I was motivated enough today to do a little overhaul to the poor old blog. Mostly because it’s REALLY hot outside and this made me feel like I wasn’t being a total slacker by staying indoors. 😉

I have to head out to babysit some of my very favorite kids, but I PROMISE to write an actual blog post tonight. Something I can’t possible keep to myself, because it’s horrible and hilarious all at once, happened a few days ago and I think it’s a good segue back into blogging.


Radio Silence…

I am a horrible blogger. Things have been hectic around here and I do actually have a million things I wanted to share and just never took the time to sit down and write.

But things will calm down in 2 weeks or so (it’s apparently wedding season) and I’m going to write and write and write. So don’t give up on me!

Bittman’s Food Manifesto

There is a good opinion piece by Mark Bittman on The New York Times website, entitled A Food Manifesto for the Future.

His ideas mirror many of the things that other sustainability and food activists are talking about, including many things I’ve covered here on the blog. I think most of his points are very much on target. There are, however, some places where I disagree, at least a little. I’ll take them one at a time.

  • End government subsidies to processed food. We grow more corn for livestock and cars than for humans, and it’s subsidized by more than $3 billion annually; most of it is processed beyond recognition. The story is similar for other crops, including soy: 98 percent of soybean meal becomes livestock feed, while most soybean oil is used in processed foods. Meanwhile, the marketers of the junk food made from these crops receive tax write-offs for the costs of promoting their wares. Total agricultural subsidies in 2009 were around $16 billion, which would pay for a great many of the ideas that follow.

While I couldn’t agree more that this kind of grain “farming,” especially the subsidizing of these crops, and processing is really terrible, and that ending it is an extremely important step in the right direction to fixing what is wrong with our food system, I am also a farmers’ advocate. We need to be very aware and very careful that, in fixing these problems, we do not unnecessarily attack the farmers who make their living off growing corn and soy. They were not the engineers of the system, but rather turned to growing corn and soy as a way to keep their farms and support their families. The system was only made possible because of terrible governmental practices (as always, you are the devil Earl Butz) and corporations that are more than happy to take advantage of anything they can to save a dollar. THOSE need to be the sectors that take the brunt of the burden when this kind of change comes to be.

  • Begin subsidies to those who produce and sell actual food for direct consumption. Small farmers and their employees need to make living wages. Markets — from super- to farmers’ — should be supported when they open in so-called food deserts and when they focus on real food rather than junk food. And, of course, we should immediately increase subsidies for school lunches so we can feed our youth more real food.

In general I agree with this idea, although I would argue that subsidies aren’t really as wonderful as we would like to assume. When subsidies are used to pad pockets unduly then they are only a burden. On the other hand, when subsidies are used to protect farmers from bad growing seasons or bad markets, then they are well placed to actually make a difference.

  • Break up the U.S. Department of Agriculture and empower the Food and Drug Administration. Currently, the U.S.D.A. counts among its missions both expanding markets for agricultural products (like corn and soy!) and providing nutrition education. These goals are at odds with each other; you can’t sell garbage while telling people not to eat it, and we need an agency devoted to encouraging sane eating. Meanwhile, the F.D.A. must be given expanded powers to ensure the safety of our food supply. (Food-related deaths are far more common than those resulting from terrorism, yet the F.D.A.’s budget is about one-fifteenth that of Homeland Security.)

I agree about the USDA, but I’m no big fan of the FDA. I think that their mission is a noble one, but I think that, in practice, the FDA is nothing but a huge lumbering beast that accomplishes very little. Giving the FDA more power will solve nothing when they refuse to address the instances where they already fail at their job.

We also must address the issue of informed consent amongst the buying public. The USDA and FDA have made it very clear that they stand against customer choice when it comes to raw milk. Consumers who are informed about the benefits AND the risks of raw milk and still want to have access to it should NEVER be thwarted by government agencies who’s concern is almost solely focused on transnational food systems. When consumers know their farmers and producers, they have the tools to make better choices about where and what to buy than an agency operating from a distance.

  • Outlaw concentrated animal feeding operations and encourage the development of sustainable animal husbandry. The concentrated system degrades the environment, directly and indirectly, while torturing animals and producing tainted meat, poultry, eggs, and, more recently, fish. Sustainable methods of producing meat for consumption exist. At the same time, we must educate and encourage Americans to eat differently. It’s difficult to find a principled nutrition and health expert who doesn’t believe that a largely plant-based diet is the way to promote health and attack chronic diseases, which are now bigger killers, worldwide, than communicable ones. Furthermore, plant-based diets ease environmental stress, including global warming.


  • Encourage and subsidize home cooking. (Someday soon, I’ll write about my idea for a new Civilian Cooking Corps.) When people cook their own food, they make better choices. When families eat together, they’re more stable. We should provide food education for children (a new form of home ec, anyone?), cooking classes for anyone who wants them and even cooking assistance for those unable to cook for themselves.

Again, yes. Except that I would add that restaurants shouldn’t be ignored in this kind of system. Restaurants that feature whole foods, especially traditionally prepared, should be rewarded. Many times restaurants such as these are better able to preserve foodways that we are quickly losing. We must also find a way to better support small-scale producers of all things from ground whole flour to natural preserves to fine, traditionally made hams.

  • Tax the marketing and sale of unhealthful foods. Another budget booster. This isn’t nanny-state paternalism but an accepted role of government: public health. If you support seat-belt, tobacco and alcohol laws, sewer systems and traffic lights, you should support legislation curbing the relentless marketing of soda and other foods that are hazardous to our health — including the sacred cheeseburger and fries.

This is the one I have the hardest time agreeing with. I can see the taxing of marketing. But I have a hard time getting behind taxing foods just because we don’t value them. Especially when those taxes will fall most heavily on the poorest people and people who don’t have access to fresh food. MANY things about the food system would have to change prior to something like this being acceptable and effective.

  • Reduce waste and encourage recycling. The environmental stress incurred by unabsorbed fertilizer cannot be overestimated, and has caused, for example, a 6,000-square-mile dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico that is probably more damaging than the BP oil spill. And some estimates indicate that we waste half the food that’s grown. A careful look at ways to reduce waste and promote recycling is in order.

Wholeheartedly agree.

  • Mandate truth in labeling. Nearly everything labeled “healthy” or “natural” is not. It’s probably too much to ask that “vitamin water” be called “sugar water with vitamins,” but that’s precisely what real truth in labeling would mean.

Again, couldn’t agree more.

  • Reinvest in research geared toward leading a global movement in sustainable agriculture, combining technology and tradition to create a new and meaningful Green Revolution.

Yes, yes and yes.

Changing the food system is a complex issue that will take the concerted efforts of many different groups of people. But that should never discourage us from tackling the problem.

NPR talks bacon

NPR had an article today entitled “Why Bacon Is a Gateway Meat for Vegetarians.”

Because bacon is one- to two-thirds fat and also has lots of protein, it speaks to our evolutionary quest for calories, Lundstrom says. And since 90 percent of what we taste is really odor, bacon’s aggressive smell delivers a powerful hit to our sense of how good it will taste.

“There’s an intimate connection between odor and emotion, and odor and memory,” Lundstrom says. “When you pair that with the social atmosphere of weekend breakfast and hunger, bacon is in the perfect position to take advantage of how the brain is wired.”

Indeed, the social experience of eating bacon also seems very important, says Donna Maurer, author of Vegetarianism: Movement or Moment? Opportunities to try new foods, like chocolate-covered bacon, with friends might push some vegetarians over the edge.

Bacon has special status in foodie circles, and that too seems to have enhanced its power over wavering vegetarians. Some have dubbed 2011 as the Year of Meat. BaconToday.com is a veritable daily bacon news source. And in New York can you find Bacon-Palooza, an event NPR covered on All Things Considered last year. [excerpted from article]

Yes, I agree. Umhmm… makes sense. But really, is there a more compelling argument than this?


Maple Candied Bacon

I think I’ve proved my case.


New Look?

I’m trying out a new look on the blog. What do you think? (You can see what the style was before over on Bibliophile Birds)

I think I like it, but the heading is a little large. Almost aggressively so. But I’ll have to live with it for a few days before I cast final judgment.

Love: Slow Living Style

One of my very favorite bloggers, the Slowvelder, is having a bit of a tough time moving on after a rough breakup. Not because she’s hung-up on the ex, but because she didn’t properly deal with the emotions and baggage that came from the relationship ending. She’s feeling a like she’s broken in the romantic emotions department.

I just wanted to say that you definitely aren’t alone.

One thing to explore more is that you’ve made a huge change in your life. Your goals and expectations for yourself have changed. And the things you are working towards have such a huge effect on how one views the world. Especially how you view people you may bring into the new life you’ve created.

Personally, I have found that making the choices I have over the past 2 years – to leave the “career path,” to go back to the farm, to remove myself from the constant pressure to acquire/spend/go/do – has shrunk the dating pool even more than it was before (and it was pretty small even then). It’s not that I don’t meet nice people. As you said, it’s still wonderful to make new friends. But I can’t even pretend to be romantically interested in someone who can’t, or won’t, share this part of my journey with me.

True Love (mud and all)

Before, I needed a partner with a kind soul, who was passionate about something, smart enough to outsmart me every now and then but humble enough not to make a big deal out of it, who had a good sense of humor and was quick to laugh. Now, that same person needs to be happy to live without all the bells and whistles of modern life, willing to trudge through the mud on a cold and rainy morning to help feed the animals, brave enough to watch me slaughter chickens, kind enough not to laugh at me if slaughtering the chickens make me cry, and crazy enough to think my desire to have water buffalo for milking is the best idea they’ve ever heard… That’s a tall order.

And it’s one of those things that you almost know right away when you meet someone. Because if this life isn’t something they could be passionate about, it would only make us both miserable to try to make it work.

What I have found true for myself is that I have to be 100% ok going it alone. I have to embrace the fact that I choose this life for myself for a plethora of good reasons and that it really is what is right for me. Partner or no partner.

But I never want to shut myself off from the possibility that the person I described is going to walk through the door any minute. Maybe it will be a customer. Maybe it will be someone at the feed store. Maybe, in this crazy internet age, it will even be a blog reader (as happened with blogger/author Molly Wizenburg on her blog, Orangette).

So friend, do what you need to reorganize your emotional closet. It is always good to pull everything out, dust it off, and discard whatever doesn’t help you be the best you possible (which is true in life and in our hearts). And when that chore is done, hopefully you will be able to head back out into the beautiful African bush and the rest will take care of itself.