Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Foodies (and everyyone) Bewarned!

Recently, I watched the new HBO documentary, 'The Weight of the Nation.' This film is free on youtube and is a four part series that dives into the dramatic increase of obesity and the illness that comes with it. It also goes in depth about the mostly alarming aspect of this phenomenon, that is the effect this epidemic has on children. The first thought I have on this is in regards to sources. How many of us know what we are eating? Sure you see what goes in your mouth everyday, but do you really know whats in it? (See Food Inc. another good documentary) I never gave my food a second thought.

I don't believe this problem that the U.S. is having is solely about 'fat.' The culture around food is another great contribution to this problem. In speaking with a few baby boomers, I learned that serving sizes have changed markedly over the past 60 years. Non-Americans and those that have traveled know that other countries have much smaller portions. Another factor is the actual way in which we eat. Some of us eat so fast that we don't even realize when we've gone through 2 plates or more. Ever wonder how nice it is to just taste your food! Sometimes I play this game where I try to name every ingredient in a bite I'm eating. With some foods I'm surprised, like lasagna and with others, like tofu (unless seasoned) I'm not.

The point in all of this is that everyone should be conscious of what goes into your mouth. It's really simple to do. Once you do it you can decide what you really like versus what you don't, what you're eating now versus what you should be eating. Personally, I've given myself a new challenge to eat less processed foods and less meat. Eating less processed foods is easy for me but the meat part is much more challenging. I don't believe I'll go back to complete vegetarianism, as I did for two years during my undergraduate years, but I will attempt to gradually decrease my meat consumption by at least 50-75% or more in the future. Baby steps. Fortunately, all it really took to get me to do this was listening to this segment on NPR on America's meat industry. The full story can be found at:

I had heard all of the dangers about the industry since the demands for meat and poultry have increased, but this really scared me. Turns out cows, and some pigs, are fed 'Chicken Litter.' Chicken litter is a mix of "chicken manure, dead chickens, feathers, and spilled feed that has been rendered down into a uniform substance and then marketed to the beef industry as cheap feed for cows." If you are wondering another case of Mad Cow Disease was found this past week in Central California. Pass me the veggies please.

Ever wonder where some of your favorite fast food chicken nuggets come from? Turns out they are made from "Mechanically separated meat (MSM), mechanically recovered/reclaimed meat (MRM), mechanically deboned meat (MDM), lean fresh pork trim." MSM, MRM, and MDM are also know as pink slime when made from beef, and white slime when made from chicken. Its basically a paste-like meat product produced by "forcing" beef, pork, turkey or chicken under high pressure through a sieve to separate the bone from the edible meat tissue. The most common product made is hotdogs. Mind you they spray the "slime" of non-desired parts with ammonia to cleanse it before its processed. I'm all for recycling but there must be a better way. I'm not anti-industry, but I believe lifestyle changes must be supported by everyone and if any country ever needed a lifestyle change it would be the U.S.

As apart of my challenge I have decided to go fresher and local when grocery shopping. In my research and budgeting I found some startling information that I must share.

Original article:

Given the amount of decrease many wonder where this money not spent on groceries goes. Turns out more and more people eat out every night. Doesn't take rocket science to know that the chain restaurants are feeding the population. This doesn't bode well for the health of the nation.

My challenge is very timely. The increase in meat consumption is a global problem. Where are we going to raise all the cattle needed for every human (billion!)? There is simply not enough room to raise them. What about the quality of the product? I certainly do not want to eat slime or a 'meat factored' hamburger. This way of farming is horrible for the environment and is dangerous for you and I to consume. Being a Vermonter, I don't like my cows mad but simply being loud is welcome.

My final thought on this is to say that changing your lifestyle is easy and more affordable in the long run. Give it a whirl! You never know what can happen unless you try.


Here is a recipe to get you started. It can be manipulated for your taste.

A & T's Tofu Stir Fry
Feeds 3-4 People
2 cups of Basmati Rice
1 package of extra firm tofu
4 cups of diced mushrooms
1 red bell pepper
1 large onion
4 cloves of minced garlic
2 tablespoons of olive oil
2 tablespoons of soy sauce (reg. or low sodium)
2 cups of water
Salt to taste
Pepper to taste

1. Drain the tofu and place a plate with a can on top to remove excess water.
2. Cut up all the veggies and cube tofu.
3. Add water in a pan with uncooked rice. Cook on medium until it reaches a boil then leave covered for 20 minutes. DO NOT REMOVE COVER UNTIL SERVING.
4. Add olive oil to a wok or saute pan heated to medium/high heat. After, add tofu and garlic and cook until tofu is brown. Add some soy sauce.
5. Add all the cut veggies and remaining oil, soy sauce. Still occasionally to your liking.
6. Serve stir fry on top of rice. Yummy! Eat up!  

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

My Unruly Yet Justified Neighbors

A few weeks ago I stumbled across the story of protests going on in Quebec. See link:

When I found out about this I was really excited at first. According to the Al Jazeera article the Canadian Government plans to increase college and university tuition by nearly $300 until 2019. I'm sure many people stateside don't really understand why in the world Canadian students would protest over that. Most U.S. students would sigh and be irritated but how many would get out and do something? Fact is many students here are resigned to exacerbated tuition prices and simply take out more loans to cover expenses. My point is we simply accept U.S. education prices even though they continually rise and we end up with more debt. In a perfect world education would be free but everything on this earth has a cost. I fantasize about an educated population here getting out on the streets and demanding reasonable tuition but I wait in vain. The only equivalent is the recent occupy movement which was diminished prematurely in many areas.

Maybe the more than 100,000 students that came out to mark 100 days of protests will inspire American students. One fact is true, these educated youths have gotten the attention of those making the decisions. Dozens of schools have been closed as students are boycotting classes. The Montreal subway system has been shut down, windows smashed, and thousands arrested. This protest means a lot more in my mind because its a topic that is global at this moment. Students protested in London not too long ago. The cost of higher education is now forcing young people to make tough decisions. Instead of demanding a reasonably priced education here in the U.S., I find many students are asking themselves: should I go or should I not go? I believe lower and middle classed youths will continually not pursue professional degrees. I can't say I blame them. Prospects are fairly bleak at the moment for jobs. Inequality at it's finest.

I feel my generation is suffering from 'failure to launch syndrome.' Unfortunately higher education will always be in reach for wealthier families. While pursuing my graduate degree at Brandeis University, I couldn't help but be surrounded with these privileged young people. At times I couldn't believe the naivety and sense of entitlement that they felt they had. This contrasted from my undergraduate experience where I was surrounded by hardworking students scraping to get by and achieve. I'm happy I attended a state school to receive such an experience and at a decent rate. Many state schools are severely underrated and offer a great education for those unable to afford name brand schools however I still pay quite a bit for those four years. Quebecois students pay just over $2,000 a year for a university degree, not including living costs. The rest of Canada pays between $6,000 and $7,000. Oh Canada why do you always look so appealing?! Private education institutions are getting away with murder in the U.S. and this system is geared to accommodate them.

I would like to challenge anyone of any political stance that disagrees that education is out of reach for the average American youth.  My unruly neighbors are very justified.  At this rate more and more will depend on social welfare safety nets. (See story at: ) This ABC News story reported that, "of the 22 million Americans with master's degrees or higher in 2010, about 360,000 were receiving some kind of public assistance, according to the latest Current Population Survey released by the U.S. Census Bureau in March 2011.The number of people with master's degrees who received some kind of aid grew to 293,029 from 101,682 over the same three-year period." I should be afraid to read this but instead I'm angry that we are simply rolling over and accepting this. As a first generation college and nearly master's educated woman of mixed descent, I'm lucky to have excelled to where I am today. My grandmother once told me that once you have an education no one can take that away. What she didn't tell me is that such an education could be devalued and I would be paying it off until further notice. We will see if this is also true for Quebecois students yet I wish them well and still wait in vain stateside.