Our Broken Food System And Our Poor Health

Everyone on the planet requires regular meals every single day of our lives. Despite the incredible importance of food, our North American food system, like much of the rest of the world’s, is dominated by a handful of agricorps that have a very cozy relationship with the U.S. and Canadian governments. This means that decisions are often made that benefit the corporations but not the public. The result is that our food system is very very very broken – and it is affecting our bodies and the health of our planet.

In this 2011 TEDx talk, former food industry analyst Robyn O’Brien discusses her food “wakeup” call and what she is currently doing to alert the rest of us about the sick state of our food.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rixyrCNVVGA&feature=player_embedded]

More links:

RobynO’Brien.com

“We’re Not Growing Quality, We’re Growing Crap”

I’m taking a sabbatical from writing for a while –  for how long,  I don’t know. I do know that I need a bit of a change/break. In the meantime, I’ll be posting food and gardening related links and videos, as it is summer and the livin’ (and eating) should be easy and good! The quote in today’s headline comes from the documentary “King Corn” that was released in 2007, but is just as relevant four years later:

KING CORN tells the story of two friends, one acre of corn, and the subsidized crop that drives our fast-food nation. As the film unfolds, Ian Cheney and Curt Ellis, best friends from college on the east coast, move to the heartland to learn where their food comes from. With the help of friendly neighbors, genetically modified seeds, and powerful herbicides, they plant and grow a bumper crop of America’s most-productive, most-ubiquitous grain on one acre of Iowa soil. But when they try to follow their pile of corn into the food system, what they find questions about how we eat—and how we farm.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UiCRwMMh9k8]

More links:

King Corn

Celebrating Summer’s Bounty As Autumn Arrives

Autumn has arrived, and with it the anticipation of new beginnings as well as the bittersweet endings that it symbolizes. No more swimming in the lake, or fresh lettuce from the garden for us. Our rush of summer visitors will slow down to a trickle. This September my husband and I have become empty nesters, as both of our daughters leave for university. Our oldest is a 5 1/2 hour drive away, but the youngest is four provinces away. It is a time to be proud of them as they move on to new life experiences and challenges but also a time to adjust to a house devoid of their laughter, their music-making, and even their arguing.

Being a climate activist doesn’t mean that I don’t take time to enjoy life. It’s the fact that life is so rich and beautiful that spurs me on to work for a world to pass on to my children, and all children, a world that isn’t so tainted by our reckless burning of fossil fuels. I want their world to be as beautiful and amazing as my world has been for me. Part of becoming aware of how humans are impacting the climate for our family has been becoming more aware of how far our food has traveled to get to our plate. We are eating more locally grown and less processed food along with little or no meat.

Part of enjoying summer in our house is gathering, eating, and preserving berries. This summer I got my hands on organic, semi-local strawberries in July, and I picked wild blueberries in August. One day, I made strawberry rhubarb jam and my daughter Kate baked her first loaf of bread. Here are some pictures that preserve our activities that day, as well as a sample of the great northern Ontario blueberries we love. I’ve included the bread recipe that was passed on to Kate by her father. Enjoy!

Mark’s Honey Wheat Bread Recipe:

12 – 13 oz. warm water

1/2 tsp. salt

2 T vegetable oil

2 T honey

2 cups white flour

2 cups whole wheat flour

5 tsp quick-rise yeast

1 tsp lemon juice (don’t forget – this helps it rise)

Dissolve the honey in the warm water. Mix all the ingredients together in a large mixing bowl and mix together using Kitchen Aid mixer (or equivalent). Mix until dough forms a cohesive ball.

Then, sprinkle flour on the counter. Knead the bread for approximately 5 minutes.

Clean and grease the mixing bowl. Form the dough into a ball and place it back in the bowl. Let rise in a warm place for 45 min – 1 hr.

Once risen, knead down again in a bowl briefly, then shape into a loaf and place in bread pan. Let rise in warm place for 30 minutes. Cook in 350 degree oven for ~30 minutes. Remove and let cool before slicing.

Optional: Mark often adds 1/4 cup of sunflower seeds and  another 1/4 cup of poppy seeds to the bread.

Reduce Your Carbon Footprint And Support Your Local Economy At the Same Time

We all have to eat, but the choices we make on how to do that have a huge impact on the environment. The average piece of food in the US travels over 1000 miles (1600 kilometres) from farm to plate; I’m sure here in Canada it’s about the same. Ways to change this are to grow your own, to go to farmer’s markets, or to buy local as much as you can. There’s a cumulatively huge reduction in pollution and energy as more and more people make these choices. So, join the movement!

Today is Meatless Monday, and for supper my family and I are going to enjoy a salad made from lettuce from our garden and tomatoes from the farmer’s market, as well as corn on the cob and homemade bread. Yum – the taste of summer!

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fyvYNuOaIPU]

Meatless Monday – Pamela Anderson Gives Us Another Reason To Eat Vegetarian

Meatless Monday is a campaign to increase people’s health and decrease their carbon footprint at the same time.  Canadian-born celebrity Pamela Anderson recently posed for a PETA ad that was controversial enough to be refused a permit for a public unveiling in Montreal last week. The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals ad shows the actress in a bikini with her body parts labelled as “round,” “rump” and “shoulder.” “All animals have the same parts,” the ad says.

So, if combating climate change isn’t a good enough reason for you to eat meatless today, maybe this image of Pamela Anderson will inspire you!

All Animals Have the Same Parts. Pamela Anderson's controversial ad for PETA
For one of our family’s favourite – and very easy to make – meatless meals, go to Broccoli Garlic Pasta recipe on the Comfort Food for Uneasy Times page. Or enjoy a hearty meatless taco salad, another easy and tasty family favourite.
More Links:

It’s Time For A Food Revolution!

Jamie Schler recently blogged on The Huffington Post about the contrast between the mealtimes of her North American childhood, and her experience of European family meals after her marriage to her French husband:

Whatever was brought to the table, good or bad, it was served up like clockwork: 6:00 on the nose every evening, exactly half an hour after dad got home. Mom, like all moms everywhere, would lean out the back door and yell for us kids to come inside. Sue and Andrew on one side of the table facing Michael and I on the other, mom and dad flanking us at either end. Walter Cronkite blaring in the other room so dad could listen all the way through to “And that’s the way it is…” We were all happy eaters, giggling and laughing throughout the meal, trying hard, as hard as kids can, to stay quiet, not a peep, so dad could listen to the news. Games played around the meal: who could eat the most broccoli or spinach and titles would be bestowed: Popeye for the evening or Biggest Tree-Eating Giant. There would be rejoicing all around whenever we saw dad pull out the pancake griddle or fire up the charcoal grill out in front of the house on that rare weekend when he chose to cook. Yet as we grew older, my mother cooked less and less often as we were more and more able to fix our own meals. She just stood up one day and announced “I’m done! I’m not cooking anymore. You are all old enough to fend for yourselves!” And that was that. Mealtimes hurried for whomever was home, the television often our favorite dinner partner.

So this meal at my French in-laws was a revelation. Did people really eat this way every day, cooking and gathering and chatting and enjoying the time and each other’s company? I looked around me during those first few years in France and Italy when our sons were small and saw it all everywhere: families gathered every day around a hot meal. It was simply natural, family tradition, everyone who was living at home sat down and shared the time of a meal together with no distractions. And weekends often found the family at the grandparents, several generations together, cooking, eating, playing music, games or a walk together after lunch, the kids, even the teens, enjoying the company of the adults as much as the older members of the family were delighting in watching the children grow up. And everyone seemed so happy, harmonious, connected.

Click here to read the full story on The Huffington Post.

When American six year olds can’t identify a tomato or potato, it is definitely time for a food revolution!  Thank you Jamie Oliver, for bringing your healthy eating revolution to this side of the Atlantic.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bGYs4KS_djg]

Today is “Meatless Monday”. Click here to go to Jamie Oliver’s website for more information and recipes, and – if you are in the U.S. – watch episodes of  new show, Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution.  Remember, reducing meat is good for your health as well as the health of the planet!