Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Corny Lessons

My mom used to have a little magnet up that read "You can never be too rich or too thin". I saw that phrase quoted in a lot of places while growing up in the 80's.

It's come to mind a lot lately. And I think that the corn industry has proved it wrong, on both counts. Although many people theorize that corn is one of the primary causes of the expanding waistbands of Americans in general, for those with severe intolerance it can have the opposite affect. You see, in order to form fat cells, food has to sit around in the body long enough to be absorbed and digested. Some forms of intolerance cause the body to attempt to rapidly rid itself of identified attackers...including corn.

The guru of genetic engineering, mastermind of maize has proven that one can be too rich, at least as part of a corporation. It boggles my mind how one corporation can grow large enough to dominate the food supply. Sometimes it seems that there are connections, interwoven webs with Monsanto and Corn vital strands. Genetic modification still seems very arrogant to me. How can we presume to know enough about DNA and intricate workings of nature to manipulate the gene pool of the food we rely upon to nourish us? With the knowledge that releasing these genes into the open air, they become impossible to contain should come the responsibility to hold on to that particular technology. There are too many questions left unanswered. Why would anyone gamble our future, our children's health and world, on an arrogant science when better options exist? It boils down to money. There's money in new products, new techniques, new patents. Old ways can't be patented, they can't earn residual income.
Where are the people who are supposed to look out for us? Who's in charge? Well, it looks like the guy who convinced the FDA to treat genetically modified food as "substantially equal" to naturally grown food is now a Senior Adviser to the FDA. And the choice for Under Secretary of Agriculture doesn't trust the American public to make our own decisions about what we do or don't want in products labeled "milk". Otherwise why would he have fought to make it illegal for companies that refuse to use rBGH to label their products rBGH free? (And isn't it a violation of our constitutional right to free speech to forbid a company to advertise the truth about their own product? They weren't bad mouthing rBGH. Just stating that their product was hormone free.)

I suppose since our household is predominantly dairy free, I shouldn't stress too much. But I want to know what's in my food. I think that the American people have a right to know. And I don't think that monetary compensation should have anything to do with what we can and can't know about our food.
The truth is that people don't want extra hormones. They don't trust pesticides or genetic modification. They know that general health has been declining over the past 100 years, even if life spans might increase and treatments for disease improve the odds. Our general health and well being has been steadily going downhill. And we know, instinctively, that it's in our diet and lifestyle.
We aren't suffering from a deficit in gym memberships. We aren't suffering from a deficit in food, nor are we GMO deficient and we certainly don't suffer from lack of rBGH in our dairy products (which we faithfully chug thanks to the dairy boards "Got Milk" campaign). There's something wrong with the packaged food lifestyle, and modifying crops to increase yield, decrease variety and monopolize the food chain is not the answer.
We want simplicity. We want truth. And we want to be trusted with the truth. Unless the government trusts us, how can we trust them?

Saturday, July 18, 2009

It's not easy feeling bleh

I think we're dealing with a stomach bug, here.
Of course, on top of 2 months of my feeling like a truck managed to yank out my intestines, run over them a few times, and shove them back in, I'm a little concerned. Is it a bug? Is it something they ate as in food poisoning? Is it something they ate as in allergy? Is it something else? Maybe it's just stress? (I'll stress myself into an attack if I keep this up.) At least it means the floors and laundry are being forcibly kept up with.

Luckily Penguin seems to be doing better. But Bumblebee isn't feeling so hot today. And she was supposed to go to a very important birthday party.

She tells me it isn't fair. I agree.
She wants to know why she always gets sick. I tell her she's my healthy one.
She says she's never going to tell me when she throws up again. I say that's fine, except that she still probably wouldn't have fun at the party.
She thinks they shouldn't have planned it for today. "Didn't they KNOW I'd be sick?"

Sorry hon. We just aren't psychic.
She feels bleh. She's not hungry. And when she does eat, she feels bleh some more.
I tell her there are good things about being sick. Getting snuggles. (She gets those anyways.) Lazing around the house. (We do that when Penguin has a migraine. Duh.) You can watch as much TV as you want. (She doesn't want to.) Er, you can play Peggle, or WII. (She doesn't want to.) Board games? (No, that's not a party.) And you can have as many popsicles as you want. (Really? Really, really?)

For a moment, I think I've struck the silver lining. Her face shines. She's happy. I start to get up and go about my business. A little arm stops me.

Her face is grouchy again.

"That's not fun," I'm informed.
"It means I'm sick!!!"
Oh, right. Sorry!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Why is it so hard?

I frequent several online communities or bulletin boards specializing in dietary restrictions of some sort. Recently, there have been a few friendly polls asking what we miss the most, what we wish we'd known, how things would have been easier. It left me thinking about the different attitudes portrayed.

Some people are given a diagnosis of food allergies, and they embrace the new lifestyle. They actively seek out alternatives and find themselves determined to meet and beat the challenge. Others fight the change with everything they have, determined to go out kicking. They settle for a few symptoms, and appear angry that doctors can't "cure" this named malady. And others curl up in a closet, limiting their diet to the few foods they'd previously enjoyed that remain free of their allergens. Most fall between the extremes, and many bandy about, depending on their level of grief, acceptance and research.

I couldn't help but wonder what makes the transition so hard, so frightening for some. I look back on my journey and see that I've hit various levels of extreme. I've also thrown caution to the wind, and suffered the cosequences. I've fought, and cried, and been accused of eating disorders until the mere mention of one makes my hackles raise. I've embraced, and experimented, and tried whole heartedly to overcome the obstacles growing in front of me.

But somewhere along the way, I stopped trusting food. It became quite an enemy, something that I fear rather than relish. I can remember walking the aisles of a grocery store and being tempted by new treats and delicacies. I can remember enjoying taste tests and can even empathize with those who claim to "eat their way through Costco" on a sunday afternoon. But no longer. Now, I find a new brand of chocolate chips, and instead of trying them out for a special treat, I save them until there's nothing going on for a few days and nothing urgent for at least a week, just in case they bite back.

I yearn for broccoli, or mayo or salad dressing. I long for a simple quick fix meal that is new, unique. Forget the candy and the baked goods, I want a casserole!

But I don't trust it.

I think that's the hardest thing, the thing I miss the most. I don't trust food anymore. It's supposed to nourish, to sustain us. No one ever said it could bite back, destroy the lining of our small intestines, sprinkle our body with itchy red spots and wreak havoc with our digestive track. Not if you treat it with respect, anyways. Food is supposed to enhance the social experience, drawing people together in a shared caloric pleasure. What you see is supposed to be what you eat, not a variety of re-designed, corn derived pseudo-foods that are supposed to enhance the experience. Fun colors and flavors are supposed to be innocuous, but all those rainbow fish and brilliant gummies I used to treat the kids with put my child in bed, pale, sweating and miserable. And me? I think I'm broken. While I desire the quick, the fast, the easy...while I mourn for the past, I wouldn't trust it if it were offered.

Mother nature, or the FDA, broke that trust a long time ago. And it's a hard road back, filled with the painful reminder of indigestion and more questions than answers. With intolerances, there are no firm lines. And there is no FAAN or other organized group at your back, offering knowledge, studies and expertise. Just the knowledge that you aren't alone, and the grass root support of those who are muddling through alongside of you, just as lost but determined as you are.

Friday, July 10, 2009

What we DO eat

Sometimes it seems as if we get caught up in the complicated labrynth of foods. We focus on what we CAN'T eat. Pizza. Ice cream. Corn chips. Those big chocolate chip cookies from Trader Joes. Frozen dinners. Nothing like a trip to a crowded grocery store to make one wish to wallow in self pity.

It's time to take a moment and count our food blessings.

Top 10 foods that I (and the rest of my family) can eat in moderation without regrets.

10. Baked Apples: And who doesn't like a brown sugar and cinnamon topped baked apple? Just because I rarely get around to making them...well, that just makes them all the more special.

9. Trader Joe's applesauce: No one in my family will actually eat this out of the jar (except on latkes, where applesauce belongs) But, it's corn free. Which means that when I want to bake anything that needs a little extra acid, or fruity flavor, or a touch less fat, I don't have to start by peeling apples to simmer for a homemade version. You can imagine how giddy the storebought variety made me the first time I realized this freedom!

8. Onions: Yeah, I know. Not raw, not by themselves. But just about any dish that begins with a few onions, lightly sauteed in grapeseed oil, makes mouths water. :-)

7. Ginger: Candied ginger to be exact. Baked into muffins, cookies or eaten out of hand, it settles the stomach and satisfies my sweet tooth. (okay, fine, so the kids aren't overly fond of it. But, technically, they can eat it. And I love it.)

6. Peas. Yes, I know, kids are supposed to hate peas. But they're green, I can eat them, and the kids love to smother them in margarine. Once they're on their own plate, that corny junk won't hurt me. I can eat them plain, and they satisfy that "not rice" craving. And it feels good to serve veggies to ALL of us. At one time. With only one pot to wash.

5. Dagoba Chocolate bars: Okay, so different members of the family need to eat different varieties. The point's candy. And it's sinful. And it doesn't hurt (well, it pinches the checkbook a bit)

4. Sweet Potatoes: Roasted or fried, a special treat I'm simply forced to indulge in, since I can't eat prepackaged fries, oven potatoes or even chips.

3. Chebe Bread: The garlic and onion variety is to die for, even if you CAN eat gluten.

2. Tinkyada Spaghetti: Just like real s'getti. But better.

And number one, the best, most wonderful food that we have on our collective plate: Homemade Chocolate Chip cookies. Enjoy Life chocolate chips and ener-G rice flour sure do make up for a lot.

And now I'm off to pre-heat the oven...