Sunday, December 30, 2007

Taos, NM

A somewhat small town spread over a lot of land, there are many galleries, unusual local shops, and outdoors activities. Writers such as D.H. Lawrence and Georgia O'Keefe spent time here and were inspired by the landscape. (I missed out on the Georgia O'Keefe Museum in Santa Fe unfortunately, but I did get to see SITE instead. The current exhibition broke my heart and nearly brought me to tears.) It is easy to see how they could've been influenced by the area, which, in spite of its tourist attraction, still provides enough seclusion, small-town community, and landscape to affect anyone. Definitely a place to revisit on its own.

Friday, December 28, 2007


In New Mexico now, Santa Fe specifically. Lots of snow today. Almost slid the car into the side of a mountain thrice. Sister saw snowfall for the first time.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Winter break

At a nearby coffee place with free Wifi, a rarity in this part of Phoenix sadly. Christmas music assaults my ears. Been given the privilege of planning a vacation to New Mexico with my siblings. Postings will be spotty.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

"Extinction threat to wild salmon"

Here's an example of what is happening to wild salmon right now in support of Nestle's book:
Wild salmon on Canada's west coast are being driven to extinction by parasites from nearby fish farms, a study claims.

Wild pink salmon around the Broughton Archipelago are declining rapidly and will die out within 10 years if no action is taken, say researchers.



I finished my last final yesterday. What a relief. I did well with my nutrition classes, but not so well with my organic chemistry class. Thankfully, there is a "grade replacement option" available, which means I can retake the class and have that grade replace the previous one.

I have to find a good place to visit by car for the winter vacation. Given the finickiness of my siblings and I when it comes to these sorts of decisions, this may take a while. At least I now have time to catch up on my reading.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Some Recent Books on Food

Food and nutrition has been getting a lot of attention the last few years, and there have been many wonderful books that cover these topics from different angles. Michael Pollan’s book The Omnivore’s Dilemma has been getting a lot of attention since it came out last year. I’m ashamed to say I haven’t read it yet, but if it’s anything like his previous book The Botany of Desire, then it is well worth checking out.

I’ve been slowly reading and re-reading two books similar to Pollan’s book in that they deal with different aspects of food – Hungry Planet by Peter Menzel & Faith D’aluisio and What To Eat by Marion Nestle.

Hungry Planet was a project conducted by a writer wife and photographer husband team who traveled around the world and documented what people ate. They provide a photo of each family they followed along with a week’s worth of their food and how much was spent. Essays and photo essays on food, culture, politics, and other food-related matters are interspersed between the family profiles. Hungry Planet is a wonderful synthesis of pictures and words about one of the necessities of life.

Marion Nestle’s What To Eat tackles the problem of how to navigate through the supermarket, specialty food stores, and the confusion coming from the latest dietary advice and news, government policies, scientific studies, and food politics. Nestle talked to government officials, food industry leaders, food advertisers, journalists, food scientists – all in an attempt to make sense of what you and I encounter in the supermarket on a regular basis. At the end of each section of the book (or supermarket as she has organized it), Nestle offers her take on a particular issue and advice as to what you and I should do at the supermarket. Her goals are to help us make informed choices about food and nutrition and to have us give consideration to the food we eat. She succeeds in all of this admirably.

There is one section devoted to the problems surrounding farmed versus wild fish with salmon being the prime example. Many of the fish left in today’s oceans have been exposed to organic chemicals such as PCBs because of waste runoff originating from manufacturing companies. Organic chemicals tend to accumulate and stay within the fat stores of fish. This accumulation is compounded by the fact that carnivorous and omnivorous fish take in whatever organic chemicals were stored in their food, that is, other fish. So the higher a fish is on the food chain, the higher the levels of organic chemicals will be found in that fish.

Salmon are carnivores for the majority of their lives. When they are young, they start eating krill before moving on to small fish that would contain relatively low amounts of organic chemicals. Farmed salmon are fed fish meal and fish oil made from adult fish that are not normally sold at market as part of their diet. They eat and accumulate organic chemicals at the very start of their lives from adult fish that have relatively high amounts of organic chemicals. Also, the farmed salmon’s lifestyle and diet changes the composition of their body fat from a low amounts of total fat with a high percentage of omega-3 fatty acids to one that has high amounts of total body fat comprised of a higher percentage of saturated fat and a lower percentage of omega-3 fatty acids. In addition to being farm-raised, the matter of where the salmon came from plays a part its health. A team of researchers sampled numerous salmon, farm and wild, from different parts of the world for their organic chemical accumulation. They found that wild salmon from the Americas tended to have much lower amounts of organic chemicals than their farmed counterparts in Europe. So whenever we want to eat salmon or any other fish, we should consider the following: where it came from, farm or wild, its place in the food chain, how much fat it contains, and whether it has been listed on a state advisory.

Much of what Nestle discusses has been covered in my nutrition classes and much has not. Hungry Planet deals with food culture and the effects of markets on food – topics that are lacking in my classes thus far. While Nestle spells out clearly what the average shopper should be aware of and do, Menzel and D’aluisio aren’t as explicit in their message, but they do lead you to certain conclusions about the global economy, food, politics, and culture. I recommend these books to anyone who is even remotely curious about food and nutrition, that is, everyone needs to read these books.

Next on the “To Read” List:
  • The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan
  • Eat Here: Reclaiming Homegrown Pleasures in a Global Supermarket by Brian Halwell
  • The United States of Arugula by David Kamp
Today’s Supplements:
  • Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlosser for its portrayal of the US’s fast food history, culture, and business. There have been many positive changes in the industry thanks in part to this book.
  • Super Size Me by Morgan Spurlock if you want to see the effects of a lifelong relationship with fast food compressed into a month.
  • FreeRice because you want to test your vocabulary while simultaneously donating food to those in need.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Nutrition Links

I've put up links related to nutrition on the right along with a handy set of online calculators that nutrition professionals use regularly. The links are some of the main information and guideline sources for dietitians and nutrition professionals. Some sites may be more useful than others. I'll continue adding to the list as I discover and learn more.

Update - it seems that the calculators may not work with the latest Firefox (which is what I use) but I haven't seen any problems with other browsers yet. Let me know if you have any problems.

Update II - the calculators work but a search results window pops up as well. There's not much I can do outside of altering the original code, which may not be a good idea.