Lunchtime!

In what seems like a single day, summer has hit Burlington. Though I have no complaints about these sudden sunshine-filled days and high temps, I’m not too sure if my brain and body are on the same page, considering my legs haven’t seen the light of day for what feels like years. Feeling at all self-conscious about my appearance always leads me to think of others, others who never feel comfortable and confident in their own skin, especially around bathing-suit season. In a society with great emphasis on being stick thin, but sky-rocketing obesity rates, the picture of health in America has become unclear and difficult for many to interpret. So who suffers most? Who feels the pressure of being thin, young, and beautiful to the greatest degree, but also suffers from this growing obesity epidemic most? That’s right, children. Childhood obesity rates are on the rise, and this audience is also extremely susceptible to what the media is portraying as a healthy body image, that being basically skin and bone.

In my opinion, this issue begs the question of whether or not schools should be held responsible for helping children make healthy choices, and keep their eating habits and weight in check. Should regimented diets be put in place, helping to manage the health of children? Some would say absolutely, while others would argue that it’s up to the parent or guardian to encourage healthy eating habits. Whether you believe the blame for this epidemic is placed on school officials or guardians, it is obvious that attempting to place blame on individuals and groups has gotten us nowhere close to resolving this problem. From the get go, children are extremely impressionable, and in the end, the more information and education they get regarding healthy eating habit, the better, regardless of where it is coming from.

Science and health reporter Scott LaFee wrote an article for the San Diego Union-Tribune entitled, How Much Responsibility do School’s Bear for Addressing the Obesity of their Students? In this article, LaFee made it obvious that he believed it was the duty of the parents/guardians to educate children about healthy eating habits. While I can see this side of the argument, I can’t help but be the devils advocate. What if unhealthy and poor eating choices are being made at home? At a young age, children wouldn’t even be aware that they are eating poorly.  This brings me to Ludmila Battista and Lisa Wright’s opinion in Chidhood Obesity: What School’s Can Do to Make a Difference, that being that school’s can make a big difference in this epidemic. These women believe that having federally funded, educational programs in schools is beginning to lead the way in making for a healthier population of children.

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In all honesty, I can see both sides of  the argument, and like any hot topic, there are strong arguments for both sides of the story. One way or another, change must come about, as we cannot continue to allow this epidemic to spread. What, in your opinion, is the solution to childhood obesity?  Do you agree that it’s up to the parents/guardians to educate their children? Or do you think having educational programs in schools would be beneficial as well?

WP 5/7

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Farm-to-Campus

You all know me pretty well by now so this should come as no surprise, but last Tuesday was one of the best days of the year. There were a variety of reasons, entertaining classes, the sun was out, you could feel summer in the air, but mainly for one. Any guesses? When I got to campus on Tuesday morning, I was happily greeted by an outdoor farmers market! “It’s happened!” I thought to myself. “Winter truly is over and spring has sprung. Hallelujah!” From local businesses selling clothing and discounted bicycling helmets to students, to local farms promoting and selling their early summer crops and products, I found myself in my kind of heaven. You could just feel the energy on campus, hear the buzz of the students. A combination of the sun and the visitors, students at UVM were obviously having a good day, blissed out in the sunshine just as I was. 20100426_davis_center-1

In my time at UVM, I’ve always been a foodie. My friends soon learned that when we would start the day by visiting the farmer’s market in downtown Burlington, I was instantly put into my happy place. There’s just something about strolling around outside, sampling, smelling, and chatting with the local farmers and vendors, that instantly slaps a smile across my face. I love talking to people about what they are most passionate about. I love the way their eyes light up and the sudden intensity that makes it’s way into the conversation. It’s exciting! Having the opportunity to hear about someone’s passion, their product resulting from hard work and dedication, drives me and motivates me to find something that makes my eyes sparkle the way theirs do. It didn’t take me long to discover that one of these eye-twinkling passions is food, good and fresh food that I hope to someday grow in my own backyard.

4576042317_cf31dca453Last Tuesday’s farmer’s market up on UVM’s campus definitely sparked some student interest with their eye catching stories. Our generation, the Millennials, have started to show a shift in consumer practices, taking notice to where our food comes from. Although farming, without a doubt, is an extremely work-intensive profession, I think farmer’s have a bright future. Their audience has a growing awareness of what they do and what they produce, and although eating local and organic may seem “in” right now, this is a trend I don’t see going out of style anytime soon. Eating sustainably has been taken to the media, with celebrities jumping on the organic train. What do you think of this? Is any media attention good attention? Or do you think celebrity interference will hurt this food movement’s validity in the years to come?

NP 4/30

Summer So Close

With the school year winding down comes excitement and exhaustion. With papers, projects, and presentations consistently firing day to day, I often times find myself on autopilot, go go going, attempting to conquer the day and cross as many items off of my to-do list as possible. Now I love being busy, it keeps me energized and happy, but that’s not to say I don’t absolutely love spending hours sitting on my front porch, good eats and drink in my hand, surrounded by good people. I’ve found that little is necessary in this life to be happy, to bring a smile to my face and make me feel at ease. Through the madness that often times is my day, there are a couple activities that I know will ground me in the end, unwinding and bettering even the most stressful day. Even when time is tight with not a minute to spare, I always try to slow myself down at the end of the day, escaping the rat race for a waterfront run and a home-cooked meal.

It’s amazing the difference a bit of physical exercise can make in how I feel, unwound, lighter, grateful for the day I’ve had. And then there is dinner. One of my favorite things to do in the evenings is cooking dinner, alone or with good friends, and then actually sitting down to enjoy it. Sometimes the craziness of the school year makes this difficult, and knowing this, I make a conscious effort to do this as much as possible.

UnknownA time when the nights were long, friends a plenty, and the food fresh and at my fingertips? Summer. This past summer was spent working, playing, and sharing meals with the best of friends, using only the best ingredients. My household chose to participate in the Intervale Food Hub’s CSA (community shared agriculture) program, and it proved to be an incredibly fun, economic, and healthy decision. After days spent at professional internships, running about restaurants, and passing hours in retails, we all would come home hot, tired, and hungry. The routine? A bike ride to the waterfront for a quick, cooling, dip in the lake, followed by the preparation of a summer salad and a slow cooked meal.

IMG_0102One of the thingsthat madethis process so much fun was using the ingredients given to us weekly in our CSA share. The vegetables and fruits that we received were grown and harvested by our neighborhood farmers, so all ingredients were as fresh as they come. Not only did these foods fill our bellies, but also our hearts, as we enjoyed knowing that we were supporting our local economy.vscocam272

So how can you get involved with this amazing organization? Well now it’s easy. The Intervale Food Hub has revamped their website, making it clear and simple to sign up for which ever CSA share you desire (yes, you have options!) Last year, it was a chore to navigate their website, undoubtedly causing them to lose customers. With this updated mediachannel, I am sure the Intervale Food Hub will see an increase in interest and sales. I know I sure was impressed, and relieved, to see this overdue update. Now with that said, I’m off to sign up for a CSA share! It’s hard to believe that summer is just around the corner. I’m not sure about you, but I am so ready for some long days, warm nights, good eats, and even better company.

Have you checked out the Intervale Food Hubs Website? Definitely give it a look. What other, if any, CSA programs have you participated in?

NP 4/23

 

 

The Name Game

The connections we draw between name and place help us to form relationships between the tangible and intangible, often attaching experiences and emotion to language and objects. It’s difficult to imagine a good friend going by a different name. When I was eleven, one of my best friends decided to start going by her full name, McKenna, ditching the familiar “Nikki” persona I was all too familiar with. I couldn’t do it. It took me years to associate her with the foreign title of “McKenna.” To me, she would always be Nikki, her name helping to define her personality and our relationship. I remember surprising myself by just how hard it was to call her by a different name. It wasn’t like she, herself, had changed at all, it was just her name, right?

But is it? Would you think of me in the same way if my name were Jessica? Maybe Charlie? Emma? It’s difficult to imagine isn’t it? You most likely associate my name with many of the qualities I embody, my personality, the sound of my voice, what I look like. So what happens when someone changes their name? What happens when a business decides to change their name? Often times with the change of a name, a business attempts to recreate their identity, new name, new look.

483860_525022947555832_1599463017_nRecently, a local and favorite eatery of mine has done the daring. Formerly known as Panadero Bakery, they’ve now officially made the switch to Barrio Bakery. With a new name, a new logo, and new menu’s, Barrio Bakery is embracing their new title and identity without hesitation. While in the past this change of name would most likely have travelled by word of mouth, establishments now have another means of communication with their public. Social media channels have given businesses, particularly small, family-run establishments, a leg up in promotion. With the effective use of facebook, Panadero has made a smooth and successful transition to Barrio Bakery, a bakery by day, serving pizza and wine by night. They keep their facebook up to date, posting always beautiful and mouthwatering photos of their most recent pastry and pizza creations. Though changing one’s name is difficult, this locally and seasonally inspired bakery has received many words of encouragement and positive feedback from their loyal patrons.543717_370669516380467_286757263_n

I know I always look forward to seeing what’s happening in Barrio Bakery’s kitchen, now it’s your turn to get online and check out this eatery’s tasty creations!

WP 4/19

Friend or Foe?

NAfter spending a painfully slow week recovering from a particularly long cold, my body and mind were finally feeling ready to hit the pavement again, ready to try my legs along the lake on a Vermont spring evening. After a couple weeks taking it easy, I felt both energized and fatigued at the end of my run, my lungs working harder than usual, my legs feeling unusually exhausted. While I’m usually ok with water after exercising, I was needing a little something extra this time around. Out of character, I know, but I picked up a Gatorade on my way home.

Now while the Gatorade did in fact serve it’s purpose, rehydrating me and replenishing my “natural” salts and sugars, I wasn’t satisfied. I found myself craving a big glass of water, thirsty after ingesting so much salt and sugar. “This isn’t right,” I thought to myself. The Gatorade should be quenching my thirst, not feeding it. When I looked at the nutritional facts on the label, it became clear why I found myself unsatisfied. Yellow 6? Sodium Citrate? Brominated vegetable oil? WHAT?! While I do understand that Gatorade may help to replenish the salts and sugars lost when you exercise and sweat, it also contains many ingredients you wouldn’t find in a healthy snack after a good work out. The media portrays Gatorade to be this miracle drink, one that instantly rejuvenates athletes and those that have sweat out all necessary nutrients, but does Gatorade really do all the good it advertises?

From now on, I plan on sticking to my roots, fueling my body with a good ol’ banana and peanut butter and a large glass of water. Do you find Gatorade gives you that pep in your step needed after a tiring workout? If not, what does?

NP 4/16Image

$300 For What?!

gwyneth-paltrow-its-all-good-cookbookWith the farm-to-table movement finding itself in the limelight more and more often in recent days, it should come as no surprise that celebrity figures have now taken hold of it. With money and time to spare, they have taken eating healthy and supporting local agriculture to new heights, leading to the openings of trendy farm-to-table restaurants, as well as the publishing of cooking and lifestyle books. Gwyneth Paltrow’s second cookbook, “It’s All Good,” made it’s public debut last week, and has since taken heat for being an “elitist farm-to-table guide sprinkled with duck eggs and $25-a-jar Manuka honey.” Now while some may argue that all media attention is good, increasing the awareness and popularity of the local food movement, I am going to have to disagree. Paltrow’s book, and those similar, offer the public a glamorized rendition of how to eat in a healthy and sustainable way, as in reality, there is nothing sustainable about spending $300 a day on food. That’s right. Yahoo! Shine calculates that Paltrow’s suggested diet would cost an individual $300 a day, a figure grotesquely out of reach for the majority and a budget unnecessarily large for anyone. Critics have come down on Paltrow’s recent release for making it seem like healthy eating is strictly for those with money.

Now I’m not going to lie, I love learning about new and exciting food items, and may be known for shelling out a few extra dollars for beautiful and delicious ingredients. Though certain organic and local ingredients may be more expensive than conventional ingredients in various regions at specific times of years, eating habits that require $300 a day are just outrageous. Often times when lifestyle and/or eating habits gain popularity and find the attention of the media, people take things to the extremes.  With the growing popularity of the local food movement you can see this happening. What started as a desire to support local growers and farmers by a small fraction of the population, with pop-up farmer’s markets in college towns and in a few cities, has now started to trend. With politicians, white collar and blue collar workers, housewives, retirees, college students, and people from all parts of society getting in on the local food movement, the media was sure to make it’s move.IMG_1405

Do you think the entire point behind the local movement has been forgotten? Do people participate because it’s trendy to do so? Do you try to buy local? Why or why not?

NP 4/9

Sunday Snackin’

I’m not going to lie to you, the TV is an accessory in our household, simply sitting pretty in the corner of our living room. Now while I usually find myself filling my time with friends, food, and VT adventures, I had to get creative this past weekend. Feeling under the weather for the past couple of days has been a drag, and I’ve nearly bored myself and my taste buds to tears with hours on hours of movies, TV shows, magazines, and ridiculous amounts of saltines and Gatorade. After an hour of watching Grey’s Anatomy on ABC, a show I usually choose to avoid, as it is known to bring out my hypochondriac-like tendencies, I found myself not only thinking about the possible ailments and/or conditions I may someday develop, but also about some of the advertisements I viewed in the past hour.

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Hunger, I realized, was what I was feeling, though my stomach seemed to be indecisive in its cravings. Through the food advertisements shown during commercial breaks, many of them promoting snacking, with food choices including products like Doritos, Tostitos, and Haagen-Daz (yum), and others promoting “healthy” choices like Lean Cuisine meals and Kashi cereal, I felt the need to eat. I recently read an article on food consumption, written by Jennifer Harris, John Bargh, and Kelly Brownwell, entitled, “Priming Effects of Television Food Advertising on Eating Behaviors.” In this article they find a direct causal link between food advertising and greater snack consumption, and further contradict industry claims that advertising affects only brand preferences and not overall nutrition. They also find that “in both studies, and across diverse populations, food advertising that promoted snacking, fun, happiness and excitement directly contributed to increased food intake.” These findings are supported by my experiences this past weekend. After seeing advertisements promoting food consumption, regardless of whether or not healthy eating habits were advertised or not, I found myself wanting to snack, even though it was nearly 10 o’clock at night. No wonder we have an obesity epidemic! I wasn’t hungry in the least, and all I wanted to do was eat. Food advertisements have led to poor eating habits in our nation.

While I normally would be likely to give into these cravings, my stomach would only allow me my saltine crackers for the time being. Are you so easily swayed by television ads? And when you view them, do you find yourself craving the foods depicted? Or simply wishing to snack on something tasty in general?

W/P 4/8

The Controversy Continues

Activists Protests Against The Agriculture Industry's Lobby Influence Over CongressProtestors have posted up outside of the White House this week, angered by a bill that seemingly slid through the Capitol only days ago, promptly signed into law last Tuesday. Opponents of genetically modified food are enraged at the potentially health-hazardous provision they have since named the “Monsanto Protection Act.” This rider shields this major agricultural biotech and other like firms, protecting genetically modified and engineered seeds from lawsuits over any health issues that may result from the consumption of these crops. Simply put, the “Farmer Assurance Provision” would prevent the USDA from acting against any new GMO crop threatening both human health and the environment. Now while you most likely haven’t seen this story making headlines on the nightly news or in popular print media, a battle engaging dissatisfied consumers, organic and small farmers, and the natural food industry has long-since been underway against biotech giant Monsanto and its powerful agricultural supporters.

Though I am sure you can guess which side I firmly stand on, being the local-loving, veggie-obsessed individual that I am, it is not my intention to berate the United States government or to trash large agricultural biotechs. With any controversial topic it is essential to have access to unbiased information, to articles and sources presenting the facts, allowing the reader to come to his or her own conclusions. In my attempts to learn more about this recent provision pushed through the Capitol, it proved to be near impossible to find any sources free of outrageous headlines. These headlines were created with intention, that being to catch the readers’ attention and persuade their eyes to wander. These headlines used loaded words such as secret, sneaky, terrifying, and evil, influencing viewers’ opinions before they have even had the chance to read the first sentence! Wouldn’t you jump to conclusions too? I know I did. Now even though I agree with many of those words used to grab your attention, it did bother me that I was unable to find an article with “just the facts,” it’s intention to educate the reader on the issue and the recent happenings surrounding it.

Do you have any interest in this hot topic? Check out the video and links below, watch it and read them through, look out for bias(!), and then let me know your thoughts and where you stand!

N/P 4/2

http://www.newsmax.com/Newsfront/Anger-Grows-Over-Secret-‘Monsanto-Protection-Act-/2013/04/01/id/497254

http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-250_162-57576835/critics-slam-obama-for-protecting-monsanto/

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/04/01/obama-monsanto-protection-video_n_2995228.html

You Say Tomato

tomatoes-01This Sunday I found myself in a predicament. Wavering in the produce section of City Market, an obvious inconvenience and obstacle to passersby, I was seized by indecisiveness, glued to the spot. In my hands I held two ripe and red tomatoes, one boasting an “organically grown” sticker, the other sporting a “locally produced” label, with no claims of organic methods present. What is normally a quick and routine trip through the aisles of City Market, from produce, to bulk (my personal sample section), to dairy, snacks, peanut butter (a staple), meats, and forever ending with a grab for the all-essential hummus, turned into an entirely different experience in a matter of moments.

It shouldn’t have been a tough choice, right? Organic is the way to go, the healthiest, the safest, and free of those pesky pesticides? But this organic tomato was grown miles and miles away, somewhere in the fields of Mexico, while the other, though it may not have been certified organic, was grown in northern Vermont. Now I know that I’ve been reading a few too many newspaper articles on the subject, perhaps listening to too much NPR, when I found myself asking the following questions: Which farmer should I support? The one who refused pesticides in Mexico or the one who was, in some romantic way, a neighbor of mine? How much imported oil did it take to transport this tomato from Mexico to the palm of my hand? And finally, could the tomato grown hundreds of miles away, boxed, refrigerated, and bumped about even compete in taste with the locally sourced fruit?

So I did what any other curious, self-proclaimed foodie would do, I bought both. In this situation, the true test is the taste test, as both tomatoes can easily be argued to be the superior. I am not the first to fall into such a debacle, with more locally grown products available in supermarkets nationwide, the debate between organic and local foods has started to heat up. Deciphering these labels can be difficult for the consumer, as the market has now been flooded with an immense array of claims to quality. “Cage-free,” “natural,” “free-range,” “locally produced,” “homegrown,” and “organic,” can all be found plastered on multiple products in City Market and beyond, making it near impossible for shoppers to decode this sticky situation. These labels are selling points, drawing in an audience who cares about how their food is being produced and where it’s coming from. The pleasures and politics involved in supporting local agriculture and organic production methods are complex, almost entirely made up by an area of grey. It is my belief, however, that the consumer should not be placed in this befuddling situation when food shopping, sometimes confused by meaningless and ill-supported labels.

In my situation, I found I could argue support for both producers, one an organic, but distant farm, the other a more modest neighbor in Vermont. I could go round and round about the ethics of eating, one moment choosing organic, the next supporting the local movement, so it came down to taste. Though both were ripe and rich in color, the tomato with no claims to organic practices, nearly produced in my backyard, took the cake. No surprise really, right? It makes sense that a tomato grown by a local farmer, never refrigerated, traveling only a short distance to reach the shelves of City Market, would better retain its sweet flavor than the one traveling from the faraway land of Mexico.

Have you ever found yourself in this dizzying situation? Attempting to be a conscious consumer, only to be overwhelmed by excessive labeling? What did you do in that moment? Which label did you pick and why?

N/P 3/26

Some Localvore Lovin’

From the time I discovered Sarah Forte’s food blog Sprouted Kitchen, I found myself hooked on her ability to welcome her audience into her kitchen, creating and sharing simple, seasonal, produce-focused recipes that inspired viewers to eat well. She believes that making fresh food with wholesome, seasonal ingredients will help you simplify your time in the kitchen, not complicate it. Many of the ingredients she uses come from her CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) share, which is essentially a subscription to a farm, gifting her a weekly box of fresh veggies and sometimes fruits of whatever happens to be in season. Here in Vermont I can relate, as my Tuesday afternoons involve happily retrieving my CSA, always loaded with bushels of fresh produce and a carton of local eggs.

Though Sarah Forte’s recipes are in fact full of locally grown and seasonal foods, the photos that accompany these recipes are always mouthwatering, rich in color and seemingly three-dimensional. While I do not believe these beautiful images necessarily take away from Sarah’s skill or mission, they do have the ability to give the reader a skewed idea of what the recipe would produce in their own kitchen. Her images are flawless, found in soft light with aesthetically pleasing backgrounds.

I decided to take on one of her recipes, the ranchero breakfast tostadas, a food of familiarity that roots me to my home state of California. I didn’t follow the recipe to a T, making it my own using local ingredients from my CSA and the nearby grocery market. With spinach, kale, black beans, and salsa from Pete’s Greens, tomatoes grown on Black River Farm, eggs from Shadow Cross Farm, Cabot cheddar cheese, fresh tortillas from On The Rise Bakery, and Butterworks Farm yogurt, I was able to make a quick, delicious, and protein-packed breakfast. Now while I bet my localvore lovin’ breakfast was just as tasty as Sarah’s original version, the pictures do not even come close to comparing in beauty, intimacy, and perfection. This is where the idea of “food porn” comes in, but what exactly is it? What distinguishes food porn from photos of food like the one I produced? SkinnyGourmet put it well, implying that if the tostada is missionary style, food porn takes it’s devotees into the foodie kama sutra. The photos glisten and use props, both lusty and intimate.

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Though there are obvious differences between that of food porn and true pornography, there are plenty of similarities to justify the creation and use of the term “food porn.” Frederick Kaufman draws many successful connections between the two, saying “like sex porn, gastroporn addresses the most basic human needs and functions, idealizing and degrading them at the same time.” So how do viewers react to these sometimes suggestive and arguably phallic images? Like Kaufman, some viewers may in fact link sexual desire and fantasy to these edible teasers.

Through finding an image I believe to be “pornographic” and attempting to replicate it using local ingredients, I found that though a tostada looked easy enough to reproduce, it proved to be near impossible to achieve the same photographic quality Forte displays. “You watch porn saying, yes, I could do that,” explains Nitke, “It’s a beautifully idealized world.” Though my tostadas may not appear to be as mouthwatering or sexy as Sarah Forte’s, they’re about as wholesome and satisfying as can be with the help of Vermont’s local farms.

W/P 3/22