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Posts Tagged ‘slow food’

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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I have this love hate relationship with extreme environmentalists. The freegans, the compacters, the treesitters, the slow food preachers, No Impact Man, the tiny house guy, and the no plastic gal. . . they all dare me with their tales of almost superhuman feats, and I secretly envy their resolve. That’s the hate part. More and more, though, I have come to appreciate what they bring to my not so green party. Somewhere in my brain, their extreme stories are making an impression, and providing a much needed counterpoint to the habitual scripts by which I have been taught to live. It looks like this:

Bottom line is, more extreme environmentalists are needed on the right, to bring about the balance that you, I, our whole planet need. One hundred years of industrial revolution, to be dealt with, fast. In our brains.

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Day 14 of Daily Footprint Project. I was in a hurry, and needed to get some more apples for our fruit basket.

What Happened to the Apples?

I could have gone to the farmers’ market earlier, but did not get a chance. There is this local apple grower who sells all kinds of unusual apples, each week. Too much to do. How come I am always rushing? Instead, I went to Whole Foods, and circled the produce section, in search of the perfect apple. I counted nine kinds of apples. Jonagold. Granny Smith. Honeycrisp. Gala. Braeburn. Pink Lady. Golden Delicious. Red Delicious. Fuji. I knew all of them, and none enthused me. Today, I wanted a real apple, like the ones from my childhood, all weird looking with spots on them, bugs inside sometimes even, not too crunchy, not too soft, and a full bodied sweetness I can’t bear to remember, so good it was. I seriously considered going home without my apples? Again I went around, trying to decide which ones I could settle for. Out of desperation, I picked some boring Golden Delicious, still too green in my opinion. At least, the kids would have apples to munch on.

This week, I have had the privilege to meet with two conservation specialists. Both told me similar stories, about the loss of diversity for some of our most common fruit and vegetables. Apples are at the forefront of a biodiversity war apparently, and a race to keep alive the thousands of varieties still existing. In the introduction to his 2005 report, Kanin Routson, from Northern Arizona University, provides a useful perspective on the magnitude of the problem:

‘The industrialization of agriculture has replaced the subsistence farms and their associated diversity with huge monocultural fields planted in a handful of high yielding crop varieties. Horticultural crops are no exception. In his book, ‘The Nomenclature of the Apple’, W. H. Ragan lists over 14,000 named apple varieties referenced in US literature between 1804 and 1904. Today the apple has been reduced to around 90 commercial varieties, with a handful of varieties, namely Granny Smith, Red Delicious, Gala and Fuji making up about 90% of commercial apple production. In the modern version of Ragan’s work, ‘The Fruit Berry and Nut Inventory’, Kent Whealy lists about 1500 apple varieties that are currently available through US nurseries, many of which have been developed through modern fruit breeding. That suggests as much as a 93% loss in apple variety availability in the U. S. over one to two centuries.’

I am mourning the loss of the apples. Even more so, I grieve the attitude from the general population. Most of my fellow Americans are perfectly happy with two, three at the most, varieties of apples. The red one, the green one, and the yellow one. Preferably well calibrated and shiny, to emulate the newness of industrial objects, straight out of an assembly line. Show them a real apple, and they will not touch it. The newer generations have been conditioned to eat with their eyes, according to an artificial aesthetic, that has nothing to do with the goodness of nature.

Daily Footprint Project
Daily Log
Day #14

Water

personal:
flush toilet 3
wash face 2
brush teeth 2
wash hands 4
showers at pool 2
mom:
rinse dishes
communal:
run full dishwasher

Electricity/gas

personal:
electric toothbrush 2
microwave tea 2’
microwave oatmeal 4’
laptop on half day
mom:
communal:
lights
run full dishwasher

Food

personal:
oatmeal with organic milk
organic persimmons
tea
organic milk
dinner restaurant salad, fish, seafood, coffee, wine
mom:
take out sushi and chicken salad from Whole Foods
organic apples
communal:

Waste

personal:
toilet paper
mom:
communal:
3 newspaper plastic wrappers

Recycling

personal:
mom:
communal:
2 papers
2 milk cartons
plastic bottle sparkling water

Transportation

personal:
drive to pool 6 miles
mom:
communal:
drive to restaurant 5 miles

Non food shopping

personal:
mom:
communal:

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