Saturday, June 18, 2011

L'eggo My Eggo

"Le'ggo my Eggo!" This echoes in my head after watching Robyn O'Brien's riveting speech on witnessing her child's allergic reaction to a typical American breakfast of Eggo Waffles, yogurt and eggs. Food industry analyst turned Real Food advocate, O'Brien used her analytic skills to investigate the food we eat, and why it is making us sick.

Her findings, on cancer and how we have it more than any other nation, on our health care costs being higher than any other country, and our food allergies, and why we have more than anyone else, are shocking and infuriating. Which prompted me to blog about it.

I'll start by stating that I'm not a preachy sort of person. I write a blog partly to entertain, sometimes to inform, always to share and celebrate the joys of simple living. This post is in line with that philosophy, though if you click on the hyperlinks below, I hope you will head into today more confident with the knowledge that you are in the power seat when it comes to your dinner plate.

Bun Bun: "Bah, Humbug."
My morning started with the usual cup of Joe, a stroll through the garden, and a visit with "the girls." They are always happier to see me than my flop-eared bunny, Bun-Bun, who looks woefully disdained about the world in general.

Then I returned to the world of iPad, where I perused the NY Times, email, Facebook. You know, the usual drill. Article after article that I clicked on, though, seemed to contain a common thread. Our food is dangerous, and we should fear the choices that are made for us by the food industry.

From "The Chicken Which Should be Banned" to O'Brien's video on food allergies, our world has become a scary place, it seems, with genetically modified foods, myriad chemicals and cancer causing ingredients lurking at the ends of our forks.

So, we have a choice: do we live in fear of food, or do we take control? Each time we put our hands on an item in the grocery store, we send a message to the food industry. We create or diminish demand for an organic apple or a pesticide-laden apple, a container of milk made from cows ingested with synthetic growth hormones, or one that guarantees that the milk we drink is hormone-free. And every time we head to a restaurant we have the choice of real food, versus processed food-like substances, to be served to us.

It seems like a simple decision. Of course, we want what's best for our family. And, naturally, we want to feed them healthy food. But, there's expense involved, and convenience. I remember chatting with a friend about where to go for lunch recently. I suggested a bowl of soup at Whole Foods. She remarked, "That's five dollars. I can buy a whole meal at McDonald's with that." Wow. And we wonder why we have issues with food.

I'll share with you one disturbing experience I had just this morning, post coffee, to illustrate my point. In the interest of efficient, one-stop shopping, yesterday, I bought ground beef at the local Stop and Shop in the hopes of making tacos for the family this evening. I chose the 85/15, "healthier" variety. The meat was bright red when I brought it home. It looked pretty tasty... and fresh. When I poked my head into the fridge this morning, this is what I found:
Would you feed this to your family?
This was the final straw. I've learned my lesson, needless to say. Organic, and local, whenever possible, all the way from now on.

We can send a powerful message to the food industry by changing our food choices. Communities can work together to make healthy food accessible and affordable.

Our local GVI group is doing just that. Planting community gardens in Bridgeport at the schools is a wonderful initiative, and wildly successful. And bringing chickens into underserved communities in New York City is another, as illustrated by NY Times columnist, Mark Bittman, in his article entitled, "Give a New Yorker a Chicken..."

We need to change our attitude toward food to one of empowerment, not fear. We can take back control by choosing organic products and growing some of our own food. If this is overwhelming to some, break it down into a manageable step-by-step approach, and buy just one thing that's organic, and sneak it into your pantry. It will be eaten.... perhaps the kids won't even notice the label!

My garden so far... snap peas, zuchinni and cauliflower!
Then add another, and another... Here's a list of organic breakfast cereals - that don't taste like cardboard - as a good way to start: Kid-Approved Organic Cereals.  And then maybe branch out, and convince the family that growing a few things, like tomatoes and lettuce, are, second to none, a delicious endeavor. I can tell you from personal experience, that plucking fresh lettuce, rinsing it, and serving it alongside pasta is heavenly. And it's only the beginning.... Sugar Snap Peas are soon to come, and I believe I will be making Bittman's recipe for pea soup as a fine way to celebrate their arrival.

Organic watermelon. Yummy!
If raising chickens and gardening is not your cup of tea, lean on your local farmers' markets and CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) groups for sources of good eating. I like to save time in preparing meals too... busy mom that I am, so even though I have an organic garden and egg laying hens, I frequent the Farmers' Market and local, organic food markets each week, plus I just placed my first order for a few prepared meals from Graze, which delivers nutritious meals, straight from Vermont farms, to your home each week. And delivery is free.

When you look around, good, real food is available, abundant, and can be quite affordable. What will make it more so is your demand for it. So, happy shopping!
  • If you would like to read more about what exactly is "real food," I highly recommend Michael Pollan's book, In Defense of Food, available now in paperback.
  • I also recommend Robyn O'Brien's site: Shedding Light on the Food Industry. Learn more: for you, your family, and your community.
  • And if you need help navigating your produce isles at the local market, watch CNN's Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, guide you through a typical shopping trip to pick out the best choices for your family.
  • Last, but not least, if you are lucky enough to have independent grocers in your town, like Double L Market, located just down the road a piece from our home, frequent them! The food is incredible and the owners are passionate about what they do. It's worth the little bit extra you spend to buy local... from people who genuinely care about the food they sell you.