Monday, August 30, 2010

Top-down depression

I feel completely disillusioned about community decision making at the moment. Today I met with two friends, kindy mums, about the changes which are happening in six weeks' time at our local kindy. We arranged to talk to the head teacher at kindy (who we all like and respect) at pickup time and she listened and responded to our concerns.

The thing that annoys me the most is the acceptance of top down decision making. When I raised the point (the main one for me) that this kindy is a community resource, one which I stumped up raffle money for and committed to sell more tickets at the supermarket later this week on the spot, because after all it is our local kindy, our headteacher said that that is how everything is done nowadays.

Do we have to accept that? I felt a brief moment of disappointment that Playcentre hadn't worked out for us (I see what wonderful things it does for people in other centres, but ours seemed to have, to phrase it gently, a poor fit between stated Playcentre philosophy and actual reality). The romantic thread presented itself: I could have had more children, stayed at home and made Playcentre a central part of our family life. Then reality clunked back in and I yanked myself back to the issue at hand.

One of the great gifts of internet interaction for me has been getting to know a number of fantastic women who have taken on the role of formal education (even if you are unschooling, you are still the avenue for learning to read and write and juggle numbers, hence sticking with the term 'formal education') themselves. And loved it and loving it still. I considered it seriously when Fionn was about to start school and more than once during that first year.

The autonomy is attractive.

Isolation is a challenge in almost all activities on the West Coast. I wanted community for us and the home educating community wasn't large enough to meet the ravenous desire for interaction Fionn and I possess. I am increasingly happy with our decision to send Fionn to school and early signs are that Brighid will be one of the lucky ones in our education system and fit into classroom life and learning easily.

This is a roundabout way of saying that if I don't/can't create community in informal ways myself sufficient to meet our needs, then we need to utilise formal community through places like kindergarten and school. Which appears to mean that I have to put up with Kidsfirst Kindergartens radically changing our local kindy at short notice because really the top-down model is all we can expect these days.

I need to transform my rage into a powerful polemic sufficient to make those Kidsfirst people sit up and notice. I'm currently so flattened by the acceptance of top-down autocracy that I haven't the words right now.

At least it is a break from thinking about bloody food. Which I could carry on about as well, given the time I spent with some very hungry and rather unwell people today (poverty and lack of cooking skills respectively). I won't elaborate as I don't think it is appropriate to plunder the lives of people I know through work in order to add impact to my blog posts. The debate continues on The Hand Mirror and I have yet to clarify in my own head the issues around choice and lack of choice. Given our goal as a humane society is that no one should be hungry (dieting is completely mental), then we must act with hope that everyone can not just eat, but be aware of foods which will help them to feel better (which may be ice cream for some people, but I was gunning for deeper health rather than always instant gratification). I have been talking about vegetables for over a decade now, mostly to young people keen on passing exams. It's often the first time anyone has made such a connection.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

food morality & artichokes

There has been a debate recently on the Hand Mirror (and in further response here) criticising Anne Else's concern about corner shops marketing a 'school lunch' containing entirely packaged food of very little nutritional value.

I was going to post online about my jerusalem artichoke adventure tonight. Having never eaten (nor seen) jerusalem artichokes last year, I read about them and hankered for some in my garden. Corrine very generously sent me some tubers and tonight we had a new culinary experience. FH, Fionn and I liked them. Brighid doesn't get a vote anyway, due to the enormous proportion of evening meals she doesn't bother to eat. I cooked them something like this:

250g packet of bacon, chopped into smallish pieces
8 big cloves of garlic, peeled
1 small onion, chopped
about ten medium sized jerusalem artichokes, peeled and cut into even sized pieces
lots of butter (perhaps 50g)
fresh sage, chopped
fresh parsley, chopped

Fry half of the bacon and the onion in half of the butter, then add the artichokes and the garlic and fry some more and then tip some water in (maybe 1/4 - 1/2 cup, who knows given I didn't measure anything) and put the lid on and cook for about 10 minutes and then take the lid off, turn it up and cook until the liquid has evaporated and while this is happening, cook the rest of the bacon and the sage in the rest of the butter and then mix in the parsley towards the end. Pour mixture 2 over mixture 1 and serve. I hastily grated some carrot and beetroot and chopped parsley into it with some acv and olive oil for a salad to go with it. We could have done with a bit more food, probably due to hunger from swimming in the afternoon. I can't multi-task too well when I am trying an entirely new cooking adventure.

It is true that foods of any description may taste divine when cooked with garlic and bacon and butter. But still, the actual tubers tasted good and the garlic (I had quite big cloves) tasted very nice like this as well, quite sweet and mellow but not super-mushy like roasted garlic is. I adapted my original recipe to include the sage as I had read about the flatulence issue and sage is supposedly good for dealing to flatulence.

So, the jerusalem artichokes taste good, they are easy to grow, they produce attractive sunflowers in late summer and they also crop heavily. What's not to like? I think I will replant some tubers in more parts of the garden soon. I am going to have to magic up some hours to dig up more lawn for garden as I want some room for spuds as well. The yield from my maori potatoes last year didn't really stack up to our limited space, so I'll plant some agria (not yet in the garden shop) instead. I'm also pondering asparagus again. Space space space. The other day I harvested the first of my kohlrabi, peeled it and grated it into a bowl of grated carrot, avocado, salmon and coriander pesto. That tasted good. The plants are going to seed I see. Does this mean I need to harvest the bulbous part of the stalks (which not every plant formed) pronto?

So, the bigger picture, food morality. I absolutely believe in food morality. I've had too many experiences with poor health not to believe in food morality. I've seen the effects of changing food choices on my own health and that of my family, particularly of my son whose eczema dominated my parenting concerns for 3-4 years. I've seen the effect of food choices on the ability of young people to function in a way which enables them to remain in a learning environment.

To me, not to ascribe morality to food is a luxury many do not have. I could be quite wrong, but I would hazard that posters/commenters who wish food to be amoral are in their twenties with dominant experiences of food as weight control-related morality. Specifically relating to Anne's post, the issues around crap food packaged for lunches are not confined to the poor, though the relationship between crap food and time poverty is strong.

Food is nourishment at so many levels. I want conversations, debate, research, market developments and kitchen action to continue to consider food in moral terms because I don't want industry to determine all of my food choices. I don't consider food choices to stand alone. Anyone who has spent time considering the effects of antibiotics on the human body and the alternatives, is likely to see what I see: the world of pharmaceutical companies and that of big food industries is closely linked. I also think I want to claim the space of food morality for nourishment and enrichment and not leave that space vacant for dieting and endless weight loss and food restriction narratives. A mars bar is not evil, it's just not a great idea to eat three every day.

Last night my son and husband went to the League breakup (rugby league, yes they WON their finals!!!! very exciting). We'd all been out at the game during the day, and I knew not to send 'healthy' food like I did two years ago when I was a newbie league mother and had kids laugh at my food (my hummous and carrot sticks was the only food not touched by the end of the evening). They took supermarket sausage rolls and pizza for the shared buffet and had a blast, with Fionn even securing some cola in my absence, to his great delight. I kept my daughter home as she was just getting on top of the (suspected) urinary tract infection and I didn't want her gorging on fizzy and having a late night just when we were turning the corner to good health and uninterrupted nights of sleep. Food matters. Due to the journey of learning we've been on in recent years, I was able to pick early signs of possible infection, engage the treatment and support of Laksmi (visceral manipulation and something else I don't have a name for, maybe cranial something), and pump cranberry juice, aloe vera and vitamin c through Brighid at frequent intervals. We are going back to Laksmi next week and I have a list of symptoms in my head which will prompt a visit to the doctor, but in the absence of these symptoms, I think we've avoided a round of antibiotics and that has to be good, given my experiences with auto-immune dysfunction related to loads of antibiotics.

The benefits of our efforts were clear today healthwise, when I took the children swimming, the first time in many months.

I will admit freely to some irritation with food injunctions. Even occasional readers of this blog will be familiar with my frustrated relationship with Sally Fallon's book Nourishing Traditions. Wider than the WAPF movement, organic enthusiasts more generally like to talk about the ways that organic food isn't really that much dearer as you give up the pre-packaged food along the way.

The story of the organic free range chicken and the 3+ meals you can get out of each chook is familiar to all of us by now. I would happily never read about that again. The assumption that we are all 'unclean', the lost souls wandering the supermarket aisles eating only food from packets is a nice clear dichotomy between the fallen children and those at the right hand of God who eat only unsullied, unpackaged food, but it doesn't reflect reality. Plenty of people know all about stretching the chook and it is a treat even when the bird is a caged one and on special to boot. I've been changing a few trolley items to reflect my desire to eat more omega 3 foods and also I've switched our breakfast oats to organic ones and the difference at the checkout is major. And yes I did know how to budget, shop and cook both before and after these changes.

They've changed our kindy around, wiping out the traditional morning and afternoon sessions and moving to something much more like a childcare centre. The number of places for children will drop dramatically. They've given us six weeks' notice and absolutely no community consultation at all. I am furious. And sad. and furious. and angry. Angry at Kidsfirst Kindergartens making decisions in their offices in Christchurch about our community early childhood centre, OUR community family resource, here in our little part of the West Coast. I'm also angry at the government, both this one and the one before. I'm meeting with a couple of friends tomorrow to talk about it, and when I have written my letter to the management at Kidsfirst, I will post a copy on this blog.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Lymphatic drainage

The new project. Brighid and I went to see Laksmi (our fantastic multi-skilled complementary therapist) and she showed me how to do my own lymphatic drainage. I've been having a look at this chart, which I shall print out and stick on the wall. Laksmi was just back from a two week intensive course on visceral manipulation and she did some on me. I will need to listen to her talk as she works for a few more sessions before I start to understand how it works. She did amazing things with my daughter, who loves her. Like so many little girls, Brighid is vulnerable to urinary tract infections with the possibility of kidney problems. I am (at this stage and most likely for the duration) much happier with this holistic way of working with her innards (missing a fancy word here) instead of invasive testing and action via conventional medicine.

Still cleaning. Yesterday I even got the ladder out and cleaned the top of the kitchen on one wall and I cleaned the light shade which is now an entirely different colour. Today I swept the floors and cleaned the bathroom and toilet [yes I have indeed done this before, but to do it with no looming arrival of visitors is rather less usual]. I have no idea how long such enthusiasm will last but I think it is because now that I feel so much healthier, I have the energy to control my environment instead of the other way around.

'Tis time to take that enthusiasm outside and work on my garden. The latest Organics NZ magazine is out and I am reminded that I have the ingredients for improving my compost just waiting for some action on my part. Kay Baxter has more thought-provoking information on nutrient dense food, particularly the growing of it. Not sure when a refractometer (c. $200) will make its way up my shopping list, but it does sound like an interesting tool to play with.

Yesterday I put some black mustard and red clover seeds into jars to sprout and sowed some coriander, basil and celery seeds in my tiny little plastic house which lives on my kitchen window sill. I sowed some burdock in the garden. I need to find room for some spuds. Perhaps with this new energy, I can dig up lawn into new garden this Spring after all.

Bile ducts. Laksmi reckons I need to read up on bile ducts in Pitchford's Healing with Whole Foods. Romantic way to finish an evening, wouldn't you say?

Monday, August 23, 2010

earth germs

We tried some new vegetables today. Earth gems, boiled like spuds only not for quite as long, then some butter over the top and served with roast chicken and broccoli. Let's not dwell on the chicken, possibly the most ethically loaded food around. Everybody ate them! The children called them earth germs and asked to have them again.
Sharon Astyk, who is forever writing thoughtful intelligent posts, wrote here about cooking skills and the need to adapt to preparing foods currently unusual to us. While I have some reservations about the extent of the crisis which she predicts (I don't think we are all of a sudden going to lose all role specialisation, not even in 100 years, and the role of food access in social stratification and role specialisation is central), I decided that she makes a valid point.

Hence my next project(s): to learn to make and like meals with jerusalem artichokes, globe artichokes and kohlrabi. All of these things are growing in my garden now, so clearly suitable for post-peak oil apocalyptic times should they visit upon us here in Wetville. I have found a recipe for jerusalem artichokes and bought the requisite ingredients. I think it was Gilly who said they make lots of farts and I recall from somewhere that sage is a good for counteracting gaseous foods so I could make sage butter (a beautiful delicacy which I must not throw out just because I have given up gnocchi in my cheese-free condition) to go with the artichoke dish.

I'm still a bit mental. I know this because I cleaned more of the kitchen walls this afternoon. Omens.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Change is around the corner

I can tell by the way I've been binge cleaning. It is always always a portent. Brighid and I scrubbed the corners of the kitchen floor, with a steelo pad and some baking soda no less. Then we swept and swept and swept the entire kitchen floor and then I washed and then I got cloths out and dried it by hand (it is a small kitchen) so I could get back in there and carry on transforming. I cleaned the shelf of supposedly just tea bags and eggs and the old fashioned scales which hold the eggs (but actually the groaning holder of many recipe books, too old lemons and bananas, school notices, empty bread bags and Inland Revenue mail). I cleaned the top and surrounds of the old chippie fire which hosts the jug, the Kenwood mixer and the sugar jar. I cleaned the top of the stove and the wall around it and even the door of the oven. I cleaned the top of the dishwasher and the surrounds of the slow cooker and the wall around that as well.

Then I made sushi. Welcome, spring.

When I first learnt to make sushi, I used a premixed liquid to add to the rice and then later a sushi vinegar plus salt and sugar. Tonight I ditched the sushi vinegar for the apple cider vinegar, which is definitely the new black in my life. The sushi tasted very nice and this time, all FOUR of us ate and enjoyed it.

Last week I cooked oxtail in the slow cooker. My first time cooking ox-tail and I hiffed it in there with carrots, celery, onion and water, from memory. I lifted the oxtail out at the end of the day and served it with vegetables for dinner (very nice I thought, I'll be repeating the process), then strained the remaining stock and stored it in the fridge. Until last night when Favourite Handyman and Fionn used it to cook the pumpkin in for pumpkin soup. FH added the herbs (sage, marjoram, lemon thyme + ginger and garlic) at the end and then whizzed it up with the best invention ever, the Braun whizzy stick and we had truly delicious, nutritious, pumpkin soup for dinner.

Pah to some of the other nights. Which did include fish and chips from the chippie and Indian from the Indian shop. No doubt there was some virtue somewhere, principally from the fact of us not starving. Then yesterday (Saturday) lunchtime we had fish and chips AGAIN because who can say no to the request of a boy who played superbly and with the rest of his rugby league team MADE IT TO THE FINALS!

I've thought about a food quite a ridiculous amount. Mostly to do with the world of nourishing traditions and a comparison with the macrobiotics world and also with thoughts relating to Paul Campos' Obesity Myth for good or bad measure. A smattering of my thoughts, rather half baked, I will confess in advance:

1. There are some very active blogs on the nourishing traditions theme. As I was skimming a couple the other day, noticing the online courses I could sign up for (but will not), I remembered Susan Faludi. Susan Faludi wrote Backlash, c.1990.

I read Backlash from cover to cover and thought I was in university heaven when she spoke on campus at Canterbury, I think in 1991. A very sharp journalist, she detailed the cases of many right wing women who were campaigning for naughty career women to leave their jobs and get back home where they belonged with their kids and the kitchen. Only Faludi kept finding these women out on campaign with their children in child care and their husbands doing the cooking and housecare. I loved Susan Faludi and wish I still had my copy of Backlash.

I couldn't help wondering if some of these women (they are all female in my experience to date) ever have to grab some takeaways (or takeout as the big bloggers on this are all American so far) instead of NT-style food as they are too busy with the commercial and internet arm of their passion to actually cook?

I would like them even more if they did, to be honest. But then I am an impure girl, from the baptismal font to the messy house of motherhood.

2. Paul Campos talks about the increased health risks not to heavy people, but to heavy people who lose weight. Given the prevalence of yo-yo dieting, this isn't particularly surprising as many people must starve themselves of nutrients when they diet. But I thought he paid absolutely no attention to the nutritional aspects to heaviness. I've been reading about under active thyroids and weight gain and I've been doing something about it and I feel much better, and lighter. I am sure that when I was oddly and without a doubt excessively hungry and thus eating enough for 2.5 persons despite not being pregnant, my body was craving nutrients. Given that I was eating quite well, nutrient absorption seemed to be the missing factor. No doubt I have a billion more things to learn about this.

3. Isa Ritchie wrote this on an earlier blog post of mine:

From a theoretical perspective (or at least the one I'm using), Nourishing
Traditions and the WAPF provide a kind of food praxis - see Paulo Freire's work
on educational praxis (Cuban literacy campaign) - combining theory and practice
in a politicising way - encouraging criticism of the dominant paradigm and
offering an alternative that's based on something many people can relate to: the
gastronomy of our ancestors.
I am very happy to be combining my food obsession (which is getting unhealthy, not so much thinking about food but now thinking about thinking about food) with one of my favourite thinkers, the great Paulo Freire, who was my guru when I was at teachers' college studying with John Gourley and whom I still think about now, though not enough. Indeed tonight at the dinner table, which was unsuitably rumbunctious in my opinion, I wondered what the dinner table was like for Paulo Freire and his family (I just checked wikipedia and he did have five kids). It's all very well encouraging subversion amongst the masses in the classroom or the workplace, but at the table at home... well the other point is that I'd not been encouraging it at all.

So, NT cooks challenging the industrial paradigm by direct action... I can see that, though I contend that the vegan macrobiotics (not all macrobiotics seem to be pure vegans, though veganism seems to be upheld as a high point to aim for) are also using knowledge and food choices to create direct action and make political points and the campaigns to liberate sows from crates and chooks from battery cages are and have been important battles.

4. Malcolm Kendrick, in his book The Great Cholesterol Con, notes the lower heart disease mortality in Japan compared to most others places. He also convincingly puts forward his hypothesis that cholesterol has nothing causative to do with heart disease but that stress and social dislocation has a lot to do with heart disease. Only I wondered about that Japanese data when I read in the Guardian Weekly recently about the shocking suicide figures for Japan, about 30 000 per year. Maybe they don't wait to have a heart attack when they are stressed, but kill themselves first? Which doesn't seem so very reflective of a healthy society to me.


I really think it is time I thought about something else besides food. Though I wonder if it is a strategy to avoid thinking about other things when I am at home. I've taken on an extra hour at work (which means an extra 2-3 in reality) which I shall have to pluck out of thin air, or more accurately I shall have to pluck squeezy stretchy time for everything else out of thin air. The boy wants to know why he can't play a million trillion sports, or at the very least, rugby league, soccer, hockey, basketball, tennis, cricket, martial arts and swimming lessons and I say because we need to have time at home all together and he thinks I'm crazy. Which is true, that I'm crazy, but I'm right about family time, I'm sure of it.

When Fionn was a baby and I was working more paid hours than I am now, I was determined to do everything as though I was a stay at home hippy mother. I washed his nappies and packed them every night. I made home made food for all of his lunches and if I cheated it was at the expensive and very good quality Pots for Tots stall in Borough Market (we were in London then, not tiny little west coast wetville) and I then cooked up sweet potato and mixed it to make the bought stuff go further and put it in containers like it was home made food. I wonder if this current food thing is something similar, the way I madly convince myself that I am nurturing everyone enough despite this choice to go out to work. And there are two responses to that in my head: one is that food does matter and we are making such good progress improving family health and the second is that I have internalised the working-mother-is-bad thing Far. Too. Much.

I guess the fish and chips nights and the smoked chicken and salad and pita bread nights deal to the need for reality. The home made bread (I made some caraway rye on Friday) and slow cooked soups and stocks and casseroles and the kelp and vitamin C and beetroot juice and apple cider vinegar and various other potions deal to the nurturing need, both in a giving and a receiving sense.

My major concession to time poverty (and housework dread) has been paying C to clean our house for two hours each fortnight. More would be lovely but unaffordable. Less has proven in the past to be rather disastrous. Only C, who has been busy such that she has mostly cleaned once per month over winter for us, is now so busy she is unable to clean for us. God has callen her and one of our local op shops and food banks is very lucky to have her skills and energy. Not sure what to do next, but in the mean time my new dairy free energy has lead to more cleaning bouts.

I did a little gardening over the weekend. I added more sawdust to the poultry palace. Turns out the poor chooks are very frightened of the wheelbarrow. I weeded around part of the rose nursery and weeded the new home for one of the roses and then transplanted it. I planted out the soldier poppies to a place Fionn and I agreed on, against the house and beside the irises, where they will flower as they irises fade. We have one beautiful iris out now. In the chook grave garden we have both orange and yellow calendulas in flower, very bright amongst the flowering rocket and the alyssum. None of my seeds sown in the last month have either germinated or survived. I think the slugs and the blackbirds are just too hungry and I will have to raise seedlings in pots first. Tomorrow is sow-all-seeds day according to my lunar gardening calendar (the one in the Organics NZ magazine) so I hope to have some fun with my seed box then.

Change around the corner? I'll know some time. Soon. Time to do some clothes folding and slow reading.

Saturday, August 21, 2010


Last weekend we protested against the National government's draconian labour law changes which allow for ninety day fire at will and union representatives only allowed on workplaces with boss permission. In fact, I did not protest as Favourite Handyman did instead this time, while the children and I went to the library. We're not wild about the kids being on the picket line. I have some photos but it turns out that I've not used our lives of working people blog for so long that I cannot remember the password to post again. Serves me right for setting up a seperate blogger account. I need to join with the other fabulous people on the Blackball working class history project group and create an entirely new blog with links to facebook (I think we are supposed twit as well but that can be someone else) and keep it updated regularly. Tomorrow I am on duty at the museum so progress then hopefully.

In the meantime, it's all more domestic and even exciting. Fionn plays in the semi-finals for his rugby league team later this morning and I shall be there, concentrating and shouting in the right places. As differentiated from skiving off from going at all or chatting about other things on the sideline, oblivious to the game, as I rather frequently do.

I have nearly finished the second front for my purple cross-over cardigan. Then I will only have the sleeves to go. Yesterday was so gorgeous and sunshiney that I felt like owning a new dress, preferably something summery in colour. Brighid and I went to all the local op-shops and I came home with one nice red top but knowing that actually if I want a new dress, I need to get the sewing machine out and carry on making the cross-over dress I started a large number of months ago.

There are also possibilities in the garden - plants to move, seeds to sow. errr, weeding to do. I could think about paid work and all of it's piles of things to do, but not just yet. That is in a box ready to be brought out later, after we have lived in the sunshine some more.

Our other spring-y-summery activity has been going to the beach. We have been down to the beach twice in the last three days and the children are initiating the trips! This is wonderful. We wanted to buy this house partly because of its proximity to the sea and for such a long time, the boy hated going to the beach and the girl loved it so much it was scary (the sea is wild and takes prisoners where we live) and thus we almost never went. Hoping this change lasts...

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

On fat.

Slow reading instead of blogging...

But I have finished these books: Paul Campos, The Obesity Myth; Fran McCullough, Good Fat with 100 Recipes and Malcolm Kendrick, The Great Cholesterol Con.

I recommend them all. I read Good Fat first and got some more information to support my current leanings towards traditional fats which are solid at room temperature. This was interesting, but an elaboration of what I already knew.

The Obesity Myth is, in my opinion, an important book. You should read all of it. Two key points in it concern firstly the fake allegations that weight and health are linked (except in quite extreme cases) and secondly, the role of fat in the social hierarchy of American life. I had not heard of 'anorexic ideation' before, but I see clearly how it works in terms of the norming of very skinny persons as the only people who are not 'fat'.

Page 225:In America today, bodies have replaced clothes as the most visible
markers of social class. In a culture that combines a high degree of
fashion informality with relatively cheap, high-quality clothing, clothes will
non longer function as reliable indicators of relative status. On the
other hand, a "fit" (misleadingly defined as a slim, and youthful, or at least
youthful-appearing) body is much more difficult for the average person to
achieve. Acquiring a body which matches this definition of fitness is, for
most people, in large part a function of having access to things - health club
memberships, personal trainers, plastic surgery, and, most of all, enough energy
and leisure time to devote to the pursuit of it - that are far more readily
available to professional and upper-class people than they are to the average
member of the lower-middle or working classes (let alone to a poor person).

So fat is something evil to be controlled, with a gridlock of narratives of evil surrounding it, lest anyone say out loud that body shape is not logically linked to laziness, slovenliness, increased mortality or intelligence.

p.126:Except at the statistical extremes, weight has little or nothing to do
with basic health and fitness; on average, fat active people will be as healthy
as thin active ones, and much healthier than thin sedentary ones.
Oh ya-de-ya. Still got to be active. Not let off the hook there. But even there, I note that the basic necessity for metabolic fitness is actually pretty easily acquired: move into the category that offers most of the benefits associated
with metabolic fitness, people need to engage in some moderately strenuous
combinationof daily physical activities equivalent to going for a brisk half
hour walk.

When I added up the activities in my day, I'm either there or not far off it just by doing my ordinary jobs.

The Great Cholesterol Con also looked at a campaign of misinformation on a massive scale, this time benefiting pharmaceutical companies who are keen to get the entire world taking their very profitable statins. I was wary of media reports of medical papers before, but after reading this book, I will be even more so. The extent to which an industry which is pretty much entirely funded by big pharma will interpret data in contrary ways (like duplicitous ways) is awful.

There is a chapter in The Obesity Myth which is called 'Anorexia Nervosa and the Spirit of Capitalism'. Which is a wonderful title and apt to boot. Within it, Campos looks at the legacy of Puritanism and how this has re-manifested itself in contemporary America as the control of the flesh rather than of pleasure or riches.

Which brings me to Sally Fallon and Nourishing Traditions, also an American book, and a text to which I am both drawn to and repulsed by.. I want to suggest that in a culture where control and judgement are tightly intertwined with eating, Falloon's book offers us a new version of food laws but one which still offers that sense of having to work in order to be worthy.

Fallon's encouragement to us to open the cream and buy up large at the butcher's are tempting indeed, especially for parents who learn rather fast that low fat excuses for food will not satisfy our children sufficiently for them to run around or even sleep for a decent length of time, and thus look around for something more convincing. But consider instead, the exhortations about the endless evils in our supermarkets, at the apparent need to sprout wheat, then grind it ourselves, then soak it, then make our own bread and cakes. Could anything else be a stronger incentive to go gluten free? But wait it gets more exciting. Not just grains needs soaking sprouting, praying upon, turning three times and mixing only in lime green bowls just like the ancient tribes of Mesopomania, but we should also be soaking and then baking nuts before using them.

Nourishing Traditions in its most committed form (and for evidence of commitment, a tiki tour round blogville should convince; there is currently a jump off point on my sidebar if you fancy) offers a lifestyle of endless food preparation for those who fancy it. For those who thought, most lazily it seems, that snacking on a raw carrot is a good kind of thing to do, then please note that Ms Fallon prefers you saute your carrots (peeled no matter if organic or commonly sprayed) in about $3 worth of butter for 40 minutes. As a lifestyle, I think Nourishing Traditions offers its own elitism in that just like getting the perfect body at the gym, the luxury of a great deal of time is necessary.

I'm still bouncing off Isa Ritchie's conference abstract and thinking next of where neo-liberalism fits in. I don't think there is a simple answer on that one at all. The dichotomy between state support and individual responsibility which is so often posited in discussions of neo-liberalism is, in my opinion, completely undermined by the powerful sway pharmaceutical companies have over goverment policy which has lead to governments encouraging us, exhorting us even, to partake in their state funded projects to down loads of pills and absorb lots of jabs.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Food diary: the kombu family meal

Today's library haul:
Paul Campos, The Obesity Myth
Fran McCullough, Good Fat with 100 Recipes
Malcolm Kendrick, The Great Cholesterol Con
A S Byatt, The Children's Book

I had a bit of a read of the first three at the library and have settled into Fran McCullough's book now. Fascinating. After reading this article on slow reading last night, reading some non-fiction books in their entirety instead of net-surfing for nutritional information (which I suspect myself of being addicted to) seems timely.

Tonight's dinner. Rice thingie with green salad.
Green salad: lettuces and rocket from the garden, with acv and olive oil drizzled over it. I didn't realise it had a sign over it which said 'adults only', but there you go.

Rice thingy: I cooked the brown basmati rice with a piece of kombu then let it cool a bit. I grilled aubergine and scooped out the flesh (originally intended for making baba ghanoush but corralled into dinner at the eleventh minute), grated carrot, chopped celery, broccoli and silverbeet, added a 400g or so sized tin of tuna and two beaten eggs (all I had, would have used more otherwise) and some black pepper and some fresh thyme and put it in a greased pyrex baking rectangle dish and put it in the oven at 160 degrees celsisus for an amount of time which is now a blur. Until it was hot right through.

Brighid picked. The rest of us cleaned our plates of rice thingy and there were compliments from Man and Boy. They washed it down with generous amounts of tomato sauce. Turns out I can make a quiche/rice cross kind of dish without any dairy. Which is most pleasing.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Religion in the kitchen

Once upon a time there was a little girl, swaying around the room in time (or possibly out of time) to Ready to Roll. Ready to Roll was a television programme which aired every Saturday night at 6pm and through it we learnt what songs were 'top of the charts'. My strongest visual memory was of the makeup worn by the band "Kiss".

The little girl (me of course) sometimes, egotistically, liked to imagine herself on television, swaying around to music and being the centre of a visual universe.

Which is what we can all do now, through Youtube. Similarly, through blogging and other internet tools, we can create our own narratives, present ourselves to the world through a lens of our own choosing.

I've been thinking about this a bit lately. I like words, and for the most part cannot be bothered with pictures. Other people have totally fabulous photos on their blogs and relatively few words. Even though I write about fairly mundane activities, I still select only the bits which grab me in some way, culling all the rest. I cull my strops at my family, I cull everything to do with work, I cull most errands and often opt for what I've been thinking over what I've been doing. I don't write about my dreams.

In my blogging world, women feature strongly. The male blogs I read are mostly political, all written in the third person and concerned with public rather than private life. The only exception is The Greening of Gavin, who writes about his green journey with a focus on his home-based decisions and does write in the first person.

The women in my blogging world are cleaners and cooks and school lunch makers and dental appointment taxis and nose-blowers. But that is not what they write about. They write about their passions. They write about the things which they find enabling and which give them dignity.

On the whole, a little religion is necessary to give passion to homemaking. We all need a bigger picture to know why we are vacuuming, cooking, washing dishes and doing laundry again. In my blogging world, happy woman bloggers subscribe to one of two creeds, with several subscribing to both: Christianity and Environmentalism.

'Cos it is surely about time we noticed that environmentalism functions as a religion for a significant group of people. Whereas many Christians base and assess their actions and opportunities on the question "What would Jesus do?", in a very similar way many Environmentalists base and assess their actions and opportunities on the question "Is this good for the environment?"

Isa's thesis project has given me so much to think about - thank you Isa. Sometime soon, I'm going to have a stab at responding to a question which has been lurking in my brain for a while: what is it about Sally Fallon's Nourishing Traditions project which is so appealing, even despite the obvious flaws in many of her sidebar assertions throughout the book?

another food diary

I'm doing another week of keeping a food diary here. Now that we (I) have made the commitment to no dairy except butter and low wheat, I need to build a new store of fast meals. Fast meals in my world doesn't necessarily mean cooked just before dinner - that is often a nightmare - but prepared quickly.

Tonight: pumpkin and cabana pasta.
Roast six pieces of pumpkin. Leave to cool. Then chop into chunks.
Slice cabana (lovely cold already cooked chorizo from the Blackball Salami Co).
Cook a small amount of pasta, add some chopped broccoli to the boiling water a few minutes before the pasta is cooked.
Put all this in a bowl. Sprinkle some dukkah over top. Drizzle some olive oil over top of that and stir gently to combine. Eat.

Dukkah has turned out a very useful purchase - for a $10 extravagance a few months ago, I have topped lots of meals with this yummy flavour and am only half way through the jar. Of course I could make it myself, and maybe I will sometime, but as of tomorrow I will be far too preoccupied with getting a warrant for our 19 year old car.

There is wheat in the pasta but I used less pasta than I once would have for this meal and only used it at all to pad out the other ingredients so we had enough for a one bowl dinner.

Regular readers this week could surmise that pumpkin is on special at the moment here at Wetville. They would be right.

pumpkin spread

I would like an elegant name for my pumpkin spread, but until then, pumpkin spread it is.

Last night we ran out of hummous and the cupboard was bare of chickpea tins. Not quite as bad as running out of toilet paper, but getting up there. So this is my dairy free, hopefully nutritious, alternative to our major lunch staple of hummous.

Roast pumpkin, skin removed after it is roasted.
garlic, peeled and chopped.
anchovies, about half of those little 50g(ish) jars.
pinch of ground coriander seeds.
tahini, about a dessertspoonful.
a few pieces of steamed broccoli left over from dinner.

Whizz it all up in whatever whizzy contraption you have. If you have to mash it by hand, then you would need to cut up the garlic and anchovies finely before you start. Add a little olive oil, whizz some more and eat.

Sunday, August 8, 2010


I made ginger and carrot loaf. I put some beetroot in as well. The effect of this was that the wet mixture looked like a child's vomit at a birthday party. The effect of this was also that the finished loaf, when sliced, looked like it had the measles. Tastes nice though. I have decided that we are cutting out cheese, milk and sour cream, but continuing to use butter. I'm limiting my flour intake, but I deemed a taste of the loaf appropriate - protective mother checking her children's lunch treats y'know.

Beach. We drove to Hokitika to collect the barbeque which we won and spent time in the sun, converting rays into vitamin D and building sculptures out of driftwood. Then we had fish and chips for lunch in the sunshine.

Gala. Yesterday. The big hoopla fundraiser for Fionn's school. My Dad's cousin Mary, now 83, has been baking for the gala since it began 50 years ago. This year she was unwell and missed baking and attending for the first time ever. Favourite Handyman and the children bought raffle tickets and lollies and lunch and facepaints and rides on the trailer behind the quadbike and generally had a good time. I collected money and prepped faces and kept order in the facepainting queue. The facepainters were superbly skilled - I bet you can't get such gorgeous faces for $3 in the big cities. Afterwards we went round to see Mary and give her a report on the day. I'm pleased that she is looking better.

Iatrogenic. A new word which I shall be using more. I learnt it on Emma Hollister's blog, Candida International. Her blog is an excellent find and has also given me another new term: health freedom activists. Given the discussions we've been having recently, I find not just her content interesting (and valuable), but also the contrast in the construction of her blogging identity compared to the explicitly maternal blogs myself and others have been reading and thinking about.

Garden. I weeded outside our bedroom this morning and now I can see the crocus shoots. I can see the other bulbs as well, with a daffodil not far from flowering, but crocuses are my current favourite. They are perfect for this shady spot.

Bloody food. Wonderful stuff, but it can be a headache. I am relieved to report that I am making better headway reconciling the macrobiotic world of Paul Pitchford and the nourishing traditions world of Sally Fallon. Hence butter yes and rest of dairy no. I really should make some sauerkraut, but as I've been thinking that for more than a year, maybe more than two years...

Again on the food front, I'm looking to incorporate seaweed in more meals. We do like sushi, but it doesn't feel warm enough for sushi meals just yet. We do like dinosaur eggs (bake spud, split in half, scoop out flesh and combine with kelp or wakame, salt and lashings of butter. Put back in spud jackets. Resist temptation to serve with anything else. Eat.) We are eating rice quite often at the moment and I dimly recall you can cook your rice with a piece of kombu in the cooking water. Yes? So that is only two and maybe three meals and we need more than that.

John Appleton. I've looked at his website before, but this morning I read more of his articles more carefully. Wealth of useful information. I was particularly interested in the articles on iodine and thyroid, hence a reminder about increasing my repertoire of meals containing seaweed.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Presentation of self: blogging and the beautiful

Once upon a time, when I was young and had a pen in my hand during the week and a beer in my hand on Friday night and no one ever said to me "Where is my shoe" and "Why can't I have bought lunch/Mcdonalds/a tv/playstation like everyone else in my class?", I took a university course on the novels of Henry James and Edith Wharton and we had to use the lens of an apparently famous book by Erving Hoffman called The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life. Hoffmann wrote about the minute constructions of self that we present to the world. To him, we are all actors all of the time.

Last night, after checking my email and finding some wonderfully thoughtful and interesting comments on my last post, I went for a walk on the beach without asking if it suited anyone else, and at the same time refusing to take any children.

Johanna wrote:
You feel like you have to be a bit of a poster child for the values you
support, and that includes always talking positively about the great stuff you
made or cooked or did. ...
I think there's a feeling that you (well, I) don't want to show the chinks
in the armour, because then you open yourself for people to actually put the
knife into your whole value system ....There's also the whole transition townsy
thing of wanting to making a sustainable life sound fun and enticing ...

I have a few suggestions to add to Johanna's thoughts on the construction of happy woman blogs. One reason, I think, for curtailing the bad stuff, is that can be too personal. I have two friends on facebook (both with many fb 'friends') who sometimes post mentioning arguments with their partners. Frankly, I would put that on my blog (or fb) over my dead body.

I've been thinking about the parallels between happy woman blogs and those posters of happy housewives in the 1950s. I've met women who raised children in the 1950s, who spent their lives caring for others, based at home. They never worked outside the home after they married. They loved it. Not every second, because who loves every second of their life, but it was fulfilling for them. But for women in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s who wanted a life outside the kitchen, they had to fight damn hard and I certainly appreciate the changes those women achieved.

Throughout the changes in the lives of women since 1945, when the men came home and women were ordered to down their tools and get back to the kitchen lickety-split, some very enormous proportion of meals have still been made by women. Increasingly, women have worked outside the home but luck of all luckies, we now have microwaves and ready-meals which means we can not only do all that, but also take our precious offspring, ever at risk of falling below the line of class success (you could call it academic or sporting or whatever, but really it is the fear of delinquency which I think spurs much super-parenting), to soccer and piano and maths tuition and St Johns and pony club and martial arts and cricket and swimming lessons and carefully chosen play dates and ballet and and... as well!

Which of course lots of dads support as well, but I'd be interested to see how many men you can find who not only do the sports/dance/whatever hobby drop off and pick up, but also organised how it would all fit together in the morning, made sure the kids had the right gear, prepped dinner and worked full time for the day, AND made sure that when the unexpected which we all kind of expect at work crops up, he could still finish on time and collect the kids without recourse to a partner who could surely sort it out more easily.

The industrialisation of food making (which had begun before the war) continued and I think is mirrored by the industrialisation of food growing. I have found it very interesting to talk to my Dad and also to Lou before he died, about the changes to organic growing I have been trying in my garden. Dad (and Lou in his later years) was delighted to garden with greater ease with the use of fertilisers and pesticides, but when I talked about slug catching methods Lou remembered being out with the torch and bucket vividly in his early years and when I talked about growing legumes for nitrogen fixing and rotating the chooks, Dad remembered his father gardening in the same way. When I grill my maternal grandfather about chooks, he remembered having them at home - killing and plucking them was one of his jobs. None of these men would have shared this if I hadn't brought it up - they were very pleased to move on from such labour intensive methods.

Yes, we definitely live in a society where home based nurturing is devalued. Deliberately in my view, because it does not feed the capitalist system, most notably in the lack of a tax contribution, but also in other refusals to buy 'value-added" commodities. I wish we would own up to the travesty which I think the retirement funds are: money 'invested' by rich western world people for it to grow and provide them with comfortable lives when they retire. But how exactly does it grow? Where does the exploited labour come from to create this growth in wealth which then feeds back to pension fund beneficiaries? From poor countries where people cannot take a sick day right now, let alone have any provision for their old age, if indeed they make old bones.

This has turned into something of a broad-spectrum rant. I would like to turn to a case study of a happy woman blog and how I have identified or not with it. Heart Felt is a very lovely blog of a very happy family. It is written and photographed by the Mum, who is nameless, though we know the names of her children well and we do learn the name of her husband. I will call the author Heartfelt as that is her identity on the blog. Heartfelt is a superb photographer and a gifted op-shopper and crafter. Her children and her home constantly look so completely gorgeous that you could eat them up. She was always out of my league. But one day I read a reference to her job and realised that she worked outside the home as well as producing such gorgeous children, crafts and homelife more generally. Oh, I thought, she is like me, she works outside home and she wants to value home life as well. I find it interesting that she said/says so very little about her life outside the children and crafts. Blogging is definitely a place where we construct our identity as mothers. A woman who grabs the world from all directions and blogs with style and verve is Nikki at Tales of the Red Headed Devil Child.

I still haven't said everything I want to say, or focused on radical stay at home mum nourishing traditions cooks, but my children are arguing too much and I need to get sorted to watch rugby league, help at the school gala and visit my elderly sick cousin (don't even mention food). I've got part of a room, Virginia Woolf, and ninety minutes with only six interruptions is pretty fantastic, but all good solitary things must be rationed round here...

Thursday, August 5, 2010

world of exhausted privilege

Thanks to Johanna, I have been thinking about this post from a blog called Nourishing Revolution. I will confess I haven't thought about it day and night because there were the hours when I got paid for my time and wondered where I could go for tact school. There are no bottles called
Take 3 per day with meals.
I would pay the money if there were. If you think I display tact on this blog, then that is because I get time to reflect, whereas sometimes elsewhere I am called to furnish a response, an explanation and five miracles with as much warning as a drunkard before he is mugged.

When else did I not think about Nourishing Revolution? I didn't think about it when I dashed from work to Robyn's, collected Brighid and made a note of childcare changes for next week as Robyn also negotiates supporting her own children's special activities and training days for her other paid work job. I didn't think about it when we went straight to kindy and I thanked all the gods that Brighid could not read the sign about a shared meal at kindy tonight which is a very beautiful idea only I don't feel very beautiful; I feel somewhat trashed and in great need of staying in for the evening. Then I went home, had lunch because you can't buy anything on the run which has no dairy and no gluten in it (trust me, in Wetville you cannot) and went BACK to work. Then I went to Sharon's to check she can fill my childcare gaps next week, enquired after her own ill children and thanked her profusely before putting the car into gear and going to school to collect Fionn and pass on apologies that the much improved asthma boy will not be at league practise because he has a protective mother who doesn't want him regressing on the breathing front. Next stop kindy and checking that my wonderful friend Gaylene can have Brighid tomorrow while Robyn is at work and Sharon takes her son to see the eye specialist in Christchurch and re-arranging times for appointments next week so Brighid and I can play stay at home people and go to coffee group in six days' time.

I might have thought about the blog back home this afternoon as I chopped onions and ginger and garlic and opened a tinned of organic beans and then turned everything off so we could drop off some things for work and collect Favourite Handyman. It is a world of privilege, but nevertheless a one car family world of privilege where a ride home at the end of a long day is a treat we like to both provide and receive. Library books dropped off because I haven't forgotten that maths thing the librarian did with me on the new fines and back home to finish dinner and keep the laundry machines moving.

Okay okay, I mostly thought about it yesterday, only I was also too busy getting lymphatic drainage done and attending writers' group (what have I written? hahaha I had to print off a book review from this blog just to scrape by on the criteria of having actually written something.) to write a blog post.

Oh yes, Mrs Whingy from Wetville. She hasn't been harvesting sunshine and smelling flowers this afternoon. Only I did fit in making some rye bread on my lunch break which is pretty back to earth kind of food loving soul nurturing type stuff. Perhaps symbolically, I forgot completely about putting it into a loaf tin until much later in the afternoon and now I can't bake it until the morning.

Isa Ritchie writes in the linked post about her conference abstract: Back to the kitchen: Middle class women's role in a new social movement., this opening line:
Despite the second wave of feminism’s emphasis on freeing women from the
confines of domesticity, a new generation of middle class women are now
reclaiming the kitchen in an effort to take control of their lives and their
health as well as the health of their families.

I'd like to point out, before I unleash my grumpiness on a wonderful idea, that I am deeply impressed with Ritchie's premise and that I think it offers some fantastic analytical possibilities.

First stop: reclaiming the kitchen? Who did you have to wrestle with to get some time back in that kitchen? Come on, pour out your stories, the long evenings of heated and tortured debate where your partner sulked because he wanted to do the cooking (yes yes heterosexual assumptions), the frustration as you wondered when indeed he would finally allow you to do the food shopping, the jealousy when he seemed to have spent all the time finding out about wheat allergies or lactose intolerance or clicky hips or dodgy children or poisonous toilet cleaner when actually you wanted to be that nurturer. Fill my comments box all millions of you.

Next up, also from Ritchie's abstract:
"This presentation will look at the transformation of the kitchen as a place of
confinement to a place of empowerment, [and] explore the role of middle class
women in this new social movement ..."

So once I was confined and now I am empowered. 'Twas blind but now I see? (Amazing Grace for any heathens, written by a slave owner who repented after he made all his dosh and set his sights on the pearly gates. Beautiful song, sung at the funerals of several people I have loved.)

I wouldn't go so far as to say I feel empowered in my kitchen, though I do like to cook and experiment sometimes. I would point out that the food in the supermarkets which doesn't require effortful transformation is crap, that takeaways are not just nutritionally crap but also expensive and that when my children whine and display other signs of hunger, it is a torturous noise which I try to quell as fast as possible as I love them too much and too well to suppress the painful noises with a well placed, firmly held, pillow.

The thing which I think, for me, is empowering, is writing my blog. I make food and they/we eat it. Ditto dishes. I'm not sure I can even bear a sentence about laundry - sometimes my children find the clean washing and use it to play games with in the lounge and then declare it dirty when no one has even worn it. When peak oil hits and automatic washing machines become too expensive, I shall make my family become nudists in summer and mangy blanket wearers in winter.

But, unlike laundry and dishes and meals (and many aspects of my paid work and fundraising which appears to be in peak season round my way), my blog is still here the next day and the week and month after that. In an existence where everything that is practically vital seems to disappear in an instant and need repeating again and again and again, the permanence of my words, the link with the rest of the world, the sense that I can string a sentence together even if I cannot summon the energy or willpower to clean off the toilet roll papier mache pulp on the bathroom basin and windowsill, matters to me.

Thank you to Isa Ritchie who finds women blogging interesting enough to devote her MA to it. That in itself accords a respect to women's voices which I appreciate and applaud. I will probably come back to the food issues Isa alludes to another time.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

crazy purple woman supports...

Our household is going to go dairy free. Whether this is a thoughtful and wise decision or that of an increasingly mad woman already wearing purple, I cannot objectively say. There are symptoms for all four of us which make the project worth trying. Another part of me says "Just buy some bloody tim tams and stop thinking all the time." The latter part is not currently in the ascendancy, though I can feel her getting ready for a slot.

In news beyond my immediate selfish concerns, Child Poverty Action Group now have a Facebook page and are aiming for 500 'likes' as part of a ymedia project. I don't recognise the term 'ymedia' but I do recognise the value of more New Zealanders becoming aware and supportive of CPAG's work. I love the signautre on their email newsletters:

Ka Whangaia ka tupu, ka puawai
That which is nurtured, blossoms and grows.

Another promotion: this time for a group working to give agency to women over their bodies, one which does not seek to belittle the challenges of a body which grows the next generation and all the responsibility that entails, but to support women to make their own choices, to assume intelligence in an adult woman, not to assume that a pregnant woman is a child who must be regulated regardless of her own assessment of her situation. (The issues around pregnant children are even more complex). The group is called Mothers for Choice.

Monday, August 2, 2010

pumpkin or marshmallow?

At the health food shop today, I mentioned with a sigh that we'd had to go to the doctor. For all the focus we have in our house on good nutrition and 'natural' remedies, when Fionn gets an asthma attack he needs his inhaler. The lovely Suzy empathised and noted that when he is an adult, there is something which might help: Puffplus by Silberhorn. Curious, I took away their brochure. Ingredients: elecampane, fenugreek, marshmallow, garlic and horsetail. I've tried without success to germinate elecampane before, and I'm going to have another go this year. Garlic, I always grow. I've been hovering over marshmallow in the Kings seed catalogue; it says that marshmallow likes damp conditions which should mean that I'll plant three seeds and they will take over the entire garden. Fenugreek and horsetail I will have to research further, but the signs are that I can grow my own lung strengthener.

In a garden of finite space (there is more lawn to be converted but not time to convert at the moment), choices have to be made. I think that access to supermarket vegetables is not a problem in the short and medium future, but some of the proposals regarding regulation of non-pharmaceutical supplements do indeed potentially jeopardise access to vitamin and herb supplements. This summer, alongside as many vegetables as I can fit in, is the summer for elecampane, marshmallow and echinacea. This article from the Herald mentions fenugreek as an excellent microgreens crop. Hmmmm.

Meanwhile, as I progress slowly knitting my purple cross-over cardigan, I ogle beautiful amazing ravelry pictures of shawls. I'm thinking of knitting a lacy shawl or a clapotis for myself. That will be next year.

Off to find recipes for rice milk. Mad hippie.