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Posts Tagged ‘organic’

The image of a 7 year-old wearing a bra is disturbing to me. Not only is childhood being cut short in the West driven by many factors including media of all sorts, an obsession with the body, with sexualizing everything, the glamorization of violence, etc, etc – you know the deal.  Now childhood is being cut short even earlier by means of biology.

As someone who matured early, I can tell you personally that it’s not a pleasant experience.  You don’t fit.  You look different.  You are treated differently.  It takes years for people to catch up, and by then, it’s “too late.”  You’ve been different, often ostracized socially, or at least placed in a different category for so long.  You are treated as more of an adult.  You think of yourself as more of an adult.  There is a vast effect on self-esteem.  The list goes on.  For a long time people have also talked about the health risks that these resulting women are afflicted by, including earlier-onset menopause and a much greater risk for breast cancer and osteoporosis.  Recent studies also suggest that these girls become sexually active much earlier, exposing them to potential disease, pregnancy, and all of the psychological issues that are involved in such behavior.  And the earlier a girl develops, the higher the risks for all of these things, physically, mentally, emotionally, and with the future of her health and lifespan.

A tough break.  Nobody asks for it.  And throughout all time it was something over which we thought we had no control.

Until recently.

My mother forwarded me this article published in Reuters citing a definitive study that concluded that girls are entering puberty earlier at quite alarming rates.  The main cause that they focused on was childhood obesity.  Fat girls were more likely to develop earlier.  OK.  I drew a connection to why much earlier than the article did.  As I read I kept waiting and waiting and waiting for the article to mention it.  Come on now.  What are people eating that makes them obese?  The moment I was waiting for came at the end and wasn’t explored much: HORMONES in our FOOD.

In 2005 Americans 185 lbs meat per capita

Puberty results from hormone changes within the brain which signal the reproductive organs.  They in turn send more hormone signals to other parts of the body, initiating growth and change.  I’m not going to get into science.  I’m not a scientist and I’m not going to bother with citations up the wazoo.  Everyone reading this blog is capable of doing the same google searches that I do.  But here are the main things I gleaned:

  • Two-thirds of American cattle raised for slaughter today are injected with hormones to make them grow faster, and America’s dairy cows are given a genetically-engineered hormone called rBGH to increase milk production.
  • European Union’s Scientific Committee on Veterinary Measures Relating to Public Health questioned whether hormone residues in the meat of “growth enhanced” animals and can disrupt human hormone balance, causing developmental problems, interfering with the reproductive system, and even leading to the development of breast, prostate or colon cancer.
  • Children, pregnant women and the unborn are thought to be most susceptible to these negative health effects.
  • Hormones are also present in animals’ excrement which remains in the soil for months, can seep into the groundwater supply, and also move into bodies of water where they affect fish reproduction.

Hormones and Puberty

Why are hormones used on cattle?  To make them bigger and to produce more milk.  More, more, more, cheaper, cheaper, cheaper.   Having read Jonathan Safran Foer’s Eating Animals, as well as Ruth Ozeki’s My Year of Meats, years ago, I have become very concerned about the amount of hormones we’re consuming.  When you think about it, hormones of every sort are simply chemical signals.  Each hormone triggers actions that different systems in our bodies take.  We have hormones that control metabolism, growth, mood swings, immune system, reproduction, and more.   Can you imagine what we’re doing by adding (or flooding) wrong signals into our bodies?  Depression, hyperactivity, metabolic issues, goodness, everything can be affected adversely.  In the macro world, messed up signals and messages can cause airplanes to crash, cars to crash, wars to start, for goodness sake.  What systems are crashing, wars are being fought inside our bodies?

So, here’s one of the most obvious examples: little girls sprouting breasts at 7 and 8 years-old.  It’s easy to see because it’s the hardest to ignore.  Breasts are out there.  And little girls aren’t supposed to have them, poor things.  I can’t imagine what’s going on inside all of us that we can’t see.  And although I’m not eating meat right now (thankfully so, until I make up my mind about some issues, and if/until I find organic meat and humane slaughtering that I think are acceptable), I’m drinking English Breakfast tea with milk right now.  Milk.  You go on thinking, a little drop of milk won’t hurt.  I’m not drinking gallons.  But it might add up.  And as a good American child, I did drink gallons.  Every week.  I had a minimum of 3-5 glasses a day, (not counting what I added to my cereal), and with two sisters and a dad who liked milk too, we went through a gallon almost every day.  We would buy 2+ 2-gallon bottles every week.  Perhaps it’s not so shocking I went through puberty early.

As far as I can see, this is another strong strong and scary argument for forgoing non-organic meats and milk (and eggs, now that I’m thinking about it, although that’s more for antibiotics, also a related scary issue).   So scary that although I am so swamped with work, it’s not funny, I stopped everything to blog about this.  I leave you with this: think hard about what you put into your body. It becomes you.  I need to start thinking harder, too.

Links on the topic:

Scary UK National Obesity Ad Campaign (worth a look)

3 year-olds getting their period

Artificial hormones

EU scientists confirm health risks of hormones in meat

Puberty coming earlier for girls

Childhood obesity brings early puberty for girls

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Last night I returned from a weekend retreat.  This was a meditation retreat like no other.  Half silent Vipassana meditation, half activities and discussions about activism in the world and approaching it from a Dharma perspective.  In other words, Engaged Dharma. This post’s a bit long – if it’s too long, skip to the last 2-3 paragraphs or so. Would love your thoughts.

Dharma (Sanskrit: धर्म) or Dhamma (Pāli: धम्म) in general terms refers to the teachings of the Buddha.  If I can encapsulate the entire message and purpose of Buddhism, it is this: there is suffering, it can be understood, and there is a way to end suffering.   This was the first and most important teaching of the Buddha (the four noble truths).

Taking Buddhism up and away from the meditation cushion isn’t necessarily easy.  Serious introspection is a personal process.  That said, we live in the real world.  Even monks have to get up, clean house, and eat food.  For people who are socially engaged, trying to better the world, whether it be battling poverty, cleaning the environment, empowering abused women, etc, and who come from the Buddhist world, this can be both an inspiring experience and also a more difficult one.

Activists can be very angry.  Anger gets people to take up arms and take action.  Buddhists come from a peaceful place.  I feel that it comes quite naturally that people who are learning about or who follow the teachings of the Buddha, which all center around ending suffering, would be people who want to extend this to the world.

When I returned from the first Vipassana retreat about 4 months ago, I vowed to myself that I would become engaged in the world again.  Volunteer, give back, participate in activities that matter.  It took some time, but this was my first step.  But I have to admit, it was quite daunting.  I feel that I’ve gained some firmer footing with my dhamma practice.  I wanted to go to this retreat in order to retreat.  It’s been stressful, and this weekend was in many ways a birthday gift from myself (financed by grandma’s annual birthday cash, “buy something nice for yourself, so thank you grandma).   But I felt that everyone there was already very engaged, if not somewhat engaged in activities and organizations who are doing important things.  The shame I’ve felt for a long time, not actively helping, bubbled to the surface.  As I think I’ve said on the blog, I never expected I’d become one of the majority, a member of the complacent couch potato society of the world.  I was so incredibly active in my youth: AIDS outreach, peer counseling, working with at-risk youth, running after-school drama clubs for under-served communities.  But perhaps this is the perfect example of traditional activism and volunteerism: burnout.

Helping the world is noble.  But it is painful.  It hurts.  The more you help, the more you realize how much more help is needed.  You may get to a place where the whole shebang feels hopeless.  Your anger, drive, hard work leaves you empty.  What good is what you’re doing?  Nothing seems to be changing.  Trees keep being chopped down.  People keep getting sick.  Children are still starving.

Sangha at Zen Peacemakers Conference

A Dharma community may be the answer in dealing with this problem.  Coming from a “happier” place, a peaceful place, a real supportive community where pain and suffering has a method to be dealt with, is a great refuge.  In fact, it may be the most important element within the Buddhist path.  There are three refuges:

Buddha (the enlightened one, the teacher, our spiritual potential), the Dhamma (the teaching, the path), and the Sangha (the community).  Buddha himself said that of the three, the Sangha is the most important.  In fact, “By taking refuge in the Sangha, we become the refuge. This is the path of the Buddhas.”

My Path: part of my trouble is making decisions.  There are so many options, in every aspect of life, I often freeze up.  Towards the end of the retreat, as interesting and inspiring as it was, I still wasn’t sure what my actions would be.  Would I join a group that deals with a sort of micro-banking for women?  Would I help poor families get on the economic ladder?  What was my passion?  Because here’s the thing: if you spread yourself too this, nothing much will be accomplished.  The story of my life.  You have to choose one thing, and give it your all.  My “eureka” moment came during a guided “stream of consciousness” exercise, talking about what we cared about, what our skill set was, what projects I could take on.  And it spilled out.

FOOD

I am interested, in fact passionate about food.  My problem having gone to culinary school, working at a winery, writing this vaguely food-esque blog, is that it’s about the food in front of us.  But as you’ve seen, in my posts about the “Anatomy of a muffin,” “How important is it, really, to buy local?,” “Edible Urban Greenery,” and “The Idea Human Diet,” I really go into the origins of the food we eat, the social implications, the historic precedent, the current conditions of the food around us, etc, etc, etc.  There are many more posts, in fact, dealing with organic food, world hunger, and socially-conscious restaurants.  How did I not realize that this is something very important to me??  Even my next novel is all about food and ecology.  The drastic future of food.

So, stay tuned.  There will be a project, big or small as it may be, that I will be spearheading.  Maybe it’s been done before.  Maybe I’ll find that out and start participating (no need to reinvent the wheel).  I want to find out where all of our food comes from, I want to know all about the new science of food, I want to know about who works to make our food, I want to advocate for better food standards, and I want to become involved in organic agriculture.  AND most importantly, I want to share this knowledge with the world. I want to teach.  This will involve a website and a lot more.  I’ve already met people who live on kibbutzes who’ve invited me down to see their massive chicken coops and dairies.  I have vegan friends who are already far more involved in some of these movements.  But I know I don’t want to alienate.  I will not be advocating vegetarianism.  I simply think it’s important to know.  And once we know, we can decide to either make better choices about what we put into our bodies, or help effect change in the bigger picture, or both.  This is my passion:

Agriculture – Ecology – Hunger – Human Rights

If you’d like to join me, learn more, provide insight, advice, intro to organizations, farms in Israel, etc, please contact me.

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Can eating organic make you thin? Apparently, yes.

Heirloom Tomato Slice (from abbyladybug flickr)

We’re not just talking collard and broccoli and sprouts and squash.  There’s organic chocolate, beef, spaghetti, cereal, the works. Intuitively, I can understand why organic is healthier.  No pesticides, no hormones, no genetically modified goodness knows what.  There’s nothing in there that will hurt us.  Nutrition-wise, people seem to have been on the fence.  An organic tomato probably has the same amount of calories as a regular tomato, right?  I’ve not done the research, so don’t hold this all over my head.  But vitamin and mineral-wise – I mean, come on, folks, look at the organic tomato! Compared to the waxy colorless lifeless orbs piled high at the super, how can it not have a gazillion percent more good stuff in it?

Check out this wonderful and surprising video by Mary Schook (visit her blog FoodIncAvenue).  Tell your friends.  This is awesome.

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Conjoined Quadruplet Strawberry - a surprise indeed! Found in a box I picked up for 5 shekels on the street corner. Made for an interesting dessert.

Balsamic Strawberry Dessert - this is what the mutant (and its siblings) went into - best strawberry dessert, ever! Just add balsamic vinegar and sugar! Stir! Let sit! And we ate it with fresh whipped cream. I've done it with vanilla ice cream (the best), and I've done it with moscato sabayon - very decadent.

Tomato Anise Jam at Cafe Arlozorov - what a joy! Very weird, most people, and indeed the friend I was with, don't really like stuff like this. I mean, gosh, tomato jam? And then, tomato jam with anise?! But it was wonderful. Really wonderful. Hence the image below...

My attempt at tomato anise (cinnamon) jam - tonight actually! Just came off the stove! Decent result. Cooked down a lot. I have maybe 3 breakfasts' worth of jam for my toast. Was it worth it? Yes! Great idea for jammy gifts. Although, maybe not. Who would appreciate such a thing? All the more for me...

Cucumber, Mint, and Spring Onion Salad

Cucumber, Mint, and Spring Onion Salad (organic veg box strikes again!). This was fantastic. Added some sunflower spouts later, raw tahini, tiny drizzle of sesame oil, and lemon juice. That's it.

Chopsticks, soy sauce, meat magazine, and Tel Aviv at my local takeout sushi. Just a nice view. It was raining cats and dogs. I took refuge and decided to get lunch.

Fab family dinner with tender beef stew and homemade mac & cheese. Goodbye dinner for our good friends Caitlin and Drew. It was a great evening. The food (pat on the back -- mostly for my sister) was awesome. Stew, mac & cheese, broccoli, garlicky zucchini, and store-bought white chocolate cheesecake. Great bottle of Galil Mountain wine, their 2006 Avivim - aged Chardonnay/Viognier blend. Will miss the two of them a great deal as they start their life again in Philly.



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Organic Disaster Defused -- Stuffed and Divine

The monster peppers I received today were sweet, not spicy.  I went ahead and stuffed them all.  Because of an embarrassing situation that has ensued (we’re out of gas — can you believe it — and we can’t figure out which gas company is ours — stupid, stupid), I had to make something 100% in the electric oven.  The approximate steps I took –

  • Sliced peppers vertically and de-seeded
  • Soaked a combination of quinoa, red lentils, and white rice in boiling water (from kettle) while I –
  • Chopped 5 medium tomatoes, 1 onion, 5 cloves of garlic, 1 handful of parsley
  • Drained the water from the rice mixture and added to the vegetable mixture
  • Drizzled olive oil, added salt, pepper, chili, oregano, and thyme
  • Stuffed all of the peppers, set them in a baking pan, drizzled with more olive oil, salt, pepper, ketchup, a couple dashes of soy sauce, and a cup of water.
  • Cover with foil, place in a 190 C (390 F) oven for around an hour (keep checking after 40 minutes), until the filling is fully cooked and the pepper so soft it’s practically falling apart.

Fantastic results.

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This is what arrived in my basket today

A little perspective to show you just how monstrous they are

Well, they're kind of pretty, in their own way

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Pesto, pre frap

What happens when you can’t get through the “small” veg box? What if it happens week after week?

Wasteful nastiness, that’s what. And fruit flies. Lots and lots of bloody fruit flies.  So, you know the expression – when life hands you lemons…

Somehow, every Saturday morning I have woken up and unconsciously moved toward the fridge and fruit basket — and absentmindedly chose to cook — something.  Anything.  To prevent the rot and perhaps enjoy the organic expensive fruits of – someone’s – labor.

Week 1 – amazing really really ripe banana bread (an amalgam of 3 recipes found in 10 minutes online).

Week 2 – makeshift no-recipe apple and quince butter (really gorgeous – love quince and it was a good combo. Hadn’t made apple butter in years – not since I properly jarred it for thank you gifts. Cut up apples and quince, boiled in minimal water for quite a while – the quince needs it, blended the lot, added a cup or so sugar and a few dashes of cinnamon, nutmeg, and cardamom.  Cooked until thick.  In reality, it’s much harder to do this – sieves, and the like).

Week 3 – 2 weeks worth of pasta sauce (20+ tomatoes, what else could you do? Have a bloody mary party? Actually, that’s not a bad idea.  And I’m really not partial to gazpacho).

Week 4 – imitation aloo gobi – for 10 (3 heads of cauliflower, umpteen potatoes, red peppers, onions, jerusalem artichoke – in like a ton of turmeric, cumin, coriander, sumac, chili, paprika, and luck. God have mercy).

Week 5 – pesto – what can you do? Fresh herbs that are so pretty and fragrant you want to cry! And they wilt in a day or two.  No matter what or how hard I try.  And the next week, another bunch arrives! I demolished this bouquet fresh and pretty with great results.  Huge bunch of basil, 5 or so cloves of garlic, 1 small onion, handful of chestnuts (this was the hail mary play – I would never have used them except I really wanted/needed a nut component – I’ve used pine nuts and would have loved to use walnut – luckily this sort of worked).

Here’s what my kitchen is perpetually looking like:

Organic nightmare in my kitchen

The vat of spaghetti sauce (I  would call it marinara or arrabiata, but was a completely improvised mess of tomato, other veg, and lots of spice):

Yesterday I roasted two huge eggplants that wouldn’t hold out much longer – ate the one, and just can’t squeeze the second down yet.  Hope it’ll last another day.

This week, I may have to take up pickling – I have 20 cucumbers not going anywhere, fast.

Horn of plenty, indeed.  I wonder if my provider would consider helping me out of the organic nightmare I’m stuck in and allow an every-second-week drop.  We just can’t eat fast enough…

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