Category Archives: Food

Greece: People Are Eating Out Of Dumpsters

L’Enfant de la Haute Mer has the story (please use Google Translate if you don’t read Greek).

This has happened in the United States within my lifetime, notably in the era of the “sainted” Ronald Reagan. I’ve seen it myself. Every grocery store dumpster had its regulars; it was presumably their main source of food.

It should never have happened in the United States. It should never again be allowed to happen in the United States. And it should not be allowed to happen in Greece or any other Eurozone country. Allowing people to starve in a setting of great wealth (which the Eurozone is) is simply wrong.


We already knew about Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, from his opinion in Bush v. Gore, that he could not possibly be more imperious. But not until the argument of the Affordable Care Act did we realize that he could also be utterly, inappropriately silly. I suppose one may argue that if the federal government is totally dysfunctional, it might as well be entertaining… but I am unwilling to tolerate the dysfunction for the sake of laughs.

Broccoli me no broccolis, Mr. Justice!


Our Carnivore President: Obama Enjoys Hot Dog With David Cameron At March Madness Game

Here’s a pic of Obama and Cameron. The only disturbing thing about this picture is the extended caption, which says that Cameron put (cringe) ketchup on his dogs. Yuck! The things one tolerates in the name of international comity!

Those of you who know I’m a sprout-eater also know that in no way do I disapprove of someone else’s eating meat: humans are natural omnivores. Indeed, I find most disapproval goes the other direction: carnivores disapprove of vegetarians, whether out of some sort of vague guilt about their own meat-eating habits or for some even less comprehensible reasons.

So here’s my question: Could the United States ever elect a vegetarian to the office of President?

Another Obama Appointee Works Against Public Interest

I’ve listed many reasons I won’t be voting for Obama in November. Here’s another:

Occupy cornfields! Support is growing for a petition calling for the ouster of Michael Taylor, a senior adviser for the FDA who formerly served as vice president of Monsanto, the controversial agricultural multinational at the forefront of genetically modified foods, the Washington Post reports. …

Tipping off the current anti-Taylor campaign is his alleged practice of going after small raw-milk producers, including the Amish, while letting large factory farms responsible for huge food-borne illness outbreaks go scot-free. As an example, activists cite the fact that Iowa agribusinessman Jack DeCoster — who was responsible for the more than 500 million salmonella-tainted eggs that were recalled in 2010 — has not been fined or arrested by the FDA, while Amish dairy farmers have been subjected to yearlong stings and hauled away in handcuffs.

While at Monsanto, Taylor oversaw the policy of the company’s genetically engineered bovine growth hormone (rbGH/rbST). Milk from injected cows has been a controversial topic, with many medical organizations and hospitals speaking out against it. …

So Obama appoints Taylor to head the Department of Putting Foxes In Charge of Hen Houses. The essence of Obama’s frequently expressed attitude is “Can’t we all just get along?” No. We can’t. Some of us will not get along as long as known food poisoners and abusers of organic farmers are in charge of monitoring America’s food supply.

H/T SouthernDragon at FDL.

Have Your Mondrian And Eat It, Too

L’Enfant de la Haute Mer serves up a lot of cake in a familiar style.

(Google Translate works really quite well on her site, which is in Greek.)

‘If He’s Content With A Vegetable Love…’

The year is 1981. Ronald Reagan’s budget, eventually passed as the Gramm-Latta budget, slashes $27 billion from entitlements and specifically $1 billion from the school lunch program. As the wiki tells us,

On September 3, 1981, the Secretary of Agriculture proposed classifying ketchup and pickle relish as vegetables to save money on school lunch programs.

(Just for the record, the Secretary of Agriculture at the time, as the writer of the wiki seems reluctant to tell us, was Earl Butz, a heartless bastard if ever there was one.) So ketchup and pickle relish counted as vegetables in school lunches.

Fast-forward 30 years. Barack Obama’s USDA makes a more healthful recommendation… the tomato sauce or paste on a slice of pizza must amount to a half cup to count as a vegetable. But the House and Senate are having none of that. Pizza, b’gawd, is a vegetable, no matter that it’s almost impossible to put a half cup of tomato sauce into a single slice, and “a couple of tablespoons” is more typical. Oh, by the way… Congress received $5.6 million (see same article) in food industry lobby contributions.

That’s a fair trade, right? Children’s nutritional health for congressional contributions from industry lobbyists? And it’s a trade that Republicans AND Democrats have been willing to make for 30 years. As the sainted Molly Ivins used to say, we live in a greeeaaat nation.

The post title? It’s from “The Aesthete” in Gilbert & Sullivan’s operetta Patience (here’s a YouTube):

And every one will say,
As you walk your flowery way,
“If he’s content with a vegetable love which would certainly not suit ME,
Why, what a most particularly pure young man this pure young man must be!”

How Many People Can Mother Earth Mother?

Mathematical biologist Joel E. Cohen examines the question as Earth’s human population heads for seven billion next week, according to a UN estimate.

For millennia, some institutions, including but not limited to the Catholic Church, have viewed increasing populations as signs of increasing wealth and power. Dispelling that notion is proving singularly difficult:

This view was fostered over millenniums, by the pronatalism of the Hebrew Bible, the Roman Empire, the Roman Catholic Church and Arab thinkers like Ibn Khaldun. Mercantilists of the 16th through the 18th centuries saw a growing population as increasing national wealth: more workers, more consumers, more soldiers. Enlarging the workforce depressed wages, increasing the economic surplus available to the king. “The number of the people makes the wealth of states,” said Frederick the Great.

In some cultures such as that of Niger, married couples surveyed say they want a dozen kids or more (or so the fathers said, but even the mothers say they want nine). It may seem insane, but in circumstances of poverty, a dozen kids may assure that parents see enough of them… barely… survive to maturity to assure their own support in later years. So the mental calculations are different no matter what culture a poor family lives in.

Can the Earth support 7, 8, 9, 10 billion people? Those numbers are on their way.

Thomas Malthus was of course wrong:

But just as pronatalism is unjustified, so are the dire — and discredited — prophecies of Thomas Malthus and his followers, who believed that soaring populations must lead to mass starvation.

In fact, the world is physically capable of feeding, sheltering and enriching many more people in the short term. Between 1820, at the dawn of the industrial age, and 2008, when the world economy entered recession, economic output per person increased elevenfold.

I recently read a book on the history of bread, mostly in England. (It seemed like a good idea at the time.) The thing that struck me most is the degree to which the capacity both to grow the grain and to produce the “daily bread” grew by leaps and bounds in the past two centuries. In this small book, there wasn’t an examination of whether the required farming practices and industrial advances were sustainable in the long term, but the ingenuity applied in the short term was remarkable. If I had to guess, I’d guess that the people of the Earth can indeed be fed as their numbers skyrocket… but only if attitudes change. That is the one thing not amenable to new techniques in farming and food production: well-off people are typically as hard-nosed and ungenerous today as they were two centuries ago. So “can Earth’s population be fed” is answerable with a qualified “Yes.” WILL Earth’s population be fed? I don’t have nearly as much confidence in that.

Read Cohen’s article. It’s well worth your time.



Serendipity: Frances Moore Lappé And The Food Of The Nation

As mentioned earlier, I have been reading the late Studs Terkel’s book Hope Dies Last (2003), in which the then 90-year-old Terkel (now lamentably deceased) interviews labor leaders and others significant to the long-term survival of working-class Americans… including Frances Moore Lappé, author of (among other books) the famous Diet for a Small Planet. After reading that inspiring interview, I checked my email and discovered that The Nation this month is mostly about food… and leads with an article by none other than Frances Moore Lappé. If you are even remotely a “foodie” … and who among us isn’t… please read Lappé’s article and the four replies, listed at the bottom of her article under the heading “More Food Movement.” Maybe I’ve found my cause for the last decade or two of my life… or maybe not, but this is certainly intriguing stuff.

I’m off to eat something, perhaps even something good for me…

UPDATE: I didn’t make it clear that this issue of The Nation is about food from a sociopolitical and scientific viewpoint… agriculture, agribusiness, sustainabliity, environmental friendliness, etc.

The Wonderful World Of Monsanto

On the comment thread of my previous post, MandT and Bryan introduced me to the subject of the epidemic of suicides among India’s farmers, who have been led to the use of GMO (genetically modified organism) crops in which they must buy new seeds from Monsanto Corp., the developer of the Roundup-Ready™ GMO crops, every season at a cost that will break them financially if they have even one year of bad crops. In poverty and in shame at being unable to feed their families, these farmers often kill themselves.

Those comments led me to research the matter. But someone in France has already done the work for me, journalist and filmmaker Marie-Monique Robin. Her film, The World According to Monsanto (YouTube), is a superb work of journalism about virtually every aspect of the motivations and consequences of what can reasonably be called Monsanto’s attempt to control the food supply of the entire world. The film is about 1:49:– long, but it is worth every minute you spend watching it. Warning: you will find yourself looking for the “Bomb Monsanto” button on your keyboard.

I eat organic, non-GMO food at every opportunity, when I can get it and when I can afford it. During the GeeDubya Bush administration, “USDA Organic” labels took on a different meaning, and at one point, labeling a food as non-GMO was actually forbidden by regulation, but for the most part you can still determine at least minimal information about the sources of your food, and legally or otherwise, many foods are labeled organic and non-GMO. It is hard to tell how much of an impact on human health GMO foods have; some animal studies suggest that some modifications could have an impact on immune systems. Monsanto, of course, claims there is no “substantial” difference between genetically natural crops and GMO crops. Monsanto itself, of course, does the testing, and because they are so large and financially powerful, most high government officials, at least in the U.S., are inclined to take their word for it.

Other nations are not so blithely confident. For example, Mexico has banned such organisms. But that does not help, because several other South American countries and the U.S. all grow GMO crops, and many, such as corn, are easily wind-pollinated, introducing their modified genes into native crops grown for millennia by indigenous peoples in Mexico. So no matter what they… and you… do, you are liable to end up eating GMO plants (and animals… don’t think meat-eaters get off scot-free) whether they are good for us or not.

O brave new world, that has such genomes in it!

The $4 Store

This post was inspired by a trip to Whole Paycheck Foods and a subsequent reading of Bill Moyers’s interview of Michael Pollan in Moyers’s book Bill Moyers Journal: The Conversation Continues, a birthday present from Stella.

We’ve all seen stores named The Dollar Store (indeed, there’s one all over East Texas called Dollar Tree, but I thought Christianity disapproved of that sort of stuff…). As usual, when I exited the checkout line at WF, I paused (out of the way, of course) to review my register receipt, and was amazed at how many individual items were $3.49, $3.99, $4.49 or $4.99. So Whole Foods is The $4 Store. Well, I don’t go there for cheap groceries; there are never any to be had. But this was a particularly restrained, selective shopping trip, intended not to break the bank account; more than a few things have gone up dramatically in the past couple of months.

If I had to guess, I’d go with Michael Pollan’s reasoning: fuel prices drive food prices. Some of the items aren’t typically grown in Texas, and those were indeed more expensive… plain old broccoli was $2.99/lb. Pollan’s solution is basically Fallenmonk‘s: grow your own. That assures you of the shortest possible supply chain, and probably the minimum fuel cost. The only problem is that you have to grow it.

I am looking out the window at a back-yard bordered plot put in by some prior tenant. At present it contains only volunteers descending from various surrounding trees. Part of me is inclined to try growing something; part of me remembers that once I get down on my knees, I cannot get up again without help. I’m afraid I’m not the stuff of which gardeners are made. But at least the idea has been planted…