Thursday, August 21, 2008

Back to Work

Today is my first day back to work. Only 208 mail messages in my inbox this morning but fortunately most can be read quickly and deleted and require no direct action otherwise. Still a little bit jet lagged but bouncing back pretty quickly. I did have a dentist visit this morning for the semi annual cleaning and check but that's done so I can't avoid actually working any longer.

Read a really good book on the long plane flights each way "The Omnivore's Dilemma" by Michael Pollan. A very interesting book on how our food gets to market and some of the alternatives. Some good thinking and writing on vegetarianism, our own responsibility for how our food is grown, processed and handled and some really depressing discussion on how most of the meat in the U.S. is raised and brought to market. It really confirms my decisions to stop buying meat that is not locally and humanely raised. If I can't get it then I won't buy it and will become vastly more of a vegetarian than I have been. I did the vegetarian thing for a while back in the seventies when I was heavy into the Zen thing and while I am not going to stop eating meat all together it sure looks that it will be rather diminished. The thing is I like meat(especially pork) but I really am having more and more trouble accepting how it is being produced in the U.S. One of the great things about most of Europe is that they haven't varied from the more traditional ways of raising beef and pork and except for the big Danish pork producers, most beef in Europe (that is not from the U.S.) is raised on pasture. The same goes for chickens and you can definitely tasted the difference.

The experience of the last week of living in the farming country of Normandy surrounded by farms growing food, including beef, pork and chicken in the traditional ways sort of produced some kind of synergy with respect to my thinking. The other thing that Pollan points out very clearly in his book is that the new "industrialized organic industry" (think Whole Foods) are very carefully decieving us about how the organic and naturally produced food we buy is really produced. The marketing image created by these new giant organic producers is that of happy cows in pastures producing our organic milk when in truth a large percentage of the organic milk in the U.S. is produced by cows in big concrete feed lots eating organic hay and silage and most never see a green pasture. The same with "Free Range" eggs and chicken. Sure for a couple of weeks of their short lives the chickens have access to a small yard but invariably ignore it as it has no food and water. The free range chickens are raised just like all the other broiler chickens, they only difference is their organic food and no antibiotics. Looking forward to finding and reading Pollan's other book on food "In Defense of Food" which apparently was on the NYT bestseller list for a while.

The garden suffered mightily while we were gone. The neighbor picked some tomatoes and peppers but no one watered and most of the plants are on their last legs. If the weather permits I think it will be all gone this weekend and I will start the fall garden of peas, carrots and radishes and a little bit later some Mesculun. I think I am also going to try and resurrect my BIG garden this fall and do the real deal next spring. While the tiny raised bed is easy to care for and allows for some intensive gardening you just can't plant enough to really do anything with like can or freeze. I also really miss seeing the nice long rows of beans, mountains of squash and cukes and all the rest of the stuff and if I am going to be reducing the amount of animal protein in my diet then I had better get some vegetables in the ground.

Well, I had better tackle all the email now and actually get some work done. We're supposed to get some of the rain from Fay this afternoon and tomorrow which will be nice.

We'll chat some more later.

Update: Almost forgot the picture. This is how you can buy your meat in the UK and Europe. The village has a market day or two a week and local folks sell local stuff. This is the the stall where I bought some of the fabulous English smoked bacon for the required "bacon sarnies" and where I bought some great local pork sausage for the BBQ after the wedding. This is on the Thursday market day in Bishop's Stortford but you will find some other bloke selling similar wares at every village market day.

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