Food for Thought- the ethics of rather a lot

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I recently wrote a quite lengthy post on eating meat. Of which I got to the end and then just quietly, deleted the whole lot. All 852 words of it.

I felt like I was justifying my own meaty actions. Which is something I didn’t feel like I really wanted to do or needed to do. I was more than happy to engage in an amicable conversation with anyone who cared to listen. I was also more than happy to pass on any food information that I’d come across in my readings. Informed decisions on any level is an empowering thing, especially when it comes to something as important as food.

We all need to eat, it’s how we go about it that’s important.

So will I be made to feel guilty for eating a little meat here and there?

It’s the basis of many heated debates, but at this stage of my life? No. No I won’t.

I believe strongly in a diet based mostly on ‘real’ foods. Food that comes in as natural a state as possible. Keeping processing to a minimum, packaging to a minimum and being able to identify the food in front of you are top of my lists.

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I also believe different bodies require different foods. Some people can exist happily as a Fruitarian and others strongly advocate they feel healthier on a Paleo based diet. I wouldn’t like to base my diet on either of these, but I respect the fact that they feel happy and healthy eating as such. I remember sitting in the audience of the His Holiness the Dalai Llama once, and his comment on the fact that he ate meat. Shocked I wasn’t, but happy yes, as he had obviously made an informed decision; and decided he functioned better with a small meat intake.

As meat eaters, vegetarians, vegans, raw enthusiasts, sugar free, gluten free, locavores, we all have choices to make and ethics to consider when we are preparing that dinner plate in front of us. (Unless by chance you are a city-living-raw-vegan-sugar free-gluten free-locavore AND on a family budget, in which case holey moley I would love you to comment and please share your story!)

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Some links of interest on the ethics of eating….

Meat Eaters– Where has the meat come from? How was it raised? American Meat-film, Fast Food Nation– film

Pescatarian– love eating canned tuna? Have a look at this snippet on what line and pole fishing actually is, and the value of paying that bit extra for your can of tuna. Also read here on GoodFishBadFish– sustainable seafood, what’s it all about or Slow Fish– and it’s campaign.

eat seasonally-cityhippyfarmgirl

Vegetarians Do you eat seasonally? Food Miles, have you considered them, how many do you clock up?…this site is so very humbling.)

Quorn– What do we know about this myco-protein? Made from mushrooms it isn’t.

Eggs– In what condition hens have your eggs come from? Caged Eggs

Are your meat substitutes highly processed coming in excessive packaging and have a full paragraph of odd sounding ingredients?

Soy products– How processed is this product, is palm oil being used within it? Palm Oil and Indonesian rainforests

Vegans

There are an array of options for cow milk alternatives- soy, almond, rice. Is there vegetable oil in there. Does this vegetable oil contain palm oil? Sunflower Oil? Added sugar? Food miles on your soy milk? where has the alternative milk been grown. Was it processed in the same place or somewhere else altogether?

Quinoa- Is it local? Where has it been grown? Slow Food- Questioning Quinoa

Sugar Free- 

Are you using sugar substitutes such as agave syrup. Have you considered the food miles (unless you live in Mexico) and extensive chemical process that is needed in order to obtain this yield?

Responsible Cafes Poster A4

1 billion takeaway cups and lids each year… {image credit to Responsible Runners}

Coffee– Got a coffee habit- Is it fair trade? Food miles? Excessive packaging on your daily take away coffee cup? Keep Cup– reusable coffee cup

Chocolate- Is it again fair trade? Does it have even more excessive packaging? Does it have an extraordinary amount of food miles? Was it harvested using slave labour? (Despite popular belief the cocoa bean is not produced in Belgium.) Slavery in the Chocolate Industry

There is always an impact on our food choices, regardless of what food types we mostly eat. Pretty much every choice we make has an impact. If more and more people make informed choices about what they are eating and passing a little less judgement on those that eat differently perhaps we would make some sort of head way in our food environment.

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Eat Food. Not Too Much. Mostly Plants…[Michael Pollan]

Our family meat intake is really quite small, we eat a mostly vegetarian diet, and bought meat is always considered; where it has come from and how it was raised. Fruit and vegetables are eaten in season, vegan and gluten free meals are becoming regulars, I try to make as many things from scratch as time allows and we eat on a family budget- keeping things as locally produced based as possible.

This doesn’t make me a sainted eater, it makes me an informed eater and at this stage, that’s the very best I can do.

So, to the next person that gets on their high horse about me making a conscious decision regarding what I have chosen to eat, please don’t. As I might just eat that high horse… I hear they’re quite delicious.

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Thoughts? Input? Ideas? Everything up for discussion in an unbiased nonjudgemental fashion.

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the best city bicycle

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I’ve got wheels on my mind at the moment. Two of them actually. I want to get a bike and the whole research into exactly which one to get is BENDING MY MIND.

Having not owned a bicycle for the past twenty years, I’m a little bit out of the loop. I have sweet images of me tra la laaaing along with my basket laden retro looking ladies bicycle.

Ting, ting goes my bell…excuse me, coming by.

I refuse to think about the horror stories that friends keep sharing with me of how unbike friendly Sydney actually is. I’m also trying not to think of the seemingly vast amount of hills I’m suddenly very aware of in my immediate area. It’s now I start thinking, moving to Canberra might not be such a bad idea. Flat, tree lined cycle ways everywhere I needed to go. Melbourne I think would also be good, Amsterdam (for obvious bikey reasons) also fantastic. Byron Bay was also very bike friendly.

Alloy, inches, step through, speeds are all things that I wasn’t thinking of a couple of weeks ago. One helpful young bike enthusiast showed me a lovely looking bike with 21 gears. I know I sound like a big girly girl, but what on earth do I do with 21 gears? Last time I was confidently riding the streets with the wind in my hair, my bike had a back pedal break and that was it. If I wanted to get up a hill, I pedaled harder. (For the record I did, briefly have a three speed bike after this one, but by that time I had become a ‘cool’ teen and cool teens most certainly didn’t ride three speeds, so it didn’t quite get the mileage that I think my parents had hoped for.)

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Oh just get on there and ride, someone helpfully tells me. Half of me says, what’s the worse that could happen? The other half of me, tells me in great detail all the horrific worse things that could happen.

And so I sit, in biking limbo. Unsure of which way to venture. With twenty tabs open on my computer, all with a different view on the best city bicycle to own . I know one thing is for sure though, it looks like there is going to be two wheels on my horizon.

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Does anyone have any biking tips for me? Brands they have been happy with, biking stories- horror or happy (I’m brave, I can take the horror ones) or just some general biking tips for riding in the city?

evolution of the cityhippyfarmgirl

Some people launch themselves into an entirely different lifestyle, and some slowly evolve. I think, I’ve been more the evolving kind.

Some things have been a conscious decision to change based on greener ideals and others a mere progression, and an almost surprisingly sneaky shift.

While I would definitely say my roots were always deeply imbedded in a less mainstream society, I can still look back on the last ten years and track how my life and my growing family’s life has changed to a lifestyle less within our consumer conventional one. Each new corner that we have come to, has been met with choices. Choices, that I’m incredibly grateful for them being there. Choices that have allowed us to grow, change and evolve.

As I’ve gotten older my values have changed, my priorities shifted. With a third baby now, while in some ways this is the busiest I have ever been, in other ways things also feel a whole lot more simplified as well. Things could certainly get more simplified and I still really hope that we can do that down the track, but for the moment… I’m happy with how things have evolved.

These days, my life changes are heavily influenced by my children. Those moments when I’m watching my kids run around outside, without restrictions, testing their own boundaries and easing themselves out of their own comfort zones. It’s incredibly fulfilling. Watching them do it with a smile on their face fills me with gratitude for that moment and their ability to do it. That’s their evolution. Watching them, encourages me to strive for more.

While we live in a flat, I can’t easily say run out the back and go exploring kids, we do have to make an effort.

To make that extra effort to visit the park with the jungle trees to explore in. To stay that bit longer playing in the water, slowly gaining the confidence that was hiding from them before. To take the time to read and explain something that could easily be ignored and diverted by switching the tv on. It doesn’t happen every time, but when it does, it feels so worthwhile.

Food has been another change over time. The way I have bought, the things I have cooked, the mentality behind what I’m eating, and even those old taste buds. I now eat raw celery, Mr Chocolate eats jam, Monkey boy eats lettuce and Little Monkey eats meat.

Evolution of a family of taste buds.

Mr Chocolate and I were looking at a yogurt tub a while a go. A 99% fat free fruit yogurt. Once I would have bought it without hesitation and eaten it with a whole bundle of enjoyment. Now, all the tub got was raised eyebrows and mutters of I don’t think so. Yes, it was an Australian company, (that’s a tick) and that’s about all it had going for it. Anything stating it’s ‘low in fat’ immediately sets alarm bells off for me now. It still tastes good so how is that taste in there if there is no fat?

Sugar. A whole bundle of it. Five teaspoons of it in 150g to be exact. Mix that in with a whole bunch of thickeners (maize, tapioca, gelatine) and you’ve got yourself a low fat yogurt. 250mls of lemonade has less sugar than that little tub of yogurt. Now if you are a long time reader of this blog you will know I clearly don’t have issues with using sugar. I love baking sugary things. What I do have a problem with is sneaky sugar. Things that you wouldn’t automatically presume would have a whole bunch of sugar in, like the low fat yogurt. I like my sugar to be upfront, with a little tah-daaah action if you please.

So no, I’m not buying that low fat yogurt tub. While I once would have, now I don’t and I can make my own. Then if I feel it needs a little sugar, all I have to do is put my own amount in (in the form of home made jam.)

To look back on other ways I’ve changed both unconsciously and consciously, there have been a lot. For the most part I think they have all been for the better, and I’m looking forward to the continuing evolution of this city hippy farm girl.

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I’m interested. What greener/slower/less mainstream changes for you have come about- that have been for the better? Do you feel differently to 5 years ago? Was it a dramatic shift in lifestyle values or a slow progression? Where do you see yourself sitting in your society?

Or simply, how have you evolved?

reconnecting with nature…city style

How much of a part of being human, is it to want to reconnect with nature in some way?

Is that reconnection slowly being bumped off and ignored for noisier, flashier city lifestyle options?

These questions have been rolling around my head for a while now, and I don’t think they have rolled to a conclusion. More rolled on, created conversations and sat still on pondered thoughts.

It seems rather funny to be typing this post at the moment as all I can hear from outside my apartment windows, is the sound of a revved up chainsaw, slowly but surely taking down a well established tree in the back of a neighbour’s yard… Fitting.

This reconnection that I’m thinking of, could be as simple as having an indoor plant in your kitchen, while living in a 40 story city apartment building. A tiny corner of green that requires very little attention, but is there in the background in all it’s greenness.

For someone else, it could be growing your own vegetables in the back yard. Bushwalking, or swimming in the sea…

I’m still working out how exactly I fit in with this one and how I like to reconnect with nature. I know I feel better for it when I do. Calmer, more at peace, and a lot less likely for worry about the smaller things to take hold. I also know I would like to do more, and am aiming for that down the track. While I love living where I do, and think there are some truly wonderful benefits to living where I do. I also want my children to know more of the different aspects of nature there can be. To not feel totally engulfed by a consumeristic-lights flashing, plastic driven kind of lifestyle. I don’t want to feel I have a boxed in life, without any aspects of greenery around me. Those moments of reconnecting with nature make me feel more grounded.

Is that faster, fluorescent lighting lifestyle in some ways just inevitable to living in a large city?…Or does everyone in some way, still yearn for that tiny piece of nature that reconnects them? Maybe they are not even aware of it?

Sitting under a tree in the park…. cooking up freshly plucked homegrown fruit.

A trying afternoon recently, and all I wanted to do was go out to my backyard and lay on the grass looking up at the night sky. I needed to feel the earth beneath me, reconnect. Breathe in, breathe out… 5 minutes later and I could have righted myself. However I didn’t have that back yard, and I didn’t have that grass. So I sat on the kitchen floor… I invited Mr Chocolate to take a seat too. We talked, I felt a bit better, but it wasn’t a backyard with grass beneath me and I can’t help but wonder whether it would have helped a bit more if it had been.

How many people would say they have no connection with nature what so ever and have no desire to? I wonder, I really do… Is this a number that will keep on growing?

I was excited for a friend once, to find that her newly bought tiny apartment was directly opposite a community garden. She was disgusted at the thought of sticking her fingers in dirt, so no, she wouldn’t be signing up for a small patch. Instead, her down time was to spend hours upon hours window shopping in the city at any given opportunity. I would rather fork my eyeballs then spend a whole day doing that.

Restoring weekends away out of the city used to help keep the balance. These seem to be getting less and less as time goes by and various family members take on more weekly commitments. When we are out of the city though, time slows down. My breathing becomes deeper. Mind more focussed… or is that simply less distractions. Less need to multi task, and fit 100 things in to the day?

As the noisy chainsaw continues I’m musing here, and I’m curious…

If you live in the city do you feel a need to reconnect with nature in some way? Do you feel better for it?

I would think it would be slightly unlikely someone who felt no need what so ever to feel drawn to some aspects of living with nature to be reading cityhippyfarmgirl, but on the off chance there is or you know someone who is like that. I would love to know your thoughts.

If you don’t live in an urban area what are your favourite things to do? Tease me.

just how hot is hot?

I did a post at the end of summer on my tiny gas metre box garden. Nothing flash. Just a few pots of greenery that keep me centred. The chilli plants happily flowered and grew, they even got through the Noah’s Ark of winter rain thrown at them. Then they turned red, actually they are still turning red. Slowly changing from subtle green, to come on- I dare you red.

Now when I planted these little fella’s I wanted something a little feisty. The packet said hot, actually it said piccante. It was an Italian heirloom variety. So anything labelled piccante, and I have high hopes.

Not gaspingly, oh for the love of god, find me a river and submerge my firey mouth.

 But, hey…Oooo, yep, that’s a bit hot right there.

Something like that anyway.

So they have been turning red, and I’ve slowly been collecting them on my kitchen window sill. A little fiery red mountain growing. Each day I wonder, just how hot they are.

these look like a completely different variety, but I'm sure they came out of the same packet.

Blueberries are also flowering. Last season there was just a tiny handful of flowers that seemed to take six months to actually develop the fruit. This year with quadruple the flowers, I’m hoping the fruiting doesn’t take quite so long.

Rosemary is also happy. I just have to remember not to remember it. It’s never happy when I give it too much love and attention. Neglect, and the odd whisper of I’m still watching you, and it seems to thrive.

There are some other pots as well that look empty, but have sleeping seeds in them. What’s in there though and I wouldn’t have a clue. I planted them one evening and then got rushed inside. Distracted for the next few days, I never quite made it back out to write what I had planted and where. So now, wouldn’t have a clue what was in there.

Never mind, who doesn’t like surprises….especially the plant kind.

Now, speaking of surprises, I think it might be time to find out just how hot that chilli really is…

Just how hot is hot?

Spiced Banana Syrup Pudding and a nice slap back into reality

You know when something speaks to you? I mean really speaks to you?

Whether it be a person’s conversation, a song, a documentary, a book, a simple quote written on a wall. Something that really resonates in your mind. Something that that has the potential to question everything you held dear, change your perspective, lift your mood or simply make you smile and think.

I know I’m not the only one to have been moved by a simple song. (Thankfully times have moved on from when they first did. Although as a early teenager I really did believe that Roxette and Bryan Adams knew my pain and lofty love ideals. They ‘spoke’ to me. THEY understood.)

In more recent times it was a song from John Butler. I was having a woe is me, poor us living in a 2 bedroom flat in the city- whatever are we to do? No room, blah, blah, blah. ‘Better Than’ comes on and suddenly the lyrics make sense  to me…..”life’s not about whats better than..” A nice slap back into reality that was. That two bedroom flat was just fine.

Watching a documentary awhile back of a young couple. Her terribly effected from a stroke, him being forced from the job he loved, to try his hand at something completely foreign in order to care for his disabled wife and two young children. All I could think about was, jeez, we had it so easy. This couple came across as so happy and yet to me their life seemed so incredibly hard.

A couple of  weeks ago, watching the second part of a Kevin Mc Cloud documentary on living in a slum in India. Watching this has made me question, really question things that I hold dear once more. In comparision we are so well off. So well off it’s almost difficult to comprehend. Honestly, I felt guilt at ever complaining of lack of space. Here these people were living 20 family members to a tiny dwelling with no indoor plumping and yet they were clean, happy looking, beautifully dressed. What on earth did I have to complain about?…(and perhaps it was time to get out of the yoga pants, baggy t’shirt and ugg boots- it’s not a particularly attractive look for me.)

Gavin (from Greening of Gavin) had a documentary ‘speak’ to him. He had a green moment that changed his whole lifestyle. A suburban family man now living a wonderfully inspiring sustainable life.

Running through the park recently, feeling pleased with my running, I paused to catch my breath. Two people over took me. Casually chatting, decked out in their uber cool running gear, going at a cracking pace. Gazelles would have had trouble keeping up. This was also another nice slap back into reality for me.

Reality was, that if I wanted to keep making things like Spiced Banana Syrup Pudding, I really had to run a lot further.

Spiced Banana Syrup Pudding

125gms softened butter

2/3 cup brown sugar

3 ripe mashed bananas

125mls cream

1 tps vanilla

1tps cinnamon

1 tps cardmom

1/2 tps nutmeg

1 1/2 cups s/r flour

Add all ingredients in order, bake in a spring form pan at 180C until golden. While that is cooking add 1 cup brown sugar, 1/2 cup water, 1 tps cinnamon, 1/2 tps cardamom, and bring to a slow boil. Turn down slightly and keep at simmer until the mixture thickens just slightly (you don’t want toffee!) When it has thickened slightly turn off and add 1 tbs of dark rum. Allow to cool a little. When banana pudding is cooked through, place on serving plate and carefully pour spiced syrup over the pudding. Best served warm with perhaps a dollop of your favourite vanilla icecream.