Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thanksgiving Foodstuffs: A Dog/Fox's Dinner

Poppy McKee pretty much had a taste test of a day today. Me versus the Cesar dog. Now, while I took culinary classes, that little dog has a much better haircut and sunnier disposition, so it really could go either way....

Since it is just she and I this year (Damn Amtrak for not allowing dog/foxes. She is a service dog/fox! She serves as my lapwarmer?!?!?!), I decided that I would spend about $15 dollars (not counting the wine) and only do a few things from scratch. The entire start to finish on this dinner took 30 minutes, a new Thanksgiving record.

So about that turkey.... We did not have turkey, we had chicken, and here's why.... Poppy cannot adequately tell the difference. We only have one of those mini-stoves with oven so a small bird would be necessary. She is a 7.5 lbs. dog and I could not find any turkeys that small and all the turkey breasts were sold out, not shockingly. We are going to have the same dinner in three weeks in Vegas so I think we can live with chicken.

I made her a small bowl replicating some of what I had, and had the forethought to put it in a glass bowl so I could see what she was going for through the bowl. She clearly cannot be expected to stop and give feedback as she goes, this is not Kitchen Stadium. What I did not anticipate, though, was quite how quickly she would gobble up her dinner, so therefore, some of the photos are fuzzed. I took over 120 and these were the only ones where she was not frantically having at the bowl, which she ate in under 3 minutes, a new record for someone her size.

Poppy's dinner is as follows: 2 ounces minced baked chicken, 3 tablespoons turkey gravy, 2 tablespoons Stove Top turkey stuffing (I could live on Stove Top for an entire winter and nothing else very happily), and one tablespoon of chopped skinless apple. Basically, she went apeshit on it. I guess I kicked the Cesar dog's ass.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Bees Without Borders is Sitting in My Kitchen?!?!

So I happened upon this Bees Without Borders video on Time Magazine's website and when watching it, realized that I sampled and then purchased some of their honey at the infamous International Pickle Day on 9/14/08. Who knew?! I thought I was supporting local business, honey making which is vital to agriculture, etc. etc. If anyone doesn't understand that every third or so bite we eat is supported by pollination, they need to get on their science.

What I did not know was that I was supporting the organization which teaches beekeeping to cultures all around the world to propagate fair trade in a nonperishable product that can be produced with little funds, regardless of gender, and add a sustainable source of income to people in poverty. Guess I know where I'm purchasing my honey from now on....


"The only reason for being a bee that I know of is making honey....and the only reason for making honey is so I can eat it. " Winnie the Pooh in A.A. Milne's 'The House at Pooh Corner'

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Monsanto and Michael Pollan Talk About Creating a World That Can Feed Itself

This is a video of Michael Pollan discussing food security issues. If you click on the link back to the original article the list of topics at the bottom of this post are there. They discuss hormone use, organics, sustainability, etc. Ideally, I hope to go through all of the links eventually, however, with the current inundation of readings and links from classes, I am certainly short on the time and energy for this to happen soon.

Monsanto and Michael Pollan Talk About Creating a World That Can Feed Itself
by Jasmin Malik Chua, Jersey City, USA on 09.23.08

Michael Pollan and Hugh Grant (president and CEO of Monsanto, not the floppy-haired British actor) on the same panel? Bring it. In this 36-minute video, taken on Sept. 17, 2008, Pollan, Grant, and Sonal Shah, a development expert at, talk about the sustainability of food production.

Held on the Google campus, the panel was moderated by Larry Brilliant, executive director of, who became friends with Grant after the two visited the Doomsday Seed Vault in Norway.

Monsanto: Double yields in 20 years
Grant, who presents Monsanto as a charitable outfit for the better good, is all about the numbers, insisting that the way to solve the world's food problems is to double yields over the next two decades, while reducing water and fertilizer usage. His solution is for us to bulldoze our way out of a potential food-shortage quagmire by planting genetically modified seed. Of course.

Pollan: Create a better food-distribution system
"Yield of what?" Pollan shoots back, noting that Monsanto's history has been growing crops, such as corn and soy, for raw materials, not for human consumption. He also says that GMO crops are not exactly renowned for their high yields and that one of the ways to ensuring food security is to allow farmers to save seed, something Monsanto takes a dim view of.

Another wrinkle in Monsanto's yield-doubling utopia is the fact that producing enough food and getting them into the hands of people are two separate problems, he says. Despite bumper agricultural yields in the United States, for instance, there remain some 35 million Americans Pollan categorizes as "food insecure".

More on Michael Pollan
Video: Michael Pollan, Taking a Plant's Perspective
Michael Pollan: Read it and Eat!
Biofuels, Food, and Sustainability Examined: Michael Pollan Interviewed by Yale Univ.
Michael Pollan on What Sustainability is Really About
Michael Pollan: The Government Makes You Fat
Quote of the Day: Michael Pollan on Eating
Pollan On Organics at Wal-Mart

More on Monsanto
Monsanto Dumping Bovine Growth Hormone
Monstrous Harvest: "The World According to Monsanto" Movie Review
Wal-Mart To Monsanto 'No Thanks For The Bovine Growth Hormone
Monsanto pays $1M for GMO bribe
Business Week on Monsanto, Pickens
Monsanto House of the Future
Monsanto’s Monopoly Challenged in Munich
Battles over Bovine Growth Hormones
Got Hormones? - Hormone Free Milk Not Healthier After All

Thirsty for more? Check out these related articles:

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Pratt LMS Post Response to Food Fights Comments ~ "Farmer in Chief"

A few of the students in my class know that I am an R.D. and will direct food or health related questions towards me. It's nice that someone thinks I am worth some sort of point of view in these discussions, as I really don't get that impression in class in the slightest. But I the form of an answer to someone's post concerning the amount and quality of fat in school lunches and it's direct weight on performance.

Posted comments stemming from the link to the article "Farmer in Chief" from the NY Times Magazine. Here is the first paragraph of this article, an open letter:

Dear Mr. President-Elect,

It may surprise you to learn that among the issues that will occupy much of your time in the coming years is one you barely mentioned during the campaign: food. Food policy is not something American presidents have had to give much thought to, at least since the Nixon administration — the last time high food prices presented a serious political peril. Since then, federal policies to promote maximum production of the commodity crops (corn, soybeans, wheat and rice) from which most of our supermarket foods are derived have succeeded impressively in keeping prices low and food more or less off the national political agenda. But with a suddenness that has taken us all by surprise, the era of cheap and abundant food appears to be drawing to a close. What this means is that you, like so many other leaders through history, will find yourself confronting the fact — so easy to overlook these past few years — that the health of a nation’s food system is a critical issue of national security. Food is about to demand your attention. ...
My answers as posted:

Amanda, I certainly want to answer you on the concepts of fresh ingredients in promoting health and performance. And while a leaner and more clean fat approach is certainly a start and shows results, it merits mention that the techniques of farming and regionality that Pollan refers to are often with less antibiotic use and food served with the aid of fewer preservatives which is another factor being studied in the diet changes in elementary and high school children. Due to a very very busy work day, I will find you a few studies on it tomorrow and post them. Also, I will be happy to direct you to some information on the burgeoning problem of the "certified organic" standard v. local foods.

However, if you have not read Michael Pollan's books: The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural history of Four Meals, In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto, The Botany of Desire: A Plant's Eye View of the World, or his earlier works, you should pick one up at the library and read it. His name will most definitely come up repeatedly in the media as a purveyor of a more sustainable move of the human diet. With the growing importance of water conservation, carbon neutrality, and self accountability in areas like personal consumption choices, hubris and ignorance about livestock and agricultural is really going to come to the forefront. Unfortunately, the food lobbying in this country as well as the strong farm-state coalition will assuage these issues as much as possible (as evidenced in this past summer's farm $300 billion bail outs). It really will come down to personal choices and localized food movements to get these concepts like that have been recently addressed by the UN on lessening meat consumption. Regardless of anyone's enjoyment of meat, there is literally no argument that it is, as the industry is today, sustainable. And frankly, there is no medical need for humans to eat meat so that will never be an issue in this argument.

While I often recommend to my patients that they lessen the meat and change the type of meat in their diets, those are usually health or weight management issues. Frankly, for all other healthy people, it needs to be a choice based on logic that the industry is pushing out fossil fuels, eating up land, and wasting a disgusting amount of potable water and a meat-reliant diet is at this point, selfish and unnecessary. So yes, Meryl, I think that this should be a political issue of regulation and that if people want to eat meat, they should have to really pay the actual cost of it. Eating meat at each meal or everyday is kind of like driving a Hummer to run your errands; It's wasteful and just because you are "allowed" doesn't mean you should. Eating less meat and researching what you're eating is going to begin to look like the seafood industry where people check their Monterrey Bay Aquarium fish lists to determine whether they should order something from a menu.

If anyone has any questions re: the nutritional need of meat in your diet, feel free to email me. Apologies that I have to answer clients first, but I will try to answer your questions as quickly as possible with supporting evidence.

Meat Contributes to Climate Change
UN on Livestock production of fossil fuels being worse than automobiles
FAO Information on Meat and the Climate
Livestock Creating too Much Nitrogen
Livestock Use of Water Statistics

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

A Summary of NO MEAT Month

So, I kind of made it through the month of September without incorporating meat into my diet. I know some people think I cheated since I ate eggs and they debate that they are meat, but until they get their Registered Dietitian's licensure, they can basically suck it. I am going to break this into a few categories as there is so much concept in this process that needs to be somewhat organized.

The Math ~ These facts can stand on their own. They do not need to be supported by any nutrition information whatsoever, it's all math and science. HA!

In order to produce one pound of edible meat (without bone, etc.), approximately 5,000 gallons of water must be used. Therefore, you could say that you could either shower for a year or eat a pound of meat. If I were to eat an average of three servings of meat a day (not counting fish, obviously), that would be nine ounces of meat. Therefore over 30 days, that would be approximately 17 pounds of meat, which equals 85,000 gallons of water, or 17 years of showering. Compare it to 25 gallons for the production of one pound of grain. Replace my 17 pounds of meat with 17 pounds of grain and you only net 425 gallons of water in production. In a water conscious world (which is what we should be living in, forget oil), meat consumption should plummet. Don't even get me started on the the CO2 savings here. People, get educated! It's in the numbers.

Here's another number: 149 lbs. (67.7 kg.). This is my weight at the beginning of September. Having recently fractured my skull, I gained a few pounds not being able to work out and I maintain that a quick way to shed some of that weight is to drop meat from your diet. People assume that being turned into a carboholic will keep that weight on, but that did not seem to be the case. I went from eating pasta once every 2-3 weeks to sometimes twice a day. I still don't really like potatoes or bread, but because I was making things for Andrew, I had quite a bit myself. And we went through a straight liter of olive oil in 30 days. And I lost almost 6 pounds (4% of body weight), and trust that I have been doing about nada in the exercise department. There are pants being brought out of storage.

What Worked?
  • It was a Godsend that this month was a great harvest month for the Greenmarket in the New York Metro area. There is literally no reason that you should be without vegetable choices since they are all around the city and have plenty of options. Luckily, I am schooled in doing more than making salads, although I have to say, those were some good heirloom-type salads I had.
  • Debbie Meyer Green Bags! These things work on the simplest concept that the bags are treated to wick away that pesky ethylene, a chemical compound which hastens the ripening of fruits and vegetables. These bags allow your vegetables to last so much longer! Totally worth it and at your local Tarjay.
  • Cooking Light has long been one of my favourite magazines for recipes. I am much more visual a learner than any other sort, so their having photographs to accompany their recipes is a huge help! I am letting my subscription go as it is a waste of paper seeing as their site has all their recipes in their database. I know that website aren't run on unicorn farts and rainbows, but still...less wasteful. I look something up at least once a week on there...pickles, potato salad, you name it.
  • I may have fell more in love with Morningstar Farms fake meat (analogs). I know they are a company pretending to be small and cute and organic when they are really just a subsidiary of Kellogg Company, but they do have some tasty stuff that fills in the gaps where meat would have otherwise likely been the option du jour. Given better selections of meat analogs, I would hope to find a less corporate producer. Drop another scoop in the moral chore bucket.
  • Andrew also gave up meat this month. His agenda was not the same as mine, but it is easier when the kid you are sharing the table with is not heffing back a slab of ribs or two dozen ribs. Trust.

What Didn't Work?
  • I think the first big problem with NO MEAT month for me was that it coincided with the beginning of the fall semester for grad school and for the rugby season. I just did not often make the effort due to a lack of time or a lack of energy to make as many meals as I really should have. And then once I ran out of Easy Mac....
  • My worm box died while I was on vacation. This made me feel kind of like a total wastoid for just throwing out my organic waste and once again made me want to move to San Francisco where the municipal garbage service picks up compost materials for you. Geez, Bloomberg, why don't you get on it.
  • My friends are kind of dicks. I think that it is largely American hubris that people think their ways of living are superior to other people's or that they should be shooting off their opinions on anything. I do often pass judgment on what people eat as a function of being an R.D. but at the same time, it is likely solicited. Let's just say, there are people I think less of now with their "But meat is good, " and their "You're such a hippie." No, I am just brighter, more principled, and better educated than you.
  • Living in the ghetto is in no way food friendly. The "grocery" stores here maintain very little edible produce (even less edible meat to be honest) and are only good for packaged basic foods. Tragic. We wonder why diabetes is rampant...even outside of personal accountablity. But I guess I would never invest in this neighborhood given the chance either to be honest. Damn.
  • Vegetables are actually more expensive than meat. This is such a mindfuck of a concept. They take far less cost of production, water, labor, etc. This is truly sad and wrong.
  • Companies need to be more straightforward in their packaging. When I pick up a can of vegetable soup...I want it to be all vegetables. I don't want to have it already in the pan heating and then read the label and find a meat composite somewhere down the line of the ingredient list. Bad Progresso, bad!!

What did I miss?
  • Maruchan Instant Lunch Chicken Ramen cups
  • hot wings (Largely, with Poon at the Lion's Head. I should have taken rugby and football seasons into account here, clearly.)
  • PD II's ribs (Doubtful would I miss any other ribs or any other rib sauce.)
  • shrimp (Now not to be eaten since they are on the don't buy list. Thanks Monterrey Bay Aquarium!!)
  • sushi (Sweet lord in heaven did I have a problem with this. Maybe it was my body trying to react to the mercury shortage in my system? Although sweet potato tempura rolls are acceptable, I guess.)
In summary, I will resume eating sustainably farmed/fished animal sources. Yes, this will mean a little more work on my part, more questions asked, etc. I will likely have one serving a week of the following: poultry, red meat, fish. Andrew has decided he will bring back fish, occasional poultry, and no red meat. Every few months we will go back to lactoovovegetarian status for a month or two to detox ourselves and feel less like all the other self-centered people polluting the earth so they can have a cheap cheeseburger.

~beth who thinks people should eat to live rather than eat to pollute...

Welcome, Baby Bert!

Friends Jody and Adam finally had their silly baby, Baby Bert, on September, 30th. It's like he knew I was starting to eat meat again on October 1st and wanted in on the action. Fiendish baby.... He was 7 lbs. flat and 20.5 inches long and is modeling a jaunty green pea hat and stunning striped blankie roll.

~beth who is suspicious of babies in general.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Making Pickles Is Kind of Easy....

Really, too easy in fact. We'll see how they taste after the requisite four days of refrigeration. This is the perfect time to find tons of Kirbys, little pickling cucumbers, at the Greenmarket stalls. You, of course, can use all sorts of other cucumbers, or other vegetables, even for pickling.

I got this refrigerator pickles recipe from Cooking Light's website, the only recipes website I will really quote at this point. It reads as follows:
Refrigerator Pickles
Yield ~ 7 cups (serving size: 1/4 cup)

6 cups thinly sliced pickling cucumbers (about 2 pounds)
2 cups thinly sliced onion
1 1/2 cups white vinegar
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds
1/2 teaspoon celery seeds
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

Place 3 cups cucumber in a medium glass bowl; top with 1 cup onion. Repeat procedure with the remaining 3 cups cucumber and remaining 1 cup onion.

Combine vinegar and remaining ingredients in a small saucepan; stir well. Bring to a boil; cook 1 minute. Pour over cucumber mixture; let cool. Cover and chill at least 4 days.

Note: Pickles may be stored in the refrigerator for up to one month.

Nutritional Information
Calories: 28 (10% from fat)
Fat: 0.1g (sat 0.0g,mono 0.0g,poly 0.1g), Protein: 0.3g, Carbohydrate: 7g, Fiber: 0.3g, Cholesterol: 0.0mg, Iron: 0.1mg, Sodium: 64mg, Calcium: 7mg
We'll check back in four days and see how they taste. Until then, some pickle-making photos!



Pickling juices, Garlicky bits!

Apparent subconscious evidence that I crave ribs 24/7....

Ready to go!

I Heart Pickles: 8th Annual NYC International Pickle Day

When I heard about the 8th Annual NYC International Pickle Day, I cleared the calendar. Beginning as a small child, eating virtually all garden harvest in the form of pickles my mother made and canned on the farm, I have been hooked. My favourites have always been the dilly bean, zucchini pickles, pickled beets, and sauerkraut. Therefore the concept of two full blocks of pickle madness got me really excited. Apparently, it got the rest of the city excited as well as you could almost not walk through the street fair. I know they expanded it to be two city blocks this year, year, they should aim for three or four. There were long long lines to get to the pickle goodness and due to it being the last humidity-riddled hot weekend in New York City (9/14/08), it was a hot mess!

The NYFood Museum (which I must find a day to go explore, to see the past to present of pickle lore) put on the pickle worship session on Orchard Street between Broome and Grand and next year, I am going to earlier and be more prepared! Here are some random photos of pickle goodness. Please to enjoy.

Yes, I bought this shirt, and it so looks better on me!

~beth who is making pickles as soon as this post is finished.

I Can Quit Meat, But Procrastinating...Not So Much

And I have tons and tons of work to do for Doomsday Studies (what I have termed my grad program), but instead, in celebration of the start of Autumn and the rainy nor'easter mess hitting the East Coast right now, I am going to try to pump out a ton of old posts. They ll have the photos done and subject matter, they just need to be put together. And until those pop up, this gorgeous summer puppy, Summer McQuade, will hold the place.

~beth who hates busy work especially since the internet has destroyed her reading concentration skills.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Week ONE of NO MEAT Month: A Week in Photos

Eating a no meat diet in Manhattan should be easier, and cheaper! What gives? Anyway, here are some notable finds and meals of the week (Wednesday to Sunday). Please to enjoy!

Wednesday Union Square Greenmarket near closing... 2 beautiful bags of fruits and vegetables!

Expensive but worthwhile....

Baby succulent for my glass desk. No more cut flowers, people! Only succulents!

Salad made from beautiful butter lettuce, Japanese plum, heirloom cherry tomatoes, dressed with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and herb mix.

Hannah poured rain on the isle of Manhattan. Global warming questioners, go outside without an umbrella and tell me how real that shit feels, k, thanks.

Jalapeno poppers, one of the few vegetarian things on the menu at Blondies on W. 79th Street. I avoided buffalo wings, though, which is no small triumph. MANHATTAN PURVEYORS TAKE NOTE: Vegetarians watch sports in public too!!

A Beth's Breakfast Bowl: scrambled egg, French bread toast, heirloom cherry tomato salad, vegetable mix of baby red potatoes, garlic, haricot verts, and red pepper.
Suck it, Denny's.

Hopefully this week will have some new finds...


Friday, September 5, 2008

Farewell, Dear Worm Box, RIP seems that the way to keep your feisty little worms alive and well and not completely decimated is to not leave them for two weeks while you go on vacation. I know this seems like a no brainer, but I did leave them plenty of food and young Becca did visit them every few days, spritzing their box if it seemed hot or dry.

Then we come back from Vegas, it looks kind of OK in there. Due to their digestive prowess, it is hard to tell what is vermicompost, what are coffee grounds, and where the worms are in that mess. And then a few days later it was all over. Suddenly the box was overtaken by white mold, every inch of it. It is totally suspect since everything was carefully washed or frozen before being added to the box. Grrr! The composting people really need to train their interns to answer emails already, because they were no help. Alas, Andrew laid the little worms to rest just yesterday and cleaned out their box completely unsure if we will try again.

Very sad indeed....and now in their honor, a shark pouring a little out, for the wormies.


Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Without Humor I Will Not Survive Grad School, and Arguably Without Fish, Neither Will My Brain.

And now for something completely different....

During group time I mentioned that London (and the surrounding UK) are going to suffer a huge economic and cultural setback in direct concert with the death of the cod sources due to overfishing (The complaint group's was that London's food is too expensive.). I am no Amazing Kreskin with a preternatural sense of ocean lore, I am reading Bottomfeeder: How to Eat Ethically in a World of Vanishing Seafood, by Taras Grescoe (ISBN: 1596912251). I really can only make it through a few pages a day as frankly, the book pisses me off. It is amazingly well-written and researched, but the idea that this is all information any of us can have and yet the Charlie the Tuna and Gorton's Fisherman are cultural phenomena here infuriates the point where I have given up seafood for a month to see if I really miss it (It is not nutritionally necessary to humans to consume fish sources as long as nutrients are accounted for through other sources.). But that's another mess entirely. Here is an excerpt taken from the introduction of the book which will help give me focus in my search for sustainable and secure food systems. Please to enjoy....

I love seafood. And by seafood, I mean fresh-caught sardines as well as raw salmon tartare; piles of just-peeled coldwater shrimp and trays of raw flat-shelled oysters; sesame-oil-drenched jellyfish salad and deep-fried haddock; in fact just about any squirmy, wriggly, fishy, edible thing that comes out of the ocean. I have some almost every day.

Let me explain. Ten years ago I cut meat and poultry out of my diet and limited my flesh-eating to fish. I had read too many news items about growth hormones, factory farms, and antibiotics to feel good about a regular diet of steaks, burgers, and chicken; the alternative, organic meat, was expensive and at the time hard to find. (In the years that followed, as the mad cow scandal broke and it became advisable to treat salmonellosis-laden raw chicken in your kitchen as if it were a biotoxin, it was a decision I had no cause to regret.) Seafood seemed like a logical choice: fish not only had half the fat of beef but also seemed to be in endless supply. The oceans were immense and apparently inexhaustible. True, the cod fishery off Newfoundland had recently collapsed, but that, I figured, was a fluke that could be blamed on bad science, greed, and inept bureaucrats. The supermarket shelves were still piled high with canned tuna, the fast-food joints were selling bargain all-you-can-eat shrimp, and a fillet of Atlantic salmon was cheaper than it had ever been. There were lots more fish in the sea. There would always be lots more fish in the sea.

I quickly began to discover the advantages of being a piscivore, a fish eater. A seafood meal, after all, is one of life's great simple pleasures. Find a pier, a creek, or a fishing hole, dangle a hooked line into the water, and with a bit of luck (as well as a fire, some foil, and a wedge of lemon), you've got dinner. Centuries after agricultural societies replaced game and fowl with domesticated livestock, and venison and partridge became rarities reserved for the tables of the the rich, there are still hunter-gatherers going to sea—fishermen—who bring back a form of game that people of all classes can afford to eat. In most supermarkets, fish is the only real wild food, a product not created by industrial agriculture, that you are likely to find.

And human beings will eat just about any kind of seafood, no matter how daunting. South Americans enjoy the picoroco, a huge edible barnacle with a Krakatoa-shaped shell that conceals a golf-ball-sized sphere of glistening white flesh, as sweet as crabmeat. The French have figured out a way to make the reproductive organs of the cuttlefish, la pousse de la seiche, into a delicacy, and the Japanese long ago mastered the art of making the poisonous pufferfish into sashimi. More astonishing to me is the fact that anybody eats the hagfish, a lampreylike bottom-dweller that haunts abyssal depths two miles beneath the surface. Lacking a spine, a gas bladder, or even a jaw, it employs a rasping tongue to burrow into its prey. Marine biologists who find whale corpses on the ocean bottom often observe that the flesh of the dead giants is actually crawling—a grisly submarine puppet show courtesy of the thousands of hagfish writhing through the rotten meat. Threatened by a shark, the hagfish will excrete mucins from dozens of pores, choking its attacker's gills with gallons of rapidly expanding slime. (It then sloughs off the mucus by tying itself into a bow and squirming the knot down its body.) The hagfish gets my vote as the most repellent fish in the sea. Yet Koreans consider it a delicacy: they import nine million pounds a year and savor it as an appetizer after broiling it in sesame oil.

Entire cultures have built elaborate identities around the cooking and consumption of seafood. In a world of homogenized fast food and microwavable frozen dinners, seafood cultures serve as bastions of local tradition. To be Venetian is to have grown up with the taste of spaghetti alle vongole veraci (though the Lagoon's native bivalves have succumbed to pollution and must now be replaced with Manila clams). To be Japanese is to know the rituals of the sushi bar, the taste of seaweed-wrapped salmon roe, and the fact that the finest cut of the finest tuna you can order is called o-toro (though bluefin is now in such short supply that Tokyo's sushi bar owners are substituting other red-fleshed meat, like smoked venison and horse). And to have lived on the shores of Chesapeake Bay is to fetishize deep-fried clam strips, the taste of breaded and battered oysters, and all the pleasures of a shoreline-kitsch-drenched seafood shack (even if the crab in the cakes you are eating happen to be Asian swimming crabs, flash-frozen in Indonesia and air-freighted to Washington, D.C.).

Fish have shaped human history. From medieval times the vast shoals of herring that annually poured down from Scandinavia forged Dutch and English seapower and created the wealth of the Hanseatic League and thus the balance of power that drew the map of Europe. Fish are responsible for humanity's spread across the globe: the technology for curing cod allowed men to undertake long sea voyages, permitted the Vikings to raid England and France and settle Iceland, and brought the Basque whalers to the Grand Banks.

And there is increasing evidence that, were it not for seafood, we would not be human at all. Life began in the sea, about four billion years ago, and the ancestors of all mammals were fish that crawled out of the oceans and colonized the land 360 million years ago. Since the remains of the earliest humans were found in what is now African savannah, anthropologists have long believed that man's ancestors left the forests for the open plains, in the process evolving the upright gait that led to bipedal humans. But recent research on pollen records has shown that four million years ago such regions were not Serengeti-like plains at all but heavily wooded shorefront environment. Protohumans such as Lucy, like most of her kin, evolved close to the water.

These seaside roots may explain why our brains weigh twice as much as those of our closest early human relative, Homo habilis. Around two million years ago the hominid cranium started to expand, with an exponential growth spurt occurring about one hundred thousand years ago. Evidence from shell middens around early human settlements shows that this is exactly the time people started eating seafood in great quantities. Brain size is limited by the availability of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA, one of the fatty acids found in omega-3 supplements), without which it is impossible for the body to build brain cell membranes. The only place this acid is abundant in the food chain is in fish from the world's oceans, lakes, and rivers. It is likely our seafood-rich diet provided the nutrients that make us the world's brainiest primate. Without fish, we might still be microcephalic apes, swinging through the trees.

For generations, mothers have known that fish is brain food. It turns out that forcing children to choke down cod liver oil—or its modern equivalent, a capsule of omega-3 fatty acids— is a very good idea indeed. The human brain is 60 percent fat, and the kinds of fat you eat determine what your brain cells are made of. At the beginning of the twentieth century, much of the protein in the Western diet came from nest-laid eggs, beef and milk from grass-fed cows, and other free-range animals, all of which have higher levels of omega-3s than their industrially farmed counterparts. Starting about 1960 an unplanned study in brain chemistry has been taking place, one whose subject is the entire population of North America and much of Europe. Around that time corn and soybean oils and grain-fed livestock, all of which are relatively low in omega-3s but high in the structurally similar omega-6s, became the dominant sources of fat in our diets. Both forms of omega fatty acids are essential for making cell membranes more liquid, but people who have high levels of omega-3s—sometimes called the happy acids—are less prone to depression, dementia, and Alzheimer's disease. Thanks to half a century of consuming cheap vegetable oils, the average cell membrane of an American is now only 20 percent omega-3-based fats. In cultures where fish is still a staple, such as Japan, the average cell membrane is 40 percent omega-3 based.

The results of this experiment may already be in. In 1998 a paper in the British medical journal the Lancet showed that major depression spiked in New Zealand, Germany, the United States, and other countries with lower rates of fish consumption, but declined in such seafood-loving cultures as Japan, Taiwan, and Korea. In Europe suicide is highest in such landlocked countries as Austria and Hungary (where per capita consumption of fish is, respectively, 25 pounds and 10 pounds a year) and lowest among seafood-eating Portuguese (125 pounds) and Norwegians (114 pounds). A researcher with the American National Institutes of Health has shown that a mother's consumption of omega-3s during pregnancy can predict her child's intelligence and fine motor skills. The children of women who had consumed the smallest amount of omega-3s, the study found, had verbal IQs six points lower than the average. Telltale signs of a lack of omega-3s include dry skin and dandruff, lifeless hair, brittle nails, and raised bumps on the skin. Perhaps most surprisingly, a lack of omega-3s seems to predict antisocial behavior: a daily dose of fish oils given to inmates in an English young offenders' prison reduced recidivism by 30 percent.

Nature's richest source of omega-3 fatty acids, which are ultimately derived from oceanic plankton, is wild-caught seafood. River fish such as trout have much lower levels, as do farmed fish, which are now often plumped up with vegetable oils. Though flaxseed oil is also a source of omega-3s, the human body is inefficient at converting it into DHA and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), the latter of which is essential for cardiovascular health. Most national public health authorities now recommend having at least two meals of fish, especially such fatty species as mackerels and sardines, a week.

"There are no limits to Jeeves's brain power," Bertie Wooster once marveled about his fictional gentleman's gentleman. Author P. G. Wodehouse repeatedly had the clueless Wooster attributing his manservant's intelligence to his seafood-heavy diet: "He virtually lives on fish. If I had even half his brains, I would take a shot at being prime minister."

The evidence may be circumstantial, but I concur: if getting more omega-3s in my diet means lowering my risks of major depression, dementia, Alzheimer's, suicide, and ending up in prison, then eating fish is a no-brainer.
-from the Introduction of Bottomfeeder.

Digital Diaries Are Suspect

My first class of the semester touched down last night (Night classes are the pits, by the way.). EMS 620 - Sustainable Communities.... Yeah...about that.... And 40% of our grade is doing a "digital diary" about topics in class, readings, other literature, etc. on a daily (?) basis. So, there's that which I will not put on here because the page box is not wide enough. Part of me wishes I took Computer Science instead so I could at least fix this damn box. I might make a place to put it up elsewhere though. You know, for posterity.

And now a photo of a lovely flower at East New York Farms and a reminder never to buy cut flowers because they are environmentally unethical. Send a succulent instead!


Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Day 1 of NO MEAT Month: Labor Day

For Labor Day I decided to let others do much of the laboring in preparing my food, largely because it was hot as balls here in the city and I could not be less bothered. Also, more than ever, I really hate my kitchen. I find it a really poorly designed cheap space and it makes me want to not only withhold rent but move all of my pink kitchen appliance to the other end of the building (my office) where I will likely enjoy them more. This happens every time I come back from Vegas, where I love my beautiful granite and chrome oasis kitchen. But I digress...

Take that chicken! (Vegas kitchen of glory)

Here's what I ate today:
m&m Veggie Wedge sandwich: I am kind of shocked there is no web presence or listing for this Asian market and deli on Broadway at 115th Street. You can order from a lengthy list of sandwiches, etc. as well as buy all the Sriracha and fresh oyster mushrooms your little heart desires. The sandwich is more than excellent. It is a giant Kaiser roll with slices of fresh mozarella, shredded letture, thin slice cucumbers, roasted red peppers, avocado slices, and sun dried tomatoes. I, of course, ask them to substitute real tomato slices for the gag-inducing sundried ones. It's glorious! ($5.75)

Then walking down Broadway to meet some CU Rugby minxes and watch the greatest movie ever made, we saw the Van Leeuwen Artisanal Ice Cream truck. If you have not had this and have been gagging back that non-food chemical Pink(crack)berry stuff all summer, you need to switch over NOW. It uses local milk from Lewis County, NY, with other ingredients to form a custard base, then all natural flavorings to finalize the ice cream. It is delivered to only NY (three turkc locations) and CT, uses biodegradable cartons and spoons (made from 100% renewable resources), and is 105% glorious! I had a small with one scoop of chocolate and a scoop of strawberry. Andrew had a cone with a scoop of pistachios. If the photo below does not make you want to switch to this kind of confection, you should also factor in that they donate a percentage of their profits to help one of the world's most endangered species, the Mountain Gorillas of the Congo through a grassroots organization called Wildlife Direct. Now you should feel guilty and go eat their ice cream. What have you done for gorillas today?

After the movie, Andrew and I stopped at one of our sometimes favorite cheap organic/vegetarian (for us) restaurants. You would think there would be more numerous options on the Upper West Side, but alas.... Nanoosh Mediterranean Hummus Bar (2012 Broadway between 68th and 69th) is somewhat of an oasis from that. Yes, the waitstaff is a little dead behind the eyes, yes, they often run out of items, yes, they serve the most Gumby-like celery ever, but otherwise, it's pretty good. We tried to get our favorite item, the Mushroom and hummus wrap with Mediterranean salad, but of course, they were out of mushrooms. Curses! We had to order the egg and hummus salad wrap with a side order of hummus and vegetables (including flexi-celery). The waitress tried to test the theory that moisture is the essence of wetness and not give us any water, but we prevailed! It was good.

Then we stopped at Fairway to pick up some lettuce, mushrooms, red potatoes, and Bumble Bars which I will be taking to school. Some nosy too tan Naugahyde broad with smudged fierce teal eyeliner in the elevator (No steps to the organics? Curses!), reached into Andrew's basket, picked up one my my prized Chai Bumble Bars, and declared, "You know these are full of fat." I could not have hidden my annoyance and superiority more, mainly because I did not care to, and said, "I know, and it's good fat." She turned to me and said, "But it's still fat." Andrew was still confused as to whether she had insulted his red leaf lettuce, and the other elevator passengers looked intrigued like a dead cougar v. cat fight might happen in a teensy tinesy elevator with them. I only had one floor so I made the quick decision not to educate this woman on omega fats and the power of flax, and just cut her down quick, saying, "I'm a dietitian and I know what's in them. The fat is good and they are filled with fiber." She started to kind of stammer as the door to the first floor opened and I stepped out. Another girl in front of me turned and said, "I hate women like that." I have to agree. Either way, I know what I'll be eating in class for the rest of the week.

When we got back to the house, it was still horrifically hot. I wish we didn't live in a place where even on an upper floor you have to keep things locked up tight because 89% of the surrounding community should be in Rikers Island. Anyway, I felt the need for more ice cream in the form of Haagen Daz Vanilla Honey Bee Ice Cream. I am going to write an entire post about the honey bee collapse which will leave us barren of many fruits and vegetables, etc. soon. Profits from sales of this product go to research on how to stabilize and save the honey bee population. However, until then, know that you should google the condition and read up!

And after that, we start to see why I am still on West Coast time, or at least my stomach is. I had a late night can of Campbell's Vegetarian Vegetable. I should have just poured salt in my hand and licked it occassionally. Then a Swiss Miss hot chocolate packet with marshmallows (what a joke) and some half and half. All in all, no meat. However, I choose to think that this will be easier once this blazing weather chills a little. It is certainly making me scraps. For those interested, Andrew ate virtually the same until the soup. What a good boy he is.


Monday, September 1, 2008

30 Days, NO MEAT!!

For the month of September, Andrew and I are going to go without meat (including fish). No, we have not become hippies, but we have decided that it just isn't necessary and we will try thirty days without it.

For me personally, it is just the fact that eating meat takes so much water to produce. So really, I would rather have water to drink than meat to eat and I think that Americans are very uneducated and disgustingly selfish and need to stop whining about gas and take note of water and how to use less. Not to mention that the methane fartprint of livestock alone... Everyone needs a wake up call about meat in general.

Also, it is nutritionally unnecessary in the human diet. So I will be putting up recipes, photos, websites, and musings on the process this month. If nothing else, the weight loss alone should be obvious, which should be interesting.

And then there's the math on water. If both of us give up an estimated two 3-ounce servings of meat a day, or 11.25 pounds this month, we will in theory save 112,500 gallons of water (5,000 gallons to make one pound of edible meat).

Anyveggie, we'll see how this goes.... Until further news, here is a gorgeous photo of Stitch Mittens. Please to enjoy!