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Archive for November, 2008

One casual comment made by a girlfriend during a recent dinner at my house, got me thinking, deep, about women, and food, and politics. “You mean, you made the crust? From scratch?” My friend could not believe I had spent the time, and thought I was “too much”. No big deal, I assured her, it had only taken me a few minutes to mix in the flour, salt and butter, and to roll the dough. That’s when I realized how far we have strayed from our womanly ways with food.

Somewhere in the midst of first wave feminism, we, women made a bargain with the devil. Tired of being kept in the kitchen, we welcomed with open arms, promises from the food industry to make life more convenient for us. Put away your apron, and your pots and pans, we were told, and get out instead. Take your family  to Mc Donald’s, for a complete dinner, or if you are courageous enough, go to the stores for some half baked alternatives. Pre-cut salads, frozen dinners, bottled dressing, whole roasted chicken, canned soups, cake mixes, potato flakes, . . . Open the package, mix it up and you are all set. That felt like progress, and the perfect solution for a hurried evening after a whole day at the office.

Of course there were compromises to be made, such as paying more for our food, and  jeopardizing our health and that of our family. Products loaded with too much salt, too much sugar, too much fat, and too many empty calories. Paragraph long labels with ingredients more fit for a science lab than our stomach. Foods purified from their natural vitamins and nutrition. Further compounding the problem, manufacturers conspired to confuse us with misleading claims that we were only too happy to believe. I know firsthand. I spent a good part of my early advertising career trying to convince moms of the wholesomeness of granola bars . . . what a spin that was!

The truth has been catching up with us, however, in the form of record highs in obesity and associated illnesses such as  diabetes, stroke, heart attack, and kidney failure. The personal and national costs are astronomical, and demand an overhaul of our entire food system, such as proposed by pioneers of the natural food movement. First was California food’s priestess, Alice Waters, then Omnivore  Dilemma‘s Michael Pollan, and now Slow Food‘s Carlo Petrini. Each time, the green, intellectual elite has responded with ardor. Some of that enthusiasm has trickled down to the mainstream, as evidenced by the spread of organics in supermarkets. Deep down, though, not much has changed.

Inspired from the success of Obama’s movement, I would like to suggest a different strategy, one that does not come from a few tenors, but that  recognizes women as the beholders of the nurturing instinct, and the ones still in charge of most of the food decisions. Let’s call it The Women’s Food Movement, an effort at organizing the community of women all over, to help them regain confidence in their innate ability to nourish, using simple recipes and affordable, high quality, natural ingredients. Shifting the power away from manufacturers and retailers, back into the hands of women. No fancy words needed. Instead, a narrative anchored in their every day food activities and concerns, e.g. shopping for groceries,  deciding on what to make for dinner, exchanging recipes, looking for deals and clipping coupons, worrying about feeding their family healthy food, having limited time for cooking, making ends meet . . .

Most importantly, The Women’s Food Movement is about trusting women to hold the answers, collectively, and simply providing them with an organizing community and some tools to turn that knowledge into constructive action. This approach requires a deeper understanding of women’s food psychology, than currently displayed in existing solutions. For a beginning of food conversations with women, you may follow the Twitter stream here

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In response to my last post, I was overwhelmed by a flurry of worried emails wondering what’s happening with La Marguerite, and my alluded identity crisis as a green blogger. The truth is, I have been posting a lot less frequently, and when I do, it is usually related to my new foray into cyberspace, a new website still in development, to do with food, sustainability, and grocery shopping. 

It is not just the new website however. I have also fallen into the slow blogging phenomenon, as described in last weekend’s New York Times, ‘Haste, Scorned: Blogging at a Snail’s Pace’. The article does a good job of capturing the shift taking place amongst bloggers, including the rise of Twitter as an alternative  blogging platform. For those of you not familiar with it, Twitter is a micro-blogging site that allows you to share, in 140 characters or less whichever thoughts come to you throughout the day, in response to question “What are you doing?”. Now, rather than sharing these small thoughts on La Marguerite WordPress blog, I go to La Marguerite on Twitter. And I save the blog for those rarer occasions when I want to expand on a particular issue.

Yet another reason for my decreased frequency in posting, has to do with a very practical consideration, and one that faces the majority of serious bloggers: the need to make money, and to spend one’s time wisely. This is a huge issue in blogging and social media in general. So far, there has not been a satisfying model for full time content providers such as myself to make money from their social media enterprises. Particularly in non commercial fields such as here on La Marguerite.

Last, it is my belief that blogging can only go so far in terms of its social impact. I have written about this before. At some point, action needs to take the relay of thinking and writing, and  I am not happy with just inciting others into action. 

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Want to Play Tag with Me?

Very seldom do I engage in blogging games, but today I am in the mood. Daryl Warner-Laux, over at Verda-Vivo green blog tagged me, and I am supposed to let you know seven random things about me. Here we go:

  1. I swim every day with the Stanford master swim team. Never mind that I am the slowest of all, I would not miss it for anything. 
  2. I am addicted to Twitter.
  3. Other serious addiction of mine: 85% dark chocolate from Cote d’ Or.
  4. I am in the midst of launching a community website for grocery shoppers.
  5. I am going through an identity crisis as a green blogger.
  6. I have frequent, secret conversations with the little Buddha on my desk.
  7. I am not into the holiday gifts frenzy.

The rules for ‘social-networking’ tagging:

  1. Link to the person who tagged you.
  2. Post the rules on your blog.
  3. Share seven things about yourself – some random, some weird.
  4. Tag seven people at the end of your post and link to them.
  5. Let each person know they’ve been tagged and leave a comment on their blog and/or Twitter.
  6. Let the tagger know when your entry is posted.

Who I’m tagging – in no particular order:

  1. Lynn Miller at Organic Mania
  2. Nadine Sellers at Greenadine
  3. Jason Crawford at Scream To Be Green
  4. Colin Beavan at No Impact Man
  5. Jennifer Taggart at The Smart Mama
  6. Mike Wheets at Wheeties
  7. Kyle Schuant at Green With a Gun

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With less money to spend every month, many Americans are turning to coupons to stretch their food budget. Last weekend, I decided to join the ranks, and sat down at my kitchen table, armed with scissors and the two inserts from our Sunday paper. And started clipping away.

Coupons' Trap

I decided to separate the coupons into three piles:

Coupons that passed the test of my health conscious, green filter, and the only ones I may possibly use:

  • Minute Maid Juices, Lipton Teas, Stash Tea, EarthGrains Whole Wheat Bread, Tabasco – not a hundred percent sure about the EarthGrains Bread, I tried to check the ingredients online, without success -

The suspicious pile, coupons for products that won’t kill you, but all come with health/nutrition problems attached, to various degrees. Red flags such as too much salt, too much sugar, too much fat, GMO baggage, unnecessary packaging, radiation, pesticides, excessive processing, toxic eakage from plastic linings, added chemicals, grains stripped away from their wholeness, empty calories, fried potatoes, too much red meat:

  • Progresso Chicken Broth, Green Giant Frozen Vegetables, Star Olive Oil, Vinegar, and Olives, Mrs. Dash Seasoning Blend, Spice Islands Spices, Quaker Oatmeal, Fresh Express Pre-cut Salad, Del Monte Canned Fruit and Vegetables, Ragu Pasta Sauce, Skippy Peanut Butter, College Inn Broths and Stocks, Uncle Ben’s Long Grain and Wild Rice, Lawry’s Seasonings, Newman’s Dressings, Swiss Miss Cocoa, Bisquick Pancake Mix, Best Foods Mayonnaise, Pillsbury Dinner Rolls and Biscuits, Daisy Sour Cream, PoppyCock Nuts, Pam Spray, True North Nuts, Lipton Dinners, Kraft Salad Dressings, CountryCrock Cinnamon Apples, International House of Pancakes, Black Angus Steak House, Bakers Square Dinners, Betty Crocker Au Gratin Potatoes, Jell-O, Planters Nuts, C&H Sugar, Tyson Fully Cooked Bacon, Fiber One Toaster Pastries, Betty Crocker Cookie Mix, Quaker Chewy Granola Bars, Lee Kum Kee Sauces, Hillshire Farm Cocktail Links

The obviously junky bunch:

  • Betty Crocker Frosting, Cool-Whip, Big G Kid Cereals, Chuck E Cheese Pizza and Coca Cola Drinks, White Castle Microwavable Burgers, Reddi Whip, Entenmann’s Doughnuts, Hershey’s Chocolates, Kozy Schack Desserts, M&Ms

If I had any lingering doubts about the intentions of the food industry as a whole, this little exercise put them to rest. Coupons were not created with the interest of consumers in mind. Rather they are yet another marketing tactic from consumer packaged goods manufacturers to push their highly processed foods, regardless of their actual health benefit or lack thereof.

I say, let us not fall into the coupon trap, and seek instead, other, smarter ways to save, that won’t hurt our health.

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Have you tried sorting out the information on fish? Which kind can you eat without worrying about mercury, PCBs, chlorinated pesticides, dioxins, furans, PBDEs, and other nasty contaminants? You would think there is one central place with all that info, neatly packaged into one pocket size guide. There is. Actually, there are, and that’s the problem. Several sources, all with different recommendations:

3To be safe, I guess I will just stick to the ones they all agree on: anchovies, catfish (farmed), clams (farmed), crab (Dungeness), crawfish (domestic), mackerel (Atlantic), oysters (farmed), salmon (wild, Alaska), sardines (Pacific, domestic), scallops (bay, farmed), squid (Pacific, domestic), tilapia (farmed, domestic), trout (fresh water, farmed). 

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What the f…? This is the third time I see an ad for the new 2009 Silverado Chevy Truck. Not in a car magazine. Not in People magazine. Not on TV. No, I saw it in three very respected green sites, out of all places.

This brings up an issue that’s faced by green bloggers all the time. If you are going to take advertising, how can you make sure that the ads do not go counter to your message? Green certified ad networks are still few and far between, and sometimes have requirements, like Natural Path Media, that preclude the smaller blogs. Of course, there is always the option of handling one’s own ads. But, who has that kind of time?

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Met with KoAnn, from Sustainable Life Media for lunch, at local deli. I asked lady at the checkout counter, “Do you have compostable spoons?”.  I was met with same blank stare I have encountered before in similar situations. Mainstream America does not know about compostable plastics, and even less so, sustainability. Not that the lady was not open to learning. She seemed fascinated when I explained compostable plastics, and why it mattered. She would ask, she said.

Back home, in preparation for this post, I did some more research on the topic. Googled, compostable plastics, Fake Plastic Fish. And found post from my friend Beth Terry, ‘Just because we can, doesn’t mean we should‘. Of course, I can always count on Beth to set me straight. No easy way out here. The way to go, really, is good old fashioned metal spoons. Only energy required is from dish washing. Most likely the lesser of all evils.

Next time, I go to the deli, I will ask the lady about metal spoons instead.

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