Food Politics

I read the book Food Politics by Robert L. Paarlberg of Wellesley College.  Even though I didn’t understand or agree with everything, I really enjoyed the book.  It gave a very direct straightforward overview of EVERYTHING having to do with food in about 200 pages.  Pretty impressive if you ask me.

What I learned?  Food is complicated!  Well, food politics are complicated.  Paarlberg seemed pretty conservative and pro-science, i.e. GMO loving, organic overrating, pro-pesticide, pro-every government food agency and the experiments they run, and pro-feed-the-hungry (possibly exaggerating…) His point, I think, being that those who are preventing high yield seeds/farming, GMOs, and pesticides in poorer countries are not helping the overall cause to FEED THE HUNGRY.  While there is a ton of food being grown, who cares how it’s done, as long as people are fed.

I think I get that.

He’s not anti-organic or local, but he does seem to think it’s a bit overcautious and overrated when the world faces bigger problems like hunger and obesity.  He explains that research has been done over and over to show that organic/local foods are not significantly more nutritious OR significantly more toxic (due to pesticides) than any other type of produce.  But he doesn’t completely throw out the importance of local/organic/slow for social and cultural benefits:

It should not be surprising, in today’s more secular age, to find people searching for food rules to follow that express solidarity around secular values.  The new rules that emerge (organic, local, or slow) are attractive and practical only for relatively small subcategories of citizens or often for only a small part of the diet of those citizens–but the exclusivity and difficulty of the rule become a part of its attraction.  The goal is to find and express through the diets we adopt a solidarity with others who share our identity, our values, or our particular life circumstances.  The scientific foundation for these modern food rules may be weak, but the social value can nonetheless be strong.

It was a tough book to swallow, but in the end, I think it’s important to live a more local/organic/slow lifestyle (as much as you can, and you can), but also to realize that that lifestyle (for the time being) is not ideal for everyone, especially for the poorest of the poor.  And in this realization: eating good food for myself and my local community, I ought to advocate for MORE FOOD (any food!) to those with none.

I don’t really know what this looks like.  The issues are big, global, and government dependent.  If a national government isn’t feeding its citizens, then what do I do?  What do you do?

While I currently know little about it, I think I would like to help global communities learn to farm better.  And this starts with better understanding my own farming nation.

How do you navigate the seemingly pretentious food world while also giving to the global hungry?


Tony: My (more or less) Hero

Facebook today recommended that I read THIS article in Forbes on Anthony Bourdain, and so I did (cause I always do what facebook tells me to do).  I suppose I am primed and ready to be inspired considering my most recent application to STA travel, as well as watching Bizarre Foods (Andy totally makes me want to eat ants and grasshopper in the Ugandan jungle), Man vs. Food, and three “best of” episodes of Tony on Travel channel last night.

All that to say, if you really want to get to know Tony, read Kitchen Confidential.  And please send me Medium Raw (and all his other books) so I can read it.  The man is brilliant. He taught me I never want to be a cook and that I want to eat almost everything.

From the article I learned that we all have to grow up sometime, in some way or another, it might be my time… but just as there is little difference between “grown up Tony” and “non-grown-up Tony,” the same will probably apply to me.

Hipster Christianity

Normally, I would put stuff like this on my OTHER blog, but I haven’t posted here for a while… So here we gooooo!

First off, here is a Christian Hipster quiz that most protestant Christians (or formerly-know-as) will very much enjoy.  I took the quiz a few times trying to get lots of different scores.  Then I did some investigating of the book on Amazon, read some of the reviews, etc, trying to get a feel for exactly what this is about, and if I am indeed a “Christian Hipster”.   In addition to all this, I was also given a link to “stuff Christians like: secretly being liberal“.  Anyway, here are some of the hipster quotients that I have managed to gather from my research.  My Personal quotient probably falls on the higher range (80-100).  I find them to be quite accurate:

20/120: Laggard. You hardly even register on the CHQ scale. But fear not: This is not necessarily a negative thing. Your Christian faith is refreshingly independent of zeitgeisty movements, styles, and reinventions.

60/120: Low CHQ. You probably belong to the purpose-driven, seeker-sensitive, Hawaiian shirt-wearing Christian establishment, even though you are open to some of the “rethinking Christianity” stuff. You seem to like edginess in some measure but become uneasy when your idea of Christian orthodoxy is challenged by some renegade young visionary who claims the virgin birth isn’t necessary.

83/120: You are a pretty progressive, stylish, hipster-leaning Christian, even while you could easily feel at home in a decidedly un-hip non-denominational church. You are conservative on some issues and liberal on others, and sometimes you grow weary of trendy “alt-Christianity.” But make no mistake: You are a Christian hipster to at least some degree.

100/120: Extremely High CHQ. Congratulations! You are a grade A, Sufjan-caliber Christian hipster! You probably like Thomas Merton, hookah, and lectio divina. You’re not above self-critique and meta theory, and thus should definitely read Hipster Christianity.

So, there we have it: a little range of how cool of a Christian are you.  I say “how cool” because, apparently, that is what this book “Hipster Christianity” is about: Christianity and being cool.  Maybe I am watering it down a bit, the book hasn’t even come out yet, but I think I agree with the basic idea: Christianity should not be cool as a means to appealing to/manipulating the masses.  Agreed.  Additionally, people should not jump on a band-wagon of ideologies without doing research, reading, studying etc… (Welcome to Christianity?)  I am pretty sure that most Christian theology students will score high on this, regardless of their fashion (even though grad students, in general, are pretty hipster-ish, just go to Allston, Ma).

Now I might be skipping ahead here, but this book, and understanding “coolness” leads to an eschatological question, “What exactly are Christians striving for?”  Because, if we are striving for everyone to be saved, then at one point or another, we HOPE that everyone in the world is Christian (in one sense or another), and therefore, everyone is “cool” per say.  But if that is “hopeless”, then we (as Christians) probably assume that the world is all going to go to hell, and eventually, there will be no Christians to make or be made.  I know, this all sounds rather abstract, but I am actually functioning on a few Scripture points:

Jesus’ prayer for unity in John 17:20-23.  Here Jesus prays that all believers would be unified in God… Can be interpreted in many way, but I would like to think that this prayer is non-exclusive, and as far as I can see, Christians are not unified–is God never going to answer the prayer God prayed?  I hope not…

Then another confusing passage Matthew 24:36-44, there is no way to know when the “Son of Man” returns.  If you assume this passage is about the return of Jesus, and you believe NO ONE KNOWS and NO ONE CAN GUESS and NO ONE CAN EXPECT… Then Jesus is not going to be coming for a while… Sure we don’t know the exact millisecond, but if I say now, “Jesus is definitely coming tomorrow.”  Jesus will definitely not come tomorrow, because then the Bible would be wrong!  (Or maybe just the way many people understand the Bible…)  So when in the world would such a time be?  Either a time when no one knows Jesus at all and does not expect it, or a time when everything is perfect and no no one worries about it, or maybe now?  But I just called it, so it can never happen…

Do the last three paragraphs make ANY sense?

Anyway, it looks like we have a nice piece of pop christian literature that I will probably read in Barnes & Noble before deciding whether it is worthy to buy (and THAT is living ascetically).  What’s funny is that the book is a problem in itself: it is a pop culture christian book for pop culture christians… So, again, we are all buying into the hype… including the author who critiques the hype.

The Happiness Project Challenge

So in my seemingly infinite spare time I began masochistically looking at PhD programs, searching for a second job, avoiding calling and meeting with professors to discuss grades, and not cleaning my closets. I also commenced summer pleasure reading, something done quite sparingly.  First on the list, because it was one of the only things I have on my shelf that I haven’t already read on my shelf: The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin.  Honestly, while I enjoyed Julia and Julia and secretly aspire to possible blog famousness, I am not so turned on by the concept of blogs to books (effing hipsters, stuff christians like, historical tweets, SO MANY!).  However, I am kind of amazed by the concept, and as far as I can tell, if you want to make it, even if you don’t like it, you gotta be tech savvy, and give people the illusion they have a nice peak into your life, interests, and opinions.  And this point  where I begin to do just that.

I have not finished the book, but in the third chapter Gretchen (the author) begins her blog.  Here I learned that to be a good blogger, you should blog every day. This makes sense to me, but to see it written down in a book, only gave me less of an excuse not to write for the public (aka blog) more often.  But there was more to it to that, Gretchen was blogging for the sake of her interest and raising her level of happiness.  So why am I blogging?  I think similar reasons.  I have interests, I have a goals (save money to travel, learn some self-control, and take advantage of as much free stuff as possible), and I like to write.

All that said, the challenge is to write more.  Explore my interests more.  Express my opinions more… Even if no one is reading.

Also, I have learned that for the sake of my happiness I should read Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows again after I finish with Gretchen.

“The Empire of Trauma”

Again, blogging is probably the last thing I should be doing right now, but I thought I would share a couple things… Besides, while I am staring at my paper on trauma on the left side of my screen, I can write a bit about this book that BLEW MY MIND!

The Empire of Trauma is like a historical critical athropological sociology book on how Western understanding of trauma has come about. Basically it persuades you to see trauma as something that  wouldn’t exist without the claim of the victim. You can’t have trauma without being a victim.  Until a person (veterans, women, and children) could “prove” some negative effect, or receive some understanding and empathy from someone who witnessed or experienced the same thing, that person’s “trauma” was illegitimate.  The history or trauma is about legitimizing the claims of the tormented, violated, and marginalized.

Anyway, it blew my mind because it gave me a new lens to understand trauma.  I just thought trauma was trauma, bad stuff happens, and its bad, and we all agree on it.  But really trauma has always been in the eye of the beholder.  Not to minimize it, but trauma is an experience, like any experience, that we have to somehow deal with or make meaning of (even if that is saying it is meaningless).  The authors argue that psychologists kind of killed the survivor mentality of trauma, and created an empire of retributive justice seeking crazy people where pretty much ANYTHING can be trauma–and I want to be recognized and compensated for my trauma, cause, do you know what I went through?

Consequently, we have a lot of people walking around trying to prove who has the worst life.  Welcome to The Empire of Trauma.

Point is: pain and suffering are real, but our lives do not have to end there, and for most of the world–it doesn’t.  Go read or quickly skim the book–it will BLOW YOUR MIND!  I am still not sure if I agree with everything, but it gave me another view of how societies interpret trauma and how that can carry over to the person… which I never really thought about.

Umm… about that paper… :-/