Book Review, Omnivore’s Dilemma

I finally finished reading this book, Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan. It was recommended to me 3 years ago and it seemed like an intriguing book. Then I got very sick, had trouble eating, tried many different diets, ultimately diagnosed with cancer. So, the book became a must read by relevance. The sub-title is “A Natural History of Four Meals”. The author takes us on a scavenger hunt exploration and at no time are you checking off Meal #1, ok, what is Meal #2 – you get quite lost in the lovely journey.

The length of time it took me to read Omnivore’s Dilemma, 2 weeks shy of 2 years now, is no reflection on the book itself-extreme life interruptions, book went into storage, even checked a copy out of the library, plus the silly notion that reading is a selfish hobby.

I highly recommend this book. It is smart, witty and thought provoking. It answers the question “where does our food come from” in an honest way through in-depth research and discovery. Pollan’s writing style “one of gleeful irony and barely suppressed outrage” says the Los Angeles Times, elevates this book to edutainment. Interesting facts like a typical McDonald’s meal equals around 2 pounds of corn-that’s like eating 6 ears of corn in one sitting! Also the revelation that the French, who indulge in butter, bread, cheese and meat daily have the lowest incidence of heart disease! You will have to read “Omnivore’s Dilemma” to see if Michael actually pulls the trigger to complete his hunter/gatherer meal.

The irony for me was, that after all this time, the book crossed the finish line exactly when I could not appreciate the “Omnivore’s Dilemma”. Currently I am a vegetarian merely consuming what is available. As I read the last 20 pages, which unfortunately was Meal #4 – a huge, delectable spread of home picked, scratch made creations, I am reduced to a meager pantry. Thankfully, reading is a feast for the soul that no one can take away.

Largest Crop in America Inedible?

I was stunned to find out what the largest single crop in America is – I have asked many people to guess and the answers are corn, wheat, soybeans – all very good answers. But no, the largest crop in America is Lawn Grass, 63,000 Square Miles of it according to a 2015 study by C. Miles at NASA. Or 40 Million Acres in crop-talk. So, we purposefully labor on average 10 minutes everyday to produce this inedible crop that we dump 9 billion gallons of water on per day according to the EPA.

Well, if we are afraid of running out of water and food – there’s your answer – quit having a lawn!!! Of course, that will take some convincing of habits, culture, homeowners associations – heck even a woman in rural Ohio, Sarah Baker was threatened with a $1000 fine if she didn’t mow her 1 acre “yard”.

According to Christopher Ingraham of the Washington Post “Lawns are a Soul-Crushing Timesuck and most of us would be Better Off Without Them”. (great article!)

Why should we care? Countless reasons, but here is a great one to chew on: honey bees, our pollinators, have been dying off at an unsustainable rate and one in three bites of food you take requires a pollinating insect to produce it…….

Take Away:

  1. Lawn-largest single crop in America
  2. Americans wasting time and water on an inedible crop
  3. Honey Bees, our food pollinators, are dying off

What can you do? 

  1. Reduce your lawn today
  2. Grow Flowers for the bees
  3. Grow a Vegetable Garden

Quick & Delicious, it’s whats for Dinner!

I love to cook, I love to eat, and I love to feed my family a dinner that everyone raves about. After 30 years, I think I have mastered it! Yes, I am a slow learner. And I would like to share some of my successes so others don’t have to take 30 years to get to a quick and delicious meal! This meal is suited for all abilities – I am quite sure my teenagers could make it! Well, and even my 25 year old who would rather drive through for food.

Pan Fried Pork Chops and Homemade Loaded Potatoes        Feeds 4 People

Ingredients:

8 thinly sliced boneless pork chops

5 potatoes

8 oz shredded cheddar cheese

8 strips of bacon

4 green onions

salt and pepper

  1. Assemble all of your ingredients on the counter-yes, especially the pork chops-they cook best if they are room temperature! Preheat oven to 350.
  2. Season the pork chops, both sides with your favorite blend in the pantry: cajun, Lawry’s, salt and pepper, whatever you have on hand. Let sit.
  3. Put potatoes on a plate and microwave, 2 minutes at a time, moving the potatoes around on the plate for even cooking for a total of 6 minutes-maybe 8 min-give them a squeeze to make sure they are cooked.
  4.  In the meantime, get out a big skillet and use a pair of kitchen scissors to cut the bacon into 1/2 inch pieces right into the pan. Saute until fairly crisp.
  5.  While the bacon is frying and the potatoes are microwaving wash and slice your green onions-the white and the green part-all of it.
  6. Pour half of the bacon grease into a 9X13 pan, and put the cooked bacon on a serving plate to use later. Leave the remaining bacon grease in the big skillet.
  7. Slice the potatoes 1/4 thin and put them in the 9X13 pan, sprinkle with salt and pepper, add half of the bacon and half of the onions. Now toss this all together in the 9X13 pan and put in the oven for 10 minutes. You now have a 10 min. break 🙂
  8. When the time is up, turn the heat on your skillet to medium. Take the potatoes out of the oven and sprinkle the cheese all across the top and the remaining bacon. Put back in the oven.
  9. Make sure the skillet is hot with the bacon grease in it-pan fry the pork chops 3 minutes on the first side (set a timer!!!) and 2 minutes on the second side. Remove from heat.
  10. Take potatoes out of the oven and sprinkle the remaining green onions on the top – serve with sour cream. It’s Dinner Time 🙂

This meal is now one of my family’s favorites, you can serve it with a salad, applesauce, celery and carrots whatever your family enjoys.

Also, there are 5 ingredients and only one of them is processed, the cheese. So, 4 whole foods plus cheese.

 

Beef Fed Beef

So, I am a vegetarian….. I am not alone in my family, there are a few followers. However, some of the meat eaters are tenacious and obnoxious, which we do encourage in this house. I try to compromise, offering organic grass-fed beef at the dinner table. Some of the meat eaters scoffed at this lovely offering and requested “beef fed beef”. This started as a joke. As any mother would do, I researched their request, I will take the culinary challenge. I was horrified to find that they had eaten “beef fed beef” quite often. Request already granted! Stay with me here, don’t bother to google “beef fed beef”, trust me, nothing will come up. The industry definitely changes the names to protect the innocent – or hide the unpleasant facts.

Joel Salatin of Polyface Farms says “Our first responsibility is to try to figure out what kind of a habitat allows them {cows} to fully express their physiological distinctiveness. The cow doesn’t eat corn; she doesn’t eat dead cows; she doesn’t eat cow manure, which is what is currently being fed to cows in the industrial food system. We feed cows grass, and that honors and respects the cow-ness of the cow.” Yes Magazine Article

I like and respect Joel Salatin – I’ve read books, articles, watched videos, perused his website – but I’m guessing you may not be familiar with him, so I have dug up some alternate proof of his claims:

C. R. Hamilton, Director Research and Nutritional Services, Darling International Incorporated, U.S.A. writes an article produced by the Agriculture and Consumer Protection Agency saying:

“During slaughter and processing, between 33 and 43 percent by weight of the live animal is removed and discarded as inedible waste. These materials, which include fat trim, meat, viscera, bone, blood and feathers are collected and processed by the rendering industry to produce high quality fats and proteins that have traditionally been used in the animal feed and oleochemical industries around the world.”

What I find most interesting about this sentence is that “inedible waste” quickly turns into “materials” and then skyrockets to “high quality”. Extremely fast metamorphosis.

Now in 1996, also stated in the above article , things changed:

“When the FDA first considered preventative measures in 1996, renderers and cattle producers voluntarily stopped using meat and bone meal derived from ruminant animals in cattle feed.” “The rendering industry is committed to achieving 100 percent compliance to the FDA ban (No. 21 CFR 589.2000) which prohibits the feeding of mammalian proteins (with some specified exemptions) to cattle and other ruminant animals.”

If you read the entire article, charts and all, you will learn that “specified exemptions” refers to cow blood – so we have reduced our feedlot cows from cannibals to mere vampires. That’s progress folks!

Take away: Know what you are putting in your bodies – and understand the effects. You can pay a farmer, or you can pay a doctor – your choice. 

Bailey Spice, Dartmouth, Large Red Siberian

 

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Bailey Spice, Dartmouth, Large Red Siberian

Can anyone guess what the title refers to? Have you ever heard of these items? I can assure you, that you have never enjoyed one. Is it a list of drinks? No, they are actually varieties of something extremely common – the apple. Unfortunately, all of these and about 995 more have vanished from our American life. We are now sequestered to about 15 “hand-picked” varieties. Why is that?

I found these tantalizing names in a book called “The Apples of New York” published back in 1905.  Back in 1905 commercial apple orchards were rare, and farmers grew hundreds of kinds of apples. The farmers saved and shared seeds. Commercial agriculture grew and these varieties vanished. Again Why?

Because seed production is controlled by seed regulation – large seed companies patent their seeds prohibiting farmers from saving seeds and sharing seeds.

Thankfully there are small farmers out there in America saving seeds, sharing seeds and creating a new movement called seed banks. We are pioneers at heart, let’s not forget that. Support your small farmers, care about what you eat! If we ask questions, learn our history and treasure our culture we will naturally want to preserve it.

Eating like a Soldier

Eating like a Soldier

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If you have to eat canned food, choose a high quality product like Margaret Holmes

Why do I eat like a soldier?? Quickly walking past the produce aisle at the grocery store to revel in the aisle after aisle of canned food that was actually invented for soldiers. Back in 1806 Napoleon had a problem, how to feed his soldiers out in the battle fields. So, Napoleon charged his population with the task of preserving food to feed his troops – and Nicolas Appert obliged by inventing Canned Food. The soldiers were able to carry the canned goods and eat while waging war. Times have changed, it is no longer 1806, we are not relegated to preserved foods, but we still have problems that need solved.

One of 4 adults in America had two or more chronic diseases in 2012. “Health risk behaviors are unhealthy behaviors you can change. Four of these health risk behaviors—lack of exercise or physical activity, poor nutrition, tobacco use, and drinking too much alcohol—cause much of the illness, suffering, and early death related to chronic diseases and conditions.” According to the Centers for Disease Control

Fresh fruits and vegetables are readily available everywhere now: grocery, farmers market, backyard gardens, restaurants. All the convenience foods nowadays are overkill, really. What is more convenient than eating a banana? There really is no excuse – just choices. What is better for your body – a fresh, local green bean or a canned green bean? Applesauce or an apple? Grape Juice or grapes? Your body was made to intake whole, unchanged foods the best.

What is “whole food”? any food item that is 1 ingredient: apple, banana, carrot, potato

What is “eating clean”? It is about eating more of the best and healthiest options in each of the food groups—and eating less of the not-so-healthy ones. Eating food that is the least processed. (apple vs applesauce)

We do have a problem today – Disease!! We need to search for answers. I am not suggesting that we eat better just to feel better – I am telling you that if we eat better we are combating disease.

Let’s eat like modern day soldiers, fighting the war on Disease.