this is not the blog OF st. lucia, but from there...
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Sunday, January 20, 2008
I am sitting on my balcony at the still beach resort in soufrie st. lucia. I have a had 5 days of doing pretty much nothing. Lindsay and I have taken big trips to a mineral hot springs (1 mile away); a sulfur spring where you get sulfur mud and smear it all over your body and sleep with the gray much on your body over night (1.5 miles away); scuba diving (just down the stairs from our room); a hot mineral water fall (1 mile away). I have missed many late night pool games at the local bar, which Lindsay had attended. We have played way too many games of rummikub to count. I am usually the victor (should that be victoria?)!
We don’t have the internet here, which is hard for me. Some people like to disconnect entirely, I actually like the internet. But…maybe it has meant earlier bed times? I have been following the primary races with enthusiasm. I think Clinton is really dirty and hope her sales are ripped off with staggering defeats in South Carolina and the on tsunami Tuesday. I am glad the republican field is still so scattered. What excitement!
I feel like blogging because I am reading the “Omnivore’s Dilemma” and it is bending my mind all over the place.
About 10 years ago I started my departure from America’s industrialized food supply. I haven’t eaten at a McDonalds for at least 10 years (a fact I am proud of. I often say I only go to MickyD’s to make pee. They have free toilets all over the world). I started eating organic produce. Stopped eating meat (nearly entirely). As I have been able to afford it I have moved to getting most of my food from four sources: my garden (also a real source of pride); my CSA (community supported agriculture group); farmer dan (a Pennsylvania Amish farmer who sells raw milk, the best eggs in the world, and lots of other pasture raised animal products, and some crazy fermented beets); and Costco. That is not to say that I don’t stop in at MOM’s, YES, or Whole Foods periodically too. And I go to shoppers or Bangkok 54 for Mexican and asian stuff.
I have felt like I am doing the world really good eating more “simply so that others can simply live” etc. Then Michael Pollan has to go and blow some of my ideas. First of all, I would like to defensively say that lots of the stuff I do is good, and I do feel like I am ahead of the average American. I also think that the people that eat at my house think my food is really good and give me all sorts of praise for being a great chef. the truth is, it is all about the ingredients. I blew a couple of my interns minds this summer when I invited them over for a lunch of sandwiches: fresh mozzarella cheese (from Costco); homemade pesto with basil from my garden (and the other ingredients from Costco); yummy baguette from marvelous market; tomatoes from my garden; and balsamic vinegar. I had forgotten all about dessert so I cut up a peach and poured some cream on it (from farmer dan) and they were all praise. Had nothing to do with me. This was simply a meal that was going to be made or broken on the quality of the ingredients. The truth is, all meals are like that.
I have known for a long time that the American diet is basically corn (see pollan’s smithsonian article). I have found it despicable and have tried to ensure that I have real biodiversity in my diet. I didn’t know that this overproduction of corn was made possible by WWII. Huh??!!! As the war ended, there was a surplus of ammonium nitrate that they had been using to make bombs (explosives). “Ammonium nitrate also happens to be an excellent source of nitrogen for plants. Serious thought was given to spraying america’s forest with the surplus chemical, to help the timber industry. But agronomist in the USDA had a better idea: Spread the ammonium nitrate on farmland as fertilizer…As the Indian farmer activist Vandana Shiva says in her speeches ‘We’re still eating the leftovers of WWII.’”
So crazy in light of my experience recently in Zambia were I learned that the Zambian government has a program to give ammonium nitrate “fertilizer” to rural subsidence farmers. They have the farmers pay back one bag but give them two. The farmers rarely make much more than enough to pay back for the bag AND it depletes the soil. One enterprising peace corps volunteer started teaching women who were caring for children orphaned by AIDS to use sustainable farming methods. They had too many mouths to feed to risk this type of venture. The woman were very nervous, but started to compost and grow more protein dense veggies and legumes. After the first year the women had yields that were double their neighbors using the nitrogen fertilizer. Hopefully the beginning of a revolution. Just interesting that WWII is alive and well in Zambia in 2008!
One other interesting side note, Frizt Haber is the man who invented the process of “nitrogen fixing”: the process by which human create “synthetic nitrogen”. He won a Nobel Prize in 1920 for the discovery. He later threw himself into the German war effort and his invention allowed Germany to continue to make bombs. “Later as the war became mired in the trenches of France, Haber put his genius for chemistry to work developing poison gases – ammonia, then chlorine. (He subsequently developed Zyklon B, the gas used in Hitler’s concentration camps.)” Clearly, this was not a man who was too concerned with the ethical implications of his inventions. His wife, also a chemist, killed herself after learning about the creation of the gases. Most of the food in the world has now been touched by this mans invention!
One other mind-blowing issue for me is farm raised fish. I have thought for years that my eating low on the food chain was doing a small thing to limit my impact on the planet. Turns out, eating salmon from a farm is about the same as eating chicken from a farm. It is all corn. I have noticed that the salmon I get at Costco has artificial colors added (which has bugged me). But now I learn that the fish live in small ponds, are fed only corn and weird drugs, and then sent to me to eat. FREAK! What am I supposed to eat now? I can’t really go and catch my own fish. Does this mean I am going to have to stop eating fish? I hope not. But I will have to do something. I will keep you posted.
One last thing, I love to have “green drink’ in the morning. It is spinach, pineapple juice, and tofu blended for so long that the spinach is completely chopped-up small you can’t tell you are drinking spinach. I have been getting my pine apple juice from Dole and my spinach from Earthbound Farms, an organic farm that produces 80% of the organic greens in America. The pineapple has always bugged me because Dole is nearly a swearword in Central America due to their egregious behaviour in the 80s when they took over peoples farms, promised to pay them didn’t, and created a famine by growing more fruit… now pollan is telling me that earthbound farms might not be much better. They barely meet the “organic standard” set by USDA which everyone knows in malarkey and they are shipping it from so far that I am adding so much carbon to the atmosphere just by getting the spinach that I might now need to just get spinach from farmers locally. But I worry about eating such large amounts of spinach that have pesticides. ARG!!! What am I supposed to do about that?? I am going to have to get back to you there too.