A Instagram page on food philosophy and affordable health through real food, developed into a series of zines by the same name.
Where Do Bananas Come From?
EAT SHIT & DIE
Chicken of Tomorrow
588. On October 11 I'm giving a lecture at VCU about food and immigration. I've been researching for a little while now and I'm beginning to get a more full understanding of the process the both people and food undergo as new populations come to the U.S.
Food can be whittled down to a combination of ingredients and ideas. As ingredients become more or less available, change in flavor and chemistry, food adapts. And as ideas change, from the interchange of cultures, historic events, and in response to previous generations, food is changed.
Take the pizza for example. A composition of wheat (Africa), cheese (Europe - cows), and tomatoes (South America), it wasn't until after Europeans took tomatoes, long cultivated in South and Central America, back to Europe, and established it heavily as a poor person's food. The poor of southern Italy took tiny amounts of the three, and spread them as thinly as possible to make a meal - a pizza maybe the size of a plate to be eaten with forks and knives, not sliced and eaten by hand.
The tomato was actually introduced on a commercial scale by Europeans to North America, hundreds of years after first invading South America. And the Italian pizza concept was brought with the influx of Italian immigrants to the United States in the late 1800s and early 1900s, where it would eventually enlarge to fit the needs of growing households in the cities, and as Italians climbed the socio-economic ladder, they added meat and other toppings. And as the food became more mainstream in an ever-hurried American culture, pizza started getting sliced up so people could just grab a slice and go. This sliced pepperoni pizza, once never heard of in Italy, is starting to be seen even there as the country “Americanizes”.
I think of this when I consider the versatility of ingredients, especially #bread.
And age old food, made of little more than flour, water, salt, and yeast. Transformed a million ways as the same ingredients collided with a million new ideas. Pita, bun, bagel, baguette, pizza dough, tortilla, pretzel, flatbread. Such different foods made with a little more kneading or a little less water, boiled, baked, and fried.
587. Take #HurricaneFlorence seriously. Take climate change seriously. If you watch the updates, the people speak about it very seriously. But even if it passes without much more than a bunch of rain, once its left the news cycle, take it seriously.
We need to be real about storms and fires and floods. After being in Puerto Rico just days after Hurricane Maria, those are millions of people who will never forget the power of Nature. North and South Carolina have already declared states of emergency and there are talks of evacuating Hampton Roads.
Now, I’m not saying this as an ‘end-of-times’ warning, I’m saying this as a seriously-changing-times advisory. These storms are becoming more commonplace, and we need to adapt. This means sustainable energy, less reliance on uncertain resources, like the electric grid and cell towers. It means more investment in our own skill sets to prepare and store our own food on low technology - technology that uses less fuels and plastics contributing to the change. It means redesigning our cities. Richmond floods after 8 minutes of rain.
That means not being excited about the banning of plastic straws when the entire take out meal is covered in single-use plastic. That means not choosing a lifestyle that relies on so much materials that contribute to the problem. Aka drive less, eat less, eat less meat, eat less things you didn’t make at home, buy less things you know will be trash soon, buy less food that needs to be shipped around the world, buy less food that comes in single-use plastic OR paper, grow your own food. We need to take these more seriously.
The people who are able to ignore the problems and its sources are the ones who haven’t been hit yet. *Yet.* These storms continue to most adversely affect the poor and the black and brown of the world, changing their lives forever.
So i suggest we not only take serious precautions in protecting ourselves and our loved ones, but in a few weeks, when the damage has mostly passed, we need to remember these storms and their impacts around the world, and recognize our current roles in that and what our roles could be.
586. In one of my gardens where I’m practicing “do-nothing” gardening, I ran into an issue with the existing grass. A crawling grass that has been there for a while, along with mint that has taken hold, has created a thick network of roots just below the surface. So all of my potato plants produced a ton of very tiny potatoes that couldn’t penetrate more than a couple inches deep.
I want to get rid of those roots in as natural a way as possible so I’m introducing a bunch of #sweetpotato to that garden. It’s a short vining plant that grows super fast here, growing dense and taking up all the sun for other plants. I have it rockin in the backyard and it’s completely taken over half of the garden, with garlic, onion, and kale growing in between. The goal is to do the same in the other garden, allow the sweet potato to vine out, hogging sunlight from the grass and slowly killing the roots (therefore turning them into compost) and allowing for root veggies to penetrate. Meanwhile I’ll put more sunflowers and whatnot that can grow above ground without needing to establish a big taproot.
Best part, the leaves are edible! Unlike regular potatoes, cause sweet potatoes are not actually potatoes at all. They can be used fresh or cooked (or pickled!) in similar ways to spinach, it’s super drought tolerant and grows so easy. You can already see them forming!
I’m starting these little spuds at each corner of the garden and allowing them to vine out towards the center. When this happens, the grass shoots up seed stalks cause it knows the end is near, just cut those back before they mature so they can’t future spread and the grass will eventually be eliminated.
Meanwhile I’m adding more earth material as I come across it (bagged leaves, branches, etc) that will continue to build up the earth to further improve the soil health for next season.
It’s also about to pour for a week (there’s talk of evacuating Hampton Roads, be safe!) and these potatoes, which I just let sit and grow on my shelf for a few weeks, are going to hopefully work fast and make next years garden so sweet. Not to mention they can make a ton of potatoes to last into the winter and are so healthy.
585. Woke up to a bunch of #spider webs throughout the garden, a blessing to any natural garden. Post 583 talked a bunch about soil ecosystems, how healthy plants are able to communicate with each other about everything from dangerous intruders to upcoming drought. Now I'd like to go a little higher, to just below the plant canopy.
When a the leaves of a plant get chewed on by a bug, the plant can hear it. It registers and responses to the particular vibrational frequency of the chewing, identifying the culprit and releasing a chemical warfare that will either combat the pest or attract a predator that will combat the pest.
These can look different every season, one season it might be spiders, the next, maybe ladybugs, the year after, maybe frogs, the insect - animal interrelationship is complex and makes the prediction of and adjustment to insect presence (by spraying with something synthetic, dusting with something natural, or buying a box of bugs to dump on the garden) so impossible.
I'd rather create the environment that allows for a natural balance. Allowing plants to fall over and intermingle as they will, providing tall stalks that give pillars for spiders to build webs on, and giving ground cover to hunting spiders to do their jobs. I've had two notable 'infestations' so far this season. And in both instances I did nothing but spread manure on the plants, giving them the nutrition and energy to be able to shout a little louder to their neighbors for help. In both cases, ants, or grasshoppers, or ladybugs, or spiders showed up to save the day.
I heard a lecture of a Kansas man who developed a food forrest on previously hot, dry, and bare corn field land. He spoke on walking through his newly developed jungle, a landscape much closer to what the state once looked like before Europeans, and he said the thing that he will never get over is the random feeling of of a wet tap on the back of his neck. He had so changed the environment that tree frogs had moved in because of the increased humidity, which attracted their lunch.
584. Don't fear grains. Modern diet trends would suggest otherwise, demonizing bread when the word "bread" is nearly as broad as the word "plant" - countless varieties, some healthful, some unhealthful, many cut with bullshit before they reach our table - but to consider them all scary is wrong. Rice is another food considered to be bad, but if white rice didn't exist, we would have a different rhetoric. And #corn a gift from the gods to hundreds of millions of people throughout world history, has been spliced and sprayed and "put into everything," which, I won't argue is not great for us or Earth, but real, quality maiz can produce the most amazing diet.
We can get into the nitty gritty of starch science all day but the fact is that the U.S. eats about 1/3 the amount of grains as most countries worldwide, yet is home to the most obese people. I believe that we are unhealthy because of an poor diet but we are obese simply because we eat too much. By poor diet I mean we eat overly processed foods, void of nutrition and health. We eat foods that alone are so processed they are non toxic (toxins are good in food, as they tell us what is medicine and when to stop eating) but when accumulated, their components (salt, sugar, fat, etc) become toxic. But I think the concern of sodium levels, natural sugars, and good fats is one of extreme privilege and a reminder that we are only the most dieting nation because we have the privilege to eat as much as we do.
This will be controversial I'm sure, but I do not believe we need 3 meals a day, or 2,000 calories a day, and that we don't even really need to eat every day. This, of course, comes with many exceptions. But if #IromSharmila can hunger strike for 16 years, we can skip breakfast and lunch without "starving." I think we need to slow down our consumption (of all things) and allow ourselves and our bodies to appreciate the bare minimum, in order to put excess in perspective. Grains have sustained people for millennia, since the dawn of agriculture we have survived almost completely on these enlarged grass seeds. They make up a diet that listens a little closer to the beating heart of Nature.
583. This is my backyard #garden, 100 days apart. This is my first year trying 'do-nothing' gardening, to very exciting success.
When i first moved in, this garden was bare, I had seen it in it's prime, a bunch of big tomato plants staked up in cages and pepper plants that gave out pounds of fruit, surrounded by crisp clean soil. The first garden that I started here, I practiced some age old techniques of irrigating through trenches throughout the garden and burying fish scraps to give nutrients. From this I grew 18-foot-tall corn and sunflowers and a few potatoes, greens, and cucumbers. But away from the trenches and places buried fish, the ground still laid bare.
This year, after a few books and amazing lessons from some great farmers, I am doing much less.
All I've done this year is dig one small trench, scattered leaves, seeds, and manure, and cut back the "weeds." What's resulted, from not disturbing the soil at all, from not adding anything to it that might not have shown up without me, and from allowing nature to do it's thing, with just a little bit of coaching, is the land has come back to life.
The fact that I could grow those massive plants meant nothing, it just showed that I had separated the plant I want from it's surrounding environment, which was dead. Bare soil is the absence of life. I do not fear weeds. Weeds are not a problem, but rather the symptom of a problem - an unhealthy soil ecosystem.
Plants are actually much much much more complicated and capable than we give credit for. They can, and should, fend for themselves. When bugs attack a plant, it sends out its own chemical defense, which either drives the bug away, or attracts a predatory that will eat that bug. When a plant is dying, surrounding plants distribute some of their nutrients to help it. Once a plant is on it's last hours, it sends its remaining nutrients out to surrounding plants. When a plant needs nutrients, it can send sugars down into its roots to feed microbes that produce those nutrients. And when a drought is coming, the roots of some plants can communicate to other plants to conserve water for now.
Last week a San Francisco jury unanimously awarded $289 million in damages to a school grounds keeper, Dewayne Johnson, who developed cancer after regularly using Round Up and Ranger Pro at the school, which gave him non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.
This is the first lawsuit to go to trial alleging that the herbicide's main chemical, glyphosate, causes cancer. The case was rushed to trial because Johnson's life expectancy is so short, but there are 5,000 more cases against Monsanto behind this.
Monsanto responded by saying they will appeal and continue to fight the case, claiming that glyphosate is safe.
While the case was decided using scientific reports put together by 17 scientists and the International Agency for Research on Cancer, a similar case instead defended the use of glyphosate as safe, based on a study put out by the EPA.
Neither case was about banning the product or changing it to make it safer, they were about properly labelling a cancerous substance as cancerous, as done for cigarettes. The second case ruled that, while California is free to include glyphosate in its Prop. 65 list of chemicals believed to cause cancer or birth defects, it would be against Monsanto's "freedom of speech" to require a warning label on its product.
RoundUp, the world's most popular weed killer is used everywhere from backyard gardens to golf courses to millions of acres of farmland. In the case of farms, the people buying the product, at least in this country, are not often the people spraying it. They are usually the undocumented workers that make up the field work. One HALF of the US food production happens on the backs of undocumented immigrants, and then these same people in the fields are marginalized by the legal system because of their immigration status and will find it nearly impossible to seek justice.
It’s also important to remember that Monsanto is part of the larger company Bayer, which has recently settled more cases about having knowingly infected over 20,000 people with HIV throughout the 80s and 90s (but no U.S. media reported on it, only European media).
Boycott everything Bayer and demand your work and school stop using Monsanto products. It’s killing us.
581. Everyone should be #pickling their food, especially people living in communities with unstable electricity situations, people in areas with short summers, and vegans/vegetarians. These are pickled beets and cucumbers from the market with onions from @alexmatzke’s garden ❤️ (with garlic, ginger, and peppers).
Pickling is one of the simplest ways to preserve food, and in my opinion, one of the most rewarding. By simply submerging food in saltwater, you can preserve fresh food for years without a fridge, giving you summer fresh food in the winter, and also transforming the food into something magical.
There’s some confusion over pickling, where most people think that it is food soaked in vinegar. Technically, the misconception (due to pickled cucumbers that come in vinegar) has led to the word meaning that too, but I see that as ‘preserving’ food, not pickling, because it doesn’t really change the food. Pickling, which specifically is known as lacto-fermentation, causes a chemical and physical change to the food, changing its taste, appearance and texture, as well as its chemical composition. Similar to other fermentations, pickling is a process of harboring bacteria that will change the food. I mentioned vegans at the start because this bacteria, in the process of pickling, creates Vitamin B6 and B12 in food, which is the only natural way to receive those crucial vitamins from non-animal sources. And this was such a critical food source for thousands of years, until the refrigerator came around in the 20’s, we didn’t recognize the loss of it.
Additionally, this is the easiest way to save your summer harvest and to be sure you can eat in season year-long without depending on the grossly underpaid migrant labor that fuels out-of-season crops. And when the electricity goes out, as I all-too-painfully saw in Puerto Rico for many months, you still can have fresh food. As similar catastrophes become commonplace, this is a skill I think we all need to have.
580. #Tomatoes are ripe for just a few weeks out of the year. The plant takes months to get to this point, and will be gone just a few weeks after it's done producing, a tiny slice of the year. But this is much longer than many harvests. My apricot tree became so full of fruit that the branches dropped nearly 6 feet down from the weight, but they were green for most of that time, suddenly ripening overnight and they all fell seemingly within a couple days. And since I wasn't ready for it, the birds and bugs got more of that harvest than I did.
The point is that if we all truly ate what was in season, a way of that was once standard, we would be eating dramatically different. But the world has dramatically changed in just a few generations.
Next time you are in the produce section, look at where all the food comes from, what state, what country. It quickly becomes very clear that we are one wealthy ass people to be eating a meal made of fresh food from around the world. That wealth is built no different than how it was built in the 1600s, on the backs of the poor, and on the backs of slaves.
Outside of these few weeks where tomatoes are beautiful and ripe in Virginia, the vast majority of Virginia tomatoes, and all tomatoes on the east coast and throughout the midwest were grown in Florida. It's warm when the rest of the area is cold and it's close enough to ship to. This industry actually started in the late 1800s when someone realized the brilliance of picking green tomatoes and letting them ripen in shipping containers. If you've ever let a green tomato from the garden ripen on your window, you recognize how devoid of taste a tomato which is not ripened on the vine is, but when they are big a red and fresh on the shelves in November, we still shell out top dollar for them, and so the industry continues.
Florida's climate is terrible for tomatoes, tomatoes actually come from the deserts of Peru, believe it or not. And so the humid wetlands of Florida make for bug havens that have to be drowned in clouds of pesticides.
579. If yall remember about 3 months ago (post 552) I was with a few people down in Petersburg helping the good homie @allmypeopledeeper establish a swale in his backyard, here is an update from this weekend!
So his yard is on an incline from the house, sloping down somewhat steeply away from the house. When he moved in a few years back, the backyard was completely desolate. He planted grass seeds, fertilized and watered and was able to get some grass coming up, but then he got chickens that ran through the whole yard, eating everything and returning it to a swampy desert. He then fenced the chickens and we talked about how to bring the yard back to life using a variety of methods, and I told him first things first, we have to control the water. Thousands of gallons were pouring off the roof and flowing down the yard, washing away unused, and eroding the precious topsoil. To fix this we dug a swale, a level trench perpendicular to the hill which would collect the water coming off the house and allow it to slowly seep in water the yard, making the yard into a sponge. We dug two smaller trenches leading straight from the gutters into the swale so nothing was wasted. The 50 foot trench filled in just a small amount of rainfall, and I was excited to see what would come of it.
I finally made it back to the burg to see that with basically no work at all since April, the yard has completely sprung back to life! Cherry said he has never seen it this green before. It’s mostly full of pokeweed (edible if cooked correctly) and “weeds” that are aerating the soil and synthesizing nitrogen and carbon from the air and sunlight and putting it into the land. By cutting the bushes back he can compost and mulch above and below the soil without having the bring in anything external. Now that the land is coming back to life, he can slowly exchange the existing plants with the fruit bearing plants he would like to see.
The biggest proof of the success is the yard directly above the trench is still dirt. Directly below is becoming jungle again, with basically no work at all.