Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Very Disturbing News

This cartoon came from:

The Senate has just passed Senate bill S510... this is very dire news for health advocates, and most importantly for small farmers.

Here's what Michael Pollen has to say about Senate Bill S510:

By Ezra Klein

The Senate might get to the Food Safety Modernization Act as soon as tonight. Though I'm interested in the subject, I haven't been able to spend much time looking into the bill. But Michael Pollan, author of the Omnivore's Dilemma, has. His summary judgment? It would be "a tragedy" if it didn't pass.

Ezra Klein: What's your bottom line on this bill? Is it good? Bad?

Michael Pollan: It's very interesting that the consumer groups and the people representing smaller producers and farmers have come together. It didn't look like that was going to happen a few weeks ago. The bill as originally written basically treated all farms and food producers the same. It was one-size-fits-all regulation. This was a problem for smaller farmers and processors because the regulatory burden was going to make life difficult for them. They felt they weren't the problem, and to suffer as part of the solution to the problem was an undue burden.

So Jon Tester, an organic farmer himself, came up with an amendment exempting producers according to three criteria. If you sold half of your food directly to consumers or retailers, had sales under $500,000, and sold within 400 miles of where you were producing, you'd be exempt from the provisions of the bill. The consumer groups didn't like this because they felt there was a risk to food safety no matter the scale. The e coli outbreak a few years ago was a small producer feeding into a big wholesaler, for instance. So they came out against the amendment. And there were many small farmers willing to see the whole bill go down if the Tester amendment wasn't there, which I think would've been a tragedy.

But they managed a compromise?

Tester made some changes. The 400-mile radius struck a lot of people as very large. You could be near the Mexico border and sell in Los Angeles. But 400 miles is apparently an official USDA definition of local. So Tester shrank it to 275 miles and made some other tweaks to satisfy the consumer groups. So now the small and local food advocates and the consumer groups are together on this, and the Tester amendment will be in the managers amendment, which means it won't require a separate vote.

To back up on the bill a bit, what do you think of its overall thrust? There's obviously a lot going on in the legislation, but what problem is it basically aimed at solving, and does the solution make sense?

The big thing will be to give the FDA more authority and resources. The FDA has not until this bill had the authority to recall tainted food. This gives them that power, and more resources for inspections. It also pushes producers to write plans showing their points of vulnerability that the FDA can use. Now, it's essentially a voluntary system, and there are good critiques of that. But it's the best thing we've got going now. What this doesn't deal with is hamburgers and things under the USDA, which is where a lot of the risks are. But it could be a template for how we do it in the future.

This bill doesn't affect the USDA? That leaves a lot out, no?

In a better world, we'd be debating the creation of a food safety agency that doesn't separate meat from poultry. That balkanization is one of the biggest problems in food safety. FDA has fresh produce. They have eggs. But they don't have chickens. USDA has chickens. But once the egg is cracked and turned into Egg Beaters or something, it's back to USDA. It's completely absurd. And unfortunately, we're not addressing that.

Where do you come down on the safety of the small producers? It seems to me like leaving them unregulated could also endanger their business: If an artisinal cheese producer, or a farm with heritage pigs, ends up making a bunch of people sick, the resulting backlash and outcry could put all small producers at risk, or turn a lot of people off of local food.

It's an enormous danger. If there is a problem with a small producer, the FDA then gets authority over them -- they lose their exemption. But that's obviously after the fact. But look, there can be a food safety problem at your house or at a church supper or on a small farm. But the scope can be contained. It won't affect hundreds of thousands of people in 50 states, as is true with larger producers. That's little comfort to the people affected, of course. But there is some risk in eating and always will be. If we were to choke off the renaissance of small farms and local food, we'd be losing one of our alternatives to a highly industrialized system that has special risks of its own.

Back when I reported more on this stuff, I thought that industrial food was similar to the financial system. It had made a lot of changes that got rid of smaller, more routine risks, but in doing, had opened itself to catastrophic risks where the system can break down in enormous, extremely harmful ways. So rather than a few people getting sick semi-regularly, outbreaks are rare, but they can affects millions of people at a time.

There are quantum differences when you're producing for a small firm and a major producer. When you mix spinach or lettuce from 50 different farms and one is contaminated, you're contaminating all of it. There's more traceability and accountability when there's what Tester calls "eyeball-to-eyeball" contact between producers and customers. The industrial systems are brittle systems. They lose a certain resilience. And that leads to risks of another kind.

I think he's being too kind. The reality is that the big corporations (Monsanto) are VERY threatened by small farmers... small ORGANIC, NON-GMO farmers and they are going all out to shut them down. This bill fits perfectly into their plan...

Friday, November 12, 2010

Fair Trade Chocolate Giveaway

My friend Tamara is giving away a bunch of delicious Fair Trade chocolate on her blog and I want to win it! Also she has some great information about chocolate and the working conditions of people that produce chocolate for us. Now is the time that we typically start thinking about Christmas presents and I have been trying in the last few years to make my own gifts for people and to only buy gifts that are locally made in fair working conditions. I also like to buy gifts whose proceeds benefit a good cause, that way everyone wins! So check out Tamara's blog and enter to win the chocolate... or not, that way I have a better chance! lol j/k!

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Being in the moment

Tonight I realized that when I cook, I am truly in the moment. I am living as if there is no tomorrow. I put all my intention and energy into the food I am preparing and the past and future melts away. I made a picnic dinner for some friends and from the time I started cooking until the time we left for the beach everything was a blur. My conscious mind was resting while my subconscious mind directed my actions and I prepared food in a relaxed, natural way. I used to feel this way doing during my ceramics class; as soon as I would arrive to class and get started on my project, time and worries would melt away and I would be single-mindedly focused on the task at hand. I think this is so important for our mental well-being and is a cornerstone of Buddhism; to be in the present moment only.

So much of the time we are reflecting on the past or worrying about the future, instead of enjoying the present moment. The present will pass quickly enough, friends move on, food is eaten, but to fully enjoy it is to get the most out of it. In the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-8), Jesus said, "don't be anxious for tomorrow, look at the lillies of the field, they don't spin and yet even Solomon was not robed as beautifully as they." To be in the moment is to be fully trusting God and to be fully involved in your role here on earth. We spend so much time worrying about how we can change the future when we could be focusing on how to enjoy and fully experience the present. Certain hobbies can help us to do this, and also it is important that we find interests that we can put our whole heart into. It is so sad to go through life half-hearted about things that we do, when God has a destiny for each of us that calls out the best parts of us.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Day 2 of Raw Food: Back to Work

Today was a bigger challenge because I went back to work and wasn't at home all day like yesterday. For breakfast I had some more raw granola with some raw goat milk (only I'm drinking goat milk because Dave doesn't think it fits with the raw food "challenge.") It was really filling and satisfying and I ate a banana a few hours later. For lunch I had the leftover cabbage salad from last night along with some carrots and celery and raw sun-dried tomato dip. I shared a bowl of the salad with my co-worker and she loved it. We also had a good conversation about her uncle, who is a Naturopathic Doctor living in Panama and has been a raw foodist for 12 years. I did drink a little coffee, because I got up at 5 am and my energy was lagging. I also ate a raw chocolate fruit/nut bar when I got home... not the healthiest choice but we're still in transition haha For dinner, we had some marinated veggies with pineapple bbq sauce that we prepared yesterday and dehydrated all day today. We served it on a bed of cauliflower "rice" flavored with coconut aminos, toasted sesame oil and salt. David thought it tasted like "real food" lol For dessert I had some pineapple and coconut butter. Both of us are feeling like our digestion is good and we are feeling good so far.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Yes, that's right, FINALLY a new post!

So to jump right into this post, we are going raw for a week! We have been inspired by a few things, including a DVD we just watched called Simply Raw: Reversing Diabetes in 30 Days about 6 people that are able to get off their insulin and medications after eating a 100% raw diet for a month. Also the seasons are changing from spring to summer and it seemed like a good time to start a cleansing raw diet. I casually mentioned the idea to Dave a couple weeks ago and he wanted to do it right away! Today is day 1. We planned out a schedule for our whole week, bought all our groceries yesterday, and I've spent the whole day doing food prep. Today we had a fruit bowl for breakfast, with strawberries, bananas, mango, coconut and kiwi, topped with cashew cream and raw buckwheat granola. Right after breakfast, we started soaking garbanzo beans (for raw hummus), oat groats, barley and spelt berries (for raw carrot muffins and raw oatmeal cookies). We will sprout the garbanzo beans, oat groats and spelt berries for 2 days! Then I made raw tahini with sesame seeds, along with some spicy yam chips and carrot pulp flax crackers that went in the dehydrator. For lunch we had flax crackers with avocado, tomato, sprouts and cucumber and a raw food fruit/nut bar for a snack. Then we made a huge cabbage, apple, raisin, carrot salad for dinner, with some carrot, apple, ginger and celery juice. Tonight we will drain our grains and prep tomorrow's entree, since I have to work very early tomorrow morning! It's been a lot of work so far today, but this is a grand experiment! When we stop eating 100% raw, I would still like to continue eating 60-70% raw because it is so healthy and a great way to eat lots of unprocessed fruits and veggies.

Friday, April 3, 2009


This post will be about excuses. I have a variety of excuses for not posting since November, but I won't bore you with them. I'm back now, and that's what matters, right? :) Spring has arrived and it is traditionally a time of rebirth, renewal, and new starts. I've always thought that the New Year should start in Spring, in fact, because it is so hard to have that new start mindset when everything is dead and cold all around you. I reserve most of my goal setting for the Spring time, because it is the time I feel most inspired. This year, I want to make less excuses for not doing things and just DO them.

So let's talk about excuses vs. inspiration. I am the Queen of excuse-making and procrastination, so I feel like an expert on this topic (haha). I often make excuses for why the house isn't clean, why I'm late, why I still haven't done x, y or z even with plenty of free time, and yes, I even make excuses when it comes to my health. (You knew I'd bring up health eventually, since this blog is about health and all...) WHY do we make excuses when it comes to our health? Even though I love to eat healthy, I often "forget" that exercise is important to staying healthy too. I make various excuses why I can't exercise today, tomorrow, right now. Sometimes the excuses take up more energy than would actually getting up and going for a run/walk. To help myself get more exercise in, I recently bought a used elliptical machine and I LOVE it. I can exercise in the privacy of my own bedroom and it's wonderful when the weather is yucky outside (in Humboldt, that constitutes about 80% of the year). So no more excuses for me (haha)!

When it comes to our health, we are a nation of excuse makers. Here are some stats:
  • 58 Million Overweight; 40 Million Obese; 3 Million morbidly Obese
  • Eight out of 10 over 25's Overweight
  • 78% of American's not meeting basic activity level recommendations
  • 25% completely Sedentary
  • 76% increase in Type II diabetes in adults 30-40 yrs old since 1990

SOURCE: Wellness International Network Ltd - http://web.winltd.com/

This is scary! Our bodies, the organism that we depend on for our very life, are often the most overlooked part of our lives. We rush around getting to work, to school, to a party, to vacation, and often just eat the quickest, most convenient thing. We don't "have time" to cook, to shop, to plan and prepare meals from scratch, to exercise, we "can't afford" good food, we "don't like" healthy food, we "feel fine" right now, oh the excuses go on and on. Let's take a minute to examine these common excuses and why they are harmful to your health and just plain silly (sorry).

1. I don't have time

You will have lots of time someday when you're retired, but will you feel well enough then to enjoy yourself? If you take the time NOW to learn how to shop for whole foods and prepare them from scratch, your quality and quantity of life will increase dramatically. When you plan out your weekly meals and buy the ingredients that you need, you will no longer find yourself grabbing a burger on your way home from work because you already invested the money in all that wonderful, healthy food sitting in your fridge. You can cook a big pot of soup on the weekend and have meals ready ahead of time for weeknight dinners. Filling time is really a matter of prioritizing and when you start prioritizing your health, you will make the time you need. In a future post, I will put a few recipes on here that are easy to make and can be re-heated later. But the motivation has to come from within. You have to value yourself enough to make time for your health. Don't put it off. Your body needs you NOW.

2. I can't afford good food

This is an important one, as the level of poverty is increasing in our country rapidly. It is hard enough to make house payments, car payments, credit card payments, put food on the table, pay for health care, especially when you're worried about losing your job. Again, I want to emphasize the importance of looking ahead and prioritizing. If you keep eating the way that you are, most likely you will be paying lots and lots of money to cover hospital bills, medications, and other medical expenses that come from being unhealthy. If you are truly honest with yourself, there are a couple unnecessary things you could cut out of your budget to allow more money for healthy food. You have to decide whether that new purse or new Ipod is more important than your health. What if you're below poverty level (as defined by the government) and don't buy any of the luxuries but still can't afford healthy food? I will address this in more detail in another future post, but for now, let me say that buying whole grains and legumes in bulk, as well as fresh vegetables and fruits, is cheaper (for the most part, there are exceptions) than buying pre-packaged foods. In addition, MEAT is a very expensive item on the grocery list that is also very unhealthy (it's filled with pesticides and synthetic hormones, not to mention it is a key factor in heart disease and other ailments). I'm not saying cut it out altogether, but just cut it back to a couple days a week and you will have more money to spend on vegetables and fruits. Dairy products are another pesticide-hormone laced food item that can be costly to both your pocketbook and your health. Like I said, I will cover this in much greater detail in a future post.

3. I don't like health(y) food

If you ever come over to my house for dinner, I don't think you would be saying that. However, this excuse is more grounded in reality than subjective likes or dislikes. We can and do get addicted to certain foods and it is very hard to break free from these addictions. The biggest culprits are sugar, processed flour, caffeine and salt. These actually cause chemical reactions in your body that are similar to those of some drugs, giving you a "high" and then a "low" which feels like withdrawls, leading you to crave the food to feel better again. Pretty soon, you can't function normally without this particular food because you feel fatigued and stressed until you consume it. The reason this whole cycle happens is because there is an imbalance in your body. You need to correct the imbalance and eliminate these foods from your diet. Eventually your body chemistry will change enough so that you will start liking whole fruits and vegetables, because your body inately knows what is good for it. Again, I will write a more detailed post on this topic later.

4. I feel fine right now

Wonderfully made organisms that our bodies are, they will take quite a bit of abuse before we become truly sick. I've always been super-sensitive to my body and it lets me know right away if I've eaten something that isn't good for me. For instance, if I eat dairy ice cream one night, I will wake up with an intense sinus headache and sometimes I will have a large pimple that wasn't there before! Some people are able to eat things I can't and not have any adverse effects. Do I consider them lucky or unlucky? I am actually very thankful that my body is able to cleanse itself in little ways (a cold, or even a breakout) to get the toxins out, because I know it is still working. When your body becomes so overwhelmed with toxins that it can no longer cleanse them out, more serious health problems result, like cancer. Many of the health problems that we attribute to old age are really just the results of years of toxic overload. That is why (until recently) people in Japan were free from many of the ailments that commonly plague our society. Their diet was vastly superior to our diet but when they started eating more Western foods (like McDonalds) their national health started to decline. Coincidence? I think not. There is no time like the present to examine your lifestyle and diet choices. Do you really want to take chances with your health?


I realize that I've probably left you with more questions than I've answered. I hope I've at least gotten you to examine your own motives a little more closely. I will be following up this post with more detailed "advice" in the near future, so keep your eyes peeled. Until then, let's think a little harder about our own excuses and maybe apologize to our bodies for not making them a priority.

Thursday, November 27, 2008


I'll be honest; sometimes it's hard to remember to be thankful. Even though you tell yourself that there are so many people out there that are living in awful conditions and you are lucky to have food to eat, a warm house and safety, sometimes your mind comes back to what you don't have. I realize though, that life isn't perfect and that even if it's not going how we want, we still have a loving Creator who is with us through everything and who sacrificed His own life for us, so we could have life. The Bible has a lot to say about praise and thankfulness; here are a few verses:

Psalms 69:30 I will praise God's name in song and glorify him with thanksgiving.

Psalms 95:2 Let us come before him with thanksgiving and extol him with music and song.

Psalms 100:4 Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name.

Psalms 136:1 Give thanks to the LORD, for He is good. His love endures forever.

Phillipians 4:6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.

Colossians 17 And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

So today and every day, I try to remember things to be thankful for, like my family, my partner David, my friends, my dog Sasha, my health and the health of my loved ones, and all the material comforts that we enjoy here. I hope everyone has a good Thanksgiving!! And here's something else to think about: