Friday, April 27, 2012

The illusion of choice

I'm reading a book called The Paradox of Choice by Barry Schwartz, and while I have a few issues with his premise, I think he's on to something; people in developed countries in this day and age have more choices now than they did even 50 years ago. Like, a lot more. Advertising and marketing takes advantage of our desire to find the product or service that's just right for us. We can customize something until it's practically a product/service we dreamt up. In Japan, I saw bicycle wheels, earbuds, laptops, CD players, cameras, bags, etc., in every color you could imagine. It was overwhelming. Japan's taken it to the next level, but this is a reality for Americans, too. Barry asserts that too many choices leads to dissatisfaction ultimately, because we're always wondering if there was something better or we agonize over our options. On the other hand, most would agree that they like having choices, and I feel that way with respect to how I live and what path my life is going down. I don't have to get married and have kids right now. I could move across the country. And I can make choices about food that don't conflict with my morals.

But what I've noticed in the last few years is that what we perceive as an abundance of choices is mostly an illusion, especially in the processed-food aisle. When I'm in the produce section, I see organic beets and conventional beets, but in a soup aisle, I see a wall of the same canned good, just different brands (but pretty much all the same company). I have to look at each label and read each grabby health claim and analyze and analyze and analyze...and maybe one of them looks better than the other because the packaging looks more "green" or it has a health claim that stands out to me. I don't realize that I'm buying the same thing as two shelves down, owned by the same corporation, but targeting a different demographic.

The truth is folks, we may not have as much choice in certain areas of our lives as we think we do, and there is some danger in that, especially when it comes to food. Most of us would agree that some of the big problems our country's facing today are at the hands of large corporations with too much power, like Monsanto, for example. We also have to stop playing into the hands of advertisers. Don't take a too-good-to-be-true ad at face value. Research it. Or, assume that if the company has that much money to run an ad 50x a day on every major network that they're probably not what they seem.

It's time for me to stop writing, and time for me to show you some very powerful infographics. They can speak for themselves.

Illusion of Choice (food)
Consolidation of Media

I'm as mad as hell, and I'm not going to take this anymore!

In the last few days, I've seen a lot of news media bashing on Kashi for using GMOs in their products labeled natural. People are absolutely furious and feel misled. TELL me about it! They're throwing away their unfinished Kashi cereal and expressing their disgust all over the Internet.

This overwhelming, negative reaction just goes to show you that most American consumers don't realize that unless the box bears a Certified Organic label, any ingredient derived from sugar beets (anything with "sugar", but not "cane sugar"), corn (xanthan gum, citric acid, HFCS, etc.), soy (soy lecithin), and canola (90% of cereals use canola oil), is most likely genetically modified. I can understand people's anger; I'm pissed off too, especially since our government won't label GMOs and are constantly caving in to Monsanto instead of listening to the literally millions of consumers demanding labeling. I'm just not convinced this anger should be aimed solely at Kashi. Let's channel this anger into action: don't buy any processed food that's not organic or that doesn't have the Non-GMO Verified label, and sign every petition calling the FDA to mandate that GMOs be labeled. We have a voice and can affect change, especially if we let our dollars speak for us.

Kashi's GMO Controversy Rages On
Kashi's response:

Sunday, April 8, 2012

DIY Mushrooms

I stumbled across a really cool oyster mushroom-growing kit produced by Back to the Roots in which used coffee grounds are seeded with oyster mushroom spores and sold to you in a handy little box. All you do is cut some slits in the plastic, spritz it occasionally with water, and watch your mushrooms grow! It's awesome, and while you can get a replacement bag, it's still something you'd have to constantly replace if you wanted a steady stream of mushrooms. I stumbled across Williams Sonoma's new Agrarian line online, and discovered this shiitake log. While it only "fruits" once every 2 months, it's supposed to last at least 3 years. And considering that everything at Williams Sonoma is at least $26000000, it's kind of a miracle that it's only $30. Well, I want one. If I'm going to have a garden, I might as well be able to pick my very own shiitakes from my backyard, too :)

I just finished Michael Pollan's The Omnivore's Dilemma, and the last 50 pages or so is about mushroom hunters. It sounds pretty fun to me, but it's one of those things that you can't really get into have to really dive into the culture and have an experienced mushroom hunter respect and trust you enough to show you their confidential mushroom-hunting spots.  So for now, I'll get friendly with a log. I mean, a mushroom log. I mean, ugh. You know what I mean.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Garden: Phase 1

I have so many other important things I want to blog about, but I can't help but be super excited about my first (seemingly) successful foray into growing things!

I'm moving at the end of the month to a house where I'll start a vegetable and fruit garden, and even though my apartment porch doesn't get more than 5 hours of sun a day, I just couldn't wait any longer. Meet my new friends:

Arugula (edible flowers!)

Marigold (attracts good insects)

Heirloom Cherokee tomato

I planted them a few days ago and so far so good. The Cherokee looked very wilty right after I planted it, but then I watered it and it perked right up.

This guy is a couple of months old, and I already forgot what it is. Some awesome succulent.

I know my love for them is dangerous, since at any time they could contract a disease or pests could be the end of them. But I am so excited and love watching them not die :)