Real Food Mama

Musings about cooking, eating and everything in between.

Food For Thought Tuesday March 16, 2010

Filed under: Food For Thought — realfoodmama @ 1:45 pm
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Apologies to those of you who may have been looking for this post last week. Things have been crazy here and I just dropped the ball.

That being said, however, I have a number of interesting things to talk about this week in an attempt to make up for it!

First of all, everyone should check out the current “Dirty Dozen” list, as well as the “Clean Fifteen” list here. The first is a list of the most contaminated conventional fruits and vegetables. The second is, alternatively, the cleanest or least sprayed conventional crops. If you are new to organics this is a huge help as it allows you to prioritize!

Santa Fe has a Farm to Restaurant project and a Farm to Table project, but have you heard of the Farm to School project? Check out the web site to see if there are any participating communities near you! http://www.farmtoschool.org/

More news about school lunches – the growth of a small lunch provider who insists on using organic and even local ingredients as well as nixing HFCS and artificial flavors and colors. While the article about the company, called “Revolutions” was fascinating, I was more than a little appalled by this excerpt:

Margo Wootan, nutrition policy director for the Center for Science in the Public Interest, says she’s slightly concerned with Revolution’s insistence on natural, local ingredients.

“You can have full-fat cheese from a local farmer, and it’s still going to clog your arteries and give you heart disease,” she says. “Having the food be natural is nice, but a bigger threat to children’s health is making sure that there’s not too much salt and not too much saturated fat.”

Banishing high-fructose corn syrup, Wootan says, is “a waste of time and money” – better to limit children’s total sugar intake. As for hormone-free milk, she says, most milk is hormone-free. “And if it isn’t, it’s not a health problem.”

Seriously Mrs. Wootan? It makes me wonder whose payroll these people are really on! For one thing I’m not sure that most milk is hormone free at this point, and as for the rest…well, I think the verdict is still out on whether or not it is harmful.

For the local readers, I urge you all to check out the new Santa Fe Alliance web site. It has been completely revamped and, if I may be so bold, looks so much better! Take a look at www.santafealliance.com.

Lastly, I highly recommend everyone check out this video, a well illustrated short about how the established global food market starves the poor. Interesting to say the least.

Happy Eating!

 

Food For Thought Tuesday – 3/2 March 2, 2010

Filed under: Food For Thought — realfoodmama @ 11:25 am
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This week has been spent doing a lot of work around the barn. It feels like spring, even though there is still snow on the ground and it’s hardly warm out.

We are awaiting our kids. One of my girls is pregnant and due within the month so there have been some additions made to the existing pen and we are getting ready to receive the little goats. Also, we have ordered our chicks and will have to make them a nice warm roost until they are big enough to survive the cold weather. Keeping them at 90 degrees may prove impossible, but we are going to get creative since they will be arriving at the end of March.

I also planted my first seeds of the year. I am trying to start my tomato plants from scratch, so to speak, and currently have 20 little pots sitting above the heater in my bed room. 10 Black Krim’s and 10 Red Brandywines. Hopefully they will all sprout soon!

That has been my week, but in the larger world of food, there are a few interesting stories.

The comment period regarding approval of Monsanto’s Round-up Ready Alfalfa ends tomorrow, March 3. This is another GE crop who’s cultivation could have broad sweeping impacts on organic dairy. If you haven’t already, please let the USDA know you are opposed to the approval of this crop! To submit your comment, go here.

Jamie Oliver, the Naked Chef, is doing a new reality show here in the states. What does he tackle? The American school lunch program. Check out the video’s on youtube…simply search Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution and watch the previews. Pretty terrifying stuff – especially the scene where a room full of first graders couldn’t identify a tomato. While I look forward to seeing this, mostly because I am curious about how the school lunch program really works, I am wondering if Jamie won’t just rehash the whole “fat free everything” mantra that pervades American “health food”. We shall see however. The first episode airs March 26 on ABC.

Lastly, for those of you local readers, this week is Santa Fe’s inaugural Restaurant Week. The City Dipherent’s favorite restaurants are offering prix fixe meals for two at special prices. This is a great way to sample some of the best restaurants in town without spending an arm and a leg. For more details, go here to see which restaurants are participating and how much their menu’s are running.

Until next week, Happy Eating and Reading!

 

Food For Thought – 2/23 February 23, 2010

Filed under: Food For Thought — realfoodmama @ 11:06 am
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There are some interesting things going on in food this week!

While at the dentists office waiting for my son’s father to get out from under the drill, I saw a full page ad in one of the magazines for Eco-Grain bread. Having recently read this article from the Cornucopia Institute about Sara Lee’s attempts to hoodwink the consumer, I was fascinated by the fact-less marketing speak utilized in the full page ad.

Phrases like “better than organic” and “sustainable” are sprinkled throughout the full page ad, luring the consumer in. Not only is the bread full of chemical additives and highly processed foods, but the whole idea of trade-marking a phrase like Eco-Grain just grates on my nerves. I simply don’t understand how food can be deemed intellectual property.

A second example of corporate participation in the overall movement toward better food involves mega-corporation Walmart. A recent article at Grist.org discussed whether or not Walmart was the future of local food, and it appears that there is a large push to increase their organic lines. Additionally, Walmart is touting this article found in The Atlantic as evidence that the corporation is saving people from food deserts. We shall see…having visited my local Walmart recently in order to pick up a post dental surgery prescription, I have to say I am not impressed. Perhaps it is my inherent cynicism or maybe it is just my local store, but if I am going to spend $6.00 on a gallon of organic milk, I want my money going to someone other than a multi-national conglomerate known for their poor employee treatment, low wages and general icki-ness.

On that note, lets talk about some GMO’s! There seems to be some evidence that Monsanto falsified research (shocker!) and might even have concerns for the safety of it’s product – namely a second generation GM corn crop. For more information and a discussion on the details, check out this article.

And lastly, a somewhat more positive piece of news. The Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund has decided to support Raw Milk enthusiasts by taking on the FDA’s refusal to budge on laws against bringing raw milk across state lines. Check out the article and the author’s blog about raw milk.

Hopefully all of this will give you something to ruminate on for the week! Until next time, Happy Eating!

 

Food For Thought Tuesday – 2/16 February 16, 2010

Filed under: Food For Thought — realfoodmama @ 11:39 am
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This week there are some great things going on locally including a heritage meat tasting event hosted by Slow Food Santa Fe and taking place at the Santa Fe Farmer’s Market pavilion. Additionally the New Mexico Organic Farming Conference is taking place this weekend. All growers, sellers and buyers are encouraged to attend!

Concerning large scale operations there was also some news this week. I don’t usually watch mainstream media, but this last week CBS highlighted the dangers of routine antibiotic use in animals. Unfortunately the woman representing the pork board is clearly on the payroll of the drug companies. And the farmers are concerned only about profit. It is an eye opening interview, although I’m not sure anyone involved realizes the message they are really conveying. Additionally, the USDA released new organic dairy regulations. While most seem to be pretty happy that there are stricter rules, some organic dairy’s, including Strauss Farms, were not pleased.

For all of you New Mexico readers, the state senate has passed the food tax bill, although no one is sure if it will pass house approval. The main reason I am following this story is because the tax, apparently, applies only to things like candy, soda, processed foods and, strangely enough, white flour tortillas. Any food that is considered applicable to WIC (the federal Women, Infant’s and Children program) will not be taxed. This includes things like milk, eggs and vegetables – although it also includes peanut butter. We will see if it goes through, but I find it at least a little heartening to learn that the state of NM is trying to encourage its citizens to eat better, even if it means taxing the bad stuff. The only real concern, of course, is the tortilla tax. New Mexican’s eat a lot of tortillas. Check this article out for more info on the two sides of the debate.

Happy Eating!

 

Food, Inc. and the continued wait. July 20, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — realfoodmama @ 1:35 pm
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I had big plans tomorrow night to attend a Slow Food hosted screening of this film. Unfortunately, the organizers had to cancel the screening and panel discussion due to the fact that it is still playing in the public theatre here in Santa Fe and as a result private screenings are not allowed.

What a huge disappointment! I was so looking forward to watching this film with a group of like-minded individuals and to follow it up with a nice discussion. I had planned on providing a review and a summary of the panel talk here on the blog, however it looks as though it has to be postponed.

Stay tuned however, as I have been assured that the screening will take place, however it may be some time down the road. I may just have to bite the bullet and go to the United Artist’s theatre after all! I really do not want to miss the opportunity to see this film. I hope that each of you has had the chance to go to this website and discover if the film is showing near you. If so, I highly recommend you take some time to watch – although it should be noted it is my understanding that some of the scenes are quite graphic and may turn you off meat for an undisclosed period of time.

Until then, Happy Eating!

 

In Defense of Food- Book Review July 3, 2009

Filed under: Fight Back Fridays,Food Activism,Home Economics,Politics — realfoodmama @ 10:08 am
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In Defense of Food

In Defense of Food

I just finished Michael Pollan’s “In Defense of Food” this week. This is his third book – following “The Botany of Desire” and “The Omnivore’s Dilemma”, and is a self admitted quest to find a few simple rules for eating following the success of “The Omnivore’s Dilemma”.

All in all I would have to say that the book provides some very interesting, if not entirely new, information about food and nutrition and the modern American relationship with all things edible. The author also discusses the more philosophical aspects of eating, including our cultural unwillingness to devote time and money to our eating, as well as the relationship between grower and eating when it comes to gardening. He doesn’t go so much into animal husbandry in this book, but he does encourage individuals to speak frankly with farmers and ranchers about their methods.

The information provided in the book also includes some hard numbers about how the food culture of this country changed in the 1960’s under the Nixon administration and the then newly subsidized crops. He also shares with us the fact that American’s as a general rule spend less than 10% of their income on food, compared to the 15-20% spent by our European counterparts. This doesn’t seem like a significant difference, but if one crunches the numbers, you can see that it is actually a huge gap.

For example, an American making $52,000 a year will spend, approximately, $5200 a year on food. This comes out to $100 a week. If a Frenchman (France spends approximately 15% of it’s income on food) made $52,000 a year, their yearly food expenditure would come out to $7800 a year, which comes out to $150 a week on food. This is a 50% increase. This is huge.

The one issue which I did have with this book was the lack of discussion about food costs in this country and the impact this has on the poor. The economical issues around food in the United States are substantial. It could be argued that the reason the Europeans spend more than Americans on food is because as a general rule the US has some of the highest relative poverty rates of any industrialized nation. The reasons for this are varied and I will refrain from sharing my opinions regarding this issue for the time being. While the high relative poverty levels do offer an explanation as to why we are spending two-thirds what other Western nations are on our food, the real issue is much more complex.

The problem is that it isn’t just America’s poor who spend less on food. All Americans spend less on food, and this is the crux of the issue. We are obsessed with quantity over quality and that is the problem – a problem which is perpetuated by the government’s continued support for and subsidization of mono-culture crops. Corn and Soy are no longer affected by supply and demand, a basic economic theory, because the food industry creates the demand based on the supply; they process and repackage and generally flooding the food market with all manner of bastardized products made from these basic building blocks.

Michael Pollan does discuss this issue throughout the book, however I feel as though he fails to go into detail regarding the heart of the dilemma. He states that the fact is in this country it is cheaper to buy highly processed fake foods, made with the subsidized corn and soy, than it is to buy fresh fruits and vegetables, which have no subsidies. Additionally, the hoops that organic farmers have to jump through in order to gain the ability to label their products as such makes organic and sustainable meat, dairy, and plant foods significantly more expensive than their conventional counterparts. (While organic farming does have a higher overhead and therefor a lower profit margin than conventional products, the difference in cost to the buyer is made even more significant by the expenses incurred to obtain the organic label.) Unfortunately he doesn’t offer any thoughts about how this could be addressed, almost as though he feared what his readers might think.

In general I did enjoy this book, but I felt like it was a soft pitch. I couldn’t help but thinking as I read it that the book was aimed towards the middle class in an effort to reassure the average American that Real Food wasn’t a totally radical way of living in the world. That in fact it made us more Continental and like the Italians. The information he imparted was excellent, don’t get me wrong, but the book left me unsatisfied, much like the processed food he was trying to defend us from.

This post is my weekly contribution to Food Renegade’s Fight Back Fridays blog carnival. Happy Eating – and reading!

 

Food, Inc – Trailer and link to official web site. June 21, 2009

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Here is the url for the movie web site which provides additional information as well as a petition for people to sign in regards to the school lunch program and it’s need for reform.

Additionally, below is the official trailer for the film – an interesting teaser that includes both the depressing and upbeat aspects of the feature length film. For those local folks reading this, the film is scheduled to open July 3rd at the De Vargas Mall cinema complex.