Recommended viewing

Thoroughly enjoyed A Passion for Sustainability on DVD this weekend – not exactly food related, but a very inspirational documentary for anyone in business and much to think about in terms of the food systems we choose to support. This 2007 film follows 14 Portland, Oregon businesses who have become more (or completely) sustainable via a program called the Natural Step, the principles of which are: 

  1. In a sustainable society, nature is not subject to systematically increasing concentrations of substances extracted from the earth’s crust. To move toward strategic sustainability, we must substitute minerals that are scarce in nature with others that are more abundant, use all mined materials efficiently, and reduce our dependence on fossil fuels; 
  2. In a sustainable society, nature is not subject to concentrations of substances produced by society. To move toward strategic sustainability, we must substitute persistent and unnatural compounds with ones that are normally abundant or break down more easily in nature and use all substances produced by society efficiently.
  3. In a sustainable society, nature is not subject to degradation by physical means. To move toward strategic sustainability, we must draw resources only from well-managed ecosystems, pursue the most productive and efficient use of both those resources and the land, and exercise caution in all kinds of modifications of nature (i.e. over harvesting or introductions).
  4. In a sustainable society, people are not subject to conditions that systematically undermine their capacity to meet their needs. To move toward strategic sustainability, we must create and support action and policies that allow people to meet their fundamental human needs in our society and worldwide so that the needs of all people on whom we have an impact, and the future needs of our children can be met.

It all seems like common sense based on the golden rule, but it shows that we have strayed a long way from sustainability when companies who adhere to these principles become documentary-worthy.

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Josh Viertel blogs @ The Atlantic

Check out the blog of Josh Viertel, president of Slow Food USA at The Atlantic: http://food.theatlantic.com/author/josh-viertel/.

Friday List of Links

Hurrah for the newest farmers’ market in DC, welcomed by Michelle Obama: “Instead of Traffic, Fresh Tomatoes.” (Also includes a video link.)

Slow Food USA posted about the USDA’s “Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food” initiative.

HealthyChild.org launched a new interactive online guide, “Eat Healthy.”

But on a sobering note, a truly horrifying story about water pollution near large-scale dairy farms: “Health Ills Abound as Farm Runoff Fouls Wells.” Still not disgusted enough? Be sure to watch the slideshow and video links in the article – do those cows look healthy and happy? Do I want them producing the milk I feed my family? I don’t think so….

Stirfried Bok Choy

We’ve been mourning the fact that we can’t seem to find decent Asian produce in Ann Arbor (this may finally commit me to a garden next summer!), but this past Thursday’s CSA share included some gorgeous, delicious purple bok choy. For more information on the vegetable, visit Kitazawa Seed Company. It was almost too fresh to cook (I ate a few leaves straight out of the rinse water), but I ended up making a simply stirfry, separating the stems and leaves so that the kids (who don’t like the leaves) would also enjoy it. Make sure to keep the cooking time to a minimum so that the gorgeous color, delicious crunchiness and clean flavor remain, particularly in the stems.

ingredients:

  • 2 heads purple bok choy
  • 2 T oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, sliced
  • salt to taste

method:

  1. Soak the cabbage in cool water, then remove and separate into leaves.
  2. Soak in fresh water, then remove to a dry bowl. If a lot of grit remains in the rinse water, soak a 3rd time.
  3. Cut the stems into 1/4″ sections, the leaves into 1/2″ ribbons and keep them separate.
  4. Heat the wok over medium high heat, then add the oil, heating just until it shimmers.
  5. Add the garlic and explode just until fragrant – do not let it brown and become bitter.
  6. Add the stems and stirfry briefly, just until the color is vibrant and some crunchiness still remains.
  7. Season with salt and remove to a plate, spreading into a circle around the edge.
  8. Add the remaining oil to the wok, heat just until it shimmers, then stirfry the leaves until they are wilted and just turning tender.
  9. Season with salt and arrange in the middle of the serving plate.

Health care: conventional medicine, or chiropractic?

Since college, I have been a firm believer in chiropractic: it treats the root of many symptoms, unlike conventional medicine, which often throws medication at symptoms without healing the cause of them. So I was deeply impressed by Michael Pollan’s op-ed piece, “Big Food vs. Big Insurance” in the New York Times in response to Obama’s speech on health care:

One of the leading products of the American food industry has become patients for the American health care industry.

The market for prescription drugs and medical devices to manage Type 2 diabetes, which the Centers for Disease Control estimates will afflict one in three Americans born after 2000, is one of the brighter spots in the American economy. As things stand, the health care industry finds it more profitable to treat chronic diseases than to prevent them. (emphasis mine) There’s more money in amputating the limbs of diabetics than in counseling them on diet and exercise.

As for the insurers, you would think preventing chronic diseases would be good business, but, at least under the current rules, it’s much better business simply to keep patients at risk for chronic disease out of your pool of customers, whether through lifetime caps on coverage or rules against pre-existing conditions or by figuring out ways to toss patients overboard when they become ill.

His conclusion – repair the food industry, and repairing health care will follow:

…passing a health care reform bill, no matter how ambitious, is only the first step in solving our health care crisis. To keep from bankrupting ourselves, we will then have to get to work on improving our health — which means going to work on the American way of eating.

But even if we get a health care bill that does little more than require insurers to cover everyone on the same basis, it could put us on that course.

For it will force the industry, and the government, to take a good hard look at the elephant in the room and galvanize a movement to slim it down.

Why can’t we treat the health care issue as a chiropractor would, removing the cause of the symptoms, rather than throwing good money at the symptoms, which won’t go away until the cause is treated?

101 Ways to Wok Your Dog?

Repulsive as the idea may be to you and me, scientists have now forged a theory that dogs may originally have been domesticated in China – for meat: “In Taming Dogs, Humans May Have Sought a Meal.”

Remembering the Silver Palate

In the throes of organizing a 10th (gulp!) birthday party, but couldn’t let the week pass without noting some sad news on the food front: Sheila Lukins, of Silver Palate fame, has died at the age of 66: read about it here. The Silver Palate Cookbook, now available in it’s 25th anniversary edition, was one of my first cookbook purchases and remains a great resource to this day.