April 6, 2012

Starving by accident: Are Americans actually eating real food?

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , — Jane Stillwater @ 11:22 pm

I’ve been thinking a lot about food lately. No, scratch that. I’m ALWAYS thinking about food. So the other day I wandered over to eat at Picoso, a family-run Mexican restaurant in north Berkeley that makes the world’s best guacamole. And while walking home past the world-famous Chez Panisse restaurant, I spotted a huge crowd of people standing around out in front.

“What’s happening here?” I asked one of the people in line.

“Michael Pollan and Maira Kalman are doing a book-signing event — and there is also free food.” Well, one of the major creeds that I live by is, “Never turn down free food” — so I bought a copy of Pollan’s and Kalman’s illustrated “Food Rules,” had it signed by the authors, went on a tour of Chez Pannise’s extensive stainless-steel kitchens and then sampled hors d’oeuvres that had been prepared using Pollan’s 83 rules about food.

And I also ran into Alice Waters herself. “I usually celebrate my birthdays at Chez Panisse,” I told her, “because it gives me something to look forward to each year besides just getting old — but this year my birthday falls on a Sunday and you guys will be closed. And it’s my 70th birthday too! So what should I do?”

“Perhaps you could celebrate it here on either the day before or the day after?” Waters replied.

“Or you could try Aziza, a Moroccan restaurant over in San Francisco,” added Pollan. Then other people recommended trying Camino, Dona Tomas, Pizzialol, Quince, Cotogna and Commis. But it just wouldn’t be the same — not going to Chez Panisse on my big Seven-Zero. So we worked out a compromise. I’d have my dinner celebration at Chez Panisse the night before, eat very slowly, and then celebrate turning 70 at the exact stroke of midnight — even if it meant sitting out on the restaurant’s front steps after they closed. Perfect.

PS: Here are some of Pollan’s 83 really helpful food rules:

2. Don’t eat anything your great-grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food [and nothing highly processed or containing unpronounceable chemicals either].

5. Avoid foods that have sugar or some form of sweetener listed in the top three ingredients.

11. Avoid foods that are advertized on television [this rule should also apply to restaurants too. Thank goodness Chez Panisse doesn't advertize on TV].

40. Make water [not soda] your beverage of choice. Do what animals do when they’re thirsty.

42. “The whiter the bread the sooner you’ll be dead.”

45. Eat all the junk food you want as long as you cook it yourself.

56. Eat when you are hungry, not when you’re bored.

82. Cook! Cooking just might be the single most important thing you can do for your dietary health.

Pollan then summarized his book in just seven words: “Eat [real] food, not too much, mostly plants.”

Which brings me to the “main course” of this article: Why food is so important to us: WITHOUT FOOD WE WOULD STARVE. So bear that in mind the next time you read about how Monsanto or Archer Daniels Midland or Congress is screwing with our food supply again.

Christopher Cook, author of “Diet for a Dead Planet,” states that, “It is no longer news that a few powerful corporations have literally occupied the vast majority of human sustenance. The situation is perilous…. This corporate occupation of our food isn’t just unfair and wrong; it’s impractical and destructive. It’s ruining farmers, the land and our future food supply.”

Yes, large for-profit-only corporations are endangering the food supply in places where people are barely subsisting and we’re always seeing photos of starving babies from there. However, here in America these same corporations are highly endangering you and me as well. Why? Because Americans just THINK that they are eating real food — when much of our food merely consists of the three Cs: Cardboard, chemicals and crap.

Americans may think that we are nourishing ourselves when we eat corporate junk-food but the reality is that all too many of us are dying young from heart disease or cancer or obesity or diabetes; that our thinking has become fuzzy due to lack of nutrients; and, even worse, we are always hungry even though we keep stuffing our faces with imitation “real” food.

A photo from Peter Wenzel’s book, “Hungry Planet,” shows a typical American family sitting around a kitchen table with all the food they will eat in a week — and there’s hardly even one real fruit or vegetable among all of that stuff!

PPS: For a month now, I’ve been eating by the food rules of Dr. Terry Wahls’ famous “nine-cup” diet — which consists of having every meal include one cup of colorful fruits or vegetables, one cup of deep greens and one cup of either cruciferous vegetables, onions, mushies, garlic and/or leeks. Eat nine cups of this stuff per day plus some salmon and grass-fed meat thrown in and see what happens.

“You get a long list of nutrients from [unprocessed] food that you don’t get from any other source,” stated Dr. Wahls, who cured herself of advanced MS on this diet. And, surprisingly, it appears to be making me feel healthier too — plus I’m actually starting to cook. Me? A chef? Who would have thought.


March 16, 2012

Welcome to the Monsanto Age!

Filed under: Opinion,Toon — Tags: , , , , , , , — RS Janes @ 9:26 am


January 30, 2011

Beck, Boehner, Limbaugh & Monsanto: Love America or leave it!

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , — Jane Stillwater @ 5:57 pm

Once again I’ve just received yet another e-mail from someone telling me that if I don’t like America, then I should leave it. Me? I hardly barely even whine about America at all — when compared to all the right-wingers and corporatists who haunt the media, the White House, the Supreme Court, Congress and K Street. Those guys REALLY know how to whine!

Take John Boehner for instance. He whines about America constantly. But if he hates this country so much, why doesn’t he leave? “Why?” Because if he pulled the same stunts in almost any other civilized country that he has pulled here, he would probably get jailed for corruption — or even treason. Stop crying all the time, John, and either love America or leave it.

And Glenn Beck? I whine and he doesn’t? Yeah right. Send him off to Egypt! Let him keep company with his buddy Hosni Mubarak. Let’s see how long he would last in Egypt right now.

There’s a new day of peace and freedom dawning all over the world these days, one wherein everyone gets a slice of the pie — not just the corporatists and oligarchs and dictators. And when this new dawn comes to America and the uber-rich who have shamelessly plundered our country for decades finally get the boot that they deserve, corporate shills like Beck and Limbaugh are gonna have to fall back on the very same government “safety nets” that they currently decry. And when the average working stiff in America finally gets fed up with doling out corporate welfare, then Wall Street, CitiBank, the Koch brothers and Monsanto aren’t gonna save these shills any more and they’re gonna end up BEGGING for Social Security, single-payer healthcare and unemployment benefits! Ha.

“Help me, America!” they’ll whine. “I can no longer afford payments on my yachts or my Porsche!”

In the end, corporatism is a great leveler and it ultimately levels the fat cats at the top as well as those of us at the bottom. Didn’t we learn anything from Bernie Maddoff’s sad end? Or even Hitler’s? Apparently not.

And Rupert Murdoch needs to be careful of what he is wishing for too. Look what just happened in Tunisia. That could happen to him as well if he doesn’t stop whining all the time about salt-of-the-earth types like you, me and us.

After the recent success of non-violent resistance against the apartheid Wall in Palestine, the Arab world seems to be finally wising up and going all Gandhi on its Washington-supported dictators.


If Palin, Angle, Chevron, Wall Street, General Motors, Fox News, Boeing and Diebold keep on whining and moaning about how terrible America’s government is — even though for the most part they own it — then the kind of revolution that they seem to be trying to stir up here won’t be non-violent at all. It will come out of the barrel of a Glock.

And do you really want Beck and Palin fans running around YOUR city locked and loaded? Good grief. Heck no.

So. All you corporatists out there who insist on complaining and whining about MY country all the time? I strongly suggest that you pack up and leave for someplace else ASAP — that is, if you can find any other country that will take you.

PS: And after all the corporatist whiners have gone, I bet we could make America a really cool place. “But how?” you might ask. The answer to that question is obvious.

Let’s start by limiting the amount of money that political candidates can spend on their campaigns. $200,000 max — or go to jail. And then let’s make all those large corporations and rich guys actually start paying income tax like the rest of us. And then let’s bring our troops home where they belong. Duh.


January 12, 2011

Why agribusiness doesn’t work: It bypasses farmers

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , — Jane Stillwater @ 3:40 pm

Do you know why it’s so important to have immigrants from Mexico come up and work in the USA these days? Here’s why: Most Mexican immigrants are good workers, agriculture is a labor-intensive industry and most of us Americans aren’t about to go out into the hot, dirty fields of Kansas and do it ourselves. So. If we aren’t going to do all this farming ourselves, then we need to either find someone else to do it or starve.

Can I actually imagine myself getting up at the butt-crack of dawn to go milk a bunch of weird, smelly cows? That would be no.

As my friend Joe Thompson describes it, “When I was a kid, I used to milk cows by hand and, yep, I got up at five o’clock in the morning to milk and feed the dairy herd before going to school. It was a cold/hot nasty job. And my job as a farmer’s son didn’t just stop with the milking. I also delivered calves, loaded the wagon full of corn by hand and then took it off to the mill. It is an occupation without end. I had to load cow manure into the spreader and spread it on the fields. There was mud everywhere. I certainly wouldn’t do it again.”

Aside from the undocumented Mexican farm workers that Teabaggers seem to be always bitching about, who the freak wants to be a farmer these days?

Monsanto does.

But Monsanto wants to do farming the easy way — by spraying everything that isn’t nailed down with poison and then genetically modifying everything that’s left.

That’s all very nice for Monsanto right now but I’ll bet you anything that their city-slicker methods of farming aren’t gonna be able to hang tough for the long run. Why?

First, because as they say in that movie “Food, Inc.”, “If you knew what is in your food, you wouldn’t want to eat it.” When it comes to mass-producing sci-fi-style chemically-induced crops, Monsanto, Archer Daniels Midland and them appear to be able to grind food out rapidly — but eventually we’ll all just get tired of dying of pesticide-related cancers and factory-farm-related salmonella and start wanting to eat organic instead.

Second, you just can’t go on tinkering around with genetically-modified crops and oil-based fertilizer and stuff like that forever without pissing off Mother Nature. And when that unavoidable showdown with Mother Nature finally occurs and Monsanto’s toxically contaminated “soil” all erodes and people start getting more and more sickly from GM crops and our oil runs out so that agribusiness can’t run all that massive farming machinery or make artificial fertilizers and pesticides any more, we’ll be screwed.

Real farming is a labor-intensive operation. It always has been and it always will be. And for this reason, agribusiness simply can’t go the distance in the farming world — even despite how hard they have tried to stamp out small farmers by suing them and even despite all those HUGE government subsidies that agribusinesses currently receive from taxpayers like you and me.

And when Monsanto’s “Instant Farmer” methods all fail sooner or later, then Americans are going to be forced to go back to using shovels and rakes and hoes just like our great-grandparents used to do — whether we like mucking about in the dirt and getting our hands calloused or not.

However, there is going to be one really big difference between us and our great-grandparents — we will be doing all the same necessary-but-boring farmer-related chores that they did, only we will be doing them in the New Farmlands, the ones that we will be forced to create in the backyards of what we used to call “Suburbia”.

So. Perhaps it’s time for America to get a jump on the future right now, stop being such couch-potato wimps and start bringing REAL farming back into style — while we still can.

PS: One way that we could start making farming popular again is to stop paying all those huge subsidies that we taxpayers annually pour into the “ear-marked” deep pockets of agribusiness corporations and give all that money back to us newly-minted farmer-taxpayers instead. Heck, if you paid me enough money, even I might be willing to give farming a try.

“Grow your own!”

Not only that but in America today, becoming a back-yard farmer is becoming a revolutionary act! You can, apparently, even be jailed for it if you plant the wrong kind of corn (thank you, Monsanto). So. Go out there, get messy and be revolting!

To quote Pulitzer prize-winning journalist Chris Hedges, “We may feel, in the face of the ruthless corporate destruction of our nation, our culture and our ecosystem, powerless and weak. But we are not. We have a power that terrifies the corporate state. Any act of rebellion, no matter how few people show up or how heavily it is censored by a media that caters to the needs and profits of corporations, chips away at corporate power.” Go Farmer Chris!

PPS: By making agriculture more labor-intensive, we could also give more Americans more jobs. Plus we’ll all look so cute in our new Oshkosh-by-Gosh bib overalls.

PPPS: I’m a lousy farmer. I can’t even grow weeds in my own postage-stamp-sized back yard — let alone in the fields of Kansas. Why? Because farming is hard work and I’m lazy and would rather be typing away on my computer. But human beings can live without blogging. However, we can’t live without food.

PPPPS: Vegetation is everywhere, even in the cracks in the sidewalks of Manhattan. Too bad we can’t just eat weeds and grass — but we can’t. Heck, we can’t even live on Coca-Cola and Twinkies!

PPPPPS: The recent wildfires in Israel have also proved my point. Approximately 90 years ago, most of that whole area which is now ashes was covered with olive groves which were carefully tended by Palestinian farmers. Tending those olive groves was a very labor-intensive operation. And it worked.

Then back around the 1920s, European “settlers” stormed into this area and either killed or drove off most farmers, pulled up all of the olive trees and planted pine trees there instead. “We wanted to make it look more like Europe,” was their rationale.

The result? Millions of pine trees that didn’t belong in Israel/Palestine have recently gone up in smoke. And millions of old-growth olive trees there are also missing in action, so that now we gotta rely mostly on Italy and Spain for our olive oil. That’s great news for Italy and Spain — but very bad news for Israel/Palestine, which now has neither the productive olive trees left, nor the pine trees nor even the farmers.

PPPPPPS: Agribusiness just did it again! Apparently, lobbyists hired by the German agri-chemical giant Bayer have just convinced the EPA to not ban a pesticide known to be killing off bees. Huh? You don’t believe that people could be that stupid? Just check this out:

According to investigative journalist Bill Berkowitz, “A leaked document reveals that the EPA is disregarding findings ‘that widespread use of clothianidin imperils the health of the nation’s honeybees’ says a Colorado beekeeper, the recipient of the document. If the Environmental Protection Agency had evidence that a specific pesticide might be at least in part responsible for Colony Collapse Disorder, a dreadful syndrome named for the devastation of the bee population, you would expect the agency to act on that information.” Duh, yeah.

Almost everyone — except, apparently, for the knuckleheads at the EPA and Bayer — knows that if bees disappear, we’ll have no more fruit, vegetables, nuts or cotton. Period. Therefore, clothianidin must be banned.

“However, according to Colorado beekeeper Tom Theobald, the EPA is doing just the opposite; upgrading the pesticide’s classification and continuing to make it available.” Huh?

Would a REAL farmer do something like that?


May 11, 2009

The Tattlesnake – I Heard It Through the Grapevine Edition

There’s nothing more reliable than anonymously-sourced comments, as readers of the NY Times well know…

Item 1. “Here’s the way it worked in the GOP when Bush Junior was in office: If some Republican senator or representative threatened to vote against the White House on an important issue, they’d get ‘The Call,’ which went something like: ‘Okay, you vote any way you want but, when you’re up for re-election, don’t count on any help from the RNC, and we’re gonna call the big money donors to the party and tell them to take you off the list. Oh, and we’re also gonna run a heavyweight Republican against you in the primary, so you may not even get to run for re-election. So, you go on and cast your vote however you want.’ You could count the number of Republicans who crossed the line on one hand. I don’t understand why the Democrats can’t do this with the Conserva-Dems.”

Item 2. “These big biotech companies like Monsanto have labs down in Mexico that experiment on all kinds of weird sci-fi stuff they couldn’t get away with in the States. This new Swine Flu virus – H1N1 — is some kind of mutant combo of bird flu, swine flu and a human flu. How did those three get together naturally? If one of these weirdo genetic combos got loose outside the lab and started making people sick, you really believe in your wildest dreams that Monsanto or whoever is going to fess up and say ‘Whoops – our bad! We goofed and this genetically-altered mutant virus we created got loose!’ Sure — the billions in lawsuits and bad PR would bury them.”

Item 3. “Arlen Specter’s dreaming if he thinks he’s going to win the Pennsylvania Democratic primary. Off-year primaries are where the real party faithful vote and some of these folks still remember when Specter jumped from the Democrats to the Republicans in 1965, and they’re still pissed about it. Any credible Democrat could beat him. Hell, Chris Matthews could beat him. Specter could maybe save his bacon if he became a real progressive Democrat, but he’s already shown he’s not going there. Obama and [PA Gov. Ed] Rendell will say a few good words about him, but that’s not going to save him. That old man’s living in a fairyland. His ass is astroturf in 2010, in my opinion.”


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