Thursday, January 27, 2011

HAY! GETTIN' READY FOR THE ROUNDUP


The FDA is deregulating Monsanto's genetically engineered alfalfa (hay) to the horror of organic food growers and eaters, bee lovers, and climate watchers, but with the support, interestingly enough, of Whole Foods and Stoneyfield Yogurt.  Here are four informative articles.


From The Cornucopia Institute:  USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack announced this afternoon that the agency will fully deregulate Monsanto’s controversial genetically engineered alfalfa. The choice was favored by the biotech industry and one of three options identified in the USDA’s Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) released last month. (read rest of article)


From The Wall Street Journal:  WASHINGTON—The Obama administration Thursday abandoned a proposal to restrict planting of genetically engineered alfalfa, the latest rule-making proposal shelved as part of the administration's review of "burdensome" regulation.


Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack's decision not to regulate alfalfa genetically modified to survive applications of the Monsanto Co. herbicide Roundup is a victory for the big seed and agri-chemicals company and the American Farm Bureau Federation, which represents farmers, who had opposed the proposed curbs that were proposed about a month ago. (read rest of article)


From the Organic Consumers Assn:  In the wake of a 12-year battle to keep Monsanto's Genetically Engineered (GE) crops from contaminating the nation's 25,000 organic farms and ranches, America's organic consumers and producers are facing betrayal. A self-appointed cabal of the Organic Elite, spearheaded by Whole Foods MarketOrganic Valley, and Stonyfield Farm, has decided it's time to surrender to Monsanto. Top executives from these companies have publicly admitted that they no longer oppose the mass commercialization of GE crops, such as Monsanto's controversial Roundup Ready alfalfa, and are prepared to sit down and cut a deal for "coexistence" with Monsanto and USDA biotech cheerleader Tom Vilsack. (read rest of article).


From the NY Times:  Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced on Thursday that he would authorize the unrestricted commercial cultivation of genetically modified alfalfa, setting aside a controversial compromise that had generated stiff opposition.
In making the decision, Mr. Vilsack pulled back from a novel proposal that would have restricted the growing of genetically engineered alfalfa to protect organic farmers from so-called biotech contamination. That proposal drew criticism at a recent Congressional hearing and in public forums where Mr. Vilsack outlined the option.
Mr. Vilsack said Thursday that his department would take other measures, like conducting research and promoting dialogue, to make sure that pure, nonengineered alfalfa seed would remain available. (read rest of article)

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

STIMULANT, STIMULANT, FOOD, FOOD, STIMULANT


If you google the definition of food, here is what you'll find:  Material, usually of plant or animal origin, that contains or consists of essential body nutrients, such as carbohydrates, fats, proteins, vitamins, or minerals, and is ingested and assimilated by an organism to produce energy, stimulate growth, and maintain life.

I'm curious about the definition of food because a therapist friend of mine said recently.  "A lot of what we eat is to alter our brain chemistry."   I guess I knew that, but I hadn't thought of dividing the things I eat into body and brain categories.  Once I did, I began to realize just how much of my diet was actually a stimulant or depressant for my brain and not a food in the sense of nourishment for my body at all.  In fact a lot of what I consumed was harmful.


An analysis of my own diet for most of my adult life:  Days started with a few cups of stimulant, followed by a stimulant coated grain and some dairy liquid in a bowl.  Lunch was assorted foods washed down with a stimulant.  Another liquid stimulant in the afternoon with a wheat-based stimulant snack.  Before dinner I'd have a depressant liquid (maybe two)

followed by a plate containing several foods accompanied by another depressant liquid in stemware. 

Many nights after dinner there would be dessert of stimulant-infused wheat or stimulant-infused dairy.  Occasionally I wondered why I didn't sleep well, was depressed or anxious,  headachy or tired, and I would explain/blame the feelings on external occurrences like work or weather or hormones. Ridiculous.  Now that I've gone three weeks without caffeine, alcohol, sugar, wheat, or animal products my mood is completely mellow, my energy is adequate for a day's activity including plenty of exercise, and I'm sleeping well.  But it's the mellow mood that stands out the most.  To think I could've had it for so much more of my adult life... it's depressing... only it isn't because I feel pretty good so it's hard to be depressed.



It has only been 25 days since I started the Quantum Wellness Cleanse and it's officially over, but I'm hesitant to go back to my old eating patterns as much as I miss some of the old tastes and habits.  I'm so curious to see whether this mood thing will be lasting.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

THE FOOD FIGHT


Where does most of your food come from -- local or industrial sources?  Do you think it matters little or  that it's one of the most important choices you make for your health and has enormous political ramifications? 


US  farmers produce about $100 billion worth of crops and about $100 billion worth of livestock each year.  That's pretty much all industrial farming.  Could much of our country really revert back to small scale, diverse, ecological farming?   What about globally, is small a viable or even sensible alternative?


Two articles to consider:


America's Good Food Fight, Nicolette Hahn Niman (from the LA Times)
Commodity foods — from large-scale, industrialized agricultural production — seem cheap because they're produced without bearing their true costs, which are passed on in the form of pollution, virulent infectious diseases and animal suffering.

Monday, January 17, 2011

FAMILY CLEANSING

When I was a kid I always had to give up something for lent (it was usually sweets). Everyone in the family did.  I guess that training made me receptive to giving up things for the month of January with my daughter Anna who is somewhat of a self-improvement freak.  (Okay, maybe we're both self-improvement freaks.)  Anyway two years ago at her urging we gave up sugar for Jaunuary, last year it was alcohol, and this year we've given up pretty much everything with the exceptions of fruits, veggies, seeds, nuts, and non-gluten grains for 21 days.

No animal products, no alcohol, no caffeine, no sugar, no gluten.  You might say, no fun, but you'd be wrong.  It's actually pretty interesting.  For one thing I sleep through the night, which is pretty good for a peri-menopausal 55 year old.  Also I don't have puffiness under my eyes in the mornings, and my skin looks better.  I have plenty of energy and of course I've lost weight.  But as Anna points out, it's really about the discipline.  Even though I know I'm going to get off this cleanse and dive into a plate of eggs for breakfast and have a glass of wine at 6:00, I think 3 weeks on the cleanse may be enough to hard-wire it into my brain so I can get back to a cleansing frame of mind more easily the next time I need to.

I'm just following Anna's directions on the cleanse, but she's following a book: Kathy Freston's Quantum Wellness Cleanse (Oprah's cleanse) and is finding it very helpful.  Anna wasn't as well versed in vegetarian recipes as I am, so she's learning a whole new way of cooking which has been fun for both of us because we're trading recipes.  I love that we're doing something together even though she's in Manhattan and I'm in Mexico.

Funny, I just hung up with my son Ben in NH.  He may be starting a cleanse related to his job at a fitness center that will be offering a Wellness Program to its members.  The program starts with a cleanse.  That only leaves several kids and a husband to go, but at this rate, by next January maybe we'll all do a New Year's cleanse together.   Alice, are you in?

Saturday, January 15, 2011

DISGUSTING AND INSANE RECIPE

Disgusting and insane are just two words Alice (my 13 year old) used to describe the recipe I prepared on Wed.  Sorry Mark Bittman, it came from your cookbook:  How to Cook Everything Vegetarian.  When I told Alice that it was from the cookbook her sister Anna gave me for Christmas, Anna was deemed insane as well.

HOWEVER, the dish, Black Beans and Orange Juice garnered the prized "don't lose this recipe" comment from both my husband and my friend Lucille.  I loved it too.  Plus it's simple to make and used ingredients I already had:  3 cups black beans w/ 1 cup of their cooking liquid, 1 1/2 tsp. ground cumin, 1 orange (washed well), 2 T. olive oil, 1 chopped onion, 1 bell pepper (I used a red one), 1 T. minced garlic, 1/2 cup dry red wine.  Chopped cilantro and extra orange sections cut up for garnish (these really matter).  Best served with rice.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

MEET TWO DOCTORS WHO CAN HELP YOU OUT

     Two experts on the body's and the mind's abilities to heal themselves given the right diet and lifestyle changes (as opposed to the right medications) are Dr. Andrew Weil and Dr. Mark Hyman. 
     If you're feeling frightened or under-served by today's healthcare system for whatever reason, you may feel better if you learn more about integrative medicine from these leaders in the field.   I know I do.
     ....the most wonderful feature of human biology is that our bodies can regulate themselves and repair and regenerate their components.  Dr. Andrew Weil  (Read an interview with Dr. Weil)

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

TEACHING KIDS ABOUT FOOD AND NOT-FOOD

On the same topic as my last post -- teaching kids about the food-health connection -- I present this article by Melissa Harvey that was published six or more years ago on mothering.com.    An extremely patient mother takes her 5 year old on a reality trip through the grocery store.  It's wonderful. Enjoy.

MAYA AND THE MARKET
Grocery shopping with my five-year-old is an arduous adventure. Never mind trying to read a list, locate items, check prices, and examine ingredients while shepherding her into a five-foot radius of the cart. My greatest challenge is maneuvering through the supermarket aisles without reaching a ten-minute deadlock in front of every marketable cartoon character, captivating color, and recognizable brand name that zealously recruits my child at eye-level with commercialized promise of scrumptious and delightful eating.

"Mommy, looook!" my daughter Maya pleads, braking our cart and pointing wildly. I half-expect to see a gazelle grazing in produce. Instead, I'm gazing at ketchup bottles splashed with screeching colors.

"Green is my favorite color!"

"Yes, I know how much you love green." One loud wail from behind and I know that she has been captured by the condiments.

"Maya, we have ketchup at home."

"But Mommy, this one is better!"

I put a bottle of ketchup in each hand. "Look, if you take away the pizzazz, all the colors and the words, what would you have? Ketchup. It's all just ketchup."

I press on. Skipping cart side, Maya adds, "My friend's mommy has this ketchup that you like squeeze and it draws!" I nod, displaying interest minus the enthusiasm.

We turn into the juice aisle. Cooing at the vista of cartoon characters, Maya bounces over to the display. Even I could barely resist the adorable creatures partaking in utopian play across the line of labels. I reach for organic juice delegated to the bottom shelf.

"This is the juice we get, remember?"

Determined to come away with a spoil from the bounty of drinks, Maya forfeits the juice dispute and moves on. She has identified that most popular and perennial of kid's drinks, the one featuring a 'Kool' animated pitcher, in a line-up of juice boxes.

"Mommy, can I get these? Remember you let me have one at my friend's birthday party?"

I remember the moment well. In the hush just after 'Happy Birthday' is sung and the cake is about to be cut, Maya received a drink box. She inspected it, looked up at me, and asked, "Mommy can I drink this?" I nodded yes. "But mommy," she chided, "doesn't this drink have CHEMICALS in it?" I turned a shade of red #40 as all eyes turned to me in a unified look of "Oh, one of those mothers."

Yes, I am one of those mothers. One of those mothers whose vocabulary includes words like 'food coloring,' 'genetically modified,' and 'preservatives.' I am that mother who groans and laments in the supermarket aisle while reading the ingredients of foods marketed directly to children. But, although it can be tedious and time consuming (sometimes even awkward when you have curious on-lookers), reading the ingredients of every questionable food item, out-loud, has become a valuable lesson in the constitution of shelf-food for both Maya and I. It has also allowed us to implement the simple line of reasoning that 'we don't put anything in our mouths that we can't identify' --- effectively thwarting many a toddler temper tantrum.

The cereal aisle is loaded with exotic ingredients to peruse that require a chemistry degree to pronounce. Maya stands at attention while I perform something akin to a roll call.

"Sugar?" Maya nods.

"Corn syrup?" Another nod from Maya.

"Hexametaphospate?"

"Mommy, what's that!"

I shrug and continue,"Sodium steoroyal? Lactylate?"

"Mommy, I can't believe I wanted to eat that!" Maya cries, plunking her palm to her forehead.

The verdict is in. The cereal has been found guilty of harboring alien elements.

"Mommy, what about those?" Maya's attention has crossed the aisle and zoomed in on some 'fruit' snacks.

"Let's see!" I reply. The snack offers bold assurance of 100% vitamin C. Neither impressed nor impulsive, I turn the box over and read. The manufacturer's charitable inclusion of a vitamin supplement seems feeble when a child would need an arsenal of anti-oxidants to eliminate a hidden legion of food colorings, corn syrup, wax, and sulfating agents.

Another aisle, another impasse. Maya grabs jello off the shelf and admires the packaging that had effected immediate recognition. (Here's a clue, the jello was 'Blue.')

"Maya, come on now . . . you don't even like jello!"

"But I'll like this one mommy . . . I promise!" she implores.

"No, honey. No."

We trudge on. Maya is disappointed that I have shot down yet another irresistible item. I am disheartened that this morning's reputable children's program which preached the graces of carrot sticks and graham characters now stands on the supermarket shelf, garbed in cheap artificial colors and flavorings, prostituting itself to the almighty dollar.

Maya grows quiet as we reach home stretch. I loosen my white knuckled grip on the cart and wonder if the other moms trekking to checkout are as spent as I am. Standing at the finish line, Maya eyeballs the contents of the cart just behind us where a young girl has positioned herself proudly over a booty of 'fun' food.

Sensing competition, Maya makes eye contact with the girl and boasts, "My mommy got avocados!" The girl shrugs, unimpressed. Maya, however, interprets the girl's reaction to be one of defeat. She looks up at me, smiling victoriously.

A few pensive moments into our drive home, Maya asks,"Mommy, why do people want me to eat junk food?"

So, how do I answer this one? How do I explain that some food manufacturers care more about exponential profit increases and market expansion than providing suitable food for children? How do I explain that several big-daddy food cooperations, vying for loyal courtship and enduring devotion, employ empty promises and handsome packages to romance an entire population divorced from their source of food? How do I tell her that there are people paid mammoth amounts of money to pick apart a child's heart and mind in the quest to find the perfect ruse which will lock her into a life-time of consumerism? How do you tell a five year-old all this, and not squash her esteem in humankind?

"Maya, imagine it's your birthday and there are hundreds, thousands, of presents."

Maya's eyes light up, "All for me, Mommy?"

"Yes, all for you. Now, some of these presents are wrapped in beautiful ribbons and colorful paper . . .."

"Barbie paper?"

"Yes, even Barbie paper. But some presents are wrapped in brown paper bags. Which present would you open first, Maya?"

"The one with Barbie paper!"

"Ok. But how do you know that your most favorite toy, the one thing you really want, is inside the prettiest package? You don't know. You won't know until you unwrap it.

"Everything at the supermarket is packaged, wrapped like a present, so that you'll want to take it home and open it. The problem is that once you open the pretty package you might find that what's inside is not that good."

"The people who make the food . . . they try to trick us?"

"Well, not really. Many people make food and they all compete to see who can be the prettiest or the cutest or the funniest. They know that if their food looks irresistible, we just might buy it. Unfortunately, in the race to win us over, the most important thing --- to offer us the healthiest food possible --- is often left behind."

Maya nods. She got it.

"Maybe we should call the food people and tell them we don't want to eat junk!" I smile in my rear-view mirror at my pint-sized activist and agree,

"Maybe we should."

I'm standing on common ground with my five-year-old and that's a relief. Yet I'm worried that my lecture on the machinations of the food industry hangs like a cloud over my daughter's spirit --- dimming her inviolable trust and faith in the world while casting shadows on the princesses, butterflies, and rainbows that populate it. But, gullibility is indigenous to the naivete that embellishes the bucolic country of childhood. So, for as long as Maya walks (runs, skips, cartwheels) through her youth, my mission must not only be to protect this innocence --- her childhood fantasies and amusements --- but also to reveal to her the strategists willing to use this innocence as a pawn in their marketing games.

I hope that my daughter, armed with her hard-earned acumen, will be able to weave with confidence and lucidity through the thick of consumer illusion all by herself one day. Perhaps one day she will even pick out the brown-bagged gift among the glittered and bowed without hesitation and smile at me. And on that day we both will have won.

I am a writer and mother living in New Hampshire. I am also expecting a second 'activist' this June! Determined to promote 'real' food and make local agriculture and food crafts more readily available in my community, I have been hard at work this past year organizing and directing what will be my town's first Farmers' Market. The New Boston Farmers' Market, representing close to a dozen NH farms and food crafters, will open in July.

My Note, 2016. Maya is starting college in the Fall, and there are, I believe, three more child 'activists' still at home. The New Boston Farmers market is going strong every summer. CK