My response to Cernetig

May 20, 2008

I just submitted this to the editor of the Vancouver Sun in response to Cernetig’s really lousy piece on the 100-mile diet:

To the editor:

Miro Cernetig’s May 17, 2008 piece on the 100-mile diet (“Worship the 100-mile diet, eat at the world’s table”) manages to miss the point in its trendy haste to name-drop Capers and Lulu Lemon.

The 100-mile diet is a response to the global food system that Cernetig celebrates so lustily. This system is based on the consumption of enormous amounts of fossil fuels, in the form of fertilizers, packaging, fuel for farm equipment and transportation. Crude oil production is in crisis, and its price is at unprecedented levels and rising fast. Extraction and consumption of these chemicals contribute to atmospheric CO2, the main cause of global warming.

The 100-mile diet is based on the observation that this global food system is dependent on an environmentally destructive resource whose future availability and affordability are in question. We need to start developing strategies for reducing our use of fossil fuels. We all love mangoes and bubbly, but we need to be aware of the true cost of getting those mangoes and that bubbly to our table. The 100-mile diet is a method for starting to understand and talk about the true cost of food.

Sincerely,
David Parkinson
Powell River, BC

I feel slightly better, but the 200-word limit is a tough constraint. There’s a lot to say about journalism this slack-ass and complacent.

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100-mile diet schmundred-mile diet

May 20, 2008

The Vancouver Sun is running a feature this week called “Feast or Famine”, all about the global food crisis, local eating, urban farming, organic farming, and other related topics. Unfortunately they got one of their regular columnists, Miro Cernetig, to write a ‘contrarian’ piece about the 100-mile diet, which is truly awful. I guess a backlash is a sign of success, but they could have tried harder to find someone willing to investigate the really interesting problems with relocalization and trying to eat locally.

The argument seems to be something like:

  1. Privileged people with money can buy food and wine from everywhere; therefore that is a good thing.
  2. Eating locally hurts small farmers in the third world. (I don’t want to talk about agri-business.)
  3. Hey, I thought we were all about fair trade. You guys changed the rules again! Miro is confused.
  4. Eating ethically is hard; so why bother trying?
  5. As soon as food travels more than 100 miles, it becomes evil.

Here’s the peroration:

But if eliminating CO2-heavy food from our diet is the new imperative, it also means you have to feel guilty about buying anything not grown within a 100-mile radius. How is that going to help the world’s peasants trying to sell their beans to us?

So, to be honest, I’m not into the 100-Mile Diet and never will be. I love my 40,008-Kilometre Diet. I don’t even feel guilty about it. In fact, I celebrate eating a mango and drinking a glass of bubbly from the other side of the planet as one of the heights of human achievement.

I mean, didn’t we spend millennia getting to this point as a species? From Alexander the Great to Rome’s Caesar to the British nabobs, building global empire was often about expanding the food chain, as much about finding tea as gold.

Global epicureanism is part of human evolution. And now it’s here.

Horrible, horrible, horrible.


Seasonal Food File (May): Rhubarb Realizations

May 12, 2008

It’s Rhubarb Season…

If you’re a fan of sweet and sour, rhubarb is the perfect food. Best known as a tangy pie filling, this vegetable has such potential as a sweet treat, that it is most often considered a fruit.

As with most complex carbohydrates, rhubarb is low in calories. Because it is 95 percent water, rhubarb is generally not thought of a highly nutritious food. However, its nutrients match its taste in significance, boasting a good amount of vitamin C, folate, calcium, magnesium and phosphorus. Rhubarb is also considered a good source of potassium and is rich in fibre.

Rhubarb for Healing
Originating in Asia more than 2,000 years ago, rhubarb was first used for medicinal purposes. Chinese folklore reveals that doctors used the plant to reduce fever and cleanse the body. According to specific Asian tradition, rhubarb is an extremely effective food for detoxifying and cooling the liver. In Traditional Chinese Medicine today, the root and stem are used as a remedy to reduce the toxicity that results from eating too much meat. A study from the University of Alberta in Edmonton, found that rhubarb stalk lowers both cholesterol and fat levels in the blood.

Choosing Ripe Rhubarb
Select stems that are long, thin, and fully colored. They should be firm and crisp, without seeming hard. If leaves are still attached, they should look fresh. Avoid either very slender or very thick stems, since these are probably over-ripe and will be too fibrous to enjoy.

Rhubarb stalks can be stored for up to four weeks when sealed, unwashed, in a plastic bag in the refrigerator. Peel off any stringy covering before cooking. Be sure to cook and eat only the stems of the rhubarb plant. The leaves contain toxic levels of oxalic acid, which makes them poisonous.

Rhubarb Nutrition:
One cup of diced rhubarb contains:
Vitamin C      10 mg
Folate         8.5 mcg
Calcium     105 mg
Magnesium     14.5 mg
Phosphorus     17 mg
Potassium    351 mg
Protein        1 g
Dietary fibre    5

Rhubarb Recipe Ideas:
– add chopped bits to muffin batter
– combine with strawberries or raspberries when making jam
– use when making apple crisp, apple pie, apple cake and apple sauce

Rhubarb Sauce Recipe:
1 1/2 cups slice, 1/4” thick rhubarb
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup unpasteurized honey
1 Tbsp arrowroot powder (or corn starch) dissolved in a 1/2 tsp water

Place the rhubarb and water in a small pot. Cook, uncovered, over medium heat until the rhubarb is totally soft and able to be stirred into a sauce-like consistency. Add the honey and stir, continuing to cook, for another two to five minutes, until well blended. If you desire thicker sauce, whist in the arrowroot powder, whisking continuously until thick (if necessary, turn heat up so that sauce bubbles slightly).

The entire cooking process should take no longer than 25 minutes. Serve immediately over potatoes, rice  or ice cream.


Julian Darley: “Rethinking and relocalizing our food and fuel systems”

May 8, 2008

From HopeDance Magazine:

“Ultimately, the most obvious way to source your food – and energy – more securely, resiliently and locally is to grow some of it yourself. And this is the part that could apply to every able bodied human being  – if only they have access to some fertile land and the tools and knowledge to work it. After all, if we lived within our local carrying capacity and had fair access to fertile land, we would be able to feed and provide for ourselves without relying heavily on a vast and increasingly unreliable food and fuel system. That however, will involve us rethinking land use, land ownership and how we should live. The sooner we are ready for that, the sooner we’ll start building a sustainable food system, and much else besides.”

His comments about meat consumption underscore how truly idiotic the meat inspection regulations are that we are facing in BC. A wise government would be doing everything it could to encourage small-scale meat production and local consumption. Instead, the small-scale is under threat, and we will have to rely increasingly on trucked-in meat. It’s madness.

If you can’t get enough of Julian Darley, here‘s a link to a conversation between him and David Holmgren, one of the co-founders of permaculture.


WOW!!! Two opportunities to learn about wild plants and foraging! (Sat. May 10 and Sun. May 25)

May 6, 2008

We are lucky here in the Powell River area to have a few local experts in recognizing and gathering wild food plants, and knowing how to use them food food or for medicinal uses.

Brian Lee will be leading a plant walk this Saturday May 10, and Kristi McCrae will be leading another one on Sunday May 25. All the relevant information is given below. Please come out and support your local wild plant experts, get some fresh air, and learn a thing or two (hundred) about your local bioregion!!

Sat. May 10: Wild Edge plant walk with Brian Lee

Come out with Brian Lee (Bush Man) for a wild plant walk. You will see that the local bushes have a variety of plant life to offer and the Spring is when the edibles are at their peak.  Most plants are multi-use; edible, medicinal, clothing, shelter, tools, etc. and I will speak to these uses. The bush is like a supermarket and sometimes you can’t get everything on one aisle, but come out for a wild walk and we will see what Mother Nature has to offer us.
Saturday May 10, 9:00 AM to 12:00 AM
Meet in the parking lot of the Community Resource Centre, 4752 Joyce Ave., Powell River
$20 per person; kids of babysitting age are free (accompanied by a parent)
For more information call Brian at (604) 414-5183

Sun. May 25: Wild Edible and Medicinal Plant Walk with Kristi McCrae

Plant identification, a couple different ecosystems, discussion about properties of wild plants, harvesting and preparation.
Sunday May 25, 10:00 AM
Craig Park in Lund (on Craig Rd.)
$15-$25 sliding scale (kids free)
Bring: Lunch, Field guides, water
Be prepared to hike
If you have a back road worthy vehicle that we may carpool in that would be great!!
Contact: Kristi at (604) 414-5723 or woodwitch@ecomail.org


Growing your own food is catching on in BC

May 5, 2008

From The Tyee, Some evidence from local seed retailers that the grow-your-own food movement is really catching on this season:

“We put out the catalog at the beginning of January, as we always do” says Jeanette McCall, a sales representative at West Coast Seeds, based in Delta, B.C.

“Then, boom. We had many, many, many more orders than we anticipated. [Our computer system] simply couldn’t handle the load,” she adds. “It just sort of crashed.”

It’s the same story at Salt Spring Seeds, which specializes in heritage and heirloom vegetable varieties.

“I’ve never seen the likes of this in over 20 years of selling seeds,” confirmed owner Dan Jason.

Now, if we could only establish a local seed-saving project here, to serve our local needs…


Seasonal Food File (March): Dandelion

March 9, 2008

Hi. Sandra Tonn here. Thought I’d post a seasonal food each month and share some nutrition information and ideas of how to use it. So, here’s the first one…

Detoxifying Dandelion
Not surprisingly, the earliest of nature’s offerings are the most bitter and contain especially purgative qualities for the liver and gallbladder. Spring’s bitter greens include endive, sheep sorrel, radicchio, yellow dock, and the most famous–dandelion. Dandelion is both nutritious and a healing medicine. In fact, the whole plant can be eaten as either food or used as medicine.

As long as they have not been sprayed with herbicides, the young spring dandelion leaves are the best choice for food as they are only mildly bitter, but powerful enough to gently cleanse the body. Pick them yourself (be sure they have not been sprayed and are not close to a heavy traffic area) or purchase them from organic farmers, the farmer’s market, or produce markets.

According to Sharol Tilgner ND, author of Herbal Medicine from the Heart of the Earth Wise Acres (October, 1999), dandelion leaves are known to increase the flow of urine, stimulate the bowels, thin the blood, decrease inflammation, support and stimulate the liver, stimulate the gall bladder and dry up boggy tissues. Use them in salads or with steamed vegetables.

The roots, best taken in the form of a tea, are especially cleansing for the liver. A study published in The Journal of Pharmacy and Pharmacology showed that dandelion tea improved the liver’s ability to clear toxins by 244 percent.

Both the leaves and root may be helpful in emotional cleansing as well. Since the liver is associated with anger, this herb is thought to help release feelings of anger and agitation. On a spiritual level, the dandelion supports the solar plexus (the energy centre or chakra located above the navel), and any imbalance or disease that arise here.

Physiologically, dandelion leaves, and all spring bitters, will stimulate digestion. Eaten at the beginning of a meal they will stimulate valuable hydrochloric acid production, which improves digestion and absorption of minerals and proteins.