A Foodie Read: Animal Vegetable Miracle

25 07 2011

If you are at all interested in living in a sustainable way, love local food and want to be apart of the growing slow food movement, read this book: Animal Vegetable Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver. You don’t have to try to attain 100% of what she does in the book, but reading it will inspire you to think differently about the food you put on your families table (and in your mouth). Kingsolver is a well known novelist (The Bean Trees and The Poisonwood Bible), I haven’t read anything else of hers but having read this book, I am sure her fiction is a wonderful experience to read. Animal Vegetable Miracle is a non-fiction account of her family’s experience to grow their own food and source everything locally for one year. The book has three authors, Barbara is the main one, and she actually has a graduate degree in ecology and evolutionary biology. Her husband Steven is an environmental studies professor and her daughter Camille is one a very inspirational young adult.

The book tracks the growing season, from planning to seeding to growing to harvest to planning again. She deals with vegetables, chickens (in which her younger daughter creates an egg enterprise… I so want chickens), meat and cheese. For those of us that do not eat meat, I have to say her explanation of animals is incredibly respectful. She is anti processed food, supports farm raised everything and gives you lots to think about when eating raspberries in the dead of winter;

“We’re raising our children on the definition of promiscuity if we feed them a casual, indiscriminate mingling of foods from every season plucked from the supermarket, ignoring how our sustenance is cheapened by wholesale desires.”

The book is full of recipes, meal plans and has a wonderful website where you can also get them from, click here.

We do okay in the arena of slow food, we’re not perfect, that’s for sure, but conscious of our choices and more so every day. I am very happy to pick fresh lettuce from the garden on my way into the house after work, but come winter, it is tough in Alberta. The farmers markets keep us going and it is amazing what they are growing in hot houses these days. I encourage you to pay closer attention to the seasonality of your food. Watermelon in the dead of winter, not so kind. The watermelon we had recently, very yummy and it didn’t travel that far to get to us (although, it certainly didn’t grow up on the prairies).

What are you reading this summer? Maybe this is the book for you.

Be well, Eat well,



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,


What’s in Your Food?

20 06 2010

I tweeted a List of Calgary Farmers Markets the other day. The Calgary Herald had an article previewing the markets around the city. There are more than ever, one close to us in Kingsland that is opening on June 30. I have to admit, I don’t get to the markets that regularly, with Planet Organic so close to the house, it’s convenience. I use to have organic food delivered by Spud as well, something I would recommend for busy householders. Come this summer, we will be heading to the market more regularly with it being so close. I use to go to a market near the old, old Blackfoot farmers market, called DJ’s. She has produce we can’t normally find, e.g. hungarian peppers for lecho (a pepper stew i’ll be sure to share one of these days) and stuffed peppers. I have spoken to her about her produce a few times over the years. Her crops come mostly from B.C. She goes out each January and plans the crops with the farmers, buying directly from them. Not organic though, she said they usually spoil faster, says something about how non-organics are grown.

I have always been a bit challenged on buying the B.C. farmers apples, which have the best selection in the world, versus an organic one from New Zealand. Argh. How much better are we doing when we are crating in apples from across the globe. No matter what I buy, I soak it in veggie wash, even with organics. It is a balance. Genetically Modified Foods are another concern that we frankly don’t know enough about. Here’s an article on Common Dreams today about GM foods. We think because we are in Canada we don’t have the same issues, we are mistaken. We have Monsanto in Canada and GM foods in Canada with no regulation…we don’t have bovine growth hormone at least.

With so many markets opening up for the summer and our ability to grow some of our own food, we can do our best so easily. What we put into our bodies each day is a choice, the more times you make a healthful choice the better off you are. We are unsure of the consequences of scientifically modified and processed foods in our bodies, but what we do know is our health over the past generation has declined, period, full stop. There is no question there is a connection. We all can’t eat perfectly (see my bio, I love cupcakes and wine like the next person). Anyhow, give it some thought and do your own inquiry.

Be Well, Eat Well,


Meat Free Mondays

25 05 2010

CBC Radio has a program called Ideas, it airs daily and is hosted by Paul Kennedy. Last week they started a three part series called Have Your Meat and Eat it Too! The first episode focused on providing an overview of the meat industry and th factory farm. The differences over the years on how we farm and our disconnection from the farm and where our food comes from. The second series explores, amongst other things, the argument for and against eating meat.

Meat Free Monday’s is a real program that encourages to remove meat from your diet one day a week and experiment with other alternatives. Although based in the UK, it has received some recognition here. I haven’t eaten pork or beef for a couple of decades and choose chicken least often, but this isn’t for everyone. Making changes slowly, for various reasons (health, animal cruelty, environment) is encouraged and more achievable if it is made realistic, like taking meat out of your diet one day a week. Give it a go.

I’m not blogging about becoming a vegetarian, but this CBC program does a really good job of exploring different sides of the argument, and I appreciate that. Follow the link above and you have access to the podcasts.

Eat Well, Be Well,


Seriously Now

14 04 2010

I gotta a lot to say today. It is amazing how starting a blog gets people talking and sharing. I have been parking things to blog about and now I could be blogging daily. So I am going to bundle a few things up here for added value.

First, watch Food Inc. This is an important movie. Yes it is gross at times and you might be like ‘I can’t stand watching stuff like that’. Well do it, truth hurts, and it’s what you do with it that matters. So get past the gross stuff, it’s important but it’s not the whole story. The movie is based on the book Omnivores Dilemma, written by Michael Pollan. It takes you on a journey of where our food comes from, how we got to the industrial food era we are in and the implications of our choices and how to change it. It gives you much to consider. What’s most important is understanding how we got here and what questions we have to ask to change it. Making individual choices is one thing, but knowing how we can turn the tide is another. Joel Salatin, a farmer in the book and the movie asks some very important questions. He asks questions about why we think the way we do. By asking these questions, we can start to unpack what we have done, understand the causal architecture and begin to work in ways that will course correct, even prevent these things from happening again. These are huge challenges, but critical to our survival as a species. Watch the movie.

Next. My dear friend Dana who owns the Yoga Shala in Calgary will be screening the movie Fresh on May 1 from 7-9PM. I haven’t seen it yet but am hoping it will shed more light on what it will take to shift our collective thinking around industrial farming and food practices. Some of the same characters appear in this movie as Food Inc. aka Michael Pollan and our farm friend Joel Salatin. If you are interested, follow this link to the screening information.

Finally. The KFC Double Down. I have no words. Our friend Rod sent this to me today. I hadn’t gotten to my G&M scan this morning and if I had my tea with almond milk and green smoothie would have come right back up. If this isn’t an indication of our societal gluttony of bigger, better, NOW I don’t know what is. It’s not the Double Down itself (which by the way you can’t get in Canada yet) the article is revealing. So says Dr. Freedhoff, an obesity specialist, “As far as I’m concerned, the restaurant industry, their job is to satisfy their shareholders. It’s not to make healthy food. Now, if consumers were to start demanding healthier food, the restaurant industry would start delivering healthier food.” I agree that our choices in life are left to us, however, there are systems at play that lead to crappy choices, they are bigger, richer and more organized than we are (and just to clarify Doc, restaurants are in business to make money and not to feed people, got it, nothing to be culpable about, right.). What’s missing is ‘Why are we eating like this?’ and ‘How did we get here?’ It is easy to see the link between economics and health in this case and it is obvious that the previous out weighs the later. A society driven by profit and getting ‘more’ also results in obesity. Just like a society driven by profit results in millions of people without health care and the basic needs of life. We have the science and technology to feed the world, but we don’t, seriously now.

Give this some thought, think about how you make choices, what systems are at play and the discipline it takes to change. Just because Mickie D’s puts the caloric information on a burger doesn’t mean you won’t eat the burger.

Be well, Nat

Not for the Guys

30 03 2010

My friend Lisa is part owner of Moksha Yoga in Calgary and one of her partners is a Naturopathic Doctor. Lisa and I were talking about girl things, fertility etc while on the beach in Sayulita. She mentioned they were thinking of doing a workshop on this very topic. Perfect! Since I am in the business of understanding fertility and um getting pregnant, I told her I’d go for sure. Low and behold, she set it up and sent me the info. Looks interesting and not only for women wanting to understand fertility but those interested in overall health. Like the quote in the pamphlet: “The menstrual cycle remains one of the purest barometers of our health”. A link to the workshop information is below. Give it some thought.

Body Literacy

Be Well, Nat