Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Well folks

I've succumbed to the allure of being able to share my thoughts and daily activities with the masses (self-deprecating chuckle) at the click of a button...and joined Twitter!

You can follow me at two separate usernames: will include personal tweets, tips on seasonal foods and what's best at the Greenmarkets, suggestions for new places to find great food in NYC, super-fast recipes, updates on what we're eating as a family, reminders about events, and parenting and nutrition tips. And as if ALL THAT weren't enough, I will also post tweets under the username NOCNYC, and will try to keep posts to what's appropriate in my role as group leader for Nourishing Our Children-NYC. Tweets will include reminders about events, tips related to parenting and traditional foods, news and requests from other members (as in: Sarah needs some emergency raw milk for baby formula -- who can spare some?), and the like.

Some of you (ahem--you know who you are!) may find my choice of the username lardlass objectionable...but it was between that and lardlady which frankly just made me sound old. Plus this has a nice play on a word we all know. :) I hereby declare that I am reclaiming lard (and pig fat in general) to be a DELICIOUS and NUTRITIOUS traditional food that has kept people in allegedy "impoverished" countries healthy and well for hundreds (thousands?) of years, and blessed them with high cheekbones, beautiful straight white teeth, happy dispositions, healthy babies, and long lives.

So please do visit Twitter and sign up to follow me!

Friday, March 26, 2010

What can we do?

This is in response to a comment on the previous post.

Each of us can only do what we can do, but the first step is to take responsibility for what we are contributing to the problem, and to figure out a few small ways we can make changes. This can be a gradual process!! but the end result can look something like this:

1) Buy as much of your food requirements as you can from local farms and artisanal producers. If you need help with sourcing visit (good esp. for produce), and (look for the chapter in your area and ask about sourcing animal foods from responsible grass-based farms). Be more conscious of what you're buying and think about any ways of cutting back on processed items and items with a lot of packaging waste. By supporting local farms you are not only going to have better health and contribute to environmental protection and proper animal husbandry, but you will also be helping your local economy in a profound way -- think of what it would mean if our small farmers had more money to spend at local businesses? This has a magnified effect on the health of each local economy.

2) Work on your own health. This will mean learning to go against what the USDA, FDA, and CDC tell us is safe to eat and/or what is most nutritious. This means going against the American Heart Association and the Dietetic Association of America. It means looking at what people have eaten historically (particularly your own ancestors from several generations back) and seeing how you can adopt some of those practices. This is SO hard for most people, but usually once they begin to see positive changes in health they are enthusiastic about continuing. This is the biggest area, in my opinion, where individual action has to take a clear path AWAY from government and what it is telling us to do.

3) Shop at local business, but only if they are mom-and-pop operations. Begin to seek out more local, small-scale sources for the regular items you are purchasing, and be willing to pay a few extra dollars here and there. We have sold our souls to big-box retailers like Walmart and Target and it's killing our local economies. As you spend a little more (and definitely try to emphasize American-made products, and especially those made in your region) for the goods you use on a regular basis, you will naturally have to cut back to stay in your budget. Cutting back is GOOD. Don't be afraid to find ways to do with less, to make your own household cleaners or tooth powder, to skip some of the chemicals that are part of your body's regular diet. Shop second-hand and consignment for everything that makes sense; give away things you were going to put in the trash by checking Yahoo groups for a freecycle forum in your city.

4) Consider your own lifestyle choices. If you can, find ways to live closer to work so you can walk or ride a bike. Look into public transportation and carpools. Go out of your way to see if there are ways of working with others in your community to share some of the burdens and benefits of living more responsibly. If you have the aptitude and desire (and opportunity) cultivate an additional skill or way you can be self-sufficient in your own life. Look for ways you can barter and trade with others to create opportunities where everyone will benefit and you can cut out some of the middle-man dependency.

5) Acknowledge that convenience, stimulation, and ease are the things we have become addicted to on a national basis, and the things we may have to sacrifice if we want the future to be brighter. It is HARD WORK to care for animals, to grow food, to garden, to cook, to plan meals ahead, to take canvas bags every single time you shop, to ride a bike or a bus instead of driving, to carry 50 lbs. of farm food on the subway, to give birth at home, to kick a sugar or caffeine habit, to sacrifice money and things so you can be home with your kids. These things may be difficult or just inconvenient, but it's worth it.

As for what the government should do -- well, unless Dennis Kucinich becomes president some time soon and everyone in Congress has a change of heart and becomes just like him, there really isn't too much hope. We can't wait for the government to do what it should do. But as individuals we really do have the potential to profoundly affect society, to positively impact others in our sphere of influence, and to guide the futures of our own communities and families. In American society, based on capitalism and money, I think the single most important way we can make changes is through our buying decisions. We are literally voting with our dollars for the kind of future we want for our country and our children.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Sickness management "reform?"

I listen to a lot of public radio, and let me tell you I am full up to my eyebrows with this whole health insurance reform thing. Everyone who possibly can has weighed in on what's right and wrong with the bill; every detail and nuance has been discussed ad nauseum. While there are some good things about the bill (obviously I am all for covering more people so that fewer have to lose their homes because they can't pay their medical bills) there is the giant elephant in the room that has not even been mentioned -- for the simple fact that addressing it would mean reduced profits for Big Ag, Big Pharma, the medical-industrial complex, the parasitic health insurance companies, and the processed food industry. Even advocates of a single-payer system (of which I am one) seem to refuse to face the fact that a system that works quite well in many other countries would perhaps not work here, for the simple fact that Americans are quite a lot sicker. At this point I believe we rank around #47 in lifetime expectancy, and quite low in overall happiness (so clearly our excess of advanced "health" care options and consumer goods is not giving us joy or longer lives), and I'm sure if someone out there has studied this they have found that of all the industrialized nations we are definitely the sickest. So the question at the heart of this issue is not actually about how we can get more people to participate regularly in the medical-industrial complex, but rather how can we stop needing so very much disease maintenance?

My answer, as you all know, has to do with better food, and a more localized, involved, sustainable, and traditional approach to eating and living. Time and again, research has proven that the lion's share of our "health" care needs are related to illnesses and conditions that are highly preventable by making different food and lifestyle choices. But the way things are now, with our tax dollars going to support the very industries that are poisoning us, we are not likely to see this type of change coming from the top down any time soon.

This all reminds me of the parasitic relationship of the industrial prison complex to communities: we need more and more criminals to be locked away to support the ravenous beast of the prison system because we need jobs for prison and justice system workers, but in reality it is private companies that are getting rich, and we are paying the cost of prison building and maintenance through our tax dollars (and of course the same arrangement plays out in the business of warfare). In a similar way, through our insatiable need for convenience foods and pills and legal addictive substances and ever more fossil fuels and coal we have concentrated power and control in the companies that have grown fat off of our buying decisions -- and then off of the resulting bad health, obesity, and misery these choices have purchased for us. Big Ag and Big Pharma are truly the most clever, most intertwined twin industries that have ever existed in the United States, with the energy companies, financial industry, medical-industrial complex, and mid-level processors and distributors taking the remaining slices of the pie.

It is disturbingly easy to forget or to ignore the fact that we as taxpayers and consumers are footing the bill for every problem the corporations have allegedly created. We are always going to foot the bill. When we buy cheap food thinking we're brilliant for saving money we are forgetting that our wallets are hemorrhaging many additional dollars each and every time in order to pay for the pollution, environmental degradation, and bad health that we just supported with our buying choices. Not to mention the fact that we will be paying down the road to manage the health conditions that are sure to come even if we are lucky enough to be getting by now. Already it seems at least 1 in 2 families is paying through the nose (either in time or money) for the inexplicable childhood diseases, back-to-back infections, rampant allergies, food intolerances, and behavioral and learning disorders that are commonplace among our children, most of whom have never had an authentic meal of real, nourishing food in their lives. (And while I'm on the topic, don't forget that the school lunch system is a clever way of charging taxpayers for the privilege of letting Big Ag use their children as waste disposals.)

As far as I'm concerned, I want no part of the whole thing. Give me good food and a longer life; I will happily pay more now instead of paying even more down the road. You can keep your "convenience" foods and your addictive beverages and your "preventive" flu shots and your big box stores and your painkillers and your antimicrobials and your garlic flown in from China (really, people -- garlic?!?!?!) and your assurances that I will be able to use as much managed care as I could possibly want. Because I know that I -- or my neighbor, or worse yet, my kids -- will pay for it in myriad ways.

Friday, March 19, 2010

March delivery from Raindance Farm

Last weekend was our monthly delivery of wonderful meats, raw milk cheese, sausages, bacon, and pastured eggs from Siobhan at Raindance Organic Farm. Oliver had a great time playing among the pile of meat packages while I tried to figure out how to fit everything into the freezer. I couldn't stop admiring the beautiful eggs! Aren't they absolutely gorgeous?! And that's just the outside.

Every time we get these deliveries of local foods that have been grown, raised, and produced with such care and attention I feel like I've had the loveliest Christmas ever all over again. We are so blessed to be able to enjoy these wonderful foods, while knowing the environment, the soil, the farmers, the local economy, the animals, and our health are all the better for it.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

School lunches in Paris

Hake in Basque sauce, anyone? How about an hors d'oeuvre, cheese plate, and salad with each meal? Now try picturing that on every tray in a crowded school lunchroom.

Click here to read the article.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Q & A column

The Q&A column on my website is becoming quite extensive. I think we've covered everything ranging from eczema and diaper rashes to vitamin recommendations for kids. Not to mention things like composting, meal planning, food allergies, cholesterol, gluten intolerance, feeding babies, organic vs. non, and much much more. Scroll through the questions and answers, or use your "find" function in your browser to look for a specific topic. You can also email me a question ( and I will post my reply (no names are used).

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

For the record

I was interviewed recently for the Brooklyn Paper about raw milk and the club we belong to, and was quite upset to see the online version of the article (click here) and the copy-cat version on Gothamist.

Perhaps it was all written as a joke, but if so I am not accustomed to journalism of this nature, so all I can do is assume it was meant seriously. The main problem with the article is that it is just brimming with words from the drug-dealers' lexicon, words like traffic, smuggle, contraband, runner, clandestine, etc. I am described as "climbing the ranks," and "controlling" drop-off sites, as well as being referred to as Public Enemy Number 1. Now I am the first person to jump at the chance to actually be a Public Enemy Number 1 for the cause of real food, but for God's sake please let it be because I've actually done something illegal!

I am also described as "weeding out applications who want to 'tear the group apart from the inside,'" a blatant misquote. I said that we screen applicants before giving out sensitive information about the farmers and delivery locations. After all, it is imperative that we protect these farmers who are some of the best, most honest and hardworking people anyone could ever hope to meet. They are the ones taking a brave personal risk, not me as the consumer! It doesn't matter that they are doing nothing illegal by allowing us to purchase delicious raw milk products on their farms. Farms have been investigated and shut down all too often because big companies have made false claims about customers getting sick from using the small farms' raw milk products. It's terrible that this happens, but unfortunately it happens every day somewhere in this country. Even small-scale family farmers who are barely keeping body and soul together are somehow seen as a threat to the grip that the food industry has on the American market. I cannot fathom this level of greed.

To set the record straight, I did not learn about raw milk from the Omnivore's Dilemma; Michael Pollan really dropped the ball by not discussing it. I first became interested in ORGANIC foods from reading OD, but that was many years ago. It was after I had Oliver, and had been taking thyroid medication for a year (which interfered with my labor and delivery), that I picked up The Garden of Fertility and learned about the Weston A. Price Foundation and the traditional, nutrient-dense way of eating that includes raw dairy and other whole, unprocessed foods. This started me on my quest to find a good source of local raw dairy and other foods. The mention of my thyroid condition developing as a result of pregnancy was also incorrect; I developed hypothyroidism as a result of eating a soy-heavy mostly vegetarian diet and taking birth control pills for several years. Fortunately the article did mention that I no longer have to take thyroid medications due to dietary changes, but soy- and hormone-avoidance are also quite important and should be mentioned as well.

I must be allowed to restore the full meaning to the quote at the top about "This goes beyond organic." I was talking about the milk being beyond organic because it is from cows eating grass. Grass-based farming is incredibly important for the environment, the health of the animals, and the health of the people eating the products. This cannot be overemphasized. Everyone is stuck on the word "organic" which is almost devoid of meaning in today's industrial food system and means only that animals are fed grains grown without certain pesticides (137 different types of chemicals are still allowed on industrial organic plantations). We need to get back to small, local family farms that are biodiverse (i.e. growing many kinds of plant foods and animals) in order to have any hope of restoring environmental balance, soil health, the economies of local communities, food security, and health of the people, children especially. Kids are really getting a bad deal in this system -- they are living shorter, sicker lives than their parents, which is incredibly sad. I see kids everywhere with so many health and daily functioning problems it just takes my breath away. There is hope for these children, but it lies in real food, something incredibly hard to come by.

I never had any problem digesting milk as this article claims (I don't know where Stephen came up with this), but when I learned about how milk is produced, the conditions the animals are in, the hormones they receive, etc. and also about how milk is a delicate living food (just like human breastmilk) and highly damaged nutritionally by pasteurization and homogenization I simply couldn't continue using regular supermarket dairy. Even organic dairy is mainly from cows that are in confinement and aren't permitted to graze on pasture, so their milk is of dubious nutritional quality. It's the cow eating grass that makes milk high in vitamin A, and being outdoors in sunshine that makes it rich in vitamin D. "Fortification" is unnecessary when the cows are allowed to live like cows should live! And yes, these wonderful fat-soluble vitamins are found -- you guessed it -- in the FAT.

This story generates a dangerous misconception that it is illegal to consume raw milk. Have I mentioned yet that it is NOT ILLEGAL TO CONSUME RAW MILK, even in New York State? This is the only thing we have to be thankful for in this whole situation: that as hard as the government and the corporations controlling the government have made it, many of us can actually still obtain good foods that are brimming with nutrients and flavor and are still in their natural state of unprocessed perfection. If we were to live a few miles to the northeast in the state of Connecticut, we could purchase raw milk in stores -- but alas, we live here. The arbitrary rules around raw milk that vary according to slight differences in geographic location are rather ridiculous, which is why this entire story feels to me like a made-up issue on a slow news week.

It is time for the U.S. to wake up to the fact that in most of the world people are eating real foods, produced on their own land or relatively close by on small farms (or of course harvested from the ocean), mostly unprocessed, and not sterilized out of all useful nutritional value. We need to get over this fear of dirt and germs and bacteria and all that other real stuff that makes us squirm and reach for the hand sanitizer. Did you know that kids who are around dirt (i.e. living on farms or allowed to play in the dirt) have stronger immune systems? We need dirt! We need microorganisms! Our sanitation obsession is killing us, from our insides out. People rely on raw dairy and raw cultured dairy in many countries as an important source of nourishment, beneficial bacteria, live enzymes, rich fat-soluble vitamins, digestible proteins, and so much more -- and they are all the healthier for it. A lot of immigrants come to Brooklyn from countries where it is totally the norm to get local raw dairy and other great farm products (like lard for example, and eggs from chickens who are actually running around in clover and eating worms), and are extremely disconcerted at the complete lack of good food in our neighborhood grocery stores. It is no wonder Americans are sick, sick, sick, and getting sicker every day. We simply cannot be well on the food that is readily available in most stores, and that's even leaving fast-food and restaurants out of the equation. I don't care how good your health plan is or how "good" your genes are, the most important factor comes down to what you are putting in your body every day. And yes, it takes a lot of time and effort to seek out good real foods and prepare them for our families -- but we can be grateful we aren't required to do the hardest part which is growing the plants and raising the animals, because then it would be difficult indeed.

This article presents me as someone with questionable (even bad) motives who is trying to get people hooked on an illicit substance. In fact, I very rarely even discuss raw dairy with people I meet, and I certainly get no benefit out of others switching to raw other than the satisfaction of seeing their family's health improve and knowing both they and some sustainable small farms are benefiting a little rather than the medical industry and the giant food corporations. Does this whole situation seem surreal to anyone else? All joking and sarcasm aside (if that's what this article is) it actually truly is the state of affairs in this country. The drugs are right out on the counter and on the shelves at every store in town (and I'm talking about legal stimulants like sugar, white flour, alcohol, and caffeine, not pharmaceuticals), while the wholesome foods have to be smuggled in. It would make an entertaining graphic novel or B movie if it weren't so damn depressing. Again, maybe this whole article is supposed to be a spoof...I can only hope so, or that at least readers will overlook the sensationalistic language and focus instead on the important points: eat better, go to the doctor less. End of story.

February fantasies

Okay, so technically it's March, but these fantasies started in early February. For anyone who has eaten (almost) entirely local/seasonal all winter in the northeast you will know what I'm talking about. These days I find myself thinking longingly of SALAD. SALAD SALAD SALAD! Specifically Caesar salad. Something about the crisp cool leaves of Romaine, accompanied by that delicious dressing and crunchy croutons... My friend Viktoria made a kick-a** Caesar salad when I visited her last month, and I had one at a restaurant in January. Then an incredibly disappointing taco salad at a restaurant more recently. So I'm not being totally strict here, just not making them at home.

Here it is 8am, and a nice Caesar salad sounds like just the thing to start the day off right. Except that it's March. And there is no lettuce to be found at the farmers' market. And somehow, even though it sounds great, I still don't want to buy lettuce at the grocery store 5 blocks away, make the salad, and eat it. It's still the time for sweet potatoes, onions, garlic, broths, and stews. But this doing without really sharpens the appetite for the seasonal foods spring will have to offer! I am really really excited!! (And hey, when was the last time you got excited about salad?)

Monday, March 1, 2010

Oliver update

Oliver is now: 18.5 months old
Main words: puppy (said about 100 times an hour), doggie (also a BIG favorite), ow (which means everything from please to ouch), kitty, woof-woof, moo, quack-quack, meow, growl, dirty (which sounds like lodie), hi, bye, water, and many more
Imitative words: "man-oh-man!" (which I say too much apparently), and "boy-oh-boy!"
First word: YUM! (which makes this devoted kitchen slave feel very good)
The latest: BAAA! (like a sheep, which he is super good at), and goodnight, which sounds like "ite". Yesterday he tried to say "bad idea" which was pretty funny.
Oh, and the two best words: Mama and Papa. :)

Favorite activities: dancing to music his parents are listening to, watching stuffed animals dance and sing, lying in Hugo's lap drinking milk, giving hugs and kisses (to us and to his hand puppet that serves as Hugo's stand-in when he is at work), looking at dogs and puppies, running around in new environments, playing peek-a-boo (especially underneath chairs), rummaging through my utensil drawer, and EATING!

Sign language: please, thank you, water, eat, milk/nurse, more, bed/sleep, all done

Illnesses to date: one cold

Breastfeeding: every couple of hours during the day and twice at night

Size: tall and heavy! Outgrowing his 18-month-old clothes very fast.

Oliver day-to-day: filled with boundless energy!!! Sometimes Hugo sighs in a proud, pathetic way and says, "I wish we could feed him some crappy food so he wouldn't always be so energetic!"

Oliver's hair: growing like a weed. I really can't explain this...