Tuesday, 13 May 2008

in my genes?

"Even if I knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces, I would still plant my apple tree."

Martin Luther

Monday, 12 May 2008

community gardens

City gardening grows
Community gardens provide precious space for
urban green thumbs and sanctuary searchers


Paula Luther visits a community garden site on the corner of Victoria Drive and Hull Street.

Gardening isn’t just for your grandma anymore. Getting down in the dirt can be a great way to get some physical activity, grow delicious food and connect with people in your neighbourhood. The main obstacle urbanites are facing when it comes to gardening is finding land, which is why community gardens are becoming more popular. “Community gardens are very important for a few hundred reasons, but as our cities become busier, as people’s lives become more stressful, gardening generally is a really good way to feel better, de-stress and you get the added

benefit of exercise and some healthy food,” said Mike Levenston, founder of cityfarmer.org, a website that promotes city farming and urban agriculture. According to Levenston all you need to begin farming in the city is a bit of land and sunlight. “If you want to start a community

garden, first find a vacant piece of land and second, find out who owns it and go and see if you can get permission,” Levenston added. Paula Luther is a coordinator at the Trout Lake/Cedar Cottage Food Security Network. She said that another way to begin city farming is to join a local

community garden, particularly if you’re inexperienced. “It brings people together and we get to share our knowledge and learn from each other and it crosses those cultural and social barriers,” Luther said. According to Luther, community gardens have the power to lighten the burden on emergency food provisions such as food banks. “They can also transform neighbourhoods,” she added. Gardening volunteer Christine Boyle said that an isolated sports field at Grandview Elementary School was used by drug addicts and sex trade workers before a community garden began there in 1999. And although their garden gets raided and vandalized periodically, Boyle believes that it has brought their community closer together. “It’s really neat to have these intergenerational connections around something as important and vital as food and the earth,” Boyle said.

Visit cityfarmer.info to find gardens in your area or log onto the City of Vancouver food policy website to find all the tools you need to start one.



Friday, 2 May 2008

Everything you need to know about eating

Everything you need to know about eating

Chow down like the Greeks, steer clear of the supermarket. A Coles Notes guide to Michael Pollan's latest book


From Thursday's Globe and Mail

May 1, 2008 at 9:31 AM EDT

'Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants."

With those seven simple words, author Michael Pollan sums up pretty well everything you need to know about eating and good health.

In his recently published, brilliant book In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto, he argues convincingly for a return to simplicity.

Today, Mr. Pollan says, we are eating less and less food, and more and more "edible foodlike substances" - all manner of processed foods.

Americans - and, to almost the same extent, Canadians - are the most food-obsessed culture on Earth, fretting incessantly about the health consequences of food choices.

Mr. Pollan says this has created a nation (or two) of orthorexics - people with an unhealthy obsession with healthy eating.

Just look at newspapers, magazines, books and Food TV. They are loaded with articles and shows about the benefits of food's various parts, or more specifically its components, like omega-3s to prevent Alzheimer's, lycopene as an antioxidant, and monounsaturated fat as a cholesterol buster.

In other words, we speak no more of foods, but of nutrients.

Mr. Pollan labels this reductionist view of what we put in our mouths (and stomachs) nutritionism. In the ideology of nutritionism, foods are the sum of their nutrient parts.

To which Mr. Pollan's reply is: Nonsense.

In Defense of Food says that, on the contrary, what matters is food in all its glory.

His earlier book The Omnivore's Dilemma was all about the ecological and ethical dilemmas of our eating choices. His thesis was that our personal health cannot be divorced from the health of the food chains of which we are part.

In Defense of Food, published in January, is the logical next step and answers the question: Okay, what should I eat?

Mr. Pollan's response, as stated above: "Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants."

But in a volume of 244 pages, he has room to elaborate.

The book is definitely worth reading and digesting in its entirety, but here is the Coles Notes version:

Eat food

Don't eat anything your great-grandmother wouldn't recognize. Dump the processed food and don't eat anything that's incapable of rotting.

Avoid products that contain ingredients that are unfamiliar, unpronounceable or more than five in number. These are all markers of highly processed foods.

Avoid products that make health claims. While this may seem paradoxical, to make a health claim a food product must have a package.

Shop the peripheries of the supermarket and stay out of the middle aisles. Dairy, produce, meats and fish line the walls, while processed foods are in the middle.

Get out of the supermarket whenever possible. Shop at a farmers' market.

Mostly plants

Eat mostly plants, especially leaves. Scientists disagree on which nutrients in plants are best, but they all agree that plants are healthy eating.

You are what you eat eats, too. The diet of animals has a bearing on the quality of food they produce. It's worth looking for pastured animal foods.

If you have space, buy a freezer. Buy fresh foods in season and in quantity, and freeze them.

Eat like an omnivore. The greater the variety of species you eat, the more likely you are to cover all your nutritional bases.

Eat well-grown food from healthy soils. This is a more precise way of saying eat "organic," a term that has been perverted.

Eat wild foods when you can.

Be the kind of person who takes supplements. Popping vitamin pills doesn't appear to be very useful (with some notable exceptions like folic acid and perhaps vitamin D), but people who take them are more health-conscious, educated and affluent, and tend to eat better.

Eat more like the French, the Italians, the Japanese, the Indians, the Greeks. Those in traditional food cultures eat much better than those with a contemporary Western diet.

Regard non-traditional foods with skepticism.

Don't look for a magic bullet in a traditional diet.

Have a glass of wine with dinner.

Not too much

Pay more, eat less. Choose quality over quantity.

Eat meals. Don't graze.

Eat at a table. Not a desk. Not in a car. Not in front of the TV.

Don't get your fuel from the same place your car does.

Try not to eat alone.

Consult your gut. Practise a principle that Okinawans call hara hachi bu - eat until you are 80-per-cent full.

Eat slowly.

Cook and, if you can, plant a garden.

There is nothing too difficult here. It's a lot of common sense.

As Mr. Pollan notes wryly, no animal other than humans needs professional help in deciding what to eat.

It is a sad symptom of our confusion about food that we need to consult a nutritionist, a physician, a government food pyramid or - horror of horrors - a journalist on such a basic question.