Salmonella, Cargill, Yikes

6 08 2011

Concerned about the massive ground turkey recall by Cargill? Not sure we need to worry about this specific recall in Canada, but we should worry about salmonella. I spent a little bit of time this morning educating myself on what was going on and what I could learn about salmonella. Happy Saturday to me :). I have my opinions. If you have been trying to keep up with the story, I have posted a few things below that you might want to check out:

  • Short video summarizing the issue and how to protect yourself from salmonella by Democracy Now. I appreciate their short look at some of the root causes. Recommend.
  • Maryn McKenna’s Superbug blog post on the fact that distributing salmonella is not illegal. Very interesting read.
  • Short article from the law office Marler Clark, posted to their blog, they represent people who have been infected withfoodborne illnesses. Lots of other posts on the history of these infections and other lawsuits they have been involved in. They have a very clear message for Cargill, ‘Start Testing and We Won’t Sue You’.
  • Huffington Post article on the complexity of food safety in the 21st century and how government cutbacks will impact it.
  • Food Safety News blog post on how the USDA’s salmonella policy is failing.
  • A fantastic PowerPoint of the history, epidemiology and molecular biology of salmonella (downloaded PowerPoint). History of Salmonella
  • Article from ‘Meathead’ on Huffington Post. He does have points about veggies and certainly schools people on how to make the food safe. He misses the point on why we are in this mess in the first place though.

I went to Cargill’s American web site to read the recall for myself. It is a voluntary, so nice of them, to pull their products from the shelf because of the ‘possible contamination’ dating back to Feb. They make sure to remind us that Salmonella is very common, found in all food and that in general, bacteria is found everywhere. They point out that proper handling is key. Ah shucks, we’re so lucky to have producers like this, reminding us how it is our fault if we get sick.

Don’t get me wrong, I know salmonella is very common, there are many strains but not all cause illness. We do see increased outbreaks due to the MASSIVE PRODUCTION of food. So much of it is from our handling of animals and feed and how we dispose of the mass waste in these production lines, passing it on to veggies and fruit (salmonella is NOT naturally occurring in fruit and vegetables). Safe handling of food is key, but it certainly convinces me to continue thinking about how we produce our food and what food to consume. As well, we can’t ignore how systems like government and agriculture/farming are inter-related. There is great concern that the trillion-dollar spending cuts in the US are going to further impact policy keepers like the USDA. This is a real concern, although, where are the ethics of the people producing the food? Profits win the game between doing right and making money, unfortunately. How about our insatiable appetite for animal products?

For me these news stories are about looking beyond the headlines and asking questions that start to reveal the cause of the issue. This inquiry creates more questions, but it helps to connect the issue to better answers than ‘wash your hands’ and ‘cook meat well’.

Eat well, Be well,

Nat

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Sustainability

17 08 2010

I received two comments from a recent post about the David Suzuki show The Bottom Line. The comments weren’t about the content for that post but the two posts I linked to, about Food Inc, and other rants about agriculture and our factory farm practices. You can check out the comments and my reply’s by following these links to Seriously Now and A Way Forward.

I think comments are great, I really appreciate them. These ones had  me thinking about how and what we think ‘sustainable’ is. The commentor says “What is sustainable? Are they what actually works, or only ‘sustainable’ if they fit into someone’s preconceived ideas. If the current form of agriculture in the U.S. will feed the most people why is it not sustainable?” Great question! This is the essence of Michael Pollan’s, Joe Salatin’s and others argument, and what David Suzuki is exploring in his series on Soil (have you listened to the podcasts?).

I am reading the book The End of the Long Summer by Dianne Dumanoski. If you are interested in the environment, our species and what the future requires to survive our misguided choices, read this book. If you are interested in thinking of the greater systems at play that need to interact in order to prepare us and our future generations for the world we can no longer predict, read this book. If you want to understand how we got here, to this day in 2010 and have the problems we are facing like global warming, increased populations of starving people and increasing violence and discontent, read this book. If you want to learn how we can face it and prepare and succeed, read this book. Here is an excerpt on how we can think differently about ‘sustainable’.

“Without the torrent of energy, for example, the world’s population could never have expanded fourfold in the twentieth century. The amount of land devoted to agriculture grew by only one third during this period, yet the global harvest multiplied sixfold, mainly because of a breathtaking eightyfold increase in the use of energy to produce food. New crop varieties that fuelled the Green Revolution required more synthetic fertilizer, pesticides, irrigation to deliver their impressive yields, and all of this demanded far more energy. ‘Industrial man no longer eats potatoes made from solar energy,’ as the celebrated ecologist Howard T. Odum put it. ‘Now he eats potatoes partly made of oil.’ Today the U.S. food system uses ten kilocalories of fossil energy to deliver a single kilocalorie of food energy to the supermarket. American farmers who produce this food expend three kilocalories of fossil energy for every kilocalorie of harvest.”

If you are still reading this, that’s great, this is important. Now I am sure putting food on the tables of American, Canadian and others (growing) population is sustainable to most people. I’d argue that we are currently tipping the scales into a great period of duress with our current practices. I am not an expert but the evidence is mounting. Dianne Dumanoski, James Lovelock, Paul Hawken and others like them are making this point very clear.

On CBC today there was an interesting episode of In the Field that explored a ‘slow money’ movement. Similar and supportive of the ‘slow food’ movement, it is a way that economists and agriculture are integrating their thinking to solve current issues created by factory and big agriculture. The small, sustainable farms (aka the Joe Salatin’s of the world) can not raise capital without hitting up regular venture capitalists. The venture capitalists want 20% returns on their investment. We have come to ‘expect’ these returns as one broker says on the show. If we slow down, fit with the times and except a 5-6% return, we can shift our investments to companies that are not large public corporations but small operations attempting to build sustainable practices. Frankly, these are the people who will help us figure out what to do in the future as we split at the seams. However, the ‘market’ doesn’t make these investments easy to do, the market system at play doesn’t support a new way of investing.

Doomsday, no, a realistic rant. I offer a different view. We have been partying it up, taking the earth for granted and building more wealth and and even more poverty (the largest irony going, how did we get so technologically advanced and rich and starve millions of people?). Something is out of balance, i’d rather be on the team that is thinking about this then believing it is ‘sustainable’.

Be well, eat well,

Nat





A Way Forward

2 05 2010

Last night I took up the screening of Fresh, the movie, at the Yoga Shala. Dana, those movie nights are great, thanks for hosting (and the popcorn) and thanks to the Sunnyside Natural Market for providing the beverages.

Like Food Inc., Fresh does a good job showing the result of the factory and industrialized farm. More so than Food Inc., it focuses on opportunities for change. We meet our friend Joel Salatin again, but there is more of his operations, his thoughts and how his practices are more than sustainable, they are economical!

“Americans fear one thing, inconvenience.” (Fresh, the movie)

We meet John Ikerd, and agricultural economist who reminds us that building efficiency in production is a good thing, but when we “apply it to everything it doesn’t work”. He reflects on the fact that the goal of productivity is the same for all types of industry and systems. “We need to shift our paradigm (in agriculture to look at productivity differently)”. I’d add that to move adaptively, we need to first understand what got us to where we are today. Shifts in paradigm are good, but what if they are in the wrong direction? We could end up with the same result by a different path.

“Monoculture is a lot of the same species grown together and it needs a lot of antibiotics and pesticides to keep it healthy” (Michael Pollan). As one of the inherent issues of the factory farm, lack of diversity in our species is putting us at great risk. “The more species you have in the field the less shock you are venerable to” (Michael Pollan). Consider this. The threat of super strain bacteria and viruses is real. When there is a concentration of viruses and bacteria, the drugs we use to kill them kill the weakest, leaving the strongest to multiply. This applies to both animals and vegetables. Industrialized farming is teaming with disease, we know this to be true. In the movie, Ross Kremer experienced this first hand, almost dying from an infected wound he got from a hog. Drug resistant bacteria riddled his body. When it became obvious to him that “when you concentrate biological organisms…you are going to have problems” he exterminated his herd and started over, with free range, sustainable farming with no disease in 15 years. Huh.

We also meet Will Allen, a passionate farmer who not only farms vegetation, hens and hogs but tilapia in which he has engineered a river system, using the waste water as fertilizer. He runs a program called Growing Power helping other people learn to farm their own food referring to composted soil as ‘black gold. He does great work.

Favorite Joel Salatin quotes:

On how he decided to feed his cow herd: “A herbivore doesn’t eat dead cow. As stewards of the earth we need to respect the design of nature.” “If you treat the herbivores like herbivores things will fall into place.” (Why is this so badly misunderstood in our food industry, argh.)

“There are no boundaries to creativity.” (When speaking about how maladaptive our creativity can be, like serving dead cows to cows. We need to think deeply about this and engineer our creativity to meet the threats and opportunities we face, not create more!)

“We’re not farming animals we’re farming grass. If we take care of the grass, it’ll take care of the animals.”

“…marrying technology of today with indigenous and heritage knowledge.” (Describing what sustainable agriculture needs to be.)

If you know people that farm share this movie with them. If you don’t have your own garden, do what my friend Mariette does, ‘borrow’ your neighbours yards or what Joann did, start a community garden. Make the choices to support family farms and sustainable agriculture. Most importantly, learn about where your food comes from and understand how we got here, it is not enough to just make ‘better choices’. Draw the parallel of ‘bigger, better, cheaper’ to other parts of your life as this is part of the story. With that I leave you with what John Ikerd said about shifting our ways of farming, “It’s not an impossible dream.”

Be well,

Nat





Real Raw Food

24 03 2010

When I took that raw food ‘cooking’ class last year we learned about a great raw food distributor out of BC, Real Raw Food. I recently did another order and in 48 hours had a box full of raw organic nuts, raisins, coconut butter and cocao nibs at my door. The shipping costs are low ($12 this time) and there is a minimum $100 order, but that is easy to reach if you use these ingredients a lot. Compared to buying them bulk at organic markets, it is worth it.

By the way the company that we did the raw food class with was Feel Alive. Tammy was a real raw foodie, the real deal. She made raw food approachable and doable. Even though totally raw herself, she encourages ways to incorporate raw eating into parts of your life, there is goodness all around.

Want raw food inspiration? I got Ani’s Raw Food Kitchen recipe book as a gift. It was my introduction to raw food and raw food movements a few years ago. Ani Phyo is very well known. I like her simplicity and style. She is not the only one out there, if you google raw food there is lots, a bit overwhelming actually. I have loved everything I have tried out of Ani’s book. As well, she gives an overview of raw food basics and techniques. I am not advocating a raw diet, I don’t subscribe to one diet but I do eat more raw fruits and veggies in the summer than winter that’s for sure. There is a lot of goodness to raw eating so do what makes sense to you. If you just eat 8-12 servings of fruits and veggies a day your health will change (and there won’t be room for as much crap, right).

Be Well, Eat Well, Nat





Sayulita Life Part III

20 03 2010

Home from Mexico and drying up like a prune. The wedding was amazing (happy couple Bryce and Tara) and the town of Sayulita the perfect Mexican get away. Small surfer village, no big resorts, nothing over three stories tall, families and surfers vacationing together and locals living and loving the surf along with sun seekers. The food was incredible. Yoga in the morning sun. Fruit salads daily, fish tacos, veggie burritos for lunch and out to one of the many quaint and very good restaurants each night. Day of expense, the boys headed out for some ocean fishing and the girls headed to the Four Seasons in Punta Mita for a lunch by the pool (which we later learned moved a village to build, grrr). Love to hear your comments about Sayulita if you’ve been.

The tequila research was easy. After the wedding at Villa Amor, a quaint character complex on the beach, the wedding party walked down the cobbled streets to the main plaza (the intersection of the four roads in Sayulita) and stopped at Sayulita Fish Taco for a shot of Tequila. Here the owner gave us the Tequila 101. There are three forms of the agave elixir; Blanco (silver, unaged tequila), Reposado (golden, lightly aged tequila) and Anejo (darker, longer aged tequila). The difference between the tequila can be told mostly in the blanco varieties. When they are aged, they are aged in wood barrels and casks which masks the original flavour of the agave and the region it comes from. There are thousands of Tequila varieties and at any time SFT has 350+ on hand. You can try a flight of Tequila like you do with wine, which Tony and I went back to do. They served sliced orange sprinkled with cinnamon to cleanse the palate. Like wine, this is a really good way to taste the difference between tequilas. There is a technique to tasting tequila. Take a sip, inhale through your nose, swallow and exhale through your mouth (for the yogis, doesn’t that make for a fun pranayama, kidding). We learned that tequila has a low sugar content and after doing some research the carbohydrate content of tequila is unique to each brand, some brands have sugar added to them during processing. El Jimador is very low in sugars while Jose Cuervo is higher. If you are keen, look here.

I happen to like tequila*, so learning more about it was interesting. The lime or fresa (strawberry) margaritas were a daily additive. To the chagrin of my travelling companions I created a way to drink tequila with no added sugar. In my self proclaimed genius I poured a shot of Reposado El Jimador over ice in a tumbler, squeezed two small ‘limons’ over it and added soda water. Voila a refreshing drink we named the Agave Azul (after the name of the residence we were living in). I asked about this at dinner one night to learn it is called a Charro Blancho or ‘white cowboy’. Really? That’s not sexy and we stuck to our naming convention. At the Four Seasons they introduced us to a version called the Poloma made with grapefruit soda (aka Squirt, again not sexy). It was good too.

We enjoyed guacamole every day, there is nothing like fresh avocados in Mexico. We bought Queso Fresco (fresh cheese) and made bean and cheese quesadillas with fresh maize tortillas. There is a wonderful bakery we tried late in our trip which was too bad but probably a good thing. I love grocery shopping in other places and I bought cumin, cinnamon, vanilla beans, whole nutmeg and turmeric to bring home.

I learned to make guacamole in Mexico many years ago, here is the recipe to enjoy for yourself.

2 Ripe Avocados

1 Tomato, diced

2-3 Tbsp of Red Onion, diced (this is optional, I usually leave it out)

2-3 Tbsp chopped Cilantro

1 tsp Ground Cumin

2-3 Tbsp Queso Fresco (or 1-2 Tbsp plain yogurt, again optional)

1-2 Tbsp of fresh Lime Juice

Pinch of Salt

I learned to half the avocado, remove the pit. Scoop the flesh out and mush with a spoon (this was really important for some reason). Mix in the rest of the ingredients, enjoy.

*Tequila is obviously not a health food (although I tried to figure out how it could be, I am sure there is an ancient wisdom in it somewhere). I am not dogmatic about not drinking, over doing it isn’t healthy. Just drink responsibly and enjoy the flavours of other cultures.

Eat well and be well, Nat





Just Eat It: One Pot Moroccan Goodness

10 03 2010

This month’s recipe for the Shala’s ‘Just Eat It’ column is a real simple, hearty and healthful Moroccan stew. Winter is coming to an end, give the winter veggies one last hurrah before the change in seasons – the veggies here are definitely negotiable and I love that this recipe can change with the seasons. The sweetness of the dried fruit and the warming of the coconut milk and curry make for a comfort food in our home.

Both cumin and turmeric are considered medicinal herbs. Cumin has long been used all over the world as a digestive aid and is a source of iron. Turmeric a popular ingredient in salves and an aid to injuries throughout Asia. It is an antioxidant, antiseptic, antibacterial and anti-inflammatory. Curry powder is mix of spices and can include these spices but can also includes coriander, fenugreek, ginger, cardamom and mustard seeds to name a few. Curry powders are prominent across Asia, are full of goodness so choose your favourite to use in this recipe.

1 Tbsp Olive Oil

1 Red Onion (small onion or skip if you are anti-onion), chopped up

2 large Carrots chopped up

2 cups Vegetable Stock (homemade is best or use a low sodium, organic veggie cube in 2 cups warm water)

1 400 ml can Coconut Milk

1 tsp Cinnamon

1/2 tsp Cayenne

1-2 Tbsp Curry Powder (depending on how strong your curry powder is and what you like)

4 Tbsp ground Cumin

1/2 tsp Turmeric

Veggies to pick from, add at least 4-5 items, cut them into chunks, skin and all: 2 Potatoes, 1 Sweet Potato, 1 Yam, 1 Eggplant, 2 Green Pepper, 2 Red Peppers, 1 Zucchini, 1 cup Cauliflower, 1 Rutabaga, 1 Turnip – sky’s the limit!

1 400 ml can Chick Peas (or 2 cups cooked from dried)

1/4 cup raisins or chopped unsulphured dried apricots

1/8 cup dried grated Coconut (unsweetened)

Sea Salt to taste

– Add the onion and carrots to a large pot with 1/2 cup of stock and olive oil. Cook over medium heat until onion softens

– Add the spices, stirring for a minute, add the coconut milk

– Add the veggies that take a bit longer to cook like potatoes, sweet potatoes or yams and the rest of the stock, cover and cook for 5 minutes

– Add the rest of the veggies, chickpeas, raisins/apricots and coconut, cover and cook until veggies are soft but not over cooked, about 15-20 minutes. Flavour with sea salt

Serve over quinoa, brown basmati rice or on it’s own. Garnish with a few sprinkles of coconut and eat it!

Eat well, Nat





Dani’s Egg Salad

8 03 2010

My friend Daniella ‘the pastry chef’ and Super Mom in Arizona (whose pastries you might have heard me boast about) gave me an Egg Salad recipe years ago. It’s been awhile since I made it, but we are going to Mexico and I wanted to use up the eggs in the fridge and a few other things, de-licious.

Dani’s Egg Salad:
6 hard boiled eggs, diced

1 small onion, diced and sautéed in a bit of olive oil. Cool off and mix with the rest of the ingredients

3 Tbsp Mayo

Salt and Pepper

Mix and mash all the ingredients together.

What I added/changed looking in the fridge:

2 Tbsp Mayo instead of 3 (I use this organic ‘real mayo’ that doesn’t have much zip and can seem eggy)

1/2 Tbsp Prepared mustard (bit of a kick to compensate for the eggy organic mayo)

I used scallions instead of onion (left over from Wagamama night, see earlier post), sautéed them

1/2 Tbsp of chopped cilantro also left from Wagamama night

Mix and mash the ingredients all together, serve on toasted grainy bread with sliced tomatoes on the side. Lunch is served!

Thanks Dani 🙂

Eat well,

Nat