Our Daily Bread

The Detroit Metro Times • Feb. 15, 2012

I first met author and foreign correspondent Annia Ciezadlo in New York City. Like me, she was a Midwestern mutt torn between the city’s seductive bustle and the airs it put on. It was the early 2000s, a decade before Ciezadlo published her stunning memoir, now out in paperback, Day of Honey: A Memoir of Food, Love, and War. The book chronicles her “honeymoon in Baghdad” in 2003, the months she spent there, and her subsequent move to Beirut, all the while working as a foreign correspondent alongside her Lebanese husband, journalist Mohamad Bazzi. (Like many Lebanese, Bazzi has family in Dearborn.)

I caught up with Ciezadlo while she cooked up greens and shallots to talk about what it’s like to move to the Middle East as an American woman — and how stories of daily life and meals tell us as much about a country as the tales of its wars.

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Doing Good at a Distance

Town & Country • June 2008

When Christel DeHaan heard of the sexual abuse scandal at the Oprah Winfrey Academy for Girls, west of Johannesburg, South Africa, the private philanthropist didn’t tsk-tsk. She sympathized. Ten years after founding Christel House, an international academy based in Indianapolis that Winfrey studied before founding her own, DeHaan knew that bad things can happen even at charities with “the best of practices.” Horrible as they can be, however, such occasional violations in trust were once an unavoidable risk for donors supporting organizations abroad. But as news of criminal activity at charities—whether international or domestic—has spread, donors are increasingly wanting more than an assurance that their gifts are being put to good use. They want proof.

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In Harlem’s Test Kitchen: A Taste of Local Recipes

City Limits Weekly • Jan. 28, 2008

Flushing— The Go Green East Harlem Cookbook, edited by Scott Stringer, Jones Books, $17.95 in stores, free at community events.

It’s difficult to take critical aim at a community cookbook. Rarely intended as just a repository of cooking advice, the recipe collections of neighborhood associations, houses of worship, immigrant clubs and tenants’ groups are often aimed more at raising funds and morale than actually generating whole, good meals. Any true culinary skill gleaned from them is a result of luck as much as intention.

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Special Report: Charity Accountability

Contribute • November/December 2007

Created to alleviate poverty, the nonprofit Miami-Dade Empowerment Trust seemed for nearly a decade to be taking aim at South Florida’s most impoverished neighborhoods by creating new business opportunities and jobs.

As it happened, the organization also had been busy creating wealth for some of its own. The taxpayer-supported agency had lavished money on insider deals, lost money on failed loans, and spent hundreds of thousands on celebrity entertainers. Just one wasteful expense involved a tab of more than $87,000 to fly hip-hop star Sean “Diddy” Combs from New Jersey to Miami on a charted Gulfstream jet. Diddy’s antipoverty mission for the nonprofit? Hosting an MTV awards ceremony.

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Q&A: Labor of Lovins

Plenty • October/November 2007

Amory Lovins might not be a household name, but the ideas he’s put forth for the past 30 years have affected virtually every household in America. Increasing energy efficiency, supporting small and local power generation from renewable sources, and building smart rather than big are just a few of the concepts he’s promoted. Lovins started when he was 29, using the energy crisis of the late ’70s to reach President Carter’s ear. This year, the Rocky Mountain Institute, the nonprofit organization devoted to energy research he founded with his wife, celebrated its 25th anniversary with a forum attended by luminaries such as Thomas Friedman of The New York Times and Majora Carter of the nonprofit Sustainable South Bronx. Plenty stole a few minutes of Lovins’s time to discuss ultralight cars, an indoor banana garden, and why efficiency is the best alternative fuel we’ve got.

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Q&A: Mister Bean

Salon • Sept. 11, 2007

Every food has its fans, and with Ken Albala’s new book, “Beans: A History,” the humble legume may well have found its champion. Over a year spent eating beans on a daily basis, from minuscule rice beans to 4-inch whoppers called gigantes, the culinary historian put his expertise — and his stomach — to work, compiling a detailed family history of the world’s edible beans.

But lest that seem like an avalanche of research to pour into a humble subject, Albala is quick to point out that beans are one of the few foods that appear in nearly every national cuisine, from French cassoulets to Filipino bean and fruit desserts. Pairing a foodie’s curiosity with an academic’s knack for detail, Albala carefully charts the food’s historical arc while also offering recipes in keeping with each era.

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The Cause Web / Innovators

Contribute • September/October 2007

Contribute’s Tech 10 is not a hot list. It’s a selection not of the most powerful or the most glamorous or the most famous. There aren’t presidents of established foundations, nor celebrities. They’re not even the most vocal. Rather, they are a handful of some of the most influential new leaders at the very front lines of advocacy today, all using the power of The Cause Web to reshape the reach, impact, and experience of what it means to make a difference. They are innovators like Suzanne Seggerman, who founded Games for Change, to use video games to raise funds and awareness for those caught in the crossfire of global strife. Or Ailin Graef, a Chinese-born entrepreneur who is the first philanthropist in the maturing new world of Second Life. Or Charles Best, whose simple online auction model matches specific individuals on both sides of the give-get divide — a Manhattan banker, say, with an impoverished public school teacher in South Central Los Angeles — and completely removes the middleman to more quickly help those in need. But the real magic of our Tech 10 is the array of new technologies they represent. Herewith, our Tech 10:

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From Stories to Strawberries

Plenty • June/July 2007

With her rare mix of storytelling skills and a social conscience, best-selling author Barbara Kingsolver has built a career on the premise that a well-told story can move mountains. Her latest effort, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life, tells an entirely new tale: her own. Spun around her family’s move to Virginia and their subsequent decision to eat only foods grown and raised in their county—including their own farm—Animal marries Kingsolver’s narrative gifts with reported essays from her husband, biologist Steven Hopp, and recipes from her then-19-year-old daughter, Camille. Plenty caught up with Kingsolver to talk about the local food movement, taking your dinner seriously, and why eating well is for everyone—not just the elite.

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Review: Up From the Roots

Saveur • June/July 2007

The novelist Barbara Kingsolver, whose latest book is a memoir-cum-treatise that documents a year during which she and her family grew almost all their own food or purchased it from farms nearby, is not the first writer to note that Americans tend to approach eating more as distracted consumers than as participants in a natural process. Indeed, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle joins a growing canon of food-based personal chronicles and social critiques, and it will inevitably yield comparisons with Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma (Penguin Press, 2006), which chronicles his own DIY quest.

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