Archive for April, 2007

Refined tastes


I have been talking a lot about eating organic and eating local, and eating less meat.  Continuing on the subject of reducing the environmental impact of food, I want to talk about another aspect that has recently been on my mind – refined foods. I am, especially, referring to flour, bread, rice and sugar.

Refining grains, including rice and wheat, consists in the mechanic removal of the germ and the bran, leaving only the endosperm, the starch. As such, refined grains not only loose 90% of their nutritional value and fiber, they also consume a considerably larger amount of energy to produce than whole grains. If this was not bad enough, there is more. White rice grains are polished with glucose, starch or talc (which has been linked to stomach cancer and is still used in some countries), making it nice and shiny.

White flower, in turn, is only white because it’s bleached with ” potassium bromate, benzoyl peroxide  or chlorine dioxide gas. Potassium bromate is also known as Bromic Acid or Potassium Salt. It’s an oxidizing agent, can be fatal if swallowed, is harmful if inhaled or absorbed through the skin and may also cause kidney damage. Benzoyl peroxide is another irritant that can kill animals, birds, or fish, and cause death or low growth rate in plants. Chlorine Dioxide is also a pesticide and even though it breaks down very quickly, it is ranked in the USA as one of the compounds most hazardous to the environment.”[green living tips].

And that’s not the end of the story. Since all nutrients have been removed from the refined product, these are then often added back as synthetic vitamins, with the associated impact of producing them industrially. To add to the creepiness factor, nutrients are often ‘sprayed’ into the bread mixture.

My beef with refined sugar comes from the way it’s made, which involves either adding sulphur dioxide or phosphoric acid and calcium hydroxide, centrifuging and vaccum crystallizing. And brown sugar? I have been shamefully duped  into buying brown sugar, innocently believing that it was less refined than white sugar, and hence, better for the environment. But NO!!! Turns out, most of the brown sugar, including the one I have been buying, is actually produced by adding molasses/dye to … you guessed it…. refined white sugar! What a scam….

Now that I know the truth, I am know that, as a self-respecting  wannabe environmentalist, I have to take some drastic measures and pledging all refined things out of my life!

Rice grains by IRRI on Flickr.

April 27, 2007 at 1:59 pm 11 comments

The only good peach…

 The only good peach is an organic peach

…. is an organic peach! 

Continuing on the organic topic, I found this post on Chick Lit about what conventionally grown products are especially rich in …. no, not vitamins… pesticides 😀

I have to admit that I am quite ignorant about what can befal you from eating pesticides for breakfast lunch and dinner, but I can guess that none of it is good things. There is the age old portuguese addagio that goes ‘What doesn’t kill you makes you fat’ (maybe that’s where the ‘stronger’ comes from). Whether or not pesticides will make you fat (if they don’t kill you) is another matter, but my personal belief is that they might make you infertile and/or stupid and/or cancerous. Whatever the case may be, I know that I don’t want them messing with my hormones and that’s final.

Anyhow, if you can’t afford to pledge pesticides out of your life, the Environmental Working Group has an great guide to know what you should absolutely stay clear of.

The Dirty Dozen consists of, according to gravity of offense.

  1. Peaches (bastards!!)
  2. Apples
  3. Sweet Bell Peppers (I guess organic peppers  are worth their price in gold)
  4. Celery
  5. Nectarines
  6. Strawberries – hold on while I remove the dagger from my back… ok
  7. Cherries
  8. Pears
  9. Grapes (imported) – I’m guessing they mean imported from outside US, which carries the implication that our Euro-grapes rank in this category. American grapes are lower in the chart
  10. Spinach
  11. Lettuce
  12. Potatoes

Good news: Now I know I wasn’t buying peppers at 8 euros a kilo for nothing. I have been buying organic apples (phew!). No peaches yet (phew!). Apples, pears, and potatoes are reasonably priced. I’m growing my own salad greens, which are just about getting ready. No more toxic lettuce for me!

Bad news: Didn’t see any organic strawberries yet (those little back-stabbers).

Check out this list for extra dirt on your favourite veg…

Leading the Cleaner 12 list we have onions, avocados, frozen sweet corn, pineapples, mango and asparagus, among others. Broccoli and cabbage are on this list too. So, if you are short on cash, you know you can easily dispense the organic onions or broccoli.

Personally, my choice still goes for organic, for anything from cabbage up… But now at least I know its relatively safe to eat broccoli if need be.

Good peaches, courtesy of rayvaughn on Flickr.

April 24, 2007 at 4:15 pm 8 comments

Organic Grocery Bag


Here is a picture of my groceries from my latest shopping trip. This is what you can buy for E 16,50 at the organic shop in Wageningen.

This is what you see in the picture:

  • 1L of full-fat, very yummy yogurt. The glass bottle is reusable and has a 25ct deposit to make sure it makes it back to the store.
  • 500g of sunflower seeds. I’m a sucker for roasted sunflower seeds. Also good in salads. I was shocked to find that the organic bag’o’seeds is several times cheaper than the regular, non-organic seeds I used to buy at the market. Goes to prove organic is not always more expensive.
  • 250g of sesame seeds. For some reason I thought that I could make hummus with sesame seeds… Apparently what I needed was ‘tahine’. Whatever… I think those must be good in sandwiches, salads and sauces.
  • 250g of firm unflavored tofu. We’ll see what comes out of that…
  • 1 bell pepper, paid it’s weight in gold for it.
  • 1 plain dutch cheese. Pretty tasty.
  • 1 certified sustainable smoked mackerel. Tasty by itself, but better in a fish dip/salad.
  • a bunch of fresh shiitake mushrooms. Those were damn good with risotto… *droool*
  • My orange Slow Foods shopping tote. Very handy and cute as well. I also have a couple of other, not so cute bags.

Lately, I have been shopping almost exclusively at this shop.  I still have to start buying bread there as well.  Sometimes I cheat by going to the supermarket across the street, and buy bread and other emergency items. I am buying meat exclusively from the Nature Slagerij (the organic butcher). For eggs, I only buy them at the organic stalls at the market, because it’s the only place I can reuse my egg carton. Sometimes I also buy veggies at the market. There is one stand that sells stuff from their own farm just across the river. They invited me for the inauguration of their farm-shop next weekend but I’m not sure if it’s close enough to bike there… maybe it’s worth the ride. We’ll see.

I’m trying to avoid shopping at chain supermarkets, I don’t want my Euros fattening up their corporate @$$ess, but sometimes cheapness and convenience still gets the better of me. But I’m going there less and less, and when I do, I’m also buying a lot less stuff. I think I can ‘just say NO’ pretty soon, though.

April 23, 2007 at 11:58 am 1 comment

Meat less!


My name is Alina, I am a meat-aholic and it’s been 7 days since my last steak. Lori, sign me up for the support group. I mean, stock cubes don’t count, right? I know it may not sound like much, but for a couple of unrepentant meat lovers like ourselves, its a major accomplishment.

Before we started this blog we were eating meat at least once a day,  for dinner and with sandwiches… And for people aiming for sustainability like yours truly, that’s a big no-no.  

Recently we started buying our meat exclusively from the organic butcher, but even so, we were still getting bacon cubes and sandwich hams or pates and such at the supermarket. I still don’t know how Bryce ever agreed to this… He squirmed every time I mentioned ‘eating less meat for the environment’.  But then I also mentioned that eating less meat is healthier, and considering that most of his family is meat and dairy intolerant, he figured it was better to delay his mandatory vegan days for a few years…

And so, somehow, we managed to go a whole week without meat in any way, not even bacon (again, stock cubes don’t count, right? ). It took a lot of imagination just to figure out “What the hell are we gonna do for dinna??” It took a lot of effort not to eat lentils every day, but we did it!

This week we had a stew, with texturized soya protein instead of meat which was reasonable, didn’t miss the meat so much. We had potato hash browns with portobella mushrooms and roasted brie, which was pretty damn good. We had some lentils (doh). We had some veggie pasta with a nice organic kohlrabi salad. 

Less successful was our bean and rice dish from last night which failed miserably, by the time the beans were half-done I had already lost my appetite and was in ‘go to bed’ mode. But not all is lost, we are still going to eat them tonight, hopefully a couple more hours cooking and they should be done 😀 And yes, I did soak them… but only for the afternoon. I am still not very proficient in planning my meals more than a few hours ahead.entrecôte

I have to admit I still shy away from the soya products section… I don’t know what I did wrong but every time I tried to reach out to tofu, things never really worked out between us. Fortunately, Bryce seems to be more comfortable with it so I think we might try using tofu and the likes pretty soon.

All things considered, I would say it was a pretty successful week in terms of culinary prowess and meat-lessness. But I have to say… I am very much looking forward to treating myself to a yummy, juicy, organic entrecôte tomorrow, maybe followed by organic bacon and eggs on Sunday *droooooool*

Photo Courtesy of FotoosVanRobin on Flickr.

April 20, 2007 at 5:02 pm 8 comments

The environmental litter backlash

Disclaimer: This post contains reference to bodily functions… kitty bodily functions

So I put the eco-friendly litter pellets in the litter box, right? Cat should crap on the pellets business-as-usual, right? WRONG!!! Turns out cats are picky ‘goers’, which I should have known by now from that other time he pissed on my beautiful suede boots.

I don’t get whats the big deal with the wooden pellets but the fact is, from the moment I filled the litter box with the cat refused to go anywhere near it. Instead, the little bastard decides some old towel I once used to clean up after him is more ‘cosy’ to crap on… I guess there was some sense to that “mix with usual litter” recommendation. I thought I could outsmart the system, boy was I wrong… Fortunately that all took place in the balcony, and his crappings were very neatly arranged on the towel, so they were easy to clean up…

But of course, for some reason I decide that if I put his crappings in the litter box that would somehow persuade him to go in the litter box… Well, wrong again! In the end, this whole deal ended with an emergency supermarket run for regular litter, after the cat refused to piss or crap for a whole day…

As soon as we removed the pellets and replaced them with regular silica litter, the little kitten sprinted over there and finally did his business. Now I have a bag of wooden pellets sitting around and a cat who runs from them like from Mr. Hoover.I am still going to try the ‘increasingly mixing’ trick but I honestly don’t have much hope for it. That cat is one clever little rascal.  And this is why they say that hell is full of good intentions…

No pictures today… And I’m sure you guys apreaciate that 😀

Edit: The good thing about having an american boyfriend is that he points out that despite the fact that I keep hearing  ‘sway’, it is actually spelled “suede” 😀 Thanks, honey!

April 18, 2007 at 1:27 pm 6 comments

Eating out

utrechtIt is funny how every time we make any changes to our lives, we always antecipate all the worstcase scenarions, set-backs and problems. Most of the time, we envision changes to be harder than they actually turn out to be.  But the fact is, sometimes, it doesn’t take a super-human effort to make a change, and after you have made up your mind, and are set on a certain course, things just kinda come together naturally.

This is what I sort of realized this weekend. We decided to spend our Saturday in Utrecht, a real city, for a change. And without putting much thought or effort into it, ended up going to a nice organic restaurant that caught my eye in the New York Times. They change their menu every month and deliberately include seasonal products in it, which I presume must be local, for the most part. And of course, all their ingredients are organic.

So despite the fact that we failed miserably in what was our objective for the day – shopping – we had a great time. And in the end it was quite a ‘sustainable’ day out, which came as a surprise even to me. Especially when our consumerist impulses were done away with.

Photo courtesy of my love.

April 15, 2007 at 8:03 pm Leave a comment

The Full Monty

After a couple of days of whining, I can finally write about something that is really really great. Today I made it, at last, to the only organic shop here in Wageningen. That place is AWESOME! I can’t believe it’s been so long since last time I went there… I lost myself in there like I was in Disneyland… They had EVERYTHING! And I mean, everything you could possible want or need to be a full-time hippie tree-hugger, even things you didn’t even imagine you could find here.

I can’t even begin to describe it. They have an huge variety of all kinds of green clening stuff, natural beauty products, beeswax candles, organic pet food, natural kitty litter, all kinds of organic grains, organic flower, organic bread and Co. organic dairy, organic meat, meat replacements, organic oils, organic wine, organic beer, organic coffee/tea, recycled paper products (yes, including toilet paper in an 8 pack), organic compost, organic pot soil, organic seeds, all kinds of veggies and so on and on and on.

Seriously, everything you could ever wish for in order to be green is there. What I liked especially about the fruit and veggies is that the price tags show right off the bet where the stuff comes from, and the selection of local dutch products is quite big. So if I wanted to be strict about localness, I could. But I don’t want to be so restrictive just yet.

And even more surprising for me is that prices there aren’t even so steep. It’s actually quite comparable to the supermarket in some cases, and especially, if you consider all the embarrassment that store saves you its a real bargain. Don’t have to ask “where does this come from”, don’t get weird looks when I hand them reused bags to put my shrooms in.

Today I just bought some meat-replacement soya stuff, some bulgur wheat and some organic apples. And that all came out pretty cheap consedering I saved 2 euros on sea salt. In the supermarket, half kilo of over-packaged sea salt is 1,5E and there I paid 0,95E for a kilo, and my favourite part is that it saves on packaging and is all natural from the Atlantic.

I think I’m going to do all mt shopping there from now on. I have solved my TP dilemma, my trash bag dilemma (they have corn trash bags that are the right size) and my organic/local/cheap dilemma. Hoorray!

No photo this time… but I’ll post one soon after next time I go there.

April 12, 2007 at 12:01 am 3 comments


No clogs, please!

 Ok, not that kind of clogs… 😀

Just two weeks into our sustainable lifestyle and we are already faced with a potentially toxic situation. The shower drain is clogged… again. Last time I used a sodium hydroxide declogger, which as you can imagine, is downright nasty. Now that we are all sustainable and all, that can’t be our choice option.

The problem with our shower drain is that it’s not possible to open it and remove the nastiness manually, so we do have to resort to some sort of declogger. So before I resorted to our old trusted caustic stuff I thought I might try this recipe, with baking soda and white vinegar, washed down with boiling water. Yeah, I tried it… So much for that, I noticed a little bit  of an effect but the bottom line is, we still got clogs (or clog).

Tomorrow its back to the store get the caustic stuff… It’s a pity grandmas old trusted soda fell through, and not just literally. It was worth a try.

Clogs courtesy of travelingbelgian on Flickr.

April 11, 2007 at 12:41 am 7 comments

Toilet paper issues

Tree free? What about chlorine?This is just a short post about my full-of-indecisions and enviro-dilemmas sustainable-attempt of a life. I recently purchased my first ever pack of recycled toilet paper… Which is all well and good, but now I am wondering if it is really better for the environment if I buy the said paper.

You see, when I buy a package of regular virginal toilet paper, it’s normally never less than 12 rolls, wrapped in plastic. The thing is, because recycled paper is so unusual, I always have to buy it in small packs of 4. So if I buy 3 packs of recycled toilet paper, I produce around 2 times more plastic waste (I emphasize that here it’s not possible to recycle plastic) than if I buy a 12-pack.

The package brags about being made out of polyethylene plastic, and therefore free of evil PVC. However, what concerns me is that not only there is no mention of the post-consumer content, as there is no mention of the bleaching method. Since nothing is said about oxygen bleaching, I can only assume that this paper was chlorine bleached, which is about as nasty as it gets. Details about recycling paper and the nastiness of bleaching can be found here and here, for example.

And so, my friends, while I don’t find any other kinds of recycled paper, I think I am going to keep using trees… I have to say this is not an easy decision to make, and I appreciate any input anyone has on this matter.

April 10, 2007 at 12:50 pm 13 comments

Market Research

Wageningen Market

As you can probably guess from this wannabe clever title, today is market day in Wageningen (Vahhhhheningen, like you are trying to expel some mucus). So, in our soon to be squandered innocence, we headed off, carrying our little tote bags, a couple of plastic bags to reuse and a carton of eggs to refill at the organic dairy stand.

Full of good intentions, we successfully purchased a broccoli,a zucchini and a few mushrooms at the organic produce stand, making use of the totes and one of the plastic bags I brought along. We knew we needed to be extra watchful, as it was only on the previous day that we weren’t quick enough to prevent the organic butcher from handing us our goodies in one of those dreaded plastic bags. We assumed, by the absence of packaging and what they were selling that their stuff was reasonably local. Or at least I like to think so, and postpone my disillusion for some other time…

Unfortunately, however, we are still not at a point where we can afford to refill our stock entirely from the organic stand… So we went on, intending on getting some fruit and what not at a regular stand. It was then that we realized exactly how hopeless our situation is… Inspecting the items on display, I was still hoping to find something that could even remotely qualify as “local”. Bananas (Costa Rica) were obviously not an option, as well as the sugar snaps we were informed came from South Africa. Looking at the bleakness of this picture, it suddenly seemed that Spain was actually not such a bad perspective after all… In the end, we walked away with some spanish oranges, some spanish strawberries on the verge of spoiling and some plums, which seemed pretty good until I found out they were also from South Africa…

So there…. to quote Butters, “Oh Hamburguers!”. We have now, as I see it, 4 possible options. 1) We go bankrupt buying organic 2) We starve going local and avoiding packaging 3) we expand our standard of what’s local to simply “Europe”, so we can allow ourselves to get stuff that is trucked over from Spain and 4) we stop asking where stuff comes from and revert to our previous “ignorance is bliss” situation. None of these sounds especially appealing, but alas, we must feed.

And so it is, that I have reached the conclusion that after we can’t afford the organic stand anymore, we will limit ourselves to our continent and consider that to be as local as it gets…

Even so, I consider this day to be quite positive, considering that I managed to get home without adding more plastic bags to my collection and reuse one egg carton. But still, I did not escape plastic altogether, as the strawberries were packed in a plastic box.

 Photo Courtesy of .:Kemal:. on Flickr

April 7, 2007 at 11:55 pm 3 comments

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April 2007

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