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Summer Season

SO, i’m not sure if you’ll all continue to read my blog. But i’m gonna continue to write even though its not for a grade anymore. I guess this class actually influenced my relationship with food more than i thought it did.

So far this summer (which has been less than a week) i’ve steamed my own vegetables twice and made a new vegetable. The class taught me about eating local, fresh and in season. In that spirit, I bought two pounds of fresh green beans, which are freshest and cheapest in April and May. I steamed a pound at a time, each of which gave me 3 servings. They turned out DELICIOUS!

Then tonight, i made myself some asparagus! I put some vegetable oil in a pan and cooked a bunch of fresh asparagus. I also made some Hollandaise sauce to top it. It was a bit too lemony for my taste, but the asparagus was pretty good!

I’ve eaten significantly less meat than i did at school, although i can’t bring myself to cut it out completely. But tonight, my dinner was veggetarian. 🙂 Impressed?? Here’s my veggetarian dinner: Freshly steamed green beans (without the tops and tails), asparagus, 2 pieces of butter bread, and velveeta “cheese”.

 

 

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Kellogg’s Project

So I guess THIS will be the final week of blogs.

In class, we’re presenting our research topics, which I was actually impressed with. People have been doing a lot of really interesting things with the broad topic of “sociology of food.”

Here’s some info I’m using in my paper:

I chose to look at the 1980s because of the policy changes that happened in that time. Before 1984, the government (particularly the FDA and the USDA) were the only ones who were allowed to make specific public health claims. In 1984, the laws surrounding advertising became significantly more lenient. So instead of companies only being able to say “this product is healthy” they were able to say “this product is rich in _________ so if you consume this product, it will help you in this specific way”. As soon as the restrictions were changed, food companies immediately created advertisements that promoted their product in a different way. Before 1984 there were food trends, but after 1985 food trends changed quicker and increased in quantity. Before 1984, there was a trend in whole grain foods. In 1984 after the laws changed there was a huge push from advertising agencies to eat more dietary fiber because there was a study done that connected high fiber with a lower cancer risk. In 1985, there was an emphasis on having a low fat diet, which connected low fat foods with lower heart disease.

When companies were not allowed to make specific health claims in their advertisements, the government was the only source of information. But when private companies were able to make health claims, it created more direct competition because all of a sudden consumers were looking for products that fit the healthy food trends. It also led to an increase in product transparency. For example, before 1984, there was a claim linking fiber and lower cancer risk. After companies were allowed to make health claims, fiber content in cereals rose by more than a tenth of a gram per ounce. Cereals with high fiber content also rose in sales by 2 million. One of the conclusions I drew from my research was that in order to spread health claims, the government needs private companies because people tend to not pay attention to government notices. Private company advertising is much more effective than government funded advertising. More than people just not caring about government campaigns, two studies I found link nutrition to education.

So in here, we’ve talked about how people in better economic situations often eat better. But studies I found link poor diet to more than just finances. A study done by Texas A&M links geographic location with quality of diet. People in metropolitan areas and the north-eastern part of the country tend to have healthier diets than people in other areas. I found another study done by the USDA that links formal education with people’s eating habits. They conducted this study both before and after the law changes in the 1980s. They found that people with more formal schooling have a better understanding of what different foods do for your body. One of the reasons for this that they site is that government advertisements are found mostly in government places, like a public school. When people drop out of school or graduate, they lose contact with government health information. When private companies were able to share the same information as the government but they were able to reach more people.

Based on all that info, here’s my research question: How does Kellogg’s promote their products in terms of health factors. How have their advertisements changed over time? What nutritional elements do they emphasize? What are the cultural values do they reflect?

 

STAY TUNED!!

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Fast Food is at it again…read on, it’s actually not a bad thing!

Oh, fast food. You’re so funny. It looks like an industry where one entree (if you can even call it an entree) and quality is not exactly at the top of the priority list trying to make some big changes. This past week, Burger King has made a pledge to “cage free pork and eggs.” They also claim to be the first to do so.  But it looks like McDonalds already beat them to the punch. McDonalds already made that announcement two months ago in February. Oh wait. McDonalds never attached a date to their “pledge.” At least Burger King gave themselves a time frame, even if it is 5 years.

This is interesting to me because I think it speaks lengths to how in tune fast food chains are with public food movement and trends. I can remember back when people started to equate fast food with obesity. When documentaries came out like “Fast-Food Nation” and people started to see the ugliness of convenient food, the standard fast food chains like Burger King and McDonalds started introducing salads and offering bags of apple slices instead of fries in kids’ meals. Subway featured “Jared” who ate nothing but Subway for months until he lost something like 100ish pounds. These chains know what’s up. They know how to market their products, I’ll certainly credit them for that! And they know how to respond to consumer demand.

They seem to be doing that again. Enter: hippie-foodie-save the animals-movements. Clearly there is some portion of the population that is drawing attention to animal rights (which I think, and many agree with me, that having happy/healthy animals leads to much more delicious meat!) Even if fast food’s efforts are not completely sincere *cough cough Micky D’s cough cough no implementation date set cough cough*I think it’s really interesting and GOOD that they’re making an effort to acknowledge this emerging movement.

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Sociology is EVERYWHERE! (Also, my schooling is relevant.)

(I just want to say real quickly that I uploaded these at 11:58 on April 20, not April 21…darn wordpress.)

Anyway,

Sociology classes join forces real life, yet again!

So this semester I’m taking a class called Crime, Punishment and Penality (shout-out for that class by the way…its very good). Somehow the subject matter for that class has managed to weasel its way into many of my other classes. This time I read a blog article about how the group called Milk Not Jails is working to create an urban-rural alliance. They want to do this because of the tragic effects that the war on drugs has had on certain demographics and locations. (I guess if you bring the race component into it, I can bring in my Race, Ethnicity and Minorities class into this article too!) I know from my Food class that farming isn’t exactly the most economically beneficial occupation. Farmers certainly aren’t in it for the money. I also know from my Crime class that since the declaration of Reagan’s “war on drugs” there has been an insane jump in non-violent arrests/ incarcerations that lead to a life of recidivism, heavier crimes, and devastation for entire communities, usually minority communities. This group is trying to solve all of those problems with one solution: buy milk.

This group has started in New York, so I’m really not sure the relevance of their cause in other states. But it’s an interesting premise, nevertheless. In New York, apparently the rural economy is very much linked to the prison system. The Milk Not Jails is trying to replace the economic dependence on prisons with the economic dependence on rural dairy farms and agriculture.

I’ve read their blog, and while I think it’s a really interesting idea, I’m not sure I really understand the logistics of how this can feasibly happen. It’s certainly an idea to pursue further though!

 

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Final thoughts

This last week brings us (pretty much) to the close of the semester. In this final hurrah to the study of food we got to what is, in my opinion, at the heart of the food conversation. Who has and who does not? Who is hungry and why? I thought the nuances of the arguments in the book we were reading were particularly interesting. But it made me think of things we were talking about in one of my other sociology classes. (Just fyi, we were reading Robert Paarlberg’s book Starved for Science.) In it, he was arguing that African countries are starving because they are just following along with rich western countries, who can afford to be picky with their food choices. I think there are so many things wrong with his statements. For one thing, he is denying the autonomy of leaders in African countries by making them seem like they lack the knowledge to choose what is best for their citizens. I also think he generalizes way too much by lumping “Africa” all together. Each country has its own leaders that make decisions for their own nation.

 

On another note, I want to wrap up my general feelings about the class in this entry since I’m not sure if we’ll be writing any more blog entries:

I really liked this class because it made me think about food in a completely new way than I ever have before. I learned so many things about where our food comes from and what my food goes through before it gets to me. I’m not sure that my eating habits have changed since taking this class (I still love meat and I’m not a big fan of vegetables), but my mind is definitely open to new ideas about food. And who knows, maybe I’ll even be a salad eater when I get back on campus next year…

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Impact.

Maybe I’m just hypersensitive to food things as a result of this class or maybe this class is having an actual impact on the campus. (I’m not sure which one it is, but I think it might be a combination of both.) It seems like more and more people are engaging in food related talk recently and I’m kind of excited about it! Actually, it might be a combination of things. Here are my hypotheses:

1-      After almost 3 years of being on this campus, I am well aware that the food at SU is not by any stretch of the imagination…satisfying. Some days it’s downright bad. The vast majority of my friends are juniors and seniors, which means that many of them have also gotten over the freshman excitement of making their own food decisions and landed on the same conclusion. This conclusion has sparked some hardy discussions about how SU should/could make the food better, what we’d like to see change, and what we would change if we were Pres. Lems. Long story short, maybe my social circle is the only ones who are talking about food changes.

2-      A potential reality: the food is actually getting worse.

3-      Another potential reality (maybe more plausible): it is spring. This means that fresh food could be rolling in fresh every day, BUT it isn’t. Since we’re here and not at home (which is the place that fresh food does actually roll in every day) we are extra irritable about not having good food.

4-      A for real reality: It is the end of the semester. Everyone is stressed. We need (fresh/healthy) comfort food. There isn’t any.

5-      People are speaking up: There was a survey about food on campus not too long ago, which is the first university administered survey of that nature that I can remember. Maybe people are coming to the administration and voicing concerns about campus food. (Perhaps as a result of this class?)

6-      There was an article about campus food in the Crusader. Coincidence? Maybe. But maybe there’s beginning to be a food revolution in Selinsgrove…

7-      I think those are my only hypotheses, I just wanted to add one last bullet point. 🙂

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Money doesn’t grow on trees…but fruit does

Guerrilla Grafters is a San Francisco based group that is challenging city officials and “civilizationone branch at a time.” Cities nationwide have planted non-fruit bearing trees (called ornamental trees) in order to have greenery without the mess of fruit. The Guerrilla Grafters have decided that it is completely wasteful to have all of these cherry and pear trees—which originally grew cherries and pears—without getting the benefit of fruit. I happen to agree with them and I think their ideas and methods are quite innovative.

Although their methods aren’t exactly legal, I think these graft happy people have the right reasoning. In San Francisco, there is no law officially on the books prohibiting fruit trees; the city just doesn’t give permission to people to plant them. Guerrilla Grafter’s methods? Don’t ask, just do! When a person has adopted an ornamental tree, a Grafter goes to that tree and splices a fruit bearing branch (from a different, fruit bearing tree) onto a branch from the adopted ornamental tree.

Basically, this group is acting on the ol’ “no taxation without representation” bit, only modernized. Tara Hui, the leader of the Grafters, advocates for citizen responsibility for public spaces. But she stresses that this citizens should only be expected to care for public parks, streets, etc. if they are part of the decision making process. Basically, the city isn’t listening to the desires of the public so the Guerrilla Grafters are taking on the responsibility of improving their environment without the help of the government.

The Grafters advocate for splicing the branches because they feel like it will solve some hunger issues that the city is having. The fruit being produced is perfectly good, and since it is on public property no one owns it, meaning anyone can take/eat it. It will provide fresh, nutritious fruit which is sometimes hard to come by. Grafting fruit trees also makes a much better use of already existing trees. It saves time and effort because the trees are already mature so the fruit will reproduce faster than if people had to start from scratch with a brand new tree.

Essentially, the Guerrilla Grafters are operating with the notion that just because someone is in charge doesn’t mean they’re right. The Grafters are working hard to create a more beautiful, healthy and cohesive community.

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Vent Sesh, Deen vs. Bourdain

I like food. Ok, so I love food. But sometimes I get tired of talking about food and hearing about food and hearing about other people complain about food and food people. We’ve been talking about the battle between Anthony Bourdain (aka The Culinary Elitist Snob) and Paula Deen (aka The Queen of Down Home Southern Cookin’). Yes, I realize that famous chefs/ cooks like that influence our scripts for what we consider to be acceptable food, but really, how much influence do they actually have? Just because I watch Paula Deen’s show doesn’t mean that I’m going to sit there with a stick of butter and eat it like a lollipop. And just because I watch an episode of Bourdain’s show doesn’t mean I’m going to completely cut out every type of unhealthy food from my diet. I think it’s kind of crazy how upset people are getting about both of them. I understand that Paula Deen has developed diabetes (mostly, presumably because of her ultra-fatty diet). But really? Leave the woman alone. She’s the one that has to live with it. It’s not like she gave it to you. And so what if Anthony Bourdain won’t let his kids eat crazy amounts of sugary junk food? So what if he makes his kids eat their vegetables? It’s called responsible parenting. And chances are (unless Anthony Bourdain’s children are reading this) that he’s not your parent, so quit complaining about it and go eat your candy bar. I just think it’s ridiculous that there are groups of people that are actually upset about either of these television personalities. Because that’s what they are…TV personalities. I don’t think we should put any more weight on how they sell their show than we do on any other actor. They’re selling a product and a life style, just like everyone else on TV. Just because they’re selling doesn’t mean you have to buy it.

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Mmmm….the color of Red

This kind of natural is a little too close to nature, in my opinion. It has been discovered recently that the coolest hipster-crunchy-vegan hangout in America (aka Starbucks) puts beetle guts in their Strawberries & Creme Frappuccino. Well, I guess it’s not technically beetle guts. It’s actually cochineal, which is really the whole beetle. (Mmm…delicious!) Cochineal beetles (scientific name, Dactylopius coccus) were used by the Aztecs and Mexican Indians to make beautiful red dyes. They put the beetles in hot water to kill them and dissolve the waxy coding found on the females and then dried them in the sun. When the bugs were finished drying, they would grind the carcasses into a powder, which would then be made into the red dye.

Obviously, we still use cochineal for dye. But we don’t only put it in food. We also use them for everything from shampoo, cosmetics, and clothing. And to be fair, Starbucks is not the only monster food company to use it either. Cochineal is also found in the one and only Strawberry Pop Tart.

You ask: Isn’t there any other way for my food to get the same delicious flavor of red without making beetles a part of my diet?! Why, yes! You’re in luck! Instead of putting cochineal into their products, some companies opt for the ever-so-yummy Red #40. This has no bugs in it whatsoever. That’s right! No bugs! Here’s the kicker though. Red #40 is made from coal.

So if you’re looking for saving the planet by discontinuing coal use or you’re looking to be vegetarian or vegan and not eat insects, maybe you should steer clear from red completely. Maybe you should pick a new favorite food color. Or maybe go natural for real and eat a red apple or a red radish. Starbucks might not be straightforward with their ingredients list, but it doesn’t get any more real than with foods from Mother Nature’s garden.

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More Than Just Fat and Skinny

This past week we’ve been talking about the “food revolution” in the United States. It’s sweeping the nation everywhere we look. The aspect that I have found particularly interesting is the investment we have made in teaching young people about nutrition. First Lady Michelle Obama has made it her project to improve the health of children by teaching them to eat healthier and exercise. I think this is a really good cause and I support this idea fully. What I’m not sure about though, is the food revolution’s practicality in general.

Obviously, there is an obesity epidemic happening right now. The U.S. is the fattest country in the world. The rest of the world sees us (and criticizes us) for the fact that we have people who are as wide as they are tall. Jamie Oliver, a British chef, has furthered the revolution buzz with his series Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution. On the show, Jamie comes to America schools to tell them all of the horrible things they are doing to their children by feeding them unhealthy food. Although there is a response—mostly defensive and angry people who want him to leave them alone—I don’t think it’s the response he’s looking for.

But I’m not really sure his way of doing school lunch would accomplish all that much. I know for me at least, I want the ability to choose a piece of fruit and/or a bag of chips. But you know what? Sometimes I just want the chips. I should be able to do that without having the school tell me I can’t. Yes, we need better options in the schools, but honestly, I think our food from elementary all the way through high school was really good. I don’t really remember middle school food, but in high school we had a soup and salad option, two hot meal options, and a cold sandwich option. Pizza, soft pretzels, ice cream, chips, and a ton of drink options were also available. Yes, I know people who ate pizza and ice cream literally every single day. But I think that by the time you’re in high school, you should be able to pick what kind of food you’re going to eat. I realize that institutionalized school lunches might not be the healthiest food but if it fills me up and lets me continue on for the rest of my day, I’m ok with it. I realize that my socio-economic position has an impact on my opinion, because I know I can just go home and have as many fruits and veggies as I want or I can pack healthy foods for lunch every day. But I still think schools need to just offer regular foods that they know kids will eat.

If schools want to incorporate a healthier or organic meal option, I really like the idea of having a garden on campus that the kids help grow. The only issue with that is we don’t live in California. We live in Pennsylvania. It gets cold in October. What happens to the home grown food when its winter? There are some logistic issues in that plan, but I think it could get done. I’m just not sure anyone would put 10 years of effort into changing the system like they did in Berkeley. And I’m pretty sure the administration wouldn’t be all that supportive. Ah, and there’s the problem…

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