food for thought

Discussion in 'Homesteading Questions' started by mpillow, Nov 24, 2004.

  1. mpillow

    mpillow Well-Known Member Supporter

    Jan 24, 2003
    Op-Ed Contributor: Food Without Fear

    November 23, 2004

    Pocantico Hills, N.Y. - Now that the bloom is finally off
    the Atkins diet rose, now that the instinct to, say, make a
    puree of potatoes feels slightly less suicidal, let us take

    a moment to realize that, when it comes to food, Americans
    have the tendency to lose all reason. With the same
    collective head-scratching that goes on when we look back
    at the big hair and shoulder pads of the 80's, we would do
    well to ask: What were we thinking?

    This question, of course, applies not just to the Atkins
    diet but to pretty much every diet fad Americans have
    followed over the last 30 years. In addition to catchy
    names, these diets tend to have one thing in common: they
    focus on what we eat - not on where what we eat comes from
    or how it was grown. Good nutrition has been conveniently,
    and profitably, reduced to an ingredient list. (Remember
    the grapefruit diet?)

    That's a shame -- and there's no better time to explore the
    ways in which we've been led astray than during
    Thanksgiving week, a time when Americans are particularly
    focused on food. (And, coincidentally, a time when we are
    blessedly between diet fads.) With a little scrutiny, we
    can see that our reductionist diet logic dissolves like a
    lump of sugar. Just consider the traditional Thanksgiving
    spread: it may appear to represent the American pastoral,
    but looks can be deceiving.

    Start with the turkey. If your image of a turkey's life is
    one of green grass and rolling hills, look more closely.
    Nearly 300 million turkeys are raised today on factory
    farms where they live in windowless buildings illuminated
    by bright lights 24 hours a day. (This keeps the turkeys
    awake and eating.) The birds stand wing to wing on wood
    shavings and eat an overly fortified diet that enables them
    to reach an ideal dressed weight of 15 pounds in 12 to 14
    weeks. The most popular breed is the Broad Breasted White,
    aptly named because these turkeys develop
    disproportionately large breasts, which makes it difficult
    for the birds to walk (if they had room to do so) and
    procreate (assuming they'd want to) without artificial

    So what kind of bird would fit more accurately with our
    agrarian fantasies? Well, how about one that spends most of
    its life outdoors? Such birds -- called pastured birds -- are
    able to move around freely. Instead of having to be
    injected with antibiotics to stay healthy, they doctor
    themselves, seeking out certain plants at certain times of
    the year for pharmacological reasons. Because they expend
    so much energy moving around, they also grow more slowly:
    it takes them a month longer to reach slaughter weight than
    factory birds, which is one of the reasons pasturing is
    less attractive to industrial farmers. Scientific research
    comparing the health benefits of conventionally raised
    turkey to pastured turkey is scarce, but some work has been
    done on chickens. A study sponsored by the Department of
    Agriculture in 1999, for example, found that pastured
    chickens have 21 percent less fat, 30 percent less
    saturated fat, 50 percent more vitamin A and 400 percent
    more omega-3 fatty acids than factory-raised birds. They
    also have 34 percent less cholesterol.

    The pasture principle isn't limited to fowl. Compared to
    most American beef, which is raised on a grain-intensive
    diet, pasture-fed beef offers 400 percent more vitamin A
    and E. It is also much richer in beta-carotene and
    conjugated linoleic acids, all of which inhibit cancer.
    It's also higher in omega-3 fatty acids, which are a major
    inhibitor of heart disease. These benefits don't exist at
    these levels in animal that are fed an unvaried and
    unnatural diet.

    The pasture principle can be applied to vegetables as well.
    We don't live off the food we eat -- we live off the energy
    in the food we eat. So while Mom asked us, "Did you eat
    your fruits and vegetables?" today we might well ask: "What
    are our vegetables eating?"

    It seems axiomatic but it's worth remembering that in order
    to experience the health benefits of the roasted broccoli
    at the Thanksgiving table, that broccoli needs to have been
    healthy too. We can be forgiven for ignoring the obvious
    because almost every diet I've seen treats a head of broccoli
    the way Gertrude Stein talked about a rose - but a broccoli
    is not a broccoli is not a broccoli, especially if you
    consider how and from where its grown.

    Sadly, the broccoli and the other brassicas on your holiday
    table (Brussels sprouts, cabbage, turnips, kale, mustard
    greens) were most likely grown in a monoculture -- a place
    where, with the help of large amounts of chemical
    fertilizers and pesticides, nothing but the crop is allowed
    to grow. Fertilizers are as pervasive in these large farms
    as tractors, especially synthetic nitrogen. And you can
    understand why: the chemicals bulk up vegetables
    beautifully and quickly, enabling them to withstand the
    rigors of long-distance travel so that they can arrive at
    your supermarket unbruised and brightly colored. But it's a
    little like dating someone on steroids: the look and feel
    may be an initially appealing, but in the end it's all kind
    of disconcerting.

    And think what gets lost. A serving of broccoli is
    naturally rich in vitamins A and B, and has more vitamin C
    than citrus fruit. But raised in an industrial farm
    monoculture, shipped over a long distance and stored before
    and after being delivered to your supermarket, it loses up
    to 80 percent of its vitamin C and 95 percent of its
    calcium, iron and potassium. Fruits and vegetables grown
    organically, however, have higher levels of antioxidants.
    That's largely because a plant's natural defense system
    produces phenolic compounds, chemicals that act as a
    plant's defense against pests and bugs. These compounds are
    beneficial to our health, too. When plants are grown with
    herbicides and pesticides, they slow down their production
    of these compounds. (Even more important, from a cook's
    point of view, organically grown fruits and vegetables
    taste better -- their flavors practically burst from the
    ground and demand to be expressed, and we chefs merely

    The same rules apply to the root vegetables, whether
    potatoes, sunchokes, beets, parsnips or carrots. Seek out
    ones grown in nutrient-rich soil for the greatest flavor
    and benefit. You can't buy good quality soil in a bag any
    more than you can buy good nutrition in a pill. Most
    organic farmers encourage complex relationships between
    crop roots, soil microbes and minerals -- relationships that
    become wholly disrupted by chemical additives.

    What about the milk and eggs that go into Thanksgiving pies
    and tarts? The industrialization of our food supply did not
    spare the dairy industry. Not surprisingly, pastured dairy
    cattle and laying hens produce more nutritious milk and
    cheese -- pastured eggs in particular, with their glowing
    yellow yolks, have up to three times the amount of
    cancer-fighting omega-3's of eggs that come from factory

    As a chef, I am often mystified as I hear diners, rooting
    around for a nutrition and dietary cure, ask for this
    steamed and that on the side, and in the process deny
    themselves pleasure. Choosing what dietary advice of the
    moment to follow by putting a wet finger up to the wind,
    our patrons decide, or succumb, en masse, to a pummeling of
    such wearisome regularity that it begins to resemble the
    "rosebud'' of "Citizen Kane": the clue that solves
    everything but means nothing.

    There is an ecology of eating. Like any good ecosystem, our
    diet should be diverse, dynamic and interrelated. In 1984
    Americans were spending roughly 8 percent of their
    disposable income on health care and about 15 percent on
    food. Today, those numbers are essentially reversed. An
    ever-more reductionist diet - protein this year,
    carbohydrates next year - ignores plant and animal systems
    loaded with genetic complexity, and the benefits that
    complexity passes down to us.

    So as you're getting ready for Thanksgiving, think of
    yourself less as a consumer of the harvest bounty and more,
    in the words of Carlo Petrini of the Slow Foods movement,
    as a co-producer. Try to remember what you know
    intuitively: that we can't be healthy unless our farms our
    healthy; that the end of the food chain is connected to the
    beginning of the food chain; that we can't lose touch with
    the culture in agriculture (it dates back to before Dr.
    Atkins). To the extent possible, shop at farmers markets
    for your Thanksgiving foods. Try to choose diversity over
    the abundance that the big food chains offer. Your food
    will be tastier, fresher and more nutritious. You'll be
    able to have your cake (and your bacon and your bread and
    your potatoes) and eat it too.

    Dan Barber is the chef of Blue Hill at Stone Barns and
    creative director of the Stone Barns Center for Food and
  2. 65284

    65284 Well-Known Member Supporter

    Sep 17, 2003
    Interesting, but is is a case of singing to the choir for most folks on this board. The large majority of us are already well aware of those thing of which he speaks. Now If more of the city slicker types would just pay attention we would all be better off.

  3. mpillow

    mpillow Well-Known Member Supporter

    Jan 24, 2003
    Hopefully a few city types will read it in their NY times and give us folks more business!....most of them wont do the rubber boot and manure thing because they are too conscientious but perhaps they will be more conscientious about their food.....!
  4. anniew

    anniew keep it simple and honest Supporter

    Dec 11, 2002
    NE PA
    I'm not so sure there is a large choir here. In my opinion, the
    amount of discretionary money one has is more the determining factor
    in the kind of food that is ingested. If you'll look at some of the
    other threads here and in other Homesteading forums, you'll see
    that making the most of the food dollar often has to do with
    where they can get the best deal for the least dollars, not
    where they can get the most nutritious food. This is not a
    criticism, merely looking at the reality of how to put food on the
    table to feed a family if you have minimal income. Many people
    garden extensively, but do they do it organically? Some. Do they
    realize that the bulk meat that they buy may be anything but the
    healthiest to buy? Probably not. Do they buy what they can to get
    by? Of course. The choir is small. The knowledge is often not there.
    The decision is not always the healthiest, but what will fill the gut.
  5. sylvar

    sylvar Well-Known Member

    Nov 1, 2004

    I am all for healthier foods and I raise my garden using organic methods.

    But I wish the folks who write these sorts of articles wouldn't try to snow people with BS. In the above quote the author talks first about how many vitamins are lost when you ship commercially grown broccoli, then turns around and says that organically grown vegatables have more antioxidants. He doesn't mention the fact that if you ship organically grown broccoli it loses the same amount of vitamins. The old bait and switch in action.

    I agree with your point Ann. Even growing your own with organic methods costs more at times. I am as big a tightwad as there is. Sometimes I sacrifice organic for affordable/ cost effective. My sweet corn for example, Sometimes I have to top dress with nitrogen if I want to get a crop. a bottle cost me $6 2 years ago. A fish emultion would have cost me $25 dollars and would have only been enough to do it once. Sometime its a trade off.