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Thursday, June 10, 2010

Times are a changin'

Alright, so I haven't been writing much lately... and no, it is certainly not because I have fallen off the wagon... quite the opposite in fact.  The truth is, I am in the process of re-evaluating my values (yes, again) thanks in part to a certain journalist named Michael Pollan.  I think that I have mentioned his name before when I wrote about the movie Food Inc.  Anyway, Pollan has written two extremely thorough books about the industrialization of our food chain here in the West (and increasingly, the rest of the world as well).  The two books: The Omnivore's Dilemma and In Defense of Food are both amazing reads and I highly recommend reading both of them.  Upon making this recommendation to others, I have had a lot of people say, "Oh no, I don't think that I want to know about the horrible things in our food because I really feel like I can't do anything about it."  To this I fervently answer: "This isn't true any longer, in other words, WE ARE NO LONGER AT THE MERCY OF THE BIG CORPORATIONS!!!  In fact, we do have other options, so find out about them and take advantage of them!"

As I have alluded to in earlier posts, 'living with less' has become about so much more than simply saving money (although that has certainly been a side benefit).  Increasingly, this project has resulted in more of a lifestyle change for myself and my family than anything else.  What I am saying is, I now hold the belief that certain things (like my family's health and the well being of our planet and the organisms that sustain it) are much more important than saving a dollar here or a dollar there.  As a result, I have entirely changed the way that I think about food, cook/prepare/serve food, and shop for food.  For me (thanks to Mr. Pollan), I have a few basic tenets that I am trying to live by that I will share here:

1. Priority #1: Buy local (and organic if possible) (or better yet, grow as much of your own food as you can!)

For fresh fruits/vegetables, this is certainly a challenge for us Canadians who choose to live in such a Northern climate where the growing season is so darned short.  But, summer is upon us and there are some good choices out there.
  • For local and pastured meat, check out this link: to find a farm near you that sells this superior product (it is amazing how many farms that I was unaware of in Alberta, and this way, you can buy right from the farmer and even visit the animals if you want, talk about taking out the middle man!)
  • Go to the farmer's market in your area.  These types of local markets have more than doubled in recent years and it can sure be a fun outing for you and your family on the weekend.
  • Start a garden, or if you don't have much room, start a container garden.  You can grow all that you need for salads in containers for example and you can then enjoy fresh salads all year round!  It really isn't as hard as it sounds!
Priority #2: Buy organic whenever possible
  • This is also a tricky one for us Canadians because our food has to travel so darned far to get here that organics often can't make the trek (because they aren't covered in preserving chemicals)
  • Also, I do realize that organic produce does cost more, so if you have to be discerning, here is a list that I found on-line to help you make the choice a little easier:
The Dirty Dozen: contain from between 47-67 chemicals PER SERVING!
1. Celery
2. Peaches
3. Strawberries
4. Apples
5. Blueberries
6. Nectarines
7. Peppers
8. Spinach, Kale, Greens
9. Cherries
10. Potatoes
11. Grapes
12. Lettuce

The Clean Fifteen:
1. Onions
2. Avocados
3. Corn
4. Pineapples
5. Mangoes
6. Peas
7. Asparagus
8. Kiwi
9. Cabbage
10. Eggplant
11. Cantaloupe
12. Watermelon
13. Grapefruit
14. Sweet potatoes
15. Sweet onions

Priority #3: Avoid any/all processed foods as much as possible!

Pollan has some great tips on how to avoid these crazy 'food science' products:
  • Don't eat anything that your great-grandmother wouldn't recognize as food (love this one!)
  • Shop the outsides of your supermarket and stay out of the middle
  • Read the label: if there are more than five ingredients and you can't pronounce one(or more) of them, PUT IT BACK!
If all else fails, just remember Mr. Pollan's tag-line from 'In Defense of Food': EAT FOOD, NOT TOO MUCH, MOSTLY PLANTS!

Happy Eating!


The above images are not mine, but taken from the web, to view the source of the image(s) please click on the picture to be taken to the image's homepage.  Thanks.


  1. I am so totally with you on this one! I've been slowly moving in that direction for years. Today was an eye opener. I've pulled 2 straight all-nighters trying to get a remote server back up and running. I succeeded with the server, but was reduced to eating canned veggies, and pasta sauce from a jar tonight. YUCK! How did I ever choke that stuff down? It doesn't even taste like food!

    Thanks so much for those lists... fascinating. I wonder why potatoes are on the dirty list, but sweet potatoes are on the clean list? Maybe most people don't eat the sweet potato skins like I do? Hmmm.... thoughts to ponder as I lie comatose on the couch this evening...


  2. I don't know about the potato thing... all that I know is that 'organic' sweet potatoes are readily available at my supermarket and that regular potatoes are nowhere to be found... my guess is b/c potatoes are easily invaded by bugs like aphids and are thus sprayed to control them...

    For now, I will eagerly await my potato harvest - I planted 30 in all! I can't wait until fall (not something that I am usually so excited for!)

    Thanks for the comments - and keep up the great work on your website, I love visiting!


  3. Amen to that! The Omnivores Dilemma (in concert with Animal, Vegetable, Miracle) completely changed the way I think about food. We don't always eat organic or local, but it is definitely always on my mind, and we really take note each meal of where everything came from, especially when it's from our own backyard garden!

  4. Ohhh, CleanBin, I am about to read Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, and I just can't even wait. I am almost finished 'City Farmer' by Lorraine Johnson (a Canadian author. You might really enjoy it given that you yourself are an 'urban' farmer.

  5. This is a great list Maren, thank you for that. Hopefully your enjoying being back home. How far did you get on the house? It is going to be the most amazing place once it is done!!! Megjoy

  6. @ MegJoy: Thanks for the comment - and yes, we are enjoying being back home. The basement is in up in Nordegg and we'll spend one more weekend up there this season. Still need to see that ring girl!

  7. Yes we will have to get together, and you can tell me more about this new life you lead! It is so inspiring!