On the documentary, Fed Up, and giving up sugar

Last week Erik and I and our friends John and Kendra went to see Fed Up, the new documentary about America’s messed up industrial food system.

Now, Root Simple readers know that the system is bad already. This is why we like to cook at home and grow some of our food when we can.  It’s good news that this film, with its celebrity backing and a publicity machine, may get the message out to people who need to hear it. But is there anything worthwhile in it for someone already trying to disconnect from the evils of the industrial food system?

Well, the message about sugar was news to me. Not that I ever thought that sugar was a health food, but this film lays out how very hard it is on our systems, how sugar, not fat, not lack of exercise, is behind rising obesity rates as well as the rise in type 2 diabetes and a host of related diseases–and most worrisome–how sugar is hidden in almost every prepared and packaged food on grocery store shelves, especially those marketed as healthy, low fat products.

They also describe sugar as an addictive substance, pointing out that given a choice, lab rats choose sugar over cocaine.

Call me a rat and give me a wheel. I’ve been off all sugar for 6 days now, and while the first couple of days were easy, the last few have been surprisingly hard. I’m twitchy and moody.

This surprises me, because I didn’t think I was that much of a sugar fiend to begin with. I don’t drink soda. Erik and I don’t keep cookies and ice cream around the house, and we don’t have dessert after dinner. Nor do we eat prepared foods loaded with hidden sugar. We don’t even drink fruit juice.* My sugar intake comes from just a few sources: a) almond croissants from the corner bakery (oh, how I want one right now!), 2) jam on toast, 3) squares of dark chocolate or the occasional salty caramel, 4) dried fruit* and 5) kettle corn.

Is that so bad? I miss it all. I want it back. Now.

And honestly, it’s not so bad. I’m doing this because lately I’ve felt a little out of control, as if I’m seeking sugar more often and more consistently, and eating more of it in a sitting. This fast has been a useful exercise in clarifying my relationship with sugar.

Anyway, as far as Fed Up goes, what it proved to me is what I already know: that you can’t trust the government to protect you from corporate interests, and that corporate interests are not our interests, and that if we want things done right, we have to do it ourselves. No new news, right?

And when I say we have to go DIY, I don’t only mean actions within our own homes, I also mean agitating for change from the grass roots level, whether that be fighting to get junk food out of your local school, to supporting bans on advertising sugar to children, to encouraging local farmers and farmers’ markets, because change is sure as heck not going to come from the top down.

Regarding sugar, Robert Lustig, an endocrinologist at UCSF and one of the primary talking heads from Fed Up has a long, science-filled lecture explaining exactly why sugar is so bad on YouTube. It’s called Sugar: The Bitter Truth. If you don’t need convincing about the food system as a whole, this may be more useful to you than Fed Up.

I’ll end the sugar fast in a few days. The American Heart Association recommends that adults limit their intake of sugar to between 6 teaspoons (for women) and 9 teaspoons (for men) a day. That sounds pretty sensible, and I’ll try to keep to that, or less, after the fast. But when you realize a 12 oz. can of Coke has 10 teaspoons of sugar, you know most of us get far more than that on a daily basis.

*Fruit, fruit juice and dried fruit:  This is a little confusing so I thought I’d add a note. According to Lustig, fruit juice is pure sugar, and is no different to your liver than a soda. He’s all for us eating fresh fruit because a whole piece of fresh fruit comes with fiber, and fiber slows the passage of the sugars through the system, and has its own benefits besides. Also, folks don’t tend to binge on fruit, because it’s filling, so it’s a safe treat. Dried fruit has the fiber, but it’s far too easy to eat a lot of it. I might eat one apricot in a sitting, but given a jar of dried apricots, I’ll eat six without blinking. That’s a lot of sugar! Lustig recommends dried fruit as an occasional treat.

Bees Like Mochi

This viral video proves two things:

1. Bees like sugar.

2. Foraging bees aren’t likely to sting.

And I love the way this street vendor keeps on working. If this were the US, there’d be a major freak out, the fire and health departments would be called and an exterminator would show up to spray poison. If you keep calm and carry on you get your mochi and the bees get a free lunch.

Thanks to Winnetka Farms for the tip. 

Pakistan Mulberry Fever

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Let me just say Pakistan mulberries. Now let me say it again. Pakistan Mulberries.  Let’s all repeat that as a mantra.

What are they? The tastiest fruit in the know universe. Imagine a longish, very sweet but ever so slightly exotic tasting berry. The problem: they go bad so fast that you practically have to eat them off the tree. The other problem: we have no more room left to grow a Pakistan mulberry tree. Thankfully fruit tree guru Steve Hofvendahl sold me two small strawberry cartons full of them over the weekend.

Now I need a regular Pakistani mulberry fix. If I wanted to plant one Bay Laurel Nursery has several varieties. It’s mostly a warm climate plant but some varieties do better in lower temperatures.

Here’s what Steve had to say about his six year old tree which he thinks is the “Cooke” variety:

It has totally thrived and become huge.  I have to top back huge vertical branches every year after harvest season and tie limbs down laterally.
And the harvest goes on and on and is not easy, you cannot shake the tree without bringing down loads of green fruit and stubborn ripe berries won’t fall.  You have to hand pick and it takes about 2-3 hours of combing over the tree from all the different angles with the orchard ladder.
Then I soak ‘em in a vinegar water solution and rinse and lay in flats refrigerated and finally weigh the good ones up, the not so good ones get made into delicious juice for jellies and my Jamalade with cumquats and/or habanero.
So it would probably maybe still be worth it to you but know what you are maybe getting into!

Again, the taste is so amazing that if I had the room I’d say it’s worth the hassle of harvesting.

Note from Mrs. Homegrown:  I wanted to add that the odd things about these mulberries is that they have a green stem which runs all the way through the center of the fruit, so when you eat them your sort  of scrape the fruit (drupes?) off the stem with your teeth, then discard it. Not that this is a problem–they’re delicious! I guess the stem is necessary to support their length.

Saturday Linkages: Holiday Weekend Edition

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Sailboat made with Home Depot buckets: http://www.pdracer.com/boat-shorty/50-dollar-sailboat-race/tbucket/ …

Brick wall collapses to reveal giant beehive via @BoingBoing http://boingboing.net/2014/05/22/brick-wall-collapses-to-reveal.html …

8 Takeaways From the Bike League’s Study of Cyclist Fatalities http://usa.streetsblog.org/2014/05/22/8-takeaways-from-the-bike-leagues-study-of-cyclist-fatalities/#.U39XY2qRa40.twitter … via @StreetsblogUSA

Brandalism 2014: 40 street artists. 10 cities. 365 ad takeovers. 2 days.: http://youtu.be/lKRmVwqhEdE 

What happened to the man who made canned rattlesnake? via @BoingBoing http://boingboing.net/2014/05/22/what-happened-to-the-man-who-m.html …

Animal First, Citizen Second: Talking Bodily Politic with Nance Klehm #occupy http://shar.es/VuHNP

Silver Lake sheep shot http://www.theeastsiderla.com/2014/05/silver-lake-sheep-shot/ … via @TheEastsiderLA

Haitian Machete Fencing Is a Real Sport, and This Old Guy Is its Yoda http://gawker.com/haitian-machete-fencing-is-a-real-sport-and-this-old-g-1579082727/+aweinstein …

Confessions of an Outlaw http://boingboing.net/2014/05/21/confessions-of-an-outlaw.html …

An Egg on the Floor | HenCam http://hencam.com/henblog/2014/05/an-egg-on-the-floor/ … via @terrygolson

What Farm-to-Table Got Wrong http://nyti.ms/1nUIJGp 

Always hungry? Here’s why http://nyti.ms/1lIBNIX  via @nytopinion

Granny & Shady Lady: When “craft” crosses the line http://boingboing.net/2014/05/16/granny-shady-lady-when-c.html …

For these links and more, follow Root Simple on Twitter:

Adopt an Indigo Plant in Los Angeles

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Artist Graham Keegan is crowd sourcing an indigo project here in Los Angeles. You can help out by adopting indigo seedlings and growing them out–then harvesting the leaves and joining the other growers for a couple of indigo dyeing fiestas.

We realize this is a highly local post, but it’s a great idea, and we hope it might inspire some of you to do group growing/harvesting projects in your hometowns.

Here’s the 411 from his website, grahamkeegan.com:

Indigo pigment grows naturally in the leaves of a large number of plant species from around the world. This plant, Persecaria Tinctoria, also know as Polygonum Tinctorum, has been a staple source of blue in East Asia for millennia. It is known for being relatively easy to grow. All it needs is lots of sunshine, plenty of water, and some food.

indigo seedlings persecaria tinctoria graham keegan

As an experiment, I’ve germinated a bunch of indigo seeds and want to get the seedlings into as many people’s hands as possible! I hope to spread the wonder about the fact that color can be grown, to raise the consciousness of humanity’s original sources of pigment, and to get people to exercise their thumbs, green or otherwise!

The pigment can be extracted from the mature leaves and used to dye all types of natural fibers. As the season goes on, I’ll be posting harvest and processing instructions, as well as invitations to two separate harvest parties where we pool our collective leaves and do some dyeing!

These seedlings will be available for pickup from my workshop in Silver Lake (Los Angeles, CA) from June 6-8, 2014 (10 AM – 2 PM Daily). They will be ready to be (and should be) transplanted ASAP. I will also have a limited number of growing kits available for purchase for apartment dwellers that will include a suitable pot, soil, and plant food ($12) There is no charge to adopt an indigo seedling. However you must sign the pledge poster to properly care for your plant in order to receive your indigo seedling. You will also receive a copy of the poster to hang in a prominent place in your home, lest you forget about your little baby!

There are a limited number of seedlings available. Please reserve yours by filling out the form below.

For those of you not able to pick up a seedling here in Los Angeles, I am willing to experiment with shipping them directly to you in the mail for the cost of postage. I have zero real world experience with this but have been reading up on the process and believe that it is possible. There is no guarantee that the plants will arrive alive, but I’ll do all that I can on my end to ensure safe travel!

Remember, this is an experiment! If we fail this year, we’ll try again next year!

Please grow along with me!

Graham

We’re going to participate. If you want to, be sure to fill out the form at his website (linked above), and do so soon, because there are only so many seedlings. And make sure to check out Graham’s work and shibori dye workshops.

Thursday Linkages: Mason Bees, Hawks and Robot Cars

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Image: BoingBoing

For some reason I neglected to publish last Saturday’s gaggle o’ links. Here is a belated version:

Build Your Own Mason Bee House http://boingboing.net/2014/05/16/build-your-own-mason-bee-house.html …

Swiss Restaurant Imposes Fine on Customers Wasting Food http://www.ibtimes.co.in/swiss-restaurant-imposes-fine-customers-wasting-food-600131 … via @ibtimesindia1 #foodcrisis

Hawks and Rats in NYC, on camera: http://www.theawl.com/2014/05/where-do-rats-go-when-they-die …

Boxwoods? Bah! by James Roush http://feedly.com/e/KZ4uAoLm

Bikesnob on robot cars: http://bikesnobnyc.blogspot.com/2014/05/its-end-of-world-as-we-know-it-and-i.html …

Urban Beekeeping in San Francisco: http://wp.me/p4fosC-dQ 

Silent Watcher http://www.recyclart.org/2014/05/silent-watcher/ …

For these links and more, follow Root Simple on Twitter:

When the Cat’s Away the Mice Will Play

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Kelly went on a camping trip this past weekend leaving me alone at the Root Simple compound. I took the opportunity to make a slight modification to the homestead. I don’t think she’s noticed yet.

Consider this post an inside challenge. Kelly–I dare you to find what I did. No hints yet.

Readers–have you done any projects while your significant other is out of town?

Kelly’s Response:

So no, I did not notice his “intervention.” Worse, I didn’t even see this post.  Bad blogger, bad. He had to call my attention to it. Then I searched for what he’d done, and could not find it. He laughed cruelly, very amused I could not see it, and would not give me hints. Finally, today (5/23), he gave me a hint and I found it: he’s installed a HAM antenna on our roof.  I guess I just don’t look up at the roof enough!

I have no objections to the antenna, though it is an ugly thing. Yet somehow, it says LA.

Direct Seeding vs. Transplants

How I used to plant my veggies.

How I used to plant my veggies. An 8 inch spacing guide and some seedlings back in 2009.

To direct sow or transplant, that is the question. I’m as indecisive as Hamlet when it comes to this question. Some caveats here: we live in a warm climate where you can direct sow almost anything unless you want to get an early start on tomatoes and peppers. And we don’t have to start seedlings indoors.

Another thing to note–I fell under the spell of John Jeavons and even took his class up in Willits a few years back. Jeavons transplants everything. One of the best vegetable gardens I ever grew was done following his instructions to the letter. But I’m not big on double digging, nor do I look forward to the twice a year transplanting chores.

backbeds

Look what’s growing in the new raised beds–nada!

This year I tried to direct sow the summer garden instead of growing trays of seedlings and I have to say I’m not getting good results. A week of temperatures over 100° F didn’t help. Nor did the long delay getting the vegetable garden planted while I attempted to evict skunks from the backyard. I know I sound like the president of an excuse factory. Let’s just say it’s good that we’re not trying to subsist on our home grown produce.

My conclusion? I’m going to have to go back to sowing seeds in flats and transplanting them out in the garden. It may not be the best practice from a horticultural perspective, but in terms of my own personality and the quirks of our little yard, it may still be the best option.

Dear readers, where do you come down on this question? Do you sow direct or do you transplant? How does your climate influence this decision?