Monday, August 29, 2011

Around The Culinary World

Hello again everyone! Happy (?) Monday to you all. For last week’s Around The Culinary World, we were busting at the seams with culinary news and stories. Predictably, one week after a story boom – the culinary world has gone silent. We still have managed to pull a few interesting stories from the world of cooking, and the ones we found are fairly important points of discussion. We’ve got a lot of ‘hot button’ issues to talk about this week so let’s dive in!

Childhood obesity is rapidly becoming one of the greatest health concerns facing today’s youth. Since this epidemic rose to the levels it has today, scientists have been trying to find a correlation between the rising numbers of obese children and the environments in which they grow up. Simply put, the scientific community seems split between the causation of childhood obesity, is it nature or nurture? Is today’s world of mass produced food and additive laced everything the cause of today’s chunky tots or does parenting (or a lack thereof) and a general lack of care contribute to the expanding waist lines? Helene Pavlov, a Fellow of the American College of Radiology and the Radiologist in Chief for the Hospital of Special Surgery recently posted an editorial regarding her take on the issue. You can read her insights HERE.

Personally, I think the answer lies somewhere in the middle. Yes, today’s food – as a rule, is laced with additives, chemicals and very low quality products that are negatively impacting everyone, not just children, that consumes these products. However, no one is forcing these children to eat this way. In the end, it is up to the parents to put their children on the right path. They are the ones ultimately responsible for purchasing the food that hits the table and they are directly in control of a majority of what their kids eat. It’s been proven that if a child is raised on apples and other fruits instead of chips and soda, they will actually enjoy the natural sweetness of fruit and detest the artificial flavors in soda. Kids don’t automatically ‘like’ junk food – they are introduced to it as an easy (and low cost) means to eat.

They key to the last story was low cost – junk food as a whole is significantly cheaper than organic fruits and vegetables. Sadly, some people simply cannot afford to eat healthy. For those living on food stamps, it becomes even more problematic. Certain restrictions and guidelines exist for what can be used when purchasing with food stamps, but a majority of food stamp purchases can be used on junk – soda, chips – junk food. Then, the resulting health costs that arise from these poor eating habits eat away at the health insurance (Medicaid, Medicare etc.) provided by the tax payers. It’s a system where the poor or less fortunate are shoehorned into bad choices (more bang for their buck when buying junk food means they can get more out of their stamps) and then suffer from health issues due to those bad choices. Taxpayers end up footing the bill both ways and the less fortunate never receive a solid chance to get out of this circle.

Recently, New York City’s Mayor, Michael Bloomberg, proposed a change to the food stamp policy. Simply put, he wanted to see the ban of using food stamps to purchase soda. You can read about the ban HERE along with the reason why the USDA (sadly) rejected the proposal. In addition, you can read an interesting editorial on the debate HERE.

Obviously this thought process is a step in the right direction. Change the guidelines of what food stamps can be used for (no junk food), encourage the purchase of fresh foods (grains, vegetables, fruits) and you would be astounded of the positive turn around. The lower class would become healthier, the health care system funding could be spread more evenly and focus less on easily preventable disorders such as obesity and heart disease and a new culture of healthy eating would begin to be established for lower income children everywhere. It’s not as far fetched as one might think, and with a progressive healthy minded President leading our country; it’s a change I think we can expect to see. (Especially given the push Mrs. Obama has been making in changing children’s eating habits – this seems like a logical step).

While we’re discussing food stamps, the question should be raised; is it even possible to eat healthy when you’re living on only a food stamp budget? Karl Wilder, a professional chef from Minnesota decided to find out. He is on a two month long challenge to eat and live on only a food stamp budget. Essentially he has $4 a day to spend on feeding his family (approximately 1.33 per meal). You can follow his progress and see how tricky it can be to eat well on a food stamp budget HERE.

Above: not directly related to the story, but a nice image of food stamp % in the US

All too often, we seem to feature a story about a food safety recall or some form of contamination that has made half of the country sick. (Luckily this week there is no such story to share!) However, another large problem that the average home faces everyday is proper food storage and care. How can you be sure that you are storing, using and cooking food products in your home in the safest way possible? has compiled a handy food safety infographic that covers everything from how to spot spoiled food to how to thaw turkey in your refrigerator. Check this very cool infographic out HERE.

For most of Iowa the youth are back in school. Parents of children from other Midwestern states are gearing up to send their tots back to class as well. That means one thing – it’s time to celebrate! What better way to celebrate than with a summertime cocktail? Check out these whiskey based summertime cocktails HERE.

That’s all we have for you this week. It was light on quantity but hopefully we made up for it in quality! There were some big topics to cover this week – but we think it’s good to bring some of these topics to the forefront. Change is made possible through discussion of the issues after all! We’ve got another full week of cooking planned. I’ll be starting the cooking off this week on Wednesday and Maggie will close us out on Thursday. Be sure to stop in Wednesday night to see what I’ve got cooking. Until then,


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