Higher fuel costs and hotter weather have suddenly made a lot of people wonder why we ship salad greens from Central California to North Carolina, or fly pears in from Peru, or get our garlic from China.

Killer spinach and poisonous pet food have caught the FDA with its pants down, unable to cover its woefully underfunded, overburdened ass.

Shuttered mom and pop shops line the sidewalks of our main streets like so much corporate collateral damage, driven out of business by big box behemoths.

If you add up the food miles, the diet-induced diseases, the environmental degradation and climate change, the fertile farmland swallowed by sprawl, and the local shops gobbled up by global conglomerates, you’ll see that the cost of doing business as usual is higher than an elephants’ eye (maybe that’s why Republicans have so much trouble seeing the big picture?)

Our food chain has turned us into a culture of cannibals, locked in a vicious cycle of overconsumption that is, in turn, consuming us.

Sounds bad, but here’s the good news: people are rising up and revolting against the reactionaries. We’re addressing the need to feed ourselves in ways that don’t destroy our health and our air, land and water. We’re igniting a revival of our local economies through community minded coalitions like Business Alliance for Local Living Economies (BALLE) and an irreverent Reverend by the name of Billy, whose Church of Stop Shopping offers salvation to those of us (me included) who are “addled by advertising.”

And now the grassroots are growing in every sense of the word thanks to groups like Kitchen Gardeners International, a Maine-based non-profit whose mission “is to empower individuals, families, and communities to achieve greater levels of food self-reliance through the promotion of kitchen gardening, home-cooking, and sustainable local food systems.”

The folks at KGI are using the latest tool, a YouTube video, to revive an ancient tool, the trowel, in the hopes of rewriting history. Watch KGI’s History of Gastronomy, which depicts our evolution from knuckle-dragging primates to soda-swilling knuckleheads, and then see KGI’s vision of a new way for us neo-neanderthals.

KGI’s website shows you how to sow some homegrown hope, nourish your own community, and connect with people all over the world who share your yearning for a sustainable way of life. As KGI’s online newsletter notes:

“In these times of great political, economic, and environmental upheaval, we crave a bit of certainty in our lives. Here's some for you: if you plant a seed and give it what it needs, it will grow into a plant. If you give the plant what it needs, it will not only bear the fruit of today's feast but the seeds of tomorrow's as well. How's that for return on investment?”


Once upon a time, children had no food. Of their own, that is. They had to eat the same stuff grown ups ate, without any fun ‘n’ games. No sanctioned-by-Sponge Bob snacks, no
Find-the-Froot Loops advergames from Kellogg’s Fun K Town, no grinning dinosaurs and dancing pasta to help kids navigate Kraft’s “cheesy rapids.”

Presumably, every meal was Unhappy.

But then Big Food saved the day in a Big Way, and turned the supermarket aisles into a brix’n’mortar Candy Land of salty, crunchy, fatty, super-sweet treats just for tots.

Candy Land, as Wikipedia notes, is “often the first board game played by children because it requires no ability to read and only minimal counting skills,” as opposed to, say, convoluted nutrition labels on packaged foods.

That’s why this same non-skill set makes kids the perfect demographic for “buy me” blandishments from big red dogs or jolly green ogres. Weary moms and dads pestered by teary toddlers cave in and fill their carts with foodstuffs only marginally more nutritious than Calvin’s fictitious Chocolate Frosted Sugar Bombs, “…crunchy on the outside, chewy on the inside, and they don’t have a single natural ingredient or essential vitamin to get in the way of that rich, fudgy taste…”

To be fair, Kellogg’s does offer a whole grain version of Lucky Charms, which presumably adds some fiber as well as a soupçon of social responsibility. But Kellogg’s announcement last Thursday that it would reformulate some of its more sugary products or stop marketing them to younger kids has cast a nanny state-sized cloud over our cornarchy’s corporate-sponsored Candy Land. Can it be, as CBS Sunday Morning asked yesterday, that America is “TooSweet on Sweeteners?”:

“Including refined sugar, high fructose corn syrup and artificial sweeteners, the average American wolfs down 142 pounds a year, or roughly 2 ½ pound a week. That is up 23 percent in the last 25 years, and is a major factor in soaring rates of obesity and diabetes.”

Well, I guess it’s not hard to consume that much added sugar or high fructose corn syrup when they’re added to nearly every condiment and convenience food you can think of. Why put sweeteners in things like bread, mayonnaise, spaghetti sauce and peanut butter? Because that’s the way the average American reportedly wants it, and the food industry is simply pandering to our empty carb-craving palate.

As the American Sugar Association’s apologist Melanie Miller told CBS, “…the American palate likes sweet things, and manufacturers have recognized that. In Europe, they don’t use as much sugar.”

According to Miller, America’s real problem is overeating and not getting enough exercise, and an industry that spends $12 billion annually to push kids to plead for processed junk foods is simply a scapegoat. Blame parents for their children’s ever widening waistlines, because they’re the ones who choose to feed their kids all this crap, instead of tying them to their high chairs and not releasing them till they’ve finished their whole grain gruel and grapefruit.

As an op-ed in today’s Wall Street Journal helpfully notes:

“Sugared breakfast cereals aren't the cause of obesity among children. They've been around for decades and are a source of nutrition for children who will find a way to sweeten plain corn flakes in any case. Try serving your child a grapefruit for breakfast and watch him scowl unless he can pile on spoonfuls of sugar. The rise of obesity in kids has far more to do with a lack of exercise and overeating in general. But you can't sue parents for letting Jason and Emily watch TV for hours. So the food activists, who are fronts for the trial bar, are targeting the cereal makers and broadcasters.”

An op-ed in Sunday’s New York Post from Elizabeth Whelan echoes the same talking points, characterized as “facts”:

“First, today's fortified cereals are sources of excellent nutrition for kids and adults. My late colleague Dr. Fredrick J. Stare, founder of the Harvard Department of Nutrition and co-founder of the group I run, the American Council on Science and Health, was the first to suggest, more than 50 years ago, that cereal manufacturers fortify their products with beneficial nutrients - scrawling the idea that became Special K on the back of a napkin to explain it to a Kellogg's executive.

Second, pre-sweetened cereals do provide calories, but for non-obese kids, calories can be a good thing: They provide energy. And if the cereal is not pre-sweetened, the child may just do the sweetening with scoops from the sugar bowl - often adding even more sugar than there would have been in a pre-sweetened product.”

Let me see if I’m following this: sugared cereals are a good source of nutrition for kids until they become fat, and kids will just shovel sugar onto anything you give them to eat, anyway, and a Harvard professor told Kellogg’s 50 years ago to make its cereals more nutritious, and—my favorite part—food activists are a front for something called the “trial bar.” Is this some kind of variation on a trail bar? Does it have any added sugars? And if I’m a front for them, why aren’t they backing me in some tangible way, like sending periodic checks?

One of my fellow “food cops,” NYU nutrition professor Marion Nestle, pointed out last week on her WhatToEat blog that Kellogg’s has been promising to make healthier foods and stop marketing to kids for years, but she’s willing to give the company the benefit of the doubt:

“Let’s give the company credit for making impressive promises. But the proof will be in what it actually does. If Kellogg starts to lose sales as a result of the promised changes, the improvements are unlikely to last and the company will find other ways to market its products to kids. I say this because my conversation with a Kellogg official earlier this week was a word-for-word duplicate of one I had with an official of Kraft a few years ago when Kraft announced that it was reformulating its products and would be limiting its marketing to kids. Kraft did indeed make some of its promised changes but as some students of mine demonstrated last year, the company is still actively engaged in marketing junky foods to children (see paper by Lewin et al). I think food companies are in an enormously difficult position on this issue. Even if they want to do the right thing and really care about kids’ health, their primary responsibility is to meet stockholders’ investment expectations.”

Wow, that’s an awfully sympathetic assessment of Big Food’s dilemma coming from a rabid food activist radical whom the astroturf Center for Consumer Freedom has declared “one of the country’s most hysterical anti-food-industry fanatics.” Dr. Nestle runs the risk of having her foaming-at-the-mouth food cop credentials revoked if she keeps giving Kellogg a second chance to do right by our littlest consumers.



The downside of being an unpaid food blogger is that it doesn’t put food on the table, which is why I have been logging more hours lately digging than blogging. Gotta get those heirloom tomatoes, eggplants, zucchini, and peppers in the ground now if I want to have ratatouille in August.

Otherwise, I’ll be reduced to eating weeds, and while I’m all in favor of adopting a more plant-based diet, there’s only so much you can do with pigweed and purslane.

But there’s an upside to being an unpaid food blogger, as well, which is that your friends bombard you with all kinds of food-related tidbits, from the truly tasty to the downright distasteful.

My friend Andrew, for example, rang the doorbell early the other morning, forcing me to throw my bathrobe on over my official blogger uniform, pastel colored camouflage Hello Kitty pajamas, and come downstairs to answer the door.

“Just thought you’d like to know there’s a fresh squirrel in the road right outside your house,” he told me. This is what I get for regaling my friends with highlights from Sandor Katz’s The Revolution Will Not Be Microwaved, which examines all the fascinating underground food movements bubbling up around the country, including a group that regularly dines on recycled roadkill.

I may retaliate by having Andrew and his lovely wife Kathy and their beautiful baby Paige over for Squirrel Satay. I mean, if you skewer it, grill it, and smother it in a spicy peanut sauce, it’s bound to taste just like chicken.

Anyway, Andrew brought over a slightly more palatable novelty for us to nosh on yesterday—Doritos “Natural” White Nacho Cheese Tortilla Chips.

Ah, the oxymoronic world of healthy junk food. Andrew knows this is the kind of thing a knee-jerk real food fanatic like me has a moral obligation to trash, but, hey, if you dangle those damn Doritos in front of me, I will of course succumb to their cheesy, crunchy allure.

“What exactly does “natural” mean, anyway?” asked Heidi, our house guest from Ann Arbor (who always arrives bearing yummy things from the legendary Zingerman’s. Come back soon, Heidi! Visit any time!)

Well, Heidi, glad you asked. “Natural” is Madison Avenue’s way of whispering “healthy,” “low-fat,” or “organic” in the ears of confused consumers when their products are none of the above. It’s a code word for marginally less crappy processed crap, and it seduces not-so-savvy shoppers into feeling more virtuous about their snack food selections. And, as Mike Adams, a consumer health advocate, noted at, it may not be all that “natural,” anyway:

Frito-Lay has launched a new "Natural Doritos" product that doesn't have the usual monosodium glutamate (an excitotoxin) and artificial colors found in its flagship product, but it does contain another offensive ingredient: yeast extract. It's listed right on the package of the new Natural Doritos products.

Yeast extract is a flavor-enhancing additive that many food manufacturers use in place of MSG. The problem is that yeast extract is a hidden source of MSG (monosodium glutamate), according to my sources (see below).

MSG, you may know, is classified as an excitotoxin by Dr. Russell Blaylock, who is a doctor, author, and expert on chemicals that damage the nervous system. MSG is well known to cause migraine headaches, seizures, and other nervous system disorders. Dr. Blaylock's research also shows that MSG damages the endocrine system and causes obesity due to impaired appetite control regulation (causes you to be unable to stop eating).

No wonder you can’t eat just one! And yes, they are every bit as fattening as the regular Doritos.

The “natural” Doritos do, however, contain organic white corn and organic sour cream. These are preemie-sized baby steps for the world of processed foods, but still, worth acknowledging. Anything that reduces the amount of pesticides poured on corn is a plus, and creating more demand for organic dairy products is a good thing, too.

But, at the end of the day, if you’re looking for a healthy, guilt-free snack, the dead squirrel in the middle of the road wins hands down over the Doritos (provided you’re not the one who ran the poor thing over, in which case, a little guilt may be in order.)

Of course, tortilla chips and roadkill are both petroleum based by-products. I’d rather be harvesting my own homegrown tomatoes, so, now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got some seedlings I need to shoehorn in between the weeds and the wisteria.

Gays in Iraq

Talking Liberally: Laughing Liberally comics talk about Gays in Iraq


Call us jaded; the thrill of harvesting our rampantly ripening strawberries wears off awfully fast. All that stooping leaves us kvetching about our aching backs like an arthritic granny.

But we love to eat the fruits of our labor. So, we delegate the berry picking to the diminutive die-cast Gnome Chompsky, who’s just the right height to collect bushels of berries without bending over.

And, as a bonus, he’s too short to register on Lou Dobb’s radar. Thank goodness, too, because Gnome is an Asian immigrant, and I‘m not sure he’s documented. We’d rather employ an American gnome, of course, but, quite frankly, we’re on a pretty tight budget and we just couldn’t afford it.

Rising petroleum costs drove the plastic pink flamingo, that indigenous American icon, to extinction last year. So I guess we should be thankful that you can even buy an American-made garden gnome at any price.

Maybe we should save up for a Made-in-the-USA gnome; for $42.94 (including shipping) we could get a high quality ceramic Dubya Lumberjack Gnome cutting down a tree. But would he take time out from his clear-cutting to cut our Gnome some slack, or would he ship him back to China?




Cows have passed the tipping point when it comes to all this agribiz abuse. The Udderites are uniting! The bovines are blogging! And you can read their moo-ving manifesto at, whose bovine Sisters bellow the following beefs:

Cows are not machines—we are equals in the interdependent circle of life. All our rights begin with this right.

Turn us loose to graze in pastures free of synthetic pesticides and herbicides. We will take only what we need and we will refresh the soil. You will be happier for it, too. Our milk will be delicious and delightful. Promise.

The days of experimentation are over. Stop pushing the synthetic hormones and antibiotics! Organic is the right way for Sisters everywhere.

When we are free to move about outdoors, it’s our best opportunity for dignity, health and joy—and a chance at joy should be the right of all living things. Even dogs.

Sure, us cows are the all-stars, but the time has come to say thanks to the little guys—the organic family farmers. We can’t do this alone. Fair pay for an honest day’s nurturing and care. It’s all we ask. Viva la family farm!

Nothing makes us breathe easier than local customers. When you choose milk from pastures close by, you reduce trucking. It’s pretty nifty. Less air pollution, less fuel used, and support for your neighboring farmers, all from one little milk choice.”

I hope someday we’ll look back on the era of feedlots as a calamitous kink in our food chain, a disastrous detour guided by greed and hubris. But I’m not the only one calling for the fall of the feedlots. Peter Melchett, policy director for Britain’s foremost environmental charity, the Soil Association, gave a speech earlier this year, in which he declared:

“I am convinced that the era of industrial and intensive farming will be seen as a brief blip, a wrong turn, from which we hopefully recovered fairly quickly.”

Anti-agribiz activists and pro-pasture prophets have been warning us for years—decades, even—that industrial agriculture is an across-the-board disaster for us, the animals, and the environment. Wendell Berry sounded the agrarian alarm with The Unsettling of America back in 1977, and continued to hammer on the folly of factory farming in his 1990 collection of essays What Are People For? Berry noted that the food industry has a powerful incentive to keep Americans in the dark about the dark side of industrial agriculture:

“…it would not do for the consumer to know that the hamburger she is eating came from a steer who spent much of his life standing deep in his own excrement in a feedlot, helping to pollute the local streams, or that the calf that yielded the veal cutlet on her plate spent its life in a box in which it did not have room to turn around…

…the consumer…must be kept from discovering that in the food industry—as in any other industry—the overriding concerns are not quality and health but volume and price. For decades now, the entire industrial food economy, from the large farms and feedlots to the chains of supermarkets and fast food restaurants, has been obsessed with volume. It has relentlessly increased scale in order to increase volume in order (presumably) to reduce costs. But as scale increases, diversity declines; as diversity declines, so does health; as health declines, the dependence on drugs, and chemicals, necessarily increases. As capital replaces labor, it does so by substituting machines, drugs, and chemicals for human workers and for the natural health and fertility of the soil. The food is produced by any means or any shortcut that will increase profits.”

And, by that standard, factory farming has been a smashing success, swelling the coffers of the corporate-financed CAFOs (confined animal feeding operations) while We, the Sheeple, pay the toll this perverted form of food production takes on our bodies, our soil, our air, our waterways, and the animals forced to live short, dismal lives in utter squalor.

America’s had a hearty appetite for cheap meat and dairy products these last few decades, but writers like Michael Pollan, Eric Schlosser, and Barbara Kingsolver have crashed the gates of the feedlots and invited us in to get a glimpse of the muck and misery. People are revolted. And revolting, in growing numbers.

Big Ag will fight this grassroots revolution with an army of Astroturf websites, morally bankrupt biostitutes and faux populist pundits, but it’s too late to bolt the doors and hide the horror. The cows are out of the barn. The future is in the pasture.


I used to read the National Enquirer because (a) it entertained me, and (b) it always made me feel so profoundly grateful that I wasn’t rich and famous. Who wants to live in that eternal purgatory of publicity?

My Macmeister husband Matt provides tech support to some pretty famous and wealthy people, so I’ve had the chance to observe this exotic species up close, and I can say one thing for sure: they are just as starved for approval and affection as the rest of the human race.

F. Scott Fitzgerald famously noted that “the very rich are different from you and me,” to which Hemingway reportedly replied, “yes, they have more money.”

Ah, but--as the Beatles so astutely, and tunefully, observed--money can’t buy me love.

And it can’t buy you a thicker skin, either. Being in the public eye means being forever in the bull’s eye, a human dart board perpetually peppered by snark-tipped darts.

All of which brings me to Rachel Ray, whose recent appearance on This Week with George Stephanopoulis caught me off guard. There she was on the Sunday wonkfest making a pitch for the Great American Bake Sale, a fundraiser to help the hungry:

“Imagine what it's really like to go hungry. And then imagine what that must be like for a small child, how that must make them feel, completely lesser-than in every way; they're not good enough to get food?"

Ray recently founded a non-profit named (what else?) Yum-O, to which some will no doubt say, Yuck-O! Her mission? To empower “kids and their families to improve their relationship with food and cooking.”

Well, I’m down with that. I saw Michael Pollan give a reading from the Omnivore’s Dilemma last year and after he read a thoroughly depressing excerpt about the awful American diet, someone asked him ”What can we do to change things?” His response? “People have to start cooking again.”

This is, of course, the message of Carlo Petrini’s Slow Food Movement, too, but Petrini will find it slow going indeed trying to make inroads in the back roads of America’s artery-clogged heartland. Ray’s thirty minute mantra, by contrast, reaches legions of people who’ve never heard of artisanal cheese and do not spend an inordinate amount of time weighing what brew to pair with their pork chops.

I’ve never been a fan of Ray’s, but I’m not a Ray hater, either; the Rachel Ray Sucks Community is, to me, the saddest kind of social network, a colossal waste of time when we have so many problems we’re not really tackling. Yes, she can be annoying, and I find her mannerisms grating, too, but I’m way more bothered by the fathead in the White House than the pleasantly plump, eternally sunny Ray.

I know foodies who insist Ray has set the cause of real food back decades with her reliance on short cut convenience foods. But I’ve seen the proverbial Joe six-pack types at my local farmstand upstate snatch up bunches of kale saying “Hey, isn’t this that stuff Rachel Ray is always cooking with?” Anyone who can boost kale sales gets whole grain/fair trade chocolate/agave-sweetened brownie points from me.

More importantly, someone who uses her fame to try to get Americans to focus on less fortunate folks deserves better than derision. And getting Americans back in the kitchen to cook is, as another much-mocked domestic diva would say, “a good thing,” even if Ray’s recipes rely on shortcuts that make food snobs cringe.

Is Rachel Ray someone I’d want to hang out with? I don’t know, but I’m glad she’s throwing her weight--which the Rachel Ray Sucks Community loves to fixate on—behind fighting hunger and getting Americans cooking again.

If I had to be stuck in a food desert with someone, I’d take Rachel Ray over the Rachel Ray Sucks Community any day. Because I’d rather talk about real food and real problems than ask whether so-and-so is too thin, or too fat. Why not ask yourselves instead why healthy foods are so expensive they’re perceived as a luxury item, and why taking the time to make a home-cooked meal is another luxury so many overworked, underpaid Americans feel they can’t afford?


I give President Bush an “A” for his new global warming initiative—an “A” for apathy. Admittedly, this is progress over the “A” he earned in his first term for being Adversarial-with-a-capital “A” when it comes to climate change. He’s a chip off the old blockhead; remember how Bush Sr. derisively nicknamed Al Gore “Ozone Man”? Junior picked up where Poppy left off on the campaign trail in 2000, gleefully mocking Gore’s proposed tax breaks for solar panels, or, as he drawled out contemptuously in his faux-hayseed twang, “Foe-toe-vole-TAY-ICK panels.”

As students go, Duh-bya’s not what you’d call a quick study; in fact, he’s fond of boasting about being a “C” student in college, and as Commander in Chief he’s up to his neck in “C’s”: a “C” for cronyism, a “C” for corruption, a “C” for craven indifference to the Constitution, Katrina victims, and all us ink-stained wretches whose names don’t end in “Inc.” To be fair, the Blunderkind-in-a-Bubble has earned a “B” or two as well, most notably for belligerence and blind faith.

And yet, over the weekend, the beltway pundits gave Bush a pass on his bald, I mean, bold new proposal to meet with the rest of the world’s greatest greenhouse gas emitters to advance his agenda of establishing voluntary, or “aspirational,” goals to tackle the problems of greenhouse gas emissions, without imposing the stifling constraints of actual commitments.

Give me a “B” for baffled. The bar gets set ever lower while the sea levels rise. This administration’s moved at a glacial pace when it comes to coping with climate change, to employ a slightly anachronistic adjective that now suggests rapidly melting ice caps more than slow moving bureaucrats.

"The world is on the verge of great breakthroughs that will help us become better stewards of the environment," President Bush announced as he unveiled his proposal-to-hold-meetings-to-craft-a-plan-to-formulate-an-agenda-to-set-goals-to…hey! It’s getting really hot in here, could we, like, open a window or crank up the AC, or something?

Actually, we already have the tools we need to tackle this urgent problem NOW, according to Bill McKibben, who must be hoarse after hollering about our ever hotter planet for nearly twenty years, from his chilling, prophetic 1989 warning about global warming, The End of Nature, to his newest shout-out to sustainability, Deep Economy (note to Oprah—how about a plug for this book and a plug-in hybrid giveaway?)

What we haven’t got, as McKibben noted in an article earlier this year for the Sierra Club, is a leader willing to call for serious conservation and a radical rethinking of our willfully wasteful way of life. Because that would require asking Americans to sacrifice, and that’s just such a buzzkill. Much better to hitch our Hummers to a star in the far-off galaxy of Mañana:

“…Much of what passes for discussion about our energy woes is spent imagining some magic fuel that will save us. Solar power! Fusion power! Hydrogen power!

…The United States' current energy plan, assembled by Vice President Dick Cheney with the help of leading fossil-fuel executives, calls for postponing the future: more drilling, more refining, more combusting, more carbon. It's the policy equivalent of sticking your fingers in your ears and shouting, "I can't hear you!" over and over again…

…In fact, it's pretty clear that what we need most at this point is not just some new technology…We need new attitudes and behaviors, not new lightbulbs and reactors.”

How many Bushies does it take to change to fluorescent light bulbs, anyway? No one knows, because they’re hellbent on wringing every last dirty drop of oil out of the soil before they’ll be dragged kicking and screaming into a greener, cleaner future.

I share McKibben’s conviction that we’ve got to tap into people power to curb our collective carbon footprint. Bush’s free market free-for-all is just a way to stall, a perfect display of White house window dressing. Sunday’s Independent offered a helpful translation of Bush’s transparent attempt to head critics off at the impasse that’s sure to come at this week’s G8 summit in Germany:

“'In recent years, science has deepened our understanding of climate change and opened new possibilities for confronting it.'

Translation: In recent years, my refusal to acknowledge the reality and seriousness of global warming has turned me into a laughing-stock and contributed to my record low poll ratings. So now I have to look interested.

'The United States takes this issue seriously.'

Translation: Al Gore takes this issue seriously, his movie was a hit, and it's causing me no end of grief.

'By the end of next year, America and other nations will set a long-term goal for reducing greenhouse gases.'

Translation: By the end of next year, I'll be weeks away from the end of my presidency and this can be someone else's problem.

'To develop this goal, the United States will convene a series of meetings of nations that produce the most greenhouse gasses, including nations with rapidly growing economies such as India and China.'

Translation: We will look as busy as we can without doing anything.

'The new initiative I am outlining today will contribute to the important dialogue that will take place in Germany.'

Translation: The new initiative will put the brakes on the much more robust proposal the Germans are putting forward. As long as dialogue continues, we won't have to abide by any decisions.

Well, that’s the Decider for you, taking decisive inaction.


Finally, fruits and vegetables have a heavyweight in their corner! OK, so it’s Michael Moore, the famously unfit filmmaker from Flint. And why not? Who better to go to bat for carrot sticks and veggie dips than a working class hero who’s had a few too many heroes himself?

Our revered and reviled roly-poly rabble rouser revealed his new appreciation for produce--the least loved link in our meat-centric food chain—in his first interview in two and a half years on last Friday’s Real Time with Bill Maher.

Moore told Maher how the process of filming “Sicko,” his latest Woe-is-Us opus, compelled him to reassess his own lousy habits. After all, what could be more galvanizing (and galling) than finding you’re too flabby to even gaze at your own navel? Let’s face it, getting exercised about unjust wars and uncaring corporations doesn’t raise your heart rate enough to qualify as aerobic. And then there are those powdered sugar pushers on the film production’s payroll whose sole job is to dole out donuts all day.

So Moore’s on a mission to put the “Active” back in activist, and he’s asking Americans to bypass those high fructose, transfatty highways that lead to a bypass. Bill Maher, eternally disgusted with Yoo-hoo-drinking yahoos and coddled kids who can’t eat a piece of fruit unless it’s been pre-sliced and packaged like a potato chip, was only too happy to pile on about the crap we pile on our plates:

MAHER: …The human body is pretty amazing; it doesn’t get sick, usually, for no reason. I mean, there’s some genetic stuff that can get to you, but, basically, people are sick in this country because they’re poisoned.

The environment is a poisoning factor, but also, we gotta say, they poison themselves. They eat shit. People eat shit, and that’s, to my way of thinking, about 90% of why people are sick, is because they eat shit. Would you agree?

MOORE: Well, that’s right…not 90%, but I would say that people, who are certainly young, or young adults, or even middle-aged people, if they took better care of themselves…I mean, you’re looking at somebody right now that, while I was making this film, actually, I said to myself, you know, this is kinda hypocritical. You’re making a movie about health care, and you’re not even taking care of your own health…

MAHER: You look a lot thinner! I thought that was Ben Affleck…

MOORE: (laughing) Ah, man, poor Ben…no, but what I did, was, I said, you know, I’m gonna participate. This isn’t in the movie, but I guess you see it in the movie, because I’m a little different because I decided one way to beat the system is, take care of yourself, and I found that just by going for a walk thirty minutes a day, and I discovered these things called fruits and vegetables, which are amazing. But you don’t have to do a lot, and I would say, to guys like me from the Midwest, you know, we’re never gonna go on a diet, or join an aerobics class, or whatever. But if you just moved around a little bit, turned the tv off, ate a few things differently, you would avoid the nightmare that awaits so many people who enter the healthcare system in this country. As you pointed out a couple of weeks ago, we’re behind Costa Rica in health care, we’re just ahead of Slovenia, and that should be an embarrassment to most Americans.

Actually, it should be an embarrassment to all Americans, but maybe Moore was making an exception for the vultures who feather their nests by telling us chickens to pluck off--the Big Pharma Frankensteins and their health insurance industry Igors. Oh, and don’t forget Big Food, whose bottom line can only grow by growing our bottoms bigger. As NYU nutrition professor Marion Nestle notes in What to Eat:

The deep dark secret of American agriculture (revealed only by agricultural economists behind closed doors) is that there is far too much food available—3,900 calories per day for every man, woman, and child in the country, whereas the average adult needs only a bit more than half that amount, and children much less.

So Big Food plies us with Paul Bunyan-sized portions of poisonous processed foods while Big Pharma stands by, silent and salivating, waiting for our cholesterol to go through the roof so it can rush to the rescue and lower it with Lipitor, the biggest selling drug ever.

NPR’s Morning Edition reported last week that diet and exercise can be just as effective as drugs—or, in some cases, even more so--for people diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes. But you won’t see any multi-million dollar ad campaigns advertising this fact. As I pointed out a few months back, “if Americans actually stopped overeating and started working out it would be a disaster for Big Food and Big Pharma.”

Of course, such a shift might save ourselves, and the planet, but corporate profits would plummet. The very notion of a fit nation must give the corporations conniption fits.

I know some people quibble about Michael Moore’s methodology, and there will always be wingnuts who call him an America-hater for having the audacity to suggest that We the People have the right to reject the fossil-fueled, faith-based, Fuhrer Knows Best kind of government the Decider’s decreed that we need.

Moore takes on the tough topics every time, and gets grief from both sides for it. With “Sicko,” though, he’s turned his lens on a problem so pervasive that it touches the lives of most Americans and transcends partisan rancor. Fox news reportedly called it “brilliant” and “uplifting,” and Moore told Maher about attending a screening at which some teary-eyed Republicans actually thanked him for making this film. And you thought compassionate conservatism was just some hokey, jokey Rovian trope!

As Moore noted at the top of the interview, “Illness and sickness doesn’t know any kind of political stripe, this affects Democrats and Republicans, and we’ve got a huge, greedy industry in this country, and there should be no room for greed when we’re talking about people’s health, and that has to be removed, we’ve got to get rid of these profits…”

Tell that to Wall Street, whose message to Main Street is “drop dead.” But not till you’ve spent your life savings paying for health insurance coverage that picks your pocket but won’t pick up the tab for the procedures and prescriptions that could save your life.


Farmer Kitty and the rest of us at Eating Liberally have been so busy planting our vegetables and immersing ourselves in the minutiae of the Farm bill that blogging has taken a backseat lately. Please bear with us while we get our greens in the ground, we’ll have plenty more posts--and maybe even a podcast or two--after this weekend. We thank you for your patience!

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