Friday, April 29, 2011


I have a fairly obsessive crush on European style steel frame bicycles. Something about the clean lines and simple detailing make me happy.

Because of this, for the past three years I have been riding a vintage blue Schwinn that I lovingly named Dorothy Ann. Dorothy Ann has treated me well, we’ve covered a lot of miles together, but she is rickety and old. She is starting to rust and short of a couple thousand dollar tune up, she’s not going to last forever.

I have been thinking of getting a new bike for a number of years now but I never like any of them. Either they are way too fancy or the frames are just flat out ugly. I think things have finally come together, my need for a sturdy bike, good for hauling things (short commuting and grocery getting), steel frame (lasts longer in this ohso wet city of mine), built in fenders, and soooo pretty, have all come together in the Raleigh Roadster. I test drive it today and if all goes to well I plan on doing no driving except for to and from work. Happy Friday to me! Hope you all have something amazing going on this weekend to bring some joy after a long-long week.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Vintage Food Ad's

I came across Christian Montone's flicker photo stream this morning and have probably spent two hours looking at all the amazing vintage ads, movie posters, record covers, postcards and travel pictures he has posted. There are literally thousands of pictures, luckily he has them categorized. So I skipped past the majority of stuff and got right to the food ads from the 1940’s and forward. I have always been drawn to illustrations from that era, they are so representative of the ideal American life. This idea though was false, that era was very much a mess and pretty much everything you can think of that defined this time period was used to distract people from the reality of how messy post war life was in America, not least of which the state of agriculture and rising food costs. During the world wars,  when sugar and processed flours were rationed, rates of western diseases were way down. But rolling through the 1950’s and 60’s when food prices were soaring and the government started allowing for synthetic foods to be made and not labeled clearly, people started to get really sick.

At any rate, below are a few ad’s that I especially liked. And one by Monsanto that just blows my mind (and not in a good way).

(1970's Monsanto Ad)

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

New Blips

It is mid-term times again for me. Chemistry this term and sadly its kicking my butt. The funny thing about truly learning something is that it has to be relevant for it to take meaning and be remembered. I can see how what I am learning now will help me understand the bigger classes like Organic Chemistry down the road, but right now it’s all just gibberish. Despite where the future takes me, I am really a hard time convincing myself that I am going to need to know how to calculate the molar mass of an Ammonuim Ion in my head, with no tools or research material. But alas, I memorize on, which is why posts have been a no-go this week. Instead here are some interesting things that I have come across. While the new makes it seem like the world is spiraling down into a pit of doom and gloom, there are still some pretty neat things happening out there.

-A town in Maine is the 3rd town recently to pass a law that keeps the federal government from interfering with the growing and sale of local food to the residence of the town. The means side stepping all the red tape and neighbor Sally can sell her fruits and veggies or whatever else she wants at local markets. In small communities where people know one another, it’s the equivalent of getting produce from your friends personal gardens, just people get to make some money and everyone gets tastier homegrown food even if they have the anti-green thumb.

-In case you missed it Google is investing up the wazoo in sustainable energy. Wind farms and solar farms a-go-go. I thought it was nice to see tech giants (who use a good deal of electricity) investing in smarter energy choices.

-Some government folks in NY are on the path to building solar panels over the state landfills, while the garbage problem may not be going away maybe some of their coal power dependency and rolling blackouts will.

-Also in NY it is legal for private citizens to have bee hives in the city (on rooftops and patios).

-Ford made its biggest profits in years due to building smaller and more fuel efficient cars (who would have thought).

-In local news there is a company that has patented the process of turning plastic back into crude oil in a relatively safe and environmentally friendly way. Hopefully this will mean getting rid of all the plastic in landfills, next step, get people to stop buying bottled water.  

That’s all I got for now, time to play mad scientist. Hope you all have a dandy rest of your week, if you have any suggestions for research topics hit me up.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Food Marketing - They are Damn Good At It.

I was out Friday night with some friends. What started with friend (B) relaying a shameful early morning outburst at an airport turned into a rather serious conversation about the state of certain people in the country. Namely the chronically overweight individuals we see every day. There were some really good points made by friend (B) “everyone has their story and reason why they have gotten to the point they are at.” Friend (A) stated “the majority of the people had no chance to begin with, childhood teachings become adult habits and by the time you realize what has happened you are probably too depressed to care.” Boyfriend added “a lot of the people in our country that are struggling with this are immigrants who don’t always understand proper nutrition.” While I listened to them, I thought bravo friends, glad to hear that I am not the only one aware of the terrifying situation our country is getting into. But I think the underlying problem in all of this was missed. It’s not just the people with the tragic stories, or kids who started out fat and ended up obese, and it’s certainly not just immigrants who can blame nutritional confusion on language barriers. Its everyday Americans who walk into the grocery store and think “oh yum a cereal bar that has all the nutrients I need with none of hassle”. On one hand it is the fault of the individual for not taking the time to understand their own health and nutritional needs. But the truly scary part is exactly how good the corporate food machine is at convincing people to buy their products.

Corporate food companies are just that, food companies that file taxes on for profit and often publicly traded scale. What this means is, they have a board of directors to report earnings to, people making sales and putting together the most profitable marketing campaigns get big bonuses. As you can imagine there is a lot money invested in research and development to learn what the public wants and how best to convince them the new product is something they cannot live without. Are these companies evil? No not really, they are corporate organizations, they are doing exactly what they were designed to do,  make a profit and they are damn good at it. You can be the best eater in the world and still be tempted by all the brightly colored boxes promising antioxidants, calcium, or vitamin C with a new bolder taste. It’s like Christmas every time you walk down the prepared foods isle. And I bet the food type products don’t even taste all that bad, not great, but they are redesigned and tested on individuals until they meet that sweet spot of okay tasting, easy to prepare and mildly addicting due to the ease of sugar and sodium delivery. Consumer pleasure magic!

To place the blame on these companies is a tad erroneous.  They are simply giving the people what they want. Now that’s not to say I agree with what these companies are doing, believe me I have my own personal feelings about the business practices of such corporations. I think the finer point here is once again people need to realize their health and welfare is no one’s responsibility but their own. What really needs to happen is proper education on nutrition and health. I recall my precollege health and home economics classes and nowhere in any of them was mention of food and its tie to a person’s health. In fact I remember being forced to make a tuna casserole and being told how easy it was since all it took was a can of tuna, pasta and a can of cream of mushroom soup. That is the antithesis of educating students about how to feed themselves nutritonally. A  good public education of nutrition and the larger impacts of personal and environmental health would help but it also needs to be done is a way that reaches the people whose family habits, language barriers and personal excuses have gotten in the way of good sense. There is certainly not an easy answer or a quick fix. But their never is, the nice thing about food and environmental issues is that they almost always tie. What is good for us, happens luckily to also be good for the environment. I don’t write this to criticize anyone’s personal choices, I just want people to be aware of the issues. Understanding the risks and outcome of choices is the key to changing behavior, my only hope is that some of you will make some changes, and spread the word.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Earth Day!!!

Earth Day is one of my favorite holidays. It doesn't seem to be much of a celebration here in the lower 48 (from what I have seen), but growing up in Alaska it was a big deal. I think it is partly to do with the very present connection between the people of Alaska and the nature that surrounds them. You really cannot escape it, no matter how hard you try, nature is just all up in your face.  I suppose it probably scares a lot of people especially if you aren’t used it, and I can honestly say there were a couple times as a child I was scared myself (being chased by a moose is terrifying). But the people who live up there are used it. They know how to deal with the dangers and mostly just appreciate everything they have. Most of the people I knew growing up lived off the land in some sense, hunting or fishing for a majority of their meat, collecting and preserving wild berries in the summer, and growing epic vegetable gardens in the summer (24hour sun equals monstersveggies). What we think of as being green isn’t so much a choice as it is the cheapest way to get by up there.

Focusing in on my point, Earth Day growing up was more of an Earth Week. My grade school focused all subjects in on nature in some way. We would go on walks to identify edible and poisonous plants, we would go on roadside, park and beach cleanups, music class we would sing songs about nature (my favorite always being “Baby Beluga”) and I vividly remember decorating our school hallways with nature themes made from papers and newspapers that were saved throughout the year for the occasion. My first even contribution was a papier-mâché beluga, that in my 5 year old brain was the most brilliant paper rendering of an animal ever created, but really just looked like a giant grey fish with an eye painted on it.

Yes. I love Belugas

What they actually look like and what my papier-mâché master piece looked like


Sadly as an adult spending my school hours (work) constructing elaborate and slightly off kilter paper animals is frowned upon.  I have had to alter my Earth Day plans a bit (though I still sing Baby Beluga in my head all day), and I try to make Earth Day more of a day to refocus on my goals as a more earth conscious individual. Luckily for me this is the time of year when most farmers markets start opening, and the weather gets nicer so getting places without a car becomes more feasible. Last year I managed to take my garbage contribution from a once a week pickup to a once a  month, I tried to only buy used cloths (don’t worry that doesn’t include undergarments), and did my best to only buy produce from the organic market down the street from my house. This year I am not sure what I am going to do, I keep a running list of things I would like to do and every year I managed to cross a couple of them off. Making better decisions is easy as long as you start small, and don’t overwhelm yourself with goals. Nobody is perfect, but try to make a list of some things you would like to do this year to make yourself more earth conscious and see how many you can accomplish by Earth Day next year!

My list (so far)
-Acquire honey bee hive and  harvest own honey.
-Get urban chicken license and keep chickens for eggs.
-Make larger planter boxes or more home produce.
-Reduce garbage by half.
-Only drive car to and from work.
-Figure out perfect recipe for cleaning products that don’t include harmful chemicals.
-Reduce plastic use.
-Can own tomato base.
-Learn how to make date bars and preserve properly.
-Invest in a good local CSA.
-Only take train when traveling to Seattle.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

"Sugar Dooesn't Make You Sick"

I just spent the last hour and a half in an employee benefits meeting with our insurance provider. While I am sure the presentation given by two very sweet girls was informative and as helpful as insurance companies that file taxes on a for profit bases can be, I was only concentrating on one thing. The giant bowl of candy in the middle of the conference table. This poses some issues for me namely because from the bits of information that actually beat its way into my brain past the dumfounded confusion was about how we need to start taking responsibility for the cost of our own health care. This is true, but I am literally the only one who saw the true irony in the snack offering. I can safely say this because I actually commented when I first sat down, “isn’t a candy bowl a slightly inappropriate snack for a health and benefits meeting”. And the resounding reply through chocolaty lips and sticky fingers was “sugar doesn’t make you sick.” And there you have it folks, ignorance to nutrition and a total lack of responsibility for our own future health all wrapped up in a social exchange that took less than 15 seconds. Could people really be this stupid?

I think the answer is yes, people can be this stupid. Or maybe stupid is too strong a word, maybe confused, or ill-informed  is more appropriate. Either way. Yes, sugar very much does make you sick. No you will not get diabetes from a single snack sized candy, eaten once a year, or month or probably even once a day. But that would be assuming you are eating 4+ serving of veggies, 3+ fruit, 2+ whole grains, 8+ glasses of water and a small amount of animal protein. But if you are like any one person I work with you are probably not eating breakfast, your midmorning wake up snack is a soda from the vending machine (my cube is next to it, I know who you people are and how often you fetch soda), a Healthy Choice microwavable meal (which was so perfectly summed up by Michael Pollan “Healthy Choice is a brand name, most defiantly not a fact”), followed by the 5 pieces of candy I just saw you horf down, and I’d put money on the fact that the sugar consumption doesn’t stop there. I don’t even need to go into how much sugar can be found in places people don’t expect it, because if you are dumb enough to be drinking soda on a regular basis in the first place let alone more than one a day, you obviously don’t know or don’t care that you have consumed the equivalent of 20+ packets of sugar. And maybe the worst fact of all is that in most cases it’s not even cane sugar anymore its corn syrup or some other sugar substitute that  literally wreaks your system. Ever wonder why so many kids are fat these days, just spend one day with them and will wonder no more. Sugar does make you sick. Processed sugars and sugar substitutes are the leading cause of obesity, and type 2 diabetes in this country. And there have been numerous studies that show just how much a single tablespoon of sugar lowers your immune system the second it hits your blood stream.

Am I perfect? No. I eat sugar, I love ice cream and brownies. Give me a good dark chocolate bar and I am in heaven. But I make d*** sure I know what I am eating and how it effects my body and my health, present and future. The only thing I drink regularly is water and if I am going to indulge in a sugar food it’s not going to be sugar from a microwavable food like substance lunch or 5 piece of candy that doesn’t even taste good. I am going to eat a high quality knock your socks off delicious dessert.

Health care is  getting more expensive, I don’t know one person who hasn’t experienced this strain in the last couple years. If you really want to know about the American health care system there are plenty of books that cover the history and complex nuances of how we got to where we are today. But the biggest thing driving health care costs up is that people are getting sick and they aren’t getting any better. We need to start looking at our own personal choices, and take more responsibility for our health. Everything you eat effect your health, in a lot of peoples cases negatively. If people don’t want to be paying thousands of dollars in medical bills they need to start taking care of themselves. We are personally responsible for nearly all aspect of our lives, why do we as Americans think it is the medical communities responsibility to take care of our health?

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The Rainy Time Blues

 Unkown Source

Getting a little motion sick from the spring weather roller coaster? You may not if you live in some of the US southern states, but here in the Northwest this time of year is often the hardest. Yes we have very wet winters. But ask anyone who has lived here long enough to understand our season cycle and they will tell you March and April are the worst. December is pretty wet out here, but we usually see a good break of cold dry weather around January and February. But by the end of February honing in on the first day of spring you can expect weeks of non-stop rain. And given that our ground doesn’t freeze out here for long periods of time, watching all our beautiful flowers bloom through squalls of rain can be a little hard to swallow from time to time. Our prolonged winter or very miserable spring (however you chose to look at it) has some unpleasant results on some of our population. The Pacific Northwest is known for its high rate of suicide and large number of resident serial killers, while these are the extremes many studies have shown we have record low Vitamin D levels in our blood. Translation, all this gray can make us a little crazy.

The good news is there is a lot you can do to improve your serotonin  and Vitamin D levels which will in turn help your general mood. The first and most important is perhaps the hardest given our traditional two months of rain in the spring, but you have to get outside and exercise. Rigorous exercise is the best, such as running or bike riding. Exercise that raises your heart rate causes some lovely chemical reactions in your body, including increasing your endorphin levels, and boosting your body’s own natural ability to produce D.  There are also a few things you can eat that will help increase serotonin. It should be no surprise they are plant based, the happy news is most of them are higher in fat since slow release complex foods help maintain your body’s blood sugar levels which in turn helps maintain mood. Such foods include, avocado, nuts, fiber fruits and veggies, and peanut butter.  There is of course a connection between animal proteins elevated moods due to the presence of fats. But these products should be approached with caution. Not sneak up and surprise them caution. But don’t go overboard with them. I have found when suggesting animal products to people (and there are tons of long winded studies that show the same) people read the advice wrong. It’s not eat more animal products, its do away with bad animal products and replace them with smarter choices. So while eating turkey, eggs , tuna, yogurt and cottage cheese can help elevate moods, you shouldn’t rush home and gorge yourself on steak with a side of turkey leg. That’s not really the point.  Instead try a small portion of high quality organic turkey, or eggs with a couple cups of  mixed veggies and a small bit of very seedy whole grain bread. Perhaps the hardest news to swallow is to cut out caffeine and sugar which often go hand in hand in our favorite drinks such as coffee, energy drinks and soda. Caffeine, like sugar causes a cycle of highs and lows, you drink it and feel great and then you crash craving more caffeine which perpetuates the cycle. Drinking eight glasses of water a day with actually do more to keep you alert than consuming caffeine will,  and it cuts out the highs and lows.  

By Nathan

When I am feeling at my worst the best thing to do is drink a ton of water, force myself outside for a run or into my yoga routine, take a hot relaxing shower and cook up a veggie heavy dinner. As hard as it is to get my grumpy a** off the couch I always feel better in the end. Its hard this time of year, being a lifelong resident of our beautiful (in the summer) region I know firsthand how hard it can be to break the seasonal affective disorder (aptly acronymed  SAD) cycle. But I promise you I always feel better when I do.

Good Luck!
By Dan 

*Material requested by best friend (K), hope this helps you break the cycle J

Monday, April 18, 2011

Just A News Blip

A couple things came across my "desk" today that I thought were important to pass along. The first being a fellowship grant for young community leaders. If you have projects but need funding check out Live Real's Real Food Fellowship. Also did you know the USDA keeps a database of farmers markets. This is an important resource given that any market that is registered is then mapped out for hungry farmers market goers. If you have a farmers market or know of one that is not yet registered do so here.

Also if you are one of those farmers market shoppers but are new to an area or are just new to the whole experience you can find a market near you here.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Sauvie Island Organics and other CSA's

I had the pleasure of meeting a very nice woman this weekend who works for Sauvie Island Organics, an organization who supplies a good number of restaurants with local, sustainable and organic produce. Though meeting her was truly a pleasure, the more exciting (and informative part) was they also supply the Portland Metro area with CSA deliveries (joy!). For those of you not familiar with the acronym CSA, it stands for Community Supported Agriculture. This is sort of a brilliant move for local farmers, as a member of a CSA you buy a share of their crop which guarantees an income for the farm and you get a weekly delivery of produce that is grown in your own big back yard (not literally but you get the idea).

There are a number of national organizations that offer organics deliveries including Organics to You. Organics to You was the first organization offering CSA delivery that I had ever heard of and I got really excited about the idea for a number of reasons. You know the food you are getting is organic. You never really know what you are going to get each delivery so you are forced to try new things which is always a great learning experience. And even if your first culinary experience with new products may not be quite as stellar as planned or turned out to be the most awful thing in the world it is still an exciting new experience. The deliveries would also force you (if your waste guilt is anything like mine) to make sure everything is eaten, thus resulting in more plant ingestion. Plus, who doesn't love getting packages!

Like everything I do, I researched CSA deliveries to death before I committed to one organization. I found the same thing in almost all large CSA organizations, they offer a great variety of produce to their consumers, so much so that sometimes it travels a long way to get to doorsteps. Here is where I got a little disappointed, most of the fruit from the Organics to You CSA came from as far as New Zealand. A lot of it still came from California, which is really quite close. But if I am going to invest in a season long produce delivery system, I want to make sure it is as fresh a possible and did not commute thousands of miles to land on my dinner table every night.

You can imagine my excitement in learning about the Sauvie Island Organics. The farm is literally less than 30 miles from my house. Yes its true my delivery box will not include mangos or kiwis or probably even oranges. None of these things grow in Oregon, but we do have some pretty stellar fruit of our own, apples and pears for starters, and Oregon is known for berries. In the end it does mean I will be eating less exotic fruits, but people have been living quite successfully for thousands of years in oregon without fruits like Tangelos. I feel pretty okay walking to the farmers market once a week to get the fruits I am craving knowing they didn't need a passport to get there.

If you live in the greater Portland area check out Sauvie Island Organics. Live further away? Fear not, there is a National City CSA web site that can be found here. And if they don't have what you are looking for, then do some leg work. Talk to some local farmers, talk to your local city government about setting up a community garden, or plant a garden yourself!

Saturday, April 16, 2011

A Da** Fine Day and Some Love to Those Who Made it Happen

So what started as a very early and slightly rocky morning morphed into a very informative, and moving afternoon ended in a very happy me. Despite going to sleep early for a Friday night, waking up at 6am on Saturday was still less than pleasant. I left my house in a fog, forgot my breakfast foods at my house, spilled my coffee on myself, and got stuck in traffic (yeah at 6am in one of the countries smallest cities). But I managed to make it to my Alma Matter in time for registration but sans the tickets to the event (doh). The ticket problem was later remedied with little trouble. The event was the second annual Food for Thought Conference hosted by the University of Portland. It was amazing to say the least, and its going to take a good long while for me to pull all my notes and ideas together for a proper blog post or posts. But for now I'd would just like to shout out to those who made today possible for me.

Despite my bumpy am, I still got to the school at the same time as my mom, who agreed to be my date for the day. This a a woman who has her whole life and still to this is day is in better shape and healthier than I could ever hope to be. Who jazzer-sized and veggie ate her way through brining me into the world. She taught me everything I know about cooking and eating healthy. And who has in the past engaged in healthy and sustainable actives through out her life such as making her own cloths, yogurt, soap and growing veggies among many others. She eats healthier than anyone I know and could out bike me by miles due to her love of spinning classes. She is living testament that a healthy lifestyle pays off in the end, she hardly ever gets sick, she looks half her age and is well on a way to a very healthy future. I love her dearly and was so happy to get to spend the day with her learning about a common interest.

The second person on my list of thanks is an old friend whom I have always lovingly called Joey-Jo-Jo. Way back in the day when I was an extremely overwhelmed  freshman in college moving into my first dorm room, it was Joe's smiling face, a Sophmore at the time and a Freshman Welcome Wagon volunteer, who piled all my items into a shopping cart and showed me to my new home.  I'll never forgot that day, and not because it was so amazing and exciting (frankly the entire first month of college was a total blur) but because of Joe. He is one of the most genuinely kind, wonderfully upbeat, most fun people to be around. We were friend through college and spent a lot post college happy hour days drinking at one of our favorite bars that is sadly now closed. While I don't get to see Joe much these days, he was kind enough to gift me tickets to the event when I thought it was otherwise at capacity. Thank you Joe, I miss you, we need to have some serious catch up drinks. On me of course!

Third on the list is Dr. Steven Kolmes. An Environmental Science teacher, and the man largely responsible for putting the event together in the first place. I never took a class from him, but he and his wife were the directors of the study abroad program I participated in during my undergraduate years. Having spent six weeks in Austria with him I learned a lot about him and his ideas. But the he also takes the prize on the weirdest fields trip I have ever participated in. A sewage recycling facility in Salzburg Austria. Turns out it was quite interesting, smelled bad, but I learned a lot. Had the director on that trip been an art teacher or a history teacher the trip would have been very interesting. But the trip with Dr. Kolmes was eye opening. The factoids we learned were focused on how Austria has the most protected forest of any country in the world. They are one of the leaders in green energy, the lakes and rivers are clean and beautiful because of strict laws against oil and gas powered boats. We didn't go to fancy restaurants we went to farmers markets and cooked food back at the school. We spent just as much time in museums as we did on vineyards and farms and hiking through parks and forests.  He and his wife showed me an Austria not of Haspsbourgs, war and a shady genocidal past. But a country looking forward and looking out for their people. I didn't leave with an understanding of exported culture or what Austria is famous for but an idea of a community and what it is truly like to live another culture. I will forever cherish this experience, and forever thank Dr. Kolmes and his wife for teaching me what its like to not tour but live another country.

Next is Kelly Ballew. My very enigmatic and passionate biology professor, who told me about the conference in the first place. And despite the insider information she gave me on when tickets were going on sale. They still sold out before I could get to them. Not only was Kelly's biology classes arguably the most fun classes I have ever taken, she taught me more in two quarters than I previously learned in a lifetime of science classes. This is a teacher I am now friends with, who tells me about how she deals with her less than pleased neighbors everyday since the moment she tore up her very lovely grass lawn and put in not only a garden but a garden full of local edible plants (of which there are many and I am sure she could enthusiastically tell about all of them). So thank you Kelly, you expanded my world view and will forever be an inspiration to me.

Lastly we come to Michael Pollan. One of my all time favorite authors and the key note speaker of the event. Not only is he a very prolific author and journalist, he is a huge influence on the real food movement, whip smart and a very nice individual.  He is also a damn funny man in person. I started reading his books with a Botany of Desire where he paired two of my favorite academic passions, food and history, brilliant. Since then his books have only gotten better, filled with more food for thought (no pun intended), research and platform for a call to action. And despite all this he was incredibly humble, reminding the audience at the beginning of the lecture that he isn't a scientist,  he is merely an eater and a writer. And that none of his material would be possible with out all the other journalist, scientists, doctors, community members and students who inspire him every day to look at his own life and make good choices. To say I left moved and empowered to help make so changes in my community is an understatement, not just personally, but an understatement by volume. He ended his lecture to a standing ovation of 5,000 individuals in the Portland area that came together to learn about food, agriculture, farm bills, home bee keeping, pesticides, commodities and corporate farms, food policy, legislature, history and health, just to name a few.

I am now home, happy, and sleepy with a brain full of ideas, inspiration and zeal to make changes in my life, my community and hopefully some day in my career. Stay tuned for future blog posts inspired by today about history of food and agriculture, health, resources for making changes in your own life and some highlights from Pollan's funny-man food act. I leave you with a quote from his opening remarks.

"Cereal was Americas first connivence food reducing cooking time and replacing breakfast foods such as eggs and bacon... here is a box of cereal food bars, complete with added fiber, antioxidants plus a layer of synthetic milk. Because we apparently want to eat cereal so badly we cannot wait 2 minuets to take the milk out of the fridge and add it to our bowl."

Apologies for bad grammar, and crappy pictures. Its nearly midnight and its been a long day!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The Comfort of Home

If you have ever seen my house you know I live in a small one. And that is by no accident. I love the simplicity and comfort of a small house. For starters there is no room for stuff. "Stuff" in my mind are the things that we collect along the way that fill the rooms of our houses but have no emotional value or practical purpose. If your house is small you don't feel the uncontrollable urge to fill it. By not feeling the need to fill, you are not only saving money, but limiting the amount of items that you carry throughout your life to things that really mean something to you. And that in itself can greatly reduce stress.

Small houses also automatically greatly reduce your carbon footprint. As already stated you are not consuming as many products for lack of space. But you are also spending less energy on heating and electricity costs. You use less chemicals to clean the house because there is physically less space that needs cleaned. This not only reduces the amount of money spent and waste spent but also reduces the amount of your personal time spent picking up the limited number of items you have accumulated in a smaller amount of space. See what I am getting at here? Less stuff, more money, more time, happier you.

Below are some pictures of little houses that make me giddy. I love small houses in the city, but I go crazy for small houses in wide open spaces. Maybe it’s the juxtaposition between small comforts and wild nature. Maybe it me longing for my childhood. Maybe it’s the reality that none of these places are anywhere near an office building and being there would mean I am free from the constraints of a normal job. Whatever it is, they are always beautiful. And they always make me dream sweet dreams of freedom, and fresh air.

All pictures re-blogged from

Friday, April 8, 2011

Restructured Meat

I was reading before my chemistry class the other day and I came across a new term, “restructured meat”. I can assume what this might mean, but was curious what the FDA considered restructured, what it included, how it was done and what if any dangers there are to it. In my investigation I found that locating a definition was a little more difficult that I had expected. In fact entering this term into a search engine produced a number of results that looked more technical  and a whole lot less consumer friendly that I was hoping for. And so my quest began.

The most frightening discovery was actually my first. The first link I clicked was some information on the background of the invention of restructured meat. The PDF included a list registered patents for various restructured meat products. “U.S Patent Application Publication No. 2002/0048622 to Baarada…[a] composite meat product(s) formed using raw trimmed meat which is macerated and marinated…U.S. Pat. No. 4,539,210 discloses restricted meat products formed using meat chunks and fat particles…U.S. Pat. No. 4,377,597 discloses a restructured meat product designed to resemble roast beef…made of beef strips and chunks, and chopped beef binder.” As well as patent numbers “5,690,989, 5,631,035 5,472,725, 5,100,680, 4,874,623, 5,017,393, 4,975,294, 4,927,661, 4,820,535, 4,810,514, 4,731,906, 4,610,844, 4,728,524, 4,603,053, 4,363,822, 4,258,068, 4,210,677, 4,072,763, 4,036,997, 3,911,154, 3,852,507, 3,769,036, 3,683,793, and 3,573,062” 1. So patent nightmare aside, I still hadn’t figured out what this product really was. While a number of sites told me the benefits of restructured meats. One can add nuts to a meat product to help fight off cardiovascular disease2. Help cut costs by adding fillers such as cellulose, which most fast food restaurants do and which is why your quarter pounder is so cheap. One site even called restructured meats an art3.

I hit the jackpot, when I clicked on an article on the Food Product Design site.. It seems restructure meats is a term that covers all manner of items. From sausage and ground meats to lunch meat and fish sticks. Basically anything that doesn’t go from animal to package without any intervention other than simple butchering. So most of the meat products you see in the grocery store. From what I can tell this includes anything in the deli section, all prepared and frozen meals, jerky, prepared seafood such as grocery store sushi, salads and seafood sandwiches, pet treats and of course the obvious ground meats and sausages. What it excludes, seems to be fairly limited. If it has skin, bones and vessels still intact you are looking at non structured meat. Preparation depends entirely on the product. For ground meats and sausages, meat is separated from bones and other tissues, massaged, ground, sometimes mixed with additives or spices and then packaged.  Turkey lunch meats, are mechanically separated from the bone, marinated and injected with salt water, tumble dried, injected with additives and softeners to break apart proteins,  vacuum sealed in a plastic sleeve, cooked and rolled out to your local supermarket for easy uniform lunch meat slicing. Surimi (fake seafood) is probably the most frightening. It was actually once real seafood. Manufacturing companies start with cheep or what my family would call “garbage fish” such as low grade cod or hake. It is then de-skinned, boned and gutted. The meat product is then washed (which takes away almost all of the nutritional value a person gets from eating seafood in the first place), mixed with additives, dies and flavors, molded into a desired shape, cooked and painted to resemble most commonly, crab meat. The resulting product is served in grocery stores in seafood sandwiches, salads and sushi and has a shelf life of about 4 years. It really is an art.

As far as I know restructured meats do not have to disclose added ingredients beyond “fillers” or “additives” . In my mind this is not acceptable, especially with a growing number of food allergies among consumers. People should know if soy or dairy proteins are going into their meat products. And people suffering from nut allergies should definitely know if their hamburger is going to send them to the hospital. But the labeling battle is a constant fight between manufactures, regulatory organization and consumers. I still am unconvinced that these products are necessarily good for you, but allergies aside I doubt eating lunch meat is going to kill you. I would think a person would suffer from eating large quantities of animal proteins far before they would suffer any consequences from eating the additives put into some of them. I personally have always been grossed out by lunch meats, and prepared frozen meat meals. I have always preferred buying a whole chicken, cooking it and trimming it myself as it is much cheaper than buying piece-meal prepared chicken parts. But I am certainly not going to stop buying delicious locally prepared sausages for barbequing in the summer. These decisions are a matter of personal preference, I am not here to persuade you one way or another.  Just like any other eating decision, in the end it is your own.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Food Policy - Make Some Noise

Have something to say about food production or safety say it to the people who make up the rules. Yes the US is a large place, yes you are but one person among millions but chances are you aren’t the only person who feels a certain way about what you eat, and how its produced. There are a number of books on food policy and safety that can explain things a heck of a lot better than I can. Many of them I have read and the one thing that has really stuck out in my mind is, when it comes to consumer safety the squeaky wheel really does get the grease. You make enough noise they have to hear you and will have to do something about it. There have been a number of times in the past the lobbyist and special interest groups have tried to destroy the Organics Regulations, but thanks to a whole lot of loud individuals they are still being rigorously maintained. If this is something you really care about do the research, find some supporting evidence, get a group of people together and make some noise where it really counts. Below is some information to get you started.

The USDA or  the United States Department of Agriculture was established in May 15, 1862. It is a federal executive department which develops and executes federal policy on farming, agriculture and food. Its main focus is to support and meet the needs of farmers and ranchers. They also try to promote agriculture trade as well as production. The name in charge, a Mr. Tom Vilsack the Secretary of Agriculture, his Deputy Secretary of Agriculture is Ms. Kathleen Merrigan. The USDA can be contacted at 1301 Independence Ave SW, Washington, DC., the USDA web site can be found here.

The FDA or Food and Drug Administration is the agency who agenda seems a tad more in line with consumers. They are an agency of the United States Department of Health and Human Services (see below for more information). The FDA is responsible for “protecting and promoting public health through regulation and supervision of food safety, tobacco products, dietary supplements, prescription and over the counter pharmaceutical drugs, vaccines, biopharmaceuticals, blood transfusions, medical devices, electromagnetic radiation, veterinary products and cosmetics”. This all sounds great, but sadly the FDA is stretched so thin for resources that the work they do can barley touch all the point of regulation that they really should be doing. When testing is done on products, they are done quickly, with a very small sample size and often very little follow through. This isn’t necessarily the fault of the organization. As they are a branched department of the federal government, federal spending cuts deeply hurt their ability to do the job that is needed and lobbyists have a lot of say over the amount of funding given to the organization. And since the lobbyists are large corporate commodity farms, and food processors it is a constant battle to do the job they are meant to do. The FDA is headquarter at 10903 New Hampshire Ave, Silver Springs, MD 20903. And the Current Commissioner since 2009 is Dr. Margret A. Hamburg. web site can be found here. 

The FDA works in conjunction with a number of committees to do its best to protect public interests, the most important to consumers however is the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). An independent government agency which was created by the 1972 Consumer Product Safety Act. This organization also has a large scope of consumer interest, anything we consume they help regulate or at least try to. Mostly though they are the ones responsible for banning and holding those accountable for harmful consumer products. I seem to be having an especially difficult time finding their mailing address but they are located in Bethesda Maryland, and the current head of the agency is Inez Moore Tenenbaum, the CPSC web site can be found here.

The United States Department of Health and Human Resources is a cabinet department. Who claim their goal is to protect the health of all Americans and provide essential human services. This department has close ties with The United States Public Health Service (PHS). And the United States Public Health Services Commissioned Corps which is headed up by the Surgeon General. The cabinet department is located in the Hubert H. Humphrey Building in Washington DC. and is headed up by Kathleen Sebelius and Bill Corr., the HHS web site can be found here.

Both the USDA wrote and maintains the rules of Organic Farming and the FDA is responsible for testing and certifying that organics are indeed what they say they are. The Federal Organic Certification Standards can be found here.

Friday, April 1, 2011


Depsite Portland being  a good two weeks into spring, today is the first day I have really felt it. I had to drag myself back into my building after lunch, I was litterally seconds away from skipping and clicking my heals back home for a little fun in the sun. But duty calls and it also pays the bills. Looking forward to my run with boyfriend afterwork and the chance to get a little fresh air and sunlight. Happy friday all!!!! Get out there and enjoy the weather, we all know it wont last long.

All pictures taken by me last spring, cant wait to go take more!