Category: Food

Giving thanks for the land and those who work it ethically


In honor of the land and those who are trying to preserve/save it from agribusiness, I’d like to give thanks to all those who treat soil, water, air and animals ethically. Along these lines, I’m posting a trailer for this nice little documentary, Land Awakening, about farmers in the Mediterranean who grow food sustainably.

From the film’s web site:

“Land Awakening” is my personal journey to experience hands-on organic sustainable agriculture, turning into the discovering of alternative technologies and approaches to producing and gathering food. The experience resolves to a spiritual reflection into our deep and sacred relationship with the Land.

Inspired by his son’s voyage to learn about organic farming in Spain, Mexican-Canadian filmmaker Raúl Álvarez embarks on his own quest finding how chemical agriculture creates deserts, and Wild Nature provides far more nutritious foods when we stop controlling it.

Raúl’s odyssey expands around the Mediterranean and Canada, warmly portraying compelling characters living sustainably. He meets experts breaking paradigms and taboos on agriculture, wild plants and marketing food, making his journey deeply inspiring.

Imbued with a beautiful scenery “Land Awakening” proposes a spiritual, timely and concrete message of change in our relationship to the Land where our food comes from.

Hip hop video deconstructs food imperialism

[video link] FOOD FIGHT – Kid Battles Corporate Machine – featuring Stic.Man of Dead Prez

By likening food corporations to drug pushers, this wonderfully conceived hip hop video hits all the right notes. As the rapper intones, “Poor diets kill more brothers than pistols,” Vandana Shiva deconstructs the food industry’s nefarious strategy for population control.

As Treehugger notes:

There’s slavery in our chocolate; drug-tainted horse meat masquerading as beef; obesity and poverty co-existing side-by-side and a food industry that fights hard to keep us in the dark about the correlation between cancer and our diet. And we haven’t even gotten to insecticides killing the bees we rely on for survival, or our meat- and dairy-heavy diet contributing to deadly climate change.

This is usually where someone chimes in with arguments about freedom of choice, free markets and personal responsibility. And this is where the analogy between fast food and hard drugs becomes particularly useful. We don’t allow drug dealers to pedal crack cocaine for a very good reason – and we certainly don’t let them put up billboards, advertise to our kids, or lobby congress.

Sugar is as addictive as cocaine. Put that in your pipe and smoke it.

Visualizing journalism with the story of burgers

[video link]

Another great video from the Center for Investigative Reporting. Here they combine top-notch journalism with animation to present a systems-wide perspective on the climate costs of the American burger diet. Not only do they do an excellent job of digesting complex data into a simple narrative, it strikes a good balance between alarm and fact. With a light touch and some humorous graphics, it avoids scare tactics that often drive people away from tough issues.

Cudos to CIR for innovating and evolving investigative journalism so that it can thrive in the post-newspaper environment. Also check out their excellent YouTube channel, The I Files.

Chipotle grammy ad

[video link]

Just in case you didn’t watch the Grammy Awards (I didn’t either), it featured this commercial, which is a fairly good example of ecological communication. By explaining a complicated system with concrete symbolism, this is a good demonstration of how advertising techniques can promote positive thinking. Chipotle, which you may have seen featured in the documentary Food Inc., wants to highlight its “food with integrity” program that promotes the humane treatment of animals and a decentralized food system. The soundtrack features Willie Nelson covering Radiohead. Wow!

For more background info about the ad, Esquire provides in-depth coverage.

Here’s a bonus video. The following vid is the opening sequence for Food Inc. Notice how the narration and visuals are a kind of food media literacy.

[video link]

Hard to digest commercial filet

I’m having a hard time digesting this ad. First off, it draws upon McDonald’s marketing brilliance which relies upon a mnemonic memory device— a simple melodic jingle–to program our memory. The song is catchy and weird, perfect for the Gen X ironic set.

But then the creepiness factor sets it.

How do we reconcile the cute animated fish with the factory-processed soma sandwich it wishes to consume? This has always baffled me: why does the Pollo Loco place have a guy in a dirty chicken outfit outside its restaurant advertising cooked members of its species inside? Or any food product that portrays animals as funny cartoons when in fact the product being sold is something from a house of animal horrors? I guess I answered my own question. It seems as if the talking, cute animal characters of the food industry are meant to create a bit of cognitive dissonance regarding what we eat so as to distance the food’s reality from having any meaningful spiritual connection to our bodies.

Michael at writes:

Fast food advertising traditionally attempts to divorce the food from the animal and factory farm source and make it seem as though it had grown on trees (quite literally in the case of past McDonald’s efforts which have included artificial trees with plastic hamburgers growing on them in children’s play areas). In this case, however, McDonald’s alludes to the true source of the sandwich, fishing (massive, destructive overfishing in fact), but then turns the idea into a dark comedy, asking the viewer to laugh off the absurdity of how a complex organism like a fish (in this case an intelligent, singing one) could have become the “delicious” friend brown rectangle they are pushing into their mouths.

Unfortunately, this fish is viral.

Food porn

Sometimes it’s hard to make the case that most chow advertisements are a kind of food porn, but then the advertising gods deliver us something like this to make our point a little easier.

Media food against media food

Though I haven’t seen Food, Inc., this looks to be another promising documentary about our monocultural food system. The film’s trailer starts off with a quick lesson in media literacy by juxtaposing the images of food market/ing with the reality food production. It should be noted, however, that the top PR and propaganda spinners know that people only remember pictures, and not words. So though the narration does a good job of deconstructing the images of the supermarket, one is still left with the pastoral image of an artificially abundant the food system (I say “artificial” because the high yield monocultural crops we are accustomed to are produced on borrowed time by depending on petroleum-based fertilizer that destroys biodiverse soil– a temporary fix that has long-lasting and destructive consequences on the food chain).

Nonetheless, I really like this sequence and hope the film is as compelling. The montage alludes to a deeper suspicion I have that supermarkets are more effective tools of food system propaganda than media. I urge people to consider the psychological conditioning of the market as one of the primary forms of system architecture.

Sacred spaces of multinational cororpations


Jacqueline Hassink explores sacred spaces of multinational capitalism: boardrooms of banks and corporations, and fitting rooms of haute couture. The above image is from Nestle’s boardroom. What strikes me about it is the far wall, which is the old Mercator map projection originally designed for shipping. In essence it’s a colonial map because of the obvious distortion of land mass that makes Europe and North America far larger than the southern continents.

This is the map most of us are familiar with from school, but it’s probably the least relevant map we could study, except for historical context or as a sample for a kind of thinking. In recent years there have been alternative map makers that have tried to reflect accurate land mass or even turn the world upside down (my favorite) to illustrate that how we map the world is a matter of interpretation. Not surprisingly, Nestle’s boardroom reveals a lot about their colonial subjectivity, one based on what Vandana Shiva calls “monoculture.” Moreover, can you imagine a more sterile, disembodied space for decision making that impacts peoples in far off lands? Imagine the strange rituals practiced in this space of global command and control.

Slap chopping the American diet

Slap and chop your diet? So much for slow food.

Maybe without intending to do so, this video ends up being a pretty good deconstruction of our food system. As a humorous remix of Steve Porter’s Slap Chop, it decontextualizes popular (mis)conceptions of food: that it’s boring; it’s something needing to be done quickly and on the run; it’s a matter of convenience (not quality); a technological solution makes food better; and there’s nothing like a little violence and aggression to improve your diet! The only thing missing is a way to do this in your car.

Thanks Andree!

Pollan: be wary of any food that’s advertised

If you don’t have time to read Michael Pollan‘s books, then at least watch this video. He makes a terrific argument for avoiding any foods that are advertised. This is a perfect example of how sustainability, food and media intersect.

From Democracy Now!:

Michael Pollan is one of the nation’s leading writers and thinkers in this country on the issue of food. He is author of several books about food, including The Botany of Desire, The Omnivore’s Dilemma and his latest, In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto. In light of what he calls the processed food industry’s co-option of “sustainability” and its vast spending on marketing, Pollan advises to be wary of any food that’s advertised.


PS Here is Monsanto’s “sustainability” campaign that he refers to in the interview.

More than boogers and pizza

Speaking of food, there is more to the Domino’s YouTube PR disaster than a bunch of board teens having fun with their cellphone cameras. It represents another example of the denigration of our food system. In Italy this kind of thing would be unheard of because the places where I buy pizza I have a relationship with the proprietor and cooks. We know each other, so through our relationship and human connection, we feed off each other, so-to-speak. We are not engaged in a dehumanized food environment.

The following commentary really captures what I think has been missing in the discussion of the Domino’s story. In it the author links the video with Sinclair’s The Jungle and Schlosser’s Fast Food Nation. (I recommend reading the whole commentary)

Communicative Action: Digital Sinclair:

From the perspective of a media ecologist, the actual food-handling and inexcusable “tampering” are secondary to the communication of the story itself. Upon reading and watching the story on-line, it occurred to me that I was witnessing a kind of Digital Sinclair. The workers, themselves, had exposed the horrific treatment of our food albeit without fully considering the consequences. (They have been arrested on felony charges.) The exploitation of labor was lost on Sinclair’s audience, and perhaps again with respect to Schlosser [author of Fast Food Nation]. Perhaps it was the very exploitation that each man sought to describe that drove the two Domino’s employees to perform their raunchy acts, and also to show them to the world at large. Perhaps the unspoken, psychological impact of thankless and robotic work in the fast food factory environment pushed them to abuse our food supply and then pushed them to cathartically demonstrate it to us. I’m only an amateur psychologist, but in terms of the medium, it appears as though the Internet and it’s many communication environments has taken the printed word, distilled it into the instinctive reactionary elements that touch us at some fundamental level, and eliminated the rest.

We still are given access to the horror, to revel in its raw power, but we are left without the depth of analysis and the contextual treatment that the literate-minded Sinclair, and his modern counterpart Schlosser, provided. The outcome is potentially the same. The sensational aspects of each story are what remain. The YouTube version of the story simply cuts out the wordiness of print and hits us where we react most instinctively. In the gut. If the outcome is oversight and reform, each of these examples spoke to the communication sensibilites of its public. If it’s understanding of the issue in a more complex and interconnected sense, with respect to its impact on labor and the human condition, it most certainly will fail. The critic will shout from the rooftops that this new medium is failing in a very specific sense, but I wonder if that critic might be forgetting the lessons of Sinclair’s experience.

Farmer suicides = data crunch for dinner


Our future?

This just in:

Mallika Chopra: 1,500 Farmers in India Commit Suicide: A Wake-Up Call for Humanity:

The crop failures, which took place in the agricultural state of Chattisgarh, were prompted by falling water levels. Nearby forest depletion and poorly planned government dam projects contributed to the falling water level. Combined with the vicious money-lending schemes that are prevalent in the region, many farmers felt that death was the only option in the face of insurmountable debt.

Judging from mainstream media coverage, the Chattisgarh suicide story is not ranking as critical (sportscaster John Madden’s retirement seems to be bigger news– thanks to the HuffingtonPost for keeping this story on our radar). This is unfortunate, since the mass suicide was probably the most important news item of the year, if not the century. Why? Because if you follow closely what is happening in India, you will see the farmer debt crisis is a sign of things to come for all of us. Farmers are driven to despair through global policies that deprive them of their ability to live and survive off the land. Drying water, peak oil, and monoculturalization are caused by a global debt slavery system that is shielded by the misused term, “progress.” The plight of Indian farmers in India is a consequence of when land-based people are converted into pie charts and infographics in New York and London, whose livelihoods are traded and commodified by financial managers that are unconscious of the casino game reality they are playing. Like it or not, the sock market is a really a video game with real world consequences, so dire that 1,500 farmers took their lives. And this is only the latest of a growing trend.

Sadly, in the global scheme of mediated reality, these are unworthy victims, disposable people whose lives are not as meaningful as the God of Growth that our society worships. Imagine the difference in public discourse if 1,500 stock brokers or celebrities killed themselves, and you get a sense of how inhumane our mediated reality has become. As Vandana Shiva argues, we cannot live in a post-food society. And she is right. So fuck the singularity and global electronic brain if we can’t eat. We have to put the issue of a fair and just food system back on the global table, because down the line none of us will be able to eat data for dinner.

For more info, start here.

A recipe for starvation

We have an oil dependent aggricultural system. If people are not able to grow their own food, then we are talking about the death of civilization, and that is no exaggeration (read Soil Not Oil by Vandana Shiva) because peak oil means the breakdown of our monocultural agricultural system. Democrat Rosa Delauro has introduced HR 875 which will severely impact independent food producers:

HR 875 mandates that anyone who produces food of any kind – meat, milk, fruit, vegetables et cetera – and transports that food for sale be subject to warrantless government inspections of their farms and food production records. These random inspections can be conducted at the whim of federal agents without regard to farmers rights or property rights. Further, the law would allow federal agents to confiscate records, product as they see fit as part of the inspection process.

Agents could also implement draconian restrictions regarding how farm animals can be fed, how fields can be managed and the end result of these restrictions could mean the end of organic, biodynamic and sustainable agriculture practices if these practices are deemed “unsafe.” Farmers refusing to comply would be subject to penalties. (From Nourishdkitchen,com)

A similar law was passed in India which made it illegal for independent farmers to process their food, thereby allowing Monsanto another tool to take over local agriculture (also in Soil Not Oil). Would it surprise you to know that Delauro is married to a Monsanto consultant? Also, did you know that six corporations control 98% of the genetically modfified organism market? Those companies are Avantis, Dow, DuPont, Mitsui, Monsanto and Syngenta (source: Fair Future).

I don’t want to sound alarmist, but this is not about safety but is about control of your food. This is a path towards future starvation. Do what ever you can do, and muster any ounce of energy you have to do something about this. For starters, go to this article for background and links to take action.

Finally, please check out Food Democracy Now! and

Yogurt marketing weighs heavily

Fit Light
I thought I was the only one astonished by the marketing of yogurt as a weight-loss product. With all that fat and sugar didn’t someone finally wonder, hmm, isn’t this a bit like ice cream?

Jodi Lipper and Cerina Vincent: Yogurt And Lies – Living on The Huffington Post:

For over 25 years, dairy companies have been advertising yogurt as a “diet food” and their campaign has totally worked. They have somehow convinced everyone that eating sugary, fruity cream can magically melt away the pounds, and yogurt is now a staple for many dieters. But even before Stonyfield started adding glass to their yogurt, we thought it was one of the worst fake diet foods on the planet. There are so many foods out there that are healthier, tastier and far more filling than a tiny cup of lactose. If you are a yogurt addict wanting to drop those last five pounds, here are some things to think about next time you’re in the dairy section.

Quotable: an eater’s manifesto

Photo of LA billboard by Antonio Lopez
ChangeThis :: An Eater’s Manifesto:

Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants. That, more or less, is the short answer to the supposedly incredibly complicated and confusing question of what we humans should eat in order to be maximally healthy.

We are entering a postindustrial era of food; for the first time in a generation it is possible to leave behind the Western diet without having also to leave behind civilization. And the more eaters who vote with their forks for a different kind of food, the more commonplace and accessible such food will become. This is an eater’s manifesto, an invitation to join the movement that is renovating our food system in the name of health—health in the very broadest sense of that word.

Michael Pollan

Technorati Tags:

Food in defense of your body

I have a cousin who used to have an herbal supplements business. He gave me some of the best advice in my life: the best medicine is the food you eat. It’s obvious to me that much of what is wrong with the US has to do with food, from the industrial production of it which destroys the nutrients of the soil and poisons agriculture, to the artery clogging ingredients of processed foods, to the low quality of most restaurant foods, to the transportation of foods causing global warming, to the imbalance of food stuffs that people consume, to the ill-health and lower life span this causes, to the nauseating taste of most prepared foods, and so on.

Michael Pollen, the one-man food revolutionary who authored The Omnivore’s Dilemma and now a new book, In Defense of Food: The Myth of Nutrition and the Pleasures of Eating, distills some his latest views in this fantastic interview. If you want to know what is going into your body and avoid future trips to the hospital, I highly recommend reading his work.

AlterNet: Health and Wellness: Michael Pollan: Americans’ Unhealthy Relationship with Food:

I spent a lot of time looking at the science of nutrition, and learned pretty quickly there’s less there than meets the eye, and that the scientists really haven’t figured out that much about food. Letting them tell us how to eat is probably not a very good idea, and indeed the culture — which is to say tradition and our ancestors — has more to teach us about how to eat well than science does. That was kind of surprising to me.

It really comes down to seven words: “Eat food, not too much, mostly plants.” What is food? How do you know whether you’re getting food or a food-like product? The interesting thing that I learned was that if you’re really concerned about your health, the best decisions for your health turn out to be the best decisions for the farmer and the best decisions for the environment — and that there is no contradiction there.

Technorati Tags:

Food Is the top product seen advertised by children

It’s no wonder that obesity and diabetes are growing so fast in the US:

* 34% of All Food Ads Targeting Children or Teens Are for Candy and Snacks

* Half of All Ads Shown During Children’s Shows Are for Food

New Study Finds That Food Is the Top Product Seen Advertised by Children – Kaiser Family Foundation:

New Study Finds That Food Is the Top Product Seen Advertised by Children

As the fight against childhood obesity escalates, the issue of food advertising to children has come under increasing scrutiny. Policymakers in Congress, the Federal Trade Commission and agencies such as the Institute of Medicine have called for changes in the advertising landscape, and U.S. food and media industries are developing their own voluntary initiatives related to advertising food to children. To help inform this debate, the Kaiser Family Foundation released the largest study ever conducted of TV food advertising to children.

The study, Food for Thought: Television Food Advertising to Children in the United States, combines content analysis of TV ads with detailed data about children’s viewing habits to provide an estimate of the number and type of TV ads seen by children of various ages.