Thursday, August 12, 2010

Monday, March 29, 2010

I can eat all the sweets I want

It’s not that I need to believe that fruit is sweet; I want to think of sweets as fruit. In other words, I wish I craved oranges the way I occasionally crave a brownie or piece of chocolate. Michael Pollan tells us in Food Rules that nature packages sugar with fiber. It’s a mind bender to think that I can have all the sweets I want. If only I could believe that fruits are the definition of sweets. The fiber in fruit satisfies most appetites with a small portion. It’s cheaper to buy a candy bar than organic cherries. The expense of all the cherries I might want are a deterrent to gluttony.

This blog may be becoming a series of postings about how I cheat the Food Rules. We had company for dinner last Friday and I followed the rules to make an eggplant main dish, spinach salad, and cauliflower. For dessert, my husband bought ingredients to set up a sundae bar. Wouldn’t it have been rude and sanctimonious of me to skip the sundae bar after my hubby went through all that trouble? (Are you buying this?) So I topped my banana with ice cream and toppings and I did enjoy every bite. Pollan says I should break he rules—once in a while. As I finish this final week of concentrating on the rules, I think that is my challenge. How often is “once in a while?” I think that the less I eat white sugar the easier it will be to enjoy natural sugars. Is it possible that I can restrict some indulgences to find a peace and freedom in the foods the earth offers to me?

Whole Earth Discipline: an Ecopragmatist Manifesto, by Stewart Brand

Whole Earth Discipline: an Ecopragmatist Manifesto, by Stewart Brand

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Monday, March 15, 2010

The year-round gardener speaks

The year-round gardener speaks

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I'm a cheat and a wreck

Weeks into this quest--I'm a bit of a wreck. When Michael Pollan's FOOD RULES tells me to stay out of the grocery store as much as possible--Does he know someone might be reading this book in March in the Midwest. I'd love to go to the farmer's market. My community even has a new one,a bike ride away, opening this spring. But that's not helping me when even the spring asparagus harvest is months away. I did freeze and can some local foods from my garden and local sources. Ate it up, months ago. Note to self--freeze and can more this year. Invent the time to do this. Explore year-round gardenting.

Pollan also says to eat some foods that predigested by bacteria and fungi, but I haven't reconciled this rule with other rules.

Yogurt--love it. But It has some chemicals my grandmother wouldn't recognize. She never even ate yogurt. Sourdough bread: Yeah, try to find it without white flour Mr Pollan ( may I call you Mike?), I just don't know if I can find the time to figure out how to make yogurt with fruit that would satisfy.

So there's my excuse for some cheats. Yesterday, running late, I had about 30 seconds to throw together a sandwich. Right in front of the fridge door was a big hunk of salami made by a local family butcher. Local or not--there is no way to reconcile this fat and nitrate festival with the rules. One broken rule begets another, so I grabbed white sourdough bread because I have to keep my natural stuff in the freezer. Mike likes me to buy food that rots. No-preservative whole-grain bread sprouts and spread green spots faster than a spilt bottle of Rit green dye. Since my family has has opted out of my experiment, we have anti FOOD RULES food in the house.

On the go, I stopped in a park where other Wisconsinites froliced on this 47 degree sunny March day with frisbies, baseballs, and even some college-level canoodling, as if on a Carribian spring break. You must love the fortitude of Midwesterners.  I ate the sandwich and home filtered water downed in a few mintues, breaking rules about eating slowly. No time to do otherwise on this day.  About 2 hours later, my neck tightened and a hurt helmet materalized. By the time I got home, I had to turn down the lights and nap. So much for fortitude. Next time I eat my organic peanut butter on frozen whole grain and skip the headache. Or perhaps the headache was something else--spring pollen? No, that hasn't been a culprit in the past. I fear Pollan has made me unfit to handle a good Milwaukee sausage. .

Amy Lou, author Every Natural Fact

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

What happens to weight in absense of no-fat butter spray, diet soda, and light products?

I spent the day yesterday at the Aldo Leopold Foundation. I did a bit of work for them and spent a lovely hour and a half with Nina Bradley Leopold.

She is the daughter of Aldo Leopold and lives near the storied shack of Sand County Almanac. Her house is surrounded by tall-grass prairie. She and her husband pioneered the reestablishment of this nearly extirpated landscape which had once dominated much of country from Illinois west to the Rockies.

She's not spending time trying to find a way to eat. She's been eating locally for decades. She lives in a natural setting nestled in between farms. She understands food as a community resource. In the forwaord to The Farm as Natural Habitat, she wrote of small-scale farmer as contributing "..  a lot to conservation and biodiversity, as well as putting food on our place each day."  We urban dwellers have to make an effort to find a farmer, even in an agricultural state like Wisconsin.

My struggles to follow Pollan's Food Rules stem from my artificial life. It still feels like a sacrifice to fill my metal bottle with filtered tab water and not add some artificially flavored dry mix. I still miss my diet cola. When I peel my local organic carrots and eat them raw--no problem. When I cook them, I had been in the habit of spraying a bit of butter spray. But with a list of chemicals grandma would not recognize, I instead use a tad of butter and consider that butter in my dietary intake.

Although the rules do build, once I started obeying the first few related to eating foods not chemical, and limiting sugar and processed flour, I found the rest of the rules are pithy ways of paying attention to my diet. Therefore, I'm likely only going to post on this once a week.

Dealing with the dishonesty in my relationship with food isn't all fun. Sure much of the food is wonderful, but I wanted to believe that my love for the natural world had influenced my relationship with food to a larger respect.

So how's it going without my artificial butter spray, diet soda, and light food products? Well, I'm a woman and as women know, things fluctuate, but I seem to have lost two pounds.

Who knew that “honesty is the best policy” also relates to food.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Two days in to my Lenten project to follow Michael Pollan’s Food Rules—adding a rule or two a day.

I thought I’d just head over to Outpost Natural Foods and dig around in my refrigerator and pantry and easily follow the initial set of rules. The first set in the “eat food” section tell me to eat old-fashioned regular food like my great-grandparents would have recognized and to avoid artificial sweeteners. Michael Pollan's  rational for avoiding high-fructose corn syrup is uncharacteristically stilted; perhaps the high-fructose people would come after him if he said more. A wiser person might follow follow suit and say no more. Not me. I was wondering who is behind the new pro high-fructose corn syrup commercials. I found one of the promoters is the  Center for Consumer Freedom.
 They do not say who they are or who bankrolls their campaigns—only that corporations and individuals are members. I wonder how individuals join them if they are secret about who they are? Some of my facebook friends have discussed this issue. Also see another POV:

I’d imagined that giving up my diet coke would be shatteringly difficult. No big problems except for when I thoughtlessly grabbed one from the garage and started gulping. With a mouth full of beloved carbonated chemicals I had to choose between a swallow or a guilty spit take. I opted for the swallow. Thoughtlessly is the key word here. I have not paid attention. I also pretended not to notice all the one-use cans and bottles. Even though we recycle, this is a wasteful practice I’ve refused to acknowledge. Most days I'm just trying to make it through my to-do list, and I don't want to agonize over every move I make. 

My coffee creamer had to go because it violates all the rules thus far. At only 15 calories, I loved my creamer , and because of the small quantity used  I hadn’t given thought to may daily consumption of this product that includes partially hydrogenated oil, sodium casinate, maldodextrine, dipotassium phosphate, and 7 or 8 more ingredients that never show their face in a pantry cupboard. My creamer is not food—It does not follow the rules. My bottled salad dressing is free of artificial sweeteners. I thought I was home free. I felt smug reading the ingredient list that included mustard seed and rice wine vinegar. The very last ingredient was xanthan gum. So it's out. I also couldn’t eat the multi-grain wraps in the fridge because of a big list of ingredients that sound like they belong in chem lab.

So what have I been eating?

I put half and half in my coffee—wonder if I’ll gain weight? I did a weigh in –so Ill tell you how it goes.

Steel cut oatmeal

Whole grain bread with a short rule-adhearing list of ingredients

Peanut butter made from peanuts and salt

Organic free-range and what seemed like very expensive chicken. Although if I only eat 3-4oz per serving the $11 pricetag for the boneless 2 lbs of meat comes to less than $1.40 a serving. To be honest I never would have caculated three pieces  should be cut into 8 servings if not for the price.

Winter greens from Will Allen’s Growing Power

Oil and vinegar—which I don’t like. I miss the sweet. I need an alternative .

Homemade leek and potato soup. I made a rue with butter and half and half. The creamy soup was so good that my family, who did not want to take part in this project, did want to eat that soup.

Organic carrots



I considered buying tuna. When I saw that great bread and Growing power greens I entertained thoughts of a tuna sandwich. I read up on what tuna might be safe to buy—safe for me and safe for the tuna—and although no one is saying that all tuna is to be avoided at all costs, after I did my research and wrote articles I couldn’t bring myself to buy tuna.

Tomorrow we are planning dinner out to celebrate some family birthdays. I am not choosing the restaurant. I will adopt a few more rules and try to figure out how to eat at this restaurant.

Wondering if Pollan knows about this blog? I emailed him and received this personal response from our hero:

"Because of the volume of email I'm currently receiving, I can no longer respond to every email. Rest assured, however, that your letter has been read -- and is greatly appreciated. Thanks for your interest
in my work.


Michael Pollan"

I'm now the Kathy Griffin of bloggers!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Food Rules Experiment

I’m beginning this blog by documenting my experience with implementing Michael Pollan’s Food Rules. This is my Lenten project. I admit that this is not a traditional religious experience, but I think that 46 days of exploring his 64 rules of eating a diet that is healthier and lighter on the planet is a worthy exercise in opposition to the Western diet of easy self indulgence.

I also write as a National Green Living Examiner, but the experiential nature of these posts isn’t quite right for that venue. I’m sure these posts will generate article ideas for that site. When applicable, I’ll link to those articles.

I’ve been Michael Pollan fan since I read the Botany of Desire. He keeps churning out books about place and food. His ability to amalgamate science and humanistic implications consistently captivates me. He’s authored books about gardening, building, and several about understanding food and eating. He also contributed to the documentaries Food Inc and King Corn.

Michael Pollan books include:

• A Place of My Own: The Education of an Amateur Builder Second Nature: A Gardener's Education

• The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals

• The Omnivore's Dilemma for Kids: The Secrets Behind What You Eat

• A Place of My Own: The Architecture of Daydreams

• In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto

• Food Rules: An Eater's Manual

Although Food Rules synthesizes much of his findings about diet, I don’t recommend it as a starter book for enjoying Pollan’s work. If like me, you’ve been wondering if your relationship with food is as healthy as it could be you might want to try to follow his rules too. I’m wondering, no I’m not wondering. I recognize that my diet is not as light on the earth as it could be. And consequently, I’m not as light as I should be.

I recently wrote a review of Food Rules for the Wisconsin Sierra Club and in the process became motivated to make a change. Coincidentally, I told my husband I was going to give up sweets for Lent before I'd read this book . But now I’ve decided to go a bit further. I’m adopting Pollan’s Food Rules—adding on one or two a day-- and writing about it. I will not be repeating all is rules in the blog, rather responding to them. So if you’d like to follow along, buy the book. At the outset,  I'm planning to write about twice a week, but we will see if that is enough. Watch for new editions of the Food Rule Experiment. Starting tomorrow I’ll be blogging a few times a week about this journey.

Oh--I asked my husband and son if they were in or out.  They both said "out."

Beef and butterflies

Photo courtesy of Environmental Defense Fund Austin-area ranchers  and conservationists show beef and butterflies  can thrive...