paleoFood staples are probably not something we all think about every day, but we might know what we like to eat and pick out according to our children, or family members.  Now, staples are things (to me anyway) that are miscellaneous and small, but I went to one website that said sweets, bread, sugary drinks, chicken, pizza, and snacks are the staples America is known for today.  I think that’s kind of out of whack.  Now I read a book years ago that said when a country’s food declines, the country declines.  If we are known to produce and eat all the foods I just said, does this mean our country is collapsing?

I know from reading food books and watching food docs that when we go to a grocery store, we’re supposed to shop along the outer edges where the milk, produce, meat, and bread are.  But if we have websites that say our staples are snacks and sweets, then what is the answer to what staples we SHOULD buy?

Times are tough, and we can’t buy what we should eat all the time.  I can kind of understand why people buy desserts (because they have eggs, milk/butter, flour, and sometimes nuts in them),  chicken (because it’s a protein), pizza (because it could have all four food groups), and sugary drinks (because it’s kind of like water and it can very satisfying when you’re parched).

If corn, wheat, and rice are the main staples in the world and they make up 90 percent of the world’s energy intake, and if corn is used in a lot of other products, does that make corn syrup a staple as well?  And wheat is more popular than corn in this country (according to Michael Pollan) so the fact that sweets like cakes and cupcakes, bread, pizza, and snacks, contain wheat they would add to that 90 percent.

See when we say that something is a food staple, maybe it shouldn’t be, maybe food staples should mean different things.  Like roots and tubers are available in the US and a staple for hundreds of millions of people in tropical regions.

Maybe everything is a food staple to a lot of different people.  Because something as mundane as graham crackers or skittles, could be someone’s dinner that night.  Should we really judge what people eat when it could be could enough for them?

 

The ever present nut: peanuts

December 24, 2014

peanutsWhy do we have peanuts everywhere if they are among the top eight food allergies in the USA?  Tree nuts are in there too, but peanuts are everywhere in places where you wouldn’t think they’d be.

It’s because they’re a legume (like chickpeas) that they can be used in a variety of places.  But they’re not exactly respected.  Just look at the container for any mixed nuts that contains peanuts:  “Less than 50% peanuts!”

And at this time of year, with Halloween and Christmas having lots of peanut butter related snacks, is it too much?  We have Reese’s, Snickers, peanut M&M’s, peanut brittle, peanut butter fudge, turtle candies, and probably more for these big holidays.  And peanut butter is seen as healthier than some alternatives like candy canes and caramel candy.

With all the unhealthy options out there, it’s no wonder the food companies turn to peanuts/ peanut butter as the “safe” bet.

According to wikipedia, we are third in terms of growing the most peanuts.  China and India grow more and do not have the pervasive peanut allergy that the US has.  They don’t process them into peanut butter, but instead make peanut oil and boil them, as opposed to roasting them like the US does.  Some websites suggested that this is why we have peanut allergies.

Also according to wikipedia, the reason we have the peanut allergy is that we do not introduce children to peanuts until they are a toddler because the doctors tell us not to.  The peanut allergy sounds like the most deadly allergy of all, and yet we consistently have peanuts in foods because it’s cheaper and it’s a protein.

There are many types of peanuts, including Spanish, Runner, Valencia, and Virginia.  However, I think these are the peanuts grown in the US while China and India grow the majority of the peanuts in the world, with the US coming in third in amount grown.

So next time I think of plain peanuts as unappetizing I’ll think of China and other parts of the world that use the versatile peanut to a higher power.

 

small businessI have tried to kind of eat the local food diet, but did not last long at all (and to tell you the truth, thought it was impossible).  But seeing as there are so many small businesses around us all, why not try to eat from small businesses?  You could go to a small market or grocery stores, and research which food is from a small business and getting that.  For example, King Arthur’s Flour is a small flour business in Vermont that I always get.  It’s more expensive, but it is higher in quality.

I know times are tough, and it’s easier to get generic when a lot of food is generic these days.  But think about the stuff that you can’t get generic, like milk or produce or bread.  These are staples that the bakeries, farmers’ markets, and dairy farms specialize in.

I get tahini from my Middle Eastern grocery Oasis.  I know it comes from far away, but I read a book called Just Food in which the guy questions whether locally made products really do use less fossil fuels then say far away ones.  He has a lot of examples of questioning the organic movement and says that conventional farming might be better in the long run.

Do big businesses like Walmart have local produce?  I think I’ve heard they do that now.  So in my “buy from small business” model, I would think buying from a small business would be better because the economy is in a recession right?  We have to support small businesses now more than ever because if we don’t than we’re just supporting the big conglomerates.  Small businesses at least usually have a family behind it, with sometimes only family.  I would rather support that than a big conglomerate even if they do buy locally right?

Produce is what people need to eat more of, so is it confusing to those who have trouble getting it, to say, “buy it locally”?  Are we just separating the social classes more and more?  Is everyone aware of the food movement going on right now or are some of us just doing the best they can to budget their food sources accordingly?

volunteerDo most Americans and immigrants love to work?  Is that why we’re the superpower that we are?  I personally think that work gets one out of the dumps.  I’ve had a lot of jobs over the years and the one thing that has always stayed with me even if I was a little off was that I was always doing something.  Granted, the thing I was doing may have not been the best for me at the time, but working helped me find my place.

I now know it’s good to concentrate on oneself and be kind to oneself, but when I was working without thinking of who I was, it kind of became my undoing.  When I buckled down and got my thoughts together AND worked out who I was while being kind to myself AND others, I felt less anxious.

I don’t work at any high powered job, but I do a lot of different things that are important to me and others who trust me.

It’s funny how we young people (and older people) have all these degrees and some people are doing jobs that are blue collar jobs.  I say find yourself in that blue collar job.  I mean, volunteering is what America about these days, so use your connections to find a job that you can work around and volunteer at something YOU find meaningful and full-filling.

I know when I volunteer, I feel like I am living my dream.  So what if there’s no real money involved.  The real money is in the free things you get when volunteering.  I’ve volunteered a lot of places including, a film festival, a dance organization and board, Meals on Wheels, my Quaker meeting, and a library.  When I volunteer, I don’t feel a heavy burden on my shoulders and (keeping my priorities in mind) can just relax and feel like I am working toward my dream.

That goes along with why I think improv and being able to think fast on your feet is so important.  Too many of us sit at a computer all day long.  We need to do something interactive that gets us moving and thinking things out.  I think if everyone in America took improv (and maybe the world too) we would get along with each other better.  Because every time I look at the box office receipts for movies, good comedies bring in a good amount of money.

Sometimes I really do think we should just work better at the jobs we have until you feel like you have nothing else to learn or give by doing the job.  I know we supposedly all want to be a sports star or in the movies, but that’s what community theater or community organized sports are for right?  Maybe we just can’t buy those $100 jeans and should just go to a thrift store instead.

I saw a commercial recently that mentioned how Americans are defined by work.  We’re always working or at least it’s perceived that way.  Maybe when you immerse yourself in work you forget about the bad parts of one’s life.

I know that we Americans are always on the go and it’s hard to focus on cooking or eating the right things sometimes, but if you work within your budget to make time for it and try something small, it could really give you pride that you wouldn’t find anywhere else.  That’s what cooking is about:  making something from scratch and feeling like an artist.  At least that’s how I feel when I make hummus or pesto or cookies from scratch.

my trip to Bolivia

October 1, 2014

boliviaSo my sister-in-law is from Bolivia.  She was born there and when she and my brother decided to get married, they decided to do so in Bolivia.  This was three years ago.  So my parents and I flew down with them to La Paz, for about three days.  It was extremely hilly there and our driver was pretty adept at not killing us.

We stayed in this fancy hotel that served Western style food.  But we did go to a couple markets that were kind of interesting.  The rainforest is where they grew tropical fruit like bananas, avocados, and the like so on one of our outings to some ruins near Lake Tikicaca, our guide and driver stopped at a market and got some avocados, pan (bread), and I think yogurt and maybe bananas too.  When we ate it near the ruins (with some very hungry dogs), I felt like I was living like a local.  Our driver even got some salt from someone because there are salt mines in Bolivia.  It felt like a pretty authentic meal to us.

When we got to Cochabamba, we then had a meal with Patricia’s family.  I think it consisted of rice and beans and definitely meat.  We had to drive to Patricia’s parents’ farm which was about two hours away.  At the farm (which is where the wedding was), they had pigs, guinea pigs, chickens, and llamas.  The wedding was a feast in that I think almost everything came from the farm.  Well maybe not, but the meat did and probably some of the vegetables did.

My parents and I continued on toward other cities while my brother and his wife went on their honeymoon.  The most memorable place we went (in terms of food) was the rain forest outside of Santa Cruz.  We were in a refuge way high in the mountains.  I flirted with the staff and took hikes with them, while a lot of the food they served us came from the farm on the grounds.  We had bananas, papayas, mangos and a bunch of other things like lettuce and tomatoes.  It was the fruit that made me think that fruit for dessert makes one appreciate fruit all the more.  I felt that in having those meals, how precious the rain forest was to the staff.  It certainly was a beautiful area.  The waterfalls were heavenly and there were all these dangling birds nests around that held some sort of exotic bird.

It was a once in a lifetime trip and I can remember some of the events in exact detail like throwing up at the wedding right across from Patricia’s parents and going to a centuries’ old church near Cochabamba where our van was blessed by a priest.  Yup, I hope to go back to South America someday.

controversySo I looked up some banned foods in the US, and we should be thankful that we don’t eat endangered animals, like gorilla, shark fins, and turtles, and some other endangered animals that seem to be a delicacy in other countries.  What delicacies do we have in the US?  Well, I couldn’t really think of any that were comparable to those meats, but our ethnic foods seem to be delicacies.  But is the All American meal still the norm for those who worship the American way of life?

 

Horse meat is controversial and judging by the vast amount of horse farms we have and how people have horses for therapy, maybe the animal rights activists have infiltrated our society more than we realize.

I was reading about the grain quinoa, which is grown primarily in Bolivia, and how that is controversial because the Bolivian farmers are forced to keep up with the growing world demand of the crop.  There are 3,000 types of quinoa and what has happened is that the Bolivian farmers are forced to grow one specific kind, which is creating a monoculture.

In some ways, veganism seems more controversial in this country than being a meat eater.  I remember when I worked in New Hampshire, there was a guy I worked with who was a vegan, and he would go on and on about how milk was contaminated with urine, among other things.  Maybe the controversial foods in this country to him are the basic foods we eat, like milk, eggs, and meat.

I have watched some social commentary food documentaries over the years and they mention GMOs a lot and those seem very controversial.  I have been to meat production places and they all seem rather open to people looking at their production facilities.  But when I have watched videos on egg production, most of those small time farmers aren’t allowed to show the chickens in closed quarters.  Some of them seem more controversial than the the meat facilities.

In veganism, there are also so many different types of isms out there like people who only eat raw fruit and seeds and the raw food diet where people can’t eat cooked foods above a certain degree.  These, in a way, seem more controversial than some other diets.  And I’m sure there are a lot of flexitarians out there too (people who eat meat occasionally).  I think there’s more than we realize.  The Vegetarian times says there are 22.8 million “vegetarian inclined” people in the US, so that must mean flexitarians.  There are 7.3 million American vegetarians and around the same number of American vegans.  And there are 168 million vegans in the world.

And every once in awhile, I hear about some vegetable (like spinach or scallions) that has salmonella in it or some other type of bacteria.  Maybe because a lot of vegetables aren’t cooked when we eat them, people are scared of vegetables causing disease.  Maybe this explains why GMOs have transformed the world as we know it.  We don’t want salmonella spinach to infiltrate our worlds so we choose genetic engineering to make them less healthy, but more pretty to look at.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

gluten freeI love to bake just like everyone else it seems.  Every time I turn on the Food Network, I usually am bound to see someone baking in minutes.  I took two semesters of baking and pastry classes and loved every minute of it so I shouldn’t be a hypocrite.

Of course, it’s not particularly healthy, but we cannot get away from it here in America.  I read in Omnivore’s Dilemma’s by Michael Pollan that Americans eat more wheat than even corn, which says a lot because we ship a lot of corn (and maybe wheat too) over seas.

In my own little revolution, I bake cookies that have less sugar, plus wheat germ, whole wheat flour, dry sifted milk, oats, and the normal things like butter and eggs and brown sugar.  I also bake pumpkin, oat, walnut/pecan, chocolate chip cookies where I halve the sugar (it calls for both white and brown.  I give my cookies away to places I volunteer or work at, friends and family, and occasionally sell them.  It’s my way of saying, “this is a treat that is more healthy for you than a lot of those treats in grocery stores.”  My Mom sometimes (like currently) gives up sugar, because she can’t stand how much sugar we eat in this country (at least I think that’s the reason; there’s probably a health reason in there too). 

I think the whole gluten free thing is kind of weird, because it just kind of started in the past ten years.  Does the gluten free label mean that we were wrong for eating wheat 20 to 50 years ago?  I think that the reason we have gluten free foods so many places now is because the baking and pastry world has gotten out of control.  Granted, I still like baked goods (and who doesn’t?!?), but maybe the term “gluten free” is a rebellious frame of mind.

Ok, I know that gluten free refers to a lot of people who have celiac’s disease who’s body doesn’t allow them to eat white or whole wheat flour.  But I know for a fact that the food industry uses the “gluten free” term to make sometimes unhealthy foods appear healthy; or foods that are obviously gluten free and makes them appear like a whole new product.

 

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