Bite sized wisdom: taste the unknown

If you want to explore our world you can travel, forge new friendships, experience new events, try extreme sports, or simply take a bite of a new cuisine.

What always fascinated me is that despite a small number of basic ingredients, people in various corners of the world have come up with different methods of mixing them to create such an array of dishes with uncommon flavors, textures, and colors.

Another thrilling aspect is that each group has its own unique traditions of eating their national cuisine. In Asia individuals rely on the engineering of chopsticks to transport food from the table to their mouth. Yet, still, most of world prefers the use of knives, forks and spoons, as they provide a more secure structure to move food from point A to point B., when my co-worker invited me to attend a traditional Filipino dinner that would be served on banana leaves and eaten by hand, I jumped at the chance to experience a completely new adventure. The best part was that I didn’t have to travel far to get a taste of a country that is on the other side of the world. Instead, my friends and I drove to a local mall where the restaurant was and got to enjoy a live funk jazz band as we dug into the exotic meal.

The assortment of food was spectacular! Cajun shrimp, fried milk fish, pork bellies, vegetable rolls, eggplant and rice (which served as the glue that kept the yummy ingredients together). For dessert we had purple yam and mango ice cream in a bowl with pumpkin, flan, and other delicious sweets that I couldn’t decipher, all cooled on shaved ice.

Having lived in the Amazon jungle, I was not a stranger to eating on banana leaves, but the food that was served and the ingredients that were presented to me at the restaurant made a huge difference. In the jungle, there is a lack of spices that bring out flavors of the meal and introduce magical notes to your taste buds. In the middle of the green forest, my lunch consisted of cooked yucca and plantain, dipped in salt (a luxury that my team brought from the city), and a piranha fish soup.

Eating the soup with my hands was not easy, especially as I am not good with pulling the bones from a fish bathing in hot water, so I mostly indulged in starch and carbs of the yucca and plantain. much of what we do, what we eat and how we eat is determined by nature. In the jungles of the Amazon, as communities let go of their nomadic traditions and built communities, a rise in population makes it difficult for everyone to rely on nature. There is not enough time for the hunted animals to repopulate, and that leaves a shortage of food, leading to malnutrition in kids.

Living in DC I never had imagined that I would relive the experience of eating on banana leaves, but I did and the food that I tried was simply delicious. If we want to expand our knowledge of the world, learning about our food and trying different cuisine is a good option, especially if travel is not.

If you guys have any recommendations about other cuisines and restaurants that are worth giving a try on this gastronomic adventure, please let me know. Until then, I’ll keep looking out for these opportunities and share my experiences with you. If anyone reading this lives in Maryland, you should definitely try the traditional Filipino dinner at Lumpia, Pansit, Atbp.

Happy eating, friends!

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,


Other sources:

Environmental Impact of Pesticides

More goat meat?

Baby_goats_jan_2007_cropDo you know what is the most consumed red meat in the world? Answer: Goat meat makes up 70% of global red meat consumption! Want another interesting fact? According to Mother Nature Network, this number will most likely increase. The helpful combination of global warming, with the goat’s natural instinct to survive even in harsh places…oh say, like a rocky mountain with little vegetation…means more goats on our plates and in our world.

To give you a better idea of how this might feel and sound, we share with you this video.