April 30, 2009

玉米, graan, maïs, καλαμπόκι, cereale, milho, мозоль, maíz, mandaamin

The Growing Corn

Upon a thousand hills the corn
Stands tall and rank and glossy green;
Its broad leaves stir at early morn,
And dewy diamonds drop between.

A myriad banners wave o'erhead,
And countless silken pennons fly;
The tasseled plumes bend low, 't is said,
And only silken ears know why.

Those bending plumes- those upturned ears
Methinks it is the old, old story!
Dame Nature still, with rapture hears
The song she heard in Eden's glory.

And so is wrought this miracle
Of life and growth unto perfection,
A mystery that none may tell,
Save that God gives to it direction.

Frederick J. Atwood .

Rising food prices are scary. Really scary. There are already 850 million people who are under nourished in the world. With the price of staples like rice and wheat increasing up to 181% in some areas, there is no doubt this is a big problem. In America we might not think about it as much. Although we spend 8-10 % of our total budget on food and beverages, most of us will continue to shell out a few more bucks for a loaf of bread. The problem in America will probably never be food shortages, but rather food price increases. As the previously mentioned statistics show however, people around the world are literally starving; this is not just because they can't afford the food available to them, but also because there is just not any food around for them to buy.

I have recently listened to two speeches on the energy crisis in the world at the moment, and both of them mentioned, briefly, the effect that biofuels were having on the world food shortage crisis. I've decided to take a closer look and find out whether our trying to save the environment is really killing humans. If this is the case, should we continue to see biofuels as a viable option, or should we look completely to other sources of renewable energy. Which is more important- the Earth or the people living on it?

As with most things, this is a contested topic and so many articles have been written on it. Along with that comes the writers twisting language to make their point work for them. Both of these articles cited the Congressional Budget Office report on Rising Fuel Costs; one lists that ethanol accounted for only .5-.8 % of the increase, while the other reported that 10-15% of the rising cost was from ethanol.

Aside from this discrepancy, I am leaning more to the side that ethanol is doing more harm than good. The against argument cited that 1/3 of the nations corn is now used to make ethanol. 3 million bushels of corn which were once feeding livestock to in turn feed our nation is now being used to transport us around. Maybe this wouldn't be so bad if ethanol had an actual effect, but ethanol use is not widespread enough for it to make that big of a difference. The "for" article suggests that ethanol saved Americans 34 cents a gallon on gasoline, but it is figured that less than 10% of Americans actually put ethanol in the car. The "for" side will argue then that using ethanol has already decreased the harm done by fossil fuels to the ozone layer by %1. Yet, in order to make that number grow, more ethanol will be needed. To produce this, forests and land will need to be cleared for fields. The "against" side believes that the energy required to produce the corn will cancel out any benefits of using it.

I think in writing this I've decided which side I'm on. Using ethanol is NOT a viable source for our energy crisis, and further more, funneling 3 billion bushels of corn into something not very useful is not only stupid, but it's wreking havok on the food prices of America, AND the world.

Really America- isn't everyone mad enough at us already?


April 19, 2009

Who's the Crazy One?

Tell me.
Tell you what?
Tell me why you're sitting in this chair.
Wouldn't it be better if you told me that?
Why do you say that?
Well it's not like I'm voluntarily sitting here.
Sure you are, I didn't see anyone pull you into the room.
That's because your back was turned. I was literally pushed in here by your receptionist.
And how did you get in to see my receptionist?
My mother drove me.
Hmm, it does seem like you don't want to be here. Why don't you tell me why your mother brought you here.
Is that really any of your business?
The longer you sit here, the more I charge. The more I charge, the less money your mother has to spend on you.
Fine. I'm here because she wants me to end up a fat ass like her.
I've seen your mother, she isn't a "fat ass."
You haven't seen her in a bathing suit.
Why are you here Ella?
I already TOLD you. My mother wants me to become a fat ass like her.
And why would she be worried about that?
Because I have a good body.
You don't think your mother does?
No, I already told you that too. Her thighs rub together when she walks, her arms jiggle. It's disgusting.
You do realize your mother has had three children, and is at a perfectly healthy weight?
Fuck perfectly healthy. Just because the "healthy" weight has been raised doesn't mean I need to weigh it.
Why do you say the "healthy" weigh has been raised?
50 years ago, the average housewife weighed 120 lbs, now she weighs 163 lbs. Fucking McDonald's.
But you don't even weigh 120 lbs.
I'm not an average housewife, either.
Fuck you.
Ella, you weigh 98 lbs and you're 20 years old. Don't you think this is a little strange?
Strange today yes, because everyone else in the world seems to need cheesecake to survive.
Have you gotten your period yet?
Why does it matter to you? Are you some child molester?
The average girl has her first period between the ages of ten and sixteen.
I'm only four years late.
Do you realize what you just said?
Maybe it's because I'm not fat like the entire rest of the world.
What do you eat to keep yourself "not fat?"
I eat healthy foods. Salads, fish, and water.
You eat healthful foods, not healthy. That dead fish is not healthy.
And you're supposed to be helping me how?
So you've admitted you have a problem.
No, I do not have a problem. I eat health-fricken-ful foods and I exercise. What's wrong with that?
How many healthful foods do you eat in a day.
Are you hungry right now?
Are you always hungry?
Why don't you eat?
I'm not going to become a fat ass.
Do you exercise everyday?
How much?
Four to five hours.
Don't you think that's a bit excessive?
Don't you think a McDonald's Value Meal with 1340 Calories is a bit excessive?
The normal person doesn't eat McDonald's every day. It should only be 1-2 times per month.
And does anyone actually listen to that?
Just not you?
I counted four McDonald's bags in the dumpster on the way in.
What were you doing in my dumpster?!
Pulling myself up into it and back out of it.
You're climbing into dumpster. And you think you're healthy?
I'm not eating the grease left over by your McDonald's, so yes.
Are you on a diet now?
Of course.
I thought you said you were happy with your weight?
No, I'm still to fat.
What is your goal weight?
How can you diet without a goal.
Easy. You just keep going. It becomes natural after a while.
And your knees and elbows stretching your skin, that's natural?
It's better than not being able to find them through all the fat. You think I'm weight obsessed, don't you?
You know exactly how many Calories are in a McDonald's Value Meal.
So I can better avoid them.
Have you seen very old pictures of women?
And I would care because?
Because it may give you a reference point about what is considered beautiful.
I know what is beautiful. It's every airbrushed magazine cover.
But you can't be airbrushed in real life.
I know, so I need to be thin enough to where I don't need to be.
Google "The Birth of Venus"
And how is the 2nd planet relevant to this conversation?
It's not the 2nd planet. It's an old painting of a beautiful woman.
Why would I care about a painting?
Think of it as a Cosmo cover in 1492. It's real beauty.
Fine. Can I go now?
Yes, I suppose. Our time is up. I trust I'll see you on Thursday?
I'll be here with your Venus picture.


April 5, 2009

Vegetable Talks (The Ethics Issue)


There are many reasons people become vegetarians; to become healthier through the extra consumption of fruits and vegetables, to lower their cholesterol through the avoidance of red meat, to avoid adverse reactions they may have to meat, to encourage animal rights, or to help save the environment. You may have noticed that I have left a very prominent reason reason out: not killing animals.

The vegetarians who cite this as their reason for me, unless they have thoughts on the side of being for animal rights, are automatically put in the category of "kinda-weird-sorta-hypocritical- non researched-quick to pass judgment" type (and yes I realize that this entry, and the fact that I catalog people in that way puts me into my own box).

I have two main problems with the "non killing" vegetarians:
1) They are quick to point out that humans are not superior to animals, but then automatically assume animals are superior to plants and bacteria.
2) The not killing thing? It's not possible in this world, not even avoiding the killing of animals, let alone plants and bacteria.

1. You can't have it both way people: you can't have animals and humans on the same level while throwing everything else under the bus. Just because a piece of lettuce doesn't have a mouth to scream while it's being tore out of the ground doesn't mean it isn't dying. It's not just a coincidence of the English language that plants grow, live, thrive, and die, just as humans or animals. For me, either you've got to accept that humans are the highest point of the food chain, or believe that everything that grows, moves, wiggles, or reproduces is on an equal playing level, and say a little prayer for the one-celled organisms your body kills to protect itself everyday.

2. You are still killing animals, no matter what you do. You may have avoided that hamburger at supper, but did you eat with the lights on? Did you use the restroom after your meal? If so, you killed an animal. Even if you are a vegan, and eat nothing that could have even possibly came from an animal, did you sleep under a feather quilt? Did you put on chap stick today? Did you check the label on your hand lotion, your body wash? And I better not have caught you using a film camera! See? It's ridiculous to think that in today's world, or any time in history one could survive by using nothing from an animal. The earth itself does not have enough resources to support everything on it's planet; the planet thrives because things eat other things.

While I have been a little harsh on the vegetarians because of the animals thing, I do believe that being a vegetarian as an activist for animal rights is a good thing. It is true that there are thousands of dollars spent on the waste and production of animals raised for consumption. It is true that most animals today are kept in unworthy housing situations and are killed in inhumane ways. This is why I believe the protests should be changed from "Stop the Killing" to "Stop the Abuse" which are two totally different things. So you see, the question is not, what should we kill and what should we save, but rather, how can we make better for the animals we need for human survival.

*steps off of soap-box*

March 24, 2009

Turkish Food: Pt 2

And now on to the richest and the poorest of foods. The simplest of foods I encountered was simit (simeet), a bread circle coated in sesame seeds. In the non-touristy areas they could be found for 50kr (about 35 cents).The most expensive food I encountered was pasta, or cake. These cakes come in many different flavors- my favorite was a white chocolate, coconut and banana flavored one. These small cakes run from 40-60TL, or $30-40. Having tasted many samples of both, I must say I found them both equally enjoyable.

Because Turkey is a Muslim country (93%), there is obviously no pork served. Even at McDonalds, the typical Egg McMuffin is served with a small slice of chicken, but it seemed to me to be ham flavored. Chicken (tavuk sis), beef (doner), and lamb were the most popular meat choices available, however, on the coast of the Bosphorus Straight in Istanbul, fish sandwiches are the specialty- a large fish sandwich costs only 1.50TL from the sea-side carts. Also available from the sea-side carts: tavuk sis or doner durum for 3TL. This includes a foot long piece of bread, a hefty portion of meat, salad, ad occasionally pickles, all piled together in a sandwich. This was by far the most satisfying meal I had while in Turkey, and one of the least expensive!

My other favorites of Turkey include cantik (jauntick), which is a pide type bread topped with cheese and lamb, chicken, or mincemeat; real Turkish baklava (not even comparable to the stuff available in the states (may I recommend trying the chocolate version for a change of pace)); Tutku, a vanilla and chocolate biscuit/cookie filled with a nutella like filling; and Chicken Abdulaziz, a part of the Ottoman cuisine it is a wonderful baked chicken in a cheesy tomato sauce with green onions. But by far my favorite food in Turkey, and the part of Turkey I am going to miss the most, is the Traditional Turkish Breakfast.

The traditional Turkish breakfast consists of a hard boiled egg, fresh raw tomatoes, green and black olives, soft fetal like cheese, crusty bread, arose/fruit flavored honey or jam, and of course, Nescafe.

Mer haba, Gurusarus Turkey!

Turkish Food: Pt 1

Going along with the theme of my last blog entry, I have a fairly unique "food of the public life" experience to share. I recently (recently as in 7 hours ago) returned from an 11 day trip to Turkey. As Turkey is not in the world news very often, their cuisine is widely unknown. During the course of my trip, I was able to experience both foods of the rich and foods of the poor-covering all sections of the public life.

The first thing I was told about the Turkish people is that they are crazy passionate about their bread. Bread is brought out before every meal- not once did I sit down at a restaurant without having a basket of bread placed in front of me. The type of bread varied, but usually it had been grilled or toasted in some way. It was often brought out with either butter and cheese or a type of very spicy, salsa like dip. When eating in homes, bread was also always placed on the table, though this bread was rarely toasted.

I had an interesting experience relating to the bread in Turkey. While walking through Haycal (the city center) in Bursa, a friend and I decided to stop in to a bakery to watch them make and bake their bread. The owners were so enthused that we were taking an interest in their work that without knowing more than ten words in Turkish, we stayed in the shop for twenty minutes, coming out with a lass of chai, two loaves of regular bread, and a loaf of pide (think pizza crust in an oval shape) with our names spelled out in sesame seeds, all free of charge.

Another thing to note is the difference of drinks in Turkey. One cannot sit down in a house or at a restaurant without being offered chai or Nescafe. Chai is not what it is in America- in Turkey chai is plain black tea, usually served with two cubes of sugar. Nescafe is instant powdered coffee, coming in single serving packages. In order to get traditional American coffee you must order filtered coffee, an if you order Turkish coffee you are certainly in for a surprise. Turkish coffee is served in an espresso cup, and although it might only be made from twenty coffee beans, you can taste all twenty. It is a very thick, mud-like coffee, with the grounds left in the bottom of the cup. The other two most popularly served drinks are Coca-Cola and aryan. Ayran is a drink made from yogurt, water, and salt. I have seen it described as "buttermilk" and "special Turkish milk," but to me, it tasted like liquid sour cream. It is said that if you are ablt to get through two full glass of ayran you will begin to enjoy it, but I was not able to get that far! There was another drink I tried that you must truly have grown up with in order to enjoy: salgam (shalgum). Salgam is a juice made with fermented carrot, and sometimes beet, juice. It doesn't have an alcoholic tasted even thought it is fermented, it simply tastes of things rotting. When served very cold it was swallow-able, but had it been anything more than that, I don't believe I would have been able to even get the gulp down my throat!

Turkish food Pt. 2 coming soon!

March 1, 2009

Chomp, Munch, Devour, Wolf, Gobble (Eat)


Humans are obsessed with voyeurism. The lighter word for it may be curiosity, but none the less, it’s voyeurism. We love to get glimpses into other people’s worlds. Why else would shows such as Anthony Bourdain’s ‘No Reservations’ or Andrew Zimmern’s ‘Bizarre Foods’ exist. If it wasn’t for the curiosity of knowing ‘why,’ what can explain a cable TV viewer’s desire to watch a middle aged French chef eat a cockroach?

This may sound like a bad thing at first. But in my opinion, voyeurism with food can be an especially helpful tool in understanding world cultures. Every culture has its ‘weird food.’ This is the food which although it may be a bit disgusting, ‘insiders’ eat, and ‘outsiders’ despise. In fact, there is an entire website devoted to this phenomenon. http://www.weird-food.com/ showcases weird foods from around the world. It even has a search feature, allowing you to search by food or country. Let’s take a jump in and see what we can find.

Search: America
The first thing of notice on the America search list is that most of the foods have other countries listed underneath them- an homage to the fact that America really is a melting pot of other cultures. For this search, I’ll focus on only the American only foods. Here are my favorites:

Fried Dill Pickles: (USA South) A down-home Southern treat is fried dill pickles. It's got two of the major food groups: fat and salt. This just might be the thing to serve to house guests who are overstaying their welcome. Perhaps you could make it for a sick acquaintance who you really hate but feel obliged to do something for.
Note: I’ve tried, and thoroughly enjoyed these!

Squirrel Brain: (US South)Yes, the brain of the small tree climbing rodent. You cook the head with the rest of the body (after cleaning of course), then, using your fingers and a fork, you crack the skull open and dig the brain out. Tastes kind of like mushrooms to me.
Note: Don’t lie, you’ve thought about it with all these squirrels on campus.

Pork Brains: (US South)It's exactly what it sounds like and is extremely common (but very seldom spoke of) in the south. For some reason pork brains are canned in milk gravy and sold in many grocery stores around the south. Unlike many "specialty foods", you are more likely to find pork brains in a small-town grocery store. It can usually be found in the same vicinity of potted meat product or other canned meat/meat parts. On the front of the can pork brains are being served atop scrambled eggs... and that's just how I had them (ahh... the power of advertising). When I was 7 or 8 years old, I was forced fed a heaping spoonful of this grey matter w/scrambled eggs by my "best friend". It looked like fried cat food and tasted even worse. I guess it's an "acquired" taste.
Note: See Picture for Nutrition Content!

Search: Canada
Spruce Beer:(Canada) This is made from the boiled boughs of black spruce. The beer is made with yeast, molasses and raisins and takes less than three days to brew.
Note: Raisins and beer? WTF!

Seal Flipper Pie: (Canada) Move over brie and quiche. Bring on the bang belly and damper dogs. And leave room for seal flipper pie. Newfoundland cuisine has come into its own. Once restricted to the kitchens of the island's outport folk, food like brewis and figged duff is finding its way to Toronto or any big centre in Canada where transplanted Newfoundlanders are found. The only thing that might be tricky to obtain nowadays is seal flipper pie. With the collapse of the seal hunt due to lobbying by environmentalists, there are fewer flippers to be had, but independent sealers still steam into St. John's Harbor every spring and sell flippers off the wharf. In April, community clubs all over the city hold flipper pie dinners. The flippers are tender and tasty but it's said few mainlanders acquire a taste for them.
Note: I guess it can be said that at least the clubbers are using every part of the seal…

Search: Spiders
Tarantula:(Cambodia )In the town of Skuon around 55 miles North of Phnom Phen, tarantula spiders are very commonly eaten by the locals, travelers who pass through often try them too. The practice began in the days of the Khmer Rouge, when food was scarce, but apparently the locals developed rather a taste for the furry 8-legged arachnids and now they still form a major part of the town’s dietary intake. Hundreds of these spiders are hunted, cooked and sold every day in what must be one of the more unusual 'fast food' arrangements I've seen.
Note: As someone who has refused to sleep in a room because of a lost spider, it is safe to say I will NOT be vacationing in Cambodia any time soon.

Search: Candy
Salted Plum Suckers: (Japan) These are little hard candies that come in a package featuring a geisha girl holding one to her lips. There are two sizes, small and large. The small balls are plum-flavored candies coated in a layer of brine salt that melts in your mouth. The larger ones do not have this salty outer coating, but once you reach the center, are filled with a shriveled dried plum piece and a gooey, salty liquid substance.
Note: I don’t know about you, but geishas, plums, and brine salt sure sounds like something to stay far, far away from.

What have we learned here? Every culture indeed has a food which is weird and out of the ordinary. But if you have grown up with it, it really doesn’t seem that weird at all. Perhaps if we all were to investigate other countries foods we would discover something about their culture, and have a deeper understand of them as people.

As good as that may sound, I’m still not going to Cambodia.

February 16, 2009

Oh How They Muse...


“An’ she just sat there, sat there all day eatin’ chocolate candies and licorice sticks till she ‘sploded!?

“Nah, ain’t no way that’s true, ain’t no way I gonna believe you. Not after last time and the story of the big tornado that took Charlie away. I asked mama and she tol’ me the truth, tol’ me that our Charlie dog died of old age, and she buried him in the back yard while we was at school. You’re a big, fat, mean ol’ lier Jessie, and I ain’t gonna believe you!?

“Well fine May, you don’t have to believe me. But I’m just telling you what Danny heard from Cynthia’s older brother. Hannah’s ma just sat in their house all day long after she got fired, using up all the money they had left, just sat there and ate chocolate candies and licorice sticks and then she ‘sploded.?

“A person can’t explode from eating too much. I’ve seen pictures of those babies in Africa that don’t get enough to eat, and their tummies get all bloated out and sometimes they ‘splode, but it ain’t cause of too much food, it’s cause of too little.?

“That just don’t make no sense May. How can a person’s tummy get big if it ain’t got no food in it? No, now you’re the one who’s lyin’. Hannah’s mom ate and ate and ate, and she exploded all over the house. An’ that’s the truth. I’m gonna tell on you for lying about the lil’ babies in Africa!?

“Who you gonna tell? Anyone you gonna tell will know it’s the truth! I learned it in school last month, you’re too little and they don’t teach you stuff like that yet. That’s grown-up stuff. They don’t get enough food and then their bellies get big and round, like they swallowed a whole chicken, and they die.?

“Mmm, chicken. I wonder what mama’s cooking for supper? We ain’ had fried chicken in a long time, think she’ll be cooking that?

“I dono, if we was having fried chicken tonight there wouldn’ta been nothing good in our lunches today, and we had fried potatoes with a lil’ bit a bacon too. No, I don’t think we’re having fried chicken. Sure would like some though. Get tired of all the same food all the time.?

“But those were just leftovers from last night, I bet we have chicken tonight, it’s about time. I can’t wait to have that hot grease sliding down my throat and then the crunchy crust and soft chicken inside my mouth. It’s gonna taste so good! I wonder what mama will fix with it. Maybe some green beans and potato salad even.?

“Jessie! Stop talking ‘bout all the food we ain’t gonna have. It only makes us hungrier when we see the same biscuits and gravy as always. So just stop talking about it and stop thinking about it. You should be thinking of good things, like your school work. Then you can graduate and get a job and maybe one day you’ll get fried chicken. But it ain’t gonna do you no good talking about it without doing nothin’ ‘bout it. So stop dang you!?

“Fine. But you can’t stop me from thinkin’ ‘bout it.?

January 31, 2009

Vegetable Talks

Dear Lima Bean,
Please, crawl back into whatever hole you came out of in the filthy ground. It's where you belong. I hate to say it, but no one in their right mind enjoys your chalky taste and off-green color.

Dear UDS,
Please, stop mixing in Lima beans with the rest of your vegetable blends. I've already wasted precious minutes of my life separating out the Lima beans from the edible vegetables. It would make your student much happier: become a Lima bean-free campus!

Dear Leah,
Do you actually think I enjoy being mixed in with all the common vegetable and having to sit under heat lamps for hours, just to have picky students like you come and poke me with a fork, only to scrape me off? Believe me, I would much rather be back on the plant with my family. Please, think a little bit before you insult me next time.
L. Ima Bean

January 30, 2009

Please pardon me Mr. President!


Thanksgiving is, possibly, America's most unique holiday. Not only is Thanksgiving an American holiday, it is in my opinion, America's holiday (and not only because other countries seem to have no idea what we are talking about when we mention it {in typical American fashion}). Upon asking my English friend to help me think of a title for this post, he replied with a sense of bafflement "What? That's that thing kinda like Christmas with the turkey, right?" But especially today, in this fast-food, super sized, highly processed, high fructose corn syrup obsessed time, what better way to celebrate the "discovery" of America than with a holiday dedicated to food?

Now even though I personally think Thanksgiving goes right along with Columbus Day in the crackpot of American holidays, I am able to recognize that Thanksgiving, and food in general, does a lot to hold America together. At every wedding, birth, death, graduation, or celebration, there is food. Food creates a common bond for people. Whether it is the awkwardness of having to attend a baby shower for someone you despise, or letting tears fall into your funeral hotdish, everyone congregates around the table holding the (sometimes not so-) delectables.

This culminates at the Thanksgiving dinner table. Although I don't know any family bearing any resemblance to the one in the Norman Rockwell picture above, almost every family comes together over the Thanksgiving table. And even though the American ideal tells us there must be the graying grandparents sitting at the head of the table, looking down upon their three children, two of whom are married with kids and one who just got engaged, it need not be. More likely grandma is drunk, grandpa is dead, daughter one is unhappily married to a flake with two snot nosed children, daughter two is dressed in black and son one just came out of the closet. But no matter what kind of family you have, food pulls you together over Thanksgiving. Whether it's a four course complete meal, or grocery store chicken and canned cranberry sauce, food holds this country together.

And really, who doesn't love mashed potatoes?