Monday, March 29, 2010

Eating Through The Meat...

Slowly, but surely, we are getting through the meat in our house one meal at a time. I am trying to do the right thing in terms of waste and NOT throw away what we have already purchased. Since we are members at CostCo, this has been no small feat to get through restaurant-sized bags of boneless, skinless chicken breasts, scallops, Ahai Tuna Steaks, Salmon and what was left of some Flounder. I feel as though I can finally see the end of this and begin, once again, to look forward to a new path. However, this waiting period has given me time to think about our plans, come up with some pretty concrete steps in the right direction, and to give us things to think about in terms of possible issues for our future with this, IF we are successful.

1. PLANS - Start small. See if we can find 'healthier" meat while we figure out not-meat alternatives we actually like. Be realistic, not too idealistic; this is a life changer and we have to find a way to fit it into our reality, otherwise it will not last.

2. CONCRETE STEPS - This week my husband and I will be taking our first trip to one of our local farms to possibly buy chicken and eggs along with some produce. In addition, we agreed that we should also take a trip to a Whole Foods Market to see if we feel they have anything of value to us that may be worth a return visit. (I definitely need to restock my quinoa stash, I remember how difficult it was for me to find, and I am pretty sure they have it there.) Also, there is a year-long farmer's market pretty close by that I have not taken advantage of (I did not realize it was YEAR ROUND!), so I hope to swing by that this week as well.
About a week ago I purchased a book I have been wanting for over a month, at least: The Conscious Cook. It is an actual book (no .pdf or audio on this one...) so it is slow-going, but I think there is a lot of potential for me to learn from. In short, it is a vegan cookbook, but what I like is how is takes time to describe various grains, proteins, et cetera and gives little ignorant me a little synopsis on their cool-factors.

3. POSSIBLE ISSUES - Just one word sums it up fine I think: family. What happens if you make this commitment, you go over to your in-law's house and, based on your new lifestyle, you suddenly can not eat that which you have eaten for years? Or, the more terrifying prospect for my family: I cook BOTH Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners for everyone - do I still serve turkey on those nights of food celebration? In other words, do I expose those I love to my beliefs in a way that compromises their own food choices and/or selections, or do I compromise my own in their presence? And if I choose to compromise, am I not defeating the purpose of the entire act? ...Anyway, these are very big questions for a later blog, when I am steeped in my decision and confirmed in my resolutions about my meals.

For now, I am going to grab The Conscious Cook again and see how much I can learn before bedtime without making myself to hungry (is it wise to read a cookbook before bed??).

Friday, March 19, 2010

Maybe Mom Was Right

"Eat your veggies!" you hear moms sing-songing the phrase everywhere, but maybe, just maybe it is that simple. I finally finished the book Eating Animals (it was a rough week, headache-wise, even for an audiobook), and I am left thinking that maybe vegetarian is the way to go for me. Was that Foer's intention with his book? Probably. Nonetheless, in my current state, I am left with little ammunition to argue with. There are three things I know about myself, that make me an especially weak opponent:

1. I strive to do right by my planet - I recycle, I am conscious of wall warts, I try to limit use of electricity, water and other utilities. I use a refillable water bottle. I planted a ginko biloba tree in my backyard in support of Million Trees NYC ( last year. So what about my food? How do I argue the numbers (I am a math teacher after all!): it takes approximately 26 calories of grain feed, to produce 1 calorie of meat. How can I argue that all of the land devoted to feed for livestock could be devoted to food for the hungry? What about the toxic fumes, waste and land created by factory farms?

2. I love animals - I have two dogs and two fish of my own right now. My neighbors bring me the hurt duck, the seagull caught in plastic, the baby duckling separated from its mother... I am the crazy girl that chased a wild sparrow around her kitchen after nursing it back to health. In fact, I am also the one who, with her husband, protected baby possums in the backyard from tht their own hunting beagles by creating safe-havens and, at one point, even standing guard, armed with flashlights. I am the girl who cried when she hit a bird that flew into the hood of her car on a highway. Then, I ask you, who am I to be selective about that compassion and love of animals? THIS is question of my conscience that makes this seem like a simple decision. If I could trust that meat was coming to me in some sort of natural way, and, not produced for me, perhaps it would not be as simple a decision, but that is not the case, is it?

3. I want to be healthy - This is not something that I am right now, sadly, but it is something I once was and it was wonderful. I want it back. I am not suggesting that all meat is bad for all people, but I think, right now, it might not be so great for me. It is easy and convenient for me, but not my best option. The meat I am eating right now (because everything I have in my house is some product of some factory farming), is not the quality of food my body needs - it has been exposed to antibiotics, disease and, if I truly wish to look at all energies possibly influencing me, the meat has been exposed to some seriously bad chi! How do I, who has been unable to work a full day's work all this week, who can no longer read, drive or plan to have children the way she would be doing right now, how does this obviously unhealthy person have the right to argue that what she's been doing all along is perfectly fine? Why not try something dramatically different?

So, while the decision may be an easy one, the actual undertaking seems nearly impossible. I am not sure where to begin, or when to begin (while RIGHT NOW seems like the obvious choice, I still can't bring myself to trashing all of the meat in the house). I guess it is time for me to research a transition plan for me.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

BIG Questions... with MY Answer, so far

So while I am home sick (again!) today, I am thinking about lots of food conversations I had at work yesterday and over the remainder of my weekend (well, as much as one can think about things after waking up at 2pm!). Lots of information has been shared, lots of questions have been asked and in the process both my curiosity and skepticism have been piqued again... One thing keeps itching at me and clawing at me: being healthy and eating is becoming a pretty popular topic in this country as of late and because of that some "healthy" food options are becoming more readily available to the public as a whole. You may be asking, "Nicole, what is wrong with that?" and, at first, I would have said, "Nothing, that's great," but as I said, my inner skeptic has been wakened.

An example: bison meat/bison burgers. My husband LOVES burgers, I mean really, loves them and will order them anywhere. In fact, one of the signs to me that he was truly growing as a person was the first time the two of us went on a date, there was a burger on the menu, and he opted to order something else - it was a big deal for him. Anyway, while they are not always his first choice, they are still one of his comfort foods, so when he learned he had a high cholesterol, he was a little upset... until he read about bison burgers. He tried them, liked them, and has been happy with his substitution. Here is what, unprompted by any conversations of my recent skepticisms, my husband said to me last night, "You know bison burger? Well, I can get that just about anywhere now - health food restaurants, but also diners - all types of restaurants have it on their menus. Do you think that bison are getting treated like the other cattle because they are so popular?" And I thought... that's a really good damn question.

To piggyback this statement - what about soy? Not only has it always been a mainstay in the litany of ingredients on the sides of many of our packaged foods, but now it has been lauded as the key to the health and longevity of those in the Orient. We heard the stories, we wanted to try soy for ourselves, now it is everywhere - soy milks, soy ice creams, tofu, soy nuts, edamame I am sure the list goes on. Was it this level of demand that allowed/allows the GMO (Genetically Modified Organism to continue to be processed?

So, the big questions these ideas (and others) keep swirling in my head:
  • how do you know when your "healthy" food has taken an unnatural turn?
  • who can you trust to ask about how to use your purchasing power as what I like to call a "capitalist vote" by BUYING the right kinds of products? AND
  • (scary question) when does the "capitalist vote" actually work against progress by making demand so high on the right product that a BIG business comes in, buys it up, takes it over and tries to ruin it?
I am thinking, still, that my one true power remains in going to a family farm to buy my products. In this way I am using my capitalist vote ($$$) to support not only a product, but a system.

If you have any other ideas, I would love to hear/read them!

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Baby Steps Toward a Solution

Food, Inc.A number of weeks ago, a friend of mine, Jen, who had started to put the pieces together about my preoccupations (probably after entirely too many conversations about food), highly recommended that I see the movie Food, Inc.

In fact, I believe she said I needed to see it.

I believed her, and did want to see it right away, but without being able to drive anymore due to my vision impairment, I often feel guilty about asking my husband to drive me here and there even if it is only to the video store! Anyway, last night I had an epiphany: I have Apple TV - I can watch Food, Inc. without going anywhere. Needless to say, that is what I (and very quickly WE) did.

Eating AnimalsI didn't want to tell my husband, "You NEED to watch this," especially since I have been torturing him with various sound clips from my Eating Animals audiobook all week, so I just planned on watching the film alone. My husband was engrossed in his reading as I began the film, but approximately five minutes into it I heard him say,

"Wait a minute... What?"

His book was closed, placed down on the ottoman and not touched again until after the movie. We were both engrossed (and maybe I should emphasize the "grossed" part of that word) through and through. Everything I had been reading about over the years had been brought to life in film with farmers, families and pictures, moving pictures to support it all. At the completion of watching it all, I was overcome. I almost blogged again last night, but then I realized - I had much more important things to do.

I began first with spreading the word. I am a bit of a Facebook junkie, so I posted a link to the film's site and stated to all of my Facebook friends,
"If you eat in the USA, then you must see this."

I also explored the film's website for myself to see what they had on there - I was thrilled, of course, to find out they have a companion book. I futzed around on the site reading this and that, making a mental reading list for the future and began thinking about HOW I was going eat, HOW I was going to shop for food and if I truly had what it took to pull this all off...

But then I remembered - I am not sure I can afford (physically) not to. Hello rock... hello hard place... I guess I will be right here in the middle digging my way out!

And then, through a series of clicks here and there, surfing the web and getting tangled up in the process, I ended up back at a website I had visited earlier in the week - Of course! I typed in my zip code and clicked and read (on super-zoom, of course :) ) about family farm after family farm, about farmer's markets and about poultry farmers that have seasons (just like nature intended...) and with all of this I began to exhale.

maybe even some SUSTENANCE?

There were farms under 50 miles from my home, that would sell directly to me, where I could see where things come from because it is not shameful, it is natural.

I was so enthralled by what I found I was up until 2 am doing nothing but reading about farms. I went to sleep making a private commitment, hoping my husband would be on board, or at least supportive of my decision for myself. We will finish the food we have in the house (I do not want to waste, even if I have lost faith in the meats I have awaiting me here), and then we will pick one of our local farms to try out to get some eggs, chicken and, of course, produce. I was excited and I thought I would have a hard time sleeping, but my body knew better as soon as my head hit the pillow.

When I woke this morning, a surprise was waiting for me in my Inbox - two e-mails from another friend of mine, who, after seeing my Facebook Food, Inc outburst, also noticed I started a blog and read that as well. She has also become food-aware as of late and actually sent me .pdfs (I can SEE those!!) of two books she felt were really helpful The Raw Food Diet and The Raw Food Bible. Of course I have not had time to read them both yet, but after a quick scroll and stop here and there within each of the books I am already having some more paradigm shifts! Is my very delicious soy milk possibly working against me? What an intriguing possibility... these books are definite MUST-READS for me!

There is still so much to learn. There is probably even more I need to "un-know." My thoughts and ideas about food have been based, far too long, in blind, unquestioning trust in food distributors. I have a picture of a farm in my head - maybe the one I saw in Charlotte's Web as a child - and I have grown up believing that all of my food comes from a place that looks just like that. I know that is not true anymore, but, based on the baby steps I took last night and this morning, I think that can be true again. I simply have to agree to do something completely un-American: I must sacrifice convenience!

Friday, March 12, 2010

A Seed Was Planted...

Over the last ten years I have slowly become more and more concerned (in a very cerebral way) with the value of my consumption. I imagine that one of my triggers for this deep thought and reflection came from the fact that I was (and still am) a teacher of adolescents. After the first few years of growing pains in my profession and feeling as though I was comfortable with my content and planning, I began to think of the bigger picture - besides the math I teach my students, what is REALLY important for them to know in this world? This was a big question for a twenty-something, still living at home with mom, to answer.

I remember beginning to incorporate personal finance into my weekly units, character education and jumping on whatever "teachable moments" I could find that may or may not be math related. I remember becoming more cognizant of what was being played on the radio, on television and what types of stories were getting play on the local news. I remember being very nervous about the world "my kids" were being brought up in. I remember arguing with my mother who said THESE KIDS weren't my children and I shouldn't worry so much. I told her she didn't understand, she told me I didn't understand and, at night, we would both lose sleep over our children who weren't listening...

Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the All-American MealAnd then one day, while in the bookstore and thinking of "my kids" again, I saw a book called Fast Food Nation and I thought, I need to read this... so I can know what else to teach them, so I can truly see what our world has become. They were my motivation to read the book, but the book changed ME forever. This book started my obsession with the insanity of not only "my kids'" world, but my own - what have I done? What haven't I done? What can I do?

Fast forward to the next decade: I am 33 years old, now married, but still with no children of my own besides those I teach. My mother passed away nearly four years ago, at the age of 58, from cancer and last year I was diagnosed with a rare disease, IIH - idiopathic intracranial hypertension (, which damaged my optic nerves leaving me with 20/40 sight WITH corrective lenses and currently dependent on a drug that is not approved to take during pregnancies. I don't feel especially healthy, I feel like life has been put on a little bit of a hold and put through a bit of a wringer as well... I would like to grab hold of the reins again.

The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four MealsThe last book I was reading before my sight began to be affected by disease was called The Omnivore's Dilemma. My obsession with my consumption rages on! However, as I stated earlier, it has been one of thought alone... until now. I hope.

Eating Animals I am currently listening to the audiobook (reading the printed word is still just too painful right now) Eating Animals and I am done. I am done with factory farming, agribusiness and eating food that has consumed more drugs than I did during my hospitalization, or has been exposed to more chemicals than my mother was during her chemo! I don't know what this statement, "I am done," means, I don't know how I am going to accomplish this, but I need to try.

I am writing this blog to, hopefully, force some accountability on myself in my search for sustenance.

I am searching for sustenance:
  • SAFE sustenance,
  • SUSTAINABLE sustenance,
  • SAVORY sustenance,
  • SWEET sustenace,
  • SUMPTUOUS sustenance and
  • SHARED sustenance.
I hope I can do it living in this east coast town of mine. If you have any ideas I would LOVE to hear them!

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