Archive for the 'Food' Category

Rurality in the News

Some of this blog’s overarching themes have been all over the news lately:

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*For the record, a “Western Diet” was defined as one that relies heavily on takeaway foods, processed meats, red meat, high fat dairy products, and confectionery.

A Spoonful of Skepticism

…helps keep the toxins away? I’m having a grand time working in the organic foods sector– Our firm is involved in Michelle Obama’s [healthy] school lunch program, my boss is pretty tight with Kim Severson, and we get free samples. Constantly. (Yum.) But being immersed in the environmental news world is also sometimes overwhelming, especially when every single day I find out that yet another common product has been linked with brain damage, cancer, sterility, etc.

Some people dismiss these reports– partly because they are overwhelming –but slowly, people are beginning to confront the facts. The President’s Cancer Panel just released a Big Important Report (like, really important). The short summary? 41% of Americans are diagnosed with cancer within their lifetime, and 21% die of it. The cause? No, it’s not all hereditary. These rates are directly connected to all the chemicals we put into our air, food, and water.

It’s scary, and yet I think it confirms an instinct that many Americans have already: that when our cleaning products give us a headache, or a certain medication gives us a severe side effect… they’re not okay. And this too makes sense: most of these products or substances haven’t been around for more than 50 years. We haven’t had time to know their long-term effects.

All the scientific innovation during World War II, combined with leftover “materials” (read: chemicals) after the War’s end led to an industry boom during the 50’s and 60’s.  Only now are we discovering that… yikes, maybe we rushed a little too confidently into our own marketing skills.

Here’s a brief overview of some of the specific links that have turned up recently:

My conclusion?

It’s sensible to be skeptical. Which means that I raise an eyebrow at something like, oh, say, a digital food printer, instead of embracing its sexy techno-seduction without questioning. Not to mention any product that gives you a headache, or smells funny, or has been on the market for less than a generation (I’m looking at you, ADHD drugs).

But I’m not against innovation: urban farming, for example, is new, innovative, and also fucking badass. But it utilizes traditional, tried-and-true methods in order to create healthier communities in the present. No skepticism about that.

UPDATE: You know what’s ironic? When I search for “cancer health” in a stock image search engine, 99% of the images are of cigarettes (one was of a virus?). Funny how we don’t want to acknowledge that the pesticides in our food might be just as dangerous.

Four Things I’m Digging

1. Multi Pens

Okay, so maybe I’m not as ecstatic about multi pens as The Pen Addict, but they’re damn convenient for my new job. I owned the Style Fit a while ago and really enjoyed it, but apparently not enough to prevent losing it sometime during the move across the country.

I ordered the Uni Signo MF3 and the Uni Jetstream 4+1 from Jetpens. The Jetstream was an attempt to branch out from gel ink, but after having played around with it a bit, it’s just not living up to my expectations. Plus, the barrel is enormous.

I was so tempted to buy a Zebra Sharbo X, but I have yet to invent a good justification for spending that much money…

2. Glazing With Acrylics

Acrylics, you say? As in, those mediocre craft-quality paints from high school art class? Oil paints for a poor artist?

…Yes, I mean those. And I am a poor artist, so I decided to paint in acrylic when I needed to fill a lonely blank spot on our apartment wall.

It turned out to be a totally pleasurable experiment. Maybe because acrylics aren’t as “serious” as oils, I was able to have a little more fun with them. I had painted with oils for my AP art portfolio in high school (and damaged my health in the process by turning my bedroom into a turpentine-fume bubble… but that’s another story).

The idea when glazing with acrylics is basically the same as glazing with oils, but it dries in a fraction of the time. Click on the image to the left to view a close-up detail section.

I finished this piece in one day, and I’m moderately happy with it. It’s no masterpiece, but I was able to experiment with a lot of different methods which I want to explore more in the future. The green stripe across the top was a last-minute addition, and I think it really completed the piece.

3. How Pretty Art Supplies Are

Yeah, you heard me: I’m digging my own art supplies. This is such a failing of mine– to see my art supplies as works of art in themselves, rather than as tools for making art. Although both views have their merits, there is also a crucial distinction between them: seeing art supplies as just beautiful turns you into a consumer, while seeing art supplies as tools for making art turns you into a producer. And I don’t want to be a consumer! I wanna produce. Produce beautiful things, that is.

I was reading about DIY watercolor palettes last night, and several different articles warned that you might spend more time creating your palette than actually using it. Oh, sigh, alright.

So, despite how much I enjoy the sunlight glinting through the bristles of my Robert Simmons Sapphire brushes, my goal for next week is to create a piece of art outside of the apartment every day.

4. Cherry Season

I especially love cherry season when they are free from my friend’s back yard. These sour cherries are better for baking than munching, so I’ve been experimenting with cherry tarts and crisps, all with great success. My friend’s family, though, is making cherry vodka –which also happens to be reason #11 that local foods are badass.

Women in Agriculture

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Click to read

Delicious Food and Strong Women

I’ve been meaning to give some publicity about a super post, “Feminism through Cooking,” over at RMJ’s blog.

Kenyon’s psychology department contains several of the national leading experts on eating disorders, especially media images and eating disorders. Although these are serious issues that require confrontation, I found that I was disappointed with the effect that the department seemed to have on the women students around me. It seemed like every girl I met had bad self esteem, a history with eating disorders, and–here is what really struck me– they seemed to take it as an essential part of their identity. Furthermore, these girls complained about their relationships with men, and yet continued to act in unhealthy ways that deprived them of their own autonomy.

Women for Women Int'l: a group of graduates who have formed a farm collective in Kyonza, rwanda

Women for Women Int'l: a group of graduates who have formed a farm collective in Kyonza, rwanda - ggInTheField on Flickr

What seemed to be lacking was a pro-active approach, something that would change their own relationship to food (and perhaps to men) in a positive way. Instead of critiquing the same commercials and magazine ads over and over, they could have read Francis Moore Lappe‘s studies of women’s communities in Central America who are remodeling their food system in order to better ensure that their children all get regular meals, or communities of women in India who are fighting for (and winning) food and water rights.

They could have studied also the effects on young urban/suburban women who work or intern on farms. In a scene from The Real Dirt on Farmer John, a young woman intern talks about her self-consciousness regarding her voluptuous body– until working on a farm, where adjectives like “full” “plump” and “juicy” are words that signify health, not ugliness. In fact, the strongest and most peaceful women that I meet are not the ones that I meet in WGS classes; they’re the ones that I meet on farms.

For further reading:

When my generation of women walked away from the kitchen we were escorted down that path by a profiteering industry that knew a tired, vulnerable marketing target when they saw it.“Hey, ladies,” it said to us, “go ahead, get liberated. We’ll take care of dinner.”

“Elf Hats,” My Sister Calls Them

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I love baby tomatoes! They look like they’re wearing hats.

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An “about to be” tomato

Summer in Fujicolor

What has my life been lately– a few low-internet, high-humidity months:

Blessed. Privileged. Hard work.

Saturated in history and dirt.

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