Monday, March 30, 2009

Food, attitudes, and the middle classes

I read an article today that points to some interesting facets of attitudes regarding food held by some who are known as 'middle class'. Here's my response to it.

The article puzzled me a bit at first. I couldn't understand why people were apologising for wanting to eat perfectly good food, or why eating quinoa or homous or buying organic produce could qualify a person as being a snobby middle class foodie.

Reading the comments clarified things, however! I think the point of the article is not what people eat so much as it's the desire to be fashionable and to believe that what you eat makes you better than less discerning plebs. Is that right? Using big words to describe luxury or unusual foods and ways to eat them really did begin to sound like a way to start a class war as I read further down!

I eat quinoa regularly, organic quinoa at that. I make my own homous, grind and bake with biodynamic spelt and wheat, and the list goes on. I spent about 2.5 seconds wondering if this qualifies me for groans and categorizing as was being done in this article, then decided I didn't actually care. *grin* It is interesting to observe other people's reactions to food and lifestyle choices that are different to their own.

I'm certainly not upset and don't feel the need to whinge because this food isn't available everywhere I go; by jiggity, that's why I make it at home! It's amusing to me that eating good healthy food can possibly be a status symbol - guess I just don't travel in the right social circles. *breathes sigh of relief*

Someone recently enlightened me as to the target demographic of the Guardian, the newspaper the original article came from. "The thing that made the blog even more amusing, in my personal opinion, was that it was in the Guardian. This is the title of choice for people who don't care if others call them decaffeinated/organic/veggie-munching/Fairtrade/trendies. In fact, the Guardian's food pages offer some lovely recipes, often with a veggie emphasis and plenty of baking." Thanks to Sharon for allowing me to use her words.

And now to put things into perspective. There's a movie that I saw on These Days In French Life called We Feed The World (it's a long one, but worth watching; see highlights here), that has further changed the way I think about the food I eat. There are so many tragedies behind food production on a human and animal scale, it is staggering. Here's a quote: "Any child today who dies of starvation, is in fact murdered". There is enough food in the world to feed everyone, but for plain old human greed.

This afternoon I'll be buying my first box of locally grown organic produce. I suspect I won't get to much for my money, but the concept behind eating what has been produced from my own area and without chemicals, is very appealing. It's simply not feasible for me to grow enough food at home to feed my family at this point, though I'd love to get to that stage eventually.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Why I don't like Twilight anymore

I read this series because my girls were reading them, wanted to know what they were getting into, and I'm telling you, this stuff is addictive. An interesting story though not very well written in my opinion, flaws in the story line all over the place, but still highly emotionally addictive. Kind of like food with lots of MSG; tastes good, leaves you hungry for more, but doesn't satisfy in a healthy way.

I don't by any means condemn the Edwards and Bellas of this world for being in love, not by a long shot. A well portrayed romance gets me every time, I love them. This one had me for a while, but in the end just didn't cut it for various reasons; reasons which are personal and my way of thinking about what is right and wrong for me. I am not and will not judge anyone who still loves the books, this is an individual journey, and I'm attempting to describe part of my journey here.

LDS girls of all ages are getting into this by the droves, and I can see why: these books are promoted as "clean", "no bad stuff at all in them". So girls who are taught that sex before marriage is wrong, can get a hormonal fix as their baser emotions are aroused through reading about one couple's desires in surprisingly evocative detail. To me this goes against the spirit of a very serious and wise principle.

A theme that runs through all four books has a teenage couple unable to function without thinking about or being with one another all the time, not a healthy thing in my opinion.

In the first book there is a scene where the boy spends the night in the girl's bedroom, just to watch her and protect her. Nothing excommunicable happens, other than the fact that he is IN HER BEDROOM - a no-no in no uncertain terms from an LDS perspective, and there is a very passionate kiss that is broken off, eventually, by the boy - in spite of the girl urging him repeatedly to go all the way.

Here's an interesting point: in this scene I have referred to above the girl is described in the book as wearing a baggy old sweatshirt top, and old daggy sweatshirt bottoms, while in the movie the apparel is changed (very deliberately in my view) to a tight tshirt that reveals her tummy, and a pair of briefs/undies. Why the change, I asked myself? Answer: the movie makers are trying to elicit the maximum response from the audience, the maximum arousal of sexual feeling. I'm shaking my head here, thinking of the very young people who are being exposed to this and what effect it must be having upon them. Because no matter what the rating of the movie, no matter who it is aimed at, the truth is that many children of 10 and younger are being exposed to this story.

It is so easy to justify this sort of thing. The whole series isn't solely as described above, there is also a storyline which is exciting and makes you want to find out what is going to happen. I viewed the books very differently at first, so yes I suppose I was taken in along with the crowd. Now I find myself preferring to seek for the highest literature rather than the mediocre. There's so little time for reading, for any recreation really, I want to make sure I'm spending my time well.

Now as an aside...I finally finished Middlemarch! It's been a year I think, since I began. The relationship between Will Ladislaw and Dorothea Casaubon is one of the most beautiful I have ever read about, so honorable, sweet, pure, delightful, hopeless then hopeful, and so superbly described from both points of view by George Eliot.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Reusables, the un-old way

This is a drawing I did yesterday showing some of the things I've been making recently, to show some friends who have let me reap the benefit of their hard work and who I want to thank by making them something they can put to practical use.

Monday, March 23, 2009

The storm over the tv

There wasn't actually that much of a storm, just a few grumblings and thundery type rumblings and the threat of rain. Mr11 wrote a note back to the antenna asking it to please come back home, and that he promised not to watch too much tv, but to no avail!

What a feeling of freedom. I love it. No more having to be ready or we'll miss the beginning of a show, no more having to change the channel quickly but not quickly enough because the ads are indecent even with the volume down, no more hedonistic consumer fest paraded before our eyes constantly. What bliss to see the box in its box (wooden furniture piece with doors that close), and two young boys sitting in the lounge room reading books instead of vegging out in front of the box. Mr 10 is reading the Alex Rider series, and Mr 11-nearly-12 is a third of the way through The Return of The King.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Our TV antenna has gone on holiday!

The storm has not yet broken, but it will! Our tv antenna has gone on holiday: it even left a farewell note in an appropriate digital style script. We can still watch DVDs and videos, but the tv part of tv with all its awful ads and consumer worship of stuff, is finally deactivated. Yay!!

Arr and Ess are fine with this idea, and I think that Lor won't mind too much, but Jae and Sea are not going to like it one bit. How, precisely, can a nearly 12 year old and a 10 year old be expected to grow up whole, sane, and above all accepted by their peers, without tv?! Saturday mornings will never be the same, and I'm looking forward to that. We shall weather the storm and be better people for it. Stay tuned to hear how it goes, and wish me well!

The only thing that may bring the antenna and cabling back from holiday may just be..... Doctor Who. Can I live without seeing Doctor Who on tv? I've watched the show almost ever since we got a B&W box when I was 8 (I had to help pay for it to convince my parents we should have one), and loved it, talked about it, bit my nails in front of it, laughed at it, enjoyed it, ever since.
Ah well, I tell myself, there's always youtube.

I've banned ads when my children were watching tv for some time now; if I heard an ad from another room the kids knew I'd be in there asap to turn off the box. So they've become fast at either changing channels so quickly that the sound doesn't register for a bit, or at muting the ads before I get to the room. When the ads for things or other shows were on, it really felt like manipulation and often like filth; definitely like something I did not want in my house.

Such a lot of RUBBISH has come through that box into our home even with all my efforts to reduce that, and it's such a lot of bother to try and police it, I feel really at peace about the idea of not having it at all. My sister did this some time back when hers broke, but now that she has a new screen she also has no desire to bring commercialism back into her home. Honestly folks, we are SO much better off without it.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Reuse, Repurpose, Recycle

What do you use to pack lunch for yourself or for your children? I used to be like the thousands of people (millions?) who would answer that question with - plastic wrap, press seal bags, greaseproof paper, and foil.

Since an awareness for the impact I am making on the environment and my habits as a consumer in general has been growing upon me, I'm finding that using those disposable wrappings just doesn't feel right any more.

So I did some research, made many prototypes, and finally came up with a reusable sandwich wrap that I am happy with. No complaints from the children, unless it's that one of their siblings has already grabbed the wrap they were hoping to use that day!

Plastic bags have been around for 30 years now. It is estimated world wide that 1 trillion bags are used and discarded every year.
Australians use 3.92 billion plastic bags a year, that’s over 10 million new bags being used every day. An estimated 3.76 billion bags or 20,700 tonnes of plastic are disposed of in landfill sites throughout Australia every year. Australians dump 7,150 recyclable plastic bags into landfills every minute or 429,000 bags every hour.
Did you know that:
• plastics are made from non-renewable natural resources such as crude oil, gas and coal.
• just 8.7 plastic checkout bags contain enough embodied petroleum energy to drive a car 1 kilometre.
[Information above is from the Clean Up Australia website]

What can I do?
Recycle, repurpose and re-use.
Plastic bags, plastic wrap, foil, press seal bags, all add to land fill and thereby harm the environment. Press seal bags can be washed and reused, but it can be difficult to get them really clean and dry.

One alternative is the reusable sandwich wrap. It is easy to clean, just open out and wipe after each use. If the fabric backing becomes soiled, wash it in the sink with the dishes and leave to dry overnight or hang on the line - easy and hygenic.
Food stays nice and fresh all wrapped up in a neat little package, and the sandwich wrap also serves as a placemat while eating.

What kind of plastic should be used for sandwich wraps?
Only reuse plastic that is classed as food grade. Look for strong thick plastic that previously held food. The best plastic I have found is from the bags used to hold the food I buy in bulk from Honest To Goodness, through a local co-op.

What if I don’t want to use plastic to wrap my food?
Sandwich wraps are easy to make. Try making your own from two layers of octagonal shaped fabric, with water resistant interfacing sandwiched between them.

What kind of fabric should I choose?
Natural fibres are best, cotton is recommended. Always pre-wash your fabric, and try to choose a fabric that does not wrinkle easily - once the plastic is sewn on, ironing is not an option.

Where can I get a pattern for these wraps?
Make it yourself! Experiment with different shapes to see what works best for you. Try elongating the basic octogon to fit longer sandwiches like pitta bread wraps or subs.

What if I don't have any velcro?
Put a vertical buttonhole into the tab, and sew three buttons onto the wrap where the velcro would have been, to allow for different sized food.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Birthdays and Blessings

My baby turned 19 yesterday! She left early, 4 hours of travel total as usual to and from uni, then came home for a family birthday dinner. And why not try to eat an icecream cake* with chopsticks?
Laughter, gifts, conversation, food, candles, peace.

And she gave me the best gift of all: her big, giving, compassionate, serving, birthday heart decided that she wanted to clean up the kitchen at the end of the evening...words cannot express what that means to me. I felt ill and couldn't do it, had to go to bed knowing that I'd need to tackle the mess in the morning, but having so many other things to do this would have made the next day very stressful.
Ess, remind me in a week or two to tell you just what I did today that made your gift so amazing - I can't tell you just yet, but really want to let you know how inspired you were.

* Icecream cake recipe:
A yummy cookie recipe, basic butter bikkies made with freshly ground biodynamic wheat. We added chopped nuts to the mixture just before baking.
Frozen banana, nectarine, mango and blueberries, all whizzed up till smooth and creamy.
Crushed cashews, peacans and almonds mixed with rapadura and a bit of butter, baked till just going brown.