Lierre Keith's The Vegetarian Myth

The Vegetarian Myth coverLierre Keith's The Vegetarian Myth is one of the most important books ever written about food and the sustainability of the human species. It is at once deeply personal, overwhelmingly provocative, and academically sound as it calls into question all of the stories we have ever been told about where food comes from, what kind of food we should eat (especially in the context of veganism and vegetarianism), and what impact our food choices make on our bodies and the world around us.  And that's just the core themes; Keith deftly weaves together food politics with economics, religion, culture, misogyny, masculinity, feminism, media issues, peak oil, liberalism vs radicalism, and so much more.

In short, if you think about what you eat, how it got to you, and the issues of nutrition, morality, politics and spirituality come with it, it is paramount that you encounter what The Vegetarian Myth has to offer.

My full review continues:

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Is eating locally produced food a bad idea?

Green Tomatoes 2In yesterday's Palladium-Item, editorial board member and local blogger Matthew Hisrich proposed that eating locally, and other kinds of localized consumption behaviors, might be ineffective, or even bad for us:

[W]here does this drive for relocalizing come from? Perhaps it has to do with a vague sense of ethical rightness more than anything scientifically verifiable. University of Virginia psychologist Jonathan Haidt classifies such efforts as attempts to attain (and potentially guilt others into) a sense of moral purity. "Food," he says, "is becoming extremely moralized these days."

The problem, of course, is that purity is hard to come by in a world as complex as ours, and simplistic answers often have consequences that their proponents do not intend. Consumers should think twice before jumping on the localvore bandwagon.

I'm all for thinking twice before jumping on any sort of wagon, but I think Mr. Hisrich's logic is flawed in a number of places. Read on for my point-by-point analysis of his column: Continue reading "Is eating locally produced food a bad idea?"

First 100-Mile Radius Potluck a success

On Wednesday this week, I experienced the great joy of being a part of what might have been Richmond's first 100-Mile Radius Potluck - where all of the ingredients in the dishes you bring come from within 100 miles of Richmond. It was a great success, with delicious food, good company, and a strong sense of possibility about how local food ties into building a more self-reliant Richmond.

You can view highlights from the event, which was sponsored by, in this YouTube video:
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Dihydrogen Monoxide, available at a store near you

When I grow up, I want to get a job (or an internship, or just a stint in the mail room) with Corporate Accountability International, the folks who are behind the recent announcement by PepsiCo that they will label their Aquafina bottled water for what it is - tap water that's been filtered a few extra times. It's good news in the world of truth-in-marketing, and a nice success story for a so-called "corporate watchdog." (Blog entry for another day: why do we need so many corporate watchdogs? Hmmm.)

And yet, Pepsi will continue to promote the unique benefits of their Water(TM) - 0 calories, 0 sodium, 0 carbs, hooray! - just as every other bottled water maker will continue to sell their product as one of the best possible ways we can consume Water(TM). Consumers will probably continue to buy large cases of plastic bottles with plastic caps filled with Water(TM). Public drinking fountains will continue to be replaced by vending machines that glow into the night.

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Ethanol as a local, national energy solution?

In today's Palladium-Item, Brian Bergen with the Richmond-Wayne County Chamber of Commerce agribusiness committee has a piece about Ethanol as a solution to the nation's energy problems.

I'm so glad that the Chamber is focusing on the relationship between agribusiness and the energy crisis that we face as a nation and as a planet. I'm also glad that the solutions we're talking about are keeping in mind a systems approach - how the inputs and outputs from a particular industrial or energy-generating process can be used as efficiently as possible.

But I hope that whatever solutions we pursue take into account that there is a tremendous amount of energy that goes into making our agricultural system work, and so any energy solutions derived from it must take that cost into account. The USDA recently noted that ethanol generates little more energy than it takes to produce. Some scientists have shown that ethanol production consumes 6 units of energy for every 1 it produces.
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Community Supported Agriculture in USA Today

This is the second year I've taken advantage of another great thing about the area, our local CSA (community supported agriculture) program through Boulder Belt Organics in Preble County, Ohio. Since I'm doing my own garden I'll probably just use it for a few months, but it's so nice to have locally and organically grown produce; and you can't beat that the "pick up point" for my share is at Mark's house one block away. One thing I especially like about CSAs in general is that the fees you pay to get the food more closely represent the "real cost" of producing it - when I shop at big grocery chain stores, I can't really tell if the price takes into account the oil and gas, foreign labor, and environmental resources/residual effects that go into producing those foods. When you use a CSA, all those things are pretty well laid out, and since the person handing you the food is typically also the person who cultivated it, you can always ask. Anyway, Lucy from Boulder Belt noted that USA Today recently had a profile of Community Supported Agriculture programs (printable/ad free version), which she thought might have been on the front page. I like that under the "cons" for using a CSA they list "vegetable variety" and "introduction to unfamiliar vegetables"...those are "pros" in my book!

Instant Indoor Garden

I've just concluded my adventure of getting a seed-starting area set up at my house. It's something I've been meaning to do for a while, but I think the combination of missing the crops at Elkhorn Ranch as spring approaches, paying an arm and a leg for a few withered basil leaves at the grocery the other day, and seeing Hopi's setup inspired me into action. A few hours at my local home improvement superstore, a few hours putting up the table and equipment, and a bit of cursing later, I'm ready to get my garden going. (I have issues with instant gratification - I could have bought the equipment tonight, gone to bed at a reasonable hour, and installed it tomorrow, but no...) Now there's just that whole "not murdering the plants" part to worry about.