aTypical Joe: a gay New Yorker living in the rural South
Monday, February 26, 2007
A two week supply of water and food
Store a two week supply of water and food. During a pandemic, if you cannot get to a store, or if stores are out of supplies, it will be important for you to have extra supplies on hand. This can be useful in other types of emergencies, such as power outages and disasters....
Examples of food and non-perishables
Examples of medical, health, and emergency supplies
- Ready-to-eat canned meats, fish, fruits, vegetables, beans, and soups
- Prescribed medical supplies such as glucose and blood-pressure monitoring equipment
- Protein or fruit bars
- Soap and water, or alcohol-based (60-95%) hand wash
- Dry cereal or granola
- Medicines for fever, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen
- Peanut butter or nuts
- Dried fruit
- Anti-diarrheal medication
- Canned juices
- Fluids with electrolytes
- Bottled water
- Cleansing agent/soap
- Canned or jarred baby food and formula
- Pet food
- Other non-perishable items
- Portable radio
- Manual can opener
- Garbage bags
- Tissues, toilet paper, disposable diapers
Sunday, February 25, 2007
Duck confit does not a gourmet make
One of the most difficult adjustments I had to make when moving from Manhattan to Middle Georgia was the dearth of decent restaurants. A recent piece in the NYTimes had old friends calling and writing excited to have read that we have “wine tastings, live music and dishes like duck confit and cioppino” here.
To which I reply by quoting Slate:
...they’re all from Sysco, a Houston-based food wholesaler. This top food supplier serves nearly 400,000 American eating establishments, from fast-food joints like Wendy’s, to five-star eating establishments like Robert Redford’s Tree Room Restaurant, to mom-and-pop diners like the Chatterbox Drive-In, to ethnic restaurants like Meskerem Ethiopian restaurant. Even Gitmo dishes out food from Sysco. Should you worry that one source dominates so much of what you eat?
Yes, yes, a thousand times yes! Please worry. Our food system is broke and most of us don’t know it yet.
Like any retailer, chefs need wholesalers that distribute goods cheaply and efficiently, and Sysco’s 400,000-plus item catalog conveniently sells everything a cook needs to run an eating establishment. A little more than half of their products are brand names like Parkay and Lucky Charms. The rest are Sysco-packaged items like 25-pound bags of rice, half-gallons of salsa, boxes of plastic gloves, beer mugs, dish-washing detergent, not to mention 1,900 different fresh and frozen chicken products. Whatever a cook orders is delivered straight to the kitchen door at bottom-barrel prices: One Sysco invoice I got my hands on has a 25-pound bag of Uncle Ben’s Converted Rice selling for $20.95, or about 84 cents a pound, while a 1-pound box bought through Amazon Grocery costs $2.09.
All of that seems relatively innocuous-restaurants need to make a profit, after all. But Sysco also hawks pre-packaged food. While chefs have long relied on shortcuts like freezing and using canned goods like beans and tomatoes, it’s entirely different to pass off one of Sysco’s thousands of ready-made items-ground beef burritos, vegan tortellini, quiche Lorraine pie, tiramisu cake-as homemade.
The ingredients alone on some of the pre-made items are enough to make a restaurant-goer swear off eating out. The breaded cheese chicken breast, for instance, contains monocalcium phosphates, sorbic acid preservatives, and oleoresin in turmeric. The Serve Smart Chicken is particularly frightening. While it looks natural, it consists of parts of other chicken breasts mashed together into a single, chicken-breastlike block. As the company notes on its Web site, our “unique 3-D technology gives you the look and texture of a solid muscle chicken breast, at a fraction of the cost. Ã¢â‚¬Â¦ Available in four great flavors: teriyaki, BBQ, fajita and original.” What Smart Chicken tastes like, I’d rather not know.
I’d rather not know either but I have a nagging suspicion that I’m more likely to have it here than he is there.
The company has a long history of championing frozen foods. Sysco founder John Baugh has been quoted as saying, ”frozen foods taste better than anything I could grow in my garden.” He started the company in 1969 when he saw an opening in the food services marketplace for a large, national distributor that would beat out local competitors through its sheer size. At the time, Baugh owned a small frozen-food company in Houston, and he convinced eight other regional food distributors to join forces to form a national conglomerate. Within a year of its start, Sysco posted more than $100 million in sales, and for the next 30 years, snapped up more than 150 local food distributors, becoming the largest in the nation. The company is about 50 percent larger than its next-largest competitor and five times bigger than the third-largest player; its boxes and cans are now as common in restaurant kitchens as salt and flour. A very partial listing of its better-known customers can be found here.
The timing of this company’s rise is right in line with the consolidation and monopolization that has occurred across the board in our food system: slaughter houses, farms of all kinds, poultry, pork & beef, fast-food and technologically enhanced nutritionalism.
The change we’ve seen in the last thirty years has altered our relationship to food in fundamentally profound ways from that which had existed on this planet for millennia. I am as techno-utopian as the next guy - I even think technology can help get us out of the mess it’s gotten us into - but first we’ve got to recognize that there’s a problem.
Saturday, February 10, 2007
Consider the lobster (reprise)
In honor of the Whole Foods Maine lobster decision - and in case you are one of those who still believes the old myth that “lobsters don’t feel pain” - I am again quoting from David Foster Wallace’s Consider the Lobster, his August 2004 feature on the Maine Lobster Festival for Gourmet magazine.
Much as I hate to admit it, I believed the myth! Turns out, duh, being boiled hurts:
Cooking live lobsters does not result in a quick and painless death. “According to marine zoologists,” Wallace writes, “it usually takes lobsters between 35 and 45 seconds to die in boiling water.”
He also notes, “However stuporous the lobster is from the trip home, for instance, it tends to come alarmingly to life when placed in boiling water. If you’re tilting it from a container into the steaming kettle, the lobster will sometimes try to cling to the container’s sides or even to hook its claws over the kettle’s rim like a person trying to keep from going over the edge of a roof.”
Lobsters suffer from the minute they are trapped until the last agonizing seconds of their lives. Like other animals used for food, lobsters are torn from their natural habitat and transported long distances. “They come up alive in the traps,” Wallace writes, “are placed in containers of seawater, and can, so long as the water’s aerated and the animals’ claws are pegged or banded to keep them from tearing one another up under the stresses of captivity, survive right up until they’re boiled.”
Wallace confesses that he has “not succeeded in working out any sort of personal ethical system” in which eating lobsters is morally defensible. “[A]fter all the abstract intellection, there remain the facts of the frantically clanking lid, the pathetic clinging to the edge of the pot. Standing at the stove, it is hard to deny in any meaningful way that this is a living creature experiencing pain and wishing to avoid/escape the painful experience.”
His piece is a great read. READ IT
A lobster electric chair
Whole Foods decided to sell lobsters at its Portland store after finding a company that met its demands for how the lobsters should be treated.
The lobsters will be kept in private compartments [designed to reduce stress] instead of being piled on top of each other in a tank, and employees will use a device that zaps them with a 110-volt shock to spare them the agony of being boiled alive in a pot of water.
Whole Foods’ standards for lobsters are similar to those it uses in buying its meat, poultry and other animal products, said David Lannon, regional president for the North Atlantic region.
“We’re taking up animal compassion in all species,” Lannon said.
Whole Foods will use Little Bay Lobster, Co., a New Hampshire company; this has Maine lobstermen upset. Says one:
“A lobster electric chair?” [Portland lobsterman Tom] Martin said. “I wonder how that will sound for their public relations, that they’re going to give the lobster the electric chair.”
Little Bay “contracts with lobstermen from Vinalhaven, an island off midcoast Maine, who use its sea-to-store handling process that gives lobsters the royal treatment.” So arguable Whole Foods is using Maine fisherman. And the impact on lobster welfare in Maine can only be good.
Sunday, January 28, 2007
What to eat?
This will (probably ) be my last excerpt from Michael Pollan’s important Times Magazine piece out today, Unhappy Meals. In it he discusses how we’ve moved from a “food culture” to a “food science.” Once we received our guidance on what to eat from national, ethnic or regional cultures ("culture is really just a fancy word for Mom"). Today:
The sheer novelty and glamour of the Western diet, with its 17,000 new food products introduced every year, and the marketing muscle used to sell these products, has overwhelmed the force of tradition and left us where we now find ourselves: relying on science and journalism and marketing to help us decide questions about what to eat. Nutritionism, which arose to help us better deal with the problems of the Western diet, has largely been co-opted by it, used by the industry to sell more food and to undermine the authority of traditional ways of eating. You would not have read this far into this article if your food culture were intact and healthy; you would simply eat the way your parents and grandparents and great-grandparents taught you to eat. The question is, Are we better off with these new authorities than we were with the traditional authorities they supplanted? The answer by now should be clear.
It might be argued that, at this point in history, we should simply accept that fast food is our food culture. Over time, people will get used to eating this way and our health will improve. But for natural selection to help populations adapt to the Western diet, we’d have to be prepared to let those whom it sickens die. That’s not what we’re doing. Rather, we’re turning to the health-care industry to help us “adapt.” Medicine is learning how to keep alive the people whom the Western diet is making sick. It’s gotten good at extending the lives of people with heart disease, and now it’s working on obesity and diabetes. Capitalism is itself marvelously adaptive, able to turn the problems it creates into lucrative business opportunities: diet pills, heart-bypass operations, insulin pumps, bariatric surgery. But while fast food may be good business for the health-care industry, surely the cost to society - estimated at more than $200 billion a year in diet-related health-care costs - is unsustainable.
What to do? He opened his essay with a simple rule, “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” He closes with an elaboration:
...Don’t eat anything your great-great-grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food… Avoid even those food products that come bearing health claims… (The American Heart Association charges food makers for their endorsement.)… Especially avoid food products containing ingredients that are a) unfamiliar, b) unpronounceable c) more than five in number… Get out of the supermarket whenever possible… Pay more, eat less… Americans spend, on average, less than 10 percent of their income on food, down from 24 percent in 1947, and less than the citizens of any other nation… Eat mostly plants, especially leaves… eat according to the rules of a traditional food culture… Cook. And if you can, plant a garden… Eat like an omnivore. Try to add new species, not just new foods, to your diet.
I can’t say that there will be radical change in the way I eat. But there has been and will continue to be slow steady progress at moving in that direction. And to help keep me tuned in and aware, I’ve added a Food category to my blog!
BONUS VIDEO: Michael Pollan on Fishbowl with Bill Maher talking corn.
Saturday, January 27, 2007
Micahel Pollan on the Conspiracy of Confusion
In the Times Magazine this weekend, not yet out from behind the TimesSelect wall, Michael Pollan tells us we’ve gone from simple to complex, from clear to cloudy, from food to a new ideology of food.
Michael says, “Ideologies are ways of organizing large swaths of life and experience under a set of shared but unexamined assumptions.” And the food ideology we’ve been snookered into is.... NUTRITION!
[F]ish, beef and chicken through the nutritionists’ lens become mere delivery systems for varying quantities of fats and proteins and whatever other nutrients are on their scope. Similarly, any qualitative distinctions between processed foods and whole foods disappear when your focus is on quantifying the nutrients they contain (or, more precisely, the known nutrients).
This is a great boon for manufacturers of processed food, and it helps explain why they have been so happy to get with the nutritionism program… [T]he food industry set about re-engineering thousands of popular food products to contain more of the nutrients that science and government had deemed the good ones and less of the bad, and by the late ‘80s a golden era of food science was upon us. The Year of Eating Oat Bran - also known as 1988 - served as a kind of coming-out party for the food scientists, who succeeded in getting the material into nearly every processed food sold in America. Oat bran’s moment on the dietary stage didn’t last long, but the pattern had been established, and every few years since then a new oat bran has taken its turn under the marketing lights. (Here comes omega-3!)
By comparison, the typical real food has more trouble competing under the rules of nutritionism, if only because something like a banana or an avocado can’t easily change its nutritional stripes (though rest assured the genetic engineers are hard at work on the problem). So far, at least, you can’t put oat bran in a banana. So depending on the reigning nutritional orthodoxy, the avocado might be either a high-fat food to be avoided (Old Think) or a food high in monounsaturated fat to be embraced (New Think). The fate of each whole food rises and falls with every change in the nutritional weather, while the processed foods are simply reformulated. That’s why when the Atkins mania hit the food industry, bread and pasta were given a quick redesign (dialing back the carbs; boosting the protein), while the poor unreconstructed potatoes and carrots were left out in the cold.
Of course it’s also a lot easier to slap a health claim on a box of sugary cereal than on a potato or carrot, with the perverse result that the most healthful foods in the supermarket sit there quietly in the produce section, silent as stroke victims, while a few aisles over, the Cocoa Puffs and Lucky Charms are screaming about their newfound whole-grain goodness.
YOU MUST READ THIS ARTICLE.
I’ll link when it’s out.
Tuesday, January 23, 2007
Barry Glassner, author of The Gospel of Food: Everything You Think You Know About Food Is Wrong, is interviewed in Salon today:
I think that one way that the food industry is brilliant is in picking up on the bipolar approach to food that we have in this country where we think that certain foods are good or bad, or sacred or profane. The food industry will sell us foods that make us feel like we’ve been good and righteous and then they’ll say, often in so many words, “Now that you have been good you can be bad and buy this other product.” And they win both ways.
When you listen to a lot of people talk about their meals, they use words like, “I’ve been bad,” if they order a creamy dessert at a meal. Or, “I’ve been good,” if they stay on their diet. The key motivator there is guilt and the avoidance of guilt. And it applies not only to ourselves, but to other people. So many Americans take as a literal truth the old maxim that you are what you eat. We believe that we can tell a lot about a person by what he or she eats when really what we’re expressing are prejudices.
In the book I talk about one of my favorite studies, which was a study where students were shown photographs of people their age and researchers told one set of students that the people in the photographs ate foods like whole wheat breads and chicken, and they told another set of students that these same people ate hamburgers and French fries and hot fudge sundaes. And in fact, the students had been shown the same people, but they ranked them very differently based on what foods they’d been told they ate; ranked them as more or less likable, more or less attractive. I think that really goes to a deeply ingrained prejudice in society.