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Submitted by KAT on Tue, 06/19/2007 - 12:08pm.
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:
Submitted by KAT on Mon, 06/18/2007 - 1:26pm.
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
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?”:
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:
An op-ed in Sunday’s New York Post from Elizabeth Whelan echoes the same talking points, characterized as “facts”:
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:
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.
Submitted by KAT on Wed, 06/13/2007 - 9:32am.
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 NewsTarget.com, it may not be all that “natural,” anyway:
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.
Submitted by Justin Krebs on Mon, 06/11/2007 - 12:00am.
Talking Liberally: Laughing Liberally comics talk about Gays in Iraq
Submitted by KAT on Sun, 06/10/2007 - 7:39pm.
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?
Submitted by KAT on Fri, 06/08/2007 - 6:32am.
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 CowsUnite.org, whose bovine Sisters bellow the following beefs:
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:
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:
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.
Submitted by KAT on Wed, 06/06/2007 - 9:45am.
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:
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?
Submitted by KAT on Mon, 06/04/2007 - 9:07am.
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:
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:
Well, that’s the Decider for you, taking decisive inaction.
Submitted by KAT on Wed, 05/30/2007 - 10:47am.
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:
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:
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.
Submitted by KAT on Fri, 05/25/2007 - 12:00pm.
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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