Links of Note: Pathogens, Plastics, Professionalism and Purchases

Since I don’t have time to write a full post about these links, I thought I’d share some bits with you anyway.

E. Coli Outbreak Traced to Company That Halted Testing of Ground Beef – A great continuation on the issue of ground beef and where it comes from, and what is being done to keep it safe.

Tests Find Wide Range of Bisphenol A in Canned Soups, Juice, and More – brought to my attention by NY Times food writer Mark Bittman, BPA – the reason why you stopped drinking out of plastic bottles – is lining your food cans and getting in your food.

Media creates concept of media psychologists, encourages them to be unethical, then acts amazed when they are – a friend of mine used the magic of Google Reader to let me know of this blog post. It sums up some of my issues with credentials in the helping professions.

What We’re Eating – Mark Bittman references some interesting data and links to it about current trends in food purchases.

Early Burning of the Man

from Laughing Squid

They’re promising to rebuild the Man for the weekend burn. This just all seems ridiculous to me. Of course, this is because I went to Burning Man for the first time in 99, about 2 years after it was last “cool.” I went in 2000 and 2004, and my last burn was really not all that great. It was too big, and it was starting to show the stresses of the population. I really believe that once you get a certain population density, even for a brief period of time, like a week, you’re going to start having some of the same problems that other American cities have. I’m talking about everything from sanitation to crime. The larger the population, the more infrastructure by the Org required to keep things seeming like nothing has changed on the surface. The Man no longer sits on top of hay stacks, and now they have a well oiled emergency services and the risk of DYING at Burning Man is pretty low. Hell, the risk of an unintentional fire is pretty low. They put out the man in 26 min, and it was not fully consumed.

While I do think arson is bad, I find it amusing that Burning Man has been the haven for people who like to blow shit up, burn it, prance around naked, do drugs and give the finger to the Law. Burning someone elses art is also bad. The thing is, I don’t consider the Man art any more because it’s trademarked and a brand. And besides, it was MEANT to burn. Isn’t this just what the over-commercialized, over-run event needs? A reminder of how EPHEMERAL the event is supposed to be? It seems that one of the wonderful things about Burning Man is that the burn symbolizes the end and beginning — it’s a modern ritual in understanding impermanance and letting what’s burned stay burned, at least for the year. Why build another man to burn the same week?

One year. One Man.

To me, it just says, “How American.” This year is called “Green Man.” Some people have called for an increased emphasis on envioronmental sensitivity and sustainability wrt the event. There are a lot of resources poured into the event — fossil fuels, lumber and sanitation are just parts of the infrastructure, let alone what people bring in – RV’s, generators, etc. Whatever happened to dealing with a non-recouperable experience and moving on? I think in 2K one of the Man’s arms didn’t go up for the burn. Did that mean that it didn’t burn and we waited for it to be fixed? Sometimes things don’t happen the way we want. It’s not like the Temple doesn’t burn at the end of the week.

Whatever happened to packing up all your stuff with a tent and rations and water, going out and having a great time with the threat of death?

It’s just crazy.

I’ll repeat at the end of this: I don’t think it’s cool that someone lit the Man on fire early. I do think that people should just let it stay burned and not build another man. “Suck it up and deal.”

Washington, DC to Washington State

Yesterday, Jon and I returned from Washington, DC back to Seattle, WA. He had been there most of the week without me for business. I joined late last week, just in time to experience high humidity and temperatures exceeding 100 F. To say I was uncomfortable would be an understatement. I will also swear up and down that it was never that horrible in Chicago, though that might be a lie. At least in Chicago, I said, there are tall buildings and a lake offering a cool breeze.

I returned to Seattle by way of Phoenix, AZ. Although I did not actually step out in the Phoenix heat, I can tell you it had to be damn hot, as that we sat on the plane with no air conditioning for at least 30 min waiting to taxi onto the runway. The tin-can became like an oven, and thankfully they turned on the fans. Seattle greeted Jon and I with a midday breeze, cloudless sky, and a comfortable temp in the mid-70’s. This is a standard, summer day in Seattle. The night was so cool that I when I got up this morning I had to shut the windows for awhile because the breeze was too cool for my tastes.

My day-off had me hiking to the local co-op, Madison Market to get our weekly groceries. The total cost came in at just under $55. Our meal plan is as follows:

(Note: Moosewood Restaurant Cooks at Home = M@H, Moosewood Cookbook = MC)
Tonight – carrot and celery pasta (local, farmer’s market) with meat (local beef) sauce (homemade, canned tomatos) and garlic bread (homemade bread, farmer’s market garlic, co-op butter)
Tuesday – M@H, Ginger Tofu (local) and Greens (local kale) over Coconut Basmati Rice
Wednesday – MC, Potato Leek Soup (local)
Thurday – M@H, Avocado Corn (local, frozen) Salad over lettuce with tomato (local heirloom), olive and egg (local)

I would estimate that over 90% of the purchased materials were organic. Very little cans or packaging for ingredients, and my own bags and legs toted these items home.

It’s taken me about 5 years to transition to the food/shopping style I have acquired. Just a year ago it was hard for us to conceive of shopping at Madison Market – mostly because the selection is so limited compared to giants like Whole Foods Market. However, they do specialize in local stuff, and by being a co-op member, I feel like we have more of a direct line to their practices. Today’s shopping was mostly what was available and in-season. I almost feel like I’ve won something – even if I can’t put my finger on it.

I’m further fueled to decrease food-miles and over-consumption of resources by reading Barbara Kingsolver’s newest book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. It details her family’s journey from living in the resource-draining state of Arizona to the lush agricultural land of Virginia, raising their food and learning to live in harmony with the seasons. I’m enjoying her narrative style, and the composition of the book, which includes seasonal recipes and annotations for further information on sustainability issues.

And with all that, my tummy’s rumbling for lunch.

This Week in Consumption

My friend Kalki, who lives in the NYC area, was giving away some beauty products and offering them to whoever wanted them. Having some of my own half-used beauty products laying around the house, I offered a swap instead of a one way send. What I ended up getting was Bed Head Brunette Goddess shampoo and conditioner (smelling strongly of fake brown sugar) and Kiehl’s Herbal Toner with Mixed Berries and Extracts and Ultra Facial Moisturizer (she also sent me a grab bag of other things). In return, I plan on sending her some left over Aveda Tourmaline Charged cleanser and face cream – both seem to be too heavy for my skin.

Trading left-over products seems a lot more eco-friendly than sending them to the trash pile. However, I should likely underline the word seems.

From a recent New York Times article Buying into the Green Movement:

It’s as though the millions of people whom environmentalists have successfully prodded to be concerned about climate change are experiencing a SnackWell’s moment: confronted with a box of fat-free devil’s food chocolate cookies, which seem deliciously guilt-free, they consume the entire box, avoiding any fats but loading up on calories.

My “Thinking Green” makes me feel good — as does many other forms of consumption. I can feel guilty about one thing, and then consume another, and feel like I’ve done something good. I think that the analogy to SnackWell’s is a particularly great one, and it reminds me of Michael Pollan’s essay,
Unhappy Meals

Consider what happened immediately after the 1977 “Dietary Goals” — McGovern’s masterpiece of politico-nutritionist compromise. In the wake of the panel’s recommendation that we cut down on saturated fat, a recommendation seconded by the 1982 National Academy report on cancer, Americans did indeed change their diets, endeavoring for a quarter-century to do what they had been told. Well, kind of. The industrial food supply was promptly reformulated to reflect the official advice, giving us low-fat pork, low-fat Snackwell’s and all the low-fat pasta and high-fructose (yet low-fat!) corn syrup we could consume. Which turned out to be quite a lot. Oddly, America got really fat on its new low-fat diet — indeed, many date the current obesity and diabetes epidemic to the late 1970s, when Americans began binging on carbohydrates, ostensibly as a way to avoid the evils of fat.

I love that SnackWells is name-checked in these two articles published 6 months apart. Even better, it’s used to illustrate our misguided consumption of stuff. The 20th Century brought us a larger food supply, and cheaper crap for us to fill our houses and spend our hard earned dollars on. All of it is fueled by this ridiculous belief that we have a limitless supply of energy – in whatever form it takes, from energy as fuel for our cars and machines, to keep this stuff easily within our grasp and energy as food, making us and our children wonderfully fat. We can’t STOP consuming and no group making money today really wants us to STOP consuming as much as we do. Of course, I’m happy to be proven wrong on that declaration.

I can’t help but think about a family trip to Disney World a few years ago, when we sat in an air conditioned theatre and engaged in some thought-provoking edu-tainment Ellen’s Energy Adventure in Epcot. Ellen Degeneres and Bill Nye (the Science Guy) bring up important points about our waning energy supply. Never fear, though, because in the end, we still have an inexhaustable amount of brain power to think of a solution to the energy crisis.

That is, except when you and everyone else with the brain power to figure a solution haven’t eaten in days, and are away from any clean source of drinking water. (The brain seems to work better when well rested, fed and watered.)

I could go on with regards to this weeks thoughts on consumption, but currently, I have an aching belly from nibbling while baking Lavender Shortbread Cookies and making German Potato Salad for the Fourth. I have, indeed, over-consumed, and the day isn’t even done yet.

Have a happy and safe Independence Day. Make a point to exercise a civil liberty today.

You Have Been Consumed

I try to blog weekly, but last week my project turned out to be a tad too ambitious. I had planned to continue to lay out the horrible truths of how we’ve all been tricked into consuming more of the same thing despite ourselves. It turns out that the horrible truths I was going to shed light on are far too numerous for one blog post.

I have become increasingly aware as to how much we DON’T know about the products we purchase. Hopefully, this would have become apparent last year with the e. coli spinach, or at least this year with the melamine infused cat food from China. The problem is far greater than our food supply. Try doing your normal shopping and ONLY buying products stating “Made in the USA” — food included? Then, see how many of your commonly purchased items come from China and consider what your dollars might be going into, such as prison labor (political prisoners, even!), sweatshop conditions and toxic waste in the Chinese countryside. The whole task gets even more difficult when you’re looking at items that have more than one major ingredient. This is what makes supplements and body care so hard to digest into the two words, “good” and “bad.” It’s not just about the end product, where it’s made or how far it’s shipped. Nor is it as simple as the labels, vegan, biodegradable, not tested on animals, organic and natural.
Continue reading “You Have Been Consumed”