Category Archives: articles

Massage Time…

Well, I don’t hate this…

Regimens: Massage Benefits Are More Than Skin Deep

I’ve been meaning to get on a massage regimen anyway…think this will keep me from getting so many colds? Think insurance would cover it? :-)

Cool? Or just weird?

Okay, I can’t decide if this is cool or really really bizarre. (Part of the answer to that question might involve another question: what else is in those aerosol cans?) Spray-on clothing? Seriously?

Communal Cooking–I love this article!

This article is just lovely, and fun, and makes me want to try out something like this.  Maybe without the clay oven, and maybe without the whole dismembered goat, but just the idea of all these people cooking together is so cool…and Michael Pollan is such a fun writer, it’s just a very pleasant read:

The 36-hour Dinner Party (from the New York Times Magazine)

(Okay, I thought of titling this post something like “Michael Pollan can roast his root vegetables in my oven any time,” but it was just a little TOO much, considering the sick minds my friends all seem to have…) (And by most accounts, except for his, the root vegetable experiment was one of the weekend’s less successful endeavors anyhow…)

Where do your eggs come from?

So, do your organic eggs come from here?

Or from here?

Yes, both of those are photos of organic egg-producing farms.  Kind of scary, isn’t it? I was happy to find this scorecard from the Cornocopia Institute which rates different farms from “exemplary-beyond organic” on down to “ethically deficient.”  I haven’t gone to figure out where the ones I can get from my Whole Foods rate on the egg-o-meter…

Sigh.  Organic transparency. When farm owners say things like “The push for continually expanding outdoor access … needs to stop.” Of course. God forbid the “cage free” and “free range” markings on the cartons should actually mean something. (And one should note, in that second picture, the hens are technically “cage-free”…)

This kind of thing puts me off omelettes for a while…

Still can’t figure out the corn syrup thing…

Okay, first there was the report that high fructose corn syrup causes obesity in a way cane sugar does not. Which I mentioned here.

Then there was the retraction. Which I also wrote about.

Now the Corn Refiners Association is trying to get the name officially changed from HFCS to “Corn Sugar.”

And then I find this article from Princeton University, a fairly reputable institution unless I’ve missed something, with another link.

I can’t figure it out. Anyone know anything more concrete about this?

Bald Guys we love…

There, I bet I got your attention!

My friend Sean informs us all that June 16 was apparently (somewhere) celebrated as Captain Picard Day. A holiday I heartily endorse–I mean, come on! Just look!

And I highly recommend taking a look at 101 reasons why Captain Picard is better than Captain Kirk. Check out number 40: Picard can actually make being bald, middle-aged, and scrawny look sexy & macho.

Which brings us to the real reason for this post:

Michael Pollan  now has his own website, where we can find all his books and articles and various wisdoms in one place.  This will be a great boon to bloggers like me who have trouble keeping track of it all. Plus, he’s just kind of awesome. For many of us green food-loving bloggers, you are the sexiest and most macho bald, middle-aged, non-fictional captain we know.  (At least until Jaime Oliver starts losing his hair in about 20 years.)

A site to bookmark! MichaelPollan.com! Tell your friends!

“Big Oil’s Chernobyl,” or, Why I haven’t said anything about the oil spill yet

Basically, because I’m fairly stunned and horrified into silence, and can’t think what to say.

Fortunately, Mark Morford of the San Francisco Chronicle is not so muzzled…

Behold our Dark, Magnificent Horror

This.

When our birdies leave the nest (college cafeteria food)

Over at Mrs. Q’s “Fed up with Lunch” blog (she’s the teacher who spent the second half of the school year eating every day in the school cafeteria, exactly what the kids eat, and blogged about it.  What’s cool is the number of widely varied guest posters she’s accrued over the months. What’s not cool is what she’s had to eat every day as a result of this project.) I just ran across an article by a college student about what happened when she went away to school and was faced by an apparently pretty good college cafeteria.

And it sounds like her college cafeteria was really pretty good–certainly better than mine was.  As a mom now looking at the situation, it looks to me like her issue, and mine while I was away at school and in the years following, was about food discipline more than actually what food was offered.

My own story–I was one of those depressingly tall skinny teenagers who could eat all I wanted, anything I wanted, as much as I wanted, and never gain a pound.  I was the girl who complained about not being able to find jeans with a 33 inch inseam that were a size 1. (Trust me, while that situation in your twenties might be enviable, when you’re 15 and everyone else has breasts and you don’t, it’s fairly humiliating. I think my measurements were something like 20-20-20 up till maybe my junior year in high school.)  So I never paid attention to what I ate or how much, and it certainly never occurred to my parents to worry about it either (I was healthy and fairly active, so why worry?), and while of course the whole concept of “eat at least a serving of veggies at every meal; choose fruit for a snack instead of junk; drink water when you’re thirsty and not soda” and all that fairly commonsense stuff was basic to my upbringing, there just wasn’t a real opportunity to learn how to put it into practice myself, without it being drilled into me by my parents. They were the nutritional gatekeepers of the home.  Isn’t that the way most of us live?

In fact, I honestly have no clue how such habits could be imparted to kids in a way that they won’t burst out and go crazy when suddenly there are no authority-driven boundaries around what they may or may not eat at any given time.  Balance.  Portion control.  Eat-food-not-too-much-mostly-plants. If the very definition of teen-ager-ness involves Freedom And Rebellion, and if the very ethos of going away to college is No Parents Now I Make My Own Decisions, is there any way to really prepare our kids for this, to help them realize that this isn’t just what the grownups always say but is actually kind of crucial to their happiness and health in later life, and that we want them to be happy?  That a rebellion which results in them feeling crappy is probably not a very worthy cause?

My kids are 5 and 7; a little early to be stressing about this, I know.  But it’s a fairly important question. And I have a feeling what I do in the next 10-12 years will be a huge part of the answer.

Kara, the guest blogger for Mrs. Q, sounds like a really smart girl. (Oy. My “mom” is showing. She’s a really smart  woman.) Partway through the semester she realized she was exhausted, sleeping too much, not succeeding in classes as well as she should, and figured out that the huge drain on her body’s resources represented by all this heavy rich eating was the culprit. First she cut the junk; then she went vegan. (And her blog has photos of some of the really decadent-looking vegan foods she eats on a daily basis; I doubt if she’ll convert me fully, but  she makes me want to try some of this stuff, and not just because it’s vegan–because it looks good!  I, being a good dairy addict, would use cheese and eggs liberally, most likely, though…) But I wonder how many college students would be aware enough to put the pieces together and recognize what’s going on, and/or disciplined enough to make the necessary changes.

By the way, my tall skinny girl story has had the proper karmic twist–right about when I got to college, my metabolism shifted and suddenly I couldn’t eat all that food without gaining weight, and my lack of food discipline has meant that I’ve had to learn as an adult what I wish I’d learned as a child.  I’m now a fairly content not-quite-plus-sized woman who’s done the childbirth thing twice, and I don’t worry about weight so much as worrying about whether I’m eating well and getting enough exercise.  (I’m not getting enough exercise. But I try. And I certainly could stand to lose 20 or so…) I know that I need to eat veggies whether I like them or not, and honestly I really don’t much–but I’ve also learned to cook with them and camouflage them and render them in a way I can deal with them.  I know that when I cave to the drive-through cravings I pay for it, and that it’s really not worth it in cost to my own health, let alone that of the planet.  But it’s taken a really long time to get here.

And my daughter, you guessed it, is tall and skinny and shows every sign of following in my metabolic footsteps.

Any of my readers have college kids? Any of my readers who are college kids? I’d really welcome any thoughts on this…

Gro-bama!

From the White House Blog:

Friday, March 20th, 2009 at 3:51 pm
 

Spring Gardening

“This is a big day. We’ve been talking it since the day we moved in,” said the First Lady as she and two dozen local students broke ground on the White House Kitchen Garden on the South Lawn of the White House.  Those students will be involved in the garden as it develops and grows, producing delicious, healthy vegetables to be cooked in the White House Kitchen and given to Miriam’s Kitchen, which serves the homeless in Washington, DC. 

 

The First Lady and DC students garden

(end blog quote–but I may have to subscribe to www.whitehouse.gov/blog/  …this particular little excerpt and photo are found at www.whitehouse.gov/blog/09/03/20/spring-gardening/

I think this is awesome, of course. (Doing my little “Go-bama, go-bama, Michelle so rocks, go-bama” dance…guess you have to be here.) What’s even cooler is that it’s going to be an organic garden. 

What is both funny (in a sick way) and sick (in a funny way) and highly unsurprising (in a very sick and not at all funny way) is that apparently Corporate Chemical is completely going nuts about this, all but accusing her of undermining the fabric of the United States economy (i.e. Big Agriculture) by publicly deciding not to spray poison…excuse me, crop protection products…on her family’s veggies.

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Pro-Pesticide Group Criticizes First Lady’s Organic Garden

“And First Lady Michelle Obama is coming under criticism from a pro-pesticide industry group for deciding to plant an organic garden at the White House. The Mid America CropLife Association recently wrote to the First Lady to urge her to consider using pesticides, or what they call “crop protection products.” One official with the pro-pesticide group said, “While a garden is a great idea, the thought of it being organic made [us] shudder.” Mid America CropLife represents agribusinesses like Monsanto, Dow AgroSciences and DuPont.”

from http://www.democracynow.org/2009/4/14/headlines (down at the very bottom)

*********

 

And here is the letter Big Ag , or more accurately the Midwest America CropLife Association, sent to Mrs. Obama:
(copied from http://www.lavidalocavore.org/showDiary.do?diaryId=1309 –a site I may have to bookmark and read more often.)
  Read the rest of this entry

Interesting Article

This is from the Washington Post; the article is linked here:
www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/05/20/AR2009052000932.html

Regular Sugar vs. High-Fructose Corn Syrup

By Nina Shen Rastogi

Thursday, May 21, 2009

 

A colleague of yours recently debunked the idea that regular sugar is necessarily healthier than high-fructose corn syrup. But what about the health of the planet? Corn needs a lot of processing before it can sweeten my soda, but sugar doesn’t sprinkle from the skies. So which one is more environmentally friendly?

It’s true: King Corn is as much a bogeyman for the eco-conscious as the health-conscious. The crop gets a bad rap because it’s so ubiquitous. Thanks to aggressive farm subsidies, 27 percent of America’s farm acres are devoted to corn. According to anti-corn crusader Michael Pollan, modern corn hybrids require more pesticides and more fertilizers than any other food crop; this not only requires major inputs of fossil fuels but also causes significant groundwater pollution.

But it’s not entirely fair to lay all of that at the sticky feet of high-fructose corn syrup, as the maligned sweetener accounts for only about 5 percent of America’s total grain corn production.

Of course, even at just 5 percent of the overall crop, we’re still talking about a lot of farmland: Nearly 4 million acres’ worth of grain corn became high-fructose corn syrup in 2008. Compare that with the 1 million acres planted with sugar beets and 872,000 with sugar cane, the two crops that produce the sucrose we generically refer to as “sugar.”

In 2007, an Australian sugar cane industry group compared the environmental impacts of growing Australian cane, United Kingdom beets and American corn. The products analyzed were 1 kilogram of sugar in clarified juice form from both cane and beets, and 1 kilogram of simple sugar syrup from cornstarch. The researchers found that, on average, fossil fuel use, greenhouse gas emissions and the release of acidifying substances seemed highest with corn sugar, while water usage was highest for cane sugar. A big wild card here is that making sweetener from any of those crops returns some useful byproducts that can offset some of the environmental burdens. Sugar cane probably gets the biggest plus in this category, as its waste fiber, known as bagasse, makes an efficient fuel source: Many sugar mills — where cane stalks from the field are converted into raw sugar — run entirely on bagasse, cutting out the need for additional fossil fuels.

So sugar cane seems to be the most efficient producer of sugar and potentially the lightest user of fossil fuels, even though its significant water requirements can’t be ignored.

But to truly compare table sugar with high-fructose corn syrup, we need to look at the latter stages of processing. We know that evaporating cane and beet juice into dry, raw sugar requires significant amounts of energy. Producing the finer stuff not only involves several more steps — evaporating, spinning, melting, chemical decolorizing treatments — it also means more food miles, because these steps occur in a separate facility.

Meanwhile, to turn simple corn syrup into high-fructose corn syrup, enzymes are used to convert 90 percent of the glucose molecules into super-sweet fructose before the resulting solution gets blended back with simple glucose syrup. It’s unclear just what kind of additional burden these final steps account for, but we do know that the entire corn wet-milling process takes a whole lot of energy. According to the consulting firm FTI, it’s the most energy-intensive food-manufacturing industry in America.

As your mom and your dentist have told you, take all things in moderation and you’ll probably be fine; that goes for sugar and high-fructose corn syrup as well. Cutting down on our overall sweetener intake makes a lot more sense than simply switching one for the other. After all, if we boycotted high-fructose corn syrup and instead ramped up our consumption of cane sugar, where would we find enough hot, humid land to put all those additional cane fields? Are you willing to gobble up the rest of Florida, Louisiana, Hawaii and Texas just to avoid corn in your Coke?

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