Tag Archives: New York Times

The Plans of Two Leading Ladies.

I chose this sexy picture of Alicia Silverstone because I know that the folks at PeTA don't care about copyright infringement. And because it's a well composed photo? O.k. so my feminist mind knows that this is questionable. Please forgive me.

I have a thing for Alicia Silverstone. Ever since her leading role in the 90s film classic “Clueless” I have had eyes for her. Kerri doesn’t seem to mind, as she knows that nothing will ever come of it, but when I suggest inviting Alicia to our book release party Kerri’s eyes burn with anger. Not because she’s jealous, but because she’s worried that I might actually do it. While I joke about having a thing for Alicia, my track record for actually attempting goofy stuff is pretty strong.

However, lately its been Kerri who has been talking a lot about Ms. Silverstone. See, like us, Alicia is vegan, and luckily for us she just released a new book called “The Kind Diet”. In it, Silverstone outlines her idea of a superhero meal plan, and for the last couple of weeks Kerri has been experimenting with several concoctions from this New York Times bestseller. Upon first glance it is obvious that her plan is unlike other trendy diet books.

I mean, really, who eats miso soup and collard greens for breakfast?

While many of the meals call for expensive ingredients that are outrageous given our thrifty approach to eating, there are several items that we will continue to make. Like pumpkin seeds toasted with soy sauce as a quick snack, and the krispy brown rice treats made with brown rice syrup and peanut butter for dessert (easy and terribly addicting).

And today, I would have readily traded my oatmeal for some miso and greens topped with ume plum vinegar, or some fried mochi. While we have yet to make a lot of Alicia’s recipes, our time trying out these new meals was well spent, and we’re finally getting to the end of the fresh vegetables that overstocked our fridge; I don’t think I’d ever seen so many plants in there before. Additionally, Alicia has launched a Web site to accompany the growing community of folks who are looking to eat a healthy, and considered diet.

Some of these healthful meals would be perfect for families, and might even be of use for those looking to curb childhood obesity. People like first lady Michelle Obama.

This leading lady has decided to start a national initiative on the issue, and we couldn’t be more pleased. These efforts are absolutely essential, especially now that companies can legally line the pockets of politicians, which might just lead to a political landscape where even more power is wielded  by private economic interests instead of by the will of the people. Just a thought. Maybe the Supreme Court was having a “clueless” moment.

So this week we commend the plans of these two leading ladies, and give a huge thumbs down to the Supreme Court’s decision regarding corporate influence.

Only nine more days until the book comes out. Pre-order now by clicking a link on the right!

– Christopher

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Christopher Speaks Up in New York Times “Room For Debate”

A recent article about food stamps in the New York Times created a flurry of fascinating comments on the New York Times website last week, and to further the discussion, the opinion editors asked six different people to contribute a piece for their “Room For Debate” section. The piece itself was supposed to be limited to 250 words, making it difficult to choose what to write about (we devoted a whole section to food stamps in our book). So I chose to focus mainly on the challenges that people in our area face, and to mildly ignore the word count restriction by about a hundred words. I figured that other writers would say many of the things that I wanted to (which they did), and thus decided to write about something that none of them would: San Diego.

Please take a minute to read all of the entries. It is an honor to have my voice next to political food legend Marion Nestle, and I hope that you’ll enjoy the discussion.

– Christopher

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Stephanie Smith, Differences in Aid, and Paul Farmer.

The conversation about food has been both lively and varied this week. Last weekend the New York Times released a feature about Stephanie Smith, a 22-year-old dance teacher whose life has been ruined as a result of eating a hamburger tainted with E. Coli 0157. This moving and educational account of the horror that results from willy-nilly food safety protocols, is a powerful reminder of how far we have to go in order to protect our food supply and our citizens. When asked to comment about meat companies like Cargill, where the meat was traced back to, Smith recounts in the video feature that accompanies the article, “I don’t know how these people sleep at night.”

While Kerri and I are vegan, and don’t eat meat, both of us were moved to sorrow and anger over what happened to this young woman. At the same time, we also, as always, understand the pain and suffering endured by the animal that was served to her. This situation was a double loss, both for the cow, and for Smith as well. As a result of reading this story, it was hard to feel sympathy for the “pain” of those who see the possibility of McDonald’s moving into the Louvre. At the same time, I totally understand their fury about the fact that fast food chain could move into the home of the Mona Lisa.

Yet, towards the end of the week, there was reason to rejoice as the House of Representatives approved an agriculture bill that increased funding for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (formerly Food Stamps) by $4.3 billion dollars, as well adding $400 million dollars to the Women, Infant, Children feeding program (WIC), and to school aid and child care nutrition programs, who saw an increase of $1.9 billion dollars. We talk about the importance of programs like SNAP in our forthcoming book, and the challenges facing those in poverty within our country. There are those who exploit these federal assistance programs, like an extraordinary example this week where booze, porn, and viagra were being purchased, but the actual fraud rate is minimal (between 2 and 4 percent).

However, while there are 36 million people in the United States who are in need of assistance (12 percent of the population), there are billions of people around the world who have it much worse. Wealthy countries like the U.S., who give the most food aid to poorer nations, have slashed the amount they’re giving to the World Food Programme, leaving the United Nations feeding program about $2 billion dollars short. This means that 40 million people will be directly affected in the coming weeks. Josette Sheeran, head of the WFP at the UN told The Observer, that this could be the “loss of a generation” of children to malnutrition, food riots and political destabilisation. “We are facing a silent tsunami,” Sheeran said. One that she says we haven’t seen since the 1970s.

While this reality is hard to comprehend, Kerri and I were reminded on Thursday that there is hope. We had the chance to hear humanitarian and physician Paul Farmer speak on Thursday, and his level of commitment to those living in poverty across the world over the last 27 years was nothing short of inspiring. For those who have the chance to read “Mountains Beyond Mountains,” Tracy Kidder’s account of Dr. Farmer’s work in Haiti, Peru, and Russia, it is a fascinating and engaging reminder that the most important question that we can ask ourselves is this: How can I use my life to improve the world around me?

– Christopher

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New York Times Lesson Plan that includes us!

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While it’s taken us a while to find out about this, it’s still relevant. So, for all of the teachers out there, here’s the lesson plan that The New York Times Learning Network designed concerning eating and economics, and of course, it includes our blog/project.

As teachers, we were flattered to find out about this, and look forward to including more lessons for teachers when the book comes out! If you are a teacher, and already have lessons about eating and economics, or the food system, please get in touch if you’re interested in sharing.

– Christopher

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“S” is for Sugar.

One of the ads placed in New York Times in an effort to educate people about how soda can affect weight gain.

One of the ads placed in New York Times in an effort to educate people about how soda can affect weight gain.

Christopher and I both suffer from a love of chocolate. While we generally try to eat healthfully, this morning we enjoyed a breakfast of chocolate chip pancakes. There are many occasions when after dinner, one of use will comment that we could go for some of the dark sweet stuff. However, we know this about ourselves, and for the most part limit the amount of sweets in our home.

It seems that limiting our sugar intake, while some evenings can be a bummer, is a good choice, not just for us, but for families with children as well. A long-term study out of the U.K., that included 17,000 people, suggests that people who eat candy daily as children, may have an increased chance of committing acts of violence as adults. I hope someone lets Britany Spears know.

I don’t know if she gives her kids candy daily, but she was reported by some gossip sites to have spent $3,000 on candy in a single afternoon (much of that said to be for lollipops for her backup dancers) at the Sugar Factory in Las Vegas. Unfortunately, candy and sugar consumption in children has become such a concern, that some school districts are having to change policies to combat poor eating habits.

In an effort to help teach and reinforce healthy eating habits, New York City Schools have placed a ban on bake sales. This is in addition to limiting what can be sold through vending machines. Many states have similar legislation. A few years ago, California banned sodas in schools, and has limited items that can be sold to students based in part on the fat and sugar contents of the items. While some of the students are upset about the ban on bake sales due to the loss of revenue for club and athletic activities (bake sales are limited to once a month and only after the lunch period), the effort hopes to address the obesity issues many children face, and additionally researchers have found a correlation between health and  performance on tests.

However, not everyone supports changes such as these. The Center for Consumer Freedom, an organization funded by 100 companies, believes that efforts to educate people about their food choices and healthy eating is the work of “food police” trying to limit our freedom. They have gone as far as to make television ads that tout the benefits of corn syrup as “just like sugar,” and run ads in the New York Times that claim that people are trying to control our individual food choices by asking “Are you too stupid to make your own food choices?” Of course, they have no complaints about companies who are telling us to eat their food products.

The bottom-line is that people are allowed to eat what they choose. Efforts such as the bake sale ban, and the PSAs about the risks of high sugar diets are working to ensure that people understand the outcomes of such diets. Encouraging better eating habits is necessary to increase the health of our nation’s people, and apparently, we need such messages.

This week an NPR article discussed a report released by the CDC which shows that only one-third of American adults are eating the recommended servings of fruits (and they specify not fruit juice), and only 27 percent are eating the daily recommended servings of (not-fried) vegetables. The percentages decrease for teens. Perhaps the fact that they found that only one in five middle and high schools had fruits (not juice) and non-fried vegetables available to students is a signal that we’re not doing the best job modeling healthy eating habits.

Maybe we can learn from First Lady Michelle Obama’s scheduled appearance on Sesame Street, a follow up to her previous visit, for the November 10th kick off (of the show’s 40th anniversary) when she will teach about the importance (and tastiness) of vegetables while talking about gardening.

Cheers to eating more veggies,

Kerri

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Food Safety, Healthcare, and TeaBagger Experiment?

 talk of "big government" is cliche. The government has to be "big" in order to serve 300 million people. Both sides are guilty of big spending. Image courtesy of McClatchy News Services.

All this talk of "big government" is cliche. The government has to be "big" in order to serve 300 million people. Both sides are guilty of big spending. It's our country, we have to pay for it somehow, even when the economy is in the toilet. Image courtesy of McClatchy News Services.

Last week when Kerri went to collect our produce from our local CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) pick-up point, it simply wasn’t there. Our name was on the list, but our box was missing. I put a call into Be Wise Ranch (our farm) and left a pleasant, but uncertain message wondering where our food had gone. It’s been a week and we still haven’t heard back from them, and our vegetable drawer remains empty. However, with school starting, and plenty to witness in the public arena, we’ve been more relaxed about (or at least distracted from) the disappearance of our lettuce.

On Friday, the Department of Health and Human Services launched a new website for the public to learn more about food safety issues, and while we’d like to see some type of new agency dedicated specifically to these issues, for now an online resource was the least they could do. We’re not complaining, in fact, we’re very pleased by this new site, but it doesn’t suffice in the face of our fractured food safety system. Yet, while food safety is one of the most important concerns of our day, the launch of this site was easily overshadowed by the on-going healthcare debate, the centerpiece of President Obama’s domestic agenda.

While the “teabaggers” (or mostly right-wing anti-Obamaphytes posing as “real” Americans) marched on Washington today with a grab bag of conservative talking points (I saw signs proclaiming “Jesus Saves”, “Say No to Socialism”, and even a few confederate flags), the most important thing that Americans can do to take a stand on issues of healthcare is to start eating well, and to get involved in the struggle for food justice.

Regardless of where you stand politically, what you eat plays a larger role in your overall health than who provides your healthcare, or how much it costs. Healthcare is important. That being said, Michael Pollan also had an interesting piece in the New York Times a few days ago further strengthening the link between these two issues.

This march on Washington, while cathartic for the folks involved, will do little to shape the national debate on healthcare. Obama’s speech in Minneapolis had a more focused and memorable ring to it with his “Fire it Up!” and “Ready to Go!” What I’m waiting for is for one of these “teabaggers” to ante up and stop paying taxes altogether. I secretly hope that they document it in a blog, and write a book, as that seems like a great way for others to connect with what the issues are for those involved.

I wonder if this hypothetical experiment would include not using any government services paid for by taxes (that would only seem fair), which would mean: no mail, no driving (your license, and your streets are managed by the government!), no flying (darn that FAA!), no t.v. or radio (down with the FCC!), no sending the kids to get a free public education (no more liberal indoctrination!), no federal student aid, no medicare or medicaid, no eating food that comes from a place that is safety checked by the government (hunger strike!), no calling the police or fire department in an emergency, no use of national parks or monuments, no food for the needy (let them starve!) and of course, no supporting the troops. DOWN WITH BIG GOVERNMENT! I think a blog and book of this nature would be far better than ours. At the very least, it would be more interesting than hearing about our missing produce…

Any takers?

– Christopher

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Our (not so secret) Garden.

There are 25 tomatoes on this plant. She counted; twice. Other plants include basil, arugula, bell peppers, beans, onions, cucumbers, lettuce, bok choy, chives, kale, chard, and cherry tomatoes.

There are 25 tomatoes on this plant. She counted; twice. Other plants include basil, arugula, bell peppers, beans, onions, cucumbers, lettuce, bok choy, chives, kale, chard, and cherry tomatoes. Photo by Christopher Greenslate.

Every time I walk out the front door, I have to stop and examine what is going on in my garden. It seems that every time I look, something new is happening. Yesterday I found a fully grown green bean on a plant that I did not even know was producing yet. Aside from arugula, that was the first thing that I have ever grown from seed to something edible. I ran in the house to show Christopher and he laughed at how excited I was by a bean. Despite the fact that our lives do not resemble Walden Pond, he invoked Thoreau to tell me that I now “know beans.”

It is almost magical to see something come from such a small seed. We miss this when buying our produce from a grocery store. I have had the great fortune of having a few relatives with green thumbs who I can look up to.  My grandpa was a fantastic gardener.  Every year he used all the space in his small backyard to grow his favorites corn, tomatoes, strawberries and beans to name a few. Just last year he planted a peach tree that he said should start producing in a year or two.  I’m sure those will be turned into one of my grandma’s famous peach cobblers or turnovers that my grandpa’s sweet tooth couldn’t resist.  Several times through out the summer months grandpa would just drop by to bring a bag of beans or tomatoes.

My mom’s aunt, my great aunt Lily, has one of the most amazing yards I have ever seen, including a small orchard where she grew apricots, kiwi, oranges, and pomegranates among others. Dinners at her house included an abundance of fresh vegetables from her garden. I remember a particular soup that she made with beans and an assortment of greens. It was delicious. However, she frightened my sisters and me away from eating it by claiming in her booming voice that it was good for us  and would put hair on our chests; not something little girls want to hear.  We ate her home canned jams and jellies all year long. At 85 years old, she does not do quite as much as she used to, but she has not stopped yet.

As I look at my small garden with high hopes, I realize that I have not quite reached the heights of my family gardeners, but I have something to aspire to. My seventeen pots don’t create too much work, but I find my self finding reasons to check on the progress several times a day. We got some much needed rain it last night so now I don’t get to water today; it’s a little disappointing.

It has cost me a little bit of money to start up my garden, but now that I’ve got it going the seeds are not expensive. I’ve even gotten to the point where I am starting seeds to give to friends who are also planning gardens.

In other news, an article in the New York Times came out yesterday that discusses how “Real Food Can Be Cheaper Than Junk Food.”  The author mentions two websites worth checking out, cookforgood.com and lavidalocavore.org. Christopher and I are looking forward to trying out some recipes from Cook for Good.

Have a great week!

Kerri

P.S. For some reason Christopher thought the film festival was this weekend, but it is next weekend. It will be in his post next week.

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Real Time, Real Food, Real Change.

Real change in the cost of healthy eating.

Real change in the cost of healthy eating.

Kerri has had a birthday. As a surprise, her family has come down to visit for the weekend. Last night we had tickets to be part of the studio audience at CBS Television City in Hollywood for “Real Time with Bill Maher.” Not only was it neat to be on set in the same studio where “The Price is Right” was filmed for most of its’ television history, it was fantastic to see Nobel Peace Prize recipient Muhammad Yunus, founder of Grameen Bank and the micro-credit model. This is a man who has changed the world. He has worked tirelessly to bring people out of poverty, mainly through providing women with a way to be economically self-sufficient.

It was also great to see grammy nominated rapper M.I.A. speak out about what has been happening in Sri Lanka with the Tamil people (she escaped in 1984).

After the show we went around the block to eat at Real Food Daily, a wonderful restaurant in West Hollywood that serves organic vegan food that is both hearty and elegant. However, I fretted as the bill approached our table. This was the first meal that Kerri and I have eaten out since we finished our most recent experiment in the economics of eating. It was not cheap. For what we paid to eat, we could have bought groceries for two weeks. But it was her birthday, her family is visiting (which is rare), and the food was exquisite; a special occassion that let me justify the expense.

This morning while Kerri is making breakfast for all of us, McVegan Muffins, the herbivore’s equivalent of a fast-food legend, I found myself both exhiliarated and overwhelmed by the enormity of this conversation about food. When we started this journey, with the challenge of eating on a dollar a day, we had no idea that this dialogue would become our lives. We had no idea how changed we would be. The very rituals of our life have been re-shaped by our experiences.

Parts of this quest have been greatly enhanced by a few different factors. The first is the amount of reading that we have been doing. We read about food every day, and I finish a book on the subject once a week. As result, I would like to share with our readers a couple of blogs that I find helpful. The first is “Food Politics” by Marion Nestle (where I found today’s graphic), and the second is from Food First (an institute for food and development policy). Both are updated frequently with top notch information for those who find themselves strung-out on the ever changing menu of topics related to this subject.

In fact, as a result of the work done by Food First I would like to encourage you to click here to sign a petition that advocates for stripping the biotech research provisions component from bill SB 384. According to Food First, “This attachment to SB 384 is a stealth giveaway to agribusiness in the name of feeding the world’s poor. What it will really do is destroy the ability of poor farmers to feed themselves throughout the global south.”

Next week look forward to our take on a couple new films that will be screened at the Encinitas Environmental Film Festival. Both are about food. The first is called “Homegrown Revolution” and the second, by Sofia Joanes, is called “Fresh.” Thanks to one of our readers for the suggestion.

For now we’re off to the beach.

– Christopher

P.S. There was an interesting artcle in the New York Times today about college students who are headed off for organic summer jobs…

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Buy me some peanuts and Cracker Jacks?

take-me-out-to-the-ball-game-791233

Christopher has lived in the San Diego area for most of his life. During that time he has been to countless Padres games and swears he has never seen them win.  Yesterday, which happened to be the day after we ended our second project, we headed down to the park once again to root for the Padres. They won.  I think I was more excited than Christopher was.

The tickets were free, so we saved some money there, but we had an emergency with our kitty (that led to a trip to the vet and now the joy of tackling her twice a day to give her oral and topical antibiotics), and ran out of time to eat before we had to leave the house.  Leaving when we did, we still missed the the top of the first.

We decided to eat at the park, knowing that it would be an expensive meal. We were right.  I went to get us food during the top of the 3rd. Christopher handed me $15 and I laughed. He forked over another $20. I figured I would be bringing back change.

As I approached the counter I debated what to get. Due to the economy and the Padres low attendance, the stadium has a meal deal: 5 for $5. With that you can get a hot dog or veggie dog, peanuts, popcorn, a cookie and a small soda (16 oz). For $10 you can substitute a draft beer for the soda.

I knew I wanted a beer, which is always overpriced at games, and we both wanted two veggie dogs, because they are so small. Neither of us would eat the cookies and Christopher had told me twice that he wanted a pretzel, so I figured that was an important item. I felt silly as I agonized over what to do. How much would it cost to get two extra veggie dogs? Would Christopher still want a pretzel if  I came back with all the rest? What if I brought back the goods and he didn’t want popcorn and peanuts? Did I want peanuts?

We were both pretty hungry and I didn’t want to mess it up.  I left my phone in my purse which Christopher was watching, so I couldn’t phone a friend (Christopher) for help. Despite the low attendance (which was still over 27,000 people), the line was long and I was almost up to the front. Did I really want to trek back to the seats and get in line all over again?

In the end, I made the choice that I thought would be best. I stuck to our original plan. As soon as the cashier finished ringing me up I wished I had gone with the deal. I am pretty sure that when I handed Christopher his $1.50 in change he felt the same way.

Despite the fact that the stadium is offering reduced prices, an article in Friday’s New York times claims that  wholesale food costs went up in April, while a second article by the same reporter discussed the fact that consumer costs have held steady.  Another article in the business section, also from Friday,  points out that even though prices to the consumer are steady, there are several large food manufacturers which, “concede that they cannot ensure the safety of items -from frozen vegetables to pizzas- and that they are shifting the burden to the consumer.”  It is unclear which ingredients may be responsible, and several items have been recalled this year including six tons of frozen egg rolls.

This made us consider the food from the game.  These companies probably played a role in most, if not all of what we ate, which is probably the case at most ball parks.  It  hit home that  price shouldn’t be our only concern when buying  food.

Kerri

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Change We Can Eat!

corn_with_dollarsA 64 year old man is living in the back of a grocery store and wants recipes from us so that he can make bread with his hot-plate. Kathleen’s  family of five was plunged into 14 months of unemployment and she, “literally wept when milk reached $3 a gallon.” Will Wilson in Anchorage had to quit his job to take care of his son, and the money his wife makes barely covers the utilities. These are people in America. Their stories are documented here as comments throughout our blog, and they are not isolated cases.

Many of you have posted your tips, ideas, and comments about how to cut food costs, all of which are vital for many people who are trying to make ends meet. However, Wilson is smart to point out that, “the government controls everything.” The great majority of us will do what we can to make the best choices available regarding the economics of food, but the policies of our government play a large role in framing how the food system in our country works.

As someone who is staunchly independent when it comes to political affiliation, and sees the two party system as two strands of the business party, I patiently waited for either of the presidential candidates to talk about food. While concerns about health care, foreign policy, and the economy are essential to our progress as a nation, how we feed people should have played a more significant role in the campaign. Quite simply, everyone has to eat in order to survive, and so, few things could be more important than how we feed ourselves.

Around 700k people have visited our little blog, and if that isn’t evidence that this is a crucial conversation to have, just read some of the stories from people around the country (and the globe).

The current system in the United States, overseen by the Department of Agriculure, is actually subsidizing the foods that are the least healthy for us. As Nicholas Kristoff notes in a recent New York Times piece, “The Agriculture Department — and the agriculture committees in Congress — have traditionally been handed over to industrial farming interests by Democrats and Republicans alike. The farm lobby uses that perch to inflict unhealthy food on American children in school-lunch programs, exacerbating our national crisis with diabetes and obesity.”

And this is just part of the problem with how our food system works in the United States.

Kristoff goes on to challenge Obama to pick a new “Secretary of Food” that will represent the interests of 300 million Americans instead of a system that undermines the health of our citizens and our planet. Knowing that we can’t rely solely on politicians to get things done, we must continue this dialogue about food until we have a system that doesn’t force people to make choices between bread and fresh vegetables.

Which is why I have signed the Food Declaration.  It’s starts off…

We, the undersigned, believe that a healthy food system is necessary to meet the urgent challenges of our time. Behind us stands a half-century of industrial food production, underwritten by cheap fossil fuels, abundant land and water resources, and a drive to maximize the global harvest of cheap calories. Ahead lie rising energy and food costs, a changing climate, declining water supplies, a growing population, and the paradox of widespread hunger and obesity.”

It doesn’t matter where you stand politically, the future of food depends on what we do right now.

– Christopher

P.S. If you have a library card, I also recommend the book “Ishmael” by Daniel Quinn, as it provides some interesting ways of looking at the implications of the agricultural revolution.

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