Interesting directives around sugar consumption have been appearing lately. It’s gradually emerging as a focus in discussion around health and nutrition, supplanting fat and salt as ‘public enemy No.1.’ The latest recommendation from WHO (World Health Organisation) provides an easy sound-bite, and could make quite an impact: the daily recommended sugar intake of 5% of daily calories equates to LESS THAN one can of Coke. Coke has long been tagged as a chief perpetrator in the field of sugar consumption, but now stands as a useful benchmark for how much (or how little) is too much. Check out the full article in The Guardian here.
Very pleasing to see reviews/articles such as this appearing: evidence of the ‘trickle down effect’ of discussions about the connection between Cooking and Consciousness starting to filter into mainstream media. Here, in the form of an interview/review of Michael Pollan’s new book: Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation. I haven’t read the book, but it looks to be a continuation of a series of books he has written which broach issues around our relationship with food. In this case, a quite practical, hands-on exploration into traditional strands of cooking, exploring the transformative nature of the different techniques, whilst also hinting at the transformative nature of the effects of engaging with cooking: in terms of home, family, and community life. I was intrigued, yet not remotely surprised, at the dismissive tone of Observer critic Jay Rayner in his review of the book. He appears to confuse Pollan’s ‘pursuit of authenticity’ as some search for an illusory ‘holy grail’ of traditional, authentic recipes – rather than an advocation for a deeper engagement with the act and art of cooking as a channel to provide a more authentic connection with ourselves and others. Sure, this is my reading – having not even read the book – but this is the territory Pollan has been exploring for some time. Check out the full Observer article or have a look at Jay Rayner’s review.
“Food is not matter
But the heart of matter
The flesh and blood of
Rock and water, earth and sun
Food is not a commodity
Which price can capture
But enacting effort
The life work
Of countless Beings
With this cooking I enter
the heart of matter
I enter the intimate activity
Which makes dreams materialise.”
Edward Epse Brown
Once upon a time Head Chef at Tassajara
with thanks to Blandine Bardeau, and Jean Torné, who passed on the quote.
Congratulations to Growing Communities, winners of the Best Independent Retailer award in this years’ Observer Food Monthly Awards. This is recognition for the incredible work this community based organisation has been doing over the last 17 years. Together with a thriving food box scheme, they have established the weekly Stoke Newington Farmers Market as a real alternative to high street food shopping, providing direct connection with food at source, with stalls run by farmers and suppliers of locally produced, organic produce. I had a conversation recently with Kerry Rankine, one of the Market organisers, about the difficulty of generating publicity for an activity which is not really that newsworthy. Running the market simply means showing up, all year round, contending with challenges the different seasons provide, with fluctuation in availability and quality of produce. There’s not much in the way of ‘new angles;’ just a commitment to the simple pleasures of alignment with and appreciation of local, seasonal food grown or produced with care and attention. This award is a tribute to an organisation which continues to ‘show up,’ providing an incredible resource to its community, and an inspiration to others about how things can be done. Check out the Observer article here.
‘The personal is political.’ Michelle Obama spells it out loud and clear in her speech to the 2012 Democratic National Convention, with incredible presence, clarity and grace. Check out the youtube clip here. 13 minutes and 48 seconds well spent.
An interesting read in the Guardian today in followup to a study released which suggests that ‘organic produce is no better for our health than conventional food.’ It’s hard to take such a claim seriously. Invariably studies are very good at confirming the expectations of those who sponsor or conduct them. The only studies I pay much attention to are the ones I carry out myself, in the kitchen: where I notice the effects different foods I cook and eat have on me personally, my energy levels, wellbeing and sense of overall satisfaction. This comes not from just the food itself, but all the steps in between. It’s true, my predilection for foods which carry the organic ‘label’ has softened considerably over time. My go-to source for veg remains Growing Community’s weekly Organic Farmers Market, but I am also happy to visit local fruit and vegetable suppliers such as the Newington and Stoke Newington greengrocers, which are a welcome addition to the mix. Although their produce is predominantly non-organic, it is fresh, of high quality, and mostly locally sourced. Simply having an organic label doesn’t tell the whole story either: I prefer to buy from non-organic greengrocers or local markets where I get a ‘feel’ from the produce, and the journey it has taken; rather than buy Organic produce at supermarkets which can feel just as processed and packaged as conventional food, and often lacks the vitality of Organic food bought direct from the farmer. The article provides an interesting overview of the situation, observing that this is not a black and white issue. (‘News Flash! Life occurs in shades of grey!’) Yet it concludes with a useful statement: ‘If we want food that is good for humans, animals and the environment, the priority now is not to praise organics or to bury it, but to accept we must look beyond it.’ Amen! Read the full article here.
‘The food revolution currently sweeping London has brought with it a surge of happenings that cleverly combine food with art, design and experience. What most appeals about this renaissance is the amalgamation of creative disciplines with something that almost everyone loves – to fill their belly!
Central Saint Martins MA Industrial Design graduate Ploenpit Nittaramorn defies the Tesco/M&S fuelled obsession with shortcut food shopping, i.e. packaged sliced ‘n diced vegetables and pre-prepared everything, with her ice-cream parlour project – a creative food experiment which places the emphasis on food preparation. Reconnecting people with the process of making, her beautiful ice cream making kit contains a pre-freeze marble platter and bespoke wooden ‘ritual tools’ plus the recipe to create homemade flavours from Mojito to Vanilla and Singh lemon beer (a sponsor of her degree show).’
An excerpt from an article on Jotta, with thanks to Blandine Bardeau.
A strong assertion on the front cover of the G2 section of the Guardian last week lead into an article about the impact sugar has on our health and wellbeing, and a very welcome exposé on the dangerous aspects of Corn Syrup as a food additive. The full article makes for fascinating reading. Of course sugar is once again represented as the demon we must all fight against, yet I’m struck by the conflict and confusion this can generate. The War on ‘Terror,’ ‘Drugs,’ etc (take your pick of ‘public enemy’ options) invariably leads to the drawing up of defences. Confronting our relationship and desire for sweetness is a delicate subject, one broached gently, and with some degree of compassion. I’ve had cause to observe my own relationship with sugar over the past few months, which has just been augmented by a short experiment I am just about to take part in. This is the ’10 Day experiment,’ an invitation received as part of the Foundation Course I am undertaking, which involves bringing a certain level of awareness to the food I eat over a period of 10 days. I will be cutting out processed foods in general, and steering clear of processed Sugar, Coffee, Dairy and Animal Products. There are no hard and fast rules, no ‘diet,’ just a few guidelines to follow which will mean different things to each participant. The emphasis is on engaging with cooking, at least once a day, and pursuing satisfaction and nourishment rather than denying ourselves. Of course this is a challenge, particularly when faced with food choices in the world at large, where a quick scan of ingredient lists on the back of food packaging often reveals a frightening array of additives masquerading as food. In starting out on this experiment, I am already aware of cravings I have for sweet things, and I suspect also a level of addiction to processed sugar in my bones, which is borne of my childhood connection to sugary products as ‘treats’ or ‘rewards’ which somewhere deep down I still cling to, like a petulant teenager. So, my intention is to take part in this experiment with a great deal of curiosity, and compassion for myself. To notice the urges, emotions and feelings that arise, but to ask myself what it is exactly, that I crave, when I’m tempted to go for that biscuit or sugary snack. What is it I’m looking for, or maybe, what is it I’m trying to avoid? Sugar is rightfully coming under the spotlight as a major factor in our society’s malaise when it comes to health and wellbeing, but rather than looking to ‘stamp it out,’ and risk drawing up battle lines, I suspect we could all benefit from a little self-enquiry about our relationship with the sweet stuff.
“When a woman of the Ubuntu African tribe knows she is pregnant, she goes to the jungle with other women, and together they pray and meditate until you get to ‘The song of the child.’ When a child is born, the community gets together and they sing the child’s song. When the child begins his education, people get together and he sings his song. When they become an adult, they get together again and sing it. When it comes to your wedding, the person hears his song. Finally, when their soul is going from this world, family and friends are approaching and, like his birth, sing their song to accompany it in the ‘journey.’
In the Ubuntu tribe, there is another occasion when men sing the song. If at some point the person commits a crime or aberrant social act, they take him to the center of town and the people of the community form a circle around her. Then they sing ‘your song.’ The tribe recognizes that the correction for antisocial behavior is not punishment, but is the love and memory of his true identity. When we recognize our own song, we have no desire or need to hurt anyone.
Your friends know ‘your song.’ And sing when you forget it. Those who love you can not be fooled by mistakes you have committed, or dark images you show to others. They remember your beauty as you feel ugly, your total when you’re broke, your innocence when you feel guilty and your purpose when you’re confused.” – Tolba Phanem, African poet
With thanks to Isaac James Bishara, for passing this on.
An article spotted on Mail Online, about Madonna and her Macrobiotic regime: ‘That the energetic pop queen is still rocking stadiums and flexing enviable abs at 53 is in part thanks to a Macrobiotic diet that encourages the growth of bacteria in her bowel which staves off illness and keeps her insides in tip-top condition. Helped by her personal chef, Mayumi Nishimura, Madonna eats a combination of whole grains, vegetables and seaweed with Miso, Soy and Tempeh that help nurture her intestinal flora. This type of friendly bacteria is known to aid food digestion, vitamin extraction and help ward off all types of diseases.‘ Check out the full article here.