Tapestry, from 90.3 WBHM

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June 2011...

There's an old Spanish proverb that goes "The belly rules the mind". And that must be true, given the amount of time we spend thinking about food. A new survey of 5,000 Britains finds that 25 percent of women think about food every half-hour. That's considerably more than they think about sex. Now men think about sex more than women - big surprise there! - but they still spend a lot of time thinking about food.

This focus on food has, in recent years, led to a lot of interest in how food is produced - and specifically - to the blockbuster organic food movement. In the U.S., sales of organic food and beverages has grown from one billion dollars in 1990 to nearly 25 billion dollars in 2009.

There are five million certified organic acres in the U.S. But you won't find many in Alabama. As WBHM's Tanya Ott reports - a combination of culture and market forces means this state has the fewest certified organic farms per-capita in the country.

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Alabama oysters haven't been on the menu since Hurricane Katrina damaged reefs in Mobile Bay in 2005. Now, with the help of the Auburn University Shellfish Lab, oysters are making a comeback.

These aren't your average garden-variety mollusks. These are hand-raised beauties from Point Aux Pines in Mobile Bay. Scientists hope they'll provide new income for oystermen and help put Alabama oysters back on the plates of seafood connoisseurs. Bridgid Galloway reports...

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You're listening to Tapestry, I'm Greg Bass. This month, we're talking about food in Alabama. I'm sure many of you have some kind of vegetable garden. As a child, I helped my father tend to our family garden. We grew beans, peas, okra and squash. But our main crop was tomatoes.

If you had tomatoes in your garden, chances are you started out with young tomato plants purchased from a garden supply company. On a recent road trip to Heflin, I visited a couple that supply those young tomatoes plants, many with interesting names.

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The Rabbit Hutch

For 15 years, the Venz Family operated The Rabbit Hutch Restaurant in the town of Logan, Alabama just west of Cullman. They served fried and barbecued rabbit -- rabbits they raised themselves. If you made it for dinner at the Rabbit Hutch, the Venz family would also be sure to serve you show tunes with your home-grown dinner

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A remembrance of The Rabbit Hutch Restaurant in Logan, Alabama, produced by Shea Shackleford and Jennifer Dear.

Everywhere you turn people are telling you what to eat and what NOT to eat. Eat organic - it's safer. Eat local - it's more environmentally-friendly. Don't eat at chain restaurants. Eat wherever you want. It's so much in the news that even late night TV host Craig Ferguson has weighed in.

All joking aside, today, what we eat, how we eat, and where we eat is the topic of intense debate. It's a discussion that can, at times, seem like an extension of the culture wars. Terms like "locavore" and "foodie" mean one thing to one group of people and another thing to another group.

We asked some folks who spend a lot of time thinking about food and culture what they think. Matt Kilpatrick is the specialty and imports manager for Birmingham Beverage. Ken Albala is a food historian at the University of the Pacific in Stockton, California. John-Bryan Hopkins is the Birmingham blogger behind the award-winning site Foodimentary. And Tony Leiserowitz is director of the Yale Project on Climate Change.

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What do you think? Do choose local over organic? Is the foodie movement a bunch of bunk? Share your thoughts on our Facebook Page or via Twitter.

bird feeder If you go to a memorable restaurant, the ambience can make up most of the experience. Well, if you imagine birds dining at back yard birdfeeders around Alabama, Hueytown folk artist Jim Bradley's birdfeeders would send the creatures tweeting all the way back to their nests. Bradley uses recycled objects...items he picks up at thrift stores...things like a salt shaker, a candle stick or part of a lamp. And he assembles them, almost by trial and error, into one-of-a-kind bird feeders. It all happens here in his workshop, among piles and bins full of what some people would call junk.

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In the Mississippi Delta town of Greenville, members of the Hebrew Union synagogue have been hosting a community luncheon - called the deli lunch - for the past 130 years. But in the past four decades, the Jewish population there has been dwindling, and now they're wondering if there will be enough people to hold luncheons in the future. Philip Graitcer attended the luncheon and sends us this audio postcard.

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StoryCorps is an oral history project based on the idea that the stories of everyday people are the most important and interesting of all. Each month on Tapestry we'll bring you stories from Alabamians.

Alan Drennen Jr. talks about his involvement in Birmingham's local government during the Civil Rights Movement. In 1963, Drennen was elected to the City Council. His biggest concern was getting the city to provide basic service for all citizens and he worked to get black representatives put into leadership positions in the city. Drennen tells his daughter Mary Boehm what he had to deal with upon taking office.

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Alan Drennen Jr. talking to his daughter Mary Boehm from a StoryCorps booth in Birmingham. Drennen served on the Birmingham City Council from 1963 to 1969.

This interview was recorded by Story Corps, a national initiative to record and collect stories of everyday people. Excerpts were produced and edited by WBHM's Michael Krall.

Three to See logo

David Mamet is one of America's most celebrated playwrights. His work is populated with quick-witted characters who shoot off rapid-fire, profane dialogue. Mamet's most recent play, Race, is a searing look at racial politics in America. It's where we begin this month's 3 to See, with WBHM's Bradley George.

If you'd like to share your 3 to See in an upcoming month, join our crew of community producers. E-mail us at tapestry@wbhm.org. Put the words "Community Producer" in the subject line.

album cover

Finally, in the wake of April's deadly tornadoes in Alabama, comes The Wind Will Carry the Voice of the People -- a musical compilation put together by photographer Caleb Chancey. It's available by download, only until the end of the month. About half the tracks feature local musicians, with all proceeds from the compilation benefiting the Red Cross. Birmingham's Jon Black contributed the song Tangled Trees.

Tapestry is produced by Bradley George and Michael Krall. This month we had help from Jennifer Dear, Brigid Galloway, Phillip Graitcer, Tanya Ott, Shea Shackleford, and Andrew Yeager. We always love to hear your feedback on the show. You can find us on Facebook and Twitter. I'm Greg Bass. Happy eating! We'll see you next month.

If you've got a story idea for Tapestry, drop us an e-mail.