Tag Archives: food

No Impact Experiment: Food

I’m rather insistent that Bug’s summer vacation be educational as well as fun. I’m one of THOSE moms. This week, we’re taking part in the No Impact Experiment, a 1-week carbon cleanse, and learning (hopefully) why it’s important to be more conscious of the environmental impact of seemingly mundane daily decisions. 

Today’s challenge was about eating local, which is something we try to do all the time… but not exclusively. In other words, if I have the choice of buying a Washington apple or one shipped in from New Zealand, I’ll go with the Washington apple 99.9% of the time. But if I’m somewhere that only sells New Zealand apples, I won’t not buy an apple. I’m a lazy locavore.

On Wednesday, we wrote down everything we ate throughout the day and where it came from. (Of course, I wrote down the store name instead of location. I don’t know why I thought that was what was intended. Surely that’s what’s important: the name of store. Pssssh.) Today we reviewed the list, wrote down the city it came from, and were tasked with selecting 5 items that were not produced locally and swapping them out for 5 local items.

As it turns out, there were only 3 items on our list that were not local:

  1. turkey sandwich meat
  2. Pop chips
  3. tortillas
Note that these were all packaged foods, which we’re supposed to be avoiding anyway – so double bad on us. Normally I get our sandwich meat from a shop that sources local meats, but I hadn’t this time. This meat came all the way from Jersey, which kind of grosses me out on a few levels. The pop chips were a weak moment. And I have no idea how to purchase tortillas without a package. But, despite the packaging shame, I should be able to find local substitutes for all three of these things. I think. Actually, I’m not sure about the tortillas. I’ll have to look into that.
Next, we were tasked with defining our own food limits for the week. Will we only eat food produced within 100 miles of our home? Maybe go vegetarian or vegan for the week? We initially set our limit at 200 miles from home, but that proved difficult to follow in practice because once we were at the grocery store we had no way of knowing which cities fell inside those 200 miles. To make things easier, we decided anything from Washington or Oregon would be acceptable.
Our first local meal didn’t actually happen until dinner tonight. Breakfast and lunch were made of things already in the house – some of which weren’t local but were in danger of spoiling. I decided eating food with more impact would be better than wasting that food in favor of purchasing new food with less impact. So we only managed to pull off one 100% local meal today consisting of sausage, couscous, peas, mint, dill, garlic, eggs, sour cream, and beets – all produced in Washington with the exception of the couscous and sour cream, which came from Oregon.
Honestly, I live within walking distance of one pretty hippied out grocery co-op (Hi, PCC!) and another pretty yuppie grocery store, both of which carry a lot of locally sourced goods. I can also walk to an all local butcher. So buying local is actually fairly easy if I just put in a little extra effort. I’m struggling much more with packaging.

 

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Antibiotics Lawsuit

We’ve all heard tales of doctors over-prescribing antibiotics to their patients, often for viral illnesses (the common cold, for example) for which antibiotics are not even effective. Even so, humans consume a mere fraction of all the antibiotics in the United States. The rest? Well, we feed that to good ol’ Bessie, naturally.

Photo by JelleS

Depending on the source, a reported 70 – 80% of all antibiotics in the United States are fed in low doses to healthy farm animals with the goal of staving off illness and speeding growth. This is despite the overwhelming (and long-standing) evidence that doing so breeds super bugs – bacteria resistant to antibiotics, which are growing more prevalent and ever more dangerous to humans.

After 30 years of fighting for stricter controls (the FDA acknowledged the link between antibiotics and super bugs waaaaaaay back in the ’70s), there may be hope on the horizon. A suit has been filed against the FDA by environmental and public health organizations in an attempt to force the agency to ban the “therapeutic” use of antibiotics in farm animals.

In the meantime, opt for certified organic meats whenever possible.

This excellent article by Barry Estabrook details just how much evidence the FDA has, and is ignoring.

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Book Report: In Defence of Food

I admit it: I’m way late to this party. Michael Pollen is kind of a big name in the food activist (for lack of a better term) circles, and I only just got around to reading one of his books.

I started with In Defence of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto, which was published waaaaay back in 2008, because it was available first at my local library. In it, Pollan explains his food mantra: “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” which is fairly similar to my personal food mantra: “Eat food. Like, real food. [heavy exasperated sigh when people ask what, specifically, I mean] You know, fooooooooood.” But while I just keep repeating and elongating the word “food” and making increasingly emphatic hand gestures, Pollan actually takes the time to clearly describe what he means, making his argument far more convincing than mine. Because he’s a journalist by trade, and I’m a former dance major. Also because he’s a showoff.

Pollan begins by shedding light on the faulty science behind what he terms “nutritionism,” a reductionist approach to food, eating, and nutrition on which the entire Western diet is based. He suggests (rather convincingly, I might add) that fat and cholesterol in the diet do not cause higher rates of coronary disease, that, in fact, the lipid hypothesis is erroneous and unsubstantiated. He then goes on to suggest (again, rather convincingly) that studying the individual elements of a particular food ignores the more important interaction of the whole, leading to fads (low fat! more antioxidants! dha supplements!) that simply don’t work out of context.

In the remainder of the book, Pollan expounds on each of three main points. “Eat food” becomes a discussion on the difference between food and food-like substances. “Not too much,” obviously, focuses on quantity, serving sizes, etc. And “mostly plants” discusses the ratio of meat to plants. Which makes this an entirely unnecessary paragraph because you could’ve figured all that out for your own. Right then. Moving on.

The book, perhaps, goes on a bit too long (in that those three points described in the previous paragraph don’t really require much elaboration) but Pollan’s writing style somehow manages to be studious and conversational, so it’s hard to mind a few extra pages. And really, the book is pretty short and a quick read even at that. I found it informative and enjoyable enough to move his previous book, The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals, to the top of my library queue.

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Making Your Own Baby Food

When Bug was born, I was full of lofty parenting ideas. I thought I would breast feed until he was at least a year old; I thought I would never let a disposable diaper touch his butt; I thought I would make all of his baby food with my own two hands. And so on and so forth. In the end, I did nurse for a little over a year, he wore cloth diapers most of the time, and I made his baby food… that one time. The combination of working full-time and being married to a man who didn’t help out a whole lot just didn’t leave me with enough time or energy to squash up baby food.

But this time, it’s different. While I was on maternity leave with Baby Jupiter, I lost my job. Only working full-time sporadically and/or working very part-time from home leaves me with a lot more time for parenting activities. Also? (And this is really the biggest and bestest change:) I have a man around who actually pulls his weight. Also, also? Making your own baby food is waaaaay easier and less time consuming than you might guess, especially if you make big enough batches to last the month. Plus, it gives you more control over what’s going into your baby’s mouth and it’s considerably cheaper than buying those tiny jars at the supermarket.

Here’s a primer, using apples as an example:

Step One: Prepare the Food
For apples, I core and slice. I don’t usually worry about peeling them because my food mill takes care of that for me. (Actually, the food mill would take care of the core too, but it makes cranking the handle a little harder so I usually opt to core ahead of time.) If you’re using a food processor, you’ll obviously want to remove anything you don’t want ground up into the pulp that ultimately lands in your baby’s gullet.


Step Two: Cook the Food
I generally prefer to steam things because the foods lose less of their nutrients that way. But boiling or baking or whatever you’re into works fine. Reserve the water if you steam or boil. We can use that later.

Step Three: Prepare to Squish
I use a Foley Food Mill set over a bowl unless I’m making a super big batch, in which case the food process comes out. Sometimes. Sometimes I still use the food mill. It’s just less fuss that hauling out the food processor, and it cleans up quicker too. But again, whatever’s clever.


Step Four: Squish
Either turn the crank (food mill) or hit the button (food processor). With a food mill, you’ll be left with this (skins):

…and this (baby food!):

Step Five: Use or Store
Depending on the age and preferences of your baby, you’ll likely need to thin out the food before feeding. If you’ve reserved the cooking water, you can use it to thin out the food while adding back in some of the nutrients that cooked out. (DON’T use the cooking water of foods high in nitrates, like carrots.) Or thin with regular drinking water, breast milk, or formula. You can thin the whole batch or only as much as you’re about to serve. I usually opt to thin individual servings at a time because Jupiter’s thickness tastes change from meal to meal. Store in the fridge the amounts that you’ll use in the next 24 or so hours. Freeze the rest using ice-cube trays.

(Yikes! Those aren’t apples. You caught me. Those are peas and carrots from a different day. I forgot to photograph the apples in the tray.)

It only takes a couple of hours for the food to freeze. Then pop the cubes out of the tray and transfer to a more suitable storage container. I’d recommend something that you can label with the date and contents (those cubes aren’t always so easy to identify later).

Step Six: Pat Back
Et, voila! C’est fini! Congratulate yourself on a job well done.

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A better baggie

We all know plastic bags are bad. They litter our streets and beaches. They masquerade as delicious jellyfish and then choke our lovable marine animals. They photo-degrade (very, very, VERY slowly, I might add), breaking into smaller and smaller bits of toxic contaminates. They’re made from oil, a limited resource in such demand it’s worth starting wars over. According to the EPA, over 380 billion plastic bags, sacks and wraps are consumed in the U.S. each year. That’s a lot of oil. And a lot of garbage.

If only the evil things weren’t so damn useful!

I found plastic grocery bags (and their paper counterparts) easy enough to abandon, and have been using reusable canvas grocery totes for years. And my purse of choice on the weekends is anything stylishly oversized so I can tote home any errand purchases bag free. Easy.

A tougher opponent, I’ve found, is the sandwich bag – particularly at lunch making time. For my own lunches, I prefer reusable glass containers like these and these from Crate & Barrel (less expensive options are certainly available at your local Target or thrift store – check for things like dishwasher/microwave/freezer safe and BPA-free plastic lids). The only problem I’ve had with these containers is my coworker, who’s been known to knock them out of the refrigerator and smash them to bits on the floor, ruining both my container and my long anticipated lunch.

But I’m certainly not going to send my son to school with glass containers. Plastic Tupperware-type containers have a better chance of remaining in one piece and are less costly to replace when he absent-mindedly throws them in the trash, but I don’t like putting my kid’s food in plastic if I can avoid it. So, what then?

Enter ReUsies, stage left.

Bubble Licious Sandwich ReUsie

ReUsies are reusable cotton sandwich and snack bags. They’re lined with a sort of nylony netting that’s super easy to clean (I wipe mine with a damp cloth after daily use, and throw them in the laundry on the weekends). They come in two sizes and velcro close. And, miracle of miracles, my son somehow manages to not throw them away. How brilliant is that? (Added bonus for me: ReUsies are made by Seattle moms, which means I also get to support/buy local.)

A quick Google search shows that there are similar products available on Etsy (like these and these), though ReUsies are the only ones I’ve used and can personally vouch for.* As an alternative, I’ve also seen plastic baggie dryers (like this, or this do-it-yourself version) that allow you to wash out and reuse regular plastic sandwich bags, but I have little faith that my kid would remember to bring home his baggies.

Next foe to defeat: the plastic produce bag. I use as few as possible, and I wash out and reuse any that aren’t lined with rotting vegetable slime. But I’ve yet to figure out a true replacement. Any ideas?

*This is not a paid or comped endorsement of any kind. The ReUsies folks don’t even know I exist. I just really like their product. Hand to gawd.

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