Sign up for updates in your city.
Submitted by KAT on Sun, 08/26/2007 - 11:50am.
Farmer Kitty is inordinately pleased with the paltry haul from our less-than-triumphant victory garden this weekend, but then, it doesn’t take much to float her boat—or fill her wheelbarrow.
We, on the other hand, are too demoralized by the theft of our entire crop of hazelnuts to get too excited about the jumbo heirloom zucchini and picture-perfect bell pepper. We know who the culprits are—our bushy-tailed adversaries were spotted in the act of pilfering our precious nuts, so there’s no mystery here.
Except, of course, where the nuts are buried. The squirrels themselves don’t even know, because they actually forget where they’ve buried their plunder within about ten minutes, as I learned from reading Bill Adler’s Outwitting Squirrels. I also learned that after mating, the male squirrel secretes a waxy plug that prevents any future paternity battles when his little litter of fuzzy filchers is born.
I learned all kinds of fascinating things, but nothing to save our nuts. We’ll just have to content ourselves with admiring the hazelnuts’ catkins and the fiery fall foliage that awaits us. Next year, I’m going to cover the hazelnuts in netting, and keep those furry little creeps away from my crop.
Submitted by KAT on Fri, 08/24/2007 - 10:05am.
We made our annual trek to the Dutchess County Fair this week, to “ooh” the blue ribbon pies and “aah” the prize ponies. New York State’s second largest county fair calls itself the “showplace for agriculture in Dutchess County,” and it’s true, there’s plenty of livestock and locally grown veggies on display in the exhibition halls. Every year there’s the obligatory preposterously large pumpkin:
A head of cabbage bore a sign declaring itself “organically grown,” the first time I can recall ever seeing any mention of organics at the county fair. We were also pleased to see a vending machine selling glass bottles of Hudson Valley Fresh chocolate milk instead of the usual cans of soda.
Another first was the Spacey Tracy’s pickle stand. Spacey Tracy’s pickles is a local enterprise, selling their hot ‘n’ spicy pickles, pickled peppers, mint jellies and other goodies at the Rhinebeck farmers’ market every Sunday. In order to compete with the standard county fair fare, Spacey Tracy’s dunked its pickles in batter and deep-fried them. A good idea? By the time we got to Spacey Tracy’s, we were so saturated with saturated fats that the prospect of a deep fried pickle didn’t even appeal to us.
Now, you can’t go to a county fair without consuming your share of fried foods, and I will freely admit that I enjoyed my waffle fries immensely. But the bag of deep fried Oreos that Matt and our friend Amy bought went straight to the garbage, because after Amy bit into one, her lovely face contorted into such a grimace of displeasure that I had no trouble declining her offer to try one. I mean, they didn’t even look good—pale, soggy and greasy, not golden and crispy.
The New York Times ran a story last week about how the Deep Fried Combo Plate at the Indiana State Fair—a Snickers bar, two Oreos and a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup, all encased in batter—is no longer fried in trans-fats. The switch to less artery-clogging fats is admirable, of course, but does not, alas, make a deep fried cookie or candy bar healthy.
Which is why signs such as the one below are destined to become a staple at county fairs, too:
I didn’t even know there were special socks made for diabetics. Apparently, the cuffs are extra loose so as not to impede circulation. Judging from the number of morbidly obese men, women and children we saw funneling funnel cakes down their throats at the fair, diabetic socks are a definite growth industry. Like most of the merchandise at the fair, with the exception of a few booths of handcrafts, they were manufactured in China. So much for local.
Another clothing item I’d never seen before were the sweaters worn by the newly shorn sheep, to keep them from shivering after giving up their wool to warm us. I bet their sweaters are made in China, too. Oh well. At least we can still make our own chocolate milk, pickles, and sand art.
Submitted by Anonymous on Thu, 08/23/2007 - 1:20pm.
Dear mine-owner and CEO Murray,
I was touched when you promised that you would "not leave this mine until those men are rescued, dead or alive." So I was extremely worried, having read the headline "Murray's Absence Puzzles Families." A company spokesman said you were "ministering" to the families of the miners, but it turns out the families have not seen you either. The ingrates actually "feel that Bob Murray has abandoned [them]." What these families fail to understand is that your absence is selfless, not selfish. Six years ago, Mayor Rudy Giuliani went down to Ground Zero and was exposed to the "exact same things that [the rescue workers] were." He became "one of them." And today, you, Mr. Murray, with a Rudy-esque valor and empathy, have put yourself in the same position as the little people who work for you, and you too are missing.
Wherever you are, I hope you can hear me and know that you are in my thoughts and prayers. I know you must be doing something righteous. You yourself are the first to admit that you fight for "the little guy that nobody cares about." Like the little guys to whom you donate: George "Maccaca" Allen, Katherine Harris, Mitch McConnell and Christopher "Friend of Jack Abramoff" Pombo.
You stand up to special interest groups like Mine Safety. Your friend Senator McConnell happens to be married to Labor secretary Elaine Chao and when an inspector for the Mine Safety Health Administration, which Chao oversees, got out of line, and wouldn't shut up about safety violations, you tactfully reminded him, "Mitch McConnell calls me one of the five finest men in America, and last I checked, he was sleeping with your boss." Luckily, Department of Labor justice is as blind as Department of Justice justice and the uppity safety inspector was transferred and forced into early retirement.
When opportunistic politicians tried to politicize the Sago mine tragedy by passing laws which would protect workers' safety, you stated "I resent these politicians playing politics with my employees' safety because I take the safety of my miners to bed with me every night." When the most opportunistic of all, that senator from New York, Hillary Clinton, said America needs a President who is "pro-labor and will appoint people who actually care about workers' rights and workers' safety" you had the balls of coal to call her "anti-American."
When tragedy struck you experienced a state of denial only felt by those who are at one with the little miners. At a press conference following the collapse you insisted "there's no emergency here," and threatened to call off the conference unless helicopters flying overhead were removed. You are a believer and explained "the lord has already decided whether they're alive or dead and whether they were killed from the percussion from the earthquake. But it's up to Bob Murray and my management to get the access to them as quickly as we can."
The liberal, Jewish, gay, vegan media is claiming that retreat mining, the fictitious method in which miners pull down the last standing pillars of coal and let the roof fall in, caused the collapse. Retreat mining sounds pretty safe to me, and it's only killed thirteen people in the last seven years. Talk about conspiracy theories! You know that the unfortunate accident had nothing to do with alleged "dangerous mining conditions." And you swear that "this was caused by an earthquake, not something that Murray Energy or our management did. It was a natural disaster....And I'm going to prove it to you." Government seismologists argue there was no way this was an earthquake, but who are we going to believe? A bunch of nerds who have nothing better to do than get PhDs in seismology? Or you, a man who knows it's all up to G-d any way.
This isn't the first time you have used your organic grasp of science to take on pseudo-science. You called global warming a myth and "Albert" Gore "the shaman of global goofiness and gloom and doom" responsible for "the destruction of American lives and more death as a result of his hysterical global goofiness with no environmental benefit."
Because you are an outspoken defender of coal rights, because you speak truth to power, and truth to mishigas like global warming and non-earthquake induced collapses, you are persecuted by those who harp on harmless minutiae: the 2,787 violations, $2.4 million proposed fines, and accident rates two times higher than the national average at your mine in Illinois; your 64 violations and $12,973 in fines proposed at Crandall, or the injury rates that are eight times higher than average at Ohio Mine.
I can only surmise you are off chasing the real culprit, the earthquake, as you promised. Or perhaps you are talking to God to see whether he decided if the miners were "dead or alive." Or maybe you overslept. That is a distinct possibility since you do take your miners' safety with you to bed every night.
So let us call off this lost cause of a search for the little miners, and search for the one great man we must find and save: Robert Murray.
Submitted by KAT on Wed, 08/22/2007 - 9:33am.
The question of whether religion has been more of a force for good or evil is, like hell, eternally hot. Blessed are those who blaspheme, for their books shall inherit the best-seller lists. Just ask Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens or Richard Dawkins, who all come down firmly on the side of reason, to the dismay of tooth fairy fans, Santa supporters and faith-based followers of other dubious deities.
I would love to believe there’s a God, particularly a benign, compassionate God who wants only the best for all his children and our fellow creatures. But there are a whole bunch of different Gods running around out there, each with his or her own cult following, and some of them seem, quite frankly, to be rather hostile or downright hateful. Like the God pastor Fred Phelps’ worships, who “hates fags.” What the hell kind of a God is that? Then there’s that Allah who apparently advocates blowing people to smithereens. I think I’ll stick with the Reverend Billy and Buddha, thank you very much.
Some Christians are convinced the impending Rapture renders conservation entirely unnecessary. Conservation for whom? For us godless Left Behind lefties? As Ronald Reagan’s enRaptured Secretary of the Interior, James Watt, told Congress, “I do not know how many future generations we can count on before the Lord returns.” So it made perfect sense to Watt to propose that we open all 80 million acres of undeveloped land in the United States for drilling and mining by the year 2000.
But there are a growing number of evangelicals and other religious types who don’t think it’s our God-given right to plunder our God-given resources. And now, according to an article in today’s New York Times, people of faith are beginning to rethink our food chain, too:
Does this groundswell of spiritual support for sustainable agriculture and compassionate consumption represent a sea change?
“Food and the environment is the civil rights movement for people under the age of 40,” said the Rev. John Wimberly, pastor of the Western Presbyterian Church in Washington.
Hallelujah! I’m about as fond of organized religion as I am of organized sports, but if these folks are going to cast their lot with us secular proselytizers on behalf of pasture-based agriculture, all I can say to Rev. Wimberley is this--from your lips to God’s ear.
Submitted by KAT on Tue, 08/21/2007 - 11:48am.
Kat: I’m not one of those Volvo-driving, latte-drinking liberals, but I do eat a lot of sushi. So I was sufficiently alarmed by a New York City Department of Health report last month that one fourth of New Yorkers have elevated levels of mercury thanks, in large part, to our fondness for fish.
We New Yorkers may be more full of it, but excess mercury is a problem all over the country. We know that even a small quantity of mercury can hurt cognitive development in children. And yet, a BP (British Petroleum) refinery in Indiana is still allowed to dump mercury directly into Lake Michigan, which is “a magnet for sport fishing and the source of drinking water for Chicago and scores of other communities,” according to the Chicago Tribune.
So if we can’t count on the EPA to, you know, actually protect the environment, we have got to be proactive and stay on top of what fish is OK to eat and what’s not. You touch on this topic in your “Eating Made Simple” article in the September issue of Scientific American, in which you note that “two small servings per week of the less predatory classes of fish are unlikely to cause harm.”
You’re presumably talking about fish like anchovies and sardines, but they’re not exactly a staple on sushi menus. Tuna, on the other hand, is. As are salmon and mackerel, which are so high in those omega-3 fatty acids that are known to benefit our brains. My own brain hurts when I try to figure this stuff out. So, seriously, how often do you eat sushi?
Dr. Nestle: I love sushi and eat it every chance I get although I try to be careful to eat it in places where I think the chefs know how to prepare it safely. I can well sympathize with your sushi-induced headache. Balancing the risks and benefits of seafood is no joke. It took me five chapters in What to Eat to deal with fish choices and it took an Institute of Medicine committee two years just to grapple with the methylmercury vs. omega-3 problem.
Personally, I’m much more worried about the risk of biological hazards—bacteria, viruses, worms, and the like—in sushi than I am about methylmercury, but I’m past the point of becoming pregnant. Pregnancy is the real concern. Methylmercury is not good for baby brains. It does not seem to have nearly as much effect--except at high levels--on adult brains.
The good news is that only five big predatory fish in the food supply that are commonly eaten accumulate high levels of methylmercury: (1) shark, (2) swordfish, (3) king mackerel, and (4) tilefish. The other common one has half the level of those four: (5) albacore (white) tuna. Everything else has much, much lower levels, as shown in this chart from the 2006 Institute of Medicine report.
The amounts in other fish are so low that the chart has to make the scale bigger so you can see the difference.
The methylmercury story is one place where I think government agencies make truly sensible recommendations. In 2004, the FDA and EPA came out with a joint advisory for people most likely to suffer bad effects from eating too much methylmercury: pregnant women, women likely to become pregnant (because methylmercury accumulates) and small children. These agencies say that if you are in this category, don’t eat those five fish. Period.
If you are not in those categories, eating a serving or so of those fish once in a while seems OK. In any case, there isn’t all that much fish in sushi. The fish portions are tiny so the amounts of methylmercury will be tiny. That leaves plenty of sushi to enjoy. Salmon, for example, is very low in methylmercury and so are shrimp, eel, and lots of other kinds I like. And, being an adult, I will occasionally indulge in a piece of tuna.
With that said, I’m fussy about the possibility of biological contaminants in sushi. Here too, the FDA has sensible things to say. The FDA tells pregnant women, young children, the elderly, people with compromised immune systems, and those with low stomach acidity not to eat raw seafood--ever. If you aren’t in those categories, and want to reduce your risk of picking up some nasty parasite or bug, it helps to make sure the fish was solidly and deeply frozen before you eat it. Even then there’s a risk, but a much smaller one. So I like to be sure I’m eating sushi in a place with a well trained chef who knows food safety rules.
But the whole subject makes me really angry. About 40% of the methlmercury in fish gets into their waters from coal-burning power plants (the rest comes mostly from volcanoes and natural sources). We know perfectly well how to clean up emissions from those plants before they dump toxins in land and water. This is the best example I can think of to illustrate why changing the environment is so much more important to health than individual choices. You don’t like methylmercury in your fish? Write your congressional representatives and tell them to stop delaying controls on emissions. Now.
(For more on sushi safety, the Colorado Health Department has a neat page with many links to other sources of information on mercury, bacterial, and other kinds of problems with fish.)
Submitted by KAT on Mon, 08/20/2007 - 8:58am.
The USDA’s “certified organic” label is taking hits from every quarter these days, from purists who say it’s too watered down to corporations who’d love to dilute it further to farmers who can’t be bothered with all that bureaucracy. Consumers are confused, too, wondering whether organic food is really any better for you or just an excuse for food manufacturers to charge a premium.
One thing is indisputable, though--sales of organic foods have skyrocketed in recent years. So I was appalled to learn from Sunday’s New York Times that the USDA’s National Organic Program, which is responsible for enforcing the organics standards, has only nine staff members and an annual budget of just $1.5 million, despite the fact that consumers currently spend “more than $14 billion a year on organic foods, up from $3.6 billion in 1997,” as the Times notes. By way of contrast, the article adds that in 2005, the USDA gave $37 million in subsidies to farmers who grow dried peas, a crop worth about $83 million annually.
It’s utterly nutty to allocate peanuts for the National Organic Program. But the USDA has long been industrial agriculture’s handmaiden, coddling corporations and treating organics like an unloved stepchild. Now, of course, Cinderella’s pesticide-free heirloom pumpkin’s turned into a first class coach, and Big Ag wants to tag along for the ride.
How the ugly duckling in a freegan frock became the belle of the ball is more scary tale than fairy tale, well-documented in Samuel Fromartz’s Organic, Inc.: Natural Foods and How They Grew and Julie Guthman’s Agrarian Dreams: The Paradox of Organic Farming in California.
Both books chart organic food’s evolution from small scale, sustainable farms to big time industrial operations that violate the very notion of “organic.” But even as Big Ag co-opts the organic label, the USDA still won’t acknowledge that there are any benefits to buying organic. From the USDA’s own website, under “Organic Food Standards and Labels: the Facts:”
It’s a fact that foods grown without pesticides and chemicals are, at the very least, safer for the environment. You can bet that they’re better for our bodies, too, unless you care to argue that the presence of pesticide residues in your food is a plus.
And there have been numerous studies from credible sources showing that organic foods are nutritionally superior, such as this one from Great Britain’s Soil Association, or the latest study from UC Davis showing that organic tomatoes have nearly twice the antioxidants of conventional ones. Researchers attribute this, in part, to the higher soil fertility of organic farms.
My favorite “agrivist,” Sandor Katz, notes that chemically dependent, so-called “conventional” industrial agriculture only became the cultural norm after two World Wars left us with a surplus of chemicals, including the organophosphates once used in the Nazi gas chambers, which subsequently became popular pesticides.
“Chemical agriculture is an unmitigated disaster, and a relatively new phenomenon: prior to World War II, virtually all food was produced without chemicals, by what we now call “organic” methods,” Katz writes in The Revolution Will Not Be Microwaved.
Katz is quick to add, however, that he has his doubts about the organic label, as do I. “People wishing to resist corporate control and eat fresh, healthy food have to move beyond organics and into the foodshed, thinking about where our food actually comes from.”
Of course, agribiz doesn’t want you to know where your food comes from, which is why its lobbyists have kept Congress from enforcing the Country of Origin Labeling Laws that were signed into law in the last farm bill.
And even when our foods are labeled, we can’t be sure standards are really being upheld; the Des Moines Register reported on Sunday that that USDA auditors are only just now “scheduled to make their first -- and long-awaited -- trip to China this month to check on organic food operations there.”
Will these supposedly “surprise” visits yield any actual surprises? Will the USDA be shocked, shocked to find traces of toxins in the tofu?
Here’s what I want to know: if conventional agriculture represents such a technological breakthrough, why do so many of us gladly pay more for food that’s been grown the way our grandparents grew it, without “benefit” of chemicals? The USDA may not be willing to confirm our suspicions that pesticide-free produce is better for us, but Big Ag is happy to capitalize on our concerns and promote its brand of organic. I guess that’s just natural. But is it truly organic?
Submitted by KAT on Sun, 08/19/2007 - 12:16pm.
I’d like to say that I have been too busy harvesting the bounty of my backyard to take time out for blogging, but the sad truth is that despite having shoehorned fruits, herbs and vegetables into every square inch of our garden, there is practically nothing to eat, with the exception of one oversized heirloom zucchini and a couple of cherry tomatoes.
Everything’s taking forever to ripen, and the yields are pitiful—an eggplant here, a bell pepper there; at this rate, we’ll be able to make a ratatouille for two in two months.
The garden looks lush, thanks to that cover crop of Japanese buckwheat I stupidly sowed back in July to keep the weeds out. The bees are loving the buckwheat blossoms, but it will self-seed with a vengeance if I don’t pull it out now. I just have to figure out how to remove it without accidentally pulling up the leeks and the lingonberries (note to self; cover crops do not mix well with existing plantings.)
And then there’s all the “volunteer” amaranth—it crashes my garden gate every year since the Seeds of Change catalog seduced me with a selection touted as a “unique, stoutly branched plant that produces delicious leaves, favored as a steamed vegetable in Greece.” Those droopy, seed-laden spikes nodding in the breeze have a certain charm until you realize that they’re carpet bombing your entire yard, leaving seed sleeper cells poised to launch a massive amaranth invasion the following spring.
A reconnaissance tour through the garden yesterday morning sent me back into the house in abject defeat (and tears.) By noon, though, hunger won out over despair, so I went out and captured an armload of the renegade amaranth and its close cousin, lamb’s quarters, which also pops up everywhere uninvited.
Armed with a recipe for a “basic potage” from the Matthews Community Farmers’ Market website , which I discovered via Eating Liberally’s Charlotte, North Carolina chapter (thanks, Laura!), I submerged my garden insurgents in a pot of boiling broth and then beat them into submission with a blending stick. The end result was a tasty and triumphant soup.
My take-no-prisoners potage--chock full of vitamins and minerals thanks to my antioxidant and omega-3 rich weeds--left me feeling feisty and ready to reclaim my turf, so after lunch I grabbed my Japanese farmers’ knife and rooted out the rest of the amaranth and lamb’s quarters. Wide swaths of formerly overgrown ground have been reclaimed and are ready to be planted with more docile, domesticated greens that can coexist peacefully. But what will we eat in the meantime? Not to worry, weed-dom is on the march. The amaranth and lamb’s quarters will be sure to send in reinforcements, to remind us that our mission is not, in fact, accomplished—and never will be.
Submitted by KAT on Wed, 08/15/2007 - 9:31am.
Eco-entrepreneurs would have us believe we can buy our way out of this crisis we’ve caused with our excess consumption. My friend Tom calls it the “My third car is a Prius” phenomenon. Manufacturers of every conceivable consumer good have given their products a green patina to appeal to that affluent sub-species known by the advertising acronym LOHAS, as in Lifestyles of Health and Sustainability.
Your typical LOHAS is well-educated and well-heeled, and would be manna to Madison Avenue, if only the LOHAS mantra weren’t “reduce, reuse, and recycle.” But these devotees of doing with less are more likely to be disciples of the Church of Stop Shopping than Am-Ex-carrying members of the Put It On My Card club. We’ve got Reverend Billy’s sermon to “step away from the merchandise” ringing in our ears; we can’t hear the siren song of buy, buy, buy.
So vendors vying for those “lite” green greenbacks have latched on to another kind of LOHAS--the Lifestyles of the Hip and Shallow. Am I’m not the only one getting my 100% organic cotton made-in-the-USA panties in a twist over this. Trend spotter Lou Dobbs singled out this oxymoronic movement on CNN Tuesday night . Clutching the must-have eco-chic accessory of the moment, the “I Am Not a Plastic Bag” bag, he launched into one of his trademark tirades:
When Whole Foods got a shipment of the I Am Not a Bag bags about a month ago, Matt passed the Union Square Whole Foods on his way to the Greenmarket and called me to report that there was a line snaking around the block, consisting mainly of Asian women. We were baffled until we read Marion Burros’ account of the phenomenon in the New York Times and realized that some of the women waiting outside our Whole Foods had come all the way from Taiwan or Hong Kong to snag a bag, after failing to do so in the frenzy the bags unleashed back home.
We spotted a woman toting one of these would-be bags of honor in the East Village last week, and were amused to see that the bag was already falling apart, its piping frayed. Meanwhile, the chaos surrounding the sale of Anya Hindmarch’s trophy tote has forced the designer to cancel the launches she had planned for Beijing, Shanghai and Jakarta, but as Dobbs noted, you can still buy the bags on eBay, if you’re willing to pay a premium for a shoddy, made-in-China piece of crap. As Neil Young sang thirteen years ago:
Tried to save the trees
Bought a plastic bag
The bottom fell out
It was a piece of crap
Saw it on the tube
I tried to plug in it
Got it from a friend
I'm trying to save the trees
I went back to the store
Truly an anthem for our time. But trying to boycott those three little words “made in China” is a full time job, as Sara Bongiorni documents in A Year Without "Made in China": One Family's True Life Adventure in the Global Economy.
And now Wal-Mart, which has nearly succeeded in single-handedly destroying American manufacturing, is finding that people with low-paying jobs aren’t such great customers. Wal-Mart CEO Lee Scott notes in today’s New York Times that the average Wal-Mart shopper, who typically earns less than $40,000 a household, is “under difficult pressure economically.”
Needless to say, this morning I am having a big side of schadenfreude along with my grass-fed yogurt and homemade granola topped with local berries and cherries.
Submitted by Anonymous on Tue, 08/14/2007 - 2:42pm.
Apparently, it's not easy being W's father. As Ron Kauffman, an advisor to 41, explained, hearing criticism of Bush Junior "wears on his heart and on his soul." According to the New York Times, Herbert Walker Bush compares himself to "a Little League father whose kid is having a rough game. And like the proud and angry Little League dad who cannot help but yell at the umpire, sometimes he just cannot help getting involved." It seems like Bush is more of "a little league father whose kid has no arms and no legs."
Submitted by KAT on Mon, 08/13/2007 - 11:30am.
Mea Gulpa. I gave my brother and his family a batch of my fabulous slow-baked granola yesterday with a little something extra—pantry moth larvae.
OK, first of all, I am resigned to the fact that I will never live this down. I mean, how embarrassing is that? I bloggity blog blog blah all day long about eating healthy and food safety and whatnot, and then I go and give them a bag of buggy granola.
How could this happen? The ingredients I used were all fresh, and I baked the granola just the way Lorna Sass recommends in her award winning Whole Grains Every Day, Every Way cookbook. I brought a batch of this granola with me last weekend to snack on at the Yearly Kos convention, and when I shared it with my fellow kossack/food activist Jill Richardson (aka OrangeClouds115), she exclaimed “this is the best granola I’ve ever tasted!”
My latest batch was sitting on top of the stove cooling when my brother dropped in with his wife and kids. My niece started nibbling on it, and raved about how good the granola was, so I grabbed a bag out of a bin and scooped out a few cups for them to take along and nibble on.
This same bin had been home, recently, to a canister of oat bran that became infested with pantry moths and was subsequently discarded. I have always been perplexed at how these icky insects manage to infiltrate all kinds of containers, but now I know that they can also chew right through plastic bags.
So we are ordering Gardens Alive!’s signature product, the Cupboard Moth Trap™, and we’re also going to stock up on airtight glass jars in which to store all our grains, nuts, dried fruits, etc. And I’m told we need to discard EVERYTHING we’ve been storing in these bins and start over. Worse still, I’m supposed to stop buying things from the bulk bins at the health food store, because they reportedly are nearly always infested.
The good news? I also learned that in other cultures, moth larvae are regarded as a tasty and nutritious food source. In fact, they’re in many ways a better source of protein than meat. I learned a bit about the concept of insects as a “forgotten delicacy” from Sandor Katz’s The Revolution Will Not be Microwaved, in which he quotes from a zine called the Feral Forager:
People have been eating insects for centuries, in some parts of the world, including Asia, Africa, Latin America, and even Australia. But Europeans and Americans have stubbornly resisted the notion of grubs as grub, as Jerry Hopkins documents in Strange Foods, a book which devotes an entire chapter to the virtues of bug-eating.
Hopkins shares an excerpt from an 1885 treatise entitled “Why Not Eat Insects,” published by an Englishman, Vincent M. Holt, in which Holt salivates over “a fat moth nicely baked. Try them, ye epicures! What possible argument can be advanced against eating a creature beautiful without and sweet within; a creature nourished on nectar, the fabled food of the gods?...
…They, too, voluntarily and suggestively sacrifice themselves upon the altar of our lamps, as we sit, with open windows, in the balmy summer nights. They fry and grill themselves before our eyes, saying, ‘Does not the sweet scent of our cooked bodies tempt you? Fry us with butter, we are delicious. Boil us, grill us, stew us; we are good all ways!’”
Holt did not succeed in persuading his fellow Brits to make a meal of moths, but a century or so later, Dr. Gene DeFoliart, editor of food-insects.com, is carrying Holt’s moth-loving torch. Food-insects.com explores the “future potential of insects as a global food resource,” and provides information on the nutritional value of various insects, as well as recommended cookbooks.
DeFoliart predicted in 1992 that if insects “become more widely accepted as a respectable food item in the industrialized countries, the implications are obvious. They would form a whole new class of foods made to order for low-input small-business and small-farm production. International trade in edible insects would almost certainly increase.”
Of course, as Hopkins notes, “The odd thing is that we’re all eating insects already. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the United States and similar regulatory agencies elsewhere all permit a surprising number of “insect parts” in a given weight of packaged food because it is impossible to remove all of the insects during processing, especially in plants.”
I’m sure my niece will never forget the larvae-enhanced granola I gave her, but it pains me to have such a stain on my culinary track record. So, Grace, I apologize for grossing you out, but I hope it’s some consolation to know that in some countries, people actually eat this stuff on purpose. And, it’s good for you. Take it from your aunt, the moth maven.
Chapter leaders... Please login here.
Subscribe to Blogging Liberally