Thursday, July 23, 2009

Food, Inc - A Movie to Understand America's Food Industry

I would encourage everyone to see this movie. Parents, please see this movie first before letting your young children see the film. Make sure they are mature enough to understand and discuss the ideas that this movie will present. For families with older kids (>12yo) who choose to see this movie together, I can guarantee some interesting conversations will occur!

Agriculture in the United States today has been transformed by the factory model. While great efficiencies have been achieved by this model, there is a high price to pay for it. Food, Inc. focuses on the unintended consequences of cheap and fast food.

The food that we consume is being produced and controlled by a handful of very large corporations. The power that these corporations wield and their ties to Washington, DC spill over to organizations such as the FDA, USDA. These ties influence public food policy and subsidies. Food, Inc brings to light these conflicts of interests. There are many more unintended consequences such labor issues, foreign policy concerns and world hunger that result from a highly mechanized system of food production.

Food, Inc illustrates how wheat, corn, soybeans are now in every food product that we see on our supermarket shelves. The movie explains why these crops in particular have become the dominant ingredients in food production and why this may not be a good thing.

Fruits and vegetables are considered specialty crops and these farmers do not receive very much in the way of government subsidies. So, there are not enough farmers to grow the fruits and vegetables that we need to meet our basic recommended daily allowances (RDA). These RDA values have been set by the same government that does not support fruit and vegetable growers. Ironic!

Food, Inc profiles a sustainable farm in Virginia called Polyface Farms. Joel Salatin is a powerful spokesman for his way of farming at Polyface. His animals are humanely treated and his land is cultivated with care. He shows it is possible to create a food system that is good for humans, animals and the land.

The movie's narrators are Michael Pollan, author of The Omnivore's Dilemma and Eric Schlosser, author of Fast Food Nation. Food, Inc is the film version of their books. In this case the movie is as good as the books.

Food is such a fundamental need for us human beings. We should understand where and how our food comes to us. Over the past few decades, we have become increasingly disconnected from the source of our food. Food, Inc. can help us make more informed decisions about our food for the well-being of ourselves and our families.

Playing at the Drexel East theater on Main St. in Bexley. See this movie!

Sunday, July 19, 2009

A month of eating locally

It has been about a month since my last posting and committing to eating locally.

It has been a good experience so far. A couple of Saturdays I had other engagements in the morning through the market hours and was thinking about how to make it to the market. The beauty of farmer's markets is that they open 9am. So, in order to keep my commitment of eating locally this summer, I have been getting to the market by 9 sharp. I have been frequenting the Clintonville Farmer's market. I know now the layout of the stalls and when I have to, I can finish my shopping in a half hour flat! The Grandview farmer's market just started last week and I plan to start walking there this coming Saturday. Between a couple of the markets, I should be able to get everything that we need.

What I have been able to do is buy the vegetables, fruits and meat that my family needs for the week. My family consists of 3 pre-adolescent girls and my husband. The four of them have been pleasantly surprised at how much they have liked the items that I have bought and cooked.

One of the most amazing things was getting freshly harvested garlic. This is simply amazing!! The flavor just explodes....I think one could get away with using half of what a recipe calls for. I made a simple saute of green beans in olive oil with garlic, salt and pepper. The garlic roasted itself in the saucepan to a lovely sweet and crunchy taste that made the fresh green beans taste fabulous too.

I have found that cooking with these fresh veggies requires little in the way of seasoning. The flavors are so pure and very little seasoning is needed. The fruits are so true to their flavors. I just bought peaches yesterday which were simply lovely....very peachy! No additives needed to bring out their goodness.

Meats...they are flavorful and a minimal of seasoning is required to bring out their full flavor. The meats cook more easily and retain their natural goodness. I have purchased chicken, pork and pork sausages. I have also bought eggs. These eggs come from hens that are pasture raised and as the vendor said to me "I love my girls" and I think the love comes through to the eggs. The eggs have a bright yellow yolk - something that you won't see with the more conventional egg farm eggs. The taste is fresh and really good.

Going to the market has stimulated the cook in me. I am enjoying cooking more than ever. It is such an adventure to take tried and true items like carrots, green beans and garlic (love this!!) and see the difference freshness makes.

There are of course things that we cannot get from the markets but these items are modest in number. I plan to explore some of the other markets around to see if I can reduce the items I purchase in the more conventional grocery store and continue to expand my support of the sustainable food chain. Not that grocery stores are evil at all....I am thankful for them and that they provide a needed service for many items that our modern lives require. However, supporting local farmers is really important in my view to supporting the local economy. Ohio can use all the help it can get from consumers keeping dollars in Ohio. It is akin to my excitement that my neighborhood of Grandview finally has a hardware store (Goodale Pro Hardware on Goodale Ave.) that will save a 20 minute drive to suburbs and also keep dollars local.

Emotionally, culturally and financially, eating locally just works. I am vested and connected to my food more so now because I know the growers and have talked to them. I love that I know the history of my heirloom Paul Robeson and Cherokee Purple tomatoes which I will eat in the next few days. Culturally, American farmers are an amazing breed especially those committed to sustainable farming. I like supporting their efforts and just as I know where my food comes from, I know where my money goes when I buy from the farmer. Financially, our food spending over the past month is a bit less than before I started buying our staples almost exclusively from the markets. I am delighted by all these facets that have enriched our lives this past month.

I urge you and your families to take advantage of the bounty of Ohio farmland. It is wonderful. Let your kids pick out the veggies....if they can see where their food comes from and they pick it out, they are more likely to eat it. Keep eating local. It will do your body, mind and spirit good!