as ‘othered.’ This perception was cemented during the countercultural movement during the 1960s and 1970s,” writes Ashlie D. Stevens. “Indeed, the idea that health food is actually ‘hippie food’ stuck, a correlation that has been represented in film and TV over and over again to the point of becoming an enduring trope.”

Hot Farm’s final episodes!


In the first two episodes of our new podcast Hot Farm, we heard from farmers who are changing how they farm to help mitigate climate change—and from those who still need to be convinced to do things differently. In episodes 3 (out this week) and 4 (out May 3) we take you inside the effort to change what farmers grow, and where they grow it. Listen and subscribe wherever you get your podcasts.

Reviving heirloom collards, from ‘Big Daddy Greasy Green’ to ‘Granny Hobbs’


“There was once a kaleidoscope of diversity in collards, as people diligently collected and replanted seeds, passing them from one generation to the next to preserve the qualities they found most important. Collards — an inexpensive, nutrient-rich vegetable — became a staple for many Southern families,” writes Daniel Wood. But as the number of people growing their own food shrunk dramatically over the last century, heirloom collards disappeared. Now, “a group of seed savers, farmers, activists and academics, known collectively as the Heirloom Collard Project,” is working “to preserve and reintroduce people to rarer collard varieties and connect with older seed stewards before their stories are lost to time.”

Can a white guy from New York cook authentic Hainanese chicken?


“This classic meal of poached chicken with rice that has been cooked in its liquid, served with three pungent sauces, had become my pandemic dining obsession,” writes Theodore Ross. Unlike a lot of other people, who during this period had gravitated toward esoteric sourdoughs or ‘heirloom’ beans, I cooked dishes I knew from Vietnam, or from my ex-wife’s mother … I have never been to Singapore, where Hainanese chicken is a national passion. Nor have I been to Hainan, the province in southern China after which it is named. I did not eat it in Vietnam, either, or in Malaysia, Thailand, or Indonesia, countries I have spent time in. The pandemic had pushed a lot of folks toward a kind of culinary nostalgia; this was a comfort food of a place and people not my own.”

Climate change boosted Maine’s potato crop, but problems loom

Bangor Daily News and Climate Central

“As temperatures have risen, the annual number of potato plant growing degree days in Aroostook County”— the state’s leading potato region — “has increased by more than 20 percent since 1970,” write Lori Valigra and Caitlin Looby. “That extra warmth has helped add an extra week to the end of the typically short Maine potato growing season. But it comes with a suite of challenges, including heat stress, unpredictable rainfall, pest pressure and warmer nights that don’t let potato plants cool off.”