What’s the real cost of food?

My friend Marc and I were discussing this NY Times article earlier this week, that purports that despite what many people believe, junk food is not necessarily cheaper than its healthy alternative, particularly for those living with lower-income. While I think that there were some unfair assumptions made about those living in low-income homes (which for brevity, I will not get into here), I do think that author Mark Bittman illustrates wonderfully the two-sided responsibility that is being shirked – by consumers, for making choices not to cook, not to slow down and choose better options (because cooking now equals work), and not demanding more of their food sources and suppliers; and by the corporate food industry, for playing into every opportunity to literally shove their product down people’s throats, making them crave more, and think less, with no regard for consequences.

Many arguments for food reform are one-sided, but if we’re to ever to make any progress, we need to hold everyone responsible for their role in doing what is right. People have a right to healthy, accessible, safe food choices, but as long as we’ve got food being chemically engineered to spur addictive tendencies, marketing strategies designed to manipulate people into repeated consumption, and representatives of food corporations lobbying on the hill, with politicians in their back pockets, the only interests protected are those of big business food. Like Bittman said, we DO have a choice. We not only have a choice to decide to plan and cook our meals, but we also have a choice to demand better from our food, its origins, and our government. We’re ultimately what makes that system thrive, not the other way around.

At the end of the day, it’s not about financial cost. It’s about what it’s costing our bodies and health, our lives, our future generations, and our planet. Sustenance is a right, not a privilege, and it certainly shouldn’t be about putting money in the pockets of those who aren’t concerned with any of the aforementioned consequences. We all have a right and responsibility to understand what’s truly at stake, and to send the message that it’s no longer tolerable.

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FEMA, lunatics running amok on the campaign trail, and baking with a Nyquil high.

Just get me a respirator and a squeegee, I’ll do it myself.

Last Monday night, we had an hours-long downpour of biblical proportions, which I was happy about, because let’s face it-it’s been pretty dry here. Anyway, right before I left for work on Tuesday morning, I had to take the dog out, and for some reason, I took her out the back door, instead of the side. As I passed by the basement stairs, this strange glint caught my eye. Light, reflecting off of…water?! It looked like there was a puddle of water sitting on the carpet. Great, I thought, there’s a leak somewhere. So, I took the dog out, brought her back in, and gathered Andy to inspect the damage. That puddle? How about over a half-foot of water covering the entire basement. The partially-carpeted basement. Long story short, the following day included Andy working like mad to remove the water, and conduct damage control. Later that evening, we called the insurance company, who told us they’d be sending their “storm team” out within three business days (how’s that for vague?) to inspect the damage, and move the process forward. Ok, great. Fine. Meanwhile, the odor of dirty, musty, wet sock was slowly taking over our house. But, we waited.

Thursday, while driving to Andy’s parents house, we got a call from our insurance company telling us that the damage wasn’t going to be covered, after all. Apparently, it’s not in our policy. When asked why the person who initially took our call didn’t apprise us of that information, the gentlemen said, “They aren’t permitted to interpret policy.” What? So, “covered” and “not covered” are up for interpretation? But here’s where it gets really good. Even though the flooding isn’t covered by insurance, he said, we were more than welcome to seek the assistance of FEMA. Slack-jawed, we sat for a minute. FEMA? The same FEMA that didn’t even show up on time when a sizeable portion of the Gulf Coastline was underwater, and people were dying/starving/displaced? What the hell good are they going to do? Show up in three weeks with a box fan, and a formaldehyde-laced camper for the backyard? What a total joke. Looks like we’ve got to roll up our sleeves, and take matters into our own hands. FEMA. Come on.

Bachmann, Santorum, and Perry-Oh My!

Hey! Have a Bible, “drink the kool-aid” charm, and an utterly batshit platform? Then hit the campaign trail, crazy! I’m not going to spend any real time discussing the insanity, as it is all playing out clear as day before our very eyes via every media outlet available, but where the hell are these people coming from? I will say this, however: Michele Bachmann-you were allowed to marry a gay man,so why can’t anyone else? Seriously, though, the fact that in 2011, there are not only people who think the way that they do, but that they bullhorn it wherever possible, makes me shudder.

You know what these cupcakes need? A cough drop garnish.

So, out of nowhere, I woke up vaguely ill on Friday morning. It seems as though I have been revisited by the ear infection/strep throat/respiratory infection demon, for the second time in three months. Friday, it was that non-descript throat tickle, Saturday morning, it was that “Ok, I’m definitely sick” cough, and by Saturday evening, it was that “Alright, so maybe I’m going to die” grip of illness that renders you mostly immobile. That’s pretty much where I’ve been hovering ever since. My days have been spent in a Day/Nyquil fog, with a strong desire to bake. Right, because why not? I can’t breathe, and can barely button my shirt properly, but I think I can steady a hand mixer. I had to make cupcakes for a bake sale this weekend, which gave me my first legit excuse in months to break out the butter, sugar and eggs. And you know what? They were delightful. I should know-I ate approximately four of them Saturday afternoon, right before I fell asleep on the couch for 3 hours, woke up for 1, and then went to bed for the night.

Yesterday, I woke up just as wretchedly ill, but again, wanted to make some more cupcakes. I rationalized this excess by telling myself that I needed to tweak yesterday’s salted caramel frosting to be less buttery, and more caramel-y. Dextromethorphan does strange things to us. And so tweak I did, as well as burn my fingers on scalding hot caramel, and eat 2.5 more cupcakes. There goes all that clean-eating talk. I don’t care-when I’m sick, I have no use for tofu and raw vegetables. I’d like sugar, topped with more sugar, please. And some pixie stix.

Anyway, in the clear, cold light of the morning today, I dutifully packed up (most) of the remaining cupcakes, destined for delivery to two people who have either been promised them, or just need them, at this point in their lives. And I hope they enjoy them as much as I enjoyed making them. But, isn’t everything more enjoyable on cold medicine?

The Public Market.

We went to the Rochester Public Market yesterday morning, which is one of my absolute favorite things to do. If you’ve never been, you should definitely check it out. I love the sensory experience of it all: so many different people, languages, colors, smells, tastes and textures, all intersecting at once. Here are a few pictures from yesterday:

I love people watching at the market.


A sweet old man gave us samples of his golden plums...which were delicious.

Everything around is beautiful-from the produce, to the flowers, to the people exchanging kindnesses over the tables. It makes me happy to be in the midst of it. However, of everything there is to experience at the market, there is one thing that is my all-time favorite, can’t-miss stops: The Nut House. And here’s why:

The Nut Guy.

This is the man who owns The Nut House, and he is, by default, The Nut Guy. Walking down the end of the corridor, this is always the view you have of him, standing out there, smiling, handing out samples of his AMAZING cinnamon roasted almonds, and making cheesy jokes about nuts to passing couples, who always laugh. And I LOVE him. I always look forward to stopping by, chatting for a minute, and then spending too much money on those aforementioned almonds, and whatever other concoctions they’ve got available (yesterday, it was garlic roasted pistachios-SO good). I’ve learned that it’s a family business, and along with him, he’s got his wife and kids there, helping out. And they are all as pleasant and sweet as he is.
Here he is, asking Andy why he's not smiling. This is the same question he asks every time he sees him.

I think I love him, because I love the way he draws people to him, the way he laughs this huge laugh, and smiles widely, despite a missing front tooth. I love his goofy jokes, the way he takes the time to stop what he’s doing in a busy morning, and talk to strangers. And really listen. I wish more people were like that.
As always, we had a fantastic morning at the market, even if we did get a little over-ambitious with the produce purchasing. Here’s what my kitchen looked like yesterday afternoon, when I laid it all out to survey the damage:
Yikes!

So, if you can, go spend a Saturday morning at the market, and enjoy everything it has to offer. Support local businesses, score some great produce, and make sure to pick up some ricotta cookies from the Italian cookie lady. And some cinnamon almonds from The Nut Guy. Trust me, you’ll thank me for it later.