Posts tagged ‘Food’

Who doesn’t like free food?

I’ve had these pics on my computer for a while now, but I’ve been trying to document my adventures in urban foraging.  Almost a month ago, I spent the afternoon finding wonderful free food, like elderflowers, wild garlic scapes, wild grape leaves, mullberries, wild cherries, and black raspberries.


I couldn’t help but brag about this when I visited my friend Alex in Toronto, so we went on an urban foraging walk.  And so I present to you:

Things you don’t expect to find in a park in Toronto.

Namely, food. (more…)


August 3, 2009 at 12:44 am 3 comments

Food Standards, eh?

The Food Standards Agency wants to help you make an “informed choice” about your food. They’ve put together a study, comparing the nutritional value of organic versus non-organic food. Of course, calling it a study is a little misleading. They’ve read other people’s studies, and have parsed out the answer: there’s little nutritional benefit to organic food. Of course, “The review rejected almost all of the existing studies of comparisons between organic and non-organic nutritional differences,” so it’s easy to see how they came to that conclusion.

Oh, and they didn’t think it was important to consider the effects of eating pesticides, many of which are carcinogenic. Thanks, Food Standards Agency; I could have made a terrible environmentally conscious decision if you hadn’t opened my eyes (again)! Eat on


July 31, 2009 at 8:13 pm Leave a comment

from the ARE YOU #$@% KIDDING ME department…

We all know that food safety issues are a problem.  Although the cardinal law of business is “don’t kill your customers,” businesses like Peanut Corp. of America and Earthbound Farms are negligent or evil enough to continually attempt just that.

“If we want to have bagged spinach and lettuce available 24/7, 12 months of the year, it comes with costs.” -Bill Marler (the lawyer who represented plaintiffs in the 2006 spinach E. coli outbreak)

In an article that could be out of a spoof magazine, this article in the San Francisco Chronicle outlines how, rather than holding Big Ag and food processing companies accountable for food safety, giant food retailers are imposing new restrictions on farmers.  Okay, that’s fair enough, I guess… except when their regulations are based on pure paranoia, at the expense of science.

In perhaps an unconscious nod to the fact that it’s managing the perception of safety rather than safe practices, it’s called the “leafy greens marketing agreement.”  Here are some of their great ideas:

  • An Amish farmer that uses a horse to plow his fields can’t sell his greens to retailers, who would much rather purchase bagged lettuce trucked from hundreds of miles away (check the “product of” signs on those packages)
  • neither can a farmer who has children under 5, because, of course, diapers are our biggest threat to food safety.
  • “I was driving by a field where a squirrel fed off the end of the field, and so 30 feet in we had to destroy the crop”  “On one field where a deer… didn’t eat anything, just walked through and you could see the tracks, we had to take out 30 feet on each side of the tracks and annihilate the crop.
  • ponds are poisoned and bulldozed, poison traps are placed on the edges of fields and between rows, and companion plantings on the edges of fields are razed for “bare-dirt buffers”.

in the name of sterility.  Because everyone knows that the ecosystem is out to harm us, and the best way to interact with a system that has sustained life since the beginning of time is to beat the living shit out of it.  Real live UC Davis scientists understand that  “vegetation buffers can remove as much as 98 percent of E. coli from surface water”, but the perception of safety is more important than actual safety.  News flash:  we’ve been growing food in the dirt for a very very long time.  Did you ever notice that food safety issues seem to be happening more now than they ever did?

“In 16 years of handling nearly every major food-borne illness outbreak in America, I can tell you I’ve never had a case where it’s been linked to a farmers’ market,” Marler said.

Farming isn’t the problem.  Sustainable farming definately isn’t the problem.  Gigantic companies that can afford the occasional customer drop off here, in the name of saving some cash there, are.  (Which do YOU think is more dangerous: a container of poison, or a toad?) Instead of buying your food from companies that are trying to kill you, or that think that scorched-earth practices are a good idea, visit the farmer’s market.  The businesses there are small enough to know the value of a healthy customer.  Or better yet,  grow your own.  The dirt won’t hurt you, I promise.

(just remember to wash your food!)

July 14, 2009 at 11:20 pm 1 comment

vegetable orchestra

These folks are combining two of my favourite things: art and food. It’s strange and quirky and beautiful. How did I not see this before?

More interesting, though, is the controversy in the comments on youtube. Their statement:

just one word to all the people who are concerned about people dying of starvation:
we are concerned too. but not doing this project does change nothing. it doesn’t make the world a better place.
if you are really concerned about the distribution of wealth then do something about it! read books about the real cause of hunger. talk with your friends and family about it. change your own life and try to change politics. buy and support the right things. it is not people using vegetables differently than usual that make the world a bad place. it’s all of us wanting too much. our own car, a new cellphone, a bigger house with air condition, more money…
sending the vegetables to africa does not help. on the contrary it destroys the markets there, so people can not sell their own produce, because the imported one is too cheap.

and by the way: people have used vegetables for music for centuries. also in africa.

June 16, 2009 at 11:33 pm Leave a comment

complete energy system by a 15 yr old boy

“An invention that is narrowly focused on solving a single problem often inadvertently creates more problems because nature is highly complex and interconnected.” – Javier Fernandez-Han

Who is Javier Fernandez-Han? He’s a 15 year old boy, who invented an energy system, centred around salt-water algae. The system is made up of six subsystems, which “can treat waste, produce methane and bio-fuel, and is a source of livestock and human food production… produces oxygen and sequesters greenhouse gasses”. He calls it the VERSATILE system.

The system uses waste from one part of the system, to fuel others. Not unlike feeding rabbit poo to a garden that will feed rabbits (I wish mine did). My understanding of permaculture is still very shallow, but this seems to sum up the principles pretty well: work with the interconnectedness of ecosystems to make things easier, rather than trying to beat nature into submission to accomplish a single thing. The more I pay attention to the world around me, the more I realize how much more sense it makes.

The benefits of the VERSATILE energy system include better health for villagers due to cleaner burning methane stoves, less deforestation due to wood scavenging for fuel, possible income from the sale of algae biomass for pharmaceutical or nutraceutical products, easier livestock production because of more availability of feed, LED lighting powered by electricity generation from the PlayPump, and a source of fuel for machinery (from algae oil).

Do yourself a favour and read more about VERSATILE on Clean Technica. It’s fascinating.

Javier’s idea won the “Invent Your World Challenge” sponsored by Ashoka’s Youth Venture program. The program empowers youth (“a global community of young changemakers”) to create positive social change, which seems like a pretty freaking good idea to me.

From their website: “everyone in society could take initiative and address social needs, rather than looking to the elite few who lead today.”

June 15, 2009 at 11:40 pm Leave a comment

The “Bee Issue”: monoculture is endangering the food supply

Because we depend on bees for “1 in 3 of every bites of food we eat,” the collapse of bee colonies is a pretty big deal. Michael Pollan suggests that pesticides may not be the only problem. Did you know that 75% of the bees in America are shipped out to California to pollinate the almond crops? Why would they need to do that? Because there’s nothing but almonds in the Central Valley, so “there’s nothing [for bees] to eat for 50 weeks of the year.” Oh, and to get the bees “in shape” for their road trip, they feed them high fructose corn syrup. (No word yet on the scary things GMO corn may be doing to bees.) Would it kill them to plant something else so they could sustain their own bees?

Have you heard of Backyard Bee Keeping? I’m fascinated by the movement even though I’m not that hardcore. Yet. 🙂

June 2, 2009 at 2:44 pm Leave a comment

Depression-Era food

The Ethicurian points to a New York Times review of a book called: “The Food of a Younger Land: A Portrait of American Food–Before the National Highway System, Before Chain Restaurants, and Before Frozen Food, When the Nation’s Food Was Seasonal”. The book is a “higgledy-piggledy” collection of Depression-era food writing, and a

vivid example of how much America, and its food, has changed in the last seven decades. But also how much it hasn’t: note the denunciation of “American standardization,” a charge that predated fast-food chains, the Interstate highway system, frozen dinners, the rise of artificial flavorings, high-fructose corn syrup, widespread factory farming, genetically modified foodstuffs and all the other developments that have flattened the landscape of American eating, on the road and off. If there are surprises to be found in reading these dispatches from bygone dinner tables, the greatest may be the elegiac tone that suffuses some of the entries. It’s always twilight, it seems, when it comes to American food.

Sounds like an good time. (Read the review)

While we’re on the subject of depression-era food, have you seen Great Depression Cooking with Clara? Not only does she make simple, cheap meals, but she’s incredibly charming.

Her survival guide to help you through hard times:

1. family
2. have a garden
3. use and re-use
4. make your own meals
5. eat healthy (“we were all healthy during the depression”)

June 1, 2009 at 10:01 pm Leave a comment

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