Saturday, January 5, 2008

Post 155, Jan. 5th - In which explanation of resolutions are given

I am finding it difficult to separate out the motivations for my three categories of New Year's Resolutions. They are closely intertwined. All have been ideas roaming around in my brain for years. So why now, why 2008?

Because of a class I am preparing to teach starting next week - "The Ecology of Food". We will be exploring the ecological, cultural, societal, and health implications of the current American agricultural practices. In preparation for this class I have been doing A LOT of reading, including:
"Omnivore's Dilemma" by Michael Pollan
"Fat Land" by Greg Critser
"Fast Food Nation" by Eric Schlosser
"Eat Here" by Brian Halweil
"Guns, Germs, and Steel" by Jared Diamond
"Against the Grain" by Richard Manning

All of this reading has helped solidify ideals that I have long held and motivated me realize those ideals in my daily life.

One of my main goals I have this year is to get off the "agrobusiness grid". That is - to buy foods that have not been processed by one of the major food processing companies in the world - ConAgra, ADM, etc. Most of the food in our supermarkets are funneled through the processing plants of these companies - and we are not talking about grinding wheat to make flour. Rather, the plants do things like - break corn down into its chemical constituents - sugar, oil, etc, which are reformulated to make thinks like "fruit snacks".*

This won't be an easy goal to make - it will require more time, energy, and money spent by me to get my food. But in the end - both me and the planet will be a bit healthier. And the money I do spend will be to support local farmers, not agrobusiness giants.

The specific steps to meet this goal:

1.) Plant a garden: We have the space and permission from our landlord to put a garden in. I want a garden with a lot of variety, that contains fruits, vegetables, and herbs. Jan. and Feb. will be spent researching and planning out the garden.

2.) Buy foods that are less processed. My first step is to reduce the number of items I purchase that contain "corn syrup" or "high fructose corn syrup". This includes my favorite bread, many cereals, soda, and many processed foods. There are other ingredients that are also processed from corn and soybeans, but corn syrup is one of the most ubiquitous. It will also have a big health impact on me.

3.) Buy fruits and vegetables from local farmers - a frustrating goal to set in Jan. but when the farmer's markets start popping up - I am buying all of my produce (which does not come from by garden) from local sources.

4.) Find a source of grass-feed meat - Two big reasons for this. 1.) Beef that is grass-fed has not been shipped to a confined feeding lot. If you have been within 5 miles of a big confined feeding operation, you have a glimpse (or should I say whiff) of the environmental damage created by such operations. Not to mention how poorly the animals in such operations are treated. 2.) It turns out, that what our meat eats has health implications for us. Grain-fed beef has more of the "bad" fats (Omega-6 I believe, but I am not certain if I am remembering correctly) compared to the "good" fats (Omega-3?). Grass fed-beef has a higher ratio of the "good" fats. Plus, most grass-fed cows do not require high inputs of antibiotics.

5.) Reduce the amount I eat out - and when I do eat out, try to eat at local restaurants, and not the big corporate chains. Also - trade quantity for quality - eat out less often, but at nicer places.

Meeting this goals will help me 1) be healthier, 2) feel like I am living a fuller life (Gardening and cooking will reduce the amount of time I watch TV, which I feel I do to much. When I binge on TV watching, I often feel like I have missed out on the real life), and 3) spend less of my money at corporate chains.

* Fruit snacks are on my mind - our 6 year old niece made my husband and I "lunchboxes" from wrapping paper for Christmas, each containing Care Bears Fruit Flavored Snacks. She can be a sweet girl. After eating mine, and realizing they did not really taste like food, I looked at the label. These snacks containg: Fruit juice from concentrates, corn syrup, sugar, modified corn starch, pectin, dextrose, citric acid, Vitamin C (abscorbic acid), sodium citrate, malic acid, potassium citrate, mineral oil, color, natural and artificial flavor, carnauba wax, sulfitting agents, and beeswax.

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