Food Bites

It is likely that most of us who read this magazine are grateful we live where there is such bounty. I believe that the simplified message of 2012 is about putting our love into action. The following are a few items regarding food that may become topics of very interesting conversations.

1. The Decolonization Diet

When people talk about healthy diets, the words local, fresh, organic, and sustainable farming come to mind. Well, now it’s time to add a new diet to this list, one that is actually an old one.

At The School of Native Studies at a Michigan university, volunteers are spending the next year eating only foods that were part of the Great Lakes diet PRIOR to the arrival of Europeans. The goal is “reclaiming traditional indigenous foodways”. Some are exploring this diet with 100% commitment. It involves really knowing the foods that qualify: bison, venison, duck, some fish, maple syrup, sweet corn, squash, zucchini, beans, mushrooms, berries, wild rice.

2.  The Human need for good salt

We need salt in our diet to maintain good health. Salt plays a vital role in the proper functioning of our cardiovascular and nervous systems, and it also aids in digestion of food and destruction of food-borne pathogens in the stomach.

In the last few years, eaters have been learning about the wonders of natural salt, an entity quite different than the familiar white salt that pours easily from the spout on the box. In our exploration of the connection between what we eat and the state of our health, we learn that regular white table salt and even much of what we call sea salt are both quite refined products. They’ve been bleached to whiten the salt, and altered by chemical additives to make the salt flow freely. If salt is heat-processed, it inevitably is stripped of its natural trace minerals. Even sugar is added to some salt to act as an anti-caking agent.

Healthy, unadulterated salt is therefore becoming more popular, despite costing more than regular table salt. Some comes from far away, such as Himalayan rock salt, or, closer to us, mineral salt from tan ancient inland sea in Utah—they’re both pink or reddish/brown rock salts full of nutritional minerals.

For locavores, the good news is that there are now local sauniers (salt harvesters) in Cobble Hill. These folks have added creativity to their new business by infusing this sustainable salt with the flavours of roasted garlic, balsamic vinegar, peppers as well as cold-smoking it for hours with maple, cherry or alder wood. Who knew salt could be so exciting?

3.  Test tube meat anyone?

At a university in the Netherlands, artificial ‘meat’ is being grown in laboratory vats laced with bovine fetus stem cells. We are told there are wonderful ‘benefits’ from test tube meat production: it is a more efficient conversion of plants to meat that creates less environmental damage, it is more humane than killing animals, and, it is, according to the researchers, the only feasible way to feed more meat to the world.. produce meat without animals!

However, in recent years, the world’s eaters have heard some very persuasive arguments for eating less meat. This begs the question: is production of artificial meat a truly worthwhile endeavour?

To anyone who prefers natural food, the idea of of eating something grown in a test tube is not appealing. And it is certainly not necessary. We can get plenty of protein from vegetarian sources.

Along with GMOs, test-tube meat is being seen as yet another scientific breakthrough to “feeding the world”. In the wake of these claims, let us remember food growers who fed humans for thousands of years, long before the industrial revolution. Peasant farmers world-wide, and their organization La Via Campesina, are the ones I choose to believe—they tell us that the only way to feed the world is through small-scale, sustainable farming.

4.  The controversy around backyard chickens

As more folks realize the need to take back control of our food supply, there are many good reasons why the urban chicken is becoming trendy.

People are wanting to reconnect with the land, and learn to live more self-sufficiently. Many are opposed to factory farming and have enjoyed the freshness and taste of local, free-range eggs. So for some folks, the logical next step is to embrace the locavore philosophy of lowering the carbon footprint of the eggs they eat, thus, they want to raise their own chickens.

However, it’s not surprising to hear that there are several objections to allowing hens in city yards. At the top of the list is the welfare of the animals. The idea is to ensure that urban animals are kept humanely in clean enclosures and not neglected, for there is great concern that some folks might exploit the animal with no consideration for their welfare. To this end, some advocates of urban farming believe that a license based on passing an animal husbandry exam should be a requirement.

There are other major concerns about backyard chickens. There is the very real issue of predators. Since the chickens need a safe coop to retreat at night, their human caretakers must assess where potential predators might enter. Backyard chicken farmers must learn to regularly clean the coops to prevent any unwanted fumes wafting towards neighbours, and provide enough room for their chickens to wander so that droppings will be deposited widely and eventually the chickens will scratch the dried dung into the soil. But if they only have chickens, noise should not be a problem, for hens are not noisy creatures, and most urban bylaws already do not allow roosters because of their loud crowing.

It is encouraging to see that more of us are opening our minds to learning traditional agricultural ways, as well as to harvest our local resources. And, at the same time, we are opening our hearts to learn how to help each other and to be of service in the best way we know how. Thank you all for encouraging me to continue to share information about our food choices, and the role these choices play in the evolution of our species on this planet.

Tsiporah Grignon is a Gabriolan of 38 years, and considers herself “an old foodie”. She is a keen observer of our times, through looking at geo-politics, and through her study of Evolutionary Astrology, which offers in-depth insights into our potential as compassionate human beings.