Speaking up

When I was younger, I protested.  As I became aware of the ‘wrongs’ in the world, I marched, picketed, rallied and performed civil disobedience.  I was mostly inarticulate, but I put my body out there and let it speak for me.  “Count me” as against the Vietnam war, U.S. interference in Central America and the perils of nuclear power plants.  “I am one of many” supporting civil rights, women’s liberation, workers rights, gay rights, environmental causes and reproductive rights.

When I look back now, I can see that my activism protesting injustice was partially fueled by the indignities and unfairness that I had experienced as a child and adolescent.  My drive to protest was largely unconscious, that is, I just knew what was ‘wrong’ and I acted.  In many ways the pattern of my life can be seen in that way; my instinctive reaction to a situation informs my response.  And I am perfectly okay with that.

Nowadays, in my later middle age, that ‘gut reaction’ is still my primary motivator and I rarely question my perceptions and instincts.  However, there is another element that has come to the fore.  In a much broader way, facts have joined with instinct to inform my opinions and actions.  And what is personally most significant – I am using my voice.

Often it is in my writing; sometimes in person.  Call it the confidence of age, if you will, but I am quite comfortable speaking my piece.  I am angry.  For decades I reacted with indignation and outrage on behalf of others.  Now I feel free to express fury on my own behalf as well.  The movie I have been urging you to go see next week, Fed Up, eloquently presents the case against the PFIC pushers I began writing about last fall.  It exposes the food industry and their governmental lackeys.

Did you know that the World Health Organization proposed guidelines (for at least the second time) more than ten years ago, limiting the amount of sugar recommended in our daily diet?  Did you know that the American Sugar Association and our government (led at the time by G.W. Bush) actually threatened to withhold U.S. funding ($406 million) for the WHO unless the recommendation was changed?  If you need proof that the bullying was effective, look at a nutrition label.  You will see that although sugar is listed under ‘Amount Per Serving’, there is nothing listed under ‘Percentage Daily Value’.  What?  The pushers won.  Outrageous.  In case you want to know more or I have been unclear, here are a couple of links to articles, in Mother Jones and the British paper, The Guardian.

Veering away from the PFIC for a moment, I want to bring your attention to an eerily parallel story regarding our public schools.  Here’s a link to a magazine article I read.  The early section entitled The beginning of “reform” really stunned me.  When the author says “Corporations recognized privatization as a euphemism for profits”, my feelings went from misery to rage. Add in the fact that something like 80% of our public schools have contracts with the PFIC to provide food products (not real food) for children…

To quote my beloved grandmother Inez Lewis Johnson, “It makes me mad enough to spit!”  Which was strong language for a lady born in 1895…

Until next time, be well.

 

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Fed Up

Just back from a preview showing of the movie I mentioned last week, Fed Up.

So much damning information about the PFIC (Processed Food Industrial Complex).  And I may need to revise the title I’ve given, to include the US Government’s role in this horror story.

Honestly, I can’t think right now.  My head is swimming with factoids and my heart is churning with emotional reactions.

So, for now, I am going to say, go see this film.  Here is a link to the trailer.  Here is a link to the list of theaters where it will be showing, starting in the couple of weeks.

On another topic:  I’ve been writing about corners.  More next time.

Poetry & tiny beads

Last Wednesday, a writer friend unexpectedly took me to a poetry reading.  As it happened, she also gave me a belated holiday gift, a collection of poems by the same poet, her favorite, Billy Collins.  If you don’t know his work, please check it out…

I thanked her the next day, for taking me ‘to another realm’.   Laughter, beauty and inspiration, I told her, were the things that I dis- or re- covered there.  Like fresh air, water or an open, silent vista.  What I needed, when I needed it, but didn’t know that I did.  I presume and hope you have sometime had that experience.  The reading was at Symphony Hall, an elegant setting, although I had never been quite so far from a reading poet before… I actually watched him on the ‘Jumbo-tron-style’ screen!  His generous gifts of story and poem were not at all diminished by the distance.  5171172_f260

That simple and most excellent evening was the cause of my delay, posting here on Thursday morning, instead of my self-imposed deadline of Wednesday evening.  Thursday passed by as many days do, filled with tasks and such.  Risking TMI, I will share that a nasty GI bug or food poisoning (my own cooking?) awoke me overnight and I spent Friday and Saturday abed.  Weak, tired and bored, I had the opportunity to read his poems (and others) and to think in the manner only stretches of un-busy-ness allow.  That is to say, deeply, which I believe implies calmly.  To be ‘relieved’ of even the brain power to plan “what I will do when I feel better” was at first frustrating, then allowed a deeper sinking into self.

Please know that I have no idea what courage, stamina and spirit it must take to survive a truly lengthy recovery from serious accident or illness.  I only wish to say how this string of events has unfolded for me, from a seat in the second balcony in Symphony Hall, to physical distress to bed rest.

There are on-topic things that I could write about and post today.  Mark Bittman had an excellent Op-Ed in the NY Times last week, which I want to discuss.   Here’s the first paragraph, for a taste.  There are so many reasons to admire this man: a chef with a global view.

In the last few years, it’s become increasingly clear that food companies engineer hyper-processed foods in ways precisely geared to most appeal to our tastes. This technologically advanced engineering is done, of course, with the goal of maximizing profits, regardless of the effects of the resulting foods on consumer health, natural resources, the environment or anything else.

Among other things, his piece led me to a new book called Lethal, but Legal, whose author discusses the ‘Corporate Consumption Complex’.  What a delightful surprise to encounter unknown kin of my ‘Processed Food Industrial Complex’!  Written by an academician, the book contains the results of mountains of research that I barely dreamed of attempting.  Many thanks to Professor Nicholas Freudenberg, whose words I will surely be sharing here, as I read about the Triple C.

In conclusion, however, here is what I wanted to share with you today.  The aforementioned string of events in my personal life has become a simple necklace, with four tiny, hand-molded beads.  In the past few days, I have written drafts of four small poems.  They are not especially good; in fact they are not yet poems, really and they may never reach that goal.  There are a few nice images and a nice ‘turn of phrase’ or two.  But the thing is – I wrote them.  A little fissure into the inner world of image and emotion, wrought by chance.  images-4

Unapologetic

I’ve always apologized too much; that is I have reflexively said “I’m sorry” several thousand times when it was inappropriate.  My mother said those words frequently and it is only in retrospect that I understand how bitterly and sarcastically she often said them.  Thanks to a dear friend, who is similarly afflicted with the ‘sorry-reflex disease’, I’ve become more conscious of my habitual use of the phrase.  This has helped me to curb its compulsive appearance in my dialog with the world.

The word ‘dis-ease’, which I used above, reminds me that these unnecessary apologies burst from my lips primarily when I am ill at ease or uneasy.  Case in point:  recently, while struggling awkwardly to remove a difficult sock, I said ‘I’m sorry’ to my spousal witness.  When asked, logically, ‘What for?’ the only response I could muster was… ‘For being alive?’

A quick check of online definitions yields two items:  first, a definition:                     regretful acknowledgment of offense or failure.

My goodness, that sounds an awful lot like shame, doesn’t it?   I also learn about  National Sorry Day, an annual event held in Australia since 1998, to remember and commemorate the mistreatment of the continent’s indigenous population.  Now that’s an appropriate use of the word.

What brought this up?  An article in the newspaper, heralding the upcoming appearance of Barbie in this year’s Sports Illustrated 50th anniversary Swimsuit issue.  It is unclear whether she will be on the cover or not, however having Barbie flaunt her body in this iconic [sic] setting is part of Mattel’s “unapologetic” campaign to promote sales.  I’m not going to bother responding to the whole Barbie appearance issue; been there, done that, when my daughter was young.Barbie

What really struck me was the up-front and proud use of ‘unapologetic’.  A Mattel executive is quoted as saying “… unapologetic is a word that we use internally, [but this is the first time we are] engaging in a conversation publicly.”  I believe she means that they take pride in thumbing their collective nose at those critics who see the Barbie cult as potentially damaging for the self-image of young girls.  And more broadly, I believe the Mattel Corporation is expressing a widely held and unapologetic corporate view that profit is the driver of all decisions.

Another article, ironically placed at the top of the same page (deep in the Business section) carries forward the same theme.  It details a shift in the way the sweetener section of the Processed Food Industrial Complex is promoting its products.  Headlined: ‘The Sweetener War’, the piece describes how the combatants, team Sugar and team Corn Syrup have changed their game plans.  Less money is now going toward paying lobbyists to press their agendas with government policy makers.  In a clever (or shady?) shift, these PFIC behemoths have funded non-profit groups, billed as consumer organizations, to carry out research and ‘soft lobbying’ campaigns to influence public opinion.  Lobbyists have to be publicly registered, but non-profits are not required to reveal their donors.  Is this another Citizens United ploy?  Money talks.  Hidden money buys tremendous clout.  Manipulating or deceiving the consumer is just how the game is played.  Unapologetic.

Other recent articles have exposed the shrinking package size, but steady or rising price of packaged foods.  Unapologetic deception.  A piece about pizza consumption describes the USDA ‘dairy checkoff program’ which ‘levies a small fee on milk’, which is then used ‘to promote products like milk and cheese’.  A corporation named Dairy Management Inc., which is funded by these fees, spent ‘$35 million in a partnership with Domino’s to Chzpizzapromote pizza sales’.  Other funds from the checkoff program helped McDonalds launch new burgers with two slices of cheese.  And on and on.  This program and similar programs supporting the meat industry have been renewed in the most recent farm bill.  That’s the bill that cut the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP.)

Unapologetic.  ‘Let them eat pizza.’

Here’s the thing… I only read this one newspaper and I know these articles represent only a small percentage of the muck that is out there to be raked up.  It makes me very tired, because there is such relentless hoopla about the ‘obesity epidemic’, which unapologetically (perhaps unintentionally) reinforces fat stigma and here ‘we’ are subsidizing the PFIC that is contributing to unhealthy eating habits.  Where’s the money, real money, to promote eating fruits and vegetables?  Where’s the money to sponsor unbiased research and publication of results that actually serve the consumer, rather than the corporation?

Returning to the personal element… I am tired of feeling apologetic for taking up space, for how I look, for ‘being alive’.  I regret all the years of reflexive apologizing.  Why do these heavy hitters, these honchos get to flaunt their unapologetic stance?  It’s all about the raging range of social inequities that confront and offend me everyday.  Well, it’s my turn.  If I have earned nothing else in my 60+ years, I’ve earned the right to healthy entitlement.  It’s my turn to be unapologetic.

Sugar and fat

Another article in the newspaper this morning about the sugar being pumped into processed foods:  A little extra sugar tied to fatal heart disease in study, says the headline by Lindsey Tanner of the Associated Press.Sugars

CHICAGO — The biggest study of its kind suggests that sugar can be deadly, at least when it comes to fatal heart problems.  It doesn’t take all that much extra sugar, hidden in many processed foods, to substantially raise the risk, the researchers found, and most Americans eat more than the safest amount.  … in the new study, obesity didn’t explain the link between sugary diets and death. That link was found even in normal-weight people who ate lots of added sugar.

“Too much sugar does not just make us fat; it can also make us sick,” said Laura Schmidt, a health policy specialist at the University of California, San Francisco.

The researchers focused on sugar added to processed foods or drinks, or sprinkled in coffee or cereal. Even foods that don’t taste sweet have added sugar, including many brands of packaged bread, tomato sauce, and salad dressing.”

Why does this seem so obvious to me?  I guess the scientific world needs studies to prove things.  Prove them to whom?  The politicians who could work to regulate the processed food industry?  Or could ‘facts’ like these encourage the PFIC (processed food industrial complex) to modify their own profit-driven choices?  How can our addiction to sugar possibly be broken?  Surprisingly, the answer might include adding more healthy fats to our diet.  WHAT?

Here are some thoughts about fats from the blog of the well-known Ayurvedic practitioner and teacher, Dr John Douillard.  He notes that ancient humans

“… ate tons of fiber and didn’t eat sugar. We eat way too much sugar and have insufficient amounts of fiber to block its absorption into the blood, leaving us with raging blood sugar issues.

“As the population grew, foods were processed so they could sit on a shelf longer. This was accomplished by processing good healthy fats, rendering them unhealthy. As a result, our dietary intake of good healthy fats has dramatically declined, leaving us searching for satiety elsewhere.

Remember, that feeling of satiety and satisfaction we get after a meal is due to the fats that stick to the ribs and make us feel full.

“Without sugar in their diet, hunter-gatherers were satisfied primarily by fats, while we have been deprived of such satisfying good fats in comparison.

“To [meet] this need to feel full and satisfied, we have gravitated to a diet of carbs and sugars, which deliver a more temporary version of satiety. The feel-good, satisfied sensation is delivered much quicker – and modern humans have become addicted to it. When the food industry began using processed fats in foods that we don’t digest well, the carb content in the American diet began to soar. Foods have to be pleasing and tasty, and this was accomplished with starchier foods with less digestible or usable fats.

“The more good fats you put in your diet, the less you will crave, want or need sugar and sweets.”

To borrow, and flip on its head, a phrase from the show Iron Chef America, I am engaged in ‘Battle Sugar’.  And I know I’m not alone.  There are two major ways that the desire, the craving for sweets seems to be hard wired.  One is more biochemical, which is an addiction habit and the other is more psychological, an emotional habit.  Together they have a powerful impact, particularly if visual or olfactory stimulation is present.  See a box of chocolates?  Want it.  Smell cookies baking?  Want them.  Watch someone eating ice cream?  Where did they get it?

With many thanks (not) to the advertising industry, we are bombarded with images of sweets, real or artificial, everywhere we look.  And painstakingly created chemical scents (and sometimes tastes) that mimic the delicious natural chemistry of butter and sugar attract us like little wavy cartoon lines.  Sensuous sells.  I love to share pet peeves here… the TV ads for Lindt chocolate truffles, where the image of a male chef, dripping molten chocolate from a large whisk, is followed by the picture of a woman swooning. Another candy maker has an ad showing a woman nibbling on a tiny corner of a small piece of chocolate also swooning.  Really?  Women are so easily satisfied…

Anyway, with a major chocolate holiday approaching next week, here is an early Eating Art Work drawing of a Valentine heart.

Choc heart

Assembling a Cooking Life

I’ve been working on a section of my food life story that takes place when I was in my twenties.  Those were years when I was working professionally as a cook and/or baker.  I was also living with a group of friends, contentedly cooking vegetarian fare and learning, by doing, the meaning of home and hearth.  Cooking was central to our lives, of course.  Post-college there were no more dining hall meals; far from our parent’s homes (literally or figuratively) the duty fell upon our selves.  We had weekly responsibilities for every aspect of a cooking life, from working a shift at the food coop, to doing the shopping there and hauling the bags and boxes home (up a long steep flight of stairs from the Central Square Food Coop.) A shopping list of foodstuffs was created by the group, with consideration of the needs and desires of each member.  That alone was quite a learning process.

Once home, the perishables were refrigerated, the staples poured into their pantry jars and someone would begin to cook supper, a task we each did one night a week.  And of course, after supper there was the washing up.  I don’t believe we were really aware of participating in a daily rite-of-passage from child to adult.  Looking back, I see that finding our way, expressing our own preferences and adapting to those of others in the matter of food is a central aspect of developing an independent life.

One evening, as I carried food from the kitchen into the dining room, which was in a drafty, glass-enclosed porch space, one step down from the rest of the first floor, I had my first conscious epiphan-ette.  Simple, powerful and a sensation that is as alive for me today, almost 40 years later, as it was then.  I’m going to tell you, but it may not ‘hit’ you with the internal combustion that I experienced that evening.  In fact, having never thought about this event quite so intently before, I realize what I experienced could be called mindfulness.

peasoupHere’s what happened that evening, as I was carrying a pot of Split Pea Soup or pan of Spinach Lasagna, or platter of Walnut Cheddar Loaf, or Falafel, or Three Precious Fried Rice.  As I carried it carefully across the uneven floor toward the dim, cozy, ramshackle room, filled with laughing and chatter,  voice, far older than my years said to me:  “Pay attention now.  This is it; these are the times that hold the powerful magic.  The routine times, not the special events, that’s when our lives are lived and built.  Be awake and cherish the day-after-day repeated gatherings.”  And so I did.  I can still feel the deep thrill, filling-my-body with juicy emotion: the satisfaction of that moment.  And I am grateful.

How is this my food life story?  I cook for others for the satisfaction of feeding.  I cook for the sensory pleasure of handling delicious ingredients.  I cook for the olfactory delight of the chemistry wrought by combining foods with heat.  I am ever-hungry for new ideas, hearing what others have created in their kitchens.  I share my own experiments and how-to’s to spread the joy around; to see others light up with possibilities and the fun to be had.

Everyone eats, so someone has to cook.  There are so many pitfalls available in our contemporary food culture, from culinary excesses to nutritional deficits.  The processed food industrial complex and their advertising cohort pound us with deception, alarm, seduction and fear.  The practical foodways of our ancestors certainly had their drawbacks, but of necessity, they also got some things right.  We can’t go back.  Eating more locally, with fresher food is a huge plus, but the world is far too global now to turn back the hands of time.  Nor do I wish to.  I believe we can move forward into a simpler time, when the essential human pleasures of cooking and eating are grounding, not fracturing.

In My Humble Opinion

You may remember a post I wrote about a month ago, about Maria King’s ‘fat-bashing’ Facebook post.  Well, this week in the Boston Globe there was an Op-Ed piece championing Ms. King’s viewpoint.  The headline reads:  “Pro-fat is an unhealthy status quo”.   I must say, Globe editors, unless the author, Cathy Young chose that title, it seems like a provocative choice of words. The Globe is fairly consistent about presenting both sides of political issues, but there was no balancing opinion piece on this topic.  Which raises the question of whether the American attitude toward fat people is a political concern…

Ms. Young’s point appears to be that the ‘fat acceptance’ movement is dangerous.  As she critiques the promotion of ‘fat pride’ and the normalization and celebration of body size acceptance, I would ask Ms. Young to consider three questions.

First and most importantly, as she references the ‘rise in childhood obesity’, I ask, does she mean to say that it is better for children to grow up obese and filled with shame and self-loathing?  Does she really believe that it is irresponsible to present children with models of self-acceptance, regardless of body size?  She states that fat-bullying is not okay, but in the absence of any positive role models, the fat-bashers (adult & child) would seem to have cultural approval for expressing their negative opinions.keylime

Ms. Young quotes several studies, some which support her p.o.v and another, which she disparages as flawed, which is invoked by ‘pro-fat activists.’  Her reasoning is confusing and frankly, insults the intelligence of the participants in the study.  Plus, we all know how easily one can find studies to support or debunk any point of view.

My second question for Ms. Young is whether she has done any research into the role of processed foods in childhood (and adult) obesity?  For more than half a century, the processed food industry (with near-silence – or complicity – on the part of our government) has knowingly sold/fed the American public ‘food products’ that contain heavy loads of salt, sugar and fat.  These addictive substances have fueled billions of dollars in profits for the processed food and diet industries.  I would suggest that Ms. Young read Michael Moss’s Salt Sugar Fat, or at least the opening chapters, and educate herself.

Lastly, Young disparages the ‘the left wing notion that anti-obesity stigma equals bigotry (and patriarchal oppression, when directed at women)’.  I’m sorry, but seeing the words ‘left wing’ in this argument made me chuckle.  However, I guess in a way she’s right – it is a human rights issue – albeit one that the average progressive individual may not be comfortable espousing.  Be that as it may, I ask Ms. Young:  do you really, honestly contend that sexism/patriarchal oppression is not a factor in fat stigma?  There are thousands of studies that confirm that girls and women are judged on their appearance.  They know it, from a terrifyingly young age, and they strive to meet unhealthy standards of ‘beauty’.  Yes, fat is a feminist issue, (with a nod to Susie Orbach).

Young closes by likening obesity to alcoholism.  There may be parallels, but I would say that to call either ‘condition’ a ‘self-inflicted’ one demonstrates a lack of sensitivity and insight on her part.  She is simply incorrect when she closes with the accusation that promoting self-acceptance is ‘assist[ing] in denial’.  In my opinion, health, in every meaning of the word, requires a foundation of self-acceptance and pride, not shame.

Ms. Betty

Let’s talk about Betty Crocker, shall we?
Was she a real person?  That would be “No.”  BCspoon

She was a delightful persona, invented by Gold Medal Flour/General Foods to speak for the food industry in the voice of a wise & helpful next door neighbor.

She was a, perhaps the, leading character in the food industry campaign to convince women that they really wanted to use the new prepared food products that were pouring out of factories and into markets in the years following WWII.  Much of her story can be found in Laura Shapiro’s gem, Something From the Oven, published in 2004.

Independent research done at the time revealed, again and again, that women did not hate cooking and were not begging for these ‘ready-mix’ products.  (Shapiro, pp. 44-48)  But in the 1950‘s, the newspapers, women’s magazines and radio shows like Betty’s all proclaimed that women no longer wanted to cook, did not have the time to cook and the industry was there to save the day.

Some factory prepared food products were already a common sight in American kitchens.  “Canned meats, soups, fruits and vegetables, along with ketchup, pancake mix… were among the earliest products [late 19th and early 20th century] to become familiar and then indispensable.”, says Shapiro in her introduction.

The door was open and the American palate was already becoming accustomed to the taste of processed food;  “… a long tradition of using… packaged foods had encouraged Americans to develop a… sense of taste… that tended to perceive imitation [flavoring] as plenty good enough.”  (Shapiro, pp. 56)  The opening wedge of using artificial flavors to mask the offensive tastes of factory cooking.  Salt, sugar and fat to follow.

The industry was primed and began to crank out dozens of new packaged foods (some of which failed dismally.)  In this flurry of innovation, Betty was a reassuring presence, an authority that home cooks could turn to with their questions.  Betty Crocker’s New Good and Easy Cookbook was given to me in the late 1950’s.  Still on my shelf, it is splattered and stained, with notes detailing when I made a dish, changes I made and the response of diners.

Looking at the cookbook today, I am surprised (but shouldn’t be) by the appearance of a prepared food item in virtually every recipe.  Sometimes several canned products and Bisquick combine to make an entree.  Mini-marshmallows and canned pineapple show up a lot.  Fact is, it all scares me a little.  But.

But, what I can’t explain is the sensation of support and encouragement that still arises from these pages.  I am transported back to the seven-year-old child who could, and did, learn to cook with the help of Betty Crocker.  She was not real, she was packaged, just like the food she was created to sell, but…      BCface

Cooking Light

cooking lightI like Cooking Light magazine.  I even enjoy the regular note from the editor, Scott Mowbray.  Now, it’s also true that I like to read the letter that Christopher Kimball writes in each issue of Cook’s Illustrated and I’ve heard that not everyone enjoys his stories about Vermont so much…  So you can draw your own conclusions about my reading tastes.  They are, in truth, quite broad.
Anyway, back to Cooking Light.  I find the articles to be informative and I’ve made a good many tasty and healthy meals using their recipes.  They have a reasonable policy toward day-to-day cooking.  Meals can be relatively simple to prepare, but include a range of food-based nutrients and flavors.  Their ‘recipe make-overs’ are healthy without being ridiculously stripped down.
After discussing the loss of cheese in Cheez Whiz yesterday, I decided to take a closer look at the ads in the current (November) issue of CL.  I wondered how closely their advertising policies mirrored their sensible food philosophy.  In general, they do pretty well, with a few exceptions.  A Special Report on Sugar in this issue almost makes up for those problematic advertisers.
As you can imagine, I loved this opening in Kimberly Holland’s report:
“… Sugar … [is] everywhere in the American diet, though largely invisible.  … added to all kinds of processed foods, even those we don’t think of as sweet, such as salad dressing and marinara sauce.  Sugar, along with fat, is one of the key contributors to the caloric density of many packaged foods – the bulking up that happens when whole foods are refined, processed, flavored, and boxed.”  (pp. 39)
What follows is a lot of interesting, and some surprising, info about refined white sugar and alternative sweeteners.  For the most part their conclusions are in line with the research I’ve been reading.  You might want to take a look at the article in the library or on a magazine rack in the store.
But back to those ads…  One ‘offender‘ (in my opinion) appears right alongside some of the Sugar Special Report:  Kellogg’s “To Go” protein drink.
“…it boasts 5 grams of fiber and 10 grams of protein.   It forgets to boast 4.5 teaspoons of sugar though… [this] highly processed… product… [is] very cheap to make, utilizing commodity soy and whey to bump up protein, and using polydextrose and cellulose to bump up the fiber count. Polydextrose is a synthetic source of soluble fiber… And as if the product is not sweet enough with 4.5 teaspoons worth of sugar, artificial sucralose and acesulfame potassium are thrown into the mix… what is canola oil doing in the drink? Or trans fat heirs-apparent mono and di-glycerides?”  This quote is taken from the blog Fooducate; read full commentary here.  Very disappointing to see this fine, health-focused cooking mag promoting a product that scarcely contains real food ingredients.
I am even more alarmed that the November issue of CL has a three page ad for BELVIQ, a weight loss drug recently approved by the FDA. You know, it’s the the sort of pharmacological ad that needs two extra pages just to list the risks and possible side effects of the advertised drug.  Now I realize that it’s good advertising income for the magazine, but not a responsible choice of advertiser, in my humble opinion.
Consumer Reports says “skip it”.  They note that “ … the European Medicines Agency was so concerned about the drug’s safety that it rejected the drug. The drug’s manufacturer, Arena Pharmaceuticals, recently withdrew its application for the drug’s use in Europe.”    Here’s a link if you want to check out the rest of their report.
There are ads for several Campbell’s products.  Only two days ago there was a report on WBZ-TV about the possible collusion of Campbell’s and the American Heart Association. It is claimed that they have misled customers by putting the AHA’s “Heart Check of Approval” on some soups that contain questionable amounts of sodium (salt).  A lawsuit has been filed that “suggests the AHA benefits financially from awarding these seals of approval. Last year, it collected $2.7 million from food manufacturers. The association maintains this was to cover the costs of the Heart Check program.”  Here’s the link to the WBZ report.
Does it all go back to money, money, money?  Hmm.
Okay, tomorrow I will try to be more upbeat, but for now I will say that despite these questionable advertising choices, this is a great issue – a 276 page Thanksgiving Double Issue.  Now that I have finished raking muck, I can go back and enjoy reading the recipes.

The Ides of NaBloPoMo

What is it I want to say?      What am I trying to do?

I don’t imagine that the power of the food industrial complex will ever be dis-mantled, or even significantly altered.  The machinery for processing the life out of food has been around a long time.  The drive to increase efficiency, productivity and profits is deeply entrenched.  Despite the absurd cries of ‘Socialism!’ that arise when efforts are made to meet the basic needs of all people (read, Affordable Care Act), capitalism is a fact-of-life in the USA, is it not?

As a life-long progressive, I will always be standing against war, environmental destruction, bigotry and violence.  Defending human rights is a baseline.  Perhaps that is the link to what I want to say.  I want to encourage – that is, give courage to – myself and other individuals who have been hobbled by shame.  It is not too late to reject some of the damaging messages that we have ingested since we were children, along with chemically-altered, addictive food products, loaded with salt, sugar and fat.

Even more important, perhaps, is an effort to keep the children of today and future generations from swallowing that crap.  Crap messages of shame and self-blame; crap food from which so much vitality has been leeched.

Home cooks struggle to feed themselves and their family real food that heals and nourishes.  With limited resources and time, it’s hard to resist the onslaught of brilliant, manipulative and well-financed advertising.  Convenience foods with cozy names.  Familiar foods in which the real food ingredients have been gradually replaced by substances developed in labs and produced in factories.

I’m cooking Guatemalan Black Beans today for my family.  They love them; in fact they demand them.  I’ve been making them for 20 years with Organic Canola Oil.  I have a couple of bottles of Canola on the shelf.  Do I use it?  Toss it?  What can I replace it with?  Coconut oil, the latest ‘heart healthy‘ oil would change the flavor of these iconic beans, I would think.  What to do? (These questions refer back to the recent post: Can you guess?)

More questions…always more questions.  IMG_0380

S’okay, keeps me thinking.

What are you thinking?