Party and Give Back

Dalai Lama said: the meaning of life is to be happy! This aligns with findings of researchers who say: when you give back you receive joy. For concrete instructions, follow these 3 steps by engineers at Google. The list includes logging 3 moments of gratitude from your day, and will help introduce happiness to your daily life.

Living in a stressful city like Washington, D.C. can drain us of energy and fog our memories of joy. This is why we need to get out of our daily routines. Disco Soupes help us do just that! With all the positive feedback we’ve been getting, we asked one volunteer to share their experience from the event. This is what she had to say:

   “In August, my husband and I attended a Disco Soupe event to support Say No to Food Waste in Washington, DC. At the event, we cleaned and prepped vegetables to be made into soup for the hungry. The produce was donated to this event, rather than where it would have been heading – to a landfill.  It was older, bruised, vegetables that many of us would most likely throw away.  From this less-than-perfect produce, we processed over 600 lbs of vegetables that headed into soup pots, to be cooked and distributed to those who are hungry in the DC area.

The event taught us that good, edible, food can be harvested from not-perfect vegetables by simply cutting away the bruised parts. The communal process of preparing the vegetables with complete strangers also strengthened our belief that there are good people out there who care about taking care of others. It was uplifting to see so many people from different walks of life coming together to help those in need.

This event had a lasting effect on how my husband and I purchase and consume food in our home.  We used to do our food shopping once a week. We would buy all of our food on a Sunday and then, on the coming Sunday, throw away all the food we didn’t consume before we went shopping again. It was a dreadful cycle of over-consumption and waste.

Now, we shop more often and buy less when we go. Heading to the store two or three times a week allows us to buy more fresh food and to waste less.  We are much more aware now of the value of food, our consumption patterns, and are also finding clever ways to ensure all of our food gets used. Say No to Food Waste first inspired us, then educated and changed us, and today we are happier and healthier for it!

If you are curious about the event and wish to experience it for yourself, join us tomorrow at Bread for the City from 6-9PM. It will be an unforgettable evening of volunteering, giving, community building, and being happy! If you attended past events and want to share your experience send us an e-mail at: saynotofoodwaste@gmail.com.

Look forward to seeing you all tomorrow!
Hokuma

 Disco Soupe DC. Saynotofoodwaste.

How to Have a Vegetarian Thanksgiving

Don’t let the turkey centerpiece fool you – Thanksgiving doesn’t have to be a meat-centric holiday. In fact, most of the traditional side dishes, such as mashed potatoes, cornbread and stuffing, are vegetarian in their standard form. A vegetarian should be able to fill themselves up quite nicely on non-turkey fare. However, many cooks, striving to serve unique interpretations of the holiday classics, use meat to liven up their feasts. One might find that bacon has wormed its way into the cornbread, mashed potatoes are served submerged in authentic gravy (made from meat drippings), and a horrific turducken sits at center stage.

saynotofoodwaste.vegetarian.thanksgiving.share.care.give.love.meatless.holidaysBefore I go on, I should admit that I am not a vegetarian. I often feel that I ought to be, given the deplorable consequences of the industrialized meat production system, but that is a long discussion that can be saved for a later post. Nonetheless, I love vegetables, and I find many dishes tastier when the diverse flavors at play aren’t overpowered by the taste of meat. Since our readers are definitely food-conscious, presumably environmentally-conscious, and probably health-conscious, I thought many could benefit from a list of vegetarian dishes that could yield a delicious and inventive Thanksgiving dinner.

Entrée: Carving the turkey out of the meal

  • Vegan shepherd’s pie (or a sweet potato version). If veganism is irrelevant to you, feel free to use butter instead of oil and dairy milks. Either way, the hearty mix of lentils and vegetables topped with whipped potatoes are sure to be satisfying.
  • Pumpkin Pot Pie. Pumpkin, kale, and carrots are just some of the vegetables held together by a lovely flaky crust (which could also be bought in a store, if time is short).
  • Butternut Squash and Asparagus Torta. Preparation might be a bit challenging, but the creative combination of squash, asparagus, and cheeses is very rewarding.
  • Kale and Sweet Potato Gratin. This casserole-like dish is rich, creamy, and surprisingly simple to make.

Stuffing

Mashed Potatoes

Squash

Sweet potato

Cornbread

Gravy

  • Vegetable stock gravy. You probably already have all the ingredients – it’s that straightforward.
  • Onion gravy. Essentially the same as the other gravy, only with the tang of diced onions.

Vegan Desserts* (since desserts are normally vegetarian anyway)

*These all happen to be gluten-free as well, but there’s really no need to bother with that complexity if you don’t have gluten sensitivity.

  • Apple Crisp. Gluten-containing substitutions can be made to simplify this already easy-to-make spiced treat.
  • Pecan Pie. Maple syrup, dates, and cashew butter allow you to skip the eggs to veganize this timeless dessert.
  • Pumpkin Pie. For many, this classic is the single best thing about autumn; and it’s just as delicious vegan.

Reference: many of these recipes were drawn from this list.

Eat up, my friends.
Eva

Hunger isn’t pretty

A world that throws away 40-50% of the food it produces must be super healthy and wealthy, right? No, not at all. Our world is filled with millions of people who are hungry and malnourished. In the USA, close to 50 million people are unsure about their next meal. They have to choose between paying their bills and buying food.

A new series looks at this problem in the UK. “Britain Isn’t Eating” was created by the Guardian newspaper. Through short videos, viewers take an honest look at what it’s like to have nothing to eat. Or have food, but no electricity to cook it with.

Hunger isn’t pretty, and some need outside assistance for proper nutrition. When will governments and supermarkets realize that $165 billion worth of food should be on the table, not in the landfill?

Here’s to being the change we want to see!
Hokuma

Pleasure Study of Food

Screen Shot 2014-11-12 at 10.56.30 AMEver noticed how the first spring roll seems to taste better than the other five? Or how a fun-sized Halloween candy bar is more satisfying than the regular one? This feeling isn’t necessarily because your stomach is telling you that you’re getting full; rather, it’s your senses becoming accustomed to the flavor. Boredom with flavor is a real sensory phenomenon that develops as you consume food over a period of time. The food is still yummy, but its taste-novelty wears off with every bite, exciting your senses less and less.

A study by Novakova et al. investigated how smell influenced people’s enjoyment of food while eating. Participants were asked to look at, sniff, and chew (taking ten seconds for each ‘step’) ten individual banana slices and then rate their satisfaction on a 21-point scale. Half of the thirty participants had congenital anosmia (loss of smell), while the rest could smell normally. Since taste and smell are intertwined, the idea behind removing the aroma factor was to isolate the food’s flavor and its pleasure effects. Quick semantic note: taste is the way your body interprets a food’s objective flavor.

As expected, the control (‘normal’) group demonstrated a clear decrease in enjoyment as participants made their way through the ten slices. More noteworthy was the fact that the anosmic group continuously gave higher satisfaction ratings than the control group. Not only did they rate that the food tasted better initially, but their pleasure ratings waned to a lesser degree than those of the control. One proposed reason for this is that the absence of the smell lessened the overall habituation effect that normally causes loss of flavor appreciation. Another possibility is that, much like how blind people tend to have better hearing, anosmics have a more receptive palate. In any case, the study shows how our senses influence our perception of flavor and dull to its enjoyment as we eat.

Screen Shot 2014-11-12 at 10.57.29 AMWhile the effect of prolonged sensory stimulation is really interesting in itself, recognizing it could also be helpful in preventing food waste. For instance, when many people say that they’re ‘full’ from a dish, they mean, “I have satisfied myself with this taste,” rather than, “My stomach has been filled.” They might even proceed to another course, typically dessert, to provide their senses with new delights. This becomes a problem if the initial meal wasn’t finished and its leftovers aren’t saved: food is wasted simply because the eater got bored. However, people who frequently find themselves in this situation can easily resolve it. If, for whatever reason, saving leftovers isn’t an option, simply take less food to begin with. Other options are to share with friends or assemble a diverse plate, full of small portions of unique flavors that will, hopefully, encourage you to finish what you have.

Cherish your food and relish the experience of eating it.

Eva

Monoculture harms sustainability

Socrates once said: “He is richest who is content with the least, for content is the wealth of nature.”

monoculture.saynotofoodwaste.sustainability.food.travel.happy.share.care.greenIn today’s world the rich are getting richer, and the poor are getting more poor. What is causing this? That’s the question on many minds. A broken food system and simple human greed are all plausible answers. But one thing overlooked is our human tendency for social acceptance. The need to fit in, despite wanting to retain our individuality, has created many negative outcomes. Unfortunately, globalization only propels this change.

Emma Marsh, of Love Food Hate Waste, spoke at the BBC Farming Today show. She mentioned that consumers waste 25 per cent of purchased food. Of the 16 million tons of food that’s wasted, half is generated by households.

Whether cooking too much, or buying too much, wealthier consumers have a larger dispensable income. This income is spent on buying more products at the store, even if most of the hauled away items end up in trashcans. Increased consumer choice and affluence are just some of the reasons for all this food waste.

Another worrisome trend is the changing diet of affluent individuals living in developing countries. As Guardian pointed out: “Economic growth, urbanization and rising affluence are increasingly bringing with them higher demand for convenient, processed foods, for meat, and for dairy products – in short, a more western diet.”

saynotofoodwaste.travel.happy.share.care.love.give.food.culture.monocultureIf the trend continues, we will need to double our production of food by 2050. With depleting resources, this is simply impossible. What is possible, however, is changing societal norms. We need to take a step back from the monoculture of farming, eating, dressing, and other western standards that get copied worldwide. Doing so will strengthen local traditions, and ensure that we continue living in a diverse and sustainable world.

Where else but in cities can we meet people of different backgrounds and get acquainted with new things? Those who can afford it ought to spend money on travel, as it enriches life beyond any item available in store. As always, Mark Twain was right when he said: “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness.”

Here’s to staying true to ourselves!

Much love,
Hokuma

Pesticides in Agriculture: Why You Should Care

pic2First, a general introduction: pesticides are chemical substances used to repel or kill pests. Most people think of them as insecticides, but pesticides also target non-insect animals, weeds, fungi, bacteria, algae, and viruses. While the focus of this post is on their use in agriculture, pesticides actually have a wide variety of applications, ranging from: killing vector-borne diseases in public drinking-water containers to household cleaning supplies.

Farmers use pesticides to keep animals, weeds, and diseases from endangering their crops. Pesticides are common in modern agriculture because most agroecosystems have been developed as monocultures, which are easy targets for pests. Synthetic repellants aren’t cheap, though, some farmers concentrate their use on highest-valued like grains, rather than most-harvested crops – fruits and vegetables. Hence, those wary of pesticides emphasize washing fruits and vegetables, not bread.

However, it is important to recognize that pesticides aren’t the only means of pest control. There are a number of natural, as well as, physical farming techniques that are just as, if not more, effective at protecting crops. Fallowing, rotating crops, weeding by hand, erecting physical barriers, strategically growing trap or companion plants, and permitting beneficial predators, are all examples of pest-deterring practices that are more ecologically beneficial and cost-efficient than pesticides.

So, is money the primary concern in the pesticide debate? Absolutely not. The indirect costs to humanity and environment are the main problems: food insecurity, human health detriment, water contamination, air pollution, and non-target species endangerment are some of the most pressing issues.

  • Food insecurity: Pesticides are meant to help farmers yield larger harvests by removing threats to crops. However, many pests, namely insects, are adept at developing chemical resistance. The ironic consequence is that farmers, having destroyed or neglected organic pest control methods in favor of pesticides, suffer even larger infestations of pests that are no longer deterred by the chemicals coating on the crops.

  • Human health: External contact with pesticides can burn the skin and eyes, while ingestion – airborne or foodborne – can cause carcinogenic, neurological, reproductive, and immune-system damage. Pesticides can be highly poisonous, causing an estimated 220,000 human deaths per year. Additionally, disease vectors, such as malaria-ridden mosquitoes, are made even bigger threats to human health because they can develop chemical resistance.

  • Water contamination: Whether introduced via run-off, leaching, spillage, or otherwise, pesticides can dangerously elevate toxicity levels in bodies of water. Toxicity can render groundwater undrinkable and make aquatic ecosystems uninhabitable to certain species.

  • Air pollution: When pesticides are sprayed onto a patch of land, some chemicals linger in the air and can be spread miles away by wind currents. This brings non-target animals and plants as well as humans into contact with toxic materials. Moreover, pesticide chemical reactions with compounds present in air account for 6% of tropospheric ozone, better known as smog, and contribute to acid rain.

I should mention that all is not as bad as I’ve made it seem. The EPA and similar agencies around the world undertake rigorous testing of pesticides and only permit them with strict usage guidelines. Moreover, consuming food that’s grown with pesticides is unlikely to kill you. Most deaths from poisoning are associated with substance mismanagement in underdeveloped countries. As one EPA brochure puts it:

“Because most crops are treated with pesticides at least some of the time, foods you buy at the grocery store may contain small traces of pesticide residues. Pesticide levels tend to decline over time because the residues break down and because crops are usually washed and processed before reaching the marketplace. So, while we all consume small amounts of pesticides regularly, levels in our food generally are well below legal limits by the time the food reaches the grocery shelves.”

Here are my points: pesticides are quite dangerous, and their use doesn’t seem justified when one considers the abundance of alternative pest control mechanisms and methods. It is worth supporting those growers who abstain from using synthetic pest control substances. Nevertheless, there is significant regulation in place to prevent mass diffusion of chemicals; so consuming food that isn’t certified organic is not going to seriously endanger your health.

Just something to consider,

Eva

Other sources:

Environmental Impact of Pesticides

Healthy and Sustainable on Halloween

Pumpkins, fall colors, scary jack-o’-lanterns and pounds of candy!

Highlights of the deliciously scary day are abundant. For Americans, October 31st is the day of celebrating their inner child. Dressed in scary, or sexy costumes, adults and kids alike stroll the streets and neighborhoods in search of candy. Of course, for adults it’s usually ‘eye candy’ that really motivates the evening plans.

Either way, one thing far from people’s minds on Hallow’s Eve is food waste. Yet, as a very scary topic, I’m surprised it’s not adequately covered.

final pumpkin

A Statistic like this: ‘95% of pumpkins sold on Halloween are wasted, with 5% re-used in meals,’ is scary! In UK, 18,000 tons of pumpkins end up in landfills after all the ghosts go home.

With so much hunger and malnutrition, these pumpkins can serve a higher purpose than decoration. For a vegetable, there’s no worse a death than failure to meet your life’s purpose to nourish a soul.

Another concern on Halloween is the rate at which Americans consume candy. Colorful chocolates, shiny wrappers and cocaine like addiction, drives adults and children to overindulged in sugar. Considering that on a daily basis Americans consume TRIPLE the World Health Organization (WHO) suggested sugar dosage, is it really necessary to set aside an annual day to celebrate a fructose overdose?

boo.scary.halloween.healthy.candy.sugar.sweets.trickortreat.saynotofoodwaste.foodwaste.hunger.share.care.sustainableSugar leads to many health diseases, including obesity and diabetes. To limit these effects, here’s an idea for the concerned parent. Instead of throwing away your pumpkins, celebrate Halloween with a home-cooked meal. Try something exotic, such as Azerbaijani Qutabs with Pumpkin! You’ll not only expand the life of this fall vegetable, but enrich your child’s palette. As for sugar, switch from sugar rich sweets to more nutritious options, like baked goods. An oatmeal cupcake, or a homemade apple pie will be less harmful than processed candy.

If you don’t have time for baking, check out these delicious alternatives to hand out on Halloween. Whatever comes your way, I wish you a great time with family and friends! Have fun and stay safe!

Happy trick or treating!
Hokuma

Rediscovery of Food

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