Tag Archives: food politics

umamification of the utility bird

I know – ‘umamification’ is totally a made up word but, as always, I feel I’ve a firm enough grasp on the English language to indulge myself in bastardizing it here and there.  Plus I figure if you can get past that, dear readers, you’re probably at least a little masochistic and look forward to being inflicted with the soap-boxing to come.

The second and third sections of The Omnivore’s Dilemma have done very little to quell the fears about the organic food industry I cited in my first post about the book, though I’m not left with the feeling that all hope is lost, either.  Like Pollan, I want my organic food dollars to go to the pastoral ideal of the fertile, self-sufficient, organic farm I hold in my imagination, one like the farm my maternal grandparents have worked for an eternity with chickens running amongst the raspberry bushes, happy pigs slumbering in shade of a shed, cows blocking highway traffic so they can make their trek from one grassy range to another.  A farm which, for all intents and purposes, would not qualify for the ‘organic’ label, but follows a small-scale, animal-lead production methodology which allows pigs to be pigs and chickens to be chickens and beef to be beef…and that’s probably the message which resonates most profoundly about this section of the book; recognizing the term ‘organic’ as part of the industrial food chain’s rhetoric, contradictory outside of that context and then being called to either re-appropriate it or drop it altogether…which certainly appeals to my quasi-Marxist sensibilities and my desire for passive resistance through stepping around the industrial food machine, but gives me butterflies in practice as it promises to be a fairly large commitment.  I’ll actually have to talk to people, question their practices, let them know when they don’t meet my expectations, let them know what my expectations are…become part of the negotiation and actually seek out chickenier chickens and beefier bovines.

Alright, perhaps that’s a bit dramatic.  I already do a lot of that stuff; I’m hardly a label-dependent consumer, and I’ve never really fully developed an apathy bone, but remember my corn-fed cow freak-out from my first post?  There’s obviously some room for improvement.  It’s understood this section of the book is very much about gaining a more intimate understanding of our food’s life cycle, an appreciation for the alchemy of pastoral farming and setting standards for a food chain which emphasises quality over quantity.  This really set the little businessy portion of my brain to ticking; it’s not enough for me to rest on the laurels of ‘buying right.’  If I want that ideal pastoral farm to be the producer of my food stuffs then I need to take a vested interest in its health and welfare, go out of my way to invest in it and promote it, and ultimately to make it part of the business that is me because the cost-benefit analysis of the alternative already looks grim and is terrifying when plugged into a spreadsheet.  Now I’m wondering about all of the ways one might adopt a farm and am committed to stretching my political muscles a little further.

All that said, I’m really excited for the next section.  It’s all about foods from the forest which is a topic near and dear to my little hunter’s daughter heart.

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eco justice challenge

As is the way of the interwebs, my post regarding The Omnivore’s Dilemma produced a response which lead to an affinity which, in turn, led to a challenge…or something like that. I took the lot of it to the dinner table Thursday night and the mister, the sprogs and myself agreed to rise to the challenge on the basis that there’s always room for improvement. We got over giving ourselves a pat on the back for the things we already have in place and decided to start the challenge with a weekly, one hour blackout (which will be Mondays from 8pmish to 9pmish) and reading/brainstorming session. At 11 & almost 13 I think they’re ready to wrap their minds around the likes of Diet for a Small Planet so I can probe their young, pliable minds for ideas on which steps to take next.

For more information on Emily’s EcoJustice challenge click here.

Wish us luck!

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On kids and food (a.k.a: a largely anecdotal and rather long-winded missive)

I’m often asked how I avoided the usual kid-pickiness when it comes to food that other parents face and the fact of the matter is that I didn’t My kids have been through picky phase after picky phase for as long as I’ve known them. One day they like tuna on crackers and the next they don’t. I guess I’ve always seen it as a fact of life and part of being a kid…but something of a challenge nonetheless.

I remember vehemently refusing tomato sauce on my pasta for over 10 years unless it was Zia Louisa’s (who preserved a very basic Napolitano containing very little beyond tomatoes and garlic every after harvest.) It was my first political protest (for reasons beyond the scope of this blog) and I did it simply to irritate my step-father who was more than happy to impart his sauce-making secrets in a subversive attempt to bring me to the saucy side. Despite that, I was more than happy to try just about everything under the sun except frog’s legs (having lived across the road from a river through my formative years helped me develop a certain appreciation for amphibians and reptiles though having beef-farming grandparents didn’t sway me from eating cows, though it did make me more discerning in terms of what cow tastes like – having grown up on pasture-raised beef and wild game my dad brought home had me realising quickly that the stuff sold at grocery stores rather drastically lacked in flavour and substance) and brussel sprouts (I just don’t like those nasty little cabbages, ‘kay?)

So yes, at the tender age of 32 I too am a picky eater to a certain extent and really expect no less from my loin fruits and I still have no easy answer to the question with which I began this post. That said, I strive to maintain realistic expectations when it comes to foodstuffs. When I was about 14 my mum came home one day and announced that we were going to eat a strictly vegetarian (‘strictly’ in the loosest sense of the word as fish, eggs, chicken and dairy were permitted) diet from there on out. I embraced that at first (save every other weekend whilst visiting my hunter of a father) but quickly became disenchanted with the whole affair when meals became unimaginative and uninspired. Within 2 weeks I was reading Diet for a Small Planet and The Enchanted Broccoli Forest and learning about ingredients beyond leafy greens and tofu…and meat and potatoes.

I believe that experience, more than any other, introduced me to the concept of varied eating and made me aware of how it would benefit myself and how it impacts the rest of the world. Plus I had parents willing to openly discuss their politics on such matters with myself…generally in contrast with each other, but without judgement. Yeah, that’s pretty effin’ cool.

But I digress.

Point being, I had a pretty wonderfully set stage for my own parenthood when it came to food and politics. Then came my in-laws, who (bless ’em) would openly argue such things but were also completely committed to a certain level of self-sufficiency through maintaining a massive vegetable garden every year and who, despite our differences, imparted a wealth of knowledge to myself in assisting me in doing the same and, in so doing, shaped my children’s appetites.

What all of that boils down to, really, is involvement, variety and discussion. About a month ago the daughter came home and demanded we eat one vegetarian meal a week in order to make a healthier impact on the environment. Pointing out to her that we already did that (breakfasts and lunches are almost always vegetarian and vegetarian suppers in our house happen at least 4 out of 7 nights a week) lead to a discussion on how we could do it better. The sprogs assist in creating meals (they know the secret to fluffy yorkshire pudding) and contribute to grocery lists and are good for half a clue toward the cost of keeping food in our collective bellies. They know the rule is, no matter what the context, they have to try at least two bites of everything on their plate. That said, they’re absolutely allowed to dislike anything and everything (hey, I still don’t cook Brussels sprouts) but it’s their responsibility to come up with a comparably healthy alternative to whatever they’re rejecting. They’ve been responsible for creating their own (healthy) lunches since kindergarten (I’m so mean) and to do it according to the Canada Food Guide. They have free reign over fruits and vegetables as snacks but must ask first for anything else.

I don’t believe any of this is too much different than what’s happening in most Canadian households but if tossing around ideas helps then I’m happy to put my thoughts and methodologies out there.

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