Fixing Our Food Problem – NYTimes.com

From Mark Bittman; he da’ man….

Nothing affects public health in the United States more than food. Gun violence kills tens of thousands of Americans a year. Heart disease, cancer, stroke and diabetes kill more than a million people a year — nearly half of all deaths — and diet is a root cause of many of those diseases.

via Fixing Our Food Problem – NYTimes.com.

This seems like a good day to step back a bit and suggest something that’s sometimes difficult to accept.

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Not teal?

Grist

pantone_emerald
Next year, it will finally be easy being green — or, if not easy, at least popular. Because Pantone has declared emerald green, Pantone shade 17-5641, to be the official color of 2013.

OK, so that doesn’t necessarily translate into green actions, green concerns, or green priorities. But there will probably be green shoes and green nail polish, at least according to Pantone’s trained chromatognosticators. Baby steps, right?

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Vélib’ in Paris

Just spent the most satisfying day testing out Paris’s bike hire program. It was fabulous on every level.

Bike stations are everywhere which makes it easy to pick up and drop off. The kiosks are multi lingual and initial rental was relatively painless. If you only have an American credit card, set it up online ahead of time, but with a British chip and pin debit card it was seamless then and there. I

We found the roads only mildly scary, even Boul. St. Michel. There are bike/bus lanes on main routes, although I certainly wouldn’t recommend it for anyone except confident, experienced cyclists. Tealgeen daughter, aged 11, did just fine.

The best part was that we covered way more ground than we ever would have by foot and enjoyed more scenery than being underground on the metro. Our routes were fairly circuitous, stopping to check the map and reorient only occasionally – but that, of course, is half the fun.

You don’t need anything special to ride a bike in Paris – no slinky bike shorts, loud jersey or special shoes. We just wore what we had on (and both Tealgeen daughter and I were both wearing skirts and sandals – it was fine). The seats are hugely adjustable and comfy, there are 3 gears, easy to operate, and a basket for gear.

We all came home convinced that you absolutely could survive without a car in Paris, between the excellent metro system and the bikes, and in a pinch, the electric car share program. More on that tomorrow.

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Good eats for cheap

So here’s the thing.  Every now and then, someone I know, or am even related to, trots out the argument that eating healthily is too expensive for most people.  Of course they are saying this to me, in the context of my very comfortable, middle class, suburban lifestyle.  And I get that.  But that fact that I can afford it doesn’t mean its unaffordable. That kind of logic drives me crazy.

On a very small scale, here’s a perfect example.  Recently, I made some strawberry jam.  A good friend made a comment to me about how great that was, but wasn’t it so expensive.  I wasn’t really sure, so I decided to work it out.  2 quarts of fresh strawberries (from a farm stand – supermarket would be cheaper): $12.  Bag of sugar $2.89.  Box of Certo, $3.99.  A lemon, $0.49.  Washed out jam jars – free. Bear in mind that I only used half the bag of sugar and half the Certo.  So the layout cost was under $20. This made 8 jars of jam.  I just checked Peapod.com and a jar of Bonne Maman, the supermarket equivalent of homemade jam, sells for $4.99 (heck, even Smuckers is $3.79).  So the retail value of my jam comes to nearly $40.

Making something yourself is almost always cheaper and equally,  tastes better (after a little practice perhaps) and is usually healthier.  Jam’s a perfect example.  I can short the sugar a little and my kids don’t even notice.  What I make is literally fruit, sugar and pectin.  Tell me again why you would put anything else in it?

Now, I can extend this argument to just about anything in the kitchen.  But here’s the rub – you need some equipment, some know-how, time, energy and motivation.  Equipment isn’t really that hard. You need less than you think you do. Unfortunately, as with so many things in the states, people seem to think you need fancy, expensive stuff to cook.  I still use the cheapo stock pot I got almost 20 years ago for everything from cooking pasta to making soup to making jam.

So think how happy I was to come across a copy of Clean Eating magazine at Super Cuts the other day.  Each month, they produce a list of budget recipes and a shopping list to go with it.  They provide a list of 5 family meals for 4 people (ie 20 servings) for $50.  That’s $2.50 per meal per head people.  And they look darned good.  But you do have to put in the effort to buy the good food and actually cook it. To get the recipes, looks like you probably have to subscribe, but it makes its point.  http://agilityfiles.cleaneatingmag.com/PDFS/ShoppingLists/ce30grocerybag.pdf

Soda Wars, serving size, and a little experiment at home.

Not surprisingly, I’m a big fan of Mark Bittman at the New York Times.  He’s a great cook, inspiring and seems like a real person, not a celebrity chef.  And he writes great stuff about food.  He stands in the same camp as Michael Pollan, but his arguments seem even more approachable and less wonkish.  So here’s what he has to say about the proposed limit on soft drink serving size in New York City: http://nyti.ms/MipulP.  He reframes the argument, saying that sodas and junk food aren’t really food at all, so in regulating their serving and use, it’s akin to regulating the likes of say tobacco and alcohol.  It’s an interesting take.

 “We should be encouraging people to eat real food and discouraging the consumption of non-food. Pretending there’s no difference is siding with the merchants of death who would have us eat junk at the expense of food and spend half our lives earning enough money to deal with the health consequences.”

Amen.

And I was thinking about serving size, regardless of whether it’s sodas, junk food or something else all together. I have graced the halls of some of the super stores on and off over the years (BJs, Costco), but in the end, I often come away feeling that I just by a lot more of the same sort of thing and we just consume it faster. It makes sense that our brain, evolved as it is to withstand lean periods, sees a large package and thinks, let’s go.  Conversely, a smaller package or portion is going to kick off the impulse to conserve.

So, in the interest of science, in my own family, I am about to embark on our own experiment with this very thing, using that most healthy of examples, milk.  With Teal Green son being 14, taller than me and engaging in Tae Kwondo 10-12 hours a week, not surprisingly, his food consumption is considerable and his milk consumption is downright ridiculous.  I buy the stuff 2 gallons at a time, several times a week.  So our little, unannounced experiment is that I will now buy it in half gallons and track consumption to see if it sticks around a little longer.  I wonder – will having it in a smaller container spark off some impulse not to pour out quite as much?  Could be that I am deluding myself, but it’s worth a shot.

Lorax Redux from Wired Magazine, March 2012, Rachel Zurer

Couldn’t find it online yet to link, so here’s the text. When it comes online, I’ll make the full link – the graphic is fab.

All the text below is straight from Wired:

A movie based on Dr. Suess’ famous 1971 eco-parable, The Lorax, is out in March,  The twist: a new romantic sub-plot to leaven all the hectoring about the evils of industrialization.  Yawn.  What they really needed to do was bring this Nixon-era save-the-earth story into the 21st century.  I mean, c’mon, Hollywood – clear-cutting Truffula trees releases “smogulous smoke”?!  Here’s how to juice this old Suess:

“Great to be here on Hardball,” the Lorax said drily.
“Chris, you’re so much more polite than that blowhard O’Reilly.
I am the Lorax, I speak for the climate
Which you have been warming, you pale hairless primates!
It’s anthropogenic, this crisis we’ve got!
The carbon you’re burning is making us hot!
This decade was warmerthan even the last!
Three eight five parts per million and going up fast!”

“Hush, Lorax!” said Once-ler
“You socialist fraud!
Only one guy makes climate,
and His name is God.
This cycle is natural, there’s no need to fret.
It’s your job-killing antics that’ll screw us up yet!
Those quote ‘greenhouse gases’ that have you all bent?
We’ve caused just a fraction – 0.28 percent!”

“You’re a fool!” yelled the Lorax, his anger now showing.
“Once this process speeds up, there’ll be no way of slowing.”
The tragic thing is, it turns out he was right;
too bad for us all that real facts don’t win fights.

——-

Exactly.